God Hates You and Your Little Dog Too: Thoughts on Calvinism
In light of my recent posts with pictures of my little dog, I found the title of a recent post by Anthony Sacramone particularly upsetting, until I read the article. This is a very well done critique of classic Calvinism, acerbic, to be sure, but Tony lays the issues out very clearly. Click through the link to his blog site, and add it to your blog reader, if you have not already. Here is the text of his post:
God Hates You and Your Little Dog Too
by Anthony Sacramone
All right, maybe not you …
The NY Times has this profile of Mark Driscoll,
pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll has a large
congregation in a very secular city. He talks dirty and preaches a limited gospel, by which I mean the doctrine of limited atonement.
Sometimes referred to as “particular” atonement, it refers to the idea
that God has brought into being the overwhelming majority of humankind
for the sheer purpose of sending them to hell. This, to his glory.
Imagine a God who seeks His glory in such a fashion.
Wait — it gets worse. Not only are the majority of people doomed to
an eternity of torment, but sometimes God will “awaken” a defective
faith, “an inferior working of the Spirit,” in unsuspecting
individuals, for the sheer purpose of faking them out into thinking God
loves them and that Jesus died for them when, in fact, His Holy Wrath
abides on them.
Yeah, that’ll preach.
But, strangely, it does. Driscoll’s robust congregation is proof of
that. I was swayed by it, once upon a time, becoming a member of Tim
Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian in New York (although Keller doesn’t
sell the election part all that hard). Why? Because Calvinists believe
they’re in. As in the Kingdom. Of Heaven.
And if you’re in — you can’t get out. So all is good. For you. There’s
certainty in an uncertain world. Yes, there may be those who only think they’re in when they’re, in fact, not, but they’re all out there somewhere. Not in here, in my heart, with me.
It should also be noted that the craftiest of Calvinist preachers
keep certain unpleasantnesses to themselves, so as to lead you to
believe that you, too, can be in. Perhaps the greatest, or at least the
most winsome, example of a crafty Reformed preacher was the 19th
century English Baptist C.I. Spurgeon, who softened the election blow
by maintaining that any attraction to the Gospel you experienced was
evidence of the Spirit of God drawing you. And as God finishes what he
starts in the human heart, you could rest easily about your own eternal
What of those who read between the lines — or who read line by line
the works of Cornelius Van Til (whose books were sold in profusion at
Redeemer) and Jonathan Edwards? What if you begin to unravel the
unbroken chain of fate, which starts with God’s engineering of the
Fall, and come to despise this construal of the gospel? That’s just
evidence that you don’t understand the justice of it. Adam, the first
man, federal head of all mankind, had a curse placed on him. We are all
his descendants, and so the curse abides on all of us. God alone can
remove the curse — the death sentence. He does this through means, the
Cross of Christ. But it requires faith. And faith is a gift — a gift He
alone gives. And He gives it to some and not to others. No one deserves
to be saved, and so those happy few who are favored thus should be
grateful and shut their traps.
The problem is that Christ is the Second Adam. If all are condemned
under the First Adam, then all must at least potentially be saved under
the Second Adam if the analogy is to hold. Notice: Jesus is not the
Second Moses, a lawgiver for a tightly circumscribed few. He is both
the Incarnation of the Word that brought everything into being and the
Savior of that everything. (Even the creation groans in anticipation of
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)
The Reformed argument goes like this: “all” refers to some from every nation, as opposed to some from Israel alone.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there
will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce
destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing
swift destruction upon themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)
Try as the Reformed might to divert attention away from this verse
by arguing for its ambiguity, the idea of our having been “bought” has
always been a picture of what Christ accomplished at the Cross.
You are not your own; you were bought with a price. (I Cor. 6:20)
So false teachers, on whom destruction is coming, have been bought
by Christ. This cannot be reconciled with the doctrine of limited
And Heaven forbid we have recourse to the early Church Fathers, the
overwhelming majority of whom taught an unlimited atonement. They may
not have been infallible, but they are historical witnesses to what the
Church resoundingly believed and taught in the first few centuries
after the death of the Apostles. Yes, Augustine taught a version of
double predestination, but he was an exception, and his view was never
embraced by the undivided Church of the first Christian millennium. But
it is pointless arguing this way with most Reformed apologists. Once
you’re locked into a mindset in which only a tiny minority of people
get in, then only a tiny minority of Christians can be expected to get it
— namely the truth about limited atonement. So the majority of
Christians and Christian churches have simply been wrong. Just as they
presumably have been wrong about baptismal regeneration — one of the
earliest Christian doctrines articulated by Church.
Keep something in mind: Every cult convinces its followers that it
has the Truth because it’s small and rejected and misunderstood. I am
not equating Presbyterians with cultists, mind. I’m simply saying that
because something is believed by a relative few, and because what is
believed is held to be offensive by the many, does not in and of itself make that belief true — or Scientology would be the One True Faith.
What of those who never hear the Gospel? Haven’t they been rejected
by God and left without hope? Don’t they stand condemned by geography?
We’re not told what happens to those who never explicitly reject the
Gospel. And where Scripture is silent, we should be silent. But
Calvinism is big on God’s secrets, as in His secret decrees. Think
about a God who humiliates himself publicly only to keep back the
secret of how the whole salvation thing really works.
What Scripture is explicit about is publishing the Good News of Jesus Christ everywhere. And it’s called Good News
for a reason. If “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten
Son that whosoever should believe in him will have eternal life,” and
if that same God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” why
would He go to such scandalous lengths to save but a paltry handful of
human specimens? Wouldn’t that be conceding defeat to death?
There have been many great Christians who have flown the Calvinist
banner: John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, George Whitfield, the aforementioned
Jonathan Edwards — great preachers of Christ as Lord and Savior and
great hymn writers. (A study should be done, though, on the relation of
Calvinist theology and missions, or Calvinist theology and charity/work
among the poor.) But I ended my sojourn among the Calvinists because
their view of justification is not so much “by faith alone” as it is
“by luck alone.”
And good luck with that.