During my cage-stage, I found a whole new world of Christianity that had been there all along that I was previously too blind to see, and it was wonderful. But there was a downside too. I had a few arguments, not too many though. I poked fun at Arminians and open-theists, and if anything broke down in the house, the standard line was “It’s all Finney’s fault!” In jest, of course. But I began to stop seeing people as people and categorized them based on whether they were in my camp or not. Do you read the same books? Listen to the same celebrity preachers? Yes. Yay! High-fives all around! No? Why not? Something must be wrong with you.
When I read Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, I was moved by Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion story, but I also fell in love with Ken and Floy Smith. If there ever was an example of friendship evangelism, this is it. This Presbyterian pastor and his wife became Rosaria’s friends. They were honest with her about their faith and where they disagreed with her, but they loved her. They debated, but they didn’t bully or pressure her into believing. They didn’t pull a Charles Finney and manipulate her emotions through fear-mongering. The Smiths saw her as another human being made in God’s image, not just a project. They believed it was the Holy Spirit who did the saving, not them, and he did.
As I considered their example, it struck me how opposite they were from the cage-stage. If you have never heard the term, it’s a period of intense enthusiasm over the newly discovered Five Points of Calvinism that may result in tactless and even ungracious behavior (ironic, isn’t it) toward other Christians who disagree. In other words, it’s safer for the person to stay in a cage for a while for their own safety and the safety of others until they mature a little more and get this theological aggressiveness out of their system.