When discussing Calvinism, especially with young foundling Calvinists, the concept of “Cage Stage” comes up. What is it? Long story short, once the doctrines of grace align in the mind of a young Calvinist, there is a kind of spiritual alignment that takes place. As happened with me, and with every Calvinist with which I have had this conversation, all of scripture, from the front to back, suddenly snaps into clear view. Like a sculpture that, on initial inspection appears to be a random smattering of items, but when you stand in the right spot – all of it comes into perfect focus. They are called “anamorphic sculptures”.
For those who have not experienced it, it is hard to explain without sounding like a jerk – that is absolutely not the intent.
As someone who was once a Christian who had a lot of knowledge about theology, who was firmly committed to the doctrines I grew up with, but who, over the course of 3 years, just read scripture and let it take me to the God of scripture, instead of trying to cram my thoughts about God into the Bible, one day I had this epiphany, as did every Calvinist I knew, and everything in scripture formed this cohesive story from start to finish. I went from the top left of that image above to the bottom right and everything, past to future, suddenly snapped into perfect focus. Now, when this happens, the young Calvinist suddenly is deposited straight into the pupa called “cage stage”.
This coherence in scripture is so obvious and amazing to you, that you struggle to realize how utterly impossible it was for you to miss this. The revelation of this new view of scripture generates an intense zeal and excitement for what God has shown you, and you get, well a little unhinged. Like those people who said that the earth was going to end in 2012, you have to tell everyone about it. Like right now! Suddenly everything is an opportunity for you to insert your theological convictions into any conversation:
Your little Johnny is having trouble with his math homework? I too had the same problem, until I reached Romans 9 and then God revealed to me his grand plan of salvation to all of mankind. Have you read it? Let me start from Romans 1. You see…Random Cage Stager in prime Cage-Stagery
It is intense.
All of that said, in time, the zealous fire of cage stagery slowly cools, and you begin to enter the “sage” stage. How long does it take? It depends on a lot of factors. How long have you been a Christian? Do you have friends who can help you through the process? Are your other friends becoming cagey as well? That may very well cause a nuclear cage stagery which could take decades to cool.
As you do cool off, young cage stager, you will start to lean more into God’s sovereignty – not ONLY in election, but also in his right to teach people the Doctrines of Grace in his timing. You learn that you can’t force people to believe this until they see it for themselves. For many of you it could have taken decades to layer these core doctrines into your heart and mind so that they form the proper foundation for Reformed Theology to take its root and blossom into the tulip of Calvinism. Once the blazing fire of conviction starts to die down, you start to realize that the same God who elected, saved, and taught you his doctrines, will do the same for others – in his timing, and he does not need you to do it for him.
So get off the table, put your shirt back on, and please quit screaming about the sovereignty of God and his decree of election. This is a Denny’s.