Misrepresenting Calvinism

Leighton Flowers lays out of thoughts about the ever present claim by Calvinists that no one represents their views correctly:

1) SOME ARE NOT EDUCATED ON THE ACTUAL CLAIMS OF THEIR OWN SCHOLARS

Many who bring the accusation of strawmanning either (1) do not rightly understand Calvinism and Calvinistic scholar’s ACTUAL CLAIMS or they (2) do not really affirm the ACTUAL CLAIMS of John Calvin and other notable Calvinistic scholars, but have adopted a much milder, more palatable, and arguably inconsistent form of the systematic. (If it is the second, however, I cannot help but wonder why would they not stand with me in opposition to the ACTUAL CLAIMS of Calvinism rather than accusing me of not understanding it rightly?)

2) NOT EVERYONE IS CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH:

There are some Calvinists who simply disagree with Edwin Palmer’s quote above, as they should. There are moderate Calvinists, high Calvinists, ultra Calvinists and hyper Calvinists (the last of which most Calvinists would disavow completely). There are some who affirm God’s provisional atonement for all people and God’s sincere desire for every individual to repent and believe; but others who do not. There are some who affirm God’s genuine love for every individual, while others only describe his feelings toward the non-elect as wrath-filled hatred.

3) DEFINING THE TERMS:

This issue is closely related to the first. Many people even in the same camp use different terms that often carry various connotations and implications. For instance, when I say “responsible” I actually think it means that someone is “able to respond” (silly me). Yet, when some use the word “responsible” they simply hear “justly punishable even if one is unable to respond.”

4) CORRECT BUT NOT PALATABLE:
…It is when our theological rhetoric is taken out of the classroom and applied in the real world. Some people cannot stomach it, while others revel in its disdain as a badge of honor, almost as if the more offensive their views are to others the more likely they are to be correct.

5) RATIONALIZATIONS AND LOGICAL IMPLICATIONS:

“The doctrine of Total Depravity – when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.” –CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 29

Was CS Lewis attempting to directly accuse all Calvinists of worshipping the devil? I seriously doubt it. It is more likely that he was attempting to draw out the logical implications of the Calvinistic claims regarding their teachings on total inability. John Wesley makes a similar claim in a sermon about double predestination in which he teaches Calvinism makes God out to be worse than the devil, because the devil would not deceptively pretend to want all to be saved (link). Yet, we know that Wesley was close friends with Calvinistic brothers (like Whitfield) and won the respect of many great Calvinistic believers (see note at the end of this article). How can Calvinists get along with someone who implies their doctrine leads to devil worship? I think those who have studied these issues at length better understand how this is possible.

6) NEFARIOUS MOTIVATIONS:

When you disagree with someone about something so intimate and personal as the biblical teaching of grace and salvation it is easy to allow yourself to start believing there must be something seriously wrong with them.

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