Calvinism Made Me Feel Controversial…
Take a look at this excerpt from Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost. Turner relates his journey from a fundamentalist Baptist background to (according to his FaceBook page) Christian universalism. For a while, he claimed to be a Calvinist:
Most people thought I was a fully-fledged Calvinist when I began carrying around a book of Puritan prayers and sayings.
But I wasn’t a full-on Calvinist. At the most, I believed three and a half of the five points to be true. The only time I became a five-point Calvinist was when I went home to Chestertown and my father and I felt like arguing about God’s sovereignty. Those arguments brought out the worst in both of us. Dad turned into the stubborn legalist who had no patience for ideas that differed from his, and I turned into the punk know-it-all son with a religious ax to grind.
I liked being Calvinist because it made me feel controversial and edgy to believe something different than what my parents believed. On those trips home, I felt like I was experiencing my own little Protestant Reformation, hammering various disagreements I had with my past into my parents’ faces.
I think that’s why people like Josiah and me sometimes turned into Calvinists. We could be passive-aggressive toward our parents and our past lives without being considered unchristian. Reformed doctrine offered a different way to think about God. And sometimes different, even when it really isn’t that different, is all we need to make us feel alive, creative, and in control of our own destiny.
Turner is on to something here. There is a tendency in us younger evangelicals to desire “edginess.” It’s not always a matter of Calvinism. Sometimes it comes out in our worship style, our innovative church growth practices, or our dismissal of the Christian Right and embrace of social justice and environmentalism.
But a renewal of evangelicalism will not take place if our desire is to be edgy and controversial for controversy’s sake. Believers on fire for God will indeed be “radical,” “edgy,” “subversive” (I like that last word especially!), but lasting change will elude us if our desire for edginess and subversive living becomes an end in itself.
We are most different from the world when we are seeking God with all our hearts. Seeking his kingdom and righteousness is what sets us apart from the world.
Let’s avoid the temptation to adopt certain “edgy” beliefs and practices as a way to set ourselves apart from other Christians. Instead, let’s re-focus on living for God’s glory, which will set us apart from the world in the way that truly makes a difference.