Contend Earnestly: Why People Hate Calvinists

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Why People Hate Calvinists

I'll be upfront, I am a Calvinist. I know that it is sometimes used like a cuss word or could be used like a "yo momma" joke...Yo momma is such a Calvinist, you said you got her tulips and she started quoting Romans 9. Anyways. From what I have found being a Calvinist is that it is sometimes a curse calling myself one because of the baggage that comes along with it. These are also things that I have been guilty of, but figured I would throw these out there to hopefully remind myself and others why people hate us so. And this is a reality that we need to make changes in. These aren't straw man attacks against us, these are real gripes with real ground to stand on. What is funny is that as a Calvinist desiring to discuss theology with other Calvinists I have seen these characterizations happen over and over again personally.

That's Not Exegesis, That's Eisegesis!

What I have found with us Calvinists is that we like to think that we have the corner on exegesis. Almost like we invented biblical interpretation. We can argue with the best of them on Greek syntax and verb forms but if you for some reason don't get it after all that explanation, we will simply go to our "go to guy"...the good ole Mr. Eisegesis. If after everything we have explained to you and you still don't get it and you try and explain your case, if we don't like it, out comes the claim that you are not exegeting Scripture, you are eisegeting Scripture. We are the ones who always allow Scripture to speak for itself, not you. You simply are allowing reason and your tradition overwhelm your thoughts on Scripture instead of allowing it to speak for itself.

I have heard this claim no matter the argument and no matter the competing views. So reason number one for people hating Calvinists is the simple claim of us having the corner of exegesis. You don't agree with our should stop with your stupid eisegesis.

"I Don't Know" Isn't In Our Vocabulary

Whether we like it or not Arminians have some very good thoughts on Scripture and bring up some great arguments. What happens when they bring up these arguments and won't leave us alone after we tell them that they are the kings of eisegesis? We would never simply tell them, "I don't know," but we pull out the balance beam and parallel bars and start our gymnastic routines with the Bible.

We make the most absurd observations on Scripture, whether it is trying to show why "all" doesn't mean "all" or why "world" doesn't mean "world." It becomes something like out of the Bible code handbook. You first have to put on Calvin's goggles then you can see the clarity of the golden plates. There are some hard parts of Scripture that just aren't clear on how they fit into the theological beliefs of Calvinism.

We have to realize that it isn't wrong to simply say, "I don't know", when something doesn't seemingly fit into our theological system. Although I don't agree with Spurgeon on his thoughts of the atonement, he at least said that he didn't understand how the common call and desire of God for the reprobate to be saved worked if Jesus only died for the elect. He admitted that it was a tough issue that he could not reconcile. He simply said, "I don't know". It would seem that Deuteronomy 29:29 gives us this precedence to do so:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

Some things we just don't know, some things we need to say, "I don't know" to. We are human, this is okay. We should stick to those theological understandings that God has given us understanding with and be willing to be transparent with the others. God's glory isn't taken away when we don't know how things all fit, God's glory is shown off though when we decide to admit our finite humanness to our brothers in Christ.

Calvinism Should Drive Us to Humility, Too Bad We Instead Drive Over People With It

The theological conviction of Calvinism should put us in a very humble position. If we understand that we utterly sinful, totally depraved, not good, with no capacity to turn to Jesus unless the Spirit opens our eyes and draw us, then we should see that Christ is most exclaimed and glorified and we are left with no boasting on our part. Instead of humility, what I have seen most clearly is that our pride is built because we have the theological corner of the market. We enter debates with our heads held high and scoff at those who disagree with us. I understand that people might make ad hominem and straw men arguments against us, but I wonder what would happen if we actually responded with humility instead of attacking them like they just landed on the beaches at Normandy.

I think we would get a lot further in discussions on theology with our brothers in Christ if we came at them with humility and actually listened to what they had to say. Some that I have seen scoff and are very rude to those who have differing opinions and outlooks on Scripture. We like to say that we are merely the messenger, but sometimes we act as though we are the message and giver of wisdom. We like to tell others that they can't do anything apart from Christ, that they do no good, that they do nothing that would make God choose them...then we seemingly forget that these same things apply to us.

Forgetting humility should disqualify us from Calvinism. We should have to turn our Calvinist card into CJ Mahaney and have to attend a Free Will Baptist church for a year. If we believe in Soli Deo Gloria, then we need to start living it instead of living like we believe in Soli Me Gloria.

These are three quick reminders to myself and hopefully some other Calvinists to get back to a theological system that should honestly drive us into believing God's sovereignty, His greatness and our humility. May we love those brothers and sisters in Christ who don't believe exactly as we do and realize that, although we think we know everything, we truly don't.

When you have to do gymnastics for Scripture, continually tell others that they are eisegeting texts while you are showing perfection and show off your humility with pride, you are practically showing that you don't believe that God is to be praised or that God is in control. But, you are practically showing that you are to be praised and that your arguments are what is going to win people to Jesus or to a theological system. Sad really.

May we live like God would desire for us to live and may we speak to others of the faith as God would desire us to.


Mr. Whirley said...

good post...i know a lot of arrogant calvinists and a lot of rabid arminians...the older i get the more i am likely to say "i don't know" and i'm good with that. we should rest and rejoice in our salvation [amazed that God should save any of us] and carry the gospel to all peoples.

Unknown said...

You know what I am a minister of the Gospel, and as I witness and share Christ with the lost, they never really ask about Calvin (or hobbs). They tend to be more interested in Christ and their needs being met. Why don't we let dead theologians die? The only people in this debate are Christians, so don't generalize with saying people hate Christians, rather call it "A small portion of mainly Baptist and other conservatives who think doctrinal stances are more important than the Gospel message Hate Calivinists."

Becky said...

This reminds me of the time I called one of my best friends ignorant because he was an arminian. Not the best way to convince someone of your beliefs. Although it was a perfect demonstration of total depravity.

Anonymous said...

Boy did you trigger some thoughts for a brief blog post on my own site.

BTW - I am a badge wearing Calvin cadet.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Anonymous said...

I really, really appreciate your honesty here—very refreshing!

Having studied Calvinism for the past 10+ years, grown up with in CJ Mahaney's church, and since come to disagree with some of the foundational tenets of Calvinism (through careful thought and biblical study), it is interesting to gauge the reaction from people when I tell them I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian... "are you still a Christian?" As if there is only two perspectives on the Christian religion. Still much to appreciate from teaching in both of these camps. And if there is a "correct way" to do Calvinism it's within the model that CJ Mahaney has built!

Thanks again for your intellectual honesty! I would only say, I do not hate any Calvinist—simply disagreement—no hatin' here.

Steve said...


I don't understand how you can say that if there is a correct model, Mahaney's model is it.

The group he leads was not originally Calvinistic. C.J. Mahaney in a stealthy manner crafted a plan to move the group towards Calvinism. One church and one of the founders of the group mention the group (and thus Mahaney's) move toward Calvinism as why they left the group.

It was sad that they couldn't have been more honest about their move to this type of doctrine.

Tony Byrne said...

One of the other reasons why some people may be bothered by Calvinists is due to abusive labeling, that often begs the question. There's nothing wrong with labeling a belief system, or someone who holds a particular concept, but we must do so accurately and with a view to being fair to the person's own claims.

It's common for people to hiss their hatred when labeling others, so some are not merely interested in being objective historically. People can do this even when saying our own first names [Seth can become Sssseth! lol], or just rudely using our last names as a slur in a smear campaign.

Some Calvinists are more like Pharisees than they realize. They seek to marginalize other Christians, to engage in information control, to abusively label others, to condemn them as outsiders, etc. It's cult-like behaviour when you think about it. They may have become like the thing they hate in their effort to expose and refute cults, with all their "discernment."

Anonymous said...


Well, I don't fully know both sides of the story, in terms of how the transition occurred. I do know some of the story and looking back I do have questions about it.

I would simply make a distinction between the transition and the current theology/church methodology. For there is much good (along with the bad) that goes on within Sovereign Grace: members seem to have a thriving relationship with God.

On the flip side I still don't like Calvinism and the theology. Especially after being subjected to it at CLC for the last 10+ years of my life.

But if as you say Larry and another church left because of the group's move toward Calvinism they must have seen it coming in someway. Therefore it could not have been completely stealthy.

I might attribute what you are describing to, what seems like to me, a manipulative use of the doctrine of "total depravity"; used on behalf of some within SGM leadership. I have observed when one disagrees with the theology there is a propensity to seek and discover the "sin" that is 'causing' one's questioning and disagreement. One, in such a place of disagreement, will likely hear "the heart is deceitful above all things," and other such platitudes and questions of motive from those in leadership, in an effort to discover the sin that must be in this person's disagreement with said leadership. There is little room for intellectual disagreement with staunch Calvinists: it must be sin you are not seeing.

I don't like that at all. However, I don't hate those who hold these theological beliefs. There are a lot of people I have a deep affection for within SGM. And for the most part I think their motives are good: they really do believe that they are seeking God's glory.

Does that make more sense?

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