Why do both Calvinists and Provisionists get so frustrated with the inane doctrinal beliefs and the harmful immoral behavior of others? I find myself agreeing with many of my Calvinistic brother’s quotes on social media about the ever-growing ills of our secular society. I share in their frustrations and join with them in their appeals for Christians to stand against the tide of secularism and outright godlessness so often prevalent in our world today.
But, to be honest, I cannot help wonder how my Calvinistic brother’s expressions of frustration toward the state of the world are warranted. Given their belief that “God has sovereignly and unchangeably decreed whatsoever comes to pass for the praise of His own glory,” (WCF III.1) it seems that their expressions of rebuke and dismay are misdirected if they are to remain consistent with their doctrine. Why align the decisive cause of all things to the Self-glorifying decree of God on the one hand while rebuking people for merely doing what God unchangeably decreed them to do on the other?
The world is exactly as God decreed it to be and could not be otherwise, right? Surely, in lamenting the state of the world, the Calvinist is not suggesting God’s eternal decree has been thwarted. It seems to be the consistent Calvinist only has two rational options.
The first option is this: Shouldn’t a consistent Calvinist direct his frustrations toward God rather than the world? According to the claims of Calvin, it is God who determined the bad beliefs and behaviors Calvinists are lamenting. You may want to suggest; “But you haven’t read Romans 9, Leighton! The answer to your question is: Who are you to answer back to God?”
You may be surprised to hear that I have, indeed, read Romans 9. I wrote my doctoral dissertation and a book about it, in fact. The question for Calvinists is, “Have you objectively considered interpretations of Romans 9 other than what the Calvinistic tradition has taught you?” In my experience, few Calvinists are even aware of what scholars on “the other side” say about their favorite proof texts and rarely take the time to objectively consider another perspective. And, do you know what!? That frustrates me because I believe they could do otherwise. I don’t believe God has predestined them to interpret Romans 9 wrongly, so it’s perfectly rational for me to be frustrated with them when they do so.
But, where is the rationale for a Calvinist to express frustration about my beliefs regarding Romans 9? Shouldn’t they express their frustration with the One they claim is calling the shots? And when they do express this frustration, shouldn’t we respond to them by simply quoting Romans 9 out of its context by saying, “Who are you O man to talk back to God?” If God forms Leighton into a Provisionist rather than a Calvinist, who are you to question Him?
Take a Deep Breath and Accept It
The only other rational option is to become at peace with the state of the world. You don’t have to take my word for it, the co-host of the popular Just Thinking Podcast, Darrel B. Harrison puts it this way:
Be at peace with any circumstance and any outcome. So, if you feel angry about the number of aborted babies in America, or feel worried about political climate, or even if your child dies tragically in a car accident…or maybe just some good ‘ol frustration at fellow Christians teaching bad theology…you shouldn’t. You should be at peace with everything.
Of course, there is already a philosophy that expresses his moral imperative. It’s called Stoicism:
Strikingly similar to the ethic described by Mr. Harrison.
What do you think, reader? It seems to me the only grounding for angst regarding the state of the world, and those who teach false doctrine in the Church, is if people could do otherwise.
If people cannot do otherwise, then pour your frustration on to the One who ultimately decided the state of the world or recognize your frustration as inappropriate in light of God’s meticulous Providence and become stoically at peace.