Epilogue: What Continued Happening to Mark
Angry and divisive Mark is no more. Next month Mark will be returning to Podunk Baptist Church. This time as a new man. He still has his beard, he still holds to much the same doctrine, but he holds it differently.
It had been eight years since his disaster of a revival service. Mark left the people wounded…and truth be told Mark left wounded as well. His desire to “set his old church straight” came from a mostly good desire—though Mark will admit that it was mixed with a good deal of pride and bitterness.
A good part of Mark thought that his former church would embrace the doctrines which have led to much growth in his own Christian walk. He was shocked and dismayed to be met with rejection and to have caused somewhat of a division within the ranks of Podunk. Now Mark is a different man. After much repentance on the part of Mark and healing of broken relationships he is being invited back to Podunk Baptist. His doctrine hasn’t changed but his heart has. This time Mark will be lovingly and passionately preaching on the excellencies of Christ.
What happened to Mark?
Shortly after his disaster of a revival service Mark went back to his seminary community. He called upon one of his favorite professors—a faithful defender of all things Calvinism. He figured that if he could have about 15 minutes of venting to this professor he would feel better. His greater hope, though, was that he probably would be given a few tips about how to defend his doctrine even better and help those that differ to come to grips with what the Bible says about God and His sovereignty in salvation.
Mark was shocked when instead of a “go get those rank heretics” he was met with a gentle and loving rebuke. This wise professor was every bit the Calvinist that Mark is in doctrine. But something this professor had that Mark didn’t was that he was a Calvinist in his heart. He held the doctrines of grace quite graciously. He trusted the sovereign Lord even in theological differences. Through years of ministry, study, and life with the Spirit he had come to grips with the importance of love.
Thankfully for Mark and for the Podunk Baptist’s of the world this dear man took Mark under his wrinkled wing. He modeled for him the love and grace that every believer (no matter his stripes) should live. He loved Mark and taught Mark to love. They still chatted Reformed theology, they still even debated some texts, and at times disagreed with non-Calvinists but the way this dear man “debated” was contagious. You see this old man was much like John Newton.
As Newton once said:
‘I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar’—taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, adding, ‘I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted.’
His Calvinism was superseded by something more important—the gospel. Yes, men like Spurgeon and even Newton could believe in one sense that “Calvinism is the gospel”. (You can debate for yourself the wisdom of such a statement). But at the end of the day we see with men like Spurgeon and Newton that fellowship, love, and advancement of the gospel trumped Calvinism. Not that it was insignificant; their Calvinism permeated their fellowship, their love, and their advancement of the gospel, but it wasn’t the whole or end of any of those things—God and His glory were.
Next time I will offer a few basic tips if God places an angry and divisive Calvinist in your life…