Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Five

One of the first signs of healing in the life of an angry and divisive Calvinist is in the way or the frequency that he/she responds to criticism, debate, or disagreements.  A wonderful model of humble and consistent Calvinism is John Newton.  Consider his response to a “controversy”. 

The June 1772 edition of the Gospel Magazine held within its pages a letter from Omicron (which was one of Newton’s pen names). In this letter, fittingly titled On the Doctrines of Election and Final Perseverance, Newton outlined for Joseph Milner his views on these often controversial topics.

Six years later, a Methodist preacher named Nicholas Manners took up his pen to dispute Omicron’s letter. Manners “disputed Newton’s letter line by line in the controversial style of the period.”[1]

Now imagine for a moment that this took place in the twenty first century.

Imagine that you just wrote an article that was picked up by a popular blog (let’s say The Gospel Coalition). In this article you felt that you did a fair job of explaining a very difficult and controversial topic. Your tone was not demeaning. It was a balanced explanation of what you believe.

To this stellar article another brother strongly disagreed and posted a lengthy series on his personal blog, going through your article line by line and disputing it.  How does a twenty-first century believer respond?

Simple. You pop your knuckles, get your Mountain Dew, sit at your swivel chair, and slam out a response.  Line by line.  Defending your argument and your dearly loved doctrine, under the guise of gospel fidelity. The debate roars through the blogosphere and your blog traffic hits Challies type numbers.

That’s what we would do in the 21st century. But, what did Newton do? (By the way, WWND bracelets are for sale on my website for a quarter a piece)


That’s right.  Nothing. “He let the dispute die in silence[2]”. Newton’s letting this discussion die in silence exemplifies his philosophy of how people become Calvinist. As Bruce Hindmarsh has rightly noted, “He was increasingly convinced that a person became a Calvinist through personal experience, not by argument”[3].

Once a Calvinist is able to “let a dispute die in silence” he is well on his way to finding healing from his angry and divisive stage.  The sooner young Calvinist see living models like Newton and are introduced to saints of old (such as Newton) hopefully the sooner their angry and divisive stage will be over.

Consider, tomorrow, one additional help from John Newton. 

[1] Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition, 161

[2] Ibid, 162

[3] Ibid, 162

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