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 from a man named Bob:
How did you become a Calvinist?
To answer this question I feel I should start at the beginning so please be patient with me. I first met my savior at Prospect Heights Baptist church in Illinois. Later my whole family came to saving knowledge in Jesus Christ through the love and care of our neighbor and this little Baptist church. In high school the lure of the world weighed heavy on me and I wandered from the faith. Several years later as a young adult I found myself asking God if He still wanted me, If He could still love me? I heard the answer loud and clear, not audibly but in my heart, “Welcome home my son.” Immediately the flood gates of my eyes were open. I cried until my tears literally ran dry and still my chest heaved and my throat constricted. I confessed sin after sin and asked for forgiveness and He was faithful to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Oh the joy to be so loved and forgiven. I was a grateful follower of Jesus who was forgiven much and loved much. I rejoined my family at our Baptist church, blissfully unaware that there were Calvinists and Arminians in the body of Christ. My view was simple: there were Christians, those who believed in Jesus, and there were non-Christians, those who did not believe in Jesus but who needed the gospel message. Through some very trying times financially and otherwise our little body of believers decided to sell our building and join with Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows IL. It was while in HBC that I met a believer who called himself reformed. He was very scholarly and I loved the word of God… so he became my mentor in Calvinism.
What did you find most compelling about Calvinism?
The TULIP — it seemed logical and air tight. Total Depravity: That was me and every other man. I was dead in my trespasses. Unconditional Election: God’s in control, He’s sovereign. Limited Atonement: There’s no waste, neat and tidy. Irresistible Grace: How else could a dead man respond and believe unless he was first graciously made alive; and of course if he was dead he’d have no say in the matter, so how could he resist? Perseverance of the Saints: Of course, if God unconditionally elected people to salvation and if Jesus atoned for those unconditionally elected and if the Holy Spirit irresistibly applied that atonement through the grace of regeneration, then of course they would persevere for all eternity. In short monergism most attracted me to Calvinism.
Why did you begin to question your Calvinistic convictions?
The first paragraph of the following was cut from an email I sent to a Calvinist friend of mine and part of an email I sent to Richard Coords to thank him for his verse by verse work at Examining Calvinism.
It was not a doctrinal argument that had me first questioning my Calvinism, but a subjective argument based on my personal experience (most of my Calvinist brothers would say this was my first error but anyways what follows is the argument in a nutshell). I found myself saying that I cared for the lost but in reality I spent no energy on reaching the lost and poured most of my energy into converting my Christian brothers to the reformed and Calvinistic Christianity I had embraced. I began to ask myself, “How important is it that these brothers convert to Calvinism?” The answer that kept coming back to me was “Not very.” Then I asked myself, “How important is it to reach the lost with the gospel?” The answer, “Eternally important.” Then I began to ask myself, “If I do convert Christians to Calvinism will they, like me, focus more of their efforts on converting Christians to Calvinism then reaching the lost?” The answer in my opinion was “Yes most of them would.” Then I was humbled as I remembered Jesus words that he, “Came to seek and to save the lost.” I know the Calvinist answer is that Jesus was not seeking just any lost but only the lost elect, but scripture gave me a picture of Jesus inviting any who would come. I began thinking, “What if John 3:16 is true and that Jesus did die for the whole world that whosoever believes in Him would have eternal life and what if the doctrine of limited atonement was incorrect and that Jesus by his grace gives all men everywhere the power to receive coupled with the power they already have to reject Him, would my passion and heart for the lost, whether the lost were unborn or almost expired, be greater?” And immediately I knew the answer: a resounding, “YES!” Then I asked myself, “does theology or being like Christ matter most?” I argued with myself that theology matters (and it does) but I could not extricate myself from the conclusion that “Being like Christ matters more.” Needless to say I hated what I had become; A bigoted elitist who looked down on my brothers in Christ. And at best I was unsympathetic to the plight of the lost. This may not be where Calvinism leads a better man but it is where it led me. Nor can I say that Calvinism leads men to be less like Christ, for consider Spurgeon, John Piper, D James Kennedy, and a host of others who have reached out to the lost while simultaneously adhering to the doctrines of Calvinism. I can only say that in my experience I became calloused to the lost. After all, if they died without Christ it was exactly what God wanted, and even more, He had ordained to happen. So who was I to argue with God or doubt His decree?
Another factor that contributed to my questioning of Calvinism was my church search. Let me back up a bit to explain. Shortly after becoming “reformed” I joined a Presbyterian church. It wasn’t “reformed” enough so I joined a church in the Reformed Presbyterian Church North America denomination. Liturgical, Confessional, Regulative Principle of Worship, now this church was “reformed”. While at the RPCNA church it became clear that I was a reformed Baptist since I was unable to come to terms with the doctrine of infant baptism. We were moving soon so we didn’t feel the need to leave the church but we had decided that when we got to Indiana we would seek out a reformed Baptist church. For two plus years we attended a reformed Baptist church 80 miles from our home. Needless to say this was too hard on the family so we decided reformed or not we had to find a closer church. In the process of calling churches and asking questions I was challenged to reexamine the core doctrines of Christianity and it became clear that Calvinism wasn’t a core doctrine.
What kind of support or opposition did you encounter while questioning your Calvinistic beliefs?
My family and I ultimately began attending and are gratefully at the church that challenged me to reexamine the core doctrines of Christianity, Church of the Good Shepherd. We were drawn there because of their three concentric circles approach to doctrine. The center circle is salvific doctrines, second circle important doctrines, and the third circle is matters of conscience. The only doctrines to divide over are center circle doctrines. Arminianism and Calvinism are second circle doctrines and ergo not a reason to divide over. This approach to doctrine is not just an idea; it is practiced as evidenced by the fact that the senior pastor is an Arminian and one of the other pastors on staff is a Calvinist. Needless to say at church I was welcome to be a Calvinist or an Arminian as long as I remembered that those of the opposing view were my brothers. At first I began defending the Arminian doctrines to my Calvinist brothers from the reformed Baptist church as a Calvinist sympathetic to the doctrines of my Arminian brothers and my Calvinist brothers were very gracious. Recently I have come to realize that my Calvinism was reduced to at best two points and possibly only one point, so I am not a one or two point Calvinist I am a classical Arminian. I have yet to see my Calvinist brothers from the reformed Baptist church since this revelation and I truly hope that they will be as gracious as they were at first.
What primarily led you to abandon Calvinism?
The driving impetus was the realization that as a Calvinist the good news of the gospel wasn’t good news; it was only potentially good news and it wasn’t for everybody. This led me to examine the TULIP in General and Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace in particular. As I searched the proof texts (with much help from Richard Coords) that had been the bedrock of my Calvinism I time and time again found that the larger context surrounding the proof text did not support the doctrine in question. The final straw was an article on the Society of Evangelical Arminians site called Romans 9 An Arminian/New Perspective Reading. That was it; my strongest proof text fell, and with it, my devotion to Calvinism.