i am predestined to not believe in calvinism, part four

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Christianity, Theology
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I intended to stop my series on Calvinism after three posts but after hearing some of the feedback (thanks for the dialogue!) I feel the need to summarize and speak further to my intentions behind these posts. It must be God’s will.  🙂

For the record, discussing theology doesn’t really do much for me. I am much more interested in worshiping God, encouraging a struggling believer or demonstrating God’s love to an unbeliever. I actually had one guy ask me to “repent for slandering” reformed theology during the course of our discussions! I was hoping it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Do adherents to Calvinism really want to be known as the group that holds their beliefs in such high esteem that they think questioning them is a sin? One of the original points I was going to include in these posts but later deleted was that Calvinism seemed to breed arrogance. I left it out because I want to believe the best about others – even those I disagree with. We need to look no further than the scribes and Pharisees to see that its easy to take ourselves and our “knowledge” too seriously. Check out 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. Perhaps there is some inherent egotism that comes when you believe you were chosen (elected) by God over others. Either way, defending this system is obviously really important to some and that’s cool with me. I’ll gladly leave it and go on about my merry way.

But let’s not forget the big picture. Calvinism vs. Arminianism is not the point. People are the point. We were put on this earth, not to discuss systematic theology but to love God and love others. When we lose sight of this, being right can easily become more important than our ultimate goal of love. I hope these posts were done in such a way that I kept this main purpose of love in focus. Each blog post began or ended with a paragraph stating my intentions to this point. All theological discussion must be motivated by love for God and love for others or it is worthless.

To clarify, I am not seeking to disprove Calvinism. It and any other theological system by nature cannot be proven or disproven. I don’t view Calvinism or Arminianism as being right or wrong – I see them as either working or not working. Similarly, Socialism and Capitalism are two opposing governmental models. One is not wrong and the other right – they both work and are adopted based on how those in charge perceive each system’s usefulness. They each have their pros and cons yet we find ourselves leaning towards one or the other when choosing which system of government to support. In the same way, these theological models are not truth in and of themselves – they are vehicles to help carry us to the truth of the Word. Personally, I don’t think Calvinism “works” or is useful in a practical setting. The con’s outweigh the pro’s to me and that’s why I reject it. I am not blind to the fact that Arminianism (or the Open view, which I tend towards) has its own set of problems. I’m not rejecting the Word – it stands alone. I’m rejecting the reformed framework of Biblical interpretation.

I know that some will feel I have treated Calvinism unfairly. I was told “maybe you’ll start tackling what Calvinists really believe” as if I don’t fully understand the reformed position. The problem is, I fear that it is the reformers that don’t fully understand the ramifications of their own doctrine when it comes to everyday practical use. Like a well-intentioned scientific hypothesis, it may look great on paper but it fails in fields tests. Theology is only as good as it can be applied in real life situations and in my semi-humble opinion, Calvinism fails miserably in the real world.

Lets take, for example, a woman whose child was born with a cleft palate. Calvinism’s best answer for this mother’s inevitable “why did this happen” question is “God did this so you’d draw near to Him.” I acknowledge that answer seems very rational to our theological minds. We can even dig up a scripture like John 9:1-7 to back it (although I’d argue using this passage only works when the subject is actually healed in the end!). But it doesn’t help the mother in her pain. Did Jesus come so He could help us believe what’s right? I think He came to heal our hurt and restore our relationship to Him. This system of theology seems to be more concerned with answering questions than helping people. I’m not sure if anyone reading has ever had the privilege of counseling a child whose parents beat them, a mother whose child died, or a father who lost his job and will now lose his house. I do it regularly and I’ve found the Calvinist system cheapens their pain. Sure, its gives them a quick and easy answer as to why, but it doesn’t direct them towards healing. It ignores their questions, quotes “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts” (out of context) and tends to create even more questions about the God that is “above them.”  In turn, that person learns to approach God in fear like He’s an angry stepfather instead of a loving Daddy. Furthermore, your everyday average Joe Christian doesn’t understand the nuances of secondary causes so when he applies the reformed view to practical life, he comes away thinking in platitudes like “cousin Joey died because God needed one more angel in heaven’s choir.” I know that’s not the intent of Calvinism but I’ve found it to be its practical result.

One more point and I’ll be done. I am a Charismatic. Unlike my cessationist friends, I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today and available to help guide believers into all truth. What does this have to do with Calvinism? Theological systems aren’t nearly as important in steering us towards what to believe when God Himself can do that through His Spirit. If someone denies the Holy Spirit’s role in actively teaching His children, then they must embrace a theological system to guard against error. It’s a scary thing to remove the protection of a system because what safeguard then keeps all the crazies from preaching bad doctrine? I get that. But I believe personal communication with His creation is the heart of God. He has been longing since the fall of man to “write His word on our hearts.” Now, of course, I believe the teaching of the Holy Spirit will never contradict what’s in the Word – it is our anchor and they work in tandem. But I believe the substitution of OT law for NT scripture alone is not much of an upgrade. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could read a book. He died so we could be restored to right relationship with Him. Theological systems cannot bring us into closer relationship to God so they don’t have near the importance we sometimes grant them.

I hope this series had been beneficial to the reader – it certainly has been for me.  As always,  comments, dissent and questions that are free of strife are always welcome.  I also pray that there has been no offense taken by anyone who subscribes to Calvinism. None of us know everything, especially me. If we had perfect understanding we wouldn’t need a Savior and I for one am desperate for Him!

  1. Ben Hennessey says:

    Good post! (I skipped the first three. I hope that’s ok.) I enjoyed seeing your openness in theology! And clicking on the link to cessationism hurt.

  2. Fisher says:

    When I asked you to repent, I meant it in the sense that you should be sorry for deliberately trying to misrepresent your opponent. If I was an Arminian and a Calvinist misrepresented my position, I would expect nothing less. It’s just common courtesy.

    Anyway, it seems you read too much into my comments. Calvinism doesn’t breed arrogance. In fact it’s quite the opposite: Knowing that God chose you apart from any merit or goodness that you may or may not have (indeed, IN SPITE of lacking any merit or goodness) is quite humbling you know. I think you may want to retract much of what you just said, since it is one major unfounded accusation. I mean… comparing Calvinists to pharisees… that is just low.

    I’ll be posting part four of my response soon. Wait for it.

    • Jamie says:

      For the record, Fisher, I’m not calling you arrogant. I like you! Your repent comment, though, struck me because an apology could be sought but to ask one to repent denotes spiritual misconduct. Questioning is not morally wrong and I know you don’t think it is. But this is not my first time dancing with Calvinists and I can tell you this type of thing ALWAYS happens when I’ve questioned reformed theology. I think its due to taking the theology too seriously and raising the interpretation up to the level of Scripture. I’m sure some Arminians do it too but you can’t justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. I don’t think Calvinists are Pharisees but I do think its worth our time to look at church history and ask why people get so touchy when their beliefs are questioned. I will apologize if you felt I crossed the line, but I will not repent because I have committed no sin.

      In addition, you may not agree but I hope you can at least acknowledge from what I’ve written here that the strawman you feel I am raising is not a strawman at all – it is the practical result of this doctrine. It would behoove Calvinists to acknowledge the ramifications of their doctrine in real-life settings, not just defend its theoretical legitimacy.

      I’ll respond at some point to your latest post on your site. Take care.

  3. Fisher says:

    Okay, I’ll wait for your next post then. I’m going to be replying to you at a slug’s pace right now though, since other things are taking up most of my time (namely, finding summer work, Hebrew and Greek grammar lessons, arguing with Muslims and giving spiritual encouragement to a sister in Christ who just recently converted out of Islam).

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