Since starting From Law to Grace in July 2010, I have published 179 posts (including this one) “discussing the intersection of law, religion, and politics in culture and Baptist life.” With articles dealing with the Great Commission Resurgence, the new NAMB, the Southern Baptist Convention, President Obama, Islam, Hollywood, and Homosexuality, I have received my fair share of feedback and comments.
While almost all comments over the last year have been respectful (I think I’ve only moderated one or two comments which were blatantly offensive), I have enjoyed the interaction and dialogue with the readers of From Law to Grace, particularly with those folks who may not have agreed with what I wrote (you know who you are).
If you would have asked me last July to predict which posts would have been read the most, I would probably not have been able to accurately guess. Looking back, however, it’s not too surprising that posts dealing with SBC politics — The New NAMB: 7 Years Sure Goes By Fast and The Slow Death of the Cooperative Program — were the top two posts of the past year. I’m still somewhat flummoxed that my post, Limiting Your Audience: Janeane Garafalo and Criminal Minds, was the fifth most read post of the year. I never thought that Ms. Garafalo would attract readers. Who knew?
But, if you combine hits with comments, there was no contest as to which one of my posts was the most “popular.” Coming in at number four in terms of readers, but number one for comments, was my first post on a subject that brings out the best and worst in people — Calvinism.
In SBC’s New Calvinism & Patriotic Worship: Part 1, I entered into an area fraught with many dangers, toils, and snares. I won’t say that I was unprepared for the blowback that I received both here (and at SBCVoices), but the intensity of some of Calvinism’s defenders that was on display was eye-opening, to say the least.
It seems that discussing Calvinism, particularly as it relates to life within the Southern Baptist Convention, will often lead to mud-slinging — early and often. Granted, the mud can come from all parties involved (including me), but from my observation, it seems that even the slightest questioning of Calvinism or the sharing of negative personal experiences or observations concerning Calvinism are grounds for a direct and swift counter-attack, often with much more force than was warranted.
The latest example of this counter-attack strategy can be clearly seen in response to an article written by SBC Plodder, William Thornton, posted at SBCVoices on Tuesday. Entitled “Why I’m Wary of Calvinists,” Thornton shares HIS OWN experiences with Calvinists. These personal experiences, which he readily admits are anecdotal, have obviously shaped his view of Calvinists, leading him to his personal position of being wary of Calvinists in general.
In stating his three main observations, Mr. Thornton was careful to point out that these did not apply exclusively to Calvinists. However, as he was obviously writing about his own personal experiences with Calvinists, his arguments were limited to Calvinists. He concludes his OP by writing:
Perhaps my experience is atypical and an aberration. I’d be pleased to know that is the case. If not, I’ll look askance at Calvinists but still rejoice when Christ is preached and Christ is preached by every Calvinist I know.
I do not know exactly when on July 26 that William’s article was published at Voices, but it did not take too long for the defenders of Calvinism to help prove that Pastor Thornton’s observations and experiences might not have been atypical afterall. Instead of acknowledging that the experiences and observations of William Thornton (a respected pastor and blogger) might have been true, most Calvinists commenting not only did not interact with Thornton’s observations, but they dismissed them out-of-hand.
Why is it so hard for those on opposite sides of theological issues to acknowledge that their “opponent’s” observations and/or experiences maybe true? Just because we make that acknowledgment does not mean that we are somehow bound to then accept our opponent’s theology. Would it hurt to say to someone like William Thornton,
“I don’t doubt that you have had bad experiences with some Calvinists, but I want to let you know that the behavior you observed is an aberration. I’m sorry that this brother — who called himself a Calvinist — acted like he did. He was wrong and he shouldn’t have done what he did to destroy that church.”
Instead, we get full counter-attacks which not only do not acknowledge another brother’s experiences, but in fact come close to (and at times do) calling him a liar who does not know what he is talking about, even though he has shared his personal experiences and observations. There are a few folks who will never be convinced that there are any Calvinists who have destroyed churches (just as there are those who will never be convinced that there are non-Calvinists who have detroyed churches).
I’m fully aware that this post will be misinterpreted as an assault on Calvinists. No matter how delicately I might phrase something, there will always be the _________ __________’s of the world — the ardent defenders of all-things Calvinist — who will jump on anything that is written that is not completely, 100% in agreement with Calvinism. As a confessing (although admittedly inconsistent) 5-Point Calvinist, I’m okay with that. Let the comments (hold the mud) fly!