I like Calvinists

I owe the Calvinists a lot. I was raised a Wesleyan, became a five-point Calvinist in college, then returned to the Wesleyan approach in seminary. I had never heard of any other approach to life than Wesleyan when I ran into two mentors in college, Moses Yang and Ray Berrian. They were Calvinists and they simultaneously mentored me spiritually and doctrinally. I attended a reformed seminary where they prodded me to speak for Wesley (which forced me to actually read Wesley and that brought me full circle). I attended seminary on Reformed scholarships and both of my sons attended Reformed seminaries. When I say that I like Calvinists, I do not say it from a distance but from up-close experience. While I am not a Calvinist, some of my good friends through the years have been so. Here’s why I like Calvinists.

1. Calvinists love doctrine.
From my upbringing, I know how to feel and experience. The Calvinists taught me how to think and to think systematically about God. Their love for doctrine was infectious. Occasionally it seemed like they loved doctrine even more than God, but nonetheless their love of doctrine changed my life forever. Still when I want to read about doctrine, I find myself reading after Calvinists—even when I disagree, which I do 5% of the time.[1][1]

2. Calvinists promote God's bigness.
As a Wesleyan, I’m always bringing God down and near; Calvinists are always lifting Him up and away. Their role in the body of Christ seems to be reminding us that God is bigger than we think, and we are littler than we thought. I need to hear this, especially today when God has become such a buddy or boyfriend. I like them for speaking up for God, even thought they insist He doesn’t need their help.

3. Calvinists are sure.
The Calvinists I know they are sure they are right. They often make “Orthodoxy” and “Calvinism” synonymous. When I write from a Wesleyan approach they send me pages of proof texts assuming that my position is a result of simple ignorance. They presume the moment I read their argument I will fall writhing in the street. When I am still on my feet after reading their arguments, they are dumbfounded and chalk it up to stubbornness. I admire their surety.

4. Calvinists refuse to be pragmatic.
As a Wesleyan I am attracted to “what works.” Calvinists are attracted to what is true. I admire them for that. I teach practical ministry so perhaps it is more natural to be a Wesleyan, but over the last 25 years the evangelical church has overdosed on pragmatism. I appreciate the Calvinists who stand on the side with long faces wagging their fingers at all the large churches saying “just because you are big doesn’t mean you are right.”

5. Calvinists condemn the current state of the church.
One of the reasons for the recent resurgence of “black coffee Calvinism” and “Cowboy Calvinism” among the young is their denunciation of the current state of the church. Young people know something is wrong with today’s caliber of Christianity. When Wesleyans err, we go off the optimistic side of the road; Calvinists usually choose the other ditch. Wesleyans are always seeing the good side of things and sometimes our enthusiasm needs tempered with a good dousing of Calvinist ice water.

6. Calvinists like to fight.
My dad used to tell me, “Never wrestle with a pig—you both get dirty but the pig likes it.” That’s how I feel when I fight with Calvinists. Man they are great fighters! After a series of twenty email exchanges, they keep lobbing new grenades into my inbox. I admire that! They remind me of the Black Knight in that Monty Python film—even after losing their arms and legs they insist that I eturn and they’ll bite me to death. I admire their spunk.

7. Calvinists remind us of Christian security.
The Wesleyans I was raised around were always checking to see if they were still in the Kingdom or not—as if they believed in eternal insecurity. While I don’t adopt the Calvinist’s unilateral absolute security, they have helped me understand that getting out of God’s kingdom is far harder than some think. I like that about Calvinists.

8. Calvinists are great preachers.
I have little doubt that the greatest sermons preached last Sunday were delivered by Calvinists, often to tiny audiences with gray hair. And I admit some of the worst sermons heard this week were delivered by Arminians to giant throngs. Calvinists value strong preaching and solid preparation and I admire them for it. How come Calvinists are such great preachers? (Maybe because they have to get up every Sunday and defend Calvinism?) Whatever, I enjoy reading and hearing great preaching and I often have to turn to the Calvinists to get that. I like that about you Calvinists!

I have some good Wesleyan friends who think Calvinism is Devilish. One says, “If he Calvinists are right about God then I would not serve that God—for He would be a devil.” I understand and respect this view but I don’t take it. I see the Calvinists holding down the right side of the Christian line as we both fight against Evil. As a Wesleyan I am on the left side and they hold down the right. We need both sides to carry out a strong offence. I think it is better when we don’t tackle each other and focus ahead on defeating the Enemy. I am a Wesleyan not a Calvinist, but I do like Calvinists!

Keith Drury January 8, 2008