Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


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How Arminian groupies betray their theology

Tut tut.

To “show how charitable and fair minded” he is, Jerry Walls linked my post critiquing his view of love for readers of his Facebook wall to see.

I’m cool with people promoting my work, but to be honest the responses were disappointing, falling into two general categories:

  1. Condemning my tone—to wit, I am “belligerent”, “obnoxious”, “dogmatic”, “trying to injure Dr Walls with my words” and so on. What’s striking about these responses is how ironic they are, since the commenters are exhibiting the very behavior they decry. The comments about how “off-putting” my dogmatism is were especially strange given that Christianity itself is defined by its dogma. Should I not vigorously defend what I believe the Bible teaches? Odd.
  2. Mocking my repudiation of love being essentially about flourishing—viz, “I shudder to suppose this could be false,” and, “Doh!!! No it’s false we all prefer a Sadistic God.” These comments were notable for (i) assuming that if love is not essentially desiring and promoting true flourishing, then the only alternatives are sadistic or shudder-worthy; and (ii) the fact that commenters seemed to think that hopping onto a high horse was sufficient to eliminate the reasons I gave that love cannot be essentially about flourishing.

This disappointing performance raises a question in my mind…

Why do Walls’ readers act like village atheists?

The general trend of these responses is strikingly similar to what you’ll see in the comboxes of blogs like Debunking Christianity. Is Walls deliberately cultivating this sort of groupie mentality? Mimicking boorish internet atheism? Wouldn’t a Christian philosopher want to discourage crowing and back-slapping in favor of disciplined thinking and deliberation? Indeed, shouldn’t a good Christian philosopher and teacher naturally attract people who appreciate and practice good thinking, rather than herd partisanship? It’s not like Walls has no influence over his own fans.

The fact is, mature Christians don’t act like cheerleaders—and mature Christian teachers don’t want cheerleaders.

Can’t Calvinists get any love?

I raise all these issues because there’s a particular point here which bears thinking about—and that is the Arminian’s putative commitment to universal love. Arminians say we should love everyone. That’s what God does, after all. But when we get practical, it quickly becomes apparent that a notable proportion of them (what I have called the groupies) can’t stand Calvinists. When we get practical, the only people they love seem to be the people they also like. When we get practical, and they actually have to put their theology into practice by modeling an interaction with someone who causes them umbrage…they don’t treat him very well.*

How they respond to posts like mine is an interesting litmus test for how loving they really are.

Now, you might say I’m being unfair. Just because Arminians see God as loving everyone equally doesn’t mean Arminians will be better at doing that than anyone else. But I’m really just holding Arminians to their own standard. For example, take this comment from Walls’ Facebook post:

If you believe a belligerent theology about a belligerent God, what you get is a belligerent blogger.

Arminian groupies draw a correlation between believing in a “belligerent” God (that’s the “God of Calvinism”) and acting belligerently. So, by the same token, shouldn’t believing in an all-loving God make them act all-lovingly?

Something doesn’t add up here.

* Incidentally, I’m using my post as an example, but it is by no means the only one I could offer. I’ve been witness to dozens of Arminian-Calvinist exchanges—enough to know that this groupie mentality is par for the course.

2 comments

  1. bethyada

    Hmmm? I was going to respond to your initial post but wasn’t certain about entering into a debate that would not resolve. I do comment here and elsewhere but one can respond to everything :) xkcd.com/386/

    So briefly, I don’t know how Walls meant the love comment but I would’ve read it as a description of love not a definition. This changes one’s analysis.

    I haven’t thought enough about your second comment but your critique seems reasonable. I suspect Walls may be mistaken. I also think there may be some equivocation on love and distinction needs to be made between feelings of love and action.

    But I would rather comment on the substance of this post if I get time.

  2. bethyada

    So I have had a read of the comments.

    I did think your post read a little harsh. Moreover, probably harsher than the responses though your point of hypocrisy is noted. I think debate on the internet sounds harsher than in person at times as:
    *we lack the clues of tone and body language
    *we tend to write succinctly
    *we engage people we don’t otherwise know; there is little relationship otherwise, that may buffer times when we disagree
    *we don’t notice how harsh we sound as easily as we notice this in others

    And we tend to find those we agree with less harsh and those we disagree with more harsh because we identify with the formers position.

    One tactic is to engage our opponent at the level they engage us. Irenic to irenic, witty to witty, firm to firm, mocking to mocking. This probably fits with the riposte of the ancients, but less with the sensibilities of our modern culture (and least with the popular victim mentality).

    Further, I don’t think people realise how different people are offline. I think I sound nicer online because I have time not to react (ie. reaction is tempered by the time it takes to type, think, consider what I will say). Others defend truth firmly yet are easy going with their friends family.

    It may all depend on your goal. If one is engaging those he disagrees with for the sake of understanding, common agreement, and correction then a gentler approach is beneficial to be heard. If one is defending the flock from wolves then harsh words shaming the evildoer may be in order. And sometimes a mocker can only be mocked so that the audience may be won over as the mocker won’t be.

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…