Calvinism is Not Less than the Five Points

A Review of The Points of Calvinism (Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology) by Kenneth Stewart, Covenant College

Stewart is rigid in his rejection of rigidity. His essay is less about what he does believe, and mostly about what he doesn’t believe–he doesn’t like the vulgar extravagance of those who identify the gospel with the five doctrines.

In his uncritical embrace of the evangelical party, Stewart rigidly cannot embrace parties on the narrow margins like Herman Hoeksema or David Englesma of the Protestant Reformed Church, or Robert Reymond (from Covenant Seminary, in his Systematic, p1125) or Tom Nettles (a Reformed Baptist “five-point Calvinist”, p387, By His Grace and For His Glory) or R.K. Mcgregor Wright (No Place for Sovereignty, IVP, p100)

By demonstrating the lack of historical precedent on a focus on the five points, Steward somehow thinks he has made an argument that we should not in the future focus on the five points.

But Calvinism is not less than the five points, and a lot of the “more than five points” guys don’t believe the five points.

With the non-Bible-church “Reformed” folks who really do believe the five points but want more than that, Calvinism is about “the covenant”. They say “the covenant” in every other sentence without defining it. Which covenant? Is that covenant conditional or unconditional?

“Calvinism is more than the five points” often means
a. infant baptism
b. “sacramental realism”: unlike those Zwinglian rationalists, they really eat Jesus they proclaim that they do not explain how.
3.They don’t withdraw from culture like the anabaptists (or create their own) but try to take over everybody’s culture. (The two-kingdom Calvinists still think there is only one culture, but they agree to it being secular.)
4. Like the brothers Niebuhr, they know there can be no culture without killing. To transform the culture, they will try to transform the killing without killing it.

Speaking from the margins where the atonement is defined in terms of imputation and election, I must say I am glad not to be Stewart’s kind of rigid Calvinist!

Mark McCulley

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One Comment on “Calvinism is Not Less than the Five Points”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Dear Dr. Stewart,

    I thank you for the kindness of your reply. Btw, a long time ago my wife Linda (Titmus) had a wonderful three years at Covenant College (for certification back then, she had to finish up at Grove City.) I of course will be much interested in your new book to be published by IVP.

    The best book published by IVP on Calvinism so far has been “No Place for Sovereignty” by my friend McGregor Wright. Since then, books like “Why I am not an Arminian” have been rigidly infra-lapsarian. It’s like an echo of Piper and Carson: “hey, we are Arminians also!”

    Of course I do remember that IVP published Packer’s “Knowing God” which has that great line in it about Arminian atonement having the potential of a loaded gun which merely needs somebody to pull the trigger. But unlike John Owen, Packer fails to teach the legal nature of the imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

    I see two main problems with the idea of “development”. One is an implicit assumption that the trajectory is going in either a good way or a bad way. Like you, the more I know about the history, the more I know this is too simple. Even when I see that Nevin was more right about what Calvin wrote about the eucharist than Hodge was, even when I am shocked by what Hodge really wrote about the atonement, none of this causes me to think now is better or that the past was that good.

    But the main problem I see with development is that we have a pluralism of “Calvinisms”. Even though they are both paedobaptists, there’s a big difference between Scott Clark’s idea of covenant and Robert Rayburn Jr’s. And neither of them sound very much like the Crossway guys who quote each other (Piper, Carson, Grudem, Driscoll). So how can we talk about the development of Calvinism? Which Calvinism?

    I can talk about this without a political interest. I don’t have a job which depends on me being the right kind of “Calvinist”.or still being also an “evangelical”. I am on the margins. Even though I fervently believe in the Christ whose death actually saves the elect, I am also a baptist and a pacifist.

    I vaguely remember another book recently about six myths about Calvinism. Defensive books like that are concerned with what outsiders (non-Calvinists) are saying. To use your two categories, they are less “apologetic” about what Toplady or Gill would have said and more worried about what Roger Olson wrote.

    I would like to expose the myths internal to Calvinists. John Owen would think that the real myths here are the answers given by today’s Calvinists.

    To avoid myths, the complicated and messy past (and present) cannot be ignored. From time to time, you might want some input from me. Where are the margins? Where are the boundaries between what’s real Calvinism now and what used to be but is no longer?

    Mark McCulley


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