The Neo-Calvinist Personality

Excerpt from Dr. Paul Owen’s paper What Is Wrong With the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement?:

The TULIP Personality

Calvinism today seems to appeal mostly to a certain sort of personality, and that personality is not always healthy. I have discovered that the person who really spends a lot of time talking about the “doctrines of grace,” tends to fit a typical profile. They tend to be male (rarely do you find women sitting around arguing about the details of TULIP), intellectually arrogant, argumentative, insecure (and therefore intolerant), and prone to constructing straw-man arguments. In order for the typical Calvinist’s faith to remain secure, he seems to feel the need to imagine all others outside his theological box as evil, uninformed, or just plain stupid. I have seen this in men of all ages, some Baptist, some Presbyterian, some laymen, some ordained ministers.

I don’t think there is any necessary connection between Calvinism and such traits, so why does it seem to be so prevalent today? Part of the reason, which I do not have time or space to develop here, is that the evangelical church has no robust ecclesiology, and thus no structured spirituality to put into practice as the body of Christ. And given the absence of a structured spiritual life, Reformed Christianity tends to be reduced to a set of doctrines to contemplate, which attracts mainly certain kinds of people, and encourages certain kinds of attitudes among believers. Thus, when you remove Reformed theology from its proper historical place in the structured life of Reformed religion and ecclesiology, and plant it in the foreign soil of modern evangelical gnostic spirituality, it takes a grotesque shape that is contrary to its origins.

One thing I have noticed is that such features tend to display themselves most dramatically in those who experience Calvinism as a “second blessing.” They grow up either in a non-Christian home, or a Christian environment that did not talk about issues related to Calvinism. When they first encounter the “doctrines of grace,” they are suddenly captured by the intellectual beauty of a logical system that “makes sense” to them. When listening to Calvinist newbies over the years, as they describe their first exposure to Reformed theology, there is an evident “conversion narrative.” New TULIP converts speak in hushed tones about when they first “came to accept” the doctrines of grace. You get the sense that they entered a deeper state of Christian spirituality and walk with Christ by discovering that God arbitrarily saves and arbitrarily destroys whomsoever He chooses. I think that there is a certain obnoxious personality that likes to feel superior to others, and unfortunately, the “doctrines of grace” seem to do this for them.

This should be a reminder to all who view God as Open, we should minimize any arrogance, haughtiness, or feelings of intellectual superiority.

For context, click here.

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