The False Calvinist
by Joe Thorn
I’m going to share something that you may not like. In fact, if you take offense to my observation, this might be directed at you—if you identify as a Calvinist.
Forgive my frankness, but as I watch you, listen to you, and work with you, I have concluded that you are a false “convert.” I do not mean that you are unconverted to the Lord. You do in fact appear to be spiritually alive. But you give the signs of being a false Calvinist. Despite identifying as one, you do not show the marks of one who has truly embraced the truths that make one a Calvinist.
To put it simply, a Calvinist is a Christian who embraces the truth of God’s sovereign, covenantal love; man’s inexhaustible depravity; Jesus’ particular redemption; the Spirit’s effectual work in the soul of man; and the perseverance of all Christians to the end.
But I see many who affirm these truths without truly embracing them. Mere affirmation leads to arrogance. But to embrace these doctrines means more than agreement. It means that we experience them and are humbled by them. Until this connection between head and heart is made, our Calvinism is incomplete, corrupt, or counterfeit.
What I have seen in you is a theological arrogance that leads to elitism and an overly combative spirit that forgets the call to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Confrontation and correction without compassion will prove unfruitful and are likely to have the opposite effect than your desired goal. And more importantly, such unholy hubris is not the mark of one who has despaired over his helplessness and found the sovereign, saving hand of God to be his only rescue.
What I want for you—and for me—is more than theological agreement in the mind. I want us to experience the theological change of the heart. If we truly believe in the doctrines commonly associated with Calvinism, our zeal will be complemented with humility and our earnestness with compassion.
The one who embraces the absolute sovereignty and unbreakable love of God, in light of our own moral inability to do good or please Him, will be struck with awe and overwhelmed with meekness. The Father chose us, the Son died for us, and the Spirit awoke us when we were rebelling, refusing, and resisting. Salvation is truly of the Lord, leaving us no room for boasting or pride. The professing Calvinist should be one who is not only informed by the truth but transformed by it. We should be passionate about doctrine but patient with people, for apart from the working of God, how will their minds and hearts be changed?
Before you set out to correct others with the doctrines of grace, be sure to apply them to your own heart. Preach to yourself before you preach to others. Only then will doctrinal precision be accompanied by compassionate persuasion. Others will more easily see the glory of these truths when they see how they have already changed you.