Although I belong to a Baptist church, I consider myself Reformed. This distinction really isn’t important in my dealings with the church, but I find it is vital to my understanding of God. And, therefore, to my sense of salvation, or lack thereof.
How did I come to realize that I am just another one of those Puritan-hearts, a dour, theocratic, know-nothing troglodyte of a Calvinist? How do I know I am Reformed, and not just play-acting? Simple. The elements of Reformed theology just make plain, good, sense. And, they are all Biblically-based.
The greatest virtue for me, as a believer, is that my church be based solely on Scripture. The Baptists do this with some grace, pun intended. Although my congregation is somewhat divided on what I’d consider to be the essential element of distinction between Reformed and what I’ll call mainline Protestant theology: Free Will.
For me it is simple, and, yes, I’ve been accused of being simple-minded by certain High Church priests. But it’s fun to see their frowns when I announce my Calvinistic leanings…
Free will? A vanity. In the first place, we are fallen creatures, struggling mightily to get back to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Just can’t seem to get past that big ol’ flashing sword (Genesis 3:24). As Paul told the church at Rome in Romans 3,
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
And, to seal the deal, we must remember that, even as we build mighty bridges and buildings that scrape the sky, we are but dust, as the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 103:
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
To summarize: we are fallen, transient creatures, prone to doing evil. Common sense, everyday observation confirms that while there is much good in the world, there is much, much, more evil. Which should come as little surprise to those who can read the Bible.
Our righteousness, our salvation rests solely with God — we are far too weak and insignificant in comparison with He Who Is. It is another vanity to place ourselves on His level and claim that we are co-authors of our salvation. There is not a better word for this conceit than this — vanity. Even were our will strong, and think of how mighty it must be to be on a par with God, we are mired in evil. It is in our very DNA. We are small; He is great. We are weak and prone to sin. His Son put paid to that sin — free of charge and owing nothing to us.
Why this should be so is a mystery, but Scripture tells us that this is nonetheless the truth. God’s will be done (hmm, think I’ve heard this phrase a time or two…), on earth as it is in heaven. Not my will. Not yours. And it most certainly is not free as regards salvation.
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