"Are you a Calvinist? If you are this interview process is dead right here."

In the summer of 2014 I was being considered by the search committee of Bethany Baptist Church. Their interim pastor was a Southern Baptist state convention executive who was advising the committee. He phoned me out of the blue one Sunday afternoon, "PJ, you graduated from The Master's Seminary led by John MacArthur. Are you a Calvinist? If you are, this thing is dead in the water right here."

I was taken aback. From my study and meditation on Scripture individually and in community I have deep convictions as a seven point Calvinist. I wasn't sure how to answer. So I asked a question instead.

"What do you mean by 'Calvinist?'"

"You know, you share the gospel only with the elect, you don't need to evangelize or pray because God elects all those who will be saved."

"Oh, then no, I am not a Calvinist. I evangelize all the people I can and in every sermon I preach. And I pray regularly for people to be saved though I'm not sure which ones are elect. So, no, I'm not a Calvinist. And I don't have any desire to defend John MacArthur on this phone call, but for the record he is not a Calvinist either." He disagreed on my assessment of MacArthur and the seminary.

From this exchange and conversation here are a few lessons you can chew on in the hope that you might taste and see that God is good to us in Christ.

(1) Don't fight over terms too quickly. Always attach the authorial intent of the author to the term used lest you unnecessarily fight about words. If I would have fought over the word "Calvinist" then I would have wasted his time, my time, and may not be the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church today.

(2) What a joy to follow and obey Jesus according to Scripture as debates about terms between various tribes continue. As one who holds to a monergistic view of regeneration (Eph 2.1-5 and 1 John 5.1, cf. 2.29 and 4.7) and unconditional view of election (Rom 9.11-22), it is a joy to celebrate those doctrines while evangelizing urgently and praying fervently that all my neighbors and the nations be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2.4).

(3) The best "Calvinists" are the humbled, broken, evangelistic, prayerful, and stubbornly textual Calvinists. Historical examples would be George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon while modern day examples would be John Piper, Mark Dever, David Platt, Thabiti Anyabwile among many others. These Christians, like their Lord Jesus, were/are supremely confident in God's purposes and providence yet prayerfully seek for the conversion of their interlocutors.

God benevolently gives us both a call to discipling[1] and a body of teaching. Pursuing both keeps one in the wonderful tension of communion with God and love for those God sends us to gospelize in love.


[1]By "discipling" I mean pre and post conversion shaping of love ones toward Jesus.