Thursday, June 11, 2015

Another testimony from a former Calvinist: Ben Irwin, "The day the tulip died"

I came across another testimony; this one from Ben Irwin (author of the children's book, The Story of King Jesus) who described his journey in a 9-part series at his blog a few years ago.  Part 1 is here, and there is a link to the next part at the bottom of each post.  (Ben has also posted on Corporate Election, and included the same video I shared in my previous post).

Here is an excerpt from Part 6 (link):

I spent a little over three years in a neo-Reformed church. And it nearly killed my faith.

[...]
At one point, our pastor spent two years preaching through the book of Luke. Almost every sermon, it seemed, boiled down to the same point: Only a few have been chosen for salvation, even among those ostensibly following Jesus, so watch out. Which creates a problem. If only a few have been chosen, if even a great many who appear to be following Christ are excluded, and if predestination is a “high mystery,” then how can you ever be sure you’re among the elect?
This question tormented me. Every flaw, every sin, every imperfection became further proof that I couldn’t possibly be one of the elect. And the worst part is, if you’re not part of the elect, there’s nothing you can do about it. Your fate has already been sealed by God.
(The irony, which only dawned on me later, is that Luke’s gospel is one of the worst places to argue for such a narrow view of election. Luke is easily the most inclusive of the four gospels. Again and again, he shows how those thought to be excluded from God’s favor — Gentiles, women, people with stigmatizing infirmities — were actually welcome at his table. According to Luke, Jesus swung the doors wide open, much to the chagrin of the religious establishment.)
When I was introduced to the Calvinist view of predestination in the mid-1990s, my first instinct was to wonder how I could ever be sure I was part of the elect. Seven years later, I found myself wondering the same thing all over again.
Even more problematic, I had come to believe that love was one of God’s “soft” attributes (compared to the biggies like holiness, sovereignty, immutability, etc.). It wasn’t a huge leap from that to wondering whether God was truly loving at all.
After all, if God’s chief concern is for his own glory (as Piper claims) and holiness is his supreme attribute (as my church taught), then love is at best a secondary concern for God. On top of that, if you’re not among the elect, it makes no sense to conceive of God loving you at all. “I love you, but before you were born, I decided you would spend eternity in agonizing torment.” Seriously?
The more all this weighed on me, the more I began to hate going to church (which made being on the worship team a bit complicated). I was also growing troubled by the theological arrogance I saw in myself and others. Besides, what did I have to be arrogant about if I wasn’t even part of the elect?
All I knew was that I had to choose between a loving God and a deterministic God (or no God at all). I realize most Calvinists feel this is a false choice, but it’s the one I had to make. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s a false choice at all, because love and determinism are fundamentally irreconcilable.
The good news is that my wife was wrestling with some of the same concerns. Luckily for me, while I was still kicking them around in my head (which wasn’t doing either of us any good), she spoke up. And so we talked . . . and decided we had to leave.


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