Do Calvinists Exist?

This was not written by Jay Dyer, but by “M.B.”  Since he only posted his initials, that’s how I will refer to him.

He begins:

The funny thing about the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is that there is no such thing. What? That’s right. Calvinism does not exist, at least not any more than the Ku Klux Klan does

Presumably this is his thesis. Let’s see if he can defend it.

Reformed and Presbyterian elders and apologists live and only carry any sort of weight in a fantasy-land; the Videodrome. Calvinism was born 500 years ago, and it died 250 years ago. It showed up on the world scene in the mid 16th Century, and it walked out of the world stage in the 18th Century. How you feel about its rise and fall is one thing, but exist it does not.

This actually isn’t entirely false.   Calvinism did abandon its judicial theology (with the exception of a few Covenanting groups) in the 18th century (and had been officially outlawed in Britain in 1660 on pain of death).

Do you think Cotton Mather and John Winthrop would smile upon the legions of goofball Calvinist losers that blog about the wonders of their glory? Would they recognize cyber-warriors like “TurretinFan”, who apparently lives on his Mac (or PC) night and day, just because he’s their biggest (or only) fanboy left?

I’ve always been iffy on New England Puritans.  If I wanted to make a stronger case against Calvinists, I probably would have chosen other people.  Presumably the unspoken premises are: 1) Mather and Winthrop represent historic Calvinism in such a way that TF doesn’t.  Okay, provide evidence and supporting premises.

In all likelihood, if theocratic ideas were actualized, those men would burn at the stake (or consign to Rhode Island ) many of their supposed “successors” and “heirs”. That’s the inside joke in “the Reformed faith”, and everyone who has ever tried to take Rushdoony and North seriously on “the judicial laws” knows it.

Sadly, he’s right, though I think there are more theocratically-minded Calvinists than he lets on.

Having no objective ecclesiological reality to base any thing on, or to hand down any sort of concrete verdict about what constitutes ‘heresy’, so-called Calvinism’s elite boils down to factions and sects of geeky whites taking their best shot at each other over the most irrelevant and subjective crap imaginable. And when it’s convenient for them to discard objective standards, they’ll do so at the drop of a hat. They do it with the Early Church Fathers all the time.

How should one respond to this?  It seems more vitriol than argument.  There is an old secret in TV-news debates that when your opponent is speaking you should never make a facial expression of any kind.  If you seem visibly angry, then you lose credibility.  So, about an objective ecclesiology.  He needs to give us a bit more claim on what constitutes an objective ecclesiology. I think when MB wrote this he was still Roman Catholic.  I don’t think he is anymore.    As Bavinck notes, all truth claims have both an objective and subjective element.  The objective element is God-revealed-in-Christ.  The subjectivising part is when I process that epistemologically. It has to be internalized as I mentally process it.   Subjectivity is inevitable.  Does that mean relativism?  I don’t think so and no one has provided an argument that it does.   But to the quote above:  there is no actual argument so I don’t need to say anymore.

Just look at the webmaster of “A Puritan’s Mind”. He was a “Reformed Baptist” that “converted” to “Reformed Presbyterianism”. He wrote several retractions of his ‘covenantal’ case for credo-baptism. Yet, none of that matters in any real sense, except insofar as it got him to go from his little baptist sect to the Presbyterian sect on the other side of town. He didn’t break ties with the heretical credo-baptists, who he’ll align himself with at the drop of a hat against Presbyterians that differ with him over the issue of paedo-communion. He didn’t anathematize them for teaching that covenant children are unworthy of baptism, which the “Magisterial Reformers” were more than willing to do. It was a meaningless and arbitrary decision on his part, except at the subjective level, in that he has now decided his children would be candidates for baptism. Objectively speaking, all he has introduced is more ecclesiastical chaos; or else some seriously hard ramifications for Presbyterians about how to regard his “Reformed Baptist” buddies.

That may have been true ten years ago.  MacMahon is now firmly in the theocratic old-time Presbyterian camp that MB so laments as missing.  As to specifics, MB failed to list any so we can ignore the rest.

But of course, because they think neat things about TULIP, and they enjoy a good brew every now and then, the judicial laws of Moses concerning the heretic can be put aside. I mean, after all, how meaningful is baptism any way? It’s not one of the “important” doctrines, like supra vs. infra-lapsarianism.

When God granted me doctrinal repentance in the spring of 2012, I came to a realization:  the annoying aspects of Calvinism exist only in the internet.  When I go to a NAPARC church I just don’t see the above problems manifested.

Now, any sane person should be able to read that and laugh. And many do; especially the homeschooled kids that grow up in it. Daddy and his buddy hopping from sect to sect is just as relevant to them as the latest Coldplay song, and quite frankly, that sure sounds a lot better. Yes Virginia , there is a reason Puritanism didn’t last but a generation.

It lasted 3 generations and the reason it didn’t continue is because Charles Stuart II outlawed non-Episcopalian theology and turned Scotland into a killing field.  He literally killed off almost all dissent.  Don’t talk about stuff about which you are ignorant.

If you get into ‘classical Reformation’ theology, you will wind up going Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. I mean, you have to.

Splendid.  Provide an argument.  Ironically, I think I am the best counter-example to this.

So Luther thought Carlstadt, one of his professed supporters, who was a proto-type of Puritanical Calvinists, to be “crazy”. What does that mean about Gary DeMar or Doug Phillips? What would he think about some one as detached from him as your run of the mill RPCUS/CREC theonomist? They are not apart of the same institution as Luther, which Carlstadt was (i.e. the German state-church). They’re not similar in terms of where they were located in history, as Carlstadt and Luther were (German men coming out of medieval Roman Catholicism). If Luther were to look upon the Reformed “full quiver” street preacher crowd, or the “Truly Reformed” neo-Puritan gang, or even the Latin-knowing classicists of the “Federal Vision” crowd of ‘Luthbyterians’, he would cringe in disgust.

Exactly what’s the relevance here?  Of course Luther would sneer in disgust.   Luther rejected Reformed Theology.  This is familiar territory to anyone who spent more than five minutes reading church history.

The early Lutherans (Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz , etc.) viciously opposed the heresy of “Crypto-Calvinism”, some thing few (if any) Reformed elders well ever tell their flock. Do some research on it. If someone tried to enter a seminary in Germany in the 16th Century, with Calvinist ideas, they weren’t exactly received with any sort of charity, or a willingness to side-step such a “side issue”. No, there was no “Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals” in those days. That’s the stuff of fan-boys coming together out of mutual respect for irrelevance.

This is historically false.  Melancthon made rapproachment with Bucer, and Luther even hinted that Calvin’s eucharistology was not the same as Zwingli’s, which Luther (rightly) rejected.  Even Chemnitz, while fully rejecting Calvin’s view, did concede that the Reformed in their better moments approached something similar.  Chemnitz said of the reality between sign and thing signified there was a “union” of sorts (Chemnitz, 54).

Now some Calvinist will retort, “And you think Aquinas would recognize your typical traditionalist Catholic”? While I agree most modern American papists can’t hold a candle to so great a saint on a figurative level, they still hold a candle to them in a very real sense. You see, we celebrate the same Mass as Aquinas. Calvinists don’t even have the same substances present at their “worship service” as Calvin and Luther. Most have Welch’s grape corn-syrup/juice hybrid in place of actual wine. Say what you want about Catholics, but at least they get the most elementary and crucial forms of the faith correct.

Most Catholics I know are embarrassed by Thomas’s Aristotelianism of substance/accidents.  And if you think Catholics celebrate the same mass, then see here.  If you say that such is not representative, then you see my point.

Catholics have a visible communion of saints, the Real Presence, and a very real and meaningful continuity with the historic Church. That’s because it is the historic Church. Our priests have an apostolic succession that can be traced back to the twelve Apostles. The church is visible and hierarchical, and our buildings still have relics of its holiest members. The Catholic Church functions much like in the Old Testament nation of Israel, which, though this may come as a surprise to “neo-Puritan” theonomists, was denounced by John Owen as “the Judaical church” (Owen didn’t even like the Lord’s prayer –see volumes 14 and 15 of Owen’s Works).
Calvinism amounts to disgruntled baptists “playing church”.

This is a string of assertions with no argument.

What continuity do self-made pseudo-Calvinists, whom the French lawyer wouldn’t even understand, have with their past? Knox’s grave is buried underneath a parking lot in Scotland . And lest they speak of the decadence of modernity for not honoring so “great” a man, they need remember that, if Knox weren’t 6 feet under, he’d be taking a sword to their necks for their hypocritical celebration of Christmas (which just about every Calvinist does to some degree or another, without regard for the ‘purity’ of ‘the gospel’). Calvin’s Geneva is not going to be reincarnated by malcontent Scotch-Irish American goofballs any more than Forrest’s Klan is going to be by the efforts of backwoods trailer-trash.

And?  The rest of the article, loosely-so-called, is a series of the same vitriol   He basically lambasts “Calvinists” (having never historically defined the term) for not being true to their heirs.   Anybody can play this game. At most it simply proves that today’s “Calvinists” are inconsistent.  It does nothing to prove the truth or falsity of the system itself.  And I note he did not deal with the guys at SWRB, who would largely agree with his disgruntlement.  To paraphrase Gary North, My post wasn’t a great post.  It wasn’t even a good post.  It just had to be better than M.B.’s post.

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5 comments on “Do Calvinists Exist?

  1. SLIMJIM says:

    I appreciated this

  2. Savannah says:

    Thank you.

    And it was a better post.

  3. Jon says:

    What is SWRB?

Comments are closed.