How to Teach and Preach "Calvinism"
by John Piper, July 4, 1998
- Be rigorously textual in all your expositions and explanations and defenses of Calvinistic teachings. Make it a textual issue every time, not a logic issue or an experience issue.
- Don't be strident but gentle. Assume that working these great issues through to conviction may take years and that being in process is OK.
- Speak of your own brokenness in regard to these things and how they are precious to you and why and how they minister to your soul and help you live your life.
- Make Spurgeon and Whitefield your models rather than Owen or Calvin, because the former were evangelists and won many people to Christ in a way that is nearer to our own day.
- Be an evangelist and a missions mobilizer so that the criticism that Calvinism dulls a passion for the lost is put to silence.
- Work the five points out from the "I" in tulip not the "U". That is, show people that they don't really want to take final credit for their coming to Christ. They don't want to stand before God at the judgment day and respond to the question, "Why did you believe and others with your opportunities didn't?" with the answer, "Well, I guess I was smarter, or more spiritual." They want to say, "By grace I was brought to faith." Which is "irresistible grace." That is, grace that triumphs over all resistance in the end.
- Out rejoice your critics. The one who knows and rests in the sovereign grace of God should be the happiest saint. Don't be a sour or glum or hostile false advertisement for the glory of God's grace. Praise it. Rejoice in it. And don't let that be a show. Do it in your closet until it is spilling over in the pulpit and the commons.
- Don't ride hobbyhorses that aren't in the text. Preach exegetically, explaining and applying what is in the text. If it sounds Arminian, let it sound Arminian. Trust the text and the people will trust you to be faithful to the text.
- Avoid theological jargon that is not in the text. The word "Calvinism" is probably not helpful. "Doctrines of grace" may not do it either. Just stick with what is there in the text, or come up with some new striking phrases that will cause the people to wonder and be excited.
- Tell stories and experiences from biography and from the lives of living saints that illustrate their dependence on the sovereignty of God. Especially stories related to missions and evangelism and holiness of life.