Monday, November 17, 2008
Cukoo for Calvinism!
Maybe I had an incomplete understanding of Christianity - when it comes down to it, everybody appears to, so I guess I can't be too hard on myself - but I once considered myself to be a Calvinist. I was a little shaky on the definition, so I had to go back and look over the basics (thanks, Wikipedia!). In all, I was pretty close.
God is in control of everything. Everything. Including all of our actions. So therefore the idea of predestination (faith-based fate) was of central importance. In spite of God's ultimate control of our lives and actions, we were responsible for them. It was a mystery! And not only were we responsible for the actions that God was really manipulating, since all things were known to him, then our respective fates were already sealed. Some of us were destined for paradise, some for hell - it wasn't arbitrary; the actions of our lives dictated our eventual ends. So I happily embraced this prickly, dour theology. I don't know why - something about its ruthlessness appealed to me. I decided that God was like an author, creating heroes and villains. The villains deserved what they got because of their actions and, as far as they knew, they were willfully choosing to do harm (or not believe).
This theology effectively solves the problem of suffering: Is God all-powerful? Yes. Is there suffering? Yes. Is God all-loving? No. Problem solved! Sure, he says that he is loving, but that really applies to his children, to the faithful. And the afterlife. So the wicked get what they deserve, both here and after death; God has no obligation to show them any mercy. The righteous also get what they deserve, but suffering in this life is irrelevant. Or maybe it is a punishment or a lesson. There is something comforting - albeit cold comfort - about a God who is relentless in his pursuit of justice and righteousness.
In a way, this is the only theology that still makes any sense to me. Assuming the Bible is 100% correct and that God is truly omnipotent and omniscient (otherwise what kind of God would he be?), this view falls perfectly in line. Moderates who say that God is love (in the traditional, mortal sense), that we all have a choice (how can we have choices if God is in control of everything?), or anything else that implies any kind of weakness of God are simply missing the big picture. Obviously the Bible is inerrant, and obviously, therefore, all the words written there are meant to be taken literally. Honestly, if this is not what Christianity is all about, then where is the line drawn? What is literal and what is metaphorical and what is intended only as a culturally-specific reference?
I guess I really just want to apologize to all of those people that I, in my Calvinistic fervor, disparaged. I'm sorry to the homosexuals (sodomites), the people in Africa and Asia who had died without hearing the Good News and were, therefore, subject to the consequences of their actions (or inactions). I apologize to the unborn babies - both aborted and miscarried - who, thanks to the sins of Adam and Eve, were far from innocent and who also deserved whatever fate awaited them at the end of their short life. This was clearly no way to live. I haven't considered myself a Calvinist since 1997 (approximately), but for some reason I was thinking about it and realized what a prick I used to be.