This is a question I have heard asked a lot and think Calvinist are given a bad rep. I myself used to think negatively of Calvinist because of a few people who gave me a bad taste of it and now I blog with one. As Mike has shared before the bad rep is perceived from people who do not fully understand the Doctine. I think John Piper does a great job answering the question. Below is an audio form on the answer as well as the written form. Check it out and leave your input on the answer.
Why are Calvinists so negative? By John Piper
I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative.
So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic.
I’ll just confess that. It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again.
Another reason for Calvinists could be seen as negative is that when a person comes to see the doctrines of grace in the Bible, he is often amazed that he missed it, and he can sometimes become angry. He can become angry that he grew up in a church or home where they never talked about what is really there in Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 2, and Ephesians 2. They never talked about it—they skipped it—and he is angry that he was misled for so long.
That’s sad. It’s there; it’s real; the church did let him down, and there are thousands of churches that ignore the truth and don’t teach it. And he has to deal with that.
Another reason Calvinists might be perceived as negative is that they are trying to convince others about the doctrines.
If God gives someone the grace to be humbled and see the truth, and the doctrines are sweet to him, and they break his pride—because God chose him owing to nothing in him. He was awakened from the dead, like being found at the bottom of a lake and God, at the cost of his Son’s life, brings him up from the bottom, does CPR, brings him miraculously back to life, and he stands on the beach thrilled with the grace of God—wouldn’t he want to persuade people about this?
Do Calvinists want to make everybody else Calvinists? Absolutely we do! But it’s not about elitism. It’s about having been found by Christ and having the glory of God opened to us in the process of salvation. It’s about having the majesty of God opened in all of his saving and redeeming works, wanting to give him all the glory and all the credit, and cherishing the sovereignty and preciousness of grace in our lives. Why wouldn’t we want to share this with people?
If it is perceived as elitist, that is partly owing to our sinfulness in the way we go about it, and partly owing to people’s unwillingness to see what is really there in the Bible.
I just want to confess my own sins in how I have often spoken, and I hope and pray that I don’t have the reputation of being mainly negative, but mainly positive.
I look at my books sometimes when I hear that kind of criticism, and I say, “OK when I’m dead and gone, and all that is left is sermons and books, will my reputation be that? Will it be that I have a whole bunch of books and sermons that are mainly negative, harsh, and elitist?”
Time will tell. I hope not.