Meeter On “The Calvinist”



The Calvinist has the reputation of being a strong logical reasoner; nevertheless, because he makes the Bible his ultimate foundation, he does not hesitate to include in his system ideas difficult for reason to harmonize, ideas which seem to be logical opposites, as long as the Bible gives him reason for doing so.

This fact is of great importance. It keeps the Calvinist from becoming a one-sided extremist. A few examples may serve as illustrations. Take the seemingly logical opposites of predestination and human responsibility. John Calvin and Calvinists believe wholeheartedly in absolute predestination. But nowhere do you find human responsibility stressed more emphatically than in Calvin’s writings and among Calvinists. If you should ask the Calvinist, “But how do you harmonize these two?” he would reply, “That is unnecessary! God reconciles them, and that is enough for me.” While he can illuminate this harmony to a certain extent, basically it is a mystery and he is content to let it be so.

Or take these two opposites: the doctrine of election, which stresses God’s activity, and the covenant of grace as a responsibility, which stresses man’s activity. Although the study presents problems, there is no group that maintains both as ardently as does the Calvinist.

Again, reflect upon these facts which to some appear as opposites, namely, sin and grace as they affect man. There is no system that puts man the sinner down so low as does the Calvinist with his doctrine of total depravity. But there is none that places the Christian on a higher pedestal or demands more of him than does the Calvinist.

You might adduce the eternal conflict about the relation between spirit and matter. The materialist is always trying to reduce spirit to matter. The idealist pantheist maintains that matter arose from spirit. The Calvinist does not hesitate to accept the dualism of matter and spirit. He maintains that these are distinct substances, created by the same God, but as distinct from one another as they are from God the Creator.

Another apparent conflict is the one between separation from the world and culture. Whereas the secular man feels nothing for separation from the world, some Christians lay all stress on separation from the world but do not realize their calling to share in the cultural development of the world and their duty to be leaven in human society. The Calvinist keeps his equilibrium by stressing both as the Bible demands.

A last example we call attention to the contrast between intellectualism and mysticism. Men are inclined to be either one-sidedly intellectual or emotional in their religious life. One of the very best attributes paid to Calvin and the Calvinistic movement in this respect is that they have been called by some intellectualists, by others mystics, and by still others voluntarists who stress the will in religion. Certainly Calvinists must be balanced Christians if they can be charged with stressing all three. It is needless to say that Calvinists have not always fulfilled the demands of Calvinism. They have at times been one-sided, stressing either the intellect or the will or the emotions. But in so doing they have not practiced a full-orbed Calvinism, which provides for a proper emphasis on all three.

H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, Pgs. 41-42

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10 Responses to Meeter On “The Calvinist”

  1. RubeRad says:

    the covenant of grace as a responsibility, which stresses man’s activity

    ??? That doesn’t grok — when has the covenant of grace ever been about man’s activity? (Before the Federal Vision I mean?)

  2. John Yeazel says:

    I have heard Calvinists accuse Lutherans of being synergists and Lutherans accuse Calvinists of the same thing. Let’s try to get to the bottom of what type of activity man is to involve himself in in order to avoid the label of synergistic. Here is my list: 1) He should be actively involved in seeking to understand the scriptures and sacraments properly; 2) He should be actively engaged in his vocational calling in order to become excellent and skilled in it; 3) He should be developing his critical thinking skills in order not be duped by his flesh, the world and the devil; 4) His should be guarding his post in his family life in order that the kingdom of God may be furthered in future generations; 5) He should be actively involved in his local congregation in order to be encouraged, exhorted, disciplined and taught by the differing gifts which are present in the local and universal body of Christ; 6) He should be involved in cultural vocational callings according to his gifts in the city and community he finds himself in; 7) He should be depending on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish all the above in his various activities- this is best done by going to a Church which is seeking to be faithful to the scriptures and then seeking further clarity in his daily meditation on the scriptures, daily prayer, and daily spiritual warfare with the prinicipalities and powers which seek to impede our growth in the faith.

    If we involved ourselves in these activities we cannot take credit for any of the advancement we might make in the faith. We are just drawing from what Christ has already done for us. Does this then not reconcile the problem of predestination and human responsibility? We usually end up veering off into our own way when we are lacking in any of the above. It usually starts when we become laks (sp?) in our going to Church or drawing daily from the Holy Spirit in our daily meditation and prayer life. We therefore need to be constantly encouraging each other in these activities. Many of the elect have fallen by the wayside and need to be recovered and placed into their proper functioning in the body of Christ. May God be gracious towards us all.

  3. drollord says:

    You said:
    “??? That doesn’t grok — when has the covenant of grace ever been about man’s activity? (Before the Federal Vision I mean?)”

    I recalled seeing something in G.H. Kersten’s Reformed Dogmatics:
    “The Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace are one in essence; they are not two essentially different covenants.
    Yet there have been several among the sound divines who make some distinction between the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace, although they do not teach that we have here two covenants that are essentially different from each other.
    In the Covenant of Redemption they saw the negotiation between the Father and Christ, in eternity, concerning the ransom of the elect, and they made the redemption of the elect firm upon the only ground of the active and passive obedience of Christ to which He had obliged Himself in that covenant. But in the Covenant of Grace as distinct from the Counsel of Peace, they saw the negotiation between God and the person of the elect in the time of love upon the condition of faith and repentance. The fulfilling of these conditions would then rest upon the conditions accomplished by Christ, and are not only demanded by God as indispensible to salvation, but are also wrought by the Holy Spirit. THe fulfilling of these conditions, then, cannot merit grace, for Christ alone has merited it. In this matter, therefore, these theologians are contrary to all Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians who ascribe to man the power to fulfill the conditions of the covenant.” p.237 v.1

  4. drollord says:

    BTW Kersten was alive (1882-1948). To whom he was referring in the quote that taught the distinction, I don’t know who they were.

  5. RubeRad says:

    So the quote is meant to agree with my question, not answer it, right? Still the covenant of grace is not about human activity.

  6. drollord says:

    Kersten also mentions specific names. You may recognize one at least:
    “Heyns, Woelderink, Schilder, and many Christian Reformed ministers carry on the same thought, and deviate in this matter from all the reformed theologians. Their objectionable system denies the Covenant of Grace in its essential power, and Christ as the representative Head of the Covenant of Grace, since He can represent on;y the elect; it lulls men to sleep as being covenant members that have a right to salvation, and it opens the door for a practical Arminianism which credits faith and obedience with power to keep one in the covenant. With great earnestness we must warn against this doctrine so that the congregations will not be thrust off from their firm foundation.” ibid.
    If I’m not mistaken, FV’s are Schilderian in their covenant view.

  7. RubeRad says:

    Googling “Klaas Schilder Norman Shepherd” yields some interesting hits. I wonder if there’s an academic chain of some kind to be found.

  8. Chris Donato says:

    Maybe Meeter gets it from the Standards 7.3? “…requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved,and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe” (emphasis mine). This short statement seems to encapsulate the supposed antinomy that Meeter describes.

    His word choice (and stress on the notion that the CoG “stresses man’s activity”) is, admittedly, poor.

  9. Rev.Rafael Aponte says:

    Excuse my english,I am from Puerto Rico,my first language is spanish.I have a old copy of the manual of reformed theology of W. Heyns 1926.He teach 3 covenants related but different, covenant of works (in a traditional reformed way)Covenant of redemption (not of the same esence of covenant of grace and with Christ as a Head of the Elected)and covenant of grace with all the profesed christians and our children.He teach the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.In the objectivity of the covenant of grace and apostasy have MANY points of contact with the federal vision ,but not in the nature of the covenant of redemption and the fv speculations of the covenant of Works.He write before heyns and some person said the book in dutch was very used in the time of Schilder and the schilder views come from Heyns with only the important exeption of the objection to the covenant of works language.I think Heyns is the proof is posible to have a traditional view of the covenant of works,imputation of active obedience of Christ,justification by faith and a very strong view of the reality and objectivity of the covenant of grace and sacraments. I pray some person re-publish this important book because in my opinion is the balanced option in all this federal vision debate

  10. Rev.Rafael Aponte says:

    error: he (heyns)write before Schider…..

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