My “Intro to Calvinism” class is off to a pretty good start. There are 9 students (counting my wife, but not our baby!). At least 5 of them are Arminians, so we get some good discussions. One of them is also a lawyer so we’ll see how that goes. :-)
I’m not sticking with “TULIP” exactly. I started with a discussion of why theology is important, what it means to “do theology”, and why Calvinism is a particularly important set of doctrines.
The order of topics I’m covering is:
1. The Sovereignty of God in a general sense.
2. Total Depravity
3. The Holiness of God
5. Unconditional Election
6. Limited Atonement / Particular Redemption (I am barely hitting this at all)
7. Irresistible Grace
8. Perseverance of the Saints
Our discussion on the Sovereignty of God is more accurately Providence, but the conversations have focused on spiritual issues. Is God responsible for sin? Is it fair for God to punish us for sin that He ordained? Do we make real spiritual choices? Why bother praying?
I am not taking Paul’s approach in Romans 9:20 in answering these questions, because these seem to be very real questions. It speaks highly of the people taking this class that they would come listen to me teach Calvinism when they don’t believe it. I’ve been very encouraged by that.
Calvinism is more specifically concerned with the sovereignty of God _in salvation_ rather than _in general_, but it’s important to understand that God does freely rule over His creation.
One of the biggest points I’m trying to make is that you cannot separate God’s sovereignty from the rest of His character and His purposes. It was His sovereignty that sent His Son to the cross, and it is His sovereignty that redeemed me. But His sovereignty also passes over others. He loved Jacob, but hated Esau. This isn’t Saddam Hussein we’re talking about – it is the God who died for us. This doesn’t _minimize_ His sovereingty or even really soften it, but it helps us remember just Who is sovereign.
I’ve spent two full 45 minute classes talking about this, and will have to wrap it up and move on quickly in next Sunday’s class. Hopefully by the end everything will start to “click”. After class last Sunday, one of the guys said that I was “very brave for being willing to teach this”.
When I teach on Total Depravity, I hope it will be logically clear that man _cannot_ come to God unless God regenerates him, and after God regenerates a man, that man will absolutely come to God. If you accept Total Depravity, the rest flows logically.
I do not think the elders of our church will take a strong position for Limited Atonement, so I am not going to teach much about it. Five minutes ought to cover it. Briefly, as I understand it, it speaks to the _intent_ and not the _extent_ of Christ’s suffering and death. It’s not as though God summed up all the punishment that the elect deserved, did some math, and decided how long Jesus had to suffer. God wasn’t running a stopwatch in Heaven while Jesus hung on the cross. If the number of elect was 1/10th or 10X what it is, Christ wouldn’t have suffered more or less. It’s not that there simply isn’t enough grace to cover any more sinners. Instead, Jesus was _actually_ providing for the salvation of the elect. That was His purpose – to save His sheep. (I wouldn’t bother teaching on this at all, except that I’ve gotten some questions about it already.)
We’ll see how it goes. I think I’d have more students, except that someone else is teaching a class on “Science and the Bible” which is mostly on Creationism I think. It’s very popular and has pulled most of the people. I might do this class again; I bet there are people who would take it but are in the Creationism class.