To Calvinist or Not To Calvanist

God and Devil

Normally, the conversation of Calvinism (or predestination) should probably be had “in house.” For a couple of reasons. First, the general Christian public often gets riled up so much that having a real “conversation” is nearly impossible. A subject like this often leads to shouting matches and battles of biblical wits. In such interactions, I wish not to participate.

The second reason is for the potential damage it does to the seeking/new believer. The doctrine of predestination has been a “stumbling block” (as Apostle Paul might call it) to many, and thus should often be discussed among those more ready for the concept. To this, I agree. And since my audience spans seekers to seasoned believers, I ask all who engage to keep in mind the eyes reading this post and its comments.

Covering Calvinism and predestination in a short 1000 word blog is impossible. But I decided to post anyway. I was discussing Calvinism and predestination last week and became fascinated again with the topic. It was Tim Keller, my favorite Christian author right now, who ushered in the topic. Unbeknownst to him, I’m sure. While I highly respect Tim and his ministry (I’m reading his Center Church book now, which is absolutely fantastic so far!), I understand he is a Calvinist… and I disagree with that stance.

What is Calvinism?

Calvinism is named after John Calvin, a Reformation era theologian. It basically suggests God has complete control over all things. That is, God has ordained (or is in the driving seat for) all things.

Calvinism is named after John Calvin, a Reformation era theologian. It basically suggests God has complete control over all things. That is, God has ordained (or is in the driving seat for) all things. I personally think we need to better define what we mean by “control” and “ordain,” but these are the terms in use. I take it to mean that God is directing, in some way, all actions. At first glance, this may sound exactly right. A sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing God is the perfect candidate for “control” of all things.

The problem (for today) comes with how this affects “salvation.” One of Calvinism’s five key points suggest the notion of predestination. And predestination is the idea that God has already chosen who will spend eternity with him, and who will not. It suggests that God has pre-determined who will accept him and who will not. This, Calvinism teaches, is the epitome of grace. The reasoning goes that, since grace is a gift for which we do nothing to receive, then ultimately it is not up to us to allow it take effect. Grace places the salvation of the individual completely in God’s hands, and completely out of our hands. Biblical verses that are often referenced include:

  • Romans 8:29-30
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13
  • Ephesians 1:3-6
  • Ephesian 1:11

What about Love?

The verses in those passages are hard to dispute. Hence the great debate over this topic for centuries. It is especially difficult when considering verses like Romans 10:9, John 3:16, and 2 Peter 3:9. In the Peter passage, we learn “God does not want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance,” which is especially interesting to me considering that God will not get what he wants. Rob Bell asks the question about whether God gets what he wants in his provocative book “Love Wins.” You can see my retort here. It is an interesting point of contention for this conversation, especially considering that Calvinism pretty much puts all control in God’s hands. One does have to ask how it is God doesn’t get what he wants when he’s the one in full control.

There are two ways in which I reconcile the grace of God (not by work, even the work of ”believing”) and the free will of men (the importance of choosing God on our own).

I believe that Jesus paid the price for all sins. Every one of them. That means we are all saved from the penalty of Hell and eternal separation. This salvation is for all men: past, present and future. To this end, Jesus gave us all eternal life. So the question is not whether we will be saved from Hell because we deserve to go there. Yes, we do deserve to go, and the grace of God found in the sacrifice of Jesus clears all of us from such a destination. The question is, what will we do with our newfound freedom.

Consider a man sitting in jail. Another man comes and pays his bail. The guards then open the jail doors and says, “Your bail has been paid. You’re free to go.” At that point the jailed man is free. Actually, he was free as soon as the bail was paid, whether he knew about it or not. The question is, will the man now choose to walk out of the jail cell and embrace his freedom, or will he remain in jail, skeptical that he is being conned or tricked into something. And if he stays, is he really “saved” or not?

This is the grace of God in action, Jesus has paid our bail. We are free to leave the prison.

This is the grace of God in action, Jesus has paid our bail. We are free to leave the prison. But we are still left with a choice to embrace our salvation or to stay put. Where our salvation leads us is up to us. It’s an broken analogy (for the “faith” needed to accept the salvation you’ve already been given produces a spiritual change), but serves us to make the point that salvation and choice can, and does, coexist.

Which brings me to the second point of free will. I understand the purpose of God creating humanity was to form a relationship with him. I believe God wanted to give and receive true love with us. I also believe love is the product of free will; that without choice, love does not exist. Thus, Calvinism and the idea that God is doing the choosing, calls to question whether every Christian who ever existed actually loves God, as opposed to being manipulated by God to look as though they love him. In other words, if I don’t make an independent choice to engage in a loving relationship with God, then I am a mere technology functioning in the way my creator made me. You may say, “Exactly!” But I’d ask you, do you feel your car loves you when you push the gas and it goes? Or when you hit the power button on your remote control and it turns on the TV? No. Creator and created don’t often share “love” relationships.

But God is amazing in that he breaks this creator/created mode. He created us to love him, but in order to do that, he must relinquish some of his control to our free will. It’s the only way we can actually fulfill the purposes for which he made us.

So the problem with Calvinism, for me, ultimately comes to this. Do I really love God? Or, can I really love him, if I am not choosing to love on my own accord?

Your Thoughts?

Oh, there’s so much more to be said, but I’m already over my word limit. Let’s continue in the comments though. You tell me… what are your thoughts on Calvinism and Predestination?

Originally posted on Candid Christianity at Copyright © 2013 Republished with permission


You Can’t Legislate Morality…or Can You?


“You Can’t Legislate Morality.” “You CAN Legislate Morality.” I’ve heard both statements with equal zeal. On the surface these two statements seem diametrically opposed, contradictory, and mutually exclusive. 

These two statements are put forth by intelligent folks on both sides of the debate. So is one side just plain wrong and the other side just plain right? Or am I missing something?

[Read more…]

Politics Needs a Divorce from Religion


If President Obama’s recent political support of same-sex marriage has done nothing else, it’s ignited discussion about the relationship between church and government. 

It annoys me to no end that so many in the Christian community want to equate American freedom with biblical doctrine. It’s so common to hear “America is a Christian Nation,” and “if we don’t go back to following God, we’re going to receive his judgment,” and other such, frankly, frustrating epithets that make for great sound bites, but have little to no real substance. 

Do we really think about what we’re saying before we say it? It’s no wonder a generation of free-thinkers and activist reject the “talking loud, saying nothing” nature of the Christian American church. 

So let this be a call to all of us Holy-Ghost-having, cross-bearing, Lord’s-Prayer quoting, little-Jesus’es. Politics has asked for a divorce. And we should acquiesce its request. Quickly! [Read more…]

Are You a Democrat, Republican, or a Christian First?

We’re heading into a political season where partisan politics, heated discussions, and passionate opinions are the norm. As Christians, we are known for being too political…using our majority power to influence or even dictate the results of the election. And to some extent this is true. When we get out the Christian vote, we are a strong influence in American politics. That political power has declined in recent years, but it is still very potent.

Negative Stereotype: Christians are Too Political

The negative stereotype of being too political, and the disgruntled reaction to it by non-Christians, is based on misuse of our political power. Outsiders believe that we use our Christian beliefs within the political and legal systems to create and sustain laws that impose our beliefs on others. They claim that we apply our morals to their lives. They claim we restrict their rights based on our beliefs. All one has to do is look at the debate over gay marriage rights to justify that claim. It’s true. [Read more…]

Political Propoganda and Not-So-Innocent Spreading of Lies

Too Political, christian nation, right wing politics
Photo by Kretyen

People outside Christian circles believe Christians are too political; using politics to further a right wing Christian agenda.

Christians Using Politics to Further a Christian Agenda

People outside Christian circles believe Christians are too political; using politics to further a right wing Christian agenda. I tend to agree with the assessment.

Especially during election seasons, within our churches we too often position things with a Christian political agenda. “Vote for Bob…he’s a Christian, Don’t vote for John…he’s a Muslim” type of language. The last presidential election was all about Who’s a Christian?, Who’s a Mormon?, Who’s a Jew?, and Who’s a Muslim? Even though our Christian churches have a fairly even mix of republicans and democrats, Christians are viewed as “mostly” right wing conservative republicans. That’s simply not true, but it’s a prominent Christian stereotype in our culture.

Evidence From the Last Presidential Election

During the last election season, I experienced this first hand through an email that was forwarded who knows how many times and finally ending up in my inbox. The email was titled “Muslim Language in Obama’s Health Care Law”.

The email was intended to persuade me through fear to vote conservative republicans into office.

It was intended to persuade me through fear to vote conservative republicans into office, spread the word about the damage Obama was doing, and help kill the health care bill that Obama was promoting.

I read the email. The email suggested that the health care bill would legalize Dhimmitude – a Muslim legal term which effectively gives benefits to Muslims for which non-Muslims must pay for. Dhimmitude is a real issue in states and countries where Muslims are in the majority and where Islamic Sharia Law has been instituted; nowhere in the USA just in case you are interested :-).

The Email Was a Lie

The only problem with the email is that it wasn’t truthful. It was fraudulently conceived by someone to take political advantage of the fear that president Obama is a Muslim, or fear that we are being overrun by fanatic Muslims in this country. The email claimed it was true and even cited the alleged page in the bill where the Dhimmitude was mentioned. Again, the only problem is that this claim was a lie.

I did the research, which wasn’t easy. It took literally 5 hours to track down the actual text of the bill, find the final text of the law to see for myself what was in it. Neither the bill nor the law mentioned anything about Muslims or Dhimmitude. What I did find outside the bill/law was a concept where people who refuse to receive social security benefits can exclude themselves from paying into social security. It mentioned how the Amish have done this for years due to their religious practice of self-sufficiency within their own community. Fundamental Muslims apparently share this self-sufficiency practice. And so, the stretch (lie) is to suggest that Muslims wouldn’t have to pay for health insurance but would still benefit from it (Dhimmitude). The Obama health care bill/law doesn’t mention anything about any of this.

The only problem with the email is that it wasn’t truthful.

So, I didn’t forward the email to anyone. I voted like I would have voted before reading the email. However, I have to think I’m in the minority on this. Instead of spending 5 hours of painful research, wouldn’t it have been easier to just forward it along as the email requests? That’s exactly how it got in my inbox…someone else believing the lies and just forwarding it along without any due diligence, because it promoted their own political self interests.

Fixing the Negative Stereotype

How does this impact the perception that Christians are right wing political zealots? It reinforces that Christian stereotype when we blindly forward these types of emails to our Christian friends without checking them out first. Non-Christians receive these emails too and the response is “There they go again. The Christians are trying to defeat Obama and the democrats using their right wing political machine.”

if you are too lazy to do the research yourself, just delete the email and don’t forward it on.

So, how should we respond when we get these emails?

  1. Reply back to the person who sent the email and ask them if they checked the facts before sending it
  2. Check out the facts for yourself
  3. Only forward the email after you’ve checked the facts and found the email to be completely factual
  4. If you find the email to be “not-so-true”, reply to the sender with some corrections and ask them to forward it back to the original sender.

We can reverse this Christian stereotype of being too political, but it will take effort. Changing the Face of Christianity is leading that charge. A good first step is to seriously question such emails before forwarding on to others. And (just being real here for a moment), if you are too lazy to do the research yourself, just delete the email and don’t forward it on. Over time, we can and we will overcome this stereotype. Please join us in this effort!

What does it mean to be “too political”?

Too Political
Photo by Kretyen

I get asked this a lot: “Shouldn’t we be engaged in politics to fight for our rights and defend our values in society?” I also get asked: “What does it mean to be ‘too political”?

How can we be political, but not TOO political?

These two questions seem to be in conflict. In other words, how can we be political but not too political? I hope to address these issues and questions here.

Too Political Defined

First, let’s define “too political”. From the book “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why it Matters“, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, too political is defined as:
too involved in politics“, and “motivated primarily by political goals and as promoting a right-wing agenda“.

Christians Are Both Republicans AND Democrats

Politics could be culturally defined as what the “Republicans” (or conservatives) do verses what the “Democrats” (or liberals) do. A difficulty lies in the fact that Christians are neither Republican, conservative, Democrat, or liberal. We’re all of the above. So one thing to be sensitive too is not labeling Christians as either one or the other.

“Promoting a right-wing agenda” suggests incorrectly that Christians are all conservative republicans (aka Right Wingers). So, I think part of the negative stereotype revolves around a misunderstanding of a cohesive party affiliation. Would we be less political if we could accept that our brothers and sisters in Christ are on both sides of the debate?

Where Are We Too Political?

Here are some areas where Christians tend to get heavily involved in politics: Abortion/Right to life, death penalty, legalization of drugs, and gay marriage. All of those issues are fire storms waiting to happen. And they all have religious or faith implications.

Other issues that tend to be labeled as the domain of the Democrats or liberals are: Labor unions/protecting workers, minimum wage (fair minimum wage for everyone), environmental issues (safe guarding our plants, animals and habitats, being good stewards of our planet), human rights, etc. These are also issues that are rooted in our faith. They may be labeled as liberal positions, but they are Christian positions as well.

Why Are We Perceived as Too Political?

Christians are involved in both sets of issues. So the question lies in why we are perceived as TOO political. Is it unfair to label us as too political when other factions of our society are just as TOO political on those same issues? I think it is unfair. But there it is nonetheless.

I believe the solution rests in how we express our beliefs politically, and how willing we are to listen and attempt to understand the other side.

What’s the Solution?

What can we do and what should we do to reverse this negative stereotype? Should we retreat from politics? No!

I believe the solution rests in how we express our beliefs politically, and how willing we are to listen and attempt to understand the other side, and how willing we are to work together.

How well do we treat others in the political debate with respect and decency? Can we disagree on the issues and still love the persons involved in the discussions? When does it become more important to love the other person than it is to win the debate?

We’re just scratching the surface on this issue, and you can see there are many questions and answers to uncover. We’ll dive deeper into this topic over the coming months…