(Editor’s note: Cindy does not mention Lori Alexander, the lady we are trying not to feature here, but there have been happenings in Lori-stan that fit with this piece. Several days ago Lori Alexander pulled down all of her posts about Rachel Held Evans, and pretended for a day or so to have said nothing. She followed this by starting to say even worse things about RHE, including blaming RHE for her own death because she’s taken Tamiflu. Lori seems to know nothing about the issues of elimination half-life and metabolism that make this extremely unlikely. Not that it matters, Lori just wants to throw shade on others. Just like all the other awful Calvinists.)
Since her death a few days ago, the world has witnessed two very different ‘Christian’ responses to the life and work of Rachel Held Evans (RHE). This confused people who think of Christianity as a homogenous group of people with similar beliefs. When I heard about Rachel’s untimely death, I was planning what to write about John T. Earnest, the 19-year-old Presbyterian who walked into the Chabad Synagogue in Poway and opened fire with an automatic weapon on April 27th. The modern interpretation of Covenant Theology (a type of metanarrative which serves as a lens through which believers interpret the Bible) connects both of these individuals with Evans as a noteworthy critic and Earnest who claimed it as an element that helped to inspire his hate crimes.
Amidst the discussion of RHE, a reader here at NLQ pointed out how a Calvinist writer at Patheos responded condescendingly to Rachel’s life and work. The blog is entitled ‘Preventing Grace‘ to emphasize the core tenets of Calvinism. Surprisingly, Doug Wilson departed from his habitual spewing of hate to offer a similar response to that of the Patheos writer. (Miracles never cease.) Spiritual Sounding Board also noted the not-so-kind sentiment of another Calvinist who declared on his blog that RHE now burns in hell (as opposed to the hope that she avoided it in her eleventh hour).
When the curse of hell began flying around, it caught my attention because John T Ernest also bandied the word about in his manifesto which justified the synagogue shooting and arson at a mosque weeks earlier. While such behavior is not in any way condoned by the Presbyterians and some Baptists who follow the same theology, many who are affiliated with it also teach hatred and exclusion as a defining element of their faith. I’m grieved that Ernest chose to draw on this lowest common denominator that connects to the broader belief system, adding it to other radical views that he likely adopted from online hatred at 8chan.
He ends his manifesto with the plea to others to continue acts of terror, urging that they “give them hell for me.” (I refuse to link to it.) One passage of it sounded like the venom directed at RHE as her own critics ‘gave her hell.’
There is no love without hatred. You cannot love God if you do not hate Satan. You cannot love righteousness if you do not also hate sin. You cannot love your own race if you do not hate those who wish to destroy it. [. . .] I may be filled with hatred, but I am also filled with love.
A Very Brief History of Calvinism
In the Fifth Century, the debate of human agency erupted between Augustine and an individual named Pelagius. While most Christians believed that Fall of Man rendered all humankind’s moral state as corrupt, Pelagius argued that human nature retained an element of goodness and autonomy that provided them with the power to choose goodness without any divine intervention. That autonomy challenged the concept of God’s sovereignty and omnipotence.
Following the Protestant Reformation, a similar dispute broke out between John Calvin (a French attorney/theologian/philosopher who followed the tradition of Covenant Theology) and a Dutch theologian named Jacob Arminius. Arminius argued that it was entirely possible to choose faith in God and live a sinless life without God’s intervention. His efforts culminated in a position statement that he published in 1610, and the Council of Dort convened to review his findings. Named for Calvin, their counter-statement reaffirmed Calvin’s teachings and became known as the Five Points of Calvinism (or the Doctrines of Grace).
Human Agency in and Out of Perspective
Protestants who reject the Five Points take issue with its argument that humans cannot choose God and saving faith. Calvinists maintain that God instills the faith needed to embrace Him, and in effect, their own choice or sentiment serves no active role in their process of belief. Because God makes the decisions, faith is not offered to all and is thus limited by God to only those whom He chose. This view falls within the pale of orthodoxy (those things that are consistent with the basic tenets of Christianity as set forth in the Bible), though other Protestants arrive at different interpretations through different metanarratives that are codified within the doctrines of their theologies.
I believe that adherents to Calvinism often allow these principles to eclipse the primary elements of the core Christian message. At some point, defending Calvin’s arguments about agency and other beliefs (like doctrines about gender) become far more critical to their faith that any other consideration. Rather than the Five Points of Grace serving as a foundation for humility and gratitude, they become a cause for pride which I call spiritual eugenics. Only the spiritually fit survive the cut. For some, it also leads to moral disengagement, as if they owe no duty to live rightly because their fate has been sealed for them by God.
I think of the Five Points as an equation that solves a more academic type of problem, but when it is removed from that context and becomes a way of defining Christians themselves, it becomes something like the Devil’s arithmetic.
As the ‘fruitcake post‘ noted, as soon as we realize that we individuals belong to a group that we know as ‘us,’ it inevitably leads us to an awareness of ‘them.’ The most basic assumptions that define ‘them’ negatively set up a false dichotomy. ‘They’ become the obligatory adversaries of ‘us’. One seems to level the playing field by knocking down the competition, and such perceptions create the basis for mistreating ‘them.’
There are a few other doctrines in Covenant Theology that I believe undercut the power that saving faith offers to the Believer and feed their institutionalized us/them dichotomy, but that’s a subject for another day. Today, I’d like to highlight the principles of Replacement Theology and election from which John Earnest drew to draft his manifesto.
The predominant number of non-Calvinists believe that God changed the way that He related to humankind at different periods of time (called ‘dispensations’), the most significant of which was the death and resurrection of Christ. This new dispensation or age also allowed for all people to believe in God, offering salvation through faith to all people. (Prior to the Cross, salvation was reserved only for Jews who were able to keep the Mosaic Law.)
Covenant Theology rejects this dispensation concept, and instead, the believer in Jesus becomes the rightful heir to all of God’s previous covenants. This in effect removes Jews as recipients of the promises that God pledged to them before Jesus’ ministry and replaces the Jew with God’s elect (those who were chosen by God to be Christians). The Christian thus replaces the Jew as the true child of Israel. Those who reject Christ are non-elect, just as Israel’s enemies were viewed under the Old Covenant, but some churches also treat other Christians who follow different theologies as non-elect as well.
Grace Transformed into Prejudice
The worst possible conclusion that I believe that many Calvinists draw is that as the elect, they are more unique, desirable, and better than everyone else. They then extend that into a belief that the non-elect not only do not merit love and compassionate consideration, they actually deserve the disdain and punishment that God reserved for Old Testament enemies. (This is why many say that Quiverfull seeks to save through the womb instead of the Cross. The benefits of God are reserved only for the elect who are their children.) John Earnest defines himself as a superior due to his Anglo-Saxon heritage and his status as one of God’s elect, both of which he believed bound him with a moral duty to commit acts of terror.
When I attended an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (the same denomination as John Earnest), because my husband and I didn’t want to join because of doctrinal differences, the church denied us any moral support. My husband was hospitalized for a week, just a 15-minute drive away from the church, but we were told that we didn’t merit their care because we were seen as non-elect. (However, they managed to cash my checks.) While it is nothing like a synagogue shooting, it does convey the root message of exclusion and prejudice based on election. I also think of Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips who called any Christians who rejected their beliefs ‘Philistines’ and ‘Canaanites’ (the enemies of Israel in the Old Testament). Many within their belief system also openly condoned stoning of sinners according to Old Testament Law, and I don’t think that it takes much to join the dots.
In recent years, Doug Wilson scrubbed and tamed his tone, but one expression of hate is preserved in his book, Mother Kirk. I give this subject far more attention in this blog post along with more of the quote in context. In closing, to illustrate another example of such hatred inspired by this us/them dichotomy, I leave the reader with Wilson’s twisted attitude toward non-Christian women and their unborn children. (How does Wilson know who is elect and who is not, and whether an unborn child will accept or reject God?) I don’t find these same seeds of hatred in other Protestant systems, but they are prevalent among some fringe elements who inspire far more hate than love, especially for the lost.
The unbelievers are destroying themselves in a frenzy of child-murder and fruitless sodomy. Let them go. These are hard words. But Christians must learn to say them. Paul taught us that the children of God-haters are “foul” or “unclean” (I Cor 7:14). We must come to the day when the Christian can truly rebuke those who are “without natural affection” and say – “The ancient psalmist blessed the one who would take little ones of those who hate God and dash them on the rock (Ps 137:9).
Cindy is a nurse who was raised in Word of Faith, a Second Generation Adult of cultic Christianity. She and her husband dabbled in Calvinism and Theonomy as a foil to Christian anti-intellectualism, and they were exit counseled together when they walked away from a church that embraced Gothard’s teachings. Cindy escaped many Quiverfull pitfalls but became a social pariah for failing to birth a family. She’s been decrying the abuses of the Patriarchy Movement since 2004, and she writes about spiritual abuse at her blog, Under Much Grace. Read more about her here.
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