"My Journey To Reformed Theology"

Some time ago a Reformed person posted his “conversion story”. I thought it might be fun try to understand the thought process that lead him to RT, and see what others here think.

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“My Journey To Reformed”

I encountered passages like John6, Ephesians 1-2, and Romans 9 twice every year. Obviously, in the earliest years I hadn’t heard terms like Reformed or Calvinism. But I read those sections and filed them in my mind as difficult. Not really difficult to understand, but difficult to swallow.

Furthermore, I became involved with Calvary Chapel a year later. Calvary Chapel, generally speaking, is fairly hostile towards Reformed thinking. So, I went along with CC and not really unwillingly. I liked their approach to the subject.

Over the years, while I appreciated many Reformed teachers such as Sproul, MacArthur, Boice and James White, for some examples, I severely disagreed with the details of their soteriology, while appreciating most of their other work.

Meanwhile, I read and appreciated men like George Bryson, Dave Hunt and particularly Norman Geisler on the subject.

However, I kept reading my NT twice per year, running into those chapters that seemed pretty clearly to me to support the view I hated. I loved commentaries. I kept reading commentaries, waiting for the pastor or scholar that would turn the light bulb fully on for those passages that didn’t sound kind of lame in the exposition.

Twenty-eight years into my walk, I hadn’t found that commentary. During that time, I continually listened to both sides. I personally found the Reformed expositions very difficult to argue with. I came to a point where I thought that to maintain my position, I would end up having to say some passages did not really mean what it sounded like they were saying. It was a road I would not travel.

So in my car, driving along, I told the LORD (silently in my head) that I think the Reformed interpretations are correct and I’ve been wrong. I told him I hated the position, but if it’s what the Scriptures teach, then I must follow the Scriptures whether I liked it or not. That is my short story of going from non-Reformed to Reformed.

It strikes me foremost, that “he hated the position” — here is someone seeking God, obviously doing a “through-the-Bible-read-in-six-months” program, and he’s reluctantly (kicking-and-screaming!) dragged towards a doctrine he hates! Why wasn’t this a giant red flag to him? “God is love” — and, “For God so loved the WORLD” — and here is someone being led into a doctrine where God creates most to be hated, and to burn; and the rest will belong to Him there is no way they can resist His predestination.

Jesus said that belonging to Him was joyful — “These things have I told you that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be made complete.” What is it in Reformed Theology that compels swallowing such a bitter pill, that certainly isn’t joyful? :hmmm:

Second, I’ve contended all along that “no one puts himself into a Sovereign-Predestined-Salvation outlook by reading the Bible; it is a position that must be taught.” And he clearly admits he was reading Sproul, MacArthur, Boice and White. I confess I don’t know Boice, but am well acquainted with the rest. He says he also read Hunt, Bryson, and Geisler. So what did he find convincing about the Calvinists, and not convincing from non-Calvinists?

He read commentaries – not stating which commentaries, but likely MacArthur, Gill, etcetera. I love to read Gill’s commentaries, he’s so blatantly wrong it’s very easy to refute!

He became convinced of “Reformed Theology” by reading John6 — obviously, verses 37, 39, 44, and 65. And he read Eph1 and Rom9 — passages that I call “foundational to Reformed Theology”.

In no way could he have read of God’s position of responding to men, rather than being causal to both wickedness and faithful righteousness. He could not have read Acts17:26-31 — no wait, he was on a “Bible-verse-reading-program” and went through the whole Bible twice a year. Well, at least the New Testament. He must have been leaning towards Reformed Theology, and then skimmed over the clear “responsibility passages” without allowing himself to be convicted.

And that takes WORK! Goodness — the entire letter of Galatians, the entire letter of 2Peter, and James, and worst Hebrews, painstakingly detail FALLING FROM SALVATION (and warning after warning “not to!”).

So – what’s our approach to them? I began this post with “someone seeking God” — perhaps it’s useful for us to begin showing them Acts17:26-31, where God makes sure all CAN seek Him and can FIND Him, He’s not far from anyone!

And then there is Matt7:14, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Heurisko, find-by-seeking.

Then verses like Matt11:18-21 — “COME to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest!” What kind of two-faced theatrics is that if men absolutely do not decide their coming to Him at all? Why would Jesus even say it? :shrug:

I would think that a “balanced approach” would be effective against Reformed Theology. I bet it’s not unusual that someone “first hated the idea”; and balance that offensiveness, with solid Scriptural exegesis. It’s very convincing to RT’s when they read verses like Acts13:48; but how would they explain verse 46, how can Jews unelect themselves?

Immediate to presenting them with Acts17:26-31, give them Rom10:6-10, and the linked passage Deuteronomy30:11-20. In what Universe is Deut30:12 not an absolute violation of “Monergism”, the very basis of Reformed Theology? Is there any way to deny that God PUTS the “word-of-faith” in absolutely every heart, both those who can confess believe and be saved, AND in those who disobey turn away and perish? What makes the difference — something GOD decides, or something each person decides? (How do they make sense of Jn3:18-21?)

How can they deny Rom2:4-11, God’s kindness leads to repentance even those who refuse (and stores wrath for themselves); and each chooses his own eternity because God is not partial? Give them Acts10:34-35 and confront them that "partiality is their doctrine which Peter says GOD IS NOT!"

Imagine a Reformed Theology follower, who still remembers how he hated the idea of “predestining most men to sin and perishing, and predestining a few to irresistible belief” — who then begins to realize his initial hatred was because it was actually promoting a road that impugned God’s nature and His righteousness"? That very “hatred”, is what causes JOY in us who realize GOD IS LOVE, and truly sent the Son not to condemn the world but so that the WORLD might be saved through Him. Not “a few”, not “some-of-all-types”, but truly the WHOLE WORLD, holos-kosmos, 1Jn2:2!

Secondary to teaching RT’s about “God’s love, justness, righteousness, honesty and sincerity” (all of which simply cannot fit “Sovereign Predestined Salvation”) — there are so many warnings against APOSTASY. How does an RT handle 2Cor11:3 (we are at the SAME risk of deception away from Jesus, as Eve experienced in the Garden!)?

How about 1Tim4:16, “AS you persevere you will save yourselves”? Hebrews 4:11, “Let us be diligent to enter God’s rest, lest anyone fall by imitating Israel’s disobedience (and unbelief)”?

Honestly, how does a mindset become so fixed, that verses like these are just dismissed and not embraced? :confused:

So, his spiritual advisor was… himself? In the Protestant world, it is a never-ceasing search for the true meaning of justification and for the correct denomination. A high percentage of Protestants make the same leaps, always seeking. But Jesus said He would not leave us orphans. :shrug:

Hello, my friend. NO, actually — not “himself”. I really don’t believe anyone will come to Reformed Theology just from reading Scripture, without indoctrination by Calvinists. Even Calvin, read (mostly mis-read) Augustine.

He admitted he was reading Sproul, White, MacArthur, and likely Piper Gill and Pink. While he seemed to claim to be “reading the whole thing twice a year” (implied in his words), he was like a horse with blinders being directed by books like “The Sovereignty of God” (Pink) and “Chosen By God” (Sproul).

What you say about “Jesus never leaving us orphans”, is a profound point; you and I believe Jesus is REAL. How is it that some think they’re searching for Jesus, but get mislead into doctrines like ones which promote “God-ordained-sin-and-evil”? Does not a real and personal Jesus truly interact with those who seek Him? Perhaps along with seeking Him, we “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits” — and our most available test, that Calvinists cannot refuse, is Scripture…

Personally, I believe those who seek Him will find Him when they search with all their hearts; but Calvinists must think the same thing. I would like to understand more how they think, so that we can show them solid Scriptural refutation…

John 6 is the same Chapter in which Jesus says we have to eat His Body and drink His Blood…:eek:

That’s right. And what follows is yet another occurrence that RT’s cannot explain.

Because of what Jesus said, many apostles were leaving. Jesus turned to the Twelve, and said:

“You’re not leaving Me too, ARE you!”

It was a negative question using “me” — expecting only an answer of “no”. Nevertheless Peter treated it as a real question. Paraphrased, Peter said:

“Of course we won’t leave, we know You’re the Messiah.”

And Jesus — held up Judas! Jesus “chose all twelve”, conveying that Judas was chosen the same as the others; and Judas is Jesus’ response to Peter. The only thing that makes sense, is Judas is “proof that leaving is possible”.

John6:67-70.

To offer a musical analogy: I might not study the various ways to mess around with the chromatic scale and somehow come up with the entire jazz idiom by myself. But that doesn’t mean the jazz idiom uses a different set of notes than those 12 used in western music. It just means I didn’t find it there myself.

Likewise, a Reformed guy might not be able to read the Bible and, all by himself, discover all of the nuances or even general doctrines of Reformed theology. But that doesn’t mean the Bible can’t support Reformed theology. (And to show my hand, of course I don’t believe the Bible teaches Calvinism. I’m just interacting with your logic.)

Reformed guys will be the first to admit that they place value on tradition, but will also be quick to point out that their tradition must be submitted to the ultimate authority which, in their eyes, is Scripture. They will also be quick to point out that there should be learned ministers who properly exegete Scripture and who pass on true doctrine to future generations.

So the idea that Reformed theology should be an OBVIOUS teaching in Scripture is not what Reformed theology assumes. It simply desires that its own theology be CONSISTENT with Scripture and with a meaningful exegesis of its text.

We don’t know if it’s possible, because we don’t know exactly how predestination works.

As with Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, up to Deepak Chopra and the ignorant and hate-filled anti-Catholic John MacArthur, Jesus ends up being a mirror image of themselves rather Who He is. Each was convinced, on the authority of their egos, that they were/are right and all others are wrong. MacArthur rails against Billy Graham, for good grief!

This is strong evidence (if not proof) against sola scriptura which, in reality, is solo ego. Once you rebel against higher authority and subject yourself to lower authority (the forces of this world), there are many spirits waiting to lead. Not one of them is the Holy Spirit, Who always produces humility and unity. Notice that virtually every reformer, each and every televangelist, each and every for-profit preacher has a massive ego. There is a reason for that: They are fertile ground for the seeds of the evil sower.

I’m told that a double-name was an address of intimacy. So in Matt7:21-23 many will rush to Jesus, arms open to embrace Him, crying “Lord! Lord!” But Jesus will hold His hand up and stop them, saying — "I never knew you! Depart from Me, you who practice wickedness."

How can people be so sidetracked? Not that we are “stereotyping Calvinists”, I’ve met a lot who are sincere people and do desire to follow Jesus on His terms; they’ve just been misled by cleverly strung-together Bible verses. All paths which lead away from the real Jesus are blazed by the deceiver; and yes he knows how to quote Bible verses…

Each was convinced, on the authority of their egos, that they were/are right and all others are wrong. MacArthur rails against Billy Graham, for good grief!

The moment any one of us “has arrived, nothing left to learn”, is the moment we should realize we have only just begun our journey to wisdom.

This is strong evidence (if not proof) against sola scriptura which, in reality, is solo ego. Once you rebel against higher authority and subject yourself to lower authority (the forces of this world), there are many spirits waiting to lead. Not one of them is the Holy Spirit, Who always produces humility and unity. Notice that virtually every reformer, each and every televangelist, each and every for-profit preacher has a massive ego. There is a reason for that: They are fertile ground for the seeds of the evil sower.

The Holy Spirit will never oppose what the Apostles wrote. So when someone comes “bringing another gospel” such as one that claims "God ordained and purposed all things, even evil", the sacred charge to EACH of us is to be so close to the REAL Jesus, that we instantly recognize the counterfeit…

Jesus spoke about “a house divided cannot stand” — if God reaches down to blank innocent not-yet-done-good-or-bad-clay, and sculpts part of it into WICKEDNESS (as Calvinists perceive Rom9:20-21 & 11 states), then His house is very much divided! How can anyone miss Jesus’ anger in Matt12:25-31, the suggestion of “conspiring with evil” (casting out demons by the prince of demons, which is to call the Holy Spirit “evil”) — He called “unforgivable blasphemy”?

:frowning:

I guess our assignment is to untangle the web of Reformed Theology for them, and show the simple and consistent theme of Scripture. Jesus died for all, every last person is hauled to the very door, and each decides to enter in or to turn away; and the same decision persists tomorrow, the next day, and the next. There truly is a war for the souls of men — as long as we cling to He who loved us and died for us, the war is already won.

“In this world you will have tribulation; but take courage, for I have overcome the world.”
“Greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world.”
“I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me.”
"The Lord is my strength and my song, and has become my salvation."

:slight_smile:

The Holy Spirit will never oppose what the Apostles wrote.
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You’re right that “sola scriptura” is often used to abuse Scripture and promote wrong ideas; this is the value of knowing the whole, and how it all fits together. It astonishes me to hear “I used to believe as you, but I learned/matured/was-led-by-the-Spirit…”

Really? As I read more and more, the more clear it becomes that we are charged over and over to be diligent in Jesus to keep ourselves saved! I love how Paul words it in 2Tim1:12-14 — “I know whom I have believed, and am assured He is able to KEEP that which I have entrusted to Him. Retain the standard of sound words in the faith and love which are in Jesus; GUARD, by the Holy Spirit who indwells us, the treasure entrusted to you.”

We entrust ourselves and our eternities to Jesus. Not once, but daily.
He guards what we entrust!
We are warned once again to ABIDE IN THE TEACHING (the sound words)…

And to exploit the Spirit’s power, to guard the treasure of eternal life entrusted to us!

Which part of this is unclear?

:shrug:

:tiphat:

I don’t follow Reformed Theology, are they the ones that say that “God poured His wrath out on Jesus” and that “God punished Jesus in our place”?

Penal substitution is what it is called. According to this radical, man-made, 16th century European doctrine, God (the Father) hated Himself (God the Son) so much that He essentially forced His Divine Son to be flogged and hung to death. He punished and killed the innocent in order to acquit the guilty. Nonsense! An unjust God! Such a God could easily send any believer to hell! Injustice in heaven? Satan would still be there!

Never mind Jesus teaching “a house divided cannot stand” (Mt 12:25, Mk 3:25, Luke 11:17) - what about a God divided? Did the “Reformers” not notice that Jesus also taught “I and the Father are One”? (John 10:30)

And so the house of Protestantism cannot stand. Hundreds/thousands of arguing denominations the proof.

This is understandable, especially when all he has is the Protestant framework and is unaware of the rich Catholic tradition on these passages. One thing most Protestants don’t realize is that most of the Early Church Fathers spoke Greek, and so they could read the Biblical Greek the NT was written in. Most Protestants think that the only people who know Biblical Greek are modern day Protestant scholars. In reality, when the Early Church read texts like John 6, they didn’t see anything Calvinist about it, because the Greek doesn’t actually say what English translations often give off. For example, the verbs for ‘drawing’ and ‘believing’ and such are verbs in the Present-Tense, meaning the action is going on right now and not a one-time-completed action. As such, John is never saying “the moment you believe you’re forever saved,” but rather “as you continue to believe you continue to be saved”.

With the right knowledge, these texts are some of the most powerful texts refuting Reformed Theology and instead supporting Catholicism. You can regularly win debates with Reformed folks if you know how to use these verses…while they only know the surface level. Like you will often see Protestants quote Ephesians 2:8 but they ignore Ephesians 2:5!

So in my car, driving along, I told the LORD (silently in my head) that I think the Reformed interpretations are correct and I’ve been wrong. I told him I hated the position, but if it’s what the Scriptures teach, then I must follow the Scriptures whether I liked it or not.

That is actually a good way to approach the issue…and it’s one of the main questions a person must ask themselves about becoming Catholic. They must pray and ask God that if the Catholic Church is true, then they will join even if it sounds scary.

This is not uncommon. People often start off being afraid of Catholicism, only to later realize they were mistaken. Other times a doctrine is wrong and so you should resist it, even if it might at first seem plausible.

What is it in Reformed Theology that compels swallowing such a bitter pill, that certainly isn’t joyful? :hmmm:

The simple answer is: Reformed Theology paints a gruesome picture, but washes it down with appealing pill: Assurance. The problem is, this is a presumption that you’re one of the elect…in reality under the Reformed system, you cannot actually know if God loves you…so you must start off assuming God loves you, which is really False Assurance. In fact, Calvin taught that God often sends people a false sense of election, causing them to think they are elect when they actually aren’t. Most Calvinists will never face the fact that they are presuming their election, because it’s too scary for them to face the truth!

So what did he find convincing about the Calvinists, and not convincing from non-Calvinists?

Probably the error that nobody aside from Reformed Theologians know Biblical Greek. Once you fall into that trap, and most Calvinists do, then you start to think that only Reformed Theologians can read the plain text of Scripture. Yet you will not find any Protestant Reformed Scholars telling their readers to look at how the Bible defines key terms like “Imputation” (Logizomai in Greek), because Reformed scholars pretend the Greek work Logizomai means “to impute” when in reality the Bible NEVER uses it to mean this! It’s so sad that Reformed Scholarship hides the truth so often. Similarly, no Protestant will touch the Greek of 2 Timothy 3:16 on Sola Scriptura where it says “Pasa Graphe”.

He became convinced of “Reformed Theology” by reading John6 — obviously, verses 37, 39, 44, and 65. And he read Eph1 and Rom9 — passages that I call “foundational to Reformed Theology”.

Calvinists think that Romans 9 teaches “unconditional election,” but in reality that was precisely the heresy that Paul was refuting in Romans 9! They got it exactly backwards!

I would think that a “balanced approach” would be effective against Reformed Theology.

For the Reformed, you must go all-in and play to win. The best way a Catholic can do this is to learn how to use the Book of Romans to thoroughly refute Calvinism, and the Calvinist will just whither before you once you point out their glaring presuppositions. Calvinism has zero Scriptural support, so nothing they say will have any actual Biblical proof once you ask them.

Lastly, the biggest problem of all is that Protestantism has completely misunderstood The Cross - they misunderstand the Atonement because they don’t go to Scripture and instead follow traditions of men. You will never see them define Atonement according to Scripture. Once you get this, it’s like a domino effect of everything else falling.

You’ll be astonished how easy it is to refute Calvinism once you know what to say. It’s as easy as taking the very verses they use against you, reading them properly, and turning the SAME VERSE around on them! That’s how genius God is at stopping heresy.

For me, it all started with one little question when I was 18.

"If you see a little red ball fall down the stairs, did God know it was going to happen? If so, why?

It took me awhile to fully digest it, but once I “got it”, I became over-zealous about it. It’s a common adage among the reformed I ran with that when it finally “clicks”, it’s probably best to lock the new acolyte in a closet for 6 months so they can simmer-down about it. I would debate Catholics about it at the drop of a hat. :rolleyes:

The attraction? It’s a SUPER-tight theology. I mean TIGHT. Systemic answers could be given for practically any issue. One can easily see how it “works”.

What eventually led me away from it (and ultimately to Catholicism) is the understanding of the depravity of mankind. If we are as totally depraved as reformed theology purports, then we aren’t the least bit culpable for our sin. We were born to hate God and only come to him because he essentially makes us by presenting us with the choice and a new heart that makes only one “option” of the choice possible to accept.

This isn’t my only critique of reformed theology. Just the biggest.

Consider division (all links are operational)

John Henry Newman, while still a Protestant, said the following

“to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant”. #199

Jesus prayer for His Church that He established on Peter

In Context

As in there is to be ZERO division.

Division from His Church is cataclysmic on ones soul.

For some history of the 1st 4 centuries (internal links are operational) see in particular the consequences mentioned for division, note the quotes both from scripture and from disciples of the apostles in their writing against division and the consequences
#27

Penal substitution is what it is called. According to this radical, man-made, 16th century European doctrine, God (the Father) hated Himself (God the Son) so much that He essentially forced His Divine Son to be flogged and hung to death. He punished and killed the innocent in order to acquit the guilty. Nonsense! An unjust God! Such a God could easily send any believer to hell! Injustice in heaven? satan would still be there!

Never mind Jesus teaching “a house divided cannot stand” (Mt 12:25, Mk 3:25, Luke 11:17) - what about a God divided? Did the “Reformers” not notice that Jesus also taught “I and the Father are One”? (John 10:30)
[/quote]

I’m not conversant with “penal substitution”. But Reformed Theology teaches that God ordained absolutely everything (Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini too!). Before time God wrote out a list of all people ever to be born, and decided which ones He would ordain to be wicked and to perish, and which ones He would zap with regeneration and cause them to love Him back! It makes the Cross mere pageantry, because Jesus’ death doesn’t affect anything, only God’s sovereign predestination determines destiny. It renders the Great Commandment “go unto all the world preaching the Gospel” as useless, because God will save whom He will and those He condemns can never be reached. It violates verses like Jude23 “save others, snatching them from the fire” – because God’s unwanted can NOT be snatched from the fire, and His favorites (teacher’ pets) were never truly in danger of fire in the first place. Which also violates Eph2:3, “we were children of wrath (Hell) the same as the rest!”

And so the house of Protestantism cannot stand. Hundreds/thousands of arguing denominations the proof.

Now don’t go lumping all Protestants into the “Reformed” box; I am Protestant, but compared to Reformed Theology my understanding of Scripture is a whole lot closer to the Catholic understanding than Reformed.

Reformed charges God with causality in sin (in spite of lame attempts to circumvent this like “Compatibilism”), casts Him as a false judge, hypocrite, and certainly a God of hate for most of His created Humans! It violates the essence of “love” — because if God lobotomizes men and their hearts (which is what “Monergism” really perceives) so that men cannot resist loving Him back, that is opposite to 1Cor13:5 “love does not demand its own way”.

Love that is not free to be either accepted or rebuffed, is not love. Period…

You are completely right about “house divided” — God being causal in sin, is 100% “house divided”, and such an accusation is the same thing that Jesus called “blasphemy” in Matt12:25-31…

Wouldn’t dream of it! However, the three reform musketeers soon split and the splitting has been going on for 500 years now. No one in charge, no CEO except quirky, charismatic individuals. The results were and are predictable.

Consider: whichever communion you belong to does not believe exactly as its founder did. How long have you been hanging around here and you have not even entered into inquiry classes? :wink:

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