Dluxe's World

Thursday, October 12

(Pre)Destined for debate [1]

The debate that was on, then off, then on again, is now finally off again. Color me disappointed.

What am I talking about? Back earlier this year, Ergun and Emil Caner agreed in principle to a debate on Calvinism with James While and Tom Ascol. If you watch this mock promotional video created for the event, you'll get an idea why I was looking forward to it. Given the obvious emotion involved, you have must see TV for sure! The resulting 'sturm und drang' really hasn't reflected particular well on either side, but it does make one point clear....

There's probably no label within modern evangelical circles evoking more emotions than calling someone a Calvinist. Some people wear their Calvinism like some sorta badge of theological honor - as if there's some holiness multiplier for each point of the TULIP you affirm. On the other side, some people bristle because they've been theologically pistol-whipped by a bunch of smug Calvinists... Or maybe they just see the so-called Doctrines of Grace as cold and unfair. In the middle are the masses who are essentially ignorant of theology and its surrounding debates as well as those who just want to keep their heads down.

Personally, I owe no allegience to John Calvin. I don't aspire to be known as a Calvinist or wear a "Calvin is my Homeboy" t-shirt.* In fact, I was hostile to the person of John Calvin until the last three years or so... Growing up Methodist means that we thanked the Reformers for splitting from Rome and gave credit for everything else to John and Charles Wesley. Today, I suppose that prolly Calvin isn't a guy I'd like to hang out with... Heck, I'm not even sure he was a nice guy at all.

But I owe an allegiance to Scripture and to Christ... So, to the degree Calvin's theology/orthodoxy rightly reflects what God has revealed, I should affirm Calvin's doctrine.

[begin foggy flashback, Wonder Years style. Imagine if you will a youthful Dluxe, out on summer break...]

My favorite book of the Bible is Romans...This is at least partically because the first Methodist pastor I really respected admonished me to "just read Romans 'til you get it" on his last Sunday at our church. I had only recently started to really look at the Bible seriously, though I would've called myself a Christian... But I rarely ventured outside of Psalms or Proverbs. (Occasionally I would peek at Song of Solomon, having figured out what it was actually about!)

I can remember being struck by Paul's description of us in Romans 5... "Weak, ungodly, and enemy." Sheesh... I wasn't really that bad was I? Weak, maybe. But I was a good person and I surely wasn't God's enemy. After all, I was Christian and had believed the Gospel. I chalked that up to Paul's dramatic prose and moved on.

Everything else was going along swimmingly until I got to Romans 8. Then I smacked my face into this passage, which has smacked many faces since Paul wrote it:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30, NIV)

The NIV might have some issues as a translation, but they get this passage right and effectively ruined my world in the process. So, a 17 year-old proto-Dluxe started thinkin'...
  • Those who love God were called by God.
  • Why would Paul use two words that mean the same thing? Foreknew/predestined... We're talking about the same thing aren't we?
  • Whoa... Verse 30 makes it sound like that God predestined people and then calls them. And whoever gets called gets justified and glorified.
  • So, is everyone predestined to be called? If not, God sure seems unfair... To call some and not others is just mean!
  • But wait... if all the called are justified (and I know what Paul means now when he says "justified"), does that mean everyone's saved? That doesn't seem right either!
  • What time is it? I need to call the pastor.
And so, one very jolly Methodist pastor (only recently installed at our church) suddenly got a very big headache... But more on that, and the rest of Romans, tomorrow.

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