Another ranty, possibly unfocused post without a clear point to it.
There are the stereotypical (having some truth) old Calvinists like John MacArthur, recently slinging his guns, and the stereotypical ‘New’, or ‘Young, Restless and Reformed’, who got shot at. (Let’s say Calvinist and Reformed are synonymous.) Then there are those in between, which is where I am, but don’t yet know where on the spectrum I lie. It probably doesn’t matter a whole lot, as long as I’m headed in the right direction. But it sure can be frustrating and I would like to briefly write about some things I’m wrestling with, especially near the end of the post.
Erik Raymond knows first hand what it’s like to be in MacArthur’s sights, even if it’s indirectly, and he isn’t the type MacArthur is referring to. We’ve both learned so much from John MacArthur. MacArthur and John Piper (another one who is getting a little weird) were instrumental in the beginning of my path to learning so much about God’s sovereignty at a very difficult time in my life. It has been life changing to start to really learn about God’s character as revealed in the Bible.
John MacArthur referenced Erik Raymond (the very first link in the post, unfortunately), who has a blog called Ordinary Pastor (the link is his ‘rebuttal’ of sorts, which is excellent), formerly Irish Calvinist. This was very unfair and I doubt MacArthur went on his computer (if he has one–seriously, he might not, which is OK) and sought out this link himself. MacArthur’s ministry, Grace To You, has now issued a followup to MacArthur’s blog post. He said he did it out of love but he never seems to say that the first time.
Among the old guard there are also sometimes things like this:
In recent church history, earth-toned paisley ties fell off the necks of pastors and were replaced by mock turtlenecks and open-collared shirts of every color in the rainbow.
Open-collared shirts–God help us! I have always hated suits and ties. Why do some people think pastors and churchgoers have to look like corporate executives when we’re supposed to be separate from the world? Some of you will vehemently disagree and say that we should respect God by what we wear when hearing His Word. I still hate dress clothes.
On the other hand: I didn’t come from Arminianism to Calvinism quickly or easily by listening to a few sermons by “famous” pastors or by reading some blog posts. It was with kicking and screaming (in my head). Although it was without having read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, which should probably be a prerequisite, I have read quite extensively, including a couple of overview type books, too many articles and posts to count, and I especially have a knowledge and liking of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession. I have the Institutes in my possession and will read them most likely next year. I also went back and read more about Arminianism from good sources, which means material not written by Calvinists, just to make sure I knew both as best I could. I’ve read completely through the Bible, sometimes even trying to see things from the Arminian perspective, but the extent of God’s sovereignty, among many other aspects of God’s character, and doctrine that happens to line up with Calvinism, just keep coming through everywhere. So I know I am a Calvinist.
I’m also not into the stereotypical (which is in the minority, I hope) Young, Restless and Reformed style of boasting about drinking beer, watching MMA (because I’m a real man who believes in a Jesus who could ‘take me’ and not one with flowing blonde hair who always speaks soothingly), and just wanting to be ’other’ than the typical evangelical. I’m not going to comment on those things at this point. I’m not saying they’re wrong or I do or don’t participate or believe those things. What I’m saying is I’m not constantly talking about it to brag about how different or manly I am. I used to think this way about some other things and it’s very arrogant. I think this is what John MacArthur was trying to get at in his abrasive way.
So I’m not into suits and ties, at all, I don’t like the stodgy old guard, I don’t shun everything new, I don’t like the ESV, and I think the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is kind of creepy even though I’m a complementarian of sorts. And as mentioned in the last paragraph I’m also not into the stereotypical young, [N]ew Calvinist thang. (Do they say that anymore?) So I don’t know exactly what kind of Calvinist I am. And you may notice, I’m not even talking doctrinal stuff, although that is a big factor I’m just not writing about here.
This has been my quandary for a while: I feel like if I didn’t read blogs and material from unproven sources on the webternet, I might be in a better position to just learn, without all the labels and infighting and outfighting and all the peripheral stuff. On the other hand, I have learned a lot from blogs and very much appreciate my blogging friends. It’s lonely being someone who likes to read a lot, studying theology, knowing the difference between a Calvinist and Arminian etc. My blogging friends can help fill that void a little.
Just between us, because it can sound arrogant, here is a great quote on that, found in a comment on a blog post:
May 22, 2011 at 6:46 pm
Nathan, oftentimes the path to greater learning is a lonely one. We humans are generarally content to possess a breadth of knowlege a mile wide [that's pretty wide though] and an inch deep.
Dig only slightly deeper and the crowd thins out dramatically.
You are apparently past digging and now mining. Hence, your travel companions on the path you’ve chosen will likely be few and far between.
So I’m not about to leave my friends. But when you get on that interwebz machine, even if you’re at a legitimate place of higher learning, it often takes you to the places that suck you in and you don’t realize you just wasted time until after you’ve wasted it (like this blog post?).
So I will keep on trying to keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25), trying to figure out which blogs to follow and which to not, try to spend less time on the internet in general–which I’ve improved on–and more time reading proven authors, including the inspired ones, and try to keep my eyes on things above.
I’m not intending to teach or tell people what to do with any authority, but I want to add some value to this post by listing some things I think are important. I hope I’m not embarrassed about this five years from now. Take it for what it’s worth.
- As I’m learning in Genesis right now, God’s purposes will be done no matter how much we think we may mess things up. We don’t need to defend God for how people act other than to let people know who God really is. We need to let people think what they will. Many people hate God and hate Christians and this is how it will always be. (Matthew 10:22)
- If you want to be a Calvinist, make sure to know what it is. Make sure you also know what Arminianism, Open Theism and Universalism are, especially if you want to defend your views. People are misrepresenting each other all the time and it’s maddening to see. I’m not an apologist for Calvinism so I don’t get into that very much. If you’re not very sure about what something is, don’t say anything about it. (This is also why I don’t talk much about politics and economics.)
- Don’t pester those who are solid Christians by trying to convert them to Calvinism unless they have an interest. They’re already Christians! They are in God’s hands now whether you like it or not. (Rom 14:8)
- Lift up Christ, not Calvin. We are a Christians first. If I’m thinking about Calvinism more than Christ and basic Biblical doctrine, I’ve gone off the path.
- If you are a hyper-Calvinist, stop it right now. (Two links there)
- When interacting with other Calvinists, bear with one another. (Colossians 3:13) Realize that we have freedom in Christ, to a point, and not quibble about a beer or open-collared shirts unless alcoholism or addiction to open-collared shirts is involved. There are all kinds at many different levels of maturity. It’s hard enough for Christians to be united. Can we at least as Calvinists show some love towards each other in addition to all kinds of believers? (Galatians 6:10) I’ll try my best to bear with those who don’t like open-colored shirts.
- My only hero is Jesus. The rest are too flawed.
This is not directed in any way towards my blogging friends and those who have blogs devoted to Calvinism. The good ones have been very helpful to me and the people have been great in backing me up here and helping me along. If you disagree with any of this, feel free to continue sharpening in the comments. (Proverbs 27:17)
Colossians 3:1-3 NRSV
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.