Friday, March 9, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Four

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.”  This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”  1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Concerning the question of eating food offered to idols, logically and theologically the “strong” Corinthians had this question nailed.  They rightly believed that there is only one God, “an idol has no real existence” and correctly deduced from this that a “nothing cannot affect meat”[1]  Yet, what they failed the most important test; namely, that of love.  In other words the “strong” Corinthians had notions in the head but it had yet to trickle down and transform their hearts.  Such a knowledge only puffs up the individual it never edifies the body. 

Anthony Thiselton helps us to see that Paul subtly challenges the “strong” Corinthians’ view of knowledge:

Paul distinguishes between knowing (using the verb) as a process that is continuous and ever learning and knowledge (the noun gnosis) as denoting a static, completed state.  The latter (but not the former) leads to a cast of mind that regards everything as “buttoned up,” mastered, and fully processed. 

Herein, lies the root of angry and divisive Calvinism.  Fundamentally, it is a problem of the heart and has little no bearing on the validity of the “ism” being distorted by its follower.  The puffed up pride that comes from only have a notion in the head is what makes for an angry and a divisive Calvinist. 

Really all of these posts is only backing up what Joe Thorn noted as the three reasons for angry and divisive Calvinists.  In his interview with Ed Stetzer (which you should real all of including the comments, here) Thorn notes three principle reasons that I will summarize. 

1. Over-zealous and excited about a new found truth.  “Some of us, and I was one of them, would benefit from being locked up in a cage for a few years until our heart can catch up with our head.”

2. Anger at being denied this in the past.  “They feel as if they've wasted years of their life, or the church has let them down. So, they're angry about that…”

3. A short-circuit between the head and heart.  “When we Calvinists are ungracious, unnecessarily combative, proud, and arrogant, we are not being true Calvinists. We are posers.”

So how do you disciple a young Calvinist whose either angry, over-zealous, or simply has a short-circuit between his head and heart?  Apart from patient plodding and let the gospel take deeper roots one particular thing I do with young Calvinists (including myself) is introduce them to John Newton--and that will be what we do in Part Five and Part Six. 


[1] Anthony Thiselton’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 124

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