My 8th response to Michael Horton’s “For Calvinism” is directed toward his chapter on Missions. The chapter is necessitated by the “understandable first impressions” of Calvinism which may result in people asking questions like “why pray?” or “why evangelize?” Since Calvinism emphasizes divine control to the extent that it does… does our part really matter at all?
Horton begins by showing that, no matter what first impressions Calvinism may create, the practice of Calvinists has been anything but indifferent. Admittedly, the Reformers weren’t overly mission-oriented at first, but that was mostly because they were being persecuted and/or were convinced of the imminent return of Christ. But, in time, Horton shows that Calvinists have been very active in missions throughout the world (12 pages are devoted to this argument).
So the question of whether or not Calvinists have been indifferent has been answered. But why go on the mission? Given their beliefs, WHY should Calvinists bother to get involved? Won’t God do what He wants to do with or without them? Horton believes Calvinists should be motivated because God has commanded it. They should be excited because they know that God has elected people from every nation (so they can be confident of results). They should be glad to share the announcement that God has selected certain people and done everything necessary to save them. Mission is announcement, not invitation.
All of this, it seems to me, is a way of re-stating the charge to “go” without really answering the question. I think if he were following his beliefs to their logical conclusions, he would say that the question is irrelevant because God will unilaterally place motivations within His Calvinist missionaries and they will ultimately have no choice but to go and proclaim the Gospel to other elect people.
At one point, Horton states that “God is the originally missionary,” but it seems to me that Calvinism makes God the ONLY missionary. Worse yet, God is not really a MISSIONARY because it was His election of individuals before time that is ultimately responsible for their salvation rather than the sending of the Son.
Perhaps aware that his response to the “understandable first impressions” isn’t very satisfying, Horton turns his attention to a critique of Arminianism in the area of mission. The only problem is, he switches to his most blatant straw man in the book so far to make his point. He says, “In the Evangelical Arminian view, the new birth is entirely in our hands.” What? What Arminian would endorse that statement? Arminians believe that God initiates and participates in every step of salvation.
In short, I have no doubt that Calvinists have played a pivotal role in spreading the Gospel. Praise the Lord! But it still seems to me that Calvinists do this, thankfully, in spite of their doctrinal and philosophical beliefs.