En garde indeed! Although I trust any skirmishes we may have will be of the non-lethal variety. You say so many things I agree with, both here and in your introductory post, that I think we’re going to get along just fine. (Although I’m not from your neck of the planet – I’m from the Mother Country. But I won’t hold that against you. )
(And if you don’t mind, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to conflate what you say here with what you say in your introductory post.)
So, Calvin. One of my all time heroes. An arrogant anti-Semite who happily packed a sizeable proportion of the human race, including babies, off to eternal damnation in the next life, and actively conspired to hasten one man’s (Servetus) entry into that damnation largely (as far as I can tell) out of wounded spiritual pride. (Servetus, it seems, had the impudence to question some of Calvin’s Institutes of Religion. How very dare he?)
I mean, what’s not to like?
Seriously, I accept that the Servetus issue is, as you say, not as black and white as some would have us believe. But there is no doubt that Calvin comes out of the whole sorry affair with little credit.
And there is even less doubt that his horrible theology of double predestination* (which wasn’t original to him, of course) has been the source of a great deal of evil and cruelty in the world. After all, you don’t need to be a philosopher or a theologian to work out that if God doesn’t love some people, and is going to burn them for eternity, then you don’t need to love them either, and that indeed you have a divine mandate to reciprocate, and even embody in a political system, God’s eternal cruelty in this life. Apartheid anybody?
I’m sorry. The very word ‘Calvinism’ is like a red rag to a bull to me. In its hard line, five point form I can see no good in it at all. (Because that good is obliterated by the horror of double predestination.) But of course I recognise that it covers a wide spectrum of beliefs. And I am intrigued that you choose to define – or perhaps I should say simply describe – yourself as a Calvinist. Why not simply ‘Reformed thinker’, I wonder?
You say you are “a Calvinist with some very ‘limited’ modifications”. But surely those modifications, while they may be limited, strike at the heart of what it is to be a Calvinist? Call me old fashioned, but I would say that if you do not hold to the basic tenets of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which you clearly do not, you are not a Calvinist. Simple as.
For example, your stance as an Open Theist is in direct opposition to the Reformed or Calvinist (or whatever) view that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”. Now I respect your honesty in admitting that you must “deal with an element of tension and mystery at a level higher than most Christians”. (And you are spot on in your implication that all Christians must deal with tensions of some sort; much as we would like our doctrine to be black and white, it surely ain’t …) But to me, it seems that the tension is all on one side. I buy your definition of Open Theism – for I too do not believe that the future exists, only that God will, in the end, get what He wants. But I don’t see where your views, as expressed, conform with the Reformed view that everything is preordained (as per the quote above).
But maybe that’s because I don’t properly understand where you’re coming from. I’m sure you will enlighten me …
I also disagree with your definition of limited atonement (or particular redemption), mainly because I disagree with your definition of election. I don’t think we are all elect. With Sonia, I believe “God has chosen some for salvation in this age to demonstrate the love and grace of God, for service, for continuing the work of Christ in the present age, in order to bless and bring to salvation the rest in the ages to come”. (Couldn’t have put it better myself Sonia! )
Most of your other beliefs – ancient creeds; the Trinity; resurrection; Biblical infallibility but not inerrancy; evolution; hell etc – get a big tick from me. I’m not so sure about cosmic warfare, a) because I don’t believe in ‘Satan’; and b) I’m not well enough acquainted with it or with Boyd to have much of an opinion.
And finally, if I might be so bold as to say, I like the way you write, as an expression of the person you are. As we Brits used to say, I like the cut of your jib.
I look forward to some interesting and stimulating debate with you, sir.
All the best
- You *might *argue, as does another of my heroes, Mark Driscoll , that God doesn’t predestine people to hell, He simply allows them to end up there as the ‘natural’ result of their sinfulness, while predestining the elect to salvation. But that, I would aver, is pure theological sleight of hand. If the elect and *only *the elect are predestined to salvation, the rest, the reprobate, are, by definition, predestined to the alternative. Whichever way you cut that particular cake, it still stinketh …