One Old Soldier, John Calvin, and “Calvinism”

The old soldier is yours truly. I remember years ago disliking, even hating a man called John Calvin, although I knew very little about the man, except that he believed in something called “predestination”, which meant that God chose those who would be saved, and not the “free will” of us mortals. I knew that God was completely sovereign over His creation, mostly because I had at one point completed a Lutheran Catechism course. Also, the Bible told me as much. So how did I reconcile being free to make my own decision, choose Christ (who died for my sins) and this find salvation?

At the time, it actually seemed rather simple. It went like this:

1. I was convinced of my own free will to choose or reject Jesus as my Savior.

2. At the same time, God was completely sovereign over everything in His creation, including me.

3. Because God was sovereign, He could allow me to make my own decision.

In effect, the sovereign God was passing down His sovereignty to me in the matter of salvation. Simply put, I could “save myself”, or send myself to hell for all eternity. It had to be so. That we have the free will to ultimate decide our eternal destiny was an absolute “given” in my universe. I had never been taught anything about what I know now as “reformed” soteriology All I knew

Also, during that period in my journey as a former prodigal son brought back into the fold, I had begun studying scripture in earnest. I couldn’t get enough, which is a good thing. With things associated with John Calvin nowhere on my ‘radar’ screen I just continued reading my Bible. Passages of scripture kept popping up that prompted me to rethink some of my not so rock-solid opinions about “how” God saves sinners. Here are the two examples that immediately come to mind:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30)

These are especially significant because years earlier I had asked my Mom what it meant that God “foreknew” us and “chose us before the foundation of the world”, and she told me that God knew who would eventually choose him and therefore chose them (predestined them) for salvation. My Mom was a godly Christian woman so of course I believed her. Besides, what she told me fit perfectly into” the “free will” paradigm.

Through the years, I discovered other passages that spoke to the state of the natural will of fallen men; like:

“as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  no one understands; no one seeks for God. (Romans 3:10-11)

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Those passages (and others) began to chip away at my conclusions about salvation. I selected certain critical terms and researched them in other Bible translations, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and original language concordances. Eventually, I became convinced from the Bible, with the confirmation of deeper study that sovereign grace doctrine was what Scripture taught. But I digress.

Enter once again, John Calvin and the TULIP. I thought it would be a good idea to study the life and ministry of John Calvin and the doctrines of Calvinism. I might as well as learn the truth rather than what I assumed was true from what Calvin bashers had told me. I discovered a 70+ lesson online course called The History and Theology of Calvinism, taught by Dr. Curt Daniel. The entire series is available at Sermon Audio beginning here. Not only did I learn about John Calvin (warts and all), I learned about the history of Calvinism from its origins until the present.

What stood out to me the most was that the doctrines of Calvinism had their origins in Scripture itself. Since those meager beginnings of my research into the doctrines of sovereign grace and Calvinism, I have of course continued to study the subject, as well as opposing doctrines from every possible angle. Through the years I have found many others whose doctrinal journey has been similar to mine, in that they received and came to believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace from Scripture.

I enjoy engaging in thoughtful and intelligent discussion about these matters, but am not out to “prove” anything. I don’t care much for those whose mission in life seems to bash John Calvin and misrepresent Calvinist doctrine, mostly because they cannot accept the thought that fallen men do not have complete and autonomous free will. That was yours truly years ago. If I am asked why I believe in sovereign grace (Calvinism), I suggest that they seem to be the necessary state of affairs due to the nature of fallen men. I ask the simple question, What does the Bible say about the ‘natural’ state of fallen men?”, and leave it there. I trust the Holy Spirit to take it from there.


Be blessed!

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