Calvinists, We Have a Problem

Calvinists, we have a problem. Not a soteriological one. I adhere to Calvinist theology. I adhere to all five points, and if there was a sixth point I would adhere to that too. This is definitely not a critique of the doctrine of Calvinism. While there are many problems within Calvinistic circles that definitely need to be addressed, this is about one in particular.  The issue I am talking about, brethren, is our tendencies concerning Christian Liberty.

Many a Calvinist – Reformed, Dispensational, or New – came to Calvinistic theology out of a legalistic setting. Upon starting to understand Christian liberty, they began to love and appreciate it. That is perfectly fine. Love your Christian liberty. I certainly believe Christian liberty is a thing, and it is morally acceptable for Christians to engage in it when done properly. The problem is that we have began to put our love of our Christian liberty over our love for our brothers and sisters in the faith. I don’t mean to say that this trend is exclusive to Calvinists. There are plenty who share this issue that fall somewhere else soteriologically. However –  it’s just because I am a Calvinist – I have noticed it is much more prevalent within Calvinist circles.

There is a trend of neglecting 1 Corinthians 8 and 1 Corinthians 10. These passages speak of the Christian liberty of eating meat sacrificed to idols, which was about the equivalent to modern day’s controversy over moderate drinking. Paul made a case for why it is perfectly fine to engage in this liberty. After doing this, he continued by saying,

“But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-13, ESV)

To summarize: do not engage in your freedoms when those freedoms will cause your brother to sin. If someone who is weaker in this area, whose conscience is violated by this liberty, sees you engaging in this freedom, then they may be encouraged to do something that violates their conscience. In chapter 10, Paul goes even further,

“If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience – I do not mean your conscience, but his.” (1 Corinthians 10:27-29, ESV)

Notice that this passage isn’t even about the brethren. “But if someone…” How much more so for those who we have brotherhood with? When you drink, do you consider the consciences of those weaker brothers? What do you say when someone expresses concern over the fact that you drink alcohol? Do you make a kind and generous case for the liberty, or do you call them a “Fundie”, “Legalist”, or any other pejorative you can think of?

There has been rumor out there that it is our duty to flaunt Christian freedoms to those legalists and Fundamentalists whose consciences are bothered by things such as tattoos, alcohol, and Christmas. This is not true. Instead, if you know they are bothered by these, cover up your tattoo. Don’t drink alcohol around them. Even put up your Christmas decorations if they come to visit. In all of your liberties, be considerate of those brothers whose consciences are bothered by things you freely enjoy.

[Contributed by Brandon C. Hines]

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