If you wish to read this entire series of posts, the first post is here and at the end of each post there is a link to the next post in the series.
I did a series of thoughts on Reformed Theology a while back at a website I used to assist with on moderation and am still active with after stepping down after 6 years and feeling it was time for others to take over while I took a sabbatical of sort. The original thread is here.
I may revise them a little for readability here as I go along but if they seem a little odd in terms of the voice and casual approach, that is why.
I will only put my posts here as I haven’t asked for permission to include others with their comments.
As I continue with this series too, I want to give credit for a great deal of the framework of the thought to the influence of Roger Olson’s book, Against Calvinism. The words are my own, but I read that book and it definitely influences me and there are elements of it that are mirrored in my statements throughout these posts and those that follow.
As promised, this is my final post on this thread (barring any follow-up discussion that may arise which I’ll take as they arise.)
First, I’m going to end by providing some links to other discussions here on our board that address some of the issues I’ve touched upon as well as others. Calvinism/Arminianism is one of the most discussed issues between Protestants and it ties into things that have been the basis of speculation and disagreement for ages. Well before many of the issues involved became contextualized into theological discussion, these issues were discussed in various forms in Greek Philosophy and probably other contexts as well. On these threads you’ll find some defenses of Calvinism, some of which address some of the issues I’ve raised in my thread here.
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=35119&hilit=calvin&start=45 Some General Questions about Calvinism
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=35084&hilit=calvin&start=60 What’s Wrong with Calvinism
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=2592&hilit=calvin The Amish Children: It was God’s Will?
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2211&hilit=calvin Puritan Lad’s Response
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1400&hilit=calvin God’s Omniscience vs. Free Will
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1964&hilit=calvin Christian Universalism
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1965&hilit=calvin An Exegesis of Romans 9
http://discussions.godandscience.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=1717 Is Calvinism a Heresy?
This just scratches the surface. Just within our board as a whole, you can do a word search on the words “Calvin” (which I used to find the above referenced thread), Calvinism, Calvinist, Arminian, Arminius, Armenian, Free Will, Determinism and there are more, and you’ll find there are many thousands of uses of these words and entire threads as well as sidebar conversations that come up, sometimes from people who visit our board and often from long-term participants on our boards as well as Moderators. Some are passionate, some are well-reasoned, some are emotional and some highlight the differences that exist between believers that has resulted over time in the forming of denominations and different schools of thought.
Do I think that my little thread here is going to resolve that? No, I don’t. In some ways, maybe my taking the time to do this could be seen by some as selfish or self-indulgent. I have strong opinions and in addition to expressing those opinions positively for what I believe, that also necessitates the rejection of other ideas or opinion and apologetics is often as much about addressing things counter to what is believed as well as positively. After trying not to get deeply embroiled in some of these I felt I owed it to myself, if not some others who have asked me to elaborate and in the past I either didn’t have the time, desire or I felt the effort would be more divisive than helpful.
Some grow weary of the debate. Some too get frustrated over time as they continue to address issues and counter, what to them anyway, are repeated claims and themes only to have new people come to our forums and repeat the same things and necessitate a repeating of things.
I’ve said some strong things in my thread. I’ve tried to address them to the issues and the passages involved but as I noted when I set out to do this, despite my best efforts, I’ve no doubt failed in being as charitable as I wanted to be, if not in my own eyes, certainly in the eyes of those for whom some of the beliefs I’ve challenged are cherished or important ones.
So to end, I want to say some things that I think are important to keep in mind too.
I don’t hate Calvinists. I disagree with some elements of what some of them believe. I think the issues are important insofar as they relate to the character and person of God and this can greatly impact the way in which we personally relate to God. Our beliefs about God have no impact on God. God is who He is independent of what we believe. What we believe however, does have impact on us and that impact can be positive or negative relative to it’s accuracy and how it positions us in terms of how we listen to and walk with God.
There are people on this forum who are professing Calvinists and/or Reformed Christians and I count them friends even when these issues of disagreement come up. The reality is, in terms of our daily Christian walk, many of the issues that I’ve looked at really don’t have much impact on important things. The Order of Events Within Salvation, which are at the heart of a lot of these discussions had no impact in terms of how I came to Christ at the age of 12. It wasn’t until much later in life that I even gave thought or concern to these issues. If you speak with the average Reformed Christian and the Average Christian from any other background you’re basically going to receive the same gospel presentation and invitation to come to Christ. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone in a reformed church, for example, stop a person who has expressed a desire to receive Christ and say, “Now wait a minute, are you sure that you’ve been regenerated already because if you haven’t then there’s no point in praying for salvation.”
Reformed believers, whatever they believe about predestination or determinism, live their lives practically seeking to follow Christ the best they know how and they pray, fellowship and seek to grow in pretty much the same manner than others from differing backgrounds do as well.
As I’ve tried to take pains to address, the areas of extremes that I’ve tried to address while sincerely of concern from my perspective, are not the whole of Reformed Theology or Reformed Fellowships. There are, in fact those who identify themselves as Reformed who raise similar issues and questions to mine about some of those extremes. Some of them are referred to as Low Calvinists (usually associated with proponents of Infralapsarianism who hold to a measure of God’s Permissive Will, or Weak Sovereignty in areas) and within the traditional Reformed Denominations such as Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Reformed Episcopal and the list goes on and on, there are branches that are characterized by strong or weak stances on these positions and in some denominations you almost have to assess each church individually as to how strong their stance is in any of these given areas.
There are genuine efforts within reformed circles to reconcile deterministic systems with free will. Some call these efforts collectively, Compatabilism and there are different approaches and efforts to recognize an element of free will, if not directly in the salvation process, then certainly in the areas of Sanctification and daily Christian living.
The point is, these issues can grow in relative importance to us the more we bring our egos into the process and become more concerned about personally being right rather that at times stepping back and asking how important they really are in terms of how we walk and fellowship with other believers. In my mind, that doesn’t negate the need to consider and address these issues, but it’s certainly a good reminder as to how we ought to do them.
So, as I end, although I make no apology for my asserting my concerns with these elements, nor do I expect those who believe differently to apologize for their beliefs, I do want to make clear that issues are one thing, but people are another and as imperfect as I am, I have no desire to alienate or ostracize those who find comfort in these beliefs, nor to elevate the issues to where there can be no fellowship or communication with one another, and I would hope that that would be the position of many who come from some different directions.
In the end, there is only one thing that makes an eternal difference and that is Jesus Christ and His redemptive work in our hearts and lives. Sometimes we spend so much effort taking the engine apart to try to figure out how things work, that we forget that most people just get into the car and drive.
Blessings and I’ll now try to let these issues for me, fade back into the background (until the next wave, which I’m sure will come …. )