More evidence of sectarian (Should I say, “Calvinist”?) mind control

Suddenly, I’m having a run of readership on this article!

Come on. This is just an opinion, for something really challenging, try “Is Calvin’s God Desireable?”

John Calvin was not called the “Pope of Geneva” for no reason…

Last week, on our way up to Canada, my wife, Jeanne and I rode along singing the great hymns of the church. When I say “great hymns of the church” I don’t mean Gregorian chants, Bach, Mendelssohn or Handle. I mean the kind of songs you can find in almost any hymnal of any denomination or independent church in the  Christian world. Even though a majority of churches have shifted to contemporary chorouses for common worship there still remains a living memory of hymns and gospel songs that have served the worldwide Church for as much as five centuries or more. I am thinking of composers like Charles Wesley, Issac Watts, Francis Havergal, P.P. Bliss, Fanny Crosby and songs like, “He Hideth My Soul,” Be Still, My Soul,” “Amazing Grace,” Blessed Assurance,” “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “O, For a Thousand Tongues” and so forth.

It suddenly occured to me that those going over to “Reformed / Calvinist” churches, for the most part, stop singing the songs and choruses that the rest of us have sung and continue sing. They suddenly start singing the Psalms without accompaniment. I wondered why.

Now, I suppose if you were to ask them they will offer some rather noble reason like, “Singing scripture is more scriptural,” or perhaps “Singing the Psalms glorifies God.” I hope that this is an honest answer but down deep I just don’t think it is.

Another similar sectarian  mind-control scenario… 

When we were first converted we were exposed to the Plymouth Brethren or Christian Brethren as they are otherwise called. They didn’t sing the Southern Baptist songs that I grew up on either. Regrettably, they and we sang out of the “Little Flock Hymnbook.” A quick run through the authors of the songs contained therein and one realizes that, unless he or she has been a lifetime PB’er, they have never heard of a single one of these people or the hymns they have written. No matter how unsingable and unedifying these melodies were, we plodded through them week after week.  These weren’t necessarily bad hymnologically or poorly composed songs, it’s just that well, no one new to the PB’s knew any of them and this meant an incredible learning curve until we caught on. I’m not sure that we ever did like those hymns at all. To this day, I am not able to recall a single one of the tunes or lyrics and for me, none turned out to be particularly endearing. Fortunately for us, our group was eventually oustracized from the tight fellowship circle and our little Open Brethren group switched to singing the old favorites and the then more current stuff from the likes of Keith Green and Honeytree, YEAH!!! Once the door was slightly ajar, in came those pesky guitars and banjo’s along with a good amount of toe tapping and joy filled, even rather rowdy singing.

Getting it Right. Nomenclature and almost everything else…

Truth is, we had to learn a lot of other things like how to talk right. In most evangelical churches folks can simply ask questions like,”Are you saved?” or  ‘When did you get saved” or “Are you born-again?” But this is not true in the Plymouth Brethren. No sir, you show yourself to be a novice if you didn’t ask the question in this way, “Are you the Lord’s? or “When did you become the Lord’s?”  This is just but one example of how our first experiences into the Christian world were slightly skewed. Almost over night we seemed to have had to learn special handshakes. Looking back, it all projected a rather Masonic Lodge sort of mystery about it. This was mystery that made us special and separated us from those other half-hearted, half-witted believers that just didn’t understand what New Testament Christianity was really all about.

Of course, we didn’t have a seminary trained pastor. We shunned seminaries as the spawn of the devil himself. While other groups (those nasty denominations) did it the worldly way we did it according to the Scriptures and “examined those who served among us.”  We never used any title for anyone, not Reverend (certainly not Reverend since only God was to be revered), nor did we call anyone Pastor or even Elder So in So. Terminology like Dr. This and That was from the pit of hell. Oh, we never actually said this outloud for anyone to hear, but this is what we were taught and sub-consciously believed.

We were trained in other separationists “new speak” nomenclature as well. We learned never to refer to ourselves as “going to church”.  No one ever went to church. We went to “meeting” or “assembly.” You couldn’t possibly go to church because you were The Church. Through distinctions of this nature we could detect the “Us’s” from the “Them’s” and  “Innie’s” from the “Outie’s.”

Then there was this business whereby we again set ourselves further apart by not being a denomination. We didn’t have some sign over our door announcing ourselves as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians or any non-biblical, man made, institutional name. No sir! “We gather to the Name of The Lord Jesus Christ each Lord’s Day at 10 A.M.. Lord Willing  We always had to add the “Lord Willing” part. This is what OUR sign (even though a sign is less than New Testament, we had one) said and to us, at that time, it made all of the sense in the world. In many ways, this still makes sense to me. Yet, once I came off of the theologically provincial PB island I discovered that we weren’t really “Gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ” at all and were just as sectarian, and perhaps even more so, than everyone else. I still wonder how I ever got to these hard-headed convictions. It was a slow process and it took ten years to free myself from three years of PB indoctrination.

It didn’t stop there. We were persuaded to only consider PB interpretations of Scripture. After all, our commentarialists were not in it for themselves. They weren’t writing to obtain large book contracts or to advance a denomination, but were writing their little books for the sake of truth and the “glory of God.” They were humble servants of God and did not even sign their names but rather used initials to indicate who the authors of various publications were. We insiders all knew what C.M. stood for (Charles McIntosh)  but he was a secret to everyone else. All of this was most likely false humility, but at the time this struck me as incredibly GODLY.  Though we weren’t told what to read we found ourselves clearing our shelves of both secular and what appeared to be,  unacceptable teaching from those of other doctrinal persuasions.  Many opted to read only the Schofield Reference Bible and often spent more time with Mr. Schofield’s ponderings and wanderings than with the scriptures themselves.

In the interest of time and your attention span, I will just list the ways in which the Plymouth Brethren turn out to be more Christian than the rest of you. I copy these directly from Wikipedia so you can look them up for yourselves if you happen to be more intrigued by this subject than you should be.

  • 3.1 Avoidance of traditional symbols

  • 3.2 Fellowship, not membership

  • 3.3 No clergy

  • 3.4 Weekly “Remembrance” meeting

  • 3.5 Other Sunday meetings

  • 3.6 Low-key offerings taken

  • 3.7 No salaried ministry

  • 3.8 Separate roles of men and women

  • 3.9 Cessationist

  • I have said all of this to say the following…

    Were the Plymouth Brethren right? Well, yes, I think in many ways they were and are. Was all of this biblical? No doubt and in some ways I still prefer PB elements to that of the contemporary “Big Box” churches.

    Plymouth Brethren eccesiology is something but it is not everything.  

    After more than thirty five years of ministry I can still see the many ways in which the Plymouth Brethren have recaptured New Testament patterns of ecclesiology and worship. Yet, there remains a problem. I have come to believe that, like other ultra secrtarian, separationists, isolationists groups one of the real motivations for all of this indoctrination is the control of their adherents and the proselytism of new ones. I think exactly the same of Calvinism. It is about theological manipulation, power and domination. 

    We, as Plymouth Brethren, were advised to “…come outside of the camp, bearing His reproach,” to “…come out from among them and be ye separate,” and on and on it went. After all, this sounds right doesn’t it? Some Plymouth Brethren will go so far as to not even have a sandwich with a person outside of their fellowship group. It’s in the Bible, isn’t it? Yet, in my mind the real reason for separation was theological domination, ie: “mind control.” This isn’t exactly cultic. You are free to go anytime you like but unknown to you, your security has been misplaced and in some sort of way you have wandered into a kind of intellectual legalism. You can but you cannot go anytime you like. You have moved on to a very small island and have destroyed both your boats and your bridges. One has been promised freedom and liberty but in fact, he or she have become the merchandise of men and fallen into a bondage that they may never or have a great deal of difficulty recovering from.

    Now back to Calvinist mind-control isolationism…

    This is how I see the doctrines of many sectarian groups. This is how regard the Calvinist  / Reform churches. This is why I think they take away the hymnbook and sing the Psalms. They know full-well that ninety percent of the songs in most hymnals found in the pew racks of most churches in the world could not, in good conscience, be sung by a Five-Point Calvinist because the inherent hymnology offers free grace to free men. They certainly wouldn’t want  anyone thinking about anything other than T-U-L-I-P.

    Generally, you will not see TULIP Calvinists, or for that matter, Seventh Adventists, United Pentecostals, Church of Christ, Independent Baptists and other fundamentalist congregations supporting city-wide, multi-church events. They will be involved in some events but only if they can be the head and not the tail. Shouldn’t this raise a red flag? Likely not, if one has already been dominated and under the spell of mind-control theologies and/or practices. Ultra-secretarianism is not exactly a cult but it is toxic-Christianity and dangerous to the kingdom of God.

    All of this mind-control is accomplished through the guise of honoring God through right belief, doctrine, behavior or practice.

    For more on this subject see… “A Mind Control Reality Check”


    1 Response to “More evidence of sectarian (Should I say, “Calvinist”?) mind control”

    1. October 10, 2009 at 3:16 pm

      I agree that there seems to be a lot of mind control in Calvinism. I was in the calvinistic chat IRC chat channel #prosapologian (see http://www.aomin.org) a couple of times. I say a couple of times because it didn’t take long for me to be banned. They’re very suspicious of anyone new there. Doctrinal discussions aren’t appreciated. They get alarmed very, very soon when you are too inquiring.

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