There is a difference between saying “Calvinist theology promotes evangelism” and “Calvinists actually evangelize.” There is a difference between saying “Calvinists have historically evangelized” and “Calvinists do evangelize right now.” After all, isn’t it possible that we may fail to live up to our theology?
If you read enough blogs over a long enough period of time, you will inevitably begin to see patterns emerge. You will see that certain subjects are addressed time and again by writer after writer. One such article that has been written a hundred times by a hundred people, myself included probably, is the one about Calvinism and evangelism. Many Calvinists have felt the need to defend their tribe against the age-old charge that Calvinism diminishes evangelism and that Calvinists therefore make poor evangelists.
The article is rarely as far as its third paragraph before the writer begins to provide historical examples of Calvinists who carried out great evangelism ministries. George Whitefield is usually mustered to the cause, as are William Carey and Charles Spurgeon. All of these men were indeed exemplary in their zeal for the lost and their commitment to the cause of saving souls. The world was Whitefield’s parish and he saw countless converts in Europe and America; Carey was the founder of the modern missions movement and committed himself to long and costly labor in India; Spurgeon powerfully preached the gospel and beckoned all who heard to come to Christ and be saved. Truly, Calvinism has a noble history when it comes to evangelism.
Having turned to history, the writer then makes appeals to Scripture and the Reformed tradition. He shows how a Calvinistic understanding of election, predestination, and effectual calling do not infringe upon a robust doctrine of evangelism. He distinguishes between the internal call and the external call. He shows how Scripture and confessions emphasize both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when it comes to men’s salvation. He shows that, in fact, Calvinism provides the robust theological framework that kindles a passion for evangelism.
Well and good. As one who holds to Calvinistic theology, I’m convinced God calls us to be zealous in reaching out to the lost and extending to them the gracious offer of the gospel: Come to Christ and be saved! I’m convinced the call to repent and believe should be prominent in our formal sermons and informal conversations alike. I’m convinced that as individuals and as churches we need to be deliberate in our outreach to friends, families, and strangers. I’m convinced that Calvinism and evangelism are dear friends rather than fierce foes.