Week four we traveled to the sea-side city of Durres for a Campus Crusade required week of Bible course work. Eve and I entered ourselves into the “Soteriology” class and we were scheduled for 20 hours of class time. Unfortunately, Eve spent much of the week sick and is still fighting it ten days later, but that will be the topic of the week five blog. In this week’s blog, we wanted to share with you some of our observations from the Soteriology class (this isn’t a technical description of Soteriology and won’t get into much detail, rather this a general observation that I think is a good reminder for all of us).
Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation. We looked at many different facits of salvation during the week, from the attributes of God and his disposition toward man to what heaven will be like. As for any one subject, we spent the most amount of time on the differences between Calvanism and Arminianism. The class was even divided up and we had debates defending each position. This was the first Soteriology class like this for the Campus Crusade team and it seemed like quite a bit of learning went on. However, there was something I noticed about the group we were in that gave me a big reminder of something.
To explain further I have to give you a little background. First, the Christians in Tirana are mostly young in their Christianity. As we all remember, becoming a Christian on an experiential basis feels like it favors Arminianism. Somebody told us about our sin, the love of Christ, what He did on the cross, and how He died for us that we should believe and have an eternal relationshp with the Father. It is quite unlikely the person who shared the Word with you told you anything about calling, predestination, election, God’s sovereignty, the Holy Spirit’s work at salvation, etc. and really it was unnecessary that they would have. The person who shared the love of Christ with you undoubtedly told you to make a decision to repent and believe without any description of the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing you to the place where you would ever make such a decision. It is only after one becomes a Christian and studies God’s Word in detail that we learn about all that God did during that process. Accordingly, almost all of the Albanians would say they are Arminian.
Also, there is apparently a very Calvanist Pastor in Tirana- EXTREMELY Calvanistic in theology. Some of the things this Pastor has done has turned many sour toward Calvanistic theology. He has apparently come across rather harsh and unloving. In part from this pastor and from other external things that have happened as well, Calvanism is almost a bad word here.
With that in mind it was interesting what happened over the course of the week. As the different theologies were discussed, it was apparent the majority was very much against Calvanism. But as the different theologies were discussed point by point, many of the students agreed much more with the Calvanist points than with the Arminian points. The class was almost dismayed when the teachers told the class that Campus Crusade as an organization leans more Calvanist than Arminian, but most of the class disagreed with the majority of the Arminian arguments. It was actually funny a few times to hear people use arguments to try to “disprove” the Calvanist theology while themselves using Calvanist theology to do so.
Please don’t get me wrong: this blog is not an attempt to convert you or to say one side is better or whatever. There are plenty of people who are reading this who are Arminian in theology knowing full well all the points of both theologies and are convinced the Word of God backs them up. This is not the forum for such a debate nor is it our goal here.
What struck us was how adament people would stand against something, that when it was described point by point, they agreed with it more than they disagreed with it. Which made me think about myself and about the Church as a whole. How well do we know the Word of God and how many of our views (of God, of ourselves, how we are to live, etc) are based on what we were taught or how we feel? Am I letting people around me, or those who taught me over the past years, determine my theology? Am I letting experiences I have had trump the truth of His Word? Do I let my heart (who can know it, above all it is deceitfully wicked) push my beliefs rather than His Book? Do I waver in doctrine because of how I feel? When it came down to it, many of the people in that class would take the Word of God, read it, and believe something about what it said. But when somebody said it was a Calvanistic theology, they were quick to denounce the theology. We should be studying the Word of God to create our systematic theology rather than studying the systematic theology of another man in hopes of determining our systematic theology. It is always helpful to compare what we believe the Word is saying to what the Church has historically held as truth, but it should start with the Word.
Anyways, hopefully our intention for writing this blog is clear: we all need to be testing ourselves and making sure it is the Word of God alone that is shaping our beliefs. May the Word of God richly dwell in our hearts as we seek to know more about our Maker.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)