I wrote this during my junior year at LBC– and have had some encouragement to share it here! There are a few things I would probably say a little differently now, but over all, I still agree with myself! 😉
“I go to a Bible College and for this I am ETERNALLY grateful! I love it! I am so incredibly blessed to be a place where everything centers around the Word of the Lord. I love being able to learn about this beautiful gift, and understand (to the best of my abilities) this intricate book. From Genesis straight through to the maps, I am being equipped to articulate and defend my beliefs because of my education.
But like all things in life, even learning about our Savior, can be distorted, marred, and ruined by sin.
I had a freshman girl come up to me the other day. She is a sweetheart and a good friend. I immediately could tell she was feeling down/overwhelmed. It being mid-terms, I thought nothing of it, we all can get like this. But then she began to explain to me why she felt so drained. A group of her friends (all wonderful, God fearing people) had been getting into a lot a theological discussions of late.
Let me just insert here that, that in and of itself, is not a bad thing. If fact, it is quite an incredible thing. That is one of the many reasons I love my college! When I take my seat at lunch, people are often talking about what they are learning in class, when I walk into the dorm, I hear a group of students singing worship from chapel this morning, when I go down to the laundry room-there are a bunch of kids doing a bible study. This is wonderful! Praise the Lord! I love it!
But, this group of boys had started taking the conversation past the glorifying God stage and onto the glorifying self stage. Though God technically was the “center of their conversation” He clearly was not on the center of their hearts.
This girl told me about their discussion and how confusing it was, how empty their angry rebuttals, and how meaningless their curt deliberation. It was the classic Predestination dispute. She (having not yet taken any theology class) was uneducated in their jargon and each time she would bring up a point they would quickly dismiss it, “That is not what the original text means.” “All doesn’t mean all there.” They arrogantly bashed each of her responses with their hilarious jokes, “Are you Armenian, or a Christian?” Ha. But, as she explained, they did it in a way that made God sound so harsh and hateful, so wrathful and eager to damn, that she walked away feeling farther away from God than she has ever felt.
She told me that for the next week she tried finding God, but didn’t understand who he was anymore. She would try talking to him, but He wasn’t who she thought he was. He now was a stranger.
I assured her that God didn’t go anywhere. I assured her that it is okay that her view of God is changing. He is not just the cuddly God you learned about in Sunday School. He is so much more. He is so much better than that. I explained that “the boys” are right about a lot of things-but their sin is manipulating a lot of truth. I explained that we always need to balance God’s wrath with his love, with justice with his grace. I explained Limited and Unlimited Atonement in the best way I knew how and then profusely apologized for my brothers; at the same time, trying to encourage thoughts on these difficult subjects. It reminded me of Kevin DeYoung’s thought:
“I know many young evangelicals barely have any stomach for controversy, let alone strong words about a serious topic. But if there is no way to be simultaneously bold and humble; if there is no way to be a gentle, caring person while still speaking in clear tones about hurtful error; if there is no way to correct those who oppose sound doctrine without being a moral monster; if there’s no way to love truth and grace at the same time, then there’s no way to be a biblical Christian. Judgmentalism is a sin and Calvinists can be jerks. But not every judgment is sinful and not every truth is cruel just because Reformed people teach it.”
I told her to continue searching and researching in humility. And that debate isn’t bad. In fact, when done for the glory of God it is very good. Acts 18:27-28 “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”
But I think what I am hearing is closer to Paul’s charge to Timothy:
‘As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Timothy 1:3-7)
So please hear what I am NOT saying. I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t discuss these points. Praise the Lord for giving us intellect! I’m all for dissecting what absolute sovereignty of God means. And please, please let’s talk about the futility of human action. Let’s balance “a verse about election” and “a verse about ALL coming to a knowledge”. What I am saying is do it in humility. Calvinist should be the most humble of ALL people. Instead look at how it’s been twisted. I hear now there are 6 Points of Calvinism now…ATULIP!…The first point? Arrogance.
Instead, we need to learn to disagree in an agreeable way. Face it. There are Arministis in heaven and Calvinists who are in hell and visa-versa. If you are going to arrogantly identify with Calvin, as much as I love him-please realize that something far more valuable is at stake. The name of Christ. And just because you are talking ABOUT God, doesn’t mean you are in fellowship WITH God.
So I guess my question are:
Do you love the God of Election? Or just the Doctrine of Election?
Do you love elevating your own intellect over the power of the Holy Spirit?
Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Or just all your mind?
Are you running so hard after getting people to agree with you, that you forget the point of the gospel?
Another issue I have is this: Far too often you identify with Calvin first. Then Christ. Really? Awesome. Way to be just like the early church!! “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul”, or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”(1 Corinthians 1:12-13)
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my reformed theology. Give me Calvin, Piper, Zwingli, Sproul, Packer, or Spurgeon any day! I love these men! I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit gifted them in such unique ways. The problem is when we run to their blogs, books, institutes, or institutions with our problems instead of running to scripture.
I think it was CJ Mahaney who said “The biblical purpose of every conversation you have, in every personal interaction, is that they person who hears you will receive grace.” Are they hearing the gospel in your debates? If not do you really think God is looking down with a smile on his wrinkled face? “Way to go boys, way to defend my honor and discourage my people!” I think not. I would go as far to say that he looks down with a furrowed brow-concerned and hurt that we are so close to the foot of the cross, but we are gambling over the garments of Christ, when we could be experiencing his death.
I’m sorry if this comes across as harsh. I have been praying about this for weeks because I want my motives to be pure in all this. Even though I don’t have a problem offending people, I only want to do it if Christ is glorified. But please understand my heart here.
The only reason I can identify this sin in you, is because I have seen it in myself.
I’ll say it again.
The only reason I can identity this sin in you, is because I have seen it in myself.
I’m not on the outside looking in on this one. I’ve walked away from one to many conversations thinking that I’ve won the battle, not realizing I’ve lost a much greater war. Not realizing that MY arrogant, selfish, prideful, demeaning, hateful attitude toward this subject reflects how people view my God. And that my friends, is a big deal.
Please take some time to re-evaluate why you have these conversations and how you have them. I love you.”