I grew up in the Presbyterian church. Most of my closest friends were members of different denominations, mostly Baptist and Methodist, and it was from them that I first heard the term “frozen chosen” used to describe Calvinists like me – “frozen” because of the Presbyterian church’s relatively staid, restrained form of worship, and “chosen” because of its (much-misunderstood) doctrine of predestination. Theological debates aside, even I had to agree that worship services at my church were quite different from the services at their churches. At the Baptist church in particular I encountered a wonderful, exuberant new world of hymns and gospel songs. And the sermons themselves! Nothing “frozen” about them!
There were, of course, somewhat more substantive differences between our churches. When I later decided to become Baptist, during high school, I was told that my Presbyterian baptism by aspersion (“sprinkling”) would not suffice, and that I would need to be immersed (“dunked”) in the church’s baptismal pool. This was hardly a dealbreaker for me, but I also wondered what the Baptists were seeing in the scriptures that the Presbyterians somehow had managed to overlook.
My wife and I joined Chamblee First thirty-six years ago, and in fairly short order I was enlisted as a Sunday School teacher in the Forum Class. Once, when preparing a lesson for that class, I read a story about a Christian missionary to China who became friends with a Buddhist monk living there. The missionary knew the monk to be a good, spiritual man, and one day shared with him the missionary’s own conversion experience. When the missionary finished, the monk, who had listened quietly, said, “I have known your Jesus all my life; now I know his name.” The missionary then thought to himself, “Who am I to say that he is wrong?”
I try always to remember that Jesus is larger than the boxes we may try to construct for him, that he cannot be contained by our imperfect understanding of God’s purposes and plans. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” I Cor. 13.12 (RSV)