My Conversion to the Doctrines of Grace – Part 1

Almost exactly two years ago I was involved in a titanic spiritual battle between two opposing theological views. I could feel the once rock solid doctrines of Free Will slipping through my fingers like fine sand. I begged and beseeched the Lord to deliver me from the relentless reasonings and scriptural bombshells ripping the house I had built on the shifting dunes of man-centered doctrines. My pride and self-respect were on the line.

See, for the first decade of my born-again life I embraced Arminianism. In other words, I believed that man’s free will is the deciding factor in salvation. Calvinism, which is the belief that God is sovereign over all things, including man’s salvation, had recently started making sense to me and I was drawn to it. (While at the same time being repulsed by it).

Calvinism was a dirty word in my church. I considered it to be akin to the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and liberal mainliners: Rank apostasy!!

I used to say things as:

“Calvinism is a doctrine of the devil!”

Or worse yet:

“If God is like how the Calvinists describe him, I would never serve such a cruel, heartless dictator who arbitrarily chooses who will and will not be saved!”

In my blindness I scoffed at the idea of a completely sovereign Lord who had the power over his clay to mold vessels of honor and of dishonor. From my limited exposure to Reformed soteriology I instead envisioned God towering over a huge golden lottery bin, filled with the names of every living person. I could see the holy angels rotating the bin by hand, mixing up the names so all participants in the game of life get at least a million-to-one chance to win the ultimate prize: everlasting life. I imagined the Lord reaching his hand inside, looking the other way (as to not show preference) and drawing out the lucky names at random. In my vision He then decrees these souls saved for all eternity. The angels rejoice and the Holy Spirit hurries down to earth to let those lucky few know they had hit the jackpot.
Yes, I was sarcastic and unrelenting in my disdain against the slandering, blasphemous Calvinist view of the loving and kind God that I knew: or at least the God I thought I knew…

The truth is, I only recall meeting one person in those first years who called herself a Calvinist. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very gracious toward her. In my college days, a girl sat next to me in speech class. We got to know each other a bit and I discovered she proclaimed faith in Christ. We got along great – for a time. One day after class we were walking together and out of the blue she said:

“I’m a Calvinist, you know.”

I was aghast. I did not know real people actually bought into that nonsense. I looked at her incredulously, shook my head and said something like:

“Why on earth would you believe that garbage!”

I could tell I had offended her. She offered the vague but often used ‘trump card’ defense of ‘It’s what the bible teaches.’ I replied:

“Then why does the bible say that God wills for none to perish? If it’s in His complete power to save all, then why does he only choose a few in the end when it’s his will for all to be saved?”

Disappointingly, she offered no rebuttal, choosing instead to walk away quietly. Not surprisingly, she never spoke to me again. In retrospect, if she had vigorously defended her position with scriptures I may have come down this road much sooner than I did. Oh well. It wasn’t time, right? God is sovereign and he revealed this truth to me in his own time, in his own way. I am not complaining!

I have related the story of how my journey to the Reformed faith began here and here so I will not tread old ground. All I want to get across in this series is the why I crossed over to the dark side.

God revealed the Doctrines of Grace to me and it has been a mighty humbling experience. I tremble at my presumption for saying I never would serve a God that was completely sovereign over his creation. I now truly understand his Lordship and I am eternally grateful that He has chosen me, not arbitrarily, but also not according to anything I have done. He chose me for his good pleasure and purpose. I am grateful beyond words that He has provided me with an advocate, Jesus Christ, who cleanses me of all sin; even blasphemy spoke in ignorance. Only by his grace and mercy am I now a new creation in Christ, called to do His good works which he has prepared for me in advance to accomplish. I cherish his sovereignty over me and am thankful that all things are done for His glory alone.

In the next several posts I will reveal the main reasons I swallowed my pride and embraced the Doctrines of God’s Sovereign Grace.

Read Part Two

18 thoughts on “My Conversion to the Doctrines of Grace – Part 1

  1. Hey Pilgrim – WOW! great post. I went through a similar battle, but it took 4-5 years of intense studying and praying and reading for me. I think I am a little slow…:-) I think you bring up a excellent point about how God draws us to the truth. However, we also need to be able to give the reason for the hope that is within us, with gentleness and respect. If we can’t explain it, then how can we believe in it? Keep going! I am looking forward to more, and will have to go back and read the rest of the TULIP posts. Thanks!! Soli Deo Gloria.

  2. Welcome to my blog TnS! (Can I call you T-bone?) I actually think it’s a wonderful thing you spent so much time searching these doctrines out. You are not easily moved by every wind of doctrine. You sound very well anchored in your faith.
    Let me know what you think of my other TULIP articles. I haven’t received much if any feedback on those. Tell me if you think I’m on the right track.

    God Bless
    Brandon L.

  3. Hey Brandon, T-bone! I like that! I just read your two articles on the other blog page about your journey and, man, I can relate. Pastor Arturo Azurdia (one of the hall of famers) jokingly said in one of his sermons that the only thing worse than a converted drunk is a converted Arminian. I agree. Once God opened my eyes to the doctrines of grace, I have been preaching to everyone, family, church, friends, etc. In my humble opinion, what I have read so far is that you are right on! Now, on to your other TULIP articles! Keep up the great posts, and may God open your eyes with even more insight.

    Soli Deo Gloria
    Brett (T-bone)

  4. Ha ha!! Yes, I heard someone say that a person who coverts from Arminianism to Calvinism usually becomes a ‘flaming Calvinist.’ I’m on fire for the truth but the heat causes most people to back away. Calvinism hasn’t caught on with hardly anyone I’ve talked to. Most, (including family members) think I’m a lunatic, and unfortunately I have lost credibility in their eyes. i think that’s why I retreat to the internet so often. It is here that I find people I can relate to.

  5. Hang in there. Reformed doctrine is making a comeback. Be gentle and explain using the Scriptures, but remember, it is God who opens eyes and hearts. The doctrines of grace – I have been reminded – are not the gospel, but they are a Scriptural way of systematizing the way the gospel of God works. Pray often and be strong! Remember 1 Peter 3:15-16. I am praying for you.

  6. Brandon,
    Her’e the old heretic again…but you gotta know I’m trying not to be one!

    A question came to mind: if grace is irrestible, why do you worry so much about Rick Warren’s soteriology?

    For the record, I’m in total agreement with T. I’m kinda like the poster child for that. I’m not sure what to do with U. I’m not at all an L. Since I’m not al L, I figure I’m not much of an I either. ButI’m 100% a P. So, I’m about a 2.5 (give or take) point Calvinist. Am I still heretical?

    I look forward to the discussion on unconditional election. I hope to learn.

  7. Hello Mr. Edwards,
    You know I’ve never called you a heretic, nor do I think that you are (although your staunch defense of all things RW alarms me) 😉

    QUOTE: A question came to mind: if grace is irrestible, why do you worry so much about Rick Warren’s soteriology?

    Excellent question! And one I have pondered myself several times. The first reason I care so much about heresy in the church is because the bible instructs me to care about it. We are commanded to discern all false teaching and oppose them.

    Secondly, heresy promotes false assurance for all its adherents. Taken by itself this is a huge concern.

    Thirdly, false assurances affects the purity of the church. The more false converts a church produces the more these people infiltrate leadership positions and pastorates. They then desecrate the holy and sacred for their own purposes, opening the doors wide open for a mass of unbelievers to come in and trample the sanctuary, destroying the church.

    With that said, God is sovereign over all false teachers and part of the reason he allows them to prosper is to test his people. The fact that there are so many today could be a judgment against the professing church. Could it be that God is removing our lampstand to give to another continent, such as Asia or Africa? Is America the next Europe -where the gospel has been all but extinguished?
    Perhaps the broad acceptance of RW and his ilk is also God’s way of setting apart his remnant people from the professors. Just a few thoughts to chew on. I ‘m still chewing on them myself.

    I have never heard of a 2.5 Calvinist before 🙂 Your half way there, though, so I’m still hopeful. This motivates me to hurry up and begin drafting my series on Unconditional Election, though realistically it may still be awhile. Just to leave you with another thought to chew on though, If the T be true it only makes sense that the U is true too. How can it be any other way?

    God Bless
    Brandon L.

  8. “If the T be true it only makes sense that the U is true too. How can it be any other way?” I don’t follow the reasoning, and I know you are going to write on that later, so I’ll bide my time and ponder that one myself.

    I commented on your latest post, so I’ll be brief here. Just one thing that bothers me some. “They then desecrate the holy and sacred for their own purposes, opening the doors wide open for a mass of unbelievers to come in and trample the sanctuary, destroying the church. ” I don’t believe for one minute that God’s church can be destroyed. Even with idiots (and they are aplenty). Various local “churches” can be crushed, but since I’m a “P”, I don’t beleive that true believers can fall. And the believers worldwide – the “global” church (uh-oh, a new can of worms) cannot be overthrown (Mt. 16).

    And no, you have never called me a heretic. I self-labeled to save you the trouble! :>)

  9. Pingback: My Conversion to the Doctrines of Grace - Part 4 « A Peculiar Pilgrim

  10. Pingback: My Conversion to the Doctrines of Grace - Part 5 « A Peculiar Pilgrim

  11. Admittedly I can see I am late to this ballgame…er, duscussion.
    I am Pentecostal (not the hyper-spiritual type) and the preachers that I have recently (about a year) come acroos and really liked….I have found to be Calvinist. So I have been seriously examining the issue and the scriptures.
    The evidence seems quite compelling, though the thought of God choosing who will and will not get saved goes against everything that I have known (or thought I knew) about God. Just read an excellent article by John Piper on TULIP.
    I will be reading your stuff also.

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