Why? Why is Calvinism so feared?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by queenknitter, Aug 7, 2008.

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  1. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    I've asked my Reformed friends this before, and they have said that the idea of Grace is radical. It dismantles man-centered power structures.

    But I'd like to ask you all your perspectives.

    I'm reading up on my religious heritage, and again and again I read about Calvinist "purges" -- meaning they kicked out people who were deemed Calvinistic.

    What's the fear? I've always assumed that it's because they perceive Calvinism to be counter to evangelism (I know that's not true). But is there more? It's got to be more than just disagreement. There's some underlying fear. . . .


  2. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Mostly because at first glance, it appears to make God out to be an evil, sadistic being who delights in the eternal torment of people who had no chance. Once you get over that, you still have to admit that God's justice looks a lot different than it would if a human were God. It's hard to let God be God.

    Wait.... do I know you?
  3. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    But their revivalist picture of God isn't much better, is it? I can understand to the secularist why they don't like Calvinism. But what about the moralist?

    Sure you do, Charlie!! :-D It's me!! Camille. :p

    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  4. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    To put it simply it is because it does not preach autonomy.
  5. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    We are, by nature, born Pelagians. Semi-Pelagianism is, in some cases, actually progress!
  6. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Well, since you're asking from the perspective of those people, the answer would be yes, the picture is better. One of the major concerns of anti-Calvinists is to protect God's image. They always want to do a little PR for God, who has been known to do some things to make people angry at Him.

    The moralist wants to assert total responsibility on the individual, so that when he messes up, it's all his fault. God had nothing to do with it. Don't even bring God into the picture.

    Sovereignty takes a hit every time the problem of evil arises. God didn't let that rape occur .... it just did. God wasn't involved in hurricane Katrina, that's just a "natural phenomenon." People have a hard time with the idea that God sinlessly uses sin for His own glory, since we humans can't do that.
  7. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    BTW, queenknitter, where did you get your avatar? My wife loves knitting, and I'm sure she would like to be able to have something similar!
  8. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    For me, the fear of Calvinism went back to my view of God, the will of man ane the wickedness of my heart. If someone gives in to Calvinism, they have to give in to the idea that man's future is the hands of God and not in their own hands. That goes against the grain of every sinful heart.

    To give in to Calvinism means that God is absolutely Sovereign and absolutely loving to His own, but absolutely relentless against sin and His enemies. It means that Christ is King and all idols of our hearts must come down and God must reign supreme. Our wicked hearts don't like that.

    When God finally breaks a person and shows Him Who He really is, then the obvious theological position is Calvinism. If we truly see what we are--vile, wicked sinners, then we also can embrace the truth that we can only live by the grace of God.

    By the way, the first section of Loraine Boettner's book, "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" really helped me on this subject. I opened the book expecting to start off on a discussion of predestination, and instead Boettner showed me God. God is where it starts, God is where it ends and God is in the middle.
  9. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Consider the accusations of the original Arminians (from the conclusion of the Canons of Dordrecht):

  10. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't know where I got it. . . . It's been awhile. Hmmmm. . . . you can just right-click on the avatar and save it for her.

    I think I got it a Best Smileys or something. . . .

  11. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    It is and that scares them, even though it brings me comfort it scares me too.

    To know that God is God; that He alone has determined our eternity before the foundation of the world.

    It takes away all presumptions about God and ourselves.

    That we are 'good people' and all 'good people' go to heaven, it forces us to really look at how sinful we are and recognize how Holy God is, and know we can NEVER measure up.

    And as it has been mentioned, for those who don't understand it, it can make God look sadistic, when it's really His Holiness, shown through His Grace, Mercy, Justice, and Love.

    To some it makes God look like a puppet master and we the puppets, and in that we want to be in control concerning our eternity and everything that happens to us, it takes US off the throne, it tells us WE ARE NOT GOD, or even little gods..and have absolutely no control over our eternity and they fear losing that control.

    But mostly, it is because it causes us to fear God and repent, this is a God that should be feared, they don't think God should be feared. They want Him to be all about "LOVE" and what they think "love" is, love is kind..so God is Kind..God being kind is not going to judge the world for their little bitty sins,
    I mean, after all they haven't killed anyone, they haven't molested any children, they haven't committed adultery, they haven't (fill in the blank) as to what they believe is a sin deserved of hell. But that is NOT who God is..
    He judges all men rightly, including those 'so called' little sins they think God will some how overlook.

    He is to be feared!!!
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It's not feared. It's hated.

    Because the News that men are dead in their sins and tresspasses is offensive.

    Because the News that the solution to man's problem is not friendly advice but the Son of Man dying on a Cross is offensive.
  13. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm putting a tot to sleep right now, so this'll be overly brief.

    I think in this situation it's more the first one than the second. I'm talking the John R. Rice sort of opposition to Calvinism. Because he and his buddies would agree with the 2nd. The first not-so-much.

    Unless I'm missing something. More in a sec. . . . Must put kiddo down

  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Ah yes. Kiddos and down. Two difficult things.

    Don't be so certain that those that disapprove of the first approve of the second. Some people think Christ hung on a Cross but are repulsed by any idea that He truly had to put away their sin. As long as Christ hangs there for a moral example or simply to make decent people save-able then it's not offensive.
  15. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    Ah. I see what you're saying. . . .

    ::think think::

  16. Zenas

    Zenas Snow Miser

    Because Calvinism and, indeed, the Bible teaches that not all men can come to God. The Arminian will cop to the fact that not all men will come to God, they know that, but they absolutely refuse to entertain the possibility that those men won't come because they can't.

    To them, that makes God a "bad guy" because He won't call that person to Himself, when it would be so easy to do so. This is wrong, in the Arminian's eyes, because they set their agenda up as above God's or to be the same as God's, and from there start making judgment calls as to what God can and cannot do based on that presumptuous agenda.

    Calvinism makes God "mean" when measured against their idolatrous notion of God. God is not out to glorify Himself or make known His attributes, but rather, God is out trying to save people (operative word "trying") and sometimes failing because men are so strong willed and God will not violate their autonomy, according to them. "God is a gentleman", as they say, because they have laid down their affirmace of God's full nature at the altar of finite, imperfect, human love. God is love, and not only that, but God's love is like human love, if human love were perpetually given rather than perfectly, in that mercy, hugs, and snowflakes are given to all people regardless. They have but to accept.

    God's love is not the perfect, unwaivering faithfulness to those whom He has chosen to set it on, as we see in Scripture. It is not the love that chides us as well as adores us. It is the love offered to all, that refuses to discipline or correct, only to beg.

    That is the notion that the Arminian suffers from, and that's why they hate Calvinism. It is an affront to their idolatrous notion of God and their perversion and exhaltation of a single attribute, one of many, that they forget must be HOLY above all.
  17. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    Tot woke back up (noisy brother and friend). So I'm back.

    I understand how God could look like "a bad guy" in Calvinism. But what gets me is how consistently that anti-Calvinist position presents God as . . . well, like a petulant bully. The Reformed presentation of God as Father seems a lot kinder. It's what you described, JBaldwin. I mean, does the Father with His Prodigal(s) seem like a bad guy at all? Unfair, yes -- mercifully unfair.

    Puppet & puppet master. Yes, I've heard that metaphor from the anti-Calvinists. We know that again the paternal metaphor dominates in the Reformed tradition -- we are God's child. But what do the anti-Calvinists offer instead? That we are God's pets!!! :duh:

    What am I missing here? God sounds a lot "nicer" in Luther, Calvin, et al than I'm used to.

    Ah, kiddie is up permanently now. :oops:

  18. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    As someone who hasn't been out of the Arminian camp for a really long time, and who still has many dear family members and friends who aren't Calvinists, I don't think that any of us should just treat them like idiots who either A) can't read scripture or B) can read scripture, but refuse to give up the idea of God they currently have because they sinfully prefer to construct and worship an idol of their own imagination than bow before the God of scripture.

    The fact of the matter is that Calvinism is a very reasonable system, and by reasonable I mean logical, rational, whatever. And because it is so, it has certain necessary consequences which, from my experience, even some Calvinists seem unable to admit. If the premises for our doctrine are true, then it doesn't make very much sense to me to talk about humanity as having an autonomous will. Everything we will ever do or think has been ordained by God. Perhaps it's overly sentimental for the Arminians to say that this makes us "robots," but it doesn't matter which one word label you want to give it - God still ordains every thing that we think and do.

    Now, I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this here, but ever since I was introduced to the Westminster Confession, I've thought that the passage saying that "no violence is done to our wills," and that, "the liberty or contingency of secondary causes is not taken away, rather established," is just silly. Of course no violence is done to our wills. Everything has already been ordained, so God doesn't have to do any violence against what we would do in a given situation. He's already ordained what we would do! And the idea that there can be some kind of liberty in secondary causes when everything is ordained by God makes absolutely no sense. We're saying in one breath that God ordains everything that comes to pass absolutely, and then in the next breath we're throwing in some meaningless phrase about secondary causes that only makes sense to people who aren't interested in actually thinking about what they're saying. If God ordains everything, then I don't see how talking about secondary causes really matters. Joe goes to hell because he rejected Christ. If God both sends Joe to hell, and ordained that Joe would reject Christ, what good does it do to say that there was some kind of "liberty" in the "secondary" cause of Joe's ending up in hell (his rejection of Christ)? God ordained them both!

    in my opinion, the real problem is that there are passages of scripture which seem to teach against our understanding of God's decrees. We can take the intellectual high ground by denying this, and putting everyone who disagrees in the category of "stupid" or "deceived" or "scared of Calvinism" but if we do, I think we're only deceiving ourselves. To begin with, I think it's perfectly reasonable for someone to have moral reservations about what we're teaching. Honestly, I still do from time to time. Let's be realistic and not be shocked when someone finds it strange,. or hard to believe, that God ordained the death of that man on the bus whose head was chopped off in his sleep in Canada a couple weeks ago, or the deaths of 100,000 people in a day during that cyclone a few months ago, or however many it was. Do we really not ever have a nagging voice in the back of our mind, even though we are Calvinists, that questions the idea of ordaining someone to sin and then punishing him for it? On top of that, there is a real hermeneutical problem, and when we as Calvinists say that we are using the analogy of faith to arrive at our Calvinistic conclusions, the Arminians can (in my opinion, legitimately) reply that they are doing the exact same thing. They are looking at some verses which seem to teach Calvinism (A), and some which seem to teach Arminianism (B), and they are choosing to explain A in light B, instead of B in light of A.

    Now on what grounds do we claim the authority to instead interpret B in light of A? Beats me! Maybe it has something to do with numbers. At this point I guess I would say that, perhaps, the number of Calvinistic-type verses outnumber the others? I don't know. I have a sneaky feeling, however, that it has more to do with our (good) desire to create a system that is internally consistent. We Calvinists believe that our system not only has some scriptural warrant, but is much more internally consistent than the Arminians' system. Just listen to any Calvinist discuss Limited Atonement vs. Universal Atonement, and you'll see what I mean. The problem is - and this is what gives the Arminians, in their mind, the right to stay where they are theologically - we sometimes run into problems when we take our system back to the bible and begin to read which require us to do exegesis of particular verses that looks absolutely ridiculous to people who aren't approaching the text with our system in the back of their minds.

    The purpose of this post has been to share some of my own thoughts and struggles since becoming a Calvinist but also to attempt to give a more charitable response on behalf of those Arminians who aren't here to defend themselves. :2cents:
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2008
  19. cih1355

    cih1355 Puritan Board Junior

    Some people think that if God determines everything that comes to pass including all the things that we think, do, say, and desire, then man is not responsible for his choices. People think that they must be libertarian free will in order for man to be responsible for his choices.

    People don't like the idea that God chooses which ones will believe in Christ. Man likes to think that he can choose his own destiny.

    Many people don't like the idea that God ordains that people will do evil and then holds them accountable for that evil.
  20. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    :duh: Was I doing that? :think: 'Cause I don't see that anywhere. ::scratching head:: I'm honestly asking. Because I don't think that. . . .

    As I read these primary documents and as I think about the PURGES of Calvinists in my community, I'm trying to understand why Calvinism is treated as a sort of blight. My husband's pastor used to say, "I'm Baptist born, and I'm Baptist bred. And when I'm gone, I'll be Baptist dead." There's a similar cadence and sentiment to the ol' Cold War "better dead than red." I'm trying to understand that.

    Just for the record, my husband and I were forced to resign from Bob Jones University a year ago because, they claimed, we were "too Reformed." ::shrug:: Whatever. To be honest, it had nothing to do with that whatsoever, but that accusation was a convenient arrow to lob at us. At this distance, I'm hearing about other people who were described similarly over the years and were expelled, fired, or chased off.

    So . . . what gives? Who cares? For some reason being Calvinist in a certain revivalist tradition is as scandalous as being a Democrat in the GOP. I don't get it. I can be a little dingy, so . . . that's why I'm asking.

  21. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    About that first part, I was probably making a broader point based on my experience with people in the Reformed world towards Arminians, but maybe I just took the OP and ran with it, since you did mention the purges. If that's all you meant specifically, then I guess I would just say it's people who can generally be described in the way I have above, who then react in an extreme way. It's obviously wrong of them to do that.


    By the way, I'll re-emphasize the point that there are people in Reformed churches, and on this board, if I remember past threads correctly, who think that Arminians are worshipping another God. The animosity is not exclusive to the Arminians.
  22. queenknitter

    queenknitter Puritan Board Freshman

    I understand. That's fair. :)

    And well, I understand, In my humble opinion, that Calvinism is . . . insufficient and finite. It's a human attempt to explain an infinite God. So yeah, I agree that it isn't perfect or complete. :think: That doesn't bug me.

    And I, too, understand that those new to Calvinism can be stuck in a "cage stage." That kind of enthusiasm can be difficult to counter.

    But uh . . . fundamentalists are in their own perpetual cage stage. :rolleyes: What's the diff?

    It all sounds like nothing more than partisanship.

  23. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think because Calvinism makes you truly face your sin. You have to truly face it and realize that you are deserving of death and hell. Christ, by Grace Alone, is your Saviour. On the other hand, the Arminian never truly faces his sin in the same way - he is taught about sins and how he will be judged, but it seems to me that the majority "believe in Jesus" as their "Get Out of Hell Free" card. Christ is an escape from judgment, more than a Saviour. It's something you do in place of facing your sin and you never enjoy true repentance.
  24. Galatians220

    Galatians220 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    To the elect, the five points of Calvinism are or should be the sources of sheer joy, for they sum up the Gospel, the only effectual one. What greater gift could God ever have given us than this level of assurance? We need to drink ever deeper of the privileges that reside in being counted among Christ's fellow-heirs. Too often, we don't. We let "the world" and those who belong surely to it mar our peace.

    Stephen Charnock says that even the degree of assurance we enjoy from the effect of our election is moderated and controlled by God. None of us can fully appreciate that, not on this side of heaven. It's so wonderful that it's way beyond our total comprehension.

    Why would anyone not want to face their sin if continuing in this manner puts a bar between them and their Savior, their Heavenly Father and the workings of the Holy Spirit? (Rhetorical question.) It surely does put a bar there, and no one can rest until this is corrected. Not one single person is exempt from this, but it takes a lifetime for each of us to accept.

  25. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior


    The rejection of the notion of secondary causes (by stating that they make no difference) is the first step towards hyper-Calvinism. It is the difference between compatibilism and hard determinism; we are held responsible for our actions in the former and not in the latter. I have made a defense for this on Facebook, if you would like to view it.

    Two Chix Apologetics Discussions | Facebook

    EDIT: The "libertarian thread" that receives some mentioning in the compatibilist thread above is entitled "Why all non-Calvinist theologies (and non-determinist philosophies) fail," in case anyone needed that for referencing. In that thread, I refute the philosophy of libertarian free will.

    Also, note that my original post is not the exhaustive defense of it. When I wrote it, I thought it was, and I thought that making compatibilism a viable option alongside hard determinism was good, but in defending it against the fellow named Nathan Houk, I believe I have brought up better points. Those points are made clear in the last few posts of the thread.

    Also, Davidius, I believe you are incorrect in saying that Arminians simply interpret Calvinistic passages in light of their own passages while we do the opposite. What I have always noticed about some trouble passages for Calvinism is that they always tend to be ambiguous. While an isolated passage may appear to allow for Arminianism, it never argues against Calvinism (and therefore it never argues specifically for Arminianism). For example, when John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, the passage does not definitively say "every man without exception" -- the meaning of "world" is left up in the air. It may be more common and more natural for man to interpret "world" as "all men without exception," but it's not necessary. On the other hand, however, verses supporting Calvinism, such as many in Romans 9, are awfully clear and precise. Thus, the problem is not that Arminians simply give weight to different passages than we do; it's that they give an unnecessary interpretation to an ambiguous passage and claim it as a stronghold.

    So, while Calvinists are interpreting trouble passage in light of verses that definitely reveal the truth of Calvinism, Arminians are interpreting trouble passages in light of verses that could be for Arminianism or Calvinism. Therein lies the problem. When interpreting rough passages, Calvinists ground themselves on sturdy passages while Arminians ground them on ambiguous ones.
  26. panta dokimazete

    panta dokimazete Panting Donkey Machete

    ok, thanks to David for giving a very reasonable, propositional and, from my experience, very accurate portrayal of the Arminian viewpoint and some of the seemingly inevitable conclusions of Calvinistic doctrine.

    I think the underlying message of that passage is that even while we understand that God has ordained all things according to His good purpose and for the ultimate good of His elect, that we don't normally feel like God is making our paths straight or leading us into some dark Providence. That's what the awareness of will is anyway, right? The illusion that we are in control?

    If Augustine is right, and we are moving to a state of non posse peccare, then it seems to me that God must ordain our paths while we are in the state of posse non peccare, otherwise, we'd just slip right back into our depraved ways. I know I would. That's why I continue to "work out my own salvation with fear and trembling." :) It is His command, after all.

    I don't know about you, but there is a bliss about having my way set before me - to this ultimate end, when I stand before God and He says - welcome, beloved child, are you ready to sin no more? And I can, without a doubt joyously proclaim "Give what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt!"

    Because if He did not love me enough to overwhelm my will...:(

    The true arrogance of Arminianism, and it is arrogance, whether the person is aware or not, is that somehow, God loves me enough to let me chose Him. That my will is somehow more important than Christ's glory. That the eternal covenant is somehow all about my free will.:banghead:

    The incredible miracle and comfort of God's salvation is that I am elect and preordained in all that I do so that I will be conformed to Christ and given His righteousness, yet I feel free indeed! Imagine that feeling with the assurance that someday never again will you transgress God's commands...ever!

    This is the comfort and joy the Arminian misses and it breaks my heart for them, because they must become inconsistent to appreciate their freedom.

    They rob God of His rightful glory and weaken our apologia to maintain their autonomy.

    Sorry if this seems like a rant... :)
  27. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    You can say this all you want (it's the standard response), and I'm quite used to hearing it, because I think that many Calvinists are uncomfortable with the necessary consequences of their own major premises. The fact of the matter is, though, that we can't escape this conclusion if we take absolute predestination as our starting point. Simply asserting some kind of liberty in secondary causes just makes no sense. It's a philosophical attempt to say something that can't fit into the system we've just constructed.

    The problem is that the concept of ambiguity is highly subjective. How do you respond when the Arminian finds your verses ambiguous and his own concrete? The discussion quickly, and understandably, turns into "you're wrong! no you're wrong!"
  28. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Maybe I'm nitpicking but "overwhelm" has connotations like "bully" that are foreign to what Scripture tells us God does.
    Wouldn't "free my will" be better?

    Anybody who is unsaved has a will that is free to choose only evil some of the time and never God or his ways. It is the one who God regenerates who can choose to offer himself or herself to God and his or her members as instruments of righteousness for sin shall not be [their] master for [they, and they alone] are not under law but under grace. Cf. Rom 6:1-14.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  29. Confessor

    Confessor Puritan Board Senior

    I sincerely disagree. I've put a lot of time into concocting a workable framework that allows for true free will and God's sovereignty that doesn't appeal to divine mystery, and I bet at the very least you would find it interesting.

    You would tell him how he can't conclusively demonstrate that any of his passages point to an Arminian tenet (except for Total Depravity, of course). For example, if he asked you to explain how Romans 9:11 ("Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand") proves that God elected Jacob irrespective of works rather than temporally prior to works (which someone actually posited against me), you could make a case for it, by pointing out the part of the passage speaking of "God's purpose in election," or by some other means. Meanwhile, if you asked him to explain why "world" in John 3:16 equaled "all men without exception," he couldn't definitely tell you -- he could only say "World means world!"

    Now, you are right in pointing out the obstinacy of some people, but that doesn't nullify the objective proof of the Calvinist position, which is all I was arguing for in the first place. While "you have your passages, I have mine" may help explain why some people aren't Calvinists, it's not a good defense which people can use to hide from Calvinism. Some people may deny that you conclusively demonstrated a verse's coherence with Calvinism, but that doesn't support their case a bit, for they know (even if in their heart of hearts) that they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
  30. davidsuggs

    davidsuggs Puritan Board Freshman

    Partly because of the doctrine of limited atonement and partly because of the fact that, generally speaking, the majority shies from claims of absolutes in anything. When people take a stand on something strongly, it automatically breeds resistance of some sort, regardless of what is being stood upon. On the limited atonement idea, many cannot bring themselves to accept it because it violates the widely accepted, but depraved, ideal of fairness. When we fall into using as a standard anything other than God's character as revealed in the Bible to judge values such as fairness, we exalt that to the same level, or a surpassed level, of Scripture. We then judge everything else accordingly. This has happened with the value of fairness en masse in today's culture.
    Because Calvinists make a stand at all, and because we chose to do this on this particular issue (which dwarfs man in comparison to God's sovereignty), we are very very very often feared and rejected out of hand without argument.
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