Sometimes I wonder what motivates people to believe certain things. I think if we are honest with ourselves we all must admit that we tend to accept or reject certain things based on other factors besides the weight of the evidence alone. And often when examining evidence that seems could go one way or another, it is logical to assume that other factors must be involved in the tipping of the scales.
There is a particular guy I used to be connected to on facebook. He is a Calvinist, but not just any Calvinist. He is a particular brand of Calvinist of an exceptionally calloused caliber. He is mean in a way that makes other mean Calvinists (and mean Arminians) seem like lovable Mother Theresa’s. He justifies his mean-spiritedness by saying that he is zealous for the truth and in defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But for him, that means Calvinism.
He more or less called me the spawn of Satan because I reject the distinctive of his particular understanding of theology. And he is convinced that if you are not a Calvinist, you are not a Christian at all.
Needless to say, there was no value in keeping someone like on my facebook account.
My friend, however, did stay connected to him and they got into another debate. I watched from the sidelines as they went back and forth, and something “Curious” – I’m going to refer to this particular Calvinist by the pseudonym of “Curious” – something Curious said caught my attention.
“My dad is not a Christian! So are you smarter than he is?”
My friend believes that salvation is the free offer of God’s amazing grace to whomever will receive it by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). This same terminology is used by Calvinists too, but to mean something different: faith itself is a functional gift given to those who are already saved.
While we cannot judge the motives of why someone so strenuously holds to a particular belief system, sometimes if you listen closely enough they will give you a clue that they themselves may not be aware of. Whether Curious has reflected on this or not, it seems that is exactly what he has done here, given us a window to peek into his motives.
His father is not a Christian.
For someone who passionately believes in Hell as a place of eternal torment and separation from God, and who believes that God is sovereign in a particular sort of way, how is he to understand that his father is on his way to eternal torment? How does he justify that in light of his understanding of God?
What’s really sad is that in understanding the nature of God the way he does, he has absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the Arminian doctrine of salvation that he so vehemently rejects. He has so convinced himself that Arminianism is Pelagianism and he believes that salvation according to an Arminian understanding is a matter of being “smart enough”.
So then, rather than accept the Arminian testimony that salvation is God’s free gift offered to all, yet must be received by faith, he would prefer to consign his dad to eternal torment based on God’s arbitrary selection. This, evidently, gives him a sense of satisfaction to know that at least his dad is just not that dumb.
But I would posit that his dad is not stupid at all. I don’t know him, but I would go so far to say that his dad is probably quite smart. But since salvation is not based on how smart a person is, I can’t help but feel an immense amount of pity for how Curious views this whole issue of his dad’s salvation.