If interested in a longer explanation, I invite you to read on...
After a recent conversation via facebook with a fine young Christian man in another part of the world who occasionally reads my blog, I thought I would explain more about my views and this blog. I just started blogging back in March of this year (2010) after we had to make a few trips several hundred miles away to MD Anderson Cancer Center for an unplanned and unexpected turn of events with my wife's health. I began blogging on the internet in an effort to have a record or a spiritual log that would be long-lasting and easily retrievable for my children, to re-enforce what their Dad believes about the Bible, and the God of the Bible. For years I would write in notebooks, but have misplaced some of them over time. With my wife's illness, we are both more aware now than ever that life is like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow, as James said in the New Testament.
James 4:14 (ESV) yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.Of course, then comes the eternal state in Heaven with Jesus for those in Christ, and Hell for those not in Christ.
Many of you might want to know more about this blog and what I believe. God's Sovereignty is certainly a favorite theme of mine, and is taught all throughout Scripture, and has been a great source of strength and comfort to my wife and me during this unknown period in our lives. We don't know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future!
You might wonder why most of my links are to "Reformed" sites or books, but a few are not. Yes, the great majority of links, books, etc. on my blog would be considered "Reformed", but "Don's Desk" is not intended to be an exclusively "Reformed" or "Calvinist" blog. I respect, have learned, grown, and continue to grow under the Ministry, both in local Churches and through media, books, etc., of many Godly Preachers throughout my lifetime, and their theology has differed somewhat.
Just to clarify, there are a few preachers, books, etc. I linked to, such as Chuck (Charles) Swindoll and David Jeremiah who are not "Reformed", Stephen Davey who I'm not sure about (but I know he's close, and is an excellent Bible Expositor), and one study Bible, the "Ryrie Study Bible" which I believe is an excellent study tool, but not of the "Reformed" theology. Dr. David Jeremiah once referred to himself as a "Cal-Minian", and Dr. Charles Ryrie is a Dispensationalist. Although I now differ with these men on a few things, they have greatly influenced my spiritual growth. I began listening to them on the radio while I spent many hours and days driving an 18-wheeler in the 1980's long before I knew anything about Calvinism or Arminianism. Other Preachers on the radio who influenced me in the 1980's and 1990's included J.Vernon McGee, Dr. James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Dr. Charles Stanley, John MacArthur (whose teaching I was especially drawn to and captivated by), Ravi Zacharias, and one of my all-time favorites was Dr.D.James Kennedy (who I learned later was a Reformed Presbyterian, I just didn't know what that meant at the time). The writer C.S. Lewis wasn't Reformed, but his works have greatly influenced John Piper as well as many other great Reformed men of our day. Most Reformed Pastors/Preachers quote him quite often. All these men love Jesus Christ, are useful to the advancement of the Gospel, and have given me some great insight and application into the Scripture, but may differ with me on just how Sovereign God is.
It was later in life that the Holy Spirit began opening my eyes to see and understand the historic "Doctrines of Grace", "Calvinism", "Reformed Theology" (many names, same (or similar) theology). My younger brother graduated from Mid-America (Baptist) in Memphis, then from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, and was taught by and became friends with great men of God who taught Sovereign Grace, like Wayne Grudem and Dr. Tom Nettles, and he served several years as Associate Pastor with Alistair Begg. My brother began introducing my Dad and me (who love to read) to books by some of these men, along with Piper, Carson, Bridges, Bruce Ware, and many others. My Dad always believed in the Sovereignty of God, and taught it to us, but, like me, didn't know about the "Systematic Theology" of the "Doctrines of Grace". Tom Nettles' book "By His Grace and For His Glory" was probably the most influential one book for Dad and me to begin understanding the historical context for these great Doctrines.
The conversation in one of my blogs between Charles Simeon (Calvinist) and John Wesley (Arminian) was very helpful to me to strive to keep lines of communication, fellowship, serving, and learning open with all followers of Jesus Christ, and not to dismiss, or count as enemies those with whom I currently have some theological differences.
In addition, most Pastors I've been under at local Churches have not fully embraced these historic "Doctrines of Grace", with one exception, and he's no longer pastoring a local Church, but is working for the Baptist Convention now. Another favorite former Pastor who has moved to another Church in another city once told me privately he was a "4-Pointer", but he preached like a "5-Pointer" (most of the time). I love, respect, and honor, each of my Pastors, past and present, and I have learned and continue to learn from them, and serve under their leadership. My current Pastor is one of the best speakers and teachers I've ever been under, and I am amazed by the insight God gives him into the passages he teaches Sunday after Sunday. I am taught, edified, challenged, and encouraged by his Preaching/Teaching, and can't wait for his next Sermon.
There are not many Churches, Pastors, or people here in our area who fully believe "God is Absolutely Sovereign Over All Things." They have trouble getting past the "free will" thing, and confuse Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism (we all agree that Hyper-Calvinism is wrong). They think we're saying people don't make choices, and become robots with this theology, which is not true and is really missing the whole point. They also fear it will hinder evangelism, but the opposite is true, it greatly enhances evangelism. I've blogged about William Carey and Adoniram Judson who were great Calvinist missionaries whose lives were consumed by and given for bringing Christ to the Nations.
In my view, I believe the Doctrines of Grace give all Glory to God, and anything less robs God of the full Glory due Him, and gives glory (if even just a little bit) to man. I've blogged about this a few times. I certainly don't understand it all, nor how it all works, I'm just simple enough to believe what God said in His Scripture. The Bible teaches consistently that God is absolutely Sovereign over all of His creation, and that man is fully responsible to God for all of his actions. Both are true. How can this be? I don't know, but I do know God said it, that settles it, and I believe it. Amen? (The one former pastor of mine who fully embraced God's Sovereignty once asked "what's wrong with the statement "God said it, I believe it, that settles it"? His answer was, "God said, and that settles it, whether I or you believe it or not)
As J.I.Packer once said (paraphrasing)
Calvinism is one point, not five, and the one point is this:
GOD SAVES SINNERS !
As stated in the opening sentence, I line up with the closest theologically with Dr. John MacArthur of Grace to You in California, U.S.A.. He also differs with Reformed Theology in Baptism and Eschatology. I have not found anything significant yet that he has written or taught that I disagree with. I hesitate to name just one man, though, because of the way people may start following a man rather than Jesus Christ. I've seen this in recent years with men like Rick Warren, Henry Blackaby, and Bruce Wilkinson "Prayer of Jabez"(Godly men, I assume, but they are all fallible). That's why I try to listen to, read, and study the works of many different Godly men, not just one or two.
I don't particularly like the term "Calvinist", but prefer the term "Doctrines of Grace", because I don't follow John Calvin. I follow Jesus Christ. If someone asks me if I'm a Calvinist, I ask them to define that term. I disagree with some of Calvin's views such as infant baptism, and disagree with his eschatology, but I do agree with "Calvinism" on what is commonly called the 5-Points, or T.U.L.I.P., or the "Doctrines of Grace". However, these 5-Points were actually counter-points in response to the heresy being taught by the Remonstrants (followers of Arminius) at the Synod of Dort, after the deaths of both Calvin and Arminius. And the acronym T.U.L.I.P. was coined even later, could probably be better worded for better understanding of what these Doctrines teach (might be a subject for a whole other blog topic in the future). John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul both taught through them with their recommendations for better wording for each.
I've read the Bible through from cover to cover several times over the years, and studied Scripture for decades, and am thoroughly convinced that
God is Absolutely Sovereign over All Things. (and man isn't)
In summary, although I hold to the "Doctrines of Grace", in my view, Calvinism or Arminianism should not a "litmus test" to determine if one is a child of God, a servant of God, or useful to the Kingdom of God. If one has been born again by His Grace, through Faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are brothers and sisters. Here's a link to a blog I wrote on the subject a while ago.
"Be a Bible Christian and not a System Christian"
John Piper once asked John MacArthur if he thought any of his theology was wrong. MacArthur responded by saying something like "sure, I know some of my theology is wrong, I just don't know which parts." I feel the same way. We are all still learning as long as we are in this body of flesh. I pray each day for the Lord to show me where I'm wrong, and to strengthen me in His Truths. It's not about me or my theology, it's all about Him and His Glory!
Jesus Christ Himself said: