Studying the Torah to Move Beyond my Calvinist Divide?

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted anything much less done anything to move beyond my “Calvinist Divide”. To be honest, nothing has really changed. I’ve done precious little to resolve my faith conflicts. Perhaps I’ve been on an unintended sabbatical. I wish I had something to share, something to show – but I don’t. Recently, however, a friend suggested I put some time and effort into the Torah. My first thought was, “Oh please! Why waste my time learning about Jewish doctrine et al? I’m under grace and not the law and as such, what’s the point of delving into the Old Testament?”

Nevertheless, perhaps there is something to be said at looking at the root of Christianity – which I do believe is founded in the Old Testament. Of course, I look at the Old Testament as “Latin” – and why do I need that when I’m fluent in English – and even have Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary when I come across a word I don’t know? In any event, I’m intrigued by the gentleness and confidence of my friend and think that just maybe there is indeed something to the study of The Torah for a Christian. So, we’ll see.

Below is an email I sent to the reference I was given. 

Dear _____,

A friend has referred me to you saying that “[you have] taught us through the Torah study to look at scripture through the lens of our God being good and for life. With that lens you read every thing from a new perspective. The Torah study also gave new depth to the new testament when you realized that [the] Torah was the root and base that the new was grafted into.”

I’m one who’s struggled for years trying to understand the nature and character of God and how he relates to us as his creation. The center of my struggle, at least so far as I can determine, is what I call the Calvinist divide. It wasn’t all that long ago that I ran headlong into Calvinist doctrine through my son-in-law. Shortly thereafter I lost all sense of an assurance of salvation. Suffice it to say that I believe Christ paid for my sin on the cross. However, I couldn’t determine whether or not I was one of the “elect” or whether I had come to this understanding of my own accord. And, this Calvinist divide not only affects my assurance of salvation, it also affects who I perceive God to be and how he interacts with his creation. 

Perhaps I’m too logical and pragmatic to live a life of faith. I’ve always thought of scripture as, if you’ll permit me, sort of a “periodic table”. That is, I can know various things i.e. the number of electrons in a valence band, the mass of an atom, etc. Yet, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to know the truth about God through scripture. Perhaps the books on my shelf testify to that: Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, Four Views on Divine Providence, Debating Calvinism (Hunt & White), Across the Spectrum, and my two favorites for book (and author) bashing – Is God Really in Control? (Bridges) // Is God to Blame? (Boyd)

Honestly, what am I to believe when opposing perspectives are (at least to me) convincingly presented – using the same scripture references? To me, it shouldn’t be difficult for people of average intelligence through their own study of scripture to come to the same conclusions regarding matters of faith. We all work from the same text, don’t we? Or, so I think we all work from the same text. How is it if people with a PhD in theology (i.e. John Piper and Greg Boyd) can’t agree on matters of faith, how am I ever to know what is the truth – unless, of course, I simply “choose” what tenants or facets of faith I want to agree with and leave it at that? 

In any event, I have never spent any time in the Old Testament, in part, because I don’t really think it applies to us. We’re no longer under the law. Instead, we live under grace. Or so I’ve been taught and so I believe. Gee, I guess I’m guilty of “choosing” what I will believe. That said, perhaps there is something to the study of scripture through the lens of the Torah and any thoughts you have or references you could provide would be appreciated.




Author: Bob

I’m an upper Midwestern guy who has recently entered the "Buick stage" of life and decided to migrate to Florida. This blog is an attempt to rectify discordant aspects within my Christian faith ... or what often feels like my lack of Christian faith. Things which make life more enjoyable include strong black coffee, charcoal grilling anytime of the year, putz'ing at a table saw, playing chess, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA. Please feel free to poke around and comment as you wish. I welcome discussion and the insights of others.

7 thoughts on “Studying the Torah to Move Beyond my Calvinist Divide?”

  1. Bob,

    Decided I would return the favor and check in at your blog. With respect to the OT, it is a wealth of wisdom even where the issue of calvinism is concerned, at least as I see it. To me there is absolutely no picture of total depravity there… none… and as I have read, there is no concept of total depravity in Jewish thought. I find that especially interesting.

    To me the telling OT characteristic of God is summed up in the following statement, I want to be your God and I want you to be My people. God establishes a covenant with Abraham; His covenant is contengent on Abraham’s response and resultant obedience. Abraham had a choice to make and the ramifcations of his choice had everything to do with God’s response to him. IN fact, I believe the very evening Abraham went to bed with Sarah’s concubine Hagar, was the very night God was ready to give Abraham his son of promise; but because he went to bed with Hagar, ishmael was born instead of Issac and it took another 10 years for God to give Abraham the promised son.

    The beauty of the Scriptures can be seen in the consistency from Genesis to Revelation but it does take time and effort to connect the dots and see the beauty.

    One other thing… John 3:16 means exactly what it says… Jesus died for the sins of ANYONE who would believe in Him and His grace is available to all who would place THEIR faith in Him!


    1. Bob – Thanks for your response. Sometimes, it seems, as though the simplest of answers are right in front of us but because of ignorance or preconceived perceptions and beliefs we cant, as it were, see the forest through the trees. I had not before thought that the covenant God made with Abraham was contingent on Abraham’s response and therefore things could have “worked out” quite differently. Sounds like free-will is evidenced here and that choices were present for Abraham make and not so much the deterministic perspective I sense from Calvinists.

      1. I believe God gave us the choice to choose. We had no choice in the matter. Additionally, God not only gave us the choice to choose, He did not give us the choice to choose the consequences of our choices. He reserved that for Himself as well. God in His sovereignty chose to make us sovereign over our own choices so that He could make provisions for those who chose to choose Him! Just had glory bumps come over me!


  2. i wonder if some of this is still the lingering heresy of marcion.

    marcion taught that the OT “god” was mean and violent, while the NT God was loving. a hot mess.

    OTOH, i completely agree with the worth of the OT. Jesus repeated a lot from the OT – “love the LORD your God and…serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” is from Deut11…”love your neighbor as yourself” is Leviticus19:18. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the OT, remember (Matt5:17). 2tim3:16 includes the OT…it’s a valuable study.

    i do have to say that this is complete nonsense, though: “His covenant is contengent on Abraham’s response and resultant obedience.”

    when a king made a covenant with a vassal in abraham’s day, they would make promises and seal the deal by cutting apart animals and walking between the pieces together, in effect each one saying “if i fail to keep my promises, may i be torn apart like these animals.”

    Gen15:10 Abram brought [a heifer, a goat and a ram] to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other…12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him…17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…”

    God’s covenant with abraham was one of grace. God made abraham rest as God alone walked through the dead animals, saying “…and if you fail to keep your end of the deal, abraham, may I be torn and die like these animals.”

    the OT believers weren’t saved by works, they were saved by grace through faith (Heb11).

    David the adulterer and murderer wasn’t saved by works – as the psalm says:

    Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

    Moses the murderer wasn’t saved by works – the bible says he was a Christian, saved by faith.

    Heb11:24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt…

    Gal3:29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    Eph2:12 remember that at that time you [as a non-hebrew] were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ…19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

    if you are a christian, then abraham must be your “father” (Rom4:11)…you have “latin” roots. maybe you should investigate…

    (still won’t help with the calvinism thing, though. ask jonah how that whole “freedom to make choosey choices”-thing worked out for him… ;-) )

    1. that under Calvinists, Christ’s death is only hypothetically and not aaulctly sufficient for all. It’s not like based on what Christ aaulctly did, He can save the reprobate. TJ: How do you view the old testament concept of “atonement” (particularly, what do you make of the consistent statements in the old testament, that whenever the priest made an atonement for something, that thing “shall be forgiven.”? I assume that you would agree that the old testament atonements were types and shadows of the perfect atonement that was Christ. If the old testament atonements certainly resulted in forgiveness… how is it that Christ’s atonement does not certainly result in forgiveness?)Based on passages like:Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.and this:Romans 3:21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believeMy view is that the sacrifices themselves did not bring about forgiveness, but rather OT saints were justified by grace through faith. Did they understand it all? No. But they did have faith:Hebrews 11:13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. But we still have expression in the OT that if an atonement is made the sin will be forgiven. So I would explain them as those who truly repented of their sin and had faith in God’s promises were forgiven. They were not forgiven by the sacrifices, but what the sacrifices represented. On the other hand, those who offered sacrifices but remain unrepentant, God did not forgive.Leviticus 26:27 ” ‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29 You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.Christ’s offering is what the Levitical sacrifices represented, so it works much the same way. Those that believe are forgiven, those that don’t are not.God bless,Dan

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