Although I have never been one drawn to Calvinism or the Reformed tradition, I know people who are and since I love memoirs, I though it would help me better understand their journeys to read this book. I really like Fischer's honest account of his journey into and out of Calvinism. It is a strong testament to the power of faith and the reality that faith and certainty are not the same thing at all. In fact, they are closer to being opposites.
Lots to think about in this one. I think those who love the Calvinist and reformed tradition will find Fischer to be kind and honest in his story, but certainly not exclusionary of those who come to different conclusions.
Interestingly, last year at about this same time I read the memoir of a woman finding her way INTO Calvinism. You can find it at the link below.
Fischer’s story gave me two important thoughts that I will carry forward in my own spiritual quest.
There is no way to find a theology that doesn’t leave you with questions and wondering.
The theology you choose to guide your life will change you, so choose wisely.
In the end Fischer chooses to leave Calvinism, not because he thinks that Calvinist thought has no merits, but because he realizes that he was drawn to it based on a feeling of certainty that he no longer had. While other theology he explored also lacked certainty; he has found that for him this lack of certainty provided a healthier spiritual path to God.
Fischer also talks about the irresistible pull that the certainty of Calvinism seemed to offer him. As I read it, it reminded me of both my experience reading Butterfield’s book last year and of my experience as a high schooler being taught about Mormonism by our neighbors. There is something emotionally powerful about being taught/shepherded by someone who is very certain of what they understand and believe. There is something in that really makes you want to get wrapped up in that certainty and live there. For some reason, some people are able to live quite comfortably in that experience while others of us must continue to question ourselves deeper into uncertainty. But for me this going deeper into uncertainty has, in a paradoxical way, brought me closer to God. When I wrote my review of Butterfield’s book I wondered aloud if her jump from one set of certainties to another was going to be enough for her. I still wonder about that - especially as I read Fischer’s book and the way Calvinism crumbled under the weight of his questions.
I do really wish that Fischer’s book also contained some element of his experiences in community worship, study and service. His shared journey both into and out of Calvinism seemed limited to the head - not the heart and hands. I doubt this was all, but I guess it was the part that felt most important to share since it was a story of moving from certainty to faith and trust.
I really liked Fischer’s work to demonstrate that it is not humanist to use our human understanding to make sense of theology. That it isn’t wrong to think our sense of justice can align with God’s. He very aptly demonstrates that if we discount our own understandings as being completely irrelevant next to God, then we are basically saying we should not study the Bible at all because we are probably not able to really understand any of it anyway. I can’t really do justice to the point, but he basically shows the circular thinking and logic that is used by many who want to push certainty. Great food for thought.
I recommend Fischer’s book to anyone with an interest in theology, even if it is not in Calvinism per se. He has a lot to say about the spiritual journey and what it means to be thoughtful and careful about what you believe and how you live.