I would not describe the Bible college I attended for 3 years as overtly Calvinistic in its theology. That is to say, if any of my teachers were, they didn’t really wear it on their sleeve. And I don’t recall a class where we specifically tackled the doctrines of grace. Maybe that was a senior-level course. Most of our profs were from the Dallas Theological Seminary camp, and thus were pretty solidly dispensational. I think if I’d stayed for a fourth year, I’d have taken the “Daniel/Revelation” course and have seen that in full bloom. It was a good school, but looking back, it seems odd that while there, I began to have Calvinistic leanings.
It was my 3rd year, and it was while meditating on Ephesians 1:4 – For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (NIV) – that I began to ponder the idea of election and predestination. That single, simple statement from the hand of Paul set me on a path toward understanding that the reason I was justified before God was ultimately because in eternity past, God chose me.
I was also attending a Presbyterian Church in America church because I liked the pastor and the solemnity of the worship. My Sunday School class was held in the pastor’s study. Now, when I get in anyone’s study, I’m always interested in their choice of books. I took notice of a set of commentaries that were colorful and small. Just the design was attractive.
They were a small series of commentaries published by Banner of Truth Trust from the epistles of Paul and Hebrews. Written by Geoffrey Wilson, each was identified on the inside cover as “A Digest of Reformed Comment.” At my next visit to a local Christian bookstore, I purchased one, the one on 1&2 Thessalonians. I probably paid $1.50. I shortly bought a few more and eventually completed the set.
I believe that was the first time in my young life that I’d encountered the word “Reformed.” Not knowing what it meant, I’d have to depend on context clues from the commentary to discern its meaning.
I began to peruse the commentary and found that it was indeed a “digest” in that these little books were full of collected observations from various older writers, whom I gathered to be Reformed.
I also discovered that many of those comments were reinforcing the thinking that I had begun with my meditations on Eph. 1:4. The idea that God is sovereign over all and chose and predestined us in love before the foundation of the world was being confirmed in the comments from these ancient writers.
So, sitting there in my study carrel, I leaned back to see my roommate at his seat and announced matter-of-factly, “I think I’m Reformed.” Because he and I were more likely to talk about Jesus Music and Monty Python back then and not particularly prone to theological discussion, that was the extent of the conversation.
“I think I’m Reformed.”
I didn’t yet know all the implications of that declaration, but for the most part it was an accurate assessment of my faith journey in those early years. Shortly thereafter, I became acquainted with R.C. Sproul and his teaching tapes. He and others helped me on my safari.
While I’m not particularly a fan of labels, I’ve openly become an adherent to the doctrines of grace and have written about them and defended them in my teaching and writing. I’ve also learned that apparently according to some people I’m Not Reformed Enough.™ But I’ll write more on that later.