The good, the bad, and the elect

I’m all for New Calvinism. I think it’s healthy to have a new generation of Christians passionate about God’s glory, committed to his meticulous sovereignty, and quite willing to allow for diversity in minor doctrines (like worship style and sign gifts) as long as they are complimentarian and five-point, Piperian Calvinists. I’m certainly a member of their group — I’d die for penal substitution and I can defend particular redemption with the best of them (you think¬†we’re limiting the atonement?! I know you are, but what am I?).

But for all the good in the Together for the Gospel, Young Reformed movement, elitism and a “Cool Calvinist” attitude can creep in pretty easily. Elitism isn’t new to people with Reformed soteriological¬†tenancies; there is some intellectual nuance to the doctrines of grace, and it tickles the ego-bone to explain them in conversation. And the coolness factor is easily explainable too — the new-found diversity in the Reformed camp has created a weird marriage of the intellectual seminarian and Christian hipster. Mark Driscoll is undeniably cool, and he makes preaching about election look awesome. Matt Chandler even turns his defense of Calvinism into a clever one-liner: “I looked up ‘predestined’ in the Greek and guess what it meant? Predestined.”

But bedfellows with this otherwise wonderful “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement is the ugly pride of an I’m-better-than-you-are Christianity. Again, this is not new to Christian intellectualism, and I want to be sure to emphasize that. But we Reformed folk need a reminder of the danger of what we believe (as biblically correct as we believe it to be). Our conviction about the “elect” can be extremely easily misunderstood as “the Christian Caste system ” simply because it’s easy for those who are “chosen” to feel superior to those who are not.

I met this girl in college during one of my writing classes. We kind of became friends, and on occasion we would talk about books and writing life and mutual love of T.S. Eliot. One time she said, “You’re a Calvinist, aren’t you?” It’s not the first time that’s happened to me; people talk I suppose. Her dad was a Free Will Baptist pastor, which if you’re denomination thinks so highly of a doctrine that they decide to put it in their title, it’s probably a pretty big deal to them.

So we argued. We went through most of the typical questions (“What about John 3:16?”; “Didn’t Jesus die for everyone?”; “You probably don’t believe in sending missionaries, do you?”) before we both had to go to class. Later she told me I was the nicest Calvinist she had ever met, and by that she meant: the only nice Calvinist that she had ever met.

We need a fresh reminder of our own doctrine — before we smash semi-Pelagianism with a five-point counterpoint in our freshman-level Bible classes, and certainly before start wearing “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” t-shirts (yes, they’re for real). We need to be reminded that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your won doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). We need to enter these discussions knowing that our Christian opponents are elect even if they don’t think they are (which, ha…but seriously). And we need to realize that God is not honored when we debate people so we might look really smart.


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