The book that changed me was Lorraine Boettner’s The Reformed doctrine of predestination. I had attended a holiness Bible college, and it had failed to open my mind to the full heart of the gospel. I had begun to preach in North Wales, but theologically lacked any depth. I was happy to regard myself as a ‘non-Calvinist’: a self-designation based upon ignorance rather than on any biblical reflection. In fact the teaching clarified at the sixteenth-century reformation of the church, and stated in the great confessions which came out of that reformation, were far removed from the religious culture in which I had grown up. I was somehow existing as a Christian without any help from some of the major doctrines of the Word of God, reading and even preaching from that same Word.
Then the Lord slowly and graciously began to impress those truths on me. I would come across them again and again. Two men began to meet with me in the home of one to discuss the message of the Bible. They raised the same questions which hitherto I had not been prepared to face squarely. Is salvation a work of God from its beginning? Does not the Bible teach predestination? For whom did Christ die? We went to the Bible for our answers. I had never bothered to think about such things before that period.
I began to read some of the Puritan books, and a friend gave me Lorraine Boettner’s The Reformed doctrine of predestination. Dr Boettner was an American born on a farm in Missouri. He studied in Princeton Seminary when it was still conservative. He never became a minister, and died a few years ago. Most of his life was spent writing half a dozen books.
In his introduction Boettner says, ‘If any are disposed to reject the doctrine of predestination without first making a careful study of its claims, let them not forget that it has commanded the firm belief of multitudes of the wisest and best men that have ever lived, and that there must, therefore, be strong reasons in favour of its truth.’
The doctrine of predestination, Boettner says, ‘represents the purpose of God as absolute and unconditional, independent of the whole finite creation, an as originating solely in the eternal counsel of his will. God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutes” details. His decree is eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign. It extends not merely to the course of the physical world but to every event in human history from the creation to the judgement, and includes all the activities of saints and angels in heaven and reprobates and demons in hell. It embraces the whole scope of creaturely existence, through time and eternity, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions, successions and relations.’
I found the evidence that this is indeed what the Bible teaches, as set out in this book, quite irrefutable. It is God alone who saves men out of his free love. Boettner was not so much a watershed as one of God’s gentle waves rolling over my life.