When I left off yesterday, I was heading off to Africa with a armful of John Piper books. Growing up as a classic free-will loving Arminian, I didn’t know how soundly my quaint ideas were about to be crushed under the weight of Scripture. If you’ve ever read a John Piper book, then you know it’s like drinking from a fire hydrant. The guy knows his Bible, and he is a passionate Calvinist.
After a few months of reading, I was convinced. I couldn’t argue with that much Scripture. So, living in Africa, I became a Calvinist. I drank in passage after passage of Romans. I relished in the sovereignty of God. Calvinism expanded my small view of God, and I am forever grateful for the much larger picture of God that I gained from the whole experience.
The problem for me was that I couldn’t stop going down the road of Calvinism once I started. If I was going to believe in something, I was going to believe in it all the way. If God truly was sovereign, if everything was predestined, then man’s choice is a farce. Once I started down the road to Calvinism, I couldn’t stop the slide before I ended up at its extreme end: hyper-Calvinism.
The results on my personal life and missionary activities were devastating. I literally lost all motivation to evangelize the lost (the very reason I was sent to Africa). If everything was already predestined, then I was wasting my time. God had already determined who would be saved, and my efforts weren’t going to change anything. When I was in my deepest valley, I was literally immobilized. I had no motivation to go out and do any missionary work. In my mind, it was all a wasted effort. For about six weeks, I didn’t pray. I didn’t have a quiet time. I was so overwhelmed by God’s sovereignty and my inability to help determine anyone’s salvation that I was paralyzed. I had the Scripture to back me up. I just didn’t have any practical motivation to go out and waste my time in the useless farce of personal evangelism. Not a good place for a full-time professional missionary to be at.
After about six weeks, I’d had enough. I made a deal with God. Here’s the gist of what I said, “God, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t live like this. I’ve got entire passages in Scripture that scream predestination at me, but it’s taken away all practical motivation for me to share the gospel with anyone. God, I’ll let you fix my theology when I’m in heaven, but while I’m here on earth, I’ve got to believe that I’ve got some skin in the game. I’ve got to believe that my efforts can have an effect on the salvation of others, if I’m going to survive here in Africa as a missionary.”
That prayer began my road to redemption, which I’ll share about in my next post. If you think it led me back to be a classic Arminian, think again.