Right Theology Cannot Save You

Don Miller has been coming under fire a lot lately, or I can only speculate so by recent posts on his blog and the fact that he has made his Twitter account private.  No doubt that even as a well-known author criticism is hard to accept.  It is difficult to separate a critique of one’s most cherished beliefs from one’s own character and personality.  It is hard to accept criticism from people who are inconsistent in their own beliefs.

Admittedly, in a recent post I leveled a heavy criticism against Miller’s position on God’s plan for our lives.  My tactics were less than hospitable, and they were taken with much hurt by Miller who responded to me via Twitter.  Don, if you are reading this, please accept my apology for my lack of tact and my rude approach.  I did not mean it as a personal affront, and it is difficult for me to hear that you were so deeply offended.

In a recent post titled “Having Right Theology Does Not Mean You Know God,” Miller mentions a new material for a rerelease of his book Searching for God Knows What in which he boldly discusses how “right theology has no redemptive power at all.”  He is exactly right!

The frustrating part is what Miller is reacting against: Reformed Christians.  Miller specifically mentions a friend who said that without a proper understanding of total depravity a person could not be considered a Christian.  He also talks about people who read John Calvin and do a sort of end zone dance thinking that they have finally got it all right and then think they can cram it down other people’s noses.

No doubt you have met other Calvinists that give the same impression.

The trouble is that this sort of attitude stands against the very theological perspective that Reformers support.  TULIP teaches emphatically that there is nothing that we can do to earn favor with God, not only that but that we are totally incapable of doing so.  If we believe that faith is a gift from God, then what ground do we have to stand on that would suggest that we have it right?  God has it right.  What we are called to is full submission to God’s authority, specifically revealed in the Bible, the Word of God.

What do Calvinists say to this critique?  That we do not have to work to convince people to believe, it is the work of God.  But does that give us license to be rude, proud, and uncaring in regard to those around us?  Are we not to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us?  That is a very different perspective than the impression that people, even other Christians, have of Reformed. 

Folks, it is all right there in the Gospel:

…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Having right theology is our work, because we hear and respond to the Gospel before we understand it.  The friend that Miller mentions who said that a person is not a  Christian unless they understand total depravity admitted that he did not understand it until college, but claims the faith from the third grade. 

Is good theology important? Yes! Is it even more important as a Christian leader/influencer/author? Yes!  Is correct belief the reason for our salvation? No!

Take heart, reader: if Christ has called you, and if you have responded to his voice that is what makes you a Christian.  It is not by works, lest any man should boast.  Take heart that even if you do not understand the basics of theology, your salvation is secured by the blood of Christ.


About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

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