Finally “Submitting” to Calvinism

I highly recommend this  article by Chris Chapman.  It seems especially relevant in light of my recent responses to C Michael Patton on his “The Irrationality of Calvinism” post.  While portions of Chapman’s post may seem offensive to some, it still illustrates a compelling narrative for why many end up turning to Calvinism.  I have often gotten the same vibe from just having discussions with Calvinists, especially based on their personal descriptions of coming to Calvinism.  I wonder if there are  any former Calvinists out there who can attest to this narrative as rather accurately reflecting their own process in coming to Calvinism?

18 thoughts on “Finally “Submitting” to Calvinism

  1. It [Calvinism] is the hardest philosophy to swallow, so it must be the most God-glorifying theology on the market.

    This one brief line summed up the entire article for me; it also articulated the experience of many, including my own.

    But adopting Calvinism not only made me feel more biblical, more devoted as a “big God” theology advocate (as I read recently on the Gospel Coalition blog); I also felt intellectually superior to all non-Calvinists. Now that is a blog post I’ve been wanting to write, especially since R.C. Sproul, in his Chosen by God, virtually admits the exact same notion — that Calvinists are intellectually superior. He even lined up the proponents of Calvinism and non-Calvinist ideology in an effort to prove his point.

    What he proved, in my opinion, is that even brilliant men can commit some of the worst theological errors imaginable.

  2. Dale,

    I just found this apropos little tid-bit from one of Derek’s blogs:

    I will be the first to admit there are passages in the Bible that are hard to understand. However, Romans 9 is not one of them. It is hard to accept, but not so hard to understand at the basic level. Without any doubt it is “strong medicine.” But the strong medicine of God’s Word is the cure for our sin-sick souls’ deepest diseases, and we need to be willing to receive it full strength. Let our Systematic Theology feel the pain if it must, but Scripture is non-negotiable.

    Like you said, Chris Chapman nailed it!

  3. On this topic, recently I was exploring a site entitled “Reformation Theology” and browsing through articles under the category “testimony.” It struck me that most of the “testimonies” are not of unbelievers becoming Christians, but of non-Calvinists becoming Calvinism. Yes, these people think that their adoption of a different soteriological view merits a dramatic conversion story:

    And, maybe this is beside the point, but I couldn’t resist sharing this lovely gem from our friend Steve Hays (and note the kindly comments).

  4. “Whatever that Scripture [viz., Romans 9] proves, it can never prove this. Whatever its true meaning be, this cannot be its true meaning. … No Scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works. That is, whatever it prove beside, no Scripture can prove [unconditional, double] predestination.” (This from John Wesley’s sermon “On Free Grace.”)

  5. Jason,

    I’m sorry, but I felt I needed to delete your comment due to an abbreviation you used that seemed very inappropriate. Feel free to reword your comment if you like.

    God Bless,

  6. Sorry, used to a rougher crowd than this.

    I was told by a Calvinist, one who could read the Biblical languages, that context wasn’t that important in understanding the Biblical texts. I couldn’t understand that because to me context is king.

    When someone says that their theology starts with the Bible, what they generally mean is they start with an assumption of a low context, individualistic, woodenly literal Westerner, what I call the “white guys like us” school of Bible interpretation. The Bible was written by high context, collective, frequently hyperbolic, Ancient Near Easterners.

    Through that lens it becomes nearly impossible for Calvinist interpretations of passages like Romans 9 to be correct.

    No surprise that Calvinists don’t seem big on cultural context.

  7. Jason – Very good point about cultural context. Interesting that you point out the high & low context of understanding God’s Word. These terms coined by ET Hall is a huge interest of mine. Do you have any references for the use of those terms in regard to God’s Word? I’m working on a project that incorporates Hall’s work…

  8. JP Holding at makes frequent use of the work of The Context Group. Pilch, Malina et al.

    It’s not referenced in my copy of the Handbook of Biblical Social Values, so I probably learned it from him.

  9. @Dave,

    I read Steve Hays’ post and wanted to respond but was afraid he would attack me via ad hominem because of my past. I still may, though. I think he missed the point entirely.

  10. As an example of high context versus low context, we have the much loved, Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.

    What is Paul the Jewish Rabbi saying? That God hated Esau? If so he did a very poor job of it as Esau died wealthy and at peace with his brother. The reference comes from Malachi, from a time of conflict between Israel and Edom, who are identified by their progenitors. They are groups of people identified with individuals, as we are with Jesus. In context God isn’t even saying that he hates Esau, but in the hyperbolic Semetic fashion that he preferred Israel over Edom.

    Nor was Israel a fixed “predestined” number, as anyone could become part of Israel by full conversion including circumcision, or affiliated in the manner of gentiles who accepted everything except the final snip.

    In explaining why not all Israel is saved yet, Paul likens Israel to Pharoah who hardened himself/was hardened in order that Israel would have a greater testimony of what God did to bring them out of Egypt. By persecuting the early church Israel had forced the church to expand from Jerusalem to the ends of the Roman empire, but Paul was quite clear that despite that the Roman Christians should not be arrogant against the Jews who had recently returned to Rome after being expelled by the Emperor, under fear for their own salvation (Paul didn’t believe in P).

    Thanks to Jerry Walls for that, any errors are my own.

  11. Jason – I am not a Bible scholar but I have felt for a long time that ET Hall’s concept of high/low context was applicable to many sections of the Bible where white, western European/North American male culture misinterprets. Thanks for pointing out several of them 🙂

  12. Also, Rev Chapman writes to us as a pastor/missionary in Indonesia. I think that his immersion in host country’s culture has sharpened his acuity for understanding God’s Word in a style more natural to the cultures in which the Bible were written.

  13. In everything I’ve ever heard or read on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, NOONE has ever mentioned that God may be ‘sovereign’ but that GOD IS LOVE 1 Jn 4:7,8,16. He loves (verb) and He is love (noun) but we cannot say “He is sovereignty”, just ‘He is sovereign’.

  14. “Nor was Israel a fixed “predestined” number, as anyone could become part of Israel by full conversion including circumcision, or affiliated in the manner of gentiles who accepted everything except the final snip.”

    — I may be offtopic but, Anybody of you guys ever talk to Jehova’s Witnesses? I believe they have the same interpretation as Calvinists regarding John chapter 3 BUT different only that JWs say the Born Agains are those specific number refered to in the book of Revelations.

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