Getting too analytical and taking everything apart for examination can cause us to lose perspective. I’ve had wonderful friendships with Reformed Presbyterians as well as Free Will Baptists. Having hung out with both camps, I know that in reality they agree on much more than they disagree about, and I have learned much from their own peculiar doctrines, even if they do have different ideas about what election, predestination, and perseverance mean.
On one hand, Reformed thinking taken to its extremes casts God as some sort of dictator who picks and chooses who goes to hell, and he pretty much micromanages all the goings on in this crazy world, both good and bad. On the other hand, when we take Arminianism (that’s the fancy word for the free-will side of the issue) and really run with it, we can make God seem impotent, hamstrung by man’s feebleness, and our own salvation can be a rather tentative arrangement.
Now, the theologians out there will argue that I’m oversimplifying their concepts, which I deliberately am just to make a point, or that I am completely misunderstanding them, or that I’m simply an idiot. Perhaps I am an idiot, but I am God’s idiot, and I have delved into various theologies pretty extensively. On points where they are polarized against one another, opposing camps have their Bible verses lined up, and they have their explanations for what they believe.
I choose to cling to what is precious and plain and simply let God keep some of the details to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote down many of the very ideas all these divergent theologians use for their doctrines, but even he knew that he didn’t have everything sized up completely by exclaiming in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable are His ways!”
While I may sound like a mush-headed mystic, I want you to know that I’m not at all against theology. We all need some of it, to be sure. Certain truths must be taught, guarded closely, and defended passionately, but beyond these nearly universal basics of the faith held by most Christians, their apparently divergent theologies are mere lenses through which we may view reality.
We can certainly glean insights from many different theological constructs, but like any lens by which we view truth, each has its limits. I can use a microscope to see strange organisms swimming in my spit on a glass slide, or I can use binoculars to spot a deer I wouldn’t otherwise notice in a grove of trees, or I can use a telescope to view Saturn’s rings, but these tools can’t be used interchangeably, and they don’t help me one bit if I’m trying to tell my wife how her makeup looks before we go out on a date. Sometimes it’s simply best to use what God has given directly–His written Word and His Holy Spirit–and leave everything else alone.
Granted, the Bible can be hard to understand, and the Holy Spirit, or rather our perception of His work, is rather subjective, and that is where the theology guys start arguing their worth. Still, I can’t escape the fact that I’ve known and loved people with rather diverse theologies who all loved and served God well, nor can I escape the conviction that no single theological approach can answer all our questions. Much, we simply must leave to God.