Monday, June 13, 2005

Calvinism and the Internet Beat Down

Calvinism is taking an internet-style beating. I was introduced to this phenomenon when I read Phil Johnson's post titled "Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism". The subtitle is "Bashing Calvinism is the latest fad in blogdom. My turn." While Johnson doesn't bash (or abandon) Calvinism itself, he does point out a few erstwhile Calvinists who have (he seems to think Michael Spencer has, but Spencer says that's not really the case in his "Calvinism Q & A").

Why have so many people been abandoning Calvinism? Before answering that I want to give a short history of my experience with these doctrines. I grew up with a kind of "Calminian" theology. The Baptist Church I attended for most of my life didn't speak a great deal on this topic directly, though the pastor (who was also my grandfather) had dealings with hyper-calvinists in his youth. He has explained to me that there were people in the church he attended who would not associate with non-Christians because those who weren't of the elect were "beneath them." That, among other considerations, lead him to reject Calvinism, even though he was being groomed to take over his hyper-calvinist uncle's spot as pastor. His formerly close relationship with his uncle was badly strained, and I don't think it ever recovered.

Back to the topic at hand. I had no particular view of soteriology other than the fact that we are saved by grace through faith. That is to say, I knew what the verses says, but I had not attempted to look into the various systematized views. While attending college I made friends with a couple of Calvinists who were involved in student leadership of Campus Crusade for Christ at Marshall University (weird, eh?). Through various conversations, Bible studies and books I became convinced that Calvinism was true.

I was a happy Calvinist until I began to dabble a little bit more in philosophy and apologetics. It was then that I came across thinkers like William Lane Craig and made a Molinist friend two. I put Calvinism on the shelf and began looking into Molinism as an option that allowed a more natural interpretation of passages on both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. I liked Molinism and decided that if I thought the two kinds of passages were equally balanced I would go that route, which I pretty much did. I definitely considered myself to be a Molinist, though I would always give the caveat that I needed to do more research.

A couple of years passed before I really started looking into Calvinism again. As I searched the scripture I became more and more convinced that it was not "a tie" as I had once supposed. The language of sovereignty in Scripture convinced me of the truth of the doctrines of grace all over again.

Let's finally get to the point of this story, shall we? I believe Calvinism is true because of the Bible. I don't believe it because I like John Piper, Mark Dever, or Calvin himself. I sure don't believe it because some anonymous blogger or message board denizen does. So, if one or all of these fallible men (or women) turn out to be vitriolic jerks, what reason do I then have to reject Calvinism? In fact, none.

If your Calvinist hero disappoints you, causing you to abandon the doctrine, why did you believe in the first place? We should all check our motivations. We are not primarily loyal to men, but to God and His truth as it expressed in the Bible. Men are not perfect. I love Mark Dever's preaching, but I will be no less committed to the doctrines we agree on if he stumbles in sin or is cruel to people.

If, after becoming a Calvinist, you are suddenly less charitable and less interested in evangelism, who is to blame? Certainly not Calvinism. In fact, the fault is on us as individuals if we allow any doctrine to distract us from tasks we are to undertake as Christians. What is important is if the Bible tells us that Calvinism is true. If it is, then no personal disappointment, no loss of evangelistic zeal, that can justify rejecting it. If it is not, then there is no sense of awe or experience of humility at the feet of God that can justify accepting. Such feelings would be false and therefore not of the true God.

There is only one real way to accept or reject Calvinism, brothers and sisters. I beg you, search the Scriptures and be convinced accordingly.

No comments: