In one sense I regret very much that teachings like those of the Calvinist have come to occupy the attention of intelligent people like yourself. I say that with the utmost respect for you. The teachings of Calvinism represent one of those truly bizarre intramural disputes that do not even get off the ground for people who've never been presented with them. (from Randal Rauser's, What's so Calvinistic about John Piper's "The Calvinist"?
- From eternity past God intended that the most vivid and profound demonstration of His glory would come in the form of His work of salvation on the cross of Christ.
- God then made man to punish him
- He made him perfect and thus unlikely to ever need punishing, or, for that matter, a savior
- By a happy coincidence, and against all the odds, this perfect man sinned, thus allowing God to fulfill His purposes for both the man and Christ
- When he sinned, God, who is suddenly confronted with the prospect of being able to fulfill all of His original plans, becomes furious
Does this sound like a "truly bizarre" system of thought that would "never get off the ground by someone not presented with it"? It sure does to me. Then why do I let it “occupy my attention.” Well, I guess it’s because I have been presented with it. In fact, for a long time I actually believed it. I read about it, talked about it, argued about it, thought about it. I immersed myself in it.
The key word here is in. I was in Calvinism. I was a member. And that’s a bad thing. An unhealthy thing. Because from the inside Calvinism looks different than it does from the outside. Read the blog comments following any article on Calvinism and they will sound like excerpts of a conversation from an insane asylum. Essentially, Calvinism is all about devising ways to explain how God can do bad and still be good. To accomplish this, Calvinists employ all kinds of esoteric ideas and lofty sounding terms. The whole thing devolves into little more than an intellectual exercise in abstract thought. And on that level, I suppose, it makes about as much sense as any other weird, abstract idea. From the inside it makes as much sense as any other strange system of thought does from the inside.
But here’s the thing: It’s better to never go inside. And from the outside, no-one in their right mind would ever, even for an instant, entertain the idea that Calvinism is philosophically or biblically tenable. Somebody who has “never been presented” with Calvinism would never entertain the idea that God, by virtue of being our Creator, has less obligation to us than a father does to a child. It would be rejected out of hand. And rightly so. It would not be healthy to pursue it farther than that.
But, you might say, shouldn't you check it out with the bible first, before dismissing it? My answer to that is: Absolutely not! That’s the worse thing you can do. Consider all the things we haven’t checked out with the bible. I never checked out with the bible Charles Mansion’s claims to be Jesus Christ. I never checked out with the bible David Koresh’s claims to be Jesus Christ. I never checked out with the bible the claims of the Heaven’s Gate folks who killed themselves a few years back to see if maybe, just maybe, a spaceship would come to their rescue. I never checked out with the bible the claims of the Black Muslims that white people were a race of devils created by a big-headed evil scientist on an island somewhere.
Why did I never check out any of these claims with the bible? Because they are insane, that’s why! And also because I had never really been “presented with them.” I was not in Manson’s family. Or the Koresh compound. Or the Heaven’s Gate clan. Or the Black Muslims. I had never been presented with those ideas; hence I never had the slightest reason to check them out. And I’m glad for that. That’s four lies I avoided believing simply by never being presented with them.
But what if I had been presented with them? What if I had been living in the Spahn ranch, down on my luck, looking for a Savior, a leader, a guru, a guide? And what if I was presented with the idea that Charles Manson was Jesus Christ? Well, what should I have done? Turn and run? Or check it out with the bible?
Odds are if I had checked it out with the bible I would have started to see it Charlie’s way. Oh, sure, many of the verses would have seemed to instantly and decisively contradict his claims. But surely I would have started wondering if I was reading those verses in context. And who would have been there to provide the context? Well, the people around me, of course. The family. And after a few months of their careful tutelage I probably would have started to see that the verses that seemed to contradict Charlie’s claims could in fact be harmonized with them. Moreover, I would have learned a whole new set of control verses by which to interpret all other verses. Using that method, I would have come to see the whole bible as a beautiful tapestry of verses all pointing together to the same glorious truth--Charles Manson is Jesus!
There are many truths I’m glad I was never presented with. I sometimes wish Calvinism was one of them.