Friday, February 29, 2008

Sick Twist of Calvinism into Karma

As a person that tends to be very human, fallible and able to readily recognize my shortcomings (Romans Chapter 7), I strongly identified with the “total depravity” message (the first T in the TULIP mnemonic of the 5 points of Calvinism). This concept alone gave me much liberty by bringing my personal understanding of God’s providence into a better perspective. God didn’t get a deal when He reached down into the trash and pulled me out, giving me much unmerited beauty for ashes in Christ. I tend not to take that for granted, but I think that many others who fall into what I’ve heard people call “hyper-Calvinism” or patriocentrics forget some of this. Not all of us are alike, and there are personalities that approach things in life with an assumption of self-competence, wherein they would assume (much unlike me) that they are getting things right more often than they are. God reached down into the ashes and mire and pulled them out, but the mere fact that God did so gives them a sense of superiority above others (but this is based on their own merit, I think and not just on election).

That bumps us up into the unconditional election and limited atonement category which I think that fewer people understand, and emphasis on them tends to leave total depravity in the dust. (The folks who view election as “something that was due them” probably have more of a problem with this.) In debating this with others (as these points required much more study, considering my background), and considering my experience at a rather unbalanced Presbyterian church and a semi-Presbyterian, cultic and Charismatic one, I have noted this phenomenon. People tend to understand election and turn it into a prejudice and reason to what I can only call distain for those whom they deem “non-elect”. The “limited” aspect of the atonement pulls on the basic survival instinct in people, too. “I have it and you don’t.” (BTW, many Pentecostals look at spiritual gifts this way.)

Rather than working in concert with election and the limited aspect of atonement, people tend to forget their starting point of total depravity – that only by grace did God open their spiritual eyes to even be able to recognize Christ and be able to receive Him. Rather than a tendency to rejoice in the prospect that “this person could end up being elect in the final summation of things,” they tend to see election through their own eyes – something that I understand that only God can see (in the final summation of things). There is not a joy in God’s unmerited favor, but rather distain for any people they think might not be in their own group. It’s as if they personally want to keep the elect smaller and not see it expand into as large a group as possible. It is also limited to their knowledge, bound within time and space. (How do we know what a person will become or where they will go in life, or even who they were?)

There is definitely a tendency in these folks to pit the elect (themselves) against the non-elect, as if this was an easy thing to discern. As a nurse who has worked with dying patients in many clinical settings including hospice, I have a great deal of hope and joy as a result of participating in deathbed confessions. I would lean down to the ear of many person and would respectfully speak the sweet, simple message of the Gospel (in terms of the person’s own faith, respecting their stated beliefs), never knowing of the outcome and their eternal fate. Many of those folks were comatose and never regained consciousness. But you know what? My heart hopes and aches and rejoices – despite all outward appearances and history – to see every one of those people in heaven one day. In the Assemblies of God where I spent my formative years, everyone was taught to love and minister to the lost, no matter what the outcome or what the outward appearances might be. I was taught that I might never see a return on my investment, as some of us sow and some of us reap. I hope that there are far more death bed confessions that we never will know about until we are in heaven, and I have faith and optimism that this is true. (So I don’t doubt that this vocation has given me a little broader perspective.)

But this is not true of many of the patriocentrists. They’ve got very limited interest in the lost, I think because they look at election all wrong. Rather than looking at it all as a sinner saved by grace, they look at life as a member of the elect. Election is sure and immutable, so I guess they think that there’s no way that they are going to lose their status. It colors everything they do, especially missions and evangelism. There is some (very human and universal) tendency to think in terms of election rather than total depravity, forgetting who they were and why they are where they are. They gloss over passages that talk about the goats and “Depart, I never knew thee.” I don’t know what they think of “Be careful when ye stand, lest ye fall”? I tremble and think “Woe is me, for I am undone. Son of David, have mercy on me.” I have faith in God’s promises to me that I have eternal life, but to take this for granted is as much a treading on the precious Blood of Jesus as is the idea for the Calvinist that the Blood of Jesus is ineffective by the concept that It was shed for all men, but is not used entirely because not all men realize salvation.

What I think results, ironically, is a sick Christian version of karma. This is exactly what karma produces: “You are suffering, so you must be experiencing karma, the fruit of your own bad actions. You are getting what you deserve.” In my experience with the pagans who believe in karma, they will be very (seemingly) benevolent and giving up to a point. (They are required to do so to undo the damage of their own past and earn merit against this past.) But that benevolence wears thin and wears out when you do not accept their views and standards. When they see that they cannot win you over to their ideology, they will abandon you to your deserved fate, much like we find in the imprecatory prayers in the patriarchy movement. The people in India that were dying in the streets get what they deserve because they did not accept someone’s ideology. They are alone because they deserve to be, without comfort. These Christians of election-karma offer it to unbelievers as well as fellow Christians, as some see unfortunate circumstances for Christians who don’t measure up as sweet justice. (“You are suffering, so you must be deserving of your circumstances.”) But what Christian does measure up? NONE in his own merit and NONE by virtue of his own works.

What set Christianity apart from these pagan systems was the care that they extended to all people without prejudice, regardless of their history and without demanding expectations. It was based simply on the golden rule – “Love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.” One thing I loved about Sproul, Sr was his teachings on justice. None of us really wants justice – we should ask for mercy (because justice demands that we bear the eternal weight of our own sins). I always pray for mercy for others, but with the endpoint that they would receive the Lord’s salvation. For many who take this view of the Reformed faith, they actually advocate that it is wrong to ask for mercy for others, based on outward signs and election, with some degree of assumption that they can tell who is elect.

Here is an excellent example of this that I recently read in Doug Wilson’s “Mother Kirk.” Ask yourself if this is some Old Testament legalism or if this is what Jesus would have taught, knowing the Gospel’s and the character of Jesus as a result.

Moving Beyond Pro-Life (sub-title in Chapter X)

Pgs 245 – 246

In the hard providence of God, He sometimes allows His enemies to destroy themselves. When the pagan nations outside Israel sent their children into the fires of Molech, Israel wasn’t called to blockade the fire and rescue the babies. And when Israelite kings followed Molech, the people were not commanded to revolt. Israelites were to make sure they didn’t kill their own children (Lev 20), but God-haters were left to destroy themselves (Is 57:13; Jer 5:19; 6:19, 21)…

Let them kill themselves, for “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom 1:28), even “murder” (Rom 1:29). This is the wrath of God…

[W]e must take up arms to defend God’s covenant children (Neh 4:14). But we may not use violence until they come after authorities or to defend the lives of Molech worshipers and their children. This is far more secular than biblical.

We must remember the antithesis. Scripture always remembers that deep chasm between those seeking to honor God and those who hate him. But this has not been a part of contemporary pro-life rhetoric.

The unbelievers are destroying themselves in a frenzy of child-murder and fruitless sodomy. Let them go. These are hard words. But Christians must learn to say them. Paul taught us that the children of God-haters are “foul” or “unclean” (I Cor 7:14). We must come to the day when the Christian can truly rebuke those who are “without natural affection” and say – “The ancient psalmist blessed the one who would take little ones of those who hate God and dash them on the rock (Ps 137:9). We see by your pro-abortion position that you clearly agree with this kind of treatment. And we in the Church, in a way you cannot truly comprehend, are now prepared to say amen.”
Why would anyone who was not a Christian be interested in Christianity after hearing something like this? Maybe we are put into their path to minister the Gospel to them and be an agent of change for them but without any knowledge of their ultimate fate? Saul stood in Judgment over Steven as a Pharisee, but he was converted and became an apostle to the Gentile. If Wilson had run into Paul on a day before the road to Damascus, would Wilson have damned him to eternal destruction, too? There was a day when Luther was very Catholic and very part of that system until time caught up to him and he to time. Who are we to make such assumptions? (Sadly, some Reformed think that they are capable of making such assumptions, do so and teach others to follow their example.)