Thursday, January 03, 2008

Comments I would like to have made

The respected TSO's server won't show comments. (At least, that's his story, and he's sticking to it.) So, when my interest is piqued by one of his posts, I have no recourse but to turn to my own blog to air my thoughts. If this has the side effect of steering anyone to his blog, so much the better.

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TSO cites Mark Shea's post on Calvinism (specifically the facet of personal assurance of salvation) which is worth reading in its entirety. He goes on to comment:
"I can certainly see that part of the attraction of Calvinism. Interestingly, the evangelical at Internet Monk writes, 'I’d far prefer the out and out Roman view of 'assurance,' plainly stated as something you can’t have with certainty, than the advice to look at my own life for evidence I’m a real Christian. As Catholic convert and commentator Mark Shea says, 'I became more secure in my relationship with God once I was no longer certain I was going to heaven.' This is where we end up when we self-reference assurance.'"
In my view (as a non-theologian who spent 15 adult years in a Reformed congregation before returning to the Catholic Church), the emphasis on personal assurance of one's own salvation (actually more common in Baptist and other traditions) is a weakness of Reformed churches, though not a fatal one. It appears to be a response to the natural concern about one's own eternal fate that, in Catholics, might have its expression in a paranoia about falling into sin characterized by an over-scrupulous adherence to the less-critical aspects of faith and moral teaching (such as 'I can't miss Mass on Sunday unless I'm so sick I absolutely can't drag myself out of bed.').

But, Calvinism is all about God's Sovereignty. Rightly understood, Calvinist teaching about "irresistible grace" and "perseverance of the saints" expresses this emphasis on the sovereignty of God rather than the felt experience of man. That doesn't mean this belief is always expressed in the life of the believer. Just as a Calvinist might try mightily to feel saved, so a Catholic might strive to convince himself that he had made a "good" confession. Both miss the point. It is the mercy of God in the redemption of Christ in which we hope. His love for us is stronger than our sin, so long as we place ourselves in his hands. So we do the best we can and trust him, whose nature is Love, to make up for our incapabilities.

[By the way, for a really excellent treatment of the five hallmarks of Calvinism and the ways they are like or different from Catholic teaching, I recommend "A Tiptoe Through TULIP" by Jimmy Akin.]


TS said...

...server won't show comments

That's 'cuz my hand-made template is so different from the blogspot template. Not blogspot's fault so much as my own.

kc bob said...

Calvinism here and at FTM.. yikes.. how can I escape?

I think that it is all about the life of God.. if the Holy Spirit is in you and flowing out of you then you will have assurance and you will persevere because of His life in you. Really, no one should be assured of anything if God isn't in their lives.

Now that idea plays out differently for different people. My 95 year old father-in-law passed away last week.. he was a life-long RC and would probably not say that he was "born again".. even though his life testimony was so inspiring.. he was a model of Christian virtue.. he was one of my role models.. he had the life of God big time.

All that to reaffirm that being a Christian is all about having a relationship with God.



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