I get questions all the time via email, telephone and in person, as well as from postings on other blogs. I enjoy dialogue with men who think inside and outside the box, as well as investigating the need for biblical balance and maturity. These questions involve a wide range of topics from systematic theology and apologetics, to suffering and the Spirit Filled Life of the believer. Here is a response I gave concerning several questions relating to the division caused by some of the youthful church planters within the reformed tradition, followed by my responses. I think you’ll enjoy. Feel free to offer your comments.
Are the Reformed trying to convert others with different theology?
In one sense, we all try to do this. The nature of truth and love is to communicate what we believe is accurately representing God. The problem seems, IMHO, to be the lack of maturity and balance. Today, as a good reformed friend said to me a couple of months ago, it is fashionable to be ‘Reformed.’ That way, young and prideful ‘church planters’ can raise the banner “reformed” and instantly feel they are John Piper or R.C. Sproul. (Of course, they fail to realize how Piper will use John Wesley as an example of spirituality!) Maturity comes from someone actually studying both camps…Reformed and Wesleyan. (or Calvin and Arminian) I just ministered to several couples who were extremely confused by an immature church planter over his views of Calvinism. (He is Reformed) It is not that his statements were ‘false.’ It is that they were not balanced! OTOH, I have recently helped a brother who was under ‘works’ as a result of some ‘out of balance’ Arminian positions.
I found that most Reformed do not ‘really’ know what Wesleyans teach. And most Wesleyans do not know what Calvinists really teach! (This includes some of the big name leaders who say things which are misrepresentations of the opposing view.) Therefore, the immature within each camp falsely accuse the other camp of being heretical or borderline heretical. (Maturity and Balance needed)
Are the non-Reformed saying stupid things to incite my Reformed brothers?
Yes, stupidity certainly goes both ways!
Is one’s theology in this area a prerequisite for cooperation or networking?
It SHOULD not be!!! But many are making it so. When a leader understands that Calvinism and Arminianism represent the two poles WITHIN orthodox christian belief, he will see the need for inclusion. Christian doctrine isn’t always a dot…sometimes it is a circle! The step beyond Calvinism is the heresy of fatalism, stoicism, etc… The step beyond Arminianism is the heresy of semi-pelagianism and pelagianism. However, both Calvinism and Arminianism are orthodox systems within historic christian belief. It is the immature (from both camps) who desire to slice the baby in half to prove their point instead of preserving its life.
Those who are Reformed, do they (or you) believe you must confront others that disagree with you?
Confront…No! Discuss for helping each other pursue and maintain balance and maturity…Yes! (BTW, this type of discussion with brothers from different camps is great when all have their hearts set on inward purity.) Confrontation should only be used when one is slipping into extremes and bordering on heresy. When the Reformed and Arminian ‘puppies’ grow up, they’ll realize they are on the same team. And sad to say, many will realize the unnecessary and unbiblical division they have caused.
Every good Calvinist preacher I’ve heard always calls for man to make a decision for Christ. And every good Arminian preacher I’ve heard, always lifts God up as Sovereignty. The division between the two camps is unnecessary, unwise, unscriptural and unholy. There are dear brothers on both sides of this spectrum. May we all walk in maturity and in balance, but above all in humility and love.
As one famous Wesleyan preacher said to another equally famous Reformed preacher, “If your heart is as mine, give me your hand.” What greater example do we have from the leaders of the first great awakening in America than to realize that John Wesley, an Arminian, preached the funeral of his good friend George Whitfield, who was a Calvinist. This request had been made by Whitfield. Now that is an example of maturity and love!
Your thoughts? How would you answer these questions? Agree or disagree?