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.