There is a hesitancy in my fingers. An extra pause between each word. Now, if only I could know if it’s from God or myself? :)
Admittedly, I’m playing with fire. Unfortunately, I’m not fully trained in this art. There are many other and more qualified candidates to deal with the problem. They have their stations, hoses, masks, teams, and big red trucks. There are some who are ready at a moments notice. The doors are left open, and when the alarm sounds, the team is prepared for the worst.
Not so the case with me. I’m a newbie, with almost no experience to speak of. I’ve got no credentials, and have never even ran through a burning house. I’ve only seen the smoke from afar. But, I’m still gonna give it a go-at-it. What is this burning house I speak of? What battle rages on? I speak of the classic controversy, the theological conundrum, the carnivorous crash. Its… (insert drumroll in the background)… Calvinism vs. Arminianism! Or, to put it shortly, Johnny (et.all) Vs. Jacob (et.all). I’m gonna blog about why (at this time) I’m not a Calvinist. Let me tell you my top 12 reasons why I’ve (chosen, hehe) to embark on such an old, worn-out, exciting adventure:
- At least in the circle I run around at the moment, my Arminian leanings are not status-quo. I am probably in the minority. Therefore, I feel I may have the burden of proof, not “them.”
- When I came to seminary, this was one of the issues I wanted to delve into. Among other issues (The value of “Church,” Sexual Ethics, Women’s role in the church, God and the Problem of Evil, Which Denomination to choose and why), was my desire to understand Calvinism vs. Arminianism. And not only to understand it, but to be confident and able to explain where I stand, and why.
- I’ve been doing a little reading on the subject. Thus, it is only natural for me to respond. I’ve realized there are many Calvinists who are much more Calvin than Calvin. But I’ve also learned Calvin was pretty Calvin. I want to be a breath of fresh fairness for both sides.
- It is super controversial in the sense that many Christians feel strongly one way or the other. And to suggest the other side causes a tornado of fear, sorrow, anger and frustration for those same people. You know what I’m talking about, we’ve all met one or two “oversaved” Christians. That kind of Christian who uses the words “propitiation,” “justification,” or “grace” when describing what they ate for breakfast. Those people who would enjoy nothing more on a sunny saturday afternoon then to shut the shades, hunch over in their office and read heavy books. Those people who, it seems, have never met a different soul in their life, and turn one more shade yellow than the sun when a thought is uttered which they haven’t yet met in the office. On these issues, these people are the best to conversate with. If only to watch with wonder which color of the rainbow will show up and what words will fly off the tongue of a person so glued tightly to their own colorless beliefs. I’m making it a point to understand both sides, so I can fight for the “other” when I need a good laugh.
- There are a lot of Christians who are into Calvinism (and much more into it than I realized). This isn’t extremely interesting on its own, but I’ve found that these same Calvinists oftentimes estrange themselves with those who are non-theists or are Christians of another conviction – Especially since the character of God, and our relationship with God and the world is viewed very differently. I find this to be an intriguing mystery. I want to know if these Calvinist Christians have it wrong. If so, they need to stop freaking everyone out. If not, then we need to relearn how to describe a more palatable version of Calvinism. Should it be easy to accept? No, after all, if it is the more Biblical version, it is then a “hard reality” we must accept. But in my experience, the way it is usually described, its not surprising Non-Calvinistic Christians and Non-Theists alike find it impossible to embrace.
- Calvinism is very scary. I wish more Calvinists recognized this reality. I am grappling with it because IF it IS a good lens through which to see reality, then I better understand it well and likewise know how to communicate it without scaring (and/or scarring) non-Christians into oblivion or helplessness. It’s a scary thought for those of us that (seem to) make hundreds of decisions a day – That the main eternal and penultimate decision a person can make has already been decided by God (not to mention the assumption that it can be summed up in one specific moment of time). And somehow God is still cool? Not only does this buck against many people’s experiences of conversion, it is also very debilitatingly frustrating. How is this fair or true to humanity? Is God really that much of a control-freak?
- It’s an extremely important topic. How you answer certain questions illuminates how you think, and how you think determines how you act. The questions of this debate are great, in that the way we answer them really and actually affects our everyday life.
- Its an enjoyable topic because I know I’ll always be refining my position, and am open to completely changing it. Thus, this is the type of conversation worth verbalizing and writing, because then others who are more or less knowledgeable or experienced in the subject can help me in my own knowledge experiments.
- I’ve noticed many Calvinists are so dedicated to Calvinism that they are willing to sacrifice all else. Whether it be logical consistency, Godly gentleness, a willingness to listen, or placing the Bible into a system (thus leaving the Bible to contradict itself) instead of letting the Bible create a system. They put Calvinism on the altar, and let everything else burn, for the sake of the offering. So, I view myself as the defender of the weak, so to speak. Those people who see rational thought as an important construction of God, made FOR life’s big questions, let us come together and see what can burn and what must stay! Am I opposed to mystery and paradox? No, but I am opposed to intellectual laziness and fallacious thought patterns.
- I understand the issues differently than anyone else I’ve met. This probably means I’m way off, but maybe it means I have something to offer to the conversation. I think I’m a little different because I don’t ever divorce the knowledge I have with a subject I am trying to understand. So, my background in philosophy remains. My loyalty to logical consistency and dislike for fallacies continues. My passion for just law, and desire for cultural musings of the conscious and honest type, linger. Therefore, when I think about Calvinism, I think about it through my other thoughts. I don’t attempt a blank slate. I don’t think I should. I believe all good knowledge comes from God, and is intrinsically interconnected. Therefore, we must commit to a holistic understanding of life in trying to understand the questions.
- I have yet to meet a Calvinist who can speak about life in Calvinistic terms. They can speak about Calvinism, but they do so through the Arminian framework. The actual framework can never be described apart from non-Calvinistic understandings. This is always amusing, to say the least, and speaks to its own lack of experiential relevance.
- I do my best to take it as far as it can go. I’ve initially become fascinated by the debate THROUGH my intrigue of the more philosophical and yet very practically existential Problem of Evil. Ironically, this debate inevitably must lead to this question. Most importantly, and possibly the MAIN reason I reject Calvinism, is for the lack of its answer to this question, which I find to be one of the most important questions of life. This is usually the place most Calvinists stop, throw up their hands, and say “God is good, somehow.” No, this doesn’t work. I don’t even think God likes the answer. So in failure to answer the main question, it ultimately fails.
So, in closing, I will share what I believe to be good questions to ask in attempts to verify truth in any subject. So, in my next blog, as you read, ask yourself whether my argument has these three elements?
- Logical Consistency – Do I make any fallacious or unfair connections? Am I consistent with my premises and conclusions?
- Empirical Adequacy – Can what I’m saying be verified through commonly known or scientifically warranted knowledge, real-life experiences or other appropriate means?
- Experiential Relevance – Is what I’m saying Plausible and Palatable? Can it be verified? In essence, do you “remember” what I am saying? Does it strike you as true?
The Calvinism that I know and understand does NOT fulfill this criteria and so at this time, I am not convinced it is true. Now for the argument… and I’ll look forward to hearing any comments!