Christianity is deeply rooted in fear-based ideas that have nothing to do with Jesus. Indeed, nearly every Christian notion is an active repudiation of the Lord’s Gospel teachings! We have talked about awful elements of Christianity that came out of the first-millennium councils, while so far ignoring the rotten fruit of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.
This lapse has been my fault. I grew up in a cozy Protestant church with a much-loved minister who preached the Lord’s words, and then I went off to college with the goal of becoming a minister, too. There I studied Christianity’s beginnings, and I was often horrified at what I was learning. If you like hot dogs, never watch them being made! By the time I fell in love with and married a Catholic, I no longer trusted the religion enough to give my life to it. My conversion to Catholicism for my husband’s sake was sincere. And my twenty-five years as a Catholic were for the most part ardent and heartfelt, despite the fact that by then I was so steeped in the Gospel words of Jesus that much of Catholicism seemed nonsensical to me. I was sure the scholars must know more than I did! And my childhood minister had so well succeeded in making me see his Protestantism as the gentler flavor of Christianity, the vanilla to Catholicism’s chocolate, that returning to all those first-millennium details, to confessions and genuflecting and crossing oneself, to incense and to priests in brocade, felt for a long time like simply taking Christianity as seriously as it was meant to be taken.
I have been reluctant to talk about Protestantism. I haven’t much studied the Reformation, and my gentle childhood religion has for most of my life made me think the cruelest edges had long since been worn away. Surely no one still believed all those awful fear-based lies? The occasional fire-and-brimstone ministers whose words I read out of curiosity were only the sincere but misguided ending to a long chain of human-made horrors. But then recently I read an article which suggested the centuries-old battle between Calvinism and Arminianism still is underway! And if there is even a whiff of John Calvin’s movement polluting any modern church, then Protestantism remains the enemy of Jesus and the awful defamer of the one true God.
Calvinism demonstrates the fact that the human dogmas which formed Christianity from the founding of the Roman Church four centuries after the Lord’s crucifixion then continued to ever more warp the religion. We have talked about the worst of these first-millennium errors, including Adam’s original sin, God’s judgment and our possible damnation, and the idea that Jesus died to save us from God’s wrath. None of this comes from the teachings of Jesus, and in fact all of it contradicts those teachings. And Jesus foresaw the likelihood that His divine movement based in love was going to be corrupted by man-made ideas. He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (MT 7:24-27). He warned us that clergymen preaching human lies that were meant to advance mere human goals would seek to use His movement for their own purposes. He said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:15-20).
The sand of false and fear-based dogmas on which the Roman church was built could not help but to grow around it trees whose only product was thorns and thistles. Modern Calvinists refer to “The Five Points of Calvinism” as “T.U.L.I.P.” Alas, among the thorns and thistles that were already thick on those Christian trees, the Protestant Reformation later proceeded to grow one ungodly flower. I will summarize the five Calvinist points below, but my few words cannot do them justice! I urge you to follow this link and read about T.U.L.I.P. in the words of an ardent believer. Behold the monstrously evil God that is Calvinism’s grotesque creation:
No more sadistic, depraved, and vehemently anti-Jesus set of teachings can be imagined. Read that list again. Read it with further elaboration written by a man of God who ardently believes it. What the Calvinists did was to decide that their early translations of the Bible were the literal, complete, and inerrant Word of God for all time, and they ranked every word in their Bibles as equal in importance to the Gospel words of Jesus. Then they found some words in their Bibles that they read as supporting these appalling ideas, and they formed an explicitly fear-based theology based upon a barbaric human-made God. They have poisoned Christianity with this nonsense for centuries! But you and I have sat at the feet of Jesus. We have listened to His genuine words in a modern translation of the Gospels. Please, if you can, help me to see what any of this has to do with Him?
And these are not fringe ideas! Many modern Protestant denominations are still based nominally in Calvinist thought, including my cozy childhood church, which is part of the United Church of Christ. The fact that I never heard a whiff of Calvinism throughout my growing-up was an accident of the fact that the minister who baptized me spent the next quarter-century serving my church. Reverend Stephen Turrell of blessed memory taught us to love and to follow Jesus; but given his denomination, he could as easily have taught us the terrors of Calvinism.
Fear and love are polar opposites. You cannot love what you fear. No one who believes the lies of Calvinism can ever come to love its monstrous God. And in fact, believing T.U.L.I.P. is an active bar to their learning to love the genuine God, and even to their ever coming to know and love Jesus.
Within a century after John Calvin and his followers had codified them, these doctrines had begun to spur a sharp reaction, led by a movement generally referred to as Arminianism. Under this more relaxed doctrine, each of the five points of Calvinism is softened enough to allow for the possibility of universal salvation. But still, we all carry Adam’s sin, and Jesus still must die to save us from the judgment of a wrathful God.
I hadn’t intended to write about Calvinism. I had a different post half-written when Thomas dropped this topic in my lap. At first I resisted it in the whiny way that sometimes you’ve got to resist when you don’t want to do what a boss or a parent is making you do, and you know you’re going to have to do it but you won’t do it without a fight. I’ve never studied the Protestant Reformation! And I hate this topic. Give me a break! But even though forty-eight hours ago I was sulkily staring at a blank page, I realize now that this post is an essential follow-up to what we said last week. All of Christianity is fear-based and tainted. When the Bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 officially took over the Lord’s gentle Way that had prospered in many different forms for centuries after His crucifixion and made of it one fear-based religion, they were building on human sand. The Romans were false prophets in sheep’s clothing, to be sure! They were vines and trees so corrupted that their only fruit could be thorns and thistles, and then eventually John Calvin’s poisonous T.U.L.I.P.
But thanks to the gift of eternal revelation and renewal granted by the living God, we are able to look at the evidence freshly and see what is false and what is true. As the veil between worlds continues to thin, we are in good enough contact now with those that we used to think were dead that we are no longer dependent on the false Christian prophets and all their old fear-based lies. At last we can go back directly to Jesus! And His Gospel teachings are the only way to ever build a movement based in love that can be God’s long-planned instrument and help to bring the kingdom of God on earth.
It is time for a brand-new Reformation. We can rebuild God’s house upon the rock of truth, and plant around it vines and trees that will bear the Lord’s perfect love-based fruit. As the Jewish scholar Hillel the Elder more or less said two thousand years ago, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”