Rants from the soapbox have been pretty sparse recently through being tired, being away, getting old, but also having an ‘Key Doctrines’ exam next week on things like election and predestination, the Spirit and the Church. At this point half of you stop reading so welcome to the theology geeks. So I’ve been and am trying to study (while not playing scrabble on facebook and staring out the window or walking around a lot pretending to think), and I have a few questions.
Calvinism and election and all that.
So for the first time yesterday to my shame I read the five points of Calvinism (on a side note thank you Alastair McGrath for summarising clearly in a few pages what everyone else seems to take a book to try to do). Now I realised that I’m not a fan of limited atonement – it just doesn’t seem to square with scripture and God’s character (to me) that Jesus only died for the elect. I’d always assumed Jesus died for everyone and it was up to them to choose to accept the offer of grace and forgiveness. And the perseverance of the saints (once saved always saved in popular parlance) we had lots of discussion on in class, where the learned professor (in the Presbyterian college) suggested that we must take the warnings in scripture about not falling away seriously. I think Paul Helm said it would be immoral to warn about something that had no risk of happening. So then I came to read a book by Roger Olsen on Arminianism (as it actually is and not all the misunderstood caricatures) and found myself incredibly sympathetic to something that in various circles I’d tended to hear spoken of in a sense that ‘when Arminians grow up, or start thinking, they’ll see the light and become Calvinists’. I know I’m caricaturing a bit, and it does make me think about who people are following and Paul’s rebuke in 1 Corinthians 3.4. Is it just me or does it seem that sometimes people are more interested in following or the thought of Calvin or John Owen than Jesus? Olsen also suggested that although many churches profess Calvinism or Calvinistic tendencies, the actual default position of many evangelicals is Arminiansim or Semi-Pelagianism. Interesting eh? (that’s one for the geeks).
That often forgotten member of the Trinity, or the Trinity that is not Father, Son and Holy Scriptures. Apologies, I’m being facetious again. Regarding the more miraculous gifts, i’m aware there are different opinions, but it was suggested in class that theologically we must be non-cessasationist as the biblical support for miraculous gifts ceasing with the closing of the canon is so unclear. Now I’ve probably considered myself charismatic more by theology than experience but a comment by Sam Storms in his book convergence challenged me whether you can say that or if it is a bit of a cop out. Obviously recognising everyone has different gifts, but if these gifts are for today, and we are to seek after gifts, why do we see so little evidence of them? Have we been quenching the Spirit? Individually or institutionally?
I am learning and trying to think about some of this stuff, although I realise there are things we will never figure out – there is the element of God that is mystery but I appreciate all the help I can get as this faith seeks understanding.
And then there’s the church, but I better get back to the old revision… (Realising some of the flaws of Warhol’s quote below – waiting for exams definitely doesn’t make them more exciting)