Calvinist Humility

, posted by Martin Glynn

The Tale of the Great King

There once was the Great King who ruled his land with strength and confidence. Throughout all the land, he maintained peace with an iron hand and a calculating mind. The people feared him. He made war on many lands, and no one could withstand his might.

Then, out of the north, came another king, a Glorious King, that the Great King did not formerly know of. This king rode on a white horse, and held a power that the Great King had never seen before. The Glorious King outwitted and overpowered the Great King at every turn, until finally the Great King was defeated.

In awe, the Great King fell on his knees before the Glorious King. He said, “You are far greater than I have ever been, and ever shall be. I humble myself before you, willing to be your servant for whatever you ask of me.”

The Glorious King replied, “Indeed, and from this day forth, you shall no longer be known as the Great King, but as the Humble Servant, for I have conquered this land and humbled you, not because I needed it or because I needed you, but because I wanted you. I have known you long before you have known me, and I have cared for you, waiting for this day when you shall rule beside me. I have territory for you to govern. It is for this purpose I have conquered you.”

The Humble Servant was overjoyed to hear this news. Truly he had been humbled by this king, and truly he will be devoted to him all his life. He knew he didn’t deserve this territory that the Glorious King gave him, and decided that he would do his utmost to devote all that he would do to the glory of the Glorious King.

Therefore, in the King’s name, the Humble Servant ruled that territory with strength and confidence. Throughout all the land, he maintained peace with an iron hand and a calculating mind. The people were afraid. He made war on many lands, and no one could withstand his might.

Being Humbled and Being Humble

The point of the story is to demonstrate the difference between being humbled and being humble. The Great King, even after he became the Humble Servant, was not a humble man. He still treated the subjects under his rule with the same arrogance and tactics that he had before. However, that doesn’t mean that there was no change at all. He was humbled by the Glorious King, and his humility before the Glorious King was a true humility.

Calvinist Humility

Ever since I started looking into the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, I’ve had this frustration with what I can only call “Calvinist Humility”. Often they would go on and on about how humble Calvinism has made them. However, these were often the most arrogant and prideful people I had ever met. The two didn’t make sense to me, so I simply assumed that they were deceived about how humble they were.

Then today, something occurred to me. They are humble, but only before God. All of their talk of humility was always the same: they are dirt, God is perfect; they are clay, God is the potter; they are evil, God is good. However all this talk of humility has to do with their relationship to God. When it comes to other humans though: they are elect, we are reprobate; they believe in Scripture, we believe in philosophy; they are wise, we are foolish. I don’t know what to call this other than arrogance, because no matter how much we demonstrate our loyalty to God, no matter how much Scripture we reference, no matter how hard we try to reason with them, their preconceived ideas of who we are and what we believe cannot be undone. They are too stubborn to listen. And it is not that I’m saying they must believe what we believe to be humble. I’m talking about how tightly they latch on to their caricatures of us.

When it comes right down to it, the problem is that they are humble before God, but not humble with other humans. Now, I’m not saying that all Calvinists are like this, but isn’t this a natural result of Calvinist theology? In Calvinist theology, the human begins with in a place of Total Depravity. Fine, I start there too. No problems so far. But, God only gives that grace which is necessary to come out of that state to a select few. Therefore, we have a class distinction: the elect and the non-elect, or reprobate. Therefore, the elect are better than the reprobate because they have been regenerated, enlightened, and chosen. There’s nothing innate about them that makes them better. God made them better, glory be to God…


Now, look, I am not going to deny that humility before God isn’t something that Scripture teaches. Indeed, it is the primary use of the word in Scripture. But surely Scripture also calls us to be humble as a basic character trait. We should do the second without forsaking the first. This doesn’t mean that we allow every form of teaching that passes by us the same level of credance. I don’t mind that a Calvinist may assume I’m wrong as an a priori. That’s fine. I’m settled on certain issues too. But to attempt to tell me what I believe, when I’ve told you already that I don’t believe that, or to simply ignore what I am saying for the sake of being able to go on a rant about how great your theology is, or to accuse me of every heresy known to the church just because I disagree with you on one issue, this seems over the top to me.

And if these discriptions do not apply to you, great! This post wasn’t for you. There are lots of good Calvinists out there who are humble, and love those who love the Lord, regardless of whether they agree with them on these issues. But there are a lot of Great Kings out there, humbled before almighty God, who push the unseeing reprobate here or there. To be honest, it’s very tiring, but not very productive. I mean, does it really hurt to listen?

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