Friday, March 30, 2007

Even I Didn't See This One Coming

One of the coolest things about life is that you never know where it's going to take you. People change, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, sometimes profoundly, sometimes minimally. In any case, change happens. People grow, and often times one will find himself ending up in a place that is the polar opposite of where he thought he'd be.

Such a thing happened to me recently. I think some of you might remember the post I made about Calvinism vs. Arminianism back in November. Back then, I was a very devout Arminian, and I responded to Calvinism with strong opposition. It was actually very draining on me, and I remember becoming very spiritually hurt during the debates that followed the post (to this date, it's still the most comments I've ever had for a post -- 52). I eventually just gave up on the whole situation. That was five months ago.

In the time between then and now, I considered myself somewhat of a Calvinist. I definitely believed in the concepts of Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints, but Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement still gave me the same knee-jerk reaction that they had in the past. I just didn't think they were "fair." Then, very recently, something hit me. Who was I to hold the God that created me to my version of "fair?" Heck, I had mentioned in this post how Arminian theology didn't seem "fair" either. If I wanted total "fairness," the best bet would be to not be a Christian at all.

But enough about that. The funny thing about this situation was that I didn't really realize that I had actually embraced Reformed theology until a few nights ago at Bible study. We were reading from Ephesians 1, one of those Bible chapters that mentions those big scary words like "predestination." ;) The group leader knew from the get-go that debate might ensue, so we prayed that God would guide the discussion in a way that would glorify Him.

Lo and behold, debate happened, and for some strange reason I found myself defending the literal meaning of the verses, and even such things as Unconditional Election, concepts that I had once hated. The study ended on a good note, thankfully, with mutual respect between both sides and reassurance that doctrinal differences didn't affect our statuses as brothers in Christ. My thoughts after the study could pretty much be summed up by the phrase: "By Jove, I'm a Calvinist!" :) I was reminded of the line Bob Hope said in reference to his first television appearance: "Well, they got me!"

To be honest, embracing Reformed theology really shouldn't have a big impact on my Christian living. By no means do I think every Christian needs to be Reformed, and personally a lot can be said for seeing the debate as irrelevant. This doesn't affect my thoughts on witnessing, charity, mission work, or even God's love for the world. If anything, it's just a way for me to greater understand God's grace and His love for me. In my book, it's one the best way to look at God and say "Yours is the glory!"

It's just so fascinating how things change over time. Who knows where I'll be in the next five months?

13 comments:

grace said...

wow...and whoa....i'm am so learning from you! :)

love and grace,
pam

Pomoprophet said...

ha! I love it. Calvinism is always strongly reacted to but eventually it slowly gets people. The truth pulls them to our side. Ha! I'm not even a strong calvinist. Or even a 5 point. Limited Atonement still doesnt sit right with me. But on the last 2 teaching staff's ive been on, ive been one of the few knowledgable about the issue and so students come to me to debate the issue. I could argue any side but since there seem to be few who truely understand the ways of the TULIP... Its always fun. People's initial reaction of horror to the thoughts of calvinism. And I admit sometimes it leads me to a defeatest attitude. But it is definitly a way to attribute all glory and goodness to God.

I dont however associate with reformed if I can avoid it. I have found them to often be arrogant and dead. I guess i'm a calvinist leaning postmodern follower of Christ :)

Jay said...

Pam: I'm learning from you, too. Love and grace right back at ya! :)

Pomoprophet: That's pretty funny. :) I've been using Calvinist and Reformed interchangeably, as a way to describe my theological views. The only denomination I currently belong to is the UMC -- and that will change whenever I get out of college and find a church to "settle down" in. I like Presbyterianism, though. Like any form of worship, it's only as arrogant and dead as you allow it to be. Peace, brother.

em said...

Jay:

The words in this post could have been my own... hilarious. The first time I heard about Calvinism, I reacted quite vehemently. I remember the way it made me feel, and I hated it.

Now, I consider myself relatively reformed, though I'm not a five-pointer.

Five point Calvinism is not even very Calvinistic. It was a response to Arminian beliefs. Almost every time I read writings of Calvin, I walk away with a good sense of, "This is something I can agree with and actually sink my teeth into..." I can see the correlation between much of his writing and scripture/history.

When someone asks me how I became Reformed, I always get a laugh out of telling them, "I became reformed when I started reading my Bible." -- actually the truth! ;-)

Hope you are well!

Jay said...

If I'm not mistaken, I think "TULIP" was originally thought up by Wesley. It was a systematic summary of what he did not believe about Calvinism, but was eventually adopted by Calvinists as the points that set them apart.

I really need to get my hands on some of Calvin's writings. Actually, anything about church history interests me, so I need to go about fulfilling that interest.

I like your response, and I'll probably use it eventually, too. I am well, and I hope you are to. :)

MR said...

John Piper (www.desiringGod.org), my favorite Calvinist, said,"I am not a Calvinist because of John Calvin. I am a Calvinist because I am WEAK!" (We need God's help desperately, especially in repentance and faith.)

Piper's teaching on God being completely in control and on Christians actively seeking pleasure in Him have completely turned my life around, especially in my battle with SSA. No human being has helped me more. No one.

Jay said...

MR: "I am not a Calvinist because of John Calvin. I am a Calvinist because I am WEAK!"

I like that, and it really rings true for me. I'm glad that you've found so much peace in it, and I hope that I do, too (I have a feeling I will).

David said...

Welcome to the grove of Reformed theology. And yes, you'll be hearing more about John Piper and Jonathon Edwards now that you are here. :)

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

I come from a very strongly Reformed tradition, and I was convinced of Calvinism at one point. Now I'm not so sure, although it does seem to be the most straightforward interpretation of some bits of Scripture. I just don't know that the L sits very well with me... maybe I'm a TUIP Calvinist? And I'm not too dogmatic about it - I suppose I've morphed into Calvinist Lite: only one calorie!

Just don't beat anyone over the head with Romans 9, and you'll be cool.

Ben said...

So you've finally come around! ;)

I've always been a Calvinist, insofar as it is found in the Bible. I used to get into heavy debate with an Arminian when I was in college, and after a while some severe brain drain and frustration set in, and I said to him, "We're going to share the gospel with someone someday, and they're going to come to faith, and while the angels are rejoicing we won't even notice, because we're going to be too busy arguing over the finer points of what just happened."

To this day I rarely get involved in discussions over theology, and I think that's one of the reasons...

Ron said...

With luck, in 5 months we'll have you well on your way to Papistry. :)

- Ron

jerubaal said...

Try Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion if you want to reach ultimate guru status. I'll give you a link to my pdf copy once my web host is working.

Fr. Bill said...

Wandering in here from our favorite Brothers' Blog ...

My self-identifying Calvinist friends usually will not acknowledge me as "Reformed." Most definately, I'm not "truly Reformed" (their term, not mine). Sometimes I say I'm "barely reformed" (again, a term I borrowed from somehwere else).

If asked, I'd say I am reformed but not Reformed (see the capital R?) in the same way I'd say I'm catholic and not Catholic. In the latter case, there's an institutional component to Catholicism in which I will never participate; but in the former case, I'm as steeped in the Vincentian Canon as any Protestant can be and still make a claim to Protestantism.

Here's the trouble with the Reformed (note the capital "R") ...

First, as someone above has already noted, Reformed people today are only derivatively related to Calvin, and the derivatives are numerous. Reading raw Calvin often embarrasses modern Reformed folks. Calvin's not nearly so Reformed as they, you see. And, reading raw Luther for 30 minutes will give them theological heartburn for weeks on end

Second, the Reformed, by the 18th Century, were turning into baptized Cartesians. The Bible -- contra their protestations to the contrary -- was merely a vein of ore from which they mined the metal from which they contructed glittering comlexes of perfectly logical, rational truth. Today they do not hesitate to define as inflexible theological shibboleths things which are in direct contradiction to the ippsima verba of Holy Writ (e.g. "salvation is by faith without works").

Jay, I note in your own report on yourself that you are an "independent fantasy novelist" (by the way, what does "independent" mean in this context?). I submit that if you have become Reformed in the modern sense of that word, you will find it more and more difficult to be a novelist. Cathlic Christians (both big and small "c" varieties) make excellent novelists. Calvinists (in the modern sense of the Reformed) do not.

They cannot be novelists. Novelists must think God's thoughts in God's ways so far as a creature is able to. The Cartesian Reformed mind is too small, too cramped, far too much a philosophical naval-gazer to see beyond his own Rube-Goldberg theological constructs.

College Jay said...

Wait, you got here from where? I'm confused. If you know a friend of mine, by all means, you can send me an e-mail. I like when little connections like that pop up in the blogging world.

Anyway, interesting comment. I really don't have anything to add... I'm not quite sure I understand your distinction between Reformed and "reformed." What I meant by this post (which was quite awhile ago,) was that I had gone from being a pure Methodist (and even somewhat of an open theist,) to accepting difficult doctrines such as predestination and total depravity which somewhat define the Reformed tradition (or, at the very least, are what make it stand out as controversial to many non-Reformed people.)

By "independent fantasy novelist" I just mean that my novels -- of which there are only two -- are unpublished. I originally put "fantasy novelist" but I didn't want to give off the impression that I'm actually good enough to sell and make money from my work (yet!) But I would disagree that a Calvinist can't make a good novelist. Marilynne Robinson didn't get her Pulitzer for nothing. :)