Mike Cope's blog

Monday, August 15, 2005

A kind of neo-Calvinism sounds so spiritual -- especially to people who've been burdened down in human-centered, legalistic churches. "God has already chosen your future mate." "God has already selected our new minister." There is so much about John Calvin -- especially the young, bold Calvin -- to love. But what's known as Calvinism is at times just determinism with religious dress. I like these words from Brian McLaren: "Whether it's God who makes us puppets, or whether it is genes, physics, socioeconomics, or psychosexual aggression, it doesn't matter much to me. I have little time for determinism. If it's true, then I can't help but not believe it, because after all, I have no choice." "I do not believe that this universe is a movie that's already 'in the can,' having been 'produced and shot' already in God's mind, leaving us with the illusion that it's all real and actually happening. I find it hard to imagine worshiping or loving a deterministic, machine-operator God." Some, fed up with legalism, have supposed that the hyper-Calvinist understanding is better. That God, the Sovereign One, has chosen who will be saved and who will be lost. That they are chosen and can't lose their election. That he has decided exactly what's going to happen and we're just going through the motions. But that doesn't match up with the biblical story very well. It sounds so spiritual, but it doesn't fit what we learn in the reforming narrative of scripture. There, God in his sovereignty has decided that we are partners, not puppets and that our choices matter a lot. McLaren suggests that the TULIP teaching of Calvinism (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the Saints) should be this to better match the biblical story: Triune love Unselfish election Limitless reconciliation Inspiring grace Passionate, Persistent Saints Now there is a TULIP that fits with the narrative! - - - - For those of you following the story of the ACU homecoming play, here's an excellent piece in yesterday's Abilene Reporter-News from a professor of voice at Hardin-Simmons University. - - - - As of this morning, we have a seventh-grader in this house! Just four months ago, I was pushing him to sixth grade in his wheelchair. We're so thankful for his progress.

22 Comments:

  • "Partners, not puppets" -- What a profoundly positive paradigm!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 8/15/2005 05:43:00 AM  

  • From the Reporter-News article:

    "Couldn't our time be better spent healing the ethnic wounds we have created, rather creating new ones that don't exist?"

    Amen.

    /dead-horse flogging.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 8/15/2005 05:43:00 AM  

  • The passionate defense of the Hesters was particularly pleasing.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    The pastor/teacher at my San Diego church put this in perspective for me.

    He says that we are NOT God's puppets, that when we remain and function within God's moral law our decisions will be based on the anchor of His Will - that what has been determined are His promises on eternity, be ours be spent in eternal Light or eternal darkness.

    He's an avowed Calvinist, so we totally disagreed on his belief that God determined before we were born which of us is destined for eternal life and which are not. We had many a toe-to-toe discussion about our total disagreement on this one.

    "toe-to-toe? Picture a Hobbit [me, at 5'1"], discussing with an Ent , [Tim at 6'5"]. :o) Try poking someone in the chest when you can't reach that high. Frustrating!! LOL

    By Blogger Kathy, at 8/15/2005 06:14:00 AM  

  • Well, you're not budging me. I insist that in all future dramatic productions, seventh-grader characters must be portrayed by seventh-graders, Calvinist characters by Calvinists, and Klingons by authentic ethnic Klingons.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 8/15/2005 06:25:00 AM  

  • Keith,
    If there is ever a production needing one crusty0old, non-budging curmudgeon, we'll know who to call back!!!!

    ;)

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 8/15/2005 07:03:00 AM  

  • Please forgive the long comment, but I don't think you should claim that Calvinism "doesn't fit ... scripture". Although scripture consistently implies that people are responsible for their actions, there's also a strong thread of determinism. Take the psalmist, for example:

    All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.(Psalm 139)

    Also consider the prophets: A strong interpretation of prophesy, combined with a little logic, seems to require determinism. If God knows the future, and if God created the universe, then it's impossible for anyone but God to have decided who will be saved and who won't. Or more immediately, it's impossible for anyone but God to have decided who will live a long, comfortable life and who will live a life of suffering.

    And, of course, there are the writings of Paul, including that difficult passage in Romans ... No, not that difficult passage, the other one:

    What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?(Romans 9)

    So I think it's kind of unfair to claim that Calvinism is unscriptural.

    However, I do think that it's fair to insist that Calvinists own up to the difficulties of their position ... and possibly more importantly, to insist that they develop a consistent position! I suppose that Calvinism (eschatalogical determinism) doesn't assume whole-world determinism, but the onus is on the Calvinist to explain why God would make salvation deterministic but give us free will about everything else.

    And if a Calvinist can't explain the difference, she has to accept all the liabilities that come with the determinist position. For example, the God of Determinism (A.K.A. the God Who is In Control) must accept all responsibility for evil in the world. When terrorists fly airplanes into towers, determinists must say "God did that". When children suffer, determinists must say, "God did that, too". The determinist must struggle to find meaning in her actions when she knows that her feeling of choice is simply a farce. And let's not forget the side-effects of Calvinism ... the self-obsession that it encourages, and the apathy that it allows us to have about the salvation of other people.

    So while I can't say that Calvinism is unscriptural, I don't have a problem with saying that it's un-livable.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 8/15/2005 07:14:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    I commend you for your obvious study on this very difficult topic. I would encourage you to consider Ephesians 2:3 in your interpretation of the passage you cited in Romans 9:

    All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

    I believe that the "objects of wrath" that Paul writes of in both Romans and Ephesians refers to us before we were saved.

    To your other scriptural objections to a non-Calvinist view, I would simply refer to an equal number of references to days being "cut short" or "extended." Yes, there is a plan, but it can certainly be thwarted and changed by man's actions.

    Respectfully,

    Jonathan

    By Blogger jds, at 8/15/2005 07:38:00 AM  

  • Great post Mike, I really like the new TULIP much better. To me it really does sum up what God is seeking to do. Thanks for these words brother! God bless!

    By Blogger CL, at 8/15/2005 07:40:00 AM  

  • I think I've said this in a comment on a previous post here, but I love the metaphor of dance in describing our relationship with God. He leads and determines to a great extent, certainly - but we also have great freedom to move and flow within his life. Living should be seen as an act of creative expression in the light/life/music of God, rather than a legalistic, mechanical exercise.

    "And when I dance with you/I've finally found my place/Its so extraordinary in a normal way/'Cause I was made for loving You/I was made for loving You."
    -Rock n Roll Worship Circus

    [Also, I wonder, can the way of thinking that Mike described here be used to eliminate guilt about bad choices? "God meant for me to have this car/house/high-tech item, so not only is it okay, but you shouldn't judge/question the purchase." In other words, do we like to believe that God determined that we should do/buy/act in a certain way because that belief provides a buffer against accountability for questionable decisions? Just a thought.]

    By Blogger Matt, at 8/15/2005 07:58:00 AM  

  • Actually your statement:

    ==============================

    "Some, fed up with legalism, have supposed that the hyper-Calvinist understanding is better. That God, the Sovereign One, has chosen who will be saved and who will be lost. That they are chosen and can't lose their election. That he has decided exactly what's going to happen and we're just going through the motions..."

    ==========================

    This is not Hyper-Calvinism at all, but traditional Calvinism... Hyper-Calvinists are folks who take a hard line on evangelism, basically stating that the Lord will woo those who He will, and we have no need for evangelism, and should not even present the gospel!

    BTW, before you make broad statements about whether or not Calvinism matches Scripture, you may want to do a bit more research...

    From a former Arminian who actually did that and found the 'Calvinistic' position to fit much more into the Scriptures...

    By Blogger Ray, at 8/15/2005 08:17:00 AM  

  • BTW, the statement about 'Hyper-Calvinism' misstates the feelings and the teachings of the Calvinistic position as well...

    It is easy to build up that straw man and burn him down, but before that is done, at least make sure that you have built him to spec...

    :-)

    By Blogger Ray, at 8/15/2005 10:08:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Kate, at 8/15/2005 10:31:00 AM  

  • I like to think that God isn't retricted by time. He has lived our lives with us - through every decision we've made and will make. But He is also with us when we make decisions like it is the first time. I don't think we will ever understand this because we are slaves to time and always have been. So, I try not to hurt my brain over it.

    By Blogger Kate, at 8/15/2005 10:35:00 AM  

  • To your other scriptural objections to a non-Calvinist view, I would simply refer to an equal number of references to days being "cut short" or "extended."

    Jonathan,

    Yes, this is exactly the point I'm trying to make. For every passage that implies determinism, there's another that implies libertarianism, and vice versa. This means that other sources of knowledge must inform my decision about whether Calvinism is useful or correct.

    By Blogger Matthew, at 8/15/2005 11:45:00 AM  

  • I like partnership. Some people feel so relieved by Calvinsim, but I think that is if you "know" you're "saved." For the rest of the people, it is tyranny.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 8/15/2005 01:59:00 PM  

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    By Blogger jon.marq, at 8/15/2005 02:16:00 PM  

  • Perhaps I am confused.

    John Calvin made his appeal to Scripture and developed a system of theology based on the Word. And that is a bad thing?

    Mike Cope made his appeal to Brian McLaren, who makes his appeal to human reason and postmodern spirituality. And that is a good thing?

    Huh?! Come on.

    I find the much of the Reformed faith tradition to be a breath of fresh air after years of gasping on the Restoration tradition. Furthermore, over the course of years I came to believe that the reformatio tradition is more God-centered and grace-oriented than the restoratio tradition.

    By the way, Brian McLaren's neo-Tulip is cute and clever, but falls short of the gospel of grace. (I mean there is no real textual support for it.) I much prefer RC Sproul's 'revised classical' version. If we must err, shouldn't we err on the side of God's sovereignty rather than on the side of human ir-responsibility?

    For the record: My friends would probably consider me a Calvinist; Calvin would probably consider me an Arminian. And I just want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    By Blogger jon.marq, at 8/15/2005 02:18:00 PM  

  • [Perhaps I am confused. John Calvin made his appeal to Scripture and developed a system of theology based on the Word. And that is a bad thing? Mike Cope made his appeal to Brian McLaren, who makes his appeal to human reason and postmodern spirituality. And that is a good thing? Huh?! Come on.]

    John Calvin sought to interpret scripture. So did McLaren. So did I. Believe it or not, we came to different conclusions. I wasn't appealing to McLaren as my authority. I agreed with what he wrote based on my understanding of scripture (which continues to grow through these 49 years of life) and liked how he said it. I don't mind you disagreeing with me. Honestly. I expect that honest people will come to different conclusions. (On my blog, don't be surprised that I'll be stating my conclusions, however.) It's a healthy thing to be able to express those differences.

    By Blogger Mike, at 8/15/2005 07:14:00 PM  

  • RE: ACU story...what a great article by the HSU prof...a great defense of ACU, the Hesters, and all things reasonable.
    **
    Not so well versed on all the Calvinist debates...but being a John Piper fan, I appreciate his interpretation of TULIP (found on his DesiringGod.com website under "About Us"...) When I first heard "limited atonement" years ago, I thought it was the atonement that was limited...as if God wasn't capable ("how could that be?")...then I understood that it was biblical in "limiting" such blood atonement to those who put their belief in Jesus. If it were for "all" then John 3.16 would be irrelevant.

    By Blogger Randy & Kelly Vaughn, at 8/16/2005 12:31:00 AM  

  • mike, thank for your candor. i respect you as a fellow human being and brother in Christ. and i respect your convictions. by all means, keep on blogging.

    when the theological fog clears, we all know that Christ is enough for us, all we need. in the end Christ Jesus (not Calvin, McLaren, JonMarq, et al) is just and the one justifies.

    i know we agree on that.

    By Blogger jon.marq, at 8/16/2005 04:49:00 AM  

  • Hear, hear jon marq! I agree!

    Mike, thank you for the opportunity to comment on your blog...

    When we stand before Messiah and He says "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord", all else will fade from view...

    By Blogger Ray, at 8/16/2005 09:39:00 AM  

  • It seems to me that those who are posting for the anti-Calvinistic side of the argument have completely failed to prove their point. It is easy to point a fire a gun - any three year old can do that! Firing accurately is another thing altogether. One can say they oppose Calvinism all day long – but doing so with reasonable biblical impetus is another thing altogether.

    Those who have stated a pro Sovereign God approach to scripture (in the replies) seem to do so biblically (or with biblical evidence), thoughtfully, and intellectually. The other side seems to "feel" a lot about their position but not "think" and certainly not "prove" much at all.

    As one just happening on this site I would suggest the ant Calvinist position shore up some real reasons why one should not go along with jonmarq and the others in their convictions.

    In short, I am not sure to “Calvin or not to Calvin” is a good desert topic (for a quickie blog) - this is something that that runs deep in heart and history...

    By Blogger Brandon, at 9/22/2005 11:54:00 AM  

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