The X-Calvinist Corner is a page on this website that shares the stories of people who were once Calvinist but have left Calvinism for a more Arminian theology. This series (The X-Calvinist Corner Files) highlights one of the testimonies from the X-Calvinist Corner in each installment.
Today’s testimony is a new addition from a man named Xavier:
How did you become a Calvinist?
I came to faith in Jesus in the context of an Acts29 church. What is interesting about this denomination is how subtle they are with Calvinism (unlike many Presbyterians or Reformed Baptists that teach exactly what they believe). The church I was a part of even had a motto that stated “we are a church for ALL people to discover and deepen a relationship with Jesus Christ.” In this church context, the “doctrines of Grace” were not really taught explicitly; they were subliminally introduced. Looking back, now I could easily catch the Calvinist language but at the time I was clueless. Because I loved that church so much, when I left (due to job relocation) I found myself looking for other Acts29 churches. The next one I landed in was more explicit in their Calvinist teachings. They even had portraits of John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and other reformers on the walls of their church. I would have to say that I became a Calvinist because all the Christians I looked up to and was close with ascribed their doctrinal beliefs to this system. Every online-resource I was bombarded with was from Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and other reformed-media. I immersed myself in all the voices that my friends did: John Piper, John MacArthur, Matt Chandler, David Platt, James White, Jeff Durbin, Tim Keller, R.C Sproul, and so many others. Even within the Christian Rap culture I got in to, it seemed like so many of my favorite artists were a part of this Calvinist movement (Trip Lee and KB just to give an example). For me, it just made perfect sense to follow what seemed like everyone else in my Christian community was doing. Now looking back, I realize I truly had no clue what I was getting myself into.
What did you find most compelling about Calvinism?
Those within the movement APPEARED to be the most serious about studying the Bible. That really interested me. Unfortunately, I came to believe that based off of my short-lived experiences in some non-Calvinistic churches that seemed to care more about entertaining church-goers and teaching simple “feel-good” messages where Scripture was barely mentioned or exegeted. Calvinists seemed to be more scholarly in their faith and I think my intellectual-wiring resonated with that. I’m not sure how much I actually found the system compelling; but the people who promoted it captured my attention. Calvinists seemed to be the only ones calling out false teachers and false doctrines publicly and I appreciated that. They also challenged the prior legalistic ways I thought about Religion in general which helped me to experience the freedom I have in Christ. I felt like I was truly cared for and safe within this community. Even so, it was interesting to me that they would regularly remind me of how unworthy I was (often making me feel like garbage) and how gracious God is. Calvinism to me, provided the most assurance (at the time) that Christianity is true and that I’m going to go to Heaven.
Why did you begin to question your Calvinistic convictions?
The doctrines of Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement bothered me from day one (once I understood their implications). Initially, rather than telling people my doubts, I’d go online to see if there were at least other Calvinists who rejected these doctrines and favored a 3 or 4 point Calvinism. I wasn’t looking to reject the system completely because I was taught that Arminianism was “man-centered”, works-based, and robbed God of His glory. The problem was that I would read Scripture passages that seemed to imply an unlimited atonement, humans having the genuine ability to accept or reject God’s grace, and that people could actually away from the faith. The Calvinist interpretations to these texts were suspect to me (i.e “all” or “world” was in reference to the elect, if mankind can believe without effectual grace than it means they’re responsible for their salvation, all those who walk away were never saved to begin with, etc.). Once I stumbled upon a video that claimed that Ravi Zacharias (my favorite Apologist to this day) wasn’t a Calvinist, it made me more skeptical of the system. My thinking was, “if someone like Ravi doesn’t believe this stuff, then what other brilliant Christians don’t?” I would eventually stumble into an entire “new” world of non-Calvinistic scholarship that really made it harder to hold on to these doctrines. Some of those men were Dr. Leighton Flowers, Dr. David Allen, Dr. Adam Harwood, Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Braxton Hunter, Dr. Johnathan Pritchett, Dr. Ken Wilson, Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Jerry Walls, Dr. Roger Olson, Dr. Craig Keener, Dr. Thomas Oden, Dr. Tim Mackie, Pastor Mike Winger, Dr. Tim Barnett, Dr. John Lennox, Dr. Frank Turek, and many others. In a sense, it felt as if all these non-Calvinistic voices were hidden from me. I could not believe how much stronger their arguments against Calvinistic doctrine were; even though these men made better sense of the Bible’s teachings as a whole to me, I was not ready to give up the system I “grew up” in immediately. I was very slow to do so. But the more I learned from them, the more I could catch the fallacies in my Pastor’s teaching (on Sunday’s and in small groups) and it made going to church unbearable. I did not want to follow what everyone else in my Christian circle was believing anymore. I wanted to understand the Bible through the lens of the ancient worlds it was written in and through the lens of the earliest Christians; not through the lens of men from after the sixteenth century (I believe people like Arminius and Wesley were simply teaching what the early church already believed in regards to soteriology).
What kind of support or opposition did you encounter while questioning your Calvinistic beliefs?
I never received any support. There was often a vibe from others that I was stepping outside of biblical Christianity. Some people began to distance themselves from me and others would not be willing to engage in serious debate about my doubts and objections. Every time I wanted to discuss these things with Calvinists, many would make it seem like it wasn’t worth talking about. The fact that they could not see the dangerous implications of the system was alarming to me (God doesn’t truly love everyone, God isn’t genuine in His offer of the Gospel, God holds people accountable for things they can’t control, etc.). Unfortunately, my persistence also caused issues in friendships of mine; which I own up to.
What primarily led to you abandoning Calvinism?
Once I discovered the abundance of early church teaching that affirmed things like libertarian free-will and unlimited atonement, it became easy for me to give up Calvinism. I realized that the only reason why the Calvinist world seemed so big and loud was because that’s all I was surrounded with. I originally thought most of the church believed these doctrines (in the past and present). I underestimated how their social media platforms played a big role in spreading their message to me and making it seem normal. Ultimately, I believe God was working to bring me out of Calvinism and I thank Him for it. He saved me in a Calvinistic church; this shows He is working wherever Christians are earnestly seeking Him. I urge non-Calvinists to not think of Calvinists as evil people who are crazy. They are people of God who are in serious error. As for Calvinists, your doctrine brings shame to the beauty of the gospel (in my opinion). Please re-consider your beliefs and check out the names I listed that helped me to see the errors in my ways. To this day I’m still learning and I’ll never stop because I know I’m not perfect in my beliefs; I suggest we all do the same. God will teach those who earnestly seek the truth of His word!