December 15, 2013

Passing Thoughts On My Calvinist Proclivities

Contrary to popular belief, "Calvinistic" texts in the New Testament called for tenderness and patience with quarrelsome people, because the decisive work in them through the Spirit is God's. I have definitively found that the Lord's servant must not bicker but be kind to everyone, be a good teacher, long-suffering, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

It has been my experience that bludgeoning does no good and arguing people into the Kingdom never works. I've learned both through painful first-hand experience. It was a long painful learning process but…at least I am still willing to learn. When this ceases…so will my sanctification. I tend to lean Calvinist in my theology but I am not Calvinist. Because I even dare to lean in that direction I am faced with what every Calvinist (5 Point) is faced with…the stoic stick in the mud stereotype. It is a horrendously distorted image that is painted of us that is horribly unfair. It is a mischaracterization of the truth about what I believe. Just like the stereotype of the oscillating and indecisive Arminian.

It may be possible that God will allow that they (unbelievers) repent and come to know the truth. Where I can, I now avoid conflict and argument for argument’s sake. I politely decline and wait for a more opportune moment to lay out the truth of what I believe. As for the unbeliever we should have pity on them. For those young in the faith Christians adhering to poor theology we need to gently correct them. We need to care about influencing people with truth for their own good rather than winning debates and verbal fisticuffs.

Anglican clergyman John Newton once said:
"I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar'—taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, adding, 'I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted.”
In other words, his Calvinism permeated all that he wrote and taught. Few people like to eat sugar cubes by the spoonful (except children) but they like the effect of sugar when it mixes in the right proportion with tea, coffee, etc. It is like the analogy of the salt shaker on the steak. Salt tastes good on steak…but would the entire salt shaker taste good on a steak? No. We need to sprinkle it on in rationed and measured amounts.

We need not beat people over the head with T.U.L.I.P./Five Points. Many when they are new or even in the faith for a little while are not necessarily concerned with Limited or Unlimited Atonement. Is this important? Yes. For a person just trying to walk the line with God and stumbling horribly? Please people, get a grip.

We need to blend our beliefs into everything we teach. When we speak of things it should be speaking through our theological view and interpretive grid that we see the world with. There needs to be a balance not a beat-down like a street fighter. We need to be rock-solid with spines of steel in our theology and tender as fresh grass shoots when we attend to others education, edification and when necessary…their correction. I have failed here often and that is exactly why I type this.

Do we strike this balance or speak like we are trying to strike someone over the head with a board? Our evangelism needs to introspective first and we must number ourselves among the transgressors before trying to categorize others in that camp. In this way we are less likely to sling mud in other people's direction.

I have often made it a point of criticism to lay into those that go soft on attacking error. Those that would treat error with kid gloves so not to drive off the offender or offend those looking. I believe now I could’ve been a little subtler and a little gentler on some people. Elders and leaders in error, no…they are in positions of major influence and their error can spread like deadly contagion but those in the general body and laity need a softer approach. We do not flog or beat our own newborns and young children…why would we do this to God’s? Mature believers is one thing, newbies and those finding their way…we must be tentative.

The best way to overcome error and demonic influence in a church is to establish truth through proper teaching which, in my opinion is the straight-up unadulterated expositing of Scripture. Ironically, this is exactly what John Calvin did during his life.

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