A Few Things I Don’t Get About Calvinists

Be forewarned, the following post contains broad generalizations based on what could be an unrepresentative sampling of Calvinist authors.

I have been reading from various Calvinist authors recently and one of the things I have noticed time and time again is that they don’t talk about “Christianity.” They talk about “Calvinism”. Where most of us would talk about what Christianity means or what salvation means in Christianity, they talk about solely in terms of Calvinism. What is more, and I know this is not true of all Calvinists, when they talk about Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper, Shedd, and others it is like they are talking about the apostles and when they talk about the written works of those men it is like they are talking about scripture. Another thing I have noticed is, in addition to the writings of those men, they tend to talk about the creeds and confessions on the same level of scripture (Westminster Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, etc). I don’t know if this is true across the board but it is what I have been noticing lately. This happens to such a degree that if you flip through these books you see more references to Calvinist writers and thinkers and the confessions, creeds and catechisms than scripture. Is it just me? Is it just the guys I have been reading…or have any of you found this to be generally true as well?

Last, I don’t get why John Calvin’s hat didn’t get passed along quite as well as his theology. To be fair, there are things I don’t get about Arminianists as well!


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

15 Responses to A Few Things I Don’t Get About Calvinists

  1. I’d be curious of your opinion of James K. A. Smith. We’ve read Desiring the Kingdom and The Devil Wears Derrida, and while I might not agree with every single thing he writes, Alan and I both really enjoyed both works and found far more that we agreed with than we didn’t. In my opinion, while he occasionally mentioned his Reformed heritage, his subject matter was not centered on that (to be truthful I probably wouldn’t have been reading his works if that had been his main subject matter). Sooo, I guess I’m saying I think (at least in the two works I’ve read) that JKAS might be an exception to the trend you’re discussing in your post, though I can’t answer for his other works that I haven’t read.

    Desiring the Kingdom was a little repetitive and academic-y, but I don’t hesitate to highly, highly recommend it to anyone trying to work out discipleship in a community. His main premise is that most of the church is missing the target with discipleship by aiming at the head with information instead of at the heart/gut with transformed desires…

  2. *Correction* The title of his other book we read was The Devil READS Derrida. (ha ha, feeling a bit sheepish).

    I have heard of his title Letters… but have not read it. What did you think?

    • mattdabbs says:

      It is a quick read. He unpacks some things about Calvinism that are helpful. I am sure some really hard line Calvinists would actually disagree with some of his points.

  3. I’ve noticed all of that also…

  4. Jonas Sonnelius says:

    Perhaps because when you scratch below the surface of the reformers’ quotes (and creeds & confessions) it might actually be drawn from scripture…I don’t know, have YOU actually read Calvin’s “Institutes”? Maybe if you weren’t so hung up on the label “Calvinist” you might actually be able to connect the dots back to the Bible and the sovereignty of God. Although, that might not be completely fair to you. But hey, you aren’t St.Augustine, so it really doesn’t matter anyway 😉

    I get your point, though, we should point always to Christ as our final authority…but as I said earlier, most of what I have read or seen referenced in “Calvinist” authors’ writings is directly drawn from scripture, or analysis after careful exegesis…as opposed to much of the fluff we read from modern mainline evangellyfishes, which (when they use scripture references) rips scripture completely out of biblical context.

    While you mean well (I think), your post is almost completely based on prejudiced conjecture, and while it is completely within your rights to speak such things on your own blog…It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that posts like this hurt, more than help, the body of Christ.

    I love Christ, and the writings of Paul…so did Augustine, then Luther, followed by Calvin, and so on and so forth…we are Christians, parts of one body (like you and I).

    Blessings to you…may your ministry be used to bring increase to the Kingdom.

    • mattdabbs says:

      Did you read my disclaimer? 😉

      No matter what our views are, we believe it all goes back to scripture. For one, I don’t find Arminians doing the same thing. Second, if you are talking Gospel, go ahead and refer to the Gospel because that is what it would seem they are talking about…they just cannot seem to talk about it without referring to Calvinism instead (again, broad generalizations here). Again, it is amazing how many of these authors will refer to Calvin more than Paul. Last, your comment makes broad assumptions and generalizations about me. This post isn’t based on prejudiced conjecture but on actual reading of actual (self-proclaimed) Calvinist/Reformed authors. This isn’t guesswork here.

    • mattdabbs says:

      And I should add…thank you for your comment. I was hoping more people who share the Calvinist interpretations would provide some insight into why they do that.

  5. Charles says:

    “Where most of us would talk about what Christianity means or what salvation means in Christianity, they talk about solely in terms of Calvinism.”

    Depends on whether they are speaking to a general audience or a primarily Christian audience IMO. When Calvinists like the pyromaniacs talk about what Christianity means in general – apart from Calvinist distinctives related to the mechanics of salvation – they don’t seem to “sound” particularly “Calvinist” (see the linked racism post for one example):


    When they are discussing general themes with a general audience, I haven’t noticed most Calvinists making appeals to Calvin or Kuyper or any of the old, dead dudes…can you suggest specific links or books as examples of what you mean?

    When Calvinists are speaking to other Christians, I do think we make more of an effort to clarify the distinctives and are more apt to speak as “Calvinists” rather than “Christians” (which tends to make other Christians wonder if Calvinists believe that they are the only real “Christians”). I can see using some quotes from writers that one has found beneficial, but I agree that we should always be clear that scripture is the only authority…(even if Calvin or Augustine had a clear way of explaining a particular scripture).

  6. BCS says:

    Have you read any Michael Horton? I’d suggest “The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples”. Great book.


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