I think if we are going to talk about Calvinism, and things ‘salvific’ (things having to do with salvation), then it behooves us to first discuss and define some of the seminal (dealing with origin) parameters from whence Calvinism finds its “conceptual” (having to do with ‘concepts’) furniture. I am afraid that many of us believe that the way we think about, and approach scripture is completely free from anything other than “just thinking scripturally.” In other words (and I have beat this drum for so long, but it still doesn’t seem like many are willing to grasp this most important reality to grasp), none of us approach scripture “naked,” and from a vacuum. This post intends to identify a particularly heavy duty “set of clothes” (so to speak) that most of us in the American (even Western church) church interpret the scriptures “wearing” (or through).
Classical Theism is that “set of clothes” we all (for the most part) have traditionally learned to think about God through; here is a simple definition provided by the ubiquitous wikipedia:
Classical theism refers to traditional ideas of the monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As well as the ideas of Greek Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Classical theism holds that God is an absolute, eternal, all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and perfect being. God is related to the world as its cause, but is unaffected by the world (immutable). He is transcendent over the world which exists relative to him as a temporal effect.
I want to keep this post brief, so I think I will just use the definition above as my springboard for the rest of what I want to say here. This definition is oversimplified, but it highlights exactly what I want to highlight; and that is a certain “problem” that can (and has) ensue if this is the way we think and talk about “God.”
I am sure as many of you read the definition provided you are saying “amen,” “that’s right;” but I want you to really think about it, if in fact that is your initial response. Notice, at least the way the definition frames it, how Classical Theism can be fitted to the three major monotheistic religions of the world. What “Classical Theism” presents us with is an idea of “Godness,” which the unitarian god of Islam or of Judaism; or the trinitarian God of Christianity are all fitted to.
There is all kinds of “theological fall-out” associated with doing this, with taking the approach of “establishing” a concept of God; before we ever try to talk about the God revealed in Jesus Christ. The problems are multitudinous (many), and that will be fodder for following posts. I will try and narrow down the problems that “Classical Theism” has presented the “Evangelical” tradition with (not just Calvinism); but can you think of any problems — based on what I’ve described thus far — that thinking about God like this could potentially pose for the “Christian Church?”