Hey! How have you been doing? Looks like you have been doing really great. It's been good to note that all seems to be going well on your side. I am constantly encouraged by your love for the Lord, His Word, and how much you just love and care for your family. As your younger brother, I see a lot in you that I learn from. You are truly a gift from God.
Believe it or not, I do think and pray for you more often than you would think because you mean that much to me. My hope is that the Lord Jesus Christ would continue His work in your life, till he brings it to completion on that great and terrible day.
Brother, I am writing to you because I am concerned with some of your behaviour and attitude towards other brothers, Christians with differing secondary doctrines and also non-believers. Now, I should be quick to say that I am the least qualified to bring this up - but seems no-one else in our streets is bringing it up, so I thought I should. Hope you can read this with the grace and care that is worthy of the gospel that has saved us.
When I got introduced to the doctrines of grace, I was as excited as anything! Memorising the TULIP acroymn, digging into the confessions of faith, and learning more about church history - I was super encouraged and my knowledge of God's word increased exponentially. I knew how to articulate soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) and many other "logies" of that kind. This stuff excites the deepest parts of me, and I am thankful for the role you have played in entrenching these truths into me continually. Your Facebook posts, your WhatsApp texts and some of the blog posts you share all have been such a blessing to me, as with many other people.
However, I have struggled with one thing brother, and I will explain it in two ways.
Firstly, it seems to me, all the knowledge and truth you know has made you proud.
And I will be the first to admit that I have been proud in a similar way. There is that stage in life called "Cage-stage Calvinism" when those that have bumped into reformed doctrines literally become a nemesis! I was there. Some of my closest brothers have been there. But thank God for giving me firstly a pastor (in the name of Jeff Scorziell) who embodied reformed doctrines that were void of all the "vitrol and anger" that I saw possessed by others. This helped me find my balance between being able to stand for the truth whilst not being a jerk. Secondly, when I left Word of Faith circles, the Lord showed me my sin very vehemently, and I have never doubted my own need for grace, and it is this by this grace that I am what I am, and know what I know.
Brother, there is a sense in your tone and attitude (towards those that do not know what we know, or believe different) of superiority and invincibility. It is so hard to see the grace in the doctrines of grace in you. Now, bro, I am not at all suggesting that you should not defend the truth of the gospel from men and women who peddle false doctrine. It concerns me as much as it concerns you that some of the basic doctrines of our faith are being adulterated, its upsetting. But brother, holy anger should and can be expressed in much humility and wisdom. And sometimes I wish I could see this more in you, for the glory of God and the integrity of his gospel.
I like how Michael Horton puts it in his work Pilgrim Theology when he breaks down why we study theology. He says: "Because our theological understanding is necessarily limited and finite, subject to our sinful biases, affections, and errors, I follow a venerable Christian tradition by referring to this volume as a “pilgrim theology” for those on the way— Christians who humbly seek to understand God but who are aware of their own biases and sinful tendencies to distort the truth." An admittance of our biases and sin can perhaps humble us to walk in the truth with meekness, maybe?
Secondly, on this very point, you seem to be very good at burning bridges with those that seem to disagree with you (or us) on secondary issues. Now bro, you and I probably believe everything the same, maybe except one or two things. And yet we are still brothers.
Remember what our Lord Jesus Christ said? He said that as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. It is clear bro that those that have received Jesus Christ as Lord are sons of God, and by that virtue are our brothers. Now, some of these people are Baptists. Presbyterians. Anglicans. Charismatics. Methodists. Non-denom. Reformed. Arminian. Calvanistic. Lutheran. Believe me when I tell you this bro - they love the Lord the very same way that you and I do. They are part of our family, and we will worship together with them in eternity.
I know you easily accept the rest of them but just not the "charismatics". "Those tongue talking blubbers who don't know that the Scriptures are all we need." Brother, I implore you by the mercies of God to know and consider that although there are wayward charismatics, a lot of charismatics are actually part of our family. I myself, in case you did not know, am not a cessassionist like you are. I do not believe that the revelatory gifts disappeared at the death of the last apostle. I have read all the books you gave me and you know we have gone back and forth on this topic, and I have been cool with us agreeing to disagree right from the beginning. But the question is: will you also cut fellowship with me because of this? I hope not. Because I love you, and you are my precious brother because of the Lord Jesus Christ. I think you are interpreting the Scriptures wrongly and adding your own biases, simply put. And I know you feel the very same way about me on this topic of the gifts. And thats okay. I respect that.
I would love for us to be more charitable with one another, and also with other people who believe different than us when it comes to secondary issues of doctrine. The tribalistic stance does not have the scent of our Lord Jesus Christ at all - it works against the mission the Lord has given us on this earth.
Also, brother, I notice with sadness that in your pursuit of biblical fidelity you have pushed a cultural agenda guised as the good news of Jesus Christ. What do I mean? Well, many times it seems to me being "reformed" also means being "European/American/Western" in dress, conduct, music, and etiquette. I do understand why this could be. It maybe that the influences on our continent came from those parts of the world when missionaries came onto our continent.
Brother, respectfully, I have my own culture, just like you have yours. There are parts of my culture that are displeasing to the Lord, just like there are parts of your culture that are displeasing to the Lord. And so when we come together as brothers and sisters, should we not be able to celebrate our differences, instead of trying to make each other assimilate? I do want to learn about your culture and all that it comes with, but not at the expense of my own. My following Jesus is a call to abandon all the cares of this world and take up his cross - and this cross is not your preferences, your culture or your decorum.
Just the other week I preached at our church from Mark 7:1-23 where our Lord has a confrontation with the Pharisees. His displeasure with them is that they have all these traditions which they expect Jesus's followers to adhere to, and they are in direct contrast with the commands of God. Brother, I fear that sometimes your stances that are traditional do come off as commandments of God. The other week I saw your comment about a preacher who was speaking and had a cap on. The way you immediately concluded that he shouldn't have been wearing a cap because it's "disrespectful" was staggering to me. This very preacher has been used by God in amazing ways to reach a demography in the poorest parts of the USA. You on the other hand, come from a completely different context, which is very formal and it makes all the sense for you to put a suit and tie on. But we do not all have to do so, respectful. What kind of decorum do you think you will find amongst our brothers and sisters in Brazil? Or China? Or Afghanistan? A Charles Wesley hymn? A Hugo Boss suit? Of course, you will have people in these countries that prefer such cultural trends, but the point is, we should strive to lead them to the cross while applying the truths of the gospel to their contexts and not imposing our own.
These things brother, are not as spiritual as you sometimes want to make them. I believe our gospel is incarnational. To the Jews, Paul became a Jew so that he could save them. I sometimes feel in your effort to avoid being "liberal", you have become your own mission's enemy. I am not talking about "progressive" church. I am not talking about "emergent" church. I am talking about the church of Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, loving neighbour and sinner alike - existing in a cultural context where they are "strangers" in essence, yet relatable in practice.
I have so much love for you my brother, and I cannot wait till the next time we meet and talk. Would love to sit down and talk more about your recent views on what you term the "social justice movement" where it sounds from your WhatsApp statuses that you believe God's people should stick to preaching the gospel, and not say anything about what affects communities socially. Again, we can talk about this some other time. But my fear continues to be that your traditions and your biases are slowly diluting the gospel - the central message of our faith.
Would love to hear from you soon. Greet all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
With much love,
Your brother in the faith.