Monday, July 02, 2007

The Theology of My T-Shirt: A Little Laugh While Looking Through the Glass Darkly

My favorite t-shirt sports a message on the front and another on the back (see above). In fact, I like it so much that my wardrobe includes two of them! After people do a double-take, if they know any theology, it produces at least a smile of recognition.

Yes, we DO see through a glass darkly. Regardless of whether we identify more with the Calvinists or the Arminians, we must all admit that our clarity of vision has been obscured by sin, historical distance, the problem of particularity, and a host of other impediments to spiritual and intellectual occular clarity.

Calvinists are famous for their Jesuit-like logic, as penetrating as it is relentless. Whole libraries have been written on why post-Reformation scholasticism took Calvin into cul-de-sacs unintended by the Magisterial Reformer. Similarly, Arminians probably do not believe much of what Jacob Harmenszoon (aka Jacobus Arminius) was getting at either.

So, asking the question, "Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?" might be about as useful at times as asking whether you have quit beating your wife. I confess that the themes of Calvin regarding the glorious sovereignty of God, the total inability of humankind, the triumph of grace, and the promise of perseverance speak to me more deeply and with greater evocative power than the words of my Arminian sisters and brothers. Maybe it's just me. But, in the dark night of the soul, I want a God who is sovereign, sure-footed, and who never slumbers walking by my side through the fearsome uncertainties of life.

During seminary one of my profs told the story of a time in his pastorate when a widow looked up into his eyes at the graveside and cried, "Why?" His answer? "God is standing here beside us now and he's wondering the same thing."

And, while it does not impact the epistemology or the hermeneutics of the matter, I wanted to shout: NO THANKS! An image of a deity so constrained and limited that he neither knows the future nor can guarantee that his plans will reach fruition does nothing for us in our deepest need.

When suffering a family crisis a couple of years ago, my heart was so overwhelmed with inconsolable pain that I participated in three "at-fault" automobile accidents within a one month period (how would you like to be my insurance agent?). What finally gave me comfort was not a self-help book of five easy steps to overcoming depression, nor a meditation that God was busy figuring out how my free choices were going to impact his ultimate will. Rather, my soul revived while listening to a fifteen part MP3 series on the Providence of God by R.C. Sproul. Only by focusing on God and his sovereign will was I able to return to a semblance of normalcy again.

So, while my shirt sports the Arminian message on the back, it is the Calvinist affirmation on the front that keeps me moving forward.

1 comment:

revdrron said...


Thanks for the post!

I noticed that your t-shirt is offensive. A purely frontal attack! In other words, from an explicitly linear design, it only works going forward. Unless, of course, you have the shirt on backwards. You do the theology!

enjoy, ron

PS. I would almost certainly wear the t-shirt inside out!

“Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.” - John Calvin