Does it really matter?
I was recently in a discussion concerning Calvinism and one of the parties stated “I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, and the focus should be on pleasing Him, doing His will, and spreading the gospel to others (and I think that’s all that really matters vs. if I’m a Calvinist or not)” So I ask the question – “Does it really matter?” I contend that it does.
The young lady is mistaken in that she thinks one can divorce doctrine from practice. But this is impossible. Scripture is clear that one’s actions are the result of one’s belief (Jesus tells us the root of the tree determines the fruit of the tree.). So does it matter if one is a Calvinist or not? Lets look at what she said matters as a case study (however brief).
A follower of Jesus Christ:
What is it to follow Jesus? Is it just going around and doing good deeds for others? Isn’t that what Jesus did? Surely not every one who does a good deed for another is following Jesus – for we don’t believe Mormon’s are Christians, or doctors who refuse to abort unborn children are Christian by default. To follow Jesus is more than just loving people. It’s being His disciple. His teachings are studied and devoured; then lived out. For one to say they follow Jesus, and then deny the truths He taught is a contradiction.
Now I am not saying that only Calvinists are truly following Jesus. There are many who are “Arminian” just because we all are by nature. But one cannot honestly say he is following Jesus and then flat out deny, or refuse to understand, John 3:1-8, John 6, John 10, (to name a few). To only accept piece-meal the teachings of Jesus that we like and ignore the others or claim finite understanding to avoid being challenged, is not following Jesus, but rather a paper Jesus.
What is pleasing Him? As a Calvinist would say total reliance upon God. Seeing that all things come from Him, He controls all things. Recognizing and worshiping Him as Who He is – the Only Wise Sovereign. Whether that be evangelism, suffering, or playing baseball with one’s son; all these things are results of the cross and we do them out of love. I am even made pleasing to God through the cross of Christ. It is His death and resurrection that justifies me and why I am no longer under the law, but keep it joyfully. Pleasing Him is not something I do for Him of my own libertarian free-will, but something He does through me by grace. It is living with God in His rightful place as Sovereign Lord and man in his as creature.
Spreading the gospel:
This is vital. For the non-Calvinist the gospel is a chair without legs. They offer the lost a cross that is not sufficient to save, a Savior that couldn’t complete the job, and a God Who is hoping to get them to heaven but can’t apart from the sinner’s letting God save them. It is not the biblical gospel, and the only thing it has in common with the true gospel is the same commonality that a cult has with truth – lingo. The non-Calvinist uses the same terminology but redefines it. Atonement doesn’t mean atonement, ransom doesn’t mean ransom, redeem doesn’t mean redeem, desperately wicked doesn’t mean such, grace alone really isn’t alone, etc. The main thing is for them to keep man understanding that his eternal destiny rests in his hands and that what he chooses to do will be the final determining factor in his salvation. The crown of salvation is laid at the feet of the sinner instead of the feet of the Savior. The very purpose of the gospel to the non-Calvinist is the betterment of man. It’s even used to convince man that they are extremely valuable, thus diminishing their heinous sin.
I know it is brief, but I’m on lunch and wanted to jot a few thoughts down. So in review…. If I must jettison, or twist, some of the teachings of Jesus in order to deny Calvinism then I can’t be a follower of Jesus. If I think that my pleasing God is done in my strength instead of depending on God’s sustaining and empowering grace to live my life for Him – even realizing this desire to do so is a gift from God – if I’m not believing that He is really God as He presents Himself in Scripture, then I’m not pleasing Him. If I must distort the gospel in order to give it in a way that, although massively misaligned to the biblical gospel, does fit nicely with how I think God should operate -if I offer people good news that teaches Jesus almost saved you, but you’ve got to meet Him partway – then I’m not really giving the gospel.
So does it really matter?