The spoof that wasn't

Doug linked to a post The Day I Became a Calvinist at Parchment and Pen which he seemed puzzled by. I read it and decided that it was a rather convincing spoof, a reworking of a testimony of how someone became a Christian into a story of becoming a Calvinist. Among the clear signals of it being a spoof are the introduction, illustrated by the picture “The Scream”:

There are a few things that people never forget. The details of certain tragedies and trials stay by your side and the vivid details remind you of their significance.

This is followed by examples: 9/11, the death of a sister … and the day the author became a Calvinist, presented in the context as the greatest tragedy and trial in his life!

Not recognising the name of the author, C. Michael Patton, I judged that he was a non-believer or a rather liberal Christian who wanted to mock both Calvinism and testimonies of conversion.

It was only when I started to skim through the comments (over 150 in three days) that I realised that people were taking this seriously. Had the commenters not spotted that this was a spoof? Then Patton himself joined in. Was he just keeping up the joke? I still wasn’t quite sure until I posted my first comment asking explicitly if this was a spoof, to which Patton replied:

Peter, I am not sure what you mean. Maybe it was a bad post, but it was meant to be “a day in the life” type post. The scream is illustrative of how many people handle unconditional election.

Well, I get the last part, for hearing too much about that doctrine makes me want to scream. But I don’t see how Patton, as confirmed his further comments, fails to recognise how good a spoof this is. After all, it’s not that he doesn’t have a sense of humour, for he appreciates Tominthebox News Network.

If you are not a Calvinist, do read it as a spoof.

If you are a Calvinist, please explain to me why becoming one can be listed as a tragedy and a trial.

For my own take on these issues, see my previous post.

0 thoughts on “The spoof that wasn't

  1. I think I know what it is, but it’s hard to articulate.

    I cannot save myself. There is nothing I can do to save myself. That’s the heart of conversion – that we become like totally powerless little children and put all our trust in the Lord to save us.

    The author seems to be raising the old Calvinist shibboleth that Arminian theology is actually ‘decision theology’ and that we Arminians ‘save ourselves’ by ‘making a decision for Christ.’

    So, he reluctantly became a Calvinist because he gave up the idea that it was he who effected his own salvation by ‘making a decision for Christ’.

    My diagnosis is that the author didn’t and doesn’t understand how Arminians define prevenient grace.

  2. Michael Patton is a believer and teacher over at the Theology Program and I believe he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. He tries to be balanced when he teaches on the Theology Program but his bias is always obvious when he has a strong opinion on something, oft-times putting opposing thought structures into a brighter light than his own structures.

    So he’s likely being serious but talking about the trial of having his old fleshly self (which I guess here he equates with Arminian) coming face to face with the Living Calvinistic Word of God. He closes with a devotional that seems to say he rejoices in God’s unmerited salvation but frames it as “Gods unconditional election”.

    I’d think that the Arminian also believes in God’s unmerited salvation but would argue with the language of his closing devotion.

    I’m not a Calvinist or an Arminian, just voicing.

  3. Hello Peter,

    It is not a spoof and Michael explained as much in a response to your reply on the blog. So I am at a loss as to why you would write an entire blog about it being a spoof (or a non-spoof spoof, or whatever it seems to be labeled as here.)

    It isn’t a spoof, it is written about Michael coming to grips with a very difficult doctrine. Reading Romans 9 and coming to terms with what it says was difficult for me as well but it is not taken lightly be me nor Michael Patton.

    Also, he is not in any way equating the day he became a Calvinist to the day he trusted Christ. I don’t really see anything in his initial post to suggest that.

    Thank you for your participation at Parchment and Pen.


    Carrie Hunter

  4. I never “became” a Calvinist as I was raised one and, as far back as my understanding goes, I always was one.

    Even today I cannot imagine believing otherwise. The depths of my beliefs are not rooted in one simple proof text, but in the very nature of the atonement itself. Christ’s death actually atoned for sin. How then can I say Christ died for one’s sin and yet he still perish? What what transgression is he being punished? Why must he suffer the wrath of God if Christ has already suffered it for him.

  5. Thanks for the comments. But I don’t intend to get into the theological issues raised here. All I will say is that I consider that Arminianism has been badly misunderstood. Indeed the position of some who call themselves five-point Calvinists and reject Arminianism is barely different from the original Arminian position. I hope this Wikipedia article, the basis of my latest comment here, is an accurate description of Arminianism.

  6. “Indeed the position of some who call themselves five-point Calvinists and reject Arminianism is barely different from the original Arminian position.”

    I would emphasize the “some” here. I read the Wikipedia artlce. With the exception of a few points, it is very very different from Calvinism.

  7. I’m sorry, but I don’t see your problem. Most of the post simply details the process of thinking he went through, why he was driven to resolve within his mind how to interpret that section of Romans, why his initial “predestination based on foreknowledge” response seemed unsatisfactory to him, what reasons he had for moving to a different view, and why he thinks that view is correct. It doesn’t strike me as remotely similar to a parody, and I don’t see anything about it that sounds like a personal testimony of salvation. It’s an intellectual journey, and he describes it in exactly the way people describe their intellectual journeys, largely in terms of arguments.

  8. Peter, I’ve made the same observation about the original Arminian language. It sounds an awful lot like what Calvinists at the time believed, with a few things that don’t fit. At least much of it is consistent if you just look at the words and how a Calvinist would mean them. I spent some time working through the original response to Calvinism a few years ago, in fact.

    Nevertheless, you should read the comments by Rebecca, who points out that the original Arminians did not mean the same thing by that language. Much of their understanding of these terms was inconsistent with how Calvinists would have taken them. You could mean much of what they say in a way that’s consistent with Calvinism, but they didn’t mean it that way. See especially her comparison with open theists talking about God being omniscient because he knows all there is to know, without bothering to mention that they don’t think there are any truths about the future to know.

  9. Jeremy, I will come back to your Arminianism comments another day, but for now I will look at your previous one. I explained that the initial reason I thought this was a spoof was because of the opening paragraph and the picture. But there is a real similarity to some accounts of conversion. Yes, this is a description of an intellectual journey, but so are the conversion testimonies of so many Christians, those who seem to be converted in their heads but not in their hearts – or perhaps are too embarrassed to talk about what goes on in their hearts. But surely you will recognise the similarity of this to a conversion story?

    I was becoming a Calvinist. I did not want to. I fought it for weeks, months, even years. I was a reluctant Calvinist.

    However, things did change. I also remember the day that I fully (and joyfully) embraced unconditional election.

  10. those who seem to be converted in their heads but not in their hearts – or perhaps are too embarrassed to talk about what goes on in their hearts

    Or perhaps simply not in tune with their emotional state. People can be more aware or less aware of their emotions, and some people have a much more fine-grained way of thinking about them as others. I tend to be less aware of my emotional states than most people, probably abnormally so. I test near the Asperger range on the autistic quotient test, for instance. I also have a very coarse-grained emotional vocabulary when describing my own states.

    I don’t see a strong enough similarity between this and most conversion stories. In my experience, such testimonies focus neither on intellectual journeys nor on emotional journeys but on a commitment to a person, Jesus Christ, and emotional and intellectual elements might be part of that. Those not like that ought to be, and surely there are those that err one way or the other. But because I see a conversion account as primarily establishing such a commitment rather than an intellectual or emotional process, I do not see this as like a good conversion accountr.

  11. Yes, Jeremy, a good conversion account is primarily about establishing a commitment, but I saw this post as about establishing a commitment, albeit an intellectual one, to Calvinism.

  12. Pingback: Last Supper April Fool - Gentle Wisdom

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