Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Do You Have to Be Cold-Hearted to Be a Calvinist?

 Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Do you have to be cold-hearted to be a Calvinist? Or does it just help?  To deal with this we first need to ask, What is the point of Calvinism?  As I see it, this is that though we were sinners and in rebellion against God so that we would not have come to Him if left to ourselves (Romans 3:10-12; 8:8; John 6:44), God chose to bring us to Himself (Ephesians 1:4-11; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29,30).  The point of this is the greatness of God's grace and the realization that there is absolutely nothing we could do to contribute to our salvation.  Far from being a reason for pride, it is a reason for humility, and the description given of those He chooses is hardly a basis for boasting (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).  Therefore, it should cause us to have compassion on those still enmeshed in the darkness of sin.

But there is a danger here of making God's choosing into an abstraction totally divorced from the fact of the fall and the price of redemption and of seeing God as choosing between people as casually as a socialite chooses outfits.  We need to recognize that God is beyond our understanding (Romans 11:33; 1 Corinthians 3:18; Isaiah 55:9), and we cannot fully comprehend how God's sovereignty fits with human responsibility or  how or why God chooses.  But He did not have to save anyone, and He paid an enormous price to do it (Romans 5:6-8; 8:32; John 3:16).

Calvinism can be confused with Stoicism, which says life is tough and God made it that way because He wants us to be tough. Rather, the Christian says life is tough, so we need to realize we cannot deal with it ourselves, but must trust God.  (Note that the original Stoicism had no clear idea of a Fall, which distorted their idea of God and the world.)  Calvinism is also confused with psychological determinism, which says our behavior is completely the result of our heredity and environment. But it is one thing to say our behavior is controlled by a personal God and another to say we are merely the result of background influences.  Psychological determinism leaves us in doubt as to whether we can know anything at since all our thoughts are the result of irrational causes.  It also can leave us looking at other people as just mechanisms determined by their programming.

All these misconceptions can influence Calvinists or be read in by opponents. Also, Calvinism in our culture, and in some parts of the Christian church, carries with it a considerable stigma.  Therefore, only those who have or who develop considerable determination and strength of conviction can hold to it.  Such people may be perceived, fairly or unfairly, as cold-hearted.  Sometimes you produce what you perceive in people.  But to be kept in perspective, predestination must be considered in connection with the Fall and redemption.


  1. Not sure that I am up for a Calvinism debate. :)

    But if you want to know in which direction I lean you can check out my Debating Determinism post.

  2. I do not really have anything more to add to our last discussion on the subject, though if you should want tackle it again we can. I have found this to be a subject that tends to raise hackles on both sides and therefore feel it should be approached with caution.