Richard Coords, “Orwellian”

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“Orwellian” is a term based upon a book entitled “1984” written by British author, George Orwell. It refers to the dystopian oppression imagined in a future totalitarian government which suppresses liberty and freedom. So, how might Calvinism be considered as “Orwellian”? Two ways are thought-crimes and language manipulation.

Consider the following testimony of a former Calvinist, Greg Boyd, particularly in regard to what he would allow himself to think:

You can see how people come to this conclusion. In fact, I came to this conclusion for several years while I was in seminary. I simply couldn’t figure out any other way of interpreting Romans 9. God must determine who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell and everything in between. It’s what Scripture teaches. I guess it’s what I’ve got to believe. So, I get why sincere people come to this conclusion. I even admire them because it’s not an easy thing to believe and even shows their trust in Scripture that they’ll believe something which I find so unpalatable but they believe it because they sincerely believe this is what the Bible teaches. What I’ve never been able to understand is how people enjoy it. Because even when I believed it, I didn’t enjoy it. I mean the folks who hold this view, they would say, ‘God’s so glorious; He’s all beautiful; He is majesty; He determines all things; it’s all for His glory, even the people who suffer in Hell—it’s all decreed for His glory; it’s altogether lovely and beautiful,’ and I could never get in on that. Even when I believed it, it struck me as frankly ugly and terrifying. And you’re not supposed to say that, or even think that, because it might mean that you’re not one of God’s elect. Maybe you’re one of the reprobates—the vessels of wrath—but if I was honest with myself and with God, it was ugly and I couldn’t get in the joy of this. At the time, I had two young children. One was just a newborn, and I thought to myself, for all I know and for all they know, those—my precious babies that I loved so dearly—are created for the sole purpose of suffering endlessly and hopelessly in exquisite pain for all eternity for the glory of God. And I am supposed to—if I’m one of God’s elect—I’m supposed to say, ‘God, You are all the more glorious for having decided to show forth Your power and wrath on my two lovely children, an eternity ago, before they’re ever born.’ And now I feel bad for having brought them into existence. You know, I’m the means through which they’re going to suffer forever. How do I say this is beautiful and glorious? I never got that. And I never got the joy of being one of God’s elect, either. Hey, I’m in but my kids are out. It takes away the joy a little bit. How do you have this assurance? People talk about this eternal security. I didn’t find any security in this. Because for all I know, God has determined—right now I’m a believer, right now I’m one of God’s elect, at least I look like I’m one of God’s elect—but how do I know that in ten years, God hasn’t destined me to walk away from the faith, give up on Jesus Christ and become a total pagan? People do that, you know. If God is determining everything, they do it because God determined them to do it, and if God determined it for them, how do I know He didn’t determine it for me?393

From Greg Boyd’s testimony, he says that at the time, he couldn’t figure out any other interpretation for Romans 9 besides the Calvinist interpretation, and so when he came to believe that Calvinism was biblical, he felt that he was thereby compelled to believe it, and not only that, but also compelled to like it, and even shun any thought that opposed it.

  • Believe it.
  • Like it.
  • Advocate for it.
  • Avoid any thought-crime that might oppose it.

That certainly doesn’t lend itself to an open-mind. In Calvinism, the identity of Calvinism’s “elect” remains hidden and unknown to all except God. So, for anyone to include themselves among Calvinism’s elect, they must presume it, likely based upon their behavior conforming to what they suppose is consistent with Calvinism’s elect. Calvinists sometimes fret over whether they are among “the elect.”394 Boyd states: “Even when I believed it, it struck me as frankly ugly and terrifying. And you’re not supposed to say that, or even think that, because it might mean that you’re not one of God’s elect.” Controlling one’s own thoughts freely, and for the sake of practical living is not really Orwellian. However, slavishly living under the fear of thought-crimes, simply for the sake of unconditional conformity with a superseding authority structure can be dangerously Orwellian.

Keeping up the facade of pretending to be among Calvinism’s elect requires supporting it through carefully constructed language such as “transcendence” and “mystery,” necessary to cover up Calvinism’s many contradictions and inconsistencies. Such language manipulation also takes form by redefining “grace” to mean an anti-grace of God unconditionally choosing some to save and the rest being passed by. Like it, love it, promote it and don’t commit any thought-crimes against it, or else you may not be one of the elect. Behavioral conformity means that if anyone challenges belief in Calvinism, they must simply not understand. In the end, Boyd’s self-described thought-crimes amounts to an Orwellian nightmare. By contrast, non-Calvinists have no such problem giving a sober evaluation of Calvinism because they are not pretending to be among Calvinism’s elect. With the absence of fear of thought-crimes, non-Calvinists may think freely without fear of self-imposed repercussions.


393 Twisted Scripture | Romans 9 | Greg Boyd, 15:45–18:09, emphasis mine.

394 For more information on this topic, see the discussion in Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2024, on Eternal Security, regarding a quote from Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon in his sermon entitled, “Election.”

[This post has been excerpted with permission from Richard Coords, Calvinism Answered Verse by Verse and Subject by Subject, © 2024.]