One of the arresting aspects of marriage is that if a husband tells his wife she should watch her weight the wife gets angry. And then if hubbie tells wifey that she is angry — as if that’s a bad thing — for some reason the wife does not calm down but gets angrier. The reason for such humdrum recounting of marital relations is yet another post over at the Gospel Coalition about angry Calvinists. Justin Taylor, with lots of help from John Piper, speculates on the traits that cause Calvinists to be an angry lot (and not to be missed, make the young Calvinists at TGC look so incredibly nice).
According to Taylor:
Angry Calvinists are not like unicorns, dreamed up in some fantasy. They really do exist. And the stereotype exists for a reason. I remember (with shame) answering a question during college from a girl who was crying about the doctrine of election and what it might mean for a relative and my response was to ask everyone in the room turn to Romans 9. Right text, but it was the wrong time.
This is an odd observation because Taylor never identifies a single angry Calvinist. He has engaged in a form of stereotype that would be politically incorrect if applied on the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. You’d think that the nice Calvinists at TGC would be more sensitive about theological profiling.
You’d also think that if Taylor believes Calvinists are prone to anger then a pastoral response might be to avoid winding them up — as in not mentioning the problem. Does he refer to alcoholic Christians as those “dipsomaniac Protestants”? Does he make a habit of calling attention to questionable character traits in his readers?
As for the diagnosis, he cites Piper who writes (in part):
So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic.
Piper doesn’t seem to consider the type of person that can’t handle people who are insensitive, or the kind that has to publicly broadcast that a certain slice of Christians are insensitive. Profiling works both ways. Hence sappy evangelicals.
Which is why it is possible that the problem afflicting the evangelicals at the Gospel Coalition is one of sentimentality. That is, they value feelings more than doctrine. This is what Ken Myers called orthopathy instead of orthodoxy. This does not mean that the folks at TGC ignore doctrine. Obviously, they promote it. But they never let it function in a way that might make leaders, readers, or bloggers uncomfortable — that is, doctrine will never be offensive, especially to the co-allies. But they seem to have no problem patrolling the Christian world for incorrect emotions.
This would apparently explain why the bloggers at TGC have yet to mention the two six hundred pound gorillas in the TGC parlor — C. J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. The former has at the very least created a ruckus about the kind of pastoral leadership within SGM circles, which would seem to undermine TGC’s commitment to promoting gospel-centered churches. And then there is Dricoll’s clairvoyance which in sixteenth-century Geneva would have gotten him drowned. I understand that these situations are delicate and that friends want to stand by friends. But to call Calvinists — yet again — angry when TGC has its own image problems is well nigh remarkable unless, that is, you remember the importance of feelings, affections, passions, and hedonism. A co-ally may not be able to spot Mahaney’s or Driscoll’s errors but can FEEL their pain.
Maybe the problem is one of discipline. When I was a boy and got in trouble my dad would take out the belt and give me a wallop or two across my behind. I thought he was angry. I also thought he was mean. Never mind that he always shed a few tears while executing his duties. His tears could not compare to mine since I was the one who really felt pain and he was the one inflicting it.
Could it be that Calvinists look mean to Gospel Co-Allies in the same way that disciplining dads do to wayward children? Maybe. But if you want direction and counsel that prevents you from wandering off the right path, would you rather go to a Presbyterian pastor or leave a message with one of the Gospel Coalition’s celebrities and wait for one of his assistants to respond?
Postscript: Ross Douthat has a post about the reign of niceness among Harvard University undergraduates. He writes: “The pursuite of niceness and the worship of success can complement one another as easily as they can contradict. But the kind of culture that’s created when they combine — friendly and deferential on the surface, boiling with resume-driven competitiveness underneath — isn’t one that a great university should aspire to cultivate.” I wonder if a similar combination could be responsible for the culture of niceness over at TGC.