Every week, I go to an Arminian church. Yes, Calvinist Batman goes to an Arminian church.
It’s simple: to learn unity.
Now don’t get me wrong. The church I go to isn’t one of the seeker-friendly churches that play Michael Jackson when you walk into the sanctuary with your free Starbucks drink made for you by one of the church’s many hipsters. My church doesn’t put on incredible light shows and hold worship concerts that are trying to garner attention for a new record. The preaching pastor doesn’t spend his time giving practical life lessons on how you can live with no debt, or enjoy a healthier eating lifestyle, or best dress to evangelize the upper middle class.
Rather, the church believes in the sovereignty of God, they are earnest about evangelizing and bringing hope and love to the poor and broken, they love to worship and require that their songs say grand things about His nature, they love one another deeply, and the pastor preaches verse-by-verse from the Bible every time he comes up to the pulpit.
The church does have some different beliefs than I do. As I said, they are very much Arminian and partly egalitarian.
I recently wrote about how everyone thinks that Calvinism’s greatest issue is evangelism. I hoped that I showed that view untrue. However, I think Calvinists’ greatest problem is actually unity.
Some have said that Calvinists are the “brains” while Arminians are the “heart.” I know that neither group would agree fully with these titles. Most Calvinists are not heartless, and most Arminians are not brainless. However, this illustration is good to show where they tend to focus. Calvinists love theology, knowledge, reading, and the Word of God. They love thinking, writing, pondering, debating, and studying the Bible. This is a great thing.
However, this can create walls when it comes to unity. If Calvinists (myself included) are not careful, we refuse to be unified with other believers and congregations just because they don’t believe exactly like we do. I have read some prominent Calvinist views on unity between churches; however, for all the talk, I rarely see them participating in multi-denominational unity events, helping out other churches in their area, or becoming friends with local pastors in their cities.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-6:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Did you read that? There is one body. This means there is one church but many congregations. That means the body should be in unity, not divided. Paul wrote his letters to cities. I don’t have a problem with different denominations or multiple churches in an area. I have an issue when we can’t all act like we’re one church.
Arminians are (sometimes fairly) accused of opening the arms of unity too far, many times to include those not in the faith or who are in cults. However, we Calvinists can be fairly accused of not opening the arms of unity enough. We can put too many beliefs and doctrines in the way for people to have unity with us.
Here is what I believe the criteria should be for unity: only the doctrines you must believe in to not go to hell. Those should be the bare minimum and the bare maximum. Our views on the end-times, baptism, election, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the like should not keep us from being unified and loving one another. However, the doctrine of Jesus being the only way to God, the infallibility of the Bible, the need for repentance, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the like should be required elements before the hand of fellowship is extended. Let those who deny Christ be accursed!
Let’s keep the primary things the primary reasons we can be unified.
That’s why I go to this sweet, mid-sized Arminian church in Gotham. There are other places where the doctrine is more accurate, the preaching more articulate, the worship more extravagant. But there isn’t a place that longs for unity with other churches in the right way more than this place.
And that desire for the right kind of unity is something I need more of.