Calvinists often state: “Oh, I used to believe that. I used to be an Arminian.” The reality, however, is that they were never an Arminian. What they “used to be” was simply a non-Calvinist. Then, someone came along and provided them with the Calvinist explanation of the Bible. Seeing how it appears biblical, and is certainly both logically and functionally sound, they sucked it up like a Hoover Vacuum Cleaner. Suddenly, John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon become some of their new favorite Bible teachers.
When an Arminian comes along and presents an alternative to Calvinism, the Calvinist stops and says: “Oh, I used to believe that. I used to be an Arminian.” However, the convert actually has little-to-no knowledge of Arminianism at all. This becomes plainly evident by simply asking the converted Calvinist to explain the Arminian interpretation of a given Calvinist proof-text verse. What you will very likely receive in return, is a blank stare, and a candid, “I don’t know.” Then, when you present them a book that challenges Calvinism, you will often hear, “Oh, I’ve already studied that, and I’m quite confident that Reformed Theology is correct. I’m ready to move on to other things now.”
Too often, a Calvinist will engage the matter from the perspective of one whose heart is completely hardened, and are merely trying to justify themselves before Arminians. They will ask about what an Arminian believes about a certain verse, but the reality is that if they are rejecting Arminianism, shouldn’t they already know what they reject? A better approach (from someone who is sincere) is to cite what an Arminian author has stated about a given verse, and then bring it up for critique, instead of just blankly asking what Arminians teach about a certain verse. AnswersinGenesis.org rejects the theory of Evolution, but from the perspective of being experts in their understanding of what they are rejecting. That is what Calvinists should take to heart.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, after listing a series of verses, Exodus 4:21, Exodus 12:36, Psalm 105:25, Proverbs 21:2, Daniel 4:25, Amos 3:6, Acts 4:27-28, John 1:13, John 5:21, John 12:39-40, Acts 13:48, Romans 9:22-24, Ephesians 1:4, 2nd Thessalonians 2:13, writes: “Arminians, needless to say, are well aware of these passages of Scripture and doubtless have explanations for them.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.220, emphasis mine)
It’s also “doubtless” that Erwin Lutzer, like most Calvinists, doesn’t know what those explanations are. That’s why you should hear both sides of a matter before rendering a verdict.
Here is the candid testimony of a convert to Calvinism: “Short version, I was raised ‘Arminian’ although I believed myself to be ‘Calvinist’ because I believed in Eternal Security. Later in life - after becoming an adult - someone suggested that ‘regeneration precedes faith’. I knew that to be false, so I went to bat for the truth. Every time I stepped up to knock down these heresies, I got a face full of Scriptures that seemed, for the life of me, to say that Man is depraved at his core, that God chooses who He will save based on His own purposes, not the ones being saved, and that when God moves, no one can stop Him. I kept swinging, but after awhile I realized I had lost the battle. Overcome with Scripture and unable to disagree with the logic, I found myself engulfed by a sense of awe that grace could be so large, and a sense of awe that God could be so sovereign. Never before had these two features loomed so large.” (Studylight.org, emphasis mine)
The reality is that this person was never raised “Arminian.” He was raised non-Calvinist, unaware of what Arminianism actually taught. Ultimately, man’s depravity is affirmed, though to the detriment of the power of the Gospel which is able to save sinners. (Romans 1:16; James 1:21) Similarly, the basis for whom God chooses is shifted away from those in Christ (Ephesians 1:4) and is routed to the unsearchable, hidden counsels of God. So although Calvinism is functionally logical, it is nevertheless biblically inaccurate. While there is no doubt that Calvinism solves the riddle of man’s ways, the question is whether it truthfully represents God’s ways. God says: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Continuing: “I gave up the fight. I won’t do battle anymore, but I am pretty well ‘snared’ by the ‘Scripture and evident reason’ that has forced me against my desires to acquiesce to God’s sovereignty and finally made me comfortable enough to allow myself to be called ‘a Calvinist’ (although I still despise the term). In the course of my battle, my mother was swept along as well, and she has surrendered, too, but my father, raised a Presbyterian, is still a ‘one pointer’. We, however, never do battle over it.” (Studylight.org, emphasis mine)
I enjoy testimonials, and find value in learning what makes people tick. In this example, the convert to Calvinism felt led to acquiesce to God’s sovereignty, or perhaps their speculations on God’s sovereignty. This is why I often caution: Lean not on thine own sovereignty speculations, but in all your ways acknowledge His Word, and He will direct thy doctrine.
Continuing: “Considering my life and my circumstances and my biblical conclusions, you are offering to move me from a rational theology, a confident hope, an assurance that God is absolutely in control when the world around me looks out of control, and an assurance that God can and will save a wretch like me, to the certainty that I am forever damned and, well, too bad, He tried but I wouldn’t let Him.” (Studylight.org, emphasis mine)
In examining this pro & con, while the [con] conclusion did not make a lot of sense, the initial [pro] sentiment, very much did. Calvinism offered this individual a logical Christianity, and confidence that as “the elect,” he cannot fall away, with the assurance that God is in absolute control of everything that happens in the world. The attraction that I felt to Calvinism was that God does not play dice with the cosmos, in terms of “the elect” that He desires to save (like David), and the “non-elect” that He desires to perish (like Goliath). I envisioned the Calvinist perspective as Utilitarian, in which God created certain people to perish, out of a need to mold and develop “the elect.” It made sense, and it was rational. So I too had bought into it, that is, until I honestly considered 2nd Peter 3:9. As it turns out, God doesn’t create Fillers, Extras and Stand-Ins on the stage of life, in order to service the eternally royal ones. God, for His part, desires that everyone become saved. The fact is that God does a lot of things that are different than what my nature and what my limited perspective would deem the best choice. The fact is that I would not have stooped to redeem man. Instead, I would have cut Adam & Eve off, and started over, and this time, without that horrible tree. But I’m not God, and His ways are not my ways, and I need to be ever cognizant of that fact. That is why the Bible must trump our own sovereignty speculations.
Concluding: “I’m sorry. The whole of Arminian theology, in my mind, elevates Man, denigrates God, and leaves me with a mortally wounded sovereign who fell victim to His creation when He surrendered to their wills. In a world where terrorists fly aircraft into buildings, where Christians are divorcing as often as non-Christians, where I live imperfectly myself, I cannot afford a God who is not sovereign, nor can I afford an elevated view of Man. I couldn’t continue the conversation in good conscience because 1) I have been forced by the biblical logic of it, and 2) having arrived here, I like it... a lot. You ask me to surrender my mind and my God, and I cannot.” (Studylight.org, emphasis mine)
What a terrific testimony that was kindly shared, and also a dire warning of where human rationale will take you. This is why it is so difficult to present Arminianism to Calvinists. They think they’ve studied it already, since that’s what they allegedly used to believe, and besides that, it’s what they like “a lot.” I cannot help but see a similarity to what Jesus faced with Israel, who loved their Jewish Law, and loved the confidence instilled by the leaders of the synagogue. The worst thing that could happen is that one of them should be put out of the synagogue, which is exactly what happened to those who professed Christ. John 12:42 states: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.”
Another Calvinist, who similarly states that he used to be an Arminian, but who never really was, being formerly a mere non-Calvinist, on account of being completely uninformed of Arminian Theology, was handed a one-sided explanation of an assortment of Bible verses, and now claims that his investigation is complete, despite having never even explored the alternative, and being completely confident of the accuracy of Reformed Theology, is ready to move on. Therefore, I feel justified in quoting him this Proverb: “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
If one believes that they already have the truth, then they will not be seeking the truth. Therefore, we should maintain a healthy level of mistrust of ourselves, with a hunger and thirst for the revelation of God in our lives.