In the fall of 1992, at a small private Christian school, a Kindergarten teacher had just finished her Bible lesson for the day from Genesis 3 on the Fall. Subsequently, a curious little student raised his hand and asked, “Mrs. Tsang, why did God make it that way?” What he meant was: Why did God orchestrate history in such a way that Adam and Eve would rebel? Surely God was good and powerful enough to write a different story for humanity!
I remember asking my elementary and Sunday School teachers this question every year for about five years since Kindergarten, until finally their standard answer made sense to me: “God didn’t want us to be robots.” In Kindergarten, that answer did not fly with me or my understanding of God’s nature. However, it only took a few more years of “Christian” schooling to change my view of God and man. I began to accept that in order for people to be truly human (and not robots), they must be completely autonomous and free from the sovereign hand of God. Consequently, I thought that in order for God to be truly God – good, all-loving, and the Creator of a true humanity – he must create us with absolute freedom and independence from him.
I was so entrenched in this conviction that in high school, I found myself writing a 5-page essay refuting the 5 points of Calvinism (aka TULIP), except for Perseverance of the Saints of course! How could a loving God predestine some to salvation, which would logically imply that he predestined others to wrath? How could a good God have ordained all things (such as the Fall) to come to pass (WCF 3.1)? Forget Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. I was sure that even if I could not account for these passages, theologians much smarter than myself could. Besides, I didn’t want to believe in an all-sovereign God! I believed that I believed because I chose to believe, not because the Spirit drew me near. In my heart, I wanted to believe that I was born again and bound for heaven because I was either smarter or more obedient than all unbelievers, not because the Father chose me before the foundations of the earth.
Then college happened, and I found myself among thousands of others who have commonly been described as “young, restless, and Reformed.” Our pastors preached a big God through expository sermons, they discipled us with resources from Sproul, Piper, and the Gospel Coalition, and they didn’t let us run
away from Ephesians 1 and Romans 9. With the guidance of my college pastors and a godly cousin, I discovered that my Kindergarten self was right all along. I learned that the reason why God “made it that way” was not so that we wouldn’t be robots (which of course we aren’t), but so that he might be glorified! And though one might ask, “But why THAT way, God?” I learned that the answer was to be still and know that YHWH is the I AM, and I am NOT. Who are we to question God, as our first parents did in the Garden? That was it, I was a (New) Calvinist.
Yet, my journey into Reformed Theology had just begun, and my reflection upon the doctrines of grace led me in a direction that I never anticipated. I was listening to several Tim Keller sermons a week and wondering how someone so insightful could submit to an extrabiblical document, such as the Westminster Standards, reject Tim Lahaye’s understanding of the end times, and worse yet, baptize babies! Desiring to enroll in seminary shortly after college, I told myself to be open-minded and investigate Covenant Theology, which I, indeed, found to make more sense of Scripture than anything else I had previously been taught. I could not escape the truth that all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Christ, nor the truth that believers’ children have always been included as part of the people of God, who should all be baptized.
Though I did not fully grasp everything that Covenant Theology entailed, I decided that Westminster Theological Seminary would be the best place to receive my Master of Divinity. There I would be privileged to study under Vern Poythress, whose book, Understanding Dispensationalism, was highly influential in my appreciation of Covenant Theology. Now, some might say that I “drank the Kool-Aid” at Westminster, but I like to think that I have further submitted myself to the teachings of Scripture. Currently, I am under care in the Presbyterian Church in America, rejoice daily in God’s sovereign grace over my salvation, and can’t wait to baptize tons of cute babies!
This is my “Reformed” story. What’s yours?