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 Life. I 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.