To hear religious people argue today, you might think we only had two options. 1) Believe we are not really saved by grace. Or 2) Be a Calvinist. But like so many perceived choices, this is a false dilemma. There are actually more possibilities.
The Worst Fear among Non-Calvinists
I am completely and totally non-Calvinistic. It shocks people to find out that I don’t simply reject a couple of the tenets of Calvinism, I reject them all. Plenty of my friends do as well. Of course, because of this bent many like me develop an irrational fear. We might be called Calvinophobes. Yep, I just made that up.
Our worst fear is that someone will take something we say as Calvinism. In fact, it has been my experience that the number one way to shut down any discussion among my spiritual compatriots is for someone to say, “That sounds like Calvinism to me.” It doesn’t matter what the discussion was about. Imagine the following conversation:
“Dude, I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night. AWESOME!!!”
“Um, that movie seemed kind of Calvinistic to me.”
“Really? Um…wow. I…uh…never thought about it like that. I’ll never watch Captain America again.”
Don’t worry, that conversation was completely made up. And thankfully, I don’t know anyone that irrationally afraid of Calvinism. But you get my point.
Sadly, this is often the first statement some of my friends make when they hear something spiritual they don’t understand or hear something biblically explained in a different way than usual. “That sounds like Calvinism to me.” Unfortunately, that label has ended many a good Bible class discussion, brought great over-the-coffee-table conversations to a complete halt, stopped some from listening to anything certain people have to say, and polarized many students of Scripture against each other.
This leads to a second worst fear.
The Second Worst Fear among Non-Calvinists
I hate to admit it. But, it seems to me that the next great fear among non-Calvinists is the grace of God. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we love the grace of God. We sing about it all the time. “Amazing Grace” is a staple among us too. We love to sing about marvelous grace, matchless grace, wonderful grace. We just get really antsy when someone starts actually preaching the things we sing.
That isn’t to say we don’t ever talk about grace. It’s just that when we do talk about it, we spend more time talking about how we can fall from it or how we shouldn’t rely on it too much (like those pesky Calvinists do) than we do trying to figure out exactly what it is and how we are actually saved by it.
Sadly, many non-Calvinists have tacitly given up on a real and vivacious understanding and love for the grace of God. In many circles, grace has practically been banned (apart from the sermons mentioned in the last paragraph). When a gospel preacher or teacher talks too much about grace or seems to rely too heavily on grace, he is suddenly under suspicion as a Calvinist (enter fear #1 along with cancelled speaking engagements and honorable mentions in sermons against Calvinism).
It is extremely unfortunate that many a helpful teaching on the comforting grace of God have been undermined because too many non-Calvinists automatically equate the word “grace” with Calvinism (unless it is in a song). Grace is not owned by the Calvinists. In fact, I’d say they don’t have any claim to it at all because what they teach as grace isn’t the grace of God anyway. Sadly, though, I have to say the same thing about many non-Calvinists. In their knee-jerk reaction to Calvinism, what they parade as grace is hardly God’s grace at all. Sadly, because of that, many brought up on a steady diet of non-grace think the only other alternative is Calvinism, and they run with wild-eyed abandon into the arms of those people who at least seem to embrace grace.
It bothers me so much when I hear otherwise godly and spiritually minded Christians refer to people they believe are abandoning the truth of God by saying, “They just rely too much on God’s grace.” That is simply impossible. We cannot possibly rely too much on God’s grace. 1 Peter 1:13 tells us to set our hope fully on God’s grace. How is it possible for someone to rely on grace more than fully? If someone is abandoning God’s truth, it cannot possibly be because they are hoping too much in or relying too much on God’s grace. We need to quit saying that. Maybe they misunderstand grace. Maybe they are perverting it. But they patently cannot be relying on it too much.
With all this in mind, I’m beginning a series of posts. There will be six more in all. I want to point out that we have more than those two original choices. Remember where we started thinking we either 1) Believe we are not saved by God’s grace or 2)Be a Calvinist. There is a third alternative. 3)Rely completely on God’s grace for salvation without becoming a Calvinist.
I invite you to keep coming back and find out how.
Check out each part of this series by clicking the links below: