Since a Calvinist believes in the doctrine of unconditional election, isn’t it disingenuous for him or her to sing a song like ‘Softly and Tenderly’? In this doctrine, Calvinists believe God to elect or choose some unworthy sinners to save from eternity past, based on nothing good or bad in them, but solely on his sovereign wisdom and grace, while passing over other equally unworthy sinners. In this song, lyricist Will Thompson (friend of D.L. Moody) writes,
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me
Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!
How can a Calvinist sing this? How can a Calvinist, who believes God has already sovereignly chosen those he would save based on nothing in them, call all sinners to believe in Jesus? Can a Calvinist genuinely sing this song and practically embody this song in personal evangelism?
In short: Absolutely! In fact, a Calvinist can sing this song more genuinely and employ the words of this song in personal evangelism more passionately and confidently than non-Calvinists. In a masterful sermon on Romans 9, John Piper fully exposits the truth that the foundation of unconditional election is the basis for evangelism. You can find his complete sermon here.
But to directly answer this question, I commend this excerpt from that sermon (below) to you. As I was sitting in the Yum! Center watching Piper close out Together for the Gospel, I found myself getting very emotional over Piper’s plea for pastors and preachers to be the arms of his father, and essentially, the arms of Jesus calling out to sinners, “Come home, come home.” Chills run up my spine even as I re-watch the end of this sermon. I know my fellow Southern Baptist friends who grew up in the revival, tent meeting evangelistic culture, Calvinist or not, will greatly enjoy this.
Can a Calvinist sing ‘Softly and Tenderly’? Oh, yes! And we should!