Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Scourge of Self-Righteous Divisiveness

Back from a weekend at family camp. The weekend started with a conversation with a fellow Covenant minister. He related a story of a group of neo-calvinists who had joined up with his church, and then attempted to force the church to adopt their theology, and teach it, and nothing else, to their youth. Their suggested curriculum for the youth group was all 'Pure Calvinist theology" a la John Piper and J.I. Packer. Said one father to the pastor, "We have to teach our youth to be afraid of God, so they won't sin." When the pastor responded "I'd rather teach them about the love of God, so they will want to obey," that man left the church, taking quite a few families with him. And he took a parting shot, labeling this man of God a Liberal, and dangerous to the church.

Later in the weekend, I had a conversation with a Young Life leader and youth pastor, a man caught up in the current atonement debate within Young Life. Once again, a vocal group of neo-calvinists has taken control, declaring that Penal Substitutionary Atonement, being a good Calvinist position, be the only method of atonement/salvation taught in Young Life. A group of others, who hold to other models of atonement (mostly Christus Victor, but there are others), a group that wants to tell the story of a loving, forgiving God rather than an angry, vindictive God, have essentially been told to be quiet or leave.

Finally, I came home to read a heartbreaking email, telling the story of a seminary prof and personal friend being accused, slandered, labeled a heretic, and essentially being forced to defend himself before his denomination. . .all because he dared challenge the predominant, Penal-Substitution Model of the Atonement. And the charges. . .once again, strident neo-calvinist influences.


I don't have a problem with calvinism, really, although I don't agree with much of it. I do recognize the weight of their arguments, and don't deny that they may be right. I give them the right to believe, to teach, to hold to those positions. But time and again, they don't offer the same freedom to others, instead teaching that calvinism (especially as espoused by Piper, Sproul, and MacArthur) IS the gospel. And thus they divide the Body, a sin (in my opinion) far greater than choosing the wrong model of the atonement.

For a people who supposedly believe so much in grace, they sure don't show it much.

(and I know there are some good calvinists who read this blog, so feel free to join in the conversation. I don't want to attack the many for the sins of the few. . .it's just that, I know too many who have suffered too much at the hands of your fellow theological brothers and sisters)


Ann said...

It's saddening & sobering to read of the heartache that so many have experienced at the hands of those who slay in the name of "intellectual belief" rather than holding fast to the words of Jesus, Loving God=loving neighbor. This seems to be a form of modern gnosticism, when it's at its worst. (Killing the life in the body doesn't matter if it means preserving the "true" knowledge.) May God preserve the Bride of Christ from those who do such harm.

Andy Larsen said...

Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is heresy.

Our first church plant in Mexico split over the exact same issue and was initiated by a group of neo-calvinists. I like, and believe scripture teaches, that God is sovereign but I think the Achilles h...eal in my experience with Calvinists is that they think they've got the outworking of God's sovereignty, among other things figured out. It's as if they become almost implicitly omniscient in their self perception, in a very rationalistic, and I dare say, arrogant fashion. The behavior, defending God's power to work exclusively through Penal-Substitution Model of the Atonement, seems to betray God's omniscience and omnipotent ways of dealing with humanity. That's been my experience.