One of the single most shocking truths not proclaimed in the anemic Evangelical world today, which includes the swampy backwaters of today’s Evangelicalism, sometimes called the Reformed world, is that God doesn’t love everyone nor does He want all men to be saved. It was certainly shocking to me to realize over two decades ago, and despite all that I have been told to the contrary, that the Scriptures do not teach God’s universal love for all mankind and that what I was taught in the pew and by my spiritual elders at the time was a lie.
When I was first confronted by the doctrine of God’s sovereign predestination and election, and started to understand why person A was a believer and why person B was not, it presented the first real crisis of my faith. At that point I had been a professing Christian for more than ten years and I thought I had Christianity pretty much figured out. I was wrong. I came to realize that salvation was not due to the exercise of my own free and independent will but God’s. I was really unprepared to deal with this particular truth and this was despite having previously devoured everything written by the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer. That’s not to say that Schaeffer didn’t provide an oasis to a thinking Christian in a world filled with an endless stream of pompadour haired televangelists hawking Jesus like carny barkers, “precious moments” figurines, and Donny and Marie wannabes crooning for Christ. Schaeffer was a Presbyterian and deeply rooted in the faith of the Reformers; the very men who took on the awesome power of papal Rome and won. Yet, even this didn’t prepare me for the truths that were right under my nose. Truths like:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12,13)
And, of course,
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)
Thankfully, my first real introduction to the doctrine of predestination and election was through Gordon Clark and his book simply titled, Predestination. After that I plowed through books on the subject by Boettner, Luther, Pink, Zanchius, along with Calvin’s Institutes (twice) among others. I was struck that the faith of the Reformers was a qualitatively different religion than the one I had been taught. I had thought of myself as a “Protestant” for over a decade, longer if only nominally, but I really had no idea how alien my Christian faith was to the faith of the original Protestants. However, if I could be so wrong, and even ignorant, about such pivotal Christian doctrines as predestination and election, and for so long, then perhaps those in the Reformed tradition were wrong too and Christianity is a farce. I was determined that if the pieces did not fit in this new system I was now discovering, I was willing to toss my bible in the fireplace. (more…)