Summary: Introduction to message about the doctrines commonly known as "Calvinism", and the delightful surprises I found when studying them.
Meet an Arminian.
Not by choice or even knowledge, mind you, but an Arminian nonetheless.
So what's an Arminian anyway? A follower, whether or not he knows it, of Jacob Arminius, late 16th century theologian.
The doctrines then being preached by John Calvin and most other reformers that involved predestination and such, were being challenged. They didn't sound fair. Somehow it couldn't all be true. God needed some explaining. Calvin must be a false teacher, etc. etc.
I mean, if God could and did convince some to come to Him, why not all? (Why not universalism?)
In England, the ideas of Calvin produced not only other reformers, but the solidness of the Puritans. Later as the fire and zeal went out and other ideas were allowed in, Presbyterianism was established. Arminian thinking came in too, bringing the church there and elsewhere half-way to Universalism. Finally, Universalists took the baton and so much of the past was decimated.
Similar things had happened during the days of Augustine well over 1000 years before. Augustine championed what today is known as Calvinism but was, earlier than Augustine, called Pauline. Against him came Pelagius, who taught that man had a lot to do with saving himself, a teaching soundly condemned in later councils.
Arminius too was condemned, by the Calvinists, though his way seemed to fit in well with Roman Catholic teaching.
In later years there would be and are great men of God on both sides of the issue. Wesley would popularize Arminianism, as would Moody and Graham later. The great bulk of modern evangelical thought is decidedly Arminian.
But, on the side of Sovereignty, predestination, and similar doctrines were Luther, Calvin, Huss, Ridley, Cranmer, the early church of England, the Waldensians, the original Baptists, the original Presbyterians, Fox, Bunyan, Edwards, Toplady, Whitefield, Wycliffe, the Puritans, Spurgeon, and men of this age such as Macarthur, Sproul, and Chicago's Erwin Lutzer.
So I landed on the Arminian side, spouting off free-will verses and admitting that there surely were some troublesome passages, but that they surely could not be saying what Calvin said they said. Nearly every Christian in my nation espouses Arminius' views without knowing it. I assumed that free will was God's "norm" and that those "difficult" passages were just, well, difficult. I mean, even Peter had a problem with Paul, right? And who has known the mind of the Lord? There are just a lot of things we'll not know until Jesus comes. That's the standard line, anyway. Keeps people from digging a whole lot farther than they have already dug.
Recently, within the last few years, I could stand it no more, I declared that both sides are right. I thought I had heard somehow that Spurgeon believed that. Anything good enough for Spurgeon, it seemed, well you know...
Now I find that Spurgeon drank deeply at the Puritan springs, that he was immersed in what is called Calvinism, though he refused to call it that. He called it Bible.
That wasn't the reason I had to keep thinking this thing through, but it didn't hurt the cause any.