Dear Calvinists

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In light of Justin Taylor’s post titled Dear Arminians, I offer a likewise peace from authors Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell, from their book Why I am not a Calvinist (purchase here), the counter to authors Robert Peterson and Michael Williams’s book Why I am not an Arminian (purchase here), both published by InterVarsity Press, 2004. Walls and Dongell write the following.

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We do not by any means intend to reject everything associated with Calvinism and Reformed theology. We have enormous respect and appreciation for Calvin and the heritage he defined and engendered. Calvinism has for centuries represented a vital tradition of piety that is intellectually and morally serious. Calvinists have set a standard for scholarship and cultural engagement that evangelicals of other traditions can readily admire and emulate.

Scholars in the broadly Reformed tradition have developed distinct approaches to matters ranging from epistemology (the theory of knowledge) to political theory and cultural criticism that do not necessarily hinge on the aspects of Calvinism we will criticize. Christians from other theological backgrounds can profit greatly from this rich body of work and even adapt it to their perspectives.

Moreover, many Calvinists have been zealous evangelists and missionaries and have contributed powerfully to the cause of winning the lost for Christ. In their passion for the glory of God, Calvinists have played a leading role in the renewal of worship in this generation. . . .1

The dispute between Calvinism and its critics has raged throughout the centuries of church history at least since the time of Augustine. The details of this conflict are fascinating, but they are not our concern here. What is noteworthy, however, is that in the past several decades Calvinism seemed largely to have lost the battle, at least in the theater of American evangelicalism. Various forms of Arminianism, Wesleyanism and Pentecostal theology came to predominate in much of evangelicalism in the twentieth century. While Calvinism always had its articulate advocates and has continued to exert considerable influence through educational institutions, publishing houses and other organizations, it seemed to be fighting a losing battle in the modern and postmodern church.

Recently, however, Calvinism seems to be staging a remarkable comeback. . . . While some of our academic colleagues have wondered whether we are “beating a dead horse” in writing a book on Calvinism, we have observed an intense and growing interest in this issue among Christians of all ages. . . .2

If embracing Calvinism is the best way to take God seriously, to acknowledge our status as creatures and to experience spiritual liberation, then we want to be Calvinists too! Obviously we don’t believe this is the case, or we would not have written this book. But we appreciate the appeal of Calvinism and respect many of the motives that draw believers to embrace it.

Moreover, we hold high regard for all those who are currently engaging this issue, whether as convinced advocates or as those who are still trying to make up their mind. There is a lot at stake in this controversy, and it is altogether understandable that its participants express strong feelings. What is at stake is nothing less than the question of how we are saved from our sins and granted eternal life — a question toward which no believer can rationally be indifferent. . . . Indeed, the issue is deeper still, for it concerns the ultimate matter of how God is truly worshiped and glorified. Furthermore, far-reaching practical implications for life and ministry flow from what we believe are the answers to these questions. Earnest discussion is both appropriate and desirable if it helps us get at the truth. . . .3

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1 Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell, Why I am not a Calvinist (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 9.

2 Ibid., 13-14.

3 Ibid., 18.