The Calvinist: Narcissism Overload

When I commented that Calvinist Dr. Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, seems to "eat, sleep, and breathe Calvinism" -- suggesting that he and many other Calvinists "give the appearance that Calvinism is their very lifeline, not Scripture, not even Jesus, but Calvinism" -- it caught the attention of Calvinist blogger Lee Shelton, as he highlighted that one sentence from the entirety of my post. How ironic that Shelton is playing to the self-obsessed Calvinist stereotype by highlighting Piper's poem by way of Desiring God blogger Marshall Segal. (link)

Regardless, I have often critiqued Calvinists for being obsessed with Calvinism, because I usually never lack for apt references to prove me otherwise. Well, now we can add to that list the poetry of John Piper, assisted by cool-and-hip Nooma-style live-action, and music fit for its cool-and-hip, no doubt "Young, Restless, and 'Reformed'" audience. 

I agree with two bloggers, Todd, who is a Calvinist, and Ben from Arminian Perspectives, who wonder 1) what is the point of this poetry and video?; and 2) how can what is promoted in this piece actually be titled "The Calvinist"? In other words, do not the words merely portray the lover of God through Jesus Christ, regardless of his or her theology? Could not the same words be attributed to the faithful Lutheran or Wesleyan? Do not Nazarenes, Pentecostals, and Anglicans also fit Piper's context? In what sense, exactly, do any of the descriptions in this work find a distinctively Calvinistic tone?   

What we have here is merely more evidence of self-obsessed Calvinism; and while the work mentions God, evangelism and the Bible, make no mistake exactly where the focus is placed -- The Calvinist. Not "The Christian," not "The Lover of Christ's Gospel," not "The Follower of Christ" -- The Calvinist. What would cause a man to sit down and begin writing so self-endogenously? For a man supposedly so focused on the glory of God in all things, we are left utterly perplexed at this blatant, egotistical display of self-praise.

Though some Calvinists eventually come out on the other side of cage-stage Calvinism, what they often graduate to is an inwardly-focused clique mentality that tragically looks askance at all other brothers and sisters who disagree with their theology. For example, the Calvinist blogger mentioned above, Todd, quoting the author of Killing Calvinism, who, during his seminary days, encountered the attitude of an acquaintance of his who attended a symposium with him and some others, after hearing a wonderful presentation on the glory of God, was not half as excited about what he had just heard because the speaker was not a Calvinist. (link)

While not all Calvinists maintain a separatist, clique-coalition mentality, many others do. The "Gospel" Coalition, Together for the "Gospel," the Resurgence, and so, so many other Calvinistic gatherings and endeavors are absent of other believers because they are not Calvinists. Dr. Al Mohler, for instance, explicitly stated that he will not join Arminians in any Gospel or evangelistic endeavor. How tragic for him.

Other examples of Calvinists being seemingly obsessed with Calvinism include:
  • If you're a theologically-minded, deeply-convictional young evangelical; if you're committed to the gospel and you want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ; if you want to see gospel-built-and-structured and committed churches; your theology is just gonna end up basically being Reformed [he means Calvinistic, for "Reformed" and "Calvinism" are not synonymous terms]: basically being something like this New Calvinism, or you're gonna have to invent some other label for what's just gonna be the same thing. -- Al Mohler
  • Why do my Christian friends have such an aversion to the Doctrines of Grace? (link) -- Tom Nettles
  • And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. (link) -- Charles Spurgeon
  • The world should realize with increased clearness that Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism. (link) -- B.B. Warfield
  • John Owen was so convinced of Calvinism that he rendered all Arminians as followers of Satan and hell-bound.
  • Augustus Toplady was so convinced of Calvinism that he charged all Arminians as worshipers of the idol of free will.
  • Southern Baptist Calvinist pastor Mark Dever spent nearly an hour explaining "Where Did All These Calvinists Come From?"
  • Justin Taylor and Ardel Caneday blissfully believe that "the truth of Calvinism" is so utterly wonderful and awe-inspiringly rich that God must first open the spiritual eyes of people to accept Calvinism. 
  • Al Mohler longs to discuss Calvinism in the SBC. (link
  • J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul are so enamored with Calvinism as the truth of God that they deem Arminians as un-Christian and barely saved respectively.
  • John Piper is not merely a five-point Calvinist -- he's a seven-point Calvinist! (link
Calvinism, Calvinism, Calvinism! The obsession with Calvinism grips the Calvinist, fogging his or her mind solely with thoughts of Calvinism, and the image of God as portrayed by Calvinism with inevitably Calvinistic vision. Even on the very day I posted this work, Marshall Segal, on John Piper's Desiring God blog, is writing about Calvinists and Calvinism, as he promotes Piper's coalition-praising poem. (link)

The day after I write this post, Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor of TGC continue to write about their favorite subject: Calvinists and Calvinism: "What Do You Think about When You Think about the New Calvinism?" Seriously, I never lack for apt examples of how Calvinists are enamored with Calvinism.

"The Calvinist" poem -- an ode to themselves -- is pretentious and should never have been written, live-action recorded, or produced. It is nothing but self-boasting, self-praising, and a robbing God of His rightful glory. Promoted, quite naturally, by Justin Taylor of The Gospel Coalition (link), we can add the Calvinists of TGC and T4G to the list of self-aggrandizing boasters. Do you know who would not have written such a poem? John Calvin! "May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal. 6:14 NRSV)


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.