Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is it Hard to Hug and Arminian?

Something is bothering me. 

Before I explain what is bothering me—hopefully for your edification and my own—allow me to make a few qualifiers. 

First, it is very possible that I am assigning motives and issues of the heart that are not really there but only a reflection of my own sinful tendencies.

Second, this piece is intended to be a caution to my Reformed/Calvinistic brothers and sisters.  If you do not fit that bill then you can use this piece to look at your own heart as it relates to the “theological camps” that you tend to frequent.  However, this is not to be used as fodder to fire your cannons against Reformed theology.  A sinful expression of a theology does not mean the theology is in error, it means the person espousing it is sinful like everyone else. 

Now onto what is bothering me…

When I first embraced the doctrines of grace I was a jerk.  I know, contradiction in terms, right?!?  Part of this jerkiness was the way that I made your beliefs on Calvinism a  measuring stick of orthodoxy.  I made it THE issue. 

If I found myself in a strange place with other believers that I did not know I kept my eyes open for certain clues as to whether or not they were Reformed minded.  Part of this was an immature understanding of other positions.  Part of it was being a minority and trying to find a kindred spirit.  It wasn’t all jerky.

Whenever I found someone that wore the Scarlet C like me I felt a much deeper kinship.  The handshakes were more hearty and the conversations more genuine.  Those that had not yet given their heart to Calvin I tended to keep at a distance.  I’d be cordial but not fervent in my relationship with them. 

But I have grown up…I think. 

I seldom look for the Scarlet C.  I’m more concerned with a passion for Jesus and a humble evangelical spirit.  And because of this “tempering” I tend to not wear my “yep, I’m a Calvinist” T-shirts.  When I meet new people I no longer ask questions that will somehow let me know if they are Reformed or not before I really open up. 

Awhile back I found myself in the company of a good number of pastors from different backgrounds and different beliefs.  I had the unique advantage going into the group of knowing where many of these gents stood on the Calvinism question.  They, on the other hand, had no idea if I’d rather hang out with Arminius or Beza. 

You know what I noticed?  Many of the non-Calvinists were more apt to give me a hearty handshake and say, “welcome to the group”.  Not so with those who were more Reformed…I got a cordial welcome but not an open armed “welcome to the group, brother”.  If I had been wearing my scarlet C I can’t help but think that it would have been different. 

This leads to my simple point.  Is our fellowship more centered around the gospel or our adherence to the doctrines of grace?  If it’s harder to hug an Arminian what really is the central tenet of our faith?  If fellowship is “self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision”, and if our fellowship is deeper once you find out I’ve got a bookcase devoted to Puritans, Calvin, Newton, and Spurgeon what is our “shared vision”?  Is it Jesus or Reformed theology? 

Feel free to push back…


  1. So here is the other question, in a local church is it important to understand that all of the leadership be on the same 'team'? Do you find that one camp or the other impacts preaching style etc, worship service, mission team, discipleship and education and ultimately vision/budget?

  2. Thanks Marc,

    I think your question is more broad than simply the Calvinist/Arminian question. To answer your first question I think so long as all of the leadership is squarely on team "Jesus" there shouldn't be a huge problem. It's whenever that shared vision becomes something other than Jesus and his gospel that we run into problems.

  3. Thanks for this post.

    I have found that many of my Arminian friends aren't all that concerned about the subject. Honestly. In fact, I wish they were even more informed than they are about it b/c sometimes I think Calvinism creeps into their theology when they aren't watching.

    With that said, I have felt 'ousted' on numerous occaisions when a Calvinist realized I don't wear the 'scarlet C.' This bothered me a lot at first. But later I just stopped caring - chalking it up to the people themselves being jerks.

    After all, Calvinist theology SHOULD lead you to be the most humble people in the world. After all, you're only Calvinist because God made you be! :) It's not like YOU have any special knowledge that you attained on your own efforts.

    I feel like Calvinists who are jerks are like the rich bullies I encountered in middle school who used to make fun of me b/c I was poor. Neither their riches nor my poverty were in EITHER OF OUR CONTROL, yet then insisted that I was of lesser worth because I was poor.

    Maybe that's why it's so hard for me to like Calvinists...the entire discussion gives me bad memories from middle-school! :)

  4. Sometimes I miss being ignorant. I know that sounds really stupid and it is. But sometimes I miss not knowing that two people in the same protestant denomination could have such opposing viewpoints. I have heard of very bad behavior on both sides of the arguement and it sickens me. I hate the labels and I can't help but think that Satan himself loves us to fight over how it was that we were saved so we will gaze at our navels instead of evangelize.



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