Friday, January 4, 2008

In My Thinking?

Someone asked me if I am Calvinistic in my thinking. Well, I suppose I should take this opportunity to tell a bit more about where I came from and how I got to this place. I was raised, as a Christian, in a non-denominational Bible Church. God saved me when I was 30. I spent the better part of ten years in that church. There were many people that had a great influence on my maturing as a Christian, and there are still many there that I deeply love.

About four years ago, I sensed a calling to preach the word of God. I approached my pastor and he suggested I attend a "Bible Institute." I do not think he understood what I meant—I wanted to learn everything there is to learn about God and his word, I wanted to go to school and earn as many doctorates as they would allow me to. About this same time, I started having an identity crisis. OK, it wasn't a crisis, but that is the term, so I'll go with it. I understood that we, at our church, were evangelical, but as I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and comparing that to what I was seeing on TV and hearing on radio as evangelical teaching, I was quickly coming to understand that I was not an evangelical.

I enrolled in a Bible college and thought this would be a great way to earn my BA before heading off to seminary. The school happened to be an Arminian school. Had I known that, it still would not have kept me out, because I had no idea what an Arminian or a Calvinist was. Now, I had just finished a Bible reading plan that took me through the Bible in a year, and I was terribly excited about taking classes to learn more about the Bible and what it taught. It was not long before I had to ask myself, "What is this strange teaching I am hearing?" I do not know where they were getting their teaching from, but it was not the scripture. Within a couple of weeks, I was returning to my room every night searching the scriptures and finding the exact opposite of what I was being taught. Being in my mid-thirties and so excited about school again, I was sitting in the front of every class and my professors quickly learned my name as I would not remain silent and had to speak up every time I thought they were teaching error. I actually had one fellow student tell me, "We are never going to finish this class if you don't shut up." That made me feel good.

There also happened to be two other older guys who started at the same time I did, and both of them were "reformed" as well. Midway through our first semester, we were nicknamed the "Tulip squad," I didn't mind, and I don't think Jason or Kelvin minded either. I had an understanding of the difference between exegesis and eisegesis and was amazed at how often seminary trained men, some with doctorates, would practice the latter. Now, we are all fallen and tend to bring our own presuppositions to the text, but if we are aware of that and try as often as we can to avoid it, it goes a long way toward allowing us to understand what the text says instead of what we would like it to say.

Now Jason was new to the area and looking for a church. I searched the internet and happened upon this Presbyterian church just down the street from school. The first Sunday I took him there we walked into a Sunday School class studying Machen's "Christianity and Liberalism," the pastor there, Scott Churnock, was preaching on Romans. He had started this series seven months earlier and on that particular day was somewhere in Chapter three, that is expository preaching! He is now over two years into the book and not quite done with chapter eight, I listen via podcast every week. Anyway, I knew I had found a home, this was the kind of preaching and teaching I had been looking for. I do not think it any coincidence that shortly after I began attending he also did a three part series on covenant theology involving chapter four. At last things began falling in place, everything in scripture started becoming clearer and clearer when viewed from an historical/redemptive standpoint.

So now here I am and the doctrines of grace are the point at which I approach everything in life, I think they are where everyone should begin their thinking. So am I Calvinistic in my thinking? Well, I suppose, but only because the Bible is Calvinistic in it's meaning.

6 comments:

Rhea said...

Alan,
Thanks for the comment on my last post. There was one thing that you said that really stuck out to me: "The preaching of the word is the means by which God saves and sanctifies sinners." This is something that I've been thinking a lot about lately...what you said is SO TRUE. The Word of God is so powerful...we must preach it unashamedly (I'm not even sure that's a real word, but I think that you get what I mean). We must not be so afraid of someone getting offended that we don't preach the Word in its entirety. I mean, a lot of people got offended at Jesus.

Alan said...

Rhea,
Exactly, thank you for your comments as well they are refreshing. Do you mind if I ask what church background you have? What denomination?

Eric said...

Alan,

I've never heard a compelling argument from the scriptures (IN CONTEXT) against Calvinism. That is because, of course, Calvinism is simply biblical.

We are Calvinists because of what the bible says. It's as simple as that.

Rhea said...

Alan,
When I was little (birth to 7 years old) my family attended a Presbyterian church in California where we lived. My mother was Church of Scotland (she was born and raised in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland), so that's why we attended the Presbyterian church. Then when I was 7 we moved to Kentucky. For about a year we didn't attend any church regularly (I'm not sure why this was, to be honest). Then when I was about 8 or 9 we started attending a small United Methodist Church that was VERY close to our house. While the UMC has gone VERY liberal in some areas, this small church was conservative, and looking back (from what I can remember) it was a fairly "biblical" church. So I attended that church until I was 18, then I pretty much stopped going. My first year in college though, I began to attend the Sunday night services at a church of Christ. It was during that time I was saved. I had begin to investigate Christianity a lot the summer before I started college. I studied Roman Catholicism a lot, b/c at the time, I thought that was really the "first" church (from studying the Protestant Reformation in high school). Now I attend an Assemblies of God church (talk about polar opposites from the CoC ;-) ).

So as far as church backgrouns/denominations go, I've been pretty much all over the map.

John D. Chitty said...

I had a similar experience of reading, watching and listening to everything I could find and beginning to discern that the sources that seemed most reliable to me were the ones that were more Calvinistic. Others who weren't necessarily Calvinistic contributed toward my letting go of pet doctrines like dispensationalism. Horton was the first actual Calvinist I'd ever heard explain the doctrines of grace from Romans 9 on TBN of all places back in '89! Then in the army I had a theonomist PCA buddy who dealt with me for a while, the theonomy bothered me which helped me postpone my reformation, but I did find more respect for Calvinism. Then in 97 I got a job among a bunch of Calvinists who wanted to debate the doctrines of grace as much as I did. They gave me a copy of Edwin Palmer's The Five Points of Calvinism, and his arguments on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 did me in. I was holding out for a "proof text" if you will, of Limited Atonement that couldn't possibly be interpreted any other way. That's the verse God brought me to.

iRonnie said...

i dont know what came over me when i bought RC Sproul's book Chosen By God more than ten years ago. though i was formed evangelical, i saw myself nodding at every point Mr. Sproul is discussing.