I don’t spend tons of time addressing people who try to debunk Reformed theology anymore. I used to leap into the fray at any chance, but it has lost most of its appeal to me. Many times I came across as arrogant and angry, and on the flip side I found few people really interested in debating the issue. Then I came across a post today by a guy in Kansas, Dave Noffsinger of Northwest Baptist Church in Leavenworth, Kansas, and for some reason it just rubbed me wrong. What is missing, no surprise, is any sort of attempt to engage either the text of Scripture or the arguments of Christians who hold to Calvinism. This is nothing more than a run of the mill hit piece on Calvinism, full of broad and baseless assertions and empty accusations. But what set this apart from other misrepresentations of Calvinism was this:
I am an enemy of the doctrinal teachings of John Calvin or any that line up with his heresy.
Now that just crosses a line. Perhaps he meant something else, but it certainly appears that he means that he is an enemy of anyone who holds to Calvinism. That covers a lot of ground and a lot of Christians. Using “heresy” is kind of the nuclear option in discourse and it is a charge one should use sparingly and carefully. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was a heretic. Michael Servetus, who denied the doctrine of the Trinity was a heretic (which doesn’t excuse his being burned at the stake). People who preach the health, wealth and prosperity “gospel” are heretics because they proclaim a different gospel. I would say that Arminians by and large, while they are dead wrong, are not heretics. Their doctrine of man and of salvation are faulty but where they proclaim the risen Christ and faith in Him as the only hope of salvation, apart from works, they are not heretics. I have come very close to crossing the line and at least implying that they were heretics and for that I repent of my sinful attitude.
The Bible minces no words when it comes to this. The mark of a disciple of Christ, how people know we are His, is that we love one another (John 13:35). For those who do not love their brother, John has some strong and troubling words:
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1Jn 3:15)
If you don’t love your brother, you are essentially a murderer. Declaring a brother to be your enemy is tantamount to hating him, and that is an awfully serious issue. Casually declaring not one man but a multitude of your brothers to be your enemy and heretics is something to repent of.
Let those of us who proclaim and love the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace admit that we bring some of this upon ourselves with our speech and conduct toward those who are not in agreement. All too often we are far too eager to kick sand in the face of Arminians and in doing so we can be cruel, mocking and spiteful. Nevertheless, the failings of some (myself included) and the overstatement of others is not cause for us to draw lines in the sand and declare those on one side to be enemies when brothers disagree.
Again, where my speech has been cruel and angry, I repent of that sinful behavior. If Mr. Noffsinger is indeed a follower of Christ, as his brother I call upon him to repent of his slander toward those who he should love. I hope someday that he will be with me in the presence of our Savior, and arguments like this will have faded away into irrelevance. I don’t expect to be “proven right” in eternity, I full expect to be so filled with the glory of Christ that being “right” will mean nothing to me. Here and now as we wait for Christ to come, our words to one another need to be gentle and loving, not hateful.
(Hat Tip: Jeff Peterson Jeff does an excellent job dismantling this post by Dave Noffsinger)