Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
The paradox of guys like Scott Hahn and Jimmy Akin, for me: is this:
There are few people more detested by the TRVLY REFORMED conservators of 16th Century Calvinist zealotry inside the anti-Catholic Apologetics Bubble than these guys and similar graduates from the Reformed tradition into the fullness of the Catholic faith. Vast oceans of electrons are spent trying to argue them down in the Calvinist apologetics subculture since they are traitors to Calvinism who swam the Tiber, etc. ad nauseam.
Yet, speaking only for myself, the fact is that if it weren’t for those two in particular, I would have an ungovernable contempt, loathing, and hatred of Calvinism and all its works and ways. Why? Pretty simple. My encounters with Calvinism have consisted of a) meeting people who are cockily sure of their own election and yet b) unable to answer the question “Does God love me?” for the honest seeker after Christ. That’s because the Diagram provides no answer to that cry of the human heart. If the seeker is elect, then yeah, God loves ‘em. But if not… well, in the words of guys like TurretinFan “God want[s] men to sin.” Sorry, pal. You didn’t win the inscrutable cosmic lottery and God wants you to sin so he can damn you to everlasting loss and pain.
I encountered such destructive filth at a very fragile and vulnerable time in my life and it nearly destroyed my faith. Consequently, when I discovered how much of a lie it is, founded on the ridiculous fiction of sola scriptura and responsible for the ruin of so many tortured souls like William Cowper’s, I conceived a deep hatred of it that lasted for several years. It was only in encountering former Calvinists like Hahn and Akin who, while clearly aware of the problems with Calvinism, could still see the good in it, that I was able to soften a bit toward Calvinists, if not toward Calvinism. (To my embarrassment, I don’t think I’ve ever properly thanked either Jimmy or Scott for this, so allow me to do so publically here. They were agents of grace who have enabled me to forgive people against whom I had a deep anger, and I appreciate that!)
Yet, on the other hand, it is precisely these two guys who humanized Calvinists for me whom the TRVLY REFORMED loathe the most. So, I dunno: maybe the whole thing is the revolting system of devil worship I’ve always taken it for. At any rate, based on things like Jimmy’s ”A Tiptoe Through TULIP”, what seems to me obvious is that the good things in Calvinism are the things it retains from the Catholic Tradition, while the evil and destructive things in Calvinism are, well, the Calvinism. The more a Calvinist embraces the Catholic heritage in his system, the more human he becomes—like Hahn and Akin. The more he emphasizes Calvinism against what is Catholic in his system, the more he becomes the sort of person who says demented and evil things like “God wants men to sin”.