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.