Calvinist. Charismatic. Arminian. Fundamentalist. Baptist.
I was a kid once. Maybe 10 or 11. My family went to dinner at a neighbor’s house up the street. Before we got there, I had overheard one of my parent’s use the phrase “radical free-will baptist” in regard to another one of the neighbors. Naturally, when the ‘radical’ lady comes up in the conversation, I toss that gem into the mix (if they had a Nintendo 64, I would be quietly in the other room unlocking new levels on Tony Hawk Pro Skater not pretending to be an adult). My squeaky ten year old voice chimes in, “Yeah, I heard she was a really radical free-will baptist.” The woman at the table looks at me, and responds gently, “Well, we are free-will baptists but I guess we wouldn’t consider ourselves too radical.” Whoops.
We all have religious curse words. Until Driscoll made it cool, I was pretty confident Calvinists were going to hell. But obviously I wasn’t too tight with the Arminian Free-Will baptists since the ‘radical’ episode. And Charismatics were clearly nut jobs (we are mostly agreed they still are, right?).
But does that initial fear really have any legitimacy? That pang that says, “People who believe in [insert offensive theological position here] are [insert derogatory remark here].” That happens all the time, even when we have friends of a different theological stripe. And when we have different friends, we just talk bad about them to illustrate to our normal friends how messed up our different friends are.
Eternal security of the believer was a big one growing up Southern Baptist. Speaking in tongues is a nice hot-button. How about infant baptism? Pretty sure that is divisive.
No matter who is reading this right now, there is probably something I believe in that if I just came right out and said it, it would offend you. Or – if you are a pastor or have been to seminary – you would spend twenty minutes cautioning me about it (“I’m just really concerned how this might affect your marriage and your ministry”). I am probably somebody’s ‘radical free-will baptist’ (metaphorically).
But, the krux of theology is precisely that it holds the power to offend. When we speculate on the nature of who God is and what he is up to, shit gets real. People get tense. People get defensive.
All real theology makes a claim about God. Therefore, all real theology does one of two things. It offends your pride and sense of reason – your human glory. Or it offends God. Only one of those is blasphemy, so when you start talking about theology it is probably best to throw all of your conversational niceties out the window. The worst thing you can do is blaspheme God to keep others happy.
So if I go ahead and throw out the most offensive claim of Christianity, how many people can I offend?
Here goes: God saved you for Jesus’ sake. You didn’t earn the grace you have, there is nothing you could ever do to deserve it. God himself had to come and die – that is how hopeless our state was. We are free because Jesus alone set us free. Forgiveness is for even the worst of us. Christ’s blood is enough to cover your ongoing porn addiction, the resentment you have towards your spouse, and the thing you hate most about yourself. Christ’s forgiveness is for you. Jesus came to save sinners, not spiritual rockstars. So kick back and have a cold beverage.
Hopefully that offends our collective sense of human glory.