For a long time, I hated Calvinism.
I didn't have anything in particular against the doctrines themselves. To be honest, I knew hardly anything about what "being a Calvinist" meant. All I knew was that a few young guns who had passed through our church suddenly began labelling themselves as "Reformed" or "Calvinist", and their attitudes became pretty annoying. Everything turned into a debate with them, they acted pretty edgy (by Southern Baptist standards, at least), and I was honestly just put off by their incessant snark, especially about books and music. Sure, I liked some of those old hymns too, but there was nothing wrong with some of the catchy songs that newer worship bands and movements had been producing.
That was almost two years ago, and over the course of the last few years I have come to terms with a few things.
First off, I have come to terms with the sovereignty of God in all things, including the doctrine of salvation. I fought with it for a long time, studying Scripture, reading through multiple resources with many points of view, and talking with many people on both sides of the spectrum. I now realize the importance of nailing down these ideas—I was always one for saying that it simply didn't matter. The doctrines of grace have since propelled me to live full-throttle for the glory of the God who controls the universe. But like I said, coming to terms with these beliefs was not easy. What did it take, other than my study?
You guessed it: snarky Calvinists.
My big theological turning point came at CROSScon, a new missions conference. You can do your own research, but one of the goals of the conference was to demonstrate how God's sovereign hand in the redemption of sinners is central to missions and evangelism. As John Piper said in the opening session of the conference, adopting the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, "The chief end of missions is the supremacy of God in the joy all peoples."
Now, I'm not about to call John Piper snarky. He isn't the snarky one.
While in Louisville, I was rooming with a good friend and two guys I had just met a few weeks before. I was new to the ministry that had taken the trip to CROSScon, so I didn't really know many people in the group. If it wasn't for these snarky Calvinists being willing to tone it down for one weekend, taking the time to open the Word with me, I don't know where I would be in my walk with Christ. If it wasn't for these snarky Calvinists bearing with me as I unwound some of the presuppositions I had made about God from my early years as a Christian, I would have a harder time wringing out the endless, glorious grace of God.
So, snarky Calvinists, I do still get annoyed by you. God chose many others to serve the Kingdom alongside you, and being chosen doesn't give you bragging rights. You aren't being picked for heavenly kickball based on your exegetical skill or your fluency in Greek; you're being picked to lay down your life—and it is only by the grace of God that you are even considered worthy to do so. But I appreciate you, I'm thankful for you, and I've certainly come to terms with you. For me, the doctrines of grace have become a weight hung around my neck, pulling me deep into the sea of the Father's mercies and plumbing me into the bottomless depths of Christ's unsearchable riches.
And it's as if snarky Calvinists are the ones who put the weight around my neck for me.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Canon & Culture, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and is a contributor at servantsofgrace.org.