I think I have a condition. I think it’s called Calvinitis. Hopefully it’s not contagious. Calvinitis is the inability to read something without becoming cynical of what is actually being said. Below is a recent letter from our pastor inviting the congregation to participate in small group discussions related to “Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace”. To help my Calvinists friends better understand this condition, I’ve taken the liberty of imparting “Calvinisticals” – a term I just now invented. Calvinisticals infuse the inherent Calvinist logic and thought that may not be obvious to the majority of Calvinists and non-Calvinists unaffected by Calvinitis.
The word “prodigal” certainly describes the younger son [whom God hated from the beginning of time] who recklessly spent his entire inheritance [because he was unable to choose to follow God] in the blink of an eye [because God willed it to be in order that his perfect wrath might be exalted]. However, in another sense, the word “prodigal” also describes our God [who demonstrates the extent of his love by saving those (the elect) whom he chooses] who is extravagant with love [so long as he has elected you], who is abundant in grace [so long as he has elected you], and who spent everything to make us a part of his family [so long as he has elected you] again [well, provided that you’re part of those contained within the limited atonement of Christ’s blood for the remission of your sins].
We’ve all heard the story of the Prodigal Son before [unless God hasn’t until now ordained that you would even want to be in church]. However, as you join us on this five week sermon [because God’s irresistible grace will overcome all resistance for not wanting to join us on Sunday mornings] and small group series you will find this story come to life in ways that you have never seen before [because God called you into communion with himself and will continue with you in faith until the rapture – or whatever]. To get the most out of this series we [through the blessings of the holy spirit who allows truth to be seen] encourage you to participate in the small group experience [because God controls everything and there’s no free choice in the matter]. If you are not currently in a small group [perhaps as a result of God intentionally keeping you isolated], we have 11 different small groups [that God has specially put into place for us] that are just waiting for you to join them [unless, of course, you’re already doomed]. No matter where you are on your faith journey [it’s because God wants you right where you are to teach you something], this study will challenge and encourage [only so far as God gives you encouragement] you [so that God will be glorified].
Extravagant with Love and Abundant in Grace – [So Long as You’re Elected]
13 thoughts on “Is There Such a Thing As Calvinitis?”
Hmm. Somebody appears to have prodded you in a manner that’s resulted in verbage that’s, well, uncharacteristic.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that your comments are more directed toward the God of Islam than the God of the Calvinist.
Is everything OK?
I appreciate your kind consideration.
Honestly, I intended this post to be a gentle tongue-in-cheek poke at Calvinism. However, while writing, I realized that the phrase “so long as you’re elect” could be placed after just about every other word. Admittedly, frustration mounted as I saw how overwhelming (what I perceive to be) Calvinist doctrine can infuse what would otherwise be a generic pastoral letter. In reality, this post is probably a pretty good pictorial image of my inability to see the love, grace, and mercy of God because (to me, anyway) a lot of “stuff” seems to get in the way. How pathetic is it that my relationship to God can look like this post. However, I guess that’s where I am.
I want a Christian foundation that I can believe in and it truly bothers me that there can be so many viewpoints across a Christian spectrum even though we all use the same “source material”. My feeble attempts at knowing God are frustrating, as I can’t seem to figure out what the truth is. I’m banking that the truth will set me free (John 3:32). That said, my own internal angst would tend to indicate that as yet I haven’t found the truth.
Can I ask just a few questions? (BTW, I’d pretty much agree with all of your parenthetic references except the first one)
1) Are all of your parenthetic comments after the first one (and I’ll get there in a minute) totally incompatible with the Bible?
2) Can God love and hate the same person – biblically?
3) Can we love and hate the same person – biblically?
4) Is Calvinism – as defined in Confessions such as the Westminster and London Baptist – logically impossible?
5) Is Calvinism as defined above – biblically impossible?
6) If God could ordain all that happens – could He ordain our willing, volitional choices?
7) If so, is that incompatible with the Bible? If not, why not?
That’s enough for starters.
I appreciate your questions and the time you’re willing to spend here, Jeff. I know I can get long-winded and so, in order to advance discussion, I’ll abbreviate my answers as best I can.
1) Yes, I believe my parenthetic comments are incompatible with the Bible because I don’t think the doctrine of unconditional election, except for a very few people i.e. the Apostle Paul as evidenced through his Damascus Road experience, is scriptural. As I see it, unconditional election is the linchpin of Calvinism.
2) Can God love and hate the same person – sure – he can do anything. That said, I don’t think God does love and hate the same person if only because God grieves for the lost (Mark 3:5).
3) Humanly speaking? No, we can’t love and hate the same person. However, I believe it possible to love the sinner and hate the sin.
4) I don’t know of the Westminster & London Baptist Confessions. However, as related to TULIP – I do think Calvinism is logically possible.
5) Due to my confusion on the matter, I can’t emphatically say that Calvinism is biblically impossible. That said, however, I think Calvinism is biblically in conflict with a lot of scripture.
6) Yes, God could ordain our willing and volitional choices.
7) One reason I believe God doesn’t ordain everything is because of free will. Obviously I’m more in sync with Arminian thought here. Just because God could ordain all that happens doesn’t necessarily mean that he does ordain all that happens.
Question 7 may tangentially leads into discussions related to the will of God, free will, the origins of sin, etc. I don’t want to intentionally divert from your questions so it’s fine if you wish to leave this for later. That said, sometimes it helps (me, anyway) to take something to a logical extreme (and maybe include a little inflammatory language for dramatic effect). So, if you believe that God ordains everything, and are in agreement with John Piper that it may be the will of God that sin occur, then please explain why the overwhelming vast majority of evangelical Christians (Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike) desire to overturn the intentional killing of unborn children – that by God’s decree is the law of the land?
Oops – the hyperlink I put in to reference my comment re John Piper didn’t work:
Wow. The font on that link is TINY. Whew.
1) The primary difference between the Calvinist and non-Calvinist, at its root, is not unconditional election (or however one wishes to define the term). The root difference is that spiritual ability of man to “do” the things of God. To respond with a “yes” to the Gospel call. To obey God’s commands and so on. In sum, the effect of the fall on spiritual nature of man.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession (Modern English version) says this about the Fall and its effect:
“MAN, as he came from the hand of God, his creator, was upright and perfect. The righteous law which God gave him spoke of life as conditional upon his obedience, and threatened death upon his disobedience. Adam’s obedience was short-lived. Satan used the subtle serpent to draw Eve into sin. Thereupon she seduced Adam who, without any compulsion from without, willfully broke the law under which they had been created, and also God’s command not to eat of the forbidden fruit. To fulfill His own wise and holy purposes God permitted this to happen, for He was directing all to His own glory.
Gen. 2:16,17; Gen. 3:12,13; 2 Cor.11:3.
By this sin our first parents lost their former righteousness, and their happy communion with God was severed. Their sin involved us all, and by it death appertained to all. All men became dead in sin, and totally polluted in all parts and faculties of both soul and body.
Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-19,23; 5:12-21; Titus 1:15.
The family of man is rooted in the first human pair. As Adam and Eve stood in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was reckoned by God’s appointment to the account of all their posterity, who also from birth derived from them a polluted nature. Conceived in sin and by nature children subject to God’s anger, the servants of sin and the subjects of death, all men are now given up to unspeakable miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus Christ sets them free.
Job 14:4; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12-19; Rom. 6:20; 1Cor. 15:21-22, 15:45, 15:49; Eph. 2:3; 1Thess. 1:10; Heb. 2:14-15.
The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents. By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them. They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good.
Matt. 15:19; Rom. 8:7; Col. 1:21; Jas. 1:14.”
Now that is a common belief among Reformed types. My old denomination – the Missionary Church USA, a confessionally Arminian one, says this:
“The Fall. We believe that our first parents did not remain in the happy state of their original creation, but, being deluded through the subtlety of Satan, voluntarily disobeyed the positive command of God, and thus were alienated from God and incurred upon themselves and their posterity the sentence of death both
physical and spiritual. Even the earth was cursed because of Adam’s sin. In consequence of this act of disobedience, the entire human race has become so corrupted that in every heart there is by nature that evil disposition which eventually leads to responsible acts of sin and to just condemnation. Also through
the fall of Adam, people have become so completely ruined that they have neither will nor power to turn to God and if left to themselves would remain in their sin forever.
Gen. 3:13, 16-17; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 7:7ff.; 1 John 1:8”
Quite similar to the LBCF. The difference is that the MCUSA believes that statement to be no longer valid because they believe that the death of Christ on the cross set people (every single one) “free” from the above condition and restored their ability to say “yes,” “obey God,” and so on. Would it be wrong to assume you would be in their camp?
2) Would these verses still be valid today?
Psalm 5:5: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”
Psalm 11:5: “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”
Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”
If they are not valid, why not? Be careful how you answer this one. Can God love those same people? Does not John 3:16 say so? Does not His love for the rich young ruler say so? Does not His causing rain to fall on the just and the unjust say so? Can God’s love for man have more than one dimension or intensity or purpose?
3) Psalm 15 gives us an interesting command – to the same people who were told in Lev. 19 to love their neighbor as themselves, which Jesus cited, as we well know. What is the answer given to the question in verse 1?
Psalm 15: “1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.”
Those who can dwell on His holy hill are those who despise vile people. It does not say to despise WHAT THEY DO, it says to despise the people themselves. While at the same time, loving them. It must be possible if they were commanded to do it.
4) Yes, Calvinism does not violate any laws of logic, from the law of non-contradiction on down.
5) Is the conflict stemming from you see as the freedom of man and his responsibility for his moral choices versus any sovereignty of God over these choices? Is the question, “How can man be “free” if God is “free” as well?”
6) If God were to do that, would that be unjust? Unfair? If he were to ordain an evil/sinful choice, would that make Him evil/sinful as well? Remember to answer biblically.
7) So we’re on the same page, you’ll have to define what you mean by “free will.” I wouldn’t want to impose my definition on your thoughts.
I have made that very point regarding abortion with my friends – even my Calvinist ones, over at Voice of the Sheep in this post – my comments are under my name and under my user name, “oldbutweary:” http://voiceofthesheep.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/early-death-a-get-out-of-jail-free-card/ If all unborn children are automatically saved, why are we mourning their killing so? If it’s an automatic ticket to Heaven, should we not be rejoicing, in some sense? And if it’s God’s decree, so much more, right?
One catch is that we are to be careful in our praise of “evil.” If one says it is ordained by God, we still need to call it what it is, which is evil, since Scripture admonishes us against those who call evil “good.”
Finally, I would ask your consideration of this passage from Romans 8 (NIV):
“2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that(I) the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Would it be wrong to say the passage is contrasting two types of people? Is Paul writing this in the present tense? Is it hyperbole? Is this passage one that has been superceded or fulfilled in another passage?
Hope you’ve recovered from the gut punch delivered by Mr. Favre last week. Ouch.
Goodness are you Johnny, I mean “Jeff”, on the spot in your replies. There’s much here and with some things going on this weekend it might be a day or two before I can sit down, read through, and respond to what you’ve written.
Sorry for the font. When I started blogging I had some difficulty posting using Word on a PC. I didn’t know there was an “upload” button specifically for Word. Perhaps I should go back and revise those early posts.
And yes, the black and blue marks are still present on the gut from last week’s game against the Saints. The Vikings must be cursed getting into the Superbowl. Oh well. We still have our Twins!!!
How a calvinist pastor deals with cancer and God’s will.
Thanks for the link to the MSNBC article, Mike. How sad for anyone to experience brain cancer. I witnessed a close friend endure brain cancer and eventually succumb to it. Nasty is the best word that comes to mind.
Calvinism aside, there something incongruous between Matt’s statements versus his actions:
“Lord, you gave [me cancer] for a reason.”
[Matt] is praying that God will heal him.
Whatever happens, [Matt] says, is God’s will, and God has his reasons.
Matt as much says that God ordained him to contract brain cancer. However, according to Matt, that doesn’t mean waiting for fate to occur. Rather, it means fighting for his life and to that end, Matt is undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. I hope my question doesn’t come across as belittling, but if Matt truly believes God gave him cancer, then why doesn’t Matt have the faith to “accept it”?
Just from reading the article, I sense Matt believes that God could cure him without all the standard fare of cancer treatments? And yet, Matt appears to have decided that it’s best to undergo all of the treatments. It’s almost as though Matt is saying, “Dear Lord, I know that if it’s your will to cure me, I’ll be healed. Now, please don’t be angry with my lack of faith – but just in case, I’ll start all these different treatment options because maybe, just maybe it’s your will that I be healed through one of them. Okay” Might this be some sort of Gideon thought process?
With regret, Mike, but I see this as a cop-out and perhaps even somewhat of a false-faith. The Calvinists I know emphasize God’s sovereignty and his being in control of everything in our lives. And yet, when confronting an obvious life-or-death situation such as cancer, I’ve NEVER met anyone who was willing to sit back, praise God for the cancer (or any other serious or life-altering disease) they contracted, and look forward to their death. Granted, I only know of a few people who’ve dealt with cancer and the like. But irrespective of the situation or circumstance, no one in my “circle”, Calvinists or not, simply allows “God’s will” to occur. Everyone seems to employ some subtle theological argument that “maybe God is leading me in ‘this’ direction.”
By definition then (at least as I see it), Matt is fighting and in essence trying to wrest control of the end results from God (most likely his death from cancer) by undergoing treatments. So, a question I’d ask: is Matt is trying to take control away from and/or otherwise alter the sovereign will of God?
Well, I’m sounding more negative than I wish. Truly, I welcome your thoughts and response.
Jeff – please don’t think I’ve forgotten you. Lots going on over the weekend and the last couple of evenings. Hopefully tomorrow night I’ll be able to spend more time to follow-up on your responses.
Thanks for your patience.
pretty much the same thing. He said that believing Jesus died for you is like the man who went out and gaeterhd sticks on the Sabbath. He did work on the Sabbath and that got him stoned. Camping said that faith is a work and therefore could not be added to the cross. So the best you could do is follow God’s law as best you might and tell Him you hope He has chosen you. Unbelievable. (No pun intended. )JanH