Question: I never quite understood your objection to Calvinism [but] in the last year I have been beaten up pretty badly by many covenant theology [another aspect of Reformed doctrine] people and have begun to reflect on the question of whether their doctrine is somehow toxic and produces that antagonism, or if people with toxic personalities are attracted to the doctrine. I am coming to the conclusion that the covenant doctrine places an emphasis on the Christian (both individually and collectively) that elevates our works such that the Spirit is quenched and the flesh is elevated. I see this producing the works of the flesh listed in Galatians. I see this path (Galatians) as leading to the destination defined by the Pharisees. I would be interested if you could share with me your views on this subject.
Response: Our objections to Calvinism are primarily biblical, but we have experienced reactions that were hardly Christian from many Calvinists to articles that we have written and books by Dave Hunt on the subject. Such hostile responses have not gone unnoticed by Calvinists themselves. A number of commentators have spoken of the “intellectual” appeal (i.e. “pride”) that is too often seen in prominent Calvinists. Calvinism, according to one promoter of Reformed teaching, draws followers “Because it possesses an intellectual appeal and spiritual depth over-against a reigning Christian anti-intellectualism and general evangelical superficiality” (http://modernmarch.com/2011/05/13/david-naugle-on-the-appeal-of-calvinism-to-the-younger-generation/).
Calvinist John Piper wrote, “The intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic....It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again” (Piper, “Why Are Calvinists So Negative?”, Desiring God Blog, 5/21/2008).
Another Calvinist, Greg Dutcher, states, “I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative.” (Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside [Cruciform Press, June 2012], p. 88)
It’s too easy to become infatuated with an “ism” rather than drawing closer to Christ through His Word. The Apostle Paul reminds us that the Lord, “also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor:3:6). He isn’t speaking of the Old Testament law but is saying that it’s possible to preach the New Testament truth in a spiritless manner that will ultimately bring death to the hearers.
It has been said, “Don’t ask the Lord to use you. Rather ask Him to make you usable.” He doesn’t waste His efforts. If the Lord instructs us to minister with “meekness” (2 Tm 2:24-26), we must do so, believing that He will perhaps change those ministered to, and if not, we will have been faithful to the Word. Do we believe Him or do we reach for the rod out of human habit and in disobedience to the Word of God?
“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Rom:14:19). We can’t possibly hope to edify sheep that have been taught by experience to run from us.