Saturday, April 16, 2016

Do Arminians love Calvinists?

Arminians believe that Jesus loves everybody. Indeed, they think that's why Jesus died for everybody.

What is more, Arminians think Jesus commands Christians to love everybody. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like in that regard. To emulate Jesus. If he loves everyone, then Christians are obligated to love everyone. That's part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. "If you love me, you will keep my commands".

But what does it mean to love everyone? There's a paradoxical sense in which you don't have to love everybody to love everybody. What do I meant by that?

The acid test of loving everyone isn't that you love everyone, but that you love the unlovable. Anyone can love the lovable. You don't need to be commanded to love the lovable, for that's what we naturally do anyway. No one loves the lovable in obedience to a command. 

Rather, loving the unlovable is the tough part. Just as loving the lovable comes naturally, loving the unlovable cuts agains the grain of human nature. Our reflexive inclination is treat people we like better than those we dislike. 

Suppose 99% of humanity was lovable, and 1% was unlovable. In that event, loving 99% of the human race wouldn't come close to loving everyone, because the 99% aren't the crucial test of what it means to love everyone. Rather, the 1% are the proving ground.

If you love the 1%, it goes without saying that you love the other 99%. That's a given. But loving the 99% doesn't incline you to love the remaining 1%. Indeed, the very thing you like about the 99% is what you find so lacking in the 1%.

There's a reason God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It would be so much easier for Abraham to sacrifice one of his servants. 

Do Arminians love Calvinists? Here's a simple test: how do Arminians talk about Calvinists compared to how they talk about Arminians? How do Arminians talk to Calvinists compared to how they talk to Arminians? 

There's usually a difference. A dramatic difference. 

If a neutral party, an outsider, was listening in, he'd exclaim: "Arminians really don't like Calvinists, do they!"

This isn't the occasional lapse. This is standard operating procedure. 

In general, internet Arminians never attempt to obey Christ's command to love everyone. Internet Arminians don't even try to overcome the natural inclination to treat those they dislike worse than those they like. 

And yet Calvinists especially are the very group Arminians should make an extra effort to be kind and gracious to because that's a litmus test of universal love. That's the one group they have a unique aversion to. It's easy to love the lovable. That's effortless. That's not a test of obedience. 

Calvinists represent the antithesis of what Arminians represent. And I don't say that from a Reformed perspective. I say that from an Arminian perspective. Take SEA. It singles out Calvinists and Calvinism. Not atheism. Not Islam. Not Catholicism. 

Suppose God created Calvinists just to give Arminians someone on which to practice universal love. In my experience, internet Arminians almost invariably flunk that test. 

Suppose Calvinists deserve what they get. But universal love is about treating everyone the same way despite what some of them deserve. Better than they deserve.

Many Arminians say the Calvinist God is a moral monster. Worse than Hitler. Worse than Satan. Unworthy of worship.

That doesn't give them much to fall back on come judgment day if it turns out that God is, in fact, a Calvinist. 

But suppose Jesus is an Arminian. In my experience, most internet Arminians should be absolutely terrified at the prospect of meeting Jesus face-to-face when they die. They have as much or more to fear from an Arminian Jesus than a Calvinist Jesus.

Jesus will ask them, "Did you obey my command? Did you love everyone? Did you love the unlovable? Or did you only love your own kind? Did you think my command was optional?" 

They will have on excuse. 

Internet Arminians operate with a mob mentality. Crowds lower inhibitions. People do things in a crowd because they lose their sense of individual accountability. The crowd is anonymous.

When police arrest a dozen gang members, there's lots of bravado so long as they remain together. But the police separate them. Put them in different interrogation rooms. That instantly changes the dynamic. Now they feel exposed. No one has their back. 

Suppose Jesus returned incognito. Suppose the Arminian Jesus came back in the guise of a Calvinist to test whether his Arminian followers love everyone. How would the average Internet Arminian treat Jesus, if they didn't know who he was? If they thought he was just a Calvinist? Imagine the dramatic irony that would generate.

In my experience, most internet Arminians unconsciously think that because they have a theology of universal love, that's a proxy for having to actually love everyone. It's like rich liberals with private jets. They don't have to have a green lifestyle so long as they talk environmentalism and buy carbon offsets. 

Now, I realize most Arminians reading this post will reject it out of hand because it was written by…a Calvinist! If so, that proves my point. How you treat the outsider is an acid test of universal love. 

1 comment: