Monday, December 5, 2011
Career Calvinist (n): An individual who affirms the five points of Calvinism who also rely on other Christians for their financial and social well being.
That's the definition of what I'm calling a "Career Calvinist." The point of this post, though, might not be what you're expecting. I'm not going to bash people who fit in the definition above because, frankly, some of my good friends fit into this category, and there is nothing inherently wrong with this. The problem doesn't arise when Calvinists rely on other Christians for their financial and social well being. It arises when a Calvinist's financial and social well being outweighs their devotion to the doctrines of grace and ultimately Christ. The point of this post, then, is to weigh the pros and cons of being a Career Calvinist and give warning signs we can all seek to avoid when falling into the trap of loving what Francis Schaeffer called "The Idol of Personal Peace and Affluence" instead of Christ Himself.
First the pros:
- Being a Career Calvinist certainly has its advantages. Your constituency is usually like minded believers who affirm all the points. As a result, there is less conflict when discussing certain things that are critical to the Body's edification. This, in turn, helps ideas and doctrine flourish where it would not flourish otherwise.
- I can't say this for all Christians, but, from my experience, Calvinists are usually the most honest and dependable people I know. For example, I have a brother who I've never actually met in person, but I've known him for several years. I can speak with him about pretty much anything because I know that his convictions and devotion to Christ runs deep. This same quality is true for many of my brothers and sisters, although I only have a few that I confide in to that extent. The reason this is a perk for the Career Calvinist is because when problems arise, you don't generally have to worry about your friends leaving your side even if you're involved in some terrible sin. They will pray for you, keep you honest, and possibly even help you financially should the desire exist.
There are other pros, but these are the two main ones that come to mind.
Now the cons:
- If we're honest with ourselves, we usually seek to please the boss above all others because, ultimately, the boss has a lot of determination on whether our financial needs are met. This, in turn, causes us to put up with things that we normally would not in other situations because 1) the happiness of the boss and 2) seeking to avoid confrontation whenever possible are what keeps us in this situation of personal peace and affluence. My argument is that, instead of the majority of us, the Career Calvinist's boss is the general public. It's you and me. We're the ones who pay their bills. If it wasn't for book sales, DVD sales, and conference ticket sales, they'd have a boss much more like the ones the rest of us have. Because of this, discernment can be frowned upon, if the boss would frown upon it as well. Here's an example: A popular evangelical leader with heretical doctrine also has the praise and support of millions of evangelicals worldwide. Because of this, the public supports his ministry financially which allows for a wider range of influence from this individual. Let's say you're John Doevin. You have a book that you really want people to read because you want it to sell well and not do the alternative like work a 9 to 5. If your desire to stay "on the job" outweighs your desire to "beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15), you're going to seek to appease your boss by either staying in the financial and social state you're in or entering into it. Who is your boss in this situation? It's the general public who can possibly provide your income. The problems with this get even deeper, but you have the general gist.
- The Career Calvinist will always be forced to eventually keep up with the latest trends, but it may not be in the same sense you are thinking of. We are all familiar with our seeker-sensitive friends doing things like playing Hell's Bells for Easter or giving away XBox's because they know what they provide by way of substance won't draw anyone, but we seldom think of this aspect: The latest trends I'm speaking of have to do with popularity. If X speaker/author is getting popular with certain people, the Career Calvinist will certainly take note as this will affect his well being both financially and socially. In short, this still makes the Career Calvinist one of relevance, but it's not the same type of relevance the seeker-crowd concerns itself with. The problem with this is evident: Keeping up with trends and allowing them to dictate who or what you speak about or against is allowing for the "lord of relevance" to dictate the Christian life instead of Christ and the Scriptures. The Career Calvinist knows that it's wrong to ask someone to try Jesus for 30 days or your money back? Well, he first has to check the general public consensus to see if he can speak out about it. He'll get back to you in a bit.
- There are many more issues that could be evoked from this issue, but the last is one that has already been alluded to but must be expressly stated: Career Calvinism becomes nothing more than politics at some point. When the general public is your boss, your goal is going to be keeping your name high in the public polls. If a popular leader endorses a corrupt leader, no problem! The general public holds the endorser in high esteem, therefore, the corrupt leader can be brought into the fold (and you into both of their billfolds). I personally enjoy American Politics, but politics in general have no place in the church. If sinner's salvation and believer's edification are your main concerns, your socio-economic status won't be. Your decisions then won't be affected by "double minded men who are tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine." It will be affected by the true meat of God's Word.
As I finish, let me stress again that I don't think being a Career Calvinist is wrong in and of itself. In fact, I know some Career Calvinists who are able to do this quite well. They are unashamed to talk about almost anything when it comes to protecting the sound doctrine that our Lord gave His life for. They also don't have another means of income other than what they make from book sales, DVD sales, etc. These, however, in my limited experience, are few and far between. Instead, I see a disturbing general trend where politics determine what is considered worth defending, where people are much more satisfied with their personal peace and affluence than they are with supporting the Christ in whose name they have these things, and where people who do speak up against the errors they see are called "Angry Calvinists" and other pejorative (and sometimes ad hominem) terms. We should strive not to let our personal peace and affluence affect our devotion to Christ. If we do, we are no different than the world many of us Calvinists make it our duty to preach against.
These are just some things to think about if you are thinking of becoming a Career Calvinist, already are one, and/or are trying to determine just where your loyalties lie when it's all said and done.