Wednesday, September 3, 2008

balancing the gift with the demand, or why i left calvinism

ok. so i am one who believes in grace, god's grace, i mean. i believe and teach that god is open to any and all.

i didn't always believe this way. sadly, i once lived the life of a calvinist, but i found i wasn't a very good one.

i could almost get the hang of this election to salvation idea, but i struggled with the election to damnation; i struggled with the smugness i felt in my surety that i was part of the elect; i struggled with my willingness to let entire populations of people be damed; i struggled with the idea that jesus didn't die for everyone; i struggled with the fact that one woman i knew whose entire family was burned in a fire, and who became a raving crack addict because of it, would not be included because her life was hell now, and because she didn't quite measure up to god, and therefore the cross was not for her; i struggled because i felt left out of god's plan -- after all -- he really didn't need me, everything like prayer and proclaiming the good news was already settled; most of all i struggled with the idea that god is the author of everything, every thought, ever event, including monstrous human evil like auschwitz.

[i'm well aware that the calvinist has answers for all of the above, but as i say, i've seen their wares up close, and i'm not buying ]

anyway, the upshot of this is that i left the calvinist camp, and decided to quit camping altogether. i decided that i would try to learn how to love others and just leave it at that. i decided that i would try, as best i could, to make sense of the good news, both to myself and others, and let god do the body count.

so, i've been at the jesus-way since 1962, and i must confess that i fail at this task of loving others most of the time; i'm not a very good pastor or christian. i want to be, and i'm diligent at my attempts, but as i say, most of the time it's just a no go.

this probably means that i left calvinism because of anyone i knew, i needed god's grace most of all, but i wasn't sure i was elected!

and yet, in the midst of this idea of the gift of grace for all, there is also the demand of the gospel -- that of following the ways of the christ. and this weighs heavy, and is quite dense.

said another way, with the gift of grace also comes the demand of discipleship. "broad is the way that leads to destruction," said jesus, "and many are on that road." he also said: "narrow is the way to life, and few there be that find it."

to me this is a mighty & powerful contradiction.

i think this means if you were to have walked up to st. paul and asked (using old time lingo), "paul, are you saved?" paul would have answered, "yes." but if you were to ask that same question to the writer of the hebrews, or st. james' letter, they would say, "i dunno, i'm not there yet."