If you are frequent reader of this blog the title to this particular post has likely caught you off guard. The team of writers to this blog are all professing Calvinists but I believe there is need for a little more clarification on my part. Fear not, I firmly believe in the total depravity of man, the unconditional election of the chosen by God, the limited atonement found in Christ alone, the irresistible grace of God, and the perseverance of those whom God has saved. But to leave it at the five points of Calvinism is to leave one's doctrinal stance incomplete.
Calvinism is basically a concise explanation of the biblical teaching of salvation in response to the Arminian attempts to undermine these reformed doctrines. In recent history some have attempted to created a modified position in accepting some of the five points and rejecting the others. But one cannot claim to be of both camps and yet of neither. While the history of Calvinism is extensive, its propositions have never steered far from John Calvin's original teachings. They have been refined but never redefined.
So, if I still hold to the points of Calvinism why would I no longer call myself a Calvinist? First, I doubt that many reformers desired that movements or teachings be identified solely by their own names. Martin Luther himself would likely not be pleased to see a denomination that carries his last name. While I understand that the title is simply a way of labeling the teachings, associating oneself with it can be interpreted by others as meaning that you agree completely with its namesake. While I do agree with Calvin's doctrinal position on salvation, I do not agree with his view of baptism (he believed child baptism) nor some of his other views. He was a true brother in Christ and his teachings will remain vital to Christian doctrine but, like all of us, he was fallible and prone to error.
Secondly, calling myself a Calvinist really only speaks to my view of salvation. It does touch on other areas but lacks in the level of treatment each of them need to develop a systematic theology. There are numerous other doctrinal areas that are left in the dark by simply wearing this title. Calvinism says little concerning church government, the Lord's Supper, baptism, preaching, Creation, the role of the Law in regards to the Christian, and numerous other areas of doctrine.
Throughout Christian history, creeds and confessions have been used to associate believers with particular doctrinal stances. Only in more recent history have we begun to steer from this practice. Earlier creeds such as the Nicene and the, incorrectly named, Apostle's Creed are basic and were also used to combat against heretical teachings, particularly in regards to denying the divinity of Christ. If one did not adhere to what these creeds summarized from Scripture, then their view of other doctrines would not matter because they were evidently not orthodox and thus not born-again.
Confessions were developed to clearly state doctrinal positions and to enable churches to readily identify themselves to others. In particular, the Westminster Confession (WC) and the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession (SLBC) were written to distinguish reformed churches from the Church of England in the 17th Century. Both are fairly close except for their views on baptism, church government, and a few other areas. If you are interested in seeing a comparison of the two, please check out this link.
Since August I have been reading through and studying the SLBC during my morning devotionals. I was also recently blessed to be invited to attend the Sound Doctrine Conference in Wake Forest, NC on behalf of Scott Brown of the National Center for Family Integrated Church. Five days and 60 hours of training later, my position had been even further solidified that before. The evenings which were not spent at the conference were spent with fellow believers discussing the confession and its personal, family, and church-wide implications.
So, why am I no longer a Calvinist? Well, I still am in a sense, but Calvinism doesn't define my doctrinal position beyond salvation. Nor does it really define the total implications of an understanding of God's sovereignty. It is a great starting point, but if we find ourselves simply remaining in the camp of Calvinism we will inevitably emphasize it over the much broader spectrum of doctrines.
No, I'm not a Calvinist. I am a Christian who is doctrinally a Reformed Baptist. So, who are you?
To God be the glory,