Something is bothering me.
Before I explain what is bothering me—hopefully for your edification and my own—allow me to make a few qualifiers.
First, it is very possible that I am assigning motives and issues of the heart that are not really there but only a reflection of my own sinful tendencies.
Second, this piece is intended to be a caution to my Reformed/Calvinistic brothers and sisters. If you do not fit that bill then you can use this piece to look at your own heart as it relates to the “theological camps” that you tend to frequent. However, this is not to be used as fodder to fire your cannons against Reformed theology. A sinful expression of a theology does not mean the theology is in error, it means the person espousing it is sinful like everyone else.
Now onto what is bothering me…
When I first embraced the doctrines of grace I was a jerk. I know, contradiction in terms, right?!? Part of this jerkiness was the way that I made your beliefs on Calvinism a measuring stick of orthodoxy. I made it THE issue.
If I found myself in a strange place with other believers that I did not know I kept my eyes open for certain clues as to whether or not they were Reformed minded. Part of this was an immature understanding of other positions. Part of it was being a minority and trying to find a kindred spirit. It wasn’t all jerky.
Whenever I found someone that wore the Scarlet C like me I felt a much deeper kinship. The handshakes were more hearty and the conversations more genuine. Those that had not yet given their heart to Calvin I tended to keep at a distance. I’d be cordial but not fervent in my relationship with them.
But I have grown up…I think.
I seldom look for the Scarlet C. I’m more concerned with a passion for Jesus and a humble evangelical spirit. And because of this “tempering” I tend to not wear my “yep, I’m a Calvinist” T-shirts. When I meet new people I no longer ask questions that will somehow let me know if they are Reformed or not before I really open up.
Awhile back I found myself in the company of a good number of pastors from different backgrounds and different beliefs. I had the unique advantage going into the group of knowing where many of these gents stood on the Calvinism question. They, on the other hand, had no idea if I’d rather hang out with Arminius or Beza.
You know what I noticed? Many of the non-Calvinists were more apt to give me a hearty handshake and say, “welcome to the group”. Not so with those who were more Reformed…I got a cordial welcome but not an open armed “welcome to the group, brother”. If I had been wearing my scarlet C I can’t help but think that it would have been different.
This leads to my simple point. Is our fellowship more centered around the gospel or our adherence to the doctrines of grace? If it’s harder to hug an Arminian what really is the central tenet of our faith? If fellowship is “self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision”, and if our fellowship is deeper once you find out I’ve got a bookcase devoted to Puritans, Calvin, Newton, and Spurgeon what is our “shared vision”? Is it Jesus or Reformed theology?
Feel free to push back…