Narcissism + Christianity = Calvinism
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Behavior pattern recognition has been around for years. My experience with it is as an amateur but the older I get the more adept I become, especially if I myself have experienced said behaviors. If a person I'm observing has a behavioral pattern that I haven't experienced it's not as easy to recognize what it is and usually requires frequent interactions over a long period of time and usually with someone close before you can begin to understand how they think since it differs from yours. Well, God's timing.. two things I've been brought to face squarely in recent years are calvinists and narcissists. Some of whom I'm related to through the church (yes they are my brothers and sisters in Christ), some I'm related to by the flesh (family, and consequently my best friends once upon a time), and some who are the family of a young adult we gave a room too. Besides the latter these relationships have spanned a couple decades.


Let me cut to the chase. If I may be so bold the pattern I'm seeing is a correlation between the disposition of the calvinist likened to that of the narcissist observing similar behavior patterns from both. Calvinists even recognize this pattern in themselves and in other calvinists often referring to it as "Cage-Stage Calvinism" and a quick search will tell you how very common that is. John Piper, a well known calvinist has a whole write-up on his website on "Why are Calvinists so negative"1. Some, in jest, list "symptoms2" of Cage-Stage Calvinism, others list "signs3", all of which I would say more accurately are the result of Christian narcissists after they first discover Calvinism and can feel vindicated in their Narcissism. There are many write-ups by calvinists and non-calvinists alike describing this very gnarly and detrimental disposition that they say almost every calvinist goes through which often lasts years. Some write-ups by calvinists admit having been Cage-Stage calvinists now, disillusioned, say they are free. Observing their behavior (and beliefs) I would say they've learned to mask it better and fool themselves which is classic Narcissism.


After extensive personal experience dealing with narcissist in the church, within my family, close friends, and in the lives of those I've had the opportunity to counsel and mentor, I repeatedly see Narcissism and Calvinism go hand-in-hand. Would I say the two are always linked? Possibly, to more or lesser degrees. There are far too many calvinists for me to make such an argument but since the calvinistic theology has a measure of Narcissism in it, I would say they're at least accepting of it making God out to be narcissistic Himself. This is merely my research, observations, and experience thus far and that's what I intend to share. My experience with it hasn't only been on the negative end of it; I've witness narcissists in the church call out their own Narcissism which reminds me how great our God is! Largely though I consistently see calvinists lash out in what they themselves often label Cage-Stage Calvinism (largely, not all). In my research I found (much like my search results pictured below) that calvinists being mean was a widely accepted reality though many argue as to why. Often in fact I've come across calvinist written articles trying to get to the bottom as to why this is4. After seeing this pattern over and over and over again, before I had a better understanding of what it was, lead me to ask the same question "why?". Why was I seeing negative behavior from calvinists consistently enough to expect it. Initially when searching out the "why" online I quickly realized I wasn't the only one who had made this observation and therefore wasn't the only one asking this question.




Now if you are here, I suspect you, like me, are on a deep dive of your own in gaining understanding not only of calvinists but perhaps of Calvinism itself and it's validity. I'd be curious to hear what you've experienced on your journey. Before I dive in with you let me state this very clearly. Scripture says "all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13, Acts 2:21) and therefore I consider many calvinists to be my brothers and sisters in Christ even if I do not see eye to eye with them regarding their theology. Because these brothers and sisters in Christ are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the narcissism that remains is to be considered damage in their flesh which is their old self and now has to contend with the new self that is in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore I do not expect a calvinist to be merely a narcissist with Christian principles but rather one who is going through the same sanctification process all Christians are yet at the same time dealing with damage done to their flesh. The same could be said about all Christians; all of us are walking around while in this old-self body with all of its scars and luggage that comes from our past as well.


I believe the theology of Calvinism is a stronghold allowing those who came into the faith as narcissists to more easily continue in their narcissism even perverting the image of God as if He thought and operated as they do. Even John Piper, a well known modern day calvinist, in addressing why calvinists are so negative recognizes this appeal of Calvinism:


"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"1.


I believe the reason Calvinism is growing is because Narcissism is growing. Narcissist often lack no confidence and therefore end up in prestigious positions such as doctors, actors, teachers, and government with their feelings of superiority they are convinced that's where they belong. Therefore it's no surprise that much of the leading teachers today are Calvinists as in their narcissism, they too feel people need to be taught what they know, and with their confidence, charm, and ability to play humble, they often are quickly welcomed into such positions and from there, breed more Calvinists out of narcissists.


The reason Calvinism is so influential is because it's would-be audience is already primed for it as narcissists, and Narcissism is on the rise. With so many social platforms, educators, parents, and more that promote and even encourage a grandiose view of self rather than curbing it, the amount of narcissists are increasing and therefore Calvinism is also on the rise. I call it a stronghold because I believe it is used by Satan to distort who God really is causing many people to avoid the faith altogether and others walk away when they observe this narcissist behavior in Christians. Worse than that still, many are greatly (and rightly) put-off by a God who would be portrayed as narcissistic Himself often making claims that God, in pursuit of glorifying Himself would create people He never wanted to save for the purpose of judging them in order to display His righteous justice. Scripture says we love because God first loved us, Calvinism says we love because God seeks His own glory (I address this in another series).


Regarding theology, if you were genuinely seeking the truth I would be happy to discuss my years of research and what I've found regarding Calvinism and how/if it fits in to the bible. But not in this article. I can also recommend a very large amount of resources, videos, books, articles, etc. on Calvinism as there are many5. In this article though I plan to look at the correlation specifically between Calvinism and Narcissism. Before we continue, if you're unfamiliar with Narcissism I would encourage you to do a quick search online as to the symptoms of it. When you're reading them ask yourself if you (if you're a calvinist) or a calvinist you know exhibits these same symptoms, consider how those symptoms may look if said individual is a Christian. That's what I'm going to try and share here which is derived from my own observations, experience, and research. So that said, let's dive in.


Narcissists have a grandiose sense of self-importance. This is perhaps the most defining characteristic of Narcissism. Beyond mere pride or arrogance the narcissist has an unrealistic sense of superiority. They believe they are unique, special, and can only be understood by those who are equally special. They only want to associate or be associated with other high-status people, places, and things.

Calvinists have have a grandiose sense of self-importance. Therefore they have no problem recognizing they are indeed the light to the world, a guide to the blind, an example for others. They easily identify as the "elect" or "chosen". It's not that some of these things aren't true, Christians are indeed the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), but Calvinist feel they are and even take pride in it. They give credit to God but glorify themselves. Like the Pharisee they often pray "God, I thank You that I am not like other people..." (Like 18:11). Calvinist who walk in true humility are seldom found.


Narcissists are self-absorbed.  Narcissist feel the world revolves around them and they are frustrated when others don't see that. The primary object of love in a narcissist's life is themself. They are often preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate and insist on having the best of everything. Because they are usually in their own heads they don't hear you and thus monopolize conversations.

Calvinists are self-absorbed. Like the Pharisee's prayer mentioned above, Calvinists primary prayer benefactor are themselves. While that's not uncommon to any Christian, Calvinists feel it's justified because of their importance. Calvinists often monopolize conversations, not that they are unwilling to listen, but they do that as a courtesy and spend much of that time waiting to speak, often losing that patience.


Narcissists emotionally reason. Narcissist utmost authority on decisions is what they feel. Facts, logic, reason are all good but only if it lines up with what they feel and anything that doesn't is discredited, devalued, and discarded and they do not budge on this no matter how much evidence and sound reasoning is presented. Such sound reasoning only angers and frustrates them.

Calvinists emotionally reason. Even their view of God is determined by what they feel. Scripture, like sound reasoning to the narcissist, are all good and fine as long as it lines up with what they feel to be right. Because of this the calvinist will camp out on scripture that seemingly fits their theology and dogmatically fit other scripture into that theology without ever taking an honest consideration. They will often pervert scripture or chalk it up to a "mystery" that only God knows and walk away from it still fully assured that what they feel is scripture. The trust here is not in God or in His word but in what they feel is right (cf. Prov. 3:5). Such may be well versed in scripture but knowing scripture doesn't mean you know Jesus (John 5:39).


Narcissists vehemently argue as fact something that is arbitrary or unknown. Narcissist can't be wrong according to their own self determination. But it goes beyond that. To be wrong to them is to tear-down their entire self-view and self-projection. To the narcissist, one stone misplaced means the entire wall is going to come crumbling down. Narcissist expect of themselves to be the smartest, brightest, and wisest (and think others around them see them this way). The deep seated fear and anxiety the narcissist harbor is triggered when a kink in their logic is pointed out and the facade they put on to fool others (and themselves) is challenged because they fear being found out that they are not as good, smart, strong, etc as they are hyped up to be. They, out of desperation, need you to be wrong. The stakes they have in being right are far to high that even the idea of you being right is terrifying and unthinkable. Therefore they would rather see you humiliated, shunned, and discarded rather than be found wrong, lose, or be seen as inferior.

Calvinists vehemently argue as fact something that is arbitrary or unknown. The same is carried over into Christianity but now includes the realm of theology. Arguing with a calvinist will often leave you under the same wrath as any narcissist but now theology, scripture, and even God will be used to hammer you. If you back a calvinist into a theological corner they will lash out at you and quickly make you the objector of Romans 9:19 "who are you O man?" or whip out Romans 11:33 "How...unfathomable His ways!" and while you could use the same argument against them, they've changed subjects or walked away before you have a chance to rebuttal with sound reasoning, good logic, or contextual scripture. Like Narcissist, the stakes are to high to be objective and risk losing even if it's by sound reasoning, theology, or doctrine. The deep seated fear of being found out is now projected onto their relationship with God as well. Therefore they will be quick to deflect blame, change the subject, and judge you, and after you've parted they are diligent to make sure everyone else present sees just how foolish you were and they will gladly spend hours if need be walking them through how you were wrong and they were right. In extreme cases they will gladly call you unchristian, a reprobate, wolf, demonize you, and separate from you and encourage others to do the same if that's what it takes for them to remain superior.


Narcissist lack empathy. Narcissists have very little ability to empathize with others which is another hallmark sign of narcissism. As we discussed narcissists navigate life by their own feelings and because those feelings (not logic) are the final judge, they expect others to feel the same as they do and rarely give any thought to how others feel. Narcissists often think you cause their feelings, especially the negative ones. An absence of empathy makes emotional connections with a narcissist near impossible. An appeal to the narcissist's heart for compassion falls flat.

Calvinists lack empathy. Calvinists often view empathy (and emotions in general) as a weakness. Interestingly while a Calvinist emotionally reasons they believe that same emotional reason is logic and therefore consider themselves very logical. Out of that view they often devalue actual emotions because what would be healthy emotions for most are not shared by them, such is the case with empathy. Because of a lack of empathy Calvinism is more easily accepted by those with a narcissistic background. Calvinism is only good news for the narcissist. The Apostle Paul was tormented by the idea of people he cared about not being saved. His own words to describe how he felt are "great sorrow and unceasing grief" and continuing he says "I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren" (Rom. 9:2-3). It has been my experience that calvinists, unlike Paul, don't lose any sleep at all over those they label reprobates. Not only are they in error with this view but calvinists, like narcissist, lack empathy and without empathy you cannot feel for your fellow man. When I ask how a calvinist feels about their neighbor potentially being chosen (predestined) for burning in hell for all eternity they often respond with something like "it glorifies God". Those capable of empathy whom have compassion couldn't bear the idea that one they love may be preordained by God to be tortured in burning fires for all eternity. Calvinists on the other hand lack compassion and therefore an argument based on compassion falls flat with them. The Calvinism theology is a tough pill to swallow for those who have true empathy, but not so much for those without. Those who have true empathy do not so easily view Calvinism as the gospel which means good news. I've also noticed that there are more men who can swallow the pill of Calvinism than women or children. There are also more men who are narcissists than women6.


Narcissist only truly associate with those of equal status. Narcissists believe they are "special" and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with similar high-status people and organizations. Consequently, narcissists attract other narcissists. It's not uncommon to see a married couple in which both individuals are narcissist.

Calvinist only truly associate with those of equal status. In calvinist circles the word calvinist is often more honored than the term Christian. Calvinists take more pride in their calvinistic circles than they do in Christ. Almost like Calvinism is the next higher tier of "true Christianity" that us non-calvinists will never attain. Christians trust in Christ and His finished work on the cross, calvinists trust in their election. To calvinists, Christ's work on the cross was just a means to an end, a way to accomplish their election. In this case they've often left their first love of Christ for the new love of election. Like narcissists, calvinists believe they are special and will freely throw around the term "elect" and they only closely associate with others they believe to be special like them. To them, Christians who follow Christ but aren't calvinist are seldom worth associating with nor are worthy of consideration. Calvinists don't identify with others who aren't equally as "elect" or "chosen" as they are. Interestingly, because of the presence of Narcissism, calvinists often feel they are the superior ones even among there own group. Like narcissist they are quick to judge even those who identify as believing what they believe. Some calvinists have said (and sometimes jokingly but not really..) that even John Calvin (the founder of Calvinism) wasn't calvinistic enough1.


Narcissists desperately desire to be in control. Because of this they often can be found in leadership roles. It's not necessarily that they are good leaders, but leadership is where the control is. Narcissist have a persona they project in the world and a story in their head of how their life should be. Having control helps them play out that story. Leadership is just one avenue but the narcissist will employ tactics of manipulation, guilt, lying, and acting in order to control each circumstance to their liking.

Calvinists desperately desire to be in control. Calvinist love theology. Theology in it's short definition is what you think about God. Calvinist love putting things into categories, boxes, drawers, and containers and put labels on them. Calvinist even put God into the box of their systematic theology and label it "Calvinism". Calvinist claim their theology is the mystery or hidden will of God (though they claim that God's hidden will is only known by God when debating with them). Knowledge equals control. Some have even said they cannot trust a God whom they cannot fully understand but what they really are saying is they cannot trust a God whom they cannot fully control or manipulate. So Calvinists love theology, studying spiritual gifts, personality profiling, and any other tool that will give them the edge on knowledge and help them maintain control.


Narcissist lack responsibility--blaming and deflecting. This is another glaring sign of Narcissism. Although narcissists want to be in control, they never want to be responsible for the results--unless, of course, everything goes exactly the way they want and the desired result occurs. When things don't go according to their plan, not as perfect as they intended, or they simply feel criticized they are quick to put the blame on anything but them. They will blame circumstances, conditions, but most often they blame people with the most popular victim being those closest to them. Narcissists will fiercely search out every variable in any given situation that potentially makes them look bad in order to place the blame on something or someone else. "My child had me up late last night", "You're too sensitive", "if I had the right tool", "a good relationship takes two", "the government won't give me a break". Narcissists view others, even their own children as an extension of themselves when they are to be praised, but when criticism comes down the wire they are quick to separate themselves from those extensions.

Calvinists lack responsibility--blaming and deflecting. Like narcissists, calvinists are expert blame-shifters. If you don't conform to their ways they will devalue you (often by labeling you with a systematic theology different than theirs), and even demonize you if need be. In terms of their own sin, calvinists, playing the part of the Christian, will be the first to make sure everyone knows they are "chief sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15) but getting them to itemize that and actually take responsibility for a bad choice, selfish motive, errant view, or walk you through an honest confession, especially on the cusp of it or with an audience kicks up that deep seated fear and they result to deflecting and blaming others. The fact their theology credits God with wanting and even ordaining sin in the world shouldn't be a surprise. Calvinist rarely ever enter into a broken or contrite heart (Psa. 51:17) that would require owning the responsibility of such awful sins and entering a state of feeling (not just knowing) that God could justifiably condemn them (Psa. 51:4). Calvinists view those they lead as an extension of themselves. Though once criticism comes down the wire they are quick to separate themselves from those extensions. Calvinists are more concerned about their reputation then about an honest confession. That said, God is at work! "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear".


Narcissists have a fear of rejection and ridicule. Their entire life is motivated by fear which may come as a surprise because these fears are often deeply buried and repressed. They are constantly afraid of being ridiculed, rejected, or wrong, which is why the blaming and deflecting and it's what drives their perfectionism and desire for control. They are highly reactive to criticism or anything they assume or interpret as negatively evaluating their personality or performance. They have low self-esteem which is often masked by their inflated egos, but it's presence is noted by their desire to constantly prove themselves. They are driven, but such drive stems from compulsion.

Calvinists have a fear of rejection and ridicule. Their life and their walk with God is motivated by fear. While they have doctrines of grace they hold to, their hearts often do not embrace God's grace which could douse their fears (1 John 4:18). They fear intimacy and vulnerability because they are afraid you (or God) will see their imperfections and judge or reject them. Unfortunately no amount of reassurance seems to make a difference because narcissists deeply hate and reject their own shameful imperfections. Because of this they struggle to trust in the love of others and in the love of God. Their own self judgment supersedes that of God who has declared He loves them (John 3:16). Calvinists will admit they are "chief sinners" but rarely do they let anyone look under the hood. You just have to take them at their word when they say they are sinners.


One last thing I want to point out. Read the famous chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. This time however take a look at what love is NOT starting with the very first paragraph. Furthermore Paul goes on to list some things directly that love is not and you will see many things that love is not shares commonality with what Narcissism is. For example, selling all possessions to feed the poor can be done without love... so what would the motivation be in doing that if it weren't love? Answer that and you'll have listed a core narcissistic trait.



1.) Why are Calvinists So Negative? (written by a calvinist) - (as it read on 03-22-2020)

2.) Early Warning Signs of Adult Onset Calvinism (written by a pro-calvinist) - (as it read on 03-15-2020)

3.) 7 Signs That You're a Cage-Stage Calvinist (written by a pro-calvinist) - (as it read on 03-15-2020)

4.) WhyAre Calvinists So Mean? (written by a calvinist) - (as it read on 03-15-2020)

5.) A couple recommendations that I've found to be solid are the YouTube channels belonging to Leighton Flowers (Soteriology 101) and Mike Winger (BibleThinker).

6.) Which Is the More Narcissistic Sex? - (as it read on 03-16-2020)



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Have some feedback, insight, questions, comments, prayer requests, etc? Maybe you just want to share what God is doing in your life (I love praise reports), or maybe you can relate to some of the things here and need an ear. I'd love to hear from you!