Sunday, June 12, 2016

If I'm Calvinist is God Hobbes?

John Calvin 1509-1564 displaying the classic
"L" is for Luthers symbol commonly used by Calvinists
mostly because it made Luther mad.  In America
the symbolism has evolved into men bearing
large foam fingers preaching a degenerate form of the faith
in crowded gladiator arenas on Sunday afternoons.  It
replaced the pagan giant foam thumb used by
the Flavian emperors to speed up the pace of play
in ancient Rome.

This is Part 1 of who knows how many parts.   Here is:  Part 2:  The 'You're not the Pope of me' doctrinal kerfuffle  and Part 3:  Leviathan or what happens when you pick on Tommy Hobbes.  And if you find this weird you may also want to be weirded out by my 'unique' (my Pastor's words) take on God in God 1.0.

I'm Presbyterian which means that I am Protestant, 'Reformed' (my ex says 'ha ha') and subscribe (while ignoring the increasingly strident renewal notices) to the Calvinist view of Christianity. It is a point of pride among Presbyterians that we can take almost an entire paragraph to introduce our religious credentials and that's even before we get to what type Presbyterian we are. For others field identification is simpler: Baptists say they're 'saved' and 'praise the Lord' a lot, Episcopalians don't talk about God but mix a mean sacramental Martini, Pentecostals jibberjabber and serious Catholics have lots of kids. Unless you're in Utah, then they're Mormons. Atheists are by far the easiest to ID: they tend to stand alone in the corner with a sour, resentful look. Getting stuck in a conversation with a militant Atheist can drive you to sacramental Episcopalianism.

To be a Calvinist  you have to believe in Tulips, no, not the flower and most definitely not Mick Jagger, although the Rolling Stones do give off a rather Hobbesian aura.  No, I'm talking about T.U.L.I.P. which any buck-Deacon in a one horse Presbyterian church knows stands for: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints - TULIP which of course was thought up in Holland where every damn business, house or idea had to have that stupid flower in it's name.  But Calvin was French and would have described it as: dépravation totale, l'élection inconditionnelle, l'expiation limitée, grâce irrésistible, et la persévérance des saints which would be DEEGP which makes no sense so be glad that TULIP won out.  Indeed John Calvin would be Jean but for the theologians of the 17th century who thought they'd get made fun of if they studied books with a girl's name or for that matter with a French guy's name.  Branding is everything.

I guess before I go any further I should lay out my credentials for opining on Calvinist Hobbesianism:  I am what is known as a 'Dozing' Presbyterian.  There are three types of Presbyterians: Nosey, Posey and Dozy.  Nosey Presbyterians know their Bible, they tend to be preachers, teachers and older women and definitely know the difference between Calvin's Institutes and Confucius' Analects (hey anyone could make that mistake).  If you want to know what's going on in the church or anything for that matter, talk to the Noseys - they'll tell you.  And tell you and tell you.  By contrast Poseys tend to be Deacons and Elders, particularly ones that got there via the 'fast track' of ushering.  They generally look pretty impressive, having the command presence needed to shoehorn a 5 person family into a 4 person spot.  But ask them a question about faith or truth or God and they get that blank, deacon in the headlights look and their hands instinctively clutch for the stack of programs that isn't there.  But if you want to get in and out of the building quick or get money with no probing, thoughtful questions asked, the Posey Presbyterian is your man - and in the more liberal denominations your woman too. But I'm a Dozy.  We're the foot soldiers of Presbyterianism, it's Bible fodder, if you will.  Dozys can always be identified after Sunday service by the broad, reddish mark  made by resting our foreheads reverentially against the pew in front of us.  We have developed our knowledge of theology via osmosis, or more accurately dozemosis.  We make outstanding early childhood Sunday school teachers because our childlike ignorance allows us to relate to the little ones at their level.  "Yes Kaitlin, I know that when you sing Jesus Loves Me He loves you and when Connor sings it He loves Connor but I'm here to tell you that when I sing it He loves me more because I'm bigger. That's just the way He is!"

Well anyway, back to the deep thinking.  As I understand it, or in reality, probably dreamt it, a key principle in Calvinism is the Sovereignty of God or SOG.  SOG is the idea that God is really God.  Get it?  He's not your invisible buddy, your copilot, your shrink or that pious pal who runs errands for you, he's the actual freaking God, the Big Numero Uno, The Creator of the Universe who judges the quick and the dead and if you're not quick about it, He'll darn sure make you dead.  Imagine your toughest boss crossed with Santa Claus - no not the "Ho Ho Ho" part, the "he knows when you've been bad or good part".  Have that in your head?  OK? Now imagine just how many days (hours) it would have taken him before he would have fired (or called the cops on) your ass.  That many?  Remember he knows when you've been lying too, that's more like it.  That's the kind of God we've got.  You see under SOG, God calls all the shots.  Even before the pool table's been built - He knows when you've been sleeping and knows when you're awake before you've been born.  And to say that He has a 'plan' for your life is like saying that my advice to President Kennedy to buy more life insurance after I had seen his assassination and then traveled back in time to be his insurance agent was just a 'lucky guess'.  SOG is that intense.

Thomas "Tommy" Hobbes on the first 
edition of his Big Book of Leviathan.
Hobbes is represented as the giant
King at the top.  This image is 
considered to be the earliest example
of a "Selfie" extant.  It will not surprise you
that Hobbes was generally considered by
those who knew him to be a 'pompous ass'.

Which is why I suppose it bugged the Pope so much.  After all, if you're the Pope you're supposed to be the 'Vicar' of Christ, meaning His representative here on Earth.  And while you are perfectly happy to have God be a hard ass the better to keep the faithless but fearful in line - you're pretty sure you don't have the chops to channel the Santa Claus role and frankly as God's Number 2, you'd like just a little more autonomy to run your own shop thank you very much.  I mean how can you really be the 'man with the plan' when everyone knows that God is already a few billion  years ahead of you.  Which is why Jean became John and got a Swiss passport: the Pope was that pissed.

It occurs to me that it's dinner time.  And while I would never, ever sacrifice my commitment to The Truth for carnal pursuits it's just that we're having steak.  Besides I think this piece probably needs some serious quality control which is why it is called Part 1:  Provisionally Speculative Edition. To whet your appetite, I mean if the steak mention didn't do it, I've included an image of Hobbes' Leviathan to give you a sense of just how Hobbesian my world is going to get.  For what it's worth, here's Part 2:  The "You're not the Pope of me" doctrinal kerfuffle.

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