An Unexpected Conversion: How I came to Calvinism

An Unexpected Conversion: How I came to Calvinism

This post is a little different than what is usually offered, here. It is neither a lesson (per se) nor is it a review. Instead this is an answer to a question or perhaps a short word of testimony. Many is the time, in the past few  years, since I have come to embrace a Reformed Soteriology when I was raised a Pentecostal and in the Wesleyan (Ariminian) Holiness tradition. Tonight I am endeavoring to answer exactly that…

Most often, when I hear someone tell the tale of coming to Reformed Theology, I will hear tales of how in Romans 9 they found some amazing truth that “opened their eyes” and I wish I could put forward some recitation that would move one to tears at the awesome truths of Scripture, but I cannot. In my case, I became Reformed as a result of a death and a search through both the Bible and the hymnody that I was familiar with in hopes of making it make sense. I knew all the right answers and especially that it has been appointed unto all that once he should die and then face the judgment. I can say, candidly, that there is no truth of Scripture so cold and uncomfortable when one stares into that casket; or is there?

In dealing with the passing of my mother, one verse of Scripture came to mind over and over again, Isaiah 40:13 “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counselor hath taught Him?” As Paul put it in Romans, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” Time and again, multiplied times per day, this thought ran through my mind. Clearly the Holy Spirit was bringing this to my mind for a reason and so I went in search of why.

LORD is the way the KJV renders YHWH into English. This is God’s covenant Name. What did that name have to do with my search? How much time I spent meditating on the verse above and the Name, I could not say but the next passage of Scripture that I came to was in Exodus 34

“5 And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

Merciful. Gracious. Abounding in goodness and truth. These are not just adjectives; they define the very Person of YHWY. The LORD draws near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and sometimes in that brokenness, He need do no other than to declare who He is. I decided to look up YHWH in my lexicon and it took me to Exodus 3:14 where God answered Moses in the most powerful way possible. He tells Moses, Ehyeh aser ehyeh. In English, “I am because I am.” I cannot explain what happened but I can tell you this, when the God of heaven and earth declares His Name, everything changes. 

What does any of that have to do with Calvinism? Everything. It was necessary for God to remind me of Who He is before my errant theology could be corrected. I am a nerd and so I love to think; when I began to think I could logically connect the dots…

Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed once to die. That means this event must be predetermined. If death is predetermined, what else is? Ephesians 1: just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

This portends to election. That being the case, I looked throughout the Bible to find a condition for this election. Was that which I had always been taught to believe correct? It was not. Independently seeking in the Scriptures, I could find no condition to being elected to salvation. Of necessity that meant that if Unconditional Election were true, the Perseverance of the Saints had to be true as well.

The Southern Baptist Convention, it turned out, articulated this better than any other I had found. (emphasis mine) Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

Total Depravity needed no convincing. All I have to do is pick up a newspaper and the truth of that doctrine is laid bare. As it happens, I approach Definite Atonement and Irresistible Grace with the presumption that if the other three are true, these two must be as well.

This, then, is the short version of how I came to Reformed Soteriology. It was not at all the way that I expected. Then again, as I say quite often, The Lord does not make a habit of consulting me on how He does things.

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