I have to reveal my hand before getting too far into the Calvinist-Arminian debate. I am biased. My first exposure to Calvinism left a bad taste in my mouth and it still remains to this day.
I was a freshman in Bible college. 450 miles from home. In a new city. Rooming with a bunch of strangers. Coming to grips with college life, homesickness, and learning to do my own laundry. A few days after unpacking my belongings, an upperclassman in my dorm felt it necessary to introduce me to predestination and God’s eternal decree. “You do know that God separated the righteous from the damned before the world even began.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I was still trying to figure out how to separate whites, colors, and darks.
I grew up Presbyterian but remember nothing about it except being bored to tears in church. I have vague memories of catechism class. The old pastor tried to teach us basic theology. My buddy George thought the whole affair was pretty funny. I was trying to take it serious. At one point I asked the biggest question on my pre-adolescent mind…”where did God come from?” The pastor didn’t have an answer so I tuned out the rest.
Later, however, through the changed life of my older brother, I came to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I started attending a Baptist church and growing in my faith. I loved church. I enjoyed studying God’s Word. I sensed the Lord calling me into full-time ministry. Off to Bible college I went….eager, excited, naive.
That’s when I met my first evangelist for Calvinism. What else can I say? He turned me off. More than the doctrine itself, I was repelled by the attitude. He savored the chance to drill the young Bible college student with verses that he knew I had no answer for. I wasn’t sure what his purpose was. To convert me, to humiliate me, or to impress me with his knowledge. But whatever his intent, it had the opposite effect in me. I didn’t know what Calvinism was but I was sure I didn’t want to be one.
The next four years of Bible college I spent debating and discussing Calvinism and Arminianism with other budding young theologians in the dorm. While most college students party all night, Bible college students stay up all night arguing over TULIP. (I’ll define that later for those who think we were arguing over flower arrangements.)
Since most of my roommates were Calvinistic, I argued the other side. I ended most conversations saying, “I was predestined to be Arminian so stop fighting God’s eternal decree.” Not the most effective strategy, but it usually ended the conversation and let me go to bed.
So that’s the story behind my inner bias. Of course, I believe we are all biased and slanted to one degree or another. No one approaches a subject, including theology, from a position of total objectivity. Subjective emotion, experience, personality, and giftedness all enter the picture…as well as our self-focused sinful nature.
Only in the Spirit…and from a position of humility and love…can we ever hope to come close to a clearer view of God and His ways. And only in the Spirit can we teach theology to others with the right attitude and motive.
My next post…when I get there…will define the terms. What do I mean by Calvinism? What is Arminianism? That’s probably where I should have started but if you’ve read this far then you are either already familiar with the terms or so bored that you have nothing else better to do than read a blog that you don’t understand.