Doctrine matters. It has been well-said that it’s important to know what you believe, and why you believe it.
This becomes especially serious when the various subjects and ramifications of belief increase in importance.
For example I may “believe” that chocolate ice cream is superior to vanilla ice cream. I may even have occasion to defend this belief, and attempt to persuade others to agree with my point of view. But at the end of the day it really matters very little which ice cream preference I have, and I may even change my mind. This type of belief is quite peripheral, and I frankly don’t order my life around my food preferences.
There are, however, more central or “core” beliefs that have far reaching consequences in my mind, and in the way I live. And no subject is more significant than a man’s beliefs about God; one’s conception of Deity.
I’m firmly persuaded that the Biblical data, which represents God’s own Self-disclosure, sets forth the kind of God that is best described by what is commonly known as Calvinism, which is nothing more or less than a doctrinal summation of the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself.
Yet the spectrum of Christian theism is very broad indeed, encompassing a vast array of overlapping, and sometimes competing systems of thought. I found the following quote to be a helpful summary of the broad sweep of Christian theistic thought:
There are in reality only two types of religious thought. There is the religion of faith, and there is the religion of works. We believe that what has been known in Church History as Calvinism is the purest and most consistent embodiment of the religion of faith, while that which has been known as Arminianism has been diluted to a dangerous degree by the religion of works and that it is therefore an inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, we believe that Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in Reformed Faith.
In the early part of the fifth century these two types of religious thought came into direct conflict in a remarkably clear contrast as embodied in two fifth-century theologians, Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine pointed men to God as the source of all true spiritual wisdom and strength, while Pelagius threw men back on themselves and said that they were able in their own strength to do all that God commanded, otherwise God would not command it. We believe that Arminianism represents a compromise between these two systems, but that while in its more evangelical form, as in early Wesleyanism, it approaches the religion of faith, it nevertheless does contain serious elements of error.
We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many of them have already succumbed. And almost invariably the line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism. And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. We are convinced that the future of Christianity is bound up with that system of theology historically called “Calvinism.’ Where the God centered principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man centered naturalism or secularism. Some have declared – rightly, we believe – that there is no consistent stopping place between Calvinism and atheism.
The basic principle of Calvinism is the sovereignty of God. This represents the purpose of the Triune God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, and originating solely in the eternal counsel of His will. He appoints the course of nature and directs the course of history down to the minutest details. His decrees therefore are eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise and sovereign. They are represented in the Bible as being the basis of the divine foreknowledge of all future events, and not conditioned by that foreknowledge or by anything originating in the events themselves.
I strongly encourage the reader to consider the entire article from whence the snippet above was taken, which is located here.
Soli Deo Gloria!