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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why I Am No Longer a Calvinist - Part 1

Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval. (Romans 14:4, NLT)

I have been told more than a few times that I represent a rarity, someone who was a Calvinist and left it as he became more educated. While I am not certain how rare that actually is, I am aware of the fact that there is a tendency that as people become more educated, they come to find more and more affinity with Calvinism. Indeed, in my own journey I was not raised a Calvinist, but as I moved into college it was the path that I followed. My early years at Seminary saw me develop even more along those lines and it really wasn't until I moved into advanced studies toward the end of my Master's and throughout my PhD that I moved away from the system known as Calvinism.

Relating this journey to some, they have asked me to write my thoughts on the subject. So over the next couple of weeks, I will attempt to do this in a way that is appropriate and in a way that demonstrates my belief in a sovereign God who is in real relationship with HIS people.

Starting out, let me say a little about the beliefs that I will be expressing over the next couple of weeks:

- It's not about "fairness": One of the elements often raised by those who oppose ONE element of Calvinism - predestination, is that it is not fair of God to choose one for salvation and to choose one for condemnation. I firmly believe that God is God and I cannot determine what is "fair" for a Being who created the concepts of justice, mercy, and grace in the first place. It is about consistency with the revealed word of God.

- It's not about denominationalism or eschatology - While being a Baptist certainly informs my positions, there is a very strong strand of Calvinism in Baptist history. There is no inherent reason why someone cannot be both a strong Calvinist and a Baptist at the same time (despite what some argue :-)). Furthermore, the primary opposition of Calvinists are often diehard Dispensationalists -since I am not a dispensationalist and in fact reject a lot of the interpretative presuppositions of dispensationalism, the struggle between the two schools of thought does not come into play in this discussion. It is about consistency with the revealed word of God.

- It's not about division or purification - I don't want to disfellowship from Calvinists and I hope that those who know me know that I consider all Christians (Calvinist or not) to be brothers and sisters in Christ and worthy of my respect, prayers, and fellowship. I am, in fact, saddened by the militant strides that have been taken on both sides of this issue (both within my denomination and outside it) in classifying "opposition" as being lost, apostate, or ignorant. Disagreement does not have to devolve into name calling or marginalization. I understand that since I am arguring that my approach is biblical, that, by extension, I am implicitly arguing that those who hold to a different approach than me are not. But one can hold a position, argue it forcefully, and still maintain a level of humility and a recognition that fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are servants of the same Master I am and are seeking the same truth I am. Paul compels all believers to understand that in relating to other believers, we remember that God is the Master not us, and that as servants, we let the Master deal with other servants about disputable things. In some ways, I see this discussion to be about disputable things.

My purpose over the next several entries will not be to bash Calvinism. I am not writing these articles out of some crusade to see the view squashed - as if someone writing a blog could have a real impact on a movement that has been part of Christianity since at least the time of Augustine (1600 years now). Rather, I am writing this for people who have found my position unique and have wondered about my journey. I won't entertain debate on the subject and I don't believe I will change any Calvinists' minds. I am simply expressing the journey I have traveled over the last 20 years of my life as a theologian.

14 comments:

Randy said...

It is good to read your blogs again...I look forward to the upcoming discussions.

. said...

Good stuff Dr. Pierce. I also look forward to your future postings. Our family loves you, and are grateful for all you have done to teach us.

Ginny said...

I'm really interested in this topic, Pierce. I would consider myself Reformed, but like you always try to remain respectful of others' (informed) theology. Thanks for writing...can't wait to read more.

Chris said...

Very interesting. No idea that you were "once" Calvinistic. Looking forward to reading these.

Dr. Tim Pierce said...

Not just Calvinistic. A full-fledged, totally committed 5 point Calvinist.

I hope I can do my thoughts justice when I start to write them down.

Richard Coords said...

Hello Dr. Tim Pierce,

My testimony is that I once was swept into Calvinism, and then left after I could not reconcile it with Scripture. I, too, compiled my thoughts, and eventually placed it on a website:

www.examiningcalvinism.com

For me, I held the view that God created people like Goliath for no other purpose than to serve as a stepping-stone for the spiritual growth of people like David. However, I came to recognize that this kind of view of Goliath could not be supported from 2nd Peter 3:9, and most especially, Ezekiel 18:23. I surrendered to the authority and integrity of Scripture, and I showed Calvinism the door.

Are you familiar with Peter Lumpkins and Luke Liechty of SBC Tomorrow?

http://www.peterlumpkins.typepad.com/

Both are also SBC pastors. Peter was a former Calvinist.

Richard Coords

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Tim,

(Found your cite through Ben at ArminianPerspectives.)

I suspect there might be a rather crucial typo in your phrase:

"I firmly believe that God is God and I can determine..."

I think, putting your remarks in context, that you mean "cannot," not "can."

Incidentally, I too was not raised Calvinist but became one while at a Reformed college (Geneva College). I eventually left Calvinism. I have written a book which is a free online read at www.xCalvinist.com.
Although some of my theology differs from yours, you may find something of interest there.

Jonathan said...

I believe that I would consider myself a young initiate into your own camp of 'once-5pointer-now-educated-theologian-gone-rebound.' Just wanted to throw it out there that I am also one of those who started off my theological education as a card carrying 5 pointer and have since then changed my views significantly and would rather join arms with those, maybe not full fledged arminians, but the non-Calvinistic/not-a-huge-fan-of-systems kinda people.

Daniel Gracely said...

Greetings, Tim,
Did you happen to receive my comment from several days ago? Perhaps the problem is on my end?

Dr. Tim Pierce said...

Daniel,

I don't think so. I haven't rejected any comments so far. So if it is not here, I didn't get it.

Tim

Dr. Tim Pierce said...

Daniel,

Fixed the typo.

Also found a whole list of comments that were for some reason not sent to my e-mail for consideration. I guess I will have to keep an eye on that section in the future.

Thanks You All.

Hope to add the next entry soon.

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Calvinism takes away from the central message of God’s love for a lost world of humanity. Calvinism makes salvation more complicated than the simple truths taught in God’s Word. It diverts time and energy away from the work of the Church.

In scripture we find these simple truths:
God knows from eternity past who will love him. (Romans 8:29)
Those that love God, choose to love God and believe his provision for their salvation. (Ephesians 1:13
God has a plan for those that love Him, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)
God’s invitation is open to “whosoever.” (John 3:16, and other references.)

God did not make it complicated. We should not either.

Praise be His Holy Name.