Does Reformed Theology Cause Neglect of the Great Commission?
If you are not a Reformed Christian, like my anonymous friend, you may have made that or a similar charge ( or at least thought it) against Reformed Churches and believers. Let me assert that the Reformed belief that God is sovereign in grace and in salvation should not affect evangelism. Reformed theology teaches that evangelism is necessary, because no one can be saved without the gospel. Salvation depends on faith, and faith on knowing the gospel. God’s way of saving sinners is to bring them to faith through bringing them into contact with the gospel. So, evangelism is necessary if anyone is to be saved.
The Canons of Dordt is a Reformed document written to refute the Remonstrants. It was never intended to be the all encompassing “Calvinist” theology, but this is where the “doctrines of grace,” more commonly (and crudely) known as the “5 points of Calvinism,” originated. These 5 points, best known by the acronym “TULIP,” have been abused and misused by both “Calvinists” and opponents of Calvinism alike. While it does not completely define Reformed Theology, it does have it’s place in defining the Reformed doctrine of salvation. And it does speak of evangelism.
Let me quote Kevin Deyoung:
The Canons of Dort—if it’s known at all—often gets a bad rap. It’s considered by some to be too dogmatic, too scholastic, and too harsh. People outside of the Reformed camp don’t agree with its high view of divine sovereignty and especially its teaching that Christ died particularly for the elect. People within the Reformed camp often don’t read the points of doctrine carefully and sometimes aren’t comfortable with what they know (or think they know!) about them. And hardly anyone hears “Canons of Dort” and thinks, “Ah, yes, missions!” But it’s in there.
COD Second Head of Doctrine, Article 5
Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. The promise, together, with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation and discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.
What a beautiful statement. And notice the carefulness of the language.
- The promise we ought to announce is the good news of eternal life in Christ. And not just Christ but specifically “Christ crucified.”
- This promise should be announced together with the command to repent and believe. It isn’t enough to make an open promise. We must make known the means of entering into this good news: faith and repentance.
- This message should be announced to all nations and people. We must not differentiate or discriminate. Everyone needs to hear this saving gospel.
- Ultimately, that anyone receives this good news and than anyone hears it in the first place, is a testimony to God’s grace. It is according to his good pleasure that the gospel goes forth.
So the document that we get our so called “5 points” from, the one that gets beat up by other Christians as being anti-missional, anti-evangelical, and anti-great commission, in fact demonstrates that Reformed Theology is missional, evangelical, and pro-great commission. So to answer the question…
No. Reformed Theology doesn’t cause neglect of the Great Commission.
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.