Arrogant Calvinists and Persecuted Christians

nun-arabic-letterToday I overheard a fellow Reformed Christian telling another person that the Christians suffering in Iraq and Syria under the Islamic State are not real Christians…

I was dumbfounded at the arrogance and impudence in his words.  

They ARE Real Christians!

Yes there are some doctrinal differences, but they are real Christians. If he had said, “They are not Calvinists.”  I would be more apt to agree, but I am still pretty sure there are Calvinists and Reformed Christians over there as well.

I know that most of my Reformed friends would never say something like this, but this is a perfect example of why we Reformed Christians are seen as the arrogant jerks living in the penthouse of the Ivory Tower of Conservative Evangelicalism. I admit I have been arrogant in the past as well.  But with our doctrinal views it amazes me that any Calvinist could ever be arrogant.  Think about it. The whole point of our view of salvation is that we are worthless and totally dead in sin, so much so that Jesus had to die so that we could even tremble before the throne of grace and utter an amen!  How could anyone be arrogant about that?

If you’re really a Calvinist you are one by sheer grace…isn’t that what you believe?   And if you are saved at all you are saved by sheer grace…isn’t that what you believe? Then be patient with those Christians who don’t see it your way. And don’t mock those who are persecuted!  God is love, and has shown his great love to us in Jesus, and He is exceedingly patient with us as he works sanctification in us. We need to stop with the arrogance and ask God to humble us. 

I know that arrogance is a human problem and not only a Calvinist problem, but we do have that label for a reason.  We would do well to examine ourselves when we are accused of a sin.

I digress.

I pray that we never face real persecution in Canada and America in my life. But if we do face it, I am sure that anyone who declares that Jesus is Lord and saviour in the face of certain death, will be a friend regardless of theological bent.  We can debate the finer points of doctrine while we stand together…much like Legolas and Gimli from Lord of the Rings. 🙂



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  1. Jaguermeister says:

    Some very good points. It’s a tough balance I know….we don’t want to over simplify Christianity (believe in Jesus and you will be saved) neither do we want to over complicate it (Scribes and Pharisees).

    I think there is a tendency in Can Ref circles to lean heavily to the latter. I remember a sermon on works where the pastor preached on good works. And he asked what makes you a good Christian? He then proceeded to list off the following: attending church twice on Sunday, sending our kids to a Reformed school or you financially support the school, teach our kids catechism, making tithes to the church, attending bible study, etc. He said if you’ve compiled such a list, you’ve placed far too much emphasis on works. Yes, these are all good and noble, but they don’t a Christian make.

    We can be quick to look down on someone who attends another denomination, or believes a number of different things, and yet……is that how God does things? Perhaps as you suggest we do need to be very slow to judge others……we may be shocked to find out who exactly our neighbor is and who we may see in heaven.

  2. Ryan,

    Where exactly is the arrogance in the claim that they are not real Christians? It is one thing to say that the claim is ignorant and mistaken, which is true, but it’s something different to say that it’s arrogant and impudent.

    The Athanasian Creed closes with the words, “This is the catholic faith. Unless a man believes it faithfully and steadfastly, he cannot be saved. Amen.” In other words, if you don’t believe this creed you aren’t a real Christian, and you have no hope of salvation. Were the authors arrogant and impudent to be saying this?

    It has long been the duty of the church to fight for orthodoxy, to do (continuing with LOTR) as good Gandalf did, driving the staff down with the shout, “You shall not pass!” The church has ever held the bridge against darkness, flame, and heresy, even, or especially, against those who falsely claim to bear the mantle of Christ.

    I know that you’re with me on this, which is why I’m wondering at your dumbfoundedness. To say to someone, “You are not a real Christian,” is not the same as saying, “I am better than you.” You’re right, no faithful Calvinist can ever lord his faith over anyone else. Maybe if the guy you overheard had tweaked his bowtie and sniffed, then there’d be a problem. But as it is, the statement on its own is one that orthodox Christians have always confessed, without arrogance or impudence, in defense of the faith.

    I respond like this because there’s a real aversion afoot to claiming that one has the truth. To say, as Christians must, that we know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is seen in itself to be arrogant. Who are we to claim that we have the truth, and others don’t? But that question has no place in the church. If someone draws the line of orthodoxy narrower than they should, then they ought to be corrected. But they shouldn’t be accused of arrogance or impudence simply for drawing the line.

    Your Brother,

    • Hi Jeremy,

      Let me first say to the readers, please don’t vote down his response. It is not antagonistic, it is much like me in fact. Blunt and honest.

      I wondered if someone would write something like your response. Let me say first that I do draw a very hard line, that can be seen in most of what I write. I would make a terrible Gandalf the Grey, because I see things in black or white – there is very little grey in my my view of scripture.

      I agree with most of what you say but I just don’t follow your argument about the Athanasian creed. Why would you compare the writers of that creed to a guy who says someone is not a real Christian because they go to a different church? There is a big difference between laying down doctrine and putting down people.

      Perhaps I misunderstood you…anyway, that was a difficult post for me to write, because I did not want to say that I approved of heresy. Yet I wanted to make a point that we need to humble ourselves.

      This post is not my being soft with regard to doctrine, or having an aversion to claiming that we have the truth. I did not get into the details of all that I heard him say, or the conversation I had with him afterwards. And since it was a blog post I did not feel the need to clarify my choice of word.

      For you I will clarify 🙂

      The line he drew was essentially a circle around our church and anyone who was not part of it is not a true Christian. It was a very sectarian view of salvation, one that has permeated the CanRC for years, and one that I am fighting against. He kept harping on how pluriformity was from the devil and that in order to be a true Christian you had to believe the three forms of unity and go to a church that had a particular liturgy, and sing particular songs etc. Which of course excludes every church in the middle east, and the world, except those who attend a particular line of the continental Reformed churches.

      When I asked if someone who subscribed to the Westminster standards would be a Christian… He said that true Christians believe the 3 Forms, and that people were trying to water down the gospel by having sister church relations with Presbyterians. When I tried to explain that the people who were dying in Iraq and Syria were refusing to denounce Christ as saviour, he just said that they are just like ISIS. They are zealously mistaken in their beliefs, and that we should not care about things that happen to pagans.

      admit that I broadened the base to include all Calvinists and not just those in our denomination. And you are correct about my choice of word. It is not harsh enough. But what word would be used for, “feeling superior to and having a disdainful hatred for anyone who is not the same as yourself?”


      Now, I do believe that the 3 forms are faithful to the scriptures, and I believe that people should get themselves into faithful churches, but to say that we shouldn’t care about the not real Christians in Iraq is more than just mistaken or incorrect, or arrogant or impudent or haughty…it is sick.

      • Ryan,

        The only information you provided about this man was in the first sentence of your post, which was his claim that the Christians in Iraq and Syria are not real Christians. As I said, that claim on its own is ignorant and mistaken, but not arrogant or impudent. My point with the Athanasian creed was that it closes, in essence, with a statement that some who claim to be Christians are not real Christians. That is, if it is arrogant and impudent to say that some people out there are not real Christians, then the Athanasian creed is arrogant and impudent.

        Again, saying “You are not a real Christian,” is not putting someone down. Arians, Nestorians, Patripassionists, Apollinarians, and a whole heretical hodgepodge claimed to be real Christians, until the ecumenical councils said they weren’t.

        Of course, the fact that this man refuses to care about those suffering at the hands of ISIS is a problem, but you mentioned nothing about that in your post, nor about the in-depth conversations you’ve had with him on a range of issues. This puts the comment in context, but a context that you had not provided to your readers.

        We agree with each other substantially, I think. My point is that you called the “they are not real Christians” claim arrogant and impudent, which on its own it is not.

        Also, your readers may vote me down if they wish. I will still read your blog, and still comment, and leave the gutsy down-thumbers to their own disagreement.

        • I agree with you. Based on the blog post I can not call that phrase, arrogant or impudent. I have to say I that I hate argugreeing with people. Yes I just coined a new term. Argugreeing, the act of trying to save face while arguing with someone you agree with.

  3. God judges the hearts of men. We (men) have to rely on their works and their doctrine to know if we have fellowship. Let’s look at their work, shall we? They are refusing to deny Jesus Christ, and being beheaded for it. That should bridle the tongue of any who claim to be of the Body of Christ. May we all walk humbly in the sight of the Lord. May the Lord grant peace and strength to our brothers and sisters facing persecution, the likes we have never seen here in our land. Amen.

  4. I’m glad we can agree. “Argugreeing” is clunky, but functional, like the second Death Star.

    One other thing. You forget that Gandalf the Grey became Gandalf the White.

    And a final thing. I probably came across as nitpicking here, but I wanted to make sure that you weren’t saying that Christians drawing the line of orthodoxy was arrogant. I didn’t think you were doing that, but I thought it was a big enough deal to press you on.

    Keep arguing for the truth here, whatever the cost!