Ethical Inconsistencies In Calvinist Pastoral Ministry -- By: Allen M. Rea
JOTGES 31:60 (Spring 2018) p. 63
Ethical Inconsistencies In Calvinist Pastoral Ministry
Higgston Baptist Church
The primary responsibility of the pastor is the ministry of the Word, i.e. preaching.1 This includes a moral obligation to preach what he believes to be true. However, what a pastor says in public should be consistent with what he says in private. If he publicly teaches a doctrine he believes to be false, he is guilty of dishonesty. The reverse is also true. The preacher must not give advice to others or evangelize in a way that contradicts what he believes and preaches. The ethics of preaching requires doctrinal consistency.
Is Calvinist pastoral ministry especially prone to this kind of ethical inconsistency? Are Calvinist pastors especially tempted to misrepresent, or even change, their theology because elements of Calvinism are “unpreachable?”2 Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell have asked this question: “[Do] Calvinists forthrightly and consistently apply their theology in the rough and tumble of daily life and ministry or...[do] they tend to cloak their distinctively Reformed commitments in those contexts?”3 They believe the answer is “no” in the first regard and “yes” in the second, claiming that, “Calvinists are inclined
JOTGES 31:60 (Spring 2018) p. 64
to shroud and even misrepresent their central theological convictions at some of these crucial junctures where theology meets life.”4 Is that true? This article will examine five problem areas where Calvinist preachers are likely to compromise their message.
II. Inconsistencies Involving Assurance And Death
First, Calvinist pastors can demonstrate inconsistency between their doctrine concerning the assurance of salvation and what they say to the bereaved.
In Calvinistic spirituality, the church-goer is encouraged to question his salvation and to examine his behavior in an endless search for assurance. Calvinist David Engelsma criticizes Puritanism regarding assurance: “Puritan preaching...is forever questioning your assurance, forever challenging your right to assurance, forever sending you on a quest for assurance, and forever instilling doubt.”5
The reason this is the case is because Calvinism teaches what is commonly called the perseverance of the saints. By that Calvinists do not simply mean ...
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