Covert Calvinists

There is more growing in the garden than a TULIP.

This is not about the doctrine of Calvinism it is about the tactics of many Baptists who are Calvinists. I don’t want to paint with a brush too broad. Not all Calvinists act alike and virtually everything said about them is denied by others among them.

Having written on the subject the best thing I have been called in reactionary emails is sub-human. Bigoted, ignorant, untruthful, unlearned, and some not as nice terms have been in email messages. They have written long messages filled with numerous questions to which they demand answers. Failure to respond in detail is reason to be branded unenlightened. Some of their smarmy comments are degrading. They can’t be convicted of being laconic. Any attempt to respond lovingly and logically is met with a paroxysm. Efforts to be personally gracious result in a vitriolic cudgel.

I am sure that is not indicative of all Calvinists. As a matter of fact I have some warm and personal friends who are Calvinists. However, those emailing their defenses are not warm but hot. It seem strange that those who claim it is all by grace show so little grace. Where did civility, courtesy, and common sense go?

The biggest disagreement I have with a large segment of modern Calvinists is not just doctrine but spirit and style.

Many have worked their way into local churches as covert Calvinists. They seem to operate on a no ask no tell basis. If representatives of a local church don’t know what a Calvinist believes and how to ask questions subversion often occurs. Once a Calvinist pastor comes into a church his approach seems to be not to preach it from the pulpit but to mentor or if you prefer disciple cell groups until their base is perceived to be strong enough to go public. Thus, they precipitate confusion and division in the church.

My appeal to any Calvinist among Southern Baptist is to be open, honest, and above board. Don’t be subversive. Have the courage of your convictions and in being considered by a church acknowledge from the beginning what you believe.

Some furtively teach a “Baptist Catechism” by John Piper to the children of parents who would strongly object to the content if they knew what was taught. At least one such pastor has said he would have to free the children from the ideas of their brainwashed parents.

From among those they have indoctrinated they seek to establish elders in order that they might have a group of power brokers.

Even a truth can be a seed of discord. If Calvinism were true at all points bringing it into a fellowship not disposed to embrace it sows discord. God hates sowers of seed of discord.

If persons are Calvinists let them be proud and open about it. They should let a church know in advance what they are getting. To be a stealth Calvinist is deceptive and dishonest.

Some profess to be evangelical Calvinists. With rare exception Baptists churches where influence is gained have a dramatically reduced evangelistic ministry. An elemental observation of individual Calvinists indicated the expression evangelical Calvinism is meretricious. Many no longer conclude worship with an invitation or promote soul winning.

They profess to believe in missions but missions as defined by their actions means social work not soul winning. There are a rare few Calvinists who believe in witnessing to the lost. Such is by no means the norm. However, the few who do are held up as proof Calvinists are soul winners. Why should there be any urgency if God has already decided who He is going to save and His grace can’t be resisted?

In general most Calvinists are more concerned about converting people to Calvinism than to calling persons to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They tend to have one theme —- Calvinism. Their argumentative temperament does little to attract people to Christ or encourage an open and honest dialogue.

Engaging in such repartee is not my calling.

Scholars such as educators can admirably debate the issue but the average congregation into which it is introduced engages in divisive conflict unfortunately. Theologians among our British predecessor would engage in heated debate over theological issues and when finished go enjoy a cup of tea together and socialize. That is not the mentality shown me by Calvinists within the Baptist community. Acidulous comments are not becoming of God’s children.

Caustic Calvinists attack others who profess to follow Christ with the same spirit with which they attack their own who are out of fellowship. They “treat them like the heathen.” In reality they treat them antithetically to the way Christ treated many heathen. Christ was so compassionate toward heathen He was accused of being their friend (Matthew 11:19 Luke 7:34). He never spoke of them as hopeless outsiders. On some occasions he even complimented them (Matthew 9:10ff; 11:19; 21:23; Luke 18:10ff). Matthew and Zacchaeus, two heathen tax collectors were drawn to Christ as friends.

My experience with many Calvinists is not what would attract me to them as friends. In relating I have found they interpret thoughtful gestures of a conciliatory nature and/or warmth as a weakness identifying you as a person vulnerable to attack and attack they do. A sulfurous attack is not likely to win friends or influence people in a positive way.

It has been my good fortune in recent years to be associated with faculty members and students from three colleges in Michigan founded on Calvinism. My relationship has been most cordial and enjoyable. They have manifested no combative spirit. Conversely they have been most gracious and friendly. I perceive a mutual love and acceptance. Their spirit is that which Southern Baptist’s Calvinists need to exemplify.

They evidence there are gracious Calvinists who practice civility. To them and other such Calvinists no offense is intended by this article. It is their opprobrious colleagues who as herein described who offend more people than they attract. They destroy any bridge of harmony. To the civil and gracious Calvinists I want to thank you for emulating the spirit of our beloved Christ to those of us who do not believe as you. Many of us who labor under the banner of the cross believe in the sovereignty of our loving and all gracious God without believing in all points like you yet respect and love you. Let’s not destroy one another and give the lost world reason to revel over our conduct.