I’ll be honest, I have a problem with Calvinists. Agreed, this is something that I should be working on in my heart, but I do also believe that some of my frustrations are derived from some legitimate concerns that I have. I am frustrated with the “culture” of reformed believers. I am frustrated and concerned with what reformed theology has cultivated in my brothers and sisters in Christ. Now before we move on here please allow me to get something straight. Theologically, I would fall within the realm of what most would categorize as “reformed.” I believe in the Doctrines of Grace and the 5 Solas of the Reformation. I believe God is totally sovereign in His choosing of those that receive the gift of salvation. I believe that Christ’s work on the cross is limited toward those that are of God’s choosing. I confess that salvation cannot be lost, nor can it be thwarted or denied. Those that God chooses for salvation will be saved. I believe all this. So I believe, with humility, that I have a correct understanding of what it means to be “reformed.” With all this information as a presupposition, I say that I have some problems with my fellow reformed brethren. It is my hope that if you are reading this and consider yourself to be reformed, or if you are reading this and have no clue what being reformed is, that either way you will be encouraged to be more like Christ and be conformed more to His image. I also want to make it clear that I include myself in these critiques. I do not believe I am above these accusations. I of all people struggle with everything (and more) on this list. As one who struggles with pride, this is my plea for change in these areas. Let’s get into it.
We Can Be Jerks
Why don’t we just start off with an easy one here? One of the main accusations that comes against reformed Christians is that they are arrogant jerks. I can say from my own experience that this is sadly an accurate summation. For some reason, reformed Christians struggle with pride more than most. It is my personal belief that the reason for this is simply that knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8). It is a rare thing to find a Christian who is not puffed up from the study and pursuit of deep theology. We have a feeling of superiority because of the knowledge that we have. This is ironic. With what we believe about the human condition and our level of depravity, it is ironic that we would take pride in that knowledge. “I was totally depraved, and proud of it.” That makes no sense, but it is in fact what we are saying when we allow the knowledge of Scripture (that we had no part in understanding, by the way) to cause us to become prideful. We forget our theology. We forget what our theology says about who we are. That is nothing to be prideful about.
We Are Of Calvin
Another frustration I have is the infatuation reformed believers have with all the dead guys. Now let me be clear, I like all the dead guys. I am extremely thankful for the brave men and women that the Lord used to advance His reformation. However, I have an issue with defining myself with a name other than Christ. I believe that those that refer to themselves as “Calvinists” are doing something that Calvin himself would harshly urge them not to do. If Calvin were alive today, I believe he would be furious to know that his name was being used to describe truths that are given in Scripture. Charles Spurgeon said it this way: “Calvinism did not spring from Calvin. We believe that it sprang from the great Founder of all truth.” As usual, Spurgeon is correct. There is nothing special about Calvin. He simply reiterated the truths that were in Scripture the entire time. He would not have wanted his name attached to them. He would have scolded us for being so irreverent with Scripture. When we claim the term “Calvinist” I believe we are doing a disservice to Calvin and the truth that he was proclaiming. We must be careful not to pledge allegiance or claim to be followers of men. 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 says, “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” Calvin was of Christ and pledged his allegiance to Christ. We as Christians (little Christs) should do the same. I truly believe that we must do away with the term “Calvinism” because we are unthinkingly defining truths in Scripture by the name of a man. This, I believe, is dishonoring to the true Author of those truths. It is also my belief that if he were alive today, John Calvin would heartily agree with me.
We Have Taken The “Theo” Out Of Theology
1 Corinthians 13:2 says “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” It pains me to confess that a few years ago, I was the physical embodiment of this warning from the Apostle Paul. I had the knowledge and I understood the deeper aspects of theology and could interpret Scripture in light of that theology, but I did not understand what it meant to be a loving and gracious person. I did not understand what it meant to apply that theology to my own life. I did not understand how to be both a Calvinist and a Christian. In my mind I saw them as being synonymous. Just two different terms for the same thing. What I did not realize that I was actually elevating theology over Christ. This is a very deadly and dangerous way to live. I truly believe that it is possible to make the study of Christ more important than Christ himself. I can elevate the theology that I learn from Scripture over following Scripture itself. I can elevate studying about God over God himself. It would be the same as me putting all my effort into learning how marriage works, but in the process forgetting that I am married to my wife. It would be like spending all my time trying to understand how the female mind works, when in reality I am neglecting my husbandly role and leaving my wife behind me to fend for herself. I make the study of marriage more important than actually being married. This is exactly what I did with God. I made the “ology” more important than the “theo”. I made the study of God more important than God Himself.
Now theology and the study of it is very important to be sure. Theology is how we come to a deeper understanding of who God is and who we are in respect. We must engage in theology. Our sanctification is linked to becoming closer to God. I, of all people, appreciate and nerd out over theology. However, we must not make the study more important than the object of that study. God is much more than head knowledge. He is to be enjoyed, loved, cherished, respected and worshiped in our hearts and emotions as well as in our heads.
What’s The Solution?
Frankly, I think the solution is pretty simple. Stop it. Just stop it. We know better. Stop acting like children. We know that pride is easy to let in. We know we are prone to being puffed up in our head knowledge. We know we are prone to revering and worshiping things in our hearts other than God. The arrogance that I see in the reformed camp causes me anger. I am sick and tired of these aloof, arrogant, self-righteous Calvinists walking around with their cigars, craft beers and “Calvin is my homeboy” t-shirts when they refuse to remember that they have nothing to feel superior about. Also, they forget the very truths the reformers died to defend. Nothing but Christ! All for Christ and His glory. These three remain and the greatest of these is love. Now yes, I am in this group. I confess this. I am not shouting from some hilltop, shaking my fist at others. These are my people. I live in this arena. Yet it greaves me to see Calvinists looking at other Christians who have yet to see the doctrines of grace in the Bible, and judging them as inferior. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord reveals what He will to whom He will. I believe that us Calvinists need to take a look at how Jesus interacted with those who were not on His level (which was everyone) and take some notes. Theological purity is important yes and we should all be striving to learn more about God through theology. However, love, humility and unity is also just as important. Without it, we are nothing but angry Christians with heads full of knowledge.
“…if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”