I’m cynical boarder-lined on absurdism right now. Perhaps just annoyed with the world, or more particularly my denomination. Although, it’s probably my own fault for everything that I feed my brain. I’m tired of debates. I’m tired of Christians arguing over the simplest of things. I sympathize with the liberal who has decided to just not believe “doctrine” anymore. Maybe I should follow suit. I almost just feel becoming the subtitle of Brian McLaren’s Generous Orthodoxy.
Well, maybe I should back up a little and tell you why I feel this way. I’ve identified as a “Calvinist” for the past six years or so. I was first convinced of these doctrines in high school from reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. I was tested and “in the trenches” on this doctrine through my time at a distinctly (Ana)baptist college where I had professors accusing me of basically being a Muslim (yes, actual words of professor in class) on one hand, and antinomian-hipster-cussing-smoking-drinking Calvinists on the other. Both of these things combined with my family’s disdain for my newly found views caused me to search the Bible to prove Calvinism as unbiblical.
Sadly, I found a satisfying answer to every critique of this theological machine. So, I entrenched myself further and further into the cage (you know, cage-stage). I worked on my M.Div at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was expected to hear things from the complete opposite perspective. Instead, I heard things like “both sides are biblically viable.” I learned about things like the “theological triage”
This took me out of the cage a little bit, thankfully. I didn’t have to be in the trench on Calvinism, I could just say that this is what I’m what I’m convicted towards, but it doesn’t make everyone else wrong. In other words, I didn’t have to treat everyone else that didn’t agree with me in the way I perceived (I say “perceived”as a caveat, perhaps they had good intentions, but I perceived it incorrectly) they had treated me.
Well, I keep up regularly with James White and most of his critics. The whole controversy he went though recently by having an interfaith dialogue with a Muslim really got under my skin. But them some self-analysis hit me. You know those annoying comments and questions in the back of your head whenever feel strongly about something. Certainly, I’ve barred methodologies of evangelism in the past; but this (interfaith controversy), thought I, was ridiculous!
Well those thoughts came from the same person who was also critical of many megachurch movements (including the one I was reared in). In fact, I’ve been writing an allegorical series based off of the Pilgrim’s Progress critiquing erroneous evangelistic methodologies! Perhaps, I’m just the kettle calling the pot black! So the questions just continued: Why do I want to defend Dr. White? Is it just because I’m a “fanboy”? What if other models, like the Rick Warren model aren’t all that bad either? Maybe I should be the critic I’m so annoyed with!
So here I am descending Francis Schaeffer’s staircase past the line of despair all because of this epistemological break down. Next I keep up with SBC Today, you know that anti-Calvinist blog (well, as a caveat, they had a rather recent post on the topic that was pretty fair-minded). Somehow I see a Leighton Flowers post, which in turn leads me to his blog, which in turn leads me to one of his videos (I should probably just get off the internet). On this video he talks about Calvinist testimonies, basically people who have converted away from Calvinism thanks to his ministry…….
Man, I was pretty angry. I scoffed and imagined myself having some ministry where I glory in stories about Traditionalists (the non-Calvinists of the SBC, AKA “extensivists”) converting to Calvinism (which would never happen, by the way, because I don’t really care that much about one’s particular soteriological persuasion as long as it’s orthodox): “Why yes, I have here a letter from Bill, who finally renounced his Traditionalist ways because of yours truly.” Basically, the underline assumption on Dr. Flowers (and most other writers on SBC Today) is that Calvinism is a danger to be avoided!
That anger turned quickly into despair. “I’m just tired of it all! I’m tired of all the debates!” Maybe this loosodoxy has something to it after all (can I get some word smithing points, Mr. Wilson?). I sympathize with the liberal, disenchanted with the back biting and harsh words supposed Christians throw at each other to defend their particular exesegesis.
Maybe there’s really no certain doctrine to follow.
Maybe this whole thing’s just a relationship, not a religion.
Maybe this whole thing’s made up.
Maybe I’m the stupid one for falling for all these debates and arguments.
Maybe nothings certain after all.
As much as I’ve been in sin lately, I can’t even really be a Christian for goodness sake (well especially according to these people)
Maybe I should just give it all up.
For real though, you can find any discernment blog who finds the speck and every single Christian’s eye out there. There’s not one public Christian whose speck has not been discovered (or lied about). Every other day another popular Christian comes out in support of homosexuality or the like and all the conservative Christians throw ’em out. Our apologists have forgotten how ridiculous it is to claim some obscure Jew from Palestine just happened to be God in the flesh. Our churches are still segregated… still! Even the secular government is doing a better job in that area than the Christians. And all I can do is sit over here and debate Unconditional Election?
Oh just crumple up the page and throw it away.
No wonder so many Christians get quite when Calvinism or something like that comes up. Were all tired of the skipping record never saying anything new. No wonder so many Christians give up reading their Bibles and just turn to mercy ministries to feed the hungry. No wonder so many Christians just say “I’m done!”
I’m done too! Who cares what theology The Shack preaches, as long as it makes me feel comforted? Who cares what reasons Heaven is For Real gives to prove heaven is for real? Who cares what Joel Osteen teaches? I mean, he helps people! Who cares whether you’re Orthodox, Protestant, or Catholic? What does it matter if Andy Stan;ey throws out the Old Testament (and all the small churches)? Just crumple it up and throw it away.
So here I am in the pit of my despair, maybe you can sympathize. But don’t stay there.
Every time I question my salvation I have a personal experiential apologetic. I struggle with a sin most of culture abhors (you can say, for example, gluttony). I hate this sin, God hates this sin, the culture hates this sin (well I guess that one could change). I don’t want it, no one wants it for me… that proves to me sin exists. Why do I have this desire to do something when I really don’t want it, no one around me wants it for me, and even the God (perhaps even if I fabricated?) doesn’t even want!? Obviously, for me, if for no one else, sin is true.
Well, there must be a solution to this sin. Just the personal admission of such a thing called sin and the desire for solution rules out Atheistic and secularist worldviews. I don’t want to go all out here and extensively analyze every worldview, but it always boils down for me that Christianity has the only effective solution to sin: Jesus Christ.
But in concluding in such a way, I must have a foundation whence I can find this solution fully. Roman Catholicism, Neo-Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the rest of the cults (I made a protestant diction slip up, sorry) never view the cross of Christ sufficiently for me solve my sin problem. I always end back up at the Reformed penal substitutionary theory of atonement.
These are the cycles of doubts I often go through (well, less and less every year). Oftentimes, debates and hateful comments really start these cycles. Ultimately, these cycles of doubts question the authority of the Word of God like Satan. As you can see above, not even the “solution” to the cycle was founded on the Bible. The “solution” itself is flawed!
Well, if you’ve read through this entire post, you’re probably thinking “this thing has less of a point that Napoleon Dynamite!” (Which, by the way, is the most pointless movie in the universe… or multiverse if you’re that person). Believe it or not, there are few reasons you read this stream-of-conscious post:
- My own self-analysis was helpful to me to identify where even my cycles of doubt were sinful.
- If you’re on the verge of apostatizing due to poor and ungodly practice of the Christians around you, take time to reexamine your motives. Are you allowing your annoyance with believers around you to question the Word of God? The Bible and the people who claim to follow it are never one and the same, we should never discount the Bible because of someone’s action (no matter how annoying it may be!)
- Don’t ever base your belief in the Bible on personal experience, but also don’t ever devoid your personal experience as a justification for the Bible (in epistomological foundationalism: coherentism instead of foundationalism, though that is such a minor issue I probably shouldn’t have typed it).
- The temptation to be persuaded by liberal theologies and “acceptance” mantras (well, acceptance as long as you’re not a uh, non-“accepter” AKA bigot) is an ever present reality. We shouldn’t ignore it or pretend the temptation doesn’t exist. It is easier and more fulfilling (in Babylon at least) to just give up on conservative values and debates. Less to worry and stress about. More to “feel good” about. Believers must be able to recognize when they go through a cycle of doubt and know when they’re going about it in the wrong way. Believers should recognize their motivation for going through those cycles (for me it’s typically annoyance). That might not be the same for everyone, maybe its comfort, jealousy, convenience… the list could go on and on. Either way, we have to recognize what sin it is that leads us into doubting God’s word and repent of it.
- We should avoid fundamentalism. Although any liberal reading any of this would already have cried “fundamentalism” 1,000 times by now, I want to clarify this issue. Fundamentalism would look at this dilemma of doubt and say, “doubt is sin! don’t ask questions! Look away!” It can be very helpful to work through doubt. Doubt has helped sanctify me many times. Instead we should say with Jude, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 22ff ESV
So… maybe debates are (at least can be) good and healthy. We should know what we believe about the Bible. We should have good orthodox persuasions. And when we question those things, we should know why and work through them faithfully.