Friday, July 29, 2005

Why I’m a Calvinist

Scot McKnight and James Hamilton are both blogging on Calvinism at the moment. Both feeds are worth checking out and they come from contrasting perspectives. This had led me to some reflections on the topic:

I am a Calvinist because:

(1) I find it validated in Scripture. To be honest, I just don’t know how one can read texts like Ephesians 1 and Acts 13.48 and not be. (Though I fully concede that texts like Hebrews 6 may not necessarily comport with some Reformed expressions of perseverance, so I would want to carefully nuance what is meant by “perseverance of the saints”).

(2) I find the only explanation for my conversion from darkness to light to be the unmerited and efficacious power of God’s grace working in me. I did not grow up in a Christian home. My upbringing was somewhere between areligious and irreligious. Everything I knew of Christianity I learned from Ned Flanders. I was brain washed by the media in thinking that all Christians were hypocrites and child molesters. As a teenager I was an atheist and/or pantheist (depending on what I had had for breakfast). I teased Christians at school and called them “God-botherers”. In order to get where I am now took some work and it was not mine. I did not wake up one day and decide to let Jesus into my heart. It was not a case of Jesus knocking on my door and I finally answered. I was dead in my sins (and they were many) and dead people do not move (apparently a major symptom of death). To paraphrase Paul’s testimony in 1 Cor. 15.8 – God ripped me out of the womb like a dead foetus and breathed life into me? [Note to self: check out which of Scot Mcknight’s conversion models suits my story the best!] To put it briefly, something really freaky and wonderful happened on the road to Damascus in August 1994.

Let me close with a few further reflections. I like to think of myself as a “nice” Calvinist, that is, I am an evangelical first and Reformed second. I also hold many Arminian friends, pastors, and scholars in high esteem and affection. For instance, I. Howard Marshall, Scot McKnight and Ben Witherington are writers I love to read and I find their studies inspiring, exhilarating and provocative – even challenging to my own Calvinistic viewpoint. In fact, Witherington’s Romans commentary and McKnight’s Jesus Creed are coming on the plane with me to Scotland. So in other words, I’m NOT a “six point Calvinist”, i.e. someone who believes in consigning non-Calvinists to theological exile.

Lastly, when I went through Bible College I flew the Calvinist flag pretty high; mainly because I was often baited to the topic by peers and lecturers. As such I became known for my firm Calvinistic convictions. In fact, the day I graduated, the student association gave me for a going away present a copy of a 1920s tract called “Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism”. Everyone, including myself, found it most amusing. In hindsight now, although I’m glad I stood up for myself when baited during tutorials, I really wish I would have been more well known for my love for Jesus than for my love for Reformed theology. I guess that’s called “sanctification” – a lesson I may have been predestined to learn!


fr'nklin said...

I enjoyed reading why you are a Calvinist. I have been Calvinistic for as long as I can remember. I am still convinced that much of Calvinism is clearly found in Scripture, but then again, it seems that the Bible refuses to yield 100% to any theological position. I flew the flag very high as well...but not so high anymore. The God of the Bible is certainly "in control", but to what degree...I'm not so sure anymore. I'm kind of "restudying" this of late...thanks for the insight. I think when you combine Scripture with have something upon which to base a authority.


Scot McKnight said...

Thanks Mike for looking at my piece on this.

Alan S. Bandy said...

Well said my friend.

slaveofOne said...

I'm pretty much completely opposite 1 and 2. But one of the reasons I don't see “calvinism” in scripture is because I'm too ignorant to know what it is and chose to stay away from learning about it after a good friend of mine who was a six-point Calvinist ended up in a major belief crisis, cursed Yahweh, and left the kingdom.

For me, entering the kingdom was the result of a rational process based on a natural theology. I went looking for evidence thinking if there was a God—-as in a Personal God--He/She/It would provide it in what exists. I saw the evidence, chose to accept it despite myself, and here I am.

I did wake up one day and declare Yahweh God and Yeshua Lord. I was not dead enough in my sins to not see truth and not be able to accept it.

Yaya's Grandma said...

My husband and I are new Calvinists.
Great post, but left me very curious about your road to Damascus event in Dec. 1994. I am sure it would be an exciting testimony to God's grace.

P.S.: You didn't by any chance meet a couple of Americans on a flight to Sydney in Feb. 1994, and invite them to your home in Brisbane did you? Your bio sounded just like the young man we met on our honeymoon, just curious.