One of the most prevalent complaints that Christians have toward Calvinists is arrogance. In fact, before I embraced reformed theology I can attest that I thought most of my Calvinist friends were overtly arrogant. Now, as a Calvinist I can absolutely see why and have to crucify that arrogance to the cross of Christ almost daily.
A lot of the arrogance comes from the understanding of God’s sovereignty. If God is in total and complete control, if I can do nothing of my own volition, wouldn’t it make sense that I can lean more on the Lord than be compassionate? At the very least we understand that our lack of compassion cannot do anything to stunt the movement of the Holy Spirit as we believe God saves whom He saves.
As an Arminian there was always a lingering fear or concern that my action could do damage to my “witness” to a non-believer. That I somehow had the ability to stifle them coming to know Christ because in essence I could turn them off to God. This concern led to a sense of accountability at least in my compassion and grace toward non-believers. Though I also had to deal with my lack of ability or knowledge being a reason that I couldn’t break through to convince someone of Christ’s saving power.
As a Calvinist I don’t deal with any guilt that I was not convincing enough when I shared the Gospel with someone. The Gospel is plain and simple and it’s incumbent upon the prompting of the Holy Spirit to convict and draw the person to God. In fact it’s the Holy Spirit’s mission to convict of sin and regenerate the heart of the non-believer. My pastor likes to say “work like an Arminian and sleep like a Calvinist”. I think we can learn a lot by embracing this saying.
What I think we do forget when we share scripture and theology is God is not just sovereign. He is the embodiment of love, justice, mercy and grace. He calls us to be Christ like (1 Pet 1:16). We are called to workout our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil 2:12) When we have a high view of scripture and are dedicated to the pursuit of theology, it can be frustrating when you come across weaker brothers and sisters who may not have the same views. We tend to eat our own. We have such a high expectation of what a Christian should know, we forget that we were once in their shoes.
Even Paul knew this. His letters were wrought with love and a desire to spend time with his church families across the globe. He pined over them with a passion. Not solely with rebuke and correction, though he did that also, but with loving explanation he toiled with them in reason and patience.
Now this isn’t just a blast against Calvinists as we all know it’s not realistic to think that only Calvinists suffer from arrogance. Arminians on the whole don’t even know they are Arminian. So, when confronted with a theology that differs from theirs it’s an immediate lapse of common sense and a showing of ignorance. Arrogance still lies within their theology too. Their misunderstanding of Calvinism and a demonizing of a sovereign God is dangerous.
You cannot live in ignorance of the scriptures and you cannot treat others badly. Neither of these actions do any good for the unity of the body of Christ. Not that it creates a “bad” witness but that it doesn’t promote the growth and maturity necessary to live in unity as the body of Christ.