In many of my online conversations, I will often be conversing in mixed groups where people will identify as Arminian or Calvinist. As long as no one takes a stand on the differences in the doctrines, everyone can pretend to get along and backslap each other with the title of “brethren.” When one comes to insist that doctrinal clarity matters on questions of salvation, many of these so-called Calvinists will be the loudest in attempting to suppress the gospel.
What do I mean? They will accuse one of conditioning salvation on knowledge. They will say that God’s sovereignty is greater than someone’s theological error, and thus as long as they (usually an Arminian) believe that Christ died for their sin, they are Christians. They (the tolerant Calvinist) will be quick to assert that Arminians are brethren who are just immature. How condescending–“shhhhh…we know better than they do…you just need to have some grace, they are brethren, just immature, they’re not ready for biblical truth about salvation…”
Rather than correct the Arminian and show them the error of what they believe, the tolerant Calvinist defends their error by calling it “immaturity,” and insisting that the gospel is merely being certain that Jesus died for your sins. What sort of blasphemy is this?
The tolerant Calvinist is really just a closet Arminian. There is absolutely no point to their identification with Calvinism, because for them it is merely an intellectual high-ground, not a matter of truth. It’s a hobby, a sport, a gas to talk about God’s sovereignty in salvation, but merely as an academic discussion. If they were to meet a person who openly denied the sovereignty of God in salvation, these tolerant Calvinists would say that the Arminian is a brother who is merely immature and not yet ready to hear the truth. On what basis then do we call the Arminian “brother?” If they don’t agree with the truth, but are still somehow brethren, then what makes them brethren? Sincerity? At that point, isn’t everyone who vaguely has some sincere knowledge of Jesus saved?
When discussing the atonement, they strip the gospel of all its offense by refusing to talk about accomplished atonement for the elect alone. Instead, they reassure everyone under the sound of their voice that Jesus died for all who will believe in Him. This is covert Arminianism, dressed up as ostensibly “Reformed.” It gives the sinner the impression that salvation is something one can opt into if they only believe, it is backdoor conditionalism.
Reformed is a just term that’s en vogue. Especially after someone like John MacArthur makes the statement at the Strange Fire Conference that “unless you’re reformed you’re basically irrelevant,” that term has come to describe any person who vaguely discusses the general concept of God’s sovereignty. That’s it…the average “Reformed” person is probably just an Arminian who has an extremely shallow and surface level understand of the acronym TULIP. Even if they acknowledge that they “believe” the doctrines of grace, they only view them as intellectual high ground and ivory tower theology, never as vital truth.
Those who accuse us of easy believism and saying that faith is “mere” intellectual assent are actually guilty of what they accuse us of–they have made the truth merely a matter of academic assent without any substantive bearing on the nature of the gospel–(i.e. The tolerant Calvinist doesn’t believe it is necessary for the purpose of sharing the true gospel that one explain the extent and effect of the atonement, the unconditional election of God’s elect, or the security of salvation of the elect secured by the cross of Christ). Rather, the gospel they share is an Arminian false gospel, with the hope of later explaining that it was God along. This is a bait and switch tactic. How pathetic. It displays the underlying fact that the tolerant Calvinist doesn’t believe the gospel is power of God unto salvation.
The tolerant Calvinist doesn’t believe the gospel. Their theological error is even more grievous than that of the Arminian, because they are aware of the truth concerning the extent of the atonement and the unconditional election of God’s people, and yet they cannot see Christ, because 1) they are dead in trespasses and sins, 2) they believe that their academic acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty in salvation is proof of their salvation. They have no gospel assurance. They are Lordship Salvationists who seek confirmation of their election in their behavior.
It’s sad to see how Lordship salvation is the logical out working of the theological error of the tolerant Calvinist. The tolerant Calvinist is almost always a former Arminian who merely graduated to a new level of maturity by academically acknowledging the doctrines of grace. However, rather than have any true joy at the knowledge of God’s election, the former Arminian is afraid by the discovery that God has elected to only save some sinners. And so, they set about trying to establish their own righteousness by attempting to keep the law, and hoping that their alleged increasing morality is proof of election. He makes attempts at the imperatives of scripture in order to achieve the indicatives, which backwards and self-righteousness. The Lordshipper is a nervous wreck who outwardly talks of the need for repentance and obedience, and within is shaken by the knowledge that his “holiness” is more accurately described as hypocrisy.