I have been thinking about this question for the last two years or so. I have written a little about how (or maybe simply that) my doctrine has changed since I became a Christian in 1991. I started out believing in Arminian theology (though I had no idea what that even meant for many years!) and held that view for about 12 years or so. Then, as I began to be faced with more and more complex biblical counseling issues and having to give answers from the Bible about how to deal with these issues, I realized that psychology was not the answer since it did not depend on the Word. I then realized that most Arminian theology (for lack of a better way to put it, mainstream Christianity, at least around me for many years) bought into “Christian” psychology for the most part and whenever I asked my Arminian brothers and other pastors of the same belief system, they all (except one!) said to leave counseling to the professionals, meaning to psychologists or psychiatrists, whether Christian or not. This was not an option for me!
So, as I asked around, one pastor I served with told me to check into the biblical counseling movement and the Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights, IL (I believe this is correct!). Well this was an hours’ drive north from where we lived so off I went. To make a long story short, through much study, research, and reading thousands of pages and 50+ books (biblical counseling books which then led directly to books on reformed theology or Calvinism), I began to believe in reformed theology or Calvinism. I spent the next 10 or so years studying that doctrine and feeling assured I had finally unlocked the keys yo the biblical text! But, through all of this, there was still a few nagging questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction and it bugged me to no end. One question was: What really is the Gospel, what is the minimum that one must believe/do to be saved? Another was: What do I have to obey in the Bible, or what is obedience and what does it look like?
Then, the question in the title of this post came into play a few years ago as my theology was once again being re-formed (not reformed, get it?). I have for so many years now believed that the height of Christianity was having and holding to right doctrine and that there was no more important thing for a Christian to be concerned about. That is why it was hard for me to relate to a “feel-good Gospel,” or a more feelings-based faith system. It was to subjective in my estimation, and I wanted as much objectivity as possible because that was the way to “real” truth. So, in my mind, and as near as I can tell, the minds of most of those I hung with, right doctrine was the ONLY way to obey Christ! Right doctrine was the only path that lead to total obedience to all that Christ commanded.
But today, I ask this question, and really do expect replies from those Arminians or Calvinists who would try to explain to me how holding their doctrine (Arminianism or Calvinism, synergism or monergism) can help me obey Christ. Let me help you to understand where I am at and where I am coming from now. Please explain to me how your doctrine will help me practice loving my neighbor more, my family more, and God more? How will it help me be more kind to people? How will doctrine help me not kill someone? How will it keep me from being selfish or help me to have more self-control? Let me get to my point, in case you are missing it. Does right doctrine ACTUALLY do anything for me to make me more like Christ? Or, as I read the plain words of Christ, can I merely choose to obey and become more like Him? If I read in Jesus’ teachings to love my neighbor as I love myself, can I merely look at the ways I love myself and then love my neighbor in ways like that? Or, do I need to study doctrine more to “cause” me to love my neighbor more?
My belief is that right doctrine may make me feel better about my relationship to God and help me understand the Bible better, but it will NEVER help me obey Christ! The only thing that will help me obey Christ is actually OBEYING Christ. In other words, when Christ says don’t steal, but work for what I need, that is what I do. I do not need to make sure I understand the kenosis, or the hupostatic union (hypo static if it makes you feel better!) or how the church is to be united. I must simply obey. I must go and do what is commanded, not hold a conference on Calvinism/Arminianism and then debate my detractors to prove how wrong they are. No, I need to love Christ enough to, like a little child, go and obey what He says.
This got longer than I intended, but truly, I welcome your comments and if you have them, answers to the question(s) posed here today. I especially put out the challenge to the Calvinists or Arminians who may be reading this blog (I know you are out there!) to not be shy. Jump in here and let me know what you think. If you truly care about others who have different views than you and are your brothers/sisters int eh Lord, you will be concerned that we know, I know, where I am going astray or where I am correct and need to press on and help others with my knowledge. Silence speaks volumes, you know what I mean?
Anyway, blessings to you in Christ our Lord!