A week ago, the Christian internet broke.
A week ago, I said I wanted to be a universalist. (Which doesn’t make me a universalist. Just a wannabe.) And the flow of visitors and comments continues. Lots of high fives, and lots of people questioning my sanity.
I’m not going to rehash what I said last week, or comment again on universalism, Rob Bell, or anyone else.
But, in the space of a blog post, few people can write a theological masterpiece, and I need to set something straight today. Because even though I want to be a Universalist, I’m also partly a Calvinist. Not a whole one. More like a two and a half point Calvinist. The kind of Calvinist that would be burned at the stake by John Calvin. But you already know my feelings about him. I believe the word I used to describe him was “wang.”
A lot of the universalism-bashing has been done by self-described “Calvinists” or “Reformed” Christians. They’re the guardians of the “elect” aren’t they? The thing is, if Calvinists really believed the five points of Calvinism, we still wouldn’t agree on universalism, but we’d have a lot less to argue about when it comes to universalism.
What Makes You Think You’re Saved?
Why do you think you’re going to heaven and other people aren’t? Because you’re a good person? Lots of people think that. But anyone who can rub two theological sticks together knows better than that.
Is it because you did your best to do what God wanted? Lots of Christians are there too, but only because they haven’t read lately that all of our obedience amounts to filthy rags.
Is it because you have faith? Ah, yes. There’s what you were all waiting to read. We are saved by faith. Very Lutheran. We are saved because we have faith, and that’s exactly why the world is going to hell. The world doesn’t have faith. We made a decision to follow Jesus and we got dunked or sprinkled and we probably cried. That’s why we believe we’re “saved.”
If We’re Saved By Faith, Then I’m Screwed
There might be a problem with our faith though. Some of us have just switched one righteous act for another. What if your faith has become your “righteous act?” You used to rely on helping old ladies to get into heaven, but now you rely on the fact that your faith is really strong. Sure, all of our billboards and bumper stickers say “Jesus Saves.” But we don’t totally believe it. We like to take some of the credit. Many of us quietly believe that our faith in Jesus saved us.
If that’s true for you, then good luck. I don’t think I trust my faith to save me. My faith has faltered constantly. It’s weak. I stumble. I doubt, and I don’t want a Jesus that’s only as reliable as I am. I need him to be faithful even when I’m not, which is a lot.
Jesus made fun of his disciples for having so little faith. He told them that if they had faith, they could move mountains. He made a big deal out of having faith. But he never said their faith would save them from hell.
Stop Having Faith in Your Faith
The constant war cry from Calvinist and Reformed bloggers this week has been, “If universalism is true, then it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live! Grrrrrr!” This question assums that faith (and clean living) gets us into heaven, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.
But if you believe that mankind is depraved, that God has elected who to save, that Christ atoned for sin, that grace is irresistable, and that once you’re saved you can’t get “unsaved,” then you are a Calvinist. Every one of those five points screams, “You are not saved by your faith or how you lived because God did everything!” If you slam universalism because it’s “not fair” that all the unbelievers got saved, then your faith is just like any other self-righteous rag. You also sound jealous of the unbelievers and “sinners,” and that’s not an attitude very becoming of a saved person. If you’re really Reformed, then there should be no such phrase as “saving faith,” because faith is more of an “accessory” that saved people carry around.
And if this all sounds wrong and backwards to you, that’s okay. You’re just not a Calvinist…or part of the elect!
I don’t know if I’m a Calvinist, but here’s what I do know: We need to have a lot less faith in our faith to save us, and start believing we are saved by the Savior.
Now it’s your turn, so tell us what you think. Are you a five point, two point, or half a point Calvinist? Does our faith have anything to do with getting saved? Is faith a mark of those people who are saved, or just people who know they are saved?