Calvinism: The New Circumcision
I’m not a Greek scholar or a great theologian. I read the Bible and discover ways to apply what God says, and I encourage others to do likewise and to use the Biblical story to bring joy into people’s lives.
I feel the need to first preempt all the presumptions and judgments about me not knowing what I’m talking about. I’ve been a student of the Word for nearly 62 years. “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” It’s John 1:6, the first verse my mother taught me to memorize when I was a wee little fellow. But memorization isn’t everything. I’ve an education in Christian Education, the Bible, science, engineering, and other things that make me a thinker. But education (or thinking) isn’t everything. I’m an adventurer, but no matter where I adventure, it isn’t everything.
The teachings of Jesus are everything. I gladly and unashamedly embrace and proclaim His Gospel: He died on the Cross for our sins, according to the Scriptures, He was buried a dead man, then God raised Him to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3-4). This Gospel is everything and it’s for everyone. It is Jesus’ Gospel, not John the Apostle’s, John the Baptizer’s, or John Calvin’s.
I am not reformed, thank you very much. I am transformed, as is the more Biblical way of doing things. I choose to not have my Biblical theology defined by a man, even if his name has the same initials as Jesus Christ.
It has occurred to me recently in studying Galatians that there’s a connection with the 21st century’s reformation pushers and the 1st century’s foreskin cutters. Egads! Yes, I dare to say it. I can hear it now (and actually, have heard it): “If you’re not reformed (or not a Calvinist), you’re not in the kingdom.” Paul the Apostle battled that similar false teaching: “If you’re not circumcised (or not Lawed up), you’re not in the kingdom.”
Therefore, I’ve concluded that Calvinism is the new circumcision. Calvinism, like circumcision, makes one a debtor to something or someone. It estranges one from the mission of Jesus and causes one to wrestle unnecessarily with the grace of Jesus. With all the pseudo-theology stripped away, Calvinism ignores faith working through love; it offends the work of Jesus on His cross. It’s a doctor’s excuse for cutting off oneself from those for whom the Great Physician wrote a perfect prescription.
Like Paul, I could wish that those who trouble us so would even cut themselves off! Come to think of it, that’s exactly what Calvinists hope about others not in their kingdom of reformers. If this seems drastic, well, it is, just like it was for Paul:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.
And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Galatians 5:1-15)