If We Have Theological Systems but Have not Love . . .

Question from a Site Viewer

Without Love, Theological Systems Are Useless

I am Baptist by faith but moreso a Christian. I have had an unsettled spirit lately since my sister has become a full-blown Calvinist. We can’t even talk about God anymore since our theological systems of who God is are so different. I struggle with some of the scriptures she shared with me and I want to be able to defend my faith.

Tim’s Answer

When one’s theological system becomes more defining of us than one’s relationship with Jesus Christ, we know we are in trouble. Jesus taught that people would know that we are in relationship with Him (are His disciples) if we love one another (John 13:35). Paul states it so well; knowledge puffs up but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). As I read the Scriptures, the greatest doctrine is the doctrine of love. It was the great love of God that drove Jesus to die for His enemies. It was God’s love for the world that caused Him to send His son. It was His love for the lost that brought Jesus into the world. And if we are to be conformed to His image, then our own maturity should be marked by that same love for those who have gone astray and our desire and prayer for them should be the same as Paul’s, that they may be saved (Romans 10:1).

Whether our theological systems rightly describe God’s plan for salvation, whether we rightly understand man’s responsibility before God, whether we are able to put God in our human boxes and think we have Him figured out . . . none of this matters one iota if our hearts and our actions do not cry “love.” This is why both Christ and His apostles in their teachings and writings emphasize our responsibility to believe and to love. We cannot love rightly if we do not believe. And it is not a belief in the decrees of God or His sovereignty that defines faith, but rather a belief in the existence of God and His goodness as a rewarder of those who seek Him diligently (Hebrews 11:6).

Debates largely simply reinforce previously desired opinions. Such theological debates do little to draw people to Jesus Christ. Although the early church strongly argued for “free will,” by the time of Augustine in the fifth century determinism had arisen and has been a position held by a significant number of Christians ever since. Some very strong believers have held a Calvinistic position. While my reading of Scripture does not lead me to their position, they are not my enemies. Rather, we all have an imperfect understanding down here and I think a little humility is very precious in the sight of God. I take to heart the admonition to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and the command not to sow discord among the brothers. Thus, if someone wants to take a Calvinistic view of Scripture, I want to love them and seek to live out the Christ life in such a way that they can see Christ in me. It is not my goal to have them change their beliefs nor do I want to be so set in my views that the Spirit cannot teach me from the Word, but it is my goal that they love Christ and others more.

Satan would want nothing better than have us debate all day, every day, about how God works out His sovereignty in this world. The work of God is too important for us to do this. Thus, I encourage you to love your sister and listen to her, letting your own words be few. If she asks you what you think, you might respond that you do not read Scripture as showing God to be as she portrays Him, and then leave it at that. If she presses you, you can let her know that in your reading of the Bible God loved the world, came to take away the sins of the world, has been the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, commands all men everywhere to repent, desires all to be saved, has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and wills all to be saved. Jesus is the one who commends the faith of individuals and tells them that their faith has saved them. This is what you read. If she wants to debate, let her know that you have no desire to debate nor to change her mind, but these are some of the reasons why you believe what you do. Then leave the subject.

As for Dave Hunt, while we may be in agreement on some of the underlying theologies, I have long struggled with some of the language he employs. I do not always read grace when I read him, and for me grace is foundational to a Christian discussion or disagreement. I know that we are not perfect in this area either, so a I am not casting stones at Dave Hunt or the Berean Call, but I do not often recommend him.

I know with those close to us it can be difficult to let things go, but grace and love calls for our meekness, humility, and cessation of striving. May the Lord Jesus and His Spirit guide you in deepening your walk with Him.

theological systems

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