Why I Am a Calvinist – Part 1

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

I’m Not Good Enough, I’m Not Smart Enough and Dog-Gone-it God Just Doesn’t Like Me

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

Freely Offered Answers to Free Will Questions

A frequenter of this blog commented on my last post, Free Will: Making Distinctions and has asked several very good questions. Instead of replying in the meta I thought I would spotlight my answers in a post. I hope my friend doesn’t mind all the attention!

Note: I would advise reading my previous post in order to grasp the full context of this discussion.

Q: OK, if our free choice is irrevocably governed by our will, how “free” is that choice? I don’t want to play semantics here, but we really can’t have “spiritual” free choice if our choice is unbreakably bound by our will. Continue reading

Free Will: Making Distinctions

Does man have free will?

shawshank.jpgI’m sure we have all had someone ask the question in Sunday school, at a bible study or even mulled it over ourselves in the dark of night at one time or another. Honestly, this has been a hot topic in my slice of the hemisphere the last few weeks. It’s the million dollar question. The way we answer it shall determine much of our doctrine. It will also shape our conception of God, his character, his wisdom and his power. It will also determine how much room man has for boasting when it comes to his salvation, his sanctification and his perseverance. It is an important issue to resolve in our hearts by the scriptures, so I first would like to define the boundaries of what the term free will actually implies and what the bible says about how free our will truly is. Let’s dig in! Continue reading

What Can Separate Us From the Love of God?

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

Is Free Will God’s Greatest Gift?

I had lunch the other day with a good Christian friend. He brought up the issue of free will, a subject that had weighed heavily on his mind recently. He confided with me that he thought he heard the voice of God speak to him one day.

This is what the Lord supposedly told him.

“Free will is the greatest gift I have given to man.” – Or something close to that.

My friend did a remarkable thing after hearing the word of the Lord, something I see very few Christians do when they supposedly hear God speak to them.

He discerned the message.

He rightly divided the word of truth. He questioned the scriptural integrity of those words. He did as Spurgeon advised; judged the right from the almost right.

See, the words ‘free will is God’s greatest gift’ may sound good, right and true on the surface, especially in the midst of a doctrinally confused generation of semi-Pelagians dominating the face of evangelicalism.

But is the notion scriptural? Continue reading