Author Topic: Questions for Converts from Reformed/Calvinistic/Presbyterian Backgrounds  (Read 1015 times)

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Offline Stupid Scholar

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Dear all,

I have grown up within a conservative Presbyterian community.  However, over time, I have begun to see some disconnections between that tradition and the ancient church.  With this little bit of background, I have a couple of questions for converts to Orthodoxy from similar traditions.  If any of you would take the time to answer some/any of these, I would greatly appreciate it.  If you have a conversion story posted somewhere online, please send me the links.  If these questions are too personal, please accept my apologies.

What prompted you to leave your Reformed/Calvinistic/Presbyterian (RCP) background?  What attracted you to Orthodoxy?  What were some of the biggest hurdles (e.g. doctrine, liturgy, piety, culture, etc.) that hindered your conversion?  How did you overcome them?

Thanks in advance!

"It is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power." - St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 5:29.

Offline beaker30

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For me it was the complete irrationality of Calvinism. I don't mean that to be harsh, but to me, literally, it felt like chasing my tail.

I grew up fundamentalist Baptist, went to a good Evangelical college, and could not justify in my head a few things.
1-both Calvinism and Arminianism cannot be both be true. So as I looked around my Evangelical college and saw that both were taught alongside each other, I could not reconcile it. They are, at their cores, two very different views of God.

2-Calvinism is inherently about who God chooses to send to hell. They can say what they want about it being about who God chooses to send to heaven, but if that is true, than the converse is true as well. It seems angry and spiteful and does not match in any way the statements Christ makes about Himself in the Gospels, particularly as He puts the little children on His lap.

3-After years of praying the sinner's prayer, walking down aisles, rededicating my life to Christ, etc. I did not feel any more "saved." So I figured I was probably not one of the elect. Had I not found Orthodoxy, I would have been an atheist because I could not understand how God in His supposed love could willingly send me to hell, or not pick me for his team, in spite of how hard I tried to know Him.

For me, my journey from Calvinism to Orthodoxy was extremely personal and emotional. The first time I sat in a liturgy and heard the priest say at the end of the service, "For You are Good and the Lover of All Mankind," I cried. That, my friend, is the Faith. That is all I needed to know. I never looked back.

Offline Benjamin the Red

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Just for the record, I came out of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) into Orthodoxy. We were quite the traditional geneva-gown-wearing, organ-playing, old-hymn-singing church. Quite classically reformed, on the whole. I myself was a five-point Calvinists (the only kind that makes sense).

What prompted you to leave your Reformed/Calvinistic/Presbyterian (RCP) background?

Looking for historicity. I developed a love of liturgy, which I felt was a marker of a church's historicity (although, originally, I didn't tie that to "validity." The Roman church was never a consideration for me. I really started looking when I found out that there are quite a few doctrines that we considered "Roman Catholic" that were universally accepted by Protestant reformers. Front and center is the Perpetual Virginity of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary).

What attracted you to Orthodoxy?

Wow...everything. The liturgy immediately won over my heart. The majesty and beauty...just, wow. I knew there was something true, something holy, there. Then, I was blessed to have come into the parish of a very kind, wise and knowledgable convert priest who turned my ideas about Orthodoxy (as a backwards, washed-up and ritualistic religion) upside down. We also are a mostly convert parish (over 90%). The people there knew their faith, because they had to wrestle with it and choose to become Orthodox for themselves, often with friends and family members in protest of their decision.

What were some of the biggest hurdles (e.g. doctrine, liturgy, piety, culture, etc.) that hindered your conversion?  How did you overcome them?

Doctrine was a big one. I wanted to bring Calvinism with me. That didn't happen, obviously. There was actually a church council which deals directly with Calvinism (and condemned it as heresy). I finally, after a lot of struggling,  I came to understand that Calvin's god is in a box just as much as Arminius' god is (even if Calvin's box is better built! ;)), and that systematic theology is false (there is no basis for such a paradigm in the life and history of the Church. God is not a system. He is a person. Three persons, actually).

After being schooled on that, I just submited myself to the wisdom and mystery of the Church. I was able to break out of that through A LOT of reading various books, some Orthodox and some not, speaking with my priest, and gaining insights from parishioners (most of whom came from Protestant traditions, and many were also former Calvinists).

Let me know if I can further elaborate on any of that, or if I can answer any more questions. May the Lord bless you on your search!
"Hades is not a place, no, but a state of the soul. It begins here on earth. Just so, paradise begins in the soul of a man here in the earthly life. Here we already have contact with the divine..." -St. John, Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, Homily On the Sunday of Orthodoxy