Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Bus Stop Illustration Revisited

(This is a re-publishing of a post made on Incrediblog several months ago...)

A high-profile Southern Baptist preacher recently gave a rant at a high-profile Southern Baptist church, in which he demonstrated (primarily) that he is woefully ignorant of the theology known as Calvinism. That's believing the best about him, too. If it's not woeful ignorance, it is purposeful misrepresentation. As part of his attack on Calvinism, he offered the following illustration, seriously suggesting that this is a fair representation of what Reformed Christians believe:

"A graphic understood by many Baptists regarding predestination is illustrated by this. A mass of people are gathered at a bus stop marked 'Planet Earth.' Along comes the Celestial Bus marked 'Destination Heaven.' It pulls up and stops. The driver, who is God, opens the door, and says, 'All destined for heaven get on board.'

A number do. A missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives start on and God says, 'Step aside. You haven't been chosen to ride this bus.'

A couple of infants start on and God tells them to step aside.

Persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ's name are told to step aside.

As the bus is about to depart and the door is closing God says to those not on board, 'Catch the next bus.'

'No,' they plead, 'here comes the next bus and it is driven by Satan and marked 'Destination Hell.'"

A number of things strike me about this:

1. IF this is a fair representation of Calvinism, then I am not one. Further, none of the Calvinists I have ever read are either. I've never heard a Calvinist preach. I've never met one. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Calvinists do not actually exist at all, if this is how one thinks.

2. This is slander, intentional or not. This preacher has sinned greatly and publically by saying these things about Christian men when they are patently untrue. NO CALVINIST HAS EVER BELIEVED ANYTHING LIKE THIS.

3. The great prevelance in our day of solid Calvinist literature makes this doubly despicable. It's not as if this preacher would have had to travel over land and sea in order to find out what Calvinism actually means. You can even find theological works written by non-Calvinists who have a good grasp of what Calvinism is: he could've accessed those very easily. The fact that he has made a decision not to find out anything truthful about this subject may mean:

a. He thinks he already knows. Which is then delusional, considering his gross ignorance.

b. He thinks it's not important to know. Which is fraudulent, as he is then unconcerned about whether or not he preaches what is true.

4. A couple of the more gross errors that infect his illustration: He has predestination separated from faith in Christ (as with the zealous missionary couple.) Every Calvinist you will ever find has these two things inseparably linked. That is: if you have faith, it's because God has elected you to it. There is no such animal in the Calvinistic world as a person who believes and yet is not chosen for salvation. In fact, God's gracious election is the only well-spring of saving faith. The latter results directly from the former. There is thus no such thing as someone who believes, or wants to, and yet will be damned because of God's choice not to elect them. Belief comes from election, and from nowhere else.

His illustration also trots out the old canard that Calvinism means that babies dying in infancy are damned to hell. On the contrary, many in Calvinism's history have theorized that death in infancy may well be an indication of God's prior election. It's true that there have always been some Calvinists who have held to the damnation of infants, but this has not been the majority position. Certainly, there is nothing at all in the classic TULIP, the five points of Calvinism, that demands the damnation of all infants dying in infancy. This is a well-worn and oft-used emotional appeal that semi-Pelagians have always made in order to muddy the theological waters with heart-felt indignation.

5. In part, it is the status of the preacher in question within the SBC that makes this so distressing. No one is going to take him to task, except for us pesky bloggers. I fear he represents a concerted effort on the part of many denomination leaders to get rid of the SBC's historic theology, even if they have to resort to gross distortions and mischaracterizations and whipped-up emotional rants to make it happen.

They are what C.S. Lewis called "men without chests." They are pastors in skirts. I am convinced that some (not all) are wolves in sheeps' clothing, and most of the rest are merely spiritual geldings, spreading nothing but impotence as they replicate themselves.

1 comment:

Fred said...

"that he is woefully ignorant of the theology known as Calvinism" and now, sadly, everyone who listened to him is as well.