Deb’s Testimony 

I began conducting internet research on Reformed Theology in the fall of 2008.  I firmly believe I was driven by the Holy Spirit to discover everything I could about this movement which is rocking the very foundations of our churches and seminaries.  It became a daily discipline for me, and I would often spend 7 to 8 hours a day conducting research on my computer when it would seem like only a few hours had passed.  I’ll admit it – I was obsessed!

Early in my investigation, it became apparent that some fellow named C.J. Mahaney had a prominent role within the ranks of the “New Calvinists”, as they have come to be known.  It didn’t take me long to figure out what was truly going on.  I became very familiar with the reformed leaders and how they are connected to one another. 

I reflected back to when Dee called me one afternoon in 2006 and said, “You’ve got to read your latest Christianity Today!   There is an article called ‘Young, Restless, Reformed’ that’s a must read…”  Dee and I have been discussing deep theological issues since the beginning of our friendship in 2001.  I read the CT article and recognized only a few names – Al Mohler and Mark Driscoll.  Because I was unfamiliar with the leaders and churches mentioned, I put the magazine aside and forgot about the article.

Three years prior (September 3, 2003) a friend and I visited Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to hear John MacArthur speak in chapel.  It was a rare appearance for him on the East Coast and my very first time in Binkley Chapel.  We were sitting fairly close to the front on the right hand side (I remember it vividly!), and my friend whispered to me:  “Do you know about the debate between election and free will?”  I must have had a puzzled look on my face when I answered her, saying: “No, I don’t.”  She barked:  “Well, you need to learn about it!”  I felt totally ignorant at that moment and resolved that some day when I had more time I would look into it, but not now.

My friend’s admonition that I should educate myself on the theological concepts of election and free will really bugged me over the next several years. I would sometimes ask Dee about those who identify themselves as “Calvinists”, and she would explain how they really know their Bibles well and how they so skillfully defend their reformed position.  During 2005 and 2006, Dee decided to learn all she could about Calvinism.  She bought lots of books written by the likes of R.C. Sproul, James White, John Piper, John MacArthur, and others and read them voraciously, making notes as she went along on the pros and cons of reformed theology.   

Spring forward to the fall of 2008. 

Some extremely unusual circumstances happened to me during the three years prior, and I became absolutely convinced of God’s sovereignty.  I had experienced divine providence over and over and over again, and I documented many of the times when God was actively working in my life.  There was absolutely no mistaking the invisible hand of God, and even now it almost takes my breath away. 

After several months of extensive internet research, I had come to a working knowledge of what was happening within reformed circles. I still had much to learn, but I was getting the big picture.  I began to understand who C.J. Mahaney is and what he represents.  Finally, I re-read Collin Hansen’s article “Young, Restless, Reformed” in Christianity Today — this time on my computer. To say I was “stunned” would be an understatement!  “I was blind but now I see…”  is a perfect description of how I felt when I finished reading it.  Here’s the link in case you’re interested:

Not long after that I was sorting through the books on my bookshelf in our family room, and I almost passed out!  In my hands was a copy of Living the Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney.  Where in the world did that book come from, I pondered in my mind.  I wracked my brain trying to figure out why I had a book written by C.J. Mahaney. Did someone give it to me? 

Finally, I remembered that on one of my shopping sprees at LifeWay Christian Stores, I saw a display table as I entered the store with stacks and stacks of Living the Cross Centered LifeI surmised that this must be an important book since the SBC was promoting it so heavily in its bookstores. 

Yes, I am a “collector” of Christian books, as I’m sure many of you are.  The bookshelves throughout my home are overflowing with books on the faith.  I always have great intentions when I purchase books, but so often they get set aside for another day when I will have time to read them.   

I picked up a copy of the book from the display table, not recognizing the author’s name.  As I glanced through it, I saw that Al Mohler had written the “Foreward”.  In the Spring of 2005, I attended chapel at SEBTS to hear Al Mohler, for whom I had great respect.  In fact, it was around that same time that I attended “Preview Day” at SEBTS to decide whether I should enroll in the seminary to pursue a degree in Women’s Studies.  Voddie Baucham, a graduate of SEBTS, delivered the chapel message that day.  As I prayed, it seemed that God’s still small voice was telling me either “NO” or “NOT NOW”! 

I was passionate about deepening my relationship with Jesus Christ, so in addition to my weekly Bible study and church involvement, I attended chapel services at SEBTS on a fairly regular basis from the fall of 2005 through the spring of 2008.  I just couldn’t get enough Bible knowledge.  One of my favorite times attending chapel was when my pastor, who also taught at the seminary, delivered a message to the students.  It’s important to understand that I had no qualms whatsoever with the Southern Baptist Convention or its leadership during this time.  I was TOTALLY onboard!

Getting back to Mahaney’s book, I purchased Living the Cross Centered Life when it was first released strictly because I trusted Dr. Mohler, whom I viewed as a fearless leader of the denomination to which I proudly belonged.  Here’s how Dr. Mohler begins the Foreward:

“The book you now hold in your hands is nothing less than a manifesto for turning your world upside down.”

How could anyone neglect to read a book that would turn your world upside down?  Furthermore, this was obviously an important book because it focuses on the cross, which has been forsaken by so many mainstream and liberal churches to which I could NEVER belong!  I rationalized that any book discussing the cross should be a must read.

After all these years, I have just finished reading Mahaney’s so-called masterpiece.  I believe the unusual circumstances described here are divine providence.  For me, it’s exciting that God delayed my reading of this book so that I can share my findings with you, our dear readers.  In tomorrow’s post, I will provide a candid look at Living the Cross Centered Life.



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    The reformeed movement provides a place for those who are sick and tired of the seeker, shallow churches full of entertainment. The only problem is that the reformed movement shares many of the same back stage characteristics of the seeker movement. They share a focus on heirarchy, power, influence, money and numbers. They are just smarter about the last 3.

    I was fooled for a while by it because at least the reformed movement uses a true message to attract those who are sick of the shallow teaching out there: Sovereignty of God.

    But once you peel back the layers, it is the same thing. And it is more like the Sovereignty of the leader than it is about Jesus Christ. The movement appeals to those who are looking for more intellectual pursuits in the Word. But the problem is that it is not intellectual at all. It is about the leaders intellect. There is no room for debating a meaning of a text. No room for the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to you. It is all about their interpretation.

    The reformed movement has eschewed the Holy Priesthood except to give it lip service. They simply do not believe in it in action/deed. This is dangerous because we end up in the same place: Following a man instead of Christ.

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    I am coming to think that all of these “movements” are simply ways to control God. I share your concerns for shallow Christianity. I have watched way too many folks “walk forward to receive Christ” and then walk directly back to an unchanged life. So, concerned Christians seek to deepen the discussion. But, frustrations rise as the flock” continue their shallow pursuits. Then, in a human fashion, the concerned Christians impose rules and regulations to “help” deepen the faith.As time goes on, the rules become of primary importance so the “keeper of the rules” become the focus. We want to control people so they will be “good Christians.” The problem is the free will that God graciously gave all of us. He is comfortable with the many who are shallow. He doesn’t control them although He could. Why do we not preach well, encourage and exhort one another and then leave it for each individual to make the decision to follow or not? One elder(one of the good guys) once told me that the longer he has been an elder, the more he believes that there are far fewer Christians in the church than he used to think.

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    “One elder(one of the good guys) once told me that the longer he has been an elder, the more he believes that there are far fewer Christians in the church than he used to think.”

    I had to chuckle when I read this because I was told something similar in a meeting with the mega church leadership one day. It was about membership and the leadership said by their estimation only about 3% (out of 26,000) of the attendees were saved. (No one at the point knew the real number of members because many join but do not come and many come but do not join so the term ‘membership’ does not mean much at a mega.

    How did they come up with that number? They based it on a person’s activity level in the church: Bible study, missions, Sunday School, etc.

    But we know that is not a true indicator. The truth is that they thought getting folks more involved would make them saved. But how can they be saved when they don’t hear the Gospel? But only topical sermons on happy marriages and good kids? And of course, the rules, roles and formula’sjer follow. The reformed are very good at rules and roles, too. (Where is the need for the Holy Spirit when the leader gives you the rules and roles to follow?)

    Yes, the movements are about control. They are about ‘leaders’ who want control, power, influence and recognition.

    My guess, from reading scripture, is that one day soon, we are going to find out who the real saints are and we have never heard of them. They are laboring out there with no celebrity and no riches. They did not have to write books or go on many speaking gigs. They have no earthly influence or power except the REAL power of the Holy Spirit on them.

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    The overwhelming emphasis on God’s sovereignty versus other characteristics of God is a problem. To the extreme Calvinist crowd, God is sovereign over everything except himself! And his sovereignty. A good parent is sovereign over his child, but withholds some of his sovereignty to allow the child freedom to learn how to live in the world, and to allow the child to love the parent freely (rather than by compulsion, which is not truly love!).

    God is no less capable as a parent than the best earthly parent. God created us to love him, and with the freedom to love him. He withholds his sovereignty so that we have the freedom to choose to serve, obey, but most importantly, to love him. The shortest two statements about God in the Bible, oft repeated in varous forms: God is (e.g., I AM), and God is love. Too much emphasis on power and too little emphasis on love makes God look like a very abusive father that few would worship given a choice!

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    Wow!!! That is an excellent description. I have never heard it quite that way.Thanks!

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    I am quite tired of the topical sermons- you know the ones-Have sex for 7 days and all will be well; Teach your kids the right way to pray and they will be saved, etc. Also, I have been through at least 9 different “how to be a leader” seminars, etc. I am weary of all of them.

    So few parents teach their children about long term sacrifice and ministries. Heck, SGM doesn’t even do missions except for some insipid vacation short term mission which is a “bless me” trip for bored saints. Where are the Wilberforces and Careys of this generation? What about the quiet ones living amongst the poor and sacrificing upscale living (one guy who posts here does this)?

    I think heaven is going to be quite a surprise.Wouldn’t it be funny if CJ had to take orders from a woman?

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    “I am quite tired of the topical sermons- you know the ones-Have sex for 7 days and all will be well; Teach your kids the right way to pray and they will be saved, etc. Also, I have been through at least 9 different “how to be a leader” seminars, etc. I am weary of all of them.”

    Did you come to think as I did that this was all really a substitute for abiding in Christ which is must harder to do than to follow the formulas. People love rules and formulas to follow for a happy life. But Jesus never promised us a happy life. He promised us Eternal life. What more do we want from Him?

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    You just haven’t been to the right “how to” seminar yet. Once you do, your life will reach that higher plane.

    I was waiting for the bus tonight and the thought came to me that it’s an illusion to think that we will ever live the Christian life the way it should be lived.

    We shouldn’t give up. Learning, discipline, persistence etc. are all good things. It’s just that the best of us has struggles, even if they are private in nature and cannot be observed by others.

    That should keep us humble.

    I believe that there is a craving for both good theology and humility in the body.

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    I heard Collin Hansen being interviewed on Christian radio about his new book when it was first released, so I have known about it for a while. I have considered purchasing it. Have you read this expanded version of his 2006 CT article, and if so, would you recommend it?

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    It’s been on my (extremely long, ever-growing) list of books to read ever since it came out, but I’ve yet to get around to doing so. However, my understanding, from those who have read it, is that it is a very accurate description of the “new Calvinist” movement (as distinguished from the older Calvinists and from the Reformed camp in general). Sorry; I know that’s probably not much help. 🙂

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    Actually, Amanda, your comments have been very helpful! When Hansen was interviewed, that’s what I remember him saying — that these “New Calvinists” are different from the older Calvinists. Dee and I have been trying to make this point here at TWW.

    Now that you have brought up Hansen’s book Young, Restless, Reformed, I’ll buy a copy of it and write a book review here soon.

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    Dee…My husband and I spoke with you today. I’m enjoying going through your blog. I’d love to chat more. I like the first comment by Lydia- that describes us well.

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    Hi C

    Welcome to our view of things. Lydia is awesome and a frequent commenter on this site. She has had incredible experiences that allow her a unique insight into “what’s happening”out there. When our archives are transferred, you will find a bunch more info that may help you. You can reach me directly through Blessings to you all.