A Proud Calvinist

In May of 2009 Dr. Joel Beeke and I were in the Philippines to attend a conference on reformed theology in which Dr. Beeke was the speaker. During the Q&A session one of the delegates asked, “Can you be a Calvinist and at the same time proud?” To this question Dr. Beeke initially replied, “To be a Calvinist and proud at the same time is an oxymoron.”proud calvinist

Indeed, a proud Calvinist is a combination of two terms that have opposite meanings. A true Calvinist is one who humbly submits to God’s sovereignty. A proud person is one who places himself above God. A Calvinist prays with the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” A proud person prays with the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11-13).

I think the aforementioned question arose out of a concern that some of those who have discovered Calvinistic theology have become proud of themselves. What does a proud Calvinist look like?

  1. A proud Calvinist looks down on those who are not Calvinists. He thinks that he is superior to them. And when he refutes their unscriptural doctrines, he does so very sarcastically. He acts like the unbelieving criminal, who railed at Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us! (Luke 23:39). Likewise, when he defends his faith, he does so with harshness and disrespect. This proud Calvinist should learn from Peter: “honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
  1. A proud Calvinist brags about his collection of reformed books. He gathers books for his self-glorification, rather than for his sanctification and God’s splendor. John Bunyan calls this kind of sin “the pride of the library.”[1] According to Bunyan, this particular sin is committed:

When men secretly please themselves to think it is known what a stock of books they have; or when they take more pleasure in the number of, than the matter contained in their books.

When they buy books rather to make up a number, than to learn to be good and godly men thereby.

When, though they own their books to be good and godly, yet they will not conform thereto.[2]


  1. A proud Calvinist is only concerned with theology (the study of God); he does not care about piety (the practice of godliness). For instance, with great diligence he reads a lot of books on reformed theology but only to increase his knowledge, so that he can show to others how theologically intellectual he is. This proud Calvinist should realize that the Reformers as well as the Puritans did not only write to inform the head (know God) but to touch the heart (love God) and move the hands (serve God). In fact, the very purpose of John Calvin in writing the Institutes, his great theological work, was “solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness.”[3] In short, Calvin wrote to promote what John Murray called “intelligent piety,” spirituality that is rooted in Scripture. In Calvinism, theology and piety are inseparable. The study of God prompts the practice of godliness.

Are you a proud Calvinist? Does your study of reformed theology produce piety in your Christian life? Does your study make you love Christ more and hate sin more? Pray with Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.” Remember, a true Calvinist is marked by piety not pride, humility not haughtiness.



                 [1] John Bunyan, “A Holy Life,” in The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, vol. 9, gen. ed. Roger Sharrock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981), 324.

                 [2] Bunyan, “A Holy Life,” 324.

                 [3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1:9.




7 responses to “A Proud Calvinist”

  1. Sasha Avatar

    Saying that calivinists should be humble because calvinism should make them humble is nonsense. It should but it doesnt. Phariseean interpretation of the Torah should have made the pharisees humble, but sadly it didn’t. That’s why I don’t really care about what calvinism should do with a believer. I care only about what it does. It’s the same thing with islam. Muslims say “Islam is peace thats why muslims should be peaceful” Maybe they should but they aren’t. Why? Because islam is not really about peace and calvinism is not really about humbleness. How the calvinist think he is chosen? Because he thinks that he shows the fruits of the Holy Spirit which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s not humbleness. If you think that you are loving, peacuful, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controling you are proud, not humble. Pharisees thought that they were all that too, and they killed Jesus. A humble person doesn’t even dare to admit that he is showing the fruits of the Holy Spirit even if he does. But a calvinist have to come to that conclusion because this is calvinism. Otherwise, how can you tell that you are chosen?

    It’s impossible without being judgemental about yourself and others, which is against the commandments of God: Don’t judge. Espescially when you make false judgments. Maybe you think that you are filled with the Spirit, but God thinks the opposite. The worst thing though is that calvinists judge who is not saved. If you tell calvinists that a saved person can lose his salvation because you know it from your own experience, you once believed in Jesus and then forsaked him and then came back to him exactly as the lost son in the parable of Jesus did, then they judge you and say that you never was saved. That’s pride. I heard from many calvinists that I’m not saved, which is very, very brave judgment to do about a person who is ex homosexual, ex agnostic, ex God-hater and ex racist. To say that I got spiritual illusion of being led by the Holy Spirit, is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The same blasphemy as pharisees did, and calvinists are exactly as pharisees. They got the same spirit.

    Satan made many false religions but, I have to say that this one is a masterpiece. He really thinked it through. The common thing for all religions is that they mix the truth with some lies and that’s why calvinism is so dangerous because is almost true, but it isn’t.

  2. […] We have all met that person. Let’s not be that person, our theology prohibits it. Read, A Proud Calvinist | Biblical Spirituality. […]

  3. […] A Proud Calvinist “a proud Calvinist is a combination of two terms that have opposite meanings. A true Calvinist is one who humbly submits to God’s sovereignty.” […]

  4. Ryan Reyes Avatar

    Thanks, ptr. Brian!

    From time to time, we should be reminded that all of our theological advances should be done for the glory of God and for the welfare of His Church.

  5. Curtis Woods Avatar
    Curtis Woods

    Excellent! May God have mercy on my soul and scholarship!

    Grace to you,


    Sent from my iPad


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