We learned about Calvinism today. And it's been another one of those days when I wanted to appologise to the rest of the world for what Christianity has done to the face of the earth nad humanity as we know it. As it turns out, the reformation was pretty messed up in a lot of ways. These guys tended to practice most of what they preached, but not entirely.
The part that was most embarrassing sitting in the class was the part when Cadorette mentioned that the Christians during the 16th century were mostly just duking it out with each other. Like, they had no enemy (that they could percieve, anyway) on the outside, so they turned in among themselves like adolescents and started beating the snot out of each other. Calvinists would burn heretics at the stake because they wouldn't conform to the laws of the city, Catholics and Lutherans were always at each other's throats, and everyone hated the Anabaptists. Instead of being God's kingdom on earth, each sect decided that they were already good enough, but the rest of the world - now THEY were messed up.
The arrogance of this astonishes me. I don't pretend to have anything together - that would make me a hypocrite - but I worry that lots of people have gotten this notion that their whole life is fine because somebody else's is worse. Take Calvin for example. He said a lot of good things in his Institutes. I haven't read the whole thing, but it seems pretty solid. Then he gets to the bit about predestination. I'm sorry, but ... he missed the boat on this one. Predestination is used in the theology not as it is in scripture (in scripture, the paradox is that predestination and free will are BOTH true), but as a tool to make people afraid enough to conform to the governing system.
In some ways, this was brilliant, because you can make people behave however they want to. But it's terribly un-Godly. Forcing your view on somebody is not a Godly property. There's another paradox - it's living the lifestyle and showing people that it really is better to know God than not, but not forcing it down their throats. I'm not in any way condoning relativism - Jesus really is the only way to God, and if you think scripture says otherwise, you're kind of fooling yourself. But this doesn't undermine Jesus' other teachings about compassion and mercy and protecting the lost, the broken, the losers, the unwhole, the confused, and the downtrodden.
Which, as I'm growing to understand it, is pretty much this whole freakin' planet.
I was at Willow Creek last year and had the good fortune to hear Erwin McManus speak, and then got to meet him in person. Very cool guy, by the way. But I asked him something that had been nagging at me for a while. See, I go to this way liberal university where being a Christian is a horrible thing, but anything else is ok. And through his talk, Erwin talked about all these ways to reach the lost and broken. And I asked him, "how can you reach a campus of people who are rich and have everything they could seemingly want? I don't get it, they've got everything and seem perfectly content!" And he looked at me and said "that's easy, see, they just don't know that they're missing something."
And so I guess you have to show them what they're missing. Not by pointing your finger at them and yelling "you're lost in a sea of your own sin. Repent or burn!" That's not the right way. You live the life. You show them that Jesus makes your life (as He really does) worth living, that life is deeper and better because Jesus is involved. No, it's not easy, and it's not care-free, and it's not a guarentee that you'll never doubt again, but it's more fulfilling, more satisfying than any other life - in short, it's an adventure. You never know what God might tell you next, where to go, or where to stop.
I love that image of my faith more than any other. Christ is a guy who's worth knowing, and worth devoting your life to - you can take my word on that.