Life on the Fringes

Life on the Fringes

I’ve lived all across the United States, literally I’ve lived on both coasts and in the middle and now I reside in Canada. I feel like Johnny Cash was singing about my life – “Ive been everywhere, man.” Despite where I’ve resided I’ve run into the same issue. Everywhere I go, I’m an outcast. Not literally, and definitely not personally, but theologically. You see I’m what you might call a Reformed Baptist. This means I’m very conservative in my theology, but not necessarily on minor issues. To sum it up, I’m a Baptist, who upon studying the Scriptures, enjoys watching movies, listening to moden music, is not prone to separate, and sees the sovereignty of God in all things. This might not seem like a big deal to you, but this puts me into a very small theological circle. I often find myself either being too conservative for those around me or too liberal for others.

 I don’t quite fit into the liberal circles like some Baptists, E-Free, or “non-denominational” as I’m too conservative in practical things and often their theology is extremely weak (if they know what that word even means, yeah I said it). And although doctrinally I find myself in quite a bit of agreement with independent Baptists, they tend to make the minor things into major things and then use those as a means to separate. Also a lot of people in these two groups talk a lot about “doctrine” but do not study, read, or truly teach doctrine. Then I walk in looking all shades of pretentious as I talk a lot about church history, creeds, confessions, and read on a regular basis. 

There is a third category that I nearly fit into, but I am not 100% comfortable with everything they believe. You see, I’m a reformed baptist, not just a reformed guy. There is a big difference. While I’m reformed in my soteriology, I’m unwilling to separate with a brother who does not believe in the doctrines of grace. Sure, I would have a hard time being friends with a full-fledged Arminianist, but most believers are not, they just have some hang-ups about Calvinism and I respect that. I’ve run into many (mostly) like-minded brothers who are too aggressive about the doctrines of grace. I’m unsure if this almost militant attitude is due to the relative short amount of time these reformed individuals have held to reformed theology, regardless it is troubling. Calvinism does not equate to the Gospel. The doctrines of grace are important, but not primary. 

So where does this leave me? 

I scrape by, always on the fringes of circles of nearly like-minded brothers. I feel like I’m always trying to be quiet about some practical or minor theological difference in order to have any ministerial friends at all.  Then something happens, I make a move or statement that shows my cards on something and boom – drama. The conservatives say “It’s a slippery slope, Dean.” The liberals say, “You need to be more accepting, Dean.” The reformed guys say “We’re the same, 5 point Calvinists, right Dean?…”  And I’m left in the middle, closer to the right, asking, “Am I alone?” 

I know I’m not alone. My brothers who hold to the Gospel are with me and I do have many good friends. I’m just saying that I find it difficult, always being the lightening rod for theological arguments. Always trying to walk on broken glass, trying to not say something that will offend. I feel like a baseball player at a school where they only play basketball and football. Where’s my place? I mean, I have a lot in common with the basketball players, maybe not the football players, do I just keep my love for baseball to myself? Or perhaps there is a different school filled with Griffey and Ripken fans? 

I’m a theologian without a tribe.