A couple of years ago I ended up making some dumb comments on Facebook about Calvinism. I wrote the following to clearify my position.
I had no idea that my comment regarding Calvinism would be lightning rod for discussion. And the way I phrased my initial status update was insensitive to my reformed friends like Kari and the Van Zees. And Kari rightfully questioned what exactly I was talking about.
I would like to clarify a couple of things and explain what exactly I mean when I use the phrase “errors of Calvinism”. But first, let me say, those of you who have responded to this comment are coming from very diverse contexts. Some of you are older and a part of church ministry. Others of you are younger, single and training for ministry. Some of you have already made up your mind on these things. Others of you are wrestling with them still. And there is another group of people that don’t want to see the conversation take place at all.
If we had this discussion live, face to face, I would not be able to say much in a group. I would have different emphasis with each of you.
With my older friends, who are reformed and doing ministry, I would refuse to debate Calvinism or any other nonessential doctrine. I would want to encourage you in ministry, pray for you, and see if there is any way I can help. The last thing I want to do is distract you from the people God has called you to minister to.
To my younger friends that are still wrestling with salvation doctrine I would say become expert Bible interpreters and then spend the next 15-30 years doing Bible interpretation. Be slow in developing a dogmatic position on nonessentials but be immediate in your simple obedience to the daily application of God’s Word.
And to my younger friends (Bible college students) that have already made up their minds and are dogmatic on the nonessentials I would say; “You are dumb.” You may end up being right on your points of theology, but being right will not matter if you have no relationship with Jesus. The Bible was intended to be more than just legal document establishing minor points of doctrine. The Bible was written to be your daily spiritual nourishment, a light to guide your path, a sward to defeat the lies of Satan, and a comfort through life’s trials. If you are 20 years old and have already made up your mind on TULIP or any other nonessential doctrine I pity you. You have missed out on the joy of personal Bible study and have instead swallowed some other persons system.
Let me explain what I shared in class yesterday regarding the “errors of Calvinism”.
Because of the respect I have for reformed teachers like Piper, Packer, Spurgeon, and Augustin I have spent time reading their interpretations of texts that are problematic for the TULIP system. Some of those text would include: 2 Peter 2:1, John 3:16-18 , Matthew 22:14, I John 2:2; 4:9-10. When I read their interpretation I do not personally feel content with the way the scriptures are handled. When I read their interpretation it feels like the simple plain reading of the text is explained away, and words are given new meanings. I would rather take the Bible at face value and indiscriminately apply the rules of interpretation. If I have to make a choice between loyalty to my system or the plain interpretation of the text I am going to throw the system out.
The TULIP system reflects some aspects of scripture, but is insufficient to explain all the points of scripture. So there is no way that I can commit to the TULIP system. Pastor Chuck in his book on Calvinism and Arminianism highlights this well. My priority is Bible interpretation and not systems explaining nonessential doctrines. This comes across in my teaching as well. I am begging the Bible college students to be expert Bible interpreters and not so much systematic theologians.
It is also important for me to point out that TULIP is not the only issue I address when teaching Romans. But I believe the book of Romans is a death nail to reformed theology and so as it comes up I point it out.
One final word… God is is working by his Spirit in the reformed church. I believe we are on the verge of another Great Awakening and when God works he will hopefully work in all churches including reformed churches like Mars Hill, Grace Community, the Gospel Coalition, the Acts 29 network. This is why those who are not reformed need to temper their criticism. It is like a Cornelius moment when the rest of the church stands around in amazement saying “they too can receive the Holy Spirit?” I love watching God work in this way.
Hopefully this clarifies my comments a bit more.