Humble Calvinism – Part 8

Posted: November 22, 2010 in calvinism, humility, theology

See Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, and Part 7.

A Plea for Humility

It is clear that the theology that Calvin believed and taught had a profound impact on his life.  Each of the doctrines he espoused emphasized man’s complete inability to accomplish anything beneficial to his own salvation.  Thus, all men are forced to flee to Christ and rely wholly on the gracious and sovereign action of God, who invariably makes the first move in redeeming sinners, and consequently carries the sinner through the entire process of salvation, from first until last.  A correct understanding of these doctrines serves two purposes in Calvin’s estimation.  First, God is glorified, for all that is good is seen to have come from Him alone.  It is obvious that this was of the highest priority for Calvin; everything revolved around the glory of God.  Second, man is humbled when he recognizes his complete and utter dependence upon God’s free mercy.  When these two purposes have been accomplished in a person, there can be only one result: grace produces humility.  Calvin’s own life is a powerful example of the genuine humility and gentle graciousness that should characterize all who claim his name.  Far from manifesting the common stereotypes attributed to him, John Calvin lived in submissive obedience to Christ, seeking His glory and the good of His church in all he did.

Those who claim to be Calvin’s disciples would do well to heed Calvin’s example, not just tout his doctrines.  Calvinists must not be overly divisive, domineering, unkind, or proud.  We must not seek to show off our intellectual abilities, nor become puffed up on account of a deeper and more correct understanding of our salvation.  Rather, we must lead people in love, forbearing with those who struggle to understand and accept the truth.

Too many Calvinists believe that the only way to preach the doctrines of grace is with words.  As Ian Murray notes,

“In our circles, piety and godliness are not the characteristics of Calvinistic belief to the extent that they ought to be.  We believe that divine revelation has come to us in words and in propositions, and for these we must contend.  But truth is only rightly believed to the extent that it is embodied in life.”[1]

To focus only on the verbal aspect is to severely hinder the effectiveness of the truths that we so strongly believe.  The most powerful testimony to the truth of these God-glorifying, man-humbling doctrines is a life radically changed by the understanding that we owe all to our God.  The reality that God sovereignly chose us, without any regard for who we were or what we had done, must go deeper than our intellect; it must penetrate into our very soul.  Only then will we realize, as Calvin did, that these doctrines are truly the “root” of humility, for the sake of God’s glory and the good of His people.

[1] Ian Murray in John Calvin: A Heart for Doctrine, Devotion, and Doxology, ed. Burk Parsons, xiv.


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