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Choosing a Calvinistic Church

I have had several people tell me that as a result, at least in part, of my Web site they have "converted" from an Arminian to a Calvinistic viewpoint. I am thankful to God that He has used me in such a capacity.

However, this "conversion" has left such persons in somewhat of a dilemma. The church they are currently attending is mainly Arminian so they are now feeling "out of place" there. So I have been asked what they should do now; what kind of church should they look for? Below is the kind of reply I have been giving to such persons.

It is true that a Calvinist will have a hard time "fitting in" at an Arminian church. And I doubt you'll find the church will help you to "grow" very much. You will probably find yourself disagreeing more and more with what is being taught than being helped in your own Christian walk.

But this would depend on how "strongly" Arminian your church is. If is is "officially" Arminian but rarely talks about such things, then it might not be a major problem. But if the church is constantly referring to its Arminian stance, then you will really feel out of place.

But you might want to talk to the pastor or elders of your church before leaving to find out how "open" your church is to your new-found, Calvinist views. I'm not sure of course; but I got a feeling they would say they are fine as long as you keep your views to yourself. But you might find that difficult, especially if you are ever called upon to teach at the church.

Also you might find it difficult to continue to be associated with and to support a church which you have a very important theological difference with.

So, IMHO, you would probably be better off in the long run if you found a new church where you could freely express your views. But I do suggest at least talking to the pastor and/ or elders of your current church so they understand why you are thinking of leaving. Maybe something can be worked out so that you could stay. If you've been attending the church for any length of time, and especially if you have been involved in any kind of ministry there, it simply wouldn't be right to walk away without an explanation.

As for what kind of church you should look for, you have basically two options: first, you could try finding a church that specifically teaches Calvinist doctrine. These would include conservative Presbyterian or Reformed churches. But the key word here is "conservative."

But that I mean churches that still accept the Bible as the inerrant (i.e. without error) Word of God. Unfortunately, many mainline churches have abandoned this and other essentials of the faith. Many church "splits" have occurred in Presbyterian and Reformed churches as a result of this debate. And off-hand, I can't say which are conservative and which are liberal.

But the quickest way to find out is to ask if the church ascribes to the Westminster Confession. This is the historic, Calvinistic confession of such churches. If they do then they would be conservative.

There are also some Baptist churches which are specifically Reformed in doctrine. Historically they were known as "particular Baptist" churches. The word "particular" refers to the belief that Jesus died for those "particular" people He intended to save. This would be opposed to "general Baptist" churches which believe Jesus died for all people in "general."

Initially, the Baptist movement was mainly "particular" in nature. But since the early 1800s, the "general" Baptist churches, at least in the USA, have become the most common. So today, it is rather difficult to find a true "particular" Baptist church.

And you would also have to watch out for the conservative-liberal problems when checking out Baptist churches. But again, the quickest way to find out is to ask for a confession of faith. In fact, many particular Baptist churches simply use the a modified versions of the Westminster Confession; the modifications involving changing the sections on Baptism and church government to more specific Baptist viewpoints.

The second route to go would be to look for a church that is "neutral" in regards to the Arminian/ Calvinist debate. The "Evangelical Free Church of America" (EFCA) is one such example. Officially, the EFCA's confession of faith simply lists the "essentials" of the faith and leaves it "open" when it comes to secondary (but important) questions like Arminianism vs. Calvinism.

Of course, EFCA churches will vary, with some being more and some less Calvinistic. It would mainly depend on the views of the head pastor. So you would need to talk to the pastor to find out the attitude of a particular EFCA church. The pastor of the EFCA church I attend says he's a "4 1/2 point Calvinist" (with some hesitancy with the "L"); but that's close enough for me!

Finally, I would suggest checking out my short article Choosing a Church for more suggestions in this regard.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

Choosing a Calvinistic Church. Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site June 8, 1999.

Calvinism - General Correspondences
Calvinism (Reformed Theology)

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