It was just a few days ago I posted a response to the new John Piper video promoting his book ‘Five Points’. Part of that video was a complaint about how Calvinists get stereotyped and how Piper feels this is unfair. On the same day I wrote my response to Piper another article appeared on the Gospel Coalition website called Sneering Calvinists.
The author, Derek Rishmawy, says that he is fairly new to the Reformed tradition and that he would describe himself as both a “reluctant Calvinist” and “Reformedish.” (‘Reformedish’ appears to be a rather vacuous term since people use it as a label for almost anything between one point and four point Calvinism.) Rishmawy then describes what sounds like a conversion experience. He describes how he slowly moved to Calvinism from a place of complete ignorance about what Calvinism really was. He describes how he felt he had legitimate reservations about Calvinism based on philosophical reasons, his doctrine of God and his understanding of what the Bible says.
He tells how he thought the teaching of God ordaining all things would make God the author of evil and that this appeared, prima facie, to be a good objection. He then describes how the doctrines of Calvinism are “counterintuitive” at first glance and how they are difficult to embrace for people raised in the “modern West”. (What that is supposed to mean specifically I don’t know and he does not explain.) He then describes how the final thing putting him off Calvinism was the stereotype image (“really arrogant, thickheaded, (often young) know-it-all, sneering Calvinists”).
The second half of his piece begins with a plea to his fellow Calvinists to be humble and not to be sneering. I can see the value in doing this and I applaud the author for issuing such a challenge.
Unfortunately, it is this very attitude which pulses through certain parts of his article. When he says:
“As I said, I’ve only slowly come around to the Reformed tradition. It’s taken years of reading different texts, working through heavy issues in metaphysics, thinking deeply through implications of the Creator/creature distinction, and coming to appreciate the Reformed tradition beyond its soteriology.”
“Let me put it this way: if you’re really a Calvinist and believe you’ve received knowledge of the truth by the sheer grace of God, which is what a Reformed view of knowledge teaches, then be patient with those who don’t see it. God has been (and is currently being) patient with you in some area as well. So stop sneering and ask God to humble you enough to be helpful to those offended at or wrestling with those doctrines you now hold dear.”
As unintentional as it may be, this is precisely the sort of intellectual snobbery which puts people off Calvinism and Calvinists. The author almost certainly is not intending to sound patronizing but that is just how it reads:
We, Calvinists, just need to give these people more time to do metaphysics, to read their Bibles, to grow up spiritually, to become more mature in their relationship with God, and to stop being so proud (just like I had to) and then they will see the light!
Is it worth pointing out to the author of this piece that some of the finest Biblical scholars alive today are not Calvinists? Is it worth pointing out that some of the finest Christian philosophers (peer-reviewed in philosophical journals) are not Calvinists (in fact it appears to be, by far, the majority)? Or that some of the most godly Christians are not Calvinists?
Underneath the article you will find numerous comments to the effect that: ‘Indeed, I was myself completely ignorant and proud once myself so I agree I too should be patient with my non-Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ!’
Here’s a news flash for such people. A large number of theologians and philosophers know this subject far better than most Calvinists do. They have read Calvin. They have read Pink. They have read MacArthur, Sproul and Piper and guess what? They still disagree. Treating your non-Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ as if they lack some spiritual gift, or some degree of humility or some knowledge you don’t is both patronizing and completely contrary to the facts. Ironically it also reinforces the stereotype.