Thursday, March 02, 2006

Loving Calvinists: An Oxymoron?

Here is a very good review of Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport : Making Connections in Today's World.

I started this post this way: We know we were saved by God's grace alone, that nothing we did caused God to choose us, so why can't we be more loving and gracious with believers, unbelievers and each other? But then I realized that maybe it's because knowledge puffs up. I think it's related to what Professor Poythress said about having to experience knowledge or it can make us puffy (this is a paraphrase). Maybe since Calvinism is so deep, it takes us a long time to process it, that's why the first year of a baby Calvinist is the most dangerous. I think we should lock them up and make them read Calvin and 1 Corinthians 13 over and over again until they realize what "love is not arrogant or rude" means.
Before this last month, I probably would have disagreed with this:

"I must also say up front that it isn't just in our conversations with unbelievers that I find many Calvinists lacking in gentleness and respect. I find these qualities missing in Calvinists' interactions with other Christians. Indeed, Calvinists are often not very gentle and respectful when debating fine points of doctrine with fellow Calvinists."
But during this last month I have been reading what Reformed bloggers are writing about other Reformed men and especially women, and then I started doing it myself. Now, I totally agree that we aren't nice to each other -- we can be very vicious in our outrage. I have repented of it and have resolved not to engage in it anymore. I started this blog so that I could be a source of encouragement and to demonstrate what it meant to be a Christian to a lost and dying world. I was not accomplishing my goal, I hope to be able to do so now.

I think I'll put this book on my summer reading list, but until then I think I'll read Calvin and 1 Corinthians 13. I may not be a baby Calvinist, but I certainly am a teenager Calvinist and that may even be worse :-)


  1. Susan said...
    Great post. I agree that baby Calvinists should be locked up to keep from harming themselves and their relationships with others.

    What we come to realize,all too late,is that while we have gone "to the mat" about truth in the process we have alienated ourselves, from Christians and unbelievers alike.

    Here are some questions I have:

    Why ARE we so arrogant?

    Shouldn't the gospel produce humility in us?
    If so, where is it?

    Shouldn't we be patient with those whose theology is immature?

    Why are we so intent on devouring those who maybe haven't fully worked out the implications of Christ's work?

    My family jokingly refers to me as the Queen of Knowledge,(they also call me doctrine lady), but if my knowledge puffs me up, what good will I be for His kingdom? Who will listen?

    I agree with you Michele, we need to cultivate gentleness and respect (pray for it more likely) so that our words won't fall on deaf ears.
    michele said...
    I think that it's our desire to help others understand what we know to be the truth and then our lack of patience in dealing with those who can't see.

    We're arrogant because we're human. BTW, this post was about us in the Reformed camp, I have seen equal arrogance on the other side as well.

    And maybe the personality type of the Reformed Christian is contentious and a debater :-)
    Moonshadow said...
    What's the "other side"?
    michele said...
    Arminianism of course :-) but you could probably say Emergent since they can get quite vicous
    Moonshadow said...
    OK, I thought the "other side" was the crowd that bear the Scarlet Letter "A".

    The latter seems like a flash-in-the-pan. We have our fads, too, but don't you get tired of trends? Isn't Eph. 4:14 a warning to "hunker down"?
    michele said...
    BTW, I meant the other side of the debate.
    michele said...
    Yeah, you'd think we would learn to not let culture sway us or to follow the newest theological trends but that doesn't seem to sink in.
    Moonshadow said...
    Yes, the other side of the debate, but honestly, I think there are more than two sides.

    Not that I want to introduce you to more opponents ... unless, by some grace, it leads you to the humility that you crave. The "big picture" might work that humility in you, in me, in us, not from a sense of futility but by trust, arising out of our desperation.
    michele said...
    Teresa, I'm well aware of the many sides out there but for me it generally boils down to two sides (I agree with Van Til that Catholicism and Arminianism share the same Semi-Pelagian foundation).

    And don't worry, there's enough in Reformed theology that I know I don't know that's keeping me humble :-)
    Moonshadow said...
    Yes, the extremes of alienation: digging in one's heels or losing faith entirely.

    If a biblical fundamentalist is confronted with textual inconsistencies in the Bible, he may either refuse to acknowledge them (dig in his heels) or conclude that the Bible is not God's inspired word (lose faith).

    A fundamentalist is unique in that he tends to polarize issues and generally doesn't appreciate nuance. Most of us who are particular enough about doctrine to discuss it are probably fundamentalists in some matters.

    We act according to a human spirit when we may rather suppose and allow for the Holy Spirit to be at work, in us and in the other, if for no better reason than that our paths have crossed. And we pray.

    Instead of undermining another's faith, however inadequate, we value it and build upon it and carry it forward. In that way, we are less likely to attack, if we ourselves affirm their beliefs and seek to draw them deeper.

    The few humble people that I have met were Bible scholars, among them: Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere, Fr. Lawrence Boadt, Dr. Gary Koch and Dr. Jim Bridges. I think that the Scriptures impart humility, so read, pray, study the Scriptures.
    michele said...
    Though I agree with the fundamentals of the fundamentalists, I am not a fundamentalist. I'm more of a confessing evangelical. And as you can see I had a :-) when I said that I was humble, it was there for a reason. No one is truly humble because we all believe what we believe is true, even those post moderns who believe truth is relative dismiss your truth at the expense of their truth. And those who are ecumenical and want to get along with other faiths, they still keep their beliefs and let you keep your beliefs and truth is swept under the carpet. And I don't mean this as a rebuke against those you named since I don't know them.

    But I do want to say in all sincerity that I was humbled this last year in seminary, not to the point where I wont speak the truth (you can say, what I believe to be the truth) but enough that I am not as arrogant about it as I once was. I came to understand that God's word is deeper than we can fathom and I realized that I couldn't put God in a box because when I went to look in, I discovered He wasn't there. He is the God of surprises. But I also believe that God wants us to understand Him that's why He sent His Son and why He gave us His word.

    Hebrews 1:1-3 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
    2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
    3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
    4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

    John 20:30-31 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    I'm only trying to stay true to that and learn everything I can about God and then sharing that knowledge with others. And I'm doing it the only way I know how and I am thankful to God that He forgives me for my many sins while doing it.
    michele said...
    BTW, I know that the charge can be made that I'm being reductionistic, that I've boiled down the argument into two choices: either God is the author of salvation or man is ultimately the author. But what other choice is there? What other view of salvation do we have left? Either it's all of God: He elects, calls, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies or it's God enabling man to come to Him of his own free will, man can either accept or reject God. Man than becomes the author of his salvation because he is in control of it.

    Now, I understand completely that there is another way to look at this and I appear to be contradicting what I said previously. I understand that the Catholic church has a sacramental view of salvation and that is in distinction from the Protestant view of salvation (which I believe is yet another road block, along with Trent, to true ecumenicalism). But even saying that, I believe at it's heart the Catholic church's view of salvation is still semi-Peligian.
    Moonshadow said...
    But even saying that, I believe at it's heart the Catholic church's view of salvation is still semi-Peligian.

    I would like to let you have the last word once in a while on your own blog, but I really am intrigued on this point and wonder about the evidence in support of this belief. If you want to spare me embarrassment, then, please, email out of band. You know how proud I am. Besides, this is getting off topic ... right?

    There are "schools of thought" in Catholicism -- and, no, I personally don't think that semi-pelagianism is one of those schools -- so some may be more Augustinian in their soteriology than others, and someone like Fitzmyer can write a commentary on Romans that Protestants are comfortable referencing.

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