Evangelism in Reformed Theology?
Whenever the topic of Reformed Theology is discussed, particularly when discussing the Providence of God, one of the ensuing questions inevitably relates to Evangelism or Prayer. It is my purpose to briefly address the issue of Evangelism.
It is, of course, ironic that it is at this point that the Libertarian chooses to launch his attacks. Personal piety, prayer, or evangelism are often the targets. Yet, it is at these points, that Reformers have flourished. Who can consider Evangelism and not think of Calvin, Edwards, Whitefield, Bunyan, Spurgeon, or any of the other classic Reformed men. Modern names also confirm this trend. John Piper is best known by some for his missions emphasis. Dr. James Kennedy is the founder of Evangelism Explosion! More and more names could be mentioned. Whenever you see a true Reformed Theologian, there also you see an Evangelist.
"Yes, Yes! I know" interrupts the Arminian, "Many Calvinists have had a great desire to preach the message to the lost. This does not mean that they are being consistent." So then, we must address why it is the Calvinist feels the need and desire to preach the gospel.
The Libertarian charges the Calvinist with having a doctrine that shows no need for Evangelism. They say, "If God determines who will be saved, then it necessarily follows that there is no need for you to evangelize." In one sense they are very much correct. Unlike the Arminian, the Calvinist is quick to point out that God is not dependant on his creation for his purposes. If any given person is not saved, "it is not as though the word of God has failed" (Rom 9:6). God does not sit upon his thrown and hope that a person at a Missions Conference is guilted into traveling to
However, simply because God is not under compulsion to use Humans to reach the world, does not mean that he does not use his creation as instruments for his purpose. Where God has elected for an Ethiopian Eunuch to be saved, He has also elected a Philip to go out into the desert and preach the gospel (see Acts 8). Where God has elected a Paul to be saved, he has also elected an Ananias to go to him (see Acts 9).
In Romans 8, Paul beautifully lays out the reconciliation mission of our God. He says, "For those whom He foreknew (please note that it does not say "foreknew would come to faith), He also Predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and those whom he called, He also justified; and those whom he justified, He also glorified." This is an entirely Theocentric picture of Salvation and it must be where we begin. However, let us never ignore Romans 10 which explains how God changes the heart of the reprobate: "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?"
Far be it from the Calvinist to suggest that God does not use Evangelism. Far be it from the Calvinist to believe that Missions are unimportant. At the same time, far be it from the Calvinist to say that it is We who save, We who Call, or We who change the hearts of men. God does not need us. If God was hungry, he would not tell us. If God wanted a man saved, he need not commission us. Yet he does! God uses his fallen, stained creation to bring about a perfect and holy plan. With this realization, namely the fact that God chooses to use us for His plan, the Calvinist can impact the world with humility and thankfulness to God.
Furthermore, he can approach missions with a confidence that Salvation does not rest on his ability or with his wise words to change the heart of a man. Rather, he plants or waters, but God alone causes the growth.
It is this hope and humility, which are inextricably linked, that the Calvinist preaches the Gospel. Never would one claim that God is in need of us to evangelize for Him. Never would one claim that it is in our ability that a man comes to saving faith. But, ever so boldly and confidently can the Calvinist proclaim the gospel around the nations for we trully believe that "it is the power of God for Salvation."
Dedicated to the Passionate Pursuit of the Glory of God.
Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Evangelism in Reformed Theology?