Calvin, the Fundamentalist

Or so that is how the anti-dualists or the opponents of otherworldiness (hint, the neo-Calvinists) would have us read Calvin on Christ’s own stupendous words from Mark 8:

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it. 36For what doth it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? 37For what should a man give in exchange for his life?

Calvin explains:

Christ reminds them that the soul of man was not created merely to enjoy the world for a few days, but to obtain at length its immortality in heaven. What carelessness and what brutal stupidity is this, that men are so strongly attached to the world, and so much occupied with its affairs, as not to consider why they were born, and that God gave them an immortal soul, in order that, when the course of the earthly life was finished, they might live eternally in heaven! And, indeed, it is universally acknowledged, that the soul is of higher value than all the riches and enjoyments of the world; but yet men are so blinded by carnal views, that they knowingly and willfully abandon their souls to destruction. That the world may not fascinate us by its allurements, let us remember the surpassing worth of our soul; for if this be seriously considered, it will easily dispel the vain imaginations of earthly happiness.

Heck, I like world as much as the next sinning saint. But for some reason I always sensed that turning this world into the place where salvation is realized didn’t make sense — too much pain, misery, and death. Must have been my fundamentalist upbringing.


62 thoughts on “Calvin, the Fundamentalist

  1. When I was a wee nu-Cal I always struggled with “hoping” for the world to come.

    But as a cynical (towards flourishishness) Presbyterian, I actually feel a genuine longing and hope.


  2. DG Hart: But for some reason I always sensed that turning this world into the place where salvation is realized didn’t make sense — too much pain, misery, and death.

    that wording could be misleading, for there is purpose here with regard to salvation; also mboss’s comment on Eccl. may indicate not acknowledging this as well… that there is building and growing and eternal things being ‘produced’ now, according to the Lord….

    Therefore we do not lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison 2 Cor 4:16-17

    we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body 2 Cor 4:8 -11

    discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Tim 4:7-8

    like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,.. you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2: 2,5

    work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Phil 2:12-13


  3. mboss, I think they view Ecclesiastes as being not all that relevant today, except to the unbeliever. It’s a guy without Christ, empty and adrift. And, though this wouldn’t be their characterization, it’s almost like it’s from another dispensation.

    This opinion is even less informed and more subject to error than my other ramblings.


  4. “Must have been my fundamentalist upbringing.”

    Or, pain, misery, and death. Realized eschatology is all Appomattox, no Verdun.


  5. I recall making the case for the otherworldliness of Christianity in the periodical of our former CRC. Another member who taught at Kuyper College was so befuddled he wrote me a brief but terse note in which he wondered if I was trying to say something about space aliens.

    The very term “worldview” has ever since struck me as an expression signaling a point of view way too caught up in the temporal things both Paul and Calvin warn against. Sorry to thread jack, but what worldview leads to is to think the intent of Christianity is:

    On the contrary, the Reformed view is that God created this world, that he loves it so much he gave his only-begotten son to save it, and that we humans are called to image God in the way we replenish the earth and subdue it. That is what Christianity is for, and we have the gospel and the Holy Spirit to enable us to obey his command……replenish the earth and subdue it….in the Reformed worldview we take our daily tasks in this world seriously, seeing them as the arena within which we are called to demonstrate our faith. We are concerned for the things God is concerned about: justice, truth, love, honesty, reliability, diligent work, integrity, concern for the welfare of the poor and elderly and sick, and so forth. We do accept this world as our home. God made it; he placed us on it; and he expects us to live faithfully and honestly in it.


  6. On the topic of otherworldliness, if I may quote the good Dr. Machen:

    “But the Christian life is lived not only by faith; it is also lived in hope. The Christian is in the midst of a sore battle. And as for the condition of the world at large–nothing but the coldest heartlessness could be satisfied with that. It is certainly true that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Even in the Christian life there are things that we should like to see removed; there are fears within as well as fightings without; even within the Christian life there are sad evidences of sin. But according to the hope which Christ has given us, there will be final victory, and the struggle of this world will be followed by the glories of heaven. That hope runs all through the Christian life; Christianity i. not engrossed by this transitory world, but measures all things by the thought of eternity.

    But at this point an objection is frequently raised. The “otherworldliness” of Christianity is objected to as a form of selfishness. The Christian, it is said, does what is right because of the hope of heaven, but how much nobler is the man who because of duty walks boldly into the darkness of annihilation!

    The objection would have some weight if heaven according to Christian belief were mere enjoyment. But as a matter of fact heaven is communion with God and with His Christ. It can be said reverently that the Christian longs for heaven not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of God. Our present love is so cold, our present service so weak; and we would one day love and serve Him as His love deserves. It is perfectly true that the Christian is dissatisfied with the present world, but it is a holy dissatisfaction; it is that hunger and thirst after righteousness which our Savior blessed. We are separated from the Savior now by the veil of sense and by the effects of sin, and it is not selfish to long to see Him face to face. To relinquish such longing is not unselfishness, but is like the cold heartlessness of a man who could part from father or mother or wife or child without a pang. It is not selfish to long for the One whom not having seen we love.

    Such is the Christian life–it is a life of conflict but it is also a life of hope. It views this world under the aspect of eternity; the fashion of this world passeth away, and all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”


  7. and re: Ecclesiastes as relevant today and for the believer:

    “Solomon’s conclusion to “fear God and keep His commandments is more than the book’s summary; it is the hope of the good life and the only reasonable response of faith and obedience to sovereign God. He precisely works out all activities under the sun, each in its time according to His perfect plan, but also discloses only as much as His perfect wisdom dictates and holds all men accountable. Those who refuse to take God and His word seriously are doomed to lives of the severest vanity.” MacArthur Study Bible


  8. But you are taken up with this world. The difference between yourself, Mr. Hart, and the neo-calvinists is that they think the world as it is currently is bad. Neo-calvinists want to make this world better, you think it’s fine the way it is and are happy to enjoy its products as they are. I would take your criticism of neo-calvinism as futile seriously if you weren’t so clearly attached to this world. Maybe your opposition to neo-calvinism isn’t so much that you think their redeeming work can’t be done but that you don’t want it done.


  9. Z – I read the referenced post over at your blog site and I agree with Dave. One thing I would add to your comments – something that has always been confusing to me – is how those who can be so militant about transformation, “taking back” the culture, call it what you will, also seem to blend in with everyone else, NOT JUST on a daily basis, but even as they are present with fellow believers on Sunday mornings. When services are changing there are those coming out who walk 2 and 3 three abreast down the sidewalks, refusing to yield to those who are going in; parking lots are free-for-all games of keep-away as those coming in vie for spaces being vacated by those leaving (and some just park their SUV’s on the grass); others walk down the middle of alley ways and drives, inhibiting traffic flow, when there are sidewalks aplenty. I can witness all of these same behaviors on any given day of the week during rush hour. How does the unbelieving public see any difference between themselves and these Christians when they push and shove each other around the same way. ‘Course, when it’s time to get up front during the service and give a grand testimonial about the great things that are being accomplished in their lives (presumably because of their great faith), they’re all about it…


  10. Based on the most vocal w___w people I most definitely do NOT want their vision embodied. Yeah, an embodied vision, that’s what I said – a school marmy ghost, haunting legislatures and, to consolidate the base, Doug Wilson in their cabinet. The cabinet of horrors. The horror, the horror.


  11. Alexander, “you think it’s fine the way it is and are happy to enjoy its products”.

    So you are not happy to enjoy the world’s products? Was you computer, server, and internet service provider all made by Christians? Don’t you get some benefits from “the world”?

    If you think I am happy with Tim Keller’s command of the conservative Presbyterian world, you must be off your meds.

    BTW, the issue is whether their or anyone’s cultural work is redeeming. Asserting that it is is only like your opinion. Does New Urbanism save? Does Christian epistemology save? Does not watching The Wire save?

    Or do you understand the doctrines of grace?


  12. CT: the intents of the Hart.

    we don’t have to guess at this, right ? since we know.. “Old Life’s aim has been to point the way back to the health and vigor of historic Reformed Protestantism.”

    and re: reformed faith –
    “any adequate definition of the Reformed faith must focus on doctrine. Nonetheless, merely “buying into” some abstract body of truth does not qualify an individual or a church as “Reformed.” Rather, the Reformed faith is a relationship to God, through Jesus Christ, based upon the gospel revealed by him and in Holy Scripture.” and… “A faithful Reformed church is therefore a church that is constantly striving to think and act, to believe and live, according to the written word of God. ” :


  13. “The difference between yourself, Mr. Hart, and the neo-calvinists is that they think the world as it is currently is bad. Neo-calvinists want to make this world better, you think it’s fine the way it is and are happy to enjoy its products as they are.”

    Neo-Cals in my experience give short shrift to total depravity and even their own doctrine of antithesis.


  14. George, is this part of the significance of Jacob and Esau being twins? You can’t really tell by outward appearances who God loves and who he hates. And grace really doesn’t leak out the finger tips to redeem whatever a believer touches.


  15. Zrim – more like God’s rejection of Cain’s offering and acceptance of Abel’s, although presumably they both should have been satisfactory. So when these neo-pharisaical types parade their greatly blessed accomplishments in front of the congregation while they trounce over their fellow members otherwise, whose words are we to take seriously?


  16. Jase, me too. But some Comcast trainee called me last night and sold me *something* that *might possibly* include HBO for an extra $3 a month over my internet fees, so that might be about to change. I only said yes because I felt sorry for the kid.


  17. “The difference between yourself, Mr. Hart, and the neo-calvinists is that they think the world as it is currently is bad. Neo-calvinists want to make this world better, you think it’s fine the way it is and are happy to enjoy its products as they are.”

    I think the difference Alexander, is that OL says the world is great at doing the day to day vanity, but bad at salvation, while Neo-Cal says the world is great at salvation (sacramental, in fact), but bad at doing the day to day.

    But Jesus makes all things new not so that all the nations can be better at vanity, but so that all the nations will bow.

    We do not believe that. The world will not be a better place.


  18. “I’m coming around to being an obnoxious dips**t after all.”

    Funny how such an infinitesimally small group of Christians who self-identify as 2K, have limited visibility or presence on the internet, in the seminaries, or in denominational hierarchy, can draw such love and admiration.


  19. mboss, the hardcore 2K don’t bother with the internet at all, only goofballs like me spend a lot of time on it.

    And also there is the exception of DGH, but he’s a prof and in the world of ideas, so he is above this kind of chatter except to express his thoughts and ask secondary and tertiary questions.

    as to the others who want to take over this site, good freakin luck….


  20. the process of getting a phd is supposed to eliminate the fundy in you

    Pete Enns—-Pope Francis models a “faith” that I need to be reminded of and that I think often gets lost, especially among evangelicals. True faith isn’t simply something we “have” inside us, but something we do. The Greek word often translated as “faith” (pistis) more often than not means “faithfulness” (or something similar)—it’s an action word. “Faith” is something we do, not simply what we think or feel.


  21. Living the gospel, so that there is no difference between obeying the gospel and obeying the law?

    Enns- I want to be reminded that the Spirit moves about entirely out of my control or my ability to predict. I need to see—for my own spiritual state—that the gospel “works” here and now in the world we live in. Not by debating fine points of in-house matters…I just need to see that Christianity isn’t a mind game, but that it matters here and now in the difference Christians make in the world we live in

    OPC leader Gaffin, By Faith, Not By Sight, p 38—”The antithesis between law and gospel is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not be virtue of creation but as a consequence of sin, and the gospel functions for its overcoming. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer.”

    Gaffin, p 73—“Here is what may be fairly called a synergy but it is not a 50/50 undertaking (not even 99.9% God and 0.1% ourselves). Involved here is the ‘mysterious math’ of the creator and his image-bearing creature, whereby 100% plus 100% =100%. Sanctification is 100% the work of God, and for that reason, is to engage the full 100% activity of the believer.”

    p 77, the works which James commends are different from the works which Paul condemns

    Gaffin—- where Calvin brings in the proposition, “faith without works justifies” although this needs prudence and sound interpretation. For this proposition that faith without works justifies is true, yet false… according to the different senses which it bears. The proposition that faith without works justifies by itself is false. Because faith without works is void. But if the clause, “without works,” is joined with the word, “justifies,” the proposition will be true. Therefore faith cannot justify when it is without works because it is dead and a mere fiction…. Notice what Calvin says. It needs prudence and sound interpretation. It is true yet false. Now there is a paradox. True yet false, depending on the way it is read.

    Scott Clark– Gaffin’s notion of “definitive sanctification” has us infused with sanctity in exact logical parallel with our justification. He thinks he’s forestalling the criticism that we marginalize sanctity.
    This is a serious mistake. The moralists will never be satisfied. This move is like trying to pay off a loan shark with a quarter. No, he wants the whole thing with interest. We’re justified on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Full stop. Sanctity flows from that. Let the moralists scream. I could care less…


  22. John Piper— “sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God… Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.”


  23. Mark Mcculley
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 12:14 am | Permalink
    John Piper— “sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God… Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.”

    Where does King David, the Psalmist, fit into all this stuff, Mark? Or anybody.


  24. Romans 4: 4 Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. 5 But to the one who does NOT work, but believes on Him who declares the UNGODLY to BE righteous, the object of faith is credited for righteousness. 6 Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the man God credits righteousness to APART FROM WORKS

    7 How joyful are those whose lawless acts are forgiven
    and whose sins are covered!
    8 How joyful is the man
    the Lord will NEVER charge with sin!


  25. It is all about the distinction between what is significant, and what is of ultimate significance. Yes, this world is significant, for God created it and sustains, upholds and governs it by his general providence. And the time of our pilgrimage in this world is significant, even though it can be a vale of tears, for in God’s plan our pilgrimage is preparation for glory. But this world and the things thereof are not of ultimate significance, for the form of this present world is passing away, and we await a new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness dwells.


  26. It is with the most sincere and joyous cerebration of the faithfulness and steadfast love of the alone true and living God that I return to see that He has sent others to keep His truth and holiness in your face Dr. Hart.

    God has really changed my view and attitude toward you in the last several months. Make no mistake my brother. That God is flawlessly wise in all His dealings and relentless in the formation of vessels to His glory when once He has set His affection and design upon them.

    Regardless of the jeering clowns who are to sure to be along to chide me for my pietistic presumption, the God I know ALWAYS gets His way. You WILL get onboard with what you know His Spirit is showing you in your conscience. Like most of us, you’re doing it the hard way, but your white knuckle resistance will not be allowed to go on forever. He always wins.

    Take it from one who knows and has the scars to prove it.


  27. Praising God, a compliment that is an insult and a crescendo of humility. All in the voice of a prophet. Take note, you amateurs – that’s how it’s done.


  28. A pietistic woman stuck in the body of a fat, bald man. So, the transformation would be less Caitlyn and more Kim Davis. The rogaine required, yowza,


  29. sean Praise Militias?

    With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:9-11


  30. Ali, you’re right. I turn from all my former ways and embrace the pietism of crazy pentecostal women and old RC women who struggle to keep time.


  31. Sean: I turn from all my former ways

    what were they, sean?

    Jesus: A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit ; The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is then, you will know them by their fruits

    in other words, have you forgotten who you are ?


  32. Ali, I was drinking last night, so, some things I have forgotten. But, some of that is necessary. If you knew and saw what I know and saw kind of thing. Aside from that, you’re a hard taskmaster. I told you I’ve embraced the ways of unstable religious women and you’re still not satisfied. Yeesh.


  33. Ali, you’re doing just fine, only turn it up a notch. You can’t be Greg overnight, but you can add an element at a time. Humility, bombast, and prophetic vision – mix them in one at a time and in that order. And try to catch Sean on a day when he’s screwed up his performance enhancing cocktail.


  34. That’s the crazy, I will agree with, DG.

    Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 2 John 5


  35. And there we have it boys n girls. The usual sophomoric, comedic bluster and no substance. This is what people do when their sensibilities and intuitions are shaped by the love of the world instead of the word of God.
    I was being dead serious btw Daryl.

    As I told you at Patheos. I tried to do this in private, but none of your guys will help me. I really wish you would email me.I refuse to take your email address without your permission. NObody will know and I won’t make you sorry. If you do and subsequently just say so, I’ll never contact you again. You have my word, which you know is good.


  36. Aarrrgggh. Don’t do it, Darryl. It’s a trick. It’s a trap. It’s a trapck. He’s dead serious about keeping it private and nobody knowing and you not being sorry. Run! It’s a sting.


  37. I actually appreciate that Darryl, but I wasn’t looking for engagement or debate this time. I’m also not looking to beat you up. One email and you would understand that and also why this conversation is not for here. I don’t bite. I’ve had offline exchanges with at least a half dozen of the guys here, including a few who cannot stand me. I’ll only name them if somebody really tries to say I’m making this up. None of them is going to tell you that anything bad has happened as result of us speaking. (at least I hope not. That would would make them a flagrant liar)

    I hope you change your mind. As I say. Nobody will know,


  38. Greg, what you dismiss as sophomoric and worldly has a point: exactly who do you think you are? You don’t come as a humble conversant, but as an authoritative spokesman. But no one has given you authoritative status or even a humble office. Men who speak like prophets are either prophets or still in need of some serious life-lessons.


  39. Greg, why not send him a postcard at Hillsdale. Who doesn’t love a postcard – put a little sunshiny surprise in his day.


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