Not long after leaving the United Pentecostal Church, I plunged into the deep waters of Calvinism. How different it was from all I’d ever known and practiced!
My brain loved it.
I devoured John Calvin. His “Institutes of the Christian Religion” informed nearly every aspect of my worldview. Even now I can see the Institutes and his 22 volumes on the Bible as I glance across my study.
I was awash in Reformed books and sermons: Spurgeon, Sproul, Packer, Piper, Van Til, Bahnsen, MacArthur, Horton, White, Berkhoff, Luther, Reymond, Frame, and Augustine.
I wholeheartedly subscribed to “sola scriptura” and the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 was my Bible.
I know. The “pope of Geneva’s” wrath would’ve—ahem—burned hot against me. Even so, I was thoroughly committed to Calvinistic soteriology and hermeneutics.
This commitment lasted a little over 15 years.
I think what happened is I began to sense that though my mind and intellect were satiated by Reformed systematics, with time’s passing my emotional and spiritual self was languishing. (Obviously, I’m speaking only of myself. This is certainly not the experience of the vast majority of Calvinists.)
Something—or was it Someone—was stirring inside me.
For some reason I decided to revisit a man I came to know my freshman year of Bible College. This was out of character for me because this man was clearly not a Calvinist. Nevertheless I walked away from my book shelf with CS Lewis—a long neglected favorite of mine. Though many of my Calvinist friends labeled Lewis a heretic…once again he was feeding my soul.
I mused: Hunkered here in this Reformed echo chamber, what other authors have I ignored?
The genie was out of the bottle.
The more I began to appreciate non-Reformed voices the more questions assaulted my fortress of certitude. None of this was planned—not by me anyway.
After months of reflecting and rethinking, it seemed to me that while Calvinism was philosophically robust and systematically sustainable, I could no longer square it with scriptures. Yes, there were verses that sounded awfully Calvinistic, but there were others that didn’t sound that way at all. These “leftover verses” (to use Christian Smith’s terminology) were being “shoehorned” to fit into my system.
I had become more sola systema than sola scriptura. That is, I was reading every word of every verse through a Calvinistic lens. But things once “clear” were now a bit blurry. After 15 years…I needed a new prescription.
I wasn’t a Calvinist anymore. So what was I?
I didn’t know. But I was hoping to find out…
Wondering Pilgrim, pt. 1
Wondering Pilgrim, pt. 1