Wednesday, April 02, 2008

An Explanation Concerning my Faux Conversion

Okay, so most of you worked out fairly quickly that I haven't become a Calvinist. Obviously it was an April Fools joke. Funnily enough though, the joke has been on me, since the twenty-four hours that I spent as a Calvinist made me think about my relationship to Calvinism and Calvinists. But more of that later ...

I must admit that since I had come up with the idea of pretending to convert to Calvinism about a week ago, I wasn't entirely sure of the propriety of the plan. I mean, isn't joking about religion a little taboo? Can one really make jokes about this kind of thing? Regardless, I ploughed on with my plan, first by writing a few entries where I spoke about Calvinist authors in a moderately positive way to give my "testimony" some veneer of credibility. Secondly, my aim with the testimony was certainly not to be sarcastic about Calvinism, but to make the conversion sound as realistic as possible. Use a few Calvinist cliches, throw in a few strawperson attacks on liberal Christianity, and I was set. I think that I did a fairly good job of writing a testimony that could have been believed - that is, if it wasn't written by myself and if it wasn't written on April 1st. The joke was not levelled at Calvinism so much as the idea that I had become Calvinist. Thankfully, most people were able to see the funny side. I offer my apologies to those who were offended.

I guess my second reservation was that in writing this faux testimony, there would be grains of truth in what I wrote. Indeed, it's probably true that I envy the simple type of faith that many Calvinists possess and their steadfast conviction that they are part of the elect. There have been times when I have resented the fact that I am such an intensely analytical being who is not satisfied with formulaic answers. Even when I was evangelical, I possessed a complex faith. I think I've more or less come to the conclusion that God didn't make me to have a simple, easy faith. Rather, I was created as I was created for a purpose; perhaps one which I will never truly grasp as I constantly double guess myself.

Planning and writing this faux testimony also helped me to realise that I have not always been so loving in my responses to Calvinists. I say in my defence that I believe that the environment of a blog can contribute to this situation. The point is, I am selective in my posts and as such, it is generally only when I have something of substance to say that I will comment. Generally speaking, this tends to be when I disagree (strongly) with a position, quite simply because simply saying "Right on - I agree with you 100 percent" doesn't seem to further a conversation all that much. That said, I wish to take responsibility for my comments and I apologise for the remarks I have made that have been unduly offensive. I will strive to do better in future, and would appreciate your grace in understanding that I will slip up from time to time.

All of the above said, I cannot deny that there are aspect of Calvinism that I find deeply, deeply disturbing. I don't think it would be right for me to apologise for this viewpoint. I can't help but speak out about those aspects of Calvinism that I believe to have been deeply hurtful for many people I know and love, as well as those I believe to be quite destructive of the legacy of Christ. The challenge on one hand is to avoid associating the belief with the believer and the act with the actor. On the other hand, I am aware that some people find it patronising when I suggest that a particular Calvinist should be treated with compassion because they are simply acting in line with their Calvinistic convictions. I'm honestly not sure how I should respond in such circumstances, but would love to receive advice from Calvinists themselves about how I should best respond.

Well, with that little saga out of the way, please standby to resume normal programming ...


Gordon Cheng said...

But surely you would expect a suspicious response to any claim to become a Calvinist that didn't even mention Jesus?

Not to mention his divinity, his Lordship, his incarnation, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, or his promised return.

Not to mention the doctrine of the trinity, the atonement, , sin, repentance from sin, prayer, and the sanctification of the believer.

Not to mention four of the five reformation distinctives that Calvin upheld.

In short, virtually none of the things that Calvin himself considered to be so important and spoke so much about in his many writings.

In fact, if I read a genuine testimony of conversion that didn't mention at least one or two of these things, it would make me think that the giver of the testimony was not a Christian, let alone a Calvinist.

So in the light of what was missing, I guess it's just as well the testimony of your conversion wasn't genuine...I think...

Or was it a sort of double-bunger gag, whereby you could reveal that not only were you not a Calvinist, but you didn't even understand it when you decided to reject it?

That would be funny, in a Psalm 2:4 sort of a way.

David Castor said...

But surely you would expect a suspicious response to any claim to become a Calvinist that didn't even mention Jesus?

I would have thought that a Christless Christianity (except for the odd use of Christ as a mascot) was one of the defining elements of Calvinism?

But seriously Gordon, it was a three paragraph testimony that was meant to give a narrative of my last few weeks, not a two-hour theological lecture. If you wish to read about Christ and his personhood, the Trinity, sin, prayer, sanctification the solas and the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis, there are many essays on this blog on these subjects.

I must admit, I'm trying to turn over a new leaf, but I'm afraid that you're proving to be somewhat of a stumbling block for me in that respect. I humbly urge you to prayerfully consider your motivations and the interests of others before you post in future.

Gordon Cheng said...

All the best with that new leaf. But if this is an example:

I would have thought that a Christless Christianity (except for the odd use of Christ as a mascot) was one of the defining elements of Calvinism?

I'm not sure I've quite got the picture of what it might look like just yet.

David Castor said...

I made it very clear that I would continue to criticise Calvinism and that I will try to avoid criticising Calvinists.

Just with respect to your first comment, you might be interested to know I plan to write an entry on Total Depravity in the not too distant future and how a proper understanding of the doctrine can be harmonised with Thomist thought.

Gordon Cheng said...

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

John H said...

Had I been following your posts more closely, the Edwards one would have tipped me off that something was going on. Any supposed Calvinist claiming that as their favourite Edwards text would have me fearing for their sanity.

As for the Spurgeon quote, I assume you posted this because the "turn or burn!" line seemed sufficiently demented to suit your purposes. Fine. It's not a line I care for at all. But the rest of that quote is very moving and spiritually profound, if a little antiquated in its expression.

So I don't think that you have necessarily broken some terrible taboo by "joking about religion". I do think you have perhaps treated with a degree of contempt certain things that deserve better. (And I say this as a confirmed non-Calvinist.)