Right between the eyes. That's where it hit me. Or, maybe it was through the heart? It was not the first time I had read Philippians 1, so how had I missed verse 29?
God's saving and sovereign grace exploded from the page, as I sat in my usual corner of the library before my morning class, “it has been granted… to believe in Him.” I had been blind-sided, for my conscience was already numb to the obvious implications of such passages as Ephesians 1:3-14 or Romans 9:14-24, especially when someone tried to smuggle them under that filthy moniker, "Calvinism.” Needless to say, I was late for class that morning. I stayed in that corner for awhile and I worshipped.
In the days that followed, sovereign grace continued to unfurl as I tore into an excited, but still clandestine, study of Scripture. Even more, the concurrent realities, that though I was radically depraved and refused to believe, Christ had died for me in particular and drew me to Himself and was keeping me by His love, fit together in a glorious logic that could only have come from the divine mind of the Creator. And as these realities began to cohere in my mind… I worshipped.
After about a week of study and worship, I made a rather startling discovery, “Turns out I’m a Calvinist.” An odd turn of events since I had yet to read a word of the Institutes, or of any other Reformed writing for that matter. It was only later that I discovered my experience was not all that uncommon:
My doctrines I had from Jesus Christ and His Apostles: I was taught them of God... I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because of Calvin, but Jesus Christ has taught it to me (George Whitefield, Vol 1).So, yes, turns out I am a Calvinist... five times over. But I am not a Calvinist because of Calvin. I am unashamedly a Calvinist because I worship Christ.
I should not take it at all amiss, to be called a Calvinist for distinction’s sake; though I utter disclaim a dependence upon Calvin, or believing the doctrines which I hold, because he believed and taught them; and cannot justly be charged with believing in every thing just as he taught” (Jonathan Edwards, Preface to The Freedom of the Will).
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else (C.H. Spurgeon, "A Defense of Calvinism").