Avoiding Smarty-Pants Theology

Avoiding Smarty-Pants Theology

Bible teachers have their more sophisticated ways of saying, "Nanny nanny boo boo." 

And perhaps we Calvinists are especially susceptible to this temptation to pump our team more than focusing on biblical truths.

We would do well to track with John Frame's observations and maybe adjust our attitudes accordingly.

Frame writes in Evangelical Reunion:

[I]t is not hard to convince people of Calvinistic teachings when you avoid using Calvinistic jargon. . . . [T]here is a slogan among the Reformed that “anyone who prays for another’s conversion is a Calvinist.” . . . If you pray for the soul of another, you believe that person’s decision is in the hand of God, not merely a product of the person’s “free agency.” . . .

It seems to me that what we call Calvinism today is simply a spelling out of the heart instincts of all believers in Christ. I can easily persuade myself that the whole church will be Calvinist eventually, if we allow people to read Scripture as it stands, without feeling that we have to rub their noses in historic controversy.

There is a certain “smarty pants” theological attitude in wanting to show people of the other party that our team was right all along. We sometimes feel that we need to do that to make our case maximally cogent; but in fact that attitude detracts from the cogency of our case. We give people the impression that to acknowledge the biblical principle they must also acknowledge us, our denomination, our historical traditions. But no. Although biblical principle deserves their allegiance, our “team” does not necessarily deserve it (74-75. paragraphing added).

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.