15 November, 2008

Child's Play

I'm refering to Calvinism and PreMillenial Dispensationalism and Ecclesiology and all their brothers, sisters and cousins.

It's just a feeling I have right now, and not really a definitive thought, but I thought I'd articulate it anyway.

There's a chance I could be investigating a new church in a few months. My current church is wonderful, but my circumstances might make such a move practical. You know how I am about attending the church closest to my home.

As I considered what this might mean, one of the things that crossed my mind was that the new church I'd most likely consider is anti-Calvinist. This little detail reminded me of the awkwardness of starting at my present church in 2005. I awkwardly explained to the pastor that I was a Calvinist, Amillenialist, and home-churcher. I was happy that he was willing to let me be all those things in his church.

Doing that all again was unappealling.

And then I thought back on all the problems my Calvinism had caused in my present church. There was ... Well, really there just wasn't. Aside from the fact that I'd mentioned my Calvinism, it had never caused a single problem. I'm at peace with each person's need to choose God, so it doesn't trouble me when people use that form and formula for describing conversion. I think they need to believe God holds them by His unfailing choice when troubles crash in on them, but they are usually happy to believe that, too.

And so it happened that I had the thought that maybe I'm not much of a Calvinist any more. I still believe Calvin was right in most of what I've heard he said, but that doesn't make me a Calvinist. I still believe the key points of Arminius' disagreements with Calvin were in error, but that belief doesn't define my relationship to anyone.

When I call myself a Calvinist, I don't mean to separate myself from anyone but I absolutely do define my relationship to them. I commit us to starting our acquaintance adversarially. And that does not seem like a good idea.

So, I thought some more. It would be awfully convenient for me to find an excuse, any excuse really, to hide my true beliefs. That kind of dishonesty calls for deeper rationalizations. :-)

I thought about my current small group in this church. We meet weekly, and I'm not sure I've ever felt the need to make a specific point of my beliefs on Christ's return or how our hearts first learn to trust God. That's a lot of weeks and a lot of arguments and a lot of not once needing to base my contributions to that group upon the fact that I'm a Calvinist. It turns out, week after week the most important thing is knowing Christ and knowing my brothers and sisters and speaking and hearing wisdom as best I can.

(Maybe I'm becoming a Peoplist?)

I would not trade my knowledge of doctrine for ignorance. I just think maybe doctrine's a good thing to "do" in your youth. A real understanding of what God does and why is a great foundation and launching point for life. Knowing that God saves and then we are saved has been a tremendous comfort and compass for me. And I gleefully admit that I don't have a lock on any doctrine. I could be wrong or right for the wrong reasons, and I'm certainly lacking a lot understanding even of the things I know. Still, I have the basic comfort and compass of knowing the broad outlines of God's motions through history, and my part in them. That knowledge of the Eternal One has been a timely salvation for me over and over again.

It's just that I'm not cut out for dedicating my whole life to such knowledge. I'm cut out for caring about people, and giving my life to the Lord through them.

The most important thing a baby lion can do is play. One day that play will enable him to lead a pride and hunt massive wildebeests and elephants. Even so, my play at doctrine in my teens through thirties taught me to use the scripture as a man - to edify and heal. The people who taught me to make war with doctrine did me no favors, mind you, but the ones who taught me to seek the mind and ways of God showed me the way forward into His mercy.

Doctrine was life to me, just like play once was. I still play and I still study doctrine, but I seem to do both less and less.

I think it's a good thing.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Calvin-admiring site; please visit/comment. TheAmericanView.com.

John Lofton, Editor

Recovering Republican


Kansas Bob said...

Great post Kevin. I really appreciate how you explained your journey in this post.

Concerning church, my suggestion is to give yourself some room.. visit the one closer a bit and wait for the Spirit to speak to you.

I appreciate you.

Happy Sunday, Bob

Brother Lazarus said...

This piece was difficult for me to read. It reminds me of the pastor who wrote me and said, "In the churches in our town, sad to say, "it's all about the Christian, and not about the Christ." Why minor in major and major in minors with disputes over divisive doctrines? Did Jesus say, "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, "by your correct doctrines?" The label we need is the redemptive love of Christ and that's the message the world needs.

karen said...

"I think it's a good thing."
So do I.
"Doctrine" seems to cause division not unity. We should all be united in Christ.

Cheryl Schatz said...

There is nothing wrong with doctrine. It is how it is stated that can divide. Doctrine is meant to divide truth from error, but when it deals with people, it must be gentle and presented with respect and love. If we ignore doctrine, the vacuum will fill in with error because no vacuum ever stays a vacuum.

Codpoke said: "When I call myself a Calvinist, I don't mean to separate myself from anyone but I absolutely do define my relationship to them. I commit us to starting our acquaintance adversarially. And that does not seem like a good idea."

One of the ways that we can tell we have moved beyond doctrine that builds up the church to that which divides, is when we start identifying with a man instead of Christ. We are to be Christ followers not man followers. This would make us "Christians" and not "Calvinists" or "Arminians". I shudder when I hear one who is asked if they are a believer and they say they are a "Calvinist". I have yet to hear anyone answer this question by saying they are an "Arminian". The response is usually just that they are a Christian. Anything more just seems to present ways to highlight areas of disagreement instead of celebrating our unity in the Lord.