I stared at the blank screen for nearly an hour before typing the first letter of this post. Passing before my mind's eye were the faces of well-known apologists who have seen something in a review or statement of another Christian and then made that other Christian the target of thousands of typed words and hundreds of hours of videos of critical blasting war. This is not true of all apologists, but it is the case for some. And not that I think any well-known apologists might give SaltyBeliever.com any attention, but maybe the mention of the film I was hoping to review would trigger some alert.
Sometimes I wonder these apologists have droids searching out the internet like the floating robots the Empire sent to the Ice Planet Hoth. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm as skilled as Han Solo and Chewbacca to take out the probs.
Therefore, I will not be writing a review of Les Lanphere's film, "Calvinist." There is much I could say, both positive and negative, but it's just not going to happen.
As I thought about the situation before me, I conducted an internet search of some of the keywords, the name of the film, and names of the participants. What I discovered was both shocking and sad. I found brilliant men (not necessarily in the film or associated with it) who have dedicated hundreds of hours to making YouTube videos, podcasts, and written posts arguing with each other about soteriology. Is that all we have time for these days? Is there nothing more important? Have we reached theological stall out?
But please don't hear that I think soteriology is unimportant. And please don't believe that I am suggesting that less time should be spent getting doctrine right. It goes much deeper than that.
What I found was a lot of theological energy spent contending for 450-year-old ideas and the men who developed those ideas. I can't imagine that the intelligent, academically-driven Reformers would have wanted us arguing for or against them still to this day. Instead of taking up the charge of exploring the depths of God's Scripture to understand better, we've taken up the banner of one theology or another, from one dude or another . . . for 400 years.
I watched some videos (or part of videos). Brilliant men used Scripture to argue for or against a position and then against other brilliant men. They all raised interesting points with Scripture. It was thought-provoking. But the objective was to defend a position. They might say they are trying to get the Bible right, but it was so clear they were coming at it from the presuppositions of their old heroes and social camps. I started asking, "What kind of theological work and a scholarship might we have if these men spent less time going to blows against other Christians?"
It seems as if the study and work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius and many others is considered terminal work. This can't be so. They'd have never wanted such a thing. But that's exactly how we behave and think. We assume these imperfect men got it down on paper perfectly. And we act as if they reached the completion and totality of God's ways and thoughts on the matter. Is God so simple that such a thing could happen in one lifetime? I don't think so. So why do we assume this of Calvin, Luther, Arminius and others?
If others have stood on the shoulders of the Giants of the Reformation, their work must be shelved in the annals of academia. With the wide variety of Scripture on the condition of the heart--hardening or not, flesh or stone, wicked and deceitful and so on, might there be deep and hard things to consider here beyond what Calvin concluded? Might the atonement of Scripture be more multifaceted than the theological ideas so many have merely settled into? And what of God's call? The human condition? Scripture speaks so much on these things. There's still room for thought and work on these topics. I do remember some academic work and debate on justification at the Evangelical Theological Society, but is that where it ended? Did that discussion not make it to the pastor or podcaster, the apologists or even the man in the pew?
I am not contending that we try to add to or morph doctrine into something different than the Bible speaks. I am, however, asserting, that we continue onward as the people of Berea recorded in Acts 17. Even with the Apostle Paul as their teacher, they turned to the Scriptures to see if his teaching was so. Let's stand on the shoulders of giants and look further than they could imagine. And let us not make man the authority of our doctrines, but God. Let's continue to plumb the depths of God's Word. We need not give Calvin or Luther or Arminius the final word. We must not stall out theologically. For that would be a tragedy.