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In his new book For Calvinism Michael Horton entitled his final chapter “Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis.” He writes:

We know from daily experience that our greatest strengths can also become our greatest weaknesses.

Persistence can become stubbornness; sympathy can devolve into sentimentality; and genuine concern for others sometimes turns into an obsequious craving for approval.

Remarkable gifts of leadership and creativity can be used for good or ill, depending on the motivation and the goals.

The same is true of movements, since they are largely the collective activity of people like us.

It has become popular for businesses and organizations to conduct a periodical “SWOT” analysis, exploring

Strengths,

Weaknesses,

Opportunities, and

Threats.

Since acrostics appeal to “TULIP”-loving Calvinists, this kind of analysis may be a useful in-house evaluation, although I do not presume to speak for anyone other than myself. (p. 170)

As Andy Naselli points out, this chapter is divided into two sections along these lines:

(1) Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Intellectual Boldness/Cold Intellectualism
  2. Love for Truth/Factionalism
  3. Respect for Tradition/Traditionalism

(2) Opportunities and Threats

  1. Revived Interest in the Doctrines of Grace/Replacing the Church with a Movement
  2. A New Interest in Sound Doctrine/A New Fundamentalism

Andy excerpts the section on love for truth and factionalism, if you want to see how Horton applies these warnings and encouragements.


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15 thoughts on “Calvinism Today: A SWOT Analysis”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I think some LFW Arminians would like to SWOT down Calvinism.

    ;-)

  2. Alex Guggenheim says:

    The link at the end of the article is not working.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thanks for letting me know. I’ve fixed the post; here’s the link:

      http://andynaselli.com/calvinists

  3. Mike Gantt says:

    It is hardly to quickly think of an issue which has wasted more energy for the cause of Christ than the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. So sad to see that people are still pouring good energy down that bottomless pit.

    1. Clarification Dave says:

      Yes, there has been much bluster in the debates. And much talking past each other.

      However, the issues involved become real when people honestly study their Bibles and read the perspectives of others and then start sharing their perspectives in the local assembly of faith. Ministry is affected by theological assumptions.

      It becomes an issue when others study and arrive at other conclusions that directly contradict the perspective first shared.

      Is the solution to ignore the whole matter? Should a pastor pronounce both as wrong? What if both sides are honestly convinced of the biblical basis of their position? If a pastor declares that both perspectives are unimportant for analysis, isn’t that declaration itself a controversial judgment that would foster conflict?

      All sides of controversial issues should conduct themselves with kindness, humility, with a readiness to hear and to speak circumspectly with true knowledge of the issues involved for both sides. The absolute silencing of discussion will not solve the matter but only drive it underground and increase the pressure.

    2. Ron DeVries says:

      I agree with Mike Gantt. Rather than debate Calvinism/Arminianism, like Mike…..we should really spend all of our time discouraging people from attending church, telling them everyone is going to heaven because universalism is biblical, and denying the Trinity.

      Oh, and spend a lot of time on Christian blogs while repudiating biblical orthodoxy…

      Now, that’s an edifying use of time.

      1. Mike Gantt says:

        Ron,

        You left out the most important part: passionate pursuit of Jesus. He is the pearl of great price. Nothing matters more than serving Him.

        This is why the Calvinism-Arminianism debate is so wasteful. It diverts energy from the pursuit of our Savior. To Him belongs the preeminence in all things.

        1. Clarification Dave says:

          Are there other issues of theological discussion that are “wasteful” in the passionate pursuit of Jesus?

          1. Mike Gantt says:

            Too many to list.

            First in importance comes repenting of our sins and serving Christ (which is a daily, not a one-time activity). In that context, reflecting on His nature is edifying. But intellectual discussions outside that context are indeed wasteful.

            1. Clarification Dave says:

              Your pronouncement of “wasteful” implies that you see yourself as having a spiritual gift of prophetic discernment. It would then behoove you to exercise that gift and bless the church with your list of “wasteful” discussions. Apparently some in the church are unable to discern such matters.

              Will you step up and exercise your alleged gift for the edification of the church?

              1. Mike Gantt says:

                Clarification Dave,

                It doesn’t imply that I have any gift at all. It only implies that I disagree with people who think such discussions are productive.

                As for the list your request, here you go: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8) Therefore, whatever doesn’t contribute to effecting Christ’s lordship over our lives goes on the list.

  4. I would echo Mike Gantt’s post above and would add:

    The common problem I see with all the “-isms” — including Calvinism, Arminianism and even the newer Open Theism — is that for them to work, to make sense, one must view God working within time and space in much the same way we do. Greg Boyd might say, “Since I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, God doesn’t either.” Calvin must have thought, “Since God is sovereign, free will cannot exist. They are mutually exclusive.” But one could rightly argue: God created Time; he is not governed by it. God lives in an unbounded, NOW! This simple truth is as close as I can get to understanding how God is absolutely sovereign while, and without contradiction, provides us with freedom of choice…freedom of will.

    Our Platonic way of thinking in the West gets us in trouble regarding issues like these. What seems to be an insurmountable paradox for us is quiet clear for God. To be sure, God interacts with us in time. That does not mean he is controlled by time…as are we.

    In the end, I can only say with any measure of certainty, “It’s a mystery,” God knows. We do not.

    I, for one, can live with that.

    1. Laura says:

      “To be sure, God interacts with us in time. That does not mean he is controlled by time…as are we.”

      This is basically the Reformed position, Michael.

      We make real choices that are 100% in accordance with our will, that are also mysteriously directed by God. No responsible Calvinist is trying to flatten out this mystery. In order for Reformed theology to “work,” God MUST have a very different relationship with time than we do — so that he can know the end from the beginning, so that he can be eternal, so that he can speak with utter certainty about things that have not yet occurred. We experience time as a linear sequence of moments progressing inexorably onward, with no going backward or forward at will, and we change constantly as we go along. God does not experience time in that way at all, and I’ve never heard a Calvinist say that he does. I don’t know why you think this position isn’t embraced by Reformed folks. Maybe we just have very different Reformed friends? ;)

      1. Thanks for this, Laura! You have given me something to think about.

        I have thought and written extensively regarding the issue of time, but due to the short-to-the-point nature of blogs, can’t include all the nuances and detail here.

        My disagreement with Calvinism is the general interpretation of predestination — that we really do not have a choice (e.g. Free Will) because God already decided who would and who would not accept Christ. Perhaps I’ve overly simplified that position. If I have, I stand ready to be corrected.

        In the end, regarding this subject — and many, many more for that matter — all that can be said by us with absolute certainty is that God is in control. He will not compromise Love for the sake of his Justice; nor, will he compromise Justice for the sake of his Love. Also, by my understanding, it seems that Scripture is quite clear regarding two issues: God is sovereign [and] we have a responsibility to choose — God given freedom of will.

        The knowledge — paradox — regarding the specifics of how God can be in absolute control while at the same time not interfering with our freedom to make choices is beyond our ability to understand. It is just one of the many Mysteries of God. Someday, we will understand. As for now and in this life, I do not. But, I am confident that I can trust God with it.

        As a side note: I would agree — to a point — with some who have commented that too much time is spent by Christians debating this question…especially when the debates turn into angry arguments. While it can be beneficial to consider such unanswerable questions like the Sovereignty / Free Will issue, it is potentially dangerous for us to come to a place of unyielding certainty regarding this or other issues that cannot be fully understood. As Paul said, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

  5. A. Amos Love says:

    Hmmm???

    In my opinion…

    The Calvinists – choose – to believe in “Predestination.”

    And…

    The Armenians – were predestined – to believe in “Free Will.”

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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