Finally, a Good Response to Predestination

I grew up on a non-denominational church where, to my knowledge, there was little if any talk of other denominations or of the divisive beliefs that have led to the fractured state of Christianity.  As far as I knew, our pastor knew everything that was true about God, the Bible, and the world and so did all the other pastors out there and they all were in perfect agreement about everything.  It wasn’t until the summer after my high school graduation that I started attending a young adult group with a friend at a church that had strong ties to Calvanism that I even heard the word predestination.  The leader of the group preached on it and I was incredibly confused about how someone could believe that a person could be destined for hell and have no opportunity to change that fate.  Afterwards, I went and talked to him and raised my questions and, from what I remember, his response was pretty much along the lines of “We all deserve to go to hell for our sins, but God chose some of us to save.  Just be glad you’re one of the ones he chose and don’t worry about anyone else.”  This seemed such a callous view that I wasn’t sure I what I was being taught could be considered the same religion as what I had grown up learning.  It also got me pondering, if you had to be one of God’s special chosen ones to go to heaven, how I knew if I was one of them or not, but that’s a topic for a different time.

After that night, I started looking into the scriptures that had been used to support the belief of predestination and I had to admit, it did sound like that’s what it was saying, but I read other interpretations and that was enough to explain away what I had been taught that night and convince me that Calvinists must be crazy.   From that point on, I pretty much avoided thinking about Calvinism or predestination as it seems like the kind of question that can’t be answered in this life and would only lead to fear, anger, and frustration.  I recently found out that I’m not the only one who feels this way and I was pleasantly surprised to hear what Marilynne Robinson says on the subject through her character John Ames in the novel Gilead.  When pressed for his thoughts on the doctrine of predestination, Ames admits that it is “probably [his] least favorite topic of conversation in the entire world.”  However, I’m glad it is addressed in this book because his response to it seems, to me, the perfect way to address it:

“There are certain attributes our faith assigns to God: omniscience, omnipotence, justice, and grace.  We human beings have such a slight acquaintance with power and knowledge, so little conception of justice, and so slight a capacity for grace that the workings of these great attributes together is a mystery we can’t hope to penetrate.”

While this is really just a fancy way of saying, “who knows?” it also points to why we don’t know and the explanation seems rational to me.  The attributes he lists are typically the primary aspects Christians use when describing God and, if God is really as unknowable and mysterious as we also believe Him to be, how could we hope to know how those aspects interact when God made His decision on who gets into heaven and who doesn’t?  I think the bottom line is, read scripture, listen to wise teaching, follow the traditions of the church all to the best of your ability and that’s probably a safe bet.  Right?  Maybe?

The Truth (Hopefully) on Why I’m Not Affirming

As a gay Christian, I’ve spent endless hours scouring the internet, reading articles and exegesis, blog posts and op-eds, making repeated trips to BibleHub and BibleGateway to reference the same verses over and over, not to mention all the time spent in my own head mulling over points and counter-points, warring within myself.  All this just so I can try to accurately understand what the Bible says about gay people.  When all is said and done, I’m currently of the opinion that the Bible doesn’t speak directly to the type of committed monogamous same-sex relationship I would want to have.  In all honesty, there’s not a lot in there on the subject and what is there can easily be understood in a different context, but that’s not what I want to talk about in this post.  I want to talk about why, considering the fact that I don’t think the Bible forbids these types of relationships, I still am not affirming of them.  What I think it ultimately comes down to is the fact that it would feel like letting myself off the hook.  I can’t get over the idea that if I were to change my view, it would be opening myself up to getting what I want and that feels like a cop out.  If I’m going to be completely truthful, if I weren’t gay, I think I would be affirming of gay relationships in an effort to err on the side of love, but I have a conflict of interest in the matter that makes things a bit more complicated.

Something else I’ve considered is the fact that, if I were to change my views, any failure to find a mate would be on my own head.  As it stands now, I can blame my singleness on my religious views combined with my sexuality, but if I shift my standing, I suddenly have to accept that being alone might suggest a problem with me as a person.  It’s possible that I’m using my views on this subject as a protective shield against taking responsibility for being unhappily single.  In all honesty, I’m not sure if these two reasons I’ve mentioned are the reasons I’m not affirming or even how much they play into the argument, but it does seem like part of it and I think it’s important to examine our motivations, especially for things that make a significant impact on our lives and our relationships.