Prologue (Part I)
I know the feeling.
Like you, I get a sense that it is everywhere. That the shadow is spreading like the cloud over Mordor. Someone call Frodo! Call Gandalf! Have them go for you to the next Neo-Cal Sunday Morning Pep Rally of False Humility and Moral Relativism. I submit that having a fictional character journey off to the sharp-toothed hordes, rolling in the seas of metaphysical profanity, is better than subjecting yourself to them…subjecting yourself willfully and voluntarily (for now) to the abuse. But putting a make-believe proxy’s fate, instead of your own …instead of your own spiritual health, faith, and sanity on the edge of Mount Doom is the better option. Let them do it. After all, they are used to casting armies who terrorize and eat men’s souls into heaving pits of lava. You and me are not. We need to stay away.
Unfortunately, like I said, it’s getting harder and harder to do that. For even in the so-called “non-Calvinist” churches– who’ve split from the…er, doctrinally consistent Fraternities of Bald-Headed Despots—we hear the rumblings, if not outright declarations of doctrinal madness these days. Insatiable. Inexorable. Relentless with its soothing words, its gentle coddling tones–“It is your desssstiny.” “Together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” “All this can be yours if you fall down and worship me.”–and its seductive false-promises. Be in the club, they say. Don’t be like them, out there, where God doesn’t care. Where the damned prove themselves rejected every time they smile like the cognitively handicapped and find something in the mirror to be proud of. No. They are the lost. Pity them in their libertarian and enlightenment lives. Their equality of thinking. Their hope in the good of man. Their belief that they can understand what words mean. The idea that they can apprehend the truths of cause and effect. Their lack of chains.
But we, the hordes say…we are elect; are the ones with TRUTH, and with truth, as always, comes a lot of perks if you play your cards right. If a college drop-out and ex-drug addict can live in a house like THAT, well…shoot, it certainly pays to submit yourself the “local church”. Who says you can’t get rich being some bald guy’s slave?
So…yeah, too bad. It is everywhere. It’s even in my church. Not as much. Not as ostentatious. Not as obvious, pervasive, in-your-face…perhaps it is purely subconscious at this point. But its there, and in this post I will prove it. There is a particular sermon I have in mind…he was a guest speaker. But it’s not just that speaker. The leaven of Calvinism and neo-Reformed Gnosticism makes moldy the parts of so many sermons…not only this one. This one it was just more obvious. It was purely a matter of natural selection. This sermon stood out as the strongest example.
They aren’t bad people, but…alas, they never are, are they? Of course, there are many who have no problem joining for dinner those who burn books.
No, we aren’t bad people. And that’s the thing. We don’t have to be. We just have to submit. And people who submit aren’t bad. People who nod approval; keep the log out of their own eye; don’t ask questions; don’t rock the boat; don’t question the inconsistent premises or the inevitable human collateral damage really aren’t bad. They are useful, but not bad. And anyway, by the doctrine, “bad” ceases to have any relevant meaning. Bad is merely existing. And they know that since they are elect, they can never be faulted for standing on the sidelines and nodding, regardless of whether it is bad or good. Bad or good mean nothing, by definition. If they did, they understand that they could never have been elect.
But who can blame people for finding the philosophy so sweet, even in our own “non-Calvinist” churches? I mean, it sounds so good. Soooo good that even the best of us can’t resist. Their Calvinist tongues are so slippery and alluring you’d wonder if Jesus Christ, Himself might start to question His own worth. At the very least, He might concede that He only does good because He is God and cannot help it. That’s a metaphysical win for the Calvinists, and really, it’s pretty tough to argue. I could see Jesus saying, “Yeah…you’re probably right about that, Mr. Piper”. Except that its patently false, and can easily be disproved if you shine the light in the right place. Yes it is true that He cannot help but do good, but then again, He can do anything He wants. When He does good in the sense that it is compared to evil (according to the moral law), He does it because He wants to and He chooses to. In short, the same way we want to and choose to.
So…okay, we want to try, but how do we compete with this “God is Good, man is Not” premise that seems so convincing ? “Even man’s good is depravity and sin compared to God’s good” (never mind that, morally speaking, when it comes to “doing things” there is absolutely no difference, but…hey, consistency is for the un-elect). And their philosophy, for being so comprehensive, and so loquaciously defended is also so simple, isn’t it? It’s so plain and obvious. You don’t even think to try to get at the heart of the doctrine because it is so apparent that the heart is on its sleeve. Only a fool wouldn’t accept such simple truths. Four hundred years of the smartest white men in beards and robes, with bad teeth and bathing once a month and dreaming their geocentric dreams can’t be wrong.
Calvinism is seductive. It is alluring. Of coooourse…it’s ALLLLL God. Who are we? All we do is siiiiiiinnnnnnnn…arrrrg…I hate ME! And the more we realize how awful we are, the more God will bless us, though we won’t deserve it, and will be too depraved to do any good with it, and won’t recognize the blessing anyway, because real blessings are horrible, horrible trials and tragedies …and the blessings if they are pleasant, will just make us prideful (unless you are a pastor…then you are specially given to handle the fun blessings, which is why so many have no problem making such a large salary). And so we’ll hate them and reject them, thus whether he blesses us or curses us, we grovel in our misery and self-loathing all the more, feeling good about our humility, because in reality the blessings and curses are exactly the same thing, as we shall see in the upcoming post.
You see, according to the Calvinists, until we realize that feeling good is “pride”, we cannot really grow spiritually. Pain is the plumb line for truth; this is the basic ontological truth of the neo-Reformed. The more we realize we aren’t relevant, and that our sin is our very existence, the closer to God’s “love” we are. And the closer we get to God, the less we are supposed to really feel. And so, though pain is the plumb line for truth, feeling nothing is the gnosis. It is the enlightenment. The proof that you have arrived at the zenith of spiritual enlightenment–that you are ready to “stand in the stead” –is that you lack any human feeling at all. Dying to yourself means ALL of yourself, and that includes your ability to empathize. You kill your love so that God’s love can replace it. You grow cold and stoic and hard and you ignore suffering and pain because it does not exist to you any longer. You are not you. You are not human, and neither is anyone else. The only difference is that they don’t yet know it and you do.
Reach this level of the metaphysical caste system, and you are ready to stand behind the podium of your local neo-Reformed church and become a Good Shepherd. You are finally God, and your inability to love proves it. You nod in approval as the bruising mounts and the sheep bow and cringe under the anvils of your gaze and the tormented crying intensifies to a holy din around you and the world condemns you in your sociopathy, and you raise your hands to the heavens–oh Calvinist pastor in-the-Stead!–and then you know that you are blissfully being persecuted for your righteousness!
And then you quickly ask forgiveness for being happy about your power.
And then you hear God say, “That’s okay. For in you, I am well pleased.”