Just when I had convinced myself that we are on the verge of a great interspiritual reformation, a second turning of the axis of human consciousness, I read in this month’s Christianity Today about the upsurge of Calvinism among the youth of America.
If you’re like me, your first thought was, “So what? Calvinism, Poloism, Levi-ism—why should I care what jeans are hot among Christian kids?” Then comes your second thought, “Calvinism! My God, can you get more depressing that that?”
Calvinism, or Reformed theology, began with John Calvin (1509–1564), and while it has taken many forms over the centuries, the acronym TULIP continues to be a valid statement of what it stands for:
Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.
Let’s go into these five points and see just what kind of madness is taking hold.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY. You suck. You suck from birth and there is nothing you can do about it. Sin has corrupted your will and leaves you incapable of working out your salvation. You are doomed. Unless…
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION. … God chooses to save you. Since you are totally depraved and hence unworthy of salvation, God’s choice of whom to save and whom to damn is unconditional, that is without conditions, which means it is totally arbitrary. God saves whomever God decides to save, and God decides to do so before you are born so don’t even think about getting on God’s good side now.
LIMITED ATONEMENT. I’ll take “Died for our sins” for $300, Alex. Ah, Who is Jesus? “Oh, sorry boychick, not according to Calvinism.” Calvinism teaches that Jesus died only for the sins of the church, and the only people who are in the church are those God arbitrarily chooses to save.
IRRESISTIBLE GRACE. If you are one of the saved, you cannot resist God’s call to salvation. Don’t try the excuse, “But I’m a Bodhisattva and I promised to forego salvation until all other beings are saved.” The fact is the Club of the Saved is by invitation only, and if you get called there is nothing you can do to stop it.
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS. If you’ve been saved you will lack doubt, and your faith will be strong and unshakable until the end of time. And all we have to do is read the morning headlines to find our where doubt-free religious hubris leads: religious fascism.
So what are we to make of this resurgence of Calvinism? We are going to end up with a lot more arrogant, self-obsessed, and compassionless Christian kids running around.
God save us! Oh, I forgot.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
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My chaplaincy supervisor is a reverend in the Reformed Church of America, and he is one of the most generous, openhearted, universalist mensches I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. We teased him about that TULIP thing from time to time. :-)
Anyway. Dunno about the church as a whole, but the one Reformed minister I know is an astonishing man, so I figure the upswing can't be all that bad.
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