Paul's Passing Thoughts

How To Debate a Calvinist: Part 3 – By John Immel

Posted in John Immel, TANC 2017 by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on November 17, 2017

The following is part three of a five-part series.
Taken from John Immel’s third session at the 2017 Conference on Gospel Discernment and Spiritual Tyranny
~ Edited by Andy Young

Click here for part one 
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five


What we have just witnessed over the last two parts of this series is how Calvinists use the various arguments to compel you down a specific line of thinking. Paul Dohse’s discussion on the redefinition of Biblical terms is fantastic because Calvinists manipulate definitions so that they can define an alternate reality. They presume the right to define words however they choose so that it fits whatever narrative they are after, and that narrative is always driving you towards your subordination to whatever their dictates are.

In part one of this series I discussed the Orthodoxy Happy Dance- their ability to take the definition of orthodoxy and make it mean as much or as little as they choose. Whatever the historical or intellectual pedigree happens to be, they reserve the right to pick and choose which parts serve their purpose. In the end, this makes orthodoxy a myth because it ends up having no objective definition.

Then we talked about how Calvinist use Universal Guilt, Dictated Good, and Incompetent Masses as intellectual standards to control how you interact with them. If you are incompetent then you are guilty, therefore they have the moral right to compel you to a given action.

But another problem is revealed the moment Calvinists encounter anybody with any ambition or anyone who refuses to suborn to the collective. Therefore, in order for them to maintain their control over you, they must force you to find your identity in the collective, which means you must be willing to abandon any personal ambition or notion of your individuality.

Collective Conformity is effectively “political correctness.” It is a powerful force in service to tyranny- when somebody decides that the definition of the collective, and failure to abide by the collective, can be met with some sort of social force. When you want select people to think you are good, when you crave their affirmation, when you play by their rules so that they might commend you as a worker of God, this is collective conformity.

But living for someone else’s affirmation means you cannot value your own moral and intellectual judgment. You are irreparably harming your critical powers. Thinking is your human responsibility. Despotism gets its energy from mentally weak mobs. Despots must oppress ideas because thy must render the human mind impotent. Mystic despotism thrives because people feel it more important to conform to the group than to think for themselves.

Here are some of the common arguments that people use to force you into social conformity. In general, these arguments are designed to imply that the individual is epistemologically and physiologically dangerous; that individuals are predators; that individuals are without real purpose; that individuals are selfish.


The “Lone Wolf” Argument
It is designed to conjure the image that wolves are effectively predators. Therefore if you are by yourself you are necessarily a predator. This is known as the “loaded question fallacy.” To defend the individual is to defend a harmful instinct. If I reject the notion that just because I am an individual that I am dangerous, I am immediately considered dangerous.

But more importantly, it is an argument that is not based in reality. The fact is, wolves are highly territorial pack animals. If you are a wolf, you are running in a pack. Wolves are governed by the “alpha” male and female, so wolves live in a hierarchical structure. If a wolf finds itself alone it is because it has been driven away by the pack because it is weak or diseased or infirm. Lone wolves are not dangerous peak predators, they are the ones driven out.

If you want a better analogy of a lone wolf, look at the preachers who used to be part of the Calvinist “in” crowd but suddenly find themselves on the outs after having run afoul of whatever the accepted behavior is as determined by the other “alpha” male preachers in that crowd. Or consider those who have had to resign their posts after being exposed for some sort of sexual indiscretion. Those are the lone wolves still trying to vie for a position back in the Calvinist collective.

The other problem this argument brings is that it presumes that a pack isn’t predatory; that if you are part of a group you won’t do predatory things. Wolves by definition are predators. They survive by preying on weaker animals and consuming them. They hunt in packs. Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious establishment by calling them “ravenous wolves”.   Jesus condemned the elites for being predatory. It was a group-think problem.

The fact is that mobs are far more dangerous than individuals are to civil society. That includes the mobs of pastors and elders at your local Calvinist church. Not only do they feed off of each other’s affirmation and feed off the benevolence of the laity, but the moment you decide that you don’t want to absorb whatever they say, suddenly they put you outside the pack, and yet somehow you are the predator. This is a fantastic inversion of reality.


The “No Man Is an Island” Argument
This is also known as the “Out There By Yourself” argument. It is designed to package self-sufficiency with subjectivism.   If you are subjectively driven, that must mean you are intellectually in error. This is designed to inspire you to believe that individuality is the same as isolation. Isolation implies immorality.

If you are isolated you have nothing to tell you that you are wrong. The implication is that the reason for individuality is to hide from a moral critique. You will see this accusation a lot. The thinking is that if you were part of a group, the group would be able to tell you what you are unwilling to hear. Somehow groups can’t be wrong because they borrow collective morality from among the individuals.

It also implies that individuality is a danger and a liability. You cannot know the truth because your mind is in isolation. Isolation is selfish. Your gifts and talents are not being used for other people. This is erroneous because it assumes that people are entitled to what you have and what you are.

The real disaster of this logic is that it eradicates personal boundaries. One of the reasons that people end up so exploited in church situations is because they are told they have no right to set a boundary on what other people can consume in their life. So what you end up with is no ability to say, “No, you are not allowed to do that to me. You are not allowed to take that from me.” And then you are not allowed to complain about the exploitation because, by definition, your existence is at the disposal of the collective.


“The Princess and the Pea” Argument
One day they preacher comes up to you and says he is concerned about you. And since his job is to speak hard things to you, he is going to tell you that you haven’t been to church in a while, and he is very concerned about your soul. The person who hears this sort of reluctantly acknowledges this and agrees that, no, it’s probably not a good thing that he hasn’t been in church as much as he should.

This person has just conceded the premise that his attendance at church had to do with comfort. If this is you then it is highly likely that, as you are trying to figure out how to pull yourself out of this local Calvinist juggernaut of destruction, you have very real intellectual disagreements. You have very specific reasons as to why you are no longer interested in being in attendance at this church. But you haven’t yet had the courage to get around to getting away from church because you’ve been so conditioned to being there.

So you go out and start shopping around to figure out if there is someplace else you would like to go; a place that is more agreeable to you. But by letting the preacher frame the conversation around your comfort you are basically saying that your reasons for not wanting to be here has nothing to do with rational objections.

What he is really saying is that your theological pedigree is related to your feelings. This is a fundamental problem. You are not having a “feeling” objection, you are having an intellectual objection, and he is trivializing your objection.

This is why I call this “The Princess and the Pea” argument. In the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, the princess’ claim to authenticity was validated by her sensitivity to being able to feel a pea under twenty mattresses. What she “felt” was more important than any tangible qualities of a princess. Likewise, pastors will trivialize your motives for leaving by focusing on your heightened sensitivities rather than tangible intellectual reasons. Comfort = feelings = listening to doctrines that are pleasing.

Now that they have framed your objections in terms of “comfort” what they are really saying to you is that if you are leaving because you are uncomfortable, what they are telling you is that you are unwilling to hear the hard truth. This is the point where they trot out the passages of scripture about people gravitating towards other doctrines because of having “itching ears”. See, if you were a “true Christian” you would want to hear hard truths. You would embrace the uncomfortable. You would submit to what we have here because we will discuss your pervasive depravity.

You must push back on this assumption. You must not let them frame the argument in terms of feelings. You must let them know that the reason you are leaving is because you have rational intellectual disagreements with their orthodoxy. Any claim made about you not liking hard truth is really a strategy to appeal to your pride. It is designed to get you to justify yourself by declaring your willingness to suffer.

Hard truth = things that are painful.

Things that you don’t like elevates suffering to a virtue. They want you to concede that if you were really interested in growing spiritually, you would be willing to stay and listen to what they have to tell you. They want you to concede that truth is painful; that you shouldn’t get any benefit out of it. They want you to concede that individuals are weak because they don’t like pain. They want to equate rejection of pastors as rejection of truth. This is what you must resist at all costs!


The Cramped Little Lives Argument
The implication with this argument is that your individual life equals “small”; community life equals “big”. This is another example of the alternate reality they want you to accept. How many times have you heard somebody say that you should do something that is bigger than yourself? They want to imply that individual life is petty and collective life is significant. It presumes that importance comes from collective consciousness. Something is only important if lots of people want to do it. A failure to embrace the collective consciousness is a failure of your moral existence.

But the reality is exactly the opposite. Community life equals borrowed existence. Remember, Calvinist preachers have to borrow their authority, they have to borrow their righteousness, and they have to borrow somebody else’s mind. So any time they are in the business of telling you that you have to borrow the collective life to have significance, what they are really saying is you have to embrace somebody else’s vision to empower your life. That isn’t big, that’s small. If that is true of you, you just told me that you are vacant inside. It means you do not have the individual energy to go out and identify virtues and values and pursuits that are worthy of your existence.


The Gossip and Slander Quicksand
Most people know they want intellectual independence, but then they encounter one of these arguments, so they bounce back and forth trying to decide how much they conform to the group versus their own ambition. As long as they have conceded some level of their own incompetence and guilt, it is very hard to dig themselves out of this trap.

Some people start to “get it” at some point and genuinely push back against the arguments that seek to keep them part of the collective. This is where Calvinists begin to accuse you of gossip and slander. But remember, since they are in control of reality, they get to decide what constitutes gossip and slander. As long as they don’t like what you happen to say to somebody else, as far as they are concerned you are gossiping. Trying to get into a “Biblical” discussion about the actual definitions of gossip and slander is useless.

But Calvinists reprobates who call themselves preachers only want silence on the true things. They don’t want to talk about when they are actually committing evil. They don’t want anyone calling to account their moral virtue.


The “I Don’t Like Your Tone” Argument
There are a couple variations on this. “What you say might be true, but how you say it drives men away.” Or, “Humble people don’t talk that way.” “You are proud/arrogant!” These are all variations about tone. The premise is that they get to determine what is the right way to talk. It is an attempt to invalidate your argument because you have some perceived character flaw.

Understand this; when they start objecting to your tone, they have no other objection. It is their last gambit to authority. It sets up their judgment as the standard of correct discussion, and if you concede that your tone might have been wrong, you have just conceded their authority. If they are right about your tone then why aren’t they right about the subject of your objection? If you accept the premise, they can then dismiss or reject anything that does not fit their standards.

I will tell you the truth: you will chase your tail trying to become socially qualified. The moment you concede that someone else has the right to determine how you talk, you will end up in this endless cycle of trying to meet some standard of conversational etiquette that you can never accomplish because they will constantly change the standard to meet their own expectations. It is a powerful method of social control. They can eliminate any scrutiny by dictating qualifications.


The “You Are Bringing Harm to the Cause of Christ” Argument.
This is the implication that by being so visible in your disagreement with leadership that you will do irreparable damage to the church’s reputation. As a result, young people will want to have nothing to do with Christianity because of the strife and contention they see.

Every time I hear some variation of this argument, the more I realize how much the doctrines of determinism and pervasive depravity are really an intellectual fraud. If you are a Calvinist, is there any human agency in God’s salvific plan? The answer is clearly, no. It does not matter what your favorite Calvinist personality stands up and says. They are useless. Period.

That being said, does it matter what I say? Does it matter that I disagree with the pastor on a certain issue? No. No matter what you say or how you say it or the tone that you use, it is irrelevant if there is no human agency involved in salvation. According to Calvinism, if young people are going to hell, it is because God wants them to.


How then do you rebut your Calvinist tormentors?

  • Never debate scripture. There is no persuasion – only authority.
  • Never debate authority. You don’t have any, and they will never recognize it if you do.
  • Refuse to accept their moral judgment of you. If pervasive depravity is true, they don’t get to borrow morality in order to condemn you. By accepting their moral judgment you are framing the interaction that their judgment is the one to which you aspire.
  • Reverse the frame. The moment they lob a moral accusation against you, call them to account for their moral depravity. By their own admission, they are the ones who are evil, so call them on it.
  • Never apologize or equivocate on independent judgment.
  • Debate reality. Never let them get away with redefining reality.
  • Defend individuality.

Moral depravity is a central doctrine. They have no intellectual integrity when they claim any moral credit. I understand the struggle people have with this because Calvinists have done such a masterful job of claiming the moral high ground. But what I am telling you to do is to double-down on their own moral condemnation. Take the doctrine of depravity seriously, and remind them of it every time they talk. Say it out loud, “The only reason you say that is because you are evil.” Never let them pretend they have moral worth. They can make no vicarious claim to Jesus’ righteousness.

If you have an intellectual conclusion, don’t apologize. When they accuse you of being an individual and thinking for yourself, say, “Thank you.” “I’m glad you recognized that.” “I’m glad that your pervasive depravity allowed you to see truth for a moment.”

Any time they want to dance back into what “the Bible says,” stop them. You say, “No, that’s not what the scripture says. Your sin-corrupted evil mind projects into scripture.” As a free man, my judgment is effective.  I reject the absurd moral judgment that comes with the accusation that humans make mistakes. Human understanding is not measured by omniscience.

In America we are being led down a path where the rugged individualism that is implicit in the understanding of the U.S. Constitution is under full assault. We must become good at defending ourselves and the right to be ourselves and the right for others to be themselves.   Individualism is not a liability; it is a virtue!

…To be continued.

Click here for part one
Click here for part two
Click here for part four
Click here for part five





11 Responses

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  1. John said, on November 18, 2017 at 10:20 AM

    Good heavens, when I was still in a “church” (2001) that tried so hard not to let its Calvinist undergarments follow it like a balloon on a string, the head honcho (with his direct line to God) used this next phrase over and over: “There are no Lone Rangers in God’s Kingdom.” How many errors are there in that phrase alone?

    Whenever someone had a good idea that God’s personal spokesman or elders did not like (no matter how brilliant or pragmatic the ideas/questions were), it was simply shot down as not “being part of the vision.” Come on, how dare anyone speak against the “vision”? This deceiver had the “shining” à la Stephen King. This resulted, obviously, in many, if not most, stopping altogether coming up with ideas/questions . . . and then simply followed along, their intellectual faculties numbed for “the social this and that.”

    And that is why, believe it or not, this head honcho made the statement that God and Allah are one and the same being (despite the one not having a son, etc.) and everyone simply sat there and looked at him because they were not able to think for themselves any longer). I took him on, and yes, he told me that he had done a doctorate on it and I hadn’t, and so I knew nothing about the subject and I should be silent. So I said I did not need a doctorate to know a lie and then I was put on that church’s blacklist too until I emailed my resignation soon after . . . he also threatened blah blah blah.

    Today, that “church” is openly Calvinist and had big celebrations on Deformation Day. It has become such a joke that people are leaving it to join more severe “evil” organizations.

    I think everyone who has stood up against Calvinism/Reformed/Protestant nonsense and its fabled “social justice” rubbish has met with your points as discussed above in one form or another. They are clones of the Big C. No, not Christ. Calvin. Some defend and would die for that evil devil.

    Thanks for this series. It rings true like a fake Chinese bell.


    • johnimmel said, on December 1, 2017 at 9:57 AM

      “And that is why, believe it or not, this head honcho made the statement that God and Allah are one and the same being (despite the one not having a son, etc.) ”

      He said what? oh dear god the intellectual and theological vacancy represented in that assertion.


  2. John said, on November 19, 2017 at 6:56 AM

    Oh, hole in the head. Was listening to a Presbyterian “pastor” this morning on the radio (on purpose), and he was screaming about the change that Luther had made to “Christianity” and what gratitude “we” owe the great, great “churchman” Luther and all the reformers, even those that preceded Luther (Augustine, of course) for rescuing “Christianity.” He said his church was still celebrating the history-changing Deformation blah blah blah.

    Guess what? Not a single word during those 40 minutes about Jesus Christ. Not one. It was simple straightforward man worship from start to finish, and yes, about submitting to the “church’s” authority. I think I’ve heard that before, maybe 20 000 times.

    So I guess that no one (zero as in nil) was saved until the devils and their demonic theology and deformation came along. So the Bible is lying to us about those who got saved there and then. My disrespect for these deceiving devils is reaching new depths every day. It can’t go much lower, I promise.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John said, on November 19, 2017 at 3:21 PM

    Okay, three strikes (comments) and I’m out, but I think/assume/believe/hope this is a song that John Immel, who has been given me mental exercises lately, will enjoy. It’s a song about hypocrisy, written in the early 70s, by a guy who died when in a plane crash when he was only 30. “Which way are you goin’?” Oh, we can go to Geneva on this song.


  4. truthseeker00 said, on November 30, 2017 at 11:17 AM

    My question concerns your references to the Calvinist ‘authority’s’ ‘pervasive depravity. In my experience, the Calvinist authority believes he has overcome this pervasive depravity, and it his singular duty to assist you in overcoming yours. We lowly peons were blind and befuddled, whereas he, the called, anointed spokesman for God, could see all truth clearly. My pastor actually interpreted – from the pulpit – Matthew 7:1-5 as asserting that he, and perhaps a few elders, had succeeded in removing the log from his own eye, and was now qualified, indeed, called, to a lifetime of speckpicking. I looked around to see if I was the only one in need of a bucket, but all just sat there, mindlessly, listening to an egomaniac asserting that he had the right and ability to judge them in all things. In all things, he was to be viewed as right. Or to quote him from another sermon, ‘When I speak from the pulpit, I speak for God’. Who are you to argue with God, O man? I knew then that it was going to take a lifetime to deprogram from all of the garbage I absorbed when I was brainwashed into turning off my own mind.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on December 1, 2017 at 1:47 PM

      Let me clarify the issue here in regard to your question. It boils down to how church scholars define the terms. As ones who have overcome pervasive depravity, this means they understand the religion of…knowledge of good and evil. The key is that they have the knowledge (the gnosis), not whether they are good or evil, but the knowledge does define them as evil like everyone else. This means they are “theologians of the cross” and not the “glory of man.” Blindness is defined as those who don’t understand that man can do NO good work; this is the pervasive depravity. Those who have overcome pervasive depravity understand that they are pervasively depraved. Those who know…know that they know nothing (Socrates [“We profess to know nothing but Christ and him crucified”]). Their authority is defined as being theologians of the cross; this is Luther’s “cross story” versus “the glory story.” The philosopher kings are philosopher kings because they confess and know they are totally depraved and are ordained of God to increase understanding of the cross story to the great unwashed. Their ministry is to “magnify the cross” as the paramount purpose of life. The Australian Forum did contemporary mankind a huge service by illustrating this theology in the following chart:
      The whole deal with leaders having to step down when they get both hands caught in the cookie jar is indicative of the fact that these guys think there is much work to be done. The theologians of the cross know that they will have to step down when caught until the church has a better understanding of the cross story. Eventually, their behavior will become irrelevant. Their authority is based on “knowledge of…” not character.


  5. johnimmel said, on December 1, 2017 at 10:06 AM

    Hum . . . i’m not sure i understand the question but I’ll give it a whack. Pervasive depravity is the mother of all ad hominem arguments. It is designed to disqualify all comers to the intellectual throne which then opens up the necessity for someone to dictate the good. Calvin was clear that church elders had, in effect, a dispensation from the depravity that enabled them to act (like puppets on a string) in accord with God’s will. This was their “authority” … they were standing in the stead of God and it was their job to make you believe the right things.

    So i think you and I are saying the same thing: ” the Calvinist authority believes he has overcome this pervasive depravity, and it his singular duty to assist you in overcoming yours.”


  6. truthseeker00 said, on December 1, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    Thanks for the responses. I supposed that, once regenerated, the Calvinist believed himself freed from the Total Depravity of the unregenerate. Both of you describe my former pastor eerily to the ‘T’. He believed himself in a philosopher king class, far above the laity, and resented being treated like one of us. When he attempted to invoke the use of titles for himself and the elders, it was the elders who laughed at the idea of being addressed formally and disliked the thought of putting a wall between themselves and their friends and loved ones. Heaven help the little old ladies – including my mother – who tried to give him a hug; you would have thought they were lepers! Somehow I do not imagine Peter and Paul being that sort of cool cucumber, but mixing and mingling, laughing and pounding one another on the back, hugging and mourning with the bereaved, greeting one another with a holy kiss. Ah, how those who lord it over others love their titles and privileges.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on December 1, 2017 at 4:48 PM

      “I supposed that, once regenerated, the Calvinist believed himself freed from the Total Depravity of the unregenerate.” Only in regard to being illumined according to the philosopher king class. Remember, the Calvinist definition of being born again is strictly an ability to “see the kingdom,” viz, perception only. “Faith” is an ability to perceive only. Perceive what? Our “wickedness as set against God’s holiness.” Even though there are several variations, the Reformation taught that reality is passive and active. The material world is passive, and the invisible world is active. When we experience something happening in the material realm, we experience it as if we are actual participants and initiators, but what is happening is really an action by the invisible realm upon the material realm. Luther believed that we are able to initiate an act, but all of these acts are evil. When we do a good work, it’s experienced as if we did it, but it is really the active acting on the passive. Hence, we don’t know at any given moment whether we are performing the act or the Spirit is performing the act, but faith testifies that ALL of our acts are evil. Now you know where, “I didn’t do it, the Lord did it…to him be the glory!” comes from, right?


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on December 1, 2017 at 4:51 PM

      …in fact, Luther made it clear that any belief that the regenerate or the unregenerate can perform a good work is a false gospel.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on December 1, 2017 at 5:00 PM

      …when you see a churchian say, “I didn’t do it, God did it,” you can see the fear in their eyes. Why? Because to believe we can do a good work is a false gospel. Now, they really don’t know exactly why they are saying what they are saying, but tradition has taught them to respond to good works in sanctification accordingly.


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