The Father did not just snap his fingers, flip a switch, or wave a wand to make the everlasting joy of his people certain. The real world is more complicated than that, and real joy is far better. God is both unimpeachably just and teeming with love and mercy. To pay the penalty of the totally depraved, he gave his own Son, who embraced the mission and went willingly. And the gift of God’s own Son made final joy not only possible but certain.
Less mature Christians may grimace at the so-called “doctrines of grace” like children frown at sushi. They do so, however, only because they haven’t yet come to know its deeper joys. The mature grow into a rigor and depth and seriousness about doctrine, and knowing that doctrine produces joy, not boredom.
For many, a kind of “coming of age” spiritually — from the “simple truths” of the gospel, to the massive theological realities that feed, undergird, strengthen, and arise from those truths — means coming into the furnace room of Christianity that some have called “Calvinism.” It is a bizarre term. The truths emphasized in the “system” were not new 500 years ago with John Calvin. The absolute sovereignty of God in all things, salvation included, is present (often shockingly so) in the Old Testament Scriptures, and then pervasive in the New. Then, after the Dark Ages, a great season of rediscovery came with the Reformation. Before Calvin taught the bigness of God in the second generation, Luther did in the first. And long before Luther, Augustine reckoned earnestly with the sovereignty and God-ness of God.
“Calvinism” is a kind of nickname, as Spurgeon called it, for the “strong old doctrines . . . which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus.” So also, Jonathan Edwards confessed no dependence on Calvin but was willing to go by the term if it helped the faithful distinguish between God’s timeless truth and the incursions of unbelieving thought. Edwards writes in his preface to The Freedom of the Will,
I should not take it at all amiss to be called a Calvinist, for distinction’s sake; though I utterly disclaim a dependence on Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them, and cannot justly be charged with believing in everything just as he taught.
When it comes to theology, one danger we face is to so emphasize a doctrine’s truthfulness that we undersell its goodness — and delightfulness. “We need to rethink our Reformed soteriology,” John Piper pleads in his biography of Augustine, “so that every limb and every branch in the tree is coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight.”