Monday, August 20, 2012

The Brouhaha Over Calvinism


Fresh off the press from . . .

Killing Calvinism. The subtitle is "How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside." I needed someone to write such a book and thankfully Greg Dutcher has. Now Pastor Dutcher is not trying to kill Calvinism, but is looking at what Calvinists are doing that is clearly bad press for the church.

Drucker says that Calvinists are shooting themselves in the foot by first of all loving Calvinism as an end in itself. Dutcher points out:
All around the world blogs, study groups, conferences, podcasts, and unusual little publishing houses are churning out material on election, justification, covenantalism, ammillennialism, postmillennialism [the earlier subject of this blog--see Origin above for history], Christo-centric hermeneutics, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and, yes, even the differences between infra-, supra- and sub-lapsarianism. Frankly, it is indeed cool to be a Calvinist right now, and more resources are available to the "Young, Restless, and Reformed" crowd than ever before. (p. 16)

Click on three red sites in this paragraph that illustrate the above point. The first is this Countering Calvinism which sets out to destroy Calvinism.  Another Calvinistic site posts "this week in Calvinism". Meanwhile this summer the Southern Baptists have a series contrasting Traditionalists and Calvinists with David Allen urging on July 4th deliver us from attempting to Calvinize or de-Calvinize the SBC.

In chapter two Dutcher contends that Calvinists are becoming theologians instead of disciples. He points out how knowledge puffs up (I Cor. 8:1), but that he himself also used to enjoy setting an Arminian straight while he was woefully neglecting things like mercy, kindness, and servanthood (p. 29).

Chapter three is on loving God's sovereignty more than God Himself. In this chapter he references cage-stage Calvinists who should be kept in a cage so they do no harm. He points out that joy, pride and anger might be reasons for the cage-stage. No one is really born, born again or elected as a Calvinist and I certainly find this is correct in my pilgrimage; my conversion was as a child so naive about theology but so happy to be in God's kingdom. I have always gone to Philippians 2 for work out my salvation and it is God who is working in me--two sides of the coin. Yes, God's sovereignty is reassuring, but being WITH our LORD is really more important than being a theologian IMHO. Our LORD wants to be with us. I have blogged about this discovery here, With Part One and With Part Two. This is so important and I am delighting in my devotional and prayer life more than other typical Reformed issues now. My faith is not all about theology. Quote me Scripture that says something different and I will love that you are quoting Scripture and we both can agree that we are growing through Scripture.

Losing an urgency in evangelism is the focus of chapter four. I noticed this immediately when because of my marriage I was thrown into a Reformed congregation where evangelism didn't seem to be the norm.  I found it very hard to criticize Billy Graham dismissing him as Arminian as some Calvinists do. Let the elect find their own way to Christ? Dutcher rather says that like Paul we need to believe 100% in evangelism and 100% in election.To me Graham was in the same camp as the Reformed D. James Kennedy and his Evangelism Explosion. I am not a charismatic, but just like a charismatic I pray Lord, whom do you want me to speak with today, and now as a Reformed believer thank You that You can use me however You will.

Learning only from other Calvinists? In chapter five Dutcher points out how he learned by radio from someone who was not a Calvinist. I heard Chris Fabry on Moody radio interview Skle Jethani and that made me want to read Jethani's book that I have reviewed here. Now Jethani is an editor with Christianity Today, not the reading source of many of my Reformed friends. Actually I want to learn from Scripture itself, and not through the lense of the Westminster Confession or Christianity Today only. I want to keep learning period--Scripture and maybe some creeds, confessions, biblical books and blogs.

The next chapter on Tidying up the Bible's "loose ends" contends that "Calvinists get the order backwards, letting their theology determine what the Bible says or does not say (p. 71)." I noticed on the SBC site that the Scripture quoted is different from what Calvinists use. Of course! Each has their own point to make.

Being an arrogant know-it-all is the subject of the seventh chapter. Notice the emphasis in Reformed circles on T. U. L. I. P. People in my extended family (both pro and con on Calvinism) pointed this out to me and suddenly my joining the church of my husband was suspect to my extended family. Would I become one of them--you know--a know-it-all. At first I had to study just to keep up and really this blog was part of that search. Now I just want godliness,  wisdom from Scripture, not merely knowledge. On the back cover to Killing Calvinism Sam Storms writes that a "healthy dose of Dutcher's wisdom will go a long way in bringing spiritual health to the young, restless, and reformed." Might I add to any one of my senior citizen age as well.

The final chapter of this short book takes on Calvinists for scoffing at the hang-ups others have with Calvinism. Dutcher pastors a church where Calvinism is not an issue because, although he believes in this theological system, he doesn't push it down the throats of those he preaches to. He says my congregation is learning the content of Calvinism without some of the offical labels. . . . All we are trying to do is unpack Scripture. (p. 101) Love it!
Baptist Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile of The Gospel Coalition on the back of the book sums up the value of this book:
"This book blew me away! Greg Dutcher skillfully diagnoses how I kill the very truth I love by my hyposcrisy, pride, anger, and judgmental attitude. This book will serve a young generation of Calvinists. But the older generation had better heed it, too. There's medicine here for all our hearts, and taking this medicine will make us more joyful and more humble when making our glorious God known."
Contest:  The first person to carefully comment on five different posts on Millennial Dreams will win a free copy of Killing Calvinism. If you are first to do that, contact me at the e-mail in Origin of the Blog at the top. Note that one of the five comments can be on my other blog. The comments will all come in order on my e-mail.  Looking forward to mailing you Killing Calvinism. Hopefully you will appreciate this book as much as I have and then you will not have to order a minimum of five paperbacks which is the usual Cruciform Press policy. Of course the book might make some mad. No spam, though, as I can take that off of this blog and spam won't count.



  1. Thanks for such a thorough review. This sounds like a wonderful read!

  2. Yes, thanks for the review Carol. We all need the reminder to keep a quiet and gentle spirit. Too many know it all about the place, for sure!

  3. Congratulations to Ginger who blogs about homeschooling and (another blog) crock pots. Her book will be on the way.


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