There are a few things that people never forget. The details of certain tragedies and trials stay by your side and the vivid details remind you of their significance. People remember where they were when the planes hit the World Trade Centers. I was leaving for work and glanced at the TV. People remember where they were when the first space-shuttle exploded. I was in eighth grade down by the snack machine getting Bugles. I remember where I was when I was told about my sisters death. I was driving down 635 just passing Preston Rd. I remember where I was when I was told about my mothers aneurysm. I was sitting on the couch on the middle cushion with cereal in my mouth. We remember certain events because of their significance. Unfortunately, most of these are tragic. It is funny to bring this up in this context, but most Christians remember where they were when they first heard about God’s election – predestination.
It was nearly 20 years ago. I was outside my mother’s room and she came to me with her Bible and said, “You think you have got it all figured out? Well, how do you deal with this?” She gave me her Bible opened to Romans 9. It was the first time I had read it. I read it right there in the hallway. When I read the words, “It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but upon God who has mercy,” I got mad. Well, I started off confused. But I did not let my mother know this because at the time I was a know-it-all (hence, the “You think you have got it all figured out” etc.). My confusion turned into determination. Determination to resolve this “crisis.” I went into my room and laid down on my stomachÂ on theÂ left side of my bed. I studied that passage inside out. No, I did not consult any commentaries. I was too smart for them at the time. All I needed was the Bible and the Holy Spirit. My mother was sure to tell me that sheÂ had asked people all her life and no one could give her an answer. This fueled my motivation.
After hours alone with the text, I went back into my mother’s room and sat down on her right side on her bed. I said, “I have figured it out.” I proceeded to tell her that God “elected” people based upon what He already knew. I had reasoned this way: If God knows everything, even the future, thenÂ He knows who will chooseÂ Him. Therefore, He simply looks ahead in time and chooses those who chooseÂ Him! That is it! Next question please.
Yes, I came to that conclusion on my own without even knowing that I wasÂ articulating anÂ Arminian position with regards to election. I left her room satisfied that she still believed I could solve any biblical dilemma. Yet, the problem was that I was not satisfied with my answer. I knew that my answer was insufficient. Deep down, I knew it. I knew that I was not being intellectually honest with my mom, myself, or the text. I knew that I was simply trying to solve a problem that when looked at in the face was very frightening. No, it was repulsive. ThisÂ know-it-all-Arminian-by-nature was thoroughly confused. Why? Because the answer I gave was exactly what the text would not allow. It said,Â “For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls.” And I just told my mother that it DID depend on whether or not someone had done something good or bad, namely whether or not someone had faith.
That day, whether I admitted it or not, I knew my theology was changing. I did not know what Calvinism was and was greatly unaware of the debate surrounding the issue of election, but I was becoming a Calvinist. I did not want to. I fought it for weeks, months, even years. I was a reluctant Calvinist.
However, things did change. I also remember the day that I fully (and joyfully) embraced unconditional election. I was at aÂ seminarÂ led by James Montgomery Boice.Â I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember this story.Â I will do the best I can with it.
“Imagine this. ImagineÂ yourself being inÂ heaven and walking with theÂ angels. One of them asks you, “How did you get here.” You would sayÂ ‘Well, I got here by the grace of God alone.’ The angel responds and asks,Â ‘Well, I don’t understand. Why are you here and others are not?’ You say, ‘Because God had mercy on me.’Â ‘Yes, but,’ the angel replies, ‘What makes you different.’ If you are anÂ Arminian, you would ultimately say, ‘Well, when it comes down to it, the major difference between those people who did not make it and myself is that I choose to place my faith in God.” [At this point Boice places his thumbs under his arms with a haughty look].Â The angel then says, ‘Oh, so ultimately, you are the cause of your salvation.’Â But to theÂ Calvinist, things are different. There will never be an opportunity or a place for boasting before the angels or anyone else. Not even in the slightest. There is nothing that you can claim. There is no haughtiness, no pride, no self-esteem. Only aÂ deep understanding that God did everything and you did nothing. This is grace. To the angel, all the Calvinist can say is ‘I don’t know why God had mercy on me and not others. All I know is that it has nothing to do with me.'”Â
That day IÂ finally came to a settled conclusion that this is what the Bible teaches and I had better submit to its authority, not the authority of my emotion. That day I realized that salvation is a monergistic work of God. That day I realized that my faith was a response to God’s mercy upon me. That day I realized how radical grace is and how sovereign God is in His administration of it. That day I joyfully gave the Potter charge overÂ the clay andÂ placed my hand over my mouth. That day I knew that I could never be lost since I had nothing to do with being found.
Since then, the struggles with regards to this issue have not ceased. I still understand the problems that people have with Romans 9 and the entire doctrine of election. I understand why people reject it. Yet all the arguments that I have ever heard against it only serve to confirm my conviction of the truthfulness of unconditional election.
PS: This blog post is not necessarily meant to be an argument for Calvinism (though it is implied), but simply some details about my theological journey, if you will.
PSS: NO, I am NOT still a know-it-all. Silence!