Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Systems analysis/Scripture must reign supreme

I realize the title of this post is a bit boring. However, the "system" I am referring to is Calvinism (sometimes referred to as "The Doctrines of Grace" or "TULIP").

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the big current debate is whether or not Calvinism hurts churches and harms evangelism and missions. Leaders within the convention do not agree on Calvinism. Some have made very public, disparaging comments about Calvinism.

One of the biggest criticisms is that Calvinism should be rejected because it is a "system." Because it is a system, so the thinking goes, it cannot be fair to scripture.

My question, however, is this: Don't we all hold to some system of beliefs? Some people will say, "I just believe the Bible." That sounds good, but what does it mean? There are, after all, many interpretations of scripture. We have cults, cults, and more cults that prove that to be true.

So why is Calvinism rejected just because it may be a system of beliefs? Let's take a quick look at the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP):

Total Depravity - You probably believe that the bible teaches that man is sinful. How sinful do you consider man to be?

Unconditional Election - You know that the bible says that God "elects" those who are saved. How do you interpret this? Do you think God chooses man, or does man choose God?

Limited Atonement - You probably believe that Christ's death at least paid for the sins of all who are saved. Do you think Jesus' death covers only those who are His followers, or does it cover the sins of all people?

Irresistible Grace - You believe God is gracious. Do you believe His saving grace can be resisted or not?

Perseverance of the Saints - You certainly believe that some people are saved. Once they are saved, do you believe they can reject this salvation?

You see, we all hold beliefs related to at least some of these issues. We also believe something about Jesus, heaven, baptism, the Holy Spirit, the church, the Lord's Supper, the rapture, the Trinity, the bible, and many others.

All of your beliefs come together to form a sort of system. Should your beliefs be automatically rejected by others because of this? What if someone said that the Trinity was a system? Would you then reject the Trinity?

I think we can all agree that our source of truth is the bible. That is the key. Whatever we believe should come straight from the scriptures. If anything does not line up with what the bible says, then that belief should be rejected.

Let me challenge you to compare Calvinism with what the bible teaches. Are the above 5 points true or not? Do they line up with scripture or not? Is God sovereign over salvation, or is He not?

Please do not believe something simply because you have heard it here or there, sometime in your past. Please honestly compare what you believe (regarding Calvinism or other issues) with what the bible simply says. As best you can, try to avoid coming up with complicated explanations for what a particular bible verse might mean. I've found that the simplest, most straight-forward meaning of the biblical text is usually what it means.

Every time I read the bible, I have to remind myself that I do not yet "have it all figured out." I doubt I ever will, at least on this side of heaven. So when I next open the bible, what if a belief I hold comes in conflict with the bible? If that is the case, I will have a belief to change.

Compare your system of beliefs with the bible. If there is conflict, the bible must win.

No comments: