Okay, what gives? I have published before that I am a Calvinist. But I recant all that today. Here is why.
Have you ever been pigeonholed? When I was a kid, I made the mistake of saying my favorite color was green. So did my wife. We each grew up being handed green lollipops -- yuk! Strawberry, cherry, or grape tasted so much better than the nasty green flavor. We were given green things, such as green clothes, green paintings, etc. Admittedly, we brought some of this on ourselves for vocally identifying a color as a favorite (which is such an in color these days). This kind of pigeonholing was very minor compared to what others have endured. I think of the terrible racial and ethnic pigeonholing that so many people have suffered through.
When I first stumbled into Calvinism 16 years ago, I was taken aback by some of the doctrine. But, as I interacted with various Presbyterians, I discovered that Calvinism presented a view of God's glory, power, majesty and overwhelming grace that I had never seen before or anywhere else since. But a lot of people, a lot of Christians have a dislike for Calvinism. The dislike varies from the normal "I don't think it makes sense" (which is normal) to an intense hatred. Often those who oppose Calvinism tell me what Calvinists believe, and that's where things get a little interesting. The beliefs are often things I don't recognize. Here are a few:
1. Calvin taught that God favors rich people because God predestined them to have riches.
2. Calvin taught people are saved by works.
3. Calvinists believe that infant baptism saves you.
4. Calvin taught that God hates everyone except a very few elect people.
5. Calvinists believe that you cannot have an assurance that you are saved because you must work to stay in the faith until the end, or else you are lost.
6. Calvinists believe that John 3:16 really says, "For God so loved the elect that he have his only Begotten Son..."
7. Calvinists don't believe in sharing their faith with others because it is up to God to save people.
...the list goes on and on.
Often, these statements are made with supporting quotes from Calvin's Institutes. One time I responded to one set of quotes claiming that Calvin did not believe in assurance. After showing my point, the person did not even acknowledge he had misquoted Calvin. That is somewhat typical of those who quote Calvin's Institutes. I have never come across someone quoting Calvin against Calvinism who has completely read the Institutes. There are plenty of websites and books which takes snippets used by the detractors.
Calvinism, as defined by these other people does not resemble the Calvinism I know. But often they refuse to believe me, a practitioner of over 14 years. What do I know -- the other websites are the true authorities on the topic. So, if Calvinism is defined in those ways, then I am certainly not a Calvinist. I stand in good company. The late John Gerstner, a theology professor and mentor of R.C. Sproul, was often asked in his classes if he was a Calvinist. Dr. Gerstner would ask, what do you mean by Calvinist? The student would respond with some of the usual misunderstandings, and Gerstner would reply, no, I'm not a Calvinist.
To be fair -- this does not happen just to Calvinism. Any position that is well defined and articulated in one of the Christian traditions, particularly those that run against the grain of default views of culture, face similar biases.
So, what theological position do I take? Often, when presented a distorted Calvinist picture, I'll reply that I am Reformed, as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
So, if you have an issue with Calvinism, don't take it up with me. I'm not a Calvinist -- at least not the sort you're probably thinking of. If you have an issues with Reformed Theology, then take a look at the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. See what they say. If you don't like it, then I'd be happy to discuss it with you.