My heart is heavy within me. My soul is vexed. Oh, that the loftiness of my Calvinistic brothers and sisters would be humbled. Oh, that they would represent the spirit which our theology demands. But such is not often found.
I have written on this before, but I feel I must lodge my complaint once again.
I see less Christ-like character in many Calvinistic brethren than I do in just about any other tradition in Christianity.
Maybe it is the internet. Yeah, that must be it. The “Internet Calvinists.” The more I read online, the more my countenance is lowered in shame. I don’t find this type of stuff anywhere else. Who are these “Internet Calvinists”? They need to calm down.
Quick notice: Calvinists: Don’t send me any more emails talking about the “heresy” of Arminianism. I don’t get excited. Don’t forward me any more videos that dramatize the departure of Arminian theology. I won’t ride that bus. If you do, with sadness, I will just delete them. Not because of the message telling me “Ten Reasons Arminians Have a Different Gospel,” but because the message you give when you forward this kind of stuff.
Calm down. Back up. Take ten. Find an Arminian friend and see if they don’t love the same Lord.
“Are you saying, Michael, that the distinctions don’t matter? Are you saying that we should just focus on other things and act apathetic toward these issues?” Not at all. Stay passionate. I will. But there is a difference between the passionate disagreement among brothers and the same among enemies.
Two of my best friends growing up were Jason and Jerrett (they still are). They are twins. When we were kids, all of us guys used to love to watch these two fight (sadistic, I know). They would get into these fist fights that would last for 30 minutes at a time. We would watch cheering them on. Once, one of us did something really stupid. The fight had gotten a little out of control so one of us jumped in to try to break it up. You know what happened? They both turned on us! As mad as they might be at each other, they were not about to let the other get into danger from anyone other than themselves!
It was fun. But the point is that in the end their fights weren’t going to separate the two – ever! They were brothers and nothing could change their loyalty. They would never really hurt each other because their fights had a perspective and a respect that you could misunderstand only to your own peril.
Calvinists, Arminians are our brothers. When we fight, let us treat them as brothers, not like terrorists from another country.
Are Arminians wrong? This is what we believe, but the seriousness of their departure should not be overstated. We treat each other with great respect, knowing their love for Christ and the image of God they bear.
“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?”
The rhetoric that is out there is embarrassing. I am sick of having to explain over and over again what Calvinism is not before I get to what it is. “No, we are not arrogant.” (At least we are not supposed to be.) “No we don’t think we are better than others.” (How could we? Don’t we promote the doctrines of grace? Do we even know what grace means?) And, most importantly, “No, we don’t think Arminians are going to hell.” If you do, then you are way out of line.
With all our differences, don’t forget how much Calvinist and Arminians agree upon. If Christ is at the center of your theology, you will know what I am talking about. If Calvin is your hub, then, I must say, I have less in common with you than I do them.
I know, I know: there are plenty of Arminians out there who are on a crusade to boil us in oil. I am not worried about that right now. I am worried about us.
I have also noticed lately that some of the most (formally) gracious Arminians are beginning to change, showing a deep antagonism for those whom they have tried to respect. I see them lashing out uncharacteristically. I will not name any names, but I have three of these gentlemen in mind. I have to wonder, though, whether we are to blame for this. Can we be held accountable due to our arrogance and damning rhetoric? We will see.
Calvinists, let’s act according to what we believe. Let’s calm down.
(Where did this come from? Just got another one of those emails.)
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]