The Difference It Makes
So I'll be heading back to the U.S. in order to finish my thesis there. For now, I've ceased to make approximations about how soon I will complete it. But since I will not be finished by the end of this month as I had initially intended, financial considerations (among others) make returning the best thing. Plus, this way I won't miss the Great Thanksgiving Feast! But other celebrations will have to wait. I should be in the middle PA area by 15 November.
In any case, in light of my recent post about the SBC especially, I offer you this reflection:
In my nearly year&half experience here I have found that nothing is more conspicuous among the college age youth of the would-be orthodox confessional reformed churches in the Netherlands than the conviction that confessional reformed teaching is utterly irrelevant to authentic and practical Christian living. I perceived the substantial presence of this same conviction among the third and fourth generation Dutch immigrant communities I encountered in southern California and southern Ontario.
I suspect this conviction stems from their ironic but profound ignorance about reformed teaching and its biblical basis. But, even among some of my readers who are not ignorant about reformed teaching and knowledgeably embrace it, there may yet be a hesitance to unambiguously affirm that nothing is or can be more relevant to genuine Christian life. So, I want to take a moment to explain what I believe is the crucial practical difference between gospel proclaiming & believing overagainst that of a false gospel (which we will call, simply, 'nonCalvinism'. There are many false gospels, but this is an expression of the most prominent "Evangelical" one).
I focus here on the gospel because it is the sine qua non of salvation, the heart of Calvinism, and the essence of the whole of reformed teaching. I focus on the practical difference in terms of 'proclaiming and believing' this gospel because out from this root springs all real Christianity. So, the central question is what is meant in the actual proclamation of and faith in "Christ, and Him crucified." The difference at stake is not theoretical, but a question of life or death.
The nonCalvinist proclaims that Christ died for every single person whether or not they ever believe and are saved. He proclaims, not that Christ alone guarantees salvation by His death, but that sinners must contribute their native ability to believe, and that this action is what ultimately makes the difference for salvation. In stark contrast to the nonCalvinist's gospel, the Calvinist proclaims that all persons for whom Christ died will be given faith and full salvation. He proclaims that Christ absolutely guarantees this salvation by His death, and that no sinner is able to believe of themselves, so that Christ and Him crucified makes the exclusive difference for salvation.
When a person believes the proclamation of the nonCalvinist gospel, that person is not given faith by Christ, nor do they trust in His work alone as guaranteeing salvation. This is a false gospel. It does not come with the power of God, and no one is saved by it. In total opposition to that, when a person believes the proclamation of the Calvinist gospel, that person is given faith by Christ and they trust in His work alone as guaranteeing salvation. This is the true gospel. It alone is the power of God unto salvation.
Only when, by God's sovereign grace, the churches in the Netherlands and around the world repent of their culpable ignorance and diligently live and teach this truth with and to their children, will they know His power. Until then, you yourself, dear reader, can know the reality of that power in your own life with assurance through the Spirit as He speaks in the Scriptures.