The study of theology is fascinating. I have been a Christian for 27 years and still have a passion for the truth of God’s Holy Word. Some might think it weird that this football coach gets excited with stories from church history and that I can get lost in the debates of famous councils.
In saying all of this though, I must confess that God is not bound at all by doctrine and Theology. He seems to thwart our best attempts to define Him. He is not to be studied, He reveals Himself at His choosing (Deut 29:29).
At the same time, however, there is sound and unsound doctrine. Theology can be labeled “good”, “better”, “best”, and “bad”. And never forget that heresy is always at the door to rob the church of the power and freedom of Christ’s gospel.
In my study of God’s word, I am more confident that the system of doctrine that best suits the message and mystery of the Bible has technical terms like Calvinistic, reformed, covenantal, monergistic, and Christocentric.
Yet, it must be said with great frustration that those with the correct technical leanings can still completely miss the mark. Calvinists can be combative and arrogant, using their seemingly superior sensitivity to hammer the weak with unmerciful floggings. It is like whipping a child with a large, raw, cold T-bone steak.
Laurence Vance presents this dark side of doctrine with the following indictment:
“Nothing will deaden a church a church or put a young man out of the ministry any more than an adherence to Calvinism. Nothing will foster pride and indifference as will an affection for Calvinism. Nothing will destroy holiness and spirituality as an attachment to Calvinism….The doctrines of Calvinism will deaden and kill anything: prayer, faith, zeal, holiness” (quoted in Philip Graham Ryken, What is a True Calvinist?, 2003 P&R Publishing).
I read a lot of reformed websites on the internet. Calvinists do a great job of telling us what is wrong with every Christian view out there. They do a great job of pointing out problems, yet I never get a feeling that some of them really like anything.
As I read over some of my past blogs, I too sound arrogant and combative at times. Sometimes it is just the jagged edges of truth, but at other times it is my smugness and stone casting.
Does this discount the value of the doctrine? Absolutely not! But let me openly confess and constrain myself to the following assertions.
My need and desire to glorify God is always brightened by my desire to love others.
I glorify God the most when my desire for Him flows out to a service to others.
I am not the Holy Spirit and I should lift up and protect weaker brothers.
Confrontation should always be lubricated with the lotion of love.
I should desire to win souls more than win arguments.
I don’t have to defend God, I need to faithfully share truth. He can take care of Himself.
Even if others preach Christ out of pretense, I can rejoice that He is being proclaimed.
Father, forgive me for showing my warts so often. Please allow me to love your Word more than good books. Help me to realize that many of the men I seek to follow were fully pursuing Christ. Please always help me remember that Scripture is my filter and my doctrine must give way to Biblical authority. Forgive me when I have done it the other way around. May people see my love more than my theology. May my life be a fragrance of love to my Savior rather than the rot of ideas without service or action.