Totally Depraved Women are Predestined to Love It!

Dave Armstrong's photo.

Now TULIP scented!

Speaking of which, I got this in the mail the other day from a convert from Calvinism:

I really enjoyed your article on Calvinism. I think you nailed it. This was the best:

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 must now tell you my story. I am a former Calvinist, but I did not go from Calvinism to Catholicism. I spent a decade as an atheist. Some would call me an archatheist because they said I was more passionate about it than even Richard Dawkins. Calvinism made me that atheist.

I became a Calvinist in college and left the Baptist church I had always known to attend the Presbyterian church. The pastor there was a passionate Calvinist as well as the friend who introduced me to Calvinism. I thought Calvin was the greatest theologian since St. Paul. Before long, I had decided to attend a Calvinist seminary. It was there that the poison of Calvinism would scorch my soul.

I was at seminary for a year when the friend I was sharing a house with committed suicide. I found his body, and it shocked me. Like me, he was an ardent Calvinist and a seminarian. But unlike me, he was a closeted homosexual with a deep sense of self-loathing. I never knew. I would have to find this out later from a professor who had heard this young man’s confession but could grant no absolution or forgiveness.

What drove my friend to suicide? It was clearly the same thing that turned my soul into the same dark pit of self-loathing. I believed that God loved some and hated others. The arbitrariness of it and the inescapable conclusion I had to draw that God was the author of evil made me see God not as benevolent but sadistic. I stopped praying when I found the body of my friend. It was not a conscious decision so much as an instinctive impulse. I was not an atheist at that point, but I needed air. I left that seminary and left that world. The faith I had slowly died until I realized that I was an atheist at age 30. I couldn’t believe in it anymore.

Atheism felt like a relief compared to Calvinism. It is better to believe in no God than believe in a God who is evil. People don’t reject God on logical grounds but on moral grounds. I was essentially an atheist from the moment my hand touched his cold dead flesh. I could not fathom how God could torment such a person and let him destroy himself. I imagined God as a fat kid laughing as he pulled the wings off of flies for his self-amusement. The nausea and abhorrence I felt was indescribable.

I would never have described myself as an atheist before I was 30, but I had to come up for air. So, I entered the no man’s land of not going to church and not praying. I went from being a devout Christian to an empty shell. The only things I knew about Catholicism were the lies I had been taught by my Baptist and Presbyterian formation in church and seminary.

If Calvinism is sickness, atheism is numbness. My rescue would not come until a nice lady read my blog, felt sorry for me, and asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother on my behalf that I would find some peace. That small act became a huge act as I ended up marrying that nice lady and becoming a Catholic.

As for my deceased Calvinist friend, I offer my prayers on his behalf. May God have mercy on him. I firmly believe that it was the heresy that killed him. He had lots of friends, a loving family, and even people who knew his secret. But he was always miserable and hated himself to a very high degree. Nothing I could ever say to him made any difference because I only knew a Calvinist gospel which he knew better than me. In hindsight, I was like one of those old physicians using bloodletting to treat the patient. The sicker he got the more I bled him. If only I had known better.

My other Calvinist friend displays the same self-loathing today. He still believes in the Gospel with No Good News. I am reminded of these verses from Luke 11:

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out.

25 And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished.

26 Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

I do not know what these verses mean, but they do describe what it is like to be a Calvinist. You acknowledge your sinfulness and repent. When you repent, you realize even more how sinful you are. You repent even more, but you acknowledge that even your repentance is evil. You are left with despair, self-hatred, and a growing coldness and indifference because nothing you do matters. The only saving grace of Calvinism is it dampens evangelism with its predestination doctrine, so the heresy remains contained to its own dark place. Most Calvinists let the Protestant evangelicals win the converts, and they pounce on those converts and turn them to the error.

Calvinism is evil. The last state of Calvinism is worse than the first. Heresy has consequences.

Thanks for the article. You are my favorite Catholic blogger.

It’s funny.  God being the quirky redeemer he is, I don’t think fine Catholics like Scott Hahn or Jimmy Akin or Jason Stellman are extricable from their Calvinist backgrounds any more than I can jettison my Evangelical background.  Grace  builds on nature and these guys (and many others from Calvinism) will always retain a certain Calvinist “taste” for want of a better word. Their habits of intellectual rigor, their way of approaching the task of theology, their very dress and comportment and speech are somehow seasoned with Calvinism and you could no more remove that from their personalities than you take all the salt from the sea. I remember listening to some tape Scott made in the early 90s (first I ever ran across him).  The content was all Catholic and the delivery was classic clear-headed American Calvinist preaching.

Nor would I want to change a thing about that.  Calvinist converts like Scott wouldn’t be them if you took that away.  But at the same time, I think that’s all due to the redeeming grace of God and not to the deeply evil thing that is Calvinism.  I don’t know what to make of that.  It’s mysterious to me.  But also beautiful. Sort of like how Paul wouldn’t have been the apostle he became had he not been the Pharisee he was. Strange and mysterious world.  Anyway, thanks be to God that my reader knows the healing love of Christ and thanks be to God for all the wonderful former Calvinists who have entered the Catholic Church.  I’m honored to call them friends and I am not worthy to have a share at the Table with them, but grateful to be welcomed there anyway by our Lord.

  • Dave G

    Calvinism evil? Wrong yes. Flawed yes. Evil no.

    • chezami

      yeah. Evil. It posits a God who wills evil. Can’t get much more evil than that.

      • Dave G.

        No it doesn’t Mark you know not one Calvinist theologian would say it that way.

        • said she

          Dave, you must be one of the lucky ones predestined for Heaven. Try walking a mile in the shoes of us poor slobs who were created precisely in order to spend eternity in Hell, and there’s nothing we can do about. Then maybe you’ll see the evil.

          What kind of deity would create people and give them no hope of Heaven? Answer: an evil god. Not the one, true, God Who is Love. Thanks be to Him for rescuing Calvinists!

          • Dave G.

            I didn’t say I was a Calvinist. I said don’t misrepresent their view. And be careful with the ‘what kind of God?’ argument. I know many Christians of a more progressive leaning who feel a God imposing the death penalty on His own Son is the epitome of evil, which is why they reject such a laughably archaic and barbaric doctrine. See how that works?

            • said she

              If you mean to say “some people are heretics”, I agree. And it is sad. If they truly understood what Catholicism teaches, they’d join us in a heartbeat.

              What I was trying to say is that Mark didn’t misrepresent Calvinists. Anyone who believes in their brand of predestination is ascribing to God something evil: creating people who have no hope of Heaven.

              • Dave G.

                That’s not how most Calvinists see it. I’m not saying there are some. There are some explanations of Catholicism that, truthfully, don’t do much better. Some, of course, don’t use the term Calvinist at all. They prefer ‘Reformed theology.’ Others argue the age old question: was Calvin even a Calvinist? But while there could be some that could be so accused, most wouldn’t see it that way. They believe in God’s love and grace, they simply over emphasize the sovereignty and justice side, to the detriment of other attributes of God as understood by historic Christianity. Since most Calvinists and Reformed profess Orthodox Christianity and Nicene confessions of faith, I’m hesitate to ascribe e the word ‘evil’. Especially since there are plenty of others out there who would look at Catholicism’s official teachings and use the exact same word.

                BTW, as a former pastor, my refusal to accept reformed theology caused me no end of trouble, so it isn’t as if it’s something I have undying love for.

                • Jon W

                  When I was studying eschatology in grad school, I recalled my Evangelical and Presbyterian past and remembered that the one thing that both the Calvinists and the Evangelicals kept charging the Catholics with was despair. The whole point of their doctrine was an attempt to combat that “Catholic” despair.

                  A lot of the arguments I’ve had with my Calvinist friends have turned on what hope means and why [the other group] doesn’t have it but [your group] does.

                  All that to say: it’s much more complex than just a longing for theological neatness.

                  • Dave G.

                    True that. Sort of my point. It’s sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

  • Des Farrell

    What does that line at the end mean? ‘I am not worthy to have a share that the table with them’? I think I know but there’s a word or two extra in there.
    The pope likes to stir things up, he wrote recently that some Catholics walk around like its Lent with no Easter. He’s right. We have our own miserable theologies, our own heresies that we need to get rid of. Call it modern Jansenism, call it militant churchiness, that way of being miserable to the good news is a nuisance.
    Hope and joy does not mean that we’re not taking God seriously.
    I’m sure that God has helped that poor chap who committed suicide. God help his family.
    I feel as if I have a duty, along with everyone else, to root out this professional sour faced miserableness that ‘some’, thankfully fewer it seems than a decade ago, pass onto others like a contagion. Being grateful doesn’t mean we have to walk around with a happy clappy grin on our faces. Rather, like Jimmy Akin, it means to express ourselves using the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
    The ‘holier than thou’ message spread by people like Voris really grinds my gears. It reminds me of the public hypocrisy of Irish Catholicism a couple of decades ago. By the way, I don’t think I’d call any form of Protestantism evil, certainly not here in Ireland, where all Christians including Catholics are capable of great evil.

    • James H, London

      “I feel as if I have a duty, along with everyone else, to root out this
      professional sour faced miserableness that ‘some’, thankfully fewer it
      seems than a decade ago, pass onto others like a contagion.”

      Sing it, mate! Here in the UK, that grisly-old-grunion sentiment is rampant in Catholicism. I don’t know any British blogs as balanced as Mark’s and Jimmy’s, they all obsess over whether or not Fr Gruntfuttock lets the chain clank against the incense-burner or not, and long for the day when the penalty for carrying a guitar in the church is to be hung by the thumbs until dead. It’s totally put me off the EF, where I had sympathy for it previously.

      • irena mangone

        Love your take on things James .we have some of that in Australia too and don’t let me get started on some of the Polish folk back n my father’s parish (Polish one they do not have extraoridinary ministers of the Euacharist and they only have Holy communion with the wafer not with wine !although to be fair it could be because the church is so packed with people. May be the cost could be prohibitive may be other towns with Polish parishes are a bit more up to date .

  • Dan13

    Mark would you mind linking to your article that the writer is referring to?

  • Beadgirl

    A few years ago I read an article about that Mars Hill guy in the NYT, and how he was reviving Calvinism in this country. He spent so much time talking about how evil and depraved we are, how corrupt the world is, that I finished that article offended on God’s behalf. What does it say about God if He created such horrible, reprehensible creatures?

    • James

      What drives Mark Driscoll seems to be a reaction to the effeminate, sentimental Christianity that has taken over US Christian culture. He’s so repelled by it, he’s gone too far the other way.

      • Dan F.

        He’s the Calvinist version of Michael Voris.

  • Barbara

    Lately I have been thinking about how C.S. Lewis’ book “The Pilgrim’s Regress” provides an excellent symbolic geography for all of the different paths one takes both to conversion and to heresy. Calvinism just seems to fit in the “Northern Table land of the tough minded”, and people who come from it into Catholicism learn to soften some of their rigors. I converted from Neopaganism which was more “Southern” and learned a greater firmness and constancy, which I craved for years without knowing it. Catholicism seems to balance both the Northern and Southern parts of us. Of course there are Northern Catholics…the rad trads, and Southern Catholics…the Pelosi Catholics, but Catholicism itself is equatorial.

    • The Next to Last Samurai

      Hi Barbara, may I ask how you came to leave neo-paganism? I’ve always thought it embodies all the fun of religion, e.g. holidays, without having the downside of some deity making tiresome demands. So it’s a very seductive falsehood and I am always interested in how people find their way out.

      • Barbara

        It was a lot of little things. I had a strange experience at a Samhain ritual in Montreal, the high priest drew a pentagram on my head with chrism and I got this deep sudden feeling of revulsion, like a spiritual nausea. I grew up in a pretty New Age secular family, and I knew what the symbol meant in Pagan circles, so I can’t attribute it to some previous negative association. About that time I also became disenchanted with the pagan subculture. Every gathering I attended, drum circle, spirituality workshop, Sabbat circle, had some kind of money grab attached to it. The tackiest one was at a labyrinth meditation…again in Montreal, where the high priestess had placed nine-foot banners (in French and English) explaining how much she needed money and how she shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for donations from people. It just turned me off.
        I didn’t become a Catholic till much later, but what attracted me first to Christianity and later to Catholicism was how happy useful and sane Christians seemed. How they were willing to give away what they had and asked nothing in return. There’s more to it, of course, but that’s the gist. I learned later that a religion that demands nothing of you is not really satisfying. Happiness is found in a life that balances obligation and freedom. I am unemployed right now and I hate it, because working feels good. Having something to do feels healthy and right.

  • Gabriel Blanchard

    Hopefully it isn’t too flippant to bring it up, but this reminded me of the passage in “Surprised By Joy” where C. S. Lewis mentions that his tutor, Kirkpatrick, had been a Presbyterian but had become an atheist, yet continued to wear a slightly more formal suit on Sundays. Lewis quipped, “An Ulster Scot may come to disbelieve in God, but not to wear his weekday clothes on the Sabbath.” As an ex-Calvinist myself I got a good laugh out of that one.

  • James Scott

    Benezism Thomism is better. It’s Catholic & it’s sort of like the best in Calvinism but better because it has Free Will & sufficient Grace & Mystery & none of this limited atonement mishigoss.

    In short it has all of Calvinism’s virtues and none of it’s vices.

  • joyce

    While studying at Fuller Seminary I became aware that there are many types or levels or brands of Calvinism, the double-predestinationists being the type which your original responder and his despairing friend obviously embraced. I came to the conclusion after awhile that Calvinists are Christians, more or less heretical; this was mainly an intuitive conclusion on my part until I happened upon the plumbline against which all heresies or semi-heresies must be measured, namely, the Catholic Church’s theology, embodied in the (thanks be to God!) Catechism of the Catholic Church. The happiest gift I was given while studying Calvinism was Karl Barth, who arose from the soil of Calvinist-Reformed theology powerfully and poetically ( in his Commentary on Romans) blasting open a way out of the prison of both double-predestinationism and that of narrow historicism, with a renewed affirmation of our God’s transcendence and omnipotent otherness and, I think, love. Barth was one large step forward for me on the way to Rome because he brought an attitude of respect for miracles back into the conversation. Simply remaining a Barthian would not have been enough for me, however, because there was something missing in the “heart” area of the faith in his theologizing. He himself lived a pretty balanced Christian life because of his intense love of the music of Mozart. That, and a late-in-life friendship with a well-known Swiss Catholic artist and writer named Zuckmeier (sp?) I think speaks powerfully of Barth’s longing somehow to grasp and live the incarnational reality of Christianity. Without the Church’s sacraments, without a love for Mary, without the liturgy, without an intimate friendship in prayer with the Communion of Saints, the arts had to be embraced as a substitute within his world of the rather bare, Calvinist Barthianism he unwittingly created, I believe.

    • Dave G.

      And yet, based on that plumbline against which all heresies or semi-heresies are measured, I’m afraid Barth and his neo-orthodoxy would fail to make the grade as well.

      • joyce

        Dave, I don’t know what you mean, exactly, about “making the grade.” I have become Catholic because over the years I realized that the fullness of the faith and the authority of Christ’s Church is found in Catholicism, and protestant theologies and worship do not reflect that fullness. Barth is probably the greatest protestant theologian of the 20th century; but my believing that, with the arts he was, in practice, making up in his own life for the lack of fullness or completeness in his theology was simply an observation, and one full of hope for his and his followers salvation, because of the Holy Spirit’s life in them which is expressed in various ways, most obviously through a thirst for beauty. Whew! That was a long sentence!

        • Dave G.

          Barth usually gets the nod in figuring who was the biggest and best Protestant theologian of the last century. In light of my conversion, I often thought his approach was the result of trying to find something to fill the gaps that all Protestant approaches ultimately leave. And yes, that was a long sentence.

  • James

    Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been much of a fan of the Hahns. Catholic, of course, but very much a Calvinist flavor.