So I haven’t always been a Calvinist. I once was a really nice guy. But all of that has changed, and the change has consumed my life.
Warning signs multiplied as I journeyed down the road of theological reflection, and if I had just ignored the signs, I would’ve been better off. But I didn’t so now I have to live with where I am.
Ok so enough with the sarcasm.
There really have been several things over the years that have contributed to where I am today, So I thought I would take a few blog posts and write about them and how they have contributed to my current understanding. Often it was a person, sometimes a book, but always the Lord guiding the whole process. Perhaps you will find reason to examine these beautiful truths once again.
Contribution Number 1
Dr. Bob Utley. Dr. Utley taught Old Testament and Biblical Interpretation at East Texas Baptist University, where I graduated in 1989. I took his two classes on interpretation and life was never the same.
I remember distinctly Dr. Bob, as we used to call him, always stating is it that God has chosen man from the foundation of the world or does man have free will? He would always answer, “Yes!” But when he would say this, I had no idea what he was talking about it. If I had ever heard about God’s election or Calvinist in my high school days, it left me as quickly as a popular Ebay auction. But I just nodded my head in agreement after all, why would it really matter so long as we love Jesus.
Dr Bob taught me the importance of being able to verify my interpretation of Scripture and that it had to be brought together from the historical, literary, grammatical, and canonical contexts. In other words, the history behind the text, the flow of the language and vocabulary of the text, and the interaction of the text with the rest of Scripture were key to a verifiable interpretation.
This led me to do verse by verse studies in my first few youth ministries teaching through books of the Bible a section of verses at a time.
Impact of this Contribution
It wasn’t until around 1996 or 1997 that Dr. Bob’s methods of interpretation would start to pay off in relationship to my theology understandings.
I was teaching through John chapter 6 with the kids and I had come across a verse that startled me. John 6:44.
The historical context was a bunch of Jews who had had their bellies filled by Jesus the day before and now they were following him for seconds. But when they found Jesus he began to use some metaphors to teach them about salvation. The crowd reacts very badly to Jesus’ teaching, they grumble (41) and question who is Jesus (42-43). And so in response to their lack of faith and grumbling, Jesus says these words:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up on the last day.
What began to be clear to me was this:
- The Father’s drawing is a necessary precursor to a Faith response from sinners
- If a person comes to faith in Christ it is because the Father draw them, and if the Father drew them, then Christ would raise them up on the last day.
- The Father and The Son have a harmony in their work of redemption. The Father draws, the Son raises, and those on whom and for whom they do these actions are the same group of people.
This was overwhelming to. Because this was not what I believed. I went back to through the steps of exegesis that Dr. Bob had given to us. And Again and Again I kept coming to the same conclusion. You can’t just get saved whenever you want to. It is not up to you, it is up to God.
But I had so many nagging questions like: So what does that mean about those who do not believe? And can a person be drawn and refuse? And so on. But I didn’t have any answers to these things, not did I really realize that I needed to.
Next time, I will share with you, how this verse began to impact how I was doing ministry and what was the next phase for me.