Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cranky Calvinists Are Not Consistent Calvinists

I'm fortunate to belong to a Presbyterian church where Calvinism is the norm, not the exception.  But after hearing that some people at our old EFCA church in Illinois were raising a ruckus against those who aren't persuaded of Calvinism, the thought hit me: If you're really a Calvinist, your own theology dictates that no one can learn spiritual truth unless the Spirit reveals it to them.  That is, in essence, the implication of "total depravity" as well as God's sovereignty in all things (see 1 Cor. 2:14).  "When we know something, it is because God decided to let us know it, either by Scripture or by nature.  Our knowledge, then, is initiated by another.  Our knowledge is a result of grace."*

So if you're a Calvinist and you encounter others who aren't persuaded of the same doctrines you are, you have no choice but to be kind and gentle toward them.  You can respectfully explain from Scripture why you're convinced of its validity, and you can pray for them to be enlightened by God.  But to quarrel or demand their conversion to your perspective--however biblically accurate it might be--demonstrates that you don't live out the theology you preach.  "And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 2:25).

We would all do well to think and act this way.
*John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1987), p. 23.  Probably the most challenging and yet one of the most rewarding books I've ever read.  The first chapter about God's covenant lordship is utterly remarkable.  Thanks, Dr. Griffith.


Frank Taylor said...

Really well said, D.

My own personal experience is that many "angry Calvinists" are very well read and spoken about all things Cavinistic, and yet have a void in their lives when it comes to biblical thinking. When a worldview issue comes up, the first reaction to it comes from the theological mantra that someone crafted for them, because they have invested more time there than getting to know the God of the Bible. Don't get me wrong, not saying that the 2 are mutually exclusive!! It just seems the most angry people are the ones who are trying to prove something someone said about God's Word, verses trying to let God's Word speak for itself.

Great post...

Andrew said...

Thanks, Frank. I would disagree with any who say Calvinism is an artefact which doesn't come from letting God's Word speak for itself (though you don't seem to believe this); letting God's Word speak for itself is the very reason I am a Calvinist in the first place! However, I do think people have shallow convictions and don't absorb things well from Scripture when all they have is second-hand knowledge. Few of us have the theological knowledge of a Horton or Packer or Sproul, so when we just read works of theirs here and there, we end up with piecemeal knowledge and voids in our lives and thinking.

Fortunately I grew tremendously in a Reformed church in college where the "humility that comes from wisdom" (James 3:13, 17-18) was the norm, and Calvinism was an embellishing touch on a core of gospel warmth that radiated from their lives.