New York Time’s Exposé on “Calvinists”

The New York Times decided to do an error ridden piece on Mark Driscoll.  I’m fairly certain that Driscoll doesn’t swear and make sex jokes all the time, no matter how much of a masculinist he is.  What I thought was most hilarious, is how shocked Molly Worthen is at the existence of this sect.  She can’t manage to hold back her astonishment in writing.

But what is new about Driscoll is that he has resurrected a particular strain of fire and brimstone, one that most Americans assume died out with the Puritans: Calvinism, a theology that makes Pat Robertson seem warm and fuzzy.

First off, Calvinists don’t tend to call for the assassination of foreign heads of state.  Not in my experience.  Second of all, many Americans are probably well acquainted with Calvinism, if they know a Presbyterian.  Third of all, Mark Driscoll hasn’t “resurrected” it.

Yet his message seems radically unfashionable, even un-American: you are not captain of your soul or master of your fate but a depraved worm whose hard work and good deeds will get you nowhere, because God marked you for heaven or condemned you to hell before the beginning of time.

Calvinism.  Un-American.

How many people read Max Weber anymore?  Calvinism is very American, it defined in many ways American ethics and American politics.  The notion of being elected, of being a “shining city on a hill” is a particularly Calvinist notion. 

And for a report about Mark Driscoll, Ms. Worthen oddly enough decides to ignore his theology.  Not only that, but the controversies within Calvinism.  The infralapsarians are not pleased!

But Anti-American… wow.  I know a certain friend who’s going to be hearing a lot of that.  “Calvinism is un-American.  New York Times said so.”

And now Calvinist Conservatives can complain that not only is the New York Times liberal, but it’s arminian too!

Human beings are totally corrupted by original sin and predestined for heaven or hell, no matter their earthly conduct. We all deserve eternal damnation, but God, in his inscrutable mercy, has granted the grace of salvation to an elect few. While John Calvin’s 16th-century doctrines have deep roots in Christian tradition, they strike many modern evangelicals as nonsensical and even un-Christian.

Because, you know, those same modern evangelicals have so much trouble with the doctrine of total depravity.  That totally is not an agreed upon doctrine. The concern is on predestination, which is not necessarily double predestination, which is something Mark Driscoll does not believe in (at least that’s what his rhetoric sounds like to me).  So why paint him with that broad brush?  Did John Calvin even believe in double predestination?  All I know is that he didn’t care about predestination all that much.  It wasn’t a concern for him.

If predestination is true, they argue, then there is no point in missions to the unsaved or in leading a godly life.

However Calvinists would retort that while God may predestine who makes the choice, that choice must still be offered to them.  Hence missions, which Calvinists do take part in.  Because of this grace, we are called, then, to live the life of one who has been saved.  Which is why a Calvinist would then lead a Godly life. But you won’t read that in the New York Times.  In the interest of fairness, that is completely glossed over.

And some babies who die in infancy — if God placed them among the reprobate — go straight to hell with the rest of the damned, to “glorify his name by their own destruction,” as Calvin wrote. 

This just in, John Calvin hated babies.  More at 11.

I’m supposed to take this seriously?  I’m an arminian, but I can tell how bogus this is.  Then she throws in a Calvin quote which is more nuanced than it at first appears, and which would take a lot more space than I am willing to explain.

Since the early 19th century, most evangelicals have preferred a theology that stresses the believer’s free decision to accept God’s grace. To be born again is a choice God wants you to make; if you so choose, Jesus will be your personal friend.

This is funny.  It’s true that arminianism is more popular.  However, the idea that the individual should make the decision is actually Calvinist.  The First Great Awakening in America was a Calvinist undertaking.  Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al.  These tropes are all Calvinist tropes.

Yet Driscoll is not an isolated eccentric. Over the past two decades, preachers in places as far-flung as Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., in denominations ranging from Baptist to Pentecostal, are pushing “this new, aggressive, mission-minded Calvinism that really believes Calvinism is a transcript of the Gospel,” according to Roger Olson, a professor of theology at Baylor University. 

Those fiends!  How could they contradict their own beliefs by being mission oriented, and believe that they are preaching the Gospel!  It’s absurd!

I’m outraged!

Calvinism is a theology predicated on paradox: God has predestined every human being’s actions, yet we are still to blame for our sins; we are totally depraved, yet held to the impossible standard of divine law. 

Only those who believe in Double Predestination! 

The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness.

Calvinists looove to split, and can be very mean.  To make an insanely broad generalization.  But they certainly don’t murder people, and squash all dissent.

That’s not an innate teaching of Calvinism, and it does not need result in it.

After all of this defending, I feel dirty.

This entry was posted in Culture, Theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New York Time’s Exposé on “Calvinists”

  1. Icondream says:

    Nice Diatribe.

  2. Paul says:

    Good Job!

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