Own What You Believe

Two of my best friends are Reformed guys, and I don’t mean they voted for Preston Manning back in the day. I’m neither a guy nor Reformed, and I’m tremendously thankful for their friendship. These men have adopted me as a little sister and they talk to me as an equal, which is a degree of Christian love and personal respect that’s a lifetime gift.

Every so often, they talk theology with me, which, if you were a Calvinist, you’d find dissatisfying to say the least. For one, I think very slowly about these things. (It just doesn’t show in a blog post, because all the words are already here by the time you read it.) For another, I’m not theological in the least, so I have to look up all the big words just in order to follow the conversation.

Last week, one of the guys figured it’d be a good idea to give me a Reformed/non-Reformed litmus test, just to check. It’s sort of like having your tonsils looked at, but for Calvinism. So he said to me, “Who did Christ die for?”

Now, this is a reference to the standard Calvinist/Arminian debate over God’s character. You can’t win this one: if you answer “Christ died for all,” that means you think God’s not really in charge of the universe, because hey, He died for us but we get the final say in whether He gets to be gracious to us. If you answer “Christ died for the many,” that means you think God’s a big meanie who decides not to let some people have the option of going to heaven.

People really like to argue on the internet about this stuff. There’s no winning.

So anyway, this is me the non-theologian. My friend goes, “who did Christ die for?”

And immediately my mind responds with, Me. This is a no-brainer, what are you asking me? Christ died for me.

So it took me several parsecs to even catch on to what the question was about. But then, because I was having a Stupid Moment, I didn’t listen to one of my best friends telling me he really wants to know what I think about that, and I gave some theological version of an answer. He laughed (which is what we always do about our differences) and said, “Yeah, Arminians will always say that.”

But it wasn’t actually what I thought at all. It was what I said in order to fit myself into the question.

What occurred to me after was that I hate theological debate so very deeply that I wasn’t willing to be straightforward, even with someone who would actually listen respectfully. And I do that all the time. I don’t tell my friends what I believe, in case it’ll cause a big debate. I don’t hardly tell my husband what I believe, because he hates surprises. I usually tell people only the side of things they most want to hear, to whatever point I can do so without compromising my integrity.

But there’s a point where it doesn’t matter how people react. Each of us believes what we believe, whether it’s an atheist manifesto, an agnostic meandering, mere Christianity or highly codified systematic theology.

Whatever it is, you should own what you believe. If we don’t, we deceive ourselves and never find ultimate happiness. That’s the abbreviated moral to the story for today.

The other moral to the story is, when we hold back on our atheism, agnosticism, or convinced spirituality, we deprive someone else of a better conversation than the one we give when we hide our thoughts.

I’m still working on being a better converser. But honestly, this is what I think.

The most profound soteriological revelation I have ever encountered is not predicated upon which way we try to squish the nature and character of an infinite, transcendent and perfectly holy God into a box of broken, timebound human-logic. Those are just things we build on top of it as we try to make sense of a God we cannot truly comprehend. But this, anyone can.

Who did Christ die for?

He died for me.

The thing I didn’t know about God, the thing I still struggle with, is that He is personal. That he reaches forth. That He is not indifferent. That was and is the most profound thing I have ever encountered, or ever will.

It’s a matter of great blessing that my extra brothers both agree with me on this. We’ll have eternity to wonder at the God who saved us. One never gets to the end of infinitude.

In the meantime, if we get too tangled up in whether God only saves me and not you–or whether God calls you but can’t save you unless you, the finite creature, give permission to the Almighty Lord of the Universe–we can sometimes lose sight of something far more fundamental to a merely human understanding of a great and holy God.

He died for you. He died for me.

Scienda

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16 comments

  1. Like you I don’t generally get into doctrine discussions via the Internet. My experience from the days of bulletin boards and forums to the current 140 characters on Twitter is that it is not the best place for two brothers or sisters to reason together. With that said, Count me as yet another brother to cross your path who firmly holds to much of what is called the reformed faith. It was not an easy or quick transition.

    Even so, like you, I am disturbed by how quickly believers of all persuasions resort to logical persuasions. And because they do, the end result almost always degenerates into a matter of personality and emotion. As a good friend of mine told me we often confuse heat with light.

    And, like you, the theological truth I can’t get past is that Jesus loved me. As John Newton, a definite Calvinist said, “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

  2. Being in Denver, I cheer for Preston Manning’s cousin, Peyton. (I made that up. They’re probably not related. But I am excited that the Broncos preseason starts tomorrow.)
    I always enjoy discussing topics like soteriology if the other person is sane–there are times when it’s simply a waste of time because there are people on both sides who can do nothing more than spout canned phrases. However, when there are thoughtful people discussing differences, both sides should be sharpened by the exchange, and sometimes minds do change. I’ve seen it happen more than once.
    And while I would answer the “die for” question with Matthew 1:21, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins,” I certainly cherish my fellowship with those who see salvation as more generic and less a personal substitution. We can grow in truth without trying to squish God in a box, but many on both sides of the fence seek to do exactly that. Rather, we must seek to view God’s work how He reveals it in His inspired Word, even if it makes us uncomfortable. May we be always learning, and always growing in grace and truth!

  3. @Tim–I knew there was a reason I liked you. :)

    @Randy–I love Mt 1:21. One of the things about it that struck me most was hearing a Messianic perspective on it as a reference to both Christ’s deity and His humanity: “You shall call His name ‘God saves,’ because He will save his people…”

    1. > both Christ’s deity and His humanity: “You shall call His name ‘God saves,’ because He will save his people…”
      Yes, the hypostatic union and definite atonement all in a few words! No dying generically and hoping someone takes advantage of a neat long-term investment opportunity–rather, He succeeds in His mission and not one sheep is allowed to wander away. Love the imagery and confidence!

  4. I do this too. I am not one for entering into the fray of internet debates or even real life debates, but if we are one on one( or few more :) ), we can discuss these things in a respectful matter. I am learning this [to own our beliefs] too, but it goes beyond theology and into little things like my own personal likes and dislikes. I was a chameleon as a child and young adult. Recently I felt like I had a second childhood and I discovered I had LIKES and dislikes, among other things :)

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I found junior high to be a pressure cooker (female socialization is horrendous at that age), and I quickly learned to keep my thoughts to myself.

      Having a family and trying to balance full-time parenting with remaining a human being has also been…challenging. Now that the kids are getting less dependent, I’m rediscovering things like what dresses I *like* to wear vs what will best hide child spit, spaghetti handprints and the legs I was too exhausted to shave…

      1. yes, yes, yes! :) I keep reminding myself…this too shall past. It’s all seasons, and once it’s over, it’s gone. Sigh. If I could only get my head and heart on the same page. ha!

        1. It’s starting to get easier…my oldest is getting so independent, and my “little guy” can reach over my shoulders (admittedly a short reach) to hug me now. I’ve been having a good deep think about what I want from this season more than what I want from the next, for maybe the first time in my life.

          I do know I want to “own” this part of it and not miss out due to looking at the horizon, so to speak. But, looking at the horizon is also what helped to get me here. It’s a balance. I would be content to have my head and heart not in a daily argument, but maybe that’s just the state of humanity.

  5. “Two of my best friends are Reformed guys”

    When you look at it that way, the reformed view of divine sovereignty *must* be true, eh Randy? :)

  6. This is the passage that first comes to mind in response to that question: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” He died for his sheep.

    And this: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” I’ve heard his voice and come to him, and so I know I am one of his sheep and he will never cast me out.

  7. I just say that I embrace a more mediate theology. Typically, since I don’t blog about heady, theology things (in fact many of my readers would not self identify as Christian), the person doesn’t know what I am talking about and then I don’t have to argue. I am not a theologian either. I know that Christ died for me and is calling ME to repentance. That understanding allows me to do my own thing without telling others how to live their life.

    1. Yep. That’s the part that gets me every time…telling others how to live their life is not my duty. If anything, it’s to be ready (yet with gentleness and reverence) to tell them that Christ died for them, too.

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