Posts Tagged ‘Calvinism’

   I grew-up in church. A good church even. A little white Southern Baptist Church in a town of 600 people, located right next to the train tracks. I learned so much in that church. It essentially set the framework for my theology from a young age.

   Through various circumstances, the details of which I’m not entirely clear on, my family and I left that church and joined a church just up the road. It was billed simply as a Christian church, presumably of the independent variety; which as a rule, are loosely associated with either the Church of Christ or the Disciples of Christ. Either way, they maintain a more liberal theology than the SBC.

   Near the end of my almost sixteen year run with the aforementioned church, the theology of my wife and I began to charge (or perhaps evolve) and so did that of the church. As they began adopting some of the teachings of the Emergent movement of that time (specifically from Rob Bell and his Nooma video series), we began to take hold of a very Calvinistic view of Scripture. The two views clashed quite violently and we ended-up back at the SBC church I’d left years before (which coincidentally, was non-Calvinistic).

   So, what am I apologizing for, as per this post’s title? During the early days of our foray into Reformed theology, we (specifically me) fell headlong into the ditch of Calvinistic elitism. We believed that  because we had what we felt was a deeper understanding of the person of God that we were in some way superior to our Arminian brethren. I picked many, many fights and honestly, was a real jerk. Unfortunately, being a jerk seems to be the rule more than the exception amongst Reformed believers.

   So, for all the people I was a complete schmuck to, I’m sorry. To anyone I was a theological bully to, I’m sorry. To anyone who’s spiritual walk I questioned or assaulted, I’m sorry. I’ve done a lot of growing since that time. Please forgive me.

   So, where does that leave my theology?

   Oh, make no mistake, I’m still very much Reformed. Although maybe not enough to really consider myself a Calvinist anymore, at least not in the 5-point sense. I’ve just chosen to no longer make that fact the hill I die on or the standard by which I gauge someone else’s salvation. I am completely over viewing Christianity as a divided camp. We’re either in it or we’re out. Division amongst Christians does nothing but cause a weakened defense against the enemy, and we need all the fortification we can get!

   If we can agree on the essentials of the faith (which we’ll address another time), the rest will work itself out and you are my brother or sister in Christ.

   Say goodnight, Gracie.

 

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   It’s funny how you can be so sure that you’re right about something and then God decides to bonk you on the head and show you that you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.

   Two years ago this month we moved to Kansas City with very little certainty. The only thing I knew for sure was where we would attend church. This came following a number of phone calls with the pastor of said church who was the exact type of pastor, in the exact type of church, with the exact type of doctrinal stance I was looking for. Rigid, traditional, and Calvinistic to the core. If I was certain of one thing, it was that this church was exactly what we, as a family, and me, as a seminary student needed. No nonsense. No frills. No topical sermons. No contemporary music. No programs. Yes… this was it.

   Perhaps for a while I was right. They embraced us and the pastor took an interest in me and my studies. All was well. That is, until I announced that the Lord had called us into a ministry of church planting.

   Things soured quickly.

   Church planting, in the mind of that pastor was not a valid ministry. It was a gimmick intended to harm established churches. I was told that I needed to forget this calling and take over the pulpit from him once he retired. Thanks, but no thanks.

   Not only did things sour between him and myself, but things began to sour within me. I found myself loathing even walking in the door. I was disinterested in the sermons and had a heart unable and unwilling to worship during the hymns. I also had a problem. My family loved the church and did not want to leave.

   In retrospect I’m glad at the time they didn’t, because things needed dealt with.

   In the meantime, my buddy Tim and I embarked on what would become known as Ben & Tim’s Not My Church Tour. It was these adventures that helped initiate a change in me. For the first time I was able to see and experience worship in ways that I had always bemoaned as trite and insincere. Moreover, I was able to see how wrong I had been! From churches in parking garages to ornate Cathedrals, I saw people who’s hearts were truly full of the love of Christ and who worshiped Him not out of obligation, but out of gratefulness and joy. We witnessed everything from Catholic Mass to upbeat Pentecostalism to hipsters trying to live out their rock n’ roll dreams by way of songs by Matt Maher, David Crowder, and Matt Redman. But each had one thing in common (doctrinal differences aside)… they were all sincere in their worship of God.

   Knowing that I was lacking this worshipful heart made me sad. Sincerely sad. I knew a change had to come.

   Finally I did what I should have done much earlier. I made amends with my pastor. I explained that his statements were hurtful and that I disagreed with him, but I was no longer angry and I still loved him and was grateful to him for all he had done for my family and I. For the first time in months we had a good, heartfelt talk that day.

   Almost immediately, the Lord seemed to show me that He was finally happy that I’d stopped being an arrogant, jaded, knot-head and did the right thing by opening the door to transition into a new church. A church so far removed from what I wanted when we moved to Kansas City that they almost seemed to be different entities altogether.

   In January of 2012 I was happy with nothing less than a traditional church in a traditional church building with classically reverent hymns (on your choice of piano or organ), a pastor who held tight to the Doctrines of Grace (five points of Calvinism) and was rarely seen without a pressed suit and tie, and sermons preached from Ye Olde Authorized King James Bible (which I still like, mind you). Now however, in January of 2014 I find myself in a very non-traditional church which meets in a dance studio (although there are stained glass windows, so that’s cool), dies neither on the hill of Calvinism nor Arminianism, has a worship band with both contemporary music and electric instruments, a dress code that essentially asks that you please wear clothes of some sort, and that doesn’t believe that all non-KJV Bible translations are penned by the hand of the devil. And you know what..? I noted this past Sunday that I was finally truly, sincerely, humbly, and exuberantly worshipful!

   God is so much smarter than me.

   In closing, if you would like to read more about Ben & Tim’s Not My Church Tour, go here: http://benjaminsdennis.tumblr.com/

   Also, if you would like to visit my new church, go here for info: http://www.legacychurchkc.org/

   Farewell humanity and Godspeed.