Monday, June 06, 2005

Recovering Calvinist?

At longshot's inquiry, I'll take a stab at explaining why I feel the way I do...

Most of us are familiar with Calvinism. You remember TULIP, right? Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irrestible Grace, and Perserverance of the Saints.

Because most of my formative and adult years I was surrounded by Calvinists ,(parents, pastors, professors, etc), even those who didn't express themselves as such, I always assumed that the 'ol TULIP was right--even before I knew it was labeled as such.

As I have searched the scriptures and examined my own journey, I'm finding out that I'm a little bit Calvinist AND Arminian. (Why is Donnie and Marie's "She's a Little Bit Country And He's A Little Bit Rock-N-Roll" bouncing in my head?)

I'll explain.
Total Depravity agrues that the entire process of salvation (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. Arminianism suggests that man plays a role in 'choosing' to accept this grace and somewhat 'cooperate' with God in the process. God has provided salvation to everyone, but man makes his provision effective by choosing according to the free will God grants him. Man takes more of a decisive role.

As far as the Free Will vs. Predestination/Election issue goes, I see it like walking thru a doorway. On this side, the side above it reads 'Whosever Will May Come'. Once we are on the other side, you look back and it reads 'Those He Foreknew He Also Predestined to Become Sons of God'. Calvinism would argue that God bestows faith on those whom He elected before the foundation of the world, regardless of any forseen reaction to obedience (like winning the lottery). Arminianism agrues that election is based on God's sovreign knowledge of what man would do in response to his grace.

Limited Atonement (Calvinism) states that Christ's death secured salvation only for the elect. Arminism agrues that it secured salvation for anyone, but that it will be the elect who respond.

One caveat: Arminism also argues that the elect can lose their salavation by falling from Grace. Calvinism supports the idea that all who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end. Having experienced an incredible amount of unfathomable grace in the past few years, my spirit resonates much more loudly with this point of Calvinism.

Of course, I some incredible, godly friends who are hardcore 5-point Calvinists (Hi, Jimmie!). We are brothers in the truest sense.

I could be wrong in my belief system, but this is where the journey has led me today. And if, when I see Him face to face, He says, " were so off...", I'm okay with that.


At 12:53 PM, Blogger Steve said...


I'd love to hear the passages that have moved you away. And unless I read you wrong, I'm not sure you really showed what you believe. You mostly just pointed out the different ideas.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice Job!
I used to be a Calvinist too.
In my current theology I see room for mystery. 5point Calvinism seemed to take all of the mystery out of God.
I also got tired of re-interpreting the texts that call for human response. It just became overwhelming.
I think that a god who can somehow remain sovereign in spite of our freewill is ultimately more powerful than one who is in total control.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous scott m. said...

I view all the different attempts to fully explain God from our limited perspective with some bemusement. As longshot said, there seems to be plenty of room for mystery. It's just always looked to me like the different camps are all attempting to bind an eternal God into part of his creations. Eternal does not simply say 'lasts forever' to me as I read the bible, but rather standing outside time and outside its restrictions. The bible attempts to show us a glimpse of this to the limit our perceptions and language allow.

Thus, in addition to probably poking a little fun at Moses, God's description of himself as "I AM" speaks to that. Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM" to convey the same idea (as well as being one of the ways he clearly proclaimed he was God).

But having taken it down that far, we have to stop and recognize it's something we simply can't fully grasp. It's one of the things we can only know in part. And thus all references are necessarily incomplete. Paul is attempting to discuss God's great love and perfect knowledge of all time. When he does that, he uses the concept of foreknowledge because that's our closest frame of reference. When we know the future, that's what it is. But God is truly timeless (the essence of 'a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day'). Although we can build analogies that attempt to describe it, we can't. We lack any frame of reference to truly relate to such a concept. We are entirely timebound.

Attempting to build a theology off those scriptural word pictures that attempt to describe some aspect of God's eternal nature is at heart an attempt to bind God into time along with us. It's an attempt to fully explain the inexplicable rather than simply accept it. Whether it is a doctrine of a 'preordained' universe that God 'predestined' as he 'foreknew' and thus controls like a great puppetmaster or a doctrine that he has 'chosen' not to know everything about the 'future', they all attempt to pull God out of eternity down to our frame of reference. He did that once and for all time in the mystery of the incarnation. But outside that, talk of time constraining God smacks of heresy.

Embrace the mystery.

Then a lot of problems people have dissipate. Do we have free will? Yes. Either that or we have a God that chose a screwed up creation over a perfect and perfectly controlled one. I know Calvin considered it too much to say that we have any part in our salvation, but I don't see it.

God allowed us to choose to rebel so that we could choose to love him. It doesn't require much faith. From what I read, faith the size of a mustard seed will do. God's grace thenoverflows and makes it more than enough. The apparent conflict between the promise that we will never die and the apparent prophecies that it will be some time in the future when we receive bodies like Christ also does not exist if we leave time and enter eternity with God on our deaths.

I suppose it's a form of deconstructionism to say that all references to time and God (including this one) must be viewed as partial attempts to convey a truth relating to something that is, in its totality, beyond our understanding. But that doesn't automatically mean it's wrong, either.


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