I’m beginning a fairly ambitious project here at A Peculiar Pilgrim; one that I hope to stick out until the end. I pray it will bless my readers as it has blessed me in writing it.
I just received a copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion – 1541 Edition by John Calvin a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading through the first few sections and have been so blessed by it that I’ve decided to share all this theological goodness with my readers. Every chapter of The Institutes is divvied up into small sections. It makes for great devotional reading.
The format for my blog articles will start with selected quotes from each section followed by my own thoughts and insights. I plan to keep each post at 500 words or under. I want quick, easily digestible nuggets for maximum readability. That will be the biggest challenge for me, as I tend to get long-winded at times. So, if I occasionally exceed my own self-imposed limits hopefully you won’t mind all that much.
I hope to churn out 2-3 posts per week – but I’m keenly aware of my inconsistencies. I tend to promise more than I can deliver. It may be more, prayerfully it won’t be any less.
I also plan to write other articles as well as some new works of fiction this year.
Again, it is my prayer that this new series will edify and encourage fellow believers. Perhaps it will engage skeptics as well and pique their curiosity enough to take a deeper look into the Christian faith.
I’m confident you will be blessed, not because my insights are keen but because I’ll be quoting one of the greatest theological minds the Church has ever produced.
Read Entry One Here.
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
Precisely nine years ago I embraced the doctrines of Grace (also called 5-point Calvinism). It was a chaotic time, where both the tearing down of my old theology and the construction of this new theology were taking place simultaneously in my mind and spirit. To complicate matters, an old friend, who had faithfully attended my weekly bible study for college students, came to my office one day and begged me to start up a new study group. She had come to a difficult point in her life and had a deep hunger for someone to bring her the Word. I had sympathy for her, but didn’t feel I was in any position to teach.
First, I could no longer teach much of what I had in the past. Many of those doctrines, like a house built on shifting sand, laid in a collapsed heap. I was in the process of bulldozing those aberrant beliefs right off my intellectual property. Second, I still did not know enough about Calvinism to be confident enough to teach it. Third, I still had not resolved all the points of Calvinism in my heart and mind yet. I readily accepted the T, the U, and the I but I wasn’t so sure about the L and the P. Odd, I know, if the U then the P should follow, right? I’ve never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer!
Anyway, against my better judgment, I plunged ahead with the study and presented my understanding of sovereign salvation to that small audience. It all worked out for the good, though. The class constantly presented challenges that helped to sharpen me. In the end though, only one person from the group came to believe in the doctrines of Grace. She came to visit me in my office one afternoon last year and I asked her pointedly, “have you become convinced that Calvinism is true?” My friend gave me an unforgettable reply. In a humble and almost broken-hearted tone, she said, “Yes it has to be true, because I know my own heart.” 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 just came across an informative article chronicling the recent resurgence of Calvinism. I agree with the writer’s assessment that this uprising is in response to the shallow, watered down Christianity-lite of modern Evangelicalism. Why? Well, because that’s basically how I came to embrace the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was part of a world-wide movement. I felt like I walked entirely alone for the first couple of years. I battled alienation and discouragement during that period yet I latched on to the teachings of God’s absolute sovereignty with bulldog tenacity. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, agreed my new outlook on the scriptures. I sought refuge and companionship through my blog and found a growing, enthusiastic subculture on the internet where I could work out my theological wranglings among friends, who are also my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Continue reading