Dr. Robert Pyne and Chosen By God

I recently received an offer from Ligonier Ministries for a special 25th anniversary edition of R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God. If ever there was a book that helped solidify my understanding and belief in Calvinism, this was the book. Reading John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion was a big bonus as well. But Sproul really helped me understand predestination, human free will and God’s sovereignty in our salvation.These three doctrines are extremely important, which explains why there is so much debate concerning these truths. As the questions go, who does what in our salvation and who gets the glory? The answer is one and the same: God does.

But lo, the Arminians love to put forth that idolatry known as free will, saying that salvation is all our decision. From their point of view, they think God provided the way and it’s up to us to get on down the road. This view is really humanism (which harkens back to the temptation by Satan in the Garden of Eden) mixed with some misapplied bible passages.

The problem with free will is that the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue very often, and when it does, it doesn’t bode well for the Arminian camp. For instance, when the Bible says, “Repent and be baptized” the Arminians believe this command implies free will, or the ability to repent. But this is reading their belief into Scripture, for simply because we are all obligated to believe in Christ to be saved, does not imply that we have the ability to do so.

The Bible speaks far more of the heart as the governing agent within our beings. It is our heart that guides our decisions and the heart is wicked beyond belief. This is why it so silly to say such things as: “Follow your heart.” Our fallen hearts govern our actions and our hearts are in bondage to sin. So we have no freedom at all. We are bound and enslaved to our fallen hearts.

When the Bible does speak of man’s will, it shows that our election by the Father is not guided upon by our decision making ability, but based on His decision alone. In Paul’s account of God choosing Jacob over Esau he writes: For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will .” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. This is monumental truth in the debate for it speaks to our wills and our works. Election or predestination is up to God, not us. Since this is true, salvation is of the LORD and He bestows it on whom He pleases.

This is not what Arminians teach. They teach that God gives us road and we have to travel it to be saved… sort of like what the Roman Catholics teach.

The irony is that Sproul’s book was recommended to me by Dr. Robert Pyne while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. During one of our courses, Dr. Pyne had us reading books outside of our tradition for extra credit. I was interested in the topic of limited atonement so I chose John Owen’s The Death of Death and The Death of Christ. For anyone who has tried to read this particular book, it is well worth the attempt. But given my understanding of things at the time, it was way over my head.

I went to see Dr. Pyne after class and told him of my problem. He quickly recommended Dr. Sproul’s book which I joyfully bought the next day. I wasn’t joyful because it was going to answer all my questions, or because I came across an excuse to buy another book. I was joyful because I was going to receive extra credit for a book that was only 211 pages compared to Owen’s monstrous and laborious 340 pages. That is a huge difference when you see Sproul is using 12 pt. font compared to Mr. Owen’s 9 pt. font.

I know that my joy was not spurred on by the purest or most noble motives. But God will use those too for my good and His glory.

Reading Sproul’s book was a breath of fresh air in my theological training. He really began to bring together what the Bible said with clarity. When he began to explain that the cardinal point of Reformed theology is that regeneration proceeds faith, it was eye opening. Not only because that is what Scripture pointed to with clarity, but it also reflected my experience as well. I knew when I came to know Christ, it wasn’t because I made a decision or said some prayer. There were too many lights that were turned on when it came to Scripture for me to believe that it was my doing.

Sproul writes:

“Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order that we may believe.”

This was not what I was hearing in a lot of my seminary classes, but it was what I believed Scripture to be saying. I can vividly remember one professor telling us that the moment we said the sinners prayer is the moment that God was duty bound to cause us to be born again. I didn’t like the sound of that. God is duty bound to mankind? If that is the case, He is not God but our slave. I knew that not to be the case.

Sproul laid it out clearly. God was God. We were dead spiritually because of sin. He had to create a new heart in us in order to believe. Our salvation was His work upon us. We were the happy recipients of His grace and He is only bound to us by His love that He chooses to show us, not because we said some formulaic prayer.

I was quickly becoming a Calvinist after this point. There are others who helped along the road, but this is where it began to click for me while I was a student at DTS. It wouldn’t be long before I became completely Reformed in my convictions. It was also about this time that I quit entering into the discussions at DTS. It makes me laugh now, but I quickly realized that once some of my fellow students realized I was a Calvinist or Reformed, the attack was on! Don’t worry, I still count them as my dear brothers in the LORD. They were just doing what they thought best for me… convince me that I was wrong in my understanding and beliefs. We will all laugh about it in heaven someday.

As for Sproul’s book, I highly recommend it. You might even try to get the 25th anniversary edition because it is in hardback.

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9 thoughts on “Dr. Robert Pyne and Chosen By God

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’m reading “The Potter’s Freedom” by James White and it has solidified my switch to Reformed theology.

    Not to be too self-congratulatory for both of us, but isn’t it interesting how two guys who would allegedly be dogmatic and rigid changed their views on an important topic by carefully considering the other side — and after being saturated in the opposing view for so long?

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    1. Hi Neil,
      That is awesome. Does this mean a change in churches, or are you going to stay where you are? Who knows, you might lead a Bible study of Reformed Methodists! 🙂 I understand that John Newton was involved with the Methodists as well.

      As for changing views, I think it’s inevitable as long as we keep coming back to God’s word. After a while, the points Calvinist are making start jumping off the pages and pages of Scripture. I think that is why I was accused of being a Calvinist before I was aware of what it meant. I love it.

      BTW, did you see the attacks of AMG before I deleted them? This is what you can expect. They will always attack Calvinists for following a man, never realizing that they are following in the footsteps of Jacob Arminius, all the while saying their views are as pure as wind-driven snow.

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      1. Hi Timothy,

        This isn’t public yet (I’m assuming not too many others are reading this thread right now!) but it will be in a couple weeks — yes, we are leaving our church. We’ve been visiting my daughters’ church (they are off to college / ballet now) and like it. It is a Baptist church but very Reformed-friendly. I need to talk to the pastor in more detail. The church move is un-related to this topic,though. Mainly about doctrinal and (lack of) church discipline concerns.

        I didn’t see the AMG attacks. I’ll blog on my “conversion” more later, but I will be noting that one reason I’m now Reformed is because of the Arminians. Too many are otherwise reasonable people but throw fits and lose it when talking about Calvinism. That made me want to learn more about what they are obviously so afraid of.

        “After a while, the points Calvinist are making start jumping off the pages and pages of Scripture. I think that is why I was accused of being a Calvinist before I was aware of what it meant. I love it.”

        Good for you! That’s another reason. I find that the plain and the deeper meanings of the text support Calvinism.

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      2. Hi Neil,
        AMG’s comments fall under the “throw fits and lose it” category, so I took them off the thread.

        Yes, Calvin and Calvinist are modern-day boogie men in many churches. So when the words come up, many start screaming about it before you can get a word out… One thing that helps is to immediately ask them what they mean by “Calvinist?” Or have them define it. Showing them that they are arguing from ignorance… 🙂

        Looking forward to your upcoming post.

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  2. Good point about having them define it. Before I fully switched to Reformed thinking, I would try to get people in Bible studies to properly characterize Calvinism. They tended to default to the “puppet” view, so I would explain as best I could what they really thought.

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  3. Timothy, I enjoyed your comments, but disagree with one thing, namely, Reformed soteriology isn’t outside of the tradition of DTS. DTS was founded and advertised as a standard Reformed seminary, though Dispensationalism demands a different ecclesiology. Over time, DTS slowly departed from its soteriological moorings and progressively became more Arminian. The departments of systematic and historical theology were, for the most part, Reformed, but that has changed and Reformed professors are no longer welcomed as new hires. As you probably know, S.Lewis Johnston was fired by DTS for his view on limited atonement, a point that I am all too familiar with. Anyway, I’m probably splitting hairs, but thought I would toss this in. Happy to hear that you found your way to the Reformed faith. If you are still in the Dallas area, give Park Cities Presbyterian Church a spin, it’s truly a wonderful church!

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    1. Hi Mr. Giese,
      Actually PCPC played an important role in my growth in the Reformed faith. It was through Paul Settle’s ministry, as well as Elliott Greene’s, that I became Reformed in my convictions. There were those at DTS, like John Hannah, that also played a part. But the main source of growth and understanding came through Greene and Settle at PCPC. I also did my internship there after seminary as part of the requirements to being ordained in the PCA. It’s a wonderful church and I love to visit when I can. However, I don’t have many open weekends, and when I do, I’m usually with family. Who knows, I may end up there in a more official capacity some day. One can always hope.
      Blessings

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