Calvinism: What it Is, and Why it’s Crazy


John_Calvin_by_HolbeinUPDATE: I’ve finished this little blog series. We talked about a book, the history, and TULI-P. Enjoy!

This month, our Theology Book Club is going through Richard Mouw’s remarkable book Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, in which he articulates a vision for how Calvinists might understand and hold their doctrinal convictions.

But first, what is this “Calvinism” thing I’m talking about?

Every school of thought has some core foundation on top of which they build every thing else–some assumption that guides and shapes the rest. In that sense, Calvinism is a cluster of beliefs that are centered around the idea that Jesus is Lord, or (in more traditional language), that the Triune God is uncompromisingly sovereign and has no competition in this area. That is the center of Calvinism from which everything else fans out. As Mouw summarizes:

“Unlike other traditions, Calvinism rigorously guards this emphasis on divine sovereignty by refusing to allow any other theological point to detract from it. [So] when Calvinists get around to attempting to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom, we are so concerned to protect the former that we are willing to risk sounding like we are waffling on the latter rather than to imply in any way that God’s power is limited.” (p.27)

If you’re only somewhat familiar with Calvinism, you likely think it was some archaic belief mainly held by cranky medieval Christians and Puritans that said God was in absolute control of every little thing and human free will was largely an illusion. Further, you may also have some vague sense that it’s super depressing, focuses almost entirely on how bad and useless humans are, and had some role in creating the American work ethic.

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Hope in Advent’s Darkness


flinks-angels-anouncing-the-birth-of-christ-to-the-shepherds

This Advent, we’ll be meditating on the idea of Hope. It’s a trite word we throw around casually and misunderstand (and underestimate) profoundly. Today’s post is a meditation on Hope I wrote for the Advent Prayerbook my church put together. Get your own copy and engage all the more deeply in this season. 

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?”
–The Apostle Paul (Romans 8.24)

Jesus was likely born in Spring, not Winter. And yet, there seems to be such a wisdom and appropriateness to situating this Advent time of year during these Solstice days, when darkness envelopes all and the very air we breathe bites us back. Here, beauty is not seen in life, colors, and light; but in death, darkness, and night. Continue reading

John Calvin on Stupid Eucharist Theology (Happy Corpus Christi)


communionbreadwine-2

Yesterday was the Christian Church Holiday of Corpus Christi, where we celebrate that Jesus actually meets us in the Bread and Wine of Communion. It’s not merely a symbol to make us think of certain doctrinal ideas, but there are very real spiritual things happening in those elements. I’ve written elsewhere about this in detail.

Today, however, I want to offer you a funny little rant John Calvin goes on in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. In it, he is responding to those that accused the Reformed tradition of making the Eucharist way too heady and rationalistic of an idea, sapping all beauty and mystery out of it. Here was Calvin’s response, encouraging us all to embrace the beauty and awe of Communion: Continue reading

A Brief History of Christian Thoughts on Discernment


Caravaggio-Inspiration-Saint-MatthewThis is a post in our series exploring the ancient Christian Practice of Discernment.

In the last post of this series, I went through the short history of how decision-making had been done outside of a church context. I said that the main thing that unified all of these approaches was that they were all fairly impersonal. They appealed to abstract “forces”, “principles”, chance, or even technology help make difficult decisions. I concluded by saying that Christianity gives a very different approach to Discernment and decision-making; one that is personal, intense, risky, and terrifying.

Today I want to talk about that. The history of Discernment in the Christian Church has had a very interesting story. Hopefully you’ll see, along the way, the incredibly different ways Christians have approached this; but hopefully, you’ll also see the deep ways in which it has stayed constant throughout our history.
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prayer & reflections for Lent, wk3 (3.11-17.2012)


prayer for the day.

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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