Hungry For God’s Word Or “Divisive”?

 calvinism

I am a contender of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). I wasn’t always able to say that, particularly when I aligned myself with false doctrines that presented a skewed view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In 18 months, I have evolved from many things: being a subservient “yes man” in a mega-ministry, being a dutiful “son” who loved his “spiritual daddy” more than he loved God, being an ignorant Christian who consulted the Word of God only after consulting with the “mand of gawd”.

In that time, the Lord has allowed me to create this blog to not only expose false teachers and false doctrine, but to present His Gospel – unmolested, unvarnished, and true to it’s historical roots.

I have evolved into a Monergist.

I don’t really like the name “Calvinist”. I have nothing against Calvinists (some of my closest friends identify themselves as such). I just believe that the term is too misleading overall, as evidenced by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon’s defense of Calvinism:

“Why I Am A Calvinist”

[...] It is unfortunate for Calvinism that it is called Calvinism. Charles Spurgeon rightly stated that “Calvinism is nothing more than a nickname for Biblical Christianity.” He was right. The name is often a warrant for despisement though. People say because we follow a man named Calvin, we are not following God. Does not Paul say in 1 Cor. 1:12, “Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or I am of Christ.” is Christ divided?” Paul is right. We are not to follow after men. We are to follow after God for sectarianism is a sin rebuked by the 1st chapter of 1 Corinthians. But do Calvinists really follow Calvin? No. It is actually wrong to call Calvinists “Calvinist” because they are doing nothing other than using the same body of doctrine that Calvin used, who in turn copied Augustine, who in turn copied the church fathers and they, who in turn, followed Christ and the Apostles.  

I appreciate and embrace John Calvin’s tireless exploration of church doctrine (Total Depravitiy, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) as well as Martin Luther’s courageous break from the “universal” (i.e. catholic) church in 1517, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Apparently, many others have also embraced historical biblical Christianity. According to a recent article in Time magazine, Calvinism/Monergism is “making a comeback”:

“The New Calvinism”

[...] Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin’s 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism’s buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

Calvinism, cousin to the Reformation’s other pillar, Lutheranism, is a bit less dour than its critics claim: it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don’t have to second-guess

[...] Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don’t operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today,“everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world” — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention.

[...] “A lot of young people grew up in a culture of brokenness, divorce, drugs or sexual temptation,” says Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists.“They have plenty of friends: what they need is a God.” Mohler says, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.” Of course, that presumption of inevitability has drawn accusations of arrogance and divisiveness since Calvin’s time. 

I also found an article on John Piper’s “Desiring God” blog (published in 2007) that also dealt with the accusation of arrogance in Calvinist circles:

“Be A Kinder Calvinist”

[...] There is a letter on Scot McKnight’s blog from a pastor who is very frustrated with certain Calvinists in his church. It would be easy enough to disregard it, pointing out that not all Calvinists are like that or that his use of the word “hyper-Calvinist” doesn’t match correct theological jargon. But that would be missing the point. And, ironically, that reaction would only lend credence to the frustration that motivated the letter in the first place.

[...] Calvinists come across as self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, argumentative, and even stingy. The fact that we’re not all that way is irrelevant in the same way that it didn’t matter to Molly that I had done three things to show I appreciate her—she still felt unappreciated. Her frustration was true because, whether or not I was grateful to my wife, I was perceived as an ingrate. Similarly, the frustration in the letter is true because, whether or not the Calvinists in the letter-writer’s church are good folks, they come off as proud and divisive jerks. Those Calvinists, as church members, and I, as a husband, should change based on this information, regardless of how “inaccurately” the frustration may be worded.

[...] It won’t be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to Calvinism, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative.

I’m sure that many of you who absolutely abhor me and this blog will contend that I have come across as arrogant, condescending, argumentative, and more that can’t be shared in a “family-friendly zone”.

Those of you who would defend me, save your breath – I agree with the detractors on this one…sort of.

While I strive to be balanced, fair-minded, objective – I can get pretty snarky, sarcastic, and downright mean to those who taunt me. Sometimes the pain of my former allegiance to false gospels is mixed in with my love for God’s true Word, and I take the bait and “give it” as good as I “got it”.

I’ll do my part – I’ll try earnestly to defend the Word of God without being arrogant and condescending, particularly because it is only by God’s grace that I am no longer chasing false gospels and false teachers. I know where I came from, and it is my humble prayer that many more join me on the “outside” of what I consider “the cult”.

That said – can you passionately pursue the truth of the Word of God without being labeled “divisive”? Apart from semantics and an occasional flare up, is the “divisive” label liberally applied to any believer who dares offend the delicate sensibilities of others - particularly sinners – by stating what God said from His Word? 

I’m curious to read your thoughts on the matter…

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12 Responses to “Hungry For God’s Word Or “Divisive”?”


  1. 1 Keanan Brand April 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I was raised in a strict Pentecostal denomination, to which I haven’t belonged since my family left it when I was about 13. Only when I went to Bible college did I learn that some of their doctrine is actually considered heretical; it was a relief to learn I wasn’t wrong about some of the doctrine that didn’t quite match what I was reading in the Bible.

    Below is a March entry on my blog (and it’s long!) that I think addresses your questions, at least in part:

    Taking a short hiatus from fiction, I’ve been reading excerpts from Joe Stowell’s book, Eternity: Reclaiming A Passion For What Endures, and I’ll probably go ahead and buy it, because the pieces I’ve read so far are challenging and solid.

    He contrasts seven virtues with seven common values that compete with them: truth v. tolerance, grace v. greed, love v. self-centeredness, servanthood v. significance, self-control v. sensualism, justice v. oppression, humility v. haughtiness. A serious list; I’ve only read portions of the first two contrasts, and I’ve already been challenged.

    Of tolerance, he writes,

    Since society has no moral authority that dictates the absolutes to which it should strive, everything is legitimate as long as it doesn’t harm or hinder another person.

    And, I would add, as long as it isn’t Christian or doesn’t invoke the name of God.

    Stowell also writes,

    “Truth by its very nature is intolerant. If there is truth, then there is error. If there is right, then there is wrong. A … person who is committed to truth will always tolerate those who are in error, but will never tolerate the error itself.”

    And

    “God is true. All he says and does is true. You can count
    on that. He is true to Himself, His Word, His people, His promises, and the entirety of His character. In His rule there is no error, no hypocrisy, no unfaithfulness, no injustice, no deceit.”

    What is perceived as unfaithfulness on the part of God is really the immaturity and limited vision of humans: “If He’s such a good God, why does He allow (fill in whatever tragedy or crime you wish),” or “If He’s so powerful, why doesn’t He stop (again, fill in the blank)?” There is the classic response that He has given free will — humanity can choose to do good or evil — but why, because God doesn’t do as we desire or expect, do we assume He’s unable or unfaithful? It’s as if we expect Him to answer to us, rather than the other way around. We’re arrogant.

    A good parent will not feed his diabetic child all the candy the child wishes, no matter how frequent or loud the child’s tantrums. The parent knows the sugar overload would kill the child. A good parent will impose boundaries, because a child then knows what to expect, he knows how far he can go, just a child in a fenced yard can play freely, knowing he is protected. A good parent will discipline and will not always save a child from the consequences of his actions, because pain teaches.

    Much as I’m ashamed to confess it, there was a time I told my parents I hated them. I didn’t want to admit my wrong or to submit to their authority, and I thought that I’d be free if they weren’t always imposing their will or their rules. Only when I understood that submission is freedom did I appreciate their discipline — and then I could understand that God’s rules aren’t meant to imprison but to set us free from the chaos and bondage we invite into our lives in pursuit of what we think is freedom.

  2. 2 mercedes April 30, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I truly agree with your whole post IST. I too have been accused as “holy art thou” type by my sister. Someone close to use have contracted HIV. I was devastated but I told her that we should be pray. I also pointed out that “the wages of sin is death.” She keep yelling at me saying that I was judgemental and harsh and that she just called me to pray and all that and hunged up on me. I understand that I need to be understanding and more compassionate but I believe my sister does not like anybody pointing out error because she believes it does no good which I can understand. No likes to be told what they should have done after the face. She is also a type that uses the quote “judge not unleast ye want to be judged”. But the bible does call for righteous judgement. I don’t know if I did it at the appropriate time but why does it seem that I’m attacked for pointing out the obvious? I’m in error? I know that I should be more compassionate and pray about it. I don’t know lol. Your advice is appreciated.

    • 3 speaking truth April 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm

      On the whole, mercedes, when people seek prayer they are already feeling guilty or vunerable about the act that drives them to prayer in the first place. If someone asks me for prayer, I just pray and ask questions later. My flesh wants to start lecturing on how they got in trouble in the first place, but we are supposed to call on the Father for His guidance in all things.

      If we are called to help someone who is dangling on the edge of a cliff, we should pull them up first, not ask how they got there in the first place. If I were you, I would call my sister and apologize for lecturing at that moment, and then just pray for your friend.

  3. 4 mercedes April 30, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you IST. I have done so.

  4. 5 Michael Pharr April 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Great post IST. Last week I was going back and forth over email w/a good friend of mine and we were talking about sharing the Gospel with others. And I had to share that sometimes I personally struggle telling people the judgment of God w/o Christ and not also sharing how living for Christ can turn your life around. I guess I’m trying so hard to present the Gospel message in a correct light that sometimes I come off as hard and unfeeling. I began to realize that before sharing the Gospel, I should pray that the Holy Spirit helps me to say what is needed.

  5. 6 Pastor Jim April 30, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    This whole ‘C-ism’ thing bugs me too. I just tell people I’m very biblical. Most folks who know what word will figure it out.

    When my then 10th grade son came home from school one day and told that in a guys Bible study the subject of Cism had come up. He asked me, ‘Dad, are you a Calvinist?’

    I answered him, ‘It depends on whose asking and why.’ And thought, ‘Hey, he figured it out!’

    Are titles important in blogging? or in writing? I see where it makes for some shorthand, but until posting here, I had done almost all my ministry face to face. I am still hesitant to label much.

    Anyway, ST I think you are on the right path to growth. Your tone has mellowed a bit over the year of posts I’ve read, but the truth is still coming out strong. Might even say winsome.

    The coolest thing is that you have been there, remember what it’s like and are evangelizing. That is the best.

  6. 7 gcmwatch May 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I think evangelism, compassionate support, standing firm against error in fellow believers and contending for the faith against false prophets call for different demeanors and different language, yet all motivated by love. We shouldnt lump all into one and shouldnt feel guilty for having to tell someone the truth (whether its sharp rebuke or compassionate correction) when appropriate regardless of their response. We can easily fall into a fear of offending and then hinder God’s work.

    Thats my thoughts and how I try my best to handle what comes at me.

    • 8 N'Catina May 2, 2009 at 11:54 am

      YOu’re right; it’s a matter of tailoring the correction to the audience. In scripture, we see many examples of “progressive correction” used when sin is not corrected right away or is otherwise resistant to change.

  7. 9 DoubleGrace May 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I think a kind but truthful response is best when dealing with people. Sometimes, however, the Wolves need a sharper rebuke, still spoken with love and concern for their souls, as well as those whom they are leading astray. If they won’t listen to a rebuke, the word says mark them(Name names and warn others)and avoid them.

    When I was into false doctrine and manifestations, one of my sisters(literally) was very mean to me all the time.(She is a pastor’s wife) She never took me aside and talked to me about what she disagreed with. Finally, I took her aside and asked her why she was being so mean to me. She was holding a grudge that I had left her church and joined another(one that now I know was totally off and whacky). She said that I was “so spiritual, I made her sick.” That was years before the Lord finally opened my eyes to my error. But her words wounded me to the bone and she never explained what doctrines she thought I believed that were so wrong. Just that I made her sick. What I learned from that experience, now that I’m on the other side of deception, is what NOT to say or convey to those who are in deception. Most don’t KNOW they are deceived. Who would say, I’m deceived and I love it and am going to stay deceived? There are those wolves, though, at the ‘top’ who, I believe, maybe, at some point realize they are deceived and deceiving, but their pride won’t let back down. Lots of prayer is needed in either case, and speaking the truth in love.

  8. 10 Alan Higgins May 3, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Christians should be united and promote unity but NEVER at the expense of truth

  9. 11 truthofgod May 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    The scriptures is the only way to learn that perfect balance in how we interact with our fellow man.

    Titus 3:1-9

    “1Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

    2To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

    3For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

    4But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

    5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

    6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

    7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

    9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

  10. 12 Scott Lorenz July 21, 2009 at 7:29 am

    I read Koine Greek and particularly Biblical Hebrew, I’m also in the process of having decent ecclesiastical/scholastic Latin and can read snippets of Calvin in his original Latin. I love the Biblical witness to the truth of God as revealed in Christ. Tracing Christian theology from the Bible through the earliest non-canonical theologian Irenaeus through Athanasius, Clement, Augustine,Chrysostom, the Cappadocians through to Symeon the New Theologian (Calvin read these Fathers and theologians too but very selectively) I find such a beautiful epistemology an understanding of coming to God through the Spirit (John 14:26), love (1 John 4:7) and purity of heart (Matt 5:8) and the Biblical witness of Holy Scripture is held in such reverence and applied so beautifully (though when Irenaeus wrote there was no New Testament canon proper). When however I come to Calvin’s Institutes everything is horribly skewed, the Scriptures are read terribly selectively and Calvin’s genius (a genius he admittedly was) has created a circular systematic theology which justifies his own (new) interpretations as inspired by directly God and as authoritative as if Jesus had uttered Calvin’s theology Himself.

    It’s sad to see some of the hateful things Christians are capable of and Calvin’s theology offers many convincing arguments for self-righteously defending such hate which seems so very far from the saving love as revealed in Christ and witnessed to by the Scritpures.

    It breaks my heart.

    God have mercy on us all.

    Peace


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