To see more posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.
There I was in Texas, away from my parents and brother but with Mary and her family. Her family attended a local Presbyterian congregation and so I, with King James Bible in hand, began attending as well. But I had my reservations. It wasn’t the people; they were kind, compassionate, and loving. Rather, it was their doctrine. For the most part, Presbyterians are Calvinists, and if there was one thing I knew, it was that Calvinism was Satanic. Calvinists believe man was totally depraved, affecting free will; the Bible (i.e. the King James Bible) says that people can choose to serve God or not (e.g. Joshua 24:15). Calvinism taught that a person’s election was unconditional; the Bible said that “whosoever believeth in” Jesus would have everlasting life (John 3:16). Calvinists thought that Jesus only died for the “elect”; the Bible told me that Jesus died “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Calvinism contended that God’s grace was irresistible; the Bible recorded Stephen as lamenting that the Jews “always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). Calvinists believed that a person who was saved would always be saved; the Bible, well, agreed. But 20% is still a failing grade.
Despite how wonderful the people were at Mary’s church, she and I decided (i.e. I decided) we would begin looking for a different congregation to call home. There were no local KJV-Only bodies that I could find and so we began looking into some close to where she lived in town. We attended a couple of meetings at a local non-denominational church, but they were a bit too charismatic for our (i.e. my) taste. We tried a small house church, but they were also too charismatic for our (i.e. my) taste. We looked at a few more congregations but none quite fit the bill. The problem wasn’t with those churches per se, and it wasn’t with Mary’s convictions. Rather, KJV-Onlyism lends itself to an extreme form of tribalism. Since we alone of all “Christians” had the inspired and inerrant word of God in English, we were a privileged bunch. So, the problem was me.
Failing to find a congregation that fit my preconceived notions of what a “true” Christian should look like, Mary and I decided to return to the Presbyterian church and worship with the people there. And the more time I spent with them, recognizing that they truly believed in Jesus, the more my confidence in many aspects of King James Onlyism was eroded. And the more reading I did on the subject of textual criticism and the more time I spent in my Greek New Testament, the more obvious it became that what I believed about the King James Bible, namely that it was the inspired and infallible word of God in English, was simply wrong. Once I was outside of my ideological bubble, it became quickly apparent how vulnerable my views really were. It was a painful experience, but I am grateful for it.
Mary and I became engaged and soon began planning to get married. And all the while, we were active in the church, assisting with the vacation Bible school program, and just enjoying our time together. In 2005, we were married. In early 2006, Mary was pregnant, and we were ecstatic. But on a Sunday morning, shortly after discovering she was pregnant, she had a miscarriage. Anyone who has experienced a miscarriage knows how emotionally devastating it can be. I for one didn’t fully appreciate the harm it had done to my wife, something I regret to this day. But it did hurt both of us and it called into question God’s plan and purposes. This sent me on a journey to try and understand what I thought I knew about God in light of what my wife and I had experienced. Everything would change the day I walked into a local Christian bookstore and picked up a book entitled The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God written by a pastor I had only heard a little about. It was this book that helped change my view of God and led me to Calvinism.
In the next post, I’ll discuss the importance of The Pleasures of God in my life and why, for all my hatred of Calvinism in the years prior, it now became a reassuring and fulfilling theology for that moment in my life.
 John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2000).
4 thoughts on “(Re) Considering Christianity: A Skeptic Looks at the Christian Religion – Introduction, part 10”
Hi, Ben. I recently discovered your blog and have been really enjoying it.
So, what happened next? Don’t leave us hanging! 😉
I hope you will find time at some point to continue your skeptic’s “spiritual biography”. I find the details and breakdown of what people actually believed at different points in their life totally fascinating.
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I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading and I hope to return to telling my story soon. (I’m easily distracted so I’ve been working on other projects.) Stay tuned! In the meantime, I hope you get a chance to see some of my other content.
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Hey Ben, I second Ruth’s comment. Your journey parallels mine in many ways and your retelling really pulled me in. But now I’m left waiting for the punchline…
All the same, keep up the good work. I do understand getting pulled off in different directions. Ain’t learning and growing great?
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I keep telling myself I need to finish up that story (especially since it was originally intended to be the introduction of a series looking at Christian doctrines) but I get sidetracked too easily! But I am glad you’ve read and profited from what I’ve done so far. And yes, it is great to learn and grow. It makes life so much more interesting!