Dave Miller’s post the other day got my mind to working, and conjured up an image that I am going to try to describe to you in this post, which could also be titled “Calvinism, Free Will, and Narnia: Redux,” as it picks up where I left off in another post I once wrote called “Calvinism, Free Will, Narnia, and Christian Unity.” The basic idea in the first post, for those who don’t want to bother going back and reading it now, is that the biblical realities of divine sovereignty (and the set of implications that Calvinists generally claim go along with them) and of human free will (and the set of implications that non-Calvinists generally claim go along with them) correspond, from an antinomist’s perspective, to the two coexisting worlds of Narnia and England as described in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Both sets of realities, though apparently contradictory, coexist, one on one side of the wardrobe, and the other on the other side.
To the degree I understand it (which, admittedly, is not all that great), one side corresponds to the realm of eternity, and the other to the realm of time. The surrounding reality is perceived differently in accordance with the perspective from which it is viewed, i.e. either from the perspective of eternity, or the perspective of time. Both perspectives, though apparently contradictory, are nevertheless true. In a certain sense, the realm of eternity is even more true—though at the same time it is more opaque and harder to correctly perceive, and more likely to get us sidetracked from the things of everyday life that generally ought to occupy our minds and activities on this side of the wardrobe.
In this post, I want to pick up where I left off in the last post, and describe in a similar fashion something of how I understand the on-going debates and discussions in Southern Baptist life over Calvinism, Traditionalism, etc.
Imagine a big room full of Southern Baptists (the illustration works with all Christians as well, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say they are all Southern Baptists). In keeping with our illustration about England and Narnia, this room is located in England—that is, in the realm of time. Situated at a high place along the walls of this room are a series of narrow windows, through which, if one stands on top of a series of tall stools, may be seen a glimpse of Narnia—or, in keeping with our illustration, the realm of eternity.
Since, as humans, we live in time, and will not experience eternity until after we die, it is not possible for us to actually go through the wardrobe and experience Narnia (i.e. eternity) in this life. The only knowledge we have of the existence of Narnia (i.e. eternity) is through the windows, which, in this illustration, correspond to the Word of God—and specifically those portions of the Word of God that describe reality on the other side of the wardrobe. At the same time there are other windows, corresponding to other portions of the Word of God, which are situated at a lower level, and which describe reality in the realm of time. In addition, the view of Narnia from the narrow windows at top of the walls is not all that clear, and the perspective is very limited, especially when compared to what it is when looking from the other side of the wardrobe, in Narnia itself. It is just a glimpse. But it is very beautiful.
In this room there are certain individuals who have climbed to the top of the stools and looked through the narrow windows to the other side. Some of these have been so captivated by the beauty of what they have seen that they stay there on top of the stools and lose interest in the rest of the reality that surrounds them in the room in which they are located. At the same time, there are others in the room who have never climbed to the top of the stools, and who are skeptical about the reality those at the top of the stools say they see. Some of those in this second group get so perturbed by those in the first group continually going on and on about what they see in the windows that they spend their time going around trying to kick their stools out from under them. Some of those in the first group, in addition to staying on their stools and hardly ever looking around to appreciate the reality that surrounds them in the realm of time, begin to kick and spit on those whom they perceive are trying to kick their stools out from under them. At the same time, there are a lot of other people who do not fall into either one of these two groups. In addition, there are lost people who are not even in the room at all, who need to be told about the grace of God, the path of forgiveness, invited into the room, and yes, when the time comes, be given an opportunity to climb to the top of the stools themselves and peer over into Narnia (i.e. eternity).
From the antinomist’s perspective, both sets of reality exist. And it is not a bad thing, in and of itself, to climb to the top of the stools every now and then and peer over into Narnia, provided we don’t get stuck there, and provided we don’t look down on and belittle those who still haven’t climbed the stools and looked through the windows at the top of the walls to the other side.
And, for heaven’s sake (and I mean that literally), let’s quit spending our time and energy trying to kick people’s stools out from underneath them, or spitting at or kicking those whom we sense are trying to kick our stools out from underneath us. There is work to be done and lost souls to be won. And we all need each other.