Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Straw Man Brutally Murdered

I don't remember how, but I managed to come across one of the worse webpages I've ever seen. http://www.ritualabusefree.org/Calvinism.htm I couldn't even read the whole thing, it was just so ridiculous. The misrepresentations on this page are of such magnitude that I can't help but think that they must be purposely false and malicious. The reason I believes this is, although I believe in the total depravity of all men, I still hold out some hope that nobody is actually so stupid as to believe what is presented on this webpage.

The page starts out by using the good old tactic of attacking Calvinism by attacking the character of John Calvin. And what do all of us Calvinists say in response? "WHO CARES?!" I could care less about Calvin when it comes down to it. I believe in the doctrines known as Calvinism, not because of the the name attatched to it, but because they are found in the Bible. Perhaps a more accurate name would be Paulism, or, as CH Spurgeon says, Christianity. However, I will provide a brief defense of Calvin because a man of such sterling Christian character ought not be maligned in this fashion.

First of all, I must dispel the myth that the Genevan government was a dictatorship run wholly by one man--Calvin. There was a council of rulers. They were the ones who asked (demanded, actually) that Calvin come there to be their church leader. Calvin was not some lone judge before whom every case was presented and he was not the lone executioner. He probably wasn't even involved at all with most cases. The most famous case involves Michael Servetus. He was a heretic who was executed in Calvin's Geneva. Poor Servetus. Big, bad Calvin. Actually, Calvin warned Servetus not to come to Geneva. He warned him that if he came and still held to his heretical beliefs, he would be put to death. This was not a threat. It was a warning. This what the whole government of Geneva dictated. Calvin could not change their rules whenever he wanted to.

Secondly, does not the civil government have the right to administer its laws? Yes, you may say, unless those laws go against the laws of God. Well then, where did the Genevan government err? Their law codes were the most Biblical out of any nation since Old Testament Israel. Do I agree that it was the best thing that they made heresy a capital offense? I do not. Do I agree that they were within the bounds set for government in the Bible? I do.

And remember, Servetus was not coerced into this government. He freely chose to come, even after Calvin warned him that Geneva's laws would effect him if he lived within it. Servetus, knowingly and willingly came to a city that made it clear that heresy was a capital crime and that violators would be prosecuted. This is clearly a case of divisive rabble-rousing on his part. Consider it a 21st century-style crusade against another government's laws that he didn't like. So in that respect he was not innocent. Furthermore, Servetus was not innocent of the crime of heresy. He was what we would call a unitarian universalist. He denied the Trinity. He denied the gospel in all of its essences. And he sought to propogate this false teaching among a people that chose to live in a city that would protect them from such falsehood. Do I agree that he should have been put to death? No. Do I agree that he deserved to die? Absolutely. By entering into the outward covenant of the church, he was under the duty to preach the truth. As a human being, it was his duty to reject all falsehood. Had he lived in Old Testament Israel, he would have been put to death. But in that case you wouldn't be able to blame big bad John Calvin. You would have to blame big bad God. So before you start offering honor and praise to Servetus and before you start burning Calvin in effigy, you must ask yourself: Am I mad at teachings of Calvin that are not found in the Bible, or am I mad at God and His holy and righteous justice that says that the wages of sin is death? I am convinced that the only honest answer is the latter one. I will stay convinced of this until someone presents me solid biblical arguments against the actions of the Genevan government. And "do not kill" is not sufficient because this is a case of civil government and government is given the right to enforce capital punishment by the Bible. Calvin is no more a murderer than the executioners at our prisons.

I must again say, that as for as the doctrines of Calvinism go, this is all besides the point. If Calvin was some sort of sodomizing vampire abortionist with horns growing out of his head, it wouldn't change the fact that the doctrines popularly known as Calvinism are found in the Bible. It doesn't change the fact that the doctrines known as Calvinism were taught before Calvin ever taught them by such men as Martin Luther, Gottschalk, and Augustine. The doctrines as presented in the acrostic known as TULIP were not systematized until after Calvin. But none of this matters. The doctrines are found in the Bible, and that is all that true Calvinists care about.

Here's a stupid quote from this site:

"Christians should be outraged that Calvin persecuted and killed so many people because of his religious goals and beliefs. However the Calvinists we have met will defend these murderous practices saying that we need to understand the times Calvin was living in. There is no time in our history that this type of behavior was right.

"We must remember this when we are dealing with Calvinists and other cults. However, the time is now upon us to be concerned about what people believe as it could cost you your life! There are many people today who still uphold the doctrines of Calvinism and as we show below, those doctrines do not line up with the word of God.

"Here is the Mission statement from one group:

""The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA) is dedicated to providing biblically sound online resources for the edification of God's people. The Center is committed to the system of doctrine known as Calvinism, which we see to be the most biblically faithful systematization of the Bible's teachings. The Owner is a Reformed Christian committed to a strict subscriptionist view of the Westminster Standards, yet many of the articles on this site represent a wider view of the Faith. Please use discretion in all that you read here -- and everywhere else too." (http://www.reformed.org/index.html)

"Many of these people are just as zealous as Calvin and would consider taking a person's life if they did not agree with Calvin's doctrines thinking they are doing the right thing and doing it on behalf of Christianity."

Now, I don't know anything about the CRTA, but I feel pretty confident that they would NEVER consider taking a person's life if they did not agree with Calvin's doctrines. I guess this website cannot be considered to be slandering the CRTA because they don't directly say that the CRTA contains the people mentioned in the paragraph following the CRTA quote. However, anybody can see the sort of manipulation that is going on here. This website author takes some Calvinist ministry that has probably never even heard of the author and gives a quote that has nothing at all to do with the discussion (Calvinists being murderous) and then intimating that such people are murderers. You know, if Calvinists really believed in killing non-Calvinists, then there would be a lot of dead people right now. Reformed, Calvinist churches aren't exactly bursting full of people. Calvinism is a minority within evangelicalism. "Many of these people are just as zealous as Calvin and would consider taking a person's life if they did not agree with Calvin's doctrines..." THEN WHERE ARE ALL THE MURDERS?! Does this author actually believe that people are stupid enough to think that "many" Calvinists would consider killing non-Calvinists when in fact they never, ever, ever hear of such a killing taking place? One last thing..."However the Calvinists we have met will defend these murderous practices saying that we need to understand the times Calvin was living in. There is no time in our history that this type of behavior was right..." Somebody tell Moses! That was a time in our history, right? And that behavior was commanded and enforced by GOD. Therefore, the God of the Bible must not be right. That is the only logical conclusion that this website's author can come to.

Now this post of mine is getting way to big for my average reader, so I will not refute all the arguments for the five points of Calvinism that this website offers. Another reason I will not refute them all is because I couldn't read past the first couple of sentences talking about the first point--total depravity. I was laughing too hard to read. Now, either this author is purposely deceptive, or he has really never ever read anything by a Calvinist (except for the quotes from Schaff's History). What am I talking about? Here's the quote: "In this passage we see how one person can be more depraved than others. If depravity is "total" than how could one person be more depraved than the others? "More" speaks of quantity. If one can have "more" than someone else, then the others cannot have "total". Yet, Calvin believed that all of humanity was "totally depraved." What this author doesn't seem to understand (again, because it appears he has never read anything by a Calvinist), is that the phrases given in tulip are imperfect phrases that were devised to make an easy acrostic. Most Calvinists would put the five points in a manner like this: Radical depravity, Sovereign election, Definite atonement, Effecual grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (see R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God). This makes the acrostic say RSDEP. Well who can remember that? So, some less accurate phrases were thought up to make an acrostic that everybody could remember. I should also point something else out: Calvin did not devise these phrases. I have read very little of Calvin's writings (because my Calvinism doesn't depend on him), but I feel confident that he probably never used the phrase "total depravity." Now, what made me decide that I could read no more of this garbage was the statement that it is obvious that no man is as depraved as he could be. Some men are more depraved than others, therefore nobody can be totally depraved! Well, if that is what total depravity meant, then you would have a point. But since it doesn't, we will have to discard this straw man. To quote an expert on Calvinism, R.C. Sproul: "Total depravity is not utter depravity. Utter depravity would mean that we are all as sinful as we possibly could be" (Chosen By God, p. 104.) If the author of this website had bothered to flip through this basic primer on Calvinism, then he would know that his argument is against a non-existent opponent.

I've glanced over some of the other arguments, and they are just about the dumbest ones I've ever seen. Any self-respecting Arminian who reads this article against Calvinism must groan and slap his forehead. "I'm opposed to Calvinism," he would say, "but even I can disprove these weak arguments!" I recommend to anybody that should read this silly page and would like to know what Calvinism actually teaches, and how the verses offered either (1) have nothing to do with, (2) do not disprove, (3) or actually support the doctrines of Calvinism, I suggest that you read any book on Calvinism by a Calvinist. Anything. That is how basic the errors on this webpage are--You don't need to read something that deals with the hard questions of Calvinism; anything basic will do it! The reason is because this webpage doesn't address the hard questions of Calvinism--it doesn't address Calvinism at all! It address a fabricated system that was born in the imagination of the author and who decided to call it Calvinism.

Some reading suggestions (and the author of the webpage should read these, too, so he can see what ridiculous article he has written):
R. C. Sproul, Chosen By God
R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown
James White, The Potter's Freedom
Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
David N. Steele, Curtis C. Thomas, S. Lance Quinn, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented

Now here's the funny part...I just now checked out that CRTA website...The one cited in the the webpage and right before the paragraph about Calvinists wanting to kill people... It's a great site! Go there! It will teach you about Calvinism! If the author of this unChristian article had actually looked at the CRTA's definition of the points of Calvinism, then he would have seen that he was arguing against a fantasy--That his own definitions of the points of Calvinism were completely different from the definitions given by Calvinists that he cited! Good grief! I hate to keep on throwing less-than-Christian words around like "stupid", but I can't help it! But while I'm at it, I can call this article and its reasonings more words than stupid. I can also call it blasphemous, lying, heretical, malicious, slanderous, lying, ill-researched, divisive, and lying. No, I didn't must make a typo. I stress the lying aspect because I really don't believe the author is that stupid. I think he has an agenda to purposefully deceive other Christians about the the truth of God's sovereignty and God's godness, and to purposefully malign the characters of anyone who is labeled a Calvinist.

No, sir, I am not one of those imaginary Calvinists that you say exists, I do not think you should be put to death. But I do think that if you persist twisting the Scriptures to support your man-centered theology, and to blatantly misrepresent the Biblical doctrines of Calvinism, then you should have whatever ordination you have revoked. No pulpit should ever have the dishonor of being filled by a person who so flagrantly lies and misrepresents others.

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