A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with Ed Stetzer on his blog about "angry Calvinists." "Angry" is not the best term to describe what he and I have seen in the evangelical, Reformed subculture, but it is a word that gets used a lot, so we ran with it. The point wasn't to tear anyone down, but to talk about something we both have seen and regret. I see it from the inside, as a thorough-going Calvinist. I see it in myself at times. So, what I would like to do here is speak to my own people, and to myself, and encourage us to be good little Calvinists. I say "good little Calvinists" to suggest a couple things: 1. I say "good" to emphasize that we should want to be more than right, but also Christ-like in our convictions and conversations.
2. While we celebrate the Doctrines of Grace, and thank God for gifted pastors and teachers like John Calvin, we should be more about the truth than the label; more about the church than a tribe; more about BIG JC, than we are little J.C. My hope is that we will be, in a sense, little Calvinists, but big Christians. If you are not a Calvinist, you are welcome to join this conversation, but this is not the place to debate points of doctrine.
I'm breaking this down into "five tips" to being good little Calvinists, and will post them as I have time over the next week.
Tip #1. Assert without apology or pride.
It should go without saying, though apparently it cannot, that having opinions, holding convictions, and making assertions is not proud or arrogant. It is a necessary part of the Christian faith. We do in fact believe certain things-- things that matter for eternity. I believe Martin Luther was right in Bondage of the Will when he wrote that a person "must delight in assertions, or he is not a Christian." We must assert those truths God has revealed in his word for his glory and the salvation and sanctification of sinners. We must confess and at times argue for the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Jesus Christ, the necessity of his atonement for the forgiveness of sins, and every other life-giving doctrine God made known. If we aren't making assertions, we are not speaking truth. As Luther said, "Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity."
A Christian need not apologize for pointing to the truth. In fact, some might need to repent for not doing so. One brother believing another brother is erring in his doctrine, misinterpreting Scripture, or drawing a wrong conclusion is not condescending.
However, I tend to find that we, as Calvinists, do not need as much encouragement to speak truth as we do in how we speak the truth. Anyone can make an assertion, but helping another to really see what we assert is an art. An arrogant approach will often push people away from the truth we are holding out. So while we should assert without apology, we should also do so without pride or arrogance.
Watch out for a dismissive attitude in yourself toward others who hold a different or wrong view. Guard yourself against inappropriate feelings of superiority. Do not needlessly go about looking for opportunities to correct every poorly articulated expression of truth. Of course even if you have the right attitude and approach some will dismiss you as divisive or proud simply for disagreeing or offering a correction. We'll talk more about offering corrections and issuing warning in upcoming "tips."
A good Calvinist will make assertions without apology or pride for the Christian faith demands it. As the Apostle Paul says, it is speaking the truth in love that protects us from false doctrine, promotes unity in the church, and leads to our growth in grace.