The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Tulip Driven Life: A Primer on Calvinist Living

By: Thomas Fletcher Booher

Hello everyone, this is Thomas F. Booher. For a while I have wanted to write a book on Christian living. I am pleased to announce that I have done so, and I will self publish it as a free e-book on Amazon before the end of summer. Over the next couple months I will be giving more information about the book, including an audio recording where I discuss some of my concerns for reformed preaching and the general lack of holy living of we the reformed. What I hope my book will shed some light on is the desperate need for our Calvinistic theology to be practically applied with intentionality in our everyday lives. The following is an introduction to the book that I have written, where I give a bit of my background and the perspective I am bringing to the table. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you will read my book and be spiritually nourished by it.    

                I grew up in a small Presbyterian church that was part of the PCA (a conservative, reformed Presbyterian denomination). We had maybe fifty people on an average Sunday, and by the time I was sixteen all my church friends my age had moved on. I guess some of them moved away with their families, others graduated college and either moved themselves, changed churches, or left church altogether, not finding it important to their everyday lives. Our church was too small to afford a youth pastor, so our youth group events weren’t all that hip like many of the other churches that were desperately trying to keep their teenagers active in church while they were going through their “rebellious” stage. I went to a Christian school that was affiliated with what was essentially a Baptist church, though they claimed no denomination. This Christian school went from K-5 through high school, and I graduated in 2008. I saw an evolution in my thirteen years there, from having to read the King James Version of the Bible in class to allowing the NKJV, from requiring modesty for the girls to becoming lax with enforcement. I remember the years before we essentially began recruiting basketball players from out of the country to play ball for our school, something that I’m pretty sure wasn’t legal. Then by my junior year they brought in several guys from the public high schools that were from my understanding either kicked out or had some falling out with the school. They weren’t morally outstanding people, but then again neither were most of the kids I went to school with. Many went there because their parents wanted them to, and some behaved like a slightly sanitized version of all the bad imagery that a sheltered homeschooler has of rowdy public schoolers, looking for sex with the hottest person they could manage, getting drunk, even doing drugs.

                I came to believe that the administration at the school must have been willfully ignorant of the increasing immorality of the students (after all many were publicizing their sins on Facebook). They wanted to think the best and present their student body in the best light as possible. When I started school there you had to profess faith in Christ to attend, but by the time I left only one of your parents had to profess faith, and now that may not even by required. The school went from being a Christian school to being a school for anyone (especially if you could play sports) that had chapel and hoped to evangelize the student body. What it did was make the weak-faithed Christian kids worldlier.

                Was my church any better? Yes, in some ways. We didn’t have a youth pastor that segregated us from the rest of the church body to create our own hormonally driven conclave. We didn’t get evangelized every Wednesday night. We didn’t use gimmicks to force people to make a decision for Christ or to rededicate their lives to Christ like my Christian school did ad nauseum. We had some understanding that salvation involved more than saying a prayer and asking Christ into your heart. Beyond that, however, there were little differences. We read from the Bible and learned some stuff, but nothing meaty, nothing distinctively reformed from the youth teachers or the pulpit for the most part.

                Fast forward to my first year after high school graduation. I am at a public university, in part because I had vowed never to attend a Christian college due to all the phoniness, legalism, and washed cleanness of the fundamentalistic colleges like Bob Jones University, Clearwater Christian College, or Liberty University that would opine to us students at select chapel services. I was a Christian, and after going through some personal relationship struggles my junior year, I found repentance afresh and the joy of my salvation. I go to a public university as an English major, minoring in journalism and hoping to become a writer of some sort. I also wanted to find believers to fellowship with while I am in a largely unchristian environment.

The only thing they have is the Baptist Student Union, so I shrug and check it out the first week I am there. I decide I would like to lead a Bible study, or at least get involved with one. I ask the Campus minister about this, and he refers me to a student named Lars who heads up the Bible studies. The first question he asks me is what denominational background I have. When I tell him PCA, he lightens up a bit and then says, “Oh, I like Presbyterians. So, you are reformed then?”

Reformed? What did that mean? I knew the word vaguely, somehow connected to my Presbyterian church, somehow connected to things my Dad would say from his days in seminary at Westminster in Philadelphia.

“…Yes… yes I am,” I responded, no doubt sounding as if I doubted my own assertion. Either he didn’t notice my doubt or pretended not too, because he continued on with how the Bible studies went. Long story short, they did Bible studies in pairs, and they needed a pair for one guy, who was also reformed, whatever that meant. In fact, it turns out that all the Bible study leaders were reformed, either reformed Baptists or Presbyterians.

                As I talked with Lars I realized he was a solid guy, and somehow the conversation turned toward Christian music. I already hated most contemporary Christian music, particularly DC Talk and Toby Mac. Their song “Jesus Freak” bugged me to no end. I thought the message was wrong, the lyrics were shallow, and they, like most Christian music artists, had little talent. Lars felt the same way about much contemporary Christian music. This excited me since virtually all my Christian friends from school lapped up this kind of music like chocolate ice cream. Then Lars said something that would change my life forever:

                “You know, you would like a pastor named Paul Washer. You should check him out.”

                For those of you who know Paul Washer, I can tell you I heard his shocking youth message, and you will know the rest of the story. Everything he said condemned all that I hated from the Christian school I attended. The flu shot evangelism they practiced on us, the pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, free will theology, the smug haughtiness covered with feigned humility. But what convicted me personally was Washer’s presentation of the gospel. It was new. I was saved, and I knew Christ saved me, but the details I had all wrong. My fuzzy mind somehow believed that I could both be saved totally by God’s grace and yet be saved because of my choosing to repent and trust in Christ of my own free will. Washer read from Matthew 7 and showed that a true believer will bear fruit, and that we will bear fruit as believers because it is God working in us that makes us willing to have faith in Christ.

If He didn’t chose me to believe in Him, I never would have.

My world was rocked. I was reduced to tears. My Savior and my Lord loved me from the foundations of the earth, not because of me, but because of His sovereign grace, His redeeming love. He melted my heart of stone. I never would have chosen Him, would have burned in hell forever, if He didn’t choose to pay for my sins on the cross and apply that redemption to me through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit which changed my will and gave me saving faith as a gift (see Eph. 2:8-10).
            I had just become a Calvinist and didn’t even know it.

          I am coming up on my fifth year as a Calvinist, of being a champion of the doctrines of grace, espoused by the famous TULIP acronym- total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. This book isn’t for those unfamiliar with TULIP. This is for those who, like me, were saved from broad evangelicalism that taught a semi-pelagian view of salvation, that taught we could choose Christ by our own willpower, and live for Him by our own willpower and only needed an assist from the Holy Spirit and the example of Christ. This book is for those who know they were dead in trespasses and sins, but God raised to newness of life by His work alone, and not ours. This book is for those who are convinced that the new birth precedes faith, and indeed precipitates faith. This book is especially for those of us who would likely be lumped with the young, restless, and reformed resurgence of Calvinism, who are in their 20’s and 30’s, and likely weren’t born into a reformed family. This book is for those who want to live their newfound faith out loud, with deep roots despite the theological differences even amongst us Calvinists. It is time we apply our Calvinism consistently to our everyday lives and grow into mature reformers.  If that is your desire, this book is for you.     

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