Tag Archive - evangelism

Baptists and Calvin: Does Calvinism Lead to ‘Antimission’ Sentiments?

The accusation that Calvinism leads to antimission sentiments has sometimes been leveled, but as Michael Horton shows in his recent book For Calvin, nothing could be further from the truth. Horton observes, in the section titled “Calvinism and Christian Missions” (p. 151), that, in fact, Calvinism has been and remains one of the most important sources of Christian missionaries, with no less than Thomas Mayhew, David Brainerd, David Livingstone, Robert Morrison, and Jonathan Goforth stemming from Reformed churches and practicing Reformed theology. Quoting Horton—

With growing interest in Calvinism in Southern Baptist circles, some leaders have expressed alarm that it will dampen the denomination’s enthusiasm for evangelism and missions . . . . [But] the Southern Baptist Convention sponsors “about 5000 home missionaries” and “more than 5000 foreign missionaries.” For a denomination of sixteen million, this comes to approximately “0.000625 missionaries per capita.”

By contrast, the 310,000 member Presbyterian Church in America has “about 600 foreign missionaries.” That is 0.001935 foreign missionaries per capita, commissioned and supported by the PCA. Thus, the PCA supports three times as many foreign missionaries per capita as the SBC supports foreign and domestic missions combined (p. 162).

And the PCA gives twice as much per dollar to international missions as the SBC does (p. 162).

So much, then, for the absurd assertion that Calvinism leads to antimissionary sentiments.

But, some may protest, Calvin himself laid the foundation for less interest in missions with his understanding of the doctrine of predestination. So what does Calvin say himself about missionary activity? In his commentary on the Gospels, at Matthew 28:19, he writes

Here Christ, by removing the distinction, makes the Gentiles equal to the Jews, and admits both indiscriminately to a participation in the covenant. Such is also the import of the term go out; for the prophets under the law had limits assigned to them, but now, the wall of partition having been broken down, (Eph. 2:14,) the Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go to a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world. For though, as we have lately suggested, the right of the first-born, at the very commencement of the gospel, remained among the Jews, still the inheritance of life was common to the Gentiles. Thus was fulfilled that prediction of Isaiah, (49:6,) and others of a similar nature, that Christ was given for a light of the Gentiles, that he might be the salvation of God to the end of the earth. Mark means the same thing by every creature; for when peace has been proclaimed to those that are within the Church, the same message reaches those who are at a distance, and were strangers, (Eph. 2:17, 19.) How necessary it was that the apostles should be distinctly informed of the calling of the Gentiles, is evident from this consideration, that even after having received the command, they felt the greatest horror at approaching them, as if by doing so they polluted themselves and their doctrine.

I’ve emphasized the most relevant materials. Calvin was himself convinced of the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel to the ‘ends of the earth.’ Calvinism, then, does not in any respect lead to ‘antimissionary’ sentiments. Quite the contrary.

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Jim West

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John Calvin the Evangelist

One more reason why John Calvin is Important for today…

Reason #10: Calvin models for us how to teach and practice evangelism and missions.

One of the most fallacious charges against Calvin is that he did not fuel a passion for evangelism and missions. Others assert that Calvin was responsible for relighting the torch of biblical evangelism during the reformation and thus should be credited with being a theological father of the reformed missionary movement. Views of Calvin’s attitude toward evangelism and missions have ranged on the positive side from hearty to moderate support, and on the negative side from silent indifference to active opposition. Calvin’s teaching and his practice both confirm that he was a model evangelist. Calvin taught evangelism in a general way by earnestly proclaiming the gospel and by reforming the church according to biblical requirements. More specifically, Calvin taught evangelism by focusing on the universality of Christ’s kingdom and the responsibility of Christians to help extend that realm.

Calvin asserted that both God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are involved in evangelism. The work of evangelism is ultimately Continue Reading…

The College Days of John Calvin

Last night I was looking through my Logos library, searching for something to read before bed. William Blackburn’s book, College Days of Calvin, caught my eye. While I wasn’t able to find out much about Blackburn online, the little I did find seems to indicate that he was a fairly prolific biographer, particularly of those involved in the Reformation.

His book is a fascinating glimpse into the young and formative years of John Calvin. While much of the book is worth sharing, I was particularly impressed with Blackburn’s account of Calvin’s encounter with the one only referred to as, the hermit of Livry. The hermit’s presentation of the Gospel and evangelistic vigor was both encouraging and convicting. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. In fact, his presentation was so grand that, as Blackburn accounts, the hermit of Livry is later seen as such a threat to the Catholic Church that he is burned at the stake for sharing the Gospel.

I’ve included Calvin’s encounter with the hermit below:

Continue Reading…

Calvinism and Missions

One of the main objections to the Calvinist or Augustinian doctrine of election is that it is inconsistent with a robust doctrine of missions. Why evangelize if God is sovereign, has already chosen from eternity who will be saved and who will not, and will most certainly accomplish what He has ordained? These are important questions and more than just straw-man arguments, for some who bear the name Calvinist have followed these questions to their seemingly logical conclusion and rejected the Scriptural injections to proclaim the gospel to all without distinction.

If we allow Scripture to be our guide, we’ll find that election—rather than being the enemy of missions—is actually the very source of evangelistic zeal. Paul, the great missionary, labored “for the faith of those chosen of God” (Tit 1:1) and endured “all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10). It was confidence in the electing and saving God that motivating Paul to evangelize—even if it meant risking his own physical safety. The Lord Himself encouraged Paul not to be afraid, but to continue to proclaim the gospel, “For,” He said, “I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10). These words echo what Jesus said in John’s Gospel: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). Notice the juxtaposition of missions (i.e., “I must bring them also”) and the certainty of the salvation of the elect (i.e., “they will hear My voice”). The fact that God had given many to the Son, meant that those many would certainly come, but this does not eliminate the need to bring them in; rather, it creates it. The simple resolution to the apparent tension is that God ordains both the end (i.e., election to salvation) and the means to the end (i.e., evangelism). So according to the Bible, election does not undercut missions. Instead, it provides the very basis for confident evangelism.

One of the best little books on this subject is J. I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 1961). Also worth consulting is John Murray’s The Free Offer of the Gospel (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2001).

There’s also a great article on Calvinism and missions in the latest issue of Themelios: Kenneth J. Stewart, “Calvinism and Missions: The Contested Relationship Revisited,” Themelios 34:1 (2009): 63–78. It’s worth a read.

Update: Here are a couple of other resources on the subject that look helpful:

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