Calvinist Abroad6:09 PM
A Calvinist stood a foot away. She went home fuming for a week. She banged open her Westminster Catechism and feasted upon solid doctrine -- stuff she wouldn't get from a fundamental Baptist church. Life typically went like this: fundamental Baptist churches are notoriously filled with fundamental Baptists who fundamentally assume that everybody except heretics agrees with dispensationalism and premillennialism and invite-Jesus-into-your-heart-ism. Sometimes she'd rock the boat by casually throwing John Calvin's name in the mix. Sundays became the day of apologetics -- a day where she'd continue a post-Sunday service conversation through email nailing why she was right -- a day where she fretted over fine points of doctrine -- a day where she Googled theological controversy until early Monday morning. Repeat.
It's too long a story to tell of the Bible college student and the best friend who put up with her theological boxing and finally convinced her (by osmosis, really) that there wasn't really any difference between their God, their faith and their walk -- not enough to un-unify them. Of course that girl is me. I still admit to being a Calvinist, though, to be honest, I haven't revisited that conversation for a very long time and have questions bigger than that debate can handle. I still attend a fundamental Baptist church. I still sometimes slip in a wink and a Reformed reference just because I can. But it doesn't bother me a bit that my closest friends, spiritual heroes, pastor, church family and even family itself disagrees with many of my theological leanings.
Indeed, I think God, knowing my nature to get stuck like a broken record, placed me in friendships and churches where I was the lone Calvinist abroad. Despite the careful back-and-forth over the centuries, Calvinism and Arminianism has not boxed up the Gospel. No one denomination has -- no one godly theologian -- no one systematic theology.
Here's a quick summary of why I'm glad I live among disagreeing brethren.
1. It keeps me humble. Instead of picking a fight when theology comes up, I must humbly petition God to give me the heart to hear His truth. I don't agree with everything that's taught in my church (as, I'm finding out, many do not), but the discipline of swallowing antagonism and truly listening to the Spirit has redefined where I draw my lines in the sand.
2. It keeps me focused. Because I have to rub shoulders with fellow believers who might take offense at my systematic theology or convictions, I cling strongly to what's important and leave alone the controversial side stuff. It draws me nearer to what's plain and true in Scripture. It weeds out tendencies that come from hanging around identical too much. It broadens my perspective of who God is, how He works and how fallible human theologians are. Salvation then becomes more John 17:3 instead of Systematic Theology 101.
3. It keeps me confused. My pastor, the most godly man on earth, is Arminian. He preaches the Gospel like I would, as a Calvinist: we're all invited to come and we make the choice to do so, but when we cross over the threshold of that narrow gate, we see written over the doorpost, "Chosen since the foundations of the world." How that works, we both do not know. I find myself less and less trying to dissect the Gospel in order to prove Calvinism and more and more wondering how big a gap there is between regular ol' Baptist evangelism and the Gospel I know and love. (Every Christian agrees on the Gospel until he starts thinking too hard.)
4. It keeps us unified. While my theology has grown and changed with my spiritual walk and my personal study of Scripture and my interaction with other believers, I do not feel pressured to believe differently. I do not feel "alone"; I do not feel antagonized or misunderstood -- no more than when I, the nerd, wander into a conversation on basketball. We all agree that the Bible is truth and that the independence of the believer to search it out for himself is essential to true growth. We all agree that grace is marvelous, salvation a gift, and God amazing. We can go deep, deep, deep into God's heart without once touching on the great theological debates. Our hearts are tuned to God, not a systematic theology or a man-made creed or a catechism -- wonderful, fallible inventions all. God is bigger than the church constitution: and my church lives that out. Because we're all seeking God instead of seeking to be Baptist (or Reformed Baptist or whatever), we end up realizing that hey, there really is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
I wouldn't have known that if they hadn't said Calvinism was stupid.