When Mean is Funny

When Mean is Funny October 14, 2015

So John Fea and Scott McKnight have a little fun at Calvinists’ expense by linking to Stephen Altrogge’s post about Adult Onset Calvinism (AOC):

To help you navigate the treacherous waters of AOC, I’ve listed the possible symptoms you may encounter.

A sudden urge to correct everything and everyone all the time about every possible thing.

A growing conviction that every worship song you’ve ever sung is heretical and should be excised from the church catalog, including the Nicene Creed, Doxology, and most of the Psalms.

A strange and inexplicable ability to listen to 300 John Piper sermons in a single day.

A burning passion to convert everyone, especially your extremely godly parents WHO TAUGHT YOU THE BIBLE, to Calvinism.

A growing level of arrogance that is directly inverse to the number of blog posts you write about humility.

Constant cravings for cigars and microbrews, even though they make you incredibly sick.

Deep suspicion of anything that might cause the slightest bit of emotion in church, especially those awful worship songs noted above.

Deep-seated cynicism toward anyone who doesn’t take a hard stance on an issue, including but not limited to: free will, Calvinism, sports, coffee, the Trinity, capitalism, child schooling, and dating.

Being so smug you begin to panic that you won’t be able to adequately manifest all the smugness.

An unshakeable conviction that Tim Keller is too theologically soft.

The ability to bring every conversation full circle to Romans 9.

Frustration that guys like Piper and Sproul don’t draw more lines in the sand.

Inevitably arriving at the conclusion that John Calvin was not that strong of a Calvinist. At least, not as strong as you are.

Growing a beard, but not in a hipster way! This beard is WAY DIFFERENT from hipster beards, because it tapers to a point somewhere between the nipples, just like Calvin’s beard did.

If you or someone you know begins experiencing these symptoms, go to a pastor IMMEDIATELY. It won’t make the slightest bit of difference, because you were predestined to be a Calvinist, but still, you should probably see a pastor.

But don’t worry. After 5-6 years, these symptoms will subside and you or your loved one will return to being a mostly normal person.

Mainly funny. But when you’re doing American humor, it’s hard to beat H. L. Mencken, who had this to write about another Calvinist:

Thinking of the theological doctrine called Fundamentalism, one is apt to think at once of the Rev. Aimee Semple McPherson, the Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday, and the late D. John Roach Straton. . . . Such clowns, of course, are high in human interest, and their sincerity need not be impugned, but one must remember always that they do not represent fairly the body of ideas they presume to voice, and that those ideas have much better spokesmen. I point, for example to the Rev. J. Gresham Machen, D.D., Litt.D., formerly of Princeton and now professor of the New Testament in Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. Dr. Machen is surely no more soap-boxer of God, alarming bucolic sinners for a percentage of the plate. On the contrary, he is a man of great learning and dignity – a former student of European universities, the author of various valuable books, including a Greek grammar, and a member of several societies of savants. Moreover, he is a Democrat and a wet, and may be presumed to have voted for Al in 1928. Nevertheless, this Dr. Machen believes completely in the inspired integrity of Holy Writ, and when it was questioned at Princeton he withdrew indignantly from those hallowed shades, leaving Dr. Paul Elmer More to hold the bag.

I confess frankly, as a life-long fan of theology, that I can find no defect in his defense of his position. Is Christianity actually a revealed religion? If not, then it is nothing; if so, then we must accept the Bible as an inspired statement of its principles. But how can we think of the Bible as inspired and at the same time as fallible? How can we imagine it as part divine and awful truth, and part mere literary confectionary? And how, if we manage so to imagine it, are we to distinguish between the truth and the confectionary? Dr. Machen answers these questions very simply and very convincingly. If Christianity is really true, as he believes, then the Bible is true, and if the Bible is true, then it is true from cover to cover. So answering, he takes his stand upon it, and defies the hosts of Beelzebub to shake him. As I have hinted, I think that, given his faith, his position is completely impregnable. There is absolutely no flaw in the argument with which he supports it. If he is wrong, then the science of logic is a hollow vanity, signifying nothing. “The Impregnable Rock” American Mercury, (Dec. 1931)

As much as Altrogge may find the New Calvinism overdone in its passion — as do I, if he, Fea, and McKnight enjoy an occasional adult beverage, they should say thanks to that odd coalition of Calvinists and secularists from Baltimore, Machen and Mencken.

Image, Mencken from National Archives and Records Administration

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