When it comes to Calvinism, I am convinced that there are three different types of churches:
In the first two groups, the issue of Calvinism is settled in their denomination’s doctrinal statement. In the second group, it is often far from settled, and I believe those churches can be further divided into three groups:
If your church falls into the category of “unsettled” in the area of Calvinism vs Arminianism, my advice to you is deal with two things:
First, Calvinists who look at the “Unconvinced” as second class believers. There are plenty of “Cage-stage” Calvinists who will gladly tear a congregation apart, eradicating every ounce of free will in the Body. Ignoring the clear and abundant calls (commands) for unity, they fixate on the doctrines of grace and turn every discussion their way (“This potluck sure has a lot of macaroni dishes…I guess it was predestined to be so…”). These are the kind of people who work the details of Infralapsarianism vs Supralapsarianism into every gospel presentation. Often, these people are new to the doctrine and just very excited about opening their Bible and reading old passages in a new light, seeing God’s sovereignty on every page, but they MUST be held in check or they will destroy a congregation.
The second person to avoid is the “Van Helsing Calvinist Slayer”. These are the people who have taken up the mantle from the “King James Only Fanatics” from the 1980’s. These are the ones who will defend man’s sovereignty over God’s whenever the trigger words “Election” or “Predestination” are uttered. They know that they chose God and that is all they ever need to know. The problem is, they often tend to be just as much a bully, if not more so than the pushy Calvinist. They have their proof texts ready and often don’t want to hear the other side. They’ll come up with books and VHS tapes of old-timey preachers who sweat and snort defending man’s autonomy like they were stirring up a crowd with pitchforks to go after Frankenstein’s monster, however, in the end, THEY will be the ones who tear the body of Christ limb from limb.
Be careful not to shrink into the first category where you never say the words “Limited” and “Atonement” in the same sermon. These are wonderful doctrines to discuss and are all over the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God must have put them there for a reason. While we must not skip over certain controversial passages, we also must not let them divide our spirit of unity in the Body. Discuss them as loving brothers and sisters, but do yourself a favor and shut down those who seek to win rather than grow!
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for over 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship around the country. Bill and his family attend Belcroft Bible Church in Bowie, MD. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.