Is Ignorance an Excuse?

Any time schools of theological thought come up, there is a lot of back and forth. Iron sharpens iron, and we all learn from each other, so discussion is a good thing. However, what normally happens is that each side accuses the other of misrepresenting the others position, definitions get mixed up and then insults and going in circles commence.

As a reformed believer, a so-called “Calvinist”, I have seen that a lot. I want to be clear, it surely happens with Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, Wesleyanism, molinism etc too, and I will be the first to admit that I am sometimes guilty of misunderstanding or misrepresenting other schools of thought. However, I am often on the receiving end of some really aggressive and outright degrading attacks against reformed beliefs. And again, I have also seen that against other schools of theology, and to be frank, it all annoys the heck out of me.

There is simply no excuse for dong that. Calling Calvinism “from Satan”, “an insult to God” etc demonstrates a profound ignorance of what reformed theology is. While all schools claim to want to glorify God, none of them can rationally and honestly argue for the complete and outright sovereignty of God in salvation. They all add something to grace. Whether the reformed position is necessarily correct is not the question, but the outrageous insults leveled at a theology that starts with the sovereignty of God from theologies that don’t should point to the lack of discernment in these types of discussions.

It seems as if there is an inverse relationship between the level of empty and ad-hominem rhetoric, and the depth of knowledge about Calvinism. Gross misrepresentation is so common and widespread that it has almost taken on a life of its own, even among church officials that should at least be intellectually honest. And there is no excuse to get information about Calvinism from its opponents only, as it is one of the most scholarly, researched and published theologies.

Why do some insist on issuing opinions and insults when they clearly do not understand the depth of the underlying theology? Ignorance is not an excuse, and it makes me just shake my head in disbelief. If Calvinism is faithfully represented, and opponents still disagree, that is how it should be. However, I have rarely come across opponents who do have a full understanding.

Please try to at least understand something before arguing against it. But these days invective and strongly worded insults seem to count for more than intellectual honesty, research and civil discussion. What will you do next time in a religious discussion?

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