Youth Targeted Calvinism

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  • Youth Targeted Calvinism

    Dr. Rick Patrick | Senior Pastor
    First Baptist Church, Sylacauga, AL
    sbctoday.com/youth-targeted-calvinism-part-one



    Southern Baptist youth groups are filled with young people converting away from the traditional doctrines held by their parents in favor of more Calvinistic views on salvation, church, culture and ministry. At first glance, this trend seems harmless. If anything, the students converting in spellbound droves[1] to the doctrinal views of Calvinism[2] take their faith far more seriously than their parents do. What Christian parent is going to oppose a movement that actually encourages their child to read the Bible and study theology?

    Though most Southern Baptist parents are not at all familiar with the doctrines of Spurgeon, Edwards and Piper, they are profoundly relieved when they discover their teen is into books about God rather than any number of harmful or worldly temptations. In all my years of listening to Focus on the Family, I never once heard a parent ask Dr. Dobson for advice about their teenager reading too much theology. And yet, there are legitimate reasons for traditional Southern Baptist parents and church youth group leaders to view this trend as a dangerous development.[3]

    The problems created by Youth Targeted Calvinism (YTC) can be divided into two groups: (a) general problems with Calvinistic doctrines that many parents may not understand, and (b) problems with the practice of targeting youth, introducing them to doctrines disaffirmed by their congregation and especially by their own parents.

    Problems with Calvinism

    1. Where is the love?
    Calvinism is heavy on power and wrath; it is light on freedom and love. Parents who have labored to instill the message Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, may discover that their teen now rejects this ditty, perhaps viewing it as scornfully simplistic. Teens may even embrace the view of Calvinist Arthur Pink, who wrote: God loves whom He chooses; He does not love everybody.[4] So much for all the little children of the world!

    2. An Angry God?
    Calvinism is associated with neo-puritanism. We tend to view the puritans as peaceful people who dressed modestly and made friends with the Indians. But Calvinist Puritan Cotton Mathers is certainly the most infamous leader responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and Calvinist Puritan Jonathan Edwards best articulated the view that God’s disposition is primarily angry.

    In his best known work, Edwards wrote: The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight; you are ten thousand times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours.[5]

    While it is granted that God pours out His wrath upon sin and unrepentant sinners will surely burn in hell, Edwards paints the picture of a monstrously capricious deity for whom the singing of Kumbayah My Lord on a youth group campout seems wildly out of place.

    3. Which salvation plan?
    Calvinism and Traditionalism both declare the same gospel, namely, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.[6] However, God’s plan of salvation, or the manner in which He works in a person’s life to implant the seed of the gospel and to save their soul, can be clearly differentiated within each theological position.

    The Calvinist believes God determined, before the foundation of the world, that particular souls would be saved, while other particular souls would perish. The Traditionalist believes God does not choose particular souls irresistibly. Rather, desiring all men to be saved, He saves those exercising their free will to repent and believe when they could have done otherwise.

    This brief description only skims the surface of the differences between Calvinism and Traditionalism. Young people turning to Calvinism may embrace: (a) a stricter view of church discipline than that held by most Southern Baptists, (b) an affinity for Elder Rule church government instead of Congregational Rule, (c) a tendency to reject dispensational premillennialism in favor of other views of the end times, (d) a less stringent view regarding the use of beverage alcohol, (e) a suspicious approach toward evangelism utilizing altar calls and the Sinner’s Prayer, (f) the avoidance of denominationally sponsored events in favor of broadly evangelical conferences, and (g) a tendency to frown upon existing Southern Baptist practices.

    Problems With Targeting
    Apart from theological concerns, let us turn our attention to the tactic of targeting youth with doctrines their parents may not even know they are learning. We live in a society that seeks, however ineffectively, to protect impressionable youth. In the state where I live, for example, one must be 19 to buy cigarettes and 21 to buy alcohol. Society recognizes that young people are still learning how to think responsibly and make mature decisions. Although theological choices do not present the same moral and ethical issues as illegal drug use, the principle that parents should be involved in decisions affecting their teenagers is impregnable.

    In other areas of religious doctrine and practice, most churches exercise extreme care to gain parental consent. If a church youth group is taking a trip, a parent will be required to sign a consent form. When a teenager trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior, most churches will not baptize that young person if their parents do not give their consent to the ordinance. These are important decisions related to their teenager’s personal safety and religious practice. Parents should be involved.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to Youth Targeted Calvinism, many parents are not involved at all in the decision to introduce such doctrines to their children. They may only discover the Calvinistic influence of the youth group’s discipleship plan after the fact—when teenagers have already been exposed to Calvinism. By the time parents figure out what is going on with the religious education of their kids, the die has already been cast. A doctrinal view has been introduced that historically has proven, in a great many cases, to be denominationally defining.

    I can already hear the protests from Calvinistic youth ministers. “We don’t treat any other doctrine this way! Are we supposed to get parental pre-approval when we discuss our theology of the end times? Should we gain their consent before we promote cessationism over continuationism? What if we hold to a view of mankind that is tripartite instead of bipartite? How can we really be expected to run every single doctrinal topic up the parental approval flagpole?”

    Frankly, such concerns may be dismissed as smokescreens. The various doctrines mentioned are not driving the kind of theological wedge we see today between Southern Baptist parents and their youth. Minor views do not rise to the level of Calvinism’s comprehensive theological system. Before students in a traditional Southern Baptist Church are introduced to the writings or the theology of Calvin, Piper, Spurgeon, Edwards, MacArthur, Keller, Sproul or Dever, youth ministers need to sit down with the parents and make sure they know what is being taught.

    In many cases, Southern Baptist parents are not being briefed regarding the fact that their children are learning doctrines the parents themselves likely disaffirm.

    In this part of the essay, we have explored Youth Targeted Calvinism—defining both the problems parents may have with Calvinism itself and the problems they may have with the practice of targeting youth by introducing them to doctrines without the full knowledge and consent of their parents. In Part Two, we will explore how YTC is being promoted today and consider specific case studies.

    [1] “Why Are Young People So Drawn to Calvinism?” Matt Dabbs. mattdabbs.com. June 18, 2012.
    [2] “Characteristics of New Calvinism.” E.S. Williams. newcalvinist.com.
    [3] “Why New Calvinism is So Dangerous.” Joel Taylor. 5ptsalt.com. January 22, 2012.
    [4] The Sovereignty of God. Arthur W. Pink. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1930. Pages 29-30.
    [5] Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Jonathan Edwards. Enfield, Connecticut. July 8, 1741.
    [6] 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. English Standard Version.

  • #2
    Originally posted by William View Post
    This brief description only skims the surface of the differences between Calvinism and Traditionalism. Young people turning to Calvinism may embrace: (a) a stricter view of church discipline than that held by most Southern Baptists, (b) an affinity for Elder Rule church government instead of Congregational Rule, (c) a tendency to reject dispensational premillennialism in favor of other views of the end times, (d) a less stringent view regarding the use of beverage alcohol, (e) a suspicious approach toward evangelism utilizing altar calls and the Sinner’s Prayer, (f) the avoidance of denominationally sponsored events in favor of broadly evangelical conferences, and (g) a tendency to frown upon existing Southern Baptist practices.
    If true, praise God. Praise God, indeed.

    Calvinism falls inside the Southern Baptist tent. But, much of the theology these anti-Reform parents want taught was unknown to their Southern Baptist ancestors.
    Comment>

    • #3
      Probably over a quarter of SBC pastors are Calvinists. Hyper-Calvinism is primarily associated with earlier Baptists. Dictionary(dot)com, in the first definition of Baptist, says Baptists are "usually Calvinistic" (Random House Dictionary). The article rattles off a list of highly respected Calvinist Baptists.

      I could easily believe Dr. Rick Patrick is mocking dispy parents.
      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        ... I could easily believe Dr. Rick Patrick is mocking dispy parents.
        When I first read the article I thought that I was reading a satirical piece... .

        God bless,
        William
        Comment>

        • #5
          I don't really agree with Calvinism to begin with, so I have a number of concerns about this issue. For one thing I do not agree with limited atonement because I do not see that in scripture. I also do not believe it is impossible for a true believer to commit apostasy, because scripture clearly states that it will happen.

          Those are probably the two biggest issues I have here, especially the latter. When we teach that true believers can never fall away, we leave the door open for the enemy to entice a person to give in to certain temptations, particularly immorality, because they believe they are totally safe and can get away with it. Thus they treat God with contempt, and unless they do in fact repent and come back, they may continue down the road of choosing sin instead of God until they no longer believe at all.

          Some will argue that what I am saying does not happen, but I have seen it, and I know others who have seen it.
          Comment>

          • #6
            I didn't realize that there was such an extreme difference between Calvinism and Southern Baptist. For the most part, I've never been to a church that got parental permission to teach anything to their children unless it was a summer camp or a trip. And even that has nothing to do with what they are being taught but that they will be responsible for any physical damage to the kids. I personally grew up with a pretty Orthodox approach to God, and he doesn't love us equally. God has special people he blesses. Moses, Noah, Ester, John the Baptist, and many others were certainly more favored than just any believes though God loves them to. But God hates people too, it's why he killed the first born of the Egyptians. God hated the Egyptians for enslaving his chosen people. So God doesn't love equally. So I kind of get where Calvinism gets the idea the God isn't just love but power and wraith. God hates the people who hurt his followers but he will give you a chance to be love if you follow his way.

            With anything, Christian or secular, parents have to be vigilant about what their kids are watching and reading. There is so much information that trying to figure out what is fake and real can be overwhelming. But this is a great reminder of that and that not all Christian views are equal.
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by DancingLady View Post
              I also do not believe it is impossible for a true believer to commit apostasy, because scripture clearly states that it will happen.
              Apostasy happens but those who become apostate are not true believers but people who professed to be saved.
              They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
              (1 John 2:19 ESV)
              Clyde Herrin's Blog
              Comment>

              • #8
                To me the most fundamental differences between "Traditionalism" as is referred to here and Calvinism is

                Traditionalism views salvation as being through faith in Christ and thus when asked "What must I do to be saved?" Answers "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved"
                Whereas Calvinism views salvation as not conditioned upon faith insomuch as salvation occurs prior to the person believing. In fact, given the fatalistic viewpoint of Calvinism, one cannot logically speak of a person being saved, seeing as the "elect" in Calvinistic terms was never not saved insomuch as they were never objects of wrath, seeing as prior to their birth God had foreordained them to eternal life.

                Secondly is the issue of God's judicial nature. Traditionalism holds that God is just. Calvinism views God as holding people accountable for things over which they have no control, which is kind of the definition of injustice. Even the reference above to Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" portray people not as guilty, but rather as spiders who God whimsically dangles over the fire, portraying God as one would one of the whimsical Greek Gods.

                But for a few verses, the rhetoric the Bible uses is inconsistent with Calvinism. In place of "sola scriptura" they tend to major on denominational dogmatism. Calvin's writings themselves are largely a regurgitation of Augustinian theology rather then Biblical theology.

                Anyhow that's how I see it.
                Comment>

                • #9
                  Originally posted by DancingLady View Post
                  I don't really agree with Calvinism to begin with, so I have a number of concerns about this issue. For one thing I do not agree with limited atonement because I do not see that in scripture. I also do not believe it is impossible for a true believer to commit apostasy, because scripture clearly states that it will happen.

                  Those are probably the two biggest issues I have here, especially the latter. When we teach that true believers can never fall away, we leave the door open for the enemy to entice a person to give in to certain temptations, particularly immorality, because they believe they are totally safe and can get away with it. Thus they treat God with contempt, and unless they do in fact repent and come back, they may continue down the road of choosing sin instead of God until they no longer believe at all.

                  Some will argue that what I am saying does not happen, but I have seen it, and I know others who have seen it.
                  Hey Dancing Lady,

                  I have taught the Bible for about 20 years now, and spent the majority of that studying and teaching what I was taught, instead of going to Scripture as someone that needed to learn what it says and conform my doctrine to scripture. What I had done in the past was conform Scripture to my doctrine. I taught 30 page studies on "once saved, always saved".

                  About 6 years ago, I realized that I was at a place in my Bible Study where everything was getting hard to understand. What I mean is that I had all these 'foundational' truths that I thought were true, and I was trying to interpret scripture based on those foundations. I was coming to Scriptures that were very hard to fit into my system of theology. The only way I could 'explain' them was to go outside the Bible to other commentaries and figure out how these experts could make them fit. 6 years ago is when I allowed myself to really test all my foundations and I started going to Scripture as someone that wanted and needed to learn, instead of going in to find ways to defend my beliefs.

                  It changed my whole theology, and made the Lord so much bigger, and more glorious, and more loving and more gracious and merciful and just. All that is to say that I don't believe, and neither does Scripture teach, that someone is "once saved, always saved". Many people raised with this doctrine (to include myself) start gnashing at this, because they think I believe that salvation is something you can just lose at the top of a hat. That's now what I believe at all.

                  We can be secure in our salvation, so long as we remain secure in Him. All that means is that we continue to have faith. We cannot 'lose' our salvation, but we can abandon the covenant of faith. We are not removed from salvation because of sin, but sin can lead us away from the Lord should we continue to reject His discipline and the Spirit testifying to us to repent. I've written extensively on this on one of my studies here.

                  Blessings in Christ,
                  Billy W
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
                    To me the most fundamental differences between "Traditionalism" as is referred to here and Calvinism is

                    Traditionalism views salvation as being through faith in Christ and thus when asked "What must I do to be saved?" Answers "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved"
                    Whereas Calvinism views salvation as not conditioned upon faith insomuch as salvation occurs prior to the person believing. In fact, given the fatalistic viewpoint of Calvinism, one cannot logically speak of a person being saved, seeing as the "elect" in Calvinistic terms was never not saved insomuch as they were never objects of wrath, seeing as prior to their birth God had foreordained them to eternal life.

                    Secondly is the issue of God's judicial nature. Traditionalism holds that God is just. Calvinism views God as holding people accountable for things over which they have no control, which is kind of the definition of injustice. Even the reference above to Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" portray people not as guilty, but rather as spiders who God whimsically dangles over the fire, portraying God as one would one of the whimsical Greek Gods.

                    But for a few verses, the rhetoric the Bible uses is inconsistent with Calvinism. In place of "sola scriptura" they tend to major on denominational dogmatism. Calvin's writings themselves are largely a regurgitation of Augustinian theology rather then Biblical theology.

                    Anyhow that's how I see it.
                    Yes, I grew up in a Calvinist church, and realized the error of their doctrine early on. That was about 15 years ago. My best friend and co-teacher on my online teaching ministry was a firm and very knowledgeable Calvinist, who listened to all the elevated Calvinist pastors and teachers (MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, James White, Matt Slick, etc). He spend hours every day listening to these guys teach and debate Calvinism. Last year we spent 3 months debating over email the Calvinist's doctrine. After 3 months and probably 100 pages of throwing Scripture at each other, I told him we needed to go through Romans 9 together. He agreed. I said in order to understand Romans 9 though, we need to go through Romans 1 through 8. So I wrote a Romans study, and sent him all the studies for editing and comments. We humbled ourselves and allowed God to conform us to His truth, and not our own. In the end, my best friend abandoned all Calvinist teaching, and I learned a whole lot more too.

                    God is so much bigger than Calvinist's claim, and His glory, love, mercy, grace and sovereignty are much bigger too!
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by theophilus View Post
                      Apostasy happens but those who become apostate are not true believers but people who professed to be saved.
                      They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
                      (1 John 2:19 ESV)
                      This verse says that if those who went out were "of us" when they went out, then they wouldn't have gone out when they did.

                      There are three possibilities of what this means:
                      1. Believers who left fellowship because they were weary of following Christ
                      2. Believers who stopped believing in Christ and "went out" as a result (apostates)
                      3. Those who were never really believers in the first place
                      The text shows that the last option is really no option at all. John does not say "were never of us"; what he says is that they were not "of us" when they went out. When you understand this verse, it causes more problems for those who hold to the OSAS doctrine. The text clearly shows a situation where there are some in the local church who at one point are walking along with us, but then later go astray. That certainly sounds like apostasy to me, or at the very least backsliding.

                      If a local church is actually teaching the Bible, there is little sense for an unbeliever to be within the church. The body is for the believer for fellowship and edification, and an unbeliever receives no spiritual benefit because they have no desire for it. The only way to receive spiritual benefit is for them to be believers.

                      You may say that there are people who go into a church body for material benefit, but this doesn’t hold true in John’s day. John was the last living Apostle, and even his life ended in exile to the island of Patmos. Being a believer at this time brought persecution (Rome was starting to go against all Christianity making it a capital offense, and the Jews were still going against Christians very strongly). Additionally, most believers at this time were very poor, and could not offer much. And even if these people were within a body for material gain, then why would they leave? They would forfeit the advantage they were receiving by being part of this local body.

                      Those who "go out" in this verse must belong to one of the first two categories. This of course matches with the Parable of the Sower (among a plethora of other scriptures):

                      Luke 8:13
                      Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away (Greek for apostasy).

                      In any case, 1 John 2:19 does not allow for the conclusion that if a person ever believes they cannot ever lose their faith; or, alternatively, that if someone does have genuine faith and then loses it, then such faith was not really genuine at all. Since this verse is not conclusive, then you must continue to use the rest of Scripture to conform your doctrine (and not vice versa).



                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        One of the best things about being Lutheran is having no dog in the fight between Calvinists and Arminians.

                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Originally posted by douloicristou View Post

                          This verse says that if those who went out were "of us" when they went out, then they wouldn't have gone out when they did.

                          There are three possibilities of what this means:
                          1. Believers who left fellowship because they were weary of following Christ
                          2. Believers who stopped believing in Christ and "went out" as a result (apostates)
                          3. Those who were never really believers in the first place
                          The text shows that the last option is really no option at all. John does not say "were never of us"; what he says is that they were not "of us" when they went out. When you understand this verse, it causes more problems for those who hold to the OSAS doctrine. The text clearly shows a situation where there are some in the local church who at one point are walking along with us, but then later go astray. That certainly sounds like apostasy to me, or at the very least backsliding.

                          If a local church is actually teaching the Bible, there is little sense for an unbeliever to be within the church. The body is for the believer for fellowship and edification, and an unbeliever receives no spiritual benefit because they have no desire for it. The only way to receive spiritual benefit is for them to be believers.

                          You may say that there are people who go into a church body for material benefit, but this doesn’t hold true in John’s day. John was the last living Apostle, and even his life ended in exile to the island of Patmos. Being a believer at this time brought persecution (Rome was starting to go against all Christianity making it a capital offense, and the Jews were still going against Christians very strongly). Additionally, most believers at this time were very poor, and could not offer much. And even if these people were within a body for material gain, then why would they leave? They would forfeit the advantage they were receiving by being part of this local body.

                          Those who "go out" in this verse must belong to one of the first two categories. This of course matches with the Parable of the Sower (among a plethora of other scriptures):

                          Luke 8:13
                          Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in a time of testing fall away (Greek for apostasy).

                          In any case, 1 John 2:19 does not allow for the conclusion that if a person ever believes they cannot ever lose their faith; or, alternatively, that if someone does have genuine faith and then loses it, then such faith was not really genuine at all. Since this verse is not conclusive, then you must continue to use the rest of Scripture to conform your doctrine (and not vice versa).


                          douloicristou,

                          You're mistaken about 1John 2:19 about inserting the phrase "When they went out from us". For that to even be possible John would have to use the aorist tense for "were not of us" and "had been of us", but in fact he uses the imperfect tense speaking not of an event but a continuous state. Furthermore "they would have remained with us" is in the pluperfect tense of which the lexicon indicates: "An event viewed as having been once and for all accomplished in past time." That's Greek grammar of which you may be unaware.

                          As for your anti-Eternal Security opinion, those who hold such a theology first of all end up viewing salvation be based upon one's performance, which rejects an essential element of the gospel, and secondly it is contrary to the rhetoric the Bible uses with regards to one's state of salvation. In other words, given your opinion, you cannot say the you have been saved, or that someone else is saved, seeing as for you salvation is not determined until one's death. You can only say, "I might be saved, if I live up to it, if my performance is good enough." as oppose to "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Eph 2:8,9 The salvation promised is salvation from God's wrath, which is a future event, even as Jesus said, "he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." John 5:24. In other words salvation is so secure that at the point one believes, they are saved from that future event of God's judgement so much so that it is as if they had just passed through death and escaped the judgement.

                          As I see it those who reject the concept of Eternal Security reject the gospel and are by definition "unbelievers", since they don't believe the gospel, though they fabricated another gospel in its place. In fact in terms of the application of 1John 2:19, you yourself pretty much fit the bill, claiming to have previously believed the gospel, but now you don't.
                          Comment>

                          • #14
                            Originally posted by bcbsr View Post
                            That's Greek grammar of which you may be unaware.
                            Do you know Greek?
                            Comment>

                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bcbsr View Post

                              douloicristou,

                              You're mistaken about 1John 2:19 about inserting the phrase "When they went out from us". For that to even be possible John would have to use the aorist tense for "were not of us" and "had been of us", but in fact he uses the imperfect tense speaking not of an event but a continuous state. Furthermore "they would have remained with us" is in the pluperfect tense of which the lexicon indicates: "An event viewed as having been once and for all accomplished in past time." That's Greek grammar of which you may be unaware.
                              I concur.

                              ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθον, ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν

                              IN broad terms:

                              This bit: ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθον is aorist.

                              This bit: ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἦσαν ἐξ ἡμῶν is imperfect active.

                              In other words, they went out from us but were never part of us. The prepositions seem to be key when comparing those passages to John 17:14,15 in the Greek. As far as I can tell, the best translation of this would be simply "They went out from us, but they were not of us" which is pretty straight forward. However, this passage neither proves nor disproves OSAS. It can fit OSAS or not, as it is not a prescription of doctrine but a description of history. Best to draw dogma from clearly dogmatic passages and interpret other passages in the light of those.

                              Comment>
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