Wednesday, January 14, 2004

So, this blog contraption has been up and running for a couple of days now, and I'm feeling the pressure to post something profound or eloquent. I think Redd-2 is way ahead at this point. But that's no reason to give up!

One thing that has struck me recently is the pervasive stereotype of the "elitist Calvinist." That is, I think many people have the perception that so-called "Reformers" are usually arrogant, "smarter-than-thou" jerks who are pre-occupied with drilling their dogmas into the brains of all the lesser folks who disagree with Saint Calvin. Granted, their perceptions are not without basis. There are a whole lot of argumentative Reformed folk out there, and a fair number of them would rightfully be labeled as jerks. Of course, you could easily make the case that people of all ideological stripes can come across as condescending, etc. A real-life example: Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man. Hank is definitely not aligned with the Reformed camp on many of the crucial issues (i.e., of soteriology). And granted, he has done a great service to the Church by researching various aberrant movements, both inside and outside of the stream of Christian orthodoxy. His desire to equip believers with the tools to defend their faith is to be commended. But, at the same time, he really comes across poorly over the radio. Intentionally or not, he often talks down to callers, and he can come across as arrogant.

Nevertheless, the stereotype of the mean, elitist Calvinist remains. My question is, why is this generalization so often true? Certainly, not all Reformed types fit this mold, but there are undoubtedly a lot that do. Why is it like this? One thought I had concerned the dangers inherent in knowledge and learning. The Reformed tradition is most definitely steeped in scholasticism, and the weight of sound Scriptural exegesis is definitely in its corner. Admittedly, this is the strength that I find most convincing. However, as Paul warns us, knowledge without love is quite unprofitable. Without love, the pursuit of knowledge - even the study of God and His revealed Word - can de-volve into a sort of Gnostic quest for the "secret knowledge" that is reserved solely for the spiritual elite. Our great learning may not drive us mad, but it can stoke the embers of pride that are always lurking in our fallen hearts.

The solution, though, is not to jettison the learning. Unfortunately, this approach is all too-prevalent in modern evangelicalism, which is rife with anti-intellectualism. Evangelicals have properly identified the problems with too much learning, but all too often, they have come up with poor solutions, usually involving a "love is all you need" mentality. In olden days, the scholars who studied the Sacred Writ were given the highest regard. Nowadays, though, "theology" is a dirty word, often visualized as stuffy, lifeless doctrines contained in dust-filled tomes of boring academia.

Instead of forsaking our God-given command to diligently study His word, the Biblical solution is to guard our learning with love. Instead of using our doctrines as weapons to assault the less-learned, we Reformed folks (and all Christians, for that matter) need to extend the same grace to others that we believe God has already given to us. This includes patiently discussing the Scriptures with people who disagree. This includes trying to understand the other person's point of view, even if it is incorrect. We didn't come into this world with a correct view of God, and hopefully, we don't see ourselves as currently having a perfect grasp on His truth. If we can show leniency to ourselves for not having 100% pure doctrine, is it so inconceivable that we should cut others a break every now and then?

Michael Spenser, the Internet Monk, wrote a great article on this subject. Perhaps he said it better than me. But then again, I'm trying to make good use of this blog. As we all know, there are plenty of stuffed animals that need to be preached to. ;)

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