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.