I’m A Calvinistic, Arminian-ish, Totally Reformed, Fully Charismatic Kinda Guy

I’m a pretty logical guy. I have a minor in computer science, which means I spent a lot of time writing “if this, then this” type statements in college. If you click the mouse then the entire computer shuts down and you lose all your work. That kind of thing.

I like it when TV shows and movies are logical. Jen and I recently watched four seasons of the television show†Fringe.†For the first two seasons everything was pretty logical – at least in a paranormal, “Oh hey look at that mutant freak,” kind of way. But during season three the writers must have gotten bored because all sorts of weird stuff started happening. Stuff that didn’t fit within the world they had created during the first two seasons. That bugged the heck out of me. I like logic. Straight lines. A to B. If to then. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

But the Bible doesn’t always work according to my logic. A doesn’t always lead to B. Two plus two doesn’t always equal four. Sometimes water flows uphill.

Let me give an example. I believe in the doctrine of election. In other words, I believe God chooses some men and women to be saved. Apart from God choosing us we would never choose God. I believe in election because it runs throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I believe in election because of scriptures like Ephesians 1:4-6, which says:

In love†he predestined us†for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,†according to the purpose of his will,†to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

The doctrine of election is clearly taught in scripture and I fully embrace it.

The logical extension of the doctrine of election is that we don’t need to choose God. After all, if God chooses some to be saved and not others how can we be held responsible? And how can it be fair? When my human logic tackles the doctrine of election I end up with something that looks a lot like fatalism. Maybe I’m chosen, maybe I’m not, I don’t make a difference either way. Let’s eat and drink and be merry because maybe we’re chosen.

But God doesn’t play by my logic. He doesn’t join in my reindeer games. His thoughts are not like my thoughts and his ways are not like my ways.

In scripture the reality of human responsibility jogs right alongside the doctrine of election. When Peter preached at Pentecost and many fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Peter didn’t say, “Now ya’ll better go home and hope you’re chosen. If you’re not, tough luck.” No, he said, “Repent and†be baptized every one of you†in the name of Jesus Christ†for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receivethe gift of the Holy Spirit.” Boom. Repent. Turn. Choose God!

God chooses us for salvation. We must repent and choose God. These two truths run in parallel streams throughout all of scripture. I can’t quite figure out how they work together. My logical brain can’t put them together into a nice, neat equation. If I try to reconcile these two truths I’ll inevitably end up falling off on side or the other. At the risk of great oversimplification, I would venture to say that Arminian theology is the result of trying to force these two truths to play nice together.

Let me give another example. I believe in the sufficiency of scripture. In other words, I believe the Bible contains all we need to know about God and his ways. The canon of scripture is closed. Jesus Christ was the greatest and fullest revelation of God and his ways. Once the apostolic writings were completed the Bible was finished. We don’t get any more revelations about God or his ways. Anyone who claims to have new revelation about God’s character is a heretic. Sianora Joseph Smith. Farewell, Rob Bell. Sola scriptura baby.

But I also believe in the ongoing, continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit. I actually believe in prophesy and miraculous healing and speaking in tongues. Why? Because of passages like Joel 2:28-29:

And it shall come to pass afterward,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams,and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

This is clearly a new covenant promise. This is not an apostolic era promise. This promise did not expire when the canon was completed. Despite the best arguments from cessasionists (and I really do respect guys like John MacArthur), I can’t see this as anything other than a promise for the entirety of the New Covenant era.

So I embrace the beautiful, mysterious, perplexing logic of the Bible. I believe prophecy is a real thing. I believe God can give someone specific, prophetic insight into circumstances that they could not have known otherwise. But I also believe these prophecies must be submitted to the clear revelation of scripture. Prophecy must be orderly. It must build up the church. It must must be carefully tested against the word of God.

The logical extension of the sufficiency of scripture is the cessation of gifts of the Spirit. But Joel 2, along with numerous other passages, molds and bends and shapes my logic. The Bible presses upon me and stamps me with its image.

Logic is a good gift from God. But if we rely on logic alone we can end up with half formed doctrine. And the reality is, God usually doesn’t play by our logic. After all, the cross was totally illogical by all human wisdom. But God makes fools out of the wise and buffoons out of the bombastic.

Let’s embrace God’s beautiful, mysterious, biblical logic. His ways are not our ways, and that’s a really good thing.

Comments

  1. says

    I appreciate these thoughts and I think I share them. However, in my church experience (and in talking to others) I don't think I have seen or heard legitimate, biblical examples of speaking in tongues or prophecy (at least in America.) Do people in your church culture have those gifts? Are they just very rare gifts nowadays?

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      Hi hope. I have seen these gifts practiced in a biblical, appropriate way. I think the reason we don't see them much is because:

      1) They have been abused so people are afraid of them. We associate charismatic gifts with nut jobs like Benny Hinn
      2) We're not sure how to practice them. Honestly, I think most people simply don't know how to even begin to think about practicing prophesy.

      But, just because the gifts have been abused doesn't mean they should be disused.

  2. Bentley says

    Hope, in my limited experience it seems that where there is no consistent biblical teaching and encouragement regarding the gifts that there is either rampant abuse or rampant disuse.

  3. Alexander M. Jordan says

    I like your post, not so much the title, which though cute implies confusion. I do think within God's economy what would seem contradictory to human reasoning and explanation is nevertheless true and to be obeyed. In my journey I went from being a conventional baptist to a practicing charismatic to being a Reformed cessationist who sometimes questions whether the biblical arguments sufficiently rule out ongoing gifts. Yet personally I have not witnessed charismatic gifts of tongues or prophecy practiced in way that reflects a genuinely supernatural character. But I have seen gifts practiced in away that is unbiblical. I find it interesting that even a continuationist like John Piper emphasizes in his ministry the exposition of Scripture much more than these ongoing gifts, or at least it so seems.

    • Stephen Altrogge says

      I have also seen the spiritual gifts abused. But, I have seen them practiced biblically as well. Just because something is abused doesn't mean we should cease using it all together. Preaching is abused all the time. Yet we don't advocate stopping preaching.

      1 Corinthians is an interesting study in this case. The Corinthians were clearly abusing the spiritual gifts. And yet Paul did not command them to stop using the gifts. Rather, he encouraged that they be used in an orderly fashion.

      Is the preaching of scripture essential? Yes, absolutely. But I also believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit play an important role in the church today. I fear that we are neglecting those gifts.

  4. Alexander M. Jordan says

    I agree in principle that just because gifts are abused doesn't mean they should cease being used. However gifts such as prophecy, healing and tongues it seems ceased being given by God after a time, and that's a better reason for ceasing from using them today. I believe the argument that these miraculous gifts were given as signs to corroborate Christ and His inspired gospel message, and that these signs were also given to the early church, especially to the Apostles, to confirm them as well, as they carried on proclamation of Christ's inspired message. Despite a lot of talk, I have not seen convincing evidence of prophecy, healing or tongues today that rises to a level of supernatural authenticity as displayed on the pages of the New Testament. Might there be instances of God giving a miraculous healing or prophecy today? Sure, it's possible for God to do this. But if that happens, it doesn't necessarily mean we're now living in an age when such gifts ought to or must characterize the church. If such gifts should characterize the Church, then the Church has been doing something really wrong for hundreds of years, because these gifts have gone missing, haven't they? Some would say they are they now being restored through the charismatic movement, which might be traced back to the early 1900's. Well, I again I would go point to the dearth of evidence showing that authentic New Testament level gifts are being demonstrated in the movement from then till now. Some might say that we don't see these gifts today because of unbelief and neglect. But there has been no shortage of Christians historically nor today that eagerly desire these gifts in their midst, who earnestly seek and pray for them. The question is whether what they are practicing is indeed the genuine article. Even among those who are not "whacky" i.e., who are doctrinally sound, one observes sub New Testament level gifts. I don't mean to be argumentative, but I also think that the seeking after such gifts is wrongheaded and leads people away from the power of the truth they already have in their hands in the form of Scripture, prayer and the Holy Spirit, who I'm sure you would agree is at work in our community even when the results are not flashy or spectacular, as the NT gifts tend to be.

  5. says

    I think those of us that don't fit into a box Church mold have contradictions. Like for example I like both The KJV and the message and read them side by side, which is a no no to most people. Then I am a big fan of the puritans but I also like a lot of charismatic books too. God bless you bro and don't worry about not fitting into a box

  6. says

    Well said! It's tough navigating the waters of God's abundance when every side stream wants to lock you inside its framework. I read somewhere that one of the marks of maturity is the ability to hold seeming contradictory truths in tension without abandoning either.

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