Over the weekend, I was briefly sucked into a theological discussion thread on Facebook in which the original question was posed along the lines of “If Calvanism is the gospel (cf. Spurgeon) and I am not a Calvanist, do I reject the gospel?” Despite my attempt at a quick diversionary answer, the thread quickly transformed into a TULIP discussion, so I left it behind…
For those curious, I quoted Titus 3:9-10 to kick things off:
“But avoid foolish […] arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.”
Here’s my point: while written with respect to the Old Testament law, I see the passage from Titus applying to modern theological discussions equally as well. If arguments and disputes about law/theology cause division among believers to the point that lines are drawn in the sand as to who is a real believer, then are they really worth pursuing?
Mind you, I am not saying that Calvanism is not valid Christianity. I believe it is, just as Arminianism is and all the various points of view in between. But if somebody calls their orthodox point of view the only true gospel to the exclusion of other orthodox points of view, then I will question if it should be validly called *the* gospel. In fact, with all due respect to Spurgeon et al, I would say that any systematic theological point of view is not *the* gospel inasmuch as by focusing interpretation on a defined set of rules, they contain only a partial perspective of the object of the gospel and are not the object itself.
I would perhaps even argue that it is only by eliminating systematics that we can even approach an inclusive understanding of the object of the gospel. That being Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven incarnate for all mankind and the future hope of all creation.
The Bible is the story of Christ, but it is not Christ himself. Everything we have – the Old Testament narratives, wisdom literature, prophetic books, the “gospels”, the letters of the New Testatment, our theological and ecclesiastical traditions and all the rest — they present, reveal, interpret and apply the truth of Christ to our lives, but they are not the gospel in and of themselves.
I write this at the risk of being called arrogant (again), but I place my hope in Christ, not the Bible, Calvin, Protestantism, or any other object of mankind.