Sunday, July 22, 2012

Open Theists, Calvinists, Arminianists.

When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed his own blood for my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, O, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul

It is well with my soul 
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

This is apparently an old Calvinistic song. Horatio Spafford wrote it after all four of his daughter's had died in a tragic Atlantic voyage in 1873, he had lost his only son 2 years before and most of his wealth to the great Chicago fire about that same time. This was his response to experiencing all of these tragedies. I heard that he was a Calvinist from a pastor and I can see how you can derive that from the hymn.

I grew up singing this song. Specifically while standing next to my Grandfather in his Presbyterian Church with his booming voice. I can still hear his voice singing that song if I close my eyes and someone hums the refrain. My Grandmother bought a painting when I was a child with sea billows on it and part of the first verse. This hymn is a powerful anchor to my family and my childhood spirituality. It's fair to call the song Calvinistic. I haven't done any research on Horatio, so other than knowing his family history and that he was deeply spiritual I have no idea what is leanings were on the future and God's knowledge of it.

For me this song is about making peace with my life and with God. Whether God has scripted every hour of it or not (I don't believe He has), this is the life I have to live. The moment I have to live is now and the future I'm walking toward is my own. I believe that I have choice. I have choice in how I respond to my present circumstance and that is how things between God and I need to be well with my soul. This doesn't mean I don't grieve sorrow and pain immensely, of course I do. That is good for me. But it does mean that there is a time to grieve and then there is a time to make peace with God and the life you are living to get up and move on. I will always carry the losses of my life with me. They will never leave me but I have a choice to accept them and learn from them or to fight them and God.

My sins are paid for by the blood Christ, but unlike devout Calvinists I believe that this is available for anyone and everyone. I believe that God is willing that none should perish. Which is why he delays Christ's return because he wants to give as many people as possible as much time as he can for them to repent and turn to him. I don't believe that God would create people who knew had no chance of ever turning to him. Can you imagine bearing child and deliberately choosing to never love him and turn him over to hell before he was even two? I cannot reconcile that picture with a loving God.

This makes me a bit of an Arminianist or an Open Theist. Actually it definitely makes me at least an Arminianist. I'm probably closer to an Open Theist but I'm still processing that. If you're interested there's a great book I'm reading on this right now by Gregory Boyd called God of the Possible.

What are some hymns, poems or spiritual practices that are near and dear to you?

Do they fit with your current theology? Or are they comfortable because they're familiar?
How have they comforted you in times of joy or suffering? How does God still speak to you through them?

Or do you need to move on to some new thoughts and practices that would be beneficial to where you are today? What would that look like for you?


1 comment:

  1. This post resonated within me, as this was actually sung in church today. I have won my battle for an old fashioned hymn!There is just something some calming, uplifting, and refreshing about them that modern worship songs lack. They bring back thoughts of simpler times and you find yourself singing away your woes. Also, if you were raised in a church going family, the songs bring back memories. When I hear "It is Well" in my head, it is done without musical accompaniment, as my grandparents' church does not permit musical insturments and they would sing it often. In times of struggle I often turn to hymns for comfort. Though in my "hymns" play list, I do have one modern worship song. "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" often speaks to me as well. - Jen

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