There’s a part of me that’s hesitant to keep banging the drum on the issue of “angry Calvinists.”

I’m an evangelical Calvinist—but I’m not mad about it, and my friends and role models in these theological circles aren’t mean-spirited or angry. So on the one hand it feels something like a stereotype. If 10,000 people read a blog and two cranky Calvinists write a number of comments, some will cluck their tongue and conclude “there go those angry Calvinists.”

Furthermore, even if a Calvinist writes with tears, a humble heart, and genuine concern that a certain position is heterodox or dangerous for the church, he can expect to hear the labels like “old guard,” “obsessive,” “reactionary,” “highly rationalistic,” “rigid” “naysayers” with a “scholastic spirit” who love nothing more than “gatekeeping,” “control[ling] the switches,” and “patrol[ling] the boundaries” (actual quotes from an essay).

And, it’s tempting to point out that Calvinists don’t have a corner on the ugly side of the blogosphere. Wade into some of the posts and comments from other traditions talking about ultimate things and you will see that every “tribe” has their cranks who can be mocking, rude, sarcastic, and nasty. Yet for various reasons people associate and expect anger with Calvinism, making the explicit connection more readily.

But none of that is to deny that there is a problem. Angry Calvinists are not like unicorns, dreamed up in some fantasy. They really do exist. And the stereotype exists for a reason. I remember (with shame) answering a question during college from a girl who was crying about the doctrine of election and what it might mean for a relative and my response was to ask everyone in the room turn to Romans 9. Right text, but it was the wrong time.

This raises an important qualifier. The “angry” adjective might apply to some folks, but it can also obscure the problem. In the example above, I wasn’t angry with that girl. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk. But I failed to recognize what is “fitting” or necessary (cf. Eph. 4:29) in the moment. This is the sort of thing that tends to be “caught” rather than “taught” and can be difficult to explain. But there’s a way to be uncompromising with truth and to be winsome, humble, meek, wise, sensitive, gracious. There’s a way of “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) such that our doctrines are “adorned” (Titus 2:10) and our words are “seasoned” with salt and grace (Col. 4:6). To repeat, the category of “anger” is often too broad and can miss the mark. As Kevin DeYoung pointed out to me, “Some Calvinists are angry, proud, belligerent people who find Calvinism to be a very good way to be angry, proud, and belligerent. Other Calvinists are immature—they don’t understand other people’s struggles, they haven’t been mellowed by life in a good way, they can only see arguments and not people. The two groups can be the same, but not always.”

All of this prompts two questions: (1) why is this the case?, and (2) what can be done about it?

John Piper once offered some reflections on why Calvinists tend at times to be more negative.

I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative.

So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.

I’ll just confess that. It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again.

Another reason for Calvinists could be seen as negative is that when a person comes to see the doctrines of grace in the Bible, he is often amazed that he missed it, and he can sometimes become angry. He can become angry that he grew up in a church or home where they never talked about what is really there in Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 2, and Ephesians 2. They never talked about it—they skipped it—and he is angry that he was misled for so long.

That’s sad. It’s there; it’s real; the church did let him down, and there are thousands of churches that ignore the truth and don’t teach it. And he has to deal with that.

Another reason Calvinists might be perceived as negative is that they are trying to convince others about the doctrines.

If God gives someone the grace to be humbled and see the truth, and the doctrines are sweet to him, and they break his pride—because God chose him owing to nothing in him. He was awakened from the dead, like being found at the bottom of a lake and God, at the cost of his Son’s life, brings him up from the bottom, does CPR, brings him miraculously back to life, and he stands on the beach thrilled with the grace of God—wouldn’t he want to persuade people about this?

Do Calvinists want to make everybody else Calvinists? Absolutely we do! But it’s not about elitism. It’s about having been found by Christ and having the glory of God opened to us in the process of salvation. It’s about having the majesty of God opened in all of his saving and redeeming works, wanting to give him all the glory and all the credit, and cherishing the sovereignty and preciousness of grace in our lives. Why wouldn’t we want to share this with people?

If it is perceived as elitist, that is partly owing to our sinfulness in the way we go about it, and partly owing to people’s unwillingness to see what is really there in the Bible.

I just want to confess my own sins in how I have often spoken, and I hope and pray that I don’t have the reputation of being mainly negative, but mainly positive.

Ed Stetzer recently had an email exchange with Joe Thorn about the issue of “angry Calvinists.” Joe offers some astute analysis and offers four good suggestions:

First, I think it would be fruitful for more correction to come from inside our own theological tribe. I’m not saying criticism is inappropriate if it isn’t in-house. As the church we should be able to correct one another across denominational and doctrinal divides. But, we should be most critical of ourselves, and I think addressing our own problems from within our own group will generally prove more fruitful.

Second, when addressing the issue of “those angry Calvinists” we need to be careful and not make Calvinism the issue. It’s not about Calvinism. The negativity, pride, and finger wagging is not about the Doctrines of Grace, but the heart. So, when we see such things coming from Calvinists we should seek to point out that this attitude is actually incompatible with Calvinism.

Third, I’d encourage people to simply model a better way. Whether you’re a Calvinist or not, modeling loving patience over knee-jerk reaction, gracious discernment over assuming the worst about another’s words, and gospel-founded brotherhood over needless separation, will wind up having greater influence in the Christian community than simply dropping bombs on each other.

Fourth, I’d encourage others to simply not engage the haters. There are blogs I simply do not read because it doesn’t benefit me spiritually. Some people move me to examine myself, look to Jesus, and grow in grace. Others just provoke me to anger. Often times that anger is unrighteous, or even self-righteous. I can become the angry Calvinist doppelgänger to the angry Calvinist I take issue with. Really, the haters are not my problem, I am my own problem. So, I have learned to just stay away from certain places on the internet. I would encourage others to simply not engage people or personalities that aren’t helpful.

Building off of the last point, I’d add a convicting point that Tim Keller says in The Prodigal God on Luke 15:28: Jesus “is not a Pharisee about Pharisees; he is not self-righteous about self-righteousness. Nor should we be. He not only loves the wild-living, free-spirited people, but also hardened religious people” (p. 76).

I think we can all work a bit harder, fully aware of which aspect we tend to neglect: “speaking the truth in love” or “speaking the truth in love.”

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116 thoughts on “The Problem of “Angry Calvinists””

  1. Ryan says:

    I think this issue is a mole hill being made into a mountain. Are there some angry Calvinists? Yes and most know where they blog at and like to sensationalize them and draw caricatures.

    But I have visited just as many Jesus Creed type blogs and writers websites that are filled with venom and resentment that could match any angry Calvinist. I have read comments there are ridicule and dismiss guys like Piper without any hearing or understanding of their work.

    Often their anger is wrapped up in detached elitism or resentment against anything seen as traditional or fundamentalist. Even Scot Mcknight has been all to ready to invent terms such as “neo-reformed” that has become a pejorative term on his blog.

    So yes some Calvinists need to chill out and look at their hearts, but I am at least glad their is an awareness on the part of evangelical Calvinist to address the issue.

    1. Andy says:

      Even if angry discourse is more common elsewhere, I think it’s important to examine ourselves for sin, which is usually of the mountain variety, not the mole-hill.

      Whether a speck in the eye, or a plank, we need it removed.

      1. Brad says:

        Hi Ryan,

        I think it is a mountain. And actually, I think “angry calvinism” is far more systemic than Justin lets on. Even with the great advice in this article, Justin, Piper and Stetzer only call out the obvious examples. The ease with which we isolate ourselves from our theological kinsmen within just our own congregations – saying nothing of sister churches in the same community or the classic Arminian that we say is our brother but treat otherwise – suggests that we are almost totally blind to the underlying issues here. I think that we are often far too easily pleased – with ourselves.

  2. Doc B says:

    There’s some really solid advice in this post. I especially like Piper’s explanation, because it is specific to causality…not vacuous like so many explanations tend to be. (And, maybe also because I see myself in it in some ways.)

    I also like the Keller quote at the end. After all, don’t angry Calvinists need God’s grace just like the rest of us, even when they don’t see it that way (just like the rest of us at times)?

    I still say there are fewer angry Calvinists out there than advertised. But I will agree there are enough to maintain the stereotype, and I’m sure I’ve contributed my share to that group.

    Then again, read Pat Robertson’s recent comments on alzheimers, and be an angry Calvinist (or Arminian or Molinist or monophysite or nestorian or whatever else you may be) for a day. There’s a time for everything under the sun!

  3. Gloria says:

    This is quite a lot to digest on a Friday afternoon! Lots of insight from a variety of sources. I’ll be bookmarking this post for future reference. TY!

  4. Good article brother!

  5. Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Timothy 1:5

  6. James says:

    No one likes to be mocked, but let’s love them anyway. Over time, our actions will speak louder than words as they get to know us.

    Yet, as the doctrines of grace teaches us… we’re sinners just the same, deserving of wrath, yet given grace.

  7. steve hays says:

    Justin,

    Your post made me angry! :-)

    1. taco says:

      You mad bro?

  8. AndrewF says:

    I think part of the problem is trying to deal with the doctrines as a debate, when the NT largely deals with them pastorally. That is, they’re there to encourage the believer to persevere. If we rip our discussion of them from that context, then we’re very likely to, as you put it, get the time wrong.

  9. Eric Miller says:

    The very idea that the “intellectual rigor” of the “doctrines of grace” is what causes some Calvinists act angry and rude is preposterous. When you have the mind-set that the most difficult doctrine is the correct one it is easy to then think yourself more mature and spiritually learned that those who don’t hold that doctrine. Spiritual snobbery and arrogance lay at the root of “angry Calvinism” not some noble desire to contend for reformed theology or some nonsense about repressed sadness now bursting forth. THOUGH THIS IS NOT TYPICAL OF ALL OR MOST CALVINISTS.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Thank you for illustrating my point that not all angry commenters are Calvinists! :)

      Also, if you read the above as a mono-causal explanation and justification, it’s worth re-reading it again.

      1. Eric Miller says:

        Please understand that I was not angry but that I do STRONGLY disagree with the article and its premises. I do appreciate this ministry and the contributions of men like Piper, Keller and James White.

    2. Doc B says:

      “Spiritual snobbery and arrogance lay at the root of “angry Calvinism” not some noble desire…”

      And Eric, how are we to characterize your universal negative attribution of causality for this anger? Might it be spiritual snobbery and arrogance also? Is John Piper really as much a fool as you just implied?

    3. Andy says:

      I actually think Piper is onto something when he mentions the intellectual rigor. At least for me, personally, it is an aspect of reformed theology that can sometimes cause me to be, if not angry, at least a little bit arrogant.

  10. steve hays says:

    Problem with this stereotype is that it becomes a vicious cycle. It’s often the same type of circular proof that’s used in Freudian psychology. Freud says sons suffer from a repressed Oedipal complex. When normal men deny this, the Freudian says that just goes to show the denier is in denial. His very denial of a repressed Oedipal complex proves the he’s repressed his Oedipal complex.

    Likewise, if a Calvinist attempts to rebut the “angry Calvinist” stereotype, then the very fact that he defended Calvinists against the sweeping charge is treated as damning evidence that he must be an angry Calvinist.

    It’s also like the stereotype of an “angry white male.” If you’re a white male, and you reject the accusation, then the accuser takes your very rejection as incriminating evidence that you must be an angry white male.

    The whole thing takes on a Kafkaesque quality–where the allegation becomes unfalsifiable.

    1. That is why I am an angry Calvinist by design. If I am being hated because I am part of the hated, and being caricatured as a hater because of that association, and if it doesn’t matter what I do so that even loving on my enemies is percieved as hate, why not give the haters what they want? It is less frustrating and less time consuming just to forge ahead. With Whitefield, let us marshall the cannons and keep the lines from being broken. I suppose, I am taking my cue from the Lord, who wasn’t shy at hurling invective back at those who hurled it in the first place, to wit: “Are we not right to say that you have a demon… You are of your father the devil.” Now we could characterize this as, “You are full of hate and do the devils work,” verses, “Nuh uh, you are full of hate and do the devils work,” but really, was Jesus being hateful because he called others names and assigned their work to the work of demons? Hardly! It wasn’t evil for evil that Jesus rendered. Nevertheless, the righteous pronouncements that he made were considered evil by his enemies and so he becamed the “angry crowd” in pop reckoning. What I loathe more than the name calling that has, in my experience been the end all of the arguments from those in to opposition Calvinis, are those who would say that it doesn’t matter what we believe about these differences. If that is the case the whole thing is moot and a waste of time because it is engaging in vain arguments and wranglings about words and unfruitful for the hearer no matter what the character of the conversation is. In the end, if one side is not right and the other is not wrong, the it boils down to both sides being nothing more than a cesspool of fools.

  11. One thing I’d like to see is angry Calvinism defined. On the one hand, I know what I think of when I think of a prideful, ungracious Calvinist. On the other hand, I don’t know what people like Ed Stetzer have in mind.

    There is a difference between being committed to a position and being prideful; between being dogmatic and being arrogant. We live in an age that does not like people who are firm in their beliefs (except the belief that no belief should be firmly held!) yet most Calvinists are rather firm and passionate about their beliefs. We are certainly not alone in this, and yet in some circles (such as the SBC) Calvinism is a minority dogma that runs up against a deeply engrained majority dogma and when Calvinists start firmly defending their position, they are labelled divisive, prideful, arrogant. Is it anger and arrogance, or is it the passionate dedication of someone speaking from the minority side?

    As such, I don’t think it’s enough to talk about the problem of “angry Calvinists” (a term which in itself isn’t all that helpful). We need to define the problem, then talk about how to avoid it.

    1. Doc B says:

      “There is a difference between being committed to a position and being prideful; between being dogmatic and being arrogant.”

      Excellent point, Chris.

  12. Dane says:

    Wonderful and wise post here.

  13. This is so so great. This is a BIG. FAT. Problem for us in the global evangelical community. It is not a mountain out of a mole hill issue, it’s a mountain for sure. I have encountered the “angry Calvinist” not only all over the internet but also in my own thriving Life Group and it hurts and wounds people, alienating them and pushing them away from the gospel. Away from growing and maturing and understanding the doctrines of grace. I wholeheartedly agree with the causality mentioned here…I myself know I’m drawn to Calvinism because I tend to be heavily intellectual and that has in the past caused me to be argumentative. I believe I have matured past that and err on the side of offering grace instead of arguments.

    Our reputation matters. There are good reasons for our reputation and I hope somehow we can overcome them and change people’s perception of us as a community forever.

    1. Doc B says:

      “I have encountered the “angry Calvinist” not only all over the internet but also in my own thriving Life Group and it hurts and wounds people, alienating them and pushing them away from the gospel.”

      “I believe I have matured past that…”

      Sarah, you are speaking out against what you admit you were (and possibly still are at times?). Do you see this point in what Justin posted? These folks are deserving of some grace from us, just as the not-so-angry folks are.

      OK, ‘deserving of some grace’ is not a very Calvinistic statement…but I hope you see what I mean. We should be gracious to both the angry Calvinists and the never-angry-Arminians (tongue-in-cheek). It’s not easy for some of us to do, especially those of us who were/are there!

      This isn’t nearly the ‘BIG FAT’ problem for the ‘global evangelical community’ as it is for any one of us as individuals. And it’s more so for some than others, as can be seen in the various replies to the post (mine included).

      1. SonFollowers says:

        From my perspective the point is that “angry” Christians (argumentative, ridiculing, antagonistic, sarcastic, etc.) are simply not furthering the gospel. In fact, they’re actually hindering it. I think that’s what must be communicated. I agree that it doesn’t feel like a Calvinist issue to me (or any group, for that matter). Each person is responsible for their own behavior. Maybe Calvinists are more predisposed, but ultimately I still think it boils down to accountability. Love tells the truth without watering down the message, but it does it with respect, tact, and sensitivity. There must be a balance.

        Messianic Evidence: Is Jesus Who He Claims to Be?

  14. Justin: words and their implications mean something as Steve Hayes pointed out.

    So question: How would you define “angry” in this label of angry Calvinism? Just had some friends text me what you meant so I thought I’d toss it to you.

    thx brother.
    Grace and peace…

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Steve, as I tried to point out in the post I’m not sure this is the best label. It’s why I put quotations around it in the title and also have a paragraph on some qualifiers.

      At one level it can be roughly synonymous with what Keller means in this piece by contemptuous: http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/newsletter/index.html?aid=89. But I think that’s a relative minority compared to some of the larger issues.

    2. Doc B says:

      “How would you define “angry” in this label of angry Calvinism?”

      Great question, Steve. Probably almost impossible to nail an answer to it, there are so many different and disparate definitions, ranging from, “…disagrees with me…” to, “…screamed at me that I’ll burn in hell as a heretic…”.

      On top of that, some would characterize the first as equivalent to the last.

  15. Jack Brooks says:

    One problem is that the Calvinistic God doesn’t love everyone (at least not enough to try and save them from hell), but is angry at everyone. A second problem is that, in Calvinistic soteriology, people are converted by force (an unseen, supernatural, divine force, but force nonetheless), not by pursuasive reasoning (depravity having made all pursuasive reasoning futile). We will tend to imitate the God-cioncept we carry in our hearts.

    1. Eric Miller says:

      This is a good summary, I think.

    2. Doc B says:

      This is about as well-articulated a summary of a complete misunderstanding of Calvinism as I’ve seen. Throw in that most Calvinists would find the first sentence blasphemous, and you can see why some get angry at times.

      Maybe we have some answers (in a roundabout way) right here…

      1. Laura says:

        “This is about as well-articulated a summary of a complete misunderstanding of Calvinism as I’ve seen.”

        Aaaagreed. If that’s what people think I believe, no wonder we have these issues.

      2. Scott C says:

        I would say the mis-characterizations like this certainly don’t help matters. If you can’t articulate the beliefs in the same way those that hold them do, it only adds fuel to the fire of the problem.

    3. Theology Samurai says:

      Jack Brooks’ comments are as good an illustration of misrepresenting Calvinism as I could hope to provide an example of….and seconded by Eric Miller.

      So, you’ve both got some work to do.

    4. Theology Samurai says:

      Jack, you do realize what you have stated in your comments is no where stated as Calvinist beliefs in any of the literature on the subject, correct?

      You don’t seriously think Calvinists teach that people are converted “by force”?. Let’s see, Calvinism (via Jack Brooks)is as follows:

      1. Everyone’s Really, Really, Really Bad
      2. Frozen Chosen
      3. God Doesn’t Love Everyone
      4. Converted By Force
      5. God Keep’s His Frozen Chosen To The End

      Uh, you think this is an accurate representation of Calvinism? That explains the antogonism.

    5. Perhaps “misunderstood” is a better word than “angry.” I find people are angry when they are misunderstood. @Jack Brooks does a fantastic job of misunderstanding.

    6. Paul says:

      But part of our characterization of God is that he is Creator and we are Creature, and thus certain rights, priviledges, attributes, etc., properly belong to him and not us. So, your claim leaves out relevant data. We don’t think we should, or can, imitate our God in all areas. Also, I don’t see Arminians buying presents for every kid in the neighborhood rather than lavishing gifts on just their own children. I also don’t see universalists pushing for punishments that only take away an infinitesimal amount of pre-eschatological flourishing time (since if every one leaves hell at some point and spends the rest of eternity in heaven, their time in hell was an infinitesimal ratio to their eschatological flourishing time). Moreover, I don’t see Arminians et al. too desirous to forgive Calvinists of their “anger problem.” No, they keep the issue at the forefront, push and pick and pull until the Calvinist gets stern . . .or maybe even angry, and then say, “Aha! An angry Calvinist.” Why don’t Arminians forgive on this matter more easily? They are quick to forgive their own side of their many similar transgressions. But then they’re acting like the Calvinist God is their God, if your analysis is correct. If we all try to imitate our conception of Gid, why are so many Arminians desirous of showing selective love to their own kind?

      1. jon says:

        Paul – why turn around and mis-characterize Arminians? You imply that Arminians are only interested in provoking Calvinists, waiting for them to get angered, and then saying “Aha”! And then you suggest that Arminians aren’t forgiving of anyone except those in their own camp. You have evidence to prove your claims? If you’re not careful, you really WILL be a case-study in what the original article is trying to argue against.

        An P.S. there’s a difference in the limited resources a parent has to spend on all children and the unlimited resources of God

        1. Paul says:

          Jon,

          I did not “imply” what you say I implied. In any event, my post was a *response* to Jack Brooks’ angry Arminian response. You need to note the context of my comment.

          P.S. (a) I don’t think God’s resources *are* unlimited in this regard, and (b) I don’t see Arminian parents spending all their resources, not even 1/5 (etc) of their resources on the neighborhood children.

          P.S.S. Scare tactics like yours (“be careful”) are shameful and are part of the bating I was referring to. It’s also reversible. If you don’t be careful YOU WILL be a case study in demonstrating my claim, then you won’t need to ask me for examples (of which I have too many to count).

          1. jon says:

            Paul,
            Wow, “shameful”? That’s pretty strong language and completely misidentifies my intent. I wasn’t using scare tactics at all, thus nothing I did was “shameful.” There’s nothing wrong with one brother urging caution to another. I was just making an observation. You are free to disagree (which you did by your response). I don’t believe your parent-child analogy holds water, but we’re not going to solve the Calvinist-Arminian debate by posting. Try to have a pleasant day.

    7. Gary says:

      Wow Mr. Brooks! Great point. But, even as I say that, I also advise…get ready to duck for cover.

  16. Theology Samurai says:

    I think it would help a lot if the Calvin bashers would just maybe try and read his actual writings and perhaps fairly represent his works in light of Scripture. Maybe they could even re-state the doctrines of grace, et al in such a manner as to accurately represent them and in such a way that a Calvinist could say, “Yes, that’s what I believe.”

    That would go a long way

    In my experience, most christians who rail against Calvin haven’t read anything by him except through second hand (and usually opposing) sources.

    My suggestion? At least read the Institutes for starters. Perhaps the criticism will then bear some more weight.

    I must admit, it is difficult when some (like RHE and her friends) completely disregard the Bible’s clear statements about issues like (oh, I don’t know, just stop by her blog now). That does make me a bit angry…

    1. jon says:

      As a Wesleyan, I would urge the very same thing concerning Wesley.

  17. Bill says:

    Here’s a question about the angry _____ (it may be calvinist, it may be any christian):

    How do you approach someone who, when you point out their vitriol, retorts with Proverbs 27:17?

    1. SonFollowers says:

      Iron certainly does sharpen iron, but this assumes that the iron is used properly. What happens if I start banging the tip of a sword head on with an iron skillet? Not much sharpening going on there. Sharpening iron requires skill and accuracy. Sharpening people requires skill as well (tact, respect, etc.). Being disrespectful doesn’t make anyone better. It simply ticks people off and no one changes for the better. That’s my perspective. Bottom line: Don’t be a skillet!

      How should the Christian church respond to homosexuality?

  18. Sadly, some who hold to the Doctrines of Grace love the doctrines more than the grace.

  19. Richard says:

    The “angry” adjective applies to ALL folks, not just Calvinists. I’m kind of tired of the red herring being constantly applied to Calvinists when it is a universal issue.

  20. Justin, I appreciated your comments on recognizing what is true, but failing to recognize what is necessary for a person at a specific moment. One of my biggest regrets as a young Christian stems from such a failure. It is not only important to be “right”, but also to be “good.” Perhaps we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. I, for one, am thankful that God is “slow to anger.”

  21. Ken says:

    The issue of anger is why I never have gotten into John MacArthur’s teaching. A person in my church asked my opinion about MacArthur and his preaching, and I replied that I don’t listen to him regularly as, on the occasions I have in the past, he came across as so angry and sectarian.

    1. Theo Matters says:

      some Calvinists that belong to the facebook forum that I’m member, out of being ‘angry’ called John Mac as belonging to a false church.
      http://theologicalmatters.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/john-macarthur-vs-the-reformed-confessions/
      I think justin’s blog is a timely reminder.

  22. Henry says:

    Justin,

    one thing I would appreciate is some more specific correction in this blog when we as commentators display ‘angry calvinism’. Sometimes we are left guessing what you are referring to.

    Thanks

    1. Henry says:

      one suggestion would be to post a correction or send the odd private e-mail to an angry commentator on this blog. I for one would certainly appreciate the correction, thanks.

    2. Henry, you are in the vaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast minority if you would appreciate correction when displaying “angry Calvinism”. I’ve given up on trying to offer correction (or even a “think about it for a second”) in that arena. The *best* reply I’ve ever gotten when I tried that was the theological equivalent of “bite me”.

  23. Andrew says:

    You tell me unicorns don’t exist, and then you expect me not to be angry?

  24. Brian Wasicki says:

    Two points. First, I don’t like the use of the word anger here. Last time I checked, being angry was not a sin. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point of the post, but I also see that we have become so “nice” that we have no room any longer for anger. We can be healthily angry and it’s OK. We can love our brother and be angry with him at the same time. Some think that arguing in itself is wrong, but Jesus did it all the time, and Paul argued like a champ. Anger is not hatred.

    Second, all folks involved in debating and working through doctrinal issues that they feel passionately about can get nasty when debating. All groups/sides are guilty, so please stop picking on Calvinists or I’m gunna get really, really. . . ;)

    1. John says:

      I would offer some caution here, Brian. In theory one can be angry and righteous, but in reality it doesn’t happen too often – the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. We are told to let our speech be always gracious, seasoned with salt, and be slow to anger, however. Perhaps we should start there, which I think is the point of JT’s post.

  25. mark mcculley says:

    And then there is the problem of Pharisees about the Pharisees about the Pharisees. Some of these more generous and liberal folks are not so very generous and liberal with those of us who claim that every one of the five points of Arminianism is false and therefore not part of the gospel.

    These “act more like Christians than you” folks even go so far as to claim that they themselves were effectually called by the Holy Spirit using one or more of those five Arminian points. They seem to think that learning the truth was a second blessing which came about by means of their own diligent study of some good books. That is why they can be so patronizing to the Arminians on their evangelical bus.

  26. I really like this post. I think it has a lot of good points, but I think you should have stuck with your opening comments. It’s beating a dead horse, that I’m not sure was ever alive in the first place. The Angry Calvinist thing…I don’t know. I mean, there are just angry people. I am not sure Calvinists have the monopoly on anger that people seem to think they do.

    The only really angry debate I ever encountered was when I was attacked for being a Presbyterian by a girl who was angrily NOT a Presbyterian. I was flabbergasted and since that day I have never understood the stereotype.

  27. chris nazarczuk says:

    snore. again.

    i think the “angry” Calvinist is a boogieman that watered-down evangelicals invented to avoid theological precision.

  28. Joshua says:

    The Angry Beavers.

  29. SonFollowers says:

    Having spent some time in online forums for Christian topics, I find them chock full of angry, bitter non-Christians who despise anyone who believes the Bible is the Word of God. Well meaning Christians end up being ridiculed, antagonized, etc. But then there are Christians who decide its time to fight back. These are the ones who throw gasoline on the already burning fire. There is a way to strive for “theological precision” without insulting, condemning, ridiculing, or attacking those around us. I think it’s critical that we discover how to do that, especially if we hope to do anything in the world outside of start new and interesting arguments.

    Words for the Argumentative Christian

  30. Randy Alcorn says:

    Thanks, Justin. Extremely thoughtful post, which I very much appreciated. I not only agree with the great majority of what you say, but I love the tone of it. I believe it honors our Lord.

  31. Jack Brooks says:

    Calvin had good reason to call it the horribilum decretum (pardon me if I got the Latin a bit wrong there). Reprobation means that God has hated certain individuals from all eternity, and His hatred terminates in unending condemnation in hell for them. God didn’t love Esau just a little bit less, He hated him. The temporal means by which God shows mercy to the reprobate — sending the rains upon their crops, and shining the sun down upon them — are real but trivial compared to endless burning in hell. If God creates you in order to damn you, then that is most certainly hates you. So my statement that Calvinism teaches that God hates most people is true, based on the doctrine of reprobation.

    Given the Reformed view of causation (especially as developed by J. Edwards) and how it applies to the individual soul, God caused Adam to sin, thus causing every person save Jesus to be a sinner, and to commit the particular sins they commit (His common grace is credited with the restraining of sinners from the fullest possible extent of their sinning, which means, by Edwards’ chain of causation, that God is the ultimate, though not proximate, cause of each sin).

    Crying outrage doesn’t disprove anything I’ve said here. For example, look up the word “force” in the dictionary. Calvinism teaches that God applies a spiritual force to the soul of the sinner, that irresistibly alters his/her will by creating a completely new and different underlying nature. God is the mechanic, grace is the wrench, and the soul of the sinner is the frozen screw. The Gospel isn’t the mediate means of salvation, in the Calvinist framework. Rather, God saves you immediately, by directing changing the soul. A changed attitude toward the Gospel results, but you haven’t been changed by the Gospel — you’ve been changed by a mystical experience of God’s supernatural power, directly working upon the soul apart from reason. You have been forced to believe the Gospel, that force working from the inside out.

    1. steve hays says:

      “Hatred” (e.g. Mal 1:3; Rom 9:13) is just a Hebrew idiom. It doesn’t mean God literally “hates” the reprobate.

      Calvinism doesn’t depend on a particular theory of causation. Calvinism simply accepts what the Bible teaches about predestination and providence.

      On a standard theory of causation (i.e. the counterfactual theory of causation), Molinism, Arminianism, and open theism also make God the “cause” of Adam’s sin. So your objection either proves too much or too little.

      To say God “forces” the unregenerate to believe him is like saying a psychiatrist forcibly cures a psychotic by administering a psychotropic drug. But the psychiatrist is merely *restoring* the psychotic to his right mind. And in the nature of the case, he can’t obtain the patient’s prior consent if the patient is clinically insane.

      Likewise, head trauma victims are sometimes wheeled into the ER unconscious. The neurosurgeon must save them without their prior consent. But he’s doing them a favor. Should he just let them die?

      Likewise, when God monergistically regenerates a sinner, he is restoring the sinner to his properly functioning condition. Healing the unregenerate.

  32. Fred says:

    I can really appreciate this article. I especially identify with the part where Piper describes the person who becomes angry that these doctrines were not taught in a particular church or home. When I first began to understand Calvinism I felt that I had been misled growing up. By God’s grace I have dealt with this. I am able to see that God has poured out his mercy and grace on me far before I ever heard anything about Calvinism. Furthermore, as far as being puffed up intellectually a couple of verses that keep me grounded include 1Cor 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” Also, 1Cor 13″Love never fails …where there is knowledge it will pass away.”
    Finally, I want to bask in sheer grace and Christ alone.

  33. Krister S says:

    It’s unfortunate that we’re discussing a canard, i.e., “angry Calvinists.” Angry Christ followers come in all stripes. The common thread among what comes off as anger is this mentality: I know the truth, you all need to have my truth, if you don’t have my truth you are not among the initiated, which is where God wants you to be.”

    I know General Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists and Lutherans who come off as angry because of this mentality.

    Calvinism does not have a corner on the truth, and they are not closer to possessing the proper systematic theology than other people and groups. When we all humbly submit to Christ, and therefore to one another, and honor others’ Bible based systematic theologies, there will no longer be the need to take up one more canard – there will be no longer any “Angry Calvinists.”

  34. Matteo Masiello says:

    What bothers me is that Calvinists need to align themselves with someone like Jean Calvin. Why do we Christians feel the need to label one another and to suggest who is or who isn’t a “real” Christian? Where is that a part of the Good News of Jesus? It seems that any side like to make a list of scripture and whoever has the longest list wins. The Reformers were a product of their time and while they need to be respected for their intellectual efforts, they – and Reformers down through the present – including the present day “angry Calvinists” seem to have at times mistaken the forest from the trees. Calvinists to me seem to finish joy in pointing who they have decided will go to Hell. Show me a truly humble Calvinist who doesn’t want one thing – power – and I will take Calvinism seriously.

  35. I like how one convert put it to the minister who won her to Christ: “Oh! It was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” The minister said, “When she said that, what you had said popped into my mind.” I had told him that I had come to believe that grace was irresistible. I then asked him: “Well, have you changed your mind?” He answered, “No, but I’m thinking about it.” Almost forty years later he finished thinking it through and came to the conclusion that irresistible grace is the truth. What is really funny about the whole issue is that his last name is Spurgeon and, by the time he had changed his mind, a genealogiest told him he was related to the noted C.H.Spurgeon. Also by that time he had visited the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Life is full of laughs and pleasantries provided by God who has a delightful sense of humor in His love and providence.

  36. Wow – very interesting post and comments. I appreciate your humble approach – as Joe said it’s fruitful when you can talk about it within your own tribe. This was fruitful :)!
    Courtney

  37. Brian Wasicki says:

    I think that it’s telling that no one ever cautions folks about evading their responsibility to speak the truth. No one challenges the cowardice of non-confrontation for what it is. With the condition of the church today (in large part due to bad theology) there are too few angry people, not too many.

    Because of the false ideas of “niceness” and political correctness, our speech tends to be very bland – not seasoned with salt, and Christian men more resemble Mr Rogers than Jesus. Again I assert that you can be angry and not be an idiot about it (not be in sin).

    I see no conflict here as I see anger as the other side of love. When a person or thing you love is threatened, you WILL become angry. It’s what you do with the anger that counts, but you can’t simply bypass the anger or stoically pretend that you are not angry.

    The Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of the anger of God; we know little of Him if we know little of anger.

    I’ve been helped by Paul David Tripp on this subject:

    http://www.paultrippministries.com/howtobegoodandangry

    1. SonFollowers says:

      I think Paul would disagree based on the passage below.

      “Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. The Lord’s servants must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone. They must be able to teach effectively and be patient with difficult people. They should gently teach those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25) NLT

      The goal is the Great Commission, right? God doesn’t need us to protect or defend Him. He wants us to reach as many as we can. We’re fishing, after all. I don’t see how our anger is helping us get fish in the boat.

  38. What about Paul and his argument with Barnabas over Mark? No conflict means, in many cases, no life. When the Baptists were noted for their contentiousness back in the 1700s, as one Baptist historian noted, they were helping to launch the freest government on earth, the great missionary movement, uniting Separate and Regular Baptists, using educated and uneducated ministers together in sservice, and working with political statesmen like Washington, Henry, Jefferson, and Madison.

  39. Krister S says:

    The more comments that defend arguing, anger and contentiousness, the more that “Angry Calvinist” label is looking justified. Goodness gracious folks, don’t you see that arguing for a pet systematic theology (Calvin’s) in a manner that implies systematic inerrancy is prideful and inherently divisive? Arguing for this system of thought is not defending the Bible. And it’s not defending the truth against the infidel. It’s arguing with Jesus’ body, our brothers and sisters – this creates division. Enough pride. Enough venom. Bury the hatchet and lay down the idols. May the peace of God be with us all, and may we be as one for the glory of the Father.

    1. Brian Wasicki says:

      I have not seen any comments here that defend continuousness. I have made the argument that anger, in and of itself, is not wrong. It’s an emotion – Jesus experienced it. The Bible and church history are full of examples of anger expressing in a proper way. In fact, you are expressing anger in your reply.

      Also, when you clump together the terms: arguing and contentiousness, you cloud the issue. Argue: To give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one’s view. You are also arguing in your reply.

      All doctrine is divisive. You can’t avoid it. When Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” He divided people. Even though it does divided at times, we can’t ignore 2 Tim 3:16.

      I don’t think that any reasonable person would disagree that name calling, petty bickering, mean-spirited, contentiousness are all wrong, but (with properly defined meanings) arguing and anger are not sins; therefore they shouldn’t be addressed as such.

      In a nutshell, I’m *arguing* that we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. My comments have all been made in an effort to guard against overreaction to all debate and argument because of a few people who act like children. My comments have been more to protect honest and open debate than to protect any system of theology.

      I’m concerned that many Christians think that any and all debate is inherently sinful. Tolerance (in the post-modern sense) has crept into the church and now the only people who aren’t tolerated are the ones who stand for something. . .

  40. John Thomson says:

    ‘There are blogs I simply do not read because it doesn’t benefit me spiritually.’

    I think this is wise. Having said this, against my better judgement, I sometimes drop in on these and engage hoping to introduce Scripture into the discussion and not merely theological abstractions. The trouble is it is easy to get sucked into fighting fire with fire.

    Having said this, I do not blame others for my own tendencies to be guilty as charged. Having said this, I do think we can be a little precious. Firm disagreement and censure is not loveless or graceless and at times necessary.

  41. Theodore A. Jones says:

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13

  42. While the ventilation thing has been overworked by counselors, there is still a modicum of truth in the need for controlled ventilation; it can be cathartic. Some people do not want any expression of anger at all, for fear of it getting out of hand (which does often happen. However, on the other hand, there is an anger that is helpful and healthful. Otherwise, God would not be noted for His wrath.

  43. I’d just like to point out a few comments already made:

    “But, even as I say that, I also advise…get ready to duck for cover [implied: from the angry Calvinists].”

    “Calvinists to me seem to finish joy in pointing who they have decided will go to Hell. Show me a truly humble Calvinist who doesn’t want one thing – power – and I will take Calvinism seriously.”

    “Goodness gracious folks, don’t you see that arguing for a pet systematic theology (Calvin’s) in a manner that implies systematic inerrancy is prideful and inherently divisive?”

    With comments like these, one wonders how a poor Calvinist would get a breath of air in order to not be totally overwhelmed and begin to be angry. I mean, Calvinists are human too. You (non-Calvinists) can’t sit around saying really nasty things (coated in “nice” sounding words, mind you) and expect a sinful human being NOT to react strongly. And then take delight in saying, “Aha! We KNEW you were angry!” I mean, how can anyone not see that?

    Oh and to whoever made that middle comment about us “pointing out who we decided was going to hell.” If you knew even a smidgen about reformed theology you would know that we can’t KNOW who is going to be saved, and we certainly can’t decide. Only God knows that. I would suggest a teeny bit of research before you start, well….getting angry.

    I mean, does anyone else besides me find it just a little bit amusing that this post immediately provoked a series of er, angry non-calvinists to post angry comments about how angry they are because the Calvinists are so…angry? I’m pretty sure it just goes to show that Calvinists have no corner on the “anger” market. I’m pretty sure it’s just a human problem.

  44. Kinda reminds me of the old tricks of the clinical pastoral counselors outfit. I think it was the spring of ’74 I was taking a course in Social Theories in a CPC class at a mental hospital. One of the members of the class flew to Atlanta one weekend for an interview, etc., etc., at the hdqrtrs. They turned him down flat. A fellow student and I burst out laugh, when we heard what happaned. They treated him with contempt, etc., until he blew his stack. It was a hilarious; they baited him until he lost his temper, and that was their aim. They wanted to see if he could exercise enough self-control to handle the frustrations the patients would hand him in counseling situations. There is more, but, if the Calvinists know about being deliberately baited, then they should be able to laugh at their tormentors. And they will as they began to learn about what is going on with their adversaries.

    We are getting ready to have a Third Great Awakening, one that shall win the whole earth and every soul in it, beginning, hopefully with this generation, and continuing for a 1000 generations and involving 20,000 years or longer and also thousands and thousands of planets. All of this so God can crack a joke to make His children laugh (Rev.7:9..a number no one can number ….not even God?).

  45. steve hays says:

    What we usually find, when the critics tip their hand, is a very different underlying objection. Beneath the “angry Calvinist” slur is their real reason: they can’t stand Calvinists because Calvinists are so “cocksure” of their theology, Calvinists think they have a “corner on the truth,” and so on.

    So it’s the old paradox of the relativist who condemns anyone who doesn’t share his relativism.

  46. Brian says:

    Steve,

    You hit the nail so squarely on the head that it would be fitting if your comment would be the finale of this debate.

  47. It WAS! Until you commented @Brian! That makes me SO angry. I’m kidding…I promise. :-) I agree, kudos to Steve.

  48. Ginger says:

    What causes quarrels and what cuases fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1

    I am a sinner. I am often an angry, because I am a sinner, and it comes straight out of my heart. I also happen to be a Christian with reformed views.

    I thought worshipping our God every Lord’s Day, hearing the pure doctrine of the Word of Christ preached, taking of the sacraments, and submitting to the discipline/teaching of my church leadership, along with prayer and fellowship with those that know me best was sufficient.

  49. PLTK says:

    Skimming through this article just tends to confirm for me my stereotype of the proud Calvinist… this is even inherent in Piper’s comment. I can see the intellectual rigor of solid Calvinistic thought in comparison to “pop Christianity” but not in comparison to other solidly developed theological thought. And there is some really good stuff out there! Read it and be challenged and even if you don’t change your beliefs accept the fact that other theological traditions have very solid Biblical support too! A true intellectual can make a choice of which beliefs to hold while not ridiculing others and also be able to acknowledge that other have strong, logical support for their beliefs too. At a certain point Calvinist retreat to “mystery” when the logic fails or leads to uncomfortable conclusions yet they don’t like to allow others to do this (we aren’t intellectual enough, you see!).

    Unfortunately most Calvinists do the comparison to folk Christianity and walk away feeling smug and more intellectual. The Calvinists I have had theological discussions with have generally never read any solid works by non-Calvinists! Yet, they make jokes and sarcastic comments about the intellectual rigor of other strains of Protestantism. (And I am talking of personal experience in West Michigan with a number of examples re both the common prevalence of negative jokes about other non-Calvinists and lack of exposure to any kind of literature from the non-Calvinist viewpoint). These are from people I wouldn’t really call “angry Calvinists” but I would certainly call proud Calvinists.

    1. PLTK, your statements reminded me of a (sad) story that illustrates your point and also shows that the proud Calvinist is neither a new phenomenon, nor does he stand in any kind of minority.

      In a lighter moment of a Ligonier conference about 10 years ago, one of the speakers did an impression of Billy Graham. The mannerisms, vocal inflections, all that stuff, was spot on, and Dr Graham probably would’ve been laughing with the rest of us. Unfortunately, the impression did not end with mannerisms and vocal inflections, but wandered into attributing to Dr Graham a gross exaggeration of some of his (admittedly) Arminian beliefs. Sadly, the laughter that this brought on showed that the majority of the thousands in attendance found this part just as hilarious.

  50. Rob says:

    There is no arguing that Calvin articulated a very strong theological position, much of which I agree with. One thing I always do before I start to trumpet theologians views are do some research on his life. When researching Calvin’s personal life, I’m not sure if he is a guy I would ever hang out. While his writings are somewhat inspiring, I would never tell someone to become more like Calvin like I would the apostle Paul or Jesus. While his theology might be correct, it reminds me of a guy that just solved a theological math problem. Very cold.

    1. Rob says:

      The more I ponder Calvin and his disciples, the more it reminds me of Ayn Rand’s objectivism. It certainly comes across as the theological version of her treatise. While I have nothing but love for how she champions the fruits of capitalism, her philosophy is extraordinarily dogmatic and straight up lacks compassion. Her followers are notoriously arrogant and condescending becuase they think they have the market cornered on the truth. Once a person thinks they know the absolute truth there is no meaningful discussion with them becasue the fruits of the spirit are reduced to a math problem…true or false. This is not to say that absolute truth cannot be known it is just a condescending attitude that pervades with objectivist and Calvinist alike.

      1. David J. Houston says:

        Rob, you hit the nail on the head! Isn’t it absolutely true that anyone who think they have the absolute truth is beyond meaningful discussion!? Case in point: That Jesus guy. So arrogant! He was totally coo coo for cocoa puffs!

        I’m so glad we know that “You will not know the truth for it would make you cooky.” (John 8:32 – paraphrased… or something like that… whatever…)

  51. For 38 years I have been praying for a Third Great Awakening. One thing I know from historical research is that the theology of Sovereign Grace or calvinism as some are wont to call it was the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions. Thus, the increase in the numbers of adherents, the elect, if you please, was bound to occur, if we are to have another such awakening. Wonder what the folks above who have a hard time with that will do, when the Awakening begins and the multitudes turn en masse to abounding, Sovereign, reigning, AMAZING GRACE. Like the lady said, “Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” My, that is remarkable! Think how it would be for the whole world to experience an Awakening that reached every soul on earth, beginning with this generation, and continuing for a 1000 generations (I Chrons.16:15). Remember the stone of Dan.2 becoming a great mountain that fills the whole earth?

  52. Theodore A. Jones says:

    There are two points of little lord Johnny Calvin’s assumption that I agree with. All followers of little lord Johnny Calvin are totaly depraved. And all followers of little lord Johnny Calvin are predestinated by God. But not for what little lord Johnny Calvin teaches they have been elected for. See 1 Pt. 2:8b, disobey the mesage. There is a great awakening for the Calvinist in his future.

    1. Ok, I’m still laughing people, because at this point if I don’t I would cry. Let me paraphrase the previous comments: Lord, I thank you that I am not angry and prideful like these Calvinists….hmmm, reminds me of something else I’ve heard before. I mean, don’t you see all the pride in your own posts? I’m not making sweeping statements and I haven’t seen any other calvinists making sweeping statements on this post, yet somehow this has disintegrated into a lot of sweeping hate filled, angry, prideful comments about Calvinists being…hate filled, angry, and prideful. I’m SO confused.

      @Theodore, ok, so you think you know that Calvinists aren’t going to be saved and we are all totally depraved and predestined for hell. WELL, sir…it sounds like you are doing the VERY thing that you are accusing Calvinists of doing. So, in a way that would be condemning yourself would it not?

      First of all, I believe there are some people who are going to be in hell and I believe God knows who they are. Loud and clear I hope you understand: NO CALVINIST BELIEVES HE (OR SHE) KNOWS WHO THEY ARE!!! We just don’t know. We are JUST as committed as you are in going out and spreading the gospel as far and as fast as we can. And he who HAS ears, let him hear!

      Second, I am assuming you are a follower of Jesus Christ and He has chosen you (a grace you refuse to extend to me) and I think when we come face to face in the kingdom of God (because guess what! I believe Christ has died for you…another grace you won’t extend to me) I think you’ll be mighty sorry for your words. Except of course that there will be no sorrow in heaven so we won’t actually remember this conversation. But I really caution you against using language like that about your brothers and sister in Christ.

      1. Heather, although I don’t agree with Theodore’s comment in spirit or content, I do find it interesting that in your first paragraph you say that you are “not making sweeping statements”, then make one (in all caps, no less) in your third paragraph. Even better, it’s an absolute negative (and therefore, unproveable).

        The statement, however, can be DISproved, as I have heard/read several self-professing Calvinists make definitive (negative) statements about the salvific conditions of others. And not just their current condition (“unless they turn/repent”) but their permanent state.

        I’m happy for you that you apparently have never encountered such skubala. But, it’s out there, in spades.

        1. Brendt,

          You are correct. I should have said neither I, nor the other Calvinists on this post have made sweeping statements to the tune of “All you people are filled with pride.” Or “All you ‘arminianists’ are angry/mean/not going to heaven,” unlike the statements made about us.

          What my “upper caps” statement should have said was Calvinism does NOT teach that you can know who is and who is not saved. John Calvin never endorsed anything like that. So, those people who claim to be Calvinists and think they know about the salvation of others, either are not Calvinists at all or have not studied the beliefs that they profess to hold. Does that help? The reason it was in caps was not really shouting just merely to bring attention. I’m working through Calvin’s seminal work right now (The Institutes of the Christian religion) for my second time, and I feel absolutely safe saying Calvin would never have said such a thing.

          I’m quite glad you don’t agree with Theodore’s comment. As said above I think it’s absurd at best and terrifying at worst to make any form of judgment on the salvation of others. Only God knows our hearts.

          1. Heather, major kudos to you. (serious, not snark)

            Sadly, you are in the *vast* minority when you back off when called out. And I think that the prevailing tendency is a good bit of why “Calvinist” and “proud” get equated by so many. Sometimes I think Fonzie had an easier time saying “I was wr…wr…wr…” than most Calvinists.

            Even rarer, in my experience, is that you publicly acknowledged the common ground we had (re: disagreeing with Theodore). And you’re right — his statements are absurd. But unfortunately I’ve heard them more often from self-professing Calvinists than self-professing Arminians.

            1. Heh…well, I’d like to take the kudos, but it’s been a lifelong journey of the Holy Spirit in me that causes me to be able to show some humility. So, kudos to HIM! :-)

              I think there may be a possibility since (at a guess…correct me if I’m wrong) you are a self-professing Arminian, and thus hear the pride more from Calvinists. Because I, on the other side (like there should be sides, right?) hear quite a bit of pride from Arminians. I do think it sometimes has a lot to do with your own personal experience.

              What I understand John Calvin to be saying in the Institutes is that I was completely and totally estranged from God, but He chose me for some reason totally unknown to me to be His child. If someone (a Calvinist) TRULY believed that, it seems there wouldn’t be room for pride. I mean, you are right, it happens…but I’m usually just as confused as you when it does. I mean, Calvinism teaches that we do absolutely nothing, and God stoops to our level and saves us. I don’t know how you could have any pride at all if you really internalized that statement.

              1. Re: kudos. I heard someone say once, “Give God the glory, and thank you for being obedient.” ;-)

                Re: me. Consider yourself corrected — well, sort of. The large majority of the pride and anger that I have encountered from Calvinists was during a time when I was strongly in the Calvinist camp myself. And 99% of the time that I tried to correct a fellow Calvinist, I got smacked down (sometimes harder than the Arminian s/he was originally attacking). Hence my kudos to you, and hence why I think that Joe Thorn is a bit crazy to “think it would be fruitful for more correction to come from inside our own theological tribe” — that goes over like a pregnant pole-vaulter. And hence why I am bitterly disappointed (and yet not even slightly surprised) that many of the Calvinistic reponses to Justin’s OP are so much about how he couldn’t possibly be right about wanting to self-examine.

                As far as now, to be honest, I’m not really a self-professing anything (at least in the A/C debate). I know that there are well-meaning, humble, and not-cranky Calvinists (like you), but the majority (or at least the loudest and most visible) are just the opposite. It’s been 10 years since I first embraced the doctrines of grace (sic) and I’ve pretty much had my fill. While I lean theologically a lot closer to Calvinism than Arminianism, I’d much rather be called something unrepeatable on television than a Calvinist.

  53. My, My. Theodore has spit in the wind and received the due reward of his deed!

  54. Sheesh Theodore, did a Calvinist regularly beat you up after school or something?
    I agree with the first part of your statement, and I’m a Calvinist. Now, which command given through the apostles do you think I abhor?

  55. @Brendt: Well, I don’t pretend to know you personally, I was just assuming from the comments. Well, I guess I just have trouble seeing things your way because I’ve never come across these unruly, prideful, angry Calvinists. I’ve only always come across it from the other side, when/if I come across it at all. And I have a hard time believing I’m that sheltered/optimistic. I’ve been a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church for…forever, and I’ve just never encountered that. You should come to my church, there are TONS like me. :-) I’m not denying your experience at all, but it’s very odd that I’ve never run across it and you’ve only run across it.

    I guess I just think if you are prideful you should re-examine whether you are a Calvinist or not. I mean, the whole point is that you could do nothing and God graciously saved you. What’s there to be prideful about?

    Well, I mean, my initial reaction to this post was not that we shouldn’t self-examine. We should. My thoughts were “Oh my goodness! Yet another bash the Calvinists” post. I guess since I’ve only had fantastic and loving Calvinists in my life, I have trouble listening to the same thing that is nowhere near what my experience is. And how come we never talk about the Angry Arminians? I’ve run into a LOT of those…I mean, Theodore above is one example. Although, I readily admit that’s not exactly a fair one. :-)

    1. It was a fair assumption. And (as yet another example), the fact that you stated that it was an assumption right off the bat and then didn’t tell me that I was lying when I said otherwise puts you in the minority yet again.

      I kinda have to disagree with you when you say “I guess I just think if you are prideful you should re-examine whether you are a Calvinist or not.” To me, that’s like saying that if you are freezing you should re-examine whether you are in Ecuador or not. ;-)

      I didn’t take your spirit as saying that we shouldn’t self-examine, even in your initial reaction. But, again (said the broken record), you’re in the minority. If I may self-promote a bit, I wrote this — http://csaproductions.com/blog/?p=1257 — about other posts 3 years ago, but it’s just as applicable to this one.

      And I know there are (and have experienced) angry Arminians out there. After the premature death of the Caner/White cagematch, er um, debate, they both acted like two-year-olds.

      1. Re Ecuador: I disagree, and stand by my statement, but that probably won’t come as a surprise. I just don’t see how one could be prideful about being absolutely worth nothing and suddenly made holy by God based on nothing you did. If anyone is prideful about that, I don’t think they understand what Calvinism really teaches.

        Re self-promotion: I’ll give it a read! I am always looking for good blogs to follow. :-)

        Re everything else: There isn’t much to say really. I don’t think I’m in the minority. You do. We’ll have to agree to disagree and extend a cyber-handshake. I think you are an upstanding person to chat with and I hope you feel the same. :-)

        1. Re: Ecaudor. From the statements that follow, I think maybe you *do* agree. Read my statement again — IMHO, if someone is prideful about such things, there is NO WAY that s/he is a Calvinist. All I’m saying is that you were overly-gracious by saying that such a person would need self-examination — that ship already sailed.

          Re: Minority – well, you’re definitely in the vaaaaaaaaaaaaaast minority of my experience. And if you’re truly not in the overall minority, I wish a lot more folks like you would speak up a lot more.

          Re: everything else. Ditto. ;-)

          1. Re Ecuador: To be honest I wasn’t really sure I completely grasped your statement, and thought you meant that Calvinism is to pride, as Ecuador is to heat. But I see I missed your actual point.

            Re Minority: heh…well, I wish you better Calvinists? I hope you have a good day.

            1. No, what I was saying was that

              (true) Calvinism:pride::freezing:Ecuador

              “I wish you better Calvinists” — good thought but it’d be a really clunky lyric. ;-)

  56. Theodore’s problem is like mine was over fifty years ago. I had been introduced to Sovereign Grace in my first year of college and rejected it out of hand. Then in my second year of college (the second of the 10 colleges and universities I would attend in my life) my home church called a pastor who was a supralapsarian, hyper-calvinist, and who would tell you so from the pulpit (the trouble was the fellow had a Ph.D. from Bob Jones University which involved 7 years of Greek, four years of Hebrew, 2 years of Armaic, 2 years of German, 2 years of French, and, I would later fined out, he was one of two Campbells there at the same time with the same first name. The other, the red-head would go on to pastor Riverside in NYC). Being as I was sure such a view was wrong, I decided to set him right. Imagine how chagrined I felt, when he said to me, “I won’t discuss it with you. You do not know enough to even talk about it.” Funny thing is years later (it would take me that long to figure it out as I think too slowly) I came to the conclusion that he was right: I didn’t know enough to talk about it. Eating humble pie is revolting to the taste, but later it becomes sweet to the soul or, rather, it becomes sweetening to the personality. Dr. Campbell was not at all the arrogant person I took him to be. Heather, prejudgment is a very difficult cul-de-sac from which to escape. Having been an atheist, I speak from experience. And you are right, dear Heather, When one is nothing and less than nothing and God saves that nothing and makes him or her something, there is absolutely no grounds for pride in that work of grace. Amazing grace is what John Newton called it. Sovereign grace is a happy term, too. Theodore is as cute in his dogmatism as I was in my atheism or was it acute that I meant to say?

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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