A Call for Gracious Calvinists

Frustratingly prevalent on Twitter these days is the fleshly stench of slander and belittlement of other Christians. Rummaging through Twitter the other day, I quickly stopped my thumb from scrolling more because I noticed that somebody shared what was a list of names deemed “woke.” In this tweet thread, the person explained we should not follow these pastors/teachers because they are apparently “woke.”

(To be sure, I am of the opinion that there is a problem with “wokeness” in the Christian church today. From my perspective, a lot of the problem resides in confusing definitions but there is absolutely a problem within the church surrounding how to properly deal with racism.)

The catastrophe of this tweet lies in the names listed. It’s not necessary to give you the name of the person who tweeted it since they don’t deserve anymore attention than they’ve received. And I’m not going to share the list of names as it’s pretty lengthy and not necessarily helpful either.

The vast majority of the men–and women–on this list are faithful brothers and sisters in the Lord with whom we may disagree with on peripheral issues. There are certainly people on the list that can teach some dangerous things (and, in my opinion, should be avoided) but, for the most part, the list is full of men and women who are faithful to the Lord.

With that being said, this tweet is merely the fruit of a root problem: ungracious Calvinists. This tweet, like other things on social media and in the real world, display a bigger problem. To put it simply, Calvinists can be mean. However, Calvinists–those who believe in the doctrines of grace–should be the most grace-filled Christians. Yet, that is exactly the opposite of what we see many times.

For some reason, Calvinists are always on the prowl. They are incessantly angry about something. Of course, not all Calvinists are like this, but many of them are. They are not characterized by their ability to give others the benefit of the doubt but instead by their ability to point out the worst in others. And I say this as one who affirms the acrostic TULIP.

There is a running conversation, of sorts, on Twitter about how ill-behaved Calvinists are on that medium. Many people who have “1689” on their Twitter bio (referencing the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith) are those who habitually act like people who have not experienced the saving grace of God. Instead of their Twitter feed being filled with edification and conviction when needed, it is saturated with slander, finger-pointing, and gossip.

Don’t get me wrong, we should criticize bad teaching and the like. But Calvinists take it further. “Yes, Calvinists can be critical types,” David Mathis wrote. “It’s good to be discerning, and pay attention to details. But a critical eye does not necessitate a quarrelsome spirit” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). There’s an ocean of difference between gracefully criticizing and incessantly quarreling over different issues. Be vigilant, yes. Be discerning, yes. But don’t be quarrelsome. Don’t be the person who is always looking to pick a fight.

Jared C. Wilson tweeted this scathing criticism (remember, it’s okay to criticize!) of the aforementioned tweet thread:

When folks make those stupid “who’s in and who’s out” lists, they’re not just playing around with pharisaism; they’re trying to bait those listed — who typically have bigger platforms — into engaging and thus amplifying their own voice. Don’t fall for it. Attention is oxygen to trolls. Let them suffocate.

The last thing we should give to people–to trolls–is attention. They build their platforms on incessant, unnecessary, and sometimes-slanderous criticism. Unfortunately, a lot of these people are the “1689ers” of Twitter: Calvinists.

If we believe, as Calvinists, that God has chosen us by sovereign grace and it had nothing to do with us; if we believe our salvation was purchased permanently on the cross; if we believe we have nothing good inside of us but only the Holy Spirit, then mercy, compassion, and kindness should leak out of us–not criticism. When we champion the doctrines of grace yet behave as though we haven’t been transformed by that same grace, what message are we sending?

To my fellow Calvinists: it’s okay to give more grace than criticism. You’re not compromising but actually displaying Christlike character. It’s okay to give others the benefit of the doubt while simultaneously believing in total depravity. They aren’t mutually exclusive. We don’t have to be in a tizzy all the time. Let’s show the same grace to others that we’ve received.

12 Comments

    1. This didn’t even make sense to me. One I understand the doctrines of grace of was so filled with hope, and comfort and humility. I hope you are not looking at me that way. Actually these statements were difficult to hear.
      If being on the prowl means I I want my loved ones to know the gospel of grace I guess I must be one of those prowlers. Is that a criticism?

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      1. No, being on the prowl doesn’t mean wanting loved ones to know the gospel of grace. In context, I would hope one could see that’s not what I mean. It’s more for those who are in always picking fights and pointing out the errors of others ALWAYS even when they may believe the gospel.

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      2. Also, I don’t have a specific person by name in mind. But the blog is certainly written to cause Calvinists (including myself) to self reflect and ask if we are more gracious than critical. Put simply, one does not need to be a Calvinist to be saved. Hope we can agree on that.

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  1. Hopefully you won’t think I’m one of “those” Calvinists with this reply but with all due respect on what basis do you imply if not outright say Calvinists are always angry and on the prowl. You do throw in that it’s not all Calvinists but you do leave the impression you believe it’s a lot of Calvinists by stating it’s “many of them”. Over the many decades since I came to believe God’s Sovereignty over all of the affairs of man & woman is clearly taught in Scripture I’ve personally been labeled a heretic quite a few times by many Believers who hold to the “other view” in this. And because I hold to a different Eschatology I’ve been labeled the same. I’ve never gotten in anyone’s face in anger after they’ve said this nor am I on the prowl to find people to condemn regarding any of this. It’s now worse than ever to hold to a different view on all of the BLM/Woke/social justice issues of the day as one is immediately labeled a racist, and this even in the Church. Most that I share these positions with do not go trying to find arguments and confrontations to angrily condemn those that disagree. I’ve found the opposite to be true as I’m labeled a heretic and racist. Were we living in past historical settings I’m certain I would have been tried, convicted, and burned at the stake by those with opposing views.
    Are you sure your not caricaturing the “many” you refer to based on a few loudly obnoxious ones?

    God bless you and your family Blake

    Gary Mitchell

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    1. If you haven’t ever gotten in anyone’s face about them not holding Calvinistic views or the like, then no, you wouldn’t be one who is “always on the prowl.” But if you’ve ever been on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, it’s clear to see that many—yes, MANY—people who hold to Calvinism are always looking for a fight. They are always looks to argue or something akin to that. I don’t believe I’m caricaturing since I made the qualification about it’s not all, but many. It is absolutely *many.*

      And I say all that as a Calvinist myself.

      Thank you, you as well. 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this well thought out reflection. As a “7 point” Calvinist myself, we are always watchful for how one doctrine impacts another (usually based off of one statement that is not within context). That is clearly displayed through some of the responses you have received above. We tend to swing to one extreme or the other and automatically make assumptions. In a pragmatic world anyone that holds to a truth with no exceptions will be considered unloving and without grace. This reflection has been a good reminder that it is not my message, but God’s and I am simply an unworthy servant that has the privilege to share the hope within me. Let’s remember to plant and water seeds for the sake of the elect to come to faith and rest in God’s sovereignty in the building of the Church.
    In Christ.
    Col. 1:28-29

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    1. Brady, I was wondering if all the comments I would receive for this blog post would be negative. Thank you for being the exception! I figured I would get some pushback.

      Amen, brother! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Thanks for the write-up. I have been thinking of this for a long time, even some of the Calvinist I personally know are very much rude and discompassionate. Knowing grace is different from experiencing grace and emulating it.

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