Approximately 2 ½ years ago I was in a church Sunday school class and a man had filled in for the associate pastor who normally taught the class. I don’t remember the lesson or exactly what was said, but I do remember that at the end of the class I pointed out some things that the scriptures said in regards to the topic he had taught, and I remember his response, and reaction. He said to me, “That’s Calvinism”. So he then disregarded everything I had said, because what I had said in pointing out scripture was something called Calvinism. I had been labeled, and was discredited, when I didn’t even know what the label meant. All I knew was scripture, and I knew scripture very well, because I had opened up the bible 8 years prior to that day and have read it every day since.
I knew scripture very well, if you were talking about a passage of scripture I could reference to other passages that related to or stated the same. What I didn’t know was theology. In fact, I didn’t even know the term theology. There was much in this particular church that was bothering me, because it did not line up with what I had come to understand through scripture; a year later my wife and I would leave this particular congregation that we had been a part of for 9 years, and join a congregation that is the closest match in our community to the doctrines and theology I had come to understand and believe from scripture. Although I did not even know the word theology, I had a theology, and that theology had been strongly wrought in me through countless hours of reading scripture. I’ve tried to tell some of my brothers about this, but I don’t think they can really grasp that the Lord allowed me to develop my personal theology in a void, without much influence, and by scripture alone. The church I was going to at the time was based on Rick Warren’s purpose driven church, devoid of both doctrine and theology. Sermons were what you would call; three points and a poem. There was a little scripture thrown into the sermon, but the sermon was not on the scripture. In April of 2003 as a church, we were all encouraged to read the 40 days of purpose one chapter at a time for 40 days. Then once a week in a small group talk about it. My wife and I had joined the church a few months prior. Up to this point in my life I was for the most part un-churched. A prayed the suggested prayer in the text of the 40 days of purpose to except Christ as Savior, at the end of that 40 days something happened that would completely change the life God had given me, and I now know that it was the drawing of the Spirit. I decided to pick up the bible and start reading it every morning, I read through it all the way, then again, and again; I couldn’t go without reading the word. During that time the Lord was teaching me and drawing me unto Himself, it was in December of 2009 that I would come to repentance and faith; putting my faith in Christ Jesus alone as both Lord and Savior.
So I had for 6 ½ years been reading the bible every day, been granted repentance and faith, then another 1 ½ years later this man would not listen to what I had to say because it was Calvinism. So I had to find out about these things, since I had been labeled as such. So from then, until now, 2 ½ years later, I would continue to read the bible every day, but also read books on theology and church history. I’ve read Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon; I also read about the reformation both in Europe and in England, I read about groups like the Huguenots and the Anabaptist. Now while reading these things didn’t give me a theology, I already had a theology, what it did give me were names for the things that I had already believed. It also gave me understanding as to why a man wouldn’t listen to me, and label me, when I was just telling him exactly what the scripture said.
So today I thought that I should label myself; I believe that I am a bit of an enigma. Many, as this man did would call me a Calvinist. I have studied and agree with many things that Calvin said, but I am not a Calvinist, nor am I an Armenian and I am diffidently not a Romanist. So then what am I? Good question, let’s see. With regards to the Sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, justification, and predestination; I am as Augustine, but I am not an Augustinian. With regards to scripture, I am as a Huguenot, but I am not a Huguenot. With regards to being a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ, Baptism, resisting and evil person, and community; I am as an Anabaptist, but I am not an Anabaptist. So then what am I? I am "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith."
In conclusion; I have used my story as an example to show what can happen when your thoughts are driven by theology and doctrine verses scripture alone. What is theology? Theology is mans understanding about the things in scripture; therefore there can be both correct and incorrect theologies. Doctrines are teachings given by man to explain the things of scripture as related to his theology; therefore there can be both correct and incorrect doctrines. The problem is not theology or doctrine, understanding theology and using doctrines can be good; but this is the problem. When one becomes theology minded he has a tendency to be prejudiced, but when your thoughts are of scripture alone you tend to be more discerning.
One thing that I would like to encourage my brothers in sisters in Christ to do is read your bibles, not commentaries, or books written by men, videos, or sermons on-line, but your bibles. There is nothing wrong with study, study is good but it should never take the place of being alone with God in the scripture. Set aside a portion of your day, every day to open the word of God and just read, then pray. Ask yourselves this question; would I have come up with the ideas I currently have just reading scripture alone? Some of your ideas with regards to theology and eschatology, would they be what they are now from just reading scripture alone? Seriously, ask yourself this. Some of the things I see argued and debated amongst brothers and sisters on facebook would end, if you just stopped and asked the question. Would I have come to this conclusion or this understanding of the subject at hand if I had done nothing but read scripture? If the answer is no, stop! If nothing else I hope this has encouraged you all too just open your bibles and read, allow your hearts and minds to be renewed by the reading of God’s word.
Mike Peek a slave of Jesus Christ