The city of Bakersfield, California is a relatively sleepy town, about 90 miles North of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. It’s known for oil production, agriculture and the “Bakersfield Sound”, made popular by the hometown heroes, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Not much happens in Bakersfield, but for me, its where I hang my hat, it’s where I proudly call home, and it’s where I have the privilege of serving Christ and His Church.
Recently, two pastors in the Bakersfield area picked a fight with the reformed theology community. I don’t think they realized the fight they were getting into either, because shortly afterwards, Valley Bible Fellowship (a church with 10,000+ souls in attendance) pulled their anti-Calvinist rant from their website. Yet, in this day-in-age, once it’s on the internet, it never goes away. Ron Vietti and Jim Crews of Valley Bible Fellowship accused churches in Bakersfield, like the one I serve, of hiding “a dirty little secret” and teaching “a doctrine of demons,” which they claimed, can lead to an increase in teen suicide. For nearly an hour they presented a Straw man argument entitled, “Calvinism Exposed.” It was clear from their presentation, they had a limited knowledge of what is commonly called “Calvinism”, or church history for that matter, and made some rather damning accusations, which, due to the fact they pulled it down, signifies to me, they were not willing to stand behind.
At Grace Bible Church of Bakersfield, where I serve, our doctrine is certainly no dirty little secret. We take great efforts to preach expositionally through the Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, Sunday after Sunday. We let the Word inform our doctrine, and submit ourselves to its teaching. Teaching, which we believe, lines up with the doctrines espoused by many of the Reformers throughout Church History (including Martin Luther… So Happy Reformation Day tomorrow!). However, due to the accusations and misrepresentations that cast our Church, and other Churches in the area in an ungodly light, it was decided that we would address this message head on. On Grace Bible Church’s website, it states, “It is not often that a local church should have to stand up to the doctrinal stances taught by another local church, and to do so publically must be done with a great amount of prayer and love. When biblical doctrine is distorted, leading an entire congregation to believe error, a full public response is warranted.”
We weren’t the only ones to do so. Another pastor in town responded with a very gracious open-letter to Mr. Ron Vietti and Mr. Jim Crews.
What initially was supposed to be a simple Sunday night message at Grace Bible Church, turned into a morning and evening service, with an additional afternoon seminar, accompanied by a 100-pg eBook (which you can download for free here). While it was long, it turned out to be a great day, which edified the body of Christ, and strengthened the faith of all those who attended. It wasn’t an attack on anyone or any church, but rather a chance for our local body to clarify what we believe and delve deep into what the Scriptures teach. In the end, we couldn’t help but sing loudly, “All I Have Is Christ” (which you can watch/listen to at the very end of this post).
I was encouraged by our day together, so much so, that I really wanted to share it with you, and while I know this is not a typical Parking Space 23 post (especially for me…who knew a Worship Pastor cared about theology?), I hope it serves as a resource and encouragement to you. As the one who organizes the elements of the worship service, I also want to give you a little peek into what I selected for songs to celebrate these wonderful doctrines of Grace. I also want to express my thanks to Pastor Steve Swartz, for the many, many, many hours of thoughtful study, preparation, and also self-examination that he poured into making this an edifying, and educational experience for everyone.
MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE
WHAT THIS SERMON COVERS:
- The Occasion for These Messages
- The Characterization of Calvinism by Mr. Vietti & Mr. Crews
- John Calvin and Calvinism
- A Word about Bible Study Methods (Hermeneutics)
- What is the Nature of Human Free Will?
- Does God Choose Some for Salvation? (Election)
- Does God Choose the Elect Based on Their Choice of Him?
- Your Great Name We Praise (Immortal, Invisible)
- Behold Our God
- In Christ Alone
- Rock of Ages
- Grace Unmeasured
- Jesus Paid It All
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
WHAT THIS SERMON COVERS:
- Does God Choose Some for Reprobation? (Does He Choose Some for Hell?)
- Is Predestination Unjust?
- Does Calvinism Take Away Human Responsibility?
- How Does Election, Free Will and Human Responsibility Work Together?
- Do Calvinists Believe that God Sends Babies to Hell?
- Does Calvinism Lead to Pride?
- Is God Glorified by Those Who Will Be in Hell?
- Is Total Depravity True?
- Is Unconditional Election True?
We actually did not sing anything at this time, we just went straight into our time of teaching.
SUNDAY EVENING WORSHIP
WHAT THIS SERMON COVERS:
- Is Limited Atonement True?
- Is Irresistible Grace True?
- Is Perseverance of the Saints True?
- Does Calvinism “Stifle Evangelism?”
- Do Calvinists Believe God is the Author of Sin?
- Is the Message Given by Mr. Vietti and Mr. Crews Consistent with the Biblical Gospel?
- Come, Christians, Join to Sing
- I Will Glory in My Redeemer
- Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
- All I Have is Christ