Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This Calvinist surge

Sometimes I feel like I'm riding a wave, even though I didn't even know I was surfing, much less in the drink at all. Christianity Today, once again (third time in the last few years), gives John Calvin all the cover's glory. Years ago, my parents raised me to be a tad suspicious of Billy Graham and his people, because, after all, the man believed in free will--and we didn't. Don't get me wrong--my parents loved Graham and the crusades and all of that. "There's this fault line between us, see?--but that doesn't mean that God doesn't use him." He just wasn't one of us Calvinists.

I didn't fully understand that variety of discrimination when I was a boy, but I swallowed it anyway so that it became part of my own vision of things, part of the package that was me.

But I got my college education at a place that only dug those lines even deeper. I was, I learned, someone raised in the thoughtful, Calvinist version of Christian faith. Hmmm. What's more, a portly Dutch politician/preacher named Abraham Kuyper played a significant role in shaping of the legacy I'd inherited, even though I hadn't heard of him until I got to college. And, some even more recent Dutch philosophers crowned all of that with a "neo," so that if I wanted to know exactly what I was, I really was identified by this name--"a neo-Kuyperian Calvinist Christian." That's what I was, I was told, and that's what I remain--certainly not as doctrinaire as some, but as opinionated as any. I'm not begging fight, just telling the story.

Ironically, and in my lifetime, church-going folks from the cultural and religious heritage I came packaged with tossed all that baggage as if you had to pay extra for it when you checked in for a flight home. Lay Calvinists dropped the whole theological business for a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Cradle Calvinists pushed back the quilt and took up, mostly, with Graham's people--or so it seems to me. For good reason: they were the ones getting all the ink, after all. The predestined gleefully exercised thier own free will to join the free-willers.

Now get this, the old-line free-willers, Graham's people, if we believe CT, are moving the other way, but more quickly, ying and yang. They're pulling on the Calvinist breastplate at the same time the old Calvinists among my people are scapping it and going crusading.

Yesterday, I asked an early American lit class how many of them knew anything about the name of the college where I teach and they attend--Dordt. Two or three raised their hands, although none of them knew when the Synod of Dordt took place. To most students and constituency, the name is rarified history, pretty much irrelevant. The Synod of Dordt--sure? Next week, I'll pass out copies of Christianity Today so they can read up on their own heritage. Ain't we got fun?

Billy Graham and the free-will-ers decided, decades ago, to publish a magazine that now announces that it's hot stuff, this Calvinism, when, for the last several decades, some of us traditionalists have felt, well, left behind (I think there's a joke there).
Way down at the bottom of this page, you'll find a quote from Richard Mouw, which I may have to dispose of. Then again, maybe Mouw's the prophet.

Anyway, I like it--being part of the progressive movement again. Calvinism's back, or so says CT. I may live in Iowa, but this Calvinist surfer sure digs the size of these waves.

None of it makes much sense, really. Only to a sovereign God, I suppose. Saith the Calvinist.


janet said...

Interesting, Mr. Schaap. I remember you saying something to us, way back when in Phoenix, when you were trying to get us to wrap our minds around existentialism - that you were a Calvinist and that Calvinists believed in predestination....Not that I'm criticizing - I'm just remembering how I felt about that at the time - but I figured you were way wrong. How could the God who created Adam and Eve and set them in the Garden of Eden, virtually Paradise - then mess that creation up by introducing the serpent who tempted and the situation that caused original sin? Isn't God almighty? It just didn't make sense to me - neither did the possibility that this same God set his own son up for the horrible death he suffered....It seemed there were too many 'fixes' in the Bible - God didn't like the way this was working so he 'fixed' it...the flood, the 7 plagues, etc, etc...

Anyway - I didn't buy it, the predestination thing - Then there came a time when I didn't buy any of the God things - I went many years without even believing. I just figured we created God; Jesus was a good man; I'm sure you've heard the spiel.

Long story short - several years ago I 'sought out' God again (silly me - I just didn't realize there's no denying something that IS...) and hmmm....can't say I 'found' him - rather I found he had already and always claimed me...
Now I don't worry about some of the theological questions....I call my attitude Theology 101. You said it - God is sovereign and who am I to try to figure out His purposes or plans. Just because I can't justify predestination doesn't mean it's not true - and I have since realized that if Jesus hadn't died - I wouldn't be forgiven. Oh my! I thank God everyday for that....

What Theology 101 really says is that it doesn't really matter if I believe in predestination (or evolution vs creation, or if I know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin....), what matters is that I know that God knows what it's all about - I have faith in Him...

By the way - Theology 101 doesn't keep me from studying and wondering about everything sometimes - it just doesn't allow me to slip from the path again... Just some thoughts - Janet

Seriously Though said...

Hi. I stumbled upon your blog. Hope you don't mind my following. I like your writing and the way it sounds. The topics are up my alley, too. My oldest daughter just arrived at Princeton Theological Seminary today to further her studies. She and I have had Calvin talks in the past. Enjoyed the post.