I never intended to become a Christian. Not long after I did I took great encouragement from C.S. Lewis who wrote of his own conversion to Christianity
You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.C.S. Lewis, surprised by joy
Most Christians I knew told stories were their life was joyously transformed. I felt miserable. I think I know why.
I began to go to Church and the Christians I met there were good and loving human beings. They were kind and thoughtful. They were serious about prayer and worship. They tried to convince me I was loved by God. They also believed Calvin was right. Right about what? listen to what he writes in the Institutes:
All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.John Calvin, the Institutes, book 3
Double predestination it’s called. It holds that you and I – before we ever existed – have been destined for eternal joy or eternal punishment. And that destiny is based on nothing more than god’s choice. The odds aren’t great for most of humanity – given most human beings aren’t Calvinists. So I tried to love this god like trying to love a monster.
Because I knew in my heart of hearts such a god couldn’t inspire anything other than fearful prudence. The god of double predestination is nothing more than a capricious, sadistic, tyrant -like a 16th Century despot (which is probably were Calvin got the image from) Such a tyrant is no more worthy of affection than Stalin, Hitler or any other dictator. At least human monsters can only torture you for a life time. The monster god Calvin gives us can (and will) torture you forever- as and when and who he capriciously decides. How can we love a monster? We can’t and we shouldn’t – not if we have any moral sensibility.
It took me a L O N G time to realize that Calvin’s despotic sovereign wasn’t God – a god maybe – one of the god’s no different from any other petty deity that human beings invent- but not the God and father of our Lord Jesus. It took God a long time to patiently open my eyes to who God actually is. But none of that time was wasted.
Long story short, over time in prayer and worship, fellowship and caring, by flaw and gift, suffering and gratitude, I slowly realized the wonder of knowing who God is, the kind of God C.S. Lewis (who wasn’t a Calvinist) came to know. He continues the story of giving in that night of his conversion, to the reality of a God who welcomes a reluctant and dejected convert.
I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words…compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”C.S.Lewis, surprised by joy
The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of human beings. He compels us all towards his son, to invite us into the joyous freedom of being in Christ, who takes us to the heart of his father.
On Sunday we explored the great commission from Matthews gospel; “go and Make disciples“. That commission is good news, because we go on behalf of a God who is infinitely good, infinitely merciful, infinitely loving, in a way that doesn’t render these words meaningless.
Jesus will bring home ALL the lost sheep, like me, who kept trying to jump out of his arms and run away. What he won’t do is deliberately abandon the lost sheep out in the wilderness because he always intended to desert them, so he could demonstrate how he has the power to do so.
Why do you share the good news? I share it because it’s true. Because it is good news. God is the love that comes looking for us in the incarnation, cross and resurrection of Jesus – a love that is for us. Amazingly, we also have a love to give back to God that no one else in the universe can. Unrepeatable, irreplaceable, we carry the glory of God when we receive his love and return it. We show God’s glory when we become that love happening in the world.
The song above I wrote is called Beza’s song. It’s named after a contemporary of Calvin, Theodore Beza, who was another friend of the doctrine of double predestination. As far as I’m aware it’s the only anti – double predestination song around.
για τον Θεό τόσο αγαπούσε τον κόσμο