Confessions of a Recovering Neo-reformist

20130130-061926.jpgOn the way to school this morning, Isaac declared with the certainty of an eight year old, “I need insurance, Dad.”

“Don’t we all,” I remarked and followed with, ” but why wouldyou need insurance?” He thought he could use a bit of coverage for his bicycle, he said, because what if he were to run over one of his brothers, or slam into the side of a parked car, or what if his bike were stolen by robbers in black masks? What if the bike rusted through, or the chain broke, or the breaks up-and-quit working?

“Good points, son,” I assured him before explaining that there was health insurance for his brothers, home-owners insurance for the robbers, and for everything else, there’s the umbrella. “Oh, good,” he said, and then followed with, “you’re just trying to keep from worrying, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” I confessed. “And that’s the precise reason for insurance,” I said as he hopped from the car. But as I pulled from the drop-off line, the conversation lingered–I need insurance; don’t we all.

Last night I sat on the front porch with a friend, a couple of guitars, a couple of drinks, and a load full of tertiary pleasantries. After the obligatory small talk and a bit of a strumming, my friend confessed, “I know that ‘for God so loved the world,’ and all, but what if he doesn’t like me?” Sure, he knew right answers, could hang his hat on his intellectual understanding of the Word–sola scriptura! There’s sovereignty, and depravity, and election, of course. “But what about me?” he asked.

“If God likes me even a little, couldn’t he keep me from sinning? And if God doesn’t keep me from sinning, then how can I be sure that I’m elect? How can I be sure that I’m not the bearer of God’s wrath like Esau, or that God hasn’t hardened my heart like Pharoah?” he said. These are our mental gymnastics, the inner-workings of the neo-reformists. These exercises keep us awake at night, elevate our heart rates beyond the resting norm, give us lucid dreams of dangling precariously from the hands of a capricious superintendent. Yes, we too cherry-pick verses; but secretly, and in an moment of terrifying honesty, we might confess that we sometimes fear the scriptures of our reformed faith.

What if you’re not chosen for the spectacular life? What if you were not predestined for grand works, or even gainful employment? What if your marriage crumbles, or your beloved son dies? What if you can’t lick sin? What if things don’t just kind of work out? Then what? What does it mean about God, about you? What does it mean about insurance, or assurance, or some other non-assonative theological principal?

These are real questions, from real friends, and over the years, I’ve heard them gurgling to the surface of their reformed melt-downs. Melt-downs to which I’m also prone. And really, there are no good answers for the questions, except maybe to pray a little more recklessly, offer the occasional apology, and perhaps wrap a bit of Brennan Manning in some festive paper and slide it across the table to the road-weary five-pointer (and as my friend John Ray says, “add in a strong dose of Nouwen for the vitamins.”).

Yes, sometimes I think we all just need a little more insurance, a little more comfort in the covering. I’m certain that we need a little more peace and a much larger measure of joy. But the truth is, we don’t do peace well. We never really have. And joy? Sometimes we relegate that stuff to the coming morning.

These are the confessions of a recovering neo-reformist.

Photo by paukrus, via Creative Commons.

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9 Responses to Confessions of a Recovering Neo-reformist

  1. Jessica Y says:

    Sovereignty scares me and I rest in it too.

  2. I like that you wrote this out. It’s refreshing to hear someone admit how unsettling it all is.

    • sethhaines says:

      I think it’s unsettling that we’ve lost the language of doubt, like we’ve somehow climbed the hill, figured it out, and put it all behind us. There are days that may feel that way, but there are others that don’t. I want to be honest about that.

      Thanks for coming Joy. It’s always good to see you ’round here.

  3. So interesting to hear this, Seth. I have not been Reformed in my theology (can you tell? *wink*) and I am still so baffled by some of these things. Love to learn from you. I respect you.

    • sethhaines says:

      Thank you, Sarah. The Haines family is particularly grateful for the way you approach these things.

      Today I texted a friend–the afore-mentioned John Ray. I told him that the more I saw the extremes play out, the more I see folks who seem to be frozen. And I’m not talking about cold-hearted Puritan-song-only kind of frozen… I’m talking, can’t breathe, can’t move, wonder if God ever really loved *me*, super depressed kind of frozen. As John might have said, when you elevate any theological ideology other than the birth, the cross, the resurrection, and sanctification thereby, you run the risk of getting mired into these mind games.

      I’m sure someone will disagree with me, or John (who somewhat shares your non-Reformed theology), or you, or Brian, yada… yada… But I just wish we’d all get to the point where we’d talk about the beauty and doubt that each theological camp brings to the table. Maybe then we’d start making a bit of progress.

  4. hisfirefly says:

    and so I seek rest that I rarely find because that doubting self rises up… even as I know that I know that I know…
    also feasting on a diet of Manning and Nouwen here with a sprinkle of Haines

    • sethhaines says:

      If only we could put the doubting self to death. But there was good in the Thomasesque questions. Maybe I’ll write about that one day.

      Thanks for stopping in here. Really and truly.

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