Calvinism, I haven’t really offered any posts on Calvinism lately; not of the sort I used to. This will be a brief post on classical Calvinism, and I why I repudiate it.
Before I repudiate it, I ought to provide some of the positives I see obtaining from Calvinism. 1) It emphasizes God’s grace, de jure. 2) It emphasizes God’s sovereignty and providential care. 3) It attempts to be Christocentric. 4) It starts from a theology of the Word. 5) It has roots in the catholic tradition of the church. 6) It operates from the extra Calvinisticum relative to Christological and Eucharistic reflection. So, I see some very positive contours in the Calvinist tradition; indeed, I am a “Calvinist.” These are some of the important loci that keep me Reformed, and ‘Calvinist.’ But the way they are situated, developmentally, or lack thereof, is what also keeps me from identifying as a classical Calvinist; and it is for this reason that I repudiate it.
I repudiate it because it fails to operate in what Barth calls the ‘spirit’ of always reforming, and instead works in the ‘letter’ of always repristinating (even if its proponents reject that characterization). This is a formal reason for repudiation. A material reason is its continued commitment to certain ‘classical’ style of double predestination and the so called absolutum decretum. Indeed, it is this one locus that has kept me from classical Calvinism for the entirety of my Christian life (which started when I was 3). But I have never seen this one locus in isolation, I knew, even tacitly, that there had to be a systemic framework within which this locus took shape. Through study what I came to realize was that, indeed, the framework, or metaphysic which gave this locus development, was the substance metaphysics that the post reformed orthodox imbibed. Sure, this took more forms than just appropriation of Thomas; but someone no less than Richard Muller has labeled what took place in Protestantism in the 16th and 17th centuries as Christian Aristotelianism.
Before I ever got into theology, formally, I was and continue to be a voracious Bible reader. This discipline of Bible reading built into me, not to mention the pietism of the faith of my youth, an attentiveness to relationality and intimacy with God. Yes, in the history of ecclesial ideas even this has a heritage; one that I just mentioned in fact (i.e. pietism). BUT, it was this that kept me alert to the over reading of systems into the texture and reality of the biblical text. What I concluded, rather analytically, ironically, was that reading the Bible, and its reality in Christ, through a system like Christian Aristotelianism, does damage to the text; not to mention that it is eisegetical. Yes, the inner-logic of the text of Scripture needs a grammar to help explicate it (i.e. ‘trinitatis’); but that is not good enough reason to collapse that logic tout court into the medieval iteration and development, and its post developments in scholasticism reformed, as if this is the absolutely ‘catholic’ way to read and understand Scripture and its reality. What is and ought to be determinative of this task, is what the Protestant Reformation so rightfully recognized; that is, Holy Scripture AND its REALITY in Jesus Christ, ought to be determinative for the reader’s task. But this isn’t what has happened. Instead the dialectical tradition of scholasticism, the one the magisterial reformers (and Christian Humanists) protested against, has been re-cycled, and the protestant retrievers of today are simply absolutizing the 16th and 17th centuries of Protestant theological development, as the ONLY way to faithfully live as a Christian Protestant in the 21st century. In other words, the only way, according to this approach, to be a ‘conservative evangelical’ Christian, is to imbibe the thematics of the 16th and 17th centuries, expelling all other offerings—especially those that developed in the monstrous modern period—to the trash bin of devilish and Socinian ideas.
But, I think as a Reformed Protestant evangelical, it is possible, and necessary to be more constructive than that! As Protestants committed to a warm hearted love of the living God in Jesus Christ; as Protestants in love with God; it is imperative that we allow that reality, the reality of Jesus Christ, to shape the way we read Him. As such, our theologies shouldn’t be slavishly bound to certain periods of theological development, or systems of thought therein; but instead we should be slaves of Christ. So: Evangelical Calvinism.
I have more to say, as usual; but gotta run!