There was a time, over a decade ago, when someone introduced me to the Doctrines of Grace. For a few years after that moment, the amazing truth of God’s exhaustive sovereignty was all I sought to talk about. When the church I was attending made it clear that Calvinism was unwelcome, I left and found a church where the pastor was Calvinistic, soon he was out and the Purpose Driven movement took root, I fought what I saw was (and truly is) an affront to God’s Word and sovereignty and eventually was pushed to the periphery of the church. My wife and I sought a new church and found one that was confessional, and true to the Word of God.
Given these experiences, I have a few suggestions for those folks who find themselves newly exposed to the concepts of Calvinism, the Reformed understanding of the faith and the Doctrines of Grace in general.
One caveat… most of these points refer to where you are NOW. The intention is to get you solid food, grow you in the faith, and prepare you for your purpose in the economy of God.
- Realize there is more to Reformed theology then just TULIP. – Reformed theology covers the gamut of theological concepts from soteriology (the understanding of how salvation occurs) to eschatology (the end times.) Don’t be so focused on TULIP that you miss the foundations for it.
- Beware the desire for crusade – You may feel compelled to reform your Arminian or Purpose-Driven megachurch. RESIST THE URGE. While your intention may be good, your methods and understanding of God’s plan and purpose is probably muddled. I recommend discussing Calvinism with your elders/pastors and if they’re opposed to it lovingly and calmly notify them that you intend to seek membership elsewhere. Put a damper on your desire to fight or argue until you are firmly established and being fed the Gospel weekly.
- Do find a solid, confessional Reformed church. -Try here, here , here or here. Your initial desire once you leave your old church will be to find a Reformed or Calvinistic church that fits your chosen worship style etc. I recommend getting out of your comfort zone, visit a confessionally Reformed church. Notice the traditions therein and feel free to ask an elder or pastor after the service why they do church the way they do. You may find the hymns stuffy, the service rigid, the prayers long… but there are probably good, Biblical reasons why the church does what it does. Since you’re on this quest to conform to a more Biblical position, perhaps there are other areas of theology that you might need to likewise conform.
- Read, Read, Read – There is a vast treasury of Reformed knowledge and tradition freely available. Do not be afraid to explore concepts outside of your current position. If you’re a Baptist, read paedobaptist literature to understand their position, it will help you defend your own. Likewise, if you’re a Dispensationalist, read as to why Covenantal Amillennialists believe what they believe.
- LOVE – You may find yourself debating everyone. Temper this urge. Remember that you are to explain the truth IN LOVE. It is hard to show love when you’re yelling at someone. Be aware that what you now believe is completely foreign to most folks, and it will require supernatural intervention for them to accept it. Use the “Columbo method” in discussion, ask questions about passages of Scripture, be slow to interject. Learn to listen.
- Avoid debates on minor issues. – It’s fine to discuss, it’s fine to debate, but avoid meaningless debates. Don’t debate atheists on minutia, give them the Gospel and move on. Recognize that no matter how good your arguments are, how sound your logic, how eloquent your message… unless the Spirit of God opens their heart, they will not, and cannot understand or believe what you’re saying. The only means by which they can come to understanding is through the clear proclamation of the Gospel, and that should be your primary intent. There are times and places for public debate and even those well gifted for it, right after you change positions is not that time.
I’m sure there are more, and others will add some. Think about this and let me know what you think.