The Third Way..."Calvinism vs. Amenianism".
The time has come to plunge into what our culture calls the “nitty gritties”. Keeping things generic and general creates a safe distance between my naked heart and the hearts of people simply because everyone can conveniently modify the things I say into their particular hermeneutic. But I want to move toward specific issues that grate my heart and have for years. I realize that I’m playing piñata with a bees nest, but I don’t know what else to do.
For a sliver of context you must know that I grew up Baptist for the first 30 years of my life. Not just any kind of Baptist either, but the fundamentalist strain. I love many parts of my heritage and if given the choice, I would probably chose the same life due the rich indoctrination of the centrality of the Scriptures, the holiness of God, and the supremacy of Jesus. I went to a Baptist College and became a youth pastor in a Baptist church upon graduation and served there for nearly 8 years of fruitful and enjoyable ministry. I love my roots.
Nearly 6 years ago I felt called by God to go into church planting and grafted into a church plant that was a year old. One of the interesting shifts in that time was moving from a Baptist church anchored in Calvinistic heritage to a Wesleyan church anchored in an Armenian heritage. I wrestled with that move wondering if it was a lateral move, an upward renaissance, or a downward spiral. It’s funny how the dogma of your training kicks into gear when you’re considering these issues. I did not make the move without much deliberation and trepidation.
To make a long story shorter, I took the plunge (some thought I was plunging into doctrinal dissipation) and am thoroughly glad I did, if for no other reason than to see the false perceptions that both sides have of each other.
I grew up hearing that Armenians believe you can “lose your salvation”, sarcastically called “eternal insecurity”. In my six years of serving in the Wesleyan Denomination, I haven’t heard that spoken of one time. Not once. I have neither seen hide nor hair of this mindset. It seems to me that “one side” finds a hair-line fracture in the “other side” that doesn’t align with their theology, and then they give it a “scary name” to load the doctrine with emotional allergies that surface like hives in “fear-based” apologetics. I’m not sure Calvinists realize how ridiculous their claims are outside their “infighting”.
But the same is true for Armenians unfortunately. I’ve heard them talk of those who believe in “once saved always saved” as the “faith only” sect of Christianity. The sarcasm of this statement picks up on the belief that Calvinists believe that once you “say a prayer” you’re set for life and don’t have to worry about nothin’. Works are not only worthless in your salvation; they are unnecessary in your sanctification. But this couldn’t be further from my experience as a Calvinist. I never got the sense that you could do whatever you wanted once you “asked Jesus into your heart” (a theological misnomer in itself since the Spirit is the occupier of the human spirit, but who cares). That’s not what they were preaching from any pulpit I was under growing up.
In fact, I have changed nothing in my orthopraxy whatsoever because there is such an identical orthodoxy, it neither warrants is nor necessitates it. Both sides through generational brainwashing have come to despise each other when for all practical purposes neither is actualizing their theology in the extreme terms of which they are accused and demonized.
The one side scares people with the thought that you could at any time “lose your salvation without a moments notice” while the other scares people with the thought that all you have to do is “pray a little superficial prayer and then you can live like hell” when neither represents the other with even a remote sense of accuracy.
So for the next few entries, I want to talk about what I feel is the “adulterated” contagion that causes such a rift between two legitimate lines of logic. Both have cooked their own goose in my humble opinion, and I’m ashamed of both.
Could there be a third way that has eluded us?