Escaping the heresy of calvinism
Author’s note: I’ve written several pieces chronicling my journey into the Orthodox Church which I will publishing here over time. It was a very painful journey and difficult to write about. What I will say here is that it began with my former pastor’s teaching of calvinism as the Gospel. If anyone is not familiar with the teachings of john calvin, a quick Google search will give you the very basics. Feel free to message me if you are looking for more in-depth explanations of his theology, and I can link you to some good sources.
The last Protestant church of which I was a member before converting to Orthodoxy was a Reformed Baptist Church. They were crypto-calvinists who did not make it clear to inquirers and newcomers that the pastor and many of the parishioners were 5-point calvinists. If I had known that, I would never have set foot in there again, let alone been baptized there. Having been baptized by a calvinist still makes me feel dirty sometimes, even though I know that in truth the heretical filth was washed away by the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit at my Chrismation in Orthodox Church, Christ’s Bride.
There were many good, God-fearing and Christ-like people in that congregation.
There are many intelligent, loving, devout, and admirable, if misguided, people in calvinist camps. That doesn’t mean that the ideology itself is not a crock of Scripture-mangling, Grace-slandering, God-libeling, elitist, fascistic, manipulative and sadomasochistic gobbledygook and lies. And I say that boldly and unapologetically, regardless of what anyone else believes.
I believe that one would have to be a supremely sick individual to want all of the so-called “Doctrines of Grace” to be true. Who but a demented, selfish, insecure individual that so badly wants to be special and privileged would want God to be a capricious tyrant who dooms the vast majority of humanity to eternal torment, without giving them any chance to escape it? Who wants to believe that God is an irrational monster who holds people accountable for sins He made them commit? You’re telling me you want to believe God is going to confine the vast majority of humanity to hell for not obeying the one supreme commandment — to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, Second Person of the Trinity — because He rendered them incapable of believing? Anyone who wants this to be true should be in a mental institution, not the pulpit.
It’s one thing to believe this ideology of calvinism and to struggle with it, as R.C. Sproul has done quite openly, admitting how hard these things can be to believe. I’m sure he’s not alone in these sentiments, that many other committed calvinists are convinced the doctrines of calvinism are true, but they don’t like these things. Just like I don’t like the exclusivity of the Gospel, and wish that Jesus wasn’t the only saviour, because it means that so many decent people could be left behind. I accept it, but I take no joy in it. I also don’t take any joy in the existence of Hell, although that is something in which I have always believed.
I loved my fellow parishioners deeply, and had no desire to leave the church community, but being asked not to only to believe john calvin’s noxious ravings to be true, but to take joy in such things (because members of the elect should always take joy in doctrinal truths), was more than I could bear.
I tried to see the logic and the truth that I was told lay in the doctrines of calvinism. I turned my brain and my heart inside out and backwards, upside down and right side up. It was an exhausting and deeply painful exercise, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t believe this nonsense. I don’t know what was going through my head during those months when I stayed with the church, knowing they held the monster john calvin and his bullshit in such high regard.
The pastor was not saved in a calvinist church that taught Jesus died for only a few and that the rest of humanity would be held brutally accountable for sins they were made to commit. He was taught the truth of God’s infinite love (something that non-Reformed Protestants understand and often do a good job of sharing), but then he read a Reformation Study Bible, which is annotated by the aforementioned R.C. Sproul, a brilliant writter, and conflicted and yet devoted calvinist. After that Pastor Judas (the name I gave him after he betrayed me so heinously) had swallowed this calvinist tripe whole and allowed his entire view of God to be transformed. I wasn’t so malleable, but I was being made to feel that my inability to accept calvinism as the gospel was indicative of something wrong with me.
I am sure many readers are familiar with the parable that says a good shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep to go after one lost one. I would like to inquire: has anyone ever taken a moment to ask whether that sheep was actually lost? Maybe this sheep was black, and was tired of having toxic chemicals poured over her to try to turn her white. And is it truly wise to keep chasing the sheep when she’s trying to get away? Is prudent to continue chasing after her even when she’s standing at the edge of a cliff, threatening to jump? Would you still call her bluff if God were not standing at the bottom of the cliff to catch her? This sheep wasn’t lost, she was just running towards a light she couldn’t yet see.
But when I finally jumped off that cliff, I jumped with full faith that God would make sure I landed on my feet. I did. Despite all the bruises, cuts, and welts that covered my entire body, some self-inflicted, and some from the shepherd’s spiked staff, I landed on my feet, looked up from the canyon, waved with one finger at the angry, gob-smacked shepherd and walked away. I didn’t know where this canyon would take me, but it was better than being up on the mountain with the shepherd who was poisoning me with 500-year-old spiritual arsenic.
The refreshed feeling of closeness to God after I quit that church was an immeasurable source of comfort in the immediate aftermath of the trauma. I was able to look at the true God and not feel like a criminal for failing to see Him through calvinism’s dark, blood-stained, distorted glasses. I was no longer being forcibly chained to the sadism, bigotry, self-righteousness, pig-headedness, megalomania, and hypocrisy of a 16th century dictator who created a god in his own image. Millions of deceived people around the world still believe that idol is the God of the Bible, behind whose name calvin’s monster still tries to hide.
If, when I first started writing this work, you had told me that within months of my self-imposed exile from Christendom as I knew it I would be strongly considering converting to Orthodoxy, I would have told you to hand over some of whatever it is you were smoking. What once seemed off limits to me suddenly became my best option. Just as a process of elimination had led me down the destructive Protestant road, another would lead me to the True Church.
I knew I needed to find SOMEWHERE in Christendom that had not been poisoned by calvinism. The Holy Scripture tells us that the gates of hell will never prevail against the True Church, something that I have always taken much to heart. I am absolutely convinced that john calvin was sent from hell by the devil to poison the Reformation, something wrought with good intentions, and that poison has spread to most parts of the already-weak Protestant body. The sects that were not yet affected by his garbage had strayed so far from basic Christian tenants that I knew there was no point in looking for a home within them.
Did that mean that the Reformation, the thing that had influenced and defined so much of my life, was not in fact a great returning to God from the clutches of Rome? Did the Reformation only move people further and further from the faith of the Apostles? Was it in fact a plague and not a bountiful harvest? A curse, disguised a gift?
Oh dear Lord in Heaven, do have mercy. I had been wrong all that time.
The realization that I would never find the real Church of Christ within Protestantism hit me like a bolt of lightning, but I quickly got off the ground to continue my search. And for once in my life, I knew where I had to look, and that was to the East.
At first, all I could see were theological stumbling blocks, things that troubled me as a Protestant. Icons? Saints? Confession? Real Presence? Ordained priesthood? Hierarchies? Bishops? Archbishops? Patriarchs? Tradition? Salvation involving more than faith?
Oy vey. I had a lot of reading and prayer ahead of me.