No one likes being stereotyped, but we do it. Often, we deal in generalities, cause it takes too long to deal with specifics. We talk about “Baptists” or “Evangelicals” or “Southerners” or “Calvinists” or “Pagans” or “Nebraska Fans” or whatever. We just make some broad and sweeping generalities and just assume that everyone in that category is the same or similar.
The reality with Calvinism, however, is that it’s such a broad term it’s hard to pin down what that really means. Instead of defining “Calvinism” I am going to tell you what I think, and you can decide if I fit your view of “Calvinism”.
I have to begin with Biblical Principles. We cannot escape the idea of predestination and election. I can’t get away from passages like this one: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48. If we look at this critically, we see the progression. They were appointed to eternal life and then they believed. It doesn’t say they were appointed because they believed, it said they were the ones appointed to eternal life and they believed. You can shoot theory at that all day long, but that is what it says.
My next issue arises when I see the butchery done to scripture in order to justify the concept of “free will”. Verses like 2 Peter 3:9, which is used to proof text, but is in reality talking about the inevitability of the end of time, and some will be caught in the state of doubt, indecision and faithlessness and will be out of time. It’s to communicate that God is patient. Now I know the “if God is patient, then it means He must be waiting for. . .blah blah blah”. Here is my problem, it’s not consistent with scripture. Scripture says God calls, He has a time frame, He is going to do what He is going to do and then it will be done. Israel, then Gentiles, then Israel, then done. Romans lays it out for us. This idea of a God who is not active in salvation is not supported in the New Testiment.
So I can already here you screaming “but what about choice”. In our little human minds, we say that we either have election or choice. It doesn’t matter that we have a concept like the Trinity which is a contradiction. We can accept Jesus being 100% God and 100% man (which makes him 200%). We are fine with that, but somehow we can deal with the fact that God isn’t limited by time. Do we have limited choice? Clearly, it’s all over scripture, we see it again and again in Hebrews. We get our minds all funked up by the limits of time, if God predestined us, then we have no choice. Why? Because God has no impact right now on the past? If God is in all time, then He can change the past based on the present, because from His perspective, they are simultaneous.
Now some of you are saying “that’s predestination based on foreknowledge”. Well, sort of, but not really. God has us involved in Salvation. He speaks through us sharing our faith, He works through people, churches and movements of people in the spirit. God does this whole thing in the context of the Community of Faith called the Church. Does He know what’s going to happen? Of course! Does He already know who will be saved and who won’t be saved? Of course. So we call those people “the elect”, it doesn’t matter WHEN God decided to save them, since time is irrelevant to God.
In my humble opinion, most of what we argue about is the different sides of the same coin. God deals with us and works with us in time and where we are. We experience Him and grow in faith. We have this experience that we confess, we repent, we experience real conviction and real conversion and it’s us and God working together. If we take a giant step back and look at this whole experience outside of time, it’s part of God’s plan, He is moving and bringing things together. He holds all things, and saves those who He chooses to save. The argument is where we choose to place our focus.
So, where I stand is here. I am in relationship with my Lord and He tells me to partner with Him, to share the gospel, to tell others about Him and His love. I am to preach, teach, proclaim and share. He will work with me, in me and through me, and I grow in my faith and love for Him. Through that He is working, He is moving in hearts and changing lives according to His plan and His will. His will cannot and will not be thwarted, and He will bring history to a close just as He said He will through prophecy. His plan, His grace and His salvation cannot and will not be stopped or hindered by anything I or anyone else does. If I am dissobedient, I miss the blessings and the relationship, but the mission of God continues.
So you decide, am I a Calvinist? Since I believe that humans have the ability to make choice, to respond or to not respond, does that move me away from Reformed Soteriology? Since I believe that it’s God who saves, God who calls and God who convicts, does that make me a Calvinist? I call myself a Wovenist (based on the book that I haven’t finished writing yet) but the labels don’t matter to me. I just want to be sure I am consistent with scripture, I don’t do damage to the text to support my position, but my position comes from the entirety of scripture in harmony. This is how I see it, or at least a brief overview. There are lots of things I missed that I feel sure you will comment on and point out, so let’s do it.