Some people love it, others deeply despise it. I’ve learned over the years since embracing the doctrines held within it, that much of the rejection of Reformed Theology is rooted in misunderstandings regarding what it teaches.
My hope isn’t to convince you (Okay, maybe a little bit), but to help you better understand what your Reformed friends believe. We can disagree on this subject and still be solid Christians so long as we adhere to orthodox Christianity—that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone and he will one day come back to judge the world. This will not be a thorough explanation of all the doctrines—much smarter men and women have committed to that. Furthermore, the lies we’ll be covering mostly center around “the doctrines of election,” though that is only a portion of what Reformed Theology entails.
I’ve decided to make this into a series because who wants to read a 5000-word article? Here are the lies I plan to cover in the coming weeks (though I may add to them if I feel it’s necessary):
- Reformed theology is a prideful doctrine
- If the doctrines of election are true, God is not loving
- Reformed theology teaches that God is limited
- It teaches that one can’t know they’re truly saved
- The Doctrines of Grace make up the entirety of Reformed Theology
Alright, let’s do this.
Lie # 1: Reformed Theology is a Prideful Doctrine
This was one of my biggest hang-ups when introduced to the idea of God’s complete sovereignty over salvation. Reformed Christians believe God is completely in control over every part of salvation. We believe he elected to save a specific group of people before the foundation of the world. At first glance, it seems pretty arrogant to claim that God only chooses some and you happen to be one of the chosen. Why on earth would God choose you over the next person? What makes the people who make up the “elect” so special?
This is a major misconception of the doctrine of God’s sovereign choice. What makes the elect special? Absolutely nothing. That’s the point.
We find throughout the Old and New Testaments, God has always chosen a people, separate for himself. He chose Israel, not because of their greatness, but because of his (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Paul reminds us in Romans 9 that God chose Jacob over Esau “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls.” (vs. 11).
Those of us who make up the elect are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). We were dead in our sin and therefore had nothing to offer God—not even a response to his call (Ephesians 2:1). He simply chose the people he would save through his Son before we were even born, not because of anything in us, but because of his own goodness.
…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will… (Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV)
Truly, Reformed Theology should be above all a humbling doctrine.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Calvinists and the Cage-Stage
I know what you’re thinking. Calvinists can be so arrogant. I know. We really can be, can’t we? This further exposes how much we need grace. When we take a doctrine that claims we did absolutely nothing to be saved and can do no good apart from Jesus and then become prideful regarding our knowledge of said doctrine, we expose that what we believe in our head hasn’t made it to our heart.
The cage-stage is a funny little term used to describe those of us in the Reformed camp who go through a time where we’re a bit obnoxious, debating people left and right, trying to get them to agree with us. It’s a real problem and sometimes we should probably place ourselves back in the cage for a bit. These doctrines have deepened our love and enjoyment of God and we get excited when chatting about them. Forgive us. We’re still learning.
A Theology that Humbles
I often think back to the night God changed my life. He lifted the veil from my eyes while I was alone in my bedroom. He showed me my sin and gave me the grace to repent and trust in Jesus for salvation. When I ponder that night, there’s simply no other explanation than the truth that God removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). I went from being spiritually dead, unable to save myself to alive in Christ! Everything changed in an instant. I was simply a partaker of God’s amazing grace.
These truths, when applied to our lives should do their work to make a prideful heart bow before a holy, sovereign God in humility. Then we will say with Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
Resources for further study:
- TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election by R.C. Sproul
- Humble Calvinism by J.A. Medders
- What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul
- Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul