Time magazine has informed us of ten trends to watch in the coming year, and one of them is the resurgence of Calvinism, embodied in the works of author's like John Piper, and numerous young pastors in America. One friend ponders the reasons for it's resurgence here. While I agree with his assessment of why the movement is strong and growing, I'm not at all certain it's a good thing.
There's a great deal that's commendable in this because I do believe that we're made for a life of acting on convictions, a life where there are truths in which we believe utterly, truths to which we're willing to commit our very lives. Lacking such truths, we'll forever run around in a field of inquiry, never landing solidly enough to jump into God's calling for us. Suddenly, at the beginning of a new millennium, along comes a movement that tells us exactly how things are, and we find ourselves ripe for solid answers. "You had me at hello..." we say, realizing that we're finally home.
It's dangerous though, to offer people MORE certainty than the Bible itself offers, and this is one of the problems I have with the new Calvinism. Go ahead and declare the apostles creed as those truths agreed upon by the early church after much debate, prayer, and finally, declaration. Tell me it's true. Show me it's true. Invite me to believe it's true. I'll stand with you, knowing that I'm standing on solid footing because each of those declarations are easily defensible for anyone who believes the Bible to be our final authority source.
But Neo-Calvinism doesn't end with declaring high certitude about the core beliefs found in the Apostle's creed. It goes on to tell me, systematically, about my depravity, the depth of it, how it means that I'm dead, and how, because I'm dead, I can't choose God, and that because I can't choose God, God needs to choose me, and isn't it cool that God chose me! Me! ME!! (and implied... 'so sorry about you', but don't question God's love or justice because the fact that He chooses any of us shows what a cool God He is...etc. etc.)
I won't debate those declarations because there are many places in the Bible where God does, in fact, declare that He chooses us. But I will suggest that this is only half the story. While Jesus offered some words that clearly indicated the Father's choosing and calling and sovereignty, He also said, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink". If not anyone (but only the elect) can come and drink, this seems like a bogus offer. Why would John the Baptist even make an offer like this if change wasn't a real possibility? Or consider the examples of Moses' and Joshua's invitations in the Old Testament to "choose life". What? And then there's the case of Elijah: "How long will you waiver between two opinions? If Baal is god, serve him...but if Jehovah is God, serve Him? What's going on here? Is this just a stage show, but the reality is that Elijah's words have no meaning, because the choices are already set in stone. When Jesus weeps at the gates of Jerusalem because of their refusal to reject him, were they the tears of a good actor, or the outpouring of one who genuinely wanted all people to respond. Was there some fine print somewhere that I missed which read, "offer not available to the non-elect"? Check it out friends. You won't find it. That's because it appears that, not only are we chosen, but we also have real choices to make.
But now, suddenly, at the beginning of the 21st century, after 2000 years of failing to dissect the argument well enough to settle it, a few men have come along and figured it out for us. The answers, missing for literally millenia, are now here. "Thank you! Thank you! I can sleep now at night knowing the mystery is solved."
Nope. Not really. It's the wrong way to go, not because Calvinism is popular or unpopular, but because it's presumptuous. Our neo-Calvinist friends may think they have found, in John Calvin and his system, the perfect interpretation of all the mysteries of scripture, but many good people don't agree, and among those good people there are plenty with the good fruit of Christ's life present. Calvin's system, while offering allegedly solid ground, implies a degree of certitude that, when the cat's out of the bag and people begin to have questions of their own, will leave them feeling a little misled. Far better to say this, because there are, in truth, many areas where we're all still learning.