Anyone who reads many of my blogs will find fairly quickly that I am not a Calvinist (no hard feelings, John Knox). But how does that work? Is generally the next query: ‘If you believe in God’s plan, how can you NOT be a Calvinist?’ (Actually was asked that recently.)
The issue, for me, on this matter comes down to the will of God… and understanding it, or more specifically, how to go about understanding it. The outworkings of our perception of the universe and God’s work in it have to start with understanding God’s will. That is to say: We have to understand what God’s will is in order to see God’s hand at work in the world around us; we cannot look at the state, or condition of the world, and assume that by seeing it we know the will of God.
The main issue that I have with Calvinist thought is that it resigns us to our life’s situations and circumstances as God’s will. No matter what happens, God is sovereign, and He is working out all things in accordance to His will, therefore whatever happens… it must be God’s will. I know of ordained minksters who will outright say that. Confronted with the question: “What about that girl in the news who was raped, was that God’s will?” He (that is the subject of this particular example) answered in the affirmative.
“I don’t understand it, but, it happened so it must be God’s will.” Yeah… surely He’s working out the grsater good and all that, but clearly this is wrong thinking. Rape is not God’s will. Violence and trauma are not God’s will.
As repulsive as that hyperbole (which unfortunately is not really an hyperbole – real people actually think that way) is, the problem with this extreme view of sovereignty is more fundamentally problematic than that to Christianity at large.
Believe it or not, that philosophy (that God is in absolute control of all things, and predestined EVERYTHING) equates our experience with scipture. I.e. it means that our experience is just as good as God’s Word in determining God’s will. If God’s will is what is automatically happening in my life, then I should surely resign myself entirely to it, and be assured that in doing so, I am submitting to God’s will for me regardless of scripture, for my experiences are perfectly wrought of God’s will. My actions are His own edicts; your behavior, His commands. It is therefore the world and our circumstance rather than the Word of God which teaches us His will. Some will surely argue that this is not the case of the outworkings of Calvinist philosophy, but I am frequently in contact with people who quickly resign themselves to adverse circumstances because upon their initial prayer for relief in those circumstances, there is no immediate change; they therefore assume that God has decreed their circumstance and they must humbly resign to it as His will.
This is a prevalent fruit which is rampant in the church (a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump) which effectively murders faith because we assume our circumstance to be God’s will. Truth be told, faith is negated before you start if you are resigned to circumstance as God’s will. What are you going to pray? That God will change His mind?
God’s Word reveals His will – if His Word promises healing, then that is His will. Forgive me for believing the bible more than I believe your circumstance (or mine) to be the will of God.
Okay, so I’ve made a case against Calvinism, what’s the alternative? Well, as I mentioned, our chief aim should be to find the will of God, rather than to determine His will by our circumstance. What does God’s Word say that His will is? It is declared quite plainly:
1 Thess 4:3 ‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…’
Wow… that’s rather plainly stated, isn’t it? The heart of God’s will is YOUR SANCTIFICATION.
Not to predestinate what color socks I wear tomorrow (really my limited sock drawer only has two options – hope I’m not missing the will of God…)? Forgive my jesting, but consider this for a second:
God’s will is our sanctification… that’s not an event, its a process. In our concept of God’s sovereignty, we hyper-emphasize events… circumstances. As if God was invested in orchestrating EVENTS. Does He orchestrate events? I’m sure He does, but that’s not the center of His will – that’s a redemptive process which He can use to sanctify us. I fact, if God’s will is our sanctification, then God can be at work on that process regardless of events, and regardless of our circumstances.
Does God sovereignly control every event and circumstance we face? No! But He CAN use every event and circumstance to orchestrate His will! Everything you face can draw you closer to God.
Was God happy about the wickedness of Nebechadnezzer? No, surely God’s will included even his sanctification, but God knew the man was a wicked sinner who would conquer and destroy – surely He could use even that circumstance to sanctify His people! God will work out His will with the elect – but His will is not circumstances, or events (save such events as salvation, redemption, healing – everything God does is good), His will is our sanctification.
When we realize that God is not invested in putting us through horrendous, tragic or traumatic circumstances – but is rather invested in making us more like Jesus, then we can also see how God can use even those negative or adverse circumstances to accomllish His will without them actually being His will. Further, we can see that we are not called to be victims of circumstance, but can rise above adverse situations; we can overcome – and that, too, ks the will of God (Rom 12:21; 1 John 5:4, etc.).