Surface Calvinists

Reformed theology has really begun to take off among a lot of Christian millennials. It's encouraging to see so many young people embracing the doctrines of grace.

Unfortunately, because of it's popularity, there's a warning all of us must heed: don't be a surface Calvinist.

Surface Calvinism

Being reformed in our theology is so much more than long beards, smoking cigars and drinking beer. It's more than Spurgeon sermons and a bookshelf full of theologians. It's even more than reformed memes and twitter wars.

It's a series of beliefs that should reveal the true state of our souls and elevate the God who saved us. It should bring us to a deeper humility before God and others, and should change the way we live.

If you find your identity in your theology and beliefs about God rather than in Jesus himself, you might be a surface Calvinist.

We are all prone to this. We must ask ourselves, are we finding our worth in our, "right theology" or in Christ? Are we overly offended and even hurt when in contact with those who disagree with us? Do we have little grace for them? Do they become the butt of our jokes because of how silly we think their beliefs are?

Do we view ourselves as better or wiser than those who differ in opinion from us?

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3 ESV)

Convicted yet? My heart was breaking over these heart checks as I was thinking through them myself. It's easy to have head knowledge, and even easier to become prideful in it. But what would happen if we allowed our, "solid" theology to seep into the deep crevices of our hearts and really impact the way we live?

Knowledge Comes From God

I love me a good reformed meme. But I've been convicted of how easily we, as Calvinists (myself included), give into a haughty attitude toward Arminians. It's as if we catch a high by laughing at how, "illogical" their beliefs are, forgetting the very foundation of reformed theology.

Here within the Scripture we adore, lies a warning for us:

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12 ESV)

I'm the first person to perk my ears up at teaching that is off. And I believe we should encourage those around us to seek out the truth about God in his Word. (And do so ourselves.) But friends, we didn't come to the knowledge of the doctrines of grace through our own wisdom.

God revealed it to us. And he hates our arrogance. (Proverbs 6:17).

It's completely backwards for us to claim we are saved wholly by grace, only to turn around and live as though we came to a deep knowledge of Scripture on our own.

Reformed theology shouldn't remain mere head knowledge, but instead, it should sink down into our hearts and affect our worldview. When this happens, it will bring us to a place, not of arrogance, but humility.

We will approach those who don't agree with us with meekness and gentleness, knowing it is God's hand alone that led us to believe what we believe.

Theology That Humbles

Reformed theology isn't something we use as a banner over us saying, "Look at us! We're so intelligent!" Instead, a life that has been affected down to the core with these truths, will walk humbly before the good God who saved them.

They will truly know that everything in their life is grace, because they don't deserve salvation, nor do they deserve one ounce of knowledge regarding God. And yet, he has gifted them so. (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Surface Calvinists believe their theology makes them right before God.

True Calvinists recognize they have no hope apart from Jesus, and are humbled to know they did absolutely nothing to earn his grace. They were so undeserving and yet, he chose them. (Ephesians 1:4). And when this truth takes hold of their heart, they are humbled before him and have grace to spare for others.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV)

Our theology should humble us before God Almighty. He is sovereign over all. It is he who gives wisdom and knowledge.