Sunday, February 8, 2015

What’s contributing to the increase in “x-Calvinists” and some testimonies

What’s contributing to the increase in “x-Calvinists”?

We have seen a number of testimonies recently of Christians abandoning Calvinism.  The latest that I have seen is from Leighton Flowers, adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, who shared his testimony on his website  William Birch, who blogs at I, Jacob Arminius, has noted, “The more stories like this we are reading over the last two years is indicative of a trend: the historical ebb and flow of Calvinism is ebbing.”  

A few bloggers have suggested reasons which I believe help to explain this shift and which resonate with my own story.  Here are two:

  1. Calvinism is not as deep and robust a theology as its leaders portray...

Of course, the main reason there are more x-Calvinists is because there are more Calvinists.  While this might seem obvious, hear me out. This comment from Internet Monk, though in another context, stood out to me:

[Reformed theology] is often a first step away from generic evangelicalism, especially for more analytical types. It was for me when I left Bible college and at times during my seminary career and throughout periods of my ministry. Michael Spencer also embraced a form of calvinism for a time until he came to see its limitations...

This was certainly true for me: Calvinism was a good first step into a deeper study of theology, but I know now that it was only a step.  When I first embraced Calvinism, the impression I had was that Calvinism was the end of the road, or the top of the theological mountain. Eventually, however, I was forced to confront its implications, particularly for the character of God.  As more Christians study their Bibles through a Calvinistic lens, I expect that more will also be convicted of the inconsistency between Calvinism and the God of the Bible, just as I was.

When I began reading the testimonies of Arminians, I was surprised at how many are former Calvinists (including Arminius, himself).  If you are beginning to see Calvinism’s limitations, I want to encourage you to keep climbing.  (I hope to compile a recommended reading list in a later post, but for now I would recommend A.W. Tozer, especially The Pursuit of God, Knowledge of the Holy, and That Incredible Christian, and be sure to check out the resources available from SEA and Baptist Centre for Theology and Ministry).

2. Young Calvinists are growing up...

A second reason, also true of my own story, was suggested in a post by Roger Olson:

It’s pretty easy for a young, unmarried or not-yet-parent Young, Restless, Reformed person to embrace double predestination, but when he has a child and gazes on it as his own beloved son or daughter he [begins] to change (or should if his love is real and deep). Could this beloved child be predestined by God our Father to eternal torture in hell? Sure, some very iron clad Calvinists will not let that sway them, but many will. (Link)

I left Calvinism soon after the birth of my second child.  The question facing every Calvinist parent, if they will allow themselves to face it, is “Does God desire my child to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), or does He desire their destruction for His glory?” (at least if you hold to a Piper/Edwards view of Calvinism).

A. W. Tozer wrote, “If our faith is to have a firm foundation we must be convinced beyond any possible doubt that God is altogether worthy of our trust” (Link).  The Calvinist depiction of God with a “secret will” which often contradicts His Word[1] is a far stretch from “the humble, other-oriented, self-sacrificial God revealed in Jesus Christ”[2].  (In his sermon on Romans 9, Greg Boyd discusses this same objection in his own journey away from Calvinism, Link).

Here are some of the testimonies which have especially stood out to me since I left Calvinism:

Also check out:

[1] I think especially of passages like Ezekiel 18:32: can God take "no pleasure" in that which brings Him the most glory?  Or put another way, can God take "no pleasure" in that which He decreed/ordained, and rendered certain because it brings Him the most glory?
[2] This is a quote from Greg Boyd’s endorsement of Austin Fischer’s book.

* On the second reason, also take a look at: William Birch, A Love Greater Than That of God Himself.
** John Piper, a prominent Calvinist leader, has addressed this regarding his own children (Link):
But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.
Notice how painful this is to his conscience: in Piper's view, at the end of the day if his sons are not believers it is not because they have rejected the Gospel, but rather it is because God has rejected them.

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