My adventures with Calvinism started in college. Which was a bit odd, considering my alma mater was founded by Methodists and attended by a large number of Wesleyans and Mennonites. Not exactly fertile ground for high Calvinism.
But one class in particular, Historic Christian Belief, stood out for at least two reasons: (1) the professor looked an awful lot like Gilbert Gottfried, and (2) it was my first serious foray into Reformed theology.
The professor in question was a moderate Calvinist — not someone who would probably identify with the neo-Reformed camp (see my last post). But he introduced us to the concept of predestination, and I was convinced.
At the end of the day, it’s just hard to get around passages like this . . .
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world. . . . In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. . . . In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:4-5,11)
. . . not to mention Paul’s extended treatise on predestination in Romans 9.
Around the same time, I read Desiring God, the book that put John Piper on the map. In it, he argues along the lines of Jonathan Edwards, that God’s chief passion is for his own glory. In other words, God does not love us for our sake or for love’s sake. He loves us for nothing more (or less) than his own glory’s sake.
Think about that for a minute. Piper’s logic has one particularly sobering implication. If there was something other than love that maximized God’s glory, he would embody that instead. Love is not intrinsic to God’s character; it is a means to an end.
That part bothered me, even back then. But one of Calvinism’s strengths is that it offers a comprehensive, self-contained system of belief. If you don’t like a lot of loose ends in your theology, then Calvinism has much to commend itself to you. My college friends will tell you I was not one for ambiguity in my beliefs, so Calvinism had a lot of appeal for me, despite any initial reservations.
Part 3 of this series can be found here.