Friday, April 25, 2008

Extreme Calvinism and Trusting God

A note to you Calvinists who take pleasure in scouring the internet to correct what you think are theological fallacies: This is not a post attempting to explain Calvinism at all accurately. It is merely my attempt to explain my current spiritual state. So if you can't do anything better than pick it apart for minute doctrinal inconsistencies, please don't comment. I am not in the mood to argue.

No, our Calvin did not take up extreme sports. This post has more to do with the theology than our firstborn (who was not named after the theologian, I might add, but the comic strip character).

I am most definitely, without a doubt, not even close to being a Calvinist. BUT I have decided that my life would be much better if I could adopt some extreme form of Calvinist theology. (For my readers unfamiliar with Calvinism, read here.) Calvinism, which asserts the total depravity of man and his inability to do anything good apart from the grace of God, has some appeal for me right now. There is a mindset that I often see associated with this school of theology and that Caedmon's Call summed up nicely in a song lyric once:

Lately I've been thinking...not as much about why bad things happen to good folks, and age old questions, but more about why good things happen at all...

Lately I've been thinking how much easier this always expecting bad things would be if I just created my own form of extreme Calvinist theology to adhere to. If I saw the world and it's inhabitants mainly as products of the Fall and inclined mostly to sinful actions, then it would make sense that bad things happen. We would deserve them. And anytime someone got well instead of dying, got a promotion instead of being laid off, had two healthy babies instead of one sick one...heck, anytime the sun shone and the breeze blew, I would be pleasantly surprised by God's grace and goodness in a world that deserves disease, death, drought, darkness and decay. I wouldn't lack trust in God because of the bad things that happen.

Now I do believe that the bad that happens in the world is ultimately the result of the Fall and sin entering the world, and I do acknowledge that all good ultimately comes from God. But I definitely think of the post-resurrection world as a place where the Kingdom of God has broken in. It is a place where, as the Orthodox say in their Pascha celebration, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" Though there is still death and disease and darkness, life and healing and light have come and are being worked out on a daily basis. It is not complete, but the process has begun.

And so I find it hard to focus on the sinful nature of man, though that is not a doctrine to be discarded, because I see the ways in which all people reflect the glory and goodness and creative nature of God, whether they acknowledge that it comes from Him or not. I find it even more difficult to accept that in our fallen state we cannot reach for the Kingdom of God, everyone of us. I think there is much good in the world and it's people because God created us and He is goodness itself.

So what about when bad things happen to good people? I wish I knew. The Kingdom is here but it is not complete, and I don't know why God sometimes chooses not to act. In fact, I am pretty damn angry with Him right now about the times that He doesn't. I have come to the point of focusing so much on the bad that I just assume God is not going to show grace in the situations in my life. It is a bad place to be, a place of distrust and anger, and I am trying to find a way out. Preferably one that doesn't involve becoming a Calvinist.


Kate said...

Oh, how I wish I were there with you. It's funny, even though we have never met, I feel like we would have so much to share over a cup of tea (or something stronger!).

I hate it when people quote scripture to me, but can I suggest that you read the Psalms - 44 particularly. I love it because the anger and despair it expresses always seems to meet me in those low places of crying out to God. Kimberly, over at also wrote a great post on Amos today - lessons in redemption. Might be worth taking a look both at her post and at Amos. It might not make you feel better, but I find it comforting to feel a part of a bigger story, knowing that communities over thousands of years have been raging and lamenting in the same way - and coming through to the other side of that despair stronger in their faith in and love for God.

God has an amazing way of meeting us where we are, even in times of anger and distrust - especially in those times, I think. I will pray that you will catch a glimpse of God walking beside you and sense God's hand in all that is happening. Sometimes it is all we can do to simply be where we are and trust that God will find us there, though that is much easier said than done, and a very painful experience.

I wish I had the right words of wisdom for you, and sorry if I have said too much, but please know that you are very much in my thoughts.


Katie W. said...

i'm behind on my blogs...but that post rocked on many levels. i appreciate your honesty (and shout-out to the East :-) ).