(continued from the comments box in the previous post)
My good friend Kathryn writes:
I consider myself a "4 Point Calvinist"... .(accepting all the doctrines below except for "Limited Atonement")
1. T ~ Total Depravity of Man (effect of the fall)
Calvinism - Total Depravity of Man
2. U ~ Unconditional election (God's choice to save some but not all from the effects of the fall)
Calvinism - Unconditional Election
3. L ~ Limited Atonement (Christ died for only the elect that God chooses to save)
Calvinism - Limited Atonement
4. I ~Irrestisitble Grace (Grace given to the elect to receive salvation which is effectual and irresistible)
Calvinism - Irresistible Grace
5. P ~ Perseverance of the Saints (the ability of the saints to persevere in saving grace)
Calvinism - Perseverance of the Saints
I must confess, reading the theology links she sent me to explain these doctrines gave me a major headache. Even though it is in English, it is still a foreign language, a specialized use of terminology, and I don't quite understand what is being taught. Nor do I see the Biblical connections, nor even how the oral and written tradition from the time of the Reformation quite connects all these doctrines to the desires of Christ for His people.
Patty Bonds (sister of Protestant evangelist James White) has written a bit about how there is a cultural and language divide between Protestant and Catholic Christians - where we both use the same word to mean very different things.
Maybe that is part of what I don't get - I don't speak Calvinist. Although I was raised Protestant, I was raised High Church Anglican, and on my journey home, I wandered through Baptist and Pentecostal Christianity, and flirted with Orthodox (Chasidic) Judaism. I didn't study Calvin, I only read a little Luther,knew of Zwingli only from references to his government of Zurich in the novel Hawaii. While I loved the liturgical language of Cranmer, I found his theology more of an apologetic for Henry VII and Elizabeth I that for Christianity.
The theological problem I have with Calvinism is that, to my eyes and ears, it seems to deny God's gift to us of free will. I would appreciate anyone who might be able to offer me more insight on this. I have other issues, as well. But free will is the most important one. I also sense some common ground with Manicheism and Donatism in Calvinism, but it could also be my misunderstanding of the language of his theology. I am willing to listen to commentary. I also have a question. Is the common understanding of "Perserverance of the Saints" translate into "Once saved, always saved'?
I am reading a book right now on the history of heresies through the ages (Dissent from the Creed by Richard Hogan. One observation that the book makes is that dogmas are promulgated usually in response to a heresy of some kind that questions an accepted but inarticulated item of faith. It makes for some very interesting reading. I have only gotten to the 700s and Iconoclasm so far, and I have had to repeatedly resist the temptation to skip ahead to the present times. I'll try to put up a book review when I'm finished with it - put so far so good. Not a fast read, by any stretch. Very dense and meaty.
I am also going to try to take some time and go through the Catechism to investigate the entirety of the Church's teachings on Salvation. I worry about taking bits out of context, whether those bits be scripture or tradition. I'm not sure where I will find the time, but I sense that this is important.
Thanks again for all the prayers. Please pray not only for me, but for Kathryn and for all those who seek the truth that Jesus promised when He told Peter (and all of us) "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light" (John 14:6)
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Calvin
further addendum (pulled from the comments box)
Jimmy Akin on TULIP