Saturday, April 14, 2012

More on the dangers of Systematic Theology

Let me say up front that I think a strong commitment to a systematic understanding of the Bible is absolutely critical, and all Christians do it whether they realize it or not. But, as I have said a few times before, there is a real and present danger in over-using a systematic lens to view the world.
I was in a forum of Calvinists that assert that because the Atonement is a gift, and faith is a gift, man does not need to do anything to be saved. Don't worry, don't work for anything, don't trust in anything, just sit back, relax, and wait for God to save you and those you care about. Lift not a finger or prayer.
Because as Jesus said to the crowd in John 6: (what must we do to do the work God requires of us) don't do anything at all. God is sovereign and will do everything for you when He is ready. And as He says elsewhere "Strive not to enter the narrow gate, God will enter it for you."
Peter echoed the same words when addressing the crowd on the day of Pentecost: (what must we do to be saved?) "Do nothing whatsoever." And Paul to the Philippian jailor "God does what He wants to, just do nothing."
Or not. You can tell what I think about this argument.
I tried to argue the point that if Christians deny the means to the end then they have opted for hyper-calvinism. The sovereignty of God exists to keep in place the rules and laws God has established, it does not exist to short circuit and excuse it. For example, God has ordained that if humans fall from great heights they die. If you say that God is sovereign and will save you if He wants you have said something true, but not the whole truth. We are not to put God to the test by demanding He stop upholding His laws by an appeal to His sovereignty.  In the same way men are saved because they hear the gospel message preached, but how will they believe unless someone is sent? God has ordained the means of preaching to the end of establishing faith.
Anyway, I asserted that we must be careful when we say that faith is a gift lest we fall into this error.
The forum members jumped in and pointed out that if I believed faith was not a gift I must be an Arminian.
Agreeing I was an Arminian they began to explain to me Total Depravity, Perseverance of the Saints, Irresistible grace, etc.
They had systematized me. They were apply a theology technique for organizing knowledge on people.
Having sorted me into the Arminian bin they could dismiss me and anything else I had to say.
It was an excellent demonstration in the dangers of forgetting that the church is made up of people, not propositions. Or it's an example of knowledge puffs up but to be built up as a disciple in Christ you need love.
Or maybe it's just an example that some (or sometimes) Christians are just jerks and others will readily follow after them as Peter and Barnabas demonstrated.

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