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 Richard Coords:
I was attending Celebration Baptist Church, but one which treated the College & Career / Singles Group with little regard. The Sunday school teacher’s name was Chip, and he is quite a character. His former life involved drug abuse, but now pours his whole heart into serving Christ. He is (or was) the lead singer in his Christian rock band. He’s also a very humorous individual. “Crazy” is the way that most people describe him. He surfs, skates, sings and among other things, makes people laugh. His kids all love him, and they are good kids. He raised them well. When he became a Christian, he served as a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church (a mega-church in Jacksonville, FL), but when he dyed his hair green, the Pastor of that church deemed him rebellious, and asked him to change his hair color, or step down. He stepped down. His body is covered with Christian “tats” [tattoos] which he calls his “stained glass windows” for his “temple of the Lord.” Thankfully, when he became a Sunday school teacher at Celebration Baptist, he dropped the “green hair” thing. When he started, his Sunday school class was 4. It soon reached 40. The church leadership didn’t know where to put them all. The idea of an outdoor “tent” came up, but that’s kind of difficult, considering that this is Florida. One day, “Chip” asked the Church leadership if it would be okay to hold a Saturday night service in the main sanctuary. The leadership declined, supposedly on the grounds that it would waste electricity. The church was in the middle of a “building campaign.” Imagine that! The singles group was given low priority. “Chip” gave the leadership a piece of his mind. He told them that he didn’t feel that their music service was truly worshiping God. The leadership was unconcerned. Word had it that the leadership felt that they were not much of a revenue stream anyway, and if they left, it’s not a big deal. What resulted was a succession from the union. Thankfully there were no shots fired. The Pastor even brought them before the Church and asked the congregation to pray for them. Unfortunately, this is also where Calvinism entered the picture.
These were new Christians. The Sunday school teacher had never been to a seminary, but he was amazing at preaching the gospel. The stage was now completely his. He was the pastor, and everyone just loved the Lord, as much as they loved fellowshipping with one another. Each had future plans to attend a seminary. However, things were about to become a little more militant. One person introduced Calvinism into the group, and everything changed. They gobbled up the dogmatic teachings of Calvinist’s, Phil Johnson and John MacArthur, and suddenly they now had a righteous bully pulpit, in which to fire back at the church that rejected them. They initially met in a garage, and then at a tattoo parlor, because one of the members ran a tattoo parlor before getting saved. Next, they found a Senior pastor. He was a Calvinist with a doctorate, and best of all, he also fit the rebellious mold: He was kicked out of his prior two or three churches. It seemed like a perfect fit.
I was ignorant of the whole “Predestination / Free Will” thing. When I joined, I didn’t even know what “Calvinism” was. All I knew was that these people loved the Lord, and needed my financial help, and I was proud to give it.
Chip had been such an amazing evangelist. However, through Calvinism, he had come to an amazing new realization. You see, before, when he went on visitation, and when he led people to Christ, some of them fell away, and yes, some grew as Christians, and that’s when he had an epiphany: Election! Therefore, one day from behind the pulpit, he announced that he didn’t need to put special effort in evangelism, because with Election, all that he needed to do was merely preach the Gospel, and if they are elect, they will come! This soul winner then became the angry, screaming preacher that he swore that he’d never become.
My brother in law, Darrell, had been swept up in the movement, and today he remains a bulldog Calvinist. He is a “Hyper Calvinist,” but only in the physical sense. He’s just plain hyper. Things started out okay. It was a great little church. They left the tatoo parlor and rented a space in a strip mall. Unfortunately, the landlord decided that it would be okay to rent the space next to them to an adult store. The landlord said that he couldn’t resist, because this had been the first time that he had been able to rent out the entire strip mall. But that was about to change, because there happens to be an ordinance against that, and the church was able to legally break its lease. This time, though, they leased an actual church property, which later turned into a purchase. Imagine that. The cast-offs generated enough in tithing to support an entire church! It was a thriving little church. It was a great church. They had the best music ministry that I had ever experienced. It was one of the few churches that had nearly 100% turnout for their midweek service. They were on fire, but unfortunately, Calvinism was about to turn it a *wild fire*. Suddenly, their former Baptist churches were “Arminian heretics.”
I had always avoided the debates between my brother in law and my dad. Both sides seemed to express biblical views, and I couldn’t understand how they could be so far apart. I naively thought that the correct position must be somewhere in the middle. Yes, eventually, I too was swept up in the movement. Romans 9 was pointed out to me. But I thought, “Why would God be ‘patient’ with those that He supposedly predestined to Hell?” I thought that didn’t make any sense, but nevertheless, the paradigm of a God who is in absolute control, who “doesn’t play dice with the Cosmos,” who had everything fixed and orderly, made a lot of sense. Yes, God created people like Goliath for the sole purpose of growing people like David. I envisioned a two-class society of the elect and the reprobate, where the reprobate were seen as fillers & extras on the stage of life. I saw myself as extremely lucky to have been hand-picked for salvation.
When I expressed my new found theology with my dad, regarding those who are predestined to Hell, he threw 2nd Peter 3:9 at me, and I felt, “Well, there goes that theory!,” and that was the end of my stint in Calvinism. I heard the “secret will” explanation of the Pastor, and I read where Calvin taught that too. It didn’t make any sense that God would have a contradictory will, that is, a secret will pitted against a revealed will. I thought even less of the “of the elect” explanation.
That’s when I realized just how opposed to John 3:16, Calvinism really was. And then the flood of verses rushed in, such as 1st Timothy 2:4, but what really amazed me was this: When you look at how obsessed Calvinists are about Calvinism, and how meticulous they are in laying out the 5-Points of TULIP, what really struck me is how the apostles (also supposed to be Calvinists), were NOT so meticulous in laying out a TULIP system, at least, certainly not as aggressively as every Calvinist that I knew. That’s when I noticed that something was seriously wrong. These guys are supposed to be the founders of Calvinism, and they didn’t even talk like Calvinists! So how are they supposed to be Calvinists? Something wasn’t adding up. That’s when I found the website of 4-Point Calvinist, Ron Rhodes, who I remembered back when I studied his books on witnessing to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rhodes, albeit a Calvinist, laid out a rock solid argument against “Limited Atonement,” and I felt that I needed to present this information to my church leaders, but it didn’t go well.
I was co-teaching a Sunday school class with my brother in law, and when word got out that I was questioning Calvinism, the Pastor abruptly ended his series on Revelation, and immediately started a new series on Calvinism. I recall sitting in church one Sunday, and listening to the preacher lay out his case for Calvinism, when he stated: “And some people believe in whosoever will!,” to which I blurted out, “Amen.” But he responded with, “But no!, we were chosen!” And that’s when the congregation erupted in a chorus of “Amens!” I felt pretty alienated. From that moment on, I felt that I had become ostracized from my Christian, Calvinist brothers, and it was time for me to go. But I felt compelled to put together a scriptural answer as to why I felt that Calvinism was unbiblical, and that’s when I began putting together a series of verse-by-verse writings, which I eventually decided to put online, to serve as a user-friendly reference. That eventually became: http://www.examiningcalvinism.com.
After I left the Calvinist Church, I found out that I had left just before it went really crazy. It had become Orwellian, and “shunning” became their preferred tool of spiritual warfare. After many bizarre episodes, my Calvinist brother in Law who got me into Calvinism, was now being shunned. He had been an elder, but after failing to comply with an unbiblical Church edict, he was expelled and shunned. The church leaders even refused to meet with a neutral third party in order to make an attempt at reconcilation. Yes, even those with whom he had led to the Lord, were now shunning him. But eventually, a breakthrough occurred. After some soul-searching, “Chip” decided to step down. Although he is still a Calvinist, and attending a different Calvinist Church, he has come a long way in trying to humble himself and admit that he was wrong in some of the unbiblical counsel that he had given, and today he is now reconciled with my brother in Law. However, both are still being shunned by the church that they labored so hard to build.
In my assessment, I am no longer a Calvinist because I was sincerely seeking the truth. I just wanted to believe what the Bible said, and I didn’t want to get swept along in the argument of, “How could all of those historical figures have been wrong?” I refused to place my truth in men. I just wanted to believe what the Bible said, without having to assume Calvinism at every step. It then became apparent to me that Calvinists had to put Calvinism *in* the Bible, in order to get Calvinism *out* of the Bible.