Ok I spent about on hour on the phone with everyone’s favorite anti-Mormon, Aaron S, today. It was a follow up to my last post about his motivations for being such a zealous anti-Mormon (aka, card carrying member of the Fluffy Bunny Nice Nice Club) which have long baffled me. My goal was to try to figure out how he reconciled his anti-Mormon zeal with his Calvinism. (If you are in the mood to be bored for an hour you can listen to the discussion here.)
The obvious disconnect between Calvinism and missionary work of any kind is this: Calvinists teach that God predestines all souls to heaven or hell before He even creates them. Therefore the story of our souls is over before it starts. Therefore missionary work won’t save anyone since the outcome is determined regardless of the hard work of anyone. Therefore, why bother?
My paraphrase of the answer from Aaron: God made me do it.
Interestingly, in a Calvinist universe this is the same answer that Judas Iscariot can give as his reason for betraying Jesus.
Of course the regular compatibilist qualifiers came out on how people do what they want, but admittedly God creates them (or causes them) to want whatever it is they want. But the net effect is the same.
The weird thing is that most evangelical missionaries are Calvinists according to Aaron. I guess the Calvinists are the most conservative and hardcore of that crowd in general. Still it seems counter-intuitive to me. Again, I suspect that on the ground level most professed Calvinists probably ignore their own theology or at least behave like “cafeteria Calvinists” like Todd Wood has admitted to in the past.
Frankly, it seems to me that a Calvinist doing all that anti-Mormonism work could be seen as a lack of faith in one’s salvation. If you know you are saved why put all that energy into harassing Mormons? In a Calvinist universe God will save them or damn them without regard to your puny ark-steadying works. Why not display true faith in your saved state and just live it up while here on earth? Now that would be an impressive display of faith in the unconditional election of God.
But in the end, I am realizing how futile it is to reason with someone who insists they don’t have free will about their objectionable behavior. Reasoning about behavior assumes they have free will to choose their behavior after all. They will simply assume that you are predestined to try to dissuade them. And as for why one would choose to reject the intuitive idea that we have real free will on religious grounds, I have talked about the “Zoramite high” that must attend such a belief in the past. There is something appealing about believing you are part of the chosen few whilst all around you not so “blessed”.
Aaron was nice enough to remind me of his strong opinion that God is the ultimate narcissist as well. I am always shocked when he calls that flaw in his theology a feature. In the end I still think that Calvinism is an abhorrent distortion of the actual gospel of Jesus Christ. Calvinism paints God as a the ultimate narcissist and as the ultimate sadistic despot (blessing and torturing his human puppets at his whim). But of course the Calvinists reading this will simply assume I am a vessel of wrath predestined to notice that obvious fact. Very convenient.
Nevertheless, just because Calvinism is abominable does not mean that our brothers and sisters who freely choose Calvinism (you know, with their real free will) are abhorrent. God didn’t tell us to love horrendously bad theology like Calvinism but he did tell us to love one another. In this case, even though I think Aaron’s theology stinks, I find Aaron the person amiable. So please refrain from attacking him personally in the comments.
PS — Any of you Bible nerds want to write a post about Romans 9 to dispute the Calvinist reading for us? Aaron was interested in debating that and promised we could do that in the written portion of the discussion.