Sunday, September 20, 2009

Abject Arrogance

It is no secret that I reject Calvinism as a Biblical misrepresentation, and even heresy as it concerns limited atonement. However I have close friends who love Jesus and are Calvinists, and many of them are humble believers who do not make Calvinism a constant thorn to everyone they meet. I thank God for them, and I envy how some of them reflect the Lord Jesus in their lives.

However these friends readily admit that there are some Calvinist brethren who project something far different than humility and graciousness. They are quick to argue, quick to judge, and quick to recite the Calvinist party line. Read their blogs and some will rehearse how they were speaking to their pastor just this last Sunday about these groups or those groups and how they are distorting the Scriptures. The error of others seems to fuel their own zest for spiritual life, and the overt implication is that each little local reformed center is an outpost of heaven planted to defend the truth.

But I came across this post written by a man who is an unashamed Calvinist, which is not a point of contention. But I want to first address the quantity of his post which supposedly deals with the gospel of Jesus Christ. You will notice that there are many references to the Koine Greek in his post, and he has said he is now studying that language. That may be helpful in some ways, but there are mountains of research materials that have already translated the New Testament a thousand times over. Many times a person’s knowledge of the Greek gives him an air of superior interpretation, which is not only self righteousness, it is belied by the disagreement among Greek scholars concerning some passages. And if you do not know the Greek, you have to take his word for all his interpretations and verb tenses etc., etc..

Now if you can wade through the Greek, you will see the infinitesimal degree in which he dissects the meaning of the gospel. And he sets strict standards and parameters that God must meet in using any flawed form of a gospel presentation lest God dishonor His own gospel. And yet there are legions of Calvinists who were saved under an Arminian message, and some even under a profoundly flawed presentation. One of my best friends, a staunch Calvinist, was saved in a meeting conducted by a world renowned health and wealth preacher. But the author says this:

“The Gospel is defined very well for us in God’s Word. It is the one and only way God has set up to save His people. If it is messed with or edited in any way then it is no longer the Gospel.”

I readily admit that some like Peter Rollins teaches a social gospel, and I have never heard him present the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However I have heard some emergents, some health and wealthers, and many others who I would not endorse, present the gospel. And all of us – ALL OF US – have in some ways “messed with” the gospel. Is the author suggesting that his elongated definition must be presented in order for it to the gospel? And if not, let him provide a Miranda-like form from which we can recite the pristine gospel lest we remove its power.

But most disheartening of all, and yet most revealing of all, are these statements:

“The person attempted to derail the content or focus of that article by implying that God could save people any way He wanted so why should we be so narrow and judgmental. The one complaining insisted that he knew of many people that were “emergent,” but who loved the Lord and were excited about serving him, et cetera. However, they would not fit the mold of what I would define as Christian.”

How is suggesting that God can save anyone He chooses, which is the cornerstone of Calvinistic theology, “derailing” that post? It just illuminates the complex and paradoxical nature of Calvinism. On one hand you fervently teach that God will save only who He chooses, and on the other hand you can rebuke certain people for actually believing that they are saved. On one hand you can rest that God is orchestrating everything, while on the other hand you can itemize all the things that are out of control. On one hand you can suggest God will only use your version of the gospel, while on the other hand you are not upset that your version isn’t being spread more pervasively. It is “cake and eat it too” theology on display.

But when the author said these words:

“The one complaining insisted that he knew of many people that were “emergent,” but who loved the Lord and were excited about serving him, et cetera. However, they would not fit the mold of what I would define as Christian.”
(Don’t you love his caricature of someone’s views as “complaining”)

Try and digest this statement that openly suggests that a person who “loves the Lord and is excited about serving Him” does not – get ready – "FIT THE MOLD OF WHAT I WOULD DEFINE AS CHRISTIAN”. Could there possibly be a statement and attitude that was more self righteous and that contained more doctrinal hubris than that one? That is cultish as well, since most cults have their mold which cannot be altered or left to God. There are so many tare harvesters in today’s evangelical world that are in direct violation of Christ’s own admonition.

Judging a person’s salvation is serious business and must be done with humility and love. But when you suggest that loving the Lord and desiring to serve Him is incongruent to your personal mold of what is a Christian, well, that approaches the zenith of arrogance. These types of repulsive expressions, usually driven by a culture of self righteous hatred, are not confined to Calvinists. Sadly, you can find them in almost every segment of evangelical practice.

The challenge to anyone who confronts error is to remain humble, do not question anyone's salvation, and to thoroughly and passionately project the absolute truth that we are shamefully far from being mirrors of Christ ourselves.
As like Dickens once wrote, unless this is clearly understood nothing good can come from what we do.

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