Monday, April 14, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Thirty Seven

At a certain point the Arminian-Calvinist debate can lapse into what William Abraham at SMU calls "Biblical ping-pong" where we just cite verses back and forth at one another.

I confess that my own journey toward Reformed theology has been a long and difficult one. I became a Christian in 1997 and read through the Bible for the first time that year using old Chuck Smith tapes to help me study. Smith is an Arminian from Calvary Chapel. I then attended an Arminian Bible college (Kentucky Christian), an Arminian seminary (ACU) and worked as a pastor in two different churches (churches of Christ and Methodist) that are both free will in orientation. What happened?

I began to read Calvin, Edwards, Wayne Grudem, etc. and listening to John Piper, Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll more out of curiosity then anything else. I quickly learned that not every Calvinist is a cocky fatalist as I had stereotyped them to be. Most Calvinists actually possess a lot more humility than their Arminian counterparts because they openly embrace paradox (e.g., we are only saved by being among the elect but our held accountable for our actions) and the lack of a god-like perspective (e.g., we urge others to "strive" for salvation because we stand behind a veil of ignorance where only God knows who the elect truly are). Moreover, as much as I am still a knee-jerk Arminian, I never bought the Free Will readings of Romans 9, Ephesians 1-2, etc. Romans 9 is certainly more than a "lament," Paul does not delineate mission and salvation as cleanly as many Arminians wish to dissect them and a meta, corporate reading of election simply is not the most natural one. So, I am a very reluctant Calvinist.

I do find it ironic, however, that 2000 years after the fact, we are still raising the same objections that Paul anticipates in Romans 9!