2/02/20 – Calvinism, cults, and control
The one thing that strikes most non-calvinists when researching calvinism is the extreme level of control it imposes upon its followers (and others who dare come into their realm of influence). Even non-calvinists are controlled by forums banning those with definite anti-calvinist views, yet calvinists seem to be able to say whatever they like about non-calvinists. Publishing companies (under pressure from calvinists) may turn down anti-calvinist books, yet publish calvinist tripe without limit.
The most alarming aspect of the new calvinism of today (and probably also true of the old calvinism) is the readiness of its adherents to quote the teachings of their religious leaders, rather than the Bible alone (sola scriptura). For example, I have lost count of the number of people who defend their beliefs using MacArthur’s teachings. The following is a quote from one calvinist who refused to believe that MacArthur could be wrong, even though he had done no research to find out and had no understanding of the problem I raised. MacArthur just couldn’t be wrong!
I should do some researching myself when I get the opportunity, I’m thinking perhaps the rule itself can be interpreted in a way to suit one’s belief in whatever point one is trying to get across. There is one thing I am certain of and I have no reason to think otherwise and that is that I see no evidence that Macarthur would purposely mis-interpret anything to make his point. I have read and listened to probably six or so different teachings from Macarthur and I see no error in his sermons or lectures, he is a widely respected scholar theologian world wide the only criticism seems to come from free will believing Christians which is fine but some of the criticism is out of line and I know we will find out the truth one day. But until someone can show me hard facts about some of the things Macarthur has supposedly said or done I will dismiss them. (Fri, 20 Jan 2017 4:14 pm, email on file)
It amazes me how they can quote these people as expert witnesses to refute my opposing evidences from the Bible. Do these calvinist “experts” really know more than the Bible? In fact, calvinism is an esoteric knowledge system (as so many cults are) in that only those initiated into its mysteries may be permitted to sufficiently understand those mysteries. Non-calvinists therefore cannot know as much simply because they are not calvinists! As the above emailer said: your argument there does not stack up because you have misunderstood the theology of Calvinisim (29/6/18) However, the reality is that I understand too much of its theology to believe in it!
Note that all cults are control freaks. The one attribute common to every single cult is their control over their members. They dictate what their members will and will not believe. Effectively, all cults deny the free will of their members to question in any significant way the doctrines and beliefs of the cult. Likewise, calvinists may not be permitted the free will to have their own independent opinion on what is taught by their “teachers”.
thefreedictionary.com defines a cult as:
1. a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
1. b. The followers of such a religion or sect.
2. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
3. The formal means of expressing religious reverence; religious ceremony and ritual.
Where “sect” =
1. A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain refinements or distinctions of belief or practice.
2. A religious body, especially one that has separated from a larger denomination.
3. A faction united by common interests or beliefs.
Thus, a sect can be a small religious group of people separated from the wider group of those of similar beliefs. Sect members hold certain beliefs in common with each other, but with some significant beliefs differing from the mainstream beliefs. They are usually led by an authoritarian leader with strong beliefs differing from the mainstream beliefs and who has sufficient following to form such a break-away group. Such a leader usually dictates the belief requirements of the sect.
If a sect has beliefs that are in direct opposition to the mainstream beliefs, especially if they hold views that deny some or all of the mainstream foundational beliefs, then that sect may become a cult. This particularly applies if the sect’s beliefs are defined as heresy by the mainstream beliefs. And if they are led by a strong leader or ruling body, or otherwise have a strongly unifying factor, they may become a group definable by their specific beliefs as a unique belief system in their own right. It is also not necessary for a cult to actually hold to wrong beliefs to be declared a cult. But a cult’s beliefs will be described by the mainstream as false teaching or heresy. Both Catholics and Reformers of Calvin’s day would have defined the Anabaptists as a cult, yet the Anabaptists were clearly more correct than both the others.
Once a cult is formed, it then develops its own particular set of beliefs and doctrines that are peculiarly their own. Because they are a break-away group from the mainstream, it is necessary for them to have strong discipline to standardise and then control their beliefs. This often leads to a rigid doctrinal belief system which must be imposed and then reinforced by discipline from the leadership. Those who belong must adhere to the beliefs as set out by the leadership, and penalties are usually applied to those who do not adhere to those beliefs.
These penalties can be spiritual. Eg If you leave the group you lose all the benefits of belonging to the group. These benefits can include salvation (as they define it) being only for those within the group, and any prestige and acceptability by others in the group. If you leave you may be considered spiritually lost, and/or told that you cannot return, ever.
Or the penalties can be physical. Eg. If you leave you may lose any material benefits you might have gained as a result of being in that group, such as board, lodging or career. Some cults have physical punishment that is designed to make you feel incapable of standing up to them; scientology is described as such. Many cults harass ex-members, making it difficult to live normal lives outside the cult.
Or the penalties can be social. Eg Your past acquaintances may be ordered to treat you as a nobody, to not have any communications with them ever again.
One common factor, though, is that you have little or no control over what happens to you in the group unless you are one of the leaders, and you often have little control over how you are treated after you leave the group. There are rules to control just about every part of your life; they tell you what to do and you obey!
Much of the control comes through constant repetition of rules and beliefs such that you are immersed in their ideology so deeply that it is difficult, even impossible, to think anything else other than what they teach you. Children who grow up in cults often consider the cult to be the norm and the outside world as extreme!
They parrot off the same beliefs over and over until they may literally dream according to their beliefs. Many cults are demonic, adding extra confusion and control. Those who manage to break free of the cult often find that they have to learn to live all over again outside the rules and beliefs of the cult. The cult was all of life for them, and now they have to find some kind of life outside the cult framework.
Most cults have a strong charismatic leader who is able to manipulate their thinking. A strong leader is usually believed without question; in fact, it is required in most cults that the leader’s words are law. And members are strongly discouraged or even forbidden to think for themselves. The leader is always right, and therefore anyone who questions him (or her) is always wrong. Brainwashed members regularly quote the leader’s teachings to demonstrate the “truth” behind their belief system. It is also probable that demonic persuasion is used behind the scenes to reinforce their beliefs and to reinterpret teachings that initially are not supportive of the cult’s beliefs, such that a lie can actually sound like gospel truth. It is effectively a demonic reprogramming of how they interpret information. The members are effectively blinded from seeing the truth (note 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). That is, even if the leader teaches something that is clearly untrue to non-cult members, the cult members cannot see why the non-cult people are accusing their leader of teaching heresy.
One thing that all cults have in common is lack of free will of members to exercise their right to believe for themselves or to live according to their own desires. Their lives are controlled by the cult. What they believe is controlled by the cult. How they behave is controlled by the cult. The cult rules will be designed to keep control over its members such that they cannot think enough for themselves to break free. The cult effectively thinks for its members; it tells them how to live their lives; it literally lives their lives for them.
This is where calvinism really comes into the forefront, for control is the name of the game here. Calvinism began as a sect of the Catholic church. Calvin and others attempted firstly to reform the Catholic church (hence the name “Reformers”). However, when Calvin’s Reform sect encountered irreconcilable differences between it and the Catholics (neither side refused to budge), the Reform sect became a spin-off cult from the Catholic church. (Note very carefully that, according to Calvin, the Reformers never left the Catholic church at any stage; they were a Reformed Catholic church! – See The Truth about the Reformation)
The Catholic church itself was a spin-off cult from the original early Christian church. The Catholic church was originally set up in order to take control of the Christian church which, in spite of the savage persecution, was growing exponentially. The Catholic answer was to legalise the Christian church in Rome, thereby handing control over to the state (that is, the Roman Empire) which legislated the rules and regulations for the newly-setup religious body. It developed into a cult very quickly by demanding the sole right to offer Christian salvation, and persecuting those Christian groups who denied its authority over them. And, like the calvinists who also followed them, Augustine’s teachings were the major foundation for the beliefs of this new Catholic religious cult.
The Christian church that had grown so quickly during the first 3 centuries had become a real threat to satan who feared its spiritual authority. The word “catholic” (= universal) had been used to describe the early Christian church from the early 2nd century. However, after Constantine legalised “Christianity” in 313 AD, and the Roman Catholic church became an entity in 380 AD, all other opposing Christian groups were effectively made illegal (by state law). Christianity was now the state religion of the Roman Empire. You either accepted their standardised doctrines and beliefs or you were deemed to be non-Christian. Many chose martyrdom rather than submit to Catholic heresy. Very soon the Catholic church became a monopoly by force. “Catholic” was now considered synonymous with “Christian”.
In spite of the extreme degradation of the Catholic church by the time of the Middle Ages, the Reformers still saw the Catholic church as “The Church”; this included its control over its members. What the Catholic church did, the Reformers did likewise, only with a modified (Reformed!) set of Catholic doctrines and beliefs. The Reformers still ruled by force, severely disciplining any infractions of their laws (including by imprisonment and death). If you couldn’t accept their beliefs, then you were at the very least required to leave the town or city. Only “true” believers were permitted to live in peace as citizens.
Thus it didn’t really matter whether you were Catholic or Reformed, for the rules were still like a millstone around your neck. You obeyed the leaders or else! Going from Catholic to Reformed merely traded one set of laws for another set of laws. And if you weren’t one of these two groups, then you were hunted down and (where possible) exterminated if you didn’t change your mind! The Anabaptists were persecuted by both Catholic and Reformers alike. Freedom of choice of religion was not ever an option under both Catholic and Reformed systems.
Calvin himself was a cruel despot who could accept no opposition at all to his views. He was seemingly incapable of being able to see anyone else’s point of view. When his prejudices were applied with the force of state or civil authority that condemned people to death for heresy against the reformed teachings, Calvin became a ruthless dictator. Even failing to attend church was an offense punishable by the civil authorities of Geneva. For more information on this please look at “Calvin and Persecution”.
It is no wonder, then, that the whole population of Geneva quickly became Reformed according to Calvin’s modified Catholic doctrines. Those who didn’t agree were either imprisoned, banished from the city or put to death! The civil authorities were to uphold true worship, to limit freedom of the press, and to ensure that all citizens lived pure and holy lives (thus “puritans”). The people had exchanged one dictatorship for another! No wonder people still today declare Calvin to have been the pope of Geneva!
It was a glaring inconsistency that those who had just shaken off the yoke of popery as an intolerable burden, should subject their conscience and intellect to a human creed; in other words, substitute for the old Roman popery a modern Protestant popery. Of course, they sincerely believed that they had the infallible Word of God on their side; but they could not claim infallibility in its interpretation. (P 357 History of the Christian Church Vol 8 Schaff)
And From these facts we may judge with what right Calvin has so often been called “the Pope of Geneva,” mostly by way of reproach. (Ibid P 483)
Cults and sects are break-aways from the mainstream belief systems, but while sects may sometimes co-exist with mainstream beliefs with little difficulty, cults cannot co-exist at all with mainstream beliefs. All cults are also heavily into the control of their members. As a result, cult members believe only what their cult leaders state to be the truth; anything else is deemed to be untruth even if it can be proven truth by mainstream believers. Ultimately, the cult determines what is truth and what is not, and often only cult members can “understand” the difference. It is therefore necessary for cults to strictly control what their members believe, often without much personal variation between the various members. The cult leadership determines what is to be believed, and how to defend such beliefs against those who consider the cult’s beliefs to be heresy.
The JWs are a prime example of the control of its members. Their Watchtower Society states what its members will believe, what they are to do, and how to defend their beliefs against most anticipated opposing arguments. And, of course, how to defuse an argument by changing the topic or even avoiding confrontation with those who refuse to be beaten down by their rhetoric. If the Bible doesn’t say what they want it to say, then their Watchtower Society documentation will determine the best way to use and interpret the Bible so that their beliefs are not seen to be heresy. Thus the Watchtower Society and other acceptable authorities can and do overrule the Bible in areas of conflict. JWs are discouraged (even may be forbidden) to read other material that is declared to be heresy against their beliefs. They are discouraged from reading the Bible without the aid of their Watchtower Society documentation and guides. (They even have their own Bible translation: the New World Translation.) They hold social events (dinners, camps, conferences) that involve only JWs (and possible new converts), they use only JW-approved speakers, and sell or distribute only material acceptable to the Watchtower Society. They are discouraged from joining social groups where they may be exposed to outside influences, and are strongly discouraged from being too friendly with those who may have opposing religious views. Overall, it is a massive brain-washing enterprise that turns out JWs who know little else other than what their Watchtower Society permits them to know. They are, according to the Watchtower Society, the only ones who are going to heaven; this is a common feature of cults in general, that there is no salvation outside their beliefs.
Now let’s see how the calvinists measure up here. They use calvinist literature and teachers to define their doctrines. This includes Calvin, Augustine, Pink, Boettner, Sproul, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper, MacArthur, Friel, Washer, Mohler, etc, etc, all of whom teach heresies that oppose biblical truth. In fact, it is rare to find a calvinist who relies upon the teachings of a non-calvinist “authority”, or the Bible alone (sola scriptura). Their church libraries are mostly filled with calvinist authors, and their media libraries are full of calvinist videos and audios. They will quote their “expert teachers” (including the Westminster Confession) far more than they quote the Bible. And, like the JWs, they take isolated verses and passages out of context and push them as if they were gospel truth, something they actually know little about. These passages and verses include Romans 9, John 6:44, Acts 2:23, Acts 13:48, Ephesians 1 & 2, Romans 3:11 and John 10:7-18. All too often they have the same spiel when countering opposition, such as accusing those who believe in the free will of man of undermining the sovereignty of their God. Calvinist doctrines (especially Westminster and Calvin) overrule biblical truth in many areas.
Like the JWs, they are often discouraged from researching too deeply using non-calvinist sources. They read, live, and talk calvinism with each other. Just read the countless calvinist forums on the internet! And note that non-calvinists are usually aggressively put down and chased away (usually by being told by the calvinist moderator that they are not permitted to say any more). Calvinists hate opposition! They are always “right”; like most cultish beliefs, they can never be wrong! This aggressive and arrogant “I’m right; therefore you’re wrong” stance is used against any non-calvinist who dares to push biblical truths at the calvinist. If the calvinist cannot answer (especially if his masters haven’t taught him what to say in such situations) then he will either declare it to be a mystery hid in the secret counsels of God, or change the topic, or refuse to talk to you any further. After all, the greatest complement a calvinist can pay to a non-calvinist is to refuse to talk to him any further! (Silence is an admission of defeat!)
Calvinists go to calvinist camps, conferences, and other social activities. They are often even discouraged from having significant contact with non-calvinist family and friends. Like JWs, calvinists are often arrogantly aggressive in pushing their views, even to the extent of putting down those who dare to continue to oppose them (like Al Mohler in “Al Mohler endorses the new Calvinism” who says that those of the reformed or new calvinist persuasion are the only on-the-ball evangelical Christians on the block). And their doctrines actually deny any who are openly non-calvinist from being one of the elite elect. For, if the calvinist God decrees all things, then he must have decreed that non-calvinists oppose calvinists, and why would the calvinist God (who decrees all things) decree that some of his elect should openly argue with others of his elect? Unless, of course, he wasn’t as sovereign as those calvinists claim him to be.
Calvinists believe that only those unconditionally chosen by the calvinist God (themselves, of course!) are going to enjoy eternal life in heaven. All others must go to hell. (Here’s that salvation-exclusivism common to all cults!) Calvinists believe that once you are regenerated (born again) by the calvinist God’s spirit, you will respond positively to the calvinist God. Therefore, those who do not respond positively to the calvinist God’s doctrines cannot be his elect. Even those who believe that they called upon the name of the Lord to be saved cannot be accepted as the elect because the calvinist God does the choosing, not you! If the calvinist God hasn’t chosen you, then calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved can do nothing for you at all! Therefore, according to calvinist doctrine, only calvinists may be saved.
Calvinists hate to be opposed. They must hold a monopoly or else! If a calvinist pastor is called to a non-calvinist church (usually by not declaring the truth about his calvinist beliefs) he will bide his time, building up his support through small groups and individual mentoring, placing his supporters in positions of authority, yet all the while keeping quiet on his calvinist doctrines. Then, when he is assured (or so he thinks!) he has the majority support, he’ll make his move. If any non-calvinists aggressively resist, he’ll take steps to have them disciplined. Often the church is split as a result. When the dust settles, it’ll probably be with the calvinist pastor in charge of a calvinist church with most of the faithful non-calvinist stalwarts gone elsewhere (or just given up on God whom they might think has given up on them). Calvinists cannot put up with any opposition; they have to have all the say, win all the arguments, rule the church.
This is calvinist control. It hasn’t really changed from the days when Calvin ruled Geneva. You either obeyed all his rules or you were out (banished, imprisoned or executed!). Calvinism has to control; it refuses to be controlled. Non-calvinists, especially mature Bible-believing Christians, may oppose with logical and correct biblical refuting of calvinist heresies; however, such people are not to be permitted to air their views. Just as the calvinist God refuses any freedom of will for mankind, calvinists refuse any freedom of will for those in any church they control. Non-calvinists in a calvinist church might not be executed any more, nor even imprisoned, but they are often aggressively encouraged to either toe the calvinist party line or move on somewhere else.
Thus calvinism is a cult. It teaches heresy (significantly opposing the truth of the Bible), and seeks to manipulate circumstances so that it may impose these heresies upon those around them. Only the calvinist elect may be saved; all others go to hell. And all its members must toe the party line or you may not be permitted to be one of them. And you have to persevere with your devotion to their doctrines until the end or else you cannot be saved. You must be a faithful bootlicker until the end!
All cults control and calvinism is no exception. Without strict control, Calvin could never have got the Reformers into the running, and today nothing has changed. Calvinists still rely upon aggressive control to build their mini-empires of heresy. Truly, calvinism controls like the cult that it is.
Sovereign God permits; non-sovereign satan controls. Sovereignty has the authority to permit or to deny free will without any negative impact upon the sovereign one. Lack of sovereignty means that the permitting of free will has a negative impact on the ability of the non-sovereign leader to dictate authority. Sovereignty or lack of it determines whether the leader rules by authority or by force. Authority can permit freedom of will without damage to the status of the ruler. Rule by force is unable to permit freedom of will without conflict and invariably leads to the dictatorship of the cult. By its behaviour calvinism has proclaimed that it is a cult.
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