What is a “Moderate Calvinist?”
We at Westwood Heights Baptist Church identify ourselves as a “moderately Calvinist” Church. What does that mean? Let me begin by pointing out what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I am trying to split the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. Neither does it mean that I am uncertain or embarrassed about what I believe about foreknowledge and all that comes with it. God is very clear in explaining to us that He has done things and made decisions -- long before the creation of the world -- that impact us (Ephesians 1.4, Romans 8.29, I Peter 1.20). Much more could be said, but the purpose of this article isn’t to explain the noun, “Calvinist,” it’s to explain the adjective, “moderate.”
In what way would I consider myself to be moderate? Here are 4 reasons why I consider myself moderate.
1. I do not believe that the system of Calvinism, Arminianism, or anything in between, can answer all the questions about divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Romans 11.33 is straightforward: God’s ways are past finding out. We know some things, but we don’t know all things. I am content to live with the mystery.
2. It (Calvinism) is not all that I am as a Christian, and not all that we are as a Church. The sovereignty of God over all things (including salvation) certainly drives all that we do (Psalm 135.6). But election isn’t the topic of every sermon, or most sermons. We have people who don’t hold my views, and it does not affect our fellowship. When Bible texts address the issue, we deal with them. I never preach part of a verse to avoid the “election” part (once, while preaching through John, a visitor said to me after the sermon, “Thank you! I’ve been saved for over 40 years and I’ve never heard anyone preach all of John 6.37”).
3. Election was never meant to be either an evangelistic tool, or an ant-evangelistic tool. God uses it to comfort and assure us about the certainly of our salvation.
Why will all who come be accepted, as Jesus says in John 6.37? Because they were given to Him by the Father.
How do I really know that all things work together for good, Romans 8.28? Because of God’s foreknowledge, Romans 8.29.
What is the hope that believers will not be deceived by the great works of Satan during the Tribulation? They are elect, Matthew 24.24.
Why did Paul so gladly endure all the suffering he endured for preaching? Because God had elected people. II Timothy 2.10.
4. I believe firmly that the Gospel is a “whosoever will may come” Gospel. That is, after all, what the Bible says. God will have all men to be saved (I Timothy 2.4), and anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10.13).
Just because there is a mystery to a doctrine, doesn’t mean the doctrine is heresy. We can—and should—see the human aspect of coming to faith in Christ, as well as the Divine agency aspect in coming to faith in Christ.