One thing must be understood: Calvin’s view of salvation is merely an extension of his overall view on God’s sovereignty. In other words, it’s extremely difficult to accept the “five points” without first accepting some presuppositions.
The first presupposition that must be acknowledged is that though man does take some part in the acquisition of knowledge, most knowledge is revealed by God and all knowledge is only obtainable because of His design plan (see “The Necessity of God in the Acquisition of Knowledge“). Calvinists would tend toward the idea that all “spiritual knowledge” (knowledge about God, salvation, sanctification, etc) is illuminated by God and that this illumination does not occur for all. In other words, though common knowledge or natural knowledge can be gained through the faculties God has supplied us with and can aid in spiritual knowledge, we can only know spiritual truths through the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
The second presupposition is that all truth is external, thus we have no influence on the formation of truth. Though our cultural backgrounds, educational backgrounds, family backgrounds, and other backgrounds can influence our understanding of the truth, truth itself is external to human experience. It is propositional, objective, and external to human thinking and experience. This means – tying in with the last point – that truth is imparted onto humans rather than coming from within humans. Any knowledge gained is merely the acknowledgment of what is already there, an acknowledgment that was also imparted onto the discoverer of the truth.
The third presupposition is that in all knowledge, humans are to keep the glory of God at the center. The first two chapters of Proverbs explain that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge and that it is God who reveals knowledge to humans. This means that when knowledge is revealed to us, we are to use it in some way for God’s glory, not our own.
With the above three things in mind, I have come to the following conclusions:
1) Calvinist beliefs shouldn’t constantly debate the issue– it doesn’t make sense to constantly debate, berate, and even mock those who do not accept Calvinism. If Calvinism is true, this means those who believe it have had such knowledge imparted onto them by God, with very little influence from their own faculties. In light of thing, it makes no sense to try to debate an issue and make it the central point of one’s theology when its something that has to be illuminated by God.
2) Calvinists should always be humble – all knowledge gained is only through the design of the mind by God and by the grace of God. Even when we use our minds to gain knowledge or understand knowledge this is only possible because God has both designed it and allowed it. This should humble the believer, realizing that he can take no pride in the acquisition of knowledge.
3) Calvinists should never become furious with someone who does not believe – this really goes for any issue. Whether the debate is over postmodernism, Calvinism, politics, church politics, or any wide variety of things, Calvinists shouldn’t become irate or furious. They should accept one of two truths. Either (1) the Calvinist is wrong in his view of the truth and needs to reform it or (2) God has simply chosen not to reveal a truth to a person, or the person’s fallen nature is preventing them from understanding the truth. In either case, though firmness might be needed at times, patience, kindness, and love should dominate the approach to discussion and/or correction.
4) Calvinists should look past distinctives and instead fellowship on what is necessary – as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, what has bothered me as of late is how people are seemingly beginning to break fellowship over the issue of Calvinism. We have some on the non-Calvinist side saying Calvinists are worse than Muslims, while those on the Calvinist side are mocking non-Calvinists. This way of thinking simply has to cease, especially for Calvinists. If God is truly sovereign and has called people to salvation, then we must accept that some people have been called to salvation that don’t believe in Calvinism (and who knows, maybe Calvinism isn’t correct, thus validating a denial of Calvinism). What sense does it make to ridicule, look down upon, or break fellowship with those who don’t accept Calvinism? We should accept brothers in the Lord, not based upon their views of predestination or upon their denomination, but upon the fact that they are saved in Christ and hold to an orthodox faith.
Though it seems I have come down on Calvinists, I must stress that I do fall into that camp (I accept all 5 points and consider myself a Calvinist). I am starting the series in this way as an attempt to show where my own heart is and where I hope the discussion goes. There is no reason this issue should be splitting churches or conventions, but for some reason it is. I feel the first step that must be taken to solving this problem – at least on the Calvinist side – is to humble ourselves.