Friday, January 13, 2006

Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

Recently, I have been studying about the history of my beliefs. I believe in the simplicity of the gospel and am averse to heavy theological debates. However, I am interested in learning more about the things I have been involved with so far.

I heard about heated calvinist/arminian debates and wondered what all the fuss was about. It wasn't until I began reading blogs that I even heard of TULIP and reformed theology.

Reading on sites like emergentno made me wonder how believers could hold such different perspectives. This quote from Carla in her responses made me realize that the differences are major, and they affect our understanding of the nature of God:

"God's love for His elect does not in any way extend for those that Christ did not die for. Scripture is awfully clear on this, as Christ layed down His live for His church, His people, His sheep."

Because I grew up in the Reformed Church, I wondered what their connection to reformed theology and calvinism was. Well, lo and behold, they practically invented calvinism. The funny thing is, I never heard anything like this during my first twenty years of church.

My childhood church experience was very ethnic and cultural. I was born to dutch parents, who were children of dutch immigrants. Being Reformed was simply an extension of being dutch.

You might be Dutch if...
*you are often asked at church, "Are you related to....?"
*you think RCA is a denomination, not a television.
*you get a sun burn when you read under a lamp.
*you take off your shoes before entering the house.
*your last name begins with "Van.
*you finish the food on your plate.
*you reuse plastic bags and wash aluminum foil.
*the "V" section of your address book is too full.
*you have a front room but never sit in it.
*you make the bed in a hotel room.
*you are trying to justify owning a diswasher.
*you know what an afghan is.
*you know that 'klompen' is the Dutch word for 'shoe.
*someone mentions John DeVries, and you ask which one.
*a church picnic isn't the place to find Mr. Right -- because everyone's related.

(from and

That's a pretty descriptive picture of the life and culture of my childhood church. Perhaps they were more liberal in their calvinism. I remember simply being taught the bible and the basics of salvation and loving God.

At this point, I don't plan on joining the debate from either side. From what I understand, I don't strictly adhere to either calvinist or arminian beliefs.

In examining my own beliefs, I am not interested in ripping apart someone else's doctrine. However it is helpful to understand why we often don't understand one another.

It surprises me how violently people are willing to attack their brothers and sisters in Christ in the process of defending their doctrine. This piece refers to those who cross that line as Green Berets.

How do you know if you are a rogue Green Beret?
*You are obsessed with Cause more than with Christ.
*You judge churches and fellow believers by the standard of your Cause.
*You are driven rather than inspired.
*You rarely leave the battlefield, and when you do, you never take off your uniform.
*You define yourself solely in terms of your Cause.
*Your house is a boot camp rather than home.
*You go through friendships like a nicotine fiend goes through a pack of cigarettes.
*You define "enemy" as all who disagree with you.
*You judge other Christians by the intensity of their personalities rather than the godliness of their characters.
*You have more commandments than God.
*You feel it your mission in life to rid the church of tares.
*You believe that Sabbaths are for wimps.
*You believe that those who indulge in hobbies are failing to "redeem the time."
*Your motto is, "It all depends on me."
*You believe that stoicism is a godly attribute.
*You always describe the Faith in terms of military metaphors and similes.
*You cannot laugh at yourself.
*You cannot quietly sit alone in a room and do nothing.
*You secretly admire the Inquisition's treatment of heretics.
*You think General George Patton would have made a great pastor.

(Monte E. Wilson)

I am sad for the people who honestly feel that they are called to be sheriffs in the kingdom. God, help us to love one another.


Jim said...

I've gotten a point where I steer clear of both Calvinists and Arminians because so many from both camps hold to their 'doctrine' more firmly than they do their Bibles -- they consider their ideologies a stronger gospel than the Gospel itself. It's pretty sad, really. I was run off from a 'Christian' discussion board not too long ago because I had the audacity to tell both camps that their theology was not the actual Gospel. I'd much rather talk with people who are willing to read what the Bible actually says, rather than what they think it says.

Steve said...

It's though quotes like Carla's, that I see clearly how much my faith differs from theirs. The idea that God only loves 'the elect' is simply not the gospel I understand. Then it is how they understand it, and God seems to be big enough for the both of us. (even if they are wrong ;-) )

I do feel dsismayed by those who belive their mission is to watch for hersey and name it with gusto - I agree, it seems like a sad life, however charged with energy.


Cindy said...

I've discovered that if I really do the job of policing my own life and faith, it keeps me far too busy to police anybody else's.

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

Over and over again I see Arminian theology at play in the world, and over and over again I see Calvinism at play in the world, also. And I see a lot of stuff that doesn't really sit well on either side of the theological divide. I think God operates on multiple levels and in multiple realms simultaneously, and is infinitely more complex than we could ever imagine. As a result, almost nothing in the world is as it first appears. And unless I'm willing to trust God - I mean, head over heels, leap from the bridge kind of trust God - then this is a very, very scary realization to accept.

Robbymac said...

I have a theory (maybe a dream?):

One day, when all is said and done, God will address all of us in heaven, where He will line up a representative of each denomination/faith tradition, and solemnly inform all of us:

"Ladies and gentlemen, you were all...

"Partly right."

Bruce said...

Once again, Grace, you are dead on. I use to read emergentno and at one time had a link to it on my site. But I got tired of all the negative and "we are the only ones right" attitude.

Thanks for the thoughts and laughs.


David Cho said...

Good post, grace. Theological discourse - I hate it.

Tonya said...

I think any time we put God in a box or think we know how He ordered the universe we are on very shakey ground indeed.

Cindy...great comment!

Traci said...

Amen, Sister. Everyone has a good point in the comments. I loved the Dutch funnies.
Our pastor said it well one day. He helped with an auction at a denominational church. At one point he said you know they do things wrong in their church. And then he paused for effect and said You know, so do we!

grace said...

Great comments everyone.

The greatest danger appears to be in believing we've got it all figured out.

Honestly, I have to say that one of the things I appreciate about emerging folks is their understanding of their own potential for fallibility. It's interesting that this is often seen by others as an unwillingness to take a stand.

Well, I have to go chain myself to my office desk. I'm under the gun with bookwork for taxes. Yuck!