Sunday, December 4, 2011

Breaking Fellowship — A Rant

Once again:
"So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."
2 Tim. 2.22-26, ESV

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Most of the time, I try to keep these articles instructive and/or practical. This time, I am making the article a personal thing because I am hurt and angry. (Plus, some instructive and/or practical bits.) At the risk of sounding pretentiously noble, my "hurt" was not from personal attacks. Rather, I am hurting because of the way Christians act.

A while ago, I wrote that Christians get judgmental and will, in essence, slap down and break fellowship with a believer who is not "spiritual" enough to please them. My suggestion was that we can give instruction to the other believer (Gal. 6.1 NKJV).

There are times, however, when we are to distance ourselves and even break fellowship with some people who call themselves Christians (1 Cor. 5.11, 2 Thes. 3.14). If they repent, they should be restored (2 Cor. 2.6-8 NIV, Gal. 6.1 ESV). There is no need in this article to go into all of the reasons for breaking fellowship or putting someone out of the church.

One of the most frequent problems in the church is strife. (And "infighting", more than discussing areas of disagreement, is one of the reasons I left the faith for several years.) I have had some specific problems with the Calvinist-Arminian strife. Yes, I said strife! I have mentioned how I am bothered by the attitudes of some Calvinists who act like they have the One True Faith. But I have recently encountered some positively vicious attitudes among Arminians. Ironically, some say that they are attracted to the teachings of Jacobus Arminius because they seem kinder or gentler. His "disciples" that I have encountered lately are anything but kind and gentle! The main problems I have seen involve the Arminians’ dislike of the Calvinist position of "election" or "predestination".

Now I have a problem. I can try to give extensive documentation and, I feel, become part of the problem, or I can tell people to take me at my word (or do their own research), taking the risk that I will be called a liar. Fine, call me a liar if you wish. I have to go with Scripture and my conscience.

My recent encounters with Arminians have been quite startling, because they are acting like atheists. That's right, I said it!
  • Mockery, such as this unconscionable poster
  • Straw Man arguments, making caricatures of Calvinism to knock down
  • Selective citing and misquotes
  • Misattribution
  • Guilt by association; Calvin believed and taught thus and so, and he had certain character flaws. I heard a caller to Matt Slick on CARM radio ask him if he believed in something. He said, "No". The caller replied that John Calvin taught that. Matt replied, "Well, Calvin was wrong, then". News flash: Calvinists do not treat the writings of Calvin as if they were Scripture!
  • Hate and rage; "You're right to criticize Calvinism (not its people) — It's sickening!" Tell me, how far is it from "poking at the god of Calvinism" (through mockery and disunderstanding) to mocking and hating other believers in Christ? I feel that soon, this will turn into actual hatred of Calvinists themselves
  • Idolatry; "My God doesn't..." This includes putting preferences, feelings and opinions above the Word of God
  • Excusing and justifying themselves
Let me stop right here and point out that not all of the Arminians approved of the discussion, and there were some other voices of reason to point out the errors of the angry Arminians. I posted a few comments, and posted a link to a pertinent article (which I believe only had two visits, so they were not exactly interested). Also, I have a strong feeling that these Arminians do not trust God!

Not only are these angry Arminians attacking fellow Christians, they are unwilling to listen to others who pointed out flaws in their logic. Just like modern atheists who are only interested in showing off their uninformed opinions rather than actually understanding the concepts involved (Prov. 18.2), they compare notes with other angry people who lack proper understanding. Then, they justify their strident, hateful comments and positions.

It would be nice if more Christians would try to get the attention of these angry mockers and attempt to correct them. Also, all mature Christians can pray for them.

Do you know what this is, really? It is pride! It really looks like they would rather be "right" than to express Christian love. I really cannot get over how their prideful attitudes remind me of so many of the obstreperous atheists that I have encountered!

One of these people on Facebook wants to be an apologist. With his emotional bias and unwillingness to learn about what he is attacking, I think he will end up humiliating himself and the name of Christ.
Infighting among Christians is a source of derision for unbelievers, and a stumbling block for believers. When some professing Christians insist on causing strife, breaking of fellowship may result.
Listen, I am not a Calvinist. Nor am I an Arminian. I have agreements with both camps, and have problems with both camps. But I cannot stand for such contempt for fellow believers. So, instead of continuing to try to point out that these Christians are acting in a most un-Christian manner (and, frankly, making me wonder if they really are Christians in the first place, John 13.35, Luke 6.44), I cannot continue to fellowship with people who promote pride, strife and division in the body of Christ. Not until they repent.

What do you think? Am I right? Am I wrong?

There are things in the Bible that I do not like. For example, I wish that everyone could be saved and go to Heaven. So, I could take me "theology" even further than certain Arminians wish to go and become a Universalist. Also, I do not like the concept that some people are "elected" or "predestined" for salvation. Personally, I do not think this doctrine is correct (stumper: Acts 13.48), but I am open to the possibility that I may be wrong. I am not going to mock other Christians who hold to this view, because their view is based on Scripture, whether I agree with their understanding of Scripture or not.

And there are other things in the Bible that I do not like. Why? Probably because I do not understand them. We, the created beings, cannot fully comprehend the Creator! That there are things in the Bible that we do not like, or do not understand, does not make them untrue. Nor does it give us any right to ridicule those who hold to a position that we disagree with.

In a comments area on a Facebook posting, I asked some of these people if they obtained their information from informed Calvinists, and I named a few examples. I was told, "I've had Calvinists themselves tell me this." So? Does that mean that those people were skilled and informed about the theology that they espouse?

I listened to a series of lectures on Roman Catholicism, and the lecturer said that we were probably better informed about the official teachings of Rome than the overwhelming majority of Catholics. Many times, I have heard Mormon callers to radio shows (or read commenters on articles) dispute what was quoted by the experts because they were uninformed about official Mormon teachings. The same with Mohammedans who say, "The Koran does not say this!" Uh, yes it does, here is the reference. And so on.

So, if you're going to criticize the doctrines, be very certain that you are understanding it correctly! Even with my lack of knowledge of Calvinistic teachings, I still caught the angry Arminians in significant errors.

Please, for the sake of Christ, we need to stop being so outright vicious to each other. Unless were are not truly his followers (John 13.35).