For a long time I have been prejudiced against Calvinism. Not only was I prejudiced against it, I later found out that I was somewhat scared of it. I had accepted the opinions of others as to where Calvinism had diverged from Truth and avoided it like the plague.
Yet over the years I began to develop an appreciation for fairness and logical consistency. Partly this was due to my encounters with the prejudices of other Christians who wanted to pigeonhole some of my theological ideas irrespective of their actual basis. The funny thing about prejudice is that it works both ways. I was frustrated by the dismissal of Christians who would not even engage in discussions about doctrine without resorting to logical fallacies, yet I was guilty of the same thing. What was I to do?
After reading some of Calvin's theology and the theology of the Reformers, I was surprised to learn how much of it I agreed with. I thought, "Is this Calvinism? It certainly doesn't fit my idea of Calvinism. Was Calvin actually a Calvinist?" I needed this to be broken down. I could do more in-depth reading later, but I had to first confront this "5 points" business.
Being dissatisfied that I was not able to identify classical Calvinism in what I had read, I turned to an old standby - Dr. R.C. Sproul. I had enjoyed reading one of his books before and I liked to hear him on the radio. If anyone is a Calvinist, I thought, this guy is. So I embarked on reading his book on the Calvinist perspective of predestination, and did so very carefully, reading slowly over points that I thought might prove to be crucial to giving Calvinism a fair shake. After all, I wanted people to extend to me the same courtesy.
After having read the book, I can honestly say I have a greater appreciation for the Reformed position on predestination - and although this seems somewhat premature of me to say this since I just finished the book days ago, I honestly cannot find anything grossly wrong with it. I say this knowing full well that Dr. Sproul is nothing if not a very convincing fellow, and while I had previously adopted a view of predestination closer to the Arminian emphasis on foreknowledge, I know that I must eventually read something that breaks down the Arminian concept point-by-point to be fair. Just as I had some preconceived ideas as to what Calvinism was that proved to be wrong, the same thing is likely for Arminianism.
Sproul does an excellent job reducing the arguments of the basic tenets of Calvinism's 5 points, and expounds on each of them, modifying the acrostic "TULIP" so that a fair explanation of each aspect is dealt with apart from the presumptions about what "irresistible grace" is, for instance. He remains consistent throughout, and while he makes no bones about the fact that he is a bona fide Calvinist, he doesn't browbeat the unconverted. His acknowledgment of being a former Arminian softens the blow of his persuasive arguments.
I have never been one to identify myself in a way that is dichotomous. I really don't like either/or propositions when they are unnecessary, and this is no different. I just think things are often much too complex to be one or the other. So don't look for me to call myself a Calvinist any time soon. I do realize that we all have adopted ideas consistent with our particular Christian traditions, and I realize that the basis of things we take for granted as being true often have a root in an unidentified theological assumption.
What has turned me off to Calvinism in the past, aside from my misunderstanding of it, is it's implications. I know that this is no valid reason to believe of reject something, but I still have some reservations as to a broader Calvinistic perspective on Providence. The thing that really left a bad taste in my mouth was a comparison Sproul made between the death of David's infant son and the loss of his own infant grandson. I don't have a problem acknowledging that David lost his son because of God's judgment, but without his pointing to a specific sin his daughter committed on par with David's, I have a hard time making that jump. Sproul attempts to debunk the idea that Calvinism leads to Fatalism, but I really think these were his weaker arguments. If they are dissimilar, they may have a lot more in common than he would like to admit.
All in all, I think the book is very good, and I would recommend it. It has given me a new perspective on predestination. I may still not like all the implications of Reformed predestination, but at least I have met them head on. And I feel that being more informed as to a perspective I was once unwilling to entertain has contributed to a more balanced view consistent with reconciliation - reconciliation of my own ideas with Scripture, and reconciliation in the body of Christ. We don't have to agree on everything, but we can be civil about it. If we want others to hear us out, we must do likewise.