Every Tuesday morning, after my New Testament class, I head over to the library and grab myself a cup of coffee before I clock in for work. I typically find myself joined with several other students who have felt the call to grab a cup as well. Once the coffee has been poured and that first sip of the sweet nectar touches our soul, the conversations begin. These are not your typical conversations regarding the latest movie or the latest news headline. These conversations are more theological in nature and typically involve the latest controversy over what some mega pastor did or did not say regarding some issue that may or may not be heresy. Oh, the life of a bible college student.
While these conversations are not inherently bad in nature, they do have a tendency to cause us to focus on the wrong thing. With a documentary in the making exploring the rise of Calvinism, as well as the Southern Baptist Convention still discussing the latest election, it is especially easy to take a hard-lined stance on a secondary issue; to major on the minors.
I get it, I honestly do. These are typically issues that we feel strongly about. We see a specific doctrine plainly in the text and wonder how anyone else can miss it. How can anyone deny these specific doctrines? I mean, it’s clearly stated! How dare they not utilize the same exegetical method as I.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are times when it is beneficial to discuss certain doctrines we see in the text. It is actually fairly important that we dive into the Word and work out what the text says. We are dealing with the very Word and revelation of God. We should not forsake it. However, when our primary focus of our study of the text is sharpening our theological axe to cut down our fellow brothers in Christ whom we disagree with, then we have lost sight of the Gospel.
John Calvin once famously said that zeal without doctrine is like a sword in the hands of a lunatic. And he was absolutely correct. The importance of a proper theological understanding is vital in a culture that sets to systematically undermine the very Gospel message that we are called to spread. We are called, not only to take this message of Christ’s crucifixion to the ends of the world, but to uphold the teachings of the Word of God. Titus 1:9 tells us to rebuke those who seek to contradict sound doctrine. But this is only one side of the theological coin.
If zeal without doctrine is like a sword in the hands of a lunatic, then doctrine without zeal is like a doctor who refuses to administer the cure. We have the message of the Cross. We have the very Gospel that the apostles carried to their grave. Tell me, if we have this message and yet fail to tell the world and fulfill our great commission, then how can we honestly say that we have love for our neighbor? We can’t. Because if we really had the love for our neighbor that we tell ourselves we do, then we would at least share the Gospel with them.
Rather than share the gospel with the world we have somehow reduced evangelism to a spiritual gift rather than a great commission. We tell ourselves that we are just not blessed with that ability. Well, there are days when I am not blessed with the ability to love my wife in a Christ-like manner, but I do it anyway because I have been called to love her the way that Christ loves the Church. Evangelism is not a spiritual gift, and discussing doctrine with our brothers in Christ is not a replacement for discussing the Gospel with our neighbor. We have got to find a balance.
We have too many discernment bloggers ranting about the latest misstep of some pastor. We have too many voices crying out in the technological wilderness and not enough voices comforting the widows and orphans. Why? Why is it that we see some cussing pastor lambasted all over social media while a mother is searching for answers as to why her son overdosed on heroine? It is because these same voices that are supposed to love our neighbors have taken to calling people out on Twitter and exposing the heretical nonsense that they preach. Yes, that is important and we are called to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine. But that is not our primary focus.
While we are too busy focusing on how people get saved, there are literally billions of people in the world that need to be saved. Whether or not it is from God’s divine election or an offer from the Holy Spirit is a moot point. The only thing that matters in that moment is that the Gospel has been presented. Not the doctrines of grace, not TULIPS, not freewill, but the Gospel. Matthew 28:19 says “Therefore, go and makes disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It says to make disciples. Not Arminians, not Baptists, not Calvinists, and not Presbyterians. Disciples.
We can argue all we want. We can argue until we are blue in the face. We can cut down our theological opponents and seek to destroy their soteriology/eschatology/ecclesiology/whateverology, or we can recognize that we are facing some difficult times as followers of Christ, lock arms, and face what is coming head-on as brothers. We are not fighting side-by-side with an Arminian or a Calvinist. We are fighting side-by-side with brothers and sisters in Christ. Because at the end of the day when we read the texts, we see that it was Christ that died on the cross for our sins. It was not John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, or James White. It was Christ that died on the cross. Let us at least be united in that.