There is a big emphasis today on Reformed Theology or what is commonly referred to as “Calvinism.”
For those who are unfamiliar with this view, it is a narrow type of Systematic Theology that tends to focus more (or all) weight on God’s sovereignty, even if at the expense of man’s choice.
This position has been historically defined by the acrostic T.U.L.I.P.
- Total Depravity – every man is all bad
- Unconditional Election – there is no revealed reason why God picks whom He elects to be a part of His chosen people.
- Limited Atonement – Jesus did not die for those not a part of “the elect”
- Irresistible Grace – When God calls, you have to answer positively
- Perseverance of the Saints – If you’re elect, you stay elect
Without a point-by-point evaluation (I’d rather put a stick in my eye), let me just say these two points…
#1 The Bible does not explicitly affirm Limited Atonement – it’s not Biblical
#2 There is more than one place where Limited Atonement is contradicted by the plain reading of the NT (cf. 1Tim 4:10; 1John 2:2) – it’s anti-Biblical
So, obviously, I am not a 5-point Calvinist. But is that really such a big deal? I’m a Southern Baptists (a.k.a. Great Commission Baptist), so I hold to the Baptist Faith & Message as my statement of faith, but the BF&M is silent on the issue of Calvinism. You know why? Because it’s not a major issue in the Bible, so it shouldn’t be a major issue in our Theology. People who make a big deal out of there Calvinism (or lack thereof) have missed the point. Our theology should be about Jesus, we need to be sharing the Gospel with the lost world, not arguing about whether or not they can be saved.
This is why I greatly appreciated this quote from a strong advocate for Reformed Theology the first time I read it:
… we may ask why this matter is so important after all. Although Reformed people have sometimes made belief in particular redemption a test of doctrinal orthodoxy, it would be healthy to realize that Scripture itself never singles this out as a doctrine of major importance, nor does it once make it the subject of any explicit theological discussion. Our knowledge of the issue comes only from incidental references to it in passages whose concern is with other doctrinal or practical matters. In fact, this is really a question that probes into the inner counsels of the Trinity and does so in an area in which there is little direct scriptural testimony – a fact that should cause us to be cautious. A balanced pastoral perspective would seem to be to say that this teaching of particular redemption seems to us to be true, that it gives logical consistency to our theological system, and that it can be helpful in assuring people of Christ’s love for them individually and of the completeness of his redemptive work for them; but that it also is a subject that almost inevitably leads to some confusion, some misunderstanding, and often some wrongful argumentativeness and divisiveness among God’s people – all of which are negative pastoral considerations. Perhaps that is why the apostles such as John and Peter and Paul, in their wisdom, placed almost no emphasis on this question at all. And perhaps we would do well to ponder their example.