Yes, I’m talking about Calvinism. Well, sort of. Stick with me – it won’t be as scary as you might think.
How would you respond if I told you I was a Calvinist?
Would you run away screaming, “Heresy!” determined not only to never read my blog again but also to try to expunge every word of encouragement you’d ever received through me from your mind?
Would you shout, “Yes! I knew it!” delighted that you finally discovered I agreed with you?
Would you scratch your head, asking what in the world I meant by that statement?
Would you ignore it, convinced that I was simply weighing in on some theological debate that had nothing to do with you?
No, I’m not going to tell you where I really fall on the Calvinism debate because, in all honesty, it’s irrelevant. The true relevance is not what my theology is labeled, but how I use theology in my spiritual growth. Further, it is a question to you: How do you use theology to contribute to your spiritual growth, if at all?
Do you even really know what theology is? Using the word I’ve already thrown out, could you define Calvinism? If so, what would your definition be? Where did you learn that definition? Does it leave you afraid or enlightened, whether you agree with the theology or not?
What if I were to throw out the categories of authors and preachers from whose books and teachings I have learned so much? Calvinists, yes, but many others as well. Would you have any basic understanding of the beliefs of the people whose teachings I have learned from over the years?
19th century Scottish Presbyterian who leaned toward Universalism.
20th century Anglican.
20th century Lutheran.
20th century liberal.
Contemporary conservative Baptist.
Contemporary moderate Baptist.
Contemporary Assembly of God.
And many more…
For some reason, we have convinced ourselves over the years that theology is for the preachers, teachers, authors, and seminary graduates. It’s not for the average everyday Christian. But, in adopting that belief, we have hurt ourselves more than we could ever imagine.
Everything we need to know is found in Scripture. And each of us has the Holy Spirit living within us that we might be able to dig in and understand Scripture. But, the Bible also teaches us that we are a body that cannot function without the other members. I don’t think the same way my husband and children do. They see things just a bit differently sometimes, and when they share what they see with me, sometimes a light bulb comes on in my own mind where lack of understanding previously resided.
We need each other!!!
And that, my friends, is what theology is. Its basic definition is “the study of God.” But its practical application is the understanding of others, organized, given a title, and shared with the rest of us for our edification.
I can’t imagine that there is a single theological perspective that is one hundred percent accurate. After all, we are all humans with a finite understanding. What we see of God through Scripture and His interaction with us in this world is just a minuscule image of who He is. So, no theology will be complete until we see Him face to face. But, that lack of perfection in theology is part of what makes studying it so extremely critical for even the most average believer. Each picture of God that we can study, compare to Scripture, and personally evaluate increases our own understanding of God. It grows us more and more as we approach that point where we will see Him face to face. And oh how exciting that is!
So, how does that apply to you? How can you truly adopt a life of spiritual growth that includes theology? Allow me to share a few suggestions.
Decide that you want to learn. Read a book this year that challenges you. Not a fluffy self-help book. A book that takes you to the heart of digging into Scripture. Ask trusted godly friends or your pastor for recommendations if needed. But dig!
Don’t limit what you read to those who reside within your own “group.” Branch out beyond your denomination or personal belief system.
Don’t be afraid to disagree! It is okay to look at someone from whom we have learned much and disagree with them on some point. It is also okay to find a nugget of truth from someone we typically disagree with. Just learn to be able to back up your arguments with Scripture.
Do be careful, though. Some points are non-negotiable. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He did die. He did rise again. He did ascend to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God. He is the only way. Anyone who does not agree fully and completely with those statements is probably not worth listening to at all. And even some who agree with those statements might be rather loose with their interpretation of the rest of Scripture. Bottom line – seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you dig! You have personal access to the throne of God. Use it!
I warn you: the more you learn theologically, the more you find you still have to learn. But, oh how worthwhile it is! Even if you are someone who already loves theological learning, my prayer for you is that a year from now you will be able to look back and discover that you are less afraid of theological ideas. Still intimidated, maybe, by the vastness of what can be learned, but not afraid. And I pray that such a discovery will excite you phenomenally, leaving you hungry for much, much more.