Friday, January 30, 2009

T.U.L.I.P.

I read several blogs on a regular basis. I have a list on the right-hand side of my own blog. One of the sites that I visit regularly is Desiring God. It is "God-centered resources from the ministry of John Piper." John Piper is the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He wrote of my favorite books (and one that I am re-reading this year) called "Desiring God." Great book.

John Piper adheres closely to the mindset of John Calvin. You can read about John Calvin here. Calvin believed the following:

Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in totality. They simply represent some of its main points. You can read more about Calvinism here. I personally believe that Mr. Calvin would roll over in his grave of he knew that people called themselves "Calvinist," but that is just me.

My original point was this, I was reading the DG blog this morning and on the left-hand side there is a list of articles from the blog that the author calls "Best of DG blog." I was intrigued by the title of one of the articles; "Be a kinder Calvinist." As someone who also considers themselves to be of John Calvin's mindset, I was a little more than interested. The article was written in in response to this letter.

Basically, the writer of the letter is unsure of how to deal with some members of his congregation who are what he calls "hyper-Calvinists." He goes on to describe this particular group as "very vocal and self-righteous." He doesn't understand why a) they cannot agree to disagree, b) why it isn't good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him, and c) why the tool that he had leaned on for so many years in youth ministry, namely loving relationships, failed him.

I can totally understand where this pastor is coming from. I have been in situations where legalism and an air of self-righteousness were extremely prevalent. As someone who grew up in the "Reformed Faith", I see the (and totally had the same mindset) this condescending, self-righteous act. On the other hand, since I believe, as John Calvin did, that a) I have nothing to do with my salvation, b) nothing I do will ever warrant the grace and mercy of God, and c) that God, in His sovereignty and infinite wisdom and mercy, chose me before the beginning of time to be a part of His family, where the heck do I get off thinking that I am better than anyone else? As I have matured in my faith, I now see Christ and His work on the cross as an extremely humbling thought/act on my part. I need Christ just as much as anyone else. Being a child of God is my saving grace but does not negate my need for Him. Yes, my sins have been forgiven, but I continue to fall short of His glory. How is this any different than anyone else?

As a Young Life leader, I have come to a much better understanding of the simplicity of the Gospel message. Inasmuch as I recognize and believe the "Five Points of Calvinism" and believe it because of scriptural support, I am convinced that "reformed theology is a good trip, but remember, it is a means to the end, not the end itself." (Thank you, Micah, for that little quote.)

Through Young Life, I have become convicted of the power of Christ and his message alone. When I am sharing the message of the Gospel with these kids, it has little to do with theology. It has everything to do with His love and the power of His dying on the cross for our sins. How do you talk with anyone about the person of Christ if you do not first have a personal relationship with them and how do you get to a point where you can talk about theology with anyone unless they first know the person of Christ?

I am not opposed to theology or the discussion of theology at all. We choose which church or denomination we are going to be a part of based on the theology embraced by any one congregation. I hold very dear my own theology. I chose my church because of the doctrine upon which it stands. My problem with theology is when it gets in the way of sharing the Gospel message. My problem is when we lord our theology over others in order to feel better about ourselves, prove a point, or make ourselves look better than everyone else. That is when it becomes a hindrance rather than a way to better explain or understand God's word. Being "reformed", or a "Calvinist", or an "Arminan" does not pave the way to heaven for any of us.

I will leave you with this last thought from my good friend, Micah:

"There are far too many pastors and congregants, in all faith traditions, who are more interested in dogma than the Gospel. A lot of us have opinions about doctrinal things (e.g. infant baptism, predestination, eschatology), but realize that they aren't determining factors for or against salvation. That said, I knew plenty of students at ******* (and even two or three at **) that truly believed they, in their infinite wisdom, had figured out the entirety of the Bible based on their reading of Luther, Calvin, and Rushdoony. You could not have a discussion with these kids, because there was nothing to discuss. It's the same with evangelical fundamentalists. Every issue is cut and dry. There is no room for interpretation or a viewpoint that does not match their's (or Bill Gothard's/James Dobson's/John Hagee's) exactly. In both cases, the very thing that unites believers (the saving work of Christ) is thrown out the window in order to feel smarter or better than someone else who just doesn't understand the Bible/Catechism/Westminster Confession. Crazy."

4 comments:

Micah said...

Thanks for sharing that link with me, and for your insight. We are all well-served by some kindness, both given and received.

Also, if I'd known you were going to quote me, I would have aimed for something a little less wordy!

Theresa Garcia said...

I warned you...

Peyton said...

I'd like to hear more about your calvanistic thoughts. And debate with you. :)

Theresa Garcia said...

Awesome.