The Arminianism of my Youth, the Calvinism of my Future
I’m going to make a statement that presupposes you know something about me, from having read my previous blog or being friends with me on Facebook or following me on Twitter. Here’s the statement:
“I was raised an Arminian, so quit acting so smug that I’m ‘going back’ to Calvinism.”
That statement is obviously pretty loaded, and has apparently some heat behind it as well. Plus it presupposes a lot of knowledge on your part. Do you know what an Arminian is? How about a Calvinist? First clue – these are two nearly opposing theological perspectives with Christianity.
A little background – I was raised in an independant fundamentalist Baptist church that was largely Arminian, although you would never have heard that name used. We were just “biblical”, or “Bible-based.” A little over 7 years ago, I began to actively question and “rebel” against the Arminian teaching I was being given. This led to me eventually leaving the church and striking out on my own. In the past year, I have spend many hours studying the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, and have come to the conclusion that I am largely a Calvinist. Perhaps it would also be more correct to say that I want to be a Calvinist, and I do not want to be an Arminian. From that perspective, I have grown to more readily accept the Calvinist position, although I don’t consider myself a Calvinist per se; I consider myself more in line with Calvin than the movement that arose after him.
So having studied both positions as a lay person without serious theological training (because, let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to find a school to attend that is equally fair and equally critical of both sides without laying claim to either; many claim to do it, but they are lying), I have realized that the church I was a part of growing up was predominantly Arminian with an extremely strong Keswick connotation. After leaving “the church” for some time, I fell in with a church that met on my college campus. They identified themselves as being Reformed Charismatic, a combination I was intrigued about, but overtime I slowly discovered that what they called themselves and what they were were two different things. They were largely a Semi-Pelagian Keswick Arminian church, and while the leadership was careful with that local body, many members were drawn away toward the more Charismaniac side of the spectrum.
This past summer, I left that church. While there are many godly people at that church, and I miss having fellowship with many of them, by and large I have rejected what I regard as their erroneous teachings. I did my best to not burn bridges, but an increasing hostility and coldness toward me by many former friends, whom I still count as friends, has confirmed to me that it was best I go if I could not exist in perfect theological harmony with them. Some even pleaded for me to stay, citing Martin Luther as an example, specifically saying I brought “balance” and “a hope for reform” to the church. But as an act of love, I left.
So my statement above is directed to people I love. I am tired of those I consider friends acting smug that I’m “running back” to the Calvinism of my youth. Not at all. In fact, just the opposite. I feel like I’m running toward true grace for the first time. I feel like I’m learning more than ever. I feel like God has awoke my soul, my spirit, and my whole life. I have hope for the future. After an extremely long, dark time, I want to call myself a Christian again. I know that Calvinism is not perfect, and there are those Calvinists who annoy me to no end, but God in his sovereignty has allowed me to see past those clowns and see the truth and grace underneath what they also profess. To that end, I can greet them as brothers, even if I wouldn’t want to sit at the same table as them.
2011 will be a new year. I’m still learning. I’m still growing. No, I am not the “prodigal” son who will one day return “to the one true faith/correct doctrine/truth/church.” I reject that rhetoric. But I don’t reject Christ. Nor you. And I hope many will be able to see around themselves to feel the same.
For more information about the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, and why it matters to every Christian, check out this link on a blog favorite of mine, Reclaiming the Mind: