X-Calvinist Corner Files: Testimony # 53

, posted by Martin Glynn

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 Richard Ellis:

In 2012 I found myself sitting at Walnut Grove Church asking a simple question:

How did I get here?

Such an inquiry was not without warrant, for in that moment I was an atheist. I had concluded long prior that the contemplation of God was a waste of time, if not a flat-out irrational task. I knew there was no God, but here I was sitting in a Church.

I thought back to my friend who asked me to go. He knew that seven months prior I had lost my great-grandmother. He knew that six months prior, I had lost my grandfather who raised me. He knew that four weeks prior, my dad (an alcoholic and drug addict) was murdered in a drug-deal gone wrong. He knew about all of my pain, and because of it he asked me to go to Church and I agreed.

But I knew then, deep down, that these events did not answer my question.

How did I get here… and without thinking too long, I knew the answer.

It was God calling me. I had just heard a testimony of the Gospel, and I knew it had to be God. I remember praying:  “God if you are real, I will follow you.” – For in that moment I felt that it was more irrational to not believe in God, than it would have been to believe in Him.

For the next six years I found myself growing little in the faith. I had graduated high school and college, and knew that I was ready to pursue my faith unhindered. I desired objectivity, and I was going to do everything I could to learn about “what I believed” and “why.”

The first book I found myself reading was Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer. This was my first taste of Calvinism. Packer taught that God’s Sovereignty and Human Freewill was an antimony. But most importantly, I remember reading this from Packers book:

“Because you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it [salvation]…You do not put it down to chance or accident that you attended a Christian Church, that you heard the Christian gospel, that you had Christian friends and, perhaps, a Christian home, that the Bible fell into your hands, that you saw your need of Christ and came to trust him as your Savior. “ (Packer 16, IVP)

How did I get here?

This question came back to me, and Packer and Calvinism seemed to make the most sense. It was God who saves, not man.

Thus, not only did I see my conversion story within the quote above, I also saw the totality of God behind my conversion event. Although I later found this book to be criticized by both Calvinist and Arminian, needless to say I was hooked. From Packer, I found Piper, MacArthur, Matthew Henry, Sproul, Spurgeon, etc.

For me, Calvinism became the objective force behind my Bible studies, my music (Shai Linne), and more. God was in control. Everything was ordained. It was the Five Solas, it was TULIP, it was Augustine, and I loved it.

But unfortunately I began to change.

I know many Calvinist will argue against what I am about to say. They will probably state that I got Calvinism wrong. I don’t think so. Either way, I noticed two things about myself that started to creep forward under the influence of Calvinism:

First, I started to take the act of sinning lightly, and second I started to question my salvation.

With sin itself, I had always condemned it, and I still do. God abhors it, and like all Christians ought, I hold dearly and tightly to Romans 6:1 in regards to sin and Grace. Yet, with every sin I committed under the tutelage of Calvinism, I felt myself become more and more fatigued by it. At its worst I began to believe that if God’s will couldn’t be thwarted then even my sin couldn’t be stopped, because I viewed it as His will. From my perspective, God had ordained everything, even my sin. Thus, with the feelings of hopelessness, I started to let sin run its course in my life.

Naturally, as I kept sinning, I started to doubt that I was actually saved.

How did I get here?

I felt incomplete, and I started to reflect on the totality of my faith. From it, I started to ponder darker questions. If God makes certain my sin, did God make certain the death of my family and my pain, all of which He preordained in order for me to be saved? Were such things possible from a loving God- from what I saw in Jesus?

To be honest, I didn’t have the answers. When I read the Bible I could not read it without seeing Calvinism everywhere, and because of that I began to wonder if what I was doing was eisegesis rather than exegesis.

I started googling the issue. I found Roger Olson. An Arminian who doesn’t deny Total Depravity- I got to read more I thought. I bought his book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Within a few days I had it done.

Soon, I found the Society of Evangelical Arminians. Like Olson, they hold to the Soteriology espoused within the term Arminianism.

Afterwards, I spent many months reading- Thomas Oden, Brian Abasciano, Jerry Walls, Arminius, Calvin, Augustine, more of Olson, etc. In any case, I was changed. I no longer believed in Divine Determinism as espoused in Calvinism. I also knew Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism were wrong. In the end, I was fully committed to the Arminian understanding of Soteriology.

How did I get here?

For me, and every Christian, it has all been God’s Grace- 100 percent. It was God who desired me to be saved. At conversion, God in his Providence used the trials of my life to bring me to a saving Faith. God did not cause my pain, he fixed it.