I want to start this post with a little bit of background information on myself. I grew up in a very conservative SBC church. When I went to college, I was confronted with ideas that I hadn’t heard of, both in classes and from friends. I truly wasn’t equipped for the conversations I had and became theologically liberal, affirming gay marriage, becoming pro choice, and joining a local United Methodist Church. My freshman year, I was also a pre-law major. I had left that major because I felt that I could be more effective for social change working through non profit organizations than in law (and also I hated it). I bring these things up as context for my interest in One Faith No Longer (OFNL), but also to give context for some of the things I’m going to talk about this year.
Often when we discuss the ideas of who would qualify as a conservative or progressive, there’s not a set standard definition. There’s also often red herrings and ad hominem attacks. People make value judgements towards those that disagree with them. As I work through this review and many of the posts that are to come, I want to engage in these conversations fairly and honestly, something I think is often lost as people focus more on scoring points than glorifying God in their interactions with people they disagree with.
Background on George & Ashlee:
George Yancey is an author and professor of sociology at Baylor University. He’s written several books, including Beyond Racial Gridlock, Hostile Environment (2cv on the cover), and Beyond Racial Division, which is set to release March 8 (definitely plan on reading this one, let me know in the comments if you want me to review it), all linked below. By the definition he gives in this book, George Yancey would consider himself a conservative Christian.
Links: https://amzn.to/3LSeEp5, https://amzn.to/3H6GjiF, https://amzn.to/3sVK0T9 (Hostile Environment)
Ashlee Quosigk is also a conservative Christian by the book’s definition. Additionally, she is a visitation scholar of the Department of Religion at the University of Georgia. She’s written a book called American Evangelicals and Muslims.
The thesis of One Faith No Longer is that progressive Christianity and conservative Christianity are becoming so different that they should, could, and potentially will be considered separate religions. An additional goal is stated on page 5:
Our aim is to show both how theologically progressive and conservative Christians define their social and political priorities and how those definitions differ from each other. We also examine how differing social and political aspirations emerge from these theological discussions.
I do want to mention that if you are the kind of person who skips the introduction of a book, you absolutely do not want to pass through this one, it is full of information that helps set up the rest of the book for you.
OFNL primarily focuses on American Christianity, which is important to recognize because many of the dynamics discussed in this book are specific to America. There’s also an emphasis that the conversation is directed primarily towards theological conservatives and progressives, though it does have implications on the political views of said groups. OFNL defines conservative Christians as those who have a strong emphasis on “God-given absolutes,” including biblical inerrancy and exclusive truth claims. Conservatives are also “less concern[ed] with systemic societal improvement and more focus[ed] on individual sins” (page 30). On the other hand, progressive Christians value inclusivity and acceptance. There is a lower emphasis on “theological conformity” and evangelism, while valuing the importance of social justice and societal change (pages 32-34).
On page 12, Yancey and Quosigk outline the methods for their research, citing data collected from American National Election Studies (ANES), which is a probability survey that is done during presidential and midterm elections. They also looked to a variety of blogs from differing perspectives and performed interviews with over 70 evangelicals from differing perspectives. These resources provide insight to how conservatives and progressives believe about themselves and each other. This isn’t just about what people think, but also looks at how and why people think the way that they do.
Yancey and Quosigk take the time to walk through the history of evangelicalism and how we got here in the first place, making sure to include the modernist and fundementalist debates of the 1920s. While looking at current disagreements, they touch on the inerrancy of scripture, abortion, immigration, and views of Islam. In each of these sections, the arguments of conservatives tended to be theologically based, even when their views were more politically liberal. On page 109, Yancey and Quosigk expound:
The majority of our interviewees in our conservative Christian example were categorized as politically right leaning. However, our research also finds that conservative Christians are becoming increasingly unhappy with the Republican Party, citing corruption and abandonment of conservative and founding principles of small government within a Judeo-Christian framework. … Our research also shows that conservative Christians are very likely to defend their political affiliations by also citing their faith. … Often conservative Christians see others as being more motivated by theology, seeing the world through a religious lens. For example, when it comes to the issue of Islamic terrorism, many conservative Christians believe that the root of the problem lies in the religion of Islam, as opposed to other political or social causes.
This is contrasted with progressive arguments that often come from a more experience and politically shaped perspective, even when they hold to a view that is more politically conservative, like being pro life. On pages 66 and 67, Yancey and Quosigk point to arguments made that showed “concern for women,” including arguments concerned with “prenatal care, low socioeconomic status, minority women, or other help for women facing an unplanned pregnancy.” They also note that progressive Christians’ “disagreement with other progressives is presented as a contrasting way to present their shared values and not a disagreement with the overarching values themselves.”
Because of the differing “why” to these goals (even when the goals are the same), Yancey and Quosigk argue that the differences put progressive and conservative Christians at odds with one another to the degree that the differences are irreconcilable, partly due to unwillingness to work together (largely on the side of theological progressives, which their research supports) and also due to the theological differences also being core differences. An example cited on page 196 is regarding beliefs in Jesus:
But even within the beliefs that are assumed to be central to Christianity, the opinions of Christians can dramatically vary. For example, it can be argued that there is no tenet more central to Christianity than the belief in Jesus. But are Christians linked together because of their beliefs in Jesus? And what exactly do they believe about Jesus? Conservative Christians tend to envision him as having the qualities of a deity. While some progressive Christians openly acknowledge Jesus as God, others see him as an exemplary model for how a human should live rather than focusing on any divine characteristics. There are even Christians who challenge the idea that Jesus even existed.
With this in mind, Yancey and Quosigk point to a potential split because of differing (sometimes contradictory) goals and an unwillingness to work together. Though, they do say on page 197 that a split is unlikely unless there becomes a new way to categorize progressives and conservatives.
Conclusions & Rating:
OFNL is exceptionally well written and thorough. Every ounce of nuance that could be afforded has been afforded and I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that has given as much good faith to opposing sides as this one has. Yancey and Quosigk are very direct and don’t use labels pejoratively. There’s no sense of superiority complex, it’s truly just delivering and analyzing facts.
While I largely agree with a lot of the content, I do wish that they had touched on LGBT issues and women’s ordination because I see those as more hot button topics today. Though I understand that the differences in those issues are more theologically based than politically and this book does focus primarily on the intersection of faith and politics.
OFNL gives a lot of great food for thought and is quite insightful. I truly feel like I grew as a person and intellectually while reading it, so in that way, I know the authors accomplished their goals. It also gave me a positive affinity for being considered a conservative Christian after the last few years have left me feeling a little ideologically homeless at times.
One of the biggest takeaways I have from OFNL is the importance of asking good questions when you’re talking to someone about your faith (even a fellow Christian). We shouldn’t be quick to label other people as woke, feminist, misogynist, bigot, etc. We should let people self identify what they are and read them charitably. It is more work to do that, but it’s also more honest and if you work from a place of honesty and understanding a common baseline, it’s easier to move past that into more winsome conversations. We can be winsome without compromising on the truth or our integrity.
Due to all of these things and more, I can happily give this book 5 stars out of 5. If you want to get an introduction to the book, I will link 2 pieces from the Gospel Coalition below that discuss One Faith No Longer, one is from George Yancey and the other is a review written by Trevin Wax. George Yancey also did an insightful interview with Dr. Sean McDowell that I’ll link below as well!
Links: https://bit.ly/34Uy9Ne, https://bit.ly/3InBvXL, https://bit.ly/3h1e0rc
Link to Amazon: https://amzn.to/3LS4Ifh
Link to Publisher: https://bit.ly/3JHzO7t
This review was also posted at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4273742177
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
I want to start this off by saying that perseverance or preservation of the saints is not the same thing as eternal security or once saved, always saved. Matt Slick has a really great explanation about the differences between the 3 and I will link that below for you so you could see more from it. I also wanted to note that I waited until today to add resources that cover Calvinism as a whole to a post. The reason for that is I didn’t want to get ahead of myself by putting these resources up potentially too early. I’m going to have it divided up into podcasts, books, and articles. There are more resources and Bible verses to support Calvinism than what I have put in these posts, but I hope these have facilitated some good study!
What is it?
So, the P in TULIP actually has two different meanings that are used interchangeably, perseverance of the saints (most common) and preservation of the saints. You can see here that I tend to use preservation, I like it because it reads more that God is preserving/keeping you; whereas, perseverance gives more of an indication that there’s action on our part. That said, both are perfectly valid ways to read the P and I think both are needed. Preservation of the saints is the doctrine that if we are truly one of the elect, we cannot lose our salvation and that “he who started a good work in you will see it through to the day of completion” (Philippians 1:6).
But doesn’t this just give us license to sin?
There’s 2 main routes that are taken in objections to preservation of the saints. The more scriptural argument against preservation of the saints is largely based on a passage in Hebrews (5:20-6:11) that warns against falling against the faith (it’s not the only one that talks about it, this is just the most glaring). This passage is actually a great lesson in paying attention to the context of what’s written. It is written to condemn and warn about apostasy, which still happens, even if God already knows who the elect are. We have to understand going in that there’s two things working simultaneously together in this passage. The first is that God knows things we don’t know and has ordained things we can’t know until they’ve already happened. And like yesterday’s post dealing with the effectual call, we cannot know who the elect are, but we can encourage those that are part of the visible church to stay strong in the faith and have courage (and call them to repentance and remind them not to fall away). If you actually continue into verse 12, the writer says that they don’t want us to become lazy, “but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (ESV).
Later on in Hebrews (ch 7), the writer also acknowledges the permanent state of those who are in Christ, saying:
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
This is also a good time to give a reminder that the epistles are letters that were read all in one sitting and not broken up into chapters and verses, so when the church was hearing this, they did hear the full context, which is a call to piety and obedience, even as Christians.
The less scriptural objection, but so much more damning, is the pushback that if preservation is true, we do not need to obey because God will continue to give grace. To that, I say in the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 6, by no means.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
I want to be super clear on this point because I have gotten pushback on multiple posts of mine calling me an antinomian because people did not give me the opportunity to elaborate my points when I say that obedience is not salvific. It is not. Our obedience will not bring us salvation, only God will do that. And God has more grace than we could ever exhaust for when we do inevitably sin. But this does not mean that we do not need to obey and it does not mean that we should not obey. The last week of this month, we’ll be taking a look at the law gospel distinction and how it plays a role in our lives, so I don’t want to leave you with an incomplete picture of the reality of the Christian life.
So to the person who genuinely asks why a Christian’s life should look different after becoming regenerate, I have a question that I want to ask back with as much grace as I could possibly have. Why would a Christian want to sin?
Scriptural Support for Preservation of the Saints:
- Matthew 7
- Hebrews 1:3, 7:25
- Philippians 1:6, 29
- John 6:28-29, 38-40; 10:27-29
- Colossians 1:17
- Nehemiah 9:6
- 1 Corinthians 8:6
- Ephesians 4:6
- Isaiah 41:10
- 1 John 2:19
John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:
- Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 40
- Book 3, Chapter 14, Section 6-9
More Resources to Learn:
Resources on Calvinism:
+ These include affiliate links that we may make a small commission off of.
The next two days are actually among my favorites, partly because I love talking about God’s grace, but also because I like to talk about regeneration and what that means in the life of a believer (also why I looooove talking about covenant theology and the law gospel distinction).
What is it?
Irresistible grace is the doctrine that teaches that when the Spirit of God is sent to change a person’s heart, that person cannot resist the change (A Puritan’s Mind link at the bottom). This is not to say that God is trying to fit square pegs into round holes. RC Sproul describes it as, “at the time of one’s choosing, God removes all obstacles a person has from hearing the gospel.”
The PRCA overview at the bottom also writes it as this:
“You understand what the term “irresistible” emphasizes. Do not think that irresistible grace is some sort of blind force which simply drags the struggling, rebellious sinner into heaven against his will — as a policeman might drag a rebellious prisoner to jail. The grace of God is not such a power that compels to enter into heaven those who would not.
That God’s grace is irresistible emphasizes the idea that not only does grace bring His people to glory, but it prepares them for this glory and works within them the desire to enter into glory. Grace is irresistible in the sense that by it the knee is bent which otherwise would not bend; the heart is softened that otherwise is hard as stone. Nor is there anything which can prevent the accomplishment of that purpose of God to save His people by His grace.”
Moreover, they argue that you cannot hold to total depravity without also holding to irresistible grace and I think that’s a really important distinction to make. Again, if we are completely dead, we cannot make ourselves alive, so God will have to be the one who wakes us up and removes all obstacles for life in order for us to truly live.
But we also know that Matthew 22:14 says that many are called and few are chosen.
But what about evangelism?
So this actually involves more deeply the idea of an effectual call and the idea of a general call, which I’ve talked about a couple of times previously. The general call is the call that goes out to everyone by the sharing of the gospel. The effectual call is when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of the elect to bring them to him. In Humble Calvinism, J. A. Medders describes it as, “when the Spirit goes to work, he brings you to the place where you agree.”
There’s an extent where the effectual call should be something that any Christian who evangelizes should see. You could have an answer for every question and be as gracious as can be, but someone would still be blind to the truth of the gospel and their eyes just would not open. Even if you spend any length of time watching Ray Comfort videos (which I definitely do a lot of honestly lol), you see this seasoned pro going patiently and thoroughly through a gospel presentation and not everyone listens to even him. That’s not his fault. He is fulfilling the Great Commission by going out and evangelizing and hoping that some would hear the call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, knowing full well that it is God that saves and opens someone’s eyes.
But since God already knows who’s his and some people can hear the gospel and completely reject it, why even bother evangelizing? Well for one, Jesus put no restrictions on evangelism in the Great Commission. God commanding us to do something is really the only reason we need to do it. Even aside from that, it’s not like people walk around with neon signs above their heads saying “elect” and “reprobate.” We don’t know who is called, so we are doing the will of the Father by evangelizing, even imperfectly. And more than that, this should give us comfort and confidence because if the Holy Spirit is the one who changes hearts, we don’t have to worry about getting the words completely right or knowing all of the answers to all the questions. We just do something and God will do the rest.
Scriptural Support for Irresistible Grace:
- Psalm 110:3
- John 6:37-39, 44; 10:1-30; 17:2
- Acts 7, 9:6, 16
- 1 Corinthians 15:10
- Revelation 13:8, 17:8
- Ephesians 1:19-20, 2:8-10
- 2 Timothy 1:9-10
- Romans 8: 29-30
John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:
- Book 3, Chapter 3, Section 1
- He also wrote on it in his commentary on John, particularly in chapter 6
More Resources to Learn:
Limited atonement was definitely the hardest one for me to accept, so if you’re having trouble with it, know that I can sympathize with your thoughts. The thing about the doctrines of grace is that each point depends on the others in order to really have any meat. You’ll notice in my posts that I will touch on a couple other points of Calvinism each time I write (though I definitely try my best to focus on one point) because they are so closely tied.
Theodore Beza, John Calvin’s successor, was actually the one who mainly put forth the idea of limited atonement. Some claim that he distorted Calvin’s views, but it’s more likely that he made them more explicit. One day, I may do a series of posts on the reformers in the same vein as the ones I’m doing on the early church fathers, and if I do, Beza will definitely be on that list, but for now, I will leave a few resources on Beza below, if you are curious.
Links: https://bit.ly/2GHDPh6, https://bit.ly/2F9lwB7
What is it?
Why did Jesus die? Or rather, who did he die for? These questions are at the heart of the debates surrounding limited atonement.
Limited atonement is the doctrine that states that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient for all of mankind, but effectual for the elect (this also ties into irresistible grace for tomorrow). Many prefer not to use the term limited atonement (or any of the other labels that are parts of TULIP) because they find it to be a bit misleading. RC Sproul tends to lean towards using definite atonement. No matter what you call it, all Christians have to come to grips with the idea that not all people will be saved, if we are to be biblically faithful.
But what about the whole world?
“Almost everyone limits the atonement in one way or another,” J. A. Medders writes in Humble Calvinism. “Unless you’re a universalist, who thinks that Christ’s death saves everyone regardless of their response to the gospel, you limit or define the atonement’s effects. All orthodox Christians limit the atonement as being effective for those who have placed faith in Christ’s death in their place. The Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement limits the scope of the atonement while expressing its effectiveness. Jesus’ death redeemed his people, specifically.”
But John 3:16 says that God so loved the whole world, how could he limit (or define) the atonement to only apply to certain people? When we look at scripture, we need to survey the whole counsel of God. and you’re right, hypothetical person, God does love the world enough to send Jesus to save it. The call is sufficient for all, even if not effectual for all. One of the first things we need to look at is the way “the world” is used in scripture and in the book of John, specifically. If you take the time to read through the book of John one day, you’ll notice that John speaks of the world in a figurative way. Typically, when the world is used, it’s used to mean that it applies not to Jews, but also to Gentiles. It is not talking about every individual person in the world. An example of this is John 1 speaking of Jesus being in the world. When we read that, we don’t think that Jesus’ human body is physically at every spot in the world.
An Old Testament example of the Bible consistently referring to “the world” in this way is when writers speak of “all of Israel” doing something. We typically don’t read that as every man, woman, and child in the whole country individually doing something, many times we read it figuratively.
In John 10:14-15, Jesus lays out the case that he is for his sheep saying:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay my life down for the sheep.
2 Timothy 2:10 is probably the most explicit in stating this:
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Another aspect of objections to limited atonement/definite redemption is whether or not Jesus’ death atoned for all sin or did his death make atonement possible for any sinner. The general Arminian argument is that there are no (or little) limits to who Jesus’ sacrifice is for because Jesus made a way for man to become right with God. I think many don’t mean it in such a way to indicate that this somehow makes the responsibility of the person to make themselves right with God, but it effectively does end up that way and that is the actual argument of the Remonstrants. The Calvinist would argue that the atonement was for the sins of the elect because if there was a person that Jesus died for that was not elect, that would mean that his death did not accomplish what Jesus set out to do (Luke 19:10, “the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost,” if he did not save, then the work is not finished).
The question really comes down to (in my eyes) did Jesus atone or did he make atonement attainable?
Scriptural Support for Limited Atonement:
- John 1:13, 6:37-39, 10:1-30, 17:2
- Mark 13:20
- 1 Corinthians 1:3-8, 27-29
- Revelation 13:8, 17:8
- Ephesians 2:1-10
- 2 Timothy 1:9-10
- Romans 9
John Calvin Speaks About it in the Institutes:
- Book 2, chapter 15-16
- Book 3, chapter 21, sec 5-7
- Book 3, chapter 23, sec 1
More Resources to Learn: