Humans have the uncanny ability to turn good things—even beautiful things—into bad things. From food to money, sex to entertainment, our hearts are idol factories, as John Calvin once scathingly put it. The Bible doesn’t make the picture any brighter, either.
We also have the capability of ruining even the most beautiful, God-exalting theology. For some reason, many Christians who affirm the doctrines of grace don’t do well in showing grace. Hidden underneath the grandeur of Reformed theology is the wasteland of Reformed culture. Behind the attractiveness of big-God theology is the ugliness of what sinners can do.
Make no mistake, I unashamedly affirm Reformed theology and believe it is the most accurate way of viewing God, but Christians who affirm the tenets of Reformed theology tend to make it not so pretty. Instead of allowing the truths to penetrate the heart, we let our sin take control and use it to beat other faithful Christians over the head.
Reformed theology is beautiful but Reformed culture is not.
I don’t know what it is except more evidence of how wicked man’s heart can be, but Reformed culture is not just mean, but vicious. Just peruse a Twitter timeline of somebody who has “#1689” in their bio. With few exceptions, you will notice that they aren’t too kind in their tweets or comments.
The same sentiment goes for Facebook. This is the major reason why I don’t participate in Facebook groups, as many of them (the strictly Reformed ones) are just a cesspool of slander or needless debate. Reformed culture has given itself a bad name and it’s our fault.
From what I see, the majority of Reformed Christians online are too quick to label heresy and not quick enough to apologize. It becomes harder to swallow your pride when hiding behind a phone or computer. Reformed culture needs a reality check, because it’s not doing itself any favors.
And for those Reformed Christians who decide not to participate in that madness–thank you. You all show that it’s not the theology that is the issue, but people’s hearts.
Reformed Theology isn’t the Problem
Before we dive any further, let me state it plainly: there is nothing wrong with Reformed theology. There’s not something embedded within Reformed theology that will automatically make people jerks. People are just jerks and sometimes use beautiful theology to hurt people.
Whether you agree with Reformed theology or not, you cannot deny that it places a colossal emphasis on God’s grace. And that’s what we need. Christians need grace. We need grace for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
It’s not as if we need to shift Reformed theology around or label it heresy as some Christians do. Being Reformed is basically the same thing as identifying with another denomination. The problem, again, is not the theology. The problem is the human heart. How do we remedy that?
Focus on Jesus, not Calvinism
I understand that the section heading sounds like a false dichotomy but in light of the context, I hope you understand. As Christians, we need to be more about pursuing Jesus than Reformed theology. If our knowledge of Reformed theology abounds but our hearts are stale, what good is that?
It’s possible to love Reformed theology but not love Jesus. It’s possible to be wrapped up in the doctrines of grace that we forgot to be wrapped up in Jesus. It’s possible to be thrilled by the truths of Calvinism but not thrilled by Jesus.
Christians who are truly Calvinistic will be the most gracious people you will ever meet. We are all beggars, as Martin Luther said in his final words. Calvinism shouldn’t create cold-hearted know-it-alls but tender-hearted, compassionate Christians who look to the interests of other before our own (Philippians 2). As people who have been lavished with God’s grace, we, in turn, should lavish grace on others—not scold them. As people who have experienced God’s mercy, we should be merciful people to all.
The truths of Reformed theology are meant to console the soul, not cause it to swell up with pride. How on earth do we have so many Reformed Christians that are incessantly hateful? I think this is surely indicative of man’s fallen nature, not the theology. We have to focus our hearts on loving Jesus. Yes, doctrine is good. Buy doctrine does no good if it doesn’t affect your heart.
If you affirm Reformed theology—great, I do too. Let’s love Reformed theology. But let’s not forget about loving Jesus—the one it all comes from.