Thursday, December 16, 2010

Calvinism vs. Arminianism: A debate in another country?

Two blogging church leaders in my family of churches have been pondering the question of God's sovereignty. I confess it was a debate that used to interest me, but I find myself cold to it today. Adrian Warnock lays out a spectrum of beliefs for Calvinists and Arminians and Phil Whittall has responded from another angle. This seems to be how the debate normally happens and what it's focuseed upon.

My problem is that it has begun to feel like a debate in another country, in which I used to live very happily.

What's happened? Years of relentlessly attractive Trinitarianism from Mike Reeves & others that have shaped my basic consideration of who God is.

Now I start by considering God as Father, Son and Spirit and the language is all of love and superabundant overflowing of that love. Previously I thought of God in terms of omni's and attributes and Trinity as important, necessary and impractical. I stand corrected substantially, and humbled and loved more than I'd imagined previously. I don't mean to say that those who love these debates lack such things - this is just my story.

I feel like I've been re-wired, or perhaps like the experience of moving from using dried herbs in your food to freshly cut - in some ways its just the same, but in others the effect is beyond compare.
On Saturday night a student who isn't a Christian asked me
"Is God omnipotent?"
To which the answer is: "kinda yeah but it's the wrong kind of question. Instead let me tell you about how he reveals himself to us, through his Son who was sent into this world in love to a people created in love, and who gave himself in love for us who have not loved..."

My old view of God was concerned with his divine decrees and the amount of sin in me and the amount of atonement in the cross. Now I find myself cut deeper by my spiritual adultery, blown away by the boundless love of God shown at the cross.

Am I less Calvinist? I've read more Calvin and more Sibbes to get to where I am today, but maybe I've stepped aside from the framework of some of the Systematics I'd run with previously. If Calvin was about articulating afresh God's concern for his glory (See "Piper" or gospel?) and the fundamental conviction that Jesus Saves then I'm not sure I care to ask about how much free will I have, by what mechanism I might have been chosen, and whether I can get away with not passionately pursuing my Father and still be saved and many other questions...

Maybe that's just a different kind of Calvinism, maybe I've lost the plot a bit, or maybe God is more good and more attractive and more loving that I'd seen before. Yet I don't feel like I've moved on to something clever, but gone back to something utterly basic, to the gospel and seen it filled out by the Triune God.

Mike Reeves: Enjoying the Trinity - A Delightfully Different God from