Discussions here . . . here . . . and here have prompted me to write a few thoughts here on my own blog. “Let’s Talk About Calvinism“ was the first post to start one of what I conclude are many, many debates over what Calvin taught/believed as well as what his teachings/beliefs morphed into in the hands of others over time. I think it’s important to note that until comment #87, the parameters of the discussion asked “readers to post comments, questions, arguments, etc.” Well, that’s what happened, and then the parameters of the discussion got edited. Comments pretty much petered out after that, with the balance of the comments (10 at last count) consisting mostly of a Calvinist Mutual Appreciation Society =o). That’s fine . . . the author of the post pulled the plug as is her prerogative.
The disconnect? From what I gather so far, the Calvinist view is very concerned with God getting all of the glory, man getting none, and keeping salvation a total result of God’s Grace and Soveriengty and none of man’s doing. I get that. I even agree with that. My question is this: Is the Kingdom of God being furthered or hindered by such heated debate? [Re-reading this I guess in the world of Calvinism’s concepts no one but God can truly affect His Kingdom anyway, so maybe the point is moot?] Are the Fruits of the Spirit being demonstrated by either/both sides? Are believers (those in the Body of Christ) being built up or torn down as the concepts are discussed?
I get the impression that while those who ascribe to Calvinism view the Word as the final authority, they are still viewing the Word through an external lens. And those who react/respond with disdain or even pain toward some of the “harder” teachings of Calvinism do so with almost a hand-in-the-flame reflex. Those who have been deeply wounded and saved by a loving and gentle God cannot fathom those “hard” teachings, for they portray a god they don’t recognize. To which Calvinists may retort that maybe they do not know the real God after all. Again, Fruits of the Spirit? The furthering of the Kingdom of God?
Is all of this perhaps an exercise in futility?
Does it really matter how we “get” redeemed?
Okay, let me qualify that. Of course it matters that we believe on Jesus Christ and the Gospel as communicated in the Bible. What I mean by does it really matter how we “get” redeemed is this: What difference does it make whether or not we know when we actually become “regenerated”? If it was the moment before we submitted to the Truth of the Gospel or after? How is it that God gets any more or any less glory or gains any more or has any less sovereignty – whichever way we find out it actually happens?
God’s glory and His sovereignty, in my opinion, are demonstrated in a most obvious and wonderful way in the changing of a person from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life. Is at what exact instant that transformation takes place – God regenerating a person to enable them to receive the Gospel, or a person freely receiving the gift of salvation extended to all mankind (raising my shield in anticipation of what some of you Calvinists will have to say about that “all mankind” thing) – really a place we need to put great focus or have disagreements over? Does God, in reality, lose any of who He truly is based on what view we in the Body of Christ take on the matter?
Do not we (the Body of Christ) all, in reality, believe that no one comes to the Father but by the Blood of Jesus? I guess one of the reasons I get kind of frustrated about this kind of debate is that I don’t see much beneficial fruit that comes from it. While one side swears up and down that the grace, sovereignty and justice of God is at stake, another side swears up and down that the love and compassion, grace and justice of God is at stake from their perspective, as well.
Me? I see it all as a big pile of chicken wings sitting on my table, not sure that I want to put the time and effort into picking it all apart ’cause, back to my question, does it really matter for us to know the exact instant and in exactly what order our redemption “processed”, or does it matter more that we are redeemed. Speaking for myself, I know Who saved me. I know I did nothing to merit or earn what it took to redeem me. I know that God orchestrated my conversion circumstances. I know that His Holy Spirit prepared my heart and drew me to Himself.
I also know that God put it all out there and allowed (let) me choose whom I would serve. Did He foreknow me? Yes. Did He predestine me? Yes. That’s what the Word says. Do I fully understand all of that? No. There are actually several things I need to ask God about that I’m pretty sure I won’t understand ’till I’m completely restored at the Resurrection. Can I still trust in the God of my salvation even if I can’t conclusively for sure have every bit of the process nailed down pat? Yup. Maybe I’m too simplistic, but then I see things in the word like this:
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:4-9
Does God, in the view of Calvinism lose some of His glory because of the planters and waterers? And this:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The rest of that chapter is good to keep things in perspective, too.
Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Knox, Augustine, Tyndale, and dozens and dozens of others have written many many many more pages on theology than the Bible itself contains! I’m thinking we need to focus where??, exactly, with our time and effort?
Edited to add:
Click here for a good video summary of Calvinism and Arminianism by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church. I really like what he has to say about being in different camps and still loving one another and functioning as the Body of Christ. Mark Driscoll is in the Calvinist camp, and I like also how he distinguishes Arminianism, with its 5 points and theRemonstrants, and Calvinism, with its 5 points and the Synod of Dordt, from the men Arminius and Calvin themselves.
A brief telling of the long history of the Calvinist-Arminian debate can be found here. Yeah, it’s just Wikipedia, but it will give anyone wanting to do further study a good jumping off point should they choose to do more research on the subject. [Did I just say “choose”? =o)]
This is an excellent 21 minute broadcast about predestination, election, and free will. It lays out a scriptural foundation . . . what does the Bible really say about those things? Listen HERE and click the play button for the audio. Stick with it through to the end . . . the teaching does come full circle.
Check out this article in Christianity Today by Roger E. Olsen.
I came across this post at “Christ is Deeper Still”. A really good perspective on functioning in love within the Body of Christ from a Calvinist perspective.
This reviewer of “What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God” makes some points that I really like. See the review here. If you take the time to read more reviews of the book, her point is well-made.
Further edited to add (3/28/13):
I’m sorry to add here that Anne, the author of the ‘Let’s Talk About Calvinism’ post referenced above, and one who staunchly defended Calvinism, is now (again) a practicing Pagan. My prayer for her is that she would encounter the Gospel of Grace as opposed to the Doctrines of Grace.
Filed under: Belief Sytems, Discernment, Formulas, Holy Spirit, Religion, Teachable/Unteachable Tagged: | Belief Systems, Calvinism, Christianity, Discernment, Formulas, Holy Spirit, Integrity, Reformed Theology, Religion, Teachable/Unteachable