How Romans 8 Made Me a Calvinist

How Romans 8 Made Me a Calvinist by JUSTIN DILLEHAY for The Gospel Coalition

To this day, whenever I stand behind a pulpit and say things like “All true saints will persevere to the end and none will be lost,” I still have to pinch myself. I laugh inwardly and think, What would the 22-year-old me say if he could hear me now?

You see, I wasn’t always a Calvinist.

I was raised a classical Arminian in the Free Will Baptist tradition. As a teenager, I cut my teeth on theologians like F. Leroy Forlines and J. Matthew Pinson, along with older divines like James Arminius and John Wesley. As a 22-year-old man, I believed and taught that grace was always necessary but never irresistible, and that genuine Christians could abandon Christ and forfeit their justified status.

Beneath these beliefs lay a view of the God/man relationship that went like this: humans were created to exist in a loving relationship with God. The nature of that loving relationship requires a free—and undetermined—response on our part. To quote Forlines, I saw God working with man in an “influence-and-response relationship” rather than a “cause-and-effect relationship” (like the Calvinists thought). God could influence us, but he respected our personhood by always leaving the final decision up to us. And God did this, not because he was weak, but because this was how he meant for the relationship to work.

And in case you’re wondering, the difference between a God who influences and a God who causes can be summed up in one word: guarantee. Forlines puts it this way in his book The Quest for Truth:

I think the description of God’s relationship to man that Calvinists would give would be much like my description of influence and response. However, the result is thought to be guaranteed. . . . Any time the result is guaranteed, we are dealing with cause and effect. When the guarantee is gone, Calvinism is gone.

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