But let us not honor [Calvin] by building a tomb for the prophet, thereby showing whose sons we really are. Let us not be good little ‘Calvinists,’ running the floor buffer of pat catechetical answers over the marble of theological genius (From With Calvin in the Theater of God, p. 89).
Sons of God
The above quotation from Douglas Wilson in With Calvin in the Theater of God sums up well some of the feelings of those who disdain Calvinism. To these kinds of people we are sons of John Calvin and not sons of God. But my goal is to show that we are sons of the living God. Adopted. Justified. And sanctified. We are not afraid to honor our forefathers but we do so in as far as they hold fast to the words of God.
Calvinism on fire then is a reflection of the great I AM in as much as we hold fast to what he said. I could have said Reformed on Fire. But Calvinism has a certain polarizing effect. Every one has their perceptions about what Calvinism is or isn’t. I’m not looking to make sharp distinctions between reformed and Calvinism here. Some might fault me for this and to those I say farewell.
Others will fault me for ascribing these characteristics to Calvinism. I’m sure I might hear, “That’s too exclusive! Don’t you know there are other kinds of Christians. Are you saying we’re not. . . ?” Let’s first admit this. If Calvinism is correct, then your theology is wrong. And if you’re theology is right then Calvinism is wrong. They cannot mutually be correct.
Now most of us graciously admit that other theologies hold enough of the truth to be considered orthodox. We do need to be inclusive in this way but we should not shy away from thinking humbly that we are correct. Otherwise, what’s the point of studying the bible. And wasn’t the perspicuity of Scripture a major battle ground during the Reformation?
But back to the topic at hand. Some of these points are not exclusive to Calvinism alone but I strongly believe that only what’s commonly known as reformed theology as a whole most consistently applied and lived out produces these lasting flames. Other theologies may produce some of these but either not consistently or possible in-spite of the theology itself.
I’m also writing this because frequently Calvinism gets a bad rap. People frequently associate Reformed folk with dead faith and angry discourse. Now there are some people who may express anger and disrespect when discussing their faith. But this isn’t a reformed only problem. There are angry fundamentalist, angry feminist, angry liberals, angry Arminians, and angry Baptist. I can point you in any one of these directions if you wish.
Anger is a sin problem not a Calvinist problem.
Often Christians in general and reformed folk specifically have received this label because we are sure. We have a confidence in what we believe. We believe God has spoke and so we should speak to. We believe that God is holy and his word is worth debating, discussing, and even fighting for. But we should be careful that we are actually contending for what God said and not what we think. Amen?
So the question remains: what does it take to “be good little Calvinist”? What does Calvinism on fire look like? I will offer ten embers that light the flame of a robust reformed theology and will do so over the next ten weeks every Wednesday.
Stand back. Or you might get burned.