When Old Tics Die Hard (Part II)

April 2002

Wouldn’t you just know it!

Just as the January 2002 NOR was arriving in mailboxes, with its New Oxford Note on the Christian Reformed Church (“When Old Tics Die Hard”), we received the December 31, 2001, issue of The Banner, the biweekly magazine of the Christian Reformed Church, supplying fresh evidence for one of our theses in that Note.

In that New Oxford Note, we said: “The Christian Reformed Church started out as a Calvinist body of the most robust sort. Today it’s basically, judging by The Banner and other sources, a wannabe liberal Protestant entity. That’s not said with derision, but with a certain compassionate understanding. After all, it’s pretty hard to stick with high Calvinism when it’s most distinguishing tenet is that God predestined people (probably most people), before the foundations of the world, to the eternal torment of Hell…. If you’re predestined to Hell, you can repent all you want, you can accept Jesus into your heart a thousand times, you can solemnly profess your adherence to Calvinist theology, but you still go to Hell…. Classical Calvinism has historically proved itself to be highly unstable, indeed evanescent. Most converts to Unitarianism historically were people born into Calvinism and horrified by what they were supposed to believe…. If you’re grossed out by Calvin’s cruel God, you’ll likely want to run into the arms of an unconditionally loving and utterly nonthreatening God. Enter Unitarianism. Curiously, one way Calvinist denominations have fended off the Unitarian temptation is by becoming almost Unitarian themselves — i.e., by going liberal, which appears to be the trajectory of today’s Christian Reformed Church.”

The December 31 Banner is most interesting because it has a cover article on predestination (also generally known as “election”), and, not surprisingly, it repudiates the classical Calvinist understanding of predestination/election.

The author, the Rev. John Timmer, says that election is primarily a “story,” not a “doctrine,” and that “any doctrine of election is always…dispensable.” What would a doctrine of election assert? Timmer offers this: “a decision God made back in eternity to save some and not others.” That’s dispensable, and indeed Timmer gets rid of it.

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New Oxford Notes: April 2002

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