Becoming a Bad Calvinist

bad calvinist

I suppose the first thing I should clear up is that the title of this post really isn’t very fair. The things I’m going to talk about aren’t isolated to the world of Calvinism. You see it throughout the religious landscape. In fact, many times Calvinists themselves are actually the victims. Yet, Calvinists are my people. Their blogs are the blogs I frequent. Their books are the books I most often find myself reading. Most of my friends are from this tribe. Even doctrinally, I certainly still consider myself within the Calvinistic fold. All of these things being true, this is the world I know, so these are the things I can speak to.

Sadly however, I have recently discovered that I am a bad Calvinist. I guess it’s been happening for a while. I had my own suspicions. The other day a non-Calvinist friend of mine actually told me I was a bad Calvinist. I think it was because he and I agreed on too much stuff…That and I like to quote The Message translation of the Bible. Of course, it was translated by a man(Eugene Peterson) who also considers himself a Calvinist.(He’s a bad Calvinist too though, from what I’ve been told.) Even though my friend accused me of bad Calvinism, I still sort of shrugged it off . It wasn’t until this past week however, that it really hit home. I really am a bad Calvinist.

Why you say? What brought me to that realization? Well, sadly, it seems that many of my Calvinist brethren aren’t happy unless they are critiquing someone’s theology or pointing out the error in it. Certainly there are occasions that warrant this, but it has become increasingly obvious that we can’t even leave the minor points, or maybe it better to say the secondary points, alone. We leave no stone unturned. In fact, we are quite quick to even turn on our fellow Calvinists! The big debate this week has been over law vs. grace. Even though each party agrees on much more than they disagree, if only they would take a minute to listen to each other, but apparently it  has become a major issue of debate. It’s simply the latest issue to be put front and center. In a few weeks there will be another.

We are even quick to point out who are the real Calvinists and who aren’t. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that since I lean Baptist, I’m not really a Calvinist. Baptists can’t really be reformed. Sure, you can have a Calvinistic soteriology, but you aren’t really and truly an honest to goodness Calvinist. Even some Presbyterian denominations are more Presbyterian than others. The old school Calvinists don’t like the “Neo” New Calvinists. Oh, and you have to use the correct translation of the Bible. It’s all gotten quite ridiculous.

A strange thing has been happening with me though. I’ve just kinda stopped caring. I used to be ready to go toe to toe on any theological debate. Like I said, there are still times for it…but when it comes to secondary issues…You know what guys? I’ll let you fight it out. I’m done. With so many people desperate for a breadcrumb from the table of grace, it seems silly for us to be fighting over who gets the biggest portion at the table.

So, there you have it. I confess it…I have become a very bad Calvinist. I pray Jesus might still have mercy on my poor wretched soul.


Is Calvinism in the bible?


If you are looking for the name Calvin, well…no, you won’t find  Calvinism. But Calvin didn’t invent anything new. In Calvin’s writings,  and teachings, he simply taught about a sovereign God who is in control  of every aspect of life and faith.Salvation is certainly a part of that.  This idea didn’t start with Calvin, it started with God, and you see  this idea throughout Scripture.

 I think the big question we have to ask  ourselves is this: Is God actively working out all things for the good  and the joy of his people for his own glory, OR is he up in heaven just  standing by, hoping that we are going to make the right choices? Is God  and his will the center of all things, or is it man and his will. This  doesn’t eliminate human responsibility: as clear as the Bible is about  God’s sovereignty it is equally clear about man’s need for repentance and need to turn to God. The big question there is, do we repent and  turn to God, then receive the Holy Spirit as the seal of our  salvation…OR…is this repentance a result of God actively changing our hearts in order to make us into new creatures, and into the likeness of Christ?

 So here are some things I think we should ask ourselves:

 Is man able to do anything in order to save himself apart from  God?(Total Depravity) I think Romans 3:11 and John 3:3(amongst many  others) are clear that man cannot save himself if God does not do  something to change his heart, because ultimately the issue isn’t our  deeds, but our heart.

 Is there anything within man, or any merit on the part of man that  causes God to save him, or is salvation completely of God’s  grace?(Unconditional Election) Romans 9:16 says no, salvation is all about grace…and not about anything that man does or can do. Also see  Romans 8:29,30 and Ephesians 1&2.

 Did Christ’s atonement cover the sins for all mankind, or did his  atoning blood only atone for the sins of the elect?(limited atonement)  I’m not saying anything about the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to atone(who can limit Christ?)…I’m simply asking, did Jesus’ blood cover  all of man, or only those whom the Father gave him? (John 6:37-39)  Didn’t Jesus himself say, ” Many are called, but few are chosen…”(Matthew 22:14) There is certainly an offer for salvation to all  men, but obviously all men are not saved. But Jesus clearly says in John 6 that “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”

 Are we saved because we cooperate with God? If God chooses to save  us, can we resist His will?(irresistible grace) Scripture says in  Ephesians 2 that we are spiritually dead apart from God and his grace. So my question is, what can a dead man do? Nothing. Did Lazarus do  anything to contribute to his resurrection, or to his being made alive,  or was it all a result of Jesus calling him forth from the grave? A dead  person can’t contribute anything to life…this is obviously true in the  physical world, it is no less true in the Spiritual. Again, as Jesus  said, “You must be born again”(John 3:3)…but where does this birth come  from? God of course…Does a newborn contribute to his being born? No, and  neither do we contribute to our new birth. But like a newborn, we will  breathe this new life we have in Christ. That is our human  responsibility.

 If God does save us, will any of those whom he has saved fall away?(perseverance of the saints) Does God grant salvation and then take  it away? Does God pour out his love then snatch it back? Romans 8:35  asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” The  answer is NOTHING. Actually all of Romans 8 is a beautiful testament to  this fact…But what does Jesus also say? We talked about it earlier…John  6:37, “All that the Father gives to me WILL come to me, and whoever comes to me I will NEVER cast out.” What about John 10:28-29, “I give  them eternal life and they will NEVER perish, and NO ONE will snatch  them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater  than all, and NO ONE is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand….”

 All of this being said, I think the Bible indeed speaks of what  today, and has historically been called Calvinism. BUT, this should not  be a point of contention amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. Many  people who love God very much have rejected Calvinism. We need not  ascribe to Calvinism or any system of theology, but what we must do is  love God, love Jesus, and serve Him with all that we are. We don’t have  to agree on John Calvin, but all should be able to agree on the beauty  of who Jesus is…knowing we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and  knowing that we all share the grace he has poured out on us, ought to  move us to love one another without throwing rocks, or arguing over  non-essentials.

 There is a place to talk about theology, which is what  I’ve done here…but whether anyone agrees or disagrees with my  understanding of the Scriptures does not determine or measure where we  are in our walks with Christ, or make any of us less a child of God. We all have equal footing at the cross…

For a much more eloquent defense of Calvinism, read Spurgeon’s ‘A Defense of Calvinism’.