For a while now, I have been considering making a major theological change. Really, it is more of a recognition of something that has been on my heart for awhile. Since 2003, I have been a member of a group online defining itself as being both reformed and charismatic. I joined the group in early 2003 after leaving the Assemblies of God church that I was a member of because of the discovery that I was a Calvinist. But much has happened in the last seven years and just moments ago, after having been called names and accused of some rather vicious things, I made the decision to leave the group, no longer being able to tolerate the growing divisive attitude in the group. Some of you think, “Big deal…it’s just an online group,” but it was much more that to me. They were very intregal in helping to shape my theology and many people on the board are great people. I just realized that the terms “reformed” and “charismatic” were terms that I was hiding behind and I also believe that many in that group and in the reformed camp are guilty of the same thing.
So let’s just get this out in the open: I am no longer reformed, but let me tell you what I mean by that. The fact is, I may never have been. One pastor on that board posted a definition of “reformed” that included being a member of a reformed denomination. I do not agree fully with this person’s position, but will grant him the point that since I have never been a member of a denomination that is reformed, you could make that case. The church that I grew up in was Southern Baptist. I attended a Pentecostal Baptist church (yes, I wrote that right) while in undergrad before we joined the Assemblies of God Church. The church that I became affiliated with while in seminary was the Evangelical Free Church. It takes no official position on Calvinism or Arminianism. Our membership is currently at The Chapel in North Canton, Ohio and while it does not take an official position, the doctrine that is taught is primarily of a Baptist flavor and most likely a hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism. As I said, if that is your definition of reformed, then I have never been reformed. However, I have tentatively embraced all five points of Calvinism. I have described myself though as a “questioning Calvinist.” I have a lot of questions particularly in regards to the doctrine of Limited Atonement. I firmly now believe that Jesus died for all of humanity, not just the elect. The best explanation of this is Driscoll’s explanation of “unlimited limited atonement,” but that isn’t the only question that I have. The others seem rather minor compared to that one. Anyway, my point is that since I embrace all five points of Calvinism, I did consider myself reformed. The reason that I no longer consider myself reformed is that it seems that those who want or desire to be labeled as “reformed” seem to think that the Reformation stopped around the 16th century. No, it continues today. We are to be “ever reforming” in the best sense of the reformers. We are to be on offense, not always on defense, defending the fortress of Calvinism. I have observed that the current state of the reformed camp places more emphasis on defending the fort, than advancing onto new ground. My desire is to bring people to Jesus, not necessarily to some academic agreement to a particular theology. I’ll still teach and preach that God is sovereign in all things, but I’ll let the Holy Spirit deal with the specifics in each individual believer’s heart. I still believe that theology is important; indeed, I believe it is everything, but I’m not here to shove it down their throats and I will not break fellowship with those who believe differently that I do on that issue. I do not believe that Calvinism or “being reformed” is the gospel. The gospel is John 3:16.
So there you have it. I’m not even sure if I was ever reformed, but you know what? I don’t really care anymore. I just want to love and serve Jesus. At the end of my life, I am not going to be asked whether or not I am a reformed or a Calvinist. What matters is what I do with Jesus. That means everything.