Friday, August 1, 2014

A Run of the Mill Attack on Calvinism

Part One

In an opinion piece written for Western Journalism by Charles G. Mills, which is titled From Calvinism to Islam, the author, a Roman Catholic, takes several ill-informed and misdirected swipes at Calvinism.

The foil for Mills’ attack is the recent Bergdahl affair, and it is the latest instance of what may well turn into a trend, as witness the relatively recent and equally wild flailing of Dr. Mary Stange, likewise in an opinion piece (USA Today), who also used the Bergdahl situation to attack Calvinism: Can Bergdahl’s faith explain his actions? (For those who are interested, several responses to Dr. Stange can be found in the following articles: A Response to Professor Mary Stange’s USA Today Article on Bowe Bergdahl, Helping the media understand Bergdahl and his religious past, USA Today Slams the Reformed Faith…A Slight Rebuttal.)

According to Mr. Mills, Bowe Bergdahl and his father “are said by some to have become Muslims,” a bit of unsubstantiated gossip that Mr. Mills, undoubtedly hastened by his unwillingness to be bogged down with the pesky business of presenting evidence, and justified by the opportunity it provided him to lampoon Calvinism, turned into an established fact in the short space of two sentences. Nevertheless, as interesting as all that is, it isn’t my intention here to probe into the truth or falsity of what some people have said about the alleged conversions of Bob and Bowe Bergdahl. Neither is it my intention to upbraid the author for all too easily hopping on the rumor mill, an effort that would quite possibly only cause him to swell with pride that he is living up to the family name.  I’m also not interested here in going on at any length about how Mills' evident ability to transubstantiate a rumor into a fact through a bit of verbal legerdemain shows that he missed his calling as a priest in the Catholic church which, as every self-respecting Catholic knows, is where the real hocus pocus takes place. Instead, what agitates this response is the following statement made by Mr. Mills:

Bowe Bergdahl was home-schooled and raised as a very strict Calvinist. It should not surprise us that a Calvinist has become a Moslem. The two religions have much in common.

As this response to Mills will demonstrate, what he believes about Calvinism and Islam shows that he knows very little about either, which is perhaps Mills’ way of living out Rome’s teaching on implicit faith, i.e. belief devoid of personal knowledge.

As Mills would have it, Calvinism and Islam have the following four things in common, and these commonalities make a transition from the former to the latter both easy and natural:

  • “Both have a constricted view of the nature of God, a view that limits human responsibility.”

  • “Calvinism and Islam are characterized by unjust and harsh laws.”

  • “Both Islam and Calvinism practice an extreme form of textual literalism in understanding scripture.”

  • “…both Islam and Calvinism produce self-righteousness and intolerance.”

Each of these claims will be dealt with in several future installments. For now, the reader can smart from the fact that it is a Roman Catholic who is leveling the charge that Calvinism makes it easy to convert to Islam. After all, it was a Pope, not Calvin, who said to Muslim youth: “We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection,”(*) a statement every bit in conformity with Vatican II (See Nostra Aetate, Lumen Gentium, Ch. II, sec. 16, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 841.). And it was Calvin, not a Pope, who said:

John’s saying has always been true: “He that does not have the Son does not have the Father” [1 John 2:23 p.]. For even if men once boasted that they worshipped the Supreme Majesty, the Maker of heaven and earth, yet because they had no Mediator it was not possible for them truly to taste God’s mercy, and thus be persuaded that he was their Father. Accordingly, because they did not hold Christ as their Head, they possessed only a fleeting knowledge of God. From this it also came about that they at last lapsed into crass and foul superstitions and betrayed their own ignorance. So today the Turks [i.e. Muslims –AR], although they proclaim at the top of their lungs that the Creator of heaven and earth is God, still, while repudiating Christ, substitute an idol in place of the true God. [John T. McNeill, editor, Ford Lewis Battles, trans., Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), Vol. I, II:6:4.]

For part two, go here.

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