It’s funny. Some of my favorite people I’ve come to know since becoming Catholic are former Calvinists. And yet my own experience of encounter with Calvinism was of nothing but a bone-chilling encounter with satanic pride and evil that almost destroyed my hope in the goodness of God. One of the reasons I loved Chesterton was that he not only deeply hated Calvinism as a monstrously evil thing, but could put into words my intuition that it was the clean, well-lit prison of a single idea.
I think my encounter with Calvinism was so toxic and destructive because it happened to be a system of thought that simply ran roughshod over the most wounded places in my personality. The entire problem was really summed up in a conversation over at Steve Ray’s board years ago. A curious non-Christian asked, “Does God love me?” and the Catholics all responded, “Of course.”
The lone Calvinist replied, “I don’t know.” It was perfectly consistent to the diagram that is Calvinism. If you are elect (according to the diagram) then yeah. Otherwise, you’re fodder for hell, where God will send you and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Cuz he hates you.
Other, healthier people, were able to see what was good in it, but not me. However, I was able to see the good in the former Calvinists I got to know and that helped me get past my loathing of the system to get to like the people who found what was good in it. Scott Hahn once told me he thought of Calvinism as “monotheism come of age” but that he realized the Catholic faith was *trinitarian* monotheism come of age. For me, it’s always struck me as a form of theology that prizes diagram over actual humans and theory over reality, but as I say, it seems to have some kind of attraction for people go on to make gung ho and committed Catholics when the convert, so I have to give it that. At any rate, I’m grateful for the many converts from Calvinism I have come to know in the past couple of decades and think the world of them. So God’s strange process of healing and reconciliation seems to still be doing its quiet work in the world.