Can anyone relate?
I read the following comment (online) and just wondered how many of us could relate to the sort of journey this person describes:
I grew up Baptist... and went to a non-denominational Christian university..., and basically considered myself Arminian, but I recognized that there were elements of Calvinism that were undeniably in Scripture.
Over the next five or six years after college I adopted each of the "five points" one at a time, in this order:
Total Depravity - It seemed pretty obvious to me that every part of us is affected by sin, not just superficially. This one really should have triggered all the rest, since they all progress out of it.
Perseverance of the Saints - Even coming from an Arminian perspective, this one is affirmed all throughout the Bible. The only seemingly-contrary passage was Heb 6:4-6, and one should be cautious of forming a doctrine around a single verse. (I've since come to believe that this verse in Hebrews refers to the same type of people as in Jesus' parable of the Sower when he mentions the seed sown on rocky & thorny ground. They hear the word and respond joyfully but they don't actually put salvific trust in Christ.)
Unconditional Election - Even as an Arminian, I'd say that nothing in us merits salvation, but I struggled with whether "faith" itself was a work that earned salvation. I gradually began to understand that faith is a work, but not ours. Rather, it's God's work in us, for his own sovereign, mysterious reasons.
Irresistible Grace - At this point, I was at the "Four-Point Calvinist" position, having recognized Arminian theology as Biblically untenable, and therefore, in violation of the principle of Sola Scriptura. Its popularity in the West is probably best explained by our obession with Enlightenment principles of individualism and humanism, etc.
Limited Atonement - This one came last because I didn't understand it for so long. I watched an R.C. Sproul lecture over at the Ligonier website that finally clicked for me. I had been misinterpreting it and rejecting it in a negative sense: "Christ didn't die for the whole world", when I should have been interpreting it in a positive sense: "Christ died specifically for his sheep." Once I looked at it from that angle, all of a sudden it made complete sense that although Christ's death is so valuable it could cover everyone in the world, of course Christ's death doesn't cover the sins of those who reject him; their penalty still awaits them.
FWIW, I found Sproul's series here to be incredibly helpful: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/what_is_reformed_theology/
He also feels like the names of the five points can be misleading, and he prefers terms he thinks are more accurate, such as "Definite Atonement" instead of "Limited Atonement."