Saturday, June 30, 2012

7 Questions with Greg Dutcher, Author of Killing Calvinism (Part 1 of 2)

One of the best books that I have read in 2012 is Greg Dutcher’s, Killing Calvinism.  I was very happy that Greg agreed to answer 7 questions about his book and his ministry. 

1. What means did God use to make you a more humble Calvinist?

Like many fresh-from-the-factory Calvinists, I never considered that there could be any deficiency in me. The problem was in other people's inability to embrace what I had discovered. When some of these folks got their feelings hurt or found me distasteful it all simply confirmed my belief that I was being attacked for standing up for the truth. Sadly (and I remember saying as much to reformed friends) I considered their negative reactions a badge of honor that I wore with pride. Of course, had I thought about that word "pride" just a little bit longer perhaps I would have been humbled a little bit sooner.

Like many Calvinists I learned in the school of hard knocks. There was not one stand-out experience per se but the aggregate effect of many experiences eventually caught up with me. At some point my heart changed, and I started seeing myself as the least common denominator in all of these unpleasant interactions. And at the risk of attributing too much to one man, John Piper and the long-term effect of his preaching powerfully effected me. He combined two things that I had rarely seen fused, unashamed Calvinism with uncommon humility. As I devoured his books and sermons, the Lord gradually showed me that true Calvinism leads to humility not pride.

2. Tell us a little about your church, some of the things the Lord is doing.  Also, what are you most excited about seeing God do there?

I absolutely love Christ Fellowship Church! By God's grace I planted it in the summer of 2003, so at 9-years-old it is really beginning to build some history. It is an independent, non-denominational church, and that has to do a lot with my own eclectic make up. We are probably most similar to an Acts 29  church, but when I planted it, we knew nothing of the Seattle-based movement. We average about 300 people each week, and we are really beginning to understand the implications of the gospel for missional living. Our community groups are increasingly becoming a more central part of our congregational life. My own goal (although I know that no church ever reaches it) is that each person would be intimately involved in a spiritual family where he is growing as a learner, servant and missionary. 

The majority of the attenders probably don't even know that the preaching/teaching they get each Sunday is "reformed." I rarely use any of the buzzwords (Calvinism, doctrines of grace, T.U.L.I.P.) from the pulpit. Those who are looking for it, can always tell (the running joke is "he must be getting a chunk of the royalties from those Piper quotes"), but I have been very intentional in teaching authoritatively from the text of Scripture itself.  The only "ist" label mentioned at CFC is "Biblicist." That is what I'm hoping my people become in increasing measure.

In the last year we have had several lost people come to saving faith in Jesus. In almost every case it has been in the context of suffering and death. Just last week I baptized a couple in their 70's who just came to faith in the past year. The doctrine of God's sovereignty (especially in difficult circumstances) has become especially precious to me.

3. How do you typically respond to an aggressive non-Calvinist?  Do you respond?

I do not always respond if the emotion is reaching fever-pitch level. I tell about a few such examples in the book. But if emotions are somewhat under control then I usually try to diffuse any negative emotion by talking about my respect for non-Calvinists like Billy Graham, John Wesley or D.L. Moody. I then ask if they knew of the friendship between Wesley and Whitefield and how they had a gentleman's agreement to not let their differences in soteriology keep them from partnering in the preaching of the gospel. I find that once the non-Calvinist knows that he is respected (as he should be!) as a fellow brother in Christ, then genuine conversation can begin. 

At that point I usually start from a total depravity angle. I find that most Bible-believing Christians readily accept the portrait of mankind's sinful state. What they often need help with is thinking through the implications of this portrait. When a Christian accepts that mankind does not submit to God's law because he cannot (Romans 8:7), then sovereign election and irresistible grace are almost necessary to make sense out of the salvation of any sinner. From there the issues of God's eternal decree, fairness, etc... become easier to discuss.

4. How would you disciple a young-Calvinist that is blowing all 8 of your points?

Easy. I would just invite him to learn from my mistakes! Seriously! I can easily furnish ample illustrations of how I killed my Calvinism. Of course all of that is a negative approach (don't do this), and I would seek to balance that with a (do this instead) positive approach.

I wish every Christian had the privilege of knowing Roscoe Adams. He was a fellow elder, equal to me on a leadership level but a father to me on a spiritual level.  He died on April 22 of this year, and he never got to see that the book was dedicated to him. It will take me a long time to move past my grief at his loss. He was a humble, gentle and joyful Calvinist.  I would suggest that each person find his own "Roscoe" and learn from his example.


Be sure to check back in on Monday for part 2 of our interview.  In the meantime you may want to check out my review and the TweetNotes for Killing Calvinism.  If the book seems interesting to you then you can get it on your Kindle for around $5

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