Monday, June 29, 2009

Square One

I have a certain desire in my life. I often try my best to think things through rationally, and I am concerned when beliefs I hold don't have a proper rational motivation. I have recently been reassessing my belief in a Calvinist interpretation of Scripture because of this. I respect Calvinism, and in many ways I think it certainly beats Wesleyan interpretations of the Bible. At the same time, I realize that my own motivations for adopting Calvinism were not really proper when I made the switch a few years ago.

The proper motivation for a belief, of course, is that it's true. This is why I'm not a fan of the prosperity Gospel that is commonly seen in American Evangelicalism. That kind of Gospel was best described by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. "Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason." The implication was, of course, that the motivation for the belief can often trump the belief itself. A Christian who believes that the primary purpose of God's commandments is to show him how to live his "best life now" will tend to overlook the commands that would require some personal suffering on his part. He may genuinely believe in Jesus, but if his motivation is his own earthly benefit, he's missing the point.

My motivation for Calvinism, then, might not have been altogether proper. To a certain degree, all religious beliefs are taken on faith. The belief in some higher power is an act of faith. The belief that the God presented in Christianity is that higher power is another act of faith. The belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of that God is an even further act of faith. Orthodox theological positions can then extend from this faith, and they must be reached rationally.

One should believe in Calvinist or Wesleyan theology not because of faith, but because they logically see the Bible as proclaiming the tenets of that particular theological system. This requires a lot of devoted reason and study, which sadly is something that many Christians don't have. They either don't know anything about theology, or they simply ascribe to the tenets of the denomination they were raised in strictly because they were raised in it.

Needless to say, the origins of my Calvinist beliefs didn't really spring from rational study of God's word. They originated more from personal flaws of mine, including the desire to be "different." Looking back at the post I wrote that announced my "conversion," I realize that I based the decision on an impulsive emotional whim. It certainly didn't come from any kind of rational study, and to be honest, I think I just wanted to stand out a bit more in my mostly Wesleyan Christian circle. I suppose it was an act of rebellion.

Now, it should be noted that I respect TULIP and other forms of Calvinism. I'm not even saying that I don't believe it. I'm just saying that if I do believe it, my foundation isn't secure, and I need to work on that. My faith in Christ is absolutely secure. I believe in Him and I don't see any signs of wavering. I simply don't want to say that I am definitely a Calvinist (or definitely not one) until I have had the opportunity to study the Bible on my own and without the outside influences of culture or tradition. If it does turn out that I go Wesleyan (or go back, since I was raised Methodist), I hope none of my Reformed readers will hate me. ;-)

Beliefs held because of prejudices, backgrounds, or personal flaws are not properly motivated beliefs, even if they are true. I just want to make sure that I am strong and secure in the things I believe, and that means I must start from square one sometimes to build beliefs that were previously held for emotional, illogical, and wrong reasons.

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