Tag Archives: Calvinism

A Major Problem With Believers in Reformed Theology

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!

Craig

 

 

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Poke holes in this theology!

“God is love, and if you don’t believe it He will burn you in Hell for all eternity.”

I read this on a Facebook page I subscribe to, and it was written by John Smith.  I pose this to you, my readers: Is this the God you worship and, if so, defend this belief with all you got.  A friendly challenge for you.  If your theology says my theology is wrong, then you MUST defend this statement because in my previous belief system (reformed theology, in the Baptist tradition) this had to be true.  Let us learn together to understand the God we worship as brothers and sisters in the Lord and help one another to serve Him best.  Blessings to you, especially those who write in with their defense of the statement above!

In Christ’s love!

Craig

P.S.  If you would like the link to this Facebook page, simply comment back requesting the link.  Thanks!

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Misunderstanding Original Sin

Some of the blogs I read each week have been talking about Calvinism or original sin / total depravity and the explanation of sin from either a Calvinist view point or an Arminian viewpoint.  It is interesting and informative to listen to the discussions and see the justification for their views.  I want to take a few lines to explain my view and where I came from, which unfortunately for some of you, precludes an Arminian view at this time.  I most recently had considered myself a Baptist who believed in reformed theology.  That means that I believed in the TULIP, of which the first tenet is total depravity.  Now, I am not totally decided against total depravity in one sense, but I am against it the way most reformed people believe it today.  Most believe it today to mean that any human born after Adam is totally depraved, meaning they cannot do anything that pleases God and all their thoughts and intents are sinful in one way or another.  That is not a direct quote from any reformed theologian but merely my synopsis of their beliefs.  If I am wrong in that, I am sure someone will tell me!

This seems very untenable to many (especially Arminians!) because they look around and see that not everyone is out murdering or torturing their neighbors and others!  What I believe is that both groups are talking past each other for the most part.  Calvinists say that everyone is not as bad as they can be at all times, but they are capable of being as bad as they can be at any time.  Others believe people are good and fall into sin sometimes, but are in no way TOTALLY DEPRAVED.  I believe that all people born after Adam have the stain and capability of sin and, given enough time in this life, will sin.  This means, for me, that people are capable of being good and doing good because, although stained with sin, they bear the express image of God by virtue of being created by Him.  But, because they also have this sinful bent inherited from Adam, that we can sin, we will sin, and we will need a way to deal with that sin that pleases God, satisfies His requirement for justice, and exerts His loving influence always.  I realize that the reformed will throw into the equation that none can please God, none seek Him, none do good except they be the elect saved ones.  But, I think there is or can be some common ground and that we need to move in that direction.  Can only the elect do good?

Is that really true?  Think about it.  Jesus tells us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  When the lost, the unsaved, love people, are they not also pleasing God by following His commands, even though they don’t realize they are doing so?  Does God ONLY look upon the love the elect have for others as good and not the love the unsaved have as good also?  Come on!  Be real and think about it.  If God really hated the unsaved as much as many Calvinists say He does, why does He / would He send the rain on the unjust as well?  I guess, according to Calvinists, I don’t believe in total depravity, but I haven’t thrown away original sin, nor the fact that sin needs to be dealt with in God’s way, and that God is still more loving than we can ever imagine.  What kind of God do you serve?  What do you believe about original sin?  What else do I need to take into account?  Let me know what you think!

In Christ’s endless love!

Craig

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Does Your Doctrine Help You Obey Christ?

I have been thinking about this question for the last two years or so.  I have written a little about how (or maybe simply that) my doctrine has changed since I became a Christian in 1991.  I started out believing in Arminian theology (though I had no idea what that even meant for many years!) and held that view for about 12 years or so.  Then, as I began to be faced with more and more complex biblical counseling issues and having to give answers from the Bible about how to deal with these issues, I realized that psychology was not the answer since it did not depend on the Word.  I then realized that most Arminian theology (for lack of a better way to put it, mainstream Christianity, at least around me for many years) bought into “Christian” psychology for the most part and whenever I asked my Arminian brothers and other pastors of the same belief system, they all (except one!) said to leave counseling to the professionals, meaning to psychologists or psychiatrists, whether Christian or not.  This was not an option for me!

So, as I asked around, one pastor I served with told me to check into the biblical counseling movement and the Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights, IL (I believe this is correct!).  Well this was an hours’ drive north from where we lived so off I went.  To make a long story short, through much study, research, and reading thousands of pages and 50+ books (biblical counseling books which then led directly to books on reformed theology or Calvinism), I began to believe in reformed theology or Calvinism.  I spent the next 10 or so years studying  that doctrine and feeling assured I had finally unlocked the keys yo the biblical text!  But, through all of this, there was still a few nagging questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction and it bugged me to no end.  One question was:  What really is the Gospel, what is the minimum that one must believe/do to be saved?  Another was:  What do I have to obey in the Bible, or what is obedience and what does it look like?

Then, the question in the title of this post came into play a few years ago as my theology was once again being re-formed (not reformed, get it?).  I have for so many years now believed that the height of Christianity was having and holding to right doctrine and that there was no more important thing for a Christian to be concerned about.  That is why it was hard for me to relate to a “feel-good Gospel,” or a more feelings-based faith system.  It was to subjective in my estimation, and I wanted as much objectivity as possible because that was the way to “real” truth.  So, in my mind, and as near as I can tell, the minds of most of those I hung with, right doctrine was the ONLY way to obey Christ!  Right doctrine was the only path that lead to total obedience to all that Christ commanded.

But today, I ask this question, and really do expect replies from those Arminians or Calvinists who would try to explain to me how holding their doctrine (Arminianism or Calvinism,  synergism or monergism) can help me obey Christ.  Let me help you to understand where I am at and where I am coming from now.  Please explain to me how your doctrine will help me practice loving my neighbor more, my family more, and God more?  How will it help me be more kind to people?  How will doctrine help me not kill someone?  How will it keep me from being selfish or help me to have more self-control?  Let me get to my point, in case you are missing it.  Does right doctrine ACTUALLY do anything for me to make me more like Christ?  Or, as I read the plain words of Christ, can I merely choose to obey and become more like Him?  If I read in Jesus’ teachings to love my neighbor as I love myself, can I merely look at the ways I love myself and then love my neighbor in ways like that?  Or, do I need to study doctrine more to “cause” me to love my neighbor more?

My belief is that right doctrine may make me feel better about my relationship to God and help me understand the Bible better, but it will NEVER help me obey Christ!  The only thing that will help me obey Christ is actually OBEYING  Christ.  In other words, when Christ says don’t steal, but work for what I need, that is what I do.  I do not need to make sure I understand the kenosis, or the hupostatic union (hypo static if it makes you feel better!) or how the church is to be united.  I must simply obey.  I must go and do what is commanded, not hold a conference on Calvinism/Arminianism and then debate my detractors to prove how wrong they are.  No, I need to love Christ enough to, like a little child, go and obey what He says.

This got longer than I intended, but truly, I welcome your comments and if you have them, answers to the question(s) posed here today.  I especially put out the challenge to the Calvinists or Arminians who may be reading this blog (I know you are out there!) to not be shy.  Jump in here and let me know what you think.  If you truly care about others who have different views than you and are your brothers/sisters int eh Lord, you will be concerned that we know, I know, where I am going astray or where I am correct and need to press on and help others with my knowledge.  Silence speaks volumes, you know what I mean?

Anyway, blessings to you in Christ our Lord!

Craig

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