Because of its requirement that members annually sign the doctrinal statement “without reservation”, my growing unease with a confident pretribulationalism inevitably led to resigning from WEF Ministries. It was a decision reached with great reluctance. I loved the mission and had developed good friendships with quite a few of its members.
But in a turn of events I did not anticipate, the members of the church we had planted requested that I stay on as their pastor. It was an awkward moment for the mission leaders and my coworkers, but the decision stood and I remained with the congregation who severed its ties with the mission. This required an adjustment of the church doctrinal statement, removing the requirement of embracing a dispensationalist hermeneutic.
Because the church was not yet self-supporting, and because my resignation from the mission meant that I would no longer receive financial support, I immediately began looking for a job to supplement the income the congregation could provide.
I wrote all of our supporters – virtually all of them holding a similar dispensationalist hermeneutic – informing them of my growing reluctance with pretribulational dispensationalism. I had discovered an organization that facilitated U.S.-based donors in providing financial support for Christian workers unaffiliated with mission organizations. While the majority of supporters declined to continue sending support, enough did to provide the shortfall in funding so that I did not need to take a job. God wonderfully provided all that we needed.
Little did I know that the decision to leave WEF Ministries would constitute a genuine break from the past. It closed more than a few doors to friendships and relationships. For some, I had “denied the doctrines of the Bible.” However, letting go of a tightly-held, confident dispensationalism enabled me to freely explore a wonderfully rich Christian heritage that I had previously held aloof.
Opening myself to fellowship with a wider body of believers led to meeting others who were already well along the road to rediscovering the richness of a reformed soteriology. I am thankful for all those men who, while recognizing I was not fully reformed as they were, nevertheless patiently encouraged me in my pilgrimage toward a reformed understanding of salvation.
By this time I was already committed to the doctrines commonly described as total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. Like many who had traveled this road ahead of me, I struggled with the doctrine of limited atonement (I prefer the term definite atonement).
During these developments in 1980, in a remarkable display of divine providence, God brought David and Pamela Bugden to serve the congregation of First Calvinist Baptist Church (now Sovereign Grace Baptist Church) in Oromocto, New Brunswick. Remember it was David Bugden who had introduced me to the Westminster Fellowship during our years in England.
Along with serving the congregation at Oromocto, David Bugden encouraged reformed men in the maritime provinces by hosting a monthly pastors fellowship where men of reformed persuasion could meet for study, prayer and fellowship. Despite the meetings being a five-hour drive, I rarely missed an opportunity to attend that fellowship.
In late 1980 or early 1981, I don’t now recall, a package arrived by mail containing nothing but a book: The Sovereignty of Grace by Arthur Custance. Though I am not certain, to this day I believe the book came as a gift from David Bugden. The book described Arthur Custance’s journey into a full-fledged reformed soteriology. I am grateful for the gift because it was the final piece that brought me fully into the fold of a five-point Calvinistic soteriology. You can read this book online here.
In future posts I will explain why I believe the five-points of Calvinism faithfully reflect the Biblical doctrine of salvation.