My Reformation Story

My Reformation Story

I’m feeling sentimental after a recent birthday and so I thought I’d map out how I came to my theological position in brief terms. 

I grew up in a reformed Baptist church. Did I know it was reformed? No. Did I know what “reformed” meant? Also, no. All I really knew is that my pastor loved theology, a lot. I heard it in his sermons and when I talked with him. His theology was so robust and sure. There didn’t seem to be much grace in it according to my teenage mind. I remember wishing he was more laid back theologically like all of my friends’ pastors. I remember having terms like justification hammered away into my brain. I remember spending all of my high school years in the book of Matthew on Sundays. My pastor was a teacher, but I didn’t like all of what he taught. 

I went to a very conservative Baptist bible college where I all of a sudden understood how different my hometown church was compared to other Independent Baptist Churches. I immediately knew that I was different too. While everyone else was arguing politics I was concerned with a lack of inner holiness and undevout worship. I’m not saying I was better, I had many issues, but my priorities were different. Yet, I had a lot to learn. 

After spending a few years in Bible college I came home while continuing my education online. I immediately saw errors in my hometown church. My pastor taught calvinism openly and I hated it. I would spend hours debating it in my mind. How could a loving God also be sovereign over the damnation of sinners? The typical questions. I even got a shirt with a robot on it that said “Love does not compute” and wore it in my own weird form of protest in my church. No one noticed or asked about it. Eventually I moved away and got married. 

At this point I would have considered myself a semi-conservative Baptist who hung out in Independent Fundamental circles but also had some reformed tendencies… you know, pretty normal, right? After being married for a year and looking at moving back to Seattle I had to face going back to this church I had learned to hate, not the people, but the theology. For an example, my hometown pastor and I sparred over the plurality of elders. I said “two offices” and he said “two offices,” but we meant totally different things. Then something amazing happened. Out of the blue, an old friend had a ministry job waiting for me at a church where I would fit in theologically or so I thought. 

Little did I know that my friend who became my boss was more reformed perhaps than my childhood church. Yet, when he spoke it made sense. I think this has more to do with my understanding having grown. After a few months in the ministry I could see myself changing. The plurality of elders all of sudden made sense to me. I was beginning to agree with nearly everything my hometown pastor had taught me except one big difference – calvinism. I still could not believe that God elects us for salvation based solely upon His sovereign Will. I could agree with it intellectually, but not emotionally. Then I read Greg Forster’s The Joy of Calvinism and it changed everything. I had peace. Even after reading all of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion I still have some hang-ups with the typical 5 point calvinist (I’m looking at you, Limited Atonement!), I would say I happily reside in the Calvinist Camp. 

After that realization about Calvinism, I began reading like I had never really read before. I was reading all of these dead guys from centuries ago. And then I heard something. My pastor read a Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision and in my heart I said “I need that!” I was broke poor at the time, but I began reading their prayers online. Which lead to me reading the Puritans themselves. I remember reading John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin online and crying over my sin. Then I jumped to Bolton and Watson. Now I try to pick up anything that has Banner of Truth’s logo on it. 

I’ve grown a lot in the last decade. Today, I think I sit nearly identical theologically to that church I grew up in. And, I get it now. I too love theology. As a pastor I truly hope that my church thinks I’m not laid back in theology either. I am still learning and growing, but today I call myself a 1689 Reformed Baptist (with a few caveats) who follows in the footsteps of men of God like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, and Charles Spurgeon.