My Reformed Journey: Andrew Ong

In the fall ofWordpress seo 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 woWordpress seouldn’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 KWordpress seoool-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?

Andrew Ong

Andrew is a third-generation, San Francisco Bay Area ABC (American Born Chinese). He and his third-gen wife have two daughters and still live in the East Bay. After graduating from the University of California Irvine and Westminster Theological Seminary, he completed his PhD in World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, researching Chinese American evangelicals and Neo-Calvinist theology. He presently serves on staff at Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, California. Andrew's a simple guy whose passions include: sushi, pizza, nachos, and the Golden State Warriors. On his less sanctified days he lives by the maxim: #ballislife.

3 thoughts on “My Reformed Journey: Andrew Ong

  • September 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Great article Andrew. Your childhood question reverberates with me as well, and though I have come to similar conclusions, I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with; the very concept of God’s nature, why he did what he did, and why the universe was orchestrated in the manner it was. This of course got me thinking about a topic that is a slight rabbit hole away from your post. I’ll begin with a question I’m often asked by both the saved and unsaved:
    “Why would God let bad things happen to good people?”
    My response is always the same: He doesn’t. God doesn’t let bad things happen to good people, because there is no such thing as a good person. There are only wicked, despicable sinners, who have continually chosen the path of unrighteousness over and over again. We all deserve Hell, and God has every right to punish every man and woman on earth for all eternity…grandma included. This of course gets quite the reaction, but I try to explain it through a thought experiment, based on Jeremiah 18, with a little computer science added in for fun. It’s hard some people to get the concept that we’re the clay, so I came up with this for those people.
    The thought experiment is this: You are a computer programmer. You write a video game engine and develop a computer game that simulates an entire universe, and within that virtual universe there’s a little planet with virtual people living in it. Let’s call these people Sims (after the EA Game of course). Each Sim has a personality, a family, a job, etc., and you’ve written Artificial Intelligence subroutines for each one of them so they each have thoughts, dreams, passions, desires, etc. Much like God, you can see the beginning and end of the simulation. You are omniscient (in terms of the game) because you designed every aspect of it. You are everywhere and nowhere if you want, you can read the minds of every Sim, etc. For all intents and purposes, you are a god to the Sims. If at any point during this video game simulation you decide to delete the game from your computer, or delete all the Sims, are you a bad person? Everyone has the same answer though, “of course not”. It’s that point where they either understand where I’m coming from, or they simply outright refuse to believe that God is all-sovereign.
    Anyway, back to your post. It’s wonderful to see you called by the Lord for the service of his Kingdom. Welcome to the blogosphere! I can’t wait to read your next post…after the other one I already responded to 😉

  • September 15, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Sorry for the lack of spaces between paragraphs…it looks horrible after being pasted in from MS Word.

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