Ai yi yi--these last weeks have been a tempest of debate, discussion, and determination to be RIGHT. And for once, I haven't been on one side or the other (well, mostly.) My World Lit class has had a excellent adventure through Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Wilder wrote the book as he struggled with th will of God and the love of God. How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to seemingly good people? Are people predestined for suffering or does God allow it for an unseen purpose or as a test of faith? They are familiar questions almost 100 years after the book won a Pulitzer Prize. And the answers are just as unclear.
Of course, this was a perfect opportunity to teach these 15-16 year olds about Joseph Arminius and John Calvin---and the two opposing schools of thought named for them. As we talked, we found that the class had a couple of "hard core" Calvinists and a couple of equally adamant Arminians. The rest of the class settled in the middle---liking the security of salvation Calvinism teaches, but the free will expressed by Arminians. Socrates would have enjoyed the energetic discussions of the class, and my job as facilitator of learning was made easier by these kids who took on the challenges of the material with wisdom beyond their years. But it was exhausting! In the end, we had to agree that both Calvinists and Arminians are Biblical in their views, and that God, being sovereign and outside of time and space, can both pre-determine and allow free will. We don't have to understand it. As long as we, as believers, are unified on the essentials of the faith (deity of Christ, literal death for sin, literal resurrection for glory, impending return to reign), then we don't have to agree about the rest. (In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity. Attributed to Augustine, but probably much older.)
The emotional fatigue certainly had an effect on me as I interacted with some adults who want to be RIGHT at any cost. Normally I can smile and nod ("bless your heart") but this week, the relentless corrections got to me and drove me to tears. Of course, the inciting event ended quickly and relationship restored within hours; it still affected my demeanor for a bit.
World events, from teacher protests in Wisconsin to chaotic revolutions throughout the Middle East (nothing new, but fiery this week) just added to my view of the world as a place where no one really wants peace, but wants only to be RIGHT--and won't be satisfied until everyone agrees. No one will admit to being wrong, and no one is willing to back down or, heaven forbid, compromise on the non-essentials. What a selfish world. Years ago Coca Cola wanted to buy the world a Coke to promote harmony. I don't think a carbonated beverage has that kind of power, but music certainly does.
If believers of different perspectives on the methods of salvation can join together and sing in unity to worship the Holy God, is it too much to ask of the rest of the world to look at the essentials of every conflict and then just shut up and sing? What a lovely thing it would be....