A few days back Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, tweeted something that I found very peculiar.  He said,

Every Christian who prays is functionally a Calvinist                            who believes in the sovereignty of God.

Being a person of faith who prays, and does not claim to be a Calvinist, I have to disagree with what Pastor Mark is saying.

Now, to be honest with you, I don’t know a lot about Driscoll.  I know that he started Mars Hill as a home church, and it has exploded over the last several years, and it is widely seen as one of the cutting edge churches in contemporary America.  Lives are being changed, people are getting connected to God, and those are great things.  However, theologically, Driscoll is off base here.

Believing in the sovereignty of God is not a mark of a Calvinist, but rather, it is the mark of a person who reads Scripture.  Calvinism, in my understanding, places a heavy emphasis on the sovereignty of God; whereas, Arminianism (Calvinism’s theological counterpart) places a heavy emphasis on the grace of God.

A strict Calvinist would argue that God’s sovereignty carries over even to salvation – those who are saved have been predestined to be saved, and those who are not have also been predestined to an eternity separate from God.  This line of reasoning goes against the Arminian belief that salvation is available to all, though some willingly choose to ignore the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ.

As a United Methodist from the Wesleyan theological tradition, I can say unequivocally that I believe in the sovereignty of God, and at the same time, I can say unequivocally that God’s grace allows us to decide whether or not we will accept the offer of salvation.  In my eyes, this does not in any way inhibit God’s sovereignty.  If anything, it enhances God’s sovereignty.

Driscoll’s mistake, in my humble opinion, is that he still believes there are lines that need to be drawn between the Calvinist and the Arminian.  The simple truth is, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, who see things a little differently.  Let me finish with a passage from the Works of John Wesley, Volume X:

John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man…  Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians.  Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

One more word: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? – a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity.  Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it?  And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach?  Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but read that tweet from Driscoll as though it is dripping with pride and self-assurance about his Calvinist convictions.  There is a smugness about it.  Perhaps that was not his intention, but I definitely see it coming through.

So, Mark (as if he’s ever going to read this), chill out.  It doesn’t matter if somebody is a Calvinist or an Arminian.  What really matters is if somebody is a believer or a non-believer.  We’re both on the same side; we’re just in different branches of the Armed Forces: the Navy and the Army.  Save your smugness and your pride about your Calvinist theology for a day when that is actually going to matter.

Advertisements