While my focus is primarily upon the issue of Roman Catholic inclusivism for the debate tomorrow night, I couldn’t help but run into an e-mail written to the Internet Monk regarding his former view that “Calvinism is Cool,” asserting just the opposite. It was referred to under the incredible title, “Finally Some Honesty about Calvinist Baptists” from a former “Calvinist Baptist” himself, a man busily doing everything in his power to justify his continued love affair with the Tiber River. In any case, the IM posted the e-mail even though he surely doesn’t continue to even identify himself as a Calvinist. As I read the e-mail, written by someone only identified as “Charles,” I tried my best to “hear” it, despite where it was posted, by whom, and how it was lauded by the former Calvinist Baptist. But I could not get past the constant accusations of dishonesty and conspiracy on the part of all “Calvinists.” And, since my name somehow managed to appear in it (without any documentation of the associated accusations, of course), I thought I’d comment on a few items raised by “Charles.”
First, the e-mail is a study in self-contradiction and double-standards. Any Reformed emphasis is an emphasis upon men (Calvin, Luther) and not upon Christ; but, rebuttals of Reformed views are simply “biblical” (not focused upon Wesley or Arminius). I cannot even recognize the activities of these alleged Calvinists who claim to be “better” than everyone else. I just preached in Massachusetts about how Reformed theology cuts out any ground for saying we are “better” than anyone else—that in fact, it is non-Reformed theology that is forced to that conclusion as a basis for answering why we have believed and others have not, in fact. That it is non-Reformed theology that makes God a respecter of persons. But anyway, to the section where I am referenced.
Recent Calvinists have made their own mean-spirited remarks about Non-Calvinists. Michael Horton, James White, George Ella, and Matthew McMahon come easily to mind. Nobody likes being called a heretic, Pelagian, or Semi-Pelagian. Words come just as cheaply from the Calvinist side, and so do the labels [often mislabels of one’s theology, whether you like it or not]. And if you call someone a heretic [preaching heresy] aren’t you supposed to stone him, burn him at a stake, or disassociate with him?
Don’t bother looking for documentation, none is offered. But, I have indeed used the terms Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian in particular contexts. If, in fact, the synergism of a particular non-Reformed writer or speaker qualifies under either phrase, what is “mean-spirited” about using a perfectly truthful and accurate term to describe their view? I believe full-blown, consistent Arminianism has no stopping point before hitting the “heresy” line, but I also know very few full-blown, consistent Arminians, which explains the paucity of the use of that term in this context in my writings. You would think with at least four books available on the subject that it would be fairly easy to document this “mean spiritedness” on my part, but that wasn’t Charles’ point anyway. He was just venting his spleen, so to speak, about all the mean spirited Calvinism out there—he just chose to do so using the very same mean-spirited attitudes he projects onto others, many of whom I know, and am persuaded do not, in fact, act as he alleges.
I’ve already spoken to a number of people who have been influenced by Piper or other modern Calvinistic authors. They claim to be Calvinists. You can almost hear them thinking, “Hey, if smart people like Piper are Calvinists, I don’t want to be in the ‘dumb camp’ do I?” But when pressed, I find their convictions and knowledge rest on the shoulders of others; hence, a nasty defensive argument typically ensues.
You know what, there he has a point, but it isn’t a point he is original in making. Phil Johnson touched upon the same phenomenon on his blog a few days ago. And you know what? Watching those who were “once” Reformed running off, skipping along hand-in-hand with every form of false doctrine and modern “ism,” is indeed troubling, but it should not be surprising. Calvinism attracts that kind of person, however, it provides no basis for them to remain balanced, church-centered, consistent Calvinists. “Fake” Calvinists will eventually wander off the plantation in some fashion once the “newness” wears off. Might take a while, but it eventually happens. Discontentment with truth means there was never any deep-seated commitment to it in the first place. It is a spiritual thing.
More than one Calvinist on the Internet has had the audacity to say that CALVINISM IS THE GOSPEL! Hogwash. Calvinism never was and never will be the Gospel! Calvinism is NOT God-breathed writing. Nevertheless, Calvinists give the likes of Calvin, Owens, Flavel, Edwards, and others a credence that gives Catholic extra-biblical writings a run for their money. Fortunately, God has made it clear that it is all about Jesus in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 and 2 Tim 2:8. Paul declares that the TRUE GOSPEL is the death [for our sins], burial and resurrection of Jesus. And when Paul is giving important pastoral info to young Timothy about the gospel, he did not go into a five-point discourse about Calvinism. Instead, Paul said in (2 Timothy 2:8 NIV), “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,”
This kind of response is hardly helpful, and if it truly represents Charles’ understanding, then we can understand the problem. Since Charles assumes Calvinism is a system unto itself, separate from the Scriptures, separate from the gospel, we can understand his concern. But when someone like Spurgeon would remark that Calvinism is the gospel, he was not operating on Charles’ basis. I do not have the slightest problem saying “Calvinism is the gospel,” because what I mean by that is plain: I am talking about presenting the most pan-canonical, fully biblical, exegetically sound, consistent, sola scriptura/tota scriptura, “it preaches all fifty-two weeks a year because it isn’t just the Four Spiritual Laws microwaved and re-served and it doesn’t have to have five points and it just flows from the text when you preach the whole counsel of God” message of God’s self-glorification in the work of the Son and the accomplishment of the Spirit gospel. Stick a bunch of man’s sovereignty and God’s inability in there, and you mess it all up. That is what I am talking about, and I would simply say to Charles, if you don’t think what you are presenting is “the gospel” (and please, be consistent enough to admit your presentation can be identified with a particular title or name, too), then you shouldn’t be presenting it! Of course I believe “Calvinism” is the gospel—if I didn’t, I would not be preaching it!
Well, enough of that for now. I am still shaking my head that the former “Calvinist Baptist” could ever think this e-mail was even semi-accurate and relevant, but then again, when you are busily doing all you can to justify your continued defection from what you once said was true, this kind of thing is sadly common.