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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

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Friday, August 08, 2003

make mine a dirty glass

Proudly displayed on the He Lives blogsite:

.... reads like a shot of tequila - pure unadulterated Calvinism

That darned Calvinist!

Over at He Lives David Heddle wears his Calvinism on his sleeve - and as a badge of honour, so I figured it wouldn't be long before some people, not so inclined, would get rather upset and agitated over his upfront and outspoken advocacy of the Five Points. Another blogger Ben Kepple apparently started the ball rolling with a critique of David's views, and since then a number of others have joined the fray. Ben notes, rather quaintly I thought, that "we often devote posts on Sundays to the subject of theology, an issue which we find uplifting and fitting for the Sabbath." Continuing with the folksy tone and the use of the plural "we", Ben comments, "Unfortunately, we have come across some work that we find so spiritually deficient that we cannot let it pass without comment." The spiritually deficient work being the expressed theological views of one David Heddle.

"Critique" is probably not the right word, as Ben mainly enunciates the "Boo Hoo" approach to this thorny theological and philosophical issue - i.e. "I don't like it; it affronts me; it is wrong!"

The next blogger to join in was the agnostic - or is it atheist? - Dean Esmay over at Dean's world. Not much of an improvement. The "Boo Hoo" approach again, from someone who apparently doesn't even recognise the existence of God in the first place. I mean, if God does not exist, then it is pointless to pontificate about whether he predestines everything or not... though, rather bizarrely, Dean seems to think that if that were in fact true he would be a Satanist!? Dean also brings on one of the usual suspects - the "t" word - torture, and implies another, the "h" word - hell. What is it with so many self-appointed experts on Christianity, both religious and irreligious, that they seem to believe that "God tortures little children for all eternity in hell" is an accurate summation of the Biblical doctrines of judgment and punishment? And who have no grasp of the related doctrine of "Sin", thinking it's got something to do with stealing cookies.

Having read David's theological views, and his elaboration of his Reformed faith, I was surprised that people who haven't given the matter as much thought would really want to tackle him with the kind of strawman attacks, knee-jerk reactions and uninformed denunciations that are painfully demonstrated by Ben and Dean. For both these gentlemen display their own simplistic and mixed-up views about Reformed theology. Whether you are a Calvinist or not, or even whether you are a believer or a guy who dropped Christianity in his teens, it really does pay to be very careful before dismissing Reformed theology without some deep reflection. (Actually this goes for every topic that we pontificate upon in our blogs.) It is indeed extremely easy and very common for the Five Points of Calvinism to be misunderstood and misrepresented, even by professed Calvinists. As one or two respondents pointed out, the Reformed doctrines of TULIP, are profoundly complex, theologically subtle and intellectually challenging.

No one is a "natural" Calvinist; it goes against the grain of our natural sentiments, just as no one is a "natural" believer in the doctrines of grace. We all innately assume that we have to "earn" our salvation by doing "good works" to "get right with God", and then setting the bar so low for ourselves that we easily qualify for the reward of heavenly bliss... Calvinism is either a very subtle and deceptive philosophy, or a serious attempt to do justice to the full counsel of God as revealed in the scriptures, but it isn't a lazy person's hobby horse; it is for mature thinkers only.

Next to join in, was Susan Lilac Rose. More Boo Hoo. Susan, a committed Christian, voiced her disquiet with the the notion of predestination. And let's face it, it is a challenging idea. Susan did point out, correctly, that C.S. Lewis was no friend of the doctrine. Considering his stature as a Christian thinker, citing C.S. Lewis in support of your position certainly carries weight - unlike citing Dave Hunt... but Lewis himself was the first to admit, he was no theologian.

Unfortunately Susan entitled her blog "Chosen? Or Free to Choose?" , thus seemingly dismissing the core Christian doctrine of election, that God in Christ chose us, not we him.

You might think that I am defending David Heddle and his theological views. Not really. In fact as an admirer of C.S. Lewis, I try to cultivate a "mere Christian" outlook, particularly on public forums, blogs and webpages. I don't usually wish to be drawn into internecene fights about predestination, election and foreknowledge. There are far too many aggressive atheists and their fellow travellers among liberals to expend energy on in-house debates with other believers.

God is bigger than our ideas about him - but that doesn't mean should avoid doing some hard thinking - and deep reflection on the scriptures. Calvinism is not "the truth", but its theological insights cannot be blithely dismissed - especially by Arminians who frequently demonstrate an addiction to theology lite.

7:22:00 pm