For a period, I regretted my wife’s involvement with a hyper-Calvinist para-church organization on the basis that their (over) emphasis on sin was excessive and even potentially harmful. *Disclaimer: my wife is on the board of said organization and I’m happy that we generously give to it since it’s doing great gospel work regardless of some differences I have with its theology.* This isn’t a post about the merits or liabilities of Calvinism, but I’ll just say it plainly: I’m not a hyper-Calvinist or a new or neo-Calvinist. I’ve wrestled that angel, and come out with a limp but can’t buy it 100%. So back to my wife’s involvement with this Calvinist leaning discipleship movement primarily for women: they talked about sin A LOT. They talked primarily about personal sin and accountability and confession. They did this weekly.
A pastor friend who was less than Calvinist cautioned against such an emphasis on personal sin among other things. He pulled his wife out of the study. Anyway, we had several great talks about Bible interpretation, and he opened my eyes to the fact that the Bible can’t be taken literally. It can be (and is) proclaimed and valued as “literal” in many quarters, but never practiced literally in ANY quarters.
But I have to say that, though his counsel was quite solid in terms of neo-Calvinism’s pitfalls, his (over) reaction to sin reflection might have been unwise. Granted, personal sin reflection can result in narcissism, corporate/systemic sin reflection tends to be under-utilized in the life of faith, particularly in the more conservative contexts from which I hail.
Wrapping up a season of teaching through Hosea, it becomes obvious that corporate sin was and is a major impediment to covenantal faithfulness for the people of God. We need to be reminded of and challenged about our sins, both corporate & individual. It’s interesting that one of my co-leaders in teaching through Hosea said a few weeks ago when we still had about 5 chapters left to go, “Let’s just finish it (quickly).” That is the general consensus when it comes to repentance, mourning, sin reflection, sadness, etc….let’s just move past it. Let’s get to the good news. “REMEMBER THE RESURRECTION!” All this sounds good and positive and even “Christian”, but Hosea’s in no hurry to give us the good news. Perhaps he knows that when we have such a void in how Yahweh prescribes that we live vs. how we’re living, he knows we need the slow-roast more than the microwave. There’s an automatic response from the community of faith to move quickly to instantaneous healing rather than doing the hard but necessary work of death and repentance.
This has to do with our gospel presentation and what is expected of our church members. It seems what’s been presented has been largely inadequate.