Beware of Stealth Calvinism!
Several times here I have expressed concern that some Calvinists are attempting to take over churches by stealth. I frequently hear from church members (mostly Baptists but occasionally also Pentecostals and other evangelicals) that their new pastor turned out to be a five point Calvinist without their knowing that when he was called. They only contact me about this when the new pastor attempts to impose Calvinism on the congregation—for example by insisting that all deacons and elders be Calvinists, etc. Numerous reports of this have arisen from especially Southern Baptist congregations that traditionally allowed leaders to be either Calvinist or non-Calvinist.
Now I am beginning to hear reports of denominations that have traditionally included both Calvinists and non-Calvinists subtly attempting to impose Calvinism by means of new statements of faith or amendments to old statements of faith. Usually this happens under the guise of attempting to rule out open theism. Here is the most recent example:
A pastor has reported to me that his district of an evangelical denomination (which I know very well) has amended its statement of faith. Under the guise of attempting to exclude open theists the denomination has asked its member churches to affirm the following:
We believe God’s knowledge is exhaustive; that He fully knows the past, present, and future independent of human decisions and actions. The Father does everything in accordance with His perfect will, though His sovereignty neither eliminates nor minimizes our personal responsibility.
I can’t help but note that “independent” should be “independently.” (What is happening to adverbs in American English? They are disappearing.) However, my main objection is that no Arminian should sign such a statement and any church that adopts it is automatically affirming Calvinism—whether they know it or not. Only a Calvinist (or someone who believes in the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty) can say that God’s knowledge is independent of human decisions and actions. Even a Molinist cannot say that and mean it.
The only way God’s knowledge can be independent of human decisions and actions is if God foreordains them and renders them certain.
(Just to head off objections from Lutherans—Yes, some Lutherans believe in that same view of God’s sovereignty, but among evangelicals especially this is especially associated with Calvinism.)
So what do I think is going on in this case? I don’t know, but it certainly appears to me that whoever wrote that statement knew what they were doing. If not, they shouldn’t be writing statements of faith for a denomination and its churches.
This appears to me to be another case, on a grander scale, of stealth Calvinism.
This statement (above in italics) is probably being promoted as a guard against open theism, but it’s much, much more than that. If adopted by my church I would have to give up my membership—not because I’m an open theist (I’m not) but because whether intentionally or not it excludes classical Arminianism. It makes any church that adopts it automatically, de facto, Calvinist.