During my years as a Pentecostal/Arminian Christian I focused my theological studies on an array of supposedly sound biblical topics. I studied Dispensational Theology (though at the time I had no idea what it was called), learning the different epochs of time Earth’s history had been neatly packaged into. I dabbled with spiritual warfare, waging battle against all principalities and powers of darkness. I learned how to defend my family against the wiles of the devil. I read many kooky books that inspired me to take up the armor of God and stand firmly against the devil’s fiery darts in ways that now make me cringe with chagrin. I danced as King David did (except fully clothed) and anointed everything with olive oil (or Crisco if the former was not conveniently available). I claimed enough territories for Christ during those years that I could have established a whole other country. I scoured the scriptures, scrapping together verses in an effort to discern the times, and determine the signs of Christ’s Second Coming. I agreed with both Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey that the temple in Jerusalem would soon be rebuilt and the secret rapture of the church would whisk us away while the world would suffer beneath the iron heel of the Antichrist’s reign of terror. I spent hours pleading and wrestling with God at the altar, in the desperate hope that he would grant me an authentic, earth-shattering spiritual experience akin to the ones enjoyed by my brethren, who appeared to get a ‘dose of the Ghost’ on a weekly basis. Continue reading
Surprisingly, my conversion from free-will theology to Calvinism came rather swiftly. It’s shocking really, if only you could understand the depths of hatred I once held toward those doctrines.
I resisted initially, desperately hopeful that some sensible compromise existed between these diametrically opposed belief systems. I figured the Semi-Pelagian flavor of Arminianism fell into one ditch while Calvinism veered clear over to the other side of the road. I searched in vain for the imaginary highway that ran through the middle of both views, but I never found any signs to point the way. After wrangling with Calvinism for about 4 months, I finally beheld its beauty with a clarity only the Holy Spirit could grant.
The ditch I had plowed into, turns out, is really an off-ramp exiting the pothole plagued ‘Free Will’ service road. It flows into a smoothly paved four-lane interstate winding a clear path to the Celestial City. The road first runs through the firmly established townships of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura and finally Soli Deo Gloria, which lies at the very gates of the streets of gold.
You may have already deduced the obvious. My diligent search through the scriptures utterly convinced me of the truth of the Doctrines of Grace.
So, the first and foremost reason I became a Calvinist is the overwhelming evidence contained in the scriptures declaring God’s unquestionable sovereignty over every person, place and event in all of history. Continue reading
Almost a decade 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 a form of Arminianism that many call Semi-Pelagianism. Simply put, 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 old church. I considered it to be on equal footing with cultic beliefs.
I used to say such things as:
“Calvinism is a doctrine of demons!”
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!” Continue reading
My carefully constructed religious edifice came under fierce attack some five years ago and suffered irreparable damage. The alarms of imminent collapse began reverberating through the dark corridors of my failing heart. Wave upon wave of relentless missile attacks crumbled the once stalwart marble pillars of my faith. The incoming warheads contained a volatile combination of sin and self-righteousness. Structural failure was inevitable. My religion had failed me; no longer could it support my overwhelming sense of failure. It could no longer assuage my feelings of guilt. I attempted to prop up the sagging ceiling with support columns of modern evangelical platitudes and aphorisms. They turned out to be hollow inside and buckled beneath the weight. The brick and mortar I had so meticulously hand-crafted disintegrated all around me in a resounding crash.
Exposed to the harsh elements of the wilderness I couldn’t help but gaze at the majesty of the heavens and contemplate my plight. Late one night in the midst of an intense spiritual malaise I raised my eyes to the stars and cried out in desperation, “Father help me, I’ve lost my way. I don’t measure up to your righteousness and I never will. I don’t know what to believe anymore. Please reveal to me the truth.” If ever I’ve been convinced that God hears and answers my prayers, that night crystallized the reality of it once and for all.
Yes, God heard me. I’m sure he had been waiting for this cry for deliverance for quite some time. After all, God is in the deliverance business. Salvation itself is defined as deliverance or rescue from danger. I have no doubt that through his sovereign power he had brought me to this fiery trial, carried me through the flames and now was in the process of treating all my grievous burns. Continue reading
I can hardly believe it myself but A Peculiar Pilgrim has reached the ripe old age of three. In blog years that probably makes it eligible for retirement. Many blogs flame out after a year or two and while it certainly hasn’t been stoked into the roaring fire I’ve intended for it the last couple years, at least my flickering light hasn’t been snuffed out completely. I only posted about 30 articles in 09. That’s barely more than 1 post every two weeks. I hope to improve on that in 2010.
In the flesh and blood realm I will be teaching a class on Redemption starting the first week of January. I’ve been hard at work preparing the outlines for the course. I’m thankful to God for this opportunity and I pray it will bless those that God brings into my classroom. My plan is, if time avails, to post articles based on the outlines I’m preparing for the class. I’ll likely post the corresponding articles a week before I teach the lesson. This will also help in articulating and unifying what I’ve written in my outlines. I have about 17 lessons prepared (as of right now) so I would expect at least that many articles on the doctrine of redemption over the first quarter of the year.
As has been the tradition the last two anniversaries, I am posting links to my favorite articles of 2009. In no particular order, they are:
The Justice of God and Are we Saved by Belief or by Actions? – These two articles are responses from the comment section of my post, Will Atheists Go to Hell? by (shockingly!) a couple of atheists. The interaction was cordial and enlightening: A good read.
Grasping God – An article that explores the difficult to comprehend doctrine of God’s omnipresence and my personal struggle to grasp it.
AW Pink on Erroneous Evangelism – A quote from the esteemed theologian (with some personal thoughts added in) that pinpoints the deficiency of the modern church’s proclamation of the gospel.
Is Christianity a Crutch for the Weak? – An article based on a Sunday School discussion that posed this very question.
Four Views of Salvation Throughout Church History – A helpful chart that shows how Calvinism, Arminianism, Semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism are contrasted in regard to the roles both God and man play in redemption.
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:33-39)
The Apostle Paul asks several important questions in this text. He also gives his readers profound answers.
Who can accuse God’s people of any crime?
No one. God alone justifies the guilty. He answers to no man. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy.
Who has the right to sentence his saints to death and hell?
No one. Christ took our condemnation up on himself. We are free from the sting of death and the punishment of hell.
Who can separate God’s people from the love of Christ, which has been freely bestowed upon them?
Nobody can and nothing will. No circumstance or trial can wedge apart this bond. Through God’s love we have been made more than conquerors. Again, he reiterates that no being (angels nor rulers), thing (the sword, death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth) or circumstance (tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger) can separate us from the love of God. He even goes so far as to say ‘nor anything else in all creation’. I think that pretty much covers everything, don’t you think? Continue reading