Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts On Calling (Some) Calvinists "Mean"

Last week as a guest blogger for Justin Taylor I shared an excerpt from my upcoming book, a section on the hypocrisy of prideful Calvinists. I made the claim that the stereotype of the arrogant Calvinist is well-earned.

Some people did not like that I said this. Some thoughts:

1. I didn't say much in response to the complaints. And after a while, all the commenters objecting to my case began making my case for me. Other commenters made this observation as well.

2. Even though I specifically said in the excerpt that arrogance and pride are problems for all people, not just Calvinists, this point was plainly ignored as if I didn't say it.

3. Some people thought I was objecting to Calvinist polemic and the like, which I was not doing. (And nobody familiar with my blogging or other writing would think I objected to polemic. Just a couple of months ago, I contributed to another post on Justin's blog, a satirical "Letter from the Judaizers," chastising Paul for his meanness in Galatians, for instance.) For those who had the eyes to see, my point -- rather plainly stated -- was that Calvinists ought to be the least prideful because of our view of total depravity, that therefore Calvinistic pride is more incongruous, hypocritical.

4. It's weird that some Calvinists think rebukes are only for those people and never for ourselves. I think we ought to start with ourselves.

5. One guy wanted to criticize my understanding of The Wizard of Oz, missing the point of my reference to the object of the Tin Man by reading into it the entire weight of Baum's characterization, a neat little literary way of sifting out gnats to swallow camels, which of course shows how wrong I was to think some Calvinists are graceless. ;-)

6. After reading umpteen comments on one blog about how I'm likely a sensitive young whippernsapper who doesn't like "harsh tones," I began to suspect it's not me who's being hyper-sensitive.

7. If we want to commend our soteriology to others, we ought to learn the arts of both humility and self-deprecation.


Gabe said...

If you cannot begin rebuking, chastising and humbling yourself, what makes you think others would rather it be directed at them? If my doctor dies of lung cancer, I will not trust what he has to say about 'safe' cigarettes.

Don't tell me about grace when you clearly don't have a notion as to what the true depths of grace are.

I think Ray once said, "Of all the 'one another's' in the New Testament, 'Confess one another's sin' didn't make the list."

Jared said...

Gabe, I'm not sure if you're directing your comment at me, but while I am confident of my own depravity, I do not find biblical warrant to be silent about the sins of our brothers and sisters. The point is not to bring condemnation but correction. I'm sure Ray (Ortlund?) would affirm that -- indeed, he vetted the satirical "Judaizers" post before it went live.

You are right that personal conviction is a precursor to calls for correction.

If you are saying to me that I don't have a notion about the true depths of grace, YOU ARE WRONG. I preached a message in Ohio this past weekend that included my testimony of sin, gospel astonishment, and repentance. If you go here: you can view it. My story begins at about the 28:05 mark.

Thanks for your comment.

Gabe said...

I, in fact, wasn't directing my comment at you. I was simply commenting on the situation and in no way meant to imply that I was saying you don't know about grace, only that sometimes people use grace as some kind of shield to hide behind while they stab over the top.

Sorry, I can see where my first comment might have been completely misconstrued.

Gabe said...

Also, I hate the internet.

Jared said...

Gabe, I got ya. I was reading the "you" as directed to "me." ;-)

Sorry for misunderstanding.

Either way, it's a good word to be reminded that judgment begins "at home," so to speak.

Anonymous said...

I said something out loud about 10 years ago that rings more true every day......"the best and worst 'professing' believers I know are Calvinists". By that I simply mean most gracious AND least gracious.

The problem is (and I think you alluded to this in the original post Jared) that there is a great deal of Calvinist pride that comes with believing that regeneration precedes faith and that our hearts are "quickened" by the Holy Spirit, not by our own sudden "insight" that leads to a "decision".

Bottom line is (though I believe that regeneration does indeed precede faith) some people express their heart's quickening with phrases like "I made a decision for a Christ." Though this sounds "wrong" to our reformed minds, its really often not this statement is often preceded by fruit bearing.

Thus, though our Calvinist soteriology is (at least in our own minds) awesome.......God (in his infinite grace and wisdom, or sense of humor - whichever you prefer) brings people to Himself who just flat say it wrong. Shocking, I know.

I hope that I'm learning to give the benefit of the doubt to people who said they "prayed a prayer" or "made a decision"......I can't think of a better expression of the gracious attitude that SHOULD reside in God's covenant children.

Craig said...


But, the even greater question is whether you can give the benefit of the doubt to people who actually believe differently. They really mean it when they say that "they accepted God's gift" or "they received God's grace" and they mean that they believe they had an active role in it. Would you see them the same as the person who just "misuses" the phrase? That, to me, is the crux of the matter.

Namely, are the doctrines of election as believed in reformed theology so dear that they are worth fighting over with those who disagree? That is where I think many non-Calvinists take issue with Calvinists today. Many Arminians would say "no," let's not fight over these. But, it seems to me that many in the reformed camp DO want to fight over them, rather than just agree to disagree and STILL RESPECT those who hold different views.

BTW, I like the fact that Tozer is quoted on here. He is one of my heroes of the faith . . . and he was not a Calvinist. :-)

Jared said...

Can we distinguish between (the good kind of) fighting over Calvinism/Arminianism and dividing over or anathematizing over the difference?

I see nothing wrong with good, spirited debate, only with equating salvation or basis for Christian unity with one's view.

L said...

It's unfortunate that as Christians we can so easily forget that it's grace that's the bedrock of our identity. If we really grasped that, it would stop or at least curb the type of prideful arrogance that comes along with possessing a denominational or theological identity within the larger scope of Christianity.

These issues are particularly grabbing my attention because of the sharpening the Reformed crowd seems to be undergoing over the past year. Theologically we were forced to defend our views on justification, we had to define hell to a crowd that was trying to break it apart, and we're currently being admonished by John MacArthur in order grow out of being young, restless and Reformed into more mature Calvinists. It seems as if folks who identify themselves as Reformed are more and more expected to provide theological answers and exhibit mature Christianity.