Tag Archives: Calvinism

Same Team!

DM of the Rings by Shamus Young, 2007

The image is from DM of the Rings, where Aragorn accidentally sends the armies of the dead to attack the Rohirrim.  It’s what I thought of during a discussion on evangelism at care group, when someone talked about how she had evangelized a Lutheran friend by convincing her that evolution was a lie.

Sometimes only Jean-Luc Picard can express things properly.

Setting aside the evolution bit for the moment, this girl seems to think that Lutherans are not Christians.  She probably shares the opinion I’ve heard often from Mark Driscoll and similar thinkers, that there are Christians in the Catholic/Lutheran/Anglican/Episcopalian/Orthodox church, but it’s despite the teachings of the church, not because of them.

This is, at the very least, an uncharitable and uneducated thing to think.  It’s also unbiblical:

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.  But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.  The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have tares?’  And he said to them, ‘An enemy of mine has done this!’  The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ” (Matthew 12:24-30 NASB)

It’s a parable about why the righteous and the unrighteous live side by side in the world, but it’s also an admonition against trying to sort out who’s who.  If we make ourselves mediators of who is a Christian and who isn’t, we’ll do a terrible job of it.  Yet people at my church do this all the time.  They are far too ready to say “Those people call themselves Christians, but they aren’t really.”  For instance, a young man gave me this response when I expressed amusement that we’re sending missionaries to the Philippines, a far more Christian nation than our own (92.5% to 76.8%, according to the CIA World Factbook).  Certainly there are people who call themselves Christians and aren’t; there are probably a great many of them.  But you shouldn’t want to make yourself the mediator of who’s in and who’s out.  Who put you in charge?  Are you all-knowing and wise?

As far as people go, I’d say you have to just believe people.  If they say “I’m a Christian,” it’s probably better to accept that than to erect more divisive walls than necessary.  After all, you are not the judge of their hearts.

With churches and other organizations, evaluating whether something counts as Christian or not becomes easier and a bit more necessary, since it seems fair to say that ecumenicalism should extend to things that are Christian and not to things that aren’t.  Still, the tendency is to define “Christian” as “someone who agrees with me about everything,” and thus we end up with both the Orthodox position that officially states that we don’t know whether the non-Orthodox are saved or not, and things like the ironically-named conference Together for the Gospel, where a bunch of Reformed pastors get together and talk about how Reformed doctrine is right.  (All eight of the headliners are from the twenty-four, by the way.)

If a line must be drawn, I propose the Nicene Creed/Ten Commandments test.  Any church or similar organization that acknowledges the entirety of the Nicene Creed and the moral truth of the Ten Commandments and obeys the latter to the best of their ability shall be considered Christian; anyone who doesn’t will not.  If someone denies the divinity of Christ, we can draw a line there.  Believing in evolution or ordaining women, not so much.  You can still have opinions about those issues.  You can believe that others are wrong.  You can do your level best to change their minds.  But you can’t condemn them as heretics.  It’s possible they’re not Christians; it’s possible that the one issue you disagree about is the difference between saved and unsaved.  However, if the distinction needs to be made, it’s wise to stick with the creed that the church has believed for more than 1600 years and regard the issues that they saw fit to include as important and those that they didn’t bother to mention as peripheral, rather than relying on your own judgment.

Church history buffs will be pointing out that using the Nicene Creed as a criterion would introduce a filiusque problem.  Indeed, but if I were to eliminate all splits in the church except that between Catholic and Orthodox, I would already deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.


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Worst. Bible. Ever.

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from The Contemporary Calvinist!  Allow me to direct you to some other posts you’ll disagree with, on the topics of literature, pride, evangelism, Arminianism, and the Manhattan Declaration.

A certain person who attends my care group owns the Reformation Study Bible.  My first reaction was “That Bible probably has the Book of Piper right in it!”; my second reaction was that it might be the worst Bible ever and is certainly in the broad category of “worst Bibles ever,” barring those with actual translation issues.  This has very little to do with its actual content, which, not having looked through it, I can’t evaluate.  It’s just an inherently flawed and, in fact, anti-Christian concept.  The blurb says:

“The Reformation Study Bible contains a modern restatement of Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes.  Its purpose is to present the light of the Reformation anew.”  -R.C. Sproul, general editor

Okay, it’s edited by R.C. Sproul, which immediately vaults it into “probably terrible” territory, but that’s not the central problem.  The real problem is the same thing that is, or would be, wrong with a feminist study Bible or the Scofield Reference Bible or The Green Bible or or a pacifist study Bible any other Bible that promotes a specific issue or viewpoint.  It is reducing the Bible to a resource used to support a position–environmentalism, pacifism, Calvinism, or whatever else–that someone already held.  In other words, it elevates one hermeneutic to, and above, the level of Scripture.

Flying in the face of the Reformed doctrine of sola scriptura, the Reformation Study Bible shows that, in the eyes of its creators anyway, the words of Scripture are not sufficient.  They need to be propped up with notes guiding the reader to the correct interpretation, putting emphasis on verses that support Calvinism and glossing over ones that don’t.  Also in contradiction to Reformed tradition, the reader can’t be trusted alone with the Word of God: he or she needs a framework to ensure that he or she comes to the right conclusions about it.

Reformed people seem to be immune to the irony here because, for them, Reformed truth is Biblical truth.  As I said before about R.C. Sproul and his ilk:

Notice that the Biblical gospel is “articulated in the Protestant Reformation”–not in the Nicene Creed or even the Bible itself.  For R.C. Sproul, the Reformation is the gospel.  We are called, not to preach Christ crucified, but to preach TULIP.

So for them, infusing the Bible with their hermeneutic isn’t wrong because their hermeneutic is Biblical truth, pure and simple.  This is the essence of hubris: the assumption that the editors know everything about the Bible.  They understand what it really means to say; if it’s unclear, they’re there to fix it.  This is anti-Christian.  Any study Bible written from this mindset seems to me a strong contender for the title of Worst Bible Ever.

I do own a study Bible myself.  It’s a Zondervan NASB Study Bible, and its notes are mostly moderate and uncontroversial, focusing on textual structure and cultural context and often putting forward multiple interpretations on divisive issues rather than choosing a side.  Nevertheless, if I were to choose a Bible now, I would pick one with no notes at all.  The Word of God is the Word of God and the words of man are not worthy to stand beside it.


Image from The Apologetics Group.


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Cognitive Dissonance

When all the logical points have been hashed out, there are a few informal strategies that I like to employ to judge the merits of an idea. One of these is that I don’t subscribe to any view that requires me to act as though it were not true.

There are two ways this can happen. First, there are views that force you to act as though they were false simply because there’s no other possible way to act. Solipsism, the view that all reality is an illusion created by your own mind, is the best example. If you’ve established that nothing you perceive is real, how are you going to react to it? You can’t. The only way to act is as though the things around you were real (you might, perhaps, decide that you should be able to do whatever you want since it’s all an illusion, but you’d still be doing whatever you want with the things around you, as though they were real). There’s cognitive dissonance between what you believe and how you act.

The other type of cognitive dissonance arises in views that are really bundles of moral, philosophical, and metaphysical beliefs that aren’t necessarily logical conclusions from each other. Here, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m returning to Reformed theology.  There’s an aspect of the first type of dissonance to Calvinism, especially the stronger forms.  Certainly anyone who denies free will has a whole barrel of problems in this area.  However, the main cognitive dissonance sets in trying to reconcile the principles of Calvinism with its commands.

My sister reminded me of this today as she told me about semi-open theology, an intriguing hybrid view that her church holds that allows for the possibility of God changing His mind (also a view that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian).  She pointed out that every Christian acts like an open theist whether he or she is one or not: everyone prays as though God might change His mind, even if they believe he can’t.  The efficacy of prayer is always a wild and woolly issue, but Calvinists are in a particular pickle because they’re commanded to pray even though they believe in a God who preordained everything from the beginning and who can’t possibly be influenced by human demands.

Prayer isn’t the main point of dissonance here, though.  Evangelism is.  I’ve already commented on the oddity of Reformed evangelism.  In brief, they are commanded to evangelize even though it can’t possibly be efficacious, because God has already chosen who will be saved and who won’t.  Defenses can be made (and were), but even when you break away from the idea of evangelism, the mechanism of evangelism still doesn’t work.  Even if you believe that Calvinism is compatible with meaningful evangelism, there is still no way to evangelize that doesn’t involve acting as if Calvinism weren’t true.

To evangelize, you must communicate with unsaved people and try to convince them that they should accept Christ.  This action contains multiple non-Calvinist assumptions.  Unsaved people, according to Calvinism, are incapable of coming to Christ, or even understanding Him; thus, talking to them won’t accomplish anything.  People upon whose hearts the Holy Spirit has been working are already saved, or inevitably will be.  What words are you going to use when talking to these people?  “Come to Christ?”  The former can’t; the latter already have.

The answer is that you have to talk to them as though you were a humble Arminian (or subscriber to a third viewpoint) who believes that it is possible for human motive will to play a role in coming to salvation.  It’s simply not possible to act any other way.  And I think there’s good sense in believing something that is compatible with the way you have to behave.

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Calvinism and Self-Identification

One of the evidences I mentioned of the intellectual pride of Calvinism is that Calvinists often self-identify first and foremost as Reformed.  This is different than, say, a Lutheran self-identifying as Lutheran or a Catholic self-identifying as Catholic because the Reformed church is not a denomination.  Identifying foremost with your denomination encompasses many aspects of your religious life, from whether or not you are comfortable with women being pastors to what style of worship you prefer.  This kind of identification is obviously just a statement of personal preference.  On the other hand, self-identifying as Reformed is an affirmation of exactly one thing: your theological beliefs.  This is not usually a statement of preference; it’s an assertion that you’re on the right side of the doctrinal dispute.  Here’s an example.

Tim Challies lists a very reasonable set of traits on his About page:

I am…

  • Christian – I affirm that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.
  • Protestant – I affirm the five “solas” of the Reformation.
  • Reformed – I affirm the doctrines of grace – principles known to some as Calvinism.
  • Evangelical – I believe the gospel (which is the original and truest meaning of “evangelical”).
  • Conservative – I am generally traditional and restrained in my beliefs and cautious towards change, especially when it seems to be change merely for the sake of change.
  • Unfinished – Though I find great beauty in traditional Protestantism, I realize that in some areas traditions may not be fully Scriptural. Where that is the case I am eager to change as the Spirit convicts me through the Word.

Can’t argue with that.  They’re listed from broadest to narrowest and Christian tops the list.  But you only get that by going to his About page.  If you just open up a post on his blog, however, you’ll find that the tagline is “Informing the Reforming” and the title bar says “A Reformed, Christian Blog.”  He may self-identify with six different concepts, but only one of them made it onto the front page.


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The Three Rules Triumph Again

(Edit:  Darryl Dash tells me that he doesn’t consider either himself or John Stott to be Calvinists, so I have in fact been guilty of pigeonholing.  I’ll admit that Stott has me puzzled–he doesn’t talk like a Calvinist, but they quote him like he’s the Bible or Piper.  I’ve left my original overly broad language below.)

From this week’s Sovereign Grace Times (additions in brackets), an article by Darryl Dash, Calvinist pastor of Richview Baptist Church; the full review is here:

I was pretty excited to get Dug Down Deep, written by Joshua Harris [Calvinist, interned under C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church].  I’ve enjoyed reading Harris, and frankly, this book looked a lot better than many I’m asked to review.

On one hand, we really shouldn’t need this book.  We already have lots of clearly written books on basic theology like Basic Christianity by John Stott [Calvinist on C.J. Mahaney’s reading list].  Even [Wayne] Grudem’s Systematic Theology [Calvinist, on C.J. Mahaney’s reading list] isn’t that hard to read…

J.I. Packer [Calvinist, has four different books on C.J. Mahaney’s reading list] reminds us that the solution to the ills in the church is to “teach, teach, teach.”  So this could be a very timely book…

My only real criticism is that I wish it had another chapter on the future (eschatology or end times).  Harris addresses this in an interview with Tim Challies [Calvinist], and I guess I can live with his answer, although I still miss the chapter…

The above excerpts include every name mentioned in the review.  Total names (including the author of the review): six.  Calvinists: six.  The Three Rules of Reformed Literature triumph flawlessly.

You see the insular effect.  My Calvinist church taps another Calvinist’s blog for a review of a Calvinist book, wherein he mentions four other Calvinist authors who have written on similar subjects.  To put it another way, a church in a ministry founded by C.J. Mahaney prints a review of a book written by someone mentored by C.J. Mahaney in which are mentioned three other authors that C.J. Mahaney recommended on his blog.

Obviously discussion is impoverished.  If you look for books starting with the recommendations of one Calvinist and then go by the bibliographies of the books you are recommended, you’ll find yourself running around in a circle of the same twenty-five or thirty authors who all agree with one another.  You could easily not discover that there are multiple views on some of these issues.

Additionally, you see how the intellectual pride of having the right theological views plays out.  I doubt any of these authors would deny that non-Calvinists are Christians, but they don’t treat non-Calvinists as having an equal share of God’s grace and, thus, an equal insight into God’s truth.  Indeed, in the above example, non-Calvinists are totally ignored, as though they were totally depraved and incapable of speaking any truth.

Perhaps that’s not what these people would say they believed, but actions speak louder than words.


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The Three Rules of Reformed Literature

As I explained in my last post, Calvinists have a rarely-acknowledged but deep-running belief that no one who isn’t a Calvinist has anything useful to say. A Calvinist would never say that he believes this, but it shows up plainly in their actions and in quotes like this:

Normally, biographies are written about unusually gifted men. Edwards. Whitefield. Spurgeon. Calvin. (C.J. Mahaney)

(Every time a Reformed person says “men,” I wince a little bit harder. Soon I will look like Quasimodo.)

This tendency shows up nowhere so much as in their reading lists. Calvinists only want to read and recommend other Calvinists. I formalized this tendency into a set of rules. The three rules of Reformed literature go as follows:

  1. A Calvinist will not recommend or have anything positive to say about a book by a non-Calvinist, unless it’s a narrative story.
  2. A Calvinist will never have anything negative to say about another Calvinist writer.
  3. C.S. Lewis is the exception.

The third rule was suggested by Jordan, who pointed out that everyone, even Calvinists, loves C.S. Lewis. The bit about narrative stories (basically, novels and true historical accounts) doesn’t make Calvinists particularly more open-minded, by the way. Since the Reformation was expressed through a move away from stories and pictures and towards sermons and essays, fiction is considered, consciously or subconsciously, to be a lower form of literature. You read stories for fun, but when you’re getting down to the serious stuff, you put away the narratives. Additionally, there are a vanishingly small number of Reformed fiction writers, so if a Reformed person is going to recommend novels at all, he or she has to widen his net.

To evaluate my rule set, I went to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Blog, mostly written by founder C.J. Mahaney, and I systematically listed all the books I found in the posts under the Book Reviews tag. This is a comprehensive list. I included all the authors of any compilations. The full list can be found behind the cut.

Two posts that skew the list are a set of books that David Powlison assigned for a class and C.J. Mahaney’s summer reading list. The former contains all the novels on the list, the latter all the nonfiction narrative accounts. Mahaney’s list was explicitly for light summer reading, so it adheres to the principle of stories and works by non-Calvinists not having anything important to contribute. Powlison’s books, as class assignments, may appear to break the trend, but they are the exception that proves the rule:

I called these six books “dark realism.” They are all worldviews that explore the darkness of human life. What I like about them is that if there is no Christ, they are right. (David Powlison on Literature)

So there’s exactly one area that non-Christians can have good insight into. Sin, and what it’s like to live as an unredeemed, unregenerate, non-Elect sinner. Powlison didn’t say that, of course, but it’s the only acknowledgment in all 18 posts that non-Christians might have anything to say about anything.

But let’s get down to the numbers. 18 posts contain 66 books by 64 authors and (in the case of compilations) editors.

The list may be more edifying if we limit it slightly. Excluding the two anomalous posts listed above leaves 46 books by 45 authors. The numbers are also skewed by three compilations with 4 or more authors and editors each; excluding those leaves 63 books by 51 authors. Excluding both sets, and thus limiting ourselves to non-narrative books with three or fewer authors, we have 43 books by just 33 authors.

The small number of authors isn’t really a fault, since everyone’s personal book recommendations are likely to be weighted towards his or her favorite authors, but it does illustrate the limitations of only reading people who ascribe to your narrow view of correct beliefs: there just aren’t that many of them. One may have to recommend a book by Piper or Spurgeon simply because no one else who meets the criteria has written on the topic.

Broken down into Reformed Christians, other Christians, and non-Christians, we have 27 (42%) Reformed authors, 21 (33%) other Christian authors, and 16 (25%) non-Christian authors. (Incidentally, none were by C.S. Lewis, so the third rule wasn’t even necessary in this set.) I erred on the side of the broader category if I wasn’t sure, so the number of non-Christians is a maximum, the number of other Christians a probable maximum, and the number of Reformed a minimum.  Obviously there’s a pro-Reformed bias, since an even sampling of all denominations would yield a much larger number of other Christians than Reformed Christians, but it’s not an unreasonable-looking one; of course he is more familiar with authors in his own denomination.

The story changes once we apply the limitations above. Excluding Powlison’s class and Mahaney’s summer reading, we have 26 Reformed authors, 19 other Christian authors, and no non-Christian authors (to be expected; these are theology recommendations, after all). Two of the three anthologies can also reasonably be excluded, because they are in the format “n views about topic x” and thus contain a disproportionate number of disparate voices. Excluding them, we have 25 Reformed, just 13 other Christian, and 16 non-Christian authors–non-Christians now having a higher representation than non-Calvinists. Excluding both sets leaves us 23 (51%) Reformed, 27 (31%) other Christian, and no non-Christian authors.

Mahaney recommended two or more books by fourteen authors. Of those, nine (64%) were Reformed, four (29%) were other Christians, and one (7%) was non-Christian (a Civil War history writer). All the authors who had more than two books recommended were Calvinists: J.I. Packer had four, while D.A. Carson and Wayne Grudem both had three.

Clearly “Reformed people never recommend non-Reformed writers” is too strong a statement. Still, we do see a vast Reformed bias, particularly when the anthologies are excluded. The non-Christians, as aforementioned, have a good reason to be absent, but we see here a tendency to, first and foremost, recommend Reformed writers, even when talking about God’s love, sports, preaching, and other topics that have little to do with TULIP and thus into which all sorts of Christians should have equally valid opinions.

I wouldn’t put myself forth as the proper example of how to recommend books, but if you asked me for 10 books on Christianity, I would hand you Justin’s Apologies, Augustine’s Confessions, Aquinas’ Summa Theologica (oof!), Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Lewis’ Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, and The Screwtape Letters (those particular three selected out of sheer personal preference), and Marilynne Robinson’s The Death of Adam. There you have two early Christians, a medieval Scholasticist, a turn-of-last-century Catholic, a Lutheran, an Anglican, and a Calvinist.

Obviously Reformed readers are impoverished by their narrow view of literature. It also becomes a self-reinforcing cycle: Reading a strong majority of Reformed authors builds the impression that only Reformed writers are good authors (and, indeed, many of the 64 authors are excellent thinkers and writers), which leads one to preferentially seek out more Reformed writers. Since the writers themselves, including C.J. Mahaney, also follow this rule, so the authors that they reference, quote, and recommend in their own books will also be Calvinists.

I didn’t mean to bring this up originally, but the fact was so striking I couldn’t set it aside. Want to guess how many of the 64 authors were female? No peeking behind the cut! The answer is one. 1.6%. One author and one book.

The exceptional woman is, of course, Marilynne Robinson with her novel Gilead. I just said “novel,” so you know that she was only mentioned on Powlison’s post. Her excellent book of essays, The Death of Adam, didn’t make it. I hate to think that Sovereign Grace reduces women, like non-Calvinists and non-Christians, to the status of “people who can maybe write nice stories but don’t have anything important to say,” but, well, one out of sixty-four, and it’s a novel.

Powlison takes the odd tack of trying to imply that other people are sexist:

It’s written by a woman, Marilynne Robinson, and she is a Calvinist. I heard her speak in the Philadelphia public library. Here you have this crowd of 400 people in the audience to see this famous Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and she gets up. I kid you not, one questioner from the audience says, “Now how on earth did you as a woman get into the mind of an aging, dying pastor, and with all this theological stuff?” Her answer was, “Well I’m a Calvinist and I think about these things all the time.”

Of course Powlison is being sexist the second he begins with “it’s written by a woman,” men being the default thing that writers are and women the exception. The most that can be said for Powlison and Mahaney is that they’re not specifically selecting against books written by women so much as they’re simply part of a movement where women’s opinions are not valued, and thus where women do not become writers. I said it was the most; I didn’t say it was much.

UPDATE:  Since writing this post, I feel like a curtain has been lifted.  I’m noticing the rule in effect everywhere.  At care groups and Bible studies, quoted in the church bulletin, or mentioned in the sermon, those twenty-four writers show up again and again.  No wonder the same ideas keep showing up too.

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Calvinism and Pride

There are two kinds of pride that Calvinists are in danger of. One of them I have never witnessed, and the other I have witnessed very frequently.

The first kind is pride at being one of the Elect. Since one who is not Elect doesn’t even have the potential to be saved, it seems like it would be easy to lord your superior status over them in your mind. Not over particular people, of course, since you don’t know who’s Elect and who isn’t, but over them as a whole. After all, they’re totally depraved, incapable of any good act, and you aren’t. Jesus didn’t even die for them. True, your salvation wasn’t based on any merit of your own, but plenty of people are proud of things they can’t control, like looks.

I have never met a Calvinist who felt this way. I won’t speculate on the reasons, but it just doesn’t happen.

The second type of pride is the intellectual pride of being a Calvinist. This is pride, not at being saved, but at knowing how one is saved; not at being Elect, but at knowing that there is Election. This sort of pride is nearly ubiquitous. Calvinism, with its air of explaining everything (not, of course, that it does explain everything), its feel of consistency, and its constant claim to be what the Bible really says (a long as you don’t read verse 10), tends to attract intellectuals. Doubt is not a common feature among them. Precious few Calvinists think there’s any possibility that they might be wrong–my pastor, Ron Boomsma, being one of them–and virtually all of them are quite sure that their opponents are utterly and completely wrong. Thus, there arises the pride of being the minority “in the know.”

This manifests itself in various ways. In the absolute worst case, it migrates into what I call meta-Calvinism, namely, salvation by believing in Calvinism, as Fred Clark explains vis-a-vis the Left Behind series:

Buck, LaHaye and Jenkins believe in believing in the doctrine of grace. The archbishop of Cincinnati did not believe in that doctrine, and so he was left behind. Pope Calvin was raptured along with all the other RTCs [Real, True Christians] because he had come to believe in the gospel of salvation by belief in the proper understanding of the mechanics of salvation. RTCs are not real, true Christians because of the grace of God — they are real, true Christians because their sentiments are aligned with the correct side of the argument about the role of God’s grace in salvation.

Alas, this isn’t restricted to bad Christian pop-literature writers and their fictional Mary Sues. Real, respected theologians like Mark Dever and R.C. Sproul believe this, too. These are people who believe that Catholic and Orthodox Christians are not actually Christians. Their main objection isn’t prayer to saints or Mary-worship or the nature of Eucharist, but their differing understanding of the nature of salvation. In other words, that they are not Calvinists.

Frank Schaeffer expresses the attitude in the excellent Portofino:

“…he always said Calvin was right and the people who didn’t accept the sovereignty of God were not really Christians and that “free will” simply meant we were free to recognize God’s plan even though we could never change it or understand it because of our Total Depravity.” (p. 112)

“Then Dad said how we were not bound by dead, man-made tradition like the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics, who believed in free will and other heresies, and how if everyone followed the teaching of Calvin and the other great Reformed theologians like Zwingli, they would understand what the Bible really meant because Calvin was right about it so we didn’t need traditions to follow because we had Calvin and the PCCCCCUSA.” (p. 202)

The intellectual pride of Calvinism can arise in other ways, too. It shows up in the sweeping belief that one completely understands the opposing view, because there is only one possible opposing view and its defining feature is being wrong.

It shows up in the corollary belief that anyone who objects to Calvinism doesn’t really understand it, because it’s too self-evidently true for anyone to understand and still disagree with (the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, itself one of the least self-evident teachings of the Reformation, is, at heart, the doctrine that the Bible obviously teaches Calvinism).

It shows up in the insistence that St. Augustine and even St. Paul were Calvinists, despite the chronological unlikeliness, because if they were not Calvinists, then they would not be acceptable sources of any kind of truth:

John Calvin may well have been the man who first formulated that doctrinal principles into a formal system, but as I have said, the doctrinal principles did not originate with John Calvin or Augustine but with the apostle Paul. (Ernest Reisinger)

It shows up in Calvinists’ disinterest in any church history prior to the Reformation, their disinterest in any pre-Reformation church figures aside from those who can be reinterpreted as Calvinists, and their treatment of the Reformation as the most important, pivotal moment–indeed, the only important moment–in church history.

It shows up in the vastly excessive weight soteriology is given by Calvinist preachers and theologians, because this issue is the single central important point of all Christianity.

It shows up in the refusal to answer opponents’ objections because they are the misguided inquiries of someone who doesn’t understand the truth of the Bible.

And, finally and universally, it shows up in the tendency to only read and listen to other Calvinists, because only other people who have a correct understanding on this issue can have a valid opinion on any other aspect of theology, or on any topic at all.


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