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TULIP - The Doctrines of Grace

TULIP – The Doctrines of Grace

I stumbled upon a blog last night, written by a progressive Christian, an anabaptist named Benjamin L. Corey. Apparently, he’s pretty well known in certain circles and has even written a book, but I’d never heard of him. His latest blog post is  about how he’s learning to take from Christians who are different from him, in this case, Calvinists who have a high view of God’s sovereignty. He’s learning to appreciate the resolve and comfort that the Calvinistic idea of sovereignty can afford. Meanwhile I, a Calvinist, have been finding solace recently, in the different approaches that non-reformed Christians take toward certain issues. And I’ve come to a conclusion: I just don’t make a very good Calvinist.

That’s something I’ve known for a long time, really. But I didn’t want to admit it, kind of like not wanting to admit that things just aren’t working out with your spouse or that you don’t really feel very patriotic when people start waving the red, white, and blue or something. The signs have always been there. I don’t know how many (friendly) arguments I’ve had with one of my close Calvinist friends over the years about the death penalty, the shortcomings of capitalism, environmental responsibility, and other issues related to social justice. That same friend had to endure my eye-rolling whenever he talked about his adventures in “courtship.” Another of my good friends has learned over the years that no matter what we’re talking about, it’s just best not to bring up Mark Driscoll. Other not-so-good-at-being-reformed facts about me include my somewhat ecumenical attitude toward Catholics, my evolving approach to complementariansim, and my understanding of sexual orientation and how the church should engage the culture on that issue. Oh, and I cringe just a bit whenever I see that somebody’s posted a link on Facebook to the Matt Walsh blog.

But I’m not ready to divorce the Doctrines of Grace or to defect to the land of the Arminians just yet. I may be the black sheep of the family, but I’m still in the family, for crying out loud! And besides, the stance one takes on all those things isn’t necessarily related to one’s soteriology. It’s just that the reformed church as a whole, has a particularly rigid, conservative stance on each of them. But there’s more: in the aforementioned blogpost, Corey links to a previous post in which he explains why he could never be a Calvinist. I would have liked to read the post and think, oh he’s just misunderstanding this, or misrepresenting that. That’s just anecdotal evidence, or this is a straw man. But really, I’m all too familiar with pretty much all the hangups that he mentions. But at the end of the day, while I join Corey in his objections, I feel that both he and I are being addressed quite directly in Romans 9:19-24. This is something that I just keep having to come to terms with over the years.

Now if I can be blunt, I’m not really satisfied with Paul’s answer. Ok, so God’s powerful. He made us, so he can do what he wants with us. That just proves that God’s stronger than me so He can have His way no questions asked; it doesn’t do much to reassure me of His character. And people aren’t just inanimate clay pots; we’re real, personal beings who experience life, love, longing, and if God doesn’t save us, eternal suffering. When I think of the loved ones I’ve lost over the years, the friends and coworkers who have unexpectedly passed away, many of whom were not believers, this passage is a really hard pill for me to swallow. So the analogy leaves me wanting, to be honest.

But what changes my attitude about this is when my eyes move from those people to myself. When I examine my own life, my own heart, what can I say for myself before a holy God? If God made me this way or not, the fact is that I am the way I am. I lie, lust, slander, gossip, over-consume, ignore the poor, hate, covet, and work for the approval of man. I earn God’s judgement every day, yet every day I receive love, acceptance, and approval from God, paid for by the blood of his Son. And he, in his own timing, patiently continues to work sanctification in my heart, making me less like myself and more like Jesus. And He didn’t go half way, leaving the rest up to me. It wasn’t up to me to be smart enough or humble enough to accept God’s free gift. The gift He gave me was new birth, just as involuntary as my first. I had nothing to offer in the process. I was totally helpless, and the triune God did it all. The Father decreed, the Son laid down His life, and the Spirit revived my dead bones. This is beautiful. And this makes me cherish my God more than just about anything else does.

So while I may always have hangups and unresolved issues with my theology, while I may never fit comfortably in a reformed baptist church, there’s just something so irresistible about those Doctrines of Grace. So while I may not be a very good Calvinist, at this point, I still am one.