Applied Calvinism

Applied Calvinism

Chris Ortiz offers a needed reminder to seminarians and anyone else who might love to live in the abstract world. We must constantly seek out ways to make theology applicable and show why it is important. Otherwise, Christians who want to make a difference in their communities will sacrifice good Bible teaching for the sake of doing something.

It is a serious mistake to see theology as an academic exercise. The word theology means God’s word; it begins with the presupposition that Scripture is the word of God, and the duty of the theologian is to understand it and to apply it to every area of life and thought.

Theology belongs in the pulpit, the school, the work-place, the family, and everywhere. Society as a whole is weakened when theology is neglected. Without a systematic application of theology, too often people approach the Bible with a smorgasbord mentality, picking and choosing that which pleases them…. For me theology means the total mandate of God through His word. What I have written only scratches the surface; it is an introduction to the subject, and it is written to move men to faith and action.
(R.J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p.xv, xvi)…

Herein lieth the purpose for Christian Reconstruction: applied Calvinism. It’s the recognition that since God is wholly other, and superintends all things through creation and providence, then we are dependent upon His infallible revelation as creatures a part and distinct from His eternal being. And, knowing that the primary intent of His written revelation is to teach us “what we are to believe about Him, and what it is He requires us to do” (WCF Larger Catechism, Q.6), then we must move beyond abstract discussions of His anomalies and move ourselves to Christian action. We have spent much time on the first aspect of the catechism in determining what we believe about Him. Now let us discuss what it is He requires us to do.
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  • R. Mansfield
    Posted at 18:00h, 10 April Reply

    Gee, I miss the simple days of “applied Christianity.”

    Hey, Matt, you never answered my question on your “Freedom to Choose” blog entry.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 21:54h, 10 April Reply

    I had responded…and when I went to post it, it had been sovereignly prohibited from doing so.
    Rick wrote: “So where does that leave us, Matt? Are we merely actors in a play? Am I not typing this, but it is God typing these words through me?”

    In answer to your questions, we are not robots as the charge often goes. I find it demeaning and a strawman argument for the sovereignty position. You are in fact an actor in a play written by God. Granted, I don’t think that the working through our members is the best explanation for divine sovereignty but it does help in explaining that God is wholly other in the way he affects us. It is not like a friend trying to persuade us of something. God in his grace takes out the heart of stone (something against a rebel’s will) and give him a heart of flesh.

    What I find fascinating is how folks define “free will”. How would you define it?

    I find it more fruitful to make shorter comments…

  • Jason
    Posted at 00:01h, 11 April Reply

    I got in a conversation about this free will thing while on a backpacking trip last weekend. Turns out that we had two different definitions of free will. I define it as simply having the freedom to make our own decisions. This other girl (a Calvinist) defined free will has being able to make a decision that is not at all influenced by environment, feelings, childhood, family, etc.

    Well, I have to admit that going by her definition of free will that of course nobody can eliminate all those factors from the decision making process. But do we have the ability to make a choice, regardless of what influences that choice? I say yes, we do.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 05:08h, 11 April Reply

    Yes, we all do have choice. But what you are defining is simply “will”. What exactly is the “will” free from (for both Rick and Jason)?

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 19:45h, 11 April Reply

    This is how I see it:

    Will is the power to choose.

    God allows us to choose for ourselves, independent of his will. This is what we mean by free will. The will is “free” (that is independent) from God’s determination. God does not determine, or predetermine, what we are going to choose. He lets us choose for ourselves.

    Granted, he will give us the grace to do the good and avoid the evil. But he still gives us the choice to either accept or reject that grace.

    God will not force his will on anyone. In this sense, our wills are free.

    Agree? Disagree?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 20:19h, 11 April Reply

    Thank you, heyirishman. To anyone who wants to answer:
    1) If our wills are free from God’s will, how can any of the promises of God be fulfilled?
    2) If Christ came to die for his people, how can there be any guarantee that the will choose it?
    3) Is God in control of the universe or is it moving along by its own power?

    Before we continue this dialogue I want to reiterate that belief in God’s complete sovereignty does not mean that we are automatons, thereby having no choice. I whole-heartedly affirm that we have choice.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 09:14h, 12 April Reply

    1)If our wills are free from God’s will, how can any of the promises of God be fulfilled?

    So, God somehow needs to manipulate/arrange our wills in order that our wills choose what he desires? God somehow needs to exert his will on ours, in such a way that we willfully choose what he desires? I don’t think so. That is what electrical engineers do. They build robots; they wire them in such a way that the robot can do nothing other than what the designer wants it to do. But in the case of humans is it all the more intense—because humans have wills, robots don’t. If God were to wire our wills so that our wills would only choose what he wants us to choose, then we don’t have free will. In that case, our wills are not free from God’s determination. We may think we have free will, but it is not free will.

    Can you give an example of what you are talking about?

    God doesn’t need to manipulate/arrange our wills in order for us to choose his will over and against some other possibility or in order for him to be able to keep his promises.

    Agree? Disagree?

    2) If Christ came to die for his people, how can there be any guarantee that the will choose it?

    God knows that some will choose faith in Christ and that others will reject it. God knows all things. But just because he foreknows something, doesn’t mean that he predestined it to be such. So, God does have a guarantee that there will be some who will choose faith in Christ. Why would God go through with creating mankind only for mankind to turn his back on him and not repent?

    3) Is God in control of the universe or is it moving along by its own power?

    I’d say it’s a little mixture. It’s like asking if the falling object is falling by God’s power or if it is falling by itself. Obviously, gravity is a law that God set in place. So, it’s both and. If God wants to intervene and stop the universe from acting the way he designed it to act, he can go ahead and do that if he wants. But God is not going to arrange your will to choose this and choose that, though he knows what you will choose.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 22:48h, 12 April Reply

    It’s not just in engineering, but in plays, movies, etc. To say that God orchestrates the symphony does not mean that the violinist does not enjoy nor have a will.

    I would say that God not only sets gravity in motion, but he sustains that it continue. Romans 11.33-36; Psa 41.3;Acts 17.28…If one molecule were out of God’s control how is that it would not cause some cataclysmic reaction that God did not ordain?

    God does not wire us to choose only what he wills. That is not what the Reformed doctrine of divine sovereignty teaches. Nor does it teach that we are robots. I do not deny we have a will. If our wills are free from God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee of the promises in the Bible. I say that God inclines the will to seek, obey, and love him.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 10:27h, 13 April Reply

    God does not wire us to choose only what he wills. That is not what the Reformed doctrine of divine sovereignty teaches. Nor does it teach that we are robots.

    Are you sure you are not a Catholic?

    I do not deny we have a will.


    If our wills are free from God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee of the promises in the Bible.

    What do you mean by saying that our wills are not free from God’s sovereignty?

    I say that God inclines the will to seek, obey, and love him.

    Are you SURE you are not a Catholic?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 10:50h, 13 April Reply

    I am very sure I am not a Catholic. And I am pretty sure that once some of the misconceptions of the Reformed doctrine are explained rightly you will be convinced. I am planning on working on a paper on human will for my Systematic Theology II class. If you would like a copy I will send it.

    It sounds like a lot of what you think the Reformers teach about freedom and responsibility is not what they teach. Better, what do you mean that they are free from God’s sovereignty/will? You have not answered that yet. Once you do I should be able to explain where we differ and agree.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 20:03h, 13 April Reply

    “And I am pretty sure that once some of the misconceptions of the Reformed doctrine are explained rightly you will be convinced [that I am not a Catholic].”

    Can’t wait!

    “Better, what do you mean that they are free from God’s sovereignty/will? You have not answered that yet.”

    If you had *asked* me how we are free from God’s sovereignty/will, I would have tried to answer. Sheesh!

    Anyway, let me try to explain. A few things:

    “The act of faith is of its very nature a free act” (CCC 160).

    But our freedom is taken away (only to a certain extent) by concupiscence, bad habits, circumstances, fear etc. Thus we are responsible to the extent that our will is free from such factors. As Pope John Paul II wrote:

    “Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people. Above all, this would be to deny the person’s dignity and freedom, which are manifested-even though in a negative and disastrous way-also in this responsibility for sin committed” (RECONCILIATION AND PENANCE 16).

    So we see that a person’s dignity is bound up with his freedom. If he is not free, his dignity is taken away. If God were to take away our freedom to choose for ourselves, from among two or more alternatives, then we would not be acting as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

    Since the fall of mankind, humanity has become inclined to choose the wrong thing (sin). But we still belileve that God gives us the sufficient grace to do the good and avoid the evil. Yet at the same time, he will not force that grace on us; he gives us the choice to either reject or accept that helping grace.

    God knows from eternity what we will choose. And so, God makes his plans accordingly. How the twain work together I do not know :)

    In Acts 17:26-27, we read: “He made from one 8 the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, 27 so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.”

    This passage tells us that God has us born into certain times and places for a reason. God provides us with the environment, he places us in the enviornments we find ourselves in, specifically so that we *can* choose him. God desires that all men be saved and so he does all he can to give us the opportunity to say yes to faith.

    How God’s sovergnity and man’s free will work together is a mystery.

    So, what do you believe about man’s free will?

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 22:08h, 13 April Reply

    Just for the record…I did ask the question on April 11, 5 am.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 08:14h, 14 April Reply

    No you didn’t. You wrote the following:

    1) If our wills are free from God’s will, how can any of the promises of God be fulfilled?

    Then later on you asked: “Better, what do you mean that they [human wills] are free from God’s sovereignty/will?”

    Two different questions Matthew.

    When you do the paper, I’d love to see a copy.

  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 10:43h, 14 April Reply

    Are you kidding? Look aty April 11, 5 am, not to mention the rest of the dialogue. It seems that you make statements of the human will being free from God’s will (April 12, 9 am) but offer no explanation as to what “free” means. That is what my question entails. Your quote from “Reconciliation and Penance 16” is telling. It says all these things influence the human will, and then it lays out a big “but”. It also does not define what “free” is. It just makes this statement without defining the word. It then goes on to say that to deny “freedom” (however the quote defines it – benefit of the doubt, maybe it is somewhere else in the writing, which I would like to see) denies human dignity is untenable.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 22:18h, 14 April Reply

    Dude…do you like playing this cat and mouse game? Spit it out already! What is your view of free will and how it interacts will God’s soverignty?

    What do *you* think “free” will means, or does not mean?

    Do *you* believe in free will?

    Jason explained what will is. I tried to explain that the will is free from God’s determination. I also showed how other influences such as social upbringing, fear etc. can not take away our free will totally, but can only encroach on our will to a certain extent.

    You say that I “offer no explanation as to what “free” means.” All I can say is, “free” will means a will that is not coerced or manipulated in any way. Our wills are free because God will not coerce our wills or manipulate them to choose one thing over and against another possibility. After that, it might help to look up the word “free” in the dictionary. After that, if you have some secret knowledge (which it seems you do) please enlighten us all.

    If you find that anything I have wrote this time is “telling” please inform me what exactly it “tells” you.


  • Matthew Wireman
    Posted at 23:03h, 14 April Reply

    I hope you don’t consider this a cat and mouse game. I don’t want to wrangle with words, but I want definitions to be clear, that is what I am aiming for by being direct with you in how you define “free”. I appreciate you telling me now that it is “a will that is not coerced or manipulated in any way.” Before I hadn’t heard that from you.

    What is telling about the quote I mentioned (I apologize for not being clearer about that; I was technically using it to refer to the fact that something is alluded to without explicating it) was that it claims that the human will is affected by many things “but the human will is free” as evidenced from experience and such – thus making an assertion without a defense of how (and like I said in my comment above, given the benefit of the doubt, maybe it is defined elsewhere). I believe that “free will” has not been defined and that there is this looming idea that everyone knows what is being referred to; I did not/do not know what that definition was/is referring to. The last two lines sounds as though the document is merely defining “will”.

    As for your definition, is someone always able to choose either one of two objects. For example, if you are offered two, three, or ten flavors of your favorite ice cream, could you always choose anyone of the flavors you would eat? In other words, is your will “free” to choose any option that sits before you?

    As for my understanding of “free”, it does not have to do with secret knowledge ( I am definitely not a gnostic). Like I said, I want to be absolutely clear on what your definition is. As you probably know it is easy to engage in a conversation with someone assuming your definition for a word (i.e. justification, sanctification, free, and will) and realise that you did not have the definitions right at the first. I sense your irrateness, and apologize for not explaining why I was asking my questions.

    I hope you understand. When people begin to talk with those of the Reformed camp, they assume that we advocate some kind of robot-ness to the whole debate (as has already been evidenced). I merely wanted to put the other side on the defensive by asking all you how one even defines “free”, in hopes that there would be common ground, rather than myriad assumptions.

    As for free will, I will send you my paper once I get it done. I offer this snippet reluctantly because the Reformed understanding has been made into a strawman too many times and I know that people are ready to pounce on it…but here is a short explanation:

    Since Adam’s Fall the entire human race has been infected with sin (Original Sin, concupiscence). Scripture teaches that man is enslaved to sin, indeed, he is spiritually dead (Eph 2.1, Col 1.21 ). Man is an enemy of God. Because we are held captive by king sin we do not want to bow our knee to Christ…Our eyes have been blinded by unbelief and the devil (2 Cor 4.4). Due to this affection we are unable to choose anything other than sin. We need a miraculous work of God’s grace to shine on our hearts and reveal the glory and beauty of Christ (2 Cor 4.6). He must take out our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh (promise fulfilled by the New Covenant in Christ). This is a work he does. It is glorious and gracious.

    There is much more to be said. I will leave that for another time…I hope this helps.

  • heyirishman
    Posted at 06:28h, 15 April Reply

    Keep me posted on your paper. God be with you over Easter and always!

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