At a conference last week I had the opportunity to talk with some Wesleyan men from Onalaska, WI and within that discussion I made mention of the fact that "I am not necessarily a full-on Calvinist" just as my good friend Brenton Balvin got back to the table, and therefore he kidded me about doubting our friendship (I know he wasn't serious) since he didn't have the context of what we were talking about.
But after thinking about further the past few days, I still arrive at that same conclusion. Do I consider myself more wise and learned in Biblical theology than John Calvin - by no means. I don't doubt Calvin's conclusions that have been built on by many great people of faith. But being a Calvinist isn't my aim. My goal is to be Biblical, and if/where that overlaps with being a Calvinist, then so be it. This is in large part because I think the label being a Calvinist is often more detrimental to faith discussions than it is helpful. I want my theology to start and end with the Bible. I appreciate that others have brought clarity to me through their teachings of the things found in the Bible, and I truly do try to glean all that I can, but in the end I must return to Scripture to compare what they are teaching to what it says. I must weight carefully with diligence and discernment, and be willing to discard things that I find in conflict or contrary to the teachings I find in God's Word.
I think that especially in theological circles that labels all too quickly quash healthy discussion and cause people to be unnecessarily distrusting and defensive. And in those situations they don't grow and I don't grow and it makes it more difficult to walk together in faith with those who I have differing views, but those who I'd certainly include within the boundaries of orthodoxy.
My friend Bret Capranica put words to this very idea a while ago on his blog, and rather than rehashing many of the fantastic points he's already made, I'd rather point you there. He has stated his views quite well, and while there may be some nuances that we would disagree on, I'm OK with how he has presented his case. Where might I vary? Probably within the realm of man's freewill within the context of God's sovereignty, but only a little bit. Perhaps elsewhere, but that is less the point than the larger idea Bret clearly, appropriately and aptly presents that we need to go to the Bible and return the the Bible for all of our theology.