The Road to Calvinism – how I got here
I’ve been meaning to type something up on this for a while.
Over on HCR, someone asked:
Hey Brethren and Sistren, as the case may be;
I’m wondering how many of you actually started off as Armenian in your theology, then after study etc, became Calvinist.
Speaking for myself, I started off very Arminian. My first church was a dispensational independent baptist church here in MD. My first encounter with the doctrines of grace came in 95 in discussing them with a friend and helping her with a paper. I found the ‘basic layout’ of the doctrines of grace in Curtis and Steele’s first version of ‘The Five Points of Calvinism’, but really didn’t take much time studying them – just looked at them, and based off what I knew, rejected some stuff (like the first four points) and affirmed some stuff (the last point).
Dealing with a member of the churches of Christ in late 98, I became convinced of the doctrine of Total Depravity. Even wrote an extensive piece on it.
THIS is the e-mail that started off the official trek….. January 6, 1999.
My old friend William challenged me on my statements. So I followed up and began a LONG discussion, research, etc…. into the doctrines of Grace.
So I read scripture, read scripture and read scripture.
What I found was that we (we meaning people who come up in non-Calvinistic churches) often ignore the meaning of plain stuff in the text because we’ve been taught to be careless or gloss over words. That, and often, we’re not taught to think through the consequences or implications of things that we believe (I see a lot of that on this board and others) and how the impact other things we believe.
Calvinism and dispensationalism are both, if nothing else, consistently systematic. Both systems realize that one belief in one place does not stand in isolation – it affects other things in one’s belief system. A person can be inconsistent in things they believe to be true, but a system itself cannot be inconsistent and still be true. Everyone’s got a ‘system’ whether they label it or not.
As with most Calvinists, the “L” is the last thing to fall. We get John 3:16 ‘all’ and ‘every’ pounded into us so much as non-Calvinists and think that this somehow makes God more glorious, that actually reading the text of scripture and realizing that ‘all’ can’t mean ‘all’ in every situation (or ‘world’ for that matter)…. well, it works on you and shakes you up.
I didn’t LIKE where this was all leading me.
But I realized that I have a responsibility to be obedient and humble myself and what I believe to what scripture taught and not to affirm something different just because it feels more comfortable and makes God appear to be ‘nicer’. The ‘nice God’ of evangelicalism (especially in America) is light-years away from the God of the bible in many cases.
Anyway, time went on. I grew.
Between James White’s refutation of Norm Geisler’s horrid treatment of Calvinism and my favorite online book to recommend (The Sovereignty of Grace ), one night the ‘L’ just fell.
So overall, call it a 2 year journey.
Over time, I read more, grew more.
The reason I ask is because I’m wondering if when your theology first changed, was it an uncomfortable difficulty talking about it with some because you felt like there was still so much you didn’t know.
Yep. Been there. Took me a while to bring it up at my old church. Turned out there was one more Calvinist there besides me and we had some good theological convos over the next few months.
When I hit my new church, I didn’t bring it up except to the pastor. Some things (i.e.- Altar calls) started to irk me, though. Then the ‘purpose driven’ fad came to our church and we stayed in the book for 2 years. once the expositional preaching stopped, I started tuning out. that gave me a good chance to listen to other material though. During that time, I found Modern Reformation, R.C. Sproul, Horton and a host of other good modern reformed writers. I read, I studied scripture, and I read some more.
Took a while to get out of the ‘cage stage’. This is the 6 month-2 year period when you first become a Calvinist coming out of an Arminian church and you want to tell everyone how wrong stuff was and think to yourself ‘well, it’s right here in scripture – if I show it to them, they’ve got to believe it!’, not realizing that a combination of human sin and traditional blinders still have folk misquoting John 3:16 just like YOU used to do. How quickly we forget. LOL
My ex-girl was a casualty of the ‘cage stage’ at a few points. While we were dating and talking about marriage, I determined that I REFUSED to have us join a non-Calvinistic church (that’s still my stance today). I had us visit Capitol Hill Baptist, Covenant Life and my present church, but never took the initiative to visit any of the churches she wanted to visit. She and I had issues in addition to all of this, so arguments were becoming the norm around this time as well. Of the people whose churches she wanted me to visit, one was a big-time T.D. Jakes supporter, and the other wasn’t a Calvinist either. I told her “You know…. if I go to a reformed church, I know that expositional preaching’s going to come out of the pulpit and I’ll actually be getting the Word of God – not some cheezy one verse topical sermon. I don’t know what’s going to come out of XXXX’s mouth or pulpit because he’s not reformed. I don’t want to waste a Sunday morning over that.”
You can hear the zeal for truth, but the lack of charity I had there. We clashed over altar calls, we clashed over non-theological songs, we clashed over Creflo (until I let her hear that tape of his denying Jesus is God, then she realized I was right and stopped supporting his ministry), we clashed over Paula White, we clashed over a lot. One day, she finally decided to approach things differently and humble herself and admitted that she dismissed some things out of hand simply because she felt ‘attacked’ (since I was on ‘something new’ and the ‘something old’ I used to be that i now disagree with, she still IS, so she felt that I was also attacking her).
One of the things she cited as we broke up was that she didn’t feel that I was ‘stable’ theologically and could lead her properly. Of course, months later (after we broke up and spent time apart), she wanted to get back together. But by then (long story short) too late. I’d moved on.
I mean, as I’m reading the Scripts (and other writings), I’m seeing the Sovereignty of God and other attributes (of God and man) and realizing that what I’m finding is so different than what the majority of Christians I know believe. I’m finding myself not wanting to step on toes and rock the boat at my Church by engaging these brothers in discussions around soteriology, etc……..But I can’t stop my digging in the Scripts around God’s supremacy. It’s extraordinarily difficult to even verbalize what I’m feeling.
Prepare for resistance…. that’s all I’ll say. Two folk at my church felt the same way you did when they first came to a knowledge of the doctrines of grace, so they just KNEW that everyone at their church would believe them too if they saw them in scripture….. instead, their old church started calling them all sorts of names, blackballed them and they eventually left. Their old pastor (who is kinda famous) even called up MY pastor and told him “I don’t want you talkin’ about doctrine to my people. We can talk to yours, but I don’t want you talking to mine.”
Even here on the board, people typically avoid discussions on the Sovereignty of God because it smacks down their own percieved self-autonomy and makes them uncomfortable.
Other folk simply haven’t been taught. I mean, if you take away their starting points:
1. God loves everybody equally
2. God the Son died for everybody equally
3. Where you spend eternity depends on you
You’ve destroyed some folks’ entire perception of Christianity. That’s why they’re hostile to Calvinism most of the time. Haven’t picked up a Bible to save their lives, but they just know the doctrines of grace are wrong. LOL
I mean…. if I’M not charge of my own destiny…. that makes me feel awful…
Other folk just think that they need to ‘help out God’. They routinely ignore stuff like John 3:18 or Romans 9 and sweep those ‘not so nice’ passages under the rug because they make God look mean. And the *only* acceptable presentation of the gospel *must* include a loving God who gave Himself for people He knows would never accept them, but died for them anyway…. so the gospel becomes a BRIBE of sorts…. and this makes God look more appealing (so they think) to men becuase He’s done ‘everything He could’ to get you to come to him….
Unfortunately, that’s not the Biblical picture of God in any shape or form…. and some people simply aren’t ‘able to bear it’ yet.
In eternity, different story. Some folk (some on this board) will one day stand next to us and say ‘AMEN’ to those same great truths they once ran from.
5 thoughts on “The Road to Calvinism – how I got here”
Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s good to hear of how the Lord has worked in your life. May He be glorified through your testimony.
Grace and peace,
An honor to have you grace my blog with your presence, Thabiti! Thanks for the kind words. 🙂
thank you for sharing. these days i’m in the cage and it’s so painful becuase i’ve been going to the same church all my life and God has opened up my eyes to the foolishness that is going on, but i love so many of the people there. i feel so torn.
Hang in there, Yolanda.
I believe you did ask me for a solid church in your area a while back, right ?
yes. i did. i’ve been doing a lot of praying and i know that God has me at my church in order to impart biblical truth for a season. i’ve been praying that God would give me courage to speak the truth and wisdom to know when to speak it in love. please continue to pray for me.
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