Is Calvinism the gospel?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by saintandsinner77, Jan 20, 2011.

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  1. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    The doctrines of grace are the gospel properly expounded. The five points can be preached in a passionate manner which is strongly evangelistic and without undermining the free offer of the gospel. Yes, this is sometimes not done and it seems almost as though Calvinism is meant to be relegated to bible study classes for believers only. But this ought not to be. Unless someone is claiming that John 10 is "purely doctrinal" and cannot be preached in a call to the lost, there is no good reason why a message over the pulpit (which is meant to be the main means of evangelism) should not be evangelistic and proclaim the doctrines of grace at the same time. I got saved by a good message expounding total depravity. A gospel proclamation can do without the doctrines of grace no doubt, but it can have them as well.

    Pergy, my contention remains and I think you are giving pragmatism too much respect. I did not say that one ought to be covering all 5 points of the doctrines of grace in 1 message, so please don't misrepresent what I am saying, thanks.

    Stephen, this doesn't come across as being particularly fair. Being willing to preach the doctrines of grace while preaching Christ and Christ crucified is not trying to please man, not blindly following tradition, and definitely not a total absence of dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Quit your silly charges of pragmatism towards me, my reasoning is thoroughly biblical.

    With your quote here: have proven my very point. So, what is it that you are still arguing about?
  3. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    You're not interacting and simply claiming biblical ground. No I haven't proven your point. You're saying that a gospel proclamation should generally not have the doctrines of grace because when it happens it makes the gospel proclamation "less effective", and there is no biblical reasoning behind such an assertion. I am saying that there is no such thing and we can very well proclaim both that which is essential to salvation and the doctrines of grace at the same time.
  4. ServantsHeart

    ServantsHeart Puritan Board Freshman

    Brorher Jason, I agree that while Preaching the essential elements of the Gospel a Pastor should and can touch upon some aspects of the fuller teaching of the Doctrines of Grace, we agree here.

    Regarding possible reasons why some may choose to teach Calvinism or The Doctrines of Grace instead of a simple presentation of the Gospel facts concerning Christ and Him Crucified. I did not mean to imply that any attempt to speak with the Holy Spirits enablement and with a right purpose on these weighty doctrines was a prideful motive at all times by those who do it. But it can be if we do not humble ourselves before we present our Sermon/Teaching. Paul had competition with some who Preached the Gospel out of wrong motive Phillipians 1:15 to 18 also some out of jealousy contradicted him and downplaid his call,gifts and manor of service as anApostle. This attitude and spirit is what I was speaking of as well as what Pauls warns against in 1 Corinthians 1,2,3 thats all Dear Brother.

    And lastly, My main point is that a fuller treatment of the Gospel and related truths, the Doctrines of Grace seems to me to be better suited for a setting wherein the Discipleship is beginning and ongoing. The Doctrines of Grace/Calvinism are Truth and glorious explanations of what the Bible teaches about the why,when and where's of GODS actions upon helpless sinners who need Salvation.
    I am not ashamed of the Gospel or the Doctrines which shine heavenly light upon Salvation but there in my opinion is a time and a place for making them plain.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I would like to challenge this assumption as well:

    In the NT I see most evangelism occurring in public and in a variety of pulpit-less settings. In real life I see most people coming to Christ through follow-up and not through a message from a pulpit.
  6. PuritanZealot

    PuritanZealot Puritan Board Freshman

    What's wrong with preaching the Gospel via the doctrines of grace but never explicitly mentioning them? One could easily preach a sermon on the following points, or have a discussion personally with someone (interested in spiritual things or not).

    The inability of man to save himself or to willingly choose to follow God.

    The fact that God is sovereign and will choose who He will or won't save, "mercy on whom...harden whom..."

    God has a chosen people (countless references).

    When God decides to do something, He does it and he never, ever fails.

    When God decides to save someone, He does so and they will never, ever be cast off.

    I don't see what the big deal is, my Church preach this week in week out, an unchanging Gospel, there is no mincing around with words, no preaching Calvinism ("of Paul or of Apollos or of Christ?") just preaching the Gospel as it is described in the Bible. Calvinism is not the Gospel, the Gospel is commonly called Calvinism and what a lot of people call the Gospel in most churches is nothing more than the free offer of a false Christ that died for whoever fancies following him. Not the Christ who died for filth stained hell bound sinners and never ever fails to save who He will.
  7. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes absolutely. But how is it that those who do preach the doctrines of grace while proclaiming the gospel are now made to seem like being more susceptible to such sins than those who do not? I know you've not said that explicitly, just wanting to point out that all preaching can be done with the wrong heart. Calvinists who love to uphold the doctrines of grace more are not necessarily usually such ones.

    Alright, clearly we are on different sides of the fence with regards to evangelism and there is not much point in going through this. There're plenty of threads on PB on precisely this. Even if you are of the opinion that evangelism should mainly be done in non-pulpit settings, it does not change much. It is still perfectly fine to talk about the doctrines of grace while sharing the gospel in other settings, as long as the preacher is not denying duty-faith. We don't have to even call it Calvinism. Most Reformed churches I am in contact with preach the doctrines of grace week in week out without the congregations even know that it is TULIP. To many in the congregations, it is simply the bible preached faithfully. Once again, I reiterate lest we miss the point, there is nothing wrong with preaching the doctrines of grace while proclaiming the gospel, and the onus is on the one who thinks it to be wrong to prove his point from the scriptures, and not from plain pragmatism. The wind bloweth where it listeth, not only when we employ methods seemingly "effective" to us.

  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    And again, cease and desist your charges towards me of pragmatism, my reasoning is biblical.
  9. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    And again, I cannot, unless you do reason from scriptures. If you think it profitable to stop this discussion, we may cease.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Craig and Jason:

    This presentation has nothing about the resurrection, a frequent NT theme in preaching. Also, there is no call to repentance, also a frequent NT theme when the Gospel is presented. Also, I do not see that you have explicitly expounded all 5 points and limited atonement is not explicitly explained. In fact, you seem fixated by the eternal decrees of God in your Gospel presentation. While the doctrine of grace should not be hidden, the ordo salutis is not what we normally lead with, nor the decree of election or the hidden things of God. If you were engaging the totally unchurched or unreached as an initial contact and gave them this message I would say that you could have prioritized more basic issues first.

    The Gospel is more basic than the five points. When evangelizing the lost we should not hide any truth but there is a priority of what should normally be mentioned first. And this initial explanation of the gospel not need lead one through TULIP. Normally these doctrines will be presented in their due time.
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Below are some sample Gospel Presentations /summaries from the NT:

    Acts 2:


    Paul again Romans 1 with a summary:

    Acts 17:

    In the above examples we see the person and work of Christ as the main themes. We see the resurrection. When the audience are Jews we also see proofs from the OT. With the Gentiles Paul starts from the known and works to the unknown (he is "contextual"). We see also a call to action and the impact of the Gopsel on our personal actions.

    The key elements of an "effective" presentation of the Gospel would be that it is (1) biblical and 2) clear. It it is either in error or unclear or not understandable, then the Gospel is not really being communicated well. Add to these points other secondary elements such as (3) it is personal and impacts more than the cognitive realm but also the affective part of the person and (4) it motivates them to act, then I think you can call this a good or effective Gospel presentation. Given the limited time of some initial evangelistic encounters it is wise to give a bigger picture of Scripture and work from the known to the unknown and the major themes over the minor rather than get distracted on secondary issues (stick to Christ and his work). If later further discussions can be arranged, then a a more systematic and thorough approach can be adopted.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Would you agree that these examples with their different emphases reveal that a great deal of background knowledge is necessary to the proper understanding and acceptance of the gospel which is preached? In Acts 17 we find an elaboration of providence as underpinning the moral accountability of all men to the command to repent. Without an understanding of providence the command to repent carries little weight. Therefore the apostle elaborates upon it in his proclamation of the gospel. The fact is, the gospel reaches men at various points of their understanding. Where people are already influenced by a pure Arminian conception of Christianity it becomes necessary to correct those misconceptions in order to clear the way for the gospel. Where one is on a missionary field like India it will be important to clarify that Christianity is not just a belief which can be incorporated into a Hindu philosophy of life but a radical change of allegiance to Christ the Lord. There is not really a situation which enables one to give a simple ABC presentation of the gospel. The context in some measure will dictate the emphases and the instructor will try to lead the hearer according to his abilities and understanding.
  13. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Dear Matthew Winzer,
    I don't think there has been one comment posted by you on this board that I would not have found helpful. I've noticed you talk considerably less than others, but when you talk, there is great wisdom behind your words. Just makes me wonder if my own mouth opens a little too often before seriously pondering. So, thank you for this another great comment, and thank you for giving such a great example of discretion to others!

    In Christ,
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Lost in all this back and forth was a comment made by Matthew early on about the fact that the central ideas are implicit in the Gospel. Yet again we see a thread derailed because people are not paying attention to what the question was.

    Do you suppose Spurgeon was so naive as to be stating that what he meant by his statement that he walked men through the entire Canons of Dordt in order to present the Gospel?

    Or is Spurgeon's statement all about how one performs door to door evangelism?

    Now, as Matthew pointed out, even in 1 Cor 15, the five principles are inherent in the Gospel.

    For instance, I fully reject any idea that limited atonement is not part of the Gospel presentation. I can't tell you the number of people that I've comforted by the Gospel truth that Christ's death and resurrection saves men to the uttermost. I don't state it in the formula that Christ only died for the elect but in a way that makes clear that Christ's death and resurrection pay the full penalty for sin and that those that believe in Christ live forever.

    Furthermore, in a fast food society that likes "snippets" it is wrong to assume that 1 Cor 15 is the only time that Paul calls something "the Gospel". The entire letter of Romans is repeatedly referred to by Paul as "my Gospel". There may be a shorthand way of saying certain things to people that already understand something but there are no shortcuts by just saying a minimal number of words to a listener and assuming that the person listening has understood the Gospel. Sentences in the scriptures are not incantations. We are called to press these things into the understanding of our hearers and explain and argue for certain ideas. I may start out with something very basic but will have to give further explanation or correction of something if somebody is inferring something improperly.

    At the end of the day, people need to stop and consider how one could accurately present any Gospel that denied man's rebellion in sin (T), the right of God to punish men for their sin (T), God's sending of Christ out of his mere grace and not for anything they deserved (U), Christ dying on a Cross for Sin satisfying the wrath of God for all who believe (L), Christ saving to the uttermost all who draw near (L,P), God loving us before we loved him (U, I), or even the power of the Gospel to be the source of life (I).

    If you think Spurgeon's concern was that the Canons of Dort and the history of the debate ought to be a part of any entry-level discussion with an unbeliever then you've utterly missed the point.

    If you can think of a way to accurately present the Gospel that somehow denies any core principle then I'd like to hear it.
  15. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    Disclaimer: I haven't read a single post in this thread. Nor do I intend to do so. But judging by the fact that there are 2 pages of comments I'm going to guess that there is disagreement as to whether or not the question in the OP is true. I'll add my vote to the "yes it is" lot.

    Calvinism is NOT the Gospel if by that we mean that if we read someone the 5 points of TULIP we've thereby presented the Gospel. But Spurgeon was no dummy. He didn't mean that, and neither do I. The assumptions about God and man and sin and salvation that undergird the doctrines of grace; the statements about God, man, the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, that are in TULIP... these things are the ideas and propositions that are faithfully consistent with, and in, the Biblical Gospel. More so, this is true to the extent that to the degree one rejects Calvinism, one is rejecting a belief or assumption about God/man/sin/salvation that is part of the Gospel. How much error can one have in their soteriology and be saved? I don't know, and that isn't for me to judge, but I won't back down from saying that the better one understands Calvinism, the better one understands the Gospel, and vice versa.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, Rev. Winzer, perfectly agreed.

    I noted above the different approach Paul took with the Jews as opposed to the Gentiles.

    Also, many times in my posts above I used phrases such as “initial” evangelistic encounter and “totally unchurched” to describe the context.

    I simply think that those in America aged 30 years or below are so biblically illiterate that they need to hear a solid summary of the Gospel before getting into the game of “Your church may say this, but that is not right…” because many folks simply don’t have a church. If asked, or at a later point there is room for this as well.

    Also note that my perspective is an evangelistic one.

    I also believe that we ought to prioritize the teaching of some doctrines before others when engaging in evangelism. Eschatology might not be for day one. I believe an explicit explanation of the five points is usually not for day one either, unless there are questions. These are all practical considerations on the field when trying to impart understanding to people. I try to work from the big picture of Scripture down to smaller and more specific doctrines, I try to work from the known to the unknown. I try to get them to acknowledge the truths that they accept first in their native religion before engaging in controversies. I try to give a basic summary of the Gospel the first chance I get without getting “distracted” by one or two issues. Call these things “pragmatic” if you will (and these general operating practices do prove very practical), but I do not believe the apostles were purposely impractical and I believe that we serve a practical God.

    And, of course I have never said that I want to hide any doctrine from any man, only that some doctrine fits better to lead off with. And if we are to give the “Gospel” to someone this means that we must give them those core truths of the NT which seem to be more basic than the five points of Calvinism.

    The Gospel is not the five points, though I have partnered with some folks in evangelism that have thought this and one man that I partnered with even ended up trying to prove that “world” didn’t mean the whole world to a totally unchurched man on our first visit and within the first ten minutes and failed to give a solid summary of the basics because he got fixated on going through the five points.

    It is quite right that Paul immediately attacks the Gentiles as being altogether too superstitious (the phrasing here seems to be negative and not a commendation of their religiousity) but I think directly engaging error among the unchurched today in the West would be to engage their sinful lifestyles first and give them a solid summary of the Gospel – although even on an initial encounter one should engage false notions of religion. Also, Paul quotes from the pagan’s own poets and focused on a truth that all could accept as a point of commonality before pushing the audience further and demanding repentance, so that there also seems a principle of working from the known to the unknown and from the accepted to the unaccepted. Therefore, an explicit exposition of limited atonement will come in its own due time, but a general teaching of Christ coming to save sinners is sufficient for an initial Gospel Summary.

    In my experience I am dealing with unchurched people or people largely wholly ignorant of the basic gospel truths.

    My conclusion: Simply put, Calvinism is perfectly biblical and we should teach it fully. However, when engaging someone and telling them what the gospel is in its narrow definition, we get our pattern from Acts 2, Acts 14, and other places which seem to focus on Christ and his person and work and his resurrection and a call to repent, etc, and not an explicit exposition of the five points.

    A note on disagreements in this thread:

    Jason has challenged me and has called my principles pragmatic. If that is the case, then the Apostle Paul was also pragmatic in how he addressed Jews differently than Gentiles. Also, perhaps he believes that I want to intentionally hide some doctrine from people, but this has never been said. Perhaps he thinks that I am advocating NOT teaching Calvinism, but this also was never said, only that the Gospel is not equated 100% with the 5 points but is more basic and when giving the Gospel one needs not explicitly mention these five points. Also, he seems to be equating evangelism with an activity from the pulpit (though I believe that the service of the church is basically focused on feeding believers and not unbelievers; we should go out into the highways and hedges to focus on unbelievers)and I am equating evangelism with an activity where there is no pulpit or church. So maybe these factors are causing some disagreement on this thread.

    ---------- Post added at 03:01 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:36 PM ----------


    I saw Rev. Winzer's early thread and agree with it.

    The difference is whether the five points are implicit or explicit when one usually presents the Gospel to unbelievers initially.

    Perhaps Spurgeon was not so naive as to try to read the Canons of Dordt to unbelievers when asked about what the Gospel was, but I have seen with my own two eyes calvinists who have tried to "witness" in this manner. I have been with men who have told people that world did not really mean world within 10 minutes of a first encounter with someone, even when this topic seemed of secondary importance at the time. Like your gopsel summary above, I would have felt fine with leaving it at, "Christ died for sinners" or "Christ died for all who believe." The nature of the atonement is important and the extent of the atonement flows from its nature, but the extent of the atonement might better be reserved for a later time unless the person you are talking to explicitly mentions it.

    Note that in your above fine Gospel Summary, limited atonement was also implicit and not explicit and you did not march down the five points either. You mentioned that:

    This is much the same as how I present the Gospel to an unbeliever. It is a good start. I notice that in this initial summary of the Gospel you did not explicitly say that Christ did NOT die for anyone, only that He died for sinners who believed. Are you denying a central truth because who failed to mention this? Or are you merely sticking to the main things for the need of time and conciseness?

    The five points of calvinism are perfectly biblical. I think that is what is meant when people say "Calvinism is the Gospel" - they mean merely that "Calvinism is Biblical." Amen.

    Since the PB consists of all calvinists therefore, it is not a naive thing then to take the word "Gospel" in its narrowest sense, since the phrase "Calvinism is biblical" is already accepted by all. And when do we usually try to explain this narrowest sense to people? When we are initially evangelizing them.

    And if the gospel is taken in its narrowest sense, then what we are talking about is those core doctrines Paul mentions when he summarizes the Gospel. In this case, then no, Calvinism and the Gospel are not perfect synonyms.

    This does not mean that we are trying to find gospel presentations that deny any of these tenets, but just like in your gospel summary above, those things will stay implicit and sometimes unmentioned until a later point.

    And as the context allows there will be time and opportunity to go deeper. But initially one must give the core of the Gospel to unbelievers, and that core is more basic than the five point explicitly explained.

    ---------- Post added at 03:07 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:01 PM ----------

    Yes, agreed.

    We all agree with the statement "Calvinism is biblical" which is what I think most people mean when they say "Calvinism is the Gospel."

    However, narrowly defined, when we give a summary of the Gospel this does not mean summarizing the five points and at the most those five points will usually stay implicit in our gospel summaries to unbelievers. I have quoted Peter and Paul above in how they summarized the Gospel.

    This is not advocating denying any of the doctrines of grace, which is what perhaps some people have assumed. I am advocating that when we present this narrow summary of the Gospel to unbelievers that normally it will not look exactly like the five points nor even mention some of the points explicitly (I used limited atonement as an example).

    This is not pragmatism, but a right prioritizing of the core tenets of our faith. Later on, one can go deeper.

    In this sense the five points is not the Gospel.
  17. tommyb

    tommyb Puritan Board Freshman

    If one goes back to Spurgeon's quote, I believe when he says "preach" he is speaking as a Pastor preaching from the pulpit and teaching the flock the whole counsel of God. He is saying you cannot avoid or separate these doctrines from the Gospel because, ultimately, they are the Gospel. To to teach any other doctrine is to detract from the "goodest" part of what makes the good news so good. When it comes to evangelizing the world, I believe Spurgeon would agree with the OP entirely in that you don't need to preach the fine points unconditional election (nor should you) to preach the Gospel and regenerate the soul. The text of Spurgeons' evangelistic sermons would seem to confirm this.
  18. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Outstanding post Rich. Amen.

    ---------- Post added at 12:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:05 PM ----------

    I'm sorry, Pergamum, but simply acknowledging Calvinism as "Biblical" falls short of accurately describing the relationship of Calvinism and the Gospel. I believe homeschooling is "biblical," however I do not believe that homeschooling is the Gospel.

    What we are saying is that the whole of Paul's Gospel in its fullest sense is Calvinism. Are there brief and definitive summaries of this Gospel which omit some of the finer points? Absolutely! But the Gospel in its entirety shew forth the Doctrines of Grace in all their beauty. Calvinism is our soteriology. And it is an answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?" So in that sense we say, Calvinism is the Gospel.

    I have found The Sum of Saving Knowledge to be a perfect example of the interdependency of what we call "the Doctrines of Grace" and the Gospel

  19. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Many thanks to Pergy for your elaboration and interaction. Perhaps allow me to clarify a bit too.

    This is the statement in question. No I have not said that you wish to hide the doctrines of grace somehow, but I acknowledge that you wish to de-prioritize the explicit presentation of it in favour of the bare facts of the gospel. As Rev Winzer has said, there is a time and place for such a presentation in some cases and I still fail to see how we necessarily need to strip our gospel presentation bare of any other doctrines. We can preach on the blessed hope of the Kingdom of Christ while telling one about the need to believe and repent. Why not? Our Lord and Saviour did it. We don't have to go on a two-hour lecture on the differences between amil, postmil and *gasp* premil :). But surely we can tell of the second coming of Christ?

    It is perhaps unfortunate if the talk about pragmatism is being seen as being offensive. It is necessary to be pragmatic but it is a matter of how pragmatic one is. Being pragmatic does not mean one is now preaching like Rick Warren does. If I have 10 minutes to witness to a dying unbeliever, I will not be talking about total depravity or limited atonement. At the same time, I have unbelieving friends with RC backgrounds, and some who have departed from broad evangelical churches after being there for a while. Many a times, I do have some time to spend with them and it may be needful to sometimes cover the doctrines of grace to clarify the gospel. And perhaps I am being pragmatic in doing so. What I am disagreeing with is your insistence on how gospel presentations generally ought to be done and I think that it is mainly pragmatic principles which have brought you to your stance. So yes, we kind of disagree on how to be pragmatic.

    Our differing views on what evangelism normally is has contributed to the disagreement no doubt, but at the same time, it is not the substance of the disagreement. I think the true issue lies with how we visualize a possible gospel proclamation with the doctrines of grace in view, and this relates well back to the OP on whether Calvinism is the gospel. "The Sum of Saving Knowledge" that Rev Sheffield has given is a good example of how to do so. Also, with regards to the implicit/explicit distinction, I am not convinced that it is viable to "keep the doctrines of grace implicit". It is because the doctrines of grace are implicit to the gospel that we may at times need to make them explicit in the hope of making the gospel clearer. The modern mainstream "Arminian" preacher is able to preach a gospel which saves, but what is implicit to his understanding of the gospel is fuzzy and inconsistent, and it remains so when there is a need to make them explicit.
  20. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior


    This is where I'll differ with you. There is an important difference between practical theology and pragmatism. All theology is practical (i.e. has real life implications). But our practice flows from our theology. Pragmatism is quite different. Pragmatism on the other hand arrives at conclusions on practice based on weather or not that practice produces the desired result (i.e. "if it works, its right!"). The pragmatist wilfully disregards the dictates of God's Word if he feels that doing so will better accomplish his ends.

    Biblical Doctrine must inform our practice. That's practical theology.

    Pragmatism is motivated solely on the basis of results. Pragmatism is dangerous error and heresy. So, we must be very judicious in the levying of this charge. It is indeed an offensive charge.
  21. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    If pragmatism must necessarily be defined that way, let's chuck the word and take it that I actually mean practicality. Pardon me for not using the terms the same way.
  22. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    We needn't chuck the word, but only apply it when the shoe fits. We are all susceptible to the error of pragmatism and it is rampant in our day. We should certainly call it out when clearly identified.
  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    But Perg, the thread was started with a very specific question about what Spurgeon meant by what he wrote. The question wasn't how some theoretical person might use the "5 points" during a witnessing opportunity but what Spurgeon might properly mean.

    You also jump to exactly what I was critical of by restricting "Gospel" to immediate Evangelistic encounter. As noted the whole of the Book of Romans is called "my Gospel" by Paul. There's information in there that is useful for a person completely ignorant of the Gospel as well as for those who have been in the Church for their entire lives. Ironically, in another thread, you're interacting against a notion of the Gospel that restricts its usage to the kerygma and that an understanding of the Gospel needs to embrace sanctification as well as justification. Paul's concern for the Galatians is that they are abandoning the Gospel in their approach to sanctification.

    Now, if the first post asked "What is every single way in which some immature or ignorant believer might poorly present the Gospel to an unbeliever", then I don't necessarily think I'd even be bothered. If the thread started out even by saying: "Are the 5 points from the Canons of Dordt the evangelical method by which we should present the Gospel?" then it would also be a different topic.

    If, however, we embrace the wide understanding of what the Gospel is to include the kerygma as well as the richer understanding of the term as used throughout the Word, then I don't know why anyone who embraces a Reformed understanding of the Word would want to affirm that their understanding of the Gospel is tentatively false. "No, my understanding of the Gospel is not the Gospel."

    I said that Christ died to save to the uttermost all who believe. The fact that Christ atones for the sin of believers is something I regularly drive home. I deny nothing but it's a building block. I gave a basic Gospel outline but, as I said, the Gospel is much richer and I would include Hebrews 9-10 as embracing "the Gospel" concerning Christ's once-for-all atonement. I think the strongest argument for understanding the atonement is to get people to understand what the atonement represents and any illusions about Christ dying to atone for the sins of all men quickly vanish.

    I was simply trying to give a very short example of how a simple Gospel presentation might be outlined to demonstrate that it's nigh impossible to escape Biblical themes that some put under theological headers called "the 5 points". The whole point of this thread is not to argue that the "5 points" have to be stated explicitly. There is no requirement to demonstrate that Spurgeon is essentially correct by insisting that every thing we say follows some explicit statement from the Canons of Dort. It is enough to note that everything we present about the Gospel is going to have some a priori implicit grounding in what we believe is part of the whole.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    You write:

    The same with me. We all use building blocks when explaining the Gospel. These building blocks are more basic and often implicit rather than explicit (just as in your own gospel summary and just as in Rev. Winzer's early quote).

    We simply do not have time to explain the kerygma plus all other related dogma at a short meeting, and so one explains the core. And my point again is that this core is not the same as the five points. The five points are biblical, but the kerygma, the core, is more basic. I am not advocating hiding or de-prioritizing anything, but I do advocate leading with the more basic.

    And it is ironic that in 3 or 4 other threads many people are protesting an enlarged definition of the term "Gospel" and here some are protesting my use of the term "gospel" in its narrow definition when speaking to unbelievers.

    When most calvinists say, "Calvinism is the Gospel" they mean, "Calvinism is Biblical." If anyone believes that the five points and the kerygma or core of the Gospel are the same, this needs to be challenged. The two terms (Calvinism and Gospel) are not perfect synonyms. Plus of course, many of the "Truly Reformed" also add infant baptism to the term Calvinism as well, so I think it right to use a more narrowed definition of the term Gospel when we speak of a presentation of the Gospel or speaking the Gospel to unbelievers since our time and our words must be limited.

    And Rich, I think you would agree with me since your Gospel Summary reflects very closely how I present the Gospel.

    Reading your post and Jason Lim's posts, it seems we really disagree on little, but perhaps you are shooting at strawmen. In your answer you say "I deny nothing" as if you think I do. And Jason Lim speaks of my advocating of leading with the basics of the kerygma and leaving other points of doctrine for a later time as "pragmatism." So please understand my position, it essentially differs little than what I see you and Rev. Winzer, and Jason Lim, writing.

    However, due to my experiences with calvinists in the "cage stage" who want to beat people over the head with the 5 points in evangelism, I have seen some people lead with the five points instead of the gospel and these have majored on such things as "Christ did NOT die for you if you do not believe." Or "God chooses some for damnation." Remember, Fred Phelps, too, is a five point calvinist - is he faithfully preaching the Gospel? Many people hearing some of the people that I have evangelized with would reject the message based on these wordings, but this does not necessarily mean they are rejecting the Gospel, because, in truth, they have not really heard the core of the Gospel, the basics which we see in Acts 2 and Acts 17 and I Cor 15.
  25. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Again, I object. And this is key to the conversation because it represents a misunderstanding of the opposing view point. Simply acknowledging Calvinism as "Biblical" falls short of accurately describing the relationship of Calvinism and the Gospel. As stated earlier, I believe homeschooling is "biblical," however I do not believe that homeschooling is the Gospel.

    What we are saying is that the whole of Paul's Gospel (and Scripture) in its fullest sense is Calvinism. Are there brief and definitive summaries of this Gospel which omit some of the finer points? Absolutely! But the Gospel in its entirety shews forth the Doctrines of Grace in all their beauty. Calvinism is our soteriology. And it is an answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?" So in that sense we say, Calvinism is the Gospel.

    We are not simply saying "Calvinism is biblical," we're saying its the Gospel.

    And I would also object to limiting the Gospel's definition to what might be communicated in a one-off, 60 second evangelistic encounter. The Great Commission commands us to make disciples by "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Evangelism and Missions encompass the Whole Counsel of God - this is the Kerygma (II Tim. 4:1-2).
  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    A summary of the Gospel and a summary of the five points will yield very different results. This is a clue that they are not to be treated as perfect synonyms.

    The Gospel narrowly defined is more limited than the "all things whatsoever I have commanded you.." found in the Great Commission. No one has every fully explained that yet to anyone.

    Also, many reformed people state that calvinism is not enough or that baptism is part and parcel of calvinism in such a way as to make the opposing side on baptism (usually credos) to be somehow betraying the gospel because they differ in baptism. But, a difference in baptism usually does not indicate not knowing the Gospel (except maybe views of baptismal regneration which strike at the heart of soteriology).

    But Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians share the same Gospel and merely differ on baptism. Calvinism and Reformed Theology are virtually synonymous terms as well to many people and if we equate calvinism with reformed theology to the gospel then those who differ with us in baptism are not merely in error, but are Gospel-betrayers. This is too harsh.

    My narrow use of the word Gospel is not unique. B.B. Warfield here does not treat the word "Gospel" as synonymous with the whole system of Calvinism or Reformed Theology but he explains the word "gospel" as one sub-heading when summarizing Reformed Theology in general:

    Westminster Theological Seminary - What is Reformed Theology?

    He states instead that the Gospel is this (employing a narrow definition fo Gospel):

    Likewise, J.I. Packer in his Intro to John Owen's Death of Death booklet writes this short summation of the Gospel:

    Furthermore, Spurgeon himself says in the sermon mentioned in the OP:

    Thus, it appears that there is an essential core of doctrine that is more basic than the five points explicitly explained. Spurgeon himself was saved in an Arminian church; did he hear the Gospel there somehow without hearing the five points? Spurgeon is using the phrase "Calvinism is the Gospel" to mean that it is biblical in opposition to the Arminian system, not that Calvinism=Gospel as perfect synonyms.

    It is, again, ironic, that in this OP most are pushing for the assertion that calvinism or reformed theology is the Gospel even while in another thread many are slicing up what is "law" and what is "gospel."

    Once again, a summary of the Gospel and a summary of the five points of calvinism will yield very different results, indicating that their nature is not 100% overlap.

    Again, most theologians use the term "gospel" as a narrower sub-heading; for instance, BB Warfield uses "Gospel" as one sub-heading as he is explaining the larger system of Reformed Theology, and this is common practice and indicates that it is common to define "the Gospel" as being that most basic and essential set of essential truths that most folks try to summarize when evangelizing others (because they are the most vital).

    ---------- Post added at 02:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:27 PM ----------

    Reformation Theology: What is the Gospel? by C. J. Mahaney
  27. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    I would say yes and point to Rev. Winzer's post.

    Also, there are a couple of different kinds of Arminianism with consistent Arminianism being the ever elusive.

    The Christ of Arminianism

    1. The Christ of Arminianism - loves every individual person in the world and sincerely desires their salvation.
    The Christ of the Bible - earnestly loves and desires the salvation of only those whom God has unconditionally chosen to salvation. (Ps. 5:5, Ps. 7:11, Ps. 11:5, Matt. 11:27, John 17:9-10, Acts 2:47, Acts 13:48, Rom. 9:10-13, Rom. 9:21-24, Eph. 1:3-4)

    2. The Christ of Arminianism - offers salvation to every sinner and does all in his power to bring them to salvation. His offer and work are often frustrated, for many refuse to come.

    The Christ of the Bible - effectually calls to Himself only the elect and sovereignly brings them to salvation. Not one of them will be lost. (Isa. 55:11, John 5:21, John 6:37-40, John 10:25-30, John 17:2, Phil. 2:13)
    3. The Christ of Arminianism - can not regenerate and save a sinner who does not first choose Christ with his own "free will." All men have a "free will" by which they can either accept or reject Christ. That "free will" may not be violated by Christ.

    The Christ of the Bible - sovereignly regenerates the elect sinner apart from his choice, for without regeneration the spiritually dead sinner can not choose Christ. Faith is not man's contribution to salvation but the gift of Christ which He sovereignly imparts in regeneration. (John 3:3, John 6:44 & 65, John 15:16, Acts 11:18, Rom. 9:16, Eph. 2:1,Eph. 2:8-10, Phil. 1:29, Hebr. 12:2)

    4. The Christ of Arminianism - died on the cross for every individual person and thereby made it possible for every person to be saved. His death, apart from the choice of man, was not able to actually save anyone for many for whom he died are lost.

    The Christ of the Bible - died for only God's elect people and thereby actually obtained salvation for all those for whom He died. His death was a substitutionary satisfaction which actually took away the guilt of His chosen people. (Luke 19:10, John 10:14-15 & 26, Acts 20:28, Rom. 5:10, Eph. 5:25, Hebr. 9:12, I Peter 3:18)
    5. The Christ of Arminianism - loses many whom he has "saved" because they do not continue in faith. Even if he does give them "eternal security," as some say, that security is not based upon his will or work but the choice which the sinner made when he accepted Christ.

    The Christ of the Bible - preserves His chosen people so that they can not lose their salvation but persevere in the faith to the very end. He preserves them by the sovereign electing will of God, the power of His death, and the mighty working of His Spirit. (John 5:24, John 10:26-29, Rom. 8:29-30, Rom. 8:35-39, I Peter 1:2-5, Jude 24-25)

    As you can see, although the Christ of Arminianism and the Christ of the Bible may at first seem to be the same, they are very different. One is a false Christ. The other is the true Christ. One is weak and helpless. He bows before the sovereign "free will" of man. The other is the reigning Lord Who wills what He pleases and sovereignly accomplishes all that He wills.

    If you believe and serve the Christ of Arminianism, you must recognize the fact that you do not serve the Christ of the Bible. You have been deceived! Study the Scriptures and learn of the True Christ. Pray for grace to repent and trust Christ as your sovereign Savior.
  28. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the product of the entirety of Holy Scripture, and so is the systematic theology called "Calvinism," which is established upon the five points of the doctrines of grace (TULIP).

    I am very distressed that a missionary, who supposedly identifies himself with Puritan thought and teachings, and claims to adhere to Reformation confessions, would be questioning the validity of the gospel message provided by Calvin or Calvinists.

    Do you find a universalistic, free will gospel, more pertinent to your needs, Pergamum?
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Your posts are as edifying as ever.

    -----A summary of the Gospel yields info such as the incarnation, the person and work of Christ and the resurrection. When the NT writers preached to the Jews, this summary also included the message of Jesus being the long-awaited messiah of whom OT Scripture spoke.

    -----A summary of the five points yields TULIP, whiich makes no explicit mention of the resurrection.

    Thus, these two summaries emphasize different things. While calvinism is biblical, calvinism and the gospel are two separate entitites. When people say that "calvinism is the gospel" they usually really mean that calvinism is biblical.

    When did I say anything about universalism or free-willism?
  30. JM

    JM Puritan Board Professor

    Arminianism assumes universalism and free willism.
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