As I’m sure you picked up on, I’m not a fan of either Calvinism or Fundamentalism. I was thinking about it, and I came to the conclusion that I reject both theologies for the same reason: neither describes God accurately. By the term accurately I mean they do not describe God how the Bible does.
In Fundamentalism, their version of God is that of a controlling overlord who demands perfection. Though, they do not describe things this way, I personally believe this description is what logically follows from what I’ve been taught. Yes, they will make clear that Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law for perfection and that we receive that perfection at salvation. But for sanctification, it’s as if all that goes away. And now you better keep all those rules for dress, music, translations, and friends. Why? Because God is sitting on his throne watching you and ready to pull out his bullwhip if you make the slightest mistake. This God is quick to jump to conclusions and punish. He ultimately doesn’t love me unless I’m perfect like the preacher. This description, again, is from my vantage point.
This unattainable view of God has seriously scarred me because it was lived out in the lives of my authorities. I could never measure up to what they wanted. I was in constant fear of being called out for failing or humiliated for my imperfection. While there was never one person who consistently treated me like this, I remember many people in specific events that deeply hurt me in these ways. Also, there was the constant preaching against worldliness which generally implied that I was definitely in gross sin all the time. It has so affected me that to this day, I struggle with older males. I nearly go into a panic every time I talk to them because of fear of making a mistake. I have gotten better at it. But I still feel it inside.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had plenty of people who truly loved me and cared. My parents really love me a lot. But between the constant pressure to conform and unjust rebukes, I was always scared that I would anger authorities.
Many ex-IFBers have noticed this issue and have swung to the apparent opposite end to reformed theology. But this description of God is equally as repulsive to me. Sure, works are completely out of the question. But in my understanding of Calvinism, so are choices, responsibilities, and love. God, it is said, loves the world. But yet he created most of humanity for the sole purpose of condemning the to eternal torture. And they have no choice in the matter. They exist to suffer forever. This isn’t love to any stretch of definitions.
Calvinists push back and say that God’s love is different than our love. This is true. The way God loves isn’t the same as the way we love. But there is only so much you can catch under the word love. And as far as I know, the concept of love never involves preplanned torture from someone who could do otherwise.
This, then, is why I reject and am in fear of the fundamentalists’ and calvinists’ version of God: he doesn’t love people. No matter how you slice it, God doesn’t love people at the end of the day in these systems.
The usual answer, I believe, from Calvinists would be that I simply want a man centered religion that doesn’t give glory to God. They then cite Isaiah 48:11,
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.Isaiah 48:11
My response? First, God does share his glory with humans. Jesus states,
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.John 17:22
How is this rectified with Isaiah? Simply by looking to the antecedent to the pronoun another. In context, the others are other gods not other men. Thus, God withholds giving glory to false gods but gives glory to those who humbly trust him.
In addition to God clearly stating that he is not selfish for his own glory, there are manifest passages where God focuses his passion on humans.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.Ephesians 2:4-7
While the action is originated by God, the focus of the verb—the direct object—is humanity. God is passionate about people. He’s not the cold, arbitrary God of High Calvinism. Nor is he the merciless, exacting God of Fundamentalism. He cares for people and gives them grace.
So, I agree with Calvinists that I don’t want a man focused religion. I want the God of Scripture: the God who is focused on man.
Why? Do I believe that man is better than God? Do I believe that we should be worshiped? No. In fact, the opposite. Man is so utterly weak and helpless that he needs God’s focus otherwise he falls apart. Do I want to steal God’s glory? Again, no. But if he offers it to those who come by faith, then why should I refuse the gift of God?
In the end, I need a God who loves me. I am so powerless, broken, and sinful that I cannot survive this life without the assurance that God cares about me. And this is the God I find in the Scriptures.
As a post script, I want to add that not every Fundamentalist and Calvinist believes the description I have here. I don’t mean to personally attack anyone in either camp. But I do believe that the description I offered here is the necessary conclusion to their systems.