I was brought up as an adult in a Southern Baptist Church that was basically Arminian in belief. In other words, the altar call was the usual weekly place where people would go during a church service to “give their hearts to the Lord.” It was where they chose Christ as Savior and Lord. Then as years went by, I slowly transitioned to the doctrines of grace, or Calvinism. As I studied more and more, I began moving into New Covenant Theology which I believed was more accurate than the first two. Since then I have obviously moved to becoming a believer in universal salvation, understanding this to be, in my mind, the closest and best understanding of God’s nature as He has revealed Himself to be.
During my years as a Calvinist, I read much and did what I could to understand the arguments and explanations of that belief system so I could argue or “apologize” for the system. I wrote classes for my church. I wrote papers and blog articles. I bought many books on traditional reformed theology and Baptist reformed theology, Southern Baptist and Reformed Baptist. During this time I also graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, KY. One thing I began to notice as time went by, time spent in the “reformed” or “Calvinist” camp, was how lacking in care for others was so prevalent. Sure, the talk was about loving people, but it sure wasn’t shown when an Arminian walked in the door! To be fair, many of the Calvinist church people I was around were loving to me and my family. I found out they lied and cheated just like Arminians did. I found out (and even fostered) that there was a largely antagonistic tone during almost all talks with those who opposed Calvinism. The conversation would start out OK, but given enough time, it would typically devolve into a shouting match, with both sides anathematizing each other,and then going back to their churches regaling the victory! Success wasn’t measured in loving others, but in how many times they stumped their opposition! Having more answers than their detractors seemed to be the victory many Calvinists I was around were seeking. How unfortunate, I was like them, too! My demeanor changed from loving people to loving to be right. The antidote? A fuller understanding of God’s grace as espoused by Christian/Evangelical Universalism.
I am slowly evolving, moving away from what I used to be to what God has created me in His image to be; a lover of Him and others. I admit it is hard to cast off the old ways and I understand what Paul suffered through, so entrenched in a philosophy that IT IS your identity! But that brings me to the point of this article.
I recently read a couple tweets regarding Calvinism from a Calvinist. This person wrote two tweets saying basically that people who come to embrace Reformed theology need to stay off social media with their beliefs until they have at least two years of delving into the belief system to ensure they are well grounded in that system and in a local church as well. This, the person states, will help guard against being puffed up in that faith system. Apparently this person sees a problem in reformed circles with this attitude. I concur. I have seen it first hand, since I was one of the people this person warns against. I didn’t listen. I was excited about these “new” beliefs. I had to tell everyone what the Bible “really” said, so they to could understand it. I was obnoxious, unbearable, unloving, and worse (if that’s possible!).
I remember distinctly trying to figure out how some theologians arrived at their conclusions on scripture texts, when I didn’t see it no matter which way I looked at the texts. I found myself saying an awful lot of “what Jesus really means is/what Paul really means is, what God really said is…. Why? because my new belief system (reformed/Calvinist theology didn’t come together as easily as I had been led to believe.
One comment I want to make before I forget it is this. If your belief system causes you to make statements like I just mentioned in the previous paragraph, I think you need to take a serious look at your system. If plain readings of the text (of course in the NT context, not our 21st century context, first off) don’t make some sense, common sense, and you need to give strained explanations of the text, especially by having to re-define words, your system may not be as coherent as you think. If God’s love is not at the center of all that takes place, biblically speaking, then I suggest you have a wrong understanding of the texts. Do bad things happen in the bible? Yes. But, if there is no purpose to it and a purpose you assign to it does not lead to God’s ultimate good for all of His creation, then I suggest again that your system needs to be re-done or chucked out the window.
Rather than go off on a lot of different tangents right now, let me just say this again. When I read of people saying things like this person mentioned, not being out in public explaining or reasoning the belief system of reformed theology for years because there is too many un-Christian attitudes and beliefs being espoused / lived-out, that is a HUGE RED FLAG to me that something is wrong. If a system says, God chose you, you didn’t choose Him (which BTW I believe) and people in that system project the attitude “I got mine, maybe you’ll get yours (maybe not, it’s all up to God anyway and who can know who the saved are going to be!), I am better than you” there is a huge problem. If that same system goes further and says that God created all things, said they were good, then decides not to choose some of that creation to be reconciled to Himself, saved, and restored, then there is a huge problem with your system. I could go on, but I think I have made my point. They will know we are Christians by our love for each other (all humanity). They will know we are following God when they see that love for each other. If your system says it is like that or believes that, but it doesn’t work out that way most oftentimes, then there is a HUGE problem with your belief system.
I need to move on with my day so my thoughts need to stop for now. As always, comments are appreciated and will be responded to the best I can. I appreciate all my regular readers from all over the world (all continents except Antarctica, so far!) and hope that as you read here, you will grow in faith and hope in the living God and that you will continue to love others as God also loves you!
Blessings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!