Rachel Held Evans has been doing an interview series, and today’s installment is “Ask A Calvinist.” Justin Taylor does a fantastic job fielding questions from Rachel’s readers. I think his engagement is a model of gospel clarity and charity. Be sure to read this one.
Here are the questions posed to Justin:
From Dustin: Hi Justin, thanks for your time! The link Rachel provides for the “neo-reformed movement” implies that you would doubt the salvation of anyone who does not share your particular interpretation of Scripture regarding Reformed Theology. Is this an accurate portrayal? If so, what leads you to believe that this issue is essential doctrine for salvation as opposed to an area where two committed followers of Christ can reasonably disagree? If it is not an accurate portrayal, then how do you view those of different perspectives?
From Josh: What, if anything, within Calvinism makes you feel uncomfortable? Is there anything particularly hard for you to swallow? What is the hardest tenet of Calvinism for you to buy into?
From Charissa: I have wrestled with the issue of Calvinism for as long as I can remember. One of my biggest struggles is with our inherent understandings of mercy and grace. The idea of God pre-destining someone to hell with no POSSIBLE way of anything other than that happening is repulsive to me and offends my sense of justice. And when I ask my Reformed/Calvinist friends if this bothers them as well, I usually get something like this, “God’s ways are not our ways. Everything God does is just, so if someone is going to hell we can trust that God is still good even in that.” So my question is this: How does that logic not make our understandings of right and wrong completely arbitrary and meaningless? What does it make of our God-given sense of right, wrong, justice, and mercy?
From Kat: What would you tell someone who has not been chosen by God to be saved?
From Susie: If there is limited atonement and irresistible grace, then why do we bother with mission work and strive to spread the Gospel?
From Justin B.: Looking back over the controversy with Love Wins, do you wish you would have done anything differently? The firestorm, after all, was started by your blog post accusing Bell of heresy before his book was even released.
From Don: I do not see how Calvinism does not lead to a kind of fatalism, if what will be will be and cannot be changed, why try to change anything? Just accept your fate. When I read Calvinists it seems like they keep trying to explain why their faith is NOT like this, even though from an outsider’s perspective it really IS like this. So any wisdom you can impart here would help me better understand.
From Brian: My question is one of personal advice. I grew up Reformed, have been a member of a Reformed church nearly my whole life (I’m 33). For the most part, I’ve always been deeply committed to the doctrines I’ve learned in this tradition & lived committed to spreading the good news of our sovereign God. Lately, though, I’ve been reading a lot. I’ve let myself read other views – something I had always avoided – and have spent a lot of time reading blogs, like this one. I still think a lot of this stuff is crazy, thought Rob Bell was way off par, and very much lean towards Calvinism. But the truth is… I can’t say I’m 100% sure anymore. And that torments me… If I don’t believe 100% in reformed theology, if I’m not sure… am I even saved? How can I really know if I’m one of the elect? And what should I do from here? I’ve always admired your writings, Justin – wondering if you can reach out to a fellow brother & give me some advice. I’ve found myself teetering on the edge of faith & it’s a terribly scary place to be. I don’t know what to do.