I used to be a Calvinist.
I was in middle school when I first understood what a Calvinist was. I was going through a faith crisis, and some of the adults helping me through it thought that it would be helpful for me to be taught that ‘once saved, always saved’.
I was probably in high school when I really started reading and thinking about Calvinism more. I read John 6, Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and the like. Some of my favorite teachers at my Christian school were Calvinists and my Dad was a Calvinist. I debated on the Decapolis message board about Calvinism/Arminianism. The issue seemed fairly straightforward to me.
Of course, it didn’t totally sit well. To paraphrase one of my favorite teachers, Greg Boyd: ‘I can understand why people come to a Calvinist interpretation of scripture, but I can’t understand how they can like it.’ Still, I figured that certainly God can do what God wants to do. ‘His ways are higher’… right? What ever He says is good is good. Whatever He says is just is just. Whatever He says is loving is loving… right?
Well, as time went on, my perspective changed.
I learned a different and more contextual understanding of Romans 9.
I heard about the concept of corporate election.
I began to believe that the overall picture in Scripture is one of a God who really does love everyone and really does want us all to come to Him.
I came to believe that Jesus is a exact representation of the heart of God.
And as my intellect was able to accept the idea that the Bible taught freewill and the universal love of God, I allowed my heart to feel the emotional arguments against Calvinism.
So then, as I came to be a be an ‘Arminian’ I continued to have theological discussions about the issue, like I do. 😉 As I had these conversations, the ’emotional arguments’ would come up and would go something like this:
Arminian: But doesn’t it seem unfair to you? It seems so unjust and unloving that God would create people with no hope of being saved.
Calvinist: Well, it feels that way, but His ways are higher than ours.
Well, what do you say to that? Heck, I used to say the same things and didn’t feel particularly moved by the ‘fairness’ argument myself! Besides ‘His ways are higher’ is in the Bible… right?
Well, lets look at that one.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Sounds kind of like disclaimer, right? Like ‘I’m God. I make the rules. Tough luck.’
But now look at the whole chapter- An invitation for the thirsty to come, to seek the Lord, for the wicked to turn from their evil ways, and about the faithfulness, mercy, and goodness of God.
‘His ways’ ARE higher. But the context of this passage describes those higher ways as more merciful, more good, and more faithful. The context does not give us reason to use that verse to essentially say that ‘if God wants to be a monster, He can be a monster’. Quite the opposite. This passage says that God doesn’t WANT to be a monster- He WANTS to extend mercy.
His very nature is love. That is what we find in Jesus. That is at the heart of the gospel.