Closed-Handed vs. Open-Handed Issues

Closed-Handed vs. Open-Handed Issues

Every Christian must use both proverbial hands to be a good theologian. In a closed hand we must put non-negotiable doctrines, over which we must fight to preserve what it means to be a Christian. These truths include the perfection and trustworthiness of the Bible; God as Trinitarian creator and redeemer; human sinfulness; Jesus’ sinless life, death, burial, and resurrection in our place for our sins; and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone. 

Conversely, in our open hand we must hold more loosely and graciously those doctrines that are important but secondary, in that godly, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians who have prayed and studied fervently disagree over them. These include such things as mode of baptism, exercise of some spiritual gifts, style of worship music, and mode of church government. The closed-handed issues are the national borders that distinguish between Christianity and other beliefs. The open-handed issues are the state borders within Christianity that distinguish between various teams, tribes and traditions. It is important to determine the hand in which we should put the issue of predestination.

As we examine this controversial issue of predestination, it is my hope to do so in a way that is gracious and loving, because the Bible is incredibly clear that we must conduct ourselves graciously and lovingly. Before we begin, in the name of fairness I must declare that I am, generally speaking, a Reformed Augustinian with a respect for John Calvin and affection for Martin Luther as a fellow Catholic converted while reading Romans. Therefore, I do not come to this discussion without opinions, but I do not limit my scope of fellowship to others with my personal beliefs. I enjoy many great friendships with Arminian brothers and sisters from whom I learn a great deal and with whom I partner for the sake of the gospel so that as many people as possible would meet Jesus, whom we love for saving us from our sin. For example, when our family planted The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona our founding overseers included two well-known more Arminian pastors who we love and appreciate and discuss these kinds of secondary issues with without dividing over them. We work together for who we are for, Jesus, and discuss together the open-handed secondary issues we might disagree on. Our theological party should be a home and not a prison so that we are free to visit with Christian brothers and sisters who live in different theological traditions.

What issues are you holding in the open hand that you should hold in the closed hand? Are there any issues you hold in the closed hand that you should hold in an open hand?

This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy by clicking here or get a physical copy for a gift of any amount during the month of March here.

To find the new, free Romans 6-11 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit or download the Real Faith app.

Mark Driscoll
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