I don’t know how your new year is going, but today, on day two, I managed to accidentally delete my entire bible reading plan… just *poof* gone. I sat with my head in my hands as literally hours of work spent inputting the data into my bible software was lost. I’m honestly still not sure how it happened, all I know is that it happened. Then, because I’m nothing if not consistent, I realised after a fair while working on today’s article that I couldn’t actually publish it. I realised the story which needed to be told in order to complete the article wasn’t one I could tell, it wasn’t plagiarism or anything, I just didn’t know how to tell it in a way that honoured all the parties involved.
As we’re set to release our first podcast episode this coming week and we’re discussing a book I’ve been thinking about for at length, all I’m left able to write about today, all my mind is able to concentrate on, is that book.
That book is Humble Calvinism by Jeff Medders, a book I cannot commend more highly, whether or not you agree with Calvinism, it’s an excellent and challenging read. I’d actually say that this book and Wretched Saints by Noel Jesse Heikkinen are the two books written in the past fifty years which have had the most profound effect on me. That said then, what on earth does that have to do with bad break-up songs?
I’ve been listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s aptly named new album SOUR over the past few weeks. In the first song, she proclaims “It’s brutal out here.” That’s a fair assessment of the general feel of the album which is a brutal retelling of a break-up between her and her ex, as well as all of the feelings and memories she has of the time. Though the songs are wonderfully written, they can be quite difficult to listen to at times because it feels like you’re digging through this couple’s dirty laundry and participating in the revealing of it. This, I’m afraid to say, is what it can feel like being around a young Calvinist, or an older Calvinist for that matter.
Maybe you’ve heard of a cage-stage Calvinist — someone who just learned about Calvinism and now needs to be locked in a cage so they don’t whirl around like the Tasmanian Devil on Looney Tunes, harming the faith, hope, and love of everyone in their path. As the saying goes: it’s just a stage. It’ll pass. - Jeff Medders, Humble Calvinism
Calvinists don’t come out of nowhere, they’re created in environments surrounded by other Christians. Some of those Christians do not see doctrine the same way and, though the new Calvinist may well have felt the same not three or four weeks before, suddenly every errant doctrine or ill-thought-out opinion looks like fresh bait to be pounced upon. Like a bad ex-boyfriend, he now has no time, no love, no patience for the former opinions he held and every memory of them seems to be twisted into something ugly. This, I hope, is when someone swoops in and provides the young’un with a copy of this book. It’s at this point that I should make clear that I am both young AND someone who believes in the doctrines of grace. I have most likely committed many of the faux pas illustrated in this book, but I’m nonetheless convinced that these doctrines are true. I’m also convinced, in large part due to the wisdom of this book, that believing such things should not lead us to despise others who think differently but feel even more love and compassion for them. It reminds me of a really GOOD break-up song I’ve been listening to recently….
I should say at this point that I am still very happily married, but I’m a sucker for a good tear-jerker and I rarely find new music I like. With that said, this song is a five-point Calvinist goodbye — with love — statement to all the doctrines he loved before. Just listen to the Chorus:
Here's to the almost, so close
It's over out of the blues
Here's to the hey I think we need to talk
And the it ain't me it's you's
And here's to the tears and beers and wasted years
On the weeds that looked like daisies
I wouldn't be sittin' here next to you
If it weren't for the almost maybes
We so often forget that if it weren’t for the years spent nursing other ways of thinking, in Churches we disagreed with which helped us to formalise why we believed what we did, and even time in the grips of false doctrine, caught up in weeds which looked like daisies, we wouldn’t be where we are today. That’s humbling. If you believe in total depravity, then you were totally unable to save yourself and even if you’d come to these conclusions all yourself it would not have changed that fact. If you believe in unconditional election, that God’s having chosen us is not contingent on anything about us, then there must be elect saints out there who have no clue about the doctrines of grace! I could continue on but I think you get the picture.
Those ways of thinking weren’t, in the vast majority of cases, of the enemy. Neither are the brothers and sisters around you who still think differently. They are people who are loved by God and who have been placed in your life for your good and theirs.
Firstly, you read this book! In all seriousness, this has been the most ridiculous review I’ve ever written and you may think I’ve gone a bit loopy, but the reality is that this book should be necessary reading for anyone who thinks themselves a Calvinist or has people in their life who do. I’m not joking, this is serious.
Secondly, these doctrines are not facts to be learned but truths to be lived out. If you walked into a room and saw a flashing light and heard an alarm saying “DANGER, DANGER,” you’d do something about it, you wouldn’t sit and write the information down for later use. As Christians we are called to love one another, we are called to be the Church. Our love for one another is what we should be known by.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Calvinism isn’t about being right. Christianity isn’t about being right. Jesus came to save us from death and from ourselves. I pray that God will use this book to sanctify those aspects of your character which don’t reflect the truths we find in the TULIP acronym.
Finally, break up with your former self. This is a new year, hit the delete button just like I did with the previous article. There are things about each of us that aren’t honouring to others and aren’t honouring to God. Chances are you’re well aware of them. If you’re not, be brave and ask someone you trust to reveal some of them to you, if they’re a good friend they’ll do it and if you’re a good friend you’ll thank them for it.
Grace and Peace,
Adsum Try Ravenhill
Calvinism is the unfolding drama about a doctrine of joy forevermore. A story of living happliy ever after.- Jeff Medders, Humble Calvinism
If that’s true, you’re allowed to live the reality of that joy and happiness now! That’s allowed.