I grew up in the Wesleyan church, which is a little odd considering that I'm now married to a Presbyterian pastor. I only bring it up because I was poking around the ol' internet recently and came across some interesting blog posts discussing people's different disagreements with reformed theology, and it got me thinking. I used to have these same thoughts about reformed theology. What was it that changed my mind?
I want to say, first of all, that I am incredibly grateful and thankful for the denomination I grew up in. Even though I don't really agree with all their theology, Wesleyans love Jesus and believe that what the bible says is true. I was surrounded by a church family that loved me and prayed for me and that is a blessing that has shaped who I am. I also don't mean for this to become some sort of argument or proof text battle. I only want to explain how I got here.
I remember once in college when the pastor of the baptist church I attended gave an illustration to make his argument against irresistible grace by saying something like the following (This was over ten years ago, so things get a little fuzzy): "The offer of salvation is like God standing in front of you, offering you a dollar. He doesn't make you take the dollar, and you just have to reach out your hand to get it." I think a lot of people probably feel this way - that when Jesus says "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden," he is standing in front of every person in the world, palm up, ready to take our hand, and all we have to do is reach out. I certainly felt this way.
Then I read Ephesians. I mean, really read it. And came to this passage, from Ephesians 2:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus...
Did you catch the beginning? It says "You were dead...." I think that maybe really reading and thinking about this passage is what got me. Over the years, it's also been one of the passages that I keep coming back to and thinking about. We are not standing in front of a Jesus who is holding out a gift to give us. We are dead. Not just a little sick, or blind, hard-hearted, or turned in a different direction. Dead.
Have you seen a dead person? I have, in my career, seen and examined a lot of dead people. And they are so incredibly gone that there is no way anyone who is dead can reach out and take anything. I became a Calvinist because I know that no one, if given the "choice," would choose God. We cannot, because the option to choose something means that we are alive.
I won't say that it was an easy transition or that I think I have all the answers. There is much I do not understand about God's mercy, justice, and love. But I know enough to trust him, and every day I thank him for breathing life into my dead heart.