Okay, so we all know it- I’ve been a little hard on my Calvinist friends.
But truth be told, there are some days when I just need to become a Calvinist… in a way.
Although there are some really great things happening in my “real world” life right now, we are actually going through a really difficult chapter in our lives with some other things behind the scene that I can’t write about yet. They are things that will have to wait until we get to the “other side” of wherever it is that we find ourselves now.
There are a lot of unknowns. Some high-stakes risks that we’re taking on an emotional level… things that could turn out really, really good– or turn into another long chapter of heartache.
When I first decided to follow the more radical version of Jesus I knew on an intellectual level that it would lead to chapters like this. However, even when one pays mental assent to something, it’s an entirely different notion to emotionally prepare for it. Some things you simply can’t prepare for– you just have to experience them. (I guess in that way, following Jesus is sorta like sky diving)
The chapter we’re in now is one of those chapters.
Some days I look at what I’ve placed on the altar, and it scares me out of my mind.
And, on those days when I am frozen with fear, when I’m paralyzed by thinking about potential outcomes of situations, and when I’m worried about completely screwing everything up, I take comfort in… well, Calvinism.
Not long ago my wife asked me: “Is God in control right now? If we make a misstep, could we totally mess up his plan?”
I immediately realized that there are times in life when only the Calvinist view of sovereignty will comfort me– so I gave her what felt like a very Calvinist answer.
“Yes, God is in complete and total control. Nothing in the world can thwart his plan. No misstep we can make will derail the train– we just need to trust in his sovereignty.”
As much as I love open theism (the idea that some things in the future exist only as possibilities to God and that our actions directly impact the ultimate outcome), I’m finding that in dark chapters that doesn’t really work for me.What if this is one of those things that exists as just a “possibility”? What if I didn’t pray enough and screwed it all up? What if I took a wrong turn somewhere and started driving this train to a bad destination?
It is when I start asking those questions I find myself taking comfort in a Calvinist version of sovereignty. Yes, I know other constructs still affirm sovereignty, but when I’m in a bad place, I need to skip straight to the top shelf stuff that my Calvinist friends have.
During the hard times, I need to know that God is completely in control and that his plan for my life is not in any way dependent on my own failed, flawed, and totally screwed up approach to things.
During the hard times, I show up on my Calvinist friend’s front steps, and ask to borrow something from their cupboard. Because when it comes to God’s sovereignty, sometimes I think they have the better narrative.
Here is the important lesson I am learning in all this: no single Christian tradition or theological approach has a monopoly on rightness. Each Christian tradition makes their own attempt to understand and explain God– getting some things right in the process, and getting some things wrong in the process. The key to a more vibrant Christian faith is not through a narrow loyalty to our own “brand” but through an appreciation for all the things that other Christian traditions get right.
A richer and fuller spiritual life comes not through tunnel vision, but through a willingness to be humble and find ways to appreciate diverse thinking in the body of Christ.
Today, I’m thinking about a hard chapter my family is trying to navigate, and I’m realizing that the concept of sovereignty my Calvinist friends offer is really comforting. So at least for today, I’m okay with part of me being a Calvinist. I need to if for just my own sanity.
So my friends, please push yourselves to look beyond your own tradition. Encourage yourself to consider what they (we all know a “they”) have to say about God, and the ways in which “they” might have worthwhile contributions to how we think about God.
If you do, I think you’ll begin realizing that God is bigger than you ever imagined– and that as much as we often hate to admit it, we’re actually all on the same team together.