Why There is Such Disdain for Calvinists

Having held a Reformed stance on God’s salvation of men for many years, I have witnessed time and time again (having stayed in traditional, Southern Baptist churches), how Calvinism and Calvinists cause quite a bit of stir within many churches. This stirring up of discord within churches concerning what is commonly called the Doctrines of Grace is generally multifaceted, and it is usually caused by two things–the hard doctrines of Calvinism itself placed against the doctrines of men that have crept into the church, and the Calvinist himself. While there can be little done, save by Spirit of God, with regard one’s hard heart toward the Doctrines of Grace, what is often the cause of one’s hard heart is not the doctrines themselves, but the person who bears the doctrines.

For, unfortunately, is commonplace that those who are most vocally Calvinists are those who would esteem themselves to be scholars of some grade and great exegetes of the Word of God. These, at times, act as though they bear some special knowledge that others in church have missed and therefore have about them a certain air of arrogance with regard to their particular understanding of the Scriptures.

This common occurrence within the ranks of Calvinists is a strange one, for it contradicts the very doctrines that they seek to propagate. For the Doctrines of Grace exist so that all boasting is eliminated (cf. Rm. 3:27; Eph. 2:8), and these who hold to such teachings are often very arrogant people. They demonstrate by their lives and their haughty attitudes that they do not believe the very doctrines that they boast in, for if they did, they would be very humble people.

Now, I write this both as an exhortation and a confession, for I am by no means devoid of all human boasting. For I have found myself many times delighting in whether or not my interpretation of Scripture was right compared to others, rather than boasting in cross of Christ alone and counting my arrogance dead in him. My exhortation both to you, the Calvinist, and to myself is to believe the very doctrines that we claim to believe and by it become a very humble people. For if we are not, we demonstrate that our greatest joy is not in seeing Christ glorified, but it is in seeing ourselves and our understanding of Scripture glorified.

Categories: Theology

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11 replies

  1. I agree with ya, but overall in my experience I place the bulk of disdain on the pride of the congregation and hearers. If they have been in a congregation for 20 years and been told the value of Scripture that long, and have never read it, or never accepted the blatantly clear depiction of God's sovereignty and Man's Blindness and Bondage, then when a pastor comes in kindly says regeneration precedes faith–their disgust is not with the pastor, but with the principle.

    Yea, I have met Calvinist too, who know every fact and figure and creed about 40 puritans and 40 creeds and they like to use odd terms, and when I ask then to clue me in, they refrain from doing so, otherwise their exclusive circle is no longer exclusive. I don't mind them calling me dumb, but I do mind them calling me that, then assisting to leave me in my ignorance merely so they can keep their pedestal.

    Usually when they do this, I'll start asking about the Hebrew translation of a Psalm or Proverb, to which they say, "I don't know." and I'll respond, "hmmm, I don't either, but I know this great professor who is a scholar on it." to insinuate no one has a corner on it all, despite what we attempt to specialize in.


  2. I agree with ya, but overall in my experience I place the bulk of disdain on the pride of the congregation and hearers.

    Very true. I agree that that is probably the cause of most of the animosity against Calvinism, but it should be the only reason for animosity. Unforturnately, it isn't. And I have a deep respect for the Puritans and the Reformers and their insights, and I agree with many, that reading their writings can be very beneficial…. but they're not necessary reading [said while ducking].


  3. No need to duck. The vast majority of them are not word by word expositors. I still like reading Gill; Otherwise I just assume read Reymond's Systematic and the like.


  4. @all

    I agree.

    I think further reasons for the disdain is a communication breakdown between Calvinists and Arminians in several ways:

    -failure to understand the other position before sharing one's own.

    -assumption that everyone follows every logical implication of everything they believe and remains 100% logically consistent (which is computationally unfeasible… I should blog on this some time!).

    -assuming "logical conclusions" that are not necessary conclusions.

    -assuming axioms that are not axioms.

    Unfortunately common is both groups doing all of the above. When discussing things like predestination, we should all be careful to observe all of the above.


  5. Jason….you really confused me. What third categories exist if one rejects:

    Total Inability, Unconditional Election, Definite Atonement, Effectual Grace, and Preservation of the Saints?


  6. @Todd

    What did I say that appears to indicate a third category?


  7. I've noticed that the biggest haters of Calvinism are the ex-Calvinists. Those who have abandoned the historical Reformed faith for the errors of Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome seem to have even more disdain for Calvinism (in my experience) than even the Arminians. That's neither here nor there– simply a passing observation.


  8. @David I've noticed that too.


  9. Jason,

    well then, I submit all the Calvinists that I have a friendship with do not hodl to any of those errors, such as:

    1. an erroneous assumption of what an Arminian believes, because we know they at least reject TULIP and hold to the negation of each item;

    2. nor, an assumption of the logical consistency that is present by at least negating each item;

    3. nor are we inserting conclusions, when the conclusions are already the negation of tulip.

    4. nor do we need any other axioms than the 5 they gave me.

    I am not trying to be argumentative, nor rude, as the very subject of Matt's post is addressing; Yet, the theme I hear (that you are probably not saying), both sides are right and no sides are wrong, it is just a communication breakdown, so I was just responding to this notion (that I inserted) by saying…I disagree, if my notion is what you are implying.

    in friendliness and in clarification,



  10. @Todd

    I do agree with everything that you said, and I think that there is a fine line between civility and undue tolerance. We must be bold and stand firm upon the sound doctrines of the Faith, however,] we must strive to so in humility and for God's glory and not our own. I know you agree with that, and that was the only premise I had in this post. I think I'll write a follow-up post on the other, more prominent reasons for disdain against Calvinists to balance this out. Grace & peace, brother.


  11. @Todd

    Thanks for clarifying what you meant. To clarify what I meant, I was saying that one common barrier (in my humble opinion of my own observations) to Armenian and Calvinist believers is communication breakdown. I don't think it's worth the time right now for me to go through specific examples just to prove that have, indeed, seen this. But to further clarify:

    -Discussions on TULIP generally involve things that are not wholly part of TULIP (e.g. freewill, God's holiness and implications thereof, etc.).

    -Assumed axioms include definitions of freewill and double predestination, what one believes about double predestination, what the other guy knows about Scripture, etc.

    I do agree that Calvinist theology (to the extent that I understand it) is in agreement with Scripture, that Armenian theology is an honest but failed attempt at understanding Scripture (at best), and that the issue is real and theological, not just a communication problem. Communication issues hinder the root issue.


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