The Tragic Hypocrisy of Joyless Calvinism

Gospel wakefulness. That's Jared Wilson's term for the Christian's experience of treasuring Jesus more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly than ever before. For some it happens at new birth. For some it's a gradual dawning over time. And for many, it's a kind of spiritual quantum leap, almost like a kind of sanctification warp speed. You'll want to learn more. . . .

So join us this Monday, November 14 at 3PM (EST), for a DG Live interview with Wilson, pastor in Vermont and author of the new book Gospel Wakefulness. We'll ask him all about this reality of gospel wakefulness, its implications, and how to pursue it.

Here's a little sample from Wilson's book:

I have discussed with other Calvinists just where the (well-earned) stereotype of the graceless Calvinist comes from. Shouldn’t belief in total depravity necessitate profound humility? Shouldn’t belief in unconditional election preclude a spirit of superiority? And yet there is a doctrinal arrogance infecting Calvinist Christianity. This culture then produces doctrinaires like Baum’s man of tin: squeaky and heartless.

Cold-hearted rigidity is not limited to those of the Reformed persuasion, of course. You can find it in Christian churches and traditions and cultures of all kinds. In fact, to be fair, I have found that those most enthralled with the idea of gospel-wakefulness, those who seem most prone to champion the centrality of the gospel for life and ministry, happen to be of the Reformed persuasion. So there’s that. But gracelessness is never as big a disappointment, to me anyway, as when it’s found among those who call themselves Calvinists, because it’s such a big waste of Calvinism.

Why? Because it’s a depressing irony and a disgrace that many who hold to the so-called “doctrines of grace” are some of the most graceless people around. The extent to which your soteriology is monergistic—most Calvinistic nerds know what I’m talking about here—is the extent to which you ought to know that your pride is a vomitous affront to God. The hypocrisy is incongruous. . . .

Here’s the deal, I think: the problem is not the Reformed theology, as many of my Arminian friends will charge; it’s not the Calvinism. No, the problem is gospel wakefulness (which crosses theological systems and traditions), or the lack thereof.

A joyless Calvinist knows the mechanics of salvation (probably). But he is like a guy who knows the ins and outs of a car engine and how the car runs. He can take it apart and put it back together. He knows what each part does and how it does it. A graceless Calvinist is like a guy who knows how a car works but has never driven through the countryside in the warm spring air with the top down and the wind blowing through his hair.

Gospel Wakefulness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 83–84.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.