I suspect a LOT of people entrapped within the neo-Cal juggernaut feel outside themselves, trapped, and strangers to who and what they are, lost and in a perpetual state of terrified uncertainty (they can’t even know if they are really saved); even some of those who may be its most outspoken proponents. It isn’t that they necessarily deny their feelings. It’s that they really think that those feelings are wicked; that the lack of joy cannot possibly be rooted in the fatalistic determinism which drives the theology, but must certainly be instead due to their ongoing depravity and their deep seated inability to be anything other than horrible people, and “but for the grace of God go [them]” (with all due respect, Mr. Bradford, there is something else besides grace that can keep one from the noose; NOT committing a crime) and all of the rest of the incoherent metaphysics . They put up with the torment because they think that this is their cosmic, divine duty. The more miserable they are the better; they are getting their just desserts for being born, after all. And they count themselves lucky!! They think that no matter how terrorized they are in their spirits, no matter how destructive the sum of the neo-Cal doctrine is to humanity, surely it’s better then “what they deserve”…for what they “deserve” are the gallows that John Bradford’s criminals got, even though they likely have as much in common with those convicts as with a spinning toad stool. Whatever…more neo-Calvinist sensationalist propaganda designed to confuse people about who and what they worship, and what God’s love really IS and what it ISN’T. Doesn’t the bible say that the civil authorities wield the sword of punishment for society’s evildoers? Why then such fatalistic determinism about a fairly clear biblical truth about the cause and effect of doing evil deeds and getting caught by the cops? Why this “but for the grace” bit? Well, I’m guessing that John Bradford copped to the idea that we are all going to burn regardless of what we do, because there really is no TRUTH except that the existence of man is the root of his evil, and so doing or not doing is not only irrelevant, but functionally impossible, really, because we are all bound by some inexorable sin nature that is outside of us, controlling us, usurping us, and yet,WE are still to blame somehow because our inability to choose is based on the choice we made to have a sin nature…and that, whether a criminal or not, but for the grace of some categorically arbitrary “election” process by God, via a cosmic game of eeny-meeny-miney-moe, all of our asses are doomed.
But yes, this is what these poor tortured souls suffering under the boot of Calvinist tyranny really think. They are just so doggone lucky God isn’t REALLY giving them what for…why He oughta just…and they’d better smile while it’s happening, too. Why, if they got what they deserved, they might be like those well-adjusted and happy humans who actually think God loves them…yes, they’d be deceived like those poor happy doomed souls. Ah, if only those happy “sinners” knew the depth of their sin (who foolishly think that because THEY accepted Christ that they are saved; when the truth is that most are probably not elect at all, you know…poor bastards). If only they knew that they needed to really just stop being so doggone in love with God and thankful that He loves and cares for them and answers their prayers and instead would just go to the cross, everyday, and get re-saved over and over and over again, to the point where the cross becomes the wooden stocks of puritanical self-deprecation and rank self-hatred and rank hatred of humanity in general until they all but declare God a fool or even creating such a person as they are; and they sit in the Stocks of Christ all day every day while the world throws rotten tomatoes upon their depraved souls because of course, their very existence warrants the abuse…they deserve the spit and rotten broccoli in the mouth because they breath, and even that is done in “sin”. But hey…at least they are elect.
Unless they aren’t.
And,again, they can’t really know one way or the other, because by definition they must deny every thought and deed as filthy rags. For even their hope is sin. So…they wait in the stocks and let the world pass them by and hope that in the end it is all worth it.
And sanctification? Well, that’s a laugh now, isn’t it. If you are a person who really believes all that the Calvinists say about you, do you honestly think there is even a shred of the smallest mite of a point to considering just what YOU can do to be good? I didn’t think so. And neither do you. If you happen to smile and forgive the person that got you right in the eye with that moldy turnip, well then, you can just thank God that but for the grace you didn’t go to…the…er…uh…but wait. There you are, in the stocks, so, where is God’s grace, exactly? It seems that you actually did go to the place that John said you didn’t go but for God’s grace so… Oh, who cares, right? We are all good Calvinists here. Why quibble over little details like metaphysical, doctrinal, and rational consistency.
At any rate, the smile or the forgiveness in your heart must be of God and never from you because, after all, you’re in the stocks, and you are there for a reason, and it sure as hell isn’t because YOU can do good. You were born to be there, and so what on earth makes you think that you can sanctify yourself away from the daily torture of the Stocks of Christ?
Sanctification! Ha, ha. Yeah. That’s funny stuff. As if.
Now, let’s be honest and just grab our courage and our sense and call this what it is: spiritual madness and gnostic tyranny of the worst kind. This kind of thinking is insane and it cannot possibly be from God. Here’s the real reason you cannot earn God’s love, and it doesn’t have a thing to do with the false doctrine of pervasive depravity, and certainly nothing to do with the fatalistic determinism wrapped up in the notion of “but for the grace of God go I”. The reason people cannot earn God’s love is because He has ALWAYS loved them. He doesn’t think they are depraved; He thinks they are good because HE is the author of their reason, and reason, being the CORE of man’s ability to BE, thus must be GOOD. Man is GOOD, and his existence is GOOD; and His work is good.
I can already hear your thoughts. But Jesus said “Only God is good.” Yes, in context, Jesus is absolutely right. Only God is good because only God is good outside of anything else. That is, God is synonymous with good because beyond anything else, there will always be God, and God thus MUST be perfect, and thus any proclamation of good by God means that He, Himself is the perfect embodiment of it. I’m not suggesting people are good in that way. What I’m suggesting is what I’ve already said. Man is good because his reason is of God. His reason is how he can know TRUTH, and God is TRUTH. If man was really totally depraved he could never, ever know God, and so God could not have created him in the first place. God would not be known, not because of some fictional depravity, but because man wouldn’t be around to have a thought in his head. Man’s existence is the very testimony to man’s goodness. Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation; a creature that is self-aware and free to pursue God in spirit and truth, which is how God pursues Himself. A being with this inherent Ability CANNOT be totally depraved.
But, one of the reasons the Calvinists get away with their humanity-razing and self-serving theology is because, in a way, they say the right things. They say, for example, that we all need Jesus. They say we cannot earn God’s love. All those things, yes, sound so biblical and true; but see, they are never questioned as to just what they MEAN. And by the time you actually figure out that what they say is so different than the what the truth is, you are already ten miles down the road, confused, nodding and declaring them your overlord “standing in the stead” (and this is just what happened to me; but I blame myself). But once you realize that the premises behind the “orthodox” sounding words is completely contrary to what God actually thinks about man, then the whole false front collapses. The point is: never concede or agree with a Calvinist until you understand what the basis of the point is. NEVER concede a premise. NEVER nod your head when they say something like, “Well, surely we can both agree that God is good.” Because the minute you do that, they have got you on the rails that lead inexorably to THEIR gnostic conclusions, and before you know it, your into the cohesive theology so deeply you can’t ever remember where you started (but they will remind you by simply saying: Just remember, you are awful…so “God is good”, becomes, YOU are awful, and that’s all you need to know).
Because, while yes, God certainly is good, that isn’t the POINT. God’s goodness isn’t a proclamation of TRUTH coming from a Calvinist, because if it was, they’d understand it can only mean: therefore, YOU should CHOOSE to follow Him, because this is wise. But that’s not what they mean. When they say God is good, they mean: you CAN’T possibly follow God because you are evil. The point of God is good is merely to remind you that YOU are not. And that is not the Biblical implication of the truth “God is good”. So, the Calvinists get away with their heresy because they use Biblical language as slight-of-hand. God is good doesn’t mean, God is TRUTH, or God’s work is perfect, or God craves the salvation of all people because He loves them. No, God is good means: man is vile, obey us.