Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Why Non-Calvinists Are (Often) Babies
By: Thomas Booher
I was at a wedding over the weekend. I was the best man. It was a nice wedding, albeit a warm one. My wife and I got to stay in a nice condo out by the beach with a bunch of other people that were part of the wedding party. This is the first time in two years now that I have not been a Bible college student and surrounded by reformed people. The two years before the last two I had never been surrounded by reformed people. I like the exposure, and conversely I like the fellowship with other Calvinists as well.
It's easy to think everyone is reformed when you are around reformed people, and it's easy to think no one is reformed when you are not. The truth is, most people are not reformed here in the United States. The wedding reminded me of that, as my wife returned to our room at the condo and informed me that she overheard in a conversation one young fellow saying "theology doesn't really matter" to another young fellow. She found that hard to understand. Good for her. I can understand because that is the mentality I expect from people who don't take knowing God seriously.
When you say theology doesn't matter, only the basics are needed, what you are really saying is that God doesn't expect us to take His Word seriously. The Bible is a basic manual, a hand guide or reference book, a moral compass and not much more. It is something to be trifled with, something to go to when you feel down to get back up on your feet. It is but something to comfort you like a child does when he carries a blanket or his old favorite toy with him.
These guys meant well. I have no doubt they wouldn't agree that the Bible is something to be treated lightly. But by saying what they said, that is what they do. They may not know it, in fact I am sure they don't, but it is true just the same. When we fiddle with God's Word and reduce it to a simple thing that gives us a few basic instructions and a basic message about how we can get out of hell and get right with the man upstairs, we reduce God to a needy, weak, grandfatherly figure who doesn't much care about the details of our lives and is most concerned that we are kind, gentle, and loving. By kind, gentle, and loving, I don't mean anything special, just the same stuff that an atheist can be and often is.
Theology is the study of God. Would any Christian actually say that we don't need to study God very much, that we don't need to know Him very well? I sure hope not. People are ignorant of what theology even is. What they think is cutting through the "red tape" of divisive doctrine to preserve and magnify the beauty and message of the gospel is actually cutting through God Himself and destroying the very gospel they think they protect.
The gospel is what these people want to emphasize. It's simplicity, it's purity. They argue we have a simple message of salvation, an urgent message, and therefore the details don't matter. The doctrine weighs us down. It slows us down and causes us to miss out on saving souls and getting decisions for Jesus. The problem, of course, is that if one reads their Bibles with care one will realize that no one accepts Christ as Savior and Lord or makes a decision for Jesus. It is God, not man, who elects. It is Christ who died for His people, His sheep, and the rest of the fallen world He has chosen to damn forever, having not died for them. The gospel is a call to repentance, a call for unbelievers to receive something from God, salvation, rather than do something to earn salvation. No decision can save. Only Christ working in the heart of a person to make them willing to believe will lead a person to repent and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. When a Christian grasps that, they begin to realize how amazing and sweet salvation really is, and they begin to realize that salvation wasn't really about them at all. It was about God, and Christ, and His glory, and Their love for one another from before the foundation of the world. You begin to get called out of your petty wishes and lives and enter into God's grand story.
It is taken for granted by non-Calvinists that Christ died for all, in fact the thought likely never crosses the mind of most that He would only die for some. That's how it was for me before I understand the gospel more accurately and what it meant for Christ to die for His people. Most people who don't study the word seriously or have been taught wrongly their whole lives believe that Christ loves everyone and His greatest desire is to save as many as He can by every means necessary. In fact they think He is saddened when sinners do not choose Him and perish in hell. I also was told by another man at the wedding that he sometimes thinks about how great it would be if God let all those in hell into heaven after a few thousand years, as if that would be awesome or something. He told me that several years before and I about popped ten veins in my forehead, but a few years of Bible college has apparently calmed me. This time I simply acknowledged that he spoke these words in my general direction, because though I know he means well and is sincere, He is sincerely wrong.
God's greatest desire is for His glory. That is, God's chief end is to glorify Himself and enjoy Himself forever. Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and John Piper adds that we glorify God by enjoying Him forever. But how can one enjoy God if they do not know God? How can one know God if they do not study the Word of God, which reveals who He is, particularly in the life and work of Christ? How can theology not matter? Theology is everything. Theology is life.
I guess the concern these guys had was the severing of head knowledge from heart affection. Very well, that can be a problem and for some it is. It is a problem for almost anyone who tries to actually obey God in knowing Him more by studying His Word. But to solve this problem by cutting off your mind, the seat of where all your affection and love rises, is to commit suicide as a Christian. Or at best, it is to remain an infant, an ignorant dummy in the faith. That isn't being harsh, that's reality. It is like a child who needs to get off of the bottle of milk and move on to meat but doesn't want to. That's exactly what a Christian who refuses to study theology is, an adult sucking on breast milk.That's the same analogy God gives in Scripture (Heb. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 3:1-2).
Calvinism just isn't compatible with American Christianity, because American Christianity is at root seeker sensitive and thinks that God's greatest concern is man's well being, not His.
God's greatest concern is His well-being, His glory, and man finds His joy in the fact that God commands us to make much of Him, to glorify Him. And we glorify Him by knowing Him well and praising Him for who He is in all that we learn about Him. That praise is an expression of affection, and leads to greater faithfulness and resistance to sin. In other words, those who know God better will love Him more and become more sanctified, more Christ-like. Those who choose to remain babies in the faith, intentionally ignorant, will not mature in the faith, even though they probably think they are mature.
You see, it's people who say such ridiculous things like theology doesn't matter that do not realize that they are full-grown adults with bottles hanging from their mouth and drool falling down their chin. They don't realize that they are handicapped, but unlike mentally handicapped people, they can realize it. They don't realize it because their parents and pastors and friends and anyone who knows better never told them how stupid they look and sound and that they need to grow up.
That's what this blog post is for. It's tough love, but if this causes you to wipe the drool off your bearded chin and put down that breast milk from your full-grown lips, I imagine you'll thank me for it. I needed the drool knocked off from my chin and the bottle pried from my lips once too, and I am so thankful to God for the person he provided to do this for me. Yes, this will challenge the core of your beliefs about God, your most basic notions of Him, but they need to be challenged. It is time to grow up, and on the other side of the growing pains is glory and delight like you never could have imagined.