That was my response when my Lutheran pastor (and boss) told me where he landed on the question of the freedom of man’s will.
Needless to say, I’ve lived to eat those words.
My dear brother was awfully kind to me, given how I jumped to the accusation of heresy so quickly; we continued to talk about the subject, and eventually he loaned me a copy of Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation. It was Luther’s Bondage of the Will bound together with De Libero Arbitrio. After reading Luther on the subject, and doing my level best to prove him wrong, I felt a little like I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. Luther just trounced all of my objections.
Little did I know that most Lutheran theologians would argue that in The Bondage of the Will Luther had out-Calvined Calvin himself. But I didn’t discover John Calvin straight away.
Instead, I wound up arriving at Calvinism quite gradually; first though reading Norman Geisler’s wholly unsatisfying Chosen But Free, and eventually discovering Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge. (Much, much later I would discover James White’s rebuttal of Geisler’s work in his book The Potter’s Freedom.)
Hodge opened up a whole new world of theology for me; apparently there was once a strange tribe of Presbyterians who actually, you know, believed the Bible. Reading Hodge was like being touched by some lonely, dying unicorn…I just couldn’t believe that there was such a creature, yet I couldn’t deny that I was holding a book by just such an animal in my hands.
It was about this time that I discovered the preaching of John Piper, a gentleman about whom I had one student at Southern Evangelical Seminary say, “He’s like the marijuana of Calvinism; he’s the gateway drug to hard Calvinism.”
I still had a goodly number of quibbles at this point, though. I still wasn’t entirely on board with the third of the five points (Particular Redemption/Limited Atonement). So I picked up a copy of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. It was Owen’s work that forced me to teach myself Greek, since he regularly appealed to the Greek language in making his arguments. I would work 10-12 hour days, and then come home at night and study J. Gresham Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginners, and then later Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Dan Wallace. Once I had grasped the language I went back to Owen.
It only took two years to pick The Death of Death back up and read it through.
I still wasn’t convinced.
So I decided to exegete my way through Romans 9…in Greek. I didn’t have a desk at the time, just my old dresser with a stool I sat in front of it, and I would quite literally cry myself to sleep at night with my face in my Greek Testament. I fought Paul’s logic in Romans 9 with every ounce of my being. I begged God to show me where Paul was wrong. I wept so hard that most nights I thought I would drown in my own tears.
At the end of it all, I had a wonderfully tear-stained copy of the NA27, and a fully blossomed TULIP with all five petals attached.
But the real war was just starting.