Calvinism is a Protestant theological system based on the writings of John Calvin (1509 – 1564), a Protestant Reformer most famously associated with Geneva. Calvin was brilliant, harsh and very persuasive.
Calvinism almost killed my faith in Jesus.
Like all good heresies, Calvinism is an intellectually coherent theological system that ultimately destroys the heart of Christianity. It starts with a true premise, namely that God is sovereign and all-powerful. It then makes this the controlling principle for everything.
If God is all-powerful, then He decides who is and isn’t saved. God chooses who to save (“the elect”) and loves them. He also chooses who not to save (“the reprobate”) and He hates them because they are sinners. In all His actions, God is glorified because His will is done — both to the elect and the reprobate. Simple, right?
As an evangelical, I was a kind of Calvinist. I accepted the premise that God’s sovereign will was The Most Important Thing. I refused to believe that God didn’t love all people and desire all people to be saved — but I had no idea how to square that with the sovereignty of God. I felt a constant conflict between what I saw as the love and the strength of God.
If God is strong enough to save all but doesn’t, how can He love all?
If God loves all enough to save them but doesn’t, how can He be strong?
Forced by intransigent logic, I kept edging closer and closer to being a full-on Calvinist. I felt like I had little choice if I wanted to be theologically consistent. I couldn’t deny the omnipotence of God because then He wouldn’t be God. So what else could I do?
On the cusp of embracing it all, however, I realised that I’d turned God into something far worse than a weakling. I’d turned Him into a tyrant. When I saw the inevitable outcome of such logic, I was horrified. I was confused and angry. How could I possibly believe that God would will some to hell? That He would create human beings only for the purpose of damning them and all this in order to bring Him glory?
Amid all the Calvinist theology I’d been taught, I’d also learnt much that was true and good. One of those truths saved me: Jesus is the revelation of God. I prayed, begging the Holy Spirit to reveal the real Jesus to me all over again.
That’s when I discovered the Catholic devotion to the Sacred Heart.
I realised that if I wanted to know God’s will, I had to know God’s heart. I had to know the Heart of Jesus, true God incarnate by the Spirit. As I prayed, “O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in thee”, I read the gospels in a new light. It was the same light that had burst into my life with that first conversion to Christ.
All over again, I met the Jesus who loved and sought all people.
Burdened by their sin, He invited all to follow Him. Christ had such compassion on people. His Heart was moved with love and sorrow for the lost. Because of His love, Christ warned people about sin and rebuked many — but He never turned away from those who turned to Him. He came into the world not to condemn the world but to save it through His love.
His love led Him to the Cross. There, He suffered and was killed, the words “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” on His lips. (Luke 23:34) His Heart was pierced and out came blood and water, blood for atonement and water for new life in the Spirit.
He rose again and ascended into glory. By His Spirit, He is still loving all and calling all to come unto Him: for He is gentle and humble of heart.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus changed my focus just when I so desperately needed it. By fixing my eyes on His Heart, my eyes are on Him and on His love.
This is a love I am coming to know more and more deeply as He washes away my tears and infuses His love-filled grace into my own heart.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart points us to Jesus as he reveals Himself, not as we make Him out to be. It invites us to see Christ as a true reflection of the Heart of God, the God who is Love, and who wills the salvation of all.