Within the past 6 months, I have begun to identify as, what some would call, Reformed. What was I before? I was, as some would call it, Charismatic. Now, anyone who would have known me a year ago would be surprised to hear that I now identify as Reformed, because I was utterly disgusted by Reformed Theology not too long ago. In fact, I had arguments formed against it and why I believed it wasn’t helpful to the Christian faith. I was an Emergent church Charismatic. Quite frankly, I believed that because I was into philosophy and I was never surrounded by people who were concerned with being biblical, aside from my youth pastor. Existentialism makes a whole load of sense to a newbie in philosophy and someone who hadn’t read their Bible much or very critically.
But, eventually that well runs dry. Existentialism cripples you in unexpected ways. You find yourself being unable to form an argument because everything is relative. You find yourself constantly unsatisfied with any answer because Truth doesn’t exist in your worldview… Thus begins my journey of radical faith change…
Step One: Absolutism
Absolutism is the philosophical worldview that affirms absolute truths as existing. I didn’t come to affirm this worldview until I listened to a debate between an absolutist and a relativist and I was struck by one very simple rebuttal.
Relativist: “All truth is relative to the person who is interpreting it. There are no absolutes.”
Absolutist: “Is that absolutely true?”
The relativist had no satisfying response to this simple question. There was no logical way to rebut this for the relativist. Logically, absolute truths must exist. I thought about this long and hard. I had, in theory, been an absolutist for a while. I was constantly seeking Truth. In fact, my youth pastor once commended me for being a Truth-seeker. Now, I saw how silly it was for me to affirm relative truths and deny absolutes. This heavily influences how a person reads the Bible. It removes this “gray area” mentality that oft plagues the Church. I was now armed with a philosophical worldview that would change my life.
Step Two: Apophaticism
The next paradigm shift I had actually came from the realm of Emergent Church theology in which I was interested. Apophaticism is a step from the purely philosophical and into the more theological. It is the act of painting an image of who God is through negation. For example:
God is love.
God is not love, for he transcends our understanding of love.
God is not not love.
What this does is bring us to the end of human language in terms of attempting to define God. Further still, it acknowledges the limits of the human mind in understanding how God works in our world. It is a rather humbling practice which forced me to let go of my precepts of what God looks like and what His love looks like. How arrogant of me to assume I know how God loves.
Step Three: The Holy Spirit
Here comes the most purely theological aspect of my conversion. I had long had a problem with the Charismatic view of the Spirit, but I never knew why. I never knew why because no one had ever taken the time to explain to me what the Spirit was. Which is where the problem was… I viewed the Spirit as a “what” and not a “who.” Then, I read Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit. In retrospect, it was completely providential (as are all things, really), because I was literally just in a used book store, yearning for strong theology to heal my damaged soul from being a part of a spiritually manipulative Charismatic worship collective. I looked up and saw Spurgeon and thought to myself, “I know that name. My buddy who is solid likes him. It’s only $4?! Sold.”
Armed with the philosophy of absolutism and the theology of apophaticism, I was ready to properly engage with the doctrine of the Spirit. Spurgeon posed logical, biblical support for who the Spirit was and I could feel my heart softening to the Truth with each proof. It was undeniable. My philosophy told me that Truth was out there. My theology told me that I couldn’t understand how God works. My background told me that Scripture was True. I had to face the facts: I was not in control of my own destiny. People were only saved through the understanding given to them by the Spirit. The Spirit only comes from God…
Reluctantly, I began to identify as Reformed. I was not happy about it at all. I became something by which I used to be disgusted… But, that’s how I know it’s true. Many a theologian has said that if how God works always agrees with how you think He should work, you may, in fact, be worshipping a deity of yourself. I know that what I now believe is true because it still doesn’t always set right with me. But, it’s biblical. It’s logical. More importantly, I have never been as close to God as I have since this shift in my theology. A richness of faith came along with this change.
I am still baffled by how this change occurred. It is yet another testament to the mysterious, yet providential, ways of the Lord. I thought I had it all figured out. That was my problem. Now, I know that I don’t have it all figured out. I will continue changing all of my life. I identify as Reformed simply to distinguish my two faith walks. I am certainly not traditionally Reformed and I’m sure my theology will evolve in the years to come. But, I know for sure that I will never go back to where I was.