Men of Straw and Tainted Reputations

The last defense of the desperate is the straw man—an argument based on a misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. This week, many of us caught wind of a doozy in Ed Young Jr.‘s rant on the Reformed movement and his assertion that “reformed theology leads to deformed ecclesiology.”

I’ve got to be honest, it was really tempting to write a response picking apart the entire thing—however, I’m not sure how much benefit that would be. I suspect much response (beyond a really helpful post by Erik Raymond) would only lead to hearing the likes of Young pointing and saying, “See, what did I tell you!?!”

But here’s the thing. Despite the obvious straw man argument, we really shouldn’t be surprised when statements like this arise. In fact, we should fully expect it. I love the way Greg Dutcher puts it in Killing Calvinism:

Let’s accept the fact that Calvinism’s reputation has been falsely tainted and that few of the Christians who oppose it actually understand its tenets. Let’s accept the reality that our efforts will meet with opposition. If we believe that the heart of Calvinism is simply an accurate restatement of the gospel, then opposition based on misunderstanding should not surprise us — distortion of the gospel has been a principal goal of the enemy from the beginning. (pp. 101–102)

If this is true—if indeed, opposition based on misunderstanding should be expected, we need to choose wisely how to respond. And perhaps the best way is in the way Peter commands:

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Pet. 3:9)

Reformed theology carries a tainted reputation, to be sure. Detractors will always build men of straw. We’re not going to be able to escape these things on this side of eternity.

But defensiveness on our parts only feeds the monster. We don’t need to jump into defend our particular hobbyhorses (whether it’s correcting views about a lack of evangelistic zeal or silly notions of John 3:16 being is incompatible with God’s sovereign working in salvation). We don’t need to point out Ed Young’s own goofiness (though it is tempting).

Instead, pray for our detractors. Seek to bless those who revile us and defame us by misrepresenting Calvinistic theology. And strive to live in light of our doctrine, demonstrating our belief in God’s uncompromising desire to be glorified in all things, and remembering that it is He who will repay the evil done by setting up men of straw (cf. Prov. 20:22).

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.