Tag Archives: calvinism

Some interesting things elsewhere III


Yes, that’s me, sitting at the beach at the mouth of most Southern estuary of the river Schelde in the North Sea, in the Netherlands, where we were with the people of our Vineyard church from Antwerp yesterday. As you can see the weather was changing at the moment of taking the picture, and not for the better…

Now onto the new list of ‘Some interesting things elsewhere’: I know I’m not disciplined enough, and not able to give my blog enough priority to do this every week like some bloggers do, but here is a new list:

Dianne Anderson  has written an interesting series on C.S. Lewis and platonism(part I, part II, part III) and complementarian use of the shadowlands metaphor. I think she has an interesting point that is much broader than her feminist application, and important in other ways too.  And then Sarah moon has a post on ‘intangible christianity‘, and I understood much more why her point is so important. Christian salvation is not something vague and mystical (in the pejorative sense) that means that somewhere in the heavenly realm your status has been changed, and your sins (actually the punishment for them) has been ‘washed away’ without anything happening here and now, but it is the Inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, ‘already and not yet’, that will only be complete after the Judgment with erasing of all evil. But salvation is something very real here and now!

Josh Hopping has a post about scriptures, politics, and the bootstrap myth, confronting the myth of the ‘do-it-yourself’-person that is even more pervasive in America but endemic to (neo)liberal Western thought but completely unchristian. Something similar from Bill Guerrant on sustainable traditions about American virtues and the seven deadly sins. (And again, what’s said about the US can be broadened to our Western culture in general…)

These stats on the sex industry from treasures in Los Angeles make me very very very sad… Kyrië Eleison! 

Related, Kurt Willems on the Pangea blog asks question ‘can porn be used responsible’, and gives an interesting observation about freedom: “God invites us to allow the Holy Spirit to shape our character to make us look more like Jesus, free from the shackles of longing for someone other than a spouse. Porn never accomplishes this aim in any circumstance.

And for something completely different, Scott Morizot wonders about the influence of Islam on the Western renaissance in general and calvinism in specific. Intriguing idea.

peace

Bram

Moving east to find lost treasures…


In the light of the current Rob Bell controverse (if you don’t know what I mean just google his name and ‘love wins’)  there are some thoughts that are not new, and there’s probably nothing new about them… For example, Kingdom Grace has made similar remarks earlier, but I’ll try to explain how I see it.

While not much seems to be happening here in Flanders in the (very small) evangelical world, it seems like the internet is announcing over and over the end of evangelicalism in the US, or its split. The fights over Rob Bells new book (ironically called ‘Love wins’, how naive of him, you know christians will never exhibit love if they disagree… hmm ) seems to make a division between the hardcore reformed who hold to a theology I find very troubling sometimes (and I’m not the only one) and all the others, who are not considered ‘in’ for some of those… But frankly,  I don’t believe calvinism is the most helpful tradition here.

I don’t think we need to return to seventeenth century ‘orthodoxy’ if we want to find our roots again, and neither do I think we need to read the bible through a few elect pauline verses… Yes we need to go back to our roots, but the problem with sola scriptura is that where we had 4 schisms in the first 1500 years, we have had 30000 church splits since protestantism, so even when teh bible is infallible, everybody seems to have another opinion about what it says… So we don’t just need to go back to the bible, but also look at the others who are going the same way as we do, and/or those who did in the past.

Yes I think that the ‘modern’ protestant church has been navelgazing too long, blinded by our cultural assumptions, and it might need some input from other traditions to refresh its vision (and more open ears to the Holy Spirit!!!). I might be quite unmodern being both pentecostel (which according to some is more pre-modern) and influenced by C.S. Lewis, who called himself the last ancient westerner, but I’m not going to do all the emerging church babble about postmodernism being better than modernism. Still I’m affraid that I’m convinced that modernism and Christianity don’t mix very well. Both fundamentalism and liberalism, the 2 polar opposite adaptions christianity made to late modernism are not the most vital and life-bringing forms of Christianity, and did much harm to the gospel.

So my proposal is to learn from non-modern christian traditions to find back what we’ve lost with the blind spots of our modern eyes. Thats’s in fact one of the things happening in and beyond the ‘emerging church’, and one of the problems for some is that those traditions are far away from standard dispensationalism and calvinism. One of those traditions which we can learn a lot from is the (neo-)anabaptism which probably is the most attractive side of the emerging church to me. A focus on discpleship and following the Jesus of the gospels is something we surely need in our churches! Every church a peace church!!

(another one would be the charismatic tradition, of which I am already part, which is frustratingly ignored in some parts of the emerging church tending too much to naturalism!)

So what’s the ‘new’ one I’m finding more and more interesting? It’s actually a very old one, and unlike anabaptism undeniably totally outside of protestantism, and it was even left out of Brian McLarens ‘generous orthodoxy’, but I don’t think it can really be considered ‘unorthodox’ in any way at all, since I’m talking about the so-called eastern orthodox church here. They own the word!

People who read here regularly know that I recently was very impressed with a video pointing out the differences between the orthodox and protestant view of salvation. I do indeed think that the orthodox have a much more complete, biblical and coherent view on salvation than the good-friday-only penal substitution some of us protestants preach! And we can and should also learn a lot from their non-dualistic view of reality, their insistance of the presence of God, and their embrace of paradox and mystery instead of trying to push all of reality into systematic theology!

And I’m not the only one who has been discovering this, even people in my own denomination (the vineyard) are discovering that the the eastern orthodox are theologically very interesting and very close to the ideas some post-evangelicals are (re)discovering. Yes indeed, the ‘heresy’ of some of Rob Bells or even NT Wrights views is in fact much closer to eastern orthodoxy and the church fathers than to calvinism, which is in return a heresy condemned by both the catholic and orthodox church… The whole idea that Jesus came to save us in the first place from the wrath of God would be totally alien to them. To quote American orthodox priest Father Stephen:

Intricate theories of the atonement which involve the assuaging of the wrath of God are not worthy of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I can say it no plainer. Those who persist in such theological accounts do not know “what Spirit they are of.” It is not ever appropriate to exalt a Biblical system over the plain sense communicated to us in the Gospel. No matter the chain of verses and the rational explanations attached – we cannot portray God as other than as He has shown Himself to us in Jesus Christ. To do so makes the Bible greater than Christ.

It is very difficult in our culture, where the wrathful God has been such an important part of the gospel story, to turn away from such portrayals – and yet it is necessary – both for faithfulness to the Scripture, the Fathers, and the revelation of God in Christ.

I commend the referenced work, the River of Fire, for its compliation of Patristic sources. I also beg other Christians to be done with their imagery of the wrathful God. They do not know the God of Whom they speak. Forgive me

So, I think we can and should learn a lot from the orthodox (among many other traditions), who have a much more complete view of salvation, and who seem to be able to make a lot more sense of the ressurrection, without which our hope is in vain according to Paul, but which is reduced to just some counterintuitive fact that should be believed in to be saved by some fundamentalists.

but no, I’m never ever going to become eastern orthodox myself. My theology of church would fall somewhere between those of Frank Viola and John Wimber and is quite opposite to the hierarchical liturgical view of an old church with only male priests: I believe in the priesthood of all believers, where ‘everybody gets to play’ and where men and women can excercise the gifts the Spirit has given them. And I don’t buy the stuff about relics and saints (even though their theology of the communion of the saints and the witness cloud sounds interesting to me!)

So if we want to restore a truly ‘evangelical’ faith, we have to recover the good news of God redeeming all of creation and of the hope Jesus brought in the resurrection. The vision of Gods kingdom as layed out in the gospels is incompatible with a gospel that is only concerned with saving individual souls from Gods wrath, it’s about the restauration of all of creation! And here I think can learn a lot from those older brothers in our faith in Jesus Christ.

(Even if we’ll still disagree about a lot of things and not be able to be in communion with them because different views on church, priesthood and eucharist. )

But it’s not about which tradition is best. It’s about understanding God more, and participation in the mission of His kingdom.

shalom

Bram

ps: I am in no way an expert in orthodoxy, so if anyone has helpful links or book titles to enlighten me more, please share them with me and my readers!!!

please don’t call me ‘arminian’!


warning: this post is for all those christians who identify themselves with the ‘calvins-ist’ or ‘reformed’ tradition and who feel the need to dub me or others ‘arminian’ because I’m not one of them…

All my life I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve encountered a lot of traditions in those 30 years (wow, am I that old?). I must say I’ve learned a lot from all different streams of Christianity. I’ve been a pentecostel kid, and now I’m a part of the vineyard movement with it’s centered ‘radical middle’ approach. I’ve been learning from a lot of traditions over the years. My charismatic background and the wesleyan evangelicalism underneath it were enriched by the human solidarity, charity and ‘creation care’ -as I’d call it now- that I picked up from the (otherwise mostly dead liberal-on-slippery-slope-to-atheism) catholicism of my catholic school. (did I tell you that I grew up in a dechristianising post-catholic countrty?)

I think that I’ve picked up what I would call now ‘a generous orthodoxy’ from C.S. Lewis, and I learned to find things of value in most Christian streams, and I read books, articles and websites from all kinds of traditions over the years since my teenage years, which enriched me a lot.

There were at least three streams of thought that never resonated with me within the broad range of Christian thought, without beginning about the pope and the magisterium that is… The first one is the so-called ‘liberal’ impulse to explain everything away that doesn’t fit with modern science, which is just unrealistic to a charismatic like me. The second one is the ‘I am right on all details or you can just throw your bible and faith in the trash’ approach of fundamentalism. and the third one is the weird doctrine of double predestination, which I find a blasphemous idea, even if it’s supposed to give God the most glory according to their philosophical framework.

I must say that honestly I’ve never encountered much calvinism before I got into some debates on the internet. And it never interested me, I didn’t recognise God, Christ and the bible like I knew them in their way of thinking. But one of the things I noticed when in debate on some websites was the label ‘arminian’ that some used to describe me or any other person brave enough to admit not to believe in the ‘TULIP’-doctrines. I soon learned that it was a derogatory term used by some calvinists to label anyone they disagree with, so they didn’t have to take them seriously. I later found out it had something to do with some Arminius guy, but reading about the guy he didn’t stir much interest I’m affraid.

(I’m fully aware that not all calvinists and reformed Christians are like this, but this is part of my experience that I can’t deny. My excuses to all good christians in the reformed tradition who don’t use the word ‘arminian’ as a synonym for ‘bad christian’ or even ‘heretic’. It’s the loudest ones that get heard and that spoil the reputation of the group for all of the rest…)

I’m sorry, but I reject the label ‘arminian’. I don’t follow the guy named Arminius. In fact the guy was, unlike me, a calvinist. He might even have been a better calvinist than the guys of the synod of Dordt, who made up the 5 points of calvinism (TULIP) but history is always written by winners, and he and his followers were the losers… But that’s an in-house discussion for calvinists and those inside the ‘reformed’ tradition, and none of my business. It’s as relevant for me as what’s going on in the vatican…

Calling all evangelicals, or more or less protestant Christians who believe in free will over predestination ‘Arminians’ is just plain nonsense from a calvinistocentric worldview, creating non-extisting dichotomies where there’s a whole lot of traditions of which the ‘reformed’ is only one. It would be the same if I as a Charismatic would call all non-charismatics ‘darbyists’ and trace all forms of cessionism or otherwise non-charismatic christianity back to Darby. The guy has nothing to do with most of non-charismatic christianity, and it’s the same with Arminius and non-calvinists…

So, I’m a Christian, and I believe in free will, or more exaxtly the synergy of Gods grace and free wil, it’s not that we do everything alone. I reject the ideas of irresistible grace and limited atonement. If you use small letters I won’t be offended with labels as evangelical, charismatic, or even (neo)anabaptist or wesleyan.  All these traditions are part of my roots I guess, and I’m even inpired by the eastern orthodox and greek church fathers lately.

But I’ve never cared about that rebelious and rejected calvinist called Arminius. And I don’t need to be named after the guy… There are followers of him who still identify with him, so keep the name for them!

shalom

Bram

do we need a hell in order to forgive our enemies????


Reading up on the universalism controversy I was kinda shoqued by a blog post by a bloke called Kevin DeYoung, of whom I don’t know anything, but it seems that he’s a rather vocal (neo)calvinist. I have no idea if he’s known or not, and frankly I don’t care at all, the inner kitchen of this kind of aggressive calvinism is as far from my spiritual bed as are the pope and the magisterium…

Now the guy, in a response to Rob Bells alleged ‘universalism’, quotes 8 reasons why we need hell and eternal punishment (or more precisely Gods wrath), which he seems to quote straight out of some book he has written. I don’t think I completely agree with one of those, but I was kinda repulsed by and utterly disagreed with the second one:

we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forgo repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross and or will be punished in hell. We don’t have to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Maybe I’m outing myself as an anabaptist now, but I find this reasoning to go against the message of Jesus himself, since this goes against the commandment of enemy-love, and against Jesus’ last prayer ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’, which was echoed in the last words of the early church’s first martyr stephen ‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. I think those two examples of enemy-love show us that we need Love in order to forgive our enemies. We are to want forgiveness for our torturers at our moment of dying. I suppose that such a thing requires the help of the Holy Spirit, but the whole thing is that we need to have the mind of Christ!

(and I think the Rom 12 passage is exactly about that btw. )

I don’t agree at all that the fear of hell as motivation will ever lead to loving God more. It might scare people into some kind of conversion, but I’m not convinced it will be able to make people love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We should have a positive gospel, not a negative one: Jesus is Lord, death, sin and evil are conquered, and He’ll make all things new. A gospel that says that we are saved from God by Jesus, as some versions of penal-substitution-only does not at all sound like a loving God to me.

The bible says God is love, not God is wrath, and love is more important than faith and hope says Paul, so his wrath will be in function of His love. Surely, if God loves us he will have a lot of whitehot wrath; He will be pretty mad at the things that are going on in this world, and causing destruction in our lives and all of his loved creation. If He’s to make all things new a lot of things are to be erased, in my life, and in the whole of the world. But the good news is that Jesus is doing that, and that in the end the whole of creation will be renewed. At the final judgment all evil will be erased. And probably some creatures will keep on hating God and not be able to live in this renewed world, or even cease to exist if all evil is erased from them. If God will allow them to exist outside of His love or if they will annihilate in His presence I do not know. I do know he wants none to be lost.

So we need some concept of hell, unless we do away with human free will and say that in the end everybody will bow and accept Jesus as Lord. But I’m not calvinist enough to be such a Christian universalist, sorry… And if we ‘accept Jesus’ out of fear and not out of love, we might still be in problem if we have to spend an eternity with God in all His glory… I don’t think we win anything with converts who are more interesting in escaping hell than in following Christ and being reconciled to their savior. What you with then with is what you win them to…

shalom

Bram

Prophecy, free will and the openness of the future…


This older post from Richard Becks Experimental Theology site has been popping up in the dutch blog- and twitterverse a few times lately:Why the anti-christ is an idiot. It’s kinda funny, but it also reminds me of old King Herod. I’ve always wondered what was going on in the guys head: he hears from the magi about a newborn king, and supposes it is the messiah of which the prophecies speak. So what does he do: he tries to kill the newborn messiah…

Isn’t this very strange? How can anyone in their right mind believe in the prophecy that tells about the birth of the messiah, and then still think that they can stop the rest of the prophecy by killing the baby? It’s a strange way of taking prophecy serious: believing in it and still believing you can change the end of the story in a way that workes out better for you…

It’s a strange subject: prophecy and the openness of the future. I as a Christian do believe in prophecy, including foretelling prophecy. (I even believe as a charismatic that it still happens today, even though I’m very sceptical about the wacko prophecies that arise out of some corners of the hypercharismatic world that never seem to be fulfilled) For example I believe that Jesus was the fulfilling of a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament, like the gospels tell us, and like Jesus told the guys on the way to Emmaus. So I believe God can, and does, show us the future. (And sometimes hide it in weird cryptical pictures that only are clears afterward…but that’s another story)

But yet I don’t believe in a God that micro-manages everything, but in free will. So even if God is above time the future is in a way ‘open’. We do what we do in free will. We might be influenced by our instincts, our DNA, our trauma, the Holy Spirit or even more evil spirits, whatever,… But our deeds are ours, and we more or less choose them. Otherwise justice cannot even exist. If God micromanages every very deed we do, He is the cause of our sin, not we. Then He is behind everything He says He hates in the bibles, which does not make much sense at all… (I don’t say that God should always follow our human logic, but this is evil nonsense and even blasphemy[1])

So I wouldn’t use the modern concept of the universe as a watch and God as a watchmaker (an idea which did much harm to christianity defending itself in modernity, sorry mr. Paley) The universe is not a machine (and neither is the human being, or any living organism) But more as God sheperding both this world and the lives of believers -and non-believers-. Leading it, and where needed influencing it, probably correcting it here and there, but letting the world mostly unfold in it’s onw free will. Except of course that when God wants to do someting, it will happen. God will maken it happen. After all, He is the Almighty…

I was thinking about the same concept when I was re-reading the silver chair, one of the narnia stories by C.S. Lewis, who in his non-fiction also speaks of God above time and seeing all time at once (I think it was in mere christianity) and who says to defend a traditional view there. In the beginning Aslan sends Jill on a quest to find the lost prince, and he also gives her some signs that she and Eustace should follow, which they mostly don’t. They pretty much screw op most of the time! But in spite of that, they manage to find the prince, and save Narnia from an evil witch who wants to enslave it once more… So Aslan is working towards something with the 2 children, and probably cleaning up the mess behind the scenes, but in the end he gets to the goal. It could’ve happened more easily is they had talked the old King, or not had gone to the city of giants, but still the outcome is there: the prince is found, and Narnia is saved!

God has an outcome, but that does not mean that the ways are fixed. So that means that foretelling prophecy might just be God telling what His plans are, not revealing a fixed future… Like Jonah foretelling the destruction of Nineveh, which doesn’t happen because the people change their mind…

So, is this ‘open theism’? I honestly don’t know. I guess I should read some Greg Boyd on the subject. I don’t know if we as humans can even understand how the relation is between eternity where God lives and our time… We probably are flatlanders explaining a goldfish in the terms of our 2D worldview. I believe that God created time as we know it together with our universe -so I reject process theology- and I also know that God the son entered time in the incarnation. Maybe it is a mystery. God does probably influence a lot more than we realise, and the paradox between free will and predestination might be solved from a view outside of this time…

But the future is calling us. The Kingdom of God is already breaking is into our world here and now sometimes. That which started with the resurrection will once be a whole new earth and a whole new heaven, and it’s inviting us to join in already. God is calling us, and will do all he can, and fulfill His promises. But that does not mean we have to sit back and wait…

shalom

Bram

[1] I am aware that some in the reformed tradition try to make sense of this kind of ideas, in order to protect their faith from problems that I don’t see, but that’s not my problem… It’s not my tradition and I don’t care any more about supposed calvinist theology and philosophy(of which some wouldn’t even be recoginised by old John Calvin) than I do about the infallibility of the pope. It only would distract me from the Christ and the bible to engage in such discussions, even when I see both reformed and catholics as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

happy 2nd Annual International Hug a Calvinist Day!!


Today, the 10th of July, is the 2nd Annual International Hug a Calvinist Day…

if you’re predestined to do that that is…

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=97140832129&ref=mf

shalom

Bram