Wednesday, March 02, 2005


My theological journey (nutshell-sized)

In my nearly twenty years as a professing Christian, I've certainly run the gamut. I started out by hearing the Gospel from a professing fundamentalist Baptist (who afterwards denied the faith), went whole hog into the Word of Faith wing of the Charismatic Movement, then swung way back to the other direction into a Reformed Baptist church. Along the way, I've seen many of the strengths and weaknesses of each camp of the Christian faith. I spent very little time with the fundamentalists, so I'll confine my remarks to the Charismatic and Reformed camps.

Among the Charismatics, I saw an emphasis on soulwinning, enthusiastic worship, and a heartfelt "personal relationship" with Christ. The enthusiasm that I along with many of my fellow believers possessed came out of a sincere desire to honor and please God. However, I was not well taught, and in fact imbibed much false doctrine, especially from the radio and print preachers I went after, especially Kenneth Hagin, the then-figurehead of the Word of Faith movement. Also, I fancied myself to be endowed with various gifts of the Holy Spirit: tongues, interpretation, prophecy, healing, and the word of knowledge. I often spoke up during the worship service, pronouncing "thus saith the Lord". When all of this was new and novel, I was very enthusiastic, but in due time, as the false doctrines and spiritual gifts gave forth their inevitable fruit, I found myself thirsting for the pure milk of the Word of God, the Scriptures. Although the Bible was honored to a point, in-depth Biblical exegesis was sorely lacking. In fact, serious, academic Bible study was often derided from the pulpit as being "cold, dead orthodoxy". In the final analysis, the Charismatic Movement had encouraged me to rejoice in and enjoy a God whom I hardly knew, because the only way to learn about him, the Bible, went largely unread and unstudied.

In due time, as my disillusionment with the Charismatic Movement became complete, I found my way to read better books, books that were inspired by the great doctrines that the Reformers--Luther, Calvin, etc.--had helped to bring back to the attention of the church. Through authors such as R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Loraine Boettner, I came to a much fuller understanding of God and his sovereignty over all things, including the salvation of fallen man. Now, at last, I had a reason to rejoice in God: for he, in Christ, had chosen me before he even created the world, in Christ forgiving all of my sins and granting me the gift of eternal life. As a Charismatic, I had looked down upon those who were "just" born again, but now I came to understand just how wonderful salvation in Christ truly was. At the same time, my time amongst the Charismatics hadn't been worthless, for from them I'd learned the importance of having a living, vital personal relationship with Christ. Now, with my growing knowledge of Biblical doctrine, I had all the reason in the world to rejoice in the Lord!

It's been over six years since I found my way to the Reformed faith. Looking back, I count myself blessed to have come to it as I did, because I've always realized the importance of a religion that reaches both the head and the heart. Others around me have not been so blessed, I'm sorry to say. I know of Charismatics who left the faith when their esctatic experiences disappointed them, and I know of Calvinists who left the faith when the trials and temptations of life became stronger than they could bear in their own strength, perhaps because they'd failed to apply their sound doctrinal knowledge to their hearts, that is, to their sanctification. As a Calvinist, I have to take care to derive not only intellectual stimulation from my study of the Scriptures: I must also learn how to apply the teachings of the Scriptures to my life, in the process mortifying my flesh and conforming myself more and more to the image of Christ. With greats such as Spurgeon and Whitefield, I call this "warm-hearted Calvinism", a balanced system of belief and practice that, I believe, comes closer than any other to capturing the fullness of the Scripture's teaching. I give thanks to God for graciously allowing me to know and understand this wonderfully balanced system of doctrine and way of life.

This is, then, my theological journey in its barest outline. As I continue this blog, I hope to expand further on some of the issues and events I've touched on in nutshell form. Please visit again soon!

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