Why in the world do Calvinists always have that grin on their face?


When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it.

Todd Pruitt writes:

I’m thinking about starting a support group for Calvinists who have been mistreated by Arminians, Mennonites, Amish, Mormons, Hindus, stamp collectors, and residents of New Jersey. More seriously, I do wonder what is behind the “Calvinists are meanies” posts to which we are treated routinely. Don’t misunderstand, I know there are prickly Calvinists. But I don’t buy the hype. I suppose we could trade anecdotes. For example I could write posts about the fact that the meanest and most self-righteous people I have ever encountered are Arminians. But what would that accomplish? Honestly, some of these posts sound a bit like, “I thank you Lord that I am not like this mean Calvinist.” What is more, until prominent Arminian theologians stop publicly comparing “the god of Calvinism” with Satan, then the reports of mean Calvinists are going to ring a bit hollow.”

Certainly I am not the only one concerned by these conversations. Have we become this soft? I am trying to imagine previous generations of Christians complaining about their feelings being hurt. I am not trying to be glib, nor am I seeking to mock anyone. But I am genuinely concerned about the softening of our spines. I suppose we can ask Calvinists to be less confident in their doctrine or that they take a softer stand on Joel Osteen and substitutionary atonement. But then we would be robbing Calvinists of some of the fun in being a Calvinist. And who wants to be around an unhappy Calvinist? How about we do this: The next time a Calvinist acts like a horses rear end, forgive him. If he persists then confront him in a spirit of gentleness and continue to forgive him since the Lord has forgiven you so extravagantly. And I promise to do the same the next time I encounter a particularly nasty Arminian or stamp collector. (“My name is Todd and Arminians have been mean to me“).

Not all stamp collectors are Arminians; indeed, most are agnostics, at best. I bet, though, that most Christian stamp collectors are Arminians. Pruitt’s Arminian stamp collectors remind me of the physicist, Ernest Rutherford’s (1871–1937) contempt for non-physical (non-materialist) science: “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.” Noam Chomsky mentions another hobby to describe the same mind-set: “You can also collect butterflies and make many observations. If you like butterflies, that’s fine; but such work must not be confounded with research, which is concerned to discover explanatory principles.” One famous clutch of Arminian observations is the univocal interpretation in the New Testament of “world,”  John 3:16 for example: God loved the world. See it says “world.” So it means everyone in the world. The Arminian unifying principle for instances of “world” in the New Testament is “every Tom, Dick and Whosoever.” Why do they think this way? Why do they ignore the basic rules of language use, of living language, of which the key principle is context? Fo one reason: they hate the idea that God does what he pleases, regardless of what pleases man; they hate that he chooses to have mercy on some reprobates while passing other by (“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
 and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[Romans 9:15 Exodus 33:19), that he chooses to elect to salvation some deserving of hell, while giving others deserving of hell their just desserts.

John Owen gives a superabundance of contexts in which “world” is used, which, one would think, should sink the Arminian’s straight-jacket exegesis of “world” to the bottom of the lake of fire. Here is Owen’s exegesis of the “world.” (John Owen, “The death of death in the death of Christ,” p. 141 ff.).

The word world in the Scripture is in general taken five ways:—

First, Pro mundo continente; and that, — First, generally, ὅλως, for the whole fabric of heaven and earth, with all things in them contained, which in the beginning were created of God: so Job xxxiv. 13; Acts xvii. 24; Eph. i. 4, and in very many other places. Secondly, Distinctively, first, for the heavens, and all things belonging to them, distinguished from the earth, Ps. xc. 2; secondly,  The habitable earth, and this very frequently, as Ps. xxiv. 1, xcviii. 7; Matt. xiii. 38; John i. 9, iii. 17, 19, vi. 14, xvii. 11; 1 Tim. i. 15, vi. 7.

Secondly, For the world contained, especially men in the world; and that either, — 1. universally for all and every one, Rom. iii. 6, 19, v. 12. 2.  Indefinitely for men, without restriction or enlargement, John vii. 4; Isa. xiii. 11. 3. Exegetically, for many, which is the most usual acceptation of the word, Matt. xviii. 7; John iv. 42, xii. 19, xvi. 8, xvii. 21; 1 Cor. iv. 9; Rev. xiii. 3. 4. Comparatively, for a great part of the world, Rom. i. 8; Matt. xxiv. 14, xxvi. 13; Rom. x. 18. 5. Restrictively, for the inhabitants of the Roman empire, Luke ii. 1. 6. For men distinguished in their several qualifications, as, — 1st, For the good, God’s people, either in designation or possession, Ps. xxii. 27; John iii. 16, vi. 33, 51; Rom. iv. 13, xi. 12, 15; 2 Cor. v. 19; Col. i. 6; 1 John ii. 2. 2nd, For the evil, wicked, rejected men of the world, Isa. xiii. 11; John vii. 7, xiv. 17, 22, xv. 19, xvii. 25; 1 Cor. vi. 2, xi. 32; Heb. xi. 38; 2 Pet. ii. 5; 1 John v. 19; Rev. xiii. 3.

Thirdly, For the world corrupted, or that universal corruption which is in all things in it, as Gal. i. 4, vi. 14; Eph. ii. 2; James i. 27, iv. 4; 1 John ii. 15–17; 1 Cor. vii. 31, 33; Col. ii. 8; 2 Tim. iv. 10; Rom. xii. 2; 1 Cor. i. 20, 21, iii. 18, 19. 

Fourthly, For a terrene worldly estate or condition of men or things, Ps. lxxiii. 12; Luke xvi. 8; John xviii. 36; 1 John iv. 5, and very many other places.

Fifthly, For the world accursed, as under the power of Satan, John vii. 7, xiv. 30, xvi. 11, 33; 1 Cor. ii. 12; 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. vi. 12. And divers other significations hath this word in holy writ,

which are needless to recount.

End of Owen

photme new

Now we know why Calvinists have that sickly other-worldly grin on their face. “You can tell he’s a Calvinist by the smile on his face.” – the late Robert K. Rapa, former pastor of Indian River Baptist Church, referring to the “Lighthearted Calvinist,” as he entered a Wednesday night Bible study. When it comes to stamp or butterfly collecting, Calvinists have more than one stamp or one butterfly to drool over; and a unifying principle to boot (not to boot out):

Isaiah 46

8 Remember this, keep it in mind,
 take it to heart, you rebels. 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
 I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
 and I will do all that I please.’