I’m sitting in a hotel room tonight enjoying a family weekend and catching up on twitter while trying to get the kids to go to sleep, and in doing so I run across this from Pastor Steve McCoy this afternoon:
“I’m not clear on most things about God, but Calvinists anger me.”
– An Absurd Number of People
(@SteveKMcCoy, June 7, 2013, at 2:36 PM)
Steve (pastor of an SBC church in the Chicago area) and Bill Kinnon went back and forth a bit on Twitter after that tweet, Bill suggesting that it was a bit judgmental to suggest that people who aren’t Calvinists “aren’t clear on most things about God”, and Steve saying that he didn’t mean that everyone who hates Calvinism is unclear, but that “an absurd number” are. Their conversation trailed off before they came to any resolution.
Then there was this stunning quote from the Founders.org website, for which SBC pastor Tom Ascol is a primary leader:
In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism….
…For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.
Did you get that? Calvinism is “nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity”. And if anyone recognizes salvation from the Lord, and seeks to glorify God, then that person is implicitly a Calvinist! And all the Calvinists need to do is explain it in a way that the unknowing Calvinist might understand.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all proponents of Calvinism would make such presumptuous, arrogant claims, and I won’t claim for an instant that there aren’t some really God-ignorant Calvinism haters like Steve is talking about. I’m sure I don’t speak for the group of progressive bloggers who have been very vocal in recent weeks about their concerns with Calvinism and certain highly visible Calvinist groups. But I can speak for myself.
I’m not particularly progressive. I accept the Bible as God’s authoritative, inspired Word, but I don’t think that means I have to read the first bits of Genesis literally. I believe, based on what I read in the Bible, that homosexual behavior is wrong, but I’m in favor of the state sanctioning same-sex marriages and I believe Christians have done a pretty poor job of loving homosexuals over the last several decades. I voted for Bush twice and then Obama twice. I try to not post about politics on Facebook.
I also don’t think I’d fit into Steve McCoy’s category of being “not clear on most things about God”. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home, did 12 years of AWANA, attended a Christian university that required a bunch of Bible classes, have served as a deacon and an elder in a Conservative Baptist church and helped plant another CBA church that eventually became an Acts 29 church. I read widely in theology; my last couple years of reading includes Baptists, Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Arminians and Calvinists alike.
And here’s the thing: (well, two things:) I’m not a Calvinist. And some of what I’m seeing out of some of these key Calvinists does anger me.
The big fuel on the fire lately has been the recent statements about CJ Mahaney and the sexual abuse lawsuits brewing against several folks from Sovereign Grace Ministries churches. Calvinist leaders like Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, Don Carson, and Justin Taylor have put out statements supporting Mahaney, and erroneously claiming that Mahaney was accused of no crime (he was accused of conspiring to keep the abuse claims quiet).
That men of such intellect and reputation would publish a statement with such obvious mistruths in it angers me. That after posting it on Facebook and getting dozens of disapproving comments, they deleted the statement and the comments frustrates me a lot. That then they, without comment, revised it to remove the claim that Mahaney was never accused, and posted it on their organization’s website while disallowing comments infuriates me.
That Justin Taylor would claim, on twitter, that continuing discussion with divisive folks is a sin (a not-so-subtle explanation, one would assume, for why he was keeping comments closed), only to delete the tweet a couple days later once people called him on it, makes me want to bang my head against the nearest immovable object.
I don’t hate these guys. I have, in the past, respected them a lot. Which is why it’s all the more infuriating and disappointing when I see them taking indefensible positions like these.
I don’t want to assume that this circling of the wagons and declaration of Calvinism as nothing more or less than true Christianity is the default Calvinist position. I want to believe that there are Calvinist brothers and sisters out there who are as horrified by the alleged abuse and cover-up, and by the ridiculous arrogance of the Founders.org statement as I am.
But where are they? Why are they quiet?
Where is the Calvinist brother who is willing to publicly suggest that it would be wiser to not have CJ Mahaney still regularly preaching and on the conference circuit while allegations about the cover-up remain unresolved?
Where is the Southern Seminary graduate who is willing to say that while he personally believes Calvinism to be the truest expression of Christianity, he would never dream of asserting that every Christian would claim Calvinism if only they understood it better?
Without those voices many of us are left with few options but to believe that these are the default Calvinist positions. I beg you, my brothers, speak out and give us more options. God’s church deserves better.