Where are you on the issue of Calvinism?
As with last week’s ‘Now THAT’s a Good Question!’ this question came from the survey several of you filled out for me over the holidays. This is yet another one of your really good questions!
So much could be said about Calvinism. If you think the ‘Strange Fire’ debate is big – in my opinion, the debates ‘out there’ on this topic make the ‘Strange Fire’ debate look small and their debaters look like best friends. It has fast become a HUGE issue in evangelicalism including a rising number of Southern Baptists. Case in point, check out this recent article printed in the New York Times.
A ‘Calvinist’ (name taken from the 16th century theologian John Calvin) is basically one who holds to the following 5 points of theology regarding salvation (using the acrostic TULIP):
T – Total Depravity
U – Unconditional Election
L – Limited Atonement
I – Irresistible Grace
P – Perseverance of the Saints
Much has been written, discussed, and debated about each point. In my opinion, what it all boils down to is God’s sovereignty over human salvation. At the end of the day, the tension surrounding Calvinism revolves around whether or not God is totally sovereign over salvation (i.e., whether or not man has any freedom at all to choose Jesus as Savior and Lord).
What do I think?
I think the Bible teaches both. I believe God is sovereign over all things – including salvation (see here and here for instance). This is crystal clear throughout God’s Word. But I also believe the Bible teaches that humans are responsible for their actions (see here and here). We are accountable, free human beings. Thus, I believe we do have the freedom to choose.
So, is God sovereign over all things, including salvation? Yes!
Is man responsible for his actions, including salvation? Yes!
Is it okay to believe both? It better be!! If it’s what the Bible teaches – then we must resolve ourselves to live with the tension and be enthralled with the God who is remarkably mysterious and wonderfully good.
My counsel to anyone out there struggling with this is to PLEASE do NOT do what I did! Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s I spent WAY too much time on this issue. I became consumed with it. It took me to a very, very, very unhealthy place spiritually. When it comes to Calvinism – or any theological issue – STICK WITH THE BIBLE AND LET IT DETERMINE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF GOD! It is good and healthy to wrestle with biblical tensions. But don’t dare let them consume you. The purpose of God’s Word is to know and love and obey and cherish and adore and worship HIM, not be right on all our ideas and systems. Be consumed with HIM – not ideas. Some things we will understand. Some things we won’t. That’s a given. Read it to know and love and value God for who He is and how He reveals Himself to us.