Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 'Cage Stage' of Maturing in Calvinism

Have you ever heard of "The Cage Stage" of the Calvinist's development?  I hadn't until today. At least not that I can remember.

I was having an online conversation and someone brought it up.  I found it funny, but also a bit disturbing. The fact is the problem is so prevalent in Calvinism that Dr. James R. White had to write a book called Drawn By The Father about it. Here's how he describes the problem.
"I've seen it many times. The Cage Stage. A believer's eyes are opened to the majesty of God as the sovereign King of the universe, and their entire life is turned upside down. And for a while, they have more zeal than they have knowledge. We call it the "cage stage." That period in the experience of the new Calvinist where they would be better off kept in a cage until they can gain enough maturity to handle these vitally important topics aright. That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! You know, when they are all running around smacking someone upside the head with Pink's The Sovereignty of God? Yeah."
That time when they are more likely to hurt themselves, and others! Really? That period when they would be better off kept in a cage?

Phil Johnson (John MacArthur's former 2nd in command) had this to say about the subject in a sermon titled "Marching Orders for a Backslidden Church":
The goal of our study should not be the constant shifting of our beliefs, but Christ like steadfastness, solid, settled, mature convictions.

And let me add this. If you do abandon Arminianism and become a Calvinist, if you leave one eschatological position and take up another one, if you under go any kind of major doctrinal shift, don’t suddenly act like that point of doctrine is more important than all the others. Don’t start preaching on it constantly to the exclusion of everything else. But spend some time settling into your new convictions before you pretend to have expertise you frankly haven’t had time to develop.

I think that is the tendency of fresh Calvinists to become cocky and obsessive about the fine points of predestination and that is one of the things that makes Calvinism so odious to most non Calvinists.

But don’t do that. If you shift your opinion, learn what you believe before you begin to make it a hobby horse. That is not a sign of maturity and you are not truly steadfast in the faith until you are truly mature. In fact, let’s be clear about that. What Paul wants to see here is not the ability to argue with zeal and vigor in point of a favorite point of view. Immature college kids can do that better than anybody else.
Let me try to get this straight.

In The Potter's Freedom Dr. White defines the sovereignty of God like this:
"The conjunction of God's absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God's Decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe."  
"This extends not only to inanimate objects... but to every aspect of human history, personal relationships, and most importantly, to the life of every man, woman and child." 
So God makes everything, EVERYthing, happen. Every decision you make, you don't - God does, or to be consistent with White's theology, God did in Eternity Past; you or anyone, everyone really.

With these things in mind, please someone explain this to me: When God supposedly opens the eyes of a Believer to see White's view of the Sovereignty of God why would God manifest what should be a wondrous event by making the person act like an insufferable jerk so that it would be better for them to be kept in a cage so they couldn't hurt their self or anyone else?

In the conversation I was having with several people I asked this question very similarly.  A Calvinist responded "No wonder Calvinists are rude to you."

I'm the middle of a huge series of long articles about James White's book "The Potter's Freedom" and I'm a bit sick of how Calvinists, both young and mature, act. I'm tired of the air of superiority, the constant cry of "misrepresentation" without demonstration of any, and the clever, convenient manipulation of the Scriptures mixed with "just so" doctrines that are determined by their theology not by the Scriptures. So, I would understand readers thinking I'm just out to get James White. I'm not... I'm not offended by the freedom of God either.

I constrain my theology to that which I read in the Scriptures. I can think of only one thing I think must be true, but which is not directly revealed or required by the Scriptures. I would never teach that this is true. I would surely not build a system of theology around it. What is it? It's that if a person doesn't know that they are eternally secure in Christ that they haven't actually been assured, they don't actually have saving faith. This is something I THINK is true, but it is neither directly revealed nor directly required in the Scriptures - so it doesn't matter what I think, I must constrain my thinking to the Scriptures.

I'm sick of a system that is based on such convictions. The Eternal Decrees of God, Regeneration prior to Faith, Determinism... Non-Calvinists, aren't you tired of reading John 6 with Calvinism's baggage? Doesn't it weigh down the reading of that chapter? In my next article in The Debater's Potter I'm going to offer a verse by verse exegetical explanation of John 6:25-71. I hope this will help lift that weight for some.

So with that in mind, I hope you will realize that I'm not out to get James White. I just want to know how this Cage Stage makes sense? How do they justify it? James White also teaches Lordship Salvation, so how is very un-Christ-like behaviour the manifestation of God's working in a Believer to open his eyes?

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