A field of TULIPs

T for ‘Total Depravity’

U for ‘Unconditional Election’

L for ‘Limited Atonement’

I for ‘Irresistible Grace’

P for ‘Perseverance of the Saints’

This week has been a challenge, somewhat. It has featured what, for me, have been deeply personal, theological struggles. Struggles over how the Church should relate to other religious faiths and I got the opportunity to observe ‘interfaith dialogue’ which was a less than fun experience.

Also, within the Christian camp I was on the receiving end of what was for me, destructive, heretical theology.

And on a personal level, I know this week I have really hurt people. Perhaps unintentionally, yet for that person the pain is still real.

In the midst of this confusion I have had the privilege of being in the company of two saints who are in a similar place. They have arrived at the point of beginning to explore ‘Reformed’ theology, otherwise caricatured as ‘Calvinism’, hence the reference to ‘tulip’, the five main points of Reformed doctrine.

Being in their company has been a great blessing. These are people who stand upon great conviction, far greater than mine, practicing what they believe and honestly seeking the Scriptures to hear the voice of the God they love, the God who has saved them.

Conviction which isn’t very popular in the Christian world I live in today. It’s trendy to be ambiguous, fashionable to doubt. It’s very tempting to become caught up in that world. Yet I believe the Lord is not a God of confusion but of order. Reflecting on my reading of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, I have come to understand God has displayed this through the way he carefully arranged creation, and beauty of his ordinances, the detail over the life of his people.

Engaging with the Bible, I come to the understanding that there is such a thing as right theology. Conversely, there is also wrong theology. It was wrong for the people of God to make a big gold calf and worship it, even though they called it ‘Yahweh’, which is the name God revealed to the people of Israel for himself.

Theology seems to exist to guard the identity of God from idolatry. For me, anyway, it’s purpose to ascribe God glory and reject those impostor-gods who would take glory from the Lord.

So all this trendy ambiguity over God, the world, the nature of truth, forgiveness, heaven and hell, the person and work of Christ and action of the Holy Spirit is to confuse what God seems to have made plain.

Yet what God has made plain isn’t that attractive. Crucifying his Son wasn’t appealing, and then to say ‘follow him’ is even worse.

God’s action in crucifying his Son tells me that his concern for this world is great, his desire to be known and made known is compelling. And how can the Church declare the knowledge of the glory of God if knowledge of God is confused to the point of destroying the community of believers, through destructive teachings, immoral practice and insincere mission efforts.

So what is to solve this dilemma? How should I seek to act and react in a Church with so much conflicting and contradictory thought and practice? This is something I do not know the answer to.

Yet the witness of the saints I have been in the presence of this week has challenged me towards Christ-likeness, modelling the truth I proclaim and defending it with firm gentleness.

I desperately hope that I do not become an instrument of destruction, but rather am an agent of unity for God’s community. I know many who subscribe to ‘Reformed’ doctrines than then go on to act exceptionally unlike Jesus to those who call upon his name.

I desperately hope God brings unity to the theological world, lowering our pride and prejudice and showing us again the truth of his glory and the grace of his presence.

May God be glorified.

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