My Thoughts On Calvinism, Part 1: The Introduction

One day, while working at Lemstone Christian Store, Jeff the Baptist and I were opening a box of new books that we just received and needed to shelve. The book at the very top was a new one by Jerry Walls, entitled Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Intrigued, Jeff and I spent the rest of our day thumbing through the book and laughing at the very notions of Calvinism -- the most elemental beliefs of the theology. To us, back then, it was a joke of a philosophy! It warranted no other response BUT a laugh -- maybe a shake of the head or two. In fact, if someone had approached me, at that time, and told me their fundamental beliefs lined up with Calvinism, I would've thought they were kidding.

And this isn't because I was raised in an Arminian (a philosophy which is just as insane as Calvinism) church (the United Pentecostal Church, where salvation is earned by deeds and can be lost at any time upon one's sinning) -- it's because Calvinism didn't make any sense to me, based on what I had read in the Bible.

Now, over the course of the past 6 or so years, I've visited plenty of churches and listened to plenty of pastors and I've discovered something that I still can't get over -- people actually believe this Calvinism stuff. And not only do people actually believe this Calvinism stuff, A LOT of people actually believe this stuff!

Now, for you readers who are unfamiliar with the tenets of Calvinism, here's a general overview:

There are 5 pillars that follow the acronym TULIP.

Total Depravity (or, man is garbage, man is shite, there are no redeeming qualities in man, there is no good in man, man is incapable of doing good; see also, original sin),
Unconditional Election (or, there is nothing man can do to earn salvation -- God ELECTS whom He saves),
Limited Atonement (or, Jesus only came to die for the elect -- not for all of mankind),
Irresistable Grace (or, God pulls those He elects into salvation; man cannot refuse this grace, nor accept this grace -- he is incapable of doing anything that would negate his salvation nor affirm his salvation, no matter his piety nor depravity),
Perseverance of the Saints (or, man cannot lose his salvation; once one is elected, one is saved).

Now, like I said, Arminianism is just as insane as Calvinism (for a general overview of Arminianism, invert TULIP -- it's basically the exact opposite of Calvinism), but I don't necessarily believe these two philosophies to be mutually exclusive.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to find time to update my blog with My Thoughts On Calvinism. This will mostly be a way to get some grievances off my chest, but hopefully it'll shed some light on theology for the rest of you out there in the blogosphere.

Until then, slainte.

- the drew


Our End

I honestly didn't see it coming this time. More to come later.


My Stance On Guns

I'm realizing more and more just how much my convictions and personal beliefs are setting me apart from almost everyone around me -- particularly the Christians I know. For one thing, I'm a Democrat (which, of course, sets me apart from about 90% of the US evangelical population (which I'm cool with)). I have a fairly liberal view of the world, the economy, society and even the Gospel, to a certain extent. But it's always a strange and lonely feeling knowing that, of nearly all the people I associate myself with, I'm the only one with these beliefs.

This came more into focus last week when my stepmom informed me that she bought my dad a rifle for Christmas -- something that I'm moderately cool with, but not really. See, I'm fairly anti-gun; not a complete gun-annihilation advocate, but not totally indifferent about firearms, either. I told Megan about my feelings toward guns and she thought I was ridiculous. She then informed me that her family and I will have nothing to talk about, really. She said, "I shoot guns. My entire family shoots guns and goes hunting." I told her my family is the same -- I'm the only person in my family that wants nothing to do with guns.

But, I wasn't always this way.

There was a time when I used to hunt too, with my grandfather and uncle -- I hunted turkey, pheasant, quail, rabbit, deer... If it moved, had four legs or two wings and had breath in its lungs, I'd shoot at it. Now, up until the incident I'm going to detail here, I was never a good shot. I remember a time when a pheasant was perched on a tree branch, just sitting there and I fired at it three times and missed every shot -- in fact, it just continued to sit there, as though it were mocking me. My grandfather said, "There must be something wrong with the sight or maybe the barrel is bent." He grabbed my gun, lifted to his shoulder, fired and dropped the pheasant in one shot.

When I was 11, I went on my final hunting excursion. We were at a pheasant/quail/turkey farm in Wisconsin called Blondhaven -- at this farm, they breed birds, fatten them up, blindfold them and cage them (so they won't peck at each other as much), then release them into an enclosed area so hunters can come in and shoot them. Somehow, during this particular trip, a turkey had gotten out of its cage and ran into the field, where the three of us were hunting. With its blindfold over its eyes, the bird became wild and frantic, running every which way, trying to avert the bullets it heard being fired at it from every direction. It then ran directly into a tree, face first, and collapsed. I approached the bird and was amazed to find it still breathing -- I figured it had broken its neck. My uncle (who was drunk, by the way), slung the strap of his rifle over his shoulder and retorted, "Well, Andy -- looks like you have a clear shot at this one. Put it out of its misery." I lifted my gun, a 12-gauge shotgun to my shoulder, aimed it directly at the bird's face and blew its head off. There was nothing left but a neck, spilling a pool of blood onto the frozen grass and February snow. My uncle laughed, "Yep! You got that one, for sure!"

A wave of shame came over me. I had never shot anything before and my first kill was a heartless, brutal and incredibly violent attack on a blindfolded bird -- one of God's first creations -- that didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell against the power of my shotgun. I dropped the gun into the snow, turned and ran, as fast as I could, back to the parking lot and locked myself in the van we came in. I think I cried for about two solid hours, begging for God to forgive me the horrible wrong that I had done.

I've never so much as held a gun since, despite the arguments I've heard from friends and family over the years that guns are just fine and dandy.

And I've listened to and even considered all of your arguments; I've heard you tell me over and over about the thrill, the rush you get when you bring down a ten-point buck. I know that you believe shooting wild game is nothing more than sport, like baseball or tennis. I've heard the argument, "Well, we eat everything we kill" (and to you, I say, "Go to the grocery store! You don't HAVE to murder animals just so you can eat! You're not a caveman or a tribesman!"). And if I have to hear, one more time, "The Constitution says I can have a gun to protect myself"... Oh man. That stance has become one of the biggest straw man arguments to support gun use.

And there are so many stories I could relate to you, to tell you why I have such a problem with guns: I could tell you that it was a gun that killed John Lennon; I could tell you that it was guns that killed three of my cousins -- one during a hunting trip, one from suicide, one from just being stupid and irresponsible with a friend; I could tell you the amount of times I was shot at while living in the East side of Aurora; I could tell you the amount of money that the government is making under the table, thanks to arms dealing.

But we both know that we're never going to convince one another that the other is wrong. I know that the Constitution permits everyone to be a desensitized, gun-toting buffoon and you know that I have every right in the world to be an oversensitive, liberal crybaby. Whatever.

But before you lift the gun to your shoulder and scope out your next big kill, ask yourself a few questions: 1) is this what God meant when he created Adam to "rule over" the rest of His creation? Is this how God intended for me to respect His creation? 2) (and this one is incredibly cheesy) WWJD? Honestly. What WOULD Jesus do? I'm not sure the man who stated "he who lives by the sword will die by the sword" would be the biggest gun advocate. I may be wrong, but there's something wrong with this picture...


My True Love

It is always unpleasantly surprising how willing I am to push aside my true love for menial, meaningless things. I get so wrapped up in the woes, travails, joys and drivel of my own life and completely disregard the one thing that has always gotten me through everything -- writing.

Lately, I've been full of regret, thinking back to a well-publicized time of my life (and by that, I mean that most everyone knows about it). A few years ago, during one of my last semesters of university, I had a pretty massive nervous breakdown in which I was sure that nothing I could do would ever be meaningful; nothing I could do would ever have any sort of impact on anyone, including myself. So, I threw away everything I created -- all my drawings, all my sketches, my paintings, my songs, my poems, all of the essays I had written for class -- everything. A few charcoal drawings survived the breakdown, but only because they were at my dad's house. Now, of course, I cherish those couple of drawings -- one of them even hangs in a frame -- because it reminds me of a time when I truly believed in what I did.

It's a drawing I titled "Spirit," maybe for obvious reasons. It's a constant reminder that, once upon a time, I allowed the spirit to move in me and, with its help, created.

I suppose it's a true statement that familiarity breeds complacency. I had been published a few times for poetry and photography, I won a couple poetry competitions, I had been told over and over again that my writings were of above average quality -- all of that affirmation gave me a pillow to rest on, and that pillow created a comfort about my work that I never should have allowed for. That pillow led me to become lax, lethargic and complacent about my work -- particularly my writing. And when I lost my zeal for writing, I lost my zeal for life -- my raison d'etre.

And I always come up with these feckless goals and resolutions, like "I'm going to write everyday. I'm going to write at least SOMETHING every single day." I go strong for about five minutes, then pick up a book or pop a Scrubs DVD in and sit in front of the television for the rest of the night. How much more could I get done if it weren't for these stupid, little things that, in reality, don't mean much of anything to me?


My Explanation of the Details

Okay, so here's what happened.

On Thanksgiving, I had to work 11 hours, from 8am to 7pm. My entire family were set to leave for Iowa to visit my stepdad's family for the holiday and they weren't going to be back until late the next night. So, when I came home to find an empty house, I reasoned that they all had left, and I spent the rest of the night woefully sad and alone. I took a shower, went into the office and spent the rest of the night listening to music at insanely loud volumes and watching movies.

The next night, I was in my bedroom when my stepdad walked in and asked, "Hey Andrew -- have you seen your mom?" I looked at him, confused, and asked, "No... Wasn't she with you...?" He replied, "No -- she stayed home to be with you, so you wouldn't be alone on Thanksgiving." I said, "That's odd, because I've been home alone the past two days. I haven't seen her since Wednesday morning, when I left for work." For a couple seconds, we just stared at each other and we came to the same conclusion at the same time: she spent Thanksgiving with her boyfriend.

She didn't get home that night until around one in the morning.

For the next two days, I was so pissed at her that I couldn't even stand the sight of her. I completely ignored her and disregarded her, trying my hardest to not even look in her direction. On Sunday afternoon, she finally confronted me in the garage while she was waxing her new car. She asked, "What's your deal, Andrew?" I asked, "Excuse me?" Again, she asked, "What's your deal? Why are you ignoring me?" I replied, "You know -- I really don't want to get into it, because I know I'm going to say something I'm going to regret." She said, "Spill it. What's your problem with me?" I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could, explained, "Well, I'm pretty upset that you would leave me home alone on Thanksgiving and not even call to see how work was, or if I was having a good day. I'm even more upset that you would lie to your entire family, then abandon them." Upon hearing that, she took a few steps forward, got right in my face, pointed her finger at me and barked, "I WAS home -- YOU'RE the liar!" And, that's when I... snapped.

Let me first explain that I have years and years of bitterness and resentment toward my mother built up inside me. The amount of pain and heartache she's caused my entire family and me hasn't eased with time, and God hasn't fully taken it away just yet -- it's just been sitting inside me, becoming more and more potent. So when she got in my face and dared to accuse me of lying, everything I've ever wanted to say to her came pouring it, like an artesian well.

I shouted, "I can't BELIEVE that you would ditch your entire family just so you could go out and do whatever you happened with some other guy. I can't BELIEVE you would be so callous, so heartless and so soulless to want to have nothing to do with your husband, your youngest daughter, your only son or your granddaughter! I can't BELIEVE you would be so selfish! I can't BELIEVE it!" Over and over, she kept telling me, "I WAS home! You're a liar!" I finally said, "Mom, YOU'RE the liar. I was home that entire night and YOU weren't. I spent Thanksgiving alone, fighting every urge to find some whiskey and drink myself to sleep."

That's when she said the most hurtful and heartless thing I couldn't even imagine someone saying to a total stranger. She very coolly shifted her stance, squinted her eyes at me and retorted, "Well. It's not MY fault that you're nothing but a loser alcoholic -- just like your loser, nothing of a dad."

Now, I'll admit, even though I had already snapped before, that comment sent me into a spiraling anger that bordered along madness and insanity. I completely lost control of myself.

I called her every foul name I could think of and used every profanity that came to mind, shouted and screamed, pounded the table. What's peculiar about this entire situation, is that I've never gotten angry about anything; I get frustrated all the time, at times I get upset, but I've never been passionately angry about anything. I was always wondered what it would be like if I were to, one day, blow up at someone. On Sunday, I got my answer -- it was an absolutely terrifying experience. I was shouting as loud as I could, my voice scraping and becoming more and more hoarse, my face was hot and deep red, I even slammed my fist repeatedly on the countertop. At one point, I slammed my fist down as hard as I could while shouting that I actually thought I had broken my hand. A jolt of pain went through me and my entire arm went numb. When that happened, it was like I had an out of body experience -- I saw myself for what I had become. I saw the spit drooling down my chin, the redness of my face, my swollen fist.

After my tirade, she very coldly said to me, "You are no longer my son. I'm disowning you. I never want to see you or hear from you again. Get out of my sight, get out of my house and don't ever bother coming back."

Annnnd, so now I'm living in Saint Charles with my friends, the Nashes. I have no idea where my life will be taking me from here.


My New Home

Well, it's official -- I'm moving into my fourth new home and for the fifth time in 2009. I started in DeKalb, moved home to Yorkville, got kicked out and moved back to Sycamore, then back to Yorkville after only a couple of days, got kicked out again on Sunday and am now in Saint Charles -- a beautiful, beautiful city that, ironically, I've always to raise a family in. Could this be the start of something...?

There's obviously a lot of details I'm leaving out here, but I promise I will try to fill you all in with the details in the days to come.

Please pray for an opportunity to open up soon, so I will not become a burden on my new hosts.