In addition to the books you saw on my nightstand in the previous post, I’ve been reading a book our pastor recommended to me: The Doctrines of Grace. I’m glad I’ve taken time to consider the Calvinistic view, but at this point I have to say…I’m not convinced. I agree with how Reformed theology plays out, I agree with their application of it. But I don’t agree with the theology itself.
Is that weird? Probably.
In the beginning of the book, the authors point out how worldly and pragmatic the evangelical church has become.
…[E]vangelicalism has become increasingly secular. In an effort to make newcomers feel comfortable, pastors teach as little theology as possible. Worship has become a form of popular entertainment rather than transcendent praise...At the same time, evangelical churches have become much more humanistic…Sermon content is determined more by the intended audience than by the sacred Scripture…Behind all these worldly attitudes there lurks a pervasive mindlessness, an unwillingness to think very seriously about anything, but especially Christian doctrine. Evangelicalism has become a religion of feeling rather than of thinking. (from p. 21-22)
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been saying the same thing for several years, based solely on my own experience. And that’s why I love our church so much. It’s a place where people are allowed to – encouraged to! – think. Doctrine is taught. I don’t agree with every doctrine, but I’m just so thrilled that it is being taught. A line is being drawn. How refreshing!
The funny thing is, at this point I don’t agree with the actual theology that causes them to make those choices. I’ve been reading and learning because I wanted to consider the Reformed view for myself. But one problem I’ve found in these books…and especially the one I mentioned above…is that the opposing view, Armenianism, is not accurately represented. Over and over, as they state the non-Reformed view (in order to argue against it), I find myself thinking, “Wait, that’s not how we think. I’ve never heard that said.” So I’m having a hard time being convinced by a book that doesn’t accurately represent its opposition.
Now, I’m no theologian. I’m just an average girl with a library card and an interest in learning. But it seems to me that one has to do some real semantic gymnastics to turn “God so loved the world that he gave his Son…” into “God so loved the elect that he gave his Son…” Every scripture that talks about how God loves the world, or how Jesus died for us all, is interpreted to mean God loves the elect, Jesus died for the elect. Now, if you have not been exposed to the whole Calvinistic system, would you read “the elect” into every scripture about the cross? I find it unnecessarily complicated…well, I guess it is necessary if you want to accept the whole theology. It’s an all or nothing proposition.
They rather proudly say that they believe in the sovereignty of God, as if those who believe in free will somehow do not believe in God’s sovereignty. I don’t find them mutually exclusive. God gave man a free will, in his sovereignty and by his choice.
Again, I’m not a theologian and people much more learned (and with more time to devote to it) have debated these issues for a long time. But at this point, I remain on the side of free will.
My other point of disagreement with the Presbyterians has to do with “signs and wonders.” Presbyterians believe that God ceased to reveal Himself to us once the canon was closed. His only revelation of Himself to us is through his Word. Period. Which explains their seriousness in studying and teaching the Bible. Which I love.
I spent many years in a Pentecostal church. I saw abuses; I saw flaws. Sometimes “what do you feel the Holy Spirit saying to you?” (insert massive eye roll here) was valued over teaching and studying the Word. But I also heard God speak through prophecy and tongues. Many times, God spoke to me as I lingered at an altar in prayer and in worship. I saw God heal. Strangers have walked up to me and spoken the exact word I needed to hear. Financial miracles have occurred. I’ve experienced what they call “signs and wonders” and I know that God continues to reveal Himself to us through supernatural means. I believe that his primary revelation to us is through his Word, but I could never say that it is the only way.
So where does that leave me? This is something I think about a lot, especially in view of the fact that we are a military family and won’t live in this city long-term. I’m very happy at First Pres, but when we move, where should we land? I’m always trying to solidify my beliefs, trying to decide which denomination I most closely agree with. I don’t really think it’s possible to find a church that you agree with totally, 100%, on every point of doctrine. Unless you just don’t care that much.
Obviously, I care. And I think I’ve found the denomination that I’d like to settle on…assuming, of course, that this particular church can be found wherever we live next (never a certainty!).
But that’s a separate post. Stay tuned.