I have written previously about the fallacy of focusing only on so-called “practical theology”. But it might be helpful to discuss why I think theology in general, and Calvinism in particular, is important enough to teach.
It is hard to teach people. There’s a lot of work. Teaching theology is particularly hard. Because the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) are controversial and complicated, it’s a particularly challenging topic. So why bother?
Not everything that is true is worth studying or knowing. Some specific studies are important to only certain fields, and I wonder if some knowledge is important at all. You would quickly get bored if I discussed good string parsing techniques or efficient sorting algorithms. But I’m a programmer, and I care about those things.
So how do we decide what knowledge is valuable? We value knowledge that impacts people we care about, or pertains to those we care about. That is why we know (and share!) the most trivial details of our children’s lives, but do not know who the Prime Minister of Canada is. Certainly, in an absolute sense, the identity of the Prime Minister of Canada is much more important than how many teeth my youngest son currently has. But guess which one I know?
That’s the reason we should care about theology. Theology is the study of the revelation of God. If we love God, we should value His self-revelation. We should value theology. When someone dismisses theology in favor of “practical” information, he is implicitly indicating that he cares more about his own “daily Christian walk” – i.e., himself – than about what God has revealed of Himself.
But not all theology has the same priority in our studies. Why am I teaching about Calvinism and not discussing questions about speaking in tongues? Arguing about modes of baptism?
Calvinism is essentially the gospel. It tells me about God, myself, and the severance, restoration, and future of our relationship. It teaches me that God is the sovereign King of creation. It teaches me about the incredible extent God had to go to in order to reconcile me to Him. It teaches me that I was so hostile to Him that He had to all the work. It teaches me just what Jesus was accomplishing on the cross. It gives me God’s expectations and assurance of my future with Him. Spurgeon was right when he proclaimed that Calvinism is just a nickname for the Gospel.
Calvinism also impacts many other issues of faith and practice. It affects how I approach evangelism. It affects my assurance of salvation. It gives me comfort in the midst of apparent chaos and tragedy.
As I discuss Calvinism in more detail, I will periodically make explicit the distinctions between Calvinism and other soteriological views as they impact matters of faith and practice. I want to demonstrate that Calvinism is true, and that it is one of the most beautiful and cherished doctrines.
Calvinism is sometimes mischaracterized as cold, harsh, or offensive, but I believe it is precisely the opposite. Calvinism proclaims God as a sovereign King, a loving Father of His elect who loves us enough to protect and save us from ourselves, a passionate Savior who fought for us and won a total victory. Arminianism forces God back to a “gentlemanly” distance, essentially helpless, able to do nothing but provide the potential for our salvation and whisper encouragement, leaving us alone in our helplessness.