At another blog there is a post up about a church that is hurting. And let me preface everything else to come by saying: a hurting church anywhere is a cause for all of us to weep. This church is in pain because of the specter of disunity and division. We should take the words of our Lord to heart from John 17:23, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” If we truly believe what Jesus says, then we truly believe that disunity and factions in church are ultimately a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel.
Disunity is damning.
And that should cause us to weep and to pray not only for the struggles in our own churches but also for our sister churches who are facing times of trouble. (Side note: the idea of unity above must be tied to the truth and holiness of God. It does us good to lay our pride aside and stand hand-in-hand with others who disagree with us on non-primary matters; but it does us no good to sacrifice the core truth of Jesus and his gospel on a alter of false unity.)
In this blog post, after sharing a letter of concern from a dear lady, the author concludes: “Do you hear this dear Christian’s anguish? Do you hear the cry of the unsuspecting church member who is being run over theologically and personally by Calvinists? This is where the rubber meets the road. This is no longer a theological debate. This is damaging the local church. Do you care enough to help stop it?”
I want to contend that such a response to the dear lady’s letter is damaging and also potentially damning in the disunity it creates as fearmongering.
The letter we read there, of course, gives us only one side of the story. When problems arise, truth always seems to be somewhere in the middle. But let’s work from the one side we have. I won’t reproduce the letter in total here, but two words in particular come to mind when reading the letter: pride and arrogance.
The pastor in question who is supposedly destroying this church because of his Calvinism is described in a way that paints him as difficult to know, mostly uninvolved, arrogant in response to questions, and uses big words people don’t understand.
But these are not marks of Calvinism, Calvinists, or Reformed ideologies. They are marks of a heart that does not understand shepherding in humility. I have personally known, and know of (as I’m sure we all do) Southern Baptist pastors who are not Calvinists who are difficult to know, mostly uninvolved, arrogant, and used big words. They have even split churches.
Should we sound the alarm bells? Should we cry from the rooftops? The debate is over, their non-Calvinism is damaging the local church, do you care enough to stop it?!?!?
Or should we focus on what the real problem is?
The letter also mentions the lack of having a revival or an alter call. I agree with the heart of what the pastor of that church said—we can’t make revivals happen. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. That being said, having “revival” meetings or not is also not a mark of Calvinism or non-Calvinism.
I spent 3 years at a church during my college years that was not only non-Calvinist, it was anti-Calvinist. Not once in that time did they have a revival meeting. Here at the church I pastor now, the man who pastored before me was a self-identified Calvinist, they had a revival meeting almost every year he was here. I’ve been pastor here for not quite two years, in that short time we have also had such a meeting. We didn’t call it a “revival” by name, but it was an event designed to fire-up the members and reach out to the town, involving guest speakers, special music, and a whole lot of advertising. I am also a self-identified Calvinist.
We did it because my theological beliefs inform me that not only has God ordained the ends—who will be saved, he has also ordained the means—the Gospel must be spread. The only way for anyone to be saved, the only way for the elect to be saved, is to hear the Gospel message. It is a necessity. God will not let his elect be lost; the rocks will cry out if we are silent. But Jesus didn’t give the Great Commission to rocks, therefore we will honor our God by spreading the Gospel in a variety of ways. And whether or not you agree with the “God ordained the ends” part of that, we would all agree whether Calvinist or Arminian or that great Baptist norm in between that if we truly love Jesus we have no choice but to spread the Gospel.
So let’s cut the rhetoric and the fearmongering and the intentional disunity that flows from agendas to drive.
The problem is not Calvinism and Calvinists, the problem is when pride pops up on both sides of the aisle. So can we have a little sanity, realize the issue, strive to be humble servants, and live in true unity?
(Where’s that picture of the rainbow people holding hands???)