Spirit-Filled Degradation among Calvinists

I am uncertain as to the greater evil: evil perpetuated or the justification of evil. Posted at the Calvinistic site The Gospel Coalition, Joe Rigney searches Scripture in order to justify his presupposition of treating others with disrespect and childish, ungodly name-calling. Completely neglecting such admonitions from Christ (cf. Matt. 7:16-20; John 13:35), and St Paul (cf. Eph. 4:29-32; 2 Tim. 2:25), to the contrary, that we are called to love one another as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), the new Calvinists are looking for God to justify their smear campaigns and anti-Gospel, anti-grace antics against others. These are the men some are trusting with their discipleship into Christlikeness and spiritual growth?

Worse still, this Calvinist blogger actually misuses and misinterprets Scripture in order to maintain his thesis that the Bible condones "Spirit-inspired insults." At Acts 13:7-10 St Paul calls a man a "son of the devil," and an "enemy of all righteousness," who is also "full of all deceit and villainy," who, as well, will not stop "making crooked the straight paths of the Lord." Are these "Spirit-inspired insults"? No, actually, they are mere truth-statements commensurate with words spoken of Christ Himself to wicked spiritual leaders in Israel (cf. Matt. 23; John 8:44). There is an objectivity about the words of Christ and Paul.

An insult is a demeaning and contemptuous set of words intent on attacking and damaging one's character. An insult degrades an individual on a deep emotional and spiritual level; it is unnecessary, motivated by the flesh and the evil one, and contradicts the tenor of New Testament Christianity regarding the manner in which we are to treat one another (cf. Rom. 12:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19; Ga. 6:2; Eph. 4:15; 5:19; 1 Thess. 5:10-12; Heb. 12:14). Even when Jesus called Herod ἀλώπηξ, a fox (Luke 13:32), meaning a sly and crafty individual (link), context suggests, from my perspective at least, that this word, too, is used in an objective sense rather than a blatant insult intended to degrade him. Herod was, in fact, a cunning man. But there is a greater issue at stake here: spiritual authority.

Jesus reserved His harshest objective criticism for religious leaders. The men He confronted were rigid fundamentalists who "shut the door to the kingdom of heaven on those trying to get in." (Matt. 23:13) They loaded people down with an inordinate amount of commands that no individual could possibly follow -- not even themselves. They cared far more about laws than grace, judgment than mercy, strict observance than people created in the image of God. This attitude Jesus would not tolerate. But His perspective of their worldview was entirely objective due to His state as the Son of God. In other words, only Christ Himself could challenge these men in this way without sullying His divine and holy character. Not so with you and me. Our intentions are not as pure as are Christ's.

Even the apostle Paul was endowed with a spiritual authority that the average Christian does not inherently maintain. His own consideration of Elymas at Acts 13:7-10 was of a Spirit-directed aspect as an apostle of -- a representation of the mind of -- Jesus Christ. This does not, then, grant us license to call brothers and sisters with whom we disagree, to say nothing of unbelievers (cf. 1 Cor. 5:13), sons or daughters of the devil or any other epithet which crosses our depraved little minds. You and I are not Jesus. You and I are not the apostle Paul. We have not been endowed by the Spirit of God to insult anyone -- no, not one. Many Calvinists believe otherwise.

Some Calvinists and others in the Reformed tradition in general have a long, sad history of name-calling, beginning, of course, with Martin Luther himself. Let us never forget Calvinist John Owen, who calls Arminian theology and Arminians "tares in the field" and "emissaries employed by Satan"; or Augustus Toplady, who calls Arminians idol worshipers of free will. At least Calvinist R.C. Sproul considers us saved, though just barely, by "a felicitous inconsistency." Calvinists J.I. Packer (and O.R. Johnston) have admitted in the past that Arminians destroy the Gospel, perpetuate a return to Rome, and end up saving themselves (all defamatory comments). That is merely a small sampling of the polemics slammed against us -- enough to support my complaint.

The problem with Calvinists thinking that they can verbally slam their brothers and sisters in Christ, and then suggest that such rhetoric is Spirit-inspired, should be painfully obvious to even the casual observer. Warning someone firmly yet gently that he or she is in error is, in fact, a very loving act to perform. But utilizing disparaging and degrading language against the character of another sister or brother in Christ is any other notion than godly, Spirit-inspired, or scriptural; and any Christian, Calvinist or ortherwise, attempting to justify the contrary merely displays the works of the flesh, which include, among other realities, enmities, strife, dissensions and factions. (cf. Gal. 5:20)

We are not to celebrate so-called Spirit-inspired insults against our brother or sister in Christ with whom we may disagree theologically. If we do so, that is a sin of which to repent, not advocate. Abasing someone's character -- a human being created in the image of God, whom God loves, for whom Christ died -- is any conception other than loving the person as one loves him- or herself. (Mark 12:31) Instead of attempting to justify such sin we should actually repent of insulting one another. That Calvinists like Rigney and The Gospel Coalition bloggers and scholars attempt to justify this ungodliness and sin bespeaks of our inherent depravity, our desperate need of our Savior Jesus Christ, and the leading and discernment of the Holy Spirit every day of our lives.


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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.