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Why I Am not a Calvinist – Part 1

Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval. (Romans 14:4, NLT)

I have been told more than a few times that I represent a rarity, someone who was a Calvinist and left it as he became more educated. While I am not certain how rare that actually is, I am aware of the fact that there is a tendency that as people become more educated, they come to find more and more affinity with Calvinism. Indeed, in my own journey I was not raised a Calvinist, but as I moved into college it was the path that I followed. My early years at Seminary saw me develop even more along those lines and it really wasn’t until I moved into advanced studies toward the end of my Master’s and throughout my PhD that I moved away from the system known as Calvinism.

Relating this journey to some, they have asked me to write my thoughts on the subject. So over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to do this in a way that is appropriate and in a way that demonstrates my belief in a sovereign God who is in real relationship with HIS people.

Starting out, let me say a little about the beliefs that I will be expressing over the next couple of weeks:

– It’s not about “fairness”: One of the elements often raised by those who oppose ONE element of Calvinism – predestination, is that it is not fair of God to choose one for salvation and to choose one for condemnation. I firmly believe that God is God and I cannot determine what is “fair” for a Being who created the concepts of justice, mercy, and grace in the first place. It is about consistency with the revealed word of God.

– It’s not about denominationalism or eschatology – While being a Baptist certainly informs my positions, there is a very strong strand of Calvinism in Baptist history. There is no inherent reason why someone cannot be both a strong Calvinist and a Baptist at the same time (despite what some argue :-)). Furthermore, the primary opposition of Calvinists are often diehard Dispensationalists -since I am not a dispensationalist and in fact reject a lot of the interpretative presuppositions of dispensationalism, the struggle between the two schools of thought does not come into play in this discussion. It is about consistency with the revealed word of God.

– It’s not about division or purification – I don’t want to disfellowship from Calvinists and I hope that those who know me know that I consider all Christians (Calvinist or not) to be brothers and sisters in Christ and worthy of my respect, prayers, and fellowship. I am, in fact, saddened by the militant strides that have been taken on both sides of this issue (both within my denomination and outside it) in classifying “opposition” as being lost, apostate, or ignorant. Disagreement does not have to devolve into name calling or marginalization. I understand that since I am arguring that my approach is biblical, that, by extension, I am implicitly arguing that those who hold to a different approach than me are not. But one can hold a position, argue it forcefully, and still maintain a level of humility and a recognition that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are servants of the same Master I am and are seeking the same truth I am. Paul compels all believers to understand that in relating to other believers, we remember that God is the Master not us, and that as servants, we let the Master deal with other servants about disputable things. In some ways, I see this discussion to be about disputable things.

My purpose over the next several entries will not be to bash Calvinism. I am not writing these articles out of some crusade to see the view squashed – as if someone writing a blog could have a real impact on a movement that has been part of Christianity since at least the time of Augustine (1600 years now). Rather, I am writing this for people who have found my position unique and have wondered about my journey. I won’t entertain debate on the subject and I don’t believe I will change any Calvinists’ minds. I am simply expressing the journey I have traveled over the last 20 years of my life as a theologian.

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