TULIP in the New York Times?!? Not the blooming kind but the total depravity and unconditional election kind! In an interesting turn of events Reformed Christianity (aka Calvinism) has gotten the attention of a major newspaper. On 3 January 2014, the New York Times (NYT) published “Evangelicals Find Themselves in the Midst of a Calvinist Revival” by Mark Oppenheimer.
Although some folks may find it hard to believe, the NYT article opened with a discussion of TULIP, total depravity, and unconditional election. Once obscure theological concepts are now in the national media spotlight. What caught the NYT’s attention is the growing influence of Reformed theology among Evangelicals. Below is “Nicodemus” response:
What is one to make of articles like this? Perhaps, it depends on ones spiritual context? Broad Evangelicals might panic fearing the loss of their free will, while devout Muslims nod approval. But as the article itself acknowledges, a few years ago the Emergent Church was all the rage at the fringe of Evangelicalism. And pastor Joel Osteen still has a huge following as do others of his theological inclinations. Should we not expect a more rigorous side of Protestantism to appear from time to time? If the majority of Evangelical Churches are mostly trapped in various form of the “feel-good, easily believism God who wants to help you feel better about yourself,” should we not expect a more rigorous no nonsence appeal to arise from time to time – especially for men weary of effiminante touchy-feely gospels of success?
Calvinism certainly fills the bill here. I often compared my move from the sincere but shallow end of Evangelicalism to Calvinism – as God pouring me out of an Olympic Size swimming pool into Lake Superior. It was far deeper and vast . . . bigger than just me and my individual concerns. And I swam there very happily for over 33 years, reveling in the theological rigor, logical consistancy and taste of reverent worship. In Calvinism there is also the counter cultural appeal of swimming against the modernist tide of weak and fading secularism without good answers. As with Evangelicalism, one must admit there not only an appeal, however culturally temporary, but also true grace for the lost.
Like Evangelicalism, Calvinism is not the historic Christian Tradition the Apostles repeatedly exhorted their Church-Disciples to “hold fast” and keep. If a Calvinist Reformed Faith became Lake Superior to me – Orthodoxy has become the Pacific Ocean. Despite the vastness of this deep ocean, I now swim with the heavenly host of Apostles and their myriad of disciples, marytrs, monks and theologians. Here is the Historic Church that has proven a stable ship and hospital, taking and healing the faithful for over 20 centuries.
Rather than a host of fads that come and go, Orthodoxy offeres the same rich Liturgical and Sacramental theology offered centuries ago. No need or call for you to invent or re-invent your Liturgy, Calendar, Vestments, Fasts, Holy Days and Saints, as if the Church had never given it much thought before you or your denominational gurus came along. No, the Orthodox Church offers you the stability of Historic Christendom in a multi-layered tapestry received from the Holy Spirit by the Apostels, guarded and handed down by the Church. It has withstood all fads. So we bid our fellow brothers wondering about in various wildernesses – forget swimming pool fads and even Lake Superior. Wade into the Orthodox Ocean!
Come to the water’s edge. Take your time and test the waters carefully, there is no rush. Learn of the Saints who swam before you and from them learn about the deep waters of Christian spirituality. Then at the right time, enter into the Church Christ Himself promised the Holy Spirit would lead into all Truth.