Friday, February 17, 2006

On Calvin: Interpreting the Interpretors.

Romans 15:5, "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This blog of mine focuses on the estrangement that can be felt amongst believers when they venture below the surface conversation and attempt to enjoy with one another the richness and excitement of God's word and God's plan . My area of focus in this post is my experience with Calvinism.

The heartbreak which gradually came forth after all too often witnessing the failure of Christians to reach agreement on the acceptable interpretation of God's word, or exegesis of God's word, and the resulting dismay and horror, is finally tapering off into a resigned understanding of the dynamics of what is really going on in the Christian world as many of us stand alienated from one another in our beliefs. And of course this is nothing new. But I had no idea that the problem of clashing biblical interpretations is worse now than it ever has been and only portends, to me, to continue to get worse. Even apart from the biblical context of 'men being vulnerable to every wind of doctrine that comes along', or the many biblical warnings of what will be happening to doctrine in the 'last days', there is a separate, prevailing , and longstanding problem of man's inability to agree on accurate bible interpretation. We have texts that we can place 'in use' at the time of the apostles, during the time the bible was being written, in plain Greek, and know what was said, but cannot come to agreement on what was meant. This is nothing new, but, what in the world is really going on here?

The area of theology that most recently insisted upon making its differences with my understanding of God's word known is Calvinism. I always thought that Calvinism was some historical relic which finally passed with the early American Puritans. I knew, academically, that there were major differences between Christians who believe that God gave us a free and active will, and those adherents to the theologist named John Calvin who don't, but I only recently saw what happens when the two differing interpretations try and occupy the same Christian sphere.

My observations of Calvinism are that, accurate biblical understanding is attainable only through Calvin. You ask a Calvinist what he believes and he refers you to Calvinist doctrine. When asked to point to a clear passage of scripture that explains an assertion of theirs, you may wind up with an illustration that slightly tweaks the hearers mind, if that hearer has not already been taught by, or taught by someone else who was already been taught the Calvinist view.

I cannot get basic Calvinist doctrinal meaning from scripture. I try to extract biblical truth plainly with their doctrine and I am unable to do it without first being indoctrinated with a layer of presuppositions I first must ingest, that are reaching far too far, and cannot be relied upon as they stand. When you are lucky enough to have a verse or two given you in proof of a Calvinist assertion, much of the time the conclusions seem to me to be speculative, and without immediate and unmistakable relevance.

Calvinist thinking is terribly strange to my experience in scripture. It invariably turns everything into an all or nothing affair; everything is either black or white. Their interpretation of the sovereignty of God is a very rigid, controllable sort of sovereignty which, to me, disregards most of the personality of God which God unfolds to us throughout the story of His creation to now. Sovereignty that predetermines everything in advance to the extent that it leaves man with no degree of free will, leaves man with no substance by which he can learn about God from the bible and then either chose to obey, by listening to, remembering and acknowledging Him, as our Father and Creator, as He asks us to do, or chose not do so, and be disposed of. Calvinists are terrified that man will 'boast' if he possess any ability whatsoever to believe or have God-given faith and then respond to God on his own. They see man as being able to create nothing, lest it would take glory from God as supreme Creator, as if anything man could 'create' would in any way be in the same sense as God 'creating' something. And as if, being able to merely identify God as being who He tells us He is, would give us opportunity to boast of something we have done. Just about every mental function man may be capable of doing toward God is precluded by Calvinism. Well, fair enough then. each his own, then,...right? Well, no, that doesn't work for me or Christ either. First of all I'm faced with someone telling me that I have the message of God all backwards, and secondly, it leaves the body of Christ in disarray. Was John Calvin at all concerned with the further fragmentation within the body and mind of Christ when he manufactured and imposed upon people his theological theories? I think he could not have been. It should have been obvious from the experience of the Roman catholic church down through history all of the nasty ramifications which that can have.

When I'm told by someone of the Calvinist persuasion that I have the message of God backwards, well, here we go all over again. How in the world did it wind up so convoluted?

And it does not even matter, to a Calvinist, what I believe, because it's not important what I think of the word of God, it's already been predetermined that I'm already either in or out. And I cannot know which, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I was unlucky enough to see John 6 interpreted in a very confusing way by a Calvinist gentleman just recently. I was out doing a field study and I pretty much got what I asked for. It was not pretty. It's regarding Jesus' exchange with the Jews, in John 6, while teaching the crowd at the synagogue in Capernaum, as recapped by John. It shows Jesus telling about how "all that the Father gives to me will come to Me,...". It was explained to me through Calvinist doctrine that, "all who are given will come, behold, believe, and be raised". They are already saved in advance, being predestined, and the 'beholding' and 'believing' is all incidental. I was told nothing is dependent upon 'beholding' and 'believing', and in fact someone who are not predestined could 'come', and 'behold', and 'believe', and not be raised, or saved, because they were not 'given' to start with. Here is the Calvinist's explanation for that. But first, here is John 6:35-40:

"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
"But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

I suggested that we simply did not have enough information in the passage to know exactly when or how the 'giving' takes place but simply that it does, as it must, before the Son can raise up a believer with Him. But we can rely on what we already know from the rest of the New Testament to fill in our understanding of the 'giving' referred to in the passage. The Calvinist was adamant that the 'giving' had to precede the 'beholding' and 'believing' in the Son. In other words, the person was saved even before he beheld the Son and believed. The following is a quote offered to me from the Calvinist, albeit not in its perfect context, nonetheless, self-explanatory enough to explain the 'giving' in the passage of John 6:

"Again, you are mistaking specifications with qualifications. Jesus specifies his statements, but he does not qualify them. All who are given will be raised. Therefore, all who are given will come, believe, behold, and be raised. The first statement necessitates the latter. "

Thank goodness he is there to save me from my mistaking what Jesus plainly says. But, no thank you, all the same. I cannot put the 'giving' as the sole criteria for being raised. Because Jesus also palinly states, "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I myself will raise him up on the last day". Jesus places those clear requirements for being 'raised' all very neatly into one self-explanatory sentence. I'm not sure how exactly where or how the 'giving' happens in the line of events, and moreover, I am not going to put words in Jesus' mouth and explain it in any other way than He does in the text.

After reading that statement, it should not take much convincing that I was not able to get any clearer statement out of this individual as to how he knew exactly when or how the 'giving' was taking place, or a tenable answer as to how the 'giving' could take place, and therefore, the raising already be decided, before the 'beholding' and 'believing'. Much hangs in the difference of these two interpretations, yet, clarity was not attained when arriving at the conclusion as to why"...all who are given will come, believe, behold, and be raised". In fact, concluding that the 'giving' determines the 'believing', oversimplifies the nature of God's plan and causes serious contradiction with other scripture, and upheaval amongst the fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Was Calvin reacting towards scripture or against the pope? John Calvin was a wonderful apologist for Protestantism in defiance of the Roman catholic church, brilliantly learned and articulate, formulating theories on scripture that are still very intimidating and nearly convincing even today as you can see in the very intellectually gifted people postulating right in line with Calvin's extensive original expositions. But his theories on the total depravity of man, the Holy Commonwealth with all of it open 'tests of faith', rigid predetermination, are overzealous. Is it as it seems, that Calvin was reacting to the turbulence of his times, with an amazing intellect that just lost sight of the all-important prescription to strive to attain to the unity of one body and the one mind of Christ?

Romans 15:5, "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

With doctrine like Calvin's you are going to wind up having Christians with non-Calvinist views needlessly alienated from ones with, both entrenched in opposing camps, one against the other.

I find myself having to put faith in either God, or Calvin, and not being able to do both.

Alright then, enough scolding, enough hindsight and drama, but what of now? I mentioned in a previous post in this blog that Calvin and others like him who came before and after, have suceeded in helping to make corrections in scriptural waywardness, but all of them had their glaring flaws and could not stand alone. And now we may have to do something on our own that perhaps none of them had taught, and that is to determine to work consciously towards being of the same mind with one another according to Jesus Christ. That doesn't mean we don't disagree on things, it just means, on all the major biblical principles, we recognize that there is just one right answer, one truth, the one in the bible, and we strive for it together, knowing that, subsequently, with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and perhaps, bring more glory to God than there has ever been amongst His children since the beginning. And that's where the pipedream begins, and reality ends, I suppose. But I'm going to go with the pipe dream because that's what the bible says to do.

I am slowly becoming able, actually finding the time that is, to make some sense out of my own personal exegetical differences with people who are 'of Calvin'. Simple differences in bible interpretation, which lead to the coming away with conclusions which do not mesh. There is something very unusual going on with the Calvinist theology, in my opinion, and I'm going map it out to myself, here in this blog, for my own clearer understanding, in order to have something to refer to in the future, whenever I am confronted with these messy issues of Calvin. Just to give aid and comfort to my very inadequate memory. And also to give aid and comfort to anyone else in the world of Christian conversation who may see something similar going on. All the enjoyment and love of the Word to you.


Rose~ said...

Hey Todd! That was a really great post! I was checking your blog daily for a long time and noticed that you don't post very often, so I checked less often. Now I see you posted this excellent article last Friday! You are so right.

BTW, I saw you and followed you on that "field study" ... it seemed rather frustrating, but I see that you learned a lot from it.

God Bless you Todd.

J. Wendell said...

I have been on both sides of the Calvin and non-Calvin position. I happen to see a tremendous amount of unity between those of various theological positions. This revelation came to me early in my walk with the Lord, while discussing the virtues of the sovereign God with a brother who posed the argument that we must make a choice. We went round and round with no other sources but the Bible between us. It was a great time of growth and the best thing about it is we were both intensley studying the Word of God together. This is true fellowship and unity.

I also must agree with you, that unfortunately, and very sadly, not everyone is willing to discuss these issues with an open and teachable spirit. I appreciate that you seem to be very open and teachable. It is a blessing to have brothers with a humble attitude and a sensitive heart regarding God's precious and Holy Word.

I also agree with your estimation of Calvin debunking Rome and this having been one of his main goals. Great article!

brother John

Todd said...

Hi Rose,
I sure wanted to get some thoughts down that were directed at making myself think somemore about the frustrations of being at such odds with fellow believers. It's no fun being so critical but then I've just been too close lately to watching differing theologies drive believers apart and actually wrecking friendships, family relationships, casual realationships, and it gets tiresome when you want to just enjoy the fascination and beauty of the word with other believers. Part of the answer lies in a persons appraoch with others, but the other frustrating part is it seems a part of the popular Christian pshyche to just not even try to find common ground to enjoy, and go back in your own church and hide from the opportunity. Not the end of the world for me, but interesting to hash around all the same.

Yes, I learned a lot in the field study. The hard way. But that's the best learning sometimes.

So I was hoping the points in my article would just provoke some thought if nothing else. Glad you could drop by and check things out.
Love the new Unashamed of Grace blog. I'll be learning alot there.

Celebrating the fellowship,

Todd said...

I'm so flattered that you stopped by to give me some feedback.

Isn't it funny and marvelous that you see a tremendous amount of unity in those of different theological positions. I think we all should, and then try and remove some of the walls. And I don't mean superficially. I'm a firm believer that the truth lies not in one end of the spectrum or the other, but somehow, both. Or in the "whole", or something, somehow. But you sure hit on it. And it's the neatest and most edifying thing when two believers who differ can come away with a feeling of unity. And not have to fear or alienate each other at the end of the day. Be on just the other side of the room, instead of the other side of the wall. But to many of the theologies demand separateness from others and that sure does get disheartening. It all comes down to good Christian teaching/leadership and bad, and the bad is particularly hard to overcome.

I know I did not do a 100% accurate representation of Calvinism, especially with all the variations thereof, but hopefully my point came clear enough and I didn't butcher Calvinism to badly in the process. Any extra time a fellow has between raising a child, studying the Word, employment, and then his own personal ministry efforts-my case, music and a message-who's got time to keep up to speed on all of the various theologies. A guy has to just give it his best shot. So hopefully you can overlook some of the over-simplifying. And when time permits, I'm going to fill out that area.

But I'm flattered you came by because I've seen some great fitting comments you've made on occassion and it's wonderful to have a fellow with your insight around. I also enjoy your blog. Glad you found time to stop by.

With you in the faith,

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Excellent post. I quite agree.

Todd said...

Hey, an honor to have you stop by Matthew.

Antonio said...


I appreciate you musings and thoughts on this matter.

I tend to think that unity needs to come through doctrine, not only through affections.

Paul states:

1 Cor 1:10-11
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Calvinist doctrines do great damage to theology proper.

I am on the same page as you. I look forward to reading your thoughts as you get them composed here on your blog.


Todd said...

Hi Antonio,
Thanks so much for stopping by. And I thoroughly appreciate how you test for, and love, sound Christian doctrine. Glad you found time to come by.


pilgrim said...

You say you can not get basic Calvinist doctrinal meaning from scripture.

Well I can--and did, before I knew what Calvinism was--I did not read a Calvinist book and agree or get indoctrinated. As I read scripture I came to hold Calvinistic views without knowing it.

Now none of us can read or process information without some sort of bias, but I do not come from a Reformed/Calvinist/Presbyterian etc background.

When I first heard someone explain TULIP I thought, "Of course, I already believe that."
I just didn't know the common terminology for them.


Todd said...

Extremely interesting then, Pilgrim. Let me be advised of that, and thanks for the input.


H K Flynn said...

Hi Todd,

Really excellent post.

I agree with Rose, John, Matthew and Antonio. Wise people!

I would also say that I hope the Calvinists I know are far more committedto God's word and less committed to the system. But I know that the books and articles that promote it tend to be so harshly dogmatic and scornful toward anyone who digresses, and it's all such a invigorating, high stakes venture, that perhaps this is also a pipe dream.

I don't push the Calvinists I know as far as I do those I know online.

(Do you?)

Anyway I appreciate this post. Excellent!



Todd said...

Hi Jodie,
You're too kind.

Well, I feel so naive in saying that I don't know any Calvinists and really have thought that they were just a fringe Christian element. Like Charismatics. Well, I was wrong on both accounts. I wish I had some close Christian friends who were of the Calvinist view to help me understand them better. But I do, in any event, understand there are many true Christains among them (who need straightening out). I'm not even concerned with the straightening out part. Their choice. Right now I'm trying to come to a greater understanding of the 'modern practice' of the various forms of Traditionalist/Puritst/Calivinst views, so I can be sure of what I believe and why. And so I can withstand their aggressiveness.

I need, and am gettting very close to, a nice concise true scriptural defense to the gradiouse Calvinist assertions that seem to deny much of scriptural teaching. And then I can stand to be around them.

Lots of great folks messed up in various forms of Calvinism. Calvin didn't leave them much for scriptural basis. Hard to be around. But I'll work at it. Thanks for the encouragement Jodie.
Back to you as well.


H K Flynn said...

Thanks Todd :)

nathaniel adam king said...

Can I just question this one thought that you gave:

My observations of Calvinism are that, accurate biblical understanding is attainable only through Calvin.

Hello, my name is Adam. I am a Calvinist. A die-hard Calvinist. Seven-pointer.

And I have never read Calvin.

Sure, I have read quotes of his, but that is only when non-Calvinist have tried to disprove Calvinism.

So, I think I disprove your rule. Accurate Biblical interpretation is not only through Calvin. Paul had such. Calvin and Paul seem to agree on a lot of things. ;)

Todd said...


Then you are either a caricature, a comical representative of a so-called Calvinist, or a college freshman. You are probably going to go wih a college freshman.

You are a Calvinist, with even more points than Calvin, you are a die-hard Calvinist, you would vigorously defend him, but don't even think enough of him, or your own belief system, to have read his basic teachings. So you are a wanna be Calvinist, or something? O.k., well, thanks for adding to my bewilderment.

You did wind up at the right place, over at Unashamed of Grace, your "strange" journey will be over, and they will make sure you are well taught. The only thing remaining to be seen is your receptiveness to sound teaching.

Daniel said...

Todd -thanks for taking the time to comment over at my blog.

As a Calvinist I can freely share that I seldom care whether a person is a Calvinist or not. I am more interested in whether they believe that scripture is true - and believing they obey God.

Scripture teaches us to “study to show ourselves approved;” but many Christians study for other reasons. They study theology, commentaries, and Christian literature (with the occasional jaunt into scripture) mostly because they think that their the sin problem can be dealt with if they just get the right information. Not that we are to be ignorant – God’s word says “my people perish for lack of knowledge” – but substitute “study” for obedience – they equate (to whatever degree) academic standing with spiritual maturity.

I think they imagine that if they can just define their faith precisely enough – eventually it will solve the one big problem we all begin with – why do I still sin?

I am not suggesting that this is an articulated and conscious agenda on their part – I am just noting that some spend more time defining their faith than they do living it. They haven’t been taught to trust the Holy Spirit will disclose the person of Christ to them as they submit themselves in simple obedience to God – so they try to know Christ through other means. In some camps the “other means” is near hysterical “charismata” – in other camps it is through a dour and stoic theology – and still in other camps it is through inclusion in some Gnostic group. To this end – some pursue Calvinism mistaking this pursuit as spiritual and not intellectual. That doesn’t make Calvinism right or wrong – it is just gives plenty of opportunity for those in such a pursuit to argue with people who are not in a similar pursuit. My point is that this is a common error, and while many vociferous “internet” Calvinists may fall into this group – they are not there because of their Calvinism – but rather in spite of it.

I wish I could say that I don’t see Calvinism in scripture – but ever since I committed myself to believing every word I read in scripture have been a Calvinist. I wasn’t always, but when I stopped picking and choosing what I would believe and what I would ignore – I couldn’t draw any other conclusion.

I don’t get angry at a person who can’t see what I see – how could I? If God has opened my understanding, no one can close it, and if God has closed my understanding, no one can open it. If I have the truth God will give me more, and if I haven’t got the truth, even what I think I have God will take away. Surely, I am at God’s mercy – but I trust that whether my understanding is better or worse than someone else’s isn’t as important as whether my faith produces obedience. God is able to correct me if I am wrong and willing to humble myself – and it isn’t my job to correct all those who seem to be opposed to me – except where they are opposed to the gospel that saved me.

We cringe to think that “Pastor” is the face of Christianity to those who equate the label with the man. They see Phelps and they see Christianity. Most of us get a sort of knot in our gut to think that this is what some people think of when they think of Christianity – because we know that this person isn’t the best spokesman for Christ. Likewise, a former roommate of mine hated all Indians because he lived next door to a native couple as a child and the husband used to beat his wife. This sort of “guilt by association” is a type of logical fallacy, and ought not to be employed to justify “why Johnny doesn’t agree with Calvinism”

Grace to you sir, and your readership.


Daniel said...

sorry about that runaway tag there... ;-)

Todd said...

Thanks for the reflections. Nice represention of your firm foundation in Christ. You bring up some thought provoking things that I wouldn't reflecting on briefly as well. Kind of a bad time right now but let me piece my thoughts together over the next couple days, a few minutes here and there, and I would be honored to have you take a look at them. I overdid my self-alloted blogging quota, but would appreciate it if you'd stop back. Meantime, I'll finish up my comments over at your blog as well, and then at least we'll know a little more about each others life in Christ. Glad you came by.

With you in the grace,

Daniel said...

Todd - reading over my former reply I wouldn't mind apologizing for it (in the sense that it wasn't proofread and ended somewhat abruptly). I was interupted in the midst of it - and posted it "as is" thinking to myself - "ahhh, it's pretty much okay" - I didn't have time to re-read it, and after re-reading it this morning I thought it best to comment again...

I am a quick typist, and that allows me to put my thoughts down almost as quick as I think them. But it often happens a few lines later that I think of a better way to express them - and I go back and rework a sentence. Sometimes I will change a word and forget to remove the word it was replacing - other times I will change the tense of the pronouns, or what have you and I will miss changing all the tenses through the thought. Still other times I will have turned in a mid-thought (changing the way I was going to say something) and I will forget to go back and remove the part that no longer makes any sense.

So re-reading my comment this morning I thought to myself - *that* is pretty messy, and it ends too abruptly - I ought to address that.

So, here it is - had I had the time yesterday I think I may have ended the post thus:

"Many "Calvinists" have never studied Calvin - and a good number have never heard of Calvin. I myself was such, and I know of others. Even wearing the label myself, I still do not agree with *all* of Calvin's doctrines (he was, after all, a covenant theologian and a paedobaptist - and I am neither).

I believe it shouldn't matter much if two are on the opposite side of the table with regards to 'how we think it *works*' - as long as "where they are coming from" isn't a dead intellectualism. A tree is known by its fruit after all ...

That would've been better!

Thanks Todd!



Todd said...

I hear you. That's one of the things this blogging is good for. A guy can take time to reflect and refine. It seems like that's when the profitable understanding starts to happen for me.

After a couple rough days of work capped off by having to come up with a NCAA bracket challenge yesterday from the pastor I've barely had time to keep current on my piano practicing. So I'll be in alot better shape tomorrow aft. to get thoughts organized and get back.

Todd said...

The second time I've had to reset the shoes on a draft horse this winter is today, so I've got some wicked work ahead.

Thanks Dan

Todd said...

Oh nuts, I've been afflicted with some sort of virus. Can't think straight. I had better give it another day or two.

Todd said...

Hi Daniel,
I am left with difficulty accepting without some disagreement the following comments you've made.

One, that you are a Calvinist, but then say this:

"Many "Calvinists" have never studied Calvin - and a good number have never heard of Calvin. I myself was such, and I know of others. Even wearing the label myself, I still do not agree with *all* of Calvin's doctrines (he was, after all, a covenant theologian and a paedobaptist - and I am neither).

That's just to loose. If you've never studied Calvin, then you can't know, apart from what you've heard second hand, what Calvin's doctrine is. And it would be too haphazard for you to say you subscribe to his doctrie and then that you don't know, except secondhandedly, what it is. If you do not agree with all of Calvin's doctrines then there are many Calvinists who would assert that you are not a Calvinist. It's just too fuzzy and haphazard to state what you have and then call yourself a Calvinist. That just makes for a lot of confusion out there in discussing what you believe. Also, when you say, "I studied scripture first and then discovered that it fit with Calvinism, and not studied Calvinism and then viewed scripture through that lens...", something of the sort which I've heard you say before, I don't find that a good arguement for the accuracy or closeness of Calvin's views to scripture. I see too many possibilities as to how coming upon Calvin's views in that order, would not increase the likelihood that Calvin's views are then more in line with scripture.

Another minor point of contention of mine, when I hear the phrase, "obey God", is that in the N.T. we are almost never (if ever) told to obey God, but rather to obey the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ, the gospel, or obey Christ and/or His teachings. It appears to me that God has put Christ in place as our mediator and God is now a step removed where all things have to go be in or through Christ in order to reach God. My point being that it's now our responsibility, as to exactly what or how to obey God, to specifically seek and obey His gospel put forth in the new test., in order to obey Him.

Next point would be that, I don't like the concept of, as a result of 'seeing' Calvinism in scripture, it solidify's your feeling that they are correct. I think that approach leaves things too open for anybody's own fairly persuasive interpretation to abuse scripture, which divides Christians. I need to 'read' it 'expressly' in scripture, not just generally 'see' things supporting his doctrine in scripture, or I cannot regard his doctrine as being based in scripture.

And finally, I don't like your following statement:

"If I have the truth God will give me more, and if I haven’t got the truth, even what I think I have God will take away."

The word 'truth' is not used in that verse within scripture. If we do put 'truth' in there, it is still unclear, by the text, what God will 'give' and 'take away', but even more importantly 'under what circumstances' will He 'give' and 'take away'. I like the thought, but wanting to avoid differing with other faithful people, I would be a little reluctant to insist on your meaning.

Unlike you, I don't see any room for differences regarding how we view the meaning of the Word. For things which are not clearly stated in the Word, we need to explore and discuss and help each other, sharing our views, but then stop just short of writing doctrine regarding things on which we differ. Of course that has huge implications for mainstream Chrisian religion, but in my mind, only beneficial ones, and we couldn't start soon enough in my opinion. That's not realistic, I understand, but it's just my gut feeling. Talk to you again sometime. As you can see I'm going to start into the chapter on 'election' in Calvin's Intitutes, which is one of the big dividers of us Protestant/Reformed/ect. Christians. So feel free to chime in with your thoughts if you'd like. As you'll see, I'm going to be very slow at it, I wish it weren't so, but that is all time will permit, so I'll have to make due. It's one of the most important biblical topics in my mind, so that's where I am lead. Thanks again for your exchange.

Heartily, Todd