One commenter has raised a question about my statement that I have no problem with Calvinism in confessionally Reformed circles (churches, denominations, etc.). I made that statement in my previous post about my public conversation with Mike Horton.
So, let me clarify that.
First, by “no problem with” I don’t mean “agree with!” What I mean is, I don’t object to Reformed folks holding to their Calvinism within their own ecclesiastical settings that are confessionally bound. The same is true of many other doctrines with which I disagree in other confessional traditions (or non-confessional but with unwritten or supposedly non-binding statements of faith).
For example, to step out of the Calvinist issue for a moment, just to shed light on what I mean: I have no problem with Pentecostals believing and teaching that speaking in tongues is “the initial, physical evidence” of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit among themselves. My “problem” begins when one tells me or one of my students (etc.) that I am not Spirit baptized because I have never spoken in tongues. (Actually, I have, but don’t and that’s a whole other issue.)
Second, what I mean is that I would never dream of invading someone else’s ecclesiastical space to argue against their doctrines so long as they are being preached and taught only there and not out in the wider community.
Third, when a doctrine is brought out of its confessional context and imposed on others who do not belong to that confessional context, then I might have a problem. Or if members of a confessional context misrepresent others’ doctrines, then I have a problem with it.
I never “had a problem with Calvinism” until one told me my Arminianism would inevitably lead to liberal theology. When I was growing up some of my uncles and aunts and cousins were Christian Reformed. I never felt any urge to argue with them about it. They never tried to impose their Calvinism on me. They never treated me or my family like second class Christians. They kept their Calvinism in their family and church. Then, another Calvinist (not a relative) told me my Arminianism was evidence of latent humanism in me. That made me angry. I never belonged to a confessionally Calvinist/Reformed church or attended a confessionally Calvinist/Reformed college or university.
Then, one day, one of my students came to my office and told me I’m not a Christian because I’m not a Calvinist. Okay, then I had a problem. Neither my church nor his was confessionally Calvinist. Our college was not confessionally Reformed in any sense. He was one of the first “young, restless, Reformed” people. (This was about 25 years ago!) Then I began to hear that more and more often. It wasn’t always stated so bluntly, but the message was clear: unless you are a Calvinist you are at best a defective Christian. This was being said outside of confessionally Reformed churches.
So long as Calvinists keep their Calvinism among themselves, in their confessionally Reformed contexts, I am not going to go on any crusade to argue against it. My crusade against Calvinism (if that’s what it is) is ONLY because Calvinism is being widely promoted in non-Reformed contexts as the one and only truly evangelical theology.
Now, there is one exception to what I said. IF I hear that Arminianism is being misrepresented in a Reformed context, I might make an effort to correct that (as I am able to).
But I would never have written Against Calvinism if Calvinism were just being believed, preached and taught among confessionally Reformed Christians. It’s only because of people who publicly state that only Calvinism is truly evangelical in non-confessional evangelical settings that I felt called to write the book.