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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.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How to Teach and Preach Calvinism

John Piper at Desiring God Ministry wrote a handy little article back in 1998 where he lists 10 ways that he thinks Calvinism should preached from the pulpit. I will dialogue with his comments:

1. Be rigorously textual in all your expositions and explanations and defenses of Calvinistic teachings. Make it a textual issue every time, not a logic issue or an experience issue.

In a sense this is how every issue should be. Doctrine should come solely from the text and we must use the Scriptures to validate all that is taught. Furthermore, we should never put experience or logic above the clear teaching of scripture. After laying the foundation with scripture then I think experiential illustrations and logical inferences can be helpful, but they should never be the main thrust of the argument.

2. Don't be strident but gentle. Assume that working these great issues through to conviction may take years and that being in process is OK.

I think most people who have been Calvinists for longer than six months realize this principle. This is something that most of us did not arrive at overnight and we should not expect others to make the journey quicker than we did.

3. Speak of your own brokenness in regard to these things and how they are precious to you and why and how they minister to your soul and help you live your life.

This is not in contradiction with number one (experience) because in this case the Pastor is not explaining or developing an idea from experience. Rather, after the scriptures have been preached, experiences and feelings should be explained and used to comfort and exhort the brethren.

4. Make Spurgeon and Whitefield your models rather than Owen or Calvin, because the former were evangelists and won many people to Christ in a way that is nearer to our own day.

I agree. I may stick Jonathan Edwards in there as a bridge between the two groups and point at him.

5. Be an evangelist and a missions mobilizer so that the criticism that Calvinism dulls a passion for the lost is put to silence.

This is an absolute essential. Some of the biggest criticisms of Calvinism would be removed if we simply "walked the talk".

6. Work the five points out from the "I" in tulip not the "U". That is, show people that they don't really want to take final credit for their coming to Christ. They don't want to stand before God at the judgment day and respond to the question, "Why did you believe and others with your opportunities didn't?" with the answer, "Well, I guess I was smarter, or more spiritual." They want to say, "By grace I was brought to faith." Which is "irresistible grace." That is, grace that triumphs over all resistance in the end.

This is probably my favorite suggestion. Starting with Grace and working backward toward election seems to be the best way to go. When you start with Election then it can sometimes become as man-centered as views we reject.

7. Out rejoice your critics. The one who knows and rests in the sovereign grace of God should be the happiest saint. Don't be a sour or glum or hostile false advertisement for the glory of God's grace. Praise it. Rejoice in it. And don't let that be a show. Do it in your closet until it is spilling over in the pulpit and the commons.

I think that this is my second favorite suggestion!

8. Don't ride hobbyhorses that aren't in the text. Preach exegetically, explaining and applying what is in the text. If it sounds Arminian, let it sound Arminian. Trust the text and the people will trust you to be faithful to the text.

Yes! We must not ride hobby horses or the church begins to follow a pastor rather than Christ. When coming to a difficult text then it must be preached faithfully. Difficult texts need to be preached in a way that they can be explained to the congregation without contradicting other passages. However, if one finds themself so having to twist a passage to make it fit into a theological construct - then possibly their understanding of the passage is wrong.

9. Avoid theological jargon that is not in the text. The word "Calvinism" is probably not helpful. "Doctrines of grace" may not do it either. Just stick with what is there in the text, or come up with some new striking phrases that will cause the people to wonder and be excited.

I agree with the first part. Sermons are traditionally expository preaching on a given passage. They are not systematic theologies and therefore names like this probably do not help. As for making up new phrases to make people "wonder and be excited", I'm not sure I understand what he is getting at.

10. Tell stories and experiences from biography and from the lives of living saints that illustrate their dependence on the sovereignty of God. Especially stories related to missions and evangelism and holiness of life.

I happen to love biographies of saints so I give this suggestion two thumbs up!

In Christ alone,


Blogger pilgrim said...

While I am not a pastor I have preached a few sermons, and also lead classes & studies.
And I find it impossible to not refer to the doctrines of grace when I do so.
But I have found that in sermons it is more effective to just stick to the text and it comes out that way--so I'm not defending or using the terminology necessarily--but it is being taught--so I can agree with the points that relate to that.

Sometimes in classes or studies you can do the same thing--sometimes you need to address it by name.

But overall, I don't hide it, but I don't use it as a bludgeon either. And people get the point.

9:50 PM  

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