Friday, April 22, 2011

Confessions of a Non-Confrontational Calvinist
In the movie Toy Story, there is a character with whom I particularly relate. Rex, the big green dinosaur, towers above the rest of the toys and has a mouthful of teeth and a fearsome roar, but it quickly becomes clear that Rex is a coward. In a scene that returns to my mind on a regular basis, Rex shakes his tiny little fists and declares, "I don't like confrontation!"


Yea, that's me.


I would rather hide in a hole than risk offending or hurting someone. When a potential conflict arises I'll quietly smile and nod, all the while planning my escape in my head.


Now, if the conflict is concerning something simple and non-essential, like, say, music, art, or food, (or whether you believe those items to be essential) then my silence is excusable. But if, as is more likely the case, the conflict is approaching the sacred ground of deeply-held beliefs, then I have a problem.


The character of Rex being a dinosaur also plays into our similarities; my deeply-held beliefs would earn me the label of "dinosaur" among many today.


Because, you see, I am a Calvinist.


My belief in God and my embrace of the gospel pre-date my embrace of Calvinism by quite a long number of years. In fact, my embrace of Calvinism pre-dates my understanding of who, exactly, John Calvin even was.


My walk with the Lord has been more like a roller coaster ride than a walk in the park. On this little blog I have shared much about my life and what the Lord has done for us, but I don't share everything. There have been some trials in our past, and some ongoing, which I simply do not feel free to post. I'm just not a "full disclosure" type of girl, if you get my meaning. Some of these things would affect more reputations than my own, and they're not entirely "mine" to share. Suffice it to say that there have been, and are, some very deep, personal currents which tug at my faith and threaten to yank my anchor up and send me over the edge of the waterfall now and then.


As I've gone from one trial to the next; from wetting my toes, to slipping in up to my knees, falling up to my neck, and at times, washing up on shore in a fetal position, I have learned a few things about God's grace.


I've learned that the sin in which I lived and breathed and reveled was infinitely offensive in the face of an infinitely holy God, and I was unforgivably responsible for every last damnable drop of it. My rebellion against my Creator was expressed in every choice that I made- even though I was "basically a good person". I was the center of my own universe and had no desire to relinquish my throne to another.


In order to bring me into a loving submission to my Creator, the Holy Spirit had to fundamentally change my heart, unstop my deaf ears, and open my blind eyes. Given my "druthers" I'd have continued on my own path. God had to change my "druthers." Once He changed my heart, my rebellion was washed away and I saw Him for who He was- a loving and merciful Father. I became His child. The means by which the Lord changed my heart was His Holy Word, proclaimed from the pulpit and made clear in a sermon. I even remember the verse,


"He does not deal with us
according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our
For as high as the heavens are
above the earth,
so great is His steadfast love
toward those who fear
as far as the east is from the
so far does He remove our
transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to
His children,
so the LORD shows compassion
to those who fear him."
Psalm 103:10-13

(italics mine)

The psalm says that my sins are removed as far as the east is from the west. If you look at a globe you'll see that by tracing your finger northwards from the South Pole to the North Pole, and by continuing in the same line, your finger will soon be going southwards to the South Pole again. North, at a point, meets south. If, however, you begin at any point on the globe and trace your finger around in an easterly direction, you will turn and turn the globe, but at no time does your finger ever begin to go in a westerly direction. East never meets west. This is how far the Lord has removed my sins from me.


But how? Does God simply sweep sin under the rug, declare it null and void, or just change his mind about punishing it? God declares clearly in the Bible that the cost of sin is death. Because God is holy, and He is also perfectly just, justice must be done. Someone must pay for the sins which I have committed; either me, or a substitute. In His mercy God Himself provided the substitute for my sin in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus willingly undertook the burden of my sin in order that I might be freed and adopted into His family. God did not deal with me according to my sins or my iniquities; He dealt with them on Jesus at the Cross.


I've also learned that I don't call the shots, define the terms, or determine the limits of what the Omniscient God of the Universe may do in order to teach me lessons which are more important for me to learn than I could have ever appreciated- until I learned them. God knows perfectly and precisely what and how I need to learn, because He knows exactly what I'll be going through tomorrow, and next week, and next year. He knows the depths of His own glory, and the shallows in which I flounder. The better I know Him, the closer I am drawn into the security of His glory and love. The closer I am to Him, the better refuge He can be in times of trouble.


The blessings of knowing the Lord and the treasures which are slowly and carefully being built in my heart are priceless beyond compare. Knowing firsthand the compassion of the Lord is worth more to me than any amount of earthly comfort. The peace of God which I have found in fellowship with Christ my Savior will hold me in the storms which would blow away any sham security in possessions or people to which I might be tempted to cling.  He is my Light when the darkness threatens to close in and engulf my heart.


I have learned that truth is not relative, but transcends all of our attempts to explain away what we do or don't like about objective reality. Truth must be transcendent in order to be unswerving, anchored in an immutable God in order to have any meaning whatsoever.


I believe that the Bible is the Truth; the inerrant, infallible, and living Word of God, by which I am saved and which the Holy Spirit illumines to my heart and mind in order that I might be sanctified. I will never claim to understand entirely everything taught in the Bible, but I know that what is vital for salvation can be understood plainly in the Scriptures. I trust God's Word in a way that is intensely personal, and have been encouraged and uplifted by the Lord through the Words of Scripture more times than I can count. There are things in Scripture which I do understand, and yet still find hard to swallow. But I am not equipped with the wisdom of our Creator, and must therefore trust Him. While most of my questions are answered, there comes a point where questions must come to an end and trust must take over. Not trusting that things will go the way that I think they should, but trust in the character of God, as revealed in His Word, as a holy, wise, loving, and good Father to me, His child.


The shorthand for all of this is that I have done virtually nothing worthy of my salvation, but God has graciously and mercifully rescued me from very real and fatal sin and given me all good things.  Who am I to tell Him, then, how that ought to have been done, and to whom else He needs to extend that grace? He knows who, out of all undeserving humanity, He will save. My job is to trust and obey. The God who saved me will, in His wisdom, bring the rest of His children home. Out of gratitude to him I need to be a better witness.


As for being a dinosaur, so be it. I love expository preaching, because it is through the Word that I was saved and it is through that same Word by which I learn more about my Savior. I am a lover of doctrine, because I want to understand, as best as I am able, this great salvation, and to know what I believe. (I've been whipped and tossed by the waves of uncertainty, and frankly, it's for the birds.) I appreciate the ministry and teaching of R.C. Sproul, but I am not a mindless puppet. I love his teaching because he makes me think, he doesn't simply feed me what he wants me to believe. I also greatly appreciate the teachings of Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Robert Godfrey, and D.L. Carson, among other dinosaurs. I only got around to reading The Institutes of the Christian Religion in 2009, and it took me a year and a half. I had to re-read, slowly, much of it, but was blessed by every word. Calvin's clear adoration of the Lord and humble submission to His Word comes through on every page. (Actually, the way I went about it, I might have read it TWICE!)


So, yes, I am a Calvinist who quakes in her boots at the thought of encountering a debate, but not for lack of conviction. I know what I believe, just not what to say in most circumstances. This is why I write.



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