"What the Heart loves, the Will chooses, and the Mind justifies"- Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
This post will be part biographical and part dogmatic.
Most of my life I highly valued my will and my struggle to be (and remain) incorruptible. There was something that warmed me about Robespierre being nicknamed such. I high valued the stoics Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius for their candid rejection of worldly pomp for the inner-solitude of being right and refusing to be touched by emotion. I was a vain pagan who will-worshiped.
Yet, having become a Christian and reading the Scriptures and many who followed them, I began to struggle with the remnants of my stoicism. Now, granted, Stoicism teaches a compatibility of the will with an already mapped Destiny. As one philosopher put it, "you can follow Fate, or be dragged by her". But I resisted this. I wanted to retain my emphasis on my free-will, unfettered and strong. Christ the Lord is many times merciful in when certain truths seize the mind.
But eventually I cracked as the question "how did I get here?" I could not reconcile the turns and twists of my past with the choices I made. I battled the logic of any kind of 'predestination', but it was futile. I squirmed as God placed this before me, haunting me with the implications. I tried to be an Arminian, I tried to be a Molinist, I tried to do some sort of bamboozled calculus. None of it could get around God as initiator. I was confronted with the simple scene from the Gospel where Christ merely says to Matthew, "Follow Me", and Matthew up and left his booth.
I was still up in the air. My only exposure with predestination was within the world of the Reformation. I was mostly disgusted with Calvin and his offspring. I had accepted their point of contention, that grace alone saved, it was the single-handed work of God from On High who condescended to those below. But it had ruthless implications that I struggled to come to terms with. I was merely exposed to bare-bones decretal theology and the arid rationalism that came with it.
I was aided in this quest by two things: a rejection of rationalism in a more dynamic redemptive-history, and a 'Barthian' redefinition of election. But these both really only spun me in circles. Redemptive-History is a must for approaching the Scriptures, and Barth is a titan, but neither helped me deeply understand predestination.
It took the old African bishop, st. Augustine, to strike me in the deep. I became a predestinarian when I saw Augustine's explication of God's love. The overwhelming love of God, the grace offered and incarnated as Jesus Christ, is what defined and undergirded my election and, despite the appearance, affirmed my freedom. I was freed in my being called. I was in chains and had to be set loose. The initial nagging was both realized and completed. I had wandered through life into Christ's arms, but only at His beckoning.
Now, I understand that the presentations of Reformed theology may seem lopped sided. It is. But I am merely articulating the presentations I received, and this is important. It took Augustine, the theologian of love, to channel the passion and flames and confidence in such a doctrine. He was the one who provided the ideas to retool my imagination. The Holy Spirit used this saint's writings to turn my head upside down.
But here is why I would affirm being an Augustinian without necessarily proceeding to call myself a Calvinist on this issue. Augustine maintained a physicality in his writings, a deep sacramentality in the life of the Church. What I am saying is that Augustine's battles with his own Manichaean learning led him to affirming a Church that existed in material form, not according to magik, but in mystery. Augustine was able to maintain aesthetics in the life of the Church.
Aesthetics becomes a dangerous area to tread. I have since renounced my Puritan instincts, but the initial suspicion is not unwarranted. How are we to know if we are worshiping at God's Temple or at the High Places? I will write on this later, but the answer is that being able to affirm the Beauty of the Creation, especially embedded in the worship of the Church, is not evil but good and necessary.
Thus, thinking about beauty and enrapture is the only way to approach predestination and the call of God. We do not know why the Apostle Matthew got up to follow Jesus. But perhaps, as the crowds were, he was touched by the Holy Spirit. As they were moved to grief, overcome with the glory they had suppressed, perhaps Matthew was moved by joy. He saw a touch of the glory, the glory that exuded from His robe to heal the bleeding woman, the glory which Peter saw on the mount of Transfiguration.
Predestination, the election of the person into Christ, is irresistible. But it is irresistible like a beautiful artwork. It is irresistible like the smell of a delicious meal. It is irresistible like a warm embrace. This beauty is the defining feature of such a call. Salvation comes by our "doors" being covered by the "blood of the Lamb". But such a process touches all parts of us.