It’s no secret- I’ve been a little hard on my Calvinist friends over the years (well, I only have 2 so there’s that). I’ve critiqued some of the crazy things their leaders have said. I’ve pointed out why some of their core beliefs are utterly offensive to me.
What can I say? Calvin and I have a pretty contentious relationship, if you could really call it that.
But for all my criticism of Calvinism, and my open distain for the way Calvinism distorts the image of God found in Jesus, I must confess: I think I am slowly on the road to becoming a Calvinist. I’ve tried to ignore all the signs. I’ve tried to deny it to myself and pretend it wasn’t happening. I’ve, I’ve… ugh. I’ve resisted it, but I am slowly losing my grip on my previous beliefs about who God is and who God is not… and as I lose my grip, I find myself drifting towards being the biggest Calvinist you’ve ever met.
Let me explain:
At the core of being a Calvinist is the belief that God hand-picks the people who will ultimately go to heaven and spend eternity in a paradise, where all the pains of this world are healed with perfect love. Calvinists will often describe the points of their belief system using the word TULIP, and this idea that God picks who will go to heaven is the “U,” meaning “unconditional election.” Essentially, God in his sovereignty selects people to extend his love and grace and mercy toward– and this act is unconditional.
Of course, Calvinism must account for the need of human beings to respond to God’s love and invitation, which brings us to the “I” in their scenario: “irresistible grace.” This idea of irresistible grace is that when God calls someone, when he invites them to come and experience his love, it is ultimately irresistible. God’s love pursues them to the ends of the earth– until they can’t resist anymore, and end up embracing love.
This also brings us to the P: perseverance of the saints. This is the idea that those who are chosen by God, who in turn respond to his love, can never be lost– it is a permanent salvation that cannot be undone by any slip up on the part of the individual. Thus, one can rest secure in God’s love, knowing that nothing they could do would earn them rejection by God.
Calvinism would be one of the most beautiful religions in the world if it were premised on UIP, but as far as I know, UIP doesn’t really spell anything. Where things get disgusting is when we add in the T and the L: every person is totally depraved and that Jesus only died to save a few people– not the whole world. The beauty of being chosen by God, being loved with a grace that’s irresistible, and being secure in a love that will never reject, is lost when we add in depravity and limited atonement.
A God who would pick people for hell before they were even born, is no one worthy of honor and praise– such a deity would be a monster.
In 5-point Calvinism, the Gospel is really, really good news for the few people God chooses to love and save, but is absolutely horrible news for the people God chooses to burn in hell– people who have no option or choice in the matter, because God himself created them for the sole purpose of sending them to hell.
That version of Calvinism is quite sick.
But 3-point Calvinism? This is where I find myself drifting lately.
To the idea that yes, God chooses who he will save, who he will heal, and who will experience his wonderful love– but that maybe God is so loving he chooses everybody.
The idea that yes, God’s grace is so wonderful and beautiful that it cannot be resisted– and that God will extend that irresistible grace to everyone… even pursuing them throughout eternity, until every last one decides to embrace love, and to walk out of hell.
The idea that yes, those who God has chosen can never be lost– that he is unwilling that any should perish, but that every last person who has ever lived would one day, whether now or in eternity, come to repentance– turning toward his love and his healing.
The more I travel the world, the more I find myself invited into people’s stories, and the more I learn how to love, the more difficult time I have believing in a god who doesn’t ultimately get what he wants: that no one would perish, but that everyone would experience his love and healing.
And even while I’ve written extensively on the theology of evangelical conditionalism (annihilation), and believe in the strength of my arguments, my heart believes it less and less as I learn to love people more and more.
I could be wrong in my drift towards the position of Universal Redemption (the belief that Christ will ultimately save all). But honestly, these days I’m more concerned with being authentic and transparent about who I am, and the journey I’m on, than I am concerned with being right.
And so, I confess: I think I’m becoming a Calvinist. Sort of. I doubt any self-respecting Calvinist would have me– but I’m thinking maybe Calvin was partly onto something.
I think I’m starting to believe that a God who is perfect love must pick everyone.
I’m starting to believe that perfect love would not fail– that everyone who experiences it would find healing, and embrace love back.
I’m starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, everyone experiences irresistible grace and that God’s love will never, ever reject anyone in the end.
Because that’s the kind of thing that would actually be “good news.”
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