Saturday, August 4, 2012
Why I Am Not a Calvinist: An Introduction
This will not be comprehensive. It is only an introduction to a series of posts about Calvinism that I hope will eventually materialize on my blog over the indefinite future. As those around me know, I am certainly not very shy about this subject. However, there are a couple reasons that I have not mentioned it online before: first, not everyone cares about the subject, but for those who do it is usually a central and dividing topic. I have been reticent for fear of saying something that would merely affirm and further the controversy. Second, I have several close friends for whom this is such a subject—not that they would necessarily divide over it, but it is a doctrine that they hold dear to heart and it means an awful lot to them. I do not want to write or say anything that would injure these relationships. Things tend to be received differently when read in cold, digital print. Fortunately, not many people will read any of this.
Something happened about a week ago that is pushing me past the preceding inhibitors. A couple of my dearest friends asked me about Calvinism because it is a major subject at the church they attend and, while they are usually very successful at avoiding idle controversies, the issue has recently come to a head through some of their relationships. Knowing that I and my wife have strong, thoughtful opinions on the subject, they wanted to know why we have thus far rejected the doctrine. I did not at that time fully answer their question, but rather I mostly encouraged them to not be discouraged by theological controversies and to stay the course in regard to their faith. I told them that while I could likely talk for hours (days?) about the subject—why I do not hold to the doctrine and how I understand the relevant scripture—orthopraxis is always more important than orthodoxy. They’re on the right track with the former, so they don’t need to be overly concerned with the more esoteric parts of the latter.
That said, I do think that their question is one worth addressing: Why am I not a Calvinist? I am also reminded of some other great friends of mine that came into contact with a young bible-student who had just thoroughly encountered Calvinist doctrine for the first time. The poor guy was going through some kind of life/faith crisis over the whole thing. Apparently something deeply disturbed him—shook him—about the consequences of Calvinist ideas, however he couldn’t see any way around it theologically. He was thoroughly convinced of the solidness of the biblical presentation before him. The last I heard the guy is getting by alright so apparently he has gotten past his initial shock. The problem in his example, though, is not that he agreed with the Calvinist argument but that it created a crisis for him. It is for people in his position that I would also like to answer the question.
I do not really have much of a desire to convince Calvinists that they’re wrong, especially so long as their bad theology is not impairing their work in the Kingdom. But people who do not take to Calvinist doctrine because they intuitively perceive the inherent incongruities between the God they know and the God they are being taught about should not be left to feel like they have a theological disability simply because they are not aware of the alternative perspectives. While Calvinism has much in its favor when it comes to near historical precedents and the work of highly regarded Christian thinkers, writers, and scholars, there is also much to be said about some of the contrary ideas, thinkers, and scholars if properly understood. People deserve to hear whatever sound, quality arguments exist outside of Calvinism. So until you actually find something sound and quality, I invite you to read what I have to say.
I will first organize my answers into two broad categories: Biblical and Philosophical. I believe that Calvinist doctrine fails in both contexts, with the former being of primary importance. In the coming posts I will attempt to show why I have found that the bible can’t be adequately appealed to in support of each of the five points of Calvinism. Then I will likely move on to addressing some of the philosophical implications of the doctrine and how those compare to scripture.
As always, I encourage all comments and questions.
Note to Calvinists: Try not to get too upset by anything I say. Remember, if I am wrong, it is only because such error has been divinely pre-determined.