J.I. Packer Calls Arminianism “an intellectual sin of infirmity”

In other words, Arminians are just stupid Christians who refuse to mature intellectually.  Here is the quote:

Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh. Calvinism is what the Christian church has always held and taught when its mind has not been distracted by controversy and false traditions from attending to what Scripture actually says. (taken from: J.I. Packer and Arminianism)

Roger Olson rightly concludes, “So, to him, Arminianism is sin.”  And we are told that Calvinism is supposed to promote humility in its adherents!?  However, it seems to me, again and again, that Calvinism’s “natural” effect is to promote pride and smugness in those who come to embrace it.  And of course, Packer’s last sentence is demonstrably Historically false (see here for several posts on the subject).  What is truly sad and alarming is that this comes not from misguided internet Neo-Reformed types, but from a mainstream Calvinist scholar.

Baffling Comment

Someone named JW ignored the stated purpose of the X-Calvinist Corner page and wrote the following:

Congratulations to all ex-Calvinists. Now you have the right to go to hell. It’s a precious right so guard it with all of your hearts.

I am not sure what to make of it.  Is this person suggesting that leaving Calvinism sends someone to hell?  Does the comment suggest that only Calvinists are saved?  If so, this is another disturbing example of the pride and intolerance of certain Calvinists towards any theology that wasn’t invented by John Calvin.  It really turns sola fide into sola Calvinism.  I wish I could say this is the minority view among Calvinists today, but I am really starting to wonder.  It seems to typify where the Neo-Reformed movement has been heading for quite some time.  Perhaps I have misunderstood.  If so, I invite the author of this comment to explain.

Why I Am Not A Calvinist (Tim Pierce)

Dr. Tim Pierce is doing a series on why he left Calvinism at his blog Inadequate in Myself.  He seems to considers himself a non-Calvinist rather than an Arminian (the reasons for which have not yet been made clear in the series, though he has mentioned having problems with theological “systems” in general).  His series is ongoing, but it is worth a read.  He seems to be taking his time in order to be as clear as possible concerning the various reasons why he came to believe that Calvinism did not represent a purely Biblical theology.  Here is an excerpt from Part 3:

A big part of my journey out of Calvinism was a journey of discovery of its basis and the way the system didn’t deal with the greater picture of God’s relationship to man. It was also a discovery of how Calvinism had become in many ways its own sort of idol for me – the irony being that at the very moment I was speaking words about the “greatness of God” I was actually enthralled by the greatness of my own intellect. John Newton (A Calvinist) put it well when he wrote:

“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self- righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.”*****

The difference between me and Newton is that I see this as almost an inherent part of the system of Calvinism, because I believe that systems themselves have inherent dangers, and when placed together with some of the content of Calvinism, such is almost unavoidable. In the weeks ahead I hope to outline more specifically where I believe the system of Calvinism has eclipsed some of the content of Scripture as it pertains to Grace and in so doing, stepped into an untenable position biblically speaking.

More on the Psychology of Calvinism

Billy Birch has written an excellent post on why certain Calvinists might tend to act the way that they do towards non-Calvinists.  It is also a gentle and necessary reminder to us all to conduct ourselves with grace, compassion, and respect when discussing these controversial topics.  Thanks Billy!

Calvinist Humility Displayed

Here are some comments taken from the combox of a recent post on apostasy in Hebrews by Ben Witherington. The first comments are from a Calvinist objector, followed by a small portion of Ben’s response.

Many words don’t mean truth, more likely much sin, as Prov 10:19 says, a big reason for the shallowness of web “christianity” (if the present atomized “web christianity” isn’t an oxymoron versus God’s Heb.10:25 picture of the Church.

Contra Witherington and Wesley, and their countless antiBiblical synergistic egoistic delusional errors, castles on air with not one verse of Scripture to support them, there is of course no possibility of a true Christian apostatizing, as 1 John 2:19 and all of Romans and many other passages make clear, explicated voluminously by so many of the Puritans (such as John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, to name but two, and ably demonstrated at http://www.monergism.com and http://www.desiringGod.org for those who desire God more than men, unusual for synergists, as Ben’s bizarre and irrational antiBiblical insistence (sadly almost universal today) on God idolatrously glorifying man and not Himself as supremely worthy), whom synergists can’t handle honestly but need not worry about today’s illiterates ever reading to expose their bluff, stupidity, vacuity, and vanity. As C.S. Lewis said about the assured results of modern criticism, the only reason the results are so “assured” is that the original authors are dead and so can’t blow (=refute) the gaffe (=error).

As John Piper has pointed out on the passage in preaching through the book (www.desiringGod.org), contrary to the usual eisegetical delusions of synergists, for whom the ego is God, and God is belittled, contrary to the pillar of Romans 9:15 that tells us God is sovereign and decides all (Prov 16:33), Hebrews 6 refers to two DIFFERENT soils, NOT one soil that changes itself; sadly I myself taught Ben’s error many years ago before I matured, and was rightly ejected from the house I shared with Christian brothers for it as I wish would happen to wake up those following Ben’s error to make them take the Christian faith versus mere ego seriously.

Ben would have saved himself a lot of wasted time and effort typical for synergists trying to use special knowledge like “rhetorical signals” and what not, going all over the map with extraBiblical legerdemain vainly trying to escape the simple meaning of the Sacred text, and thus failing to notice the small but essential point that overthrows these vast (and as vain as vast, in both senses of the word) synergist speculations with a bogus antiBiblical view of grace that has been so catastrophic in destroying God’s Church, especially but not only in the west) by substituting for His true Gospel of grace, Wesley’s and Finney’s ultimately humanistic chicanery of a pseudo-gospel of works and ego (I (appropriately the middle letter of sin) have the final say, not God, in who is elect, contradicted by Rom 9:15) that today’s tragically stupid and worldly Biblically illiterate couch potato devils’/idiots’ box & screen imbibers are all too happy to embrace as James 4 adulteress-idolatresses. God save us, for only His grace in sending conviction and revival to His Church that has lost her way (at least in the west), gleefully headed like lemmings for certain destruction but for His amazing grace.

Witherington’s entire reply was excellent but I only want to cite a small portion:

It is interesting to me, who has read the works of Calvin, Owens, Edwards, Berkhof, Berkower, both Hodges, Warfield and so on and did attend a Reformed seminary and has respect for that tradition, that I am happy to admit I learned a lot from them, but when I actually turned to doing the detailed exegesis of all the NT, while their theological system was certainly logical and coherent, unfortunately it did not match up with what the actual text of the NT was teaching on ever so many points, not the least of which is what it teaches when it warns genuine Christians about apostasy.

Here is exactly why I reject Calvinism. There is no doubt that Calvinism as a system is, to some extant, inherently logical. The problem comes when we try to harmonize this “system” with the Scriptures. The fact that its doctrines are at odds with so many of the most basic Scriptural declarations (e.g. God’s love for all the world and desire to save all) is the reason why this Arminian rejects it. I suspect that is the case with most Arminians and Non-Calvinists. It is not some desperate desire to “worship at the alter of free will” or “exalt man above God”. It is simply a desire to build theology on the teachings of Scripture, however bothersome those teachings may be to some (e.g. the possibility of genuine apostasy, etc.), rather than constantly struggling to fit the square peg of Calvinism into the round hole of Scriptural teaching.

Calvinists can reject Arminianism for whatever reasons they like but they should have the decency to stop trying to tell Arminians why they reject Calvinism. Calvinists may not like it, but I suspect that most people reject Calvinism for no other reason than that they find it thoroughly unbiblical. If I could find real support for Calvinism in the pages of Scripture, I would embrace it at once. Don’t you think I would like to be one of those “intellectual elite?” However, as attractive as being a “mature” and “intellectually superior” Calvinist might be, I would rather be a fool in their eyes for the sake of allowing the Lord to define Himself and His intentions through the infallible revelation of His word.

I should point out that the arrogance of the commenter at Mr. Witherington’s blog is by no means representative of all Calvinists. Some have similar thoughts but would never express them as this gentleman has done. There are surely numerous Calvinists who exercise genuine humility in thought and practice everyday. However, the attitudes expressed by the above Calvinist commenter sadly seems to reflect the norm rather than the exception among Calvinists today, particularly on the Internet. This is strange behavior for those who claim to have a corner on humility based on the teachings of their theology. It is even stranger that those who claim to alone understand the “doctrines of grace” so often conduct and express themselves with such little grace themselves.

Does Self-abasement Please God?

Check out this excellent post at Theology and Snack. While some may equate self-abasement with humility [partcularly in Calvinist theology], Oswald Chambers puts things in proper perspective.