Calvinism, evangelism, and my wobbly faith…

New Mexico landscape

New Mexico landscape

So there I was, yesterday, riding back to the office with a coworker.  This is not just any coworker.  This a tattoo heavy, beer drinking, woman loving, thickly bearded, cool-tempered, man-of-a-man by today’s standards, who loves America, hunts/kills/eats food from numerous prey (oryx, bear, turkey, white-tail deer, elk, etc…), is divorced, estranged from his son because his wife got remarried and took the little fella to England, and he believes that there is a god, but that it isn’t the god of the Bible or that anyone has it right.  He lives by an unwritten moral standard that we haven’t really talked about. His big hang-up with the Bible is its stance on animals, or I should say the lack-thereof.  He doesn’t see how we are any better or of more value than they are just because we are conscious of our existence.  He said it seems to him that our consciousness has made us worst off than the animals are.  I will call him Maximus from this point forward.

The conversation yesterday turned into a lengthy discourse about what various Christian denominations believe, what the central points of Christianity are, the inability of people to keep to the moral standards that they claim to follow, and more.  It was a hideous conversation as far as coherency on my part is concerned.  Here is one of the questions that I was asked, “So Christians basically live to die and go to heaven?”  This lead us into a series of explanations on my part that had Maximus re-explaining what he meant by the question.

The reality was that he was right, most Christians in America tend to live to die.  We would not say it, but it is a part of our doctrine and we tend to fall more in line with the Baptist’s stance of “once saved always saved” so we go on living in this world how we want to live, rarely questioning our deepest held standards of right and wrong, and we take comfort in knowing that when we die we will be with Sweet Jesus in heaven.  The ones who don’t fall into the “once saved, always saved” camp tend to be the quiet disciples of the faith who see evangelism as something that Baptist do well, but that they could never do themselves.  If someone wants to know about Jesus then they will tell them about their life and how the disciplines of the faith impact their lives.  I know that doesn’t cover everybody, but on the Protestant side of things that is how I see it played out.  Catholics would fall more like the Baptists (I can see all the Baptists who are reading this planning on rolling over in their grave before they go to heaven at being associated with Catholics), while Pentecostals would be more in line with the faith in practice side of things, but definitely with the evangelism bit active.  But now I am off topic.  All of us fail to live in the here and now.  Our belief in the after life and that we are going to get there because we have faith greatly impacts our approach to living here on this earth til then, be it for better or worse.

I would not call what I did evangelism.  I struggle with believing in the Christianity that I know and have been taught.  I struggle to identify myself with conservative evangelicals, fundamentalists, charismatics, Quakers, Pentecostals, Wesleyans, etc…  All of this came across in my conversation with Maximus.  I told him about the two greatest commandments: love God with all that you are, and love other people how you would want to be loved.  Then I had to explain what the point of Jesus was.  Have you ever had someone ask you, “I just don’t get how Jesus is supposed to have died for all of us?”  It ain’t easy to answer.  And that is another area of contention for me.  In order for someone to believe in Jesus they have to believe the following (whether stated or implied):

1. That there is a God-being.

2. That God has created us and communicated/communicates with us.

3. That this God creator wants an emotional relationship with us as well as a thinking relationship.

4. That our Creator made us to live a certain way. (Moral and ethical standards)

5. That we don’t live that way. (Sin)

6. That we can’t do enough good things to make up for the bad. (Total depravity)

7. Because of this, God came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then was killed for us. (Atonement)

8. That we know all of this because the books of the Bible tell us about it all and that God had this plan in mind since before time began.

9. That if we believe in what God did through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that we will then be able to have an emotional and thinking relationship with God restored. (Salvation)

10. And that we will live forever when we die with God. (But don’t picture harps, angels with wings, etc… and please don’t tell me I will live forever with ALL of my family.  Every family I know does well to make it through a reunion without killing each other and even in ours we prevent this from happening by saying that you can’t talk religion or politics.)

In the end I told Maximus about Calvinist.  That Calvinist believe in this thing called the elect.  That God made certain folks who are going to go to heaven, and everybody else was made for hell.  Here is how it is written according to one site I checked out:

    In our Confession, Chapter 3, Sections 3, 4, and 7, we have this description of it: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death” (3). “These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished” (4).
    “The rest of mankind, God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice” (7).

To which Maximus replied, “that is awesome, I am going to decide right now that I am one of the elect.”  I cracked up.  I also told him that I feel like one of those people who wants to be the elect, but no matter how hard I search for truth I will never be considered one of them.  And for my “once saved, always saved” friends, please do not hit me up with how I can be assured of my salvation.  I am familiar with it all so back off and let me wobble in the little faith that I do have while I try to get others thinking about the Truth.

Keith

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One thought on “Calvinism, evangelism, and my wobbly faith…

  1. Sandy says:

    “So Christians basically live to die and go to heaven?”

    I would express this statement in slightly different terms, in that most Christians assume they are heaven bound (having accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior) and live within the social boundries that they feel they are expected to. Nothing they could ever do on this earth would get them sent to hell…except losing their faith. A lot of hypocrisy can be accepted in the here and now based on this belief system.

    Maximus – “I just don’t get how Jesus is supposed to have died for all of us?”

    I know that this is a critical building block for people of faith. Suffice to say that for an outsider looking in, this entire concept makes no sense. God sent (himself) who conceived with a virgin and himself, to be born half god and half man (why?), to do a few magic tricks, To present a few fresh ideas to his Jewish community, To instigate a change in the status Quo of a small little region in Northern Africa, To infuriate “ the powers that be” so that they would kill him in the customary way for enemies of the state at that time (God allowed man to kill God or ½ God (God Lite)) to lay around dead (or unnoticed) for a few days, to mingle with the friendly locals for a few days, and then bodily ascend to the heavens to be reunited with himself.

    And that is the only way that this benevolent God could find to forgive and spare billions of people to come and live with him for eternity, while other billions he could not forgive, so condemned them, to eternal hell fire, for doing nothing more than just being the people he made them to be. ….that’s a head scratcher for me.

    I am a former Christian, so I know how the mind of faith justifies this. But imagine if you were hearing this about another religion or faith. You might be a little skeptical.

    Have you ever had someone ask you, “I just don’t get how Jesus is supposed to have died for all of us?” It ain’t easy to answer.

    I believe you.

    I guess all I am saying is that people of faith have to just take these things on faith… my own experience has been that trying to congeal faith with logic, reason, and scientific method can lead frustration and or delusion on the part of the faithful.People who choose to believe really tend to come back to the concept that they believe because for what ever reasons they can’t imagine themselves not believing.

    The question is are you seeking truth or contentment? They rarely align.

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