It’s platitudinous to claim that there are aggressive people in every group, however, it’s more controversial to claim that a particular group of people is more prone to aggression than others.
For example, I take it that you share the same experience I do when I assert the proposition that “Internet atheists are generally more aggressive than Mormons”. Certainly, we don’t have any statistical evidence to confirm this, but I doubt that an unbiased observer would find this theory prima facie implausible or even be agnostic about it.
Now, If anyone disagrees with what I’m about to say feel free to disagree with me and state why, but I’m guessing that most people would agree with my suspicion “Calvinists are generally more aggressive than Arminians, Molinists, or Thomists”. Lay aside the Calvinists belief in determinism being a potential influencer for aggression. Why do you think Calvinists have this problem? What can we do, if anything, to suppress this aggression?
I think there are few threads of thought that could individually or collectively be the reason(s) Calvinists seem to be so hostile.
Historically, we know that Protestantism initiated in the 15th and 16th centuries with a combative spirit. Being called a heretic, tribunals that forced people to recant, and being incarcerated or burned to death made the endeavour of reforming very combative. That spirit/attitude probably carried over to most if not all Protestants. Along that same line of thinking, the original 16th century debates concerning Divine Sovereignty & Free Will were fierce; they are recorded like that, so modern debaters try to emulate their heroes.
What about philosophically? One might have read or heard someone like William Lane Craig speak on the fact that if there is strength in one’s philosophical arguments and syllogisms it creates this sense of calm and confidence, without the need to be argumentative, combative, or on the defensive. Thus, knowing (at the very least intuitively or tacitly) the weakness of the Calvinistic position fosters that defensive -and sometimes offensive- tone we come across in person or online.
Sociologically, the United States is a place in which the cultural identity was formed centuries ago on fighting an enemy that endangered freedom to the degree of making the national situation a matter of life or death (ie. “give me liberty or give me death…”). A cultural identity that has reverberated almost 250 years into the present, to people who have by and large never fought, sacrificed, or felt the true need for freedom. Thus, the forefathers fought something so epic that today one can hear the average American yelling, “Woohoo, America, we fight for freedom!” That fighting spirit/attitude is still with us, thus one can imagine a conversation like this in the America,
Person X: “…My position is correct, or give me death!”
Person Y: “Woah, calm down, can’t we talk about this?”
Person X: “No! History will vindicate my cause!”
Now, are Calvinists influenced by culture this way in Europe (or elsewhere)? I can’t say, even with knowing their history, being raised in the US, I don’t have a feel for their cultural identity. Meaning I don’t know the about other places, but here in America fighting is a part of who we are.
What about ethically? The Christian Ethic is derived from the pages of our Holy Scriptures, not to mention it elaborates generally (Christians and non-Christian) on human behavior as well. Opening up our Text one might see passages like Galatians 5:19-23 :
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, STRIFE, jealousy, OUTBURSTS OF ANGER, selfish ambitions, DISSENSIONS, FACTIONS, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, goodness, faith, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL. Against such things there is no law. [emphasis mine]
Then passages like 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law — though I myself am not under the law — to win those under the law. To those who are without that law, like one without the law — not being without God’s law but within Christ’s law — to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some.
Now granted the context in the Corinthian passage is on “Missiology,” but it is also on “Christian liberty,” ie. Christian ethics. Now notice with the previous passage from Galatians, that the natural inclination humans have is to fight, while the Spirit leads to exactly how a truth should be shared (with love and self control). Concordantly, our purpose as Christ followers (whether it’s with believers or non-believers) is to win them over (to the kingdom, as our brothers, etc). Ergo, what I seem to be saying is (in very typical Southern Baptist style) that when Calvinist folks are aggressive in the way they speak… they are “working in the flesh.” I’m sorry, as they would say, but it seems “that’s what Scripture says.”
Historically? Protestants fight, this debate makes one fight even more.
Philosophically? Weak arguments make the possessors of said arguments defensive about their position.
Historically? Americans love to fight.
Ethically? They might be “in the flesh.”
Just spit balling ideas on how to preface a conversation about Divine Sovereignty & Free Will:
1. Let’s start acknowledging our fighting past (i.e., “Kind sir, I know that’s where we come from, but by God’s grace let’s try and be better”).
2. At the start, agree to be cogent without being defensive (i.e. “Friend, whatever positions we defend, let’s try and not be argumentative. Let’s try to build each other up”).
3. Let’s start knowing who we are, and how that limits us (i.e. “Like I know we’re Americans, but let’s not start spilling tea”).
4. Let us start in prayer. Asking specifically God’s Spirit to be working in, through, and all around us.
A. Even if it’s just two people, having an unbiased moderator/referee present to keep people in check would work wonders for a conversation.
B. Maybe having the wisdom to not always engage people on the internet, as it is not always the most efficient place to communicate ideas. The main reason being that people can be REALLY mean online; it’s just that type of environment.
This is not something that plagues only Calvinists, I think we all get a bit out of line sometimes. The key thing to remember is that behind these ideas that we love and hate are real people. Folks just like us: people that are passionate about what they believe in, that feel emotions, and have fears and insecurities. As we seek to pursue and share truth, let us also pursue compassion for all those made in the image of God.