Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brothers, We Must Do Better

A few months ago I asked the question “Is it Hard to Hug an Arminian?”  In that article I shared an experience that I had where I was an outsider coming into an already established fellowship.  I noted that:
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.
Today, an article I wrote a month or so ago was published at SBC Voices.  The article is part 1 of a series on The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists.  Before getting to my point please read a little bit of a back story.

Back Story

SBC Voices is a great blog.  But it is also a community of commenters that can frankly get ugly at times.  The folks at SBC Voices are working to change this and make the community more Christ-centered and less vitriolic.  I’m part of that community and I hope to help in that regard and never to cause it to go backwards. 

Because of the history of SBC Voices and especially on issues related to Calvinism I am always a little leery of posting something with the C word on it.  But Dave Miller liked my series and suggested I bring it to SBC Voices.  I was a little reluctant but thought that it might be helpful.  One thing I was worried about was Part 1.  In part 1 (if you read it) you will notice that I say little about Calvinism or any other issue.  As I noted in the “update” which was originally in Part 2 this could just as easily be titled The Root of Angry and Divisive Cheese-Eaters.  As I noted “It doesn’t matter what topic you pick because the problem isn’t as much Mark’s sermon topics as it is a much greater issue. A bigger issue that has replayed itself within different circumstances for centuries.”

Because of this open ended nature I was a little worried about what the thread would look like.  But I had hope that the discussion could remain cordial (as it has) but I never expected what awaited me in the morning. 

Brothers, We MUST Do Better

It has become a great point of irony in a post about Angry and Divisive Calvinists that I was met with many angry Calvinists.  I think they thought that I was a non-Calvinist who was gathering my sticks to torch a straw-man.  If you know me that’s funny.  Here is an example of a comment:
Meh. What a lovely little story with no immediately apparent point other than to inflame and prepare yet another straw-man, albeit anecdotal, to be dutifully set aflame.
I will freely admit that part 1 does have “no immediately apparent point”.  In part 1 it may not seem to be connected to the other parts.  But it is.  I wrote it for a reason.  And I took a good amount of time and wrote it the way that I did for a very specific reason.  I assure you that reason was not to torch Calvinism.  I’m a Calvinist. 

But what should have happened is that people should have read part 1 and identified with Mark.  Perhaps as a congregation perhaps as being Mark.  Especially after I put the update in there it should have been read as not principally about Calvinism but there is going to be something about the heart.  Though it did not appear to be connected, as a brother in Christ I should have been given the benefit of the doubt. 
I understand that Calvinists are often thrown under the bus and straw-men are argued and torched in front of us.  I’ve experienced the pain of some of those battles.  I’ve fought in a Christ-like manner and I’ve fought like a jerk.  I’ve played the game.  I’ve also experience the “us vs. them” rise up in our hearts.  I’ve labored to protect Calvinism at the expense of protecting the gospel and the church.  I’ve been “Mark”.  I don’t want to be “Mark” anymore. 

To that end I want to urge my Calvinist (and non-Calvinist) brothers and sisters to do a few things in blogging. 

1. Assume the best unless the only option left is the worst.  If you see a post title Part 1 you should probably not assume that you already know what the other parts are going to look like. 

2. If you want non-Calvinists (or Calvinists) to hear and read you fairly then do the same for them.  Many Calvinists urged non-Calvinists to just read the Gospel Project.  Wait for the whole thing to come out and then make critiques—then you can say it’s too Calvinistic or has an agenda.  But until the whole thing is out don’t assume the authors have an agenda.  I wish that same thing would have been followed in responding to my series. 

3. Read things with a gospel lens and not an us vs. them lens. 

4. Try to find truth and rejoice in it.  Even if what I wrote was perhaps unwise or unhelpful in the way that it was framed try to find some truth and rejoice in it.  It’s fine to discuss in a Christ-centered manner areas in which you disagree.  But make sure while you are loading your shotgun you remember that the guy you are getting ready to “battle” probably has a wife and kids, loves Jesus, has the same Spirit dwelling in him, and wants to love, honor, and serve Jesus too.  He might be doing it imperfectly but so are you.  So find the truth of Christ that you see in a brother or sisters life, rejoice in it, and lovingly sharpen where you can. 
P.S. I really hope Dave posts Part 2 very soon. 


  1. Mike,

    Perhaps this is a matter of form over substance, as the rest of the "substance" is yet to come. Nonetheless, your antagonist Mark "the angry Calvinist" is naturally going to produce tension because there are some in the SBC, who knows whether many or few, that believe every Calvinist is Mark. Some are not going to read all your following posts, but will leave reinforced with the idea that Mark's story is common and part and parcel of the evil nature of Calvinism.

    Maybe a disclaimer at the very top stating, "I AM A CALVINIST" would help set a context for your post. I enjoyed the entertaining writing style and look forward to the following posts.

    1. Joshua,

      I wrote it that way for the very reason that you stated. At the end of the day we are going to see that not every Calvinist is Mark. Also that his theology is not fundamentally the problem. And hopefully we will even be encouraged in how to help young Mark's in our congregation.

      While it may have been helpful to state "I AM A CALVINIST" at the top I'm not sure why that should be necessary. Even if I were a non-Calvinist I'm not sure why that should change anything that I say. My point above is that we should stop thinking in an "us vs. them" in regards to these issues. Stating "I'm a Calvinist" and that causing a different response seems to only prove my point.

      I appreciate your interaction and your response. As you can see from my "back story" that I had some reservations about posting just Part 1 anyways. Some of those may have been founded--I just didn't expect it from my own camp. LOL.

  2. I think it strikes a chord with people because they either see themselves in Mark, or have experienced a Mark in their church. The truth agitates people, so you're probably on the right track. LOL

  3. Keep it up bro. I'm encouraged by your work. I think I was Mark when we met in college.



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