Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Substantial Misunderstanding of Calvinism

I ran across this sermon a couple of days ago while visiting The Resurgence blog. It is by Dr. Dan Sweatt out of Lilburn, GA and it's entitled Young and Restless. In it he goes off on a good many people including John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Al Mohler, and Mark Driscoll. Even though I like these guys, I'm not necessarily upset that he doesn't like them. It's why he doesn't like them, namely they're all Calvinists.

Now I know that many Christians do not embrace Calvinism, and that's okay. What struck me in this message however, is a blatant misunderstanding of what Calvinism really is. And it's this misunderstanding that I want to speak to.

If you don't have time to listen to all of it, try to listen to the 31 minute mark through the 41 minute mark. It is in these ten minutes that Dr. Sweatt really...well I'll just tell you what he says.

At one point he makes this statement:
"Calvinism has never, in the history of the world, survived the generation of a charismatic leader. When they die, the movement dies...Because the theology will not support church growth and evangelism. It will not do it. If you believe the doctrine you will not win souls."
I'm not really sure how he can make this statement. History is full of pastors and missionaries who have done much in the advancement of the kingdom while fully embracing Calvinistic theology (Judson, Carey, Patton, Bunyan, Owen, Edwards, Brainerd, Spurgeon, Whitefield, etc.).

There is still a greater misunderstanding to be pointed out though. It's when Dr. Sweatt begins talking about John 3:16. He acts as if when Calvinists come to this verse, they either ignore it or make it say something different than what it says. This is simply not true.

I'll defer to John Piper in response to this misunderstanding. In his sermon entitled God So Loved the World, Part 2 he says:
"We may, therefore, say to every human being, 'God loves you. And this is how he loves you: He gave his Son to die, so that if you would believe, your sins would be forgiven and you would have eternal life.'

That is what the love of God means and promises and does in John 3:16. And that’s why this verse has been so amazingly blessed of God over the centuries in bringing people to Christ and to salvation. It expresses what we love to call the free offer of the gospel. There are no limits to this offer: It goes out to all people of every ethnic group and every age and every socio-economic category and, best of all, to every degree of sinner—from the bad to the worst. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever”—indiscriminate and universal—“believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
He goes on to point out the ever-so-crucial distinction:
"The more amazing question is: Why do any of us come? Why do any of us receive Christ as the supreme Treasure of our lives? And the answer is: There is a greater love than the love of John 3:16. The love of John 3:16 is an amazing gift of Christ to the world so that the free offer to eternal life goes out to everyone: Believe and you will be saved. Believe and your sins will be forgiven, God’s wrath will be removed, you will have eternal joy with him. If you believe...

Those of you who believe on Christ, God wants you to know yourself loved, not only with universal love of John 3:16, but also with his death-conquering, hardness-removing, rebellion-eradicating, sight-imparting, faith-creating, personal, individual, invincible covenant love of which we are absolutely undeserving. He inspired the Gospel of John and I have preached this message so that you would know more fully and experience more deeply how you are loved."
It is for this death-conquering love that I am eternally grateful. And I will submit that is the only hope that a dying world has to come to know God.


  1. "If you believe the doctrine, you will not win souls." How would he explain the Passion movement?

  2. I go to a Reformed Church here in Michigan, very Calvinistic and very evangelistic. Last August, I was asked to share a testimony about sharing the Gospel, and then last Spring, I spoke to a women's college retreat about evangelism. One of the college women I've been discipling has grown in her ability to articulate the Gospel clearly and fluently, and has done so many times last year to non-believers. The first time I lead a bible study in this church, the non Christian women outnumbered the Christian women. And a evangelistic bible study that meets every week during the school year has exploded, with many coming to study the Bible. A week ago, I shared the Gospel with a non believing woman during the Sunday school hour. A few years ago, Dennis shared the Gospel with a dozen Turkish visiting professors who came to visit our church. It's the darnedest thing, and one of the reasons my husband and I are now members of this church. We have spent more time evangelizing within the church walls than outside of it.

    So, how often does this critic of Calvinism do evangelism?

  3. Anonymous10:48 AM

    “A wrongly accused man is always vilified by the ignorant masses."