Why I’m No Longer Self-Identifying As A “Reformed Calvinist”


I love my Reformed Calvinist brothers and sisters, but I can no longer claim to be a “Reformed Calvinist.”  I have removed it from my About section.

I have been attacked by only three groups of people: militant atheists, a handful of fanatics from Steven Furtick’s church, and Reformed Calvinists.  So basically non-Christians, false Christians, and Super Christians.  And the worst of these attacks were from — you guessed it — Reformed Calvinists.

I can take persecution from the frontlines.  I’d gladly take a bullet or be tortured to death for Jesus or for my fellow friend.  I can handle discouragement and perversity in the world.  But what I cannot understand is when those who claim to love Jesus destroy others who love Jesus.

This is not a theology issue, but rather a love issue.  The ivory tower of Neo-Calvinism has reached so high, I’m not sure what the point is anymore.  Calvinist bloggers only stimulate other Calvinist bloggers.  Neo-Calvinism has become the ghetto of the ghetto of the Christian subculture.

Somehow the sincere search for deeper doctrine has led to arrogance, inhouse fighting, a ridiculously isolated blogosphere, and 20 year olds condescending to everyone.  Doctrine-nerds are yelling “heresy” and “blasphemy” without a clue how serious those charges are, and also without a single gesture of brotherly love or empathy. Disagreements do not mean nuclear war.  How Jesus would grieve over these New Pharisees. 

I’m aware that I’m probably doing the same thing I’m calling out others on, and it’s self-defeating.  I’ve apologized for ranting against Calvinists before.  I don’t mean to cause one more dividing line, and I genuinely grieve for brothers and sisters in Christ to love God and love people.

It is my genuine belief that Reformed Calvinism has certainly done a lot of good.  I know at least a few self-proclaimed Calvinists who do more than shout on the internet.  And if your theology is pushing you towards the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, that’s awesome.  I encourage that.  In no way do I want to paint a black-and-white caricature of young basement-living Calvinists.  None of us get it right every time and we’re all still learning.

BUT: If your theology is not pushing you towards a seriously grief-filled heart for real living human beings and to say I love you Jesus, it’s not a theology worth having.  If your theology does not allow you to rejoice, cry out, smile, sing, and have fun, that really sucks.  If your theology does not encourage you, but condemns you and puts you on eggshells and makes you constantly anxious about “having right doctrine,” that’s pretty lame. 

I’ve worked with all kinds of people as I’m sure you have as well — Army veterans, troubled kids, the homeless, ex-convicts, single moms — and absolutely zero percent of them were encouraged by TULIP, cessationism, or predestination.  Calvinism does not matter in third world countries where heads are being cut off.  Your doctrine does not work in the trenches.  Only Jesus does.  And if you’re dead honest with yourself, your super-tight dogma doesn’t work for you, either.

Who cares if you win the internet? What I care about is you look me in the eye and you love me.  That the Holy Spirit is working.  That you love Jesus.  People can tell if you don’t.  They only need to see your blog.

I don’t mean to replace a rich theology with a simplistic gospel.  But this is exactly what the Reformed Calvinists have accused so many of doing.  Ask: Do you really need to keep adding to Jesus without lifting a finger to help people?  Must you weigh down people with “correct-gospel-you-guys” who are struggling with bills, sickness, patients coding, bullets flying, businesses tanking, and rights taken?  We live in a real world with real people with a real Jesus who really came to save them.

Let’s please, please, please keep this real.  I love Jesus.  I love people. 

Jesus was not a Reformed Calvinist.  John Calvin was reformed by Jesus.  I hope you are too.



Originally posted here.



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36 thoughts on “Why I’m No Longer Self-Identifying As A “Reformed Calvinist”

    1. Thank you for this question. I should’ve clarified this distinction much better (I’ve received similar questions through my Tumblr). I have no problem with the Reformed theology nor the people themselves, but rather the danger of idolizing a certain theology. Since I did previously label myself a Reformed Calvinist, I was 97% on board with the doctrine. I didn’t do a good job of making that more clear. So even though it’s not any kind of “grand announcement,” I’m disassociating myself from the Reformed camp. I still absolutely love them, but very concerned now over how much hurt some of them have caused.

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      1. Thanks – I appreciate the clarification! Unfortunatley, we see all kinds of theological camps that have made their belief system an idol and do much harm with their condescending and unloving postures. Grace to you.

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        1. Oh So if he did leave the doctrine it wouldnt be ok, but because he rejects the behaviour its ok. You hypocrites. Pointing out other camps faults does not make it right either. He is disassociating with the Calvinist camp, because you are hypocrites. These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me…. You just couldnt wait to pounce on the poster when or if he denounced your silly, out-of-context doctrine.

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          1. David,

            Sadly, your comments are an excellent example of what I call an unhelpful, condescending, and unloving posture in my response. In my opinion, throwing around the term hypocrite is both dangerous and not usually Christ-exalting. I’m sorry my theological leanings so anger you, but don’t we have better things to do than name-calling and verbal volleys?

            Peace,
            Linden

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          2. Linden,

            For the sake of those who are truely elect here, I will not reply in a “condescending” attitude towards you. In observation, your “Christ exalting” humility shows well. Jesus used the word over 23 times in the Gospel of Matthew, but of course you knew that. I will leave you with this to ponder however; Your theological leanings made it to Time magazines top ten most influential ideals in the world. When the world loves you, beware.

            In Christ
            David

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          3. Thank you. David.

            Although we may disagree on the process, I’m sincerely thrilled that you are a child of God, saved by His grace through faith in Christ. It is my prayer that many will join us in this journey of serving the Lord Jesus. growing into His image, and that we will proclaim His good news everywhere we go.

            In Him,
            Linden

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          4. Linden,

            Brother, you should be spending time with your family on the Lords day, not wasting precious moments trolling “one ups” on the chief of sinners such as myself. Never-the-less, may the Lord keep you in obedience, pressing on to the higher call of holiness, to which without, no one can see Him.

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      2. Pardon me, but the theology is the problem and the only problem. Calvinists who aren’t the biggest jerks in the world are only fairly decent because they don’t really believe in Calvinism deep down. Those who actually believe in it become the biggest douche-bags on the planet as a direct result of the theology. If everything is predestined and we have no free-will, then why not attack everyone who loves Jesus and say the most idiotic things ever imagined? After all, you believe God predestined you to say it all and to make all the attacks, and if it turns out that all your attacks are destroying souls, well that’s predestined too! It is precisely because Calvinism destroys the concept of responsibility for your actions (whether you or they will admit it or not) that the Calvinsits act this way.

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        1. I agree that the theology is the problem, however, broad brushing them all as jerks is not acurate. I know some Calvinists who truely love to witness, and love others. The problem is the “annointed” teachers, and the self-proclaimed arm chair teachers who will be given an account for breeding this self-righteousness, and lack of biblical discernment. The lack of, or denial of the holy Spirit filled witness is of huge concern to me, which is evident by the many utube videos/ tools of Calvinist’s for witnessing that use human reasoning, and human bred doctrine as the force, instead of the Spirit filled, “it is written” gospel centred power that transforms lives. This is our only example found in Acts.

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    2. This is the best, most concise, and most accurate summary of modern Calvinist behavior I’ve seen. I also have cut ties with these people after years of their meddling, argumentative, nitpicking, arrogant, and legalistic ways. For those who haven’t been exposed to the current Reformed church, up close and personal, over many years, you have no idea how insufferable they truly are on their social media platforms — they are VERY different from other Protestant groups. They can hide behind a veneer of nice manners for awhile, and look all good and pleasant on the outside — but until you get them trying to dictate your every life decision, and witness their endless debating and infighting over every tiny detail of life, only then do you realize the only way to deal with them is to get as far away from them as possible. These people cannot even capitulate on dietary minutiae! Glad to be free of their chains, but I will continue to warn, as you do, of their influence.

      Khendra Murdock

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  1. Amen!!! My husband attended a Bible school during a time when Calvinism almost destroyed the school. It was much as you describe your experience: majoring on the minors and ignoring the majors of Christian life, love, and service.
    For myself, I see the points of both the Calvinists and Armenians and I think they are both trying to put God into their tidy little boxes without letting Him be truly Lord of all. It is interesting to see what you come to when you follow a doctrine to its logical conclusion.
    Even if a doctrine is so right that Jesus Himself commends it, you must watch out for lack of love, as the Ephesian church of Rev. 2 will tell you.
    May God continue to guide you into His far above man’s Wisdom!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your heart on this, it’s too bad that too many tribes in the Christian camp are more known by their disagreement and debates and divisive doctrines, rather than words and deeds that prompt all kinds of people to praise God in heaven.

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  3. I love this post. I absolutely agree with you 100%!

    I also have left the Reformed Calvinist camp, though I left the doctrine as well as the mean-spirited-ness (okay, I kept some of the mean-spirited-ness – which only proves I need more of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life 🙂 ).

    But I want to say this: I have found that there are mean-spirited doctrine police in most all the camps, not just among Reformed Calvinists. John Piper is not a Reformed Calvinist (well, maybe kinda sorta, but more a Reformed Baptist) and he took it upon himself to declare Rob Bell a heretic.

    Because of my theology shift, I have been accused of heresy by almost every camp. Actually, since I’m not a liberal, I HAVE been accused of heresy by every camp (except for the Trinitarian Incarnationalists like Grace Communion International, where we currently hang our hat).

    What if JS is right and it’s not about doctrine but how we live in love towards others? What if ReyJacobs is right and our doctrine determines whether we live in love towards others? What if we all just need to think a lot harder about what it looks like for God to wear skin and interact with us face-to-face? Well, that’s my new dilemma now that I’ve turned in my doctrine-police badge. 😉

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    1. Agreed, there are jerks everywhere: and in fact, even the nicest people have their bad days in the pulpit or the blog-world.

      I just can’t understand how some people get so worked up over doctrine that they end up dehumanizing other people, the VERY people that they claim to love in Christ. When I read YouTube comments and Christian blog comments, there really isn’t that much difference. The inner-troll lurks everywhere.

      If anyone even hopes to be heard, being an aggressive jerk is NOT the way to go. A lot of Reformed dudes hide under “passion for God” as if it’s okay to be a snob, but it only shows they hardly ever talk to real live human beings with brokenness.

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      1. JS, even I have succumbed to ‘jerky-ness’ at times in an attempt to defend a doctrinal point. I am learning more and more that “without love, I am just a sounding brass”. Thanks again for your posts. I am very encouraged whenever I visit your site! Definitely need that right now. 🙂

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    2. Not to be a Pharisee, but any doctrine that eliminates free will and personal accountability, makes God into an intergalactic tyrant that was the author of everything, including sin, must not be ignored.

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      1. Calvinism removes neither nor does it make God the author of sin. In fact, even Jesus said that he who sins makes himself a slave to sin. Slaves by definition have no free will, they have a will sure, but it is not unfettered (ie, Free). That mankind goes into slavery of the will, of their own free will does not make God a tyrant by any means. In general it is good practice to inform yourself of a doctrine before you criticize it, especially publicly.

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        1. Yet if you take the Calvanistic doctrine out to its full extent you do end up with a tyrannical god who created sin and then punishes people who are unable to choose him for not choosing him. Oh, yeah, for ALL OF ETERNITY. It’s just too ridiculous to even talk about.

          Until people are willing to think it all the way through, the debate will go on and on ad infinitum. *sigh* You would think that after 2000 years of the go-around, people would finally stop bickering and agree that NO ONE REALLY KNOWS anything anyway. That’s certainly what the previous debate/comments have shown me.

          Peace to you, JS!
          C

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          1. I don’t wish to enter an unwieldy debate in the comments section here, but I do think it important to mention that Reformed doctrine (also called “the Doctrines of Grace”) does not in any way, shape or form lead to a tyrannical God who creates sin and punishes people for not “choosing” Him. The Doctrines of Grace part from “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. This means that nobody /deserves/ to be saved, because /all/ have sinned against a holy God. God says “this is my law” and sinful man says “I don’t care” and breaks it. To say this makes /God/ the author of sin is beyond ridiculous. To say that despite this, God /must/ save anyone is also ridiculous. That God saves anyone at all is a monument to His amazing, unconditional love and grace. Nobody deserves to be saved, and since salvation is not by works, nobody can do anything, /anything at all/, to be saved. This is why God must be the one to step in and intervene to save. He is under no obligation to save anyone, so no man can ask Him “what have you done?” when He chooses to save one and not another. It is the epitome of arrogance to question God in this.

            In addition, if we are talking about taking doctrines to their logical conclusion, Arminianism leads to one of two things: either salvation is by works (and therefore man may boast about his contribution to his salvation), and sin is not an infinite offense against a holy God, or, man has greater authority than God in determining who enters the fullness of God’s holy presence for all eternity (and therefore man may boast about having greater authority than God when it comes to salvation). Both conclusions are beyond heretical and blasphemous. Salvation is by grace /so that/ none may boast.

            Not just that, but if a person may lose his salvation, it makes Jesus a liar and an impotent savior, since He said He came to accomplish His Father’s work, and lose NONE that He was given by the Father.

            If we just take the words of the Bible, you can only come to a Reformed understanding of soteriology. Jesus said to the pharisees they couldn’t believe /because/ they didn’t belong to God, Jesus said He was the one to choose His disciples, Paul talked endlessly about election and predestination. It is just man’s pride that wants to be able to boast about what he did to be saved that leads him to hold so tightly to Arminianism.

            I agree with all of you that there is a rampant disease among many so-called Reformed/Calvinist believers of great pride and often even disdain for non-Calvinists, but it is not a result of the doctrines themselves, in fact it’s quite ironic that people who believe they are hopeless sinners saved by grace alone should have any bit of pride whatsoever; it is the sin that we must battle daily that leads to such pride. As I mentioned before, it unfortunately seems to go hand in hand that those with the academic rigor that leads to a sound, Reformed understanding of soteriology, also come with a payload of pride. It is unfortunate and it tarnishes the name of Christ, for great shame.

            I wish I could apologize to all who have been hurt by proud, arrogant “Calvinists”, but it unfortunately does not work that way, every man needs to take responsibility for his own actions. So I can only meaningfully apologize to those I have hurt with my own pride.

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          2. You wrote:

            “That God saves anyone at all is a monument to His amazing, unconditional love and grace. Nobody deserves to be saved, and since salvation is not by works, nobody can do anything, /anything at all/, to be saved. This is why God must be the one to step in and intervene to save. He is under no obligation to save anyone, so no man can ask Him “what have you done?” when He chooses to save one and not another. It is the epitome of arrogance to question God in this.”

            This is why I am no longer a Christian.

            Peace on your journey,
            ~C

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          3. Mr. Park…thanks for your response. The thing that is very wrong about DOG is that you say that we don’t “deserve” to be saved. It’s not about whether we deserve salvation, it’s that God chose to make us (we didn’t make ourselves) and give us the opportunity to either accept Christ and Heaven or eternal torment and outer darkness apart from God. This isn’t a debate. If you want to make it a debate that’s on you. Also, the fact that you bring up the Arminian charge, shows me that you have assumed a false binary and disregarded the other options. (The Bible rejects both those positions, clearly).

            Nobody here is “boasting” as you say, about being saved…that would be absurd and is a common charge leveled by many Calvinists upon those who would dare question DOG. I’ve heard it MANY times and I have to laugh because it is becoming the default accusation right behind “who are you to question God?” We don’t question God, we question DOG and especially TULIP and all who espouse it as biblical truths. “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” A child cannot understand systematic theology, TULIP, or DOG. A child can however, understand the basic truth of John 3:16-18.

            JS, Calvin was a bad guy… if he were alive today, he’d be more in line with ISIS, beheading, burning at the stake, flogging, imprisonment and banishment just for disagreeing with his ideas. Sure, he threw in some truth but so did Satan…and he did it to Jesus to His face! Many people are swift to excuse his deeds post salvation. Saul of Tarsus was a murderer, indeed, yet after conversion, he repented and his exploits are well documented, but so are Calvin’s. You cannot gloss over this.

            “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

            God bless you.

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          4. Replying to: “Mr. Park…thanks for your response …”

            Just to be clear, I didn’t write the comment to which you’re responding, it was someone named Raphael Rosch. Please consider replying over at his blog, which is hyperlinked to his name. I haven’t yet actually replied to you (except for this very comment) and I plan to stay out of this comment thread.

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      2. Well, I received an email to this response but have yet to see the actual post…maybe it’s on delay. Here it is in case you lost it:

        “Calvinism removes neither nor does it make God the author of sin. In fact, even Jesus said that hYe who sins makes himself a slave to sin. Slaves by definition have no free will, they have a will sure, but it is not unfettered (ie, Free). That mankind goes into slavery of the will, of their own free will does not make God a tyrant by any means. In general it is good practice to inform yourself of a doctrine before you criticize it, especially publicly.”

        It seems your self-professed “snarky-ness” is still a problem. Not only do I understand “reformed theology” and the implications of its teachings because I was, in fact, a Calvinist for 20 plus years but I continue to study it to this day and have many friends that are still Calvinists and I have had MANY discussions about this subject. It seems that all Calvinistsare not created equal. Maybe there’s an elect within the elect that are more spiritual and intelligent than your average mere mortal reformist.

        As there is a high degree of disagreement among the deformed faith, I will choose to continue to come against it. Either it’s my choice that I fight or God predestined me to fight. Either way, I’m doing His will. I had hoped you had a better answer than the typical “you don’t understand Calvinism” but, alas, I gave you more credit than you deserved.

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  4. Thank you for this post. I agree with what you said. Anything – love = nothing. All the best wisdom minus love equals nothing. And yes, I do think Jesus grieves. It’s tragic and I think that the devil loves that forgetting love and focusing on five points has led division among many.

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    1. Thank you. This post was written over three years ago, and if written today, might have been less snarky and more gracious. I appreciate you being able to see the content with fresh eyes.

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  5. As a Reformed believer (and I don’t mean Presbyterian), I have to say how disheartening it is that so much of what you said about the Neo-(and non-neo) Calvinist movement truly is. Not all Reformed believers are like this, but so many of the loudest ones are. It seems that it goes hand in hand with academic rigor to have it fuel your pride and result in arrogance, at the expense of holding the cognitive dissonant position of “I am saved by grace” with “I am better than you because of my better theology”. Ridiculous. Sad. But as the saying goes, “Semper reformanda”, we must continue striving for not just better theology, but also better repentance.. without which we will all likewise perish. To my Reformed brothers in Christ: you should already know your theology doesn’t save you, don’t treat your non-Reformed brothers in Christ as if you believe that. The same passage that says it is God who grants repentance, also says that we must correct in *gentleness*, not arrogance. You risk tarnishing the name of Christ when you do. His name is more precious than your inflated brain.

    Thank you for your article. Don’t stop identifying as Reformed because of the fallible Christians who use the term for themselves too though, just firmly and gently call them out on their hypocrisy. Our Lord is worthy.

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    1. Thank you, Raphael. I wrote this four years ago and I was rather angry when it was written. Looking back on it now, I could’ve been more measured in my response. I still think Reformed theology is pretty sound, though it’s been shaped and re-shaped and challenged over the years to respect other faith traditions. I also think the Reformed movement has calmed down a bit (especially with Mark Driscoll’s resignation) and the “Christian culture” is once again leaning on a different movement, as it always does, just like we had the Seeker-Sensitive Movement before the Reformed one. As you said, the important thing is to be truthful in gentleness, not arrogance, in the name of Christ.

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  6. (Email notifications for comments are sent with “JS Park” as the sender, which is the source of the confusion for some, thinking it was you who wrote the replies. I am bowing out of replying further, the tone of some of the commenters seems to be desirous of conflict, not mutual edification. Thanks again for your article.. I read another one too, on marriage, which I enjoyed greatly too.)

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  7. S Klausat
    Welcome to the club! My wife and I have experienced Calvinism first hand, which forced us to leave the church we were attending for about 9 years. As we came to the realization on what Calvinism is about we could no longer support a man made doctrine that goes back as far as Augustine of Hippo, when all of this really took hold. Calvin just continued and elaborated what Augustine had put in motion. Any time the focus is taken off of Jesus The Christ, there will be problems. So when someone claims to be following a person, in this case Calvin, who claimed to be following Augustine of Hippo, people should check out the history of the people they claim to follow! Now if a person does the research and has no problem with what they find then they can honestly say they belong to that particular group of followers. But realize this that Christ never ever said that we are to attack someone, verbally or physically for not agreeing with our faith, let alone to kill them in some horrendous ways in order to force people to convert to your faith.
    I wish you well an encourage you to continue on your quest for the truth.
    May the Holy Spirit be your Guide.

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