by Brian Foulks
Experience has a strange way of bringing a person to the depth of realism. It gives you the chance to wrestle with your own insecurities and biases up close and personal. As I get older and experience more of life, I am blown away by all that I don’t know about God. I grew up in the “name it and claim it” doctrine but matriculated to seminary where a reform mind became my standard. I studied Calvin, Luther and some of the other great theological minds as they wrested through the writings of Paul. I identified myself as a Calvinist (and to some extent I still do.) But on the flipside I ostracized Bishop TD Jakes, Noel Jones and Myles Munroe because they did not fit into my theological box-at the time.
They did not hold to a strict doctrinal stance like Calvin or Luther but they were the preachers that helped build my salvation foundationally. When I was growing up in the faith, they were the ones that encouraged me through their preaching but reform theology caused me to separate myself from these great pastors of the faith. There may have been some Modalism in operation but they still encouraged me. Yes, they may have believed in certain other doctrinal issues that differed from my newly reform mind but they were the face of my community. Some of them may have been Arminian in their position on salvation but they still believed in salvation nonetheless. Yes, some of them may have whooped a little but that was their right to do so and part of a living tradition in the black community.
My point here is that I am not wise enough to know if God is more pleased with one set than the other. Yes Jakes and Calvin are on two different sides of the spectrum but I believe they both have a profound love for God. Deep down I believe that Calvin was a product of his environment that set the table for the execution of a Servatus. I believe that Jakes loves the Lord and his method of teaching is beneficial for those in his congregation. Though Calvin and Luther had perceived beef with each other, I still think they ultimately understood of the others stance.
The end result is that I have my issues with Calvin, Luther and Jakes much the same but there are some things that each of the do so well that outweighs my intellectual disposition with each theologian/pastor. My reform brother would dare not mention Jakes in the same breath as Calvin but I submit that Calvin did not have the appeal of a Jakes. I would also note that many in the Pentecostal church would dare not mention Calvin the same breath as Jakes but from a strict theological interaction Calvin stands in a league of his own. My sophomoric understanding of existentialism allows me to identify with both groups with the ever-growing sense and belief that God is “transforming us all into the image of Christ.” I hold to Calvinism with tension as much as I hold with tension the teachings of Jakes. I do not think either of these men are/were blatantly out to hustle people with doctrine but they contextually and creatively found convening spaces to present the Gospel. I am not convinced that either of them had/have it down solid but that both are/were seeking greater understand of God. Thus I reiterate-Experience has a strange way of bringing a person to the depth of realism.