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Calvinism "more scholarly"?


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The recent discussions on Calvinism vs. Arminianism got me thinking. It seems to be that on the many (fundie and non-fundie) Christian websites I have read trying to understand the difference between the two, there is always a reference to Calvinism being the "intellectual" or "scholarly" approach, or that it constitutes a more "sophisticated" theology. This also seems to be the sentiment of Vision Forum - is it just because they are attracted to the idea of being part of the elect, and thus conclude that Calvinism must necessarily be the more sophisticated approach, or do they argue that Calvinism is more logical or demonstrable? IS this association actually a "thing", or am I misinterpreting it?

 

I personally don't see either one as being more or less sophisticated (whatever that means) in and of themselves; at the same time it always seemed to me (as an outsider to Christianity) that Calvinism WAS more logical, at least in the sense that it seems to be the logical conclusion of the presupposition that goes it omnipotent and all-powerful.

 

I hope my question makes sense - and I apologize if I inadvertently said something grossly inaccurate.

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I'm pretty sure Calvinists just like to think of themselves as more scholarly/aristocratic - they are the elect after all! :)

Also, ok - if you're a Calvinist, you don't have to make a fool of yourself with street preaching. You can sit in your library with a scotch and debate the finer points of TULIP and feel superior. If you're an Arminian, you believe that you have a responsibility to convert people, thus you have to make a spectacle of yourself to family members, friends, and total strangers.

Calvinists like to think they're more logical, mostly because (in my opinion), Predestination requires some mental shenanagans to make the Gospels say what you want them to say. Further, there isn't really an acceptance of an emotional experience of God in Calvinist Christianity - you're either elect or not; you don't have giant conversion experience.

I think maybe there's a class issue involved as well - a quick wikipedia search said that Methodism/Arminism was popular in the mill towns of the UK and with the working class, since it taught that all men are equal in the sight of God. Calvinists believe that some people are elect and that the elect are favored by God, thus Calvinism could be a useful tool in maintaining an unequal class system.

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Have any of the Calvinists ever explained why they think God made all these people that are destined for a shitty life and then hell in the hereafter? Real nice guy, huh?

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I was raised Baptist, and therefore more Arminian than Calvinist. About 2 years ago, my girlfriend converted to Calvinism, so I decided to read up on it in order to prove her wrong. I ordered a book on Amazon called "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" by Lorraine Boettner. It was just a bit of a challenging read, since it was written by a Bible scholar and back in the 1920's. I have to say though, the book COMPLETELY revolutionized my view of Christianity and the way I view the Bible. I found that the explanation of how Calvinists draw their conclusions was so sound, that I could not come up with an argument against it that held any weight. All of the arguments I had heard from other sources turned out to be a misunderstanding of how the theology is viewed and applied. I understand the arguments expressed in this thread already, they are exactly what I would have said before reading up on it....but they really do misrepresent what Calvinists truly believe.

I'm really not interested in what Dougie and other VFer's high handed beliefs in Calvinism give them. Their view of the Bible and theology is so warped that I don't trust they have a true grasp or understanding of anything. So the fact that they are Calvinists doesn't turn me off to the entire theology. They probably ARE attracted to the "elect" mentality, but that shows me even more that they just don't get it. Of the five points of Calvinism, of equal importance to the doctrine of predestination is the point that NO ONE deserves to be "elect" or saved from sin. We can do nothing to earn or merit salvation, therefore being haughty about your "elect" status shows that you don't fully believe in total depravity. Picking and choosing from the five points doesn't work.

Anyway, if anyone is really interested in the subject, I couldn't recommend this book more. I grew up with chains of guilt and shame and "shoulds" around me in the IFB denomination. When I read this book and finally understood Calvinism, I realized for the first time in my life that I could have Christianity and yet be free from all of that. Changed my life for the better, that's for sure. Here's the link to the book on Amazon for interested parties: http://www.amazon.com/Reformed-Doctrine ... 672&sr=8-1

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I was raised Baptist, and therefore more Arminian than Calvinist. About 2 years ago, my girlfriend converted to Calvinism, so I decided to read up on it in order to prove her wrong. I ordered a book on Amazon called "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" by Lorraine Boettner. It was just a bit of a challenging read, since it was written by a Bible scholar and back in the 1920's. I have to say though, the book COMPLETELY revolutionized my view of Christianity and the way I view the Bible. I found that the explanation of how Calvinists draw their conclusions was so sound, that I could not come up with an argument against it that held any weight. All of the arguments I had heard from other sources turned out to be a misunderstanding of how the theology is viewed and applied. I understand the arguments expressed in this thread already, they are exactly what I would have said before reading up on it....but they really do misrepresent what Calvinists truly believe.

I'm really not interested in what Dougie and other VFer's high handed beliefs in Calvinism give them. Their view of the Bible and theology is so warped that I don't trust they have a true grasp or understanding of anything. So the fact that they are Calvinists doesn't turn me off to the entire theology. They probably ARE attracted to the "elect" mentality, but that shows me even more that they just don't get it. Of the five points of Calvinism, of equal importance to the doctrine of predestination is the point that NO ONE deserves to be "elect" or saved from sin. We can do nothing to earn or merit salvation, therefore being haughty about your "elect" status shows that you don't fully believe in total depravity. Picking and choosing from the five points doesn't work.

Anyway, if anyone is really interested in the subject, I couldn't recommend this book more. I grew up with chains of guilt and shame and "shoulds" around me in the IFB denomination. When I read this book and finally understood Calvinism, I realized for the first time in my life that I could have Christianity and yet be free from all of that. Changed my life for the better, that's for sure. Here's the link to the book on Amazon for interested parties: http://www.amazon.com/Reformed-Doctrine ... 672&sr=8-1

This.

FTR, it seems to me that Dougie and his anacondas are hyper calvinists and are not that far from heretics. RC Sproul SR (Not his idiot offspring) also had some amazing books to help explain exactly what it meant to be Reformed (not holier than thou: Dougie and Scott Brown and co are almost LDS-Lite at times with profound apologies to the LDS).

Emmie you are missing the Total depravity piece: we all are richly deserving of Hell and it is only through God's Grace that anyone is saved. Salvation is not a trophy or a skill point but a gift.

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Right, but if we're *all* equally deserving of Hell, why does God bestow the gift of salvation on some and not others? That makes no sense to me. Further, since God predestined before the beginning of time who would be saved and who wouldn't, why bother creating the people who won't be saved? I get that salvation can't be earned; why would I be elect and my identical twin sister not be elect (for example)?

I spent many years in Calvinist church, and that part was never explained at all, and it was terrifying.

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So, if you believe in a predestined elect, why do you think that God made all of those other people?

I was raised fundie-lite Baptist, but our church leadership were all Calvinists and I spent years trying to get a real answer about that question. The party line is that we are all deserving of hell because we are all sinners and it's only through God's grace that anyone at all is going to Heaven. For the elect- "knowing" that they had nothing to do with their salvation- that it was solely because they were chosen by God and did nothing to deserve it- the people going to Hell convey the magnitude of the saving grace that God has bestowed on them. You will hear a lot of Calvinists talk about what depraved sinners they are and how they deserve nothing more than the fiery pits of hell; with all of those souls down there, Calvinists are supposed to be much more thankful than their Arminian counterparts for their salvation. (I have not found this to be true, all the Calvinists I personally know have a haughty self righteousness that gets cloaked in all that "I'm so depraved" talk. And I'm not trying to offend anyone here is who is a Calvinist- that's just been my personal experience.) For me, I'm now an Arminian and after having spent so many of my youthful years being afraid that I wasn't one of the elect- I am very grateful that God extended the offer of salvation to me and to everyone and that I was allowed me to receive it or reject it. Knowing that I wasn't made for the sole purpose of going to hell for all eternity just so I could be an example of God's grace to His chosen elect- well, that makes me incredibly grateful.

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The very concept of total depravity strikes me as spiritually abusive. How is this different from a domestic violence victim who has been convinced she deserves to be hit? It truly horrifies me. As if original sin weren't bad enough. I'm not overly fond of any religion involving the worship of a god or gods, but whatever gives people peace and comfort. Yet Calvinism seems to create a vision of god so loathsome and hateful, I can't imagine why people could find it even remotely appealing outside of selfish ego reasons (being elect).

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I feel like Calvinism makes God look like a jerk, and most of the neo-Calvinists I know are complete assholes. I prefer the more Arminian "shit happens" kind of philosophy to the idea that God is actively causing all kinds of disasters and choosing people to hell. They also pretty much think everyone is completely horrible, so even babies go to hell. (Quote from a Calvinist I knew: "I would sympathize with a woman whose baby died, but I would have to be honest and tell her the baby is in hell.") I just find that theology really repulsive. I'm there are Calvinists who aren't terrible people, but those are the "fruits" of Calvinism that I've seen

Edit:

FTR, it seems to me that Dougie and his anacondas are hyper calvinists and are not that far from heretics. RC Sproul SR (Not his idiot offspring) also had some amazing books to help explain exactly what it meant to be Reformed (not holier than thou: Dougie and Scott Brown and co are almost LDS-Lite at times with profound apologies to the LDS).

Interesting, why do you say that? I feel like the LDS are extremely anti-Calvinist.

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My question remains unanswered: why did a loving God create all these people who are going to hell and destined to go there since before they were born? Saying, well, we are all deserving of hell and God just decides to spring a few of us... that doesn't answer my question. It just makes a supposedly loving Creator look like even more of an asshole.

"I'm going to create all these beings. I am going to make them sentient, but also imperfect. So imperfect that they get to spend an eternity being tortured. Yay Me!"

I'm not buying it.

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My question remains unanswered: why did a loving God create all these people who are going to hell and destined to go there since before they were born? Saying, well, we are all deserving of hell and God just decides to spring a few of us... that doesn't answer my question. It just makes a supposedly loving Creator look like even more of an asshole.

"I'm going to create all these beings. I am going to make them sentient, but also imperfect. So imperfect that they get to spend an eternity being tortured. Yay Me!"

I'm not buying it.

I totally understand what you are getting it and I really wish I could give you an answer that was satisfying instead of one that's full of words but empty of real meaning. I had all of these issues with Calvinism when it was being shoved down my throat and it almost destroyed my faith in God entirely. But the answer that they would give you to your question is that God did not make us imperfect- He created us perfect and sinless and in His own image. He gave us free will (yeah, I know that doesn't make a lot of sense coming from a Calvinist, but it that's what it says in the Bible and they are kinda trapped into admitting it there) because He wanted us to love Him because we wanted too and not because He forced us to. Then the sinless man and woman exercised that free will and sinned, thus "the fall of man." Because only a sinless person can create another sinless person- and the only two people on the planet (yeah, i know) had sinned, the sin nature was/is passed down from generation to generation.

Some Calvinists might tell you that any anger or outrage you feel towards God about this issue this is misdirected and should be aimed at Eve/Adam/Satan.- the unelect person is going to Hell because Adam sinned and passed it on down the line. Okay, now His new creations have sinned and are no longer perfect- but because He loves them and doesn't want to destroy Adam & Eve, He establishes a new covenant that will ultimately bridge the gap between Him and the sinners. So to the Calvinist, God /Jesus is the ultimate hero because He chose to save some when He didn't have to save any; He made us perfectly and we mucked it up- be grateful.

I know that none of this can really truly answer your question because the truth is- no one really knows what the actual answer is. Oh, some think they know, but they don't actually know. Many others will simply say that it's not for us to know now because "His ways are not our ways" and in this earthly sin-filled body of ours, we are incapable of true understanding- but not to worry, all will be explained on the other side! To me, that's the most infuriating thing anyone could have said to me.

If the Calvinists end up being right in the end, I guess it won't matter- I'm either going to Heaven or to Hell and there's nothing I can do about it. But how in the world they can actually revel in that God is mind boggling to me.

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If the Calvinists end up being right in the end, I guess it won't matter-I'm either going to Heaven or to Hell and there's nothing I can do about it.

That just sounds sick to me. That IS depravity.

Just a quick thought on Calvinism. I don't like the idea that a person being saved is like picking a lucky lottery number aka God saving them. Where is the motivation to do good works/lead a holy life if it's not even up to you?

It's like a person getting a spanking every day to keep them in line. They figure out that they get that spanking no matter how they act, so there is less of an incentive to behave. I'm not saying that person is going to go on a crime spree or something, but they will probably harbor resentment to being punished for something they did not do. Might as well earn it.

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Yes, the whole story makes no sense. As I always understood it, the doctrine of predestination was derived to account for God's omnipotence. Calvin was trying to reconcile the concept of "free will" with the concept of God being all-powerful. Obviously, these two concepts are in tension with each other because God can't be all-powerful if you and I have the power to make decisions contrary to what God wants. So I think that "predestination" is a way for Calvinists to have their cake and eat it too -- yes, we have free will and can sin and therefore deserve punishment, but their is still some comfort in knowing that God is still in control somehow.

I actually have even more trouble with the doctrine of "total depravity," which simply doesn't match my life experience. I am obviously aware that people can be horrible to each other. I've come across criminals and abusers; I've read about tyrants and terrorists; and I've known regular people who've behaved liked jerks at times. But the vast majority of people I know are basically decent most of the time. I think we are mostly a mix of good and bad. Very few people behave out of sheer viciousness; generally when people behave badly, it is out of fear or self-interest or insensitivity without regard for others, rather than out of malice.

That's why the Ray Comfort spiel makes no sense to me. Have I ever told a lie? Sure. Does that make me a "liar?" Eh, I'd say it makes me a person who has occasionally over the course of a long life lied to spare someone's feelings, or stay out of trouble. And, while that debate is perhaps semantic, I can't accept the notion that telling a few lies here and there, or lusting for someone in my heart should condemn me or anyone else to roast in a fiery pit for the rest of my life.

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On the forum for Catholic Answers there were often debates between Calvinists and other forum members. These debates were interesting to read because some of the contributers had degrees in theology. I never read any argument, no matter how intelligent, that made it sound as if either side had the entire truth. They both had good points. Although I admit, most of the conversations devolved into scripture fests as each side threw bible verses at one another.

It actually wasn't very good for my faith to realize that an all powerful being couldn't inspire a book that was more clear for future followers.

On my old blog, I had a debate with a young Calvinist who told me that he was the worst among sinners. Um...no, you're not and it is arrogant and dishonest to say so. Seriously, how arrogant is it for a young, sheltered homeschool student to claim that his minor sins are worse than serial killers or mass murderers? What is more troubling is that he probably thought his comment made him appear humble. It didn't.

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I have always heard WBC called hyper Calvinists. I know that most Calvinists are not insane hate filled individuals like that church. What in the WBC philosophy makes them hyper? What is the difference between a regular Calvinist and a hyper one?

Is Ray Comfort a hyper Calvinist? What about Mark Driscol?

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AlexIsAwake, I am curious to know what in that book you found so convincing, and why. I did not find that it revolutionized my perspective on Christianity or Calvinism.

(This title is freely available in PDF format in many places online, for anyone else who might be interested. Here is one source: bloomingtonrpchurch.org/refdocpre/predest.pdf)

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So God made us perfect, but he made us with imperfect parents (again, I did not have any hand in the Fall of Man and thus it is something that God has bestowed upon me) and that is why I am going to Hell in the Calvinist scenario? God does not come off looking any kinder there.

To give the Calvinists perspective on what I believe: I believe that there is a God. I believe that we are human and imperfect, but that we were made that way. I don't know what happens in the afterlife, but I think that God is loving and kind so I trust it is not horrible. I believe the Torah is imperfect, that it is self-contradicting at times and inexact at others because it is written by people, a book of their experiences with God. I love Torah because it is all I have of God outside of my own experiences.

In my beliefs, God is loving, truth is relative, and we'll all be okay in the end because a loving God would not act any other way. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of a God who made me just to torture me. Whatever flaws I have, those were bestowed upon me by God. The Calvinist God is like the parent who tries to lure their baby off their blanket and then beats them.

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That is the general feeling I get from my Calvinist brethren, lol. If I had their intellectual superiority, *obviously* I'd be Calvinist. :lol:

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Right, but if we're *all* equally deserving of Hell, why does God bestow the gift of salvation on some and not others? That makes no sense to me. Further, since God predestined before the beginning of time who would be saved and who wouldn't, why bother creating the people who won't be saved? I get that salvation can't be earned; why would I be elect and my identical twin sister not be elect (for example)?

I spent many years in Calvinist church, and that part was never explained at all, and it was terrifying.

This is the question about Calvinism that plagued me as well. It's why I wanted nothing to do with it except to prove to my g/f that it was wrong. Since you were never able to get an answer to this in your church, you really should take the time to read Lorraine Boettner's book. It does an excellent job of explaining what the Bible says about why some are elect and some are not. It's a classic, so perhaps your local library would have it?

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The book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman convinced me that, should Christianity be true (he doesn't deal with that question in this book, btw) the Christianity that is closest to being correct as to Jesus' teachings are those with a strong tradition - i.e. Ethiopian, Coptic and Orthodox. Because the Bible is a stone mess of mistranslations, parts missing etc. The mental gymnastics required to accept the last 12 verses of Mark, let alone the KJV as the inerrant word of God are way too much for me.

And I always figured that if there is an afterlife, and I needed to know about it, more evidence would be presented to me. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and all that.

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AlexIsAwake, I am curious to know what in that book you found so convincing, and why. I did not find that it revolutionized my perspective on Christianity or Calvinism.

(This title is freely available in PDF format in many places online, for anyone else who might be interested. Here is one source: bloomingtonrpchurch.org/refdocpre/predest.pdf)

What I found convincing was that every claim they made was backed up with Scripture. And not just a few verses here and there taken out of context, but extensive Scripture was used in support. It made it clear to me that the the doctrines of Calvinism do agree with what the Bible says.

You probably wanted a more in depth explanation of that, but unfortunately I am bad at explaining things and am crazy busy with work this time of year also; therefore, I can't really devote the time it would take for me to compile an answer that does justice to the question. I honestly feel though, that if the book did not convince you, nothing I could say would be satisfactory to you either. I'm no Bible scholar for sure. I'm not one to argue or debate either, we are all entitled to our own beliefs and questions and that is perfectly fine with me. Just wanted to make the recommendation to the book for those who have an interest.

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My question remains unanswered: why did a loving God create all these people who are going to hell and destined to go there since before they were born? Saying, well, we are all deserving of hell and God just decides to spring a few of us... that doesn't answer my question. It just makes a supposedly loving Creator look like even more of an asshole.

"I'm going to create all these beings. I am going to make them sentient, but also imperfect. So imperfect that they get to spend an eternity being tortured. Yay Me!"

I'm not buying it.

Me either.

Another thing that irks me is when some people say 'god did it for his glory'. Megalomaniac much? I'm an atheist through and through but if when I die I was suddenly faced with the Christian interpretation of a deity, I would be wanting to ask 'him' why he was so much of an asshole.

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I don't think that God is an asshole, though. I think people are assholes and then they re-create God in their own image. I do not believe in a hell because a perfect being would not create a sentient human only to torture it for being as it was made.

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