Calvinism is evil.
It is of course possible to be a Calvinist and a Christian, because it’s always possible to be a Christian who’s wrong, but it’s impossible to embrace Calvinism without abandoning Christ. If you consistently and deliberately choose to believe what Calvinism teaches, you will leave Christ behind in favor of the darker, smaller, weaker, pettier God that Calvin helped invent. Perhaps you will even think this is a good thing. After all, if you blaspheme Christ enough, you probably stop wanting him around.
For a while I worked in a Calvinist school. There were any number of problems with the arrangement–my own complete lack of teaching experience being among them–but it was also the scene of one of my worst moral failures. There was a moment that required courage, but I didn’t seize it. I didn’t want to lose my job. In that moment I participated in a culture of sin and lies. I let someone suffer with a twisted and empty hope. I didn’t talk about a better, a truer hope. Because I didn’t want to lose my job. (Hopefully that makes me sounds as pathetic and selfish as I was. If not, it’s safe to assume that I was more pathetic and selfish than I sound.)
I can’t provide much in the way of backstory, because the story isn’t mine to tell, but let this suffice. There was a charming and intelligent student. Something terrible happened to him and his family. It was the sort of sickening nightmare that’s far too common in the world, but also easy to ignore unless it happens where we have to see it. Then the school united around that family to praise God for causing that nightmare, to thank God for the suffering he had deliberately inflicted, and to glorifying God for doing evil, which supposedly revealed his goodness.
Just to be clear, if you think God causes evil, you’re wrong. (That would be like saying, “The heat made them cold.”) If you want to follow a God who causes evil, you must abandon Christ, for in Christ there is no darkness.
And just to be clear, if you think certain obvious evils are not actually evil, you’re wrong. (Which might be like saying, “I know you think this is cold, but actually you can’t possibly tell hot from cold at all.”) If you want to follow a God who defines goodness and evil in some inscrutable way that we can’t be trusted to understand, you must abandon Christ, because he reminds us that we’ve always known good and evil, but we deliberately choose evil, whereas he shows us the good we were made for.
I’m highly dissatisfied with that last paragraph. And also out of time.
Here is a critical bit. It’s easy to wonder why, if God is good in a way we understand, he doesn’t prevent evils. That is to say, even if he doesn’t cause them, he certainly seems to allow them. (Here we are discounting entirely the argument that he is impotent against them.) Calvinists will argue that it’s better to believe in a God who is Sovereign in causing evil than a God who allows evil for some reason. But the Christian God anyway has something better than prevention in mind: redemption. Even horrible evils in the world will be redeemed–baptized in the blood of Christ’s sacrifice and transformed.
This is the better sort of praise. Christians don’t praise God for causing evil, we praise God because evil doesn’t get the last word. We praise him because in his hands, even evil can be transformed. The devil strives, and often we strive with him, to hurt and destroy, to desecrate and tear asunder, to ruin and make worthless. The devil, and we with him, even killed the Eternal Son. We murdered the man who was the son of God. It was the worst thing we could do, the most heinous thing we could do.
But in God’s hands…. Redemption. Resurrection. Hope. Life. Love.
That’s what Christian’s believe. That’s the Christ we serve. Not some monster who destroys us then orders us to thank him for the privilege. We serve a God who pities us when we destroy ourselves, and who says to us in the sufferings we cause and warrant: “Behold, I do a new thing.” And in the light of his blessed morning our sufferings are redeemed into joy and glory, just as his own beloved Son’s were to make it possible.