Ambiguity on Secondary Issues

“[John Calvin] believed that compromise and ambiguity could be legitimate on issues of secondary importance in the life of the church but not in the foundational theology of the church.” (John Calving: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Robert Godfrey, p. 59)

On several occasions Calvin met with Lutheran and even Catholic leaders in an effort to see if some common ground could be found and an understanding reached.

I am a Calvinist.  I was not raised in a Reformed theological tradition.  I came to subscribe to Reformed theology through the study of Scripture.  Nevertheless I find no difficulty in working with believers across the Christian spectrum.   In a few weeks I’ll have the pleasure of preaching from Mark 10.  In vv. 38-41 Jesus, it seems to me, rebukes the disciples and warns them against sectarian disputes.  So what if they’re not one of us.  If we agree on the foundational issues of Christian faith, then what matters the rest?

I am a Calvinist who can worship and work with Arminians just fine.

4 thoughts on “Ambiguity on Secondary Issues

  1. Fuller discussion should maybe be taken somewhere else (maybe a forum we’re both members of? 🙂 ), but my biggest struggle with Calvin is with what he called “divine benevolence.” It’s the basis for an attitude found in much of the American church that those who are blessed (defined often in terms of money/security) are elect. It’s the theological underpinning of US Manifest Destiny and related to many of our attitudes toward “the poor,” both as individuals and communities or even nations.

    I prefer Luther’s view that grace and “blessing” should not be confused, that grace is more often found in suffering.

    In terms of relationship, I appreciate Martin Bucer. We absolutely need to remain friends and kinfolk as we work out theology – outside of this relationship, there’s really no reason to bother with the theology. But, as friends and kinfolk, I find “providence” too dangerous a position to let it’s status as a secondary issue become reason not to struggle through debating it.

  2. I don’t agree with everything Calvin taught. I’m a Baptist after all.

    An issue being secondary doesn’t mean we can’t our shouldn’t continue to debate them. Just that we understand they’re not issues worth getting emotionally worked up over. Our inability to come to agreement ought not to compromise our overall unity in Christ.

  3. Can I get worked up over the pain caused by bad theology? I’m not sure I can put aside all emotion when I hear people using theology (whether they know the theology they are using or not) to suggest people harmed by natural disasters deserved it and the fact they were harmed proves they were deserving.

    When theology leads to abuse, that theology needs to be addressed, whether it is primary or secondary. I agree that unity in the church would be a wonderful thing, but don’t know that it is the most important thing.

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