Sneaky Calvinism (Calvinism on the Sly in Action)

About a week ago, I discovered a post highlighting C. Michael Patton’s post on “The Irrationality of Calvinism”, a post I interacted with in a 5 part series.  In looking over the comments I discovered an extremely disturbing example of Calvinism on the Sly written by someone who goes by “Blainemonster”.  Apparently, “Blainemonster” teaches high school students at an Assemblies of God church (a denomination that is decidedly against Calvinism).  He took the opportunity to brag about how he had “cleverly” introduced his Calvinist philosophy to his AG class,

Just yesterday I was teaching (in my A/G church) my high school class the Scriptural truths about God’s sovereignty in salvation. I cleverly did not use the terms “unconditional election” or “Calvinism.” I simply explained what the Bible clearly teaches in, i.e., Ephesians 1 and Romans 8. The kids came up with some good questions, and what I noticed was that we (humans) desperately want to be able to explain everything.

A couple of the students hypothesized that, regarding foreknowledge, it was just that since God knows everything, he already knew who would choose him – that same ol’ saw. I explained that first of all, that that is NOT what “foreknow” means, and then helped them to see that if itwere true, then God is essentially bound by our decisions.

We went on from there to talk very briefly about the mysteries of God. At any rate, it was a fun exercise, and what you’ve posted today is just exactly where we were yesterday. I love these bits especially:“The issue of human freedom and unconditional election is in the same apophatic domain. We can’t make sense out of them and once we do, we have entered into error.

And later, Will you trust me or will you redefine things?” [link]

I left a response that was never approved,

The Blainemonster,

What AG church do you work at?  I would like to contact them and let them know what you are up to.  Why is that you think it is OK to slip your Calvinism into a lesson to HS students, when you know that the AG is against Calvinism?  Of course, you can believe what you want, but what you are doing is dead wrong and you should resign from any teaching position you have with the AG.  May God help you to do the right thing,

Ben

And if you want to see an Arminian response to Patton’s question begging post, or comment, see my 5 Part response beginning here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/an-arminian-response-to-c-michael-pattons-the-irrationality-of-calvinism-part-1-the-set-up/

…and if you want to debate your Calvinism with someone other than high school kids, I’m up for the challenge.  Just leave a comment or two at my site.

While I understand that Blainemonster probably believes that he is doing God’s work in introducing his Calvinism to these kids (since he is obviously convinced that Calvinism is true and anything less than Calvinism is not), the fact remains that he is, by his own admission, being sneaky about it.  But why be so sneaky?  Why the need to do things so “cleverly”?  I honestly cannot think of any other reasons besides the fact that he knew what he was doing was out of harmony with the beliefs of the church he was serving.  Why else boast in how clever he was to introduce Calvinism and slam that “same ol’ saw” of foreknowledge held by the AG and traditional Arminians (though he doesn’t seem to fully understand the traditional Arminian view).  Does he really want these kids to think for themselves  or does he want to indoctrinate them?  Notice that they came up with foreknowledge themselves.   So it seems clear to me that “Blainemonster” at least had some inclination that what he was doing was wrong.

It is further interesting that despite his issue with humans “desperately want[ing] to be able to explain everything”, he still felt the (desperate?) need to “explain” and “help them see” that there ideas on foreknowledge were wrong.  He needs to “explain” to them that this is “NOT what ‘foreknow’ means” (really?) and would actually make “God…essentially bound by our decisions” (which is total nonsense, of course).

While refusing to post my response (and, apparently other’s responses as well), the blog operator did decide to let us know why he would not publish our comments:

Some comments (which I have left unpublished) have taken issue with the Blainemonster’s personal account regarding a discussion of election in a Sunday School class. The Blainemonster is not required to justify his actions in this forum, and as moderator I have opted not to place him in that position on this blog. It is likely that the Blainemonster has the appropriate godly people in his life who can speak to him about any perceived issues; it is also likely that his theological leanings are well known to those with whom he associates. Either way, that is his concern and will not be made a matter of judgmental confrontation here.

The Assemblies of God is not an officially Arminian denomination, as some have assumed. This can be seen from the official statements below. Speaking as one who attended A/G churches for approximately 10 years, is a graduate of one of their Bible colleges, and held a paid ministry position in one of their churches for several years, I can personally confirm the following:

A. There are Calvinists scattered throughout the A/G, and they are generally tolerated (though sometimes misunderstood)
B. The A/G’s official positions reflect a deep misunderstanding of Calvinistic doctrines, such that it would be inaccurate to say they are officially opposed to Calvinism; they are more opposed to hyper-Calvinism and “Once saved, always saved” than genuine, mainstream Calvinism.

An additional response addressing some of the A/G’s official statements on Calvinism will follow.

I need to make a few comments here.  First, how is it that this guy knows that “it is also likely that his theological leanings are well known to those with whom he associates”?  If he means those he teaches under  at the AG church, then why the need to be so sneaky?  What about the parents of those kids?  Do they have a right to know what is going on?  Remember, Blainmonster didn’t just present opposing views and allow the students to decide for themselves (though I have my doubts that he could even accurately present the Arminian view).  Rather, he took sides in a rather strong manner for Calvinism (and did it “cleverly”).  And if Blainemonster is so well known for his Calvinism in his church, why not allow my post so that Blainemonster can let me know what AG church he teaches at?  He should have nothing at all to worry about.  And why is it that the administrator is not willing to judge Balinmonster’s actions, but is more than ready to judge my response inappropriate?  He can run his blog how he likes, but his response sure seems rather one sided.  While he doesn’t think it right for me to judge his actions inappropriate, he sure does seem to think it necessary to defend Blainemonster’s actions (since apparently Blainemonster can’t defend himself).

He then goes on to do so by making the following points,

The Assemblies of God is not an officially Arminian denomination, as some have assumed.

That really doesn’t matter.  What is an “officially Arminian denomination” anyway?  One thing that is for sure is that the AG rejects unconditional election, irresistible grace,  limited atonement, and inevitable perseverance.  Likewise, they uphold free will in the libertarian sense and reject exhaustive determinism.  Blainemonster knows all of this, and yet “cleverly” introduced Calvinist ideas to these kids.  Furthermore, I think it can be demonstrated that while the AG rejects the label of “Arminian” they are decidedly Arminian in their theology.  Their rejection of the title seems to be the result of wrongly defining Arminianism in accordance with the misrepresentations of Calvinist critics, rather than on what Arminianism actually entails.  I documented this some time ago here.

A. There are Calvinists scattered throughout the A/G, and they are generally tolerated (though sometimes misunderstood)

But this is hardly relevant.  Just because they are tolerated doesn’t mean they are teaching Calvinism or that the AG also tolerates them teaching Calvinism.  To tolerate someone with differing views is not the same as approving of their teaching those views in the context of an AG class to kids.

B. The A/G’s official positions reflect a deep misunderstanding of Calvinistic doctrines, such that it would be inaccurate to say they are officially opposed to Calvinism; they are more opposed to hyper-Calvinism and “Once saved, always saved” than genuine, mainstream Calvinism.

That may be the case (just as they reflect a misunderstanding of Arminianism-though that doesn’t seem to concern the blog administrator), but they also reflect a rejection of all of the Calvinist doctrines I listed above.  In his next post he quotes very selectively from the same AG position paper that I highlighted in my post on the AG’s stance on eternal security (linked above).  Much of his argument is based on the confusion the paper demonstrates in what constitutes Arminianism and what constitutes Calvinism,  the same issue I pointed out in my post.  However, he draws some unwarranted conclusions based on his selectivity and “interpretation” of what these position papers are expressing.   We will take a detailed look at that in my next post.

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