A Fear of Whales

It has been my contention for some time that most of the great debates withing the church, having raged for centuries, are able to do so only because both sides hold a piece of truth that the other misses. 

Classic examples would be Pre-trib V Post-trib, Traditional V Contemporary, Complemantarian V Egalitarian, and perhaps most of all Calvinism V Arminianism.

The concept is that while each of those pairs are mutually exclusive to one another (both cannot be true) the debate continues to wage (unlike say, Trinitarianism V Modalism) because neither is completely false and neither is absolutely true. Each give us access to true things about God which the other obscures and vice versa.

Arminianism for instance, (the belief that we are ultimately responsible for our eternal destination) is false if Calvinism (the belief that god is ultimately responsible) is true. But even if false, Arminianism exposes truths about God and the christian life which Calvinism does not. The Arminian God is a god of love, a god who desires for absolutely everyone to be with him in paradise, he is a god of delegation, one who gives decisions of eternal importance into the hands of sinners, and he is a god of self sacrifice, who is willing to endure the absence of children he loves who don’t desire to live with him eternally, mercifully creating for them a place far from him called hell.

Calvinists, while rejecting Arminianism would do well to accept these truths about God (that he is loving delegating, and self sacrificing) because they are true, and well illustrated through Arminian theology.

On the flip side Calvinism may be wrong, but the god that Calvinism describes is nonetheless important. Calvinism’s God is sovereign and glorious, in control of creation completely, existing in absolute authority, and doing all ultimately for the only cause which is really good, His own eternal glory. The God of Calvinism is so great and mighty that justice itself bends to his will, he doesn’t bow to some external reality that is justice but rather justice bows to him, it is his creation. And we humans, in comparison to such greatness are insignificant. So dirty so depraved as to be unable even to surrender willfully to the salvation he offers. And he loves us all the same.

Arminians would do well to know these truths about God as well (that he is sovereign and glorious and we are lost and depraved) because they are also true, even if Calvinism is not.

I can speak only for myself as an Arminian to say that Although I know of course that god is glorious, the concept of the glory of god as understood calvinistically is unusual to me. “Sola Dei Gloria” is not a phrase frequently on my lips and I need to discipline myself to reexamine that theology periodically and remind myself that Jesus is not just by “buddy” but a being of such indescribable greatness that he should find me revolting by comparison. I suspect the same is true on the flip side for Calvinists who know intellectually that God loves them (obviously) but perhaps don’t often ponder how true it is, that God actually likes them, who picture perhaps as infrequently as I picture God seated on his sovereign throne, God looking down at them, and smiling.