(This post is part of the Holding Up Our Sign series)
As I have previously posted, we find ourselves socially to be very, very at home with the Reformed Baptist churches in general (see Socially: A Lot Reformed Baptist).
But, as I also noted in that post, we are unable to reconcile with the Calvinist view of predestination. (Please note that I am attempting to use “I” and “we” distinctly here, as they were a bit different in the journey – although “we” arrived unshakably at the same conclusion).
We attended a local Reformed Baptist church for about a month, and had a wonderful time of fellowship with like-minded (in most ways!) individuals. We even had dinner at the pastor’s house, and had a whole evening to talk about doctrine.
I wanted to be able to be part of their fellowship. I was willing to suspend some of my disbelief and really try to see the way they were interpreting things. This was definitely not a case of rejecting something based on preconceived notions.
(I must also put in here somewhere that the people who want to distill the entire scope of the issue down to a debate of Calvinism vs. Arminianism are using drama to try to make their point. In reality, there is a vast “grey area” between those two opposite views).
Posting a debate of each verse that was cited to us would be long and pointless, and there have been countless volumes written on both sides of the debate. Suffice to say that while we saw many verses that could be interpreted that way, we didn’t see any that didn’t have another (easy and obvious) possible meaning. I wondered if I needed to dig out my Greek New Testament and begin a more probing study of them.
Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.
- Oswald Chambers
It is interesting to note that our teen son, Nick, rejected Calvinism and this church violently upon his first visit there. Without much ability to articulate more, he simply insisted that the notion of predestination was opposed to the character of God. When we discussed the idea that perhaps we could differ in some ways and still enjoy their fellowship, he protested. We didn’t understand his adamant perspective until a couple of weeks later.
Then one Sunday after services, we were all (our family and the congregation) sitting around chatting after the fellowship meal. I found myself sitting with a group on women, including someone I knew outside of the church and considered a possible friend (to be developed). I can write this story only because I know she does not read my blog, and I will further call her by the pseudonym “Jane” to protect her privacy.
Jane was upset, and as the conversation went on her tears flowed freely. She was discussing her teenage son, who had not accepted Christ. The discussion began with her question, “How can I teach him to lead a good life? I know he may not be one of the elect, but I still want him to be a good person…”
Hold it. Stop right there.
That clarified on a deep emotional level for me what Calvinism’s predestination really meant:
Calvinism asserts that there is no guarantee that my children can be saved.
They may simply not be one of the elect. Period.
I don’t have to cite chapter and verse to support how ridiculous that is. Scripture should be taken in context, they say, and the whole of Scripture leads me to an understanding of the Lord that can not encompass this idea.
My son was right.
Clearly, we would never believe in the five “TULIP” points of Calvinism. But further, we could not sit under that teaching, knowing that our children would be absorbing that message.
I miss their fellowship desperately. But I continue to believe that the Lord has a plan for us.