Austin’s Big Debate!
This evening at 7:30pm one of our pastors, Austin Fischer, will be participating in a debate in Chicago, IL on Calvinism. Austin was asked to participate in this debate because of his book, which was published last year, in which Austin explains his own theological journey in and out of Calvinism. We’re excited for Austin and pray that the entire experience will help bring understanding and make much of Jesus.
However, we do want our church family to understand that Austin’s position in this matter is not necessarily reflective of our church’s position as a whole. The truth is The Vista doesn’t have a formal position on the theological debate between Calvinists and Arminians. This particular theological debate has been taking place among evangelical Christians for hundreds of years in many different forums. We believe that this is an “in house” debate, meaning that both groups believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus at the cross for our sin and therefore are indeed Christians. At the Vista, we have staff, elders, and other various leaders that fall on both sides of the isle on this matter. In fact, Austin and I fall on opposite sides in this matter. Austin is more of a free will theist (Arminian) and I am more of a Calvinist (although I don’t hold to all five points of Calvinism). In three years of ministry together, this issue has never affected Austin and I’s friendship or ministry together at the Vista. In fact, we think it’s a healthy thing to have some theological diversity in non-essential matters. One of our convictions is that there are closed-handed (essential) matters and there are open-handed (non-essential) matters within the church and theology. Closed-handed matters are things that we will not budge on. These are things we have firm positions on and we will not change them or leave room for disagreement. These are core matters of doctrine and theology such as… the doctrine of the Trinity, the innerancy of Scripture, the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus, etc… Open-handed matters are things that are not essential to our being Christians. These are things we can disagree on and still have fellowship together in the church. Things like matters of eschatology (end times theology), style of music and dress, and yes… weather or not you’re a Calvinist or Arminian. Those of us that are Calvinists may simply believe that some of you were “predestined” to be Arminian (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little theological humor).
The bottom line is, we love Austin and support his endeavors just as we would support any of our staff and leadership who write books, music, or curriculum as long as they don’t disagree with what we consider essential or core-convictions. We’re happy for Austin and the success of his book. I’ve read it several times. It’s thought provoking and engaging. I’m still a Calvinist, so I didn’t agree with all of his conclusions, but if you enjoy theology, then I would encourage you to read it for yourself no matter which side of the isle you think you fall on.
I think I speak for all of our staff and elders when I say, “it’s a joy to Shepherd and lead this church.” You’re a people of great grace and encouragement and we love you deeply.