Narcissism. The web (a blog) is all about Me. Who cares about what I say? Who cares if I’ve gotten to a point with soteriology (that is the study of salvation) where I might tentatively define myself by a label again? No one cares. But I post it anyway. I’ve often said that I write for myself and you should feel free to read over my shoulder. So this is going to be more stream of consciousness than my usual writing.
Years ago, when I first became a believer and actually started to read Scriptures, I thought that everything that happened, everything that occurred, was predetermined and ultimately the cause for everything happening. Everything was inevitable and outside of anything to do with me. I very much believed that if I sinned, it was preordained; if I did good, it was preordained; If I preached, it was preordained; if I didn’t preach it was preordained. I was, quite literally, a fatalist.
It was a depressing place to be even if I only knew that in retrospect.
Eventually I rejected that and became something closer to a Calvinist, though a slightly mixed bag one. I was convinced that the only reason I believed was because God decided to prepare me beforehand as a vessel of mercy. I saw the Fall as something God preordained and used as a means to ensure that the elect are saved and the damned weren’t. I would speak to people as if God’s genuine grace was being offered to all but I never knew if it was being offered to this or that person. I thought that a sinner was dead in his sins, unable to respond to God without God’s specific calling of them. I thought that if you continue believing (especially before passing away), then you were always one of the elect; if not, you weren’t. I felt dishonest when I said things like “God loves you.” And I started, in my mind, to mean “You, plural.”
Eventually I rejected that as well because I had too many Biblical questions. Mostly from the book of Romans; always from context of passages. I found myself unable to make excuses for passages or embarrassed when I was redefining things to fit into what I believed. At that point I stopped thinking about salvation and just let it be: it was beyond me, just preach the Gospel. Stick to the text.
Years after, I was handed books: Saved Without A Doubt by Macarthur; Chosen by God by Sproul; Horton’s Putting Amazing Back Into Grace and others. I was told that these books would reinvent the way I thought about God and my position before him. They would open my eyes to the Awesomeness of God. Here were people that thought things through!
The old questions came back. This time with a vengeance. I was reading my Scriptures at the same time and I made a point of studying Romans with several commentaries close at hand. I read through systematic theologies that pointed to the necessity of believing in Calvinism. I was nervous. I was seeing things in Scripture that was completely contrary to what these guys kept inserting into their books but who am I? I don’t know Greek. I never went to seminary. Who am I?
I examined the footnotes and read the books these people were responding to. Geisler. Robert Shank. The list grew. I’ve found myself reading the writings of Van Til, Warfield, occasionally Bavinck, Luther, Edwards, Arminius, Ockham, Modern day Thomists like Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Roger Olson, the writings of Augustine and the Early Church, the work of William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, the quotes of Pelagius and recently the works of Thomas Oden and also Luis De Molina. These books aren’t even the full range of the things I’ve read on the topic. All of these people using Scripture. All of them working out a theology from the text and trying to make sense of something they almost all call inscrutable.
This all repeatedly sent me back to the text of Scripture. Questions were raised in light of these teachers. I am firmly not a Calvinist, I know that. But I also don’t think I’m an Arminian though I’ve been called that. Maybe I am. Like I said, I’ve tended to avoid the labels.
I’m not going to bother unraveling or examining the systems. Calvinism isn’t really TULIP and you can’t really address it in five easy to contain posts. Plus, back in the day I had a guest poster who did that already. But even so, Calvinism is a tapestry whereby each of its points runs through the entire thing. Arminianism likewise contains many ins and outs and one might want to differentiate between Classical Arminianism, Wesleyism, Finneyism and modern day Arminianism. And how can one even touch on Pelagianism, Thomism, Molinism and so on? So these series of posts are questions, raised by (1) Scripture, (2) reason and philosophy and sometimes (3) Church History that have brought me to somewhere else.