I'm what's commonly called a "Calvinist." One is called a "Calvinist" for believing in what are called the doctrines of Grace. Five doctrines of grace are usually associated with Calvinism and, normally, holding to these five results in one being identified with that label. But, when someone holds to only one of the doctrines like say Eternal Preservation [Security] or, as it is sometimes referred to, Eternal Perseverance, they are called a Calvinist also. The word "Cavinist" comes from the man John Calvin who became known for the formulating of the five doctrines which are also designated with the acronym TULIP. Stated this way...
P__Preservation of the Saints.
My point with this post, let me be clear here, is not to defend the five doctrines or even to explain them. I certainly will not defend Calvin himself because he left some things indefensible IMHO. I don't even particularly like being known by the designation "Calvinist." I don't like labels in general, even the Southern Baptist one.
But I'm smart enough to know that labels are only words which, if carefully defined, can convey an idea of what a person believes. But remember that no single label can adequately nor accurately reveal who a person is or what they believe really. Even the term "Christian" falls into that category in these times it seems to me.
All that said, I want to respond to a single accusation made against the idea of holding to one of those doctrines of Grace. It is the one that is refered to as "Limited atonement" which is also known as "particular redemption" as I prefer to call it. This is the belief that Jesus ACTUALLY died for some people and that those will ULTIMATELY come to know Him. This, instead of a second idea that He died for ALL people and potentially NONE, SOME, OR ALL, could come to know Him. [With some variations of this out there.]
But the thought/accusation I'm addressing is that, if one holds to the first, which I do, then there would/will be no need for evangelism in that person's opinion and, in fact, evangelism will suffer. Even die as an enterprise.
Bear in mind as you read this who is writing it. I'm one who believes different opinions can be discussed graciously, lovingly, nicely and even enjoyably. Within Southern Baptists there are people who hold differing views on the doctrines of Grace. [Especially particular redemption or limited atonement.] Within my friends there are differing views held. Within my family there are differing views often. Even within my marriage there are sometimes differing views on some things... but my view is the right one of course. ; ) So...it is possible to talk about issues with differing views without rancor and anger and that is what I hope we do here.
Remember.. the point I'm addressing is NOT which view of the purpose of the death of Christ is correct, but whether or not if holding to the limited atonement view kills true evangelism. In other words..does believing Jesus ACTUALLY died for some people who ULTIMATELY will come to know Him kill evangelism?
I say it does not. In fact, William Cary, the father of the Baptist mission movement personally held to limited atonement, and no one doubts his love and heart for evangelism.
My father-in-law was a five-point Calvinist [Which includes limited atonenment and you get my meaning now I'm sure.] and for the first several years of his Christian life led someone to faith in Christ EVERY DAY. I mean literally, every single day.
Finally, a day came when no one believed the gospel in his presence and he had to re-evaluate and come to the understanding that God's purpose was for him to share the gospel EVERY DAY and leave the results with God. He did just that for the REST OF THE YEARS of his life. I'll say it again, clearly. Every day of his Christian life until his death Fred Cherry shared the gospel with SOMEONE who was not a Christian.
C. H. Spurgeon was a Calvinist [Five pointer] and asked his people to stay home one Sunday a month in the later years of his ministry so non-christian people could come hear the gospel at the Tabernacle in London. They filled it those set aside Sundays.
Who knows how many have come to faith in Christ throught the evangelism of Calvinists? I could continue to name people who held to particular redemption like William Cary, Jonathan Edwards, John Murray and, my goodness, the list could go on for some time.
I have delighted in sharing the gospel and still do. I once would drive to a gas station to put in gas and talk to someone about Jesus Christ while putting in two dollars and go to another to finish filling up to get to share with someone else. While my methods have changed through the years the delight in sharing hasn't.
Though my preaching seldom if ever uses the label "Calvinism" which I dislike, or even uses the terms spoken about in the acronym TULIP, my preaching WILL cover the truth of Grace declared in scripture. My message winds up being a God-centered message which gives opportunity for people to respond and to take responsibility for repentence and brokenness over the message of the gospel which, I believe is evangelism.
Of course, if one defines evangelism in a narrow, free-will sense of getting someone to pray a little prayer because they're emotional and want to go to heaven, then Calvinism IS killing toward those kind of antics. I'm even opposed to powerless preaching or sharing from the pulpit that produces such.
But if by evangelism one means the preaching/sharing of the gospel and looking for the Holy Spirit to break, open, and move someone to receive the truth of the message of Christ and His Cross work because of their being humbled, then Calvinism will ALWAYS only enhance evangelism and fire the souls of people who know Christ to keep on evangelizing.
I fully believe people who teach free will in an inappropriate biblical fashion AND hyper-calvinists who are biblically inappropriate as well could BOTH kill evangelism since NEITHER is biblically correct and true to the gospel. But one who has the true knowledge of the true doctrines of Grace and an understanding of the work of the Spirit in setting a person free will ALWAYS acknowledge the METHOD of sharing the gospel is the MEANS by which God does His work of salvation. And that a true biblicist will know that our commission is to go to every creature [person] with the gospel leaving the results with God Himself.
I want to say in closing this post that I would never want to leave an impression that preaching the gospel is a pulpit thing ONLY. It is a personal and moment by moment thing for All believers who are ALL ministers of the gospel.
I wouldn't wish to even convey that it is a verbal thing ONLY. It is a life/relationship thing that results in words that give the message of Christ and His Cross work and can even BE someone preaching from a pulpit though never reserved FOR the pulpit only. [Who even needs a pulpit when we gather??
But, as we go sharing the gospel, our going is NOT because of a love for the ones to whom we go. We don't even know them often. Our love is a responding love to the One who loved us, redeemed us, and sent us out with His message to every creature. It is that "love of Christ" that" constrains" us as Paul the Apostle says, by which he meant it is an internal engine driving us forward to all people with the good news of Christ and His redemptive act.
And, if any respond, it is the work of God in them that brings it about. It is not our persuading them to do something that only they can do if they would just say yes. Evangelism is seeing people changed and moving in grace and power with the Lord of Lords. It's truly beyond us all but ours to do.
I can live with this.