Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seeing the world as a Calvinist

Apparently, a Dutch scientist has found a difference between Calvinists and Atheists when it comes to pattern recognition.

Maybe that's why we're soooo good at seeing the speck in someone else's theology, and so unable to see the log in our own practice?

I dunno...I'm skeptical of any causal connections found or posited. But it's true that an emphasis on God's sovereignty can cause one to see the world in a different light.

You might have heard the joke about the Calvinist who fell down a flight of stairs. A friend who saw it all take place asked: "Are you alright?"

To which the Calvinist replied: "Well...I'm glad that's over."

I have a friend - really the father of a friend of mine - who helped me understand practical Calvinism. At the time, I was as Arminian as pentecostals come. I would say that in evangelism, Calvinists had to be the coldest, hardest, merciless people imaginable. He retorted that when things get tough, a good Calvinist is in a much better position to sing God's praises.

That man is going through an awful battle with cancer - one he may not pull through. Yet every picture of him has a smile, and he has a quiet confidence in God's goodness and living for God's glory. It's a beautiful thing - and it's touching the lives of people who are immune to the Arminian "decide today, or burn tomorrow" rhetoric.

Why? Because he sees a pattern to God's goodness that is beyond the limits of his own understanding. He sees a purpose to his life that is beyond his own comfort, health, or salvation. Maybe that scientist was on to something after all....

What does your theology let you see when you're in the midst of suffering?

7 comments:

Tim said...

Great post!

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Maybe from your point of view!

Berean Wife said...

Rev'd Chris Larimer,

I would have to say that your friend's father appears to have signed up for more than the "60 day, money back guaranteed" type of "faith". I pray the Lord comforts and strengthens him and his family during his trials.

Berean Wife

Charles Garcia said...

Hey Chris,

My conversion took place in 1998. If someone had to denominationalize me (which is an uncomfortable process) I would be a Presbyterian (Five point-Calvinist).

As a product of evangelical Calvinism I have spent the last decade studying not only the faith but the reformed positions; as well as other perspectives to try and be as informed as a lay person chooses to be. I'm way behind having started so late in life.

Most Calvinists I speak with about evangelism are quick to point out God's sovereignty and his predestination of the chosen. While I wholeheartedly agree I find most of those claims to be nothing but an excuse to avoid the Great Commission. I find the argument to be wrought with laziness and fear of rejection. Predestination seems to give us a good excuse. "If God wants them, He's going to get them; regardless of my involvement."

I think there are three key items Calvinist need to be aware of:
1) First and foremost- we are COMMANDED to evangelize. Not asked, but commanded. Like it or not, believe it works or not, we have a direct order to spread the word of Christ.
2) God regularly uses the common means of grace to awaken the heart and bring about salvation. Those means of grace being the Holy Spirit, the scriptures and believers. I believe it is wrong for a Christian to remove him/herself from the equation or be irresponsible with the duty. It's not that God has to use us but He has chosen to use us. That should be enough to convince believers to get to work.
3) None but the Lord knows the heart. I have seen some pretty nasty people turn to the Lord and become completely different people (I'm sure you've seen many more). Conversly, I have also witnessed wolves enter the camp. Nevertheless Calvinists, like any other Christian, should act as if EVERY person in this world has their name written in the Book of Life. Subsequently, our hearts should yearn to share the gospel with everyone who does not have a saving knowledge. Even if they won't hear it we should be filled with compassion and the hope that God will renew the heart at some later date and use the seeds He allowed us to planted. We cannot know whose name is in the book. We certainly cannot pretend to choose who hears the gospel. If we treat every person as if they were part of God's elect (since we know no better) then I believe we would see a transformation in evangelism and compassion throughout the church and particularly among Calvinists.

Just my two cents for the day.

All the best,
Charles Garcia

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

Charles,

I'm a Calvinist. This isn't a critique of Calvinism or of evangelism spurred therefrom. It's a question of how this view changes your interactions with people and possibilities.

I ask again: What does your theology let you see when you're in the midst of suffering?

Charles Garcia said...

What does your theology let you see when you're in the midst of suffering?

At the core of my theology is God's sovereignty. It is that sovereignty that allowed the world to take shape. That sovereignty that allowed men to reject His love. That sovereignty that allowed the nails to drive through flesh as they were hammered into the cross. That sovereignty that brought the dead back from the grave and emptied the tomb. That very same sovereignty is SURELY capable of dealing with my personal struggles. Whatever the situation or result, I am comforted that He has plans for me and His will is greater than my own. It is a comfort that I am NOT in control beyond what freedoms He has granted me.

The knowledge that nothing is beyond His reach or control is enough to comfort me in the most difficult of situations. Be it failed relationships, business struggles or the loss of a child- without His sovereignty I would have strayed from His path and wandered aimlessly; without hope or a care. It's a message I try to share with others in the hope they will not give up or quite in the midst of difficulty.

Charles

Dave Moody said...

Suffering isn't purposeless, nor is it forever... our savior saves with nail scared hands. His incarnation has further dignified the human condition and experience. He's walked the walk, and he walks our walk with us.

There aren't many satisfactory answers here and now. There is comfort and dignity though in the meantime.

grace & peace,
dm