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Calvinists and Their Love of Theological Porn

size matters
Three Calvinists checking to see who has the largest library

Calvinism is generally described as adherence or commitment to five theological points (TULIP):

  • Total Depravity (total inability)
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement (particular redemption)
  • Irresistible Grace (effectual call)
  • Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints

Simply put, Calvinism is a system of theological beliefs that states:

  • Every person, thanks to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, is born a sinner, alienated from God, and deserving the wrath of God and hell. Every person is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to do anything about their sinful condition. Total depravity is also called total inability. An unregenerate (lacking spiritual life) sinner is unable, by his own power, to seek God and salvation. Unless God gives the sinner eyes to see and ears to hear, he can never understand the Christian gospel and be saved.
  • From before the foundation (creation) of the world, God determined to whom he would give salvation. Only those whom God gives salvation will be saved. God knows exactly who will be saved. Those not chosen by God will never be saved, neither can they be since God did not give them the means necessary to seek and find salvation. No one deserves to be saved, and there’s is nothing anyone can do to merit salvation. Those who are saved are given spiritual life only because of the unmerited favor of God bestowed on them when the Holy Spirit caused them to effectually respond to the gospel. From start to finish, Salvation is of the Lord.
  • Jesus died on the cross (shed his blood) to provide salvation only for those whom God, the Father has chosen to save (the elect).
  • Those whom God has chosen and Jesus died for, will, without fail, at a time appointed by God, be saved. God will save every person he intends to save. When the Holy Spirit begins to draw a person to Jesus, if the person is someone God intends to save, he will be unable to resist the Holy Spirit.
  • Those granted the glorious, wonderful Calvinistic version of the grace of God will persevere until death. God, by his almighty power, will preserve the chosen, regenerated, and converted sinner until the end.  If someone falls away before the end, say someone like a Calvinistic preacher named Bruce Gerencser, this is proof that he was never were one of the elect (chosen).

Got all that? I’m tired just from typing it. The short version is this: God is Sovereign, Salvation is of the Lord, no others need apply.

For most Christians, Calvinism seems like word salad, loads of theological jargon that only those schooled in Calvin-speak can understand. Calvinism is what I call an intellectual man’s wet dream. Most Calvinists are drawn to the intricate and intellectual aspects of the Calvinistic way of thinking. Let’s face it, Brother Billy Bob down at the local Baptist church has neither the time nor inclination to plumb the depths of Calvinistic theology nor read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. All Brother Billy Bob knows is that he was a drunk and Jesus saved him! Hallelujah!!

The men and women drawn to Calvinism tend to love intellectual pursuits. They love reading long, wordy books that purport to impart knowledge and understanding that most mere humans do not have. Most Calvinists end up building a substantial library of books. At one time, I had a library of over one thousand books. Once, a church member came into my study and, upon noticing my large library, asked me if I had read every one of the books on my bookshelves. He was astounded when I said, Yes, every last one of them.  Years later, I came to understand that the size of a Calvinist’s library is akin to the size of a man’s penis. Size matters. The bigger the library, the greater the theological prowess.

Instead of just enjoying the grace of God and the wonders of unconditional election and particular redemption, Calvinists tend to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they are right. There’s always a new book to read, a lecture to listen to, or a new video to watch. They are like a man or woman watching YouPorn videos. Click, ooh, ah, click on another video link, ooh ah, ah . . . and so it goes. From video to video the porn-seeker goes, hoping to find a video that will stir his passions even further.  This is exactly what many Calvinists do. Ooh, the free offer of the gospel, ah, double predestination, ooh, ooh, supralapsarianism, ah, ah, ah, I’m going to . . . the regulative principle. 🙂 They are always looking for the latest book that will provide them some sort of new insight into their depraved condition or the grace of God. Unlike the porn-seeker who finally realizes that once he’s seen one porn video he’s seen them all, Calvinists continue to seek those which they think are deeper understandings and experiences with God. This is why most Calvinists become intractable as they age. The longer they study, the surer they are that they are right.

A perfect example of this is the Facebook group: Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum. The administrator for the group, Nick Schoenberger, posted the following and turned it into a sticky so every reader would see it:

At this time of year, there always seems to be an increase in the number of 2nd commandment violations we have in CFDD, so I’m pinning this post in the hopes that we can avoid having to take action by preventing such posts in the first place. In short, any posting of an image that portends to depict a member of the Godhead will be removed and may result in a temporary or permanent ban of the poster.

Reference: Westminster Larger Catechism Q109, 110 and 2nd Helvetic Confession Chapters IV-V

In other words, don’t post ANY artists’ renderings of Jesus. Such pictures are a violation of the second commandment:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 20:4)

Instead of enjoying the holiday season, Schoenberger is more concerned about a blasphemous picture of Jesus being posted to the forum.

Those who frequent the Calvinism Fellowship, Debate & Discussion Online Discussion Forum seem to be focused on the minutest detail of proper doctrine, who is and isn’t saved, and attacks on the evil theological system called Arminianism. There’s also a good bit of self-flagellation and groveling before the thrice Holy God of Calvinism. Calvinists are experts at not only pointing out the sins of others, but also digging down into the depths of their own souls (minds) to find long-buried affronts to God. Is it any wonder that many Calvinists have doubts about their salvation? They see little niggling sins in their lives and this causes them to wonder if they truly are one of the elect. Of course, if Calvinists are true to their doctrines, they cannot really know that they are saved until they die. Remember, Calvinists must persevere unto the end to be saved.

Calvinists, in their never-ending pursuit of intellectual nirvana, often lose sight of humanity. They become so infatuated with intellectual porn that they fail to notice that real flesh and blood people surround them. They metaphorically equate the porn they see on the screen with sex with their spouse or significant other. As Calvinists continue down the path to theological perfection, they become like Elijah who believed that he was the only remaining true prophet of God. It’s hard not to picture the lone Calvinist in a room masturbating to his own theological thoughts. Instead of drawing Calvinists towards inclusion, their beliefs often lead them off into closed-minded exclusivism. Calvinist Henry Mahan, pastor of Thirteenth St. Baptist Church, told me years ago when I asked him about the other churches in Ashland, Kentucky, Well Bruce, God doesn’t need more than one true church in town. In other words, Thirteenth Street Baptist Church was the only church God needed in Ashland. They alone preached the true gospel of Sovereign Grace. Pity all those other Christians in Ashland who just so happened to attend the wrong church or had wrong soteriological beliefs. Of course, if God wanted to save them he would lead them to visit Thirteenth Street Baptist Church so they could hear Mahan preach to them the true gospel. (And I’m sure some Calvinist is going to read this and say to me, “Don’t you know that Mahan isn’t a true Calvinist? He is an Antinomian!” Sorry, but Mahan is a Calvinist who is also an Antinomian. Wikipedia explanation of Antinomianism)

God’s chosen ones will likely find this post offensive. How dare I equate their beliefs and their quest for understanding the “deeper” things of God to pornography, a devotee of the doctrines of grace will say. Yet, for those of us who at one time pulled up a stool at the John Calvin Pub and drank deeply of Calvin’s predestination brew, the pornography connection is, on one hand quite humorous, but also quite depressing. We are reminded of a day when we valued theological purity over people. Our thoughts hearken back to a time when we were willing to eviscerate anyone who did not hold to the same “truth” that we did. We are painfully reminded of good people who left our churches because they could not or would not accept the five points of Calvinism. While Calvinists roundly dispute the notion that the five points equal the gospel, if you attend their churches, read their blogs, or peruse their forums (such as the one mentioned above) you will find that significant verbiage is expended disparaging non-Calvinists. The fair-minded observer will quickly discern what message Calvinists are trying to convey: believe like us or you will go to Hell. The only qualitative difference between the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and Calvinistic Baptist churches is the matter of free will. When it comes to the exclusivity of their beliefs, both believe that they are the purveyors of the one true gospel. (An interesting fact is that many Calvinistic Baptists were at one time Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. While their soteriology changed (the doctrines of salvation) their Fundamentalism remained.)

The primary focus of this post is on Evangelical Calvinism, the belief system of men such as John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and John Piper. I’m well aware that there are many shades and nuances to Calvinism. Writing a post that covered all of them would result in a document with more words than the Bible.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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28 Comments

  1. Avatar
    April G

    I can so relate to this. When I became a Calvinist, it seemed to make the most sense, but in the long run, anyone can cherry pick bible verses to proof text their interpretation. The whole church system was all about words, dogma. 🙁 The most important thing was sitting and listening to MORE dogma being spewed from the pulpit at every bible study and of course “church” wasn’t even about “worship”, it was all about what pastor had to say= the SERMON. I hated how they cared about the smallest shit, yet important issues were ignored. As you mentioned this guy getting his feathers ruffled over a “picture”. Good grief!! and i saw people agonizing over nonsense, i remember thinking -this is just crazy!- A god and pastor who makes themselves and others miserable about the little stuff, but ignores the bigger issues of compassion, kindness and DOING good. It was all about useless WORDS 🙁 🙁 I realized I didnt’ want or need that anymore. and if there is a “god” that God would not be that way.

  2. Avatar
    April G

    Bruce wrote: “…We are reminded of a day when we valued theological purity over people. Our thoughts hearken back to a time when we were willing to eviscerate anyone who did not hold to the same “truth” that we did.” All my years as a Catholic, i never heard one sermon about how those other Christian religions are AntiChrist & deceived. Yet I heard constant, “our church is better than YOUR church” over the years from the pulpit of the calvinist/baptist cult. and yes, eviscerating anyone who had a differing bible interpretation than the man-a-gawd. It was cruel, it was to set up to create an “us vs. them” environment, to where even other BELIEVERS are now the enemy. I ended up hating it

  3. Avatar
    KatieS

    A lot of that sounds very Lutheran (LCMS). The total depravity and the forgetting humanity. Oh, also the intellectual porn. Since I left I’ve read some of their positions on their website and they love sounding intellectual and using big words. They care much more about being right than how it affects anyone. Just one of the many reasons I left.

  4. Avatar
    Mark Birchall

    Bruce;
    You really got this right. I am a Christian, but my opinion of Calvinism is the exact same as yours. I believe it is very cultish. Calvinists really hate me when they can’t convert me and consider me “non-elect” after a certain amount of time.

    • Avatar
      clubschadenfreude

      very cultish describes all Christians. You all have your claims of “truth” and not one of you can support them with evidence. Since not one Christian can do what JC supposedly promised them to be able to do, it appears you are all frauds and/or your bible is not true.

      It’s like watching a bucket of crabs crawling over each other, all trying to be the top crab.

  5. Avatar
    Ted

    The Netherlands Reformed Church are probably the most hard core Calvinists in North America.. I have a cousin who visits on a regular basis (he has to sit at the back). His regular church is a Free Reformed Church (very conservative ), a church that is to the left of these guys and made up of many ex NRC members(some excommunicated) . I have experienced, read and studied enough and I would categorize Netherlands Reformed Church as cultic. I would like to ask Bruce if he knows any Calvinist Church more conservative then this.

    http://www.netherlandsreformed.org/

      • Avatar
        April G

        you hit the nail on the head Bruce. Yes, they *talk* about *free grace*, but the reality is, it is completely about keeping the rules/laws. There is no grace, they say it, but the reality is you not only put your physical self in a prison, “can’t do this, can’t do that…” but your mind is also imprisoned. They suck the life right out of you with all their damned senseless rules. and you live in constant fear for every little thing you do, that could offend such a capricious god, and you also fret over your own human thoughts. I can’t say how happy i am to be out of that hell hole. Oh, my husband checked out our ex-cult’s website, apparently a couple from the “church=cult” was excommunicated/church disciplined. Hmmm, i do wonder who & why? Did they have a different opinion than the mog?? Hell, we were anathema for “variance”, yep, VARIANCE. LOL oh my god…that’s Calvinism for ya.

  6. Avatar
    Peter

    Forget about the Bible verses where God is said to show no partiality, Calvinism suggests the opposite.

    Some as specially elected because of no merits of their own. Others eternally damned having never had a chance also one would assume through no fault of their own. Make God seem to be some kind of schoolyard bully who has a few special sycophant followers.

    A Calvinist I was in touch with had nothing to offer me once he concluded that I could not be one of God’s elect. Afterall I could do nothing to save myself.

    Thus this doctrine only makes sense by claiming that everyone deserves eternal punishment for the crime of being born. The loving God somehow decides to spare a few, the lucky few. In the case of the rest, they are just getting what they deserve, it is all their fault they were born.

    What a hideous theology this is.

  7. Avatar
    Brian

    You have no protection. There are people who have no respect for your basic personal boundaries as a human being (because you are lost and doomed) and they think that it is their job to give you a spiritual wedgie, to show you up as a sinner and bring you round. This is called love.
    Now, you have a choice and your choice is the flavor of the kool-aid. You are free…. Choose the flavor.
    Indecent fuckers.

  8. Avatar
    Scott

    You’e nailed this one Bruce. I was converted under Arminian preaching, and the ripe old age of 14yo was shifted to a Reformed calvinistic church. The one and only true church in Australia. I remained in that system for 40 years and now deconverted as I’ve seen the true light. Who wants to be treated with grace, and then have the law shoved down your neck. Who wants to listen to the likes of Macarthur, Piper (he’s a bit of a charo anyway) or that misogynist Driscoll. Let alone Doug Wilson or his crew? Don’t these guys ever think outside the box called calvinism and see how it presents an awful god? Sorry – the whole lot makes my blood boil, as does the doctrine of providence.
    Pity the poor. Pity the Syrians, pity every baby dying of preventable diseases. Pity the man or woman, who would fall in love with one of the same gender.
    Lift the lid on Calvinism – it’s rotten to the core,

  9. Avatar
    Appalachian Agnostic

    It is so ironic that people who are drawn to intellectual pursuits have come up with the most ridiculous theology of all.

    • Avatar
      April G

      It is a hideous cruel dogma, but I do think, that it’s the one that is the closest to what the “babble” teaches. As far as a theological system and all the crazy verses that contradict, it seems to me that Calvin’s God is a respecter of persons, cruel, without compassion, narcissistic, psychopathic & just demented beyond human comprehension. The followers become cruel and as I called them for a while, the “frozen chosen”. The leaders especially become completely whacked. I read a book about John Calvin and I swear it described my x-pastard to a T!!!! It was quite fascinating, and their dogma makes them unfeeling and not even human anymore. It’s doctrine above person the whole way!

      • Avatar
        John Arthur

        Hi April G,

        A great assessment of Calvinism- so cold and unfeeling. Most of these people lack joy and are only happy when they make others joyless.

        Shalom,

        John Arthur

  10. Avatar
    Kenneth

    I suppose having to “dumb down” human reasoning by taking up Calvinism causes ones mind to require more information and certainty. Their constant search for more by reading books and filling their library is required to fill in the gaps in their human reasoning.

  11. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Although Calvinism might be the most logical and consistent form of Conservative Evangelicalism, given its presuppositions regarding the inerrancy (in the missing original manuscripts), sufficiency, and supreme authority of the bible, it is what William James described as a theology of the “sick soul”. It’s theology prioritises the total depravity (every part of them is affected by sin) of humans over the dignity of the human person that the bible says is created in the image of God.

    Their theology sees God as both loving and violent, a wrathful and vengeful god who elects only the select ones. No wonder that such a theology can produce a lack of a healthy sense of self -esteem ( a worm as I theology) that keeps even his so-called elect in a prison of religious bondage where real human transformation towards LIVING a life of peace and compassion and the making of progress towards that aim becomes almost vitually impossible for many that are brain washed in that system.

    Jesus seems to make so many less human, not more human. If compassion, loving kindness, tender heartedness and having open, warm, and welcoming heart towards everyone, without being judgmental, was LIVED by Evangelical Christians, I wouldn’t be so concerned about them (even though the bible is not what they say it is i.e. not inerrant, but what they wish it was). However, I don’t think it is possible to reconcile the theologies of Luther, Calvin, the Dispensationalists or classical Arminians with the idea that God is LOVE.

    Thanks for your article, Bruce, I agree with Scott. You are “lifting the lid on Calvinism -it’s rotten to the core.”

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    • Avatar
      clubschadenfreude

      Christianity as a whole does this “It’s theology prioritises the total depravity (every part of them is affected by sin) of humans over the dignity of the human person that the bible says is created in the image of God.”

      Chrsitianity is a religion that must claim that humans are “filthy rags”, that they need this god to not be, and that every human deserves death and/or eternal torture. Yep, violent and wrathful is the Christian god, repeatedly from Genesis to Revelation and yep, it only allows certain people to accept it, per JC and Paul, damning the rest for no fault of their own, to serve as means to keep the others in line.

      There is nothing about “human dignity”, that is added by Christians who don’t want such a vicious god. If being made in this god’s image was important, then this god would have respected Adam and Eve, and explained what was going on and would have forgiven them on the spot. But no, this god either allows satan in, without warning Adam and Eve, or was unable to keep it out.

  12. Avatar
    Nina Ruth

    I can’t even thank you enough for this article.

    I have been so disturbed in my spirit by the way the Neo-Calvinist White Boy Brigade has been taking over almost every element of Evangelical Christianity.

    I felt so alone, and thought I was like the only person who noticed this.

    If one dares to even gently, and with love, criticize some of the things that these guys say or do that are not scriptural either in doctrine or in practice, then of course, one is labeled as a heretic, an Arminian or a feminist.

    Their love of presuppositional apologetics far exceeds their love of Jesus, because we tend to talk about who or what we love the most.

    I have seen the men be brutal and abusive in their language towards others, including women, on the internet. Total lack of chivalry and Christ-like demeanor. It’s like to them the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes such things as caustic wit, mean-spiritedness, stubborn dogmatism, and the cruel school-boyish glee of being “right.” I’ve actually witnessed exchanges where these almost seem THRILLED that people are going to hell. And yet they title their conferences, such as one that’s coming up in June, “Evangelism Reformation. Do these people even read their Bibles?

    And the women tend to be even worse. The old saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” almost needs to be revised to “Hell hath no fury like a woman Calvinist.”

    While I don’t totally theologically agree with the old guard that these Neo-Calvinist guys are fond of quoting, such as Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen, at least these men desired that people be saved, that Jesus be glorified, and that behavior be both winsome and gracious.

    I sincerely hope and pray that the Lord Jesus will pour out his Holy Spirit and bring a true biblical Revival back to his church. So many of the things I have been hearing these Neo-Calvinists preach are downright demonic.

    And don’t even get me started on the eschatology of these Cal-bots! Reformtroopers, goose-stepping their way through the evangelical landscape and decimating everything in their path. Oh, wait, that’s just imitating Calvin, anyways.

    Jesus, have mercy on us, and save us from this evil, cult-like false revival deceiving especially our young people. Help us to be humble, grateful people of the Bible, who simply respond to and reflect the love that Jesus has for us.

  13. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    What I am about to ask may expose me as intellectually bankrupt, but here goes:’If God has already chosen who is and isn’t “saved,” what’s the point of church, or religion? Or,for that matter , studying the Bible or theology?

    How many people would diet or exercise if they knew that they were predestined, or not, to develop diabetes or succumb to a heart attack?

  14. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    Yeah, I have to say that I don’t really understand that either. It sounds like there are some people who take the view that biblical rules – such as the ten commandments – can be considered not to apply to some as they are saved regardless of what they do. But then why would the unsaved portion of the population be in any way inclined to follow them if they are going to hell regardless? And if all that is the case – what is the point of the bible, or of churches, or of preaching? Pretty confusing – though I am probably misunderstanding this.

  15. Avatar
    Dave

    Imagine a man who decides at a young age that he will marry and have four children but he will only love hissecond and fourth child. The other two will suffer his constant abuse and anger from the moment of their birth. Nothing they do will ever change the decision he made before he was even married. What a monster he would be. And what about the two favored children? If they love and honor their monster of a father knowing how he treats their siblings what does this say about them? Calvinists: you worship a monster. Shame on you.

  16. Avatar
    BJW

    Excellent and humorous analogy, although if a Calvinist blunders here they will find it quite upsetting. I can’t quite understand why it matters going to church if one is already saved or lost? Seriously. Guessing that Calvinists believe that those who are saved are the main ones who seek God. But with such a doctrine HOW could they ever know? My former faith had a basis in Arminianism which leaves a Christian wondering if they are ever saved. Of course, I’m of the “if I’m going to worship a god, it would be a god of love and everyone would be saved.” But hey, I can’t prove it so either way, I don’t have to feel any burden for another’s salvation. And I find it amazing a Calvinist would spend any time trying to preach to others, not knowing if they are just wasting their time.

    • Avatar
      Dave

      My brother is a Calvinist who is constantly preaching to others but I don’t think he sees this as a waste of time but rather he does this to score points with his “sovereign” god. He is essentially a Christian troll whose arrogance has become insufferable.

  17. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Re “Every person, thanks to the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, is born a sinner, alienated from God, and deserving the wrath of God and hell.”

    In Ezekiel 18, God (through the prophet) very carefully explains that sin cannot be inherited nor can the sins of children be assigned to their parents. He goes further to say that another cannot pay for one’s sins, only the sinner can pay for his sins. Hmm. Ezekiel 18 is very, very clear with no ambiguity. But in just one chapter, Original Sin, and Jesus dying to wash away your sins are both obliterated . . . by Yahweh. Bam, down goes Christianity.

  18. Avatar
    Jakey

    When I was still christian, I escaped calvinism and fell directly into IFB preaching .. oh, such irony :D. However, after my deconversion, I have a little crush on calvinists – they are the only ones admitting that god is a little bit of an asshole and you can suck your **** if you don’t like it. Really charming 🙂

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Bruce Gerencser