Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Dr. Donald S. Fox | President
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, KY
*For more information about Dr. Fox or Clear Creek click HERE
Our inability as humans to get along with each other on the issue of Calvinism, no matter what one believes, is apparent. Although, God’s Word does point out to us that we should be able to get along with each other no matter what one may believe about this issue:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18; NASB).
The Bible specifically tells us that, as Christians, we should seek to maintain peaceful relationships with everybody, Christians and non-Christians alike. While harmony with others may not always be achievable, the charge is to make sure that, as believers, we are not responsible for the lack of peace.
Related to this issue of Calvinism, we can see this charge applying to believers who are on both sides of the issue. Therefore, the question, “Why can’t we all just get along?” is a vitally important one that needs to be answered because God’s Word says everything that comes from us as believers is to focus on peace with each other.
As President of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, I feel a responsibility to answer this question as a result of personal experiences I have encountered related to this institution; in turn, the answer will let our constituencies know where this institution stands on the issue of Calvinism.
Why We Can’t Get Along
I still remember vividly the first time I walked into the meeting place at a Baptist state convention years ago. I had only been serving at Clear Creek for a short time, but my encounter this day would only be the beginning of having to deal with the issue of Calvinism whenever I was on the road traveling and representing Clear Creek. Before I could even get my Char Creek display set up, I was approached by someone who wanted to know why Clear Creek had “gone liberal,” in his words. After asking him to explain his question to me, I began to realize the lines that were beginning to be drawn in the Calvinism issue.
At the time, we were in the process of dealing with the issue of Calvinism being promoted on our campus by a few people. It became apparent to me that this person had been talking to some of these people who were upset because the college was not sympathetic to their views on Calvinism. In turn, these people on campus were now “labeling” the college as “going liberal” because, in their mind, Calvinism is the only true theology and anyone outside a Calvinistic theology is a “liberal.”
I also recall an instance when I walked into a church to visit an alumnus who was pastor. The first question he asked me was, “Why is the college teaching open theism now?” I asked him to explain his question; and as he did, I began to realize another “label” that had become prevalent in the Calvinism issue related to Clear Creek.
The same people who were labeling Clear Creek as “liberal” were now labeling us as teaching open theism. In their mind, since we weren’t teaching Calvinism, we were teaching that God doesn’t know everything, God is not sovereign, and thus God changes His mind. So, we were now teaching open theism according to these people.
So, why can’t we just get along? Well, from my personal experience as shown here, there is one major reason: The Calvinists that I continually encounter want to automatically place a “label” on anyone who does not agree with their theology. To be “labeled” a liberal or an open theist just because we do not hold to a Calvinistic theology is just simply wrong. The mindset that I constantly encounter in the Calvinistic arena is the thought that they are the only ones who really have a handle on the “truth,” and the only way I can have it is to agree with their theology. I see this as a dangerous mindset that leads to elitism.
How We Can Get Along
The new buzzword being mentioned these days is “compatibilist” and “bridge builder.” We all need to just get along. Well, these are good words, and I do agree that those on both sides of this issue do need to get along with each other. How can we do this?
Quit targeting students on campus as potential “converts” to Calvinism.
I recall a recent conversation with a faculty member who told me of a student who came to his office in tears because he had been verbally attacked by a Calvinist student because of his non-Calvinistic theology. Non-Calvinists and Calvinists both need to realize that our campus is not a recruiting ground to convert other students to their theological mindset.
Quit initiating the argument.
No matter which side of this issue you are on, both sides need to just quit initiating the argument. In all of my experiences, the argument has been initiated by those from the Calvinist side who are simply trying to “convert” someone to their theological mindset. Non-Calvinists want to be bridge builders and compatibilists. We will be bridge builders and compatibilists if Calvinists will let us.
Quit operating in “systems.”
Calvinists must quit thinking that someone is not operating with the truth if they do not plug-in to a five point system of theology. Just because someone does not buy in to the five point Calvinistic theology does not mean they are automatically an Armenian either. Calvinists need to realize that some people would rather be known as “Biblicists” instead of having their name attached to someone else’s theology.
Quit thinking that all people have a problem reconciling the sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
The reality is that there are some people, myself included, who have no problem reconciling the sovereignty of God and free will of man. We know God is sovereign and He knows all things. He would not be God if He didn’t know everything. But we also realize that His foreknowledge of everything does not limit our free will to choose or reject His free gift of salvation. The statement that I was taught from my theology professor, Dr. Jack Robertson, while I was at Clear Creek years ago settled the matter for me: “God’s foreknowledge is not causative.” While God does know my choices before I ever make them, His foreknowledge of that choice I am going to make does not cause me to actually make that choice.
Where Do We Go From Here?
We must seek to live out Romans 12:18 as best we can; committed to the authority of God’s Word that commands us to do our best as individuals to be at peace with all people:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18; NASB);
But we must also realize that the issue of peace is not totally dependent on non-Calvinists. There has to be an effort from both sides to get along. When we come to the point where we know that we are doing our best to build bridges and be compatible with those who hold to a Calvinistic theology, but they, in turn, are not, then we will take our stand on this issue as stated.