Discovering the Reformed Confession (Part 1): Young, Restless, and “Calvinistic”

I first heard the terminology of the “five points of Calvinism” in the mid-1990s from a youth pastor at our evangelical megachurch. He was convinced that Calvinism is true and biblical. One evening, my wife and I went to dinner with him and he brought up the topic of sovereign election. I argued with him for most of the dinner—this was not a doctrine I was willing to accept. I thought, “My God would not be so unfair as to elect some to salvation.” I would not be joining whatever cult this brother was encouraging me to embrace.

As my wife and I drove home, I told her that I just could not believe in such a deity. I was wrestling hard with texts like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. I read these Scriptures at home that evening and declared to my wife, “The Bible is clearly saying what our pastor is saying. But I refuse to believe in this God.” She calmly told me that she was headed to bed. I stayed up for hours reading the biblical text over and over. It was Romans 9:16 that finally brought me into submission to the Lord: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” I was not sure what to do with all of this, but I knew the Bible taught it. I also knew that I was incapable of denying that the Bible is God’s Word.

In October 1998, I was invited to a Ligonier Conference in Los Angeles. The men preaching were R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, and Jerry Bridges—all names I did not recognize. I went to Ligonier because I knew I needed to learn more Bible and doctrine. I remember sitting enraptured by the preaching of these men; I had never heard preaching like this. I left Ligonier with the desire to read and learn Christian doctrine—and a stack of books. The Holy Spirit set my heart aflame for learning and teaching the Word of God. That fire continues to burn to this day.

While driving home from the conference, I asked the men with whom I attended if our church was dispensational or covenantal. They informed me that we were dispensational. I was satisfied with that answer, as I did not know the difference anyway. Within a year I enrolled at Talbot School of Theology so I could study even more seriously. I loved every minute of my studies at Talbot. I wanted nothing more than to study and teach the Word of God to others.

By October of 2000, I was called to serve as a youth pastor at the evangelical megachurch where my wife and I were members. I served there until the Summer of 2006. I was cutting my teeth in ministry at our “purpose-driven church.” I taught and practiced the methods of that movement. Our church was filled with many kind and charitable people. I served with pastors who genuinely sought to be faithful to helping our congregation. This was all I knew. At the same time, I was completing my seminary education and became increasingly aware that a theological shift had begun.

By 2004, I was a seminary-trained, Calvinistic, dispensationalist committed to expositional preaching. I was attending the Shepherd’s Conference each year as my understanding of doctrine, worship, and ministry practice were quickly drifting away from my evangelical seeker-sensitive colleagues. I became increasingly convicted that I likely needed to move on to a ministry more aligned with my theological direction. The problem I had was that I did not know where I belonged.

I knew from reading several Banner of Truth books, particularly the two-volume biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray, that I needed to move in a more Calvinistic direction in ministry. I just had no idea what that really meant. I knew I had discovered a treasure of inestimable value. I did not know how comprehensively it would change my life and ministry. I hope to lay out those changes in a series of articles as I map out my journey to discovering the Reformed confession.

You can view the whole series here.

Note: This series was also translated into Spanish. You can find this whole series in Spanish here.


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  1. I attend a PCA church and if you would examine the beliefs of communing members, I dare say many would be hard to include in the Reformed camp. This is not just conjecture. My opinion is formed by many conversations with these fellow members. One actually got mad at me because I said there was no such thing as a “Reformed Baptist”. “But what about John Piper and John MacArthur?!”

  2. Having been raised in a dispensational anti-Calvinist SBC, I resemble much of the these remarks. I remember my government school high school history teacher lecturing on the Reformation and Calvin (not endorsing, just presenting the history, as this was a government school) -This was probably the first time I’d even heard of Calvin, by the way- and my indignation over the idea of predestination he was describing. I voiced my outrage to him and my classmates. “What about free-will? God wouldn’t destine people to hell.” Long story short, I met my future wife at the University of TN (diamond in the secular, progressive rough). Her dad happened to be a PCA pastor. Long story short, now by God’s grace alone, I’m a deacon in the PCA… that drinks alcohol.

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