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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why I am No Longer a Calvinist, Part 2

Psalm 111

Perhaps it is best to start this discussion relating what it is about Calvinism that attracted me to it in the first place. While I cannot speak for someone else, I believe that the things about the system that I found attractive are what lead a lot of people into it. Again, I am not trying to “convert” anyone out of the system; I am simply trying to offer understanding and perspective to those who are not Calvinists and also to lay some foundational topics of discussion that will be components of future installments in this blog. In short, while I believe that each of these elements are laudable motives for pursuing a position (some are indispensible), I will be relating in future blogs why these perceptions of this system are not all that they purport to be.
I was attracted to the system of Calvinism because it is:
- Biblical: It is a rare event to run into a committed Calvinists who cannot quote you chapter and verse of numerous texts that are at the heart of their position. Specific references to predestination, God’s hardening of men’s hearts, being chosen, Grace, the Glory of God, and other emphases of Calvinism are ubiquitous in the Scriptures. Indeed, the presence of these passages is the primary warrant for Calvinists to make the oft-quoted statement that “The Doctrines of Grace are the Gospel” – that is, their position is synonymous with Scripture itself. And let’s be honest, what evangelical Christian does not want to be biblical with every position that they hold – such observations are attractive. When I started into college and really began for the first time to dig into the Scriptures, to search the text for myself and to ask the hard questions before me, Calvinism offered me “biblical” answers.
- God Centered: There is an overwhelming desire that is created within people who discover their lostness and experience God’s Grace to want to do all that they can to praise Him with all that they are. Grace IS wonderful, Grace IS miraculous, Grace IS AMAZING! And when you begin to reflect on this wondrous salvation that has been granted, who wouldn’t pursue a doctrinal position that advocates so clearly man’s complete inability and God’s complete sufficiency? Like the Psalmist, we ask “Who am I?” and relative to who God is, the answer is nobody! Much of Christian teaching in revivalistic churches (such as Baptist) centers on us – My testimony, My salvation, My future, etc…, it’s good to be reminded that God must be the center of everything.
- Unambiguous: Life is full of ambiguity. It is sometimes hard to know right and wrong and to find black and white. In the midst of such experiences, a firm, unshakeable foundation is a joy to find and an immense relief. Calvinism offers this – there are no shades of gray in the system and that is attractive – It’s only God, only His grace, only His choice, only His glory. Ultimately, we can’t argue, we can’t question, we can’t doubt (though we do in our journey – Calvinism recognizes this) because it is His will and who are we to question it? In Bridges book Trusting God (one of my first interactions with Calvinism) this ultimate control, coupled with God’s Goodness, is used to help people get past their circumstances to see a bigger purpose – that purpose being God Himself. Such clarity is comforting it’s easy – even in the face of (or perhaps for some being enhanced by) the self-denial that goes with it as expressed in point two.
- Irenic: There is a calmness to the system that exudes thoughtfulness, depth, and logic. For young people raised in churches full of emotionalism and self-centered teaching, Calvinism offers authenticity to their need to connect with God because it is not about self and it advocates repeatedly letting God be God. This is in some ways an extension of the unambiguousness of the system, but goes more to the heart of the need for depth in churches where shallowness is the norm. That’s attractive, especially as one is trying to “earn his stripes” as an academic and as a means of responding positively to the hypocrisy evident in so many churches that are “man centered” in their teaching.
Looking at the reasons, it’s easy to see the attractiveness of the system. But in my own journey, as I began to gather the bigger picture and to look at ALL of Scripture, and ALL of Christianity, and ALL of who God has revealed Himself to be, I discovered that, in fact, the system doesn’t deliver any of these – except in ways that are inappropriate expressions of them. In the coming weeks, I will outline this as I believe Scripture teaches and God has revealed Himself.

Blessings!

3 comments:

amorris said...

Ok...your second to the last sentence got my attention...and your last sentence...well...that gave me the reason to look for installment #3. I am not a believer in the system, as you put it, so I am with you so far, and appreciate your boldness in stating what you believe and what scripture says is "fact." Keep it coming, you have my attention now!

James G said...

The last sentence of the last paragraph, All in its entirety is the key as you indicate. Yes, I would agree that a traditional baptist can easly embrace full Calvinsim. The key for me though is all of it and how it individual books, chapters, and verses interconnect from front cover to back cover and, very importantly, the individual meditations of one's heart with God speaking to it after prayer and study. Interesting blog, look forward reading more

Ginny said...

More more more!