A Calvinist Anthem

by Andrew Wencl on May 17, 2012 · 97 comments

Though it’s quieted down a lot regarding Lifeway’s The Gospel Project, I thought I’d stoke the fires again. All the concerns about how some subtle Calvinistic influence will confuse church members and cause frustration and discord in otherwise non-Calvinist Baptist churches because of this material are a little melodramatic. After all, I’m quite confident that every one of those non-Calvinist Baptist churches has used one Calvinist work for years without complaining about its influence before.

And no, I’m not talking about Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. ;-)

I’m talking about a very Calvinist song. I’ve heard it said many times before that the hymnal contains the theology of the church. My wife was teaching some high school girls about the attributes of God and asked them to describe God in one word. I would have said something like “Holy” or “Love” or “Good.” The first thing that came to mind for these teenagers was “Beautiful.” It could be that’s just what girls think about. But a lot of the songs on Christian radio today emphasize God’s beauty. And that’s what came out of their mouths.

Songs have a strong influence on our lives. They inform our thinking, and to some extent, our theology. When I led music at our Hispanic church, I realized that a lot of the song suggestions I received reflected the theological views of the people who requested them. I also realized that I had to seek out those song suggestions, since I had my own preferences as well.

If The Gospel Project is dangerous to our churches, I think this Calvinist song is even more dangerous. Tear it out of the hymnal. Don’t sing it. Because if (and that’s a big if) The Gospel Project has a slight Calvinistic slant, this song is preaching Calvinism full bore.

For one, it emphasizes some of the five points of Calvinism. Obviously, it wasn’t written as a catechism or summary of TULIP, but it does have some points present, such as total depravity, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. It might even have unconditional election in there as well, but it’s much more subtle than these other themes.

The song attempts to describe the working of God through the life of a believer, from conversion to glorification. Prior to conversion the person was vile, a reprobate, lost in utter sin. When the song explains conversion, it makes no mention of the person making a decision to repent and believe or choosing to follow Christ. Instead it is covered completely from the perspective of God’s work on the unregenerate person.

As the song goes on, it fully emphasizes God’s persevering grace in the life of the believer. There’s nothing in the song at all about anything the believer does. Instead it emphasizes God’s sovereign control and outworking on the life of the believer.

Doesn’t that song sound like it should be banned from the hymnal for the sake of those unsuspecting non-Calvinist Baptist churches and their members? Couldn’t a song like that produce frustration and discord?

Any song that emphasizes the Doctrines of Grace and God’s sovereign grace should not be given a place of prominence to influence unsuspecting Baptist churches.

Song #104 in Lifeway’s new Baptist Hymnal.

1 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Andrew,

So not content with merely claiming the “doctrines of grace” theologically, you guys are now claiming “Amazing Grace” for yourselves musically?

I guess us “Nons” can claim “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” and the so-called damning and dangerous “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart.”

Since we’re already dividing up the seminaries, the Sunday School curricula and the missions support channels, I guess you may be right. The next logical step may indeed be to divide up the hymnal.

2 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I find nothing inherently anti-Calvinistic about the songs, although I do understand how “You need to invite Jesus to live in your heart,” doesn’t really convey the gospel.

I find it ironic that many people complain about contemporary worship music as being repetitive, when the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” takes five verses to say:

I have decided to follow Jesus;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back.

3 Ben Coleman May 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

If someone can’t stand repetition, they might not like heaven much. Too much “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord” over and over and over and over and over and over again. :)

I think ‘contemporary music’ is often going to seem of lesser quality than the ‘old reliable music’, no matter which period of time ‘contemporary’ covers. The contemporary music we’re surrounded by includes good music, and bad music, good lyrics and bad lyrics. When the ‘old reliable’ music was contemporary, there was good music and bad music, good lyrics and bad lyrics. The old bad stuff failed the test of time, and we no longer hear it. We end up comparing the best of the old stuff with the entirety of the new stuff, and of course there’s going to seem to be a lot of bad new stuff in comparison. In a few decades, the best of the current stuff is going to be compared to the entirety of the future stuff, and we’ll be going through this all again.

As someone who grew up as a Christian with the Jesus Music of the 70′s and 80′s, I get to see this happening in my lifetime. In general, I prefer the old Jesus Music to current CCM. I can even trot out a few spiritual-sounding reasons for this – e.g. back then, the community seemed to be more ministry-driven, but now the CCM ‘industry’(!) is pretty well market-driven. But there was shoddy Jesus Music back then, which I have largely forgotten (why bother to remember it?). The good Jesus Music, I remember (and treasure). The CCM I’m surrounded by is very much a mixed bag. When I make the comparison, I’m not really comparing apples to apples. I try to keep that in mind before descending into grumpy-old-guy mode.

4 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm

In John MacArthur’s book on worship he has an appendix about how Christian music has changed since 1900 and I found his treatment of “gospel music” very enlightening, especially since a lot of “gospel music” is just plain rubbish and not quite as old and established as some people would like to believe it is.

5 Greg Harvey May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Who gets Do Lord? I know it sounds like a less-than-Calvinistic song, but maybe it isn’t?

6 Ben Coleman May 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm

While John Newton was indeed a Calvinist, I’m not sure he’d approve of all Calvinists. I find the following quote to be all too frighteningly apt, and I would by no means attribute the attitudes he describes only to Calvinists:

“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of . Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.”

7 Greg Harvey May 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm

BTW: in the true story vein. We were visiting with some very close friends of ours (we were asked, yes as Southern Baptists, to be godparents to their children under their Episcopalian baptism) and joined them in their Sunday worship service at the local sanctuary near them in the San Jose area.

This song was one of the songs in the worship service and my wife and I know it by heart. So imagine our moment of discomfort when we got to the part where you sing “sav’d a wretch like me” and we realize that not only is everyone else singing something else (“sav’d someone like me” if I recall correctly), but they’re now looking out of the corners of their eyes at these boisterous Baptists that obviously don’t know the words of the song…

Which is to say: if the Episcopalians can use this song with minor accommodations, I wish to extend John Newton’s copyright to any conservatives I happen to know on my own recognizance, especially since the song is considered in the public domain at this point!! Or shall we say “in God’s holy demesne”?

8 Christiane May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Newton was speaking personally when he wrote ‘wretch’ . . . read his biography, wherein his life story shows such tremendous contrasts in his earlier experiences and his post-conversion life.

He wasn’t ‘exaggerating’, he was ‘telling it like it is’ for himself and he shared the truth about his life with his parishioners openly in his sermons,
something that most pastors in those days did not do, choosing to remain aloof from the problems of their flocks.

9 Ben Coleman May 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Is it just me, or does anyone else look at the last part of that quote and think “I didn’t know they had blogging in John Newton’s time”?

10 Ben Coleman May 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Looks like they had blogging back in Job’s time:

“Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?”

Job 16:3 NIV

11 Matt Richard May 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I wouldn’t agree that Amazing Grace is blatantly Calvinist. But I see how it can be heard that way. It is more Calvinist in what it doesn’t say (how the sinner received the grace) than what it does say. After all, everyone affirms that it is by grace through faith that one is saved.

At any rate, if for some reason I did judge it to be too Calvinistic, then perhaps I would take it out of my personal hymnal. After all, hymnals aren’t infallible.

12 Bob Hadley May 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm

While I do agree with those who correctly say Amazing Grace is not in and of itself overtly calvinistic, it does bear noting that The Gospel Project although written and advised by card carryin calvinists may be more like Amazing Grace and not overtly calvinistic, which is I would expect it to be.

However, with that being said, The Gospel Project also SHOULD be expected to reflect some of its developers theological premises and that is where I believe it will go beyond the scope of acceptable boundaries for me. As has already been noted by a number of people, the subtle links to various web sites and comments and videos of preachers and speakers that give more insight to a particular topic may not haev any particular theological significance at all; however, by linking to someone who DOES have a particular theological bend the credibility issue is subtly set and that can open the door to other avenues of influence in this tech savoy world we live in today, especially where the younger folks are concerned. This is already being done NOW and it will continue to be the norm.

Authority and value come draped in a lot of different forms, shapes and venues.

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13 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Perhaps it would be better if everyone on The Gospel Project was anonymous, since you can’t look for more resources from an author or speaker if you don’t know who he is.

Would you be as bothered with materials that link to articles and resources from Jerry Vines, David Allen, or Steve Lemke?

14 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Actually, that would be a Sunday School curriculum I might really be able to get behind. If there are any plans to produce one, I’d love to try it out. Please tell me Lifeway is considering this option. I think it would quickly outperform The Gospel Project.

15 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Rick,

I think I’d be more concerned about not knowing who’s writing Lifeway material. Then again, if they’d released The Gospel Project as an anonymous curriculum, maybe we wouldn’t be having the debate we’re having.

16 Matt Richard May 17, 2012 at 8:31 pm

And probably no one would buy it.

17 Anthony Clay May 17, 2012 at 10:50 pm

The Gospel Project also SHOULD be expected to reflect some of its developers theological premises and that is where I believe it will go beyond the scope of acceptable boundaries for me.

Not to be personal, but I think that the older ladies in the beautification committee wanting to plant Tulips in the flower garden beside the front entrance would be beyond the scope of acceptable boundaries for you brother Bob.

18 Ken Hamrick May 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

How long has it been since the local congregations produced their own good Sunday school teachers who competently wrote their own lessons? Our commercialized culture has centralized the gift of teaching, given it attractive packaging, and propagated the assumption that good teaching (as opposed to “facilitating”) is beyond the ability of most. While this could have been a tool to ensure a healthy minimum of doctrinal understanding, it seems instead to have resulted in the opposite.

Sorry for the digression. I will not comment on this any further.

19 Ben Coleman May 18, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Is it possible that sometimes ( and this might be part of the same thing you’re saying) we don’t make room for people’s giftings unless they fit our pre-defined ministry slots? E.g., in my case, on a ‘spiritual gifts’ test, I come out looking like a teacher, but I’m actually not good at preparing lessons ahead of time, or giving prepared lessons. The way my gifts work is that I listen to a person, or a group of persons, discern where their misunderstandings or ‘knowledge holes’ are, and try to clear them up. I’m more of a ‘clarifier’ than a teacher. I’m not sure most churches would know what to do with me (for that matter, I’m not always sure what to do with me!). Exercising these kinds of gifts in someone else’s Sunday school class can put off the teacher, who might feel I’m undercutting him.

20 John Wylie May 19, 2012 at 12:04 am

Ken,

I agree with your comments about Sunday school. I particularly am not a fan of quarterlies for adult classes. And you’re absolutely right there is a major difference between a good teacher and a facilitator. Sunday School ought to be a time of being able to go a little deeper, not a time to hear everyone’s opinion.

21 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I think some of you have gotten my basic point: just because a Calvinist writes something that is obviously informed by his Calvinist beliefs doesn’t mean it can’t have a broad appeal.

I don’t think anyone is going to say that the song “Amazing Grace” has led to division and confusion in unsuspecting non-Calvinist Baptist churches. From what I’ve seen of The Gospel Project curriculum, this song is more Calvinistic than the study material, and I’ve never heard non-Calvinists say it has had a bad influence on anyone.

22 Max May 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Amazing Grace! Something for everybody in that old song. “How precious did that Grace appear… the hour I first believed!”

I suppose LifeWay had to drop some songs in its 2008 hymnal revision to make room for some of the “7-11″ contemporary pieces, but I sure do miss certain grand old hymns. Songs referring to Christ’s death as an atonement for everyone and not just the elect – like “Whosoever Will” and “Whosoever Meaneth Me” – didn’t make the cut. Neither did “Oh What a Wonder It Is”, with its “all who would believe in Him, He’d save them every one” or “Holy Bible, Book of Love”, which proclaims that Christ “died for everyone.” Some churches are making copies of missing hymns like that and gluing them to the inside covers of the new hymnal.

23 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I agree with Max that “Amazing Grace” is neutral at best on the Calvinism issue, possessing something for everybody.

24 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm

At best or at worst?

I agree that Newton wrote a song that is broadly appealing to people who don’t agree with his soteriological views. But that’s my point. Why do critics of The Gospel Project strain out the gnat of Calvinism in that publication and then swall the camel of Calvinism in this song? If The Gospel Project is Calvinist propoganda, this song is their anthem.

To state it another way: If “Amazing Grace” has something for everybody, then certainly The Gospel Project does too!

25 Max May 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Amazing Grace has stood the test of time for 200+ years … the Gospel truth for 2000+ years … I’ll reserve judgement on “The Gospel Project” for the time being.

26 Frank May 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Max,

I’m just wondering: wasn’t Amazing Grace a “contemporary piece” at one time.

Also, are you aware that there is nothing particularly “sacred” about the music of Amazing Grace, and that the tune was not even composed by John Newton.

I’m not sure what you mean by “7-11″ pieces, but I don’t think it was meant to be complimentary. I don’t think you can argue “for” Amazing Grace by arguing against “contemporary” music.

27 Max May 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I stand corrected, Frank. Jesus is the eternal contemporary.

28 Frank May 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Max,

I figured that you point of view was not as strident as one line from a short post. I think I can appreciate the fact that some modern contemporary music lacks the depth and insight of some former music.

I just don’t think the problem is “contemporary versus traditional.” I think music reflects the culture and we are not as literary as we once were.

So, I don’t completely reject what I think you might have perhaps been seeming to say.

29 Bruce H. May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm

“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10

We may do well to understand the many colors of grace. It fits most perfectly in the most personal situations and events of our lives. Here are a few definitions I have run across that help paint the portrait of Christ in His church.

1. Unmerited favor.
2. Gift
3. The desire and power to do God’s will.
4. Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in life.

I am sure there are more that make this grace so amazing. There is even one that removes the barrier between Arminians and Calvinist.

30 Debbie Kaufman May 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Oh my goodness! Arguing over Amazing Grace? Really? John Newton was Calvinist. Get over it. You were singing a song written by a Calvinist and many don’t even know that because Amazing Grace is Calvinist theology. If I were to preach or teach a lot of lessons, you all would agree with me and I would be teaching Calvinism. You agree you just don’t know you agree because of the wive’s tales concerning Calvinism from those like David Hunt and some here. That’s all it is.

31 Jim Pemberton May 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

No kidding. FWIW, as a Calvinist one of my favorite hymns is “And Can It Be” – written by noted Arminian, Charles Wesley. He wrote many other great hymns I gladly sing. Additionally, Amazing Grace is in the Methodist hymnal unadultered.

32 Debbie Kaufman May 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

If you read these comments arguing over Amazing Grace is just plain ridiculous.

33 Jeff Musgrave May 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I think it is a reach to categorize this particular discussion as an argument. I have seen arguments around here and this doesn’t look anything like them.

No one has used a single Lutherian insult yet. :)

34 Debbie Kaufman May 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm

As for John Newton calling out Calvinists, there were radical Calvinists just as there are today, Charles Spurgeon called out Hyper-Calvinists. They should have just as we should today. John Newton and Spurgeon were five point Calvinists with the right mindset in what they railed against. Deal with it.

35 Frank May 17, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Debbie,

I’m not aware of John Newton or Charles Spurgeon writing anything that said, “I am a five-point Calvinist.” I’m not saying they did not communicate this. I haven’t read everything.

Could you give me a primary reference where John Newton and/or Charles Spurgeon addessed being a “Five-point Calvinist?”

I understand they are definitely “calvinistic,” but I’m unaware that they self-identified as “Five-point Calvinists.”

36 Les May 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Frank, I’m not sure if in Spurgeon’s day they were identifying that way or not. That’s an interesting question. This sermon may encompass the five points though. http://www.spurgeongems.org/tulip-df.pdf

And it for sure that he preached on all five points at different times. Check out Spurgeon Gems.

I love this quote from Spurgeon’s sermon linked above. He expected a great harvest of souls, as should we! Come on in Dr. Willingham.

Beside those in Heaven, think of the saved ones on earth. Blessed be God, His Elect on earth are to be counted by
millions! I believe the days are coming, brighter days than these, when there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought
to know the Savior, and to rejoice in Him. The Father’s love is not only for a few, but for an exceedingly great company.
“A great multitude, which no man could number,” will be found in Heaven! A man can reckon up to very high figures;
set to work your Newtons, your mightiest calculators, and they can count great numbers; but God, and God alone, can
tell the multitude of His redeemed! I believe there will be more in Heaven than in Hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I
answer, because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence,” and I cannot conceive how He could have the
pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise. Moreover, I have never read that there is
to be in Hell a great multitude which no man could number. I rejoice to know that the souls of all infants, as soon as they
die, speed their way to Paradise; think what a multitude there is of them! Then there are already in Heaven unnumbered
myriads of the spirits of just men made perfect—the redeemed of all nations and kindreds and people, and tongues up till
now. And there are better times coming, when the religion of Christ shall be universal—
“He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway,”
when whole kingdoms shall bow down before Him, and nations shall be born in a day, and in the thousand years of the
great millennial state, there will be enough saved to make up all the deficiencies of the thousands of years that have gone
before! Christ shall be Master everywhere, and His praise shall be sounded in every land. Christ shall have the
pre-eminence at last; His train shall be far larger than that which shall attend the chariot of the grim monarch of Hell!

Amen!

37 Frank May 17, 2012 at 8:20 pm

“””And it for sure that he preached on all five points at different times. “””

I think the key words are: “at different times.” I do not see Spurgeon as packaging his entire theology in a designer Calvinist suitcase to carry to his next debate.

In my understanding of Spurgeon, he would not be nearly as petty, simplistic, and provincial in the discussion of doctrine as we commonly see on SBC voices (and other blogs) in regard to doctrines of grace.

My point is that we invoke great theologians of distant years and impose upon them our petty sentiments like theological name-droppers.

Now, that is just my impression of the general path of these discussions and I do not have any particular person in mind.

38 Chris Roberts May 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Spurgeon didn’t pull any punches when it came to Calvinism. If anything, I suspect many people would be quite uncomfortable with his words regarding those who deny it. We would certainly hear more people calling us divisive if we said some of the things he said!

39 Mike Leake May 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Frank,

When Spurgeon and Newton referred to themselves as Calvinists they would have meant 5 points. There were a little different views on Limited Atonement (I think at the end of the day I would argue that both Spurgeon and Newton held to Limited Atonement but did not go quite as far in the area as some strict Particularist of their day). It’s a little anachronistic to expect them to say, “I’m a 5 point Calvinist”. When they say “I’m a Calvinist” they mean all 5 points.

40 Frank May 17, 2012 at 8:15 pm

“””It’s a little anachronistic to expect them to say, “I’m a 5 point Calvinist”.”””

Precisely. Thank you for making my point.

I cannot imagine–and I’m no Spurgeon expert though I do own the entire Metropolitan Tabernacle collection among others–Spurgeon or Newton would use the doctrines of grace as a “team moniker.”

41 Mike Leake May 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I won’t speak for Spurgeon because I’m not as familiar with his writings. But I am somewhat working on a book on John Newton and am very familiar with him.

He was a self identified Calvinist. He also said this:

“The views I have received of the doctrines of grace are essential to my peace; I could not live comfortably a day, or an hour, without them. I likewise believe . . . them to be friendly to holiness, and to have a direct influence in producing and maintaining a gospel conversation; and therefore I must not be ashamed of them”.

He often referred to himself as a Calvinist and said “we Calvinist”. On one occasion he said something about if he were not a Calvinist he would have just as much confidence preaching to horses as to men. Something like that. I can dig up the exact quote and reference if you desire.

I’m not sure what you mean by “team moniker”. He was a very convinced Calvinist that would have preached and discussed with many in such a way that he’d desire them to be a Calvinist. But he also was an evangelical first and a humble Calvinist second. Hope this helps the discussion.

42 Frank May 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm

“””Deal with it.””

And this from someone who constantly harps on “civility.”

It is absolutely amazing to me how much “heat” discussion of Calvin and his doctrines can generate.

With so much heat, it makes one glad one’s name isn’t Sevetus.

That is only slightly sarcastic. Calvin’s doctrines generated the spiritual heat that became the literal heat, and I wonder if the same would happen today if people thought they could get away with it.

And, I mean from both sides of the aisle.

43 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Or Servetus.

Debbie & Frank, perhaps you could try shedding a little more light and toning down the heat here.

44 Debbie Kaufman May 18, 2012 at 12:37 am

Andrew: Instead of chewing me out for nothing read my comment again and again if need be. I am attempting to “shed light”, in fact I pretty well said what Ben did. And to argue over Amazing Grace as has been done here is as I said.

45 Debbie Kaufman May 18, 2012 at 12:38 am

Frank: When I see a song being argued over, a song that we all sing, I’m not very civil.

46 Frank L. May 18, 2012 at 1:04 am

Andrew,

I’m not referring to a few posts here and there but to the few posters here and there that filter everything through the lenses of a provincial view in regard to Calvin and his doctrines.

Debbie,

Would you not agree that if we are only “civil” with those who agree with us that is a weak civility at best?

I was only ribbing you a bit in jest. Please don’t take it seriously.

47 Dave Miller May 18, 2012 at 1:21 am

You cannot argue, Debbie, for civil discourse except when you don’t like something. The whole point of civil discussions is to treat people you disagree with respectfully, even as you disagree.

48 Les May 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Man, how did I miss this today so far? Well, if Amazing Grace isn’t blatantly Calvinistic enough to be the anthem, may I nominate To God Be the Glory. All one has to do is follow the Reformed Baptists and make a slight modification in stanza 1:

“To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
Who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that we may go in.”

Done. New anthem.

49 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm

They really changed “all” to “we”? Wow.

50 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm

And I’m sure they added an “A-men” at the end too. ;-)

51 Les May 18, 2012 at 8:12 am

Well, there’s something said for trying to get it right. As Calvinists, “all” would have us singing something inconsistent with our theology. :)

52 David R. Brumbelow May 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

In the 2008 LifeWay Baptist Hymnal, “To God Be The Glory” still says:

“And opened the lifegate that all may go in.”

I’m thankful for the “all” here and in Scripture.
David R. Brumbelow

53 Ben May 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I’ve never thought of “Amazing Grace” as particularly Calvinistic, and upon looking at it, I don’t think it is. I understand that Newton was a Calvinist, but Andrew, you’ll have to explain this one to me. What exactly in the song is overtly Calvinistic?

Oh, wait…that is your point. It’s not overtly Calvinistic even though it’s written by an overt Calvinist. In relation, “The Gospel Project,” although having an overtly Calvinist advisory board (authors too???), isn’t overtly Calvinistic. Great connection and point! Sorry, I’m a bit slow today.

For what it’s worth, I thought you were going to point to actual Calvinistic hymns like “I Know Whom I Have Believed” (which I’ve requested to be played at my funeral) or “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”

54 Frank May 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Some songs were written specifically to address theology, like “Rock of Ages.”

To call, Amazing Grace a treatise on Calvinism completely ignores the reason for the composition.

Unlike Rock of Ages, Amazing Grace is testimonial, not theological in regard to the impetus for its compostion. We should not make too much (or too little) of extra-Biblical poetry, in my opinion.

55 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Frank,

Check out the second paragraph of Ben’s comment above.

56 Adam B. Embry May 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Am I missing something? Are Southern Baptists arguing over “Amazing Grace”? According to the article on Wikipedia, with footnotes by historians Mark Noll, Edith Blumhofer, and Newton biographer Jonathan Aitken, “Between 1789 and 1799, four variations of Newton’s hymn [Amazing Grace] were published in the U.S. in Baptist, Dutch Reformed, and Congregationalist hymnodies; by 1830 Presbyterians and Methodists also included Newton’s verses in their hymnals.” Seems like many denominations of evangelical persuasion enjoyed this beautiful hymn.

57 Jeff Musgrave May 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Well, one of my personal favorites is Trust and Obey. I am pretty sure that wouldn’t be considered an appropriate anthem for Calvinism though. Or maybe it would. I suppose it matters what you “read into” the words of the hymn.

58 Ben May 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Max, while you’re point out songs that did not make the cut from the ’91 Baptist Hymnal to the ’08 Baptist Hymnal, don’t forget “My Lord, I Did Not Choose You”:

My Lord, I did not choose You,
For that could never be;
My heart would still refuse You,
Had You not chosen me.
You took the sin that stained me,
You cleansed me, made me new;
Of old You have ordained me,
That I should live in You.

Unless Your grace had called me
And taught my op’ning mind,
The world would have enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.
My heart knows none above You;
For Your rich grace I thirst;
I know that if I love You,
You must have loved me first.

59 Max May 17, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Hi Ben – I suppose we are drifting off-topic a bit on this. I apologize for steering us in this direction. We clearly all affirm “Amazing Grace” regardless of our theological leaning!

But speaking of theology, it appears that LifeWay used just that in its selection process for hymns in the 2008 revision. Our publishing house convened a group of theologians to vet the songs to ensure they are doctrinally and theologically sound. A press release outlined their criteria: “Does the hymn speak biblically of God? Is it God-honoring? Does the hymn present a biblical view of man? Does the song help us to cover the depth and breadth of our theology? Does the hymn call us to true discipleship, service, repentance, witness, missions and devotion? Does the hymn speak biblically of salvation? Does it engage the whole person–allowing a person to express his deepest feelings? Does the hymn emphasize that Christ is the Christian’s Lord, Master and King (the idea of total submission)? Does the hymn present an Americanized/Westernized gospel (civil religion)? Is there a balance with corporate and individual response in worship (immanence and transcendence)? Does the hymn speak biblically about the church, the body of Christ?” http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=26576

To God be the Glory! Praise His Holy Name for Amazing Grace!

60 Greg Alford May 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Rick,

“Since we’re already dividing up the seminaries,”

I think not… Where do you get this stuff?

Amazing Grace for the Journey :-)

61 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Greg, everyone on this board could name the two most Calvinistic seminaries and the two least. But I was really just giving Andrew a little grief for claiming “Amazing Grace” for his side. Where does HE get this stuff?

62 Andrew Wencl May 17, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Rick,

I see my post went over your head. Read Ben’s comment and I think you’ll get it: http://sbcvoices.com/a-calvinist-anthem/#comment-89594

63 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

If your thesis is that “Amazing Grace” is no more of a Calvinist Anthem than the Gospel Project is secretly a Calvinistic leaning Sunday School curricula, might I suggest the new and improved title: “NOT AT ALL A Calvinist Anthem.”

64 Andrew Wencl May 18, 2012 at 8:04 am

Thanks for the suggestion, but I’ll keep it the way it is. Were the song written today, I have little doubt that you and others like you would criticize it and call it just that: A Calvinist Anthem.

65 Greg Alford May 17, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Rick,

I am not anyone’s choice for a spokesmen for all Calvinist in the SBC… Actually, far from it. But I think I can say with confidence that the Calvinist within the SBC are in no way interested in dividing the convention upon any fault lines.

And the last time I checked our seminaries were still accepting students of all theological stripes, and providing them with a quality education on behalf of all Southern Baptist.

Perhaps I am protesting to much… but I just absolutely reject the idea that the SBC, and our seminaries, are divided along theological lines.

Grace for the Journey,

66 Dave Miller May 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I would make 2 points:

1) If Amazing Grace proves anything, it is that not everything a Calvinist does is done to advance the TULIP points.

Newton, a Calvinist, wrote a hymn that people of all (orthodox) persuasions have loved for years.

The idea that is commonly advanced today is that if one is a Calvinist, everything he does must be done to advance the Calvinist agenda. At least in Newton’s case, that was not true.

2) This discussion borders on the silly.

I am simply not going to permit another Calvinist/anti-Calvinist smack-a-thon in the comments here. We’ve had several recently.

If this conversation does not show some productive value soon, I will simply shut it down (and any other comment stream that is solely a snippy C/anti-C smackdown.)

Enough is enough. Don’t you guys get tired of those discussions?

67 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Dave,

Not to be defensive here, but the title of the post is “A Calvinist Anthem.”
Why would we NOT talk about Calvinism and the theological viewpoint found in certain hymns? When Calvinism is the subject of the post, it follows that it will be the subject of the comments.

68 Dave Miller May 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Rick, I don’t have any problem discussing Calvinism – if it is productive. It is the constant, “I’m rubber and you’re glue” nonsense and the snippy little insults back and forth.

I think the SBC needs to have a PRODUCTIVE discussion of issues related to Calvinism. We don’t seem to be able to do that, so I get tired of the back and forth and what I consider to be empty, hollow argument.

Maybe its all in the eye of the beholder.

69 Jeff Musgrave May 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Even when we do have a productive discussion on here about the issue it will still be littered with the rubber/glue meme.

If we ever have a comment stream about Calvinism that doesn’t at some point devolve into a snippy exchange someday, I will sing the hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah and post it on youtube where no one will dare want to see it but will feel compelled to watch it anyway like gawkers staring at a train wreck.
- Martin Luther (or just Jeff imitating him maybe)

70 Doug Hibbard May 18, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I’m fairly certain Luther often called things a train wreck. After all, Lincoln posted videos of that to Youtube.

71 Jeff Musgrave May 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Did you see the story about Lincoln inventing Facebook? I gotta give props to the guy who dreamed that one up.

72 Dave Miller May 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Oh, and Rick,

You seem to be wrangling about goat’s wool, like the man who watched the play in an empty theater.

73 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm

How can I offer a retort when I don’t understand the insult?

74 Dave Miller May 17, 2012 at 9:37 pm

When you are using the Lutheran insult generator, you just assume that Martin knew what he was talking about.

75 Rick Patrick May 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Well then, stop your squawking like a chicken when the moon is full and the marketplace is empty. What?

76 Jeff Musgrave May 17, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Were you against the heathen Priapus, he would probably pass wind in the face of such well-aimed terror.

77 Chris Roberts May 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Dave,

Are you not mad, and crazy, and crass Nestorians, not knowing when you say yes and when you say no, stating one thing in the premise and another in the conclusion? Away with you stupid as*cough*es and fools!

(Oh wait, was that a different comment thread?)

78 Dave Miller May 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Well played, sir.

79 Frank May 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm

“””as*cough*es””

Trends?

80 Tim Rogers May 18, 2012 at 7:58 am

Andrew,

Let me see if I can get this straight.

The Lord has promised good to me…

That is a Calvinist concept? If God has promised good to us then what does he want to destroy the non-elect for His glory?

One more thing.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years…

So John Newton, a Calvinist, was also premillennial?

Just a few thoughts before I rip this out of the hymnal. :)

81 Andrew Wencl May 18, 2012 at 8:12 am

Tim,

How about you quote the whole line: “The Lord has promis’d good to me, His word my hope secures;

In other words, God’s promise secures Newton’s salvation. Although anyone can take those words and adopt them as his own, coming from the pen of a Calvinist, I have little doubt what they meant to Newton.

Second, I see no connection between the line “When we’ve been there* ten thousand years…” and any particular view related to the millenium.

Third, the verse that begins “When we’ve been there there* ten thousand years…” was not written by Newton.

82 Mike Leake May 18, 2012 at 9:13 am

I wish we sang stanza 5 more.

“Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.”

83 Max May 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Amen Mike! What precious words! “Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom!” When Christ had overcome death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The veil is rent; a door is opened in heaven. Jesus is the door … thank you Lord!

84 Steve Martin May 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

Jesus died for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.

Since I’m in this world…He died for me. Calvinists get all hung up on this ‘election’ stuff. Does God elect? YES! The Bible clearly tells us that He does.

But that death was for everyone. But not everyone will hear the Good News and come to faith. That is a different matter and one that we don’t have any answers for.

Calvinists get bogges down in trying to know if they are really of the elect. So they turn inward (big mistake) to see if they really have enough faith, or if they are really serious enough, or if they have enough “fruit”. For Heaven’s sake…they might as well become Roman Catholics.

We trust in the external Word of promise and there we can have some assurance.

My 2 cents.

85 Mike Leake May 18, 2012 at 9:19 am

Steve,

I agree that something that can occasionally happen to Calvinists is a type of morbid introspection. Where we look at the fruit of faith moreso than the spark of faith. Oddly enough the Puritans can be both helpful and harmful in this regard.

I don’t think the inward look is unique to Calvinists though. In the way that you describe it is unique to Calvinists. But the root of the temptation is not unique. I have known and counseled several believers of a more Arminian (perhaps semi-Pelagian would be the better term) persuasion who were trying to find assurance. For them it wasn’t asking questions like, “How do I know if I’m elect”. For them it was “how do I know if I prayed the prayer sincerely? How do I know if I really have faith? How do I know if I’ve really given everything up for Jesus? Etc.

So while I agree that Calvinists can be tempted to morbid introspection I do not believe that we are alone in this temptation. I would also argue that meditating upon the doctrine of election is a tremendous means that God uses to comfort those that are struggling with assurance.

86 Steve Martin May 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I do think that you are right. Unfortunately. Too many Christians lack assurance and when they look inward…they are barking up the wrong tree.

87 Bill Mac May 18, 2012 at 2:58 pm

“Calvinists get bogges down in trying to know if they are really of the elect.”

Do they really? Name 5. I didn’t get that memo either. But I’ve had lots and lots of non-Calvinists try to make me wonder if I’m really saved (are you sure that you’re sure that you’re sure? Come up front just in case)

88 Steve Martin May 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’m glad none of that ‘internalizing of the faith’ is going on in your circles. But make no mistake, there’s no shortage of it out there. And in more than just Calvinist churches. This stuff is everywhere.

89 Jim Pemberton May 18, 2012 at 11:43 am

“Jesus died for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD.”

You do realize that Calvinists point out that the Bible doesn’t say that. The places where it might appear to don’t on deeper hermeneutical observation. In order to make them say what we thought they said on first glance is to alter a good hermeneutic. Everyone does this to some degree, but the practice of a good exegete is to correct the places where he or she has done this.

I’ve got better things to do than argue this extensively, but the material is easily available. Compare a few commentaries from divergent points of view to discern the different hermeneutical systems being applied to those passages you think say that and understand why people believe differently. Doing so will elevate the level of discourse and promote grace in the Body.

90 Christiane May 18, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I suppose you are referring to the variances in the wording of 1 John 2:2?

Here are examples:

http://bible.cc/1_john/2-2.htm

the teachings that came out of Jerusalem to the first centers of Christianity still hold to some common teachings . . . because of the great distances and lack of modern communications, there is some reason to understand that what was held in common among ALL of the early centers of Christianity did, in fact, originate from the Apostolic teachings in Jerusalem . . .

so examine those commonalities, and then examine modern hermeneutics

I think some clarity concerning what was taught originally by the Apostles, and ‘passed on’ to the five outlying first centers of the faith,
may come from that process. Trust me, it’s worth the effort. :)

91 Rick May 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Andrew,

Seriously? You call your post “A Calvinist Anthem” then claim you do NOT believe it really is a Calvinist anthem and then accuse ME of hypothetically calling it a Calvinist anthem if I had never heard it before. You are the one linking this great hymn to Calvinism. It would never occur to me to do that.

92 Andrew Wencl May 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Rick,

1. Newton was writing from his own particular frame of reference, and it was colored by his Calvinism. There’s some pretty amazing sovereign grace preached in that song.

2. Despite the fact that this song came from a Calvinist’s pen and has some Calvinist leanings, it is still popular among Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.

3. To criticize The Gospel Project because of Calvinism and then to virtually deny any trace of Calvinism in this song is either duplicity or delusion.

93 Rick May 18, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I do not deny a TRACE of Calvinism either in the song or the curriculum, both of which were written by Calvinists. I guess that makes me neither duplicitous nor delusional. A trace, mind you.

94 dr. james willingham May 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I developed a real case of the envies the other evening. My wife and I were visiting a friend and his wife, and the wife brought out a volume with a red cover and asked me, if I had any of John Newton’ s works. I said I had two volumes. Well, she had walked into a Habitat for Humanity store and happened across the complete works of Newton published by Banner of Truth and got them all (6 or 8 volumes, I forget which) for a $1.00 a volume. As you will understand, that is, some of you: I was bitten right then and there by the envy bug, and I told our friends so. By the way it is a pleasure to read John Newton on Sovereign Grace and he has a number of messages on the subject (under various titles). He also writes in response to people’s enquiries about such matters, and he has a very gentle demeanor in his expressions. Someone cited him on the matter several blogs ago. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” Indeed.

95 Bob Hadley May 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

that saved a wretch like me. There is hope for everyone right there!

><>”

96 Jerry May 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm

And to think that the propaganda song titled “Amazing Grace” has been in EVERY Baptist Hymnal since 1956, and the Broadman Hymnal before it. Those sneaky Calvinists.

97 Carter May 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm

First…to Tim…the When We’ve been there ten thousand years verse was not written by Newton…added latter. He wrote “this world will soon dissolve like snow…
I agree that Newton’s theology comes throug in Amazing Grace ( Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace my fears relieved) . Much more to the point is that almost all Christians are drawn to the song. A lot of non Christians are too. We might learn from that. Calvinist theology properly applied ought to produce immensely thankful, graceful and and humble people who are amazed that they would have received grace and be eager to see it extended to others. When our theology produces anger, pride, self satisfaction or a cage phase, we might want to revisit the song. If Calvinists ( perhaps especially including me) sounded more like Newton people would be less suspicious and fearful.

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