SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & How an understanding that God is a loving Father (not an angry tyrant) led to Jonathan Edwards’ conversion. #ARDA #WesleyToo

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Those who have read my devotional on the life of John, Charles and Susanna Wesley (www.Enthusiast.life) know that a key to their conversions was when they came to the understanding that God was a “loving father” not as a angry master. The same understanding transformed the famed American preacher Jonathan Edwards as pointed out in this article by the ARDA (Association of Religious Data Archives).

… While still at Yale, Edwards had a conversion experience and became convinced of the opposite, that God’s sovereignty “very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright and sweet.” Edwards had become convinced of the Calvinist view of God and humanity. Human beings were fallen, totally depraved, and deserving of an eternity of punishment in hell. God graciously plucked some, the elect, from that fiery fate. Edwards’s view of God transformed from that of a capricious, uncaring tyrant into a loving, gracious father.

Edwards inherited his grandfather’s church at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1729 and the young minister quickly became involved in a series of local revivals in New England during the 1730s. He believed that many New England Puritans were Christian in name only, that they had been infected by an “Arminian” theology that privileged free, human choice over God’s sovereignty. Rationalists, whom Edwards classed as “Arminians,” proposed a theology derived from reason and nature. They also argued that individuals were fundamentally moral beings with the ability to choose their faith, a belief that cut against the traditional Calvinist doctrine of human depravity. 

By 1738, when celebrity English evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour in the American colonies, those local revivals had grown into the mass religious movement that would later become known as the First Great Awakening. Whitefield, Edwards, and other preachers like Gilbert Tennent criticized American churches for their cold theological rationalism while proclaiming a revivified Calvinist gospel. It was in this environment that Edwards preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” while filling the pulpit in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741. Edwards wanted to convince the parishioners that their religious faith was dead, that they were sinners, and thus they faced the righteous judgment of God should they not repent and turn from their false religious security.

Read more at … http://www.thearda.com/timeline/events/event_232.asp

CALVINISM & SBC Seminary President: Calvinsts Be Gone! via #ScotMcKnight

by Bob Allen, Pathos, 8/10/17.

A Southern Baptist seminary president said Nov. 29 that Baptists who adopt Calvinistic theology and practice ought to consider joining another denomination.

“I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the close of Tuesday’s chapel service. “It’s called Presbyterian.”

“I have great respect for them,” Patterson said. “Many of them, the vast majority of them, are brothers in Christ, and I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different…”

“If God has chosen, actively or passively, before the foundation of the world to place the reprobate unconditionally into a category from which they can never possibly escape, then this is, as even Calvin admitted, a dreadful decree,” Patrick said. “I will never forget the first time a Calvinist looked me straight in the eye and said God does not love everybody. I was speechless, and frankly, that doesn’t happen much.”

Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/12/05/seminary-president-calvinsts-gone/#eQzXLKxBvl1xpquq.99

CHARITY & How the Calvinistic Work Ethic Undercuts It

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 8/1/16.

The Protestant work ethic was first described by Max Weber as growing out of a Calvinistic emphasis upon two things:

First was the emphasis on the German word “beruf,” i.e. every person’s occupation could be glorifying to God if undertaken with enthusiasm, diligence and honor to God. This Calvinistic viewpoint was widely accepted across most theological perspectives including Arminians as logical.

Secondly and more disturbingly, the Protestant work ethic believed that hard work would make “anyone” more successful. This according to Weber grew out of the Calvinist “double predestination” belief that God has destined people either for heaven or hell.

Part of this belief was that to show you were predestined for heaven you needed to be successful. And people who were not successful where undoubtedly so because they had not been pre-destined for heaven. The key had been always that people wanted to differentiate who is destined for heaven and who is destined for hell (though scripture reminds us this is knowledge that belongs to God alone). Still, the ability to make something of yourself and be a successful entrepreneur became a “sign” that you were predestined for heaven. The result was that Calvinism supported an outward view that people who were successful where so because they were predestined for glory.

This perspective may have subtly added to the view that non-dominant cultures, people who were/had been enslaved or Mediterranean immigrants who didn’t look like the majority culture in America, were insufficiently destined for heaven.

I see several troubling elements within the Calvinistic influence on the Protestant work ethic.

1. It creates a view that business success is a sign of God’s blessing. This would eventually morph into the more destructive prosperity gospel, in which accumulation of wealth was a sign that you were predestined for heaven.

2. The Protestant work ethic as seen through the lens of Calvinism branded people who were non-dominant or disadvantage cultures as culturally and inherently not destined for heaven. It may have contributed to a rise in bigotry.

3. The Protestant work ethic seen through a Calvinistic lens undermined charity, because it felt that giving money to the needy was under cutting their ability to work harder to make their life better. This is an informal fallacy because it does not recognize that many people because of culture, language, ethnicity, history as a enslaved culture, etc. prevented them from having a level playing field for advancement.

In conclusion, the Protestant work ethic has helped by allowing everyone to see that their work can be used to glorify God (Col. 3:23).

But a Protestant work ethic as viewed through the double predestination of Calvinism, can undercut our ability to see biases and challenges that people of non-dominant cultures face.

And finally, the Calvinistically influenced work ethic does not emphasize the benefit of “charity” for helping disadvantaged others to have a level playing field to rise in socioeconomics.

Herein lies my personal observations in working with hundreds of churches: that Calvinistically influenced churches tend to be less generous in their charity and Arminian influenced churches such as Methodist, Wesleyan, Penecostal, Salvation Army and others tend to be more generous in their charity to those who are economically or culturally disadvantaged.

Wesley was famous for saying (paraphrased): Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. And this is often been interpreted in a Calvinistic Protestant work ethic sense of “saving” your money by reinvesting it in capitalistic opportunities. A part of the Protestant work ethic as described by Weber is to invest money to make more money … as a sign that you are predestined for heaven.

However, that is not what Wesley meant by “save all you can.” Wesley meant “being thrifty.” By this he felt you would have more money to give to others.

Wesley instilled in his followers: the great sense of generosity that we see today reflected in Methodist Hospitals, parish nurse programs and ministry to the socially disadvantaged by groups such as the Salvation Army.

The purpose of this article is to emphasize that charity that lifts souls economically and socially is a bigger part of the Protestant work ethic than is usually interpreted through a Calvinistic lens of double predestination.


Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Die protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus).