"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Living Out Our Doctrine

On Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog he has a post about a letter he received from a church planter. The planter is apparently dealing with some vocal Calvinists. There's a lot that might be said about the post and letter, the Calvinists, and those who have commented on the blog. For those of us who adhere to a Calvinistic/Reformed/Sovereign Grace theology, perhaps the best response has already been made by Abraham Piper.

In regard to the post and many of the responses, it is interesting to note that for all the talk about how divisive Calvinists are, no one noted that Dr. McKnight chose to title his post "Letter about Those Pesky Calvinists" [emphasis mine]. To put this in perspective, how would many of the commentors to this post react to a post titled "Those Pesky Arminians" or "Those Pesky Emergents?" I may deal with this tangentially in a later post, but I'll leave it for now.

For the moment I want to focus on one point made in one comment,
"There are obnoxious Christians of every variety. But there is something inherent in Calvinism that causes people always to be drawing lines. I know some gracious Calvinists. But, honestly, they live above their theology."

No. Of all Christians, Calvinists who understand the implications of their theology will be the most gracious of people. I know this may seem contradictory to some who have only interacted with TR's (the truly reformed), but Calvinism should make us humble and gracious. One problem is that no one ever fully understands the implications of their theology.

For the Calvinist, we sometimes understand less because we tend to focus on a few select implications of our theology. In an attempt to be God-centered, sometimes we don't think about the human implications of holding to Reformed doctrine. So let me illustrate with a few brief points.

The Calvinist is first and foremost a Christian. As such we are called to live as Jesus lived, which means that like Him it should be said of each of us that "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench" (Matthew 12:20).

Our theology says that all men are totally depraved. This means that every aspect of our being, including our reason, has been affected by the fall. What we know we know because the Holy Spirit has been our teacher. If He has chosen to teach us some things, and others different things, we have no reason to boast. Once I was an Arminian. My theology does not allow me to take credit for becoming a Calvinist. I'm not a Calvinist because I'm better or smarter than my friends who remain Arminians.

As an aside, this is not to say that reason and civil discourse have no place in the Christian life. God uses means to accomplish his ends. But if in a discussion I plant the seed that the Spirit brings to life, the seed was given to me by the Spirit and brought to life by the Spirit. Likewise, if in a discussion with a fellow believer I say something that leads them to a reformed theology, neither I nor that person can take credit for it occurring.

Third, the Calvinist should understand that all that he has is because of grace. There is nothing that makes me superior to my brother. As John Newton wrote grace is amazing because it saves a "wretch like me." God loves me not because of anything in me. I have not earned nor do I deserve His love.

Calvinism rightly understood puts an axe to the tree of pride. The problem exists that pride is a stubborn tree, and we turn from understanding all that our reformed doctrine would teach us. May we (I as much as anyone) repent of this error and labor with the axe to put an end my pride.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

I have missed your thoughtful posts, Eddie. Great one.

That being said, I would like to add that sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid offending someone who is holding on to their "free will". Sometimes, merely stating that we all are totally depraved and unable to choose Christ is enough to put Arminians on the defensive. For some people, the Calvinist theology itself is divisive enough. I have a friend who is estranged from his wife. She has learned that he has come to a doctrine of predestination since she left him, and that belief has been a dividing point in talks over reconciliation ever since then. I don't know of a more gracious person than this man, but simply knowing that he believes that the Lord is sovereign in election is enough to make her actually angry.

I'm not saying that as a Calvinist, I have not held myself superior to others...I have. I don't do what I want to do...I do what I do not want to do, etc. I just would like to point out (not argue) that despite our best efforts, our theology can divide, sadly.

An excellently written post, as usual, man. :)

10:37 PM EST  
Blogger Taliesin said...

Thanks. I agree with your points. In thinking about the "letter" it is also interesting to note that we are only getting one side of the story. I think it is a verse in Proverbs that says it is easy to decide a matter before the second party speaks. To your example I had a coworker in Dallas who came to a Reformed understanding of salvation and his wife and in-laws wanted to disown him. They didn't (last I heard) but he had a rough road.

I'm going to make an effor to post more regularly, but I have been reading in the off time. Hope the brew comes out tasty.

10:48 PM EST  
Blogger Chris said...

As do I! :) I should be bottling this week sometime. Maybe early next week. After that, it's a 2-3 month wait for the bottle conditioning. Longer = better. :) Patience... :)

11:27 PM EST  
Blogger Even So... said...

Nice to hear from you again, friend...

9:05 AM EST  

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