Monday, November 06, 2006

Calvinist Vs. Wesleyan (A.K.A. What The...?)

You know what? I think too darn much. That seems to have been the main theme of my life these past few days. I've been questioning things--everything from politics to my own personal relationships. I present myself with different points of view--all of which seem to have merit--and knowing that a decision has to be made between the contradictory stances, I become complacent and throw my hands in the air. "I give up!" is the verbal equivalent. I just can't make a decision about what my convictions are sometimes. And so I take non-movement as the best course of action, even when I know it isn't.

Case in point: Today I somehow got myself into an argument (with myself) about Calvinism vs. Wesleyan/Arminian theology. I think someone mentioned the opposing schools of thought in a comment thread somewhere, and so I decided to look them up myself (ain't Google great?). The first thing I came across was an objective, point-by-point comparison of the two. After looking at that, I pretty much figured I was a Wesleyan (no surprise there, really--I was raised Methodist after all).

But I always love hearing opposing sides, so I found a comparison from a Calvinist perspective. That made me pretty confused. For one, it was pretty persuasive. It really does seem like the Bible presents more evidence for a Calvinist theology than an Arminian one. Basically, there are just a lot of verses where God "hardened their hearts" or "gave them over to sin." Those are the verses that I've always had trouble with, and it's a shame that they seem to outnumber the ones that advocate a freedom of will and conscience.

But, despite the persuasiveness of the comparison, I really just don't like Calvinism. It seems totally unfair and downright illogical to think that God put effort into creating human beings and then predestined them to Hell. I mean, "What the...?" God knew us while we were still in the womb, if I'm not mistaken. Saying that He knows whether or not we'll get saved is one thing, but saying that He elects those of us who will go to Heaven is quite another. Plus, there's really no security in Calvinism, is there? I mean, what if you think you believe, but at the end of your life you find that God really didn't elect you, and you were just fooling yourself?

Plus, Calvinism just doesn't sit well for those of us of the homosexual persuasion. It's hard to believe that one of God's elect would have to deal with being gay. And a lot of hyper-Calvinists (like the psychotic Fred Phelps--who doesn't deserve to have any term associated with Christianity attached to his name) use this as an argument as a way to say that gay people are gay because "God gave them over to shameful lusts." And hey, that's in Romans 1, so it has merit. But it just doesn't sound like something a loving God would do.

So, I'm not exactly at a crisis of faith right now, but I am trying to figure out exactly Who God is. There are places in the Bible that don't make Him out to be so pleasant, and I'm trying to reconcile those places with the image of the all-loving, all-knowing, great God that I've known since childhood. It's dangerous territory. A lot of people don't make it out of these questions with their faith intact, but I feel that if I want to have a real, solid faith, then it needs to be challenged. Otherwise, is it not built upon sand?

(Oh, and I found a comparison of Calvinist and Wesleyan theology from a Wesleyan perspective, but I'm too tired to read through all of it just yet. That's the thing I've come to notice about myself. Any rational, persuasive argument usually has the ability to get me second-guessing myself. I don't want to be a flip-flopper, but I need to find my convictions. Pray for me, guys. Things are still going well here regardless).

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