Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

11 responses to “Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

  1. Eric, I’ve been meaning to comment here but it kept slipping away from me. First, thank you for working to clarify that Calvinism is not the odious doctrine some make it out to be. I’ve been a moderate Calvinists for many years now as I am convicted by scripture that the teaching is consistent (still struggle with “L”). I’m fairly Reformed in my theology and lately have been exploring the PCA for a possible church move. Now here is what I’ve found interesting.

    For the couple of churches that I have visited recently, I have found the people much more friendly and welcoming than the bible church I have been with these past 4 years in Dallas. So I think its kind of odd to say that just because of the doctrine of TULIP that people must be cold. I have not found that to be the case, at all. I do interact with a number of solidly Reformed people on-line and think discussions can seem devoid of personality. But that is because of the high view of scripture and doctrine that is upheld, I think, and should not necessarily be construed as unloving. Though some can be dismissive in discussion.

  2. Yes, Calvinism is misunderstood by many, the reason is, its not in the pages of Bible. There was a very good article on this false teachings in “The Sword of the Lord” in the past few months. I would suggest anyone following this teachings to read it while following along with their Bible open. I’m not going to debate this issue right here, just wanted to make a suggestion.

    • Oldarkie,

      Please send me a link for The Sword of the Lord articles.

      Blessings!

      ECR

      • As for the Sword of the Lord & the articles about Calvinism I suppose you would have to subscribe to it so that you could read online back issues. And or find the dates it ran & borrow them from a person that subscribes & saves them.

        Comments on seeing people as unloving.
        Might I remind all, sometimes we humans consider a person as unloving simply because they disagree with us & stand solid on what they believe.

        And of course if your church happens to be of the Calvinism persuasion, which I am not, & someone was visiting that did not hold to that view while openly expressing & defending their belief, they just might see some members of your church as acting unloving. For some members of your church may see that person as a trouble maker causing division. After services some members may not approach that person trying to make them feel welcome & inviting them to come visit them again.

        I had a pastor friend called to preach at & out of town church one Sunday. Little did he know that many of them were of Calvinism persuasion. After the morning preaching services they were very cold to him. After many had left one member of this church clued him in on why he had gotten the cold shoulder treatment.

  3. Wow. As a fellow Calvinist I wanted to say thank you for posting this. I have so many thoughts (having had a couple of similar posts on my facebook) but here are a few…..

    There have been several people that I have had to go back to in order to repent and ask forgiveness of because of the way I treated them when I first discovered the Reformed tradition. This needs to happen more often for some of us.

    The Doctrines of Grace when rightly understood, do nothing but produce depths of humility an d heights of praise. Those of us that are farther along in our understanding of those doctrines must do all we can to educate those who are younger to the reformed faith and those who are younger should be careful not to swing their theology at the end of a rope seeking whom they can bludgeon. For some, it become more about furthering the kingdom of “Calvanism” than the Kingdom of God.

    Whether you hold this theology or not, our unity is in Christ and Christ alone. It is ironic that what started out as a post about unity, revealed the sin nature that when allowed to run rampant will attempt to tear the Body apart.

    Again, thanks for posting this.
    For Christ and His Kingdom,
    Bliss

  4. Reblogged this on Lumbering Brown and commented:
    Great post from Rev. Eric C. Redmond, Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church, Washington, DC.

  5. Some churches may be friendlier and more loving than other churches, but I’m not so sure it is their theology that dictates that.

    I wouldn’t need a year to see that Calvinism is in error (per Scripture) with regard to ‘limited atonement’.

    They get a lot right. But that’s one where they surely are mistaken.

    I’m glad they are mistaken. I could not imagine telling someone that Christ ‘may have died for you’. The Book flat out states that He died for the sins of the “whole world”. “For all”. And that “He desires that no one be lost.”

    “Father forgive them…”

    This is better, and certainly lines up with what Scripture actually says on the matter;

    ‘If we are saved, it is ALL God’s doing. If we are lost, it is ALL our doing.”

    Thanks, very much.

    theoldadam.com/

  6. In your guide to people struggling with the truth of Calvinism you forgot to encourage them to pray. Calvinism is “strong meat” food that even mature, godly Christians struggle with. Urge people to pray and ask God to open their eyes. The Spirit will guide strugglers into the truth in His way, and at His time.

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