Friday, June 30, 2006

The "Cage Stage" Calvinist

"A lot of new and ignorant Calvinists need to...well, shut up. I know that isn't the politest phrase in the book, but it is the truth. Most of the damage done in these matters is done by people who are in what Calvinists call the "cage phase," those inaugural few months when you know very little except some version of TULIP and you won't be quiet about that. These are people who need to get a very large stack of books and get some roots going, but instead they go and pick a fight with whoever is least likely to understand what they are talking about. These converts- often impressionable students or very unread laity- can be obnoxious, immature and thoughtless in their assaults. They've done a lot of damage and there is no apologizing for them. I would say they should be recognized for what they are- untaught, ignorant, and often, young. Most them will grow out of it. A few remain that way until their next phase." - Michael Spencer
This post is an important reminder to all of us, and especially to me, who are passionately and unapologetically Calvinistic. I would imagine that every Calvinist who first embraces and experiences the joy in discovering TULIP would have undergone the "cage" stage where we were extremely zealous for the doctrines of grace (I do believe I still am!). The new Calvinists would typically display a disdain for anything and anyone remotely Arminian, often times go around looking for debates with Arminians to fuel their hyper-evangelistic zeal for the absolute sovereignty of God.

While I believe that having zeal for the doctrines of grace is not a bad thing, what’s also important is that we must always show grace and kindness to those who have not yet arrive at our Reformed position. After all, we are preaching the doctrines of grace! The reason we are now able to rejoice in these biblical truths is solely due to the grace of God and not because of our own intellect. Hence, the doctrines of grace are supposed to humble us, not to make us spiritually proud.

That being said, I do regard historic Arminianism as heresy. I strongly believe that Arminianism qualifies as a false gospel because of its opposition to biblical truths. However, in spite of this, I also believe most Arminians are quite inconsistent in their theology. Most Arminians, in actual fact, do pray like Calvinists and have not fully examined the worked-out implications of Arminianism. And this is why I generally regard Arminians as my brothers and sisters in Christ and will continue to have Christian fellowship with them.

There are two extremes we must avoid. The first is to abandon the truth for the sake of love, while the second is to speak the truth without love. The former is regrettably quite common in Christianity today, while the latter is perhaps why we Calvinists are sometimes accused of being self-righteous and judgmental. I do think that in most cases, the accusations are often without basis and are usually cheap shots fired at us when our critics find themselves cornered in arguments.

Therefore, let us always bear in mind the teaching to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Even as we fervently believe as Spurgeon believed, that “Calvinism is the gospel,” we must constantly be conscious of our attitude towards others. Our goal should first and foremost be to preach Christ, not merely to win theological arguments.

Further reading:
  1. Why Calvinists Have a Poor Reputation
  2. Baby Calvinists Should Be Shackled!
  3. Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism
  4. Reformed Theology vs. the Reformed Attitude
  5. A Farewell to Calvinism
  6. You Might still be in the Caged Calvinist Stage If....
  7. Top Ten Signs You’re a Calvinist– Who’s Still in the “Cage Stage”
  8. Loving Calvinists: An Oxymoron?
  9. Is Arminianism a False Gospel?
  10. Are All Arminians Unsaved?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. It needs to be widely circulated.

May I add that many Calvinists I know are quick to conclude that a person is heretical and Arminian merely on the basis of some obviously Arminian or heretical statement that is made without due consideration to the doctrine of sancitification as applied to their "opponent". There is no perfected knowledge this side of eternity and everyone is growing, revising, reforming their understanding. Everyone's ability to make logical or doctrinal connections vary tremendously. It is sheer pride and unloving then to accuse another evangelical Christian of being Arminian or heretical if there is no room for the pastoral consideration that the person in question is a mistaken Calvinist, or a work-in-progress Calvinist. We Reformed believers need to repent of our pride and lack of love as much as our evangelical Arminian bros and sis need to repent of their detraction from God's glory.

Owen

30/6/06 10:36 PM  
Blogger Noldorin_Calvinist said...

I agree with your post. We do have a sense of ill repute because our hostility towards the evil gospel of Arminianism is sometimes (alot) lashed out against the Arminian.

I think this 'Compassionate Calvinism' needs to be preached more, because we are what we are by the grace of God. It seems some of your sources were addressing Hyper-Calvinism.

I believe many Calvinists get upset and into heated arguments because many Arminians follow the apologetic of Charles Finney- putting the Calvinists and Hypers in the same boat and attacking things the separate the two parties.

2/7/06 10:04 AM  
Blogger Ignatius said...

I think the same could be said of other 'brand' of christians, & not just Calvinists. Sometimes, they speak too much, and they do not know that they know very little. This is also the reason why I'm writing ('speaking') lesser and lesser for my blog!

As for your point 'I generally regard Arminians as my brothers and sisters in Christ and will continue to have Christian fellowship with them', many Baptists (some are reformed/calvinist though) and most Methodists have an element of Arminian understanding in their theology. However, many Baptists and Methodists have contributed much to our understanding of the Bible. Not to regard them as 'brothers and sisters in Christ' and not to have Christian fellowship with them would be too self-righteous. I don't think the differences (important as they might be)nessitates such extreme response from us!

Indeed, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)and preaching Christ are definitely more important than winning theological arguments. Unity in Christ also allows us to be a witness to non-Christians.

5/7/06 9:30 AM  
Blogger The Hedonese said...

Roger Olson wrote a new book on Arminianism and the usual calvinist caricatures of it as heretical and denying the solas... :) May be interesting...

Thanks, Owen! Looking at everyone - both calvinists and arminians as 'work in progress' does help our discourse to be more civil... and hopefully, less emotive terms like 'heretical' being used...

24/7/06 11:50 AM  

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