Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Three

If it wasn’t seminary (or any other new found education) that caused mark to become angry and divisive what happened to Mark, then?

Probably the same thing that happened to students in Newton’s day when he said:

I do not mention this as the necessary fault of the institution, but as the frequent effect of notions too hastily picked up, when not sanctified by grace, nor balanced by a proportional depth of spiritual experience.[1]

Newton is saying what Luther said 200 years prior, “experience alone makes the theologian[2]”. What happened to Mark and a host of students like him is that he became like a young David wearing Saul’s armor; wearing the armor of another man without first growing into it. Newton expresses this well in verse:

When first my soul enlisted
My Savior’s foes to fight,
Mistaken friends insisted
I was not arm’d aright:

So Saul advised David
He certainly would fail,
Nor could his life be saved
Without a coat of mail.

But David, though he yielded
To put the armor on,
Soon found he could not wield it,
And ventur’d forth with none.

With only sling and pebble,
He fought the fight of faith;
The weapons seem’d but feeble,
Yet prov’d Goliath’s death.

Had I by him been guided,
And quickly thrown away
The armor men provided,
I might have gain’d the day;

But arm’d as they advis’d me,
My expectations fail’d;
My enemy surprised me,
And had almost prevailed

Furnish’d with books and notions,
And arguments and pride,
I practis’d all my motions,
And Satan’s pow’r defy’d:

But soon perceiv’d, with trouble,
That these would do no good;
Iron to him is stubble,
And brass like rotten wood.

I triumph’d at a distance,
While he was out of sight,
But faint was my resistance,
When forc’d to join in fight:

He broke my swords in shivers,
And pierc’d my boasted shield,
Laugh’d at my vain endeavors,
And drove me from the field.

Satan will not be braved
By such a worm as I;
Then let me learn with David
To trust in the Most High;

To plead the name of Jesus,
And use the sling of pray’r:
Thus arm’d , when Satan sees us,
He’ll tremble and despair

Notice, once again, that Newton refers to “books and notions” as he did earlier “notions too hastily picked up”. Through his experience Newton found that theology not owned is unhelpful to the flaming darts of the evil one.

The most likely root of angry and divisive Calvinism (or any other angry and divisive “ism”) is mostly like found in this principle of “notions too hastily picked up”.  Until “notions in the head” match experiences of grace in the heart what is typically manifested is angry, divisive, and prideful. 

“This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”…

[1] Newton, Vol 1, 139

[2] Trials, 25

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