Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why Johnny can't read


The Articles of Smalcald were originally proposed to be presented at Augsburg, but obviously Melanchthon's Augsburg Confession was instead. The Formula of Concord is a commentary and explanation regarding certain articles of the AC. In this, the confessions of the Book of Concord are unlike the diversity of Reformed confessions, which are often at loggerheads with each other over issues such as baptism, election, faith, images, and church government.

# posted by Josh S : 12/07/2005 5:41 PM


For the most part, Josh is simply reiterating distinctions I already drew between the Presbyterian, Dutch-Reformed, and Reformed Baptist confessions.

More to the point, all that’s relevant in a response to McCain is responding to what McCain chose to single out as objectionable in Calvinism. He did not, for example, focus on church government.


Too bad Hays forgot that the doctrine of the Trinity in the form we have today emerged out of controversy over the person of Christ. Whoops.
Posted by Josh Strodtbeck at 07:35 PM


Too Bad Josh forget that the doctrine of the Trinity in the form we have it in the NT was what I referred to in my reply to McCain. Whoops.


I'd like to point out that this is the heart of Josh's original outburst. A segment of the independent Reformed Baptists have claimed the mantle of the "truly reformed," and if you can read Hays and come to any other conclusion, I'll eat my hat on bread. Hays and company believe they are the true reformation. They, rather than Lutherans, embrace sola fide, sola Christus.

I don't see why that fact is even discussable. It's patently obvious.

Posted by Michael Spencer at 07:18 PM


Spencer can’t read any better than Josh can. The debate with McCain is not a debate over who is truly Reformed. Rather, this is a comparison and contrast between Calvinism and Lutheranism. That is how McCain chose to frame the debate, and that’s the framework within which his theological opponents have responded.

Spencer is intruding himself to settle old scores—and some new ones. Spencer has a father-fixation where James White is concerned. So instead of reading what is actually said, he superimposes his father-fixation on anything involving Reformed Baptists.

I said nothing to indicate that I regard Reformed Baptists as the only true exponents of Calvinism—much less the true Reformation. Rather, I brought them into the discussion at this point because they have been the target of Paul McCain’s attack. He has chosen them as his foil, so I’ve responding to him on his own grounds. But that obvious point goes right over Spencer’s head because he is using this debate as a pretext to get a few more licks in with Frank Turk and Dr. White.

And he chooses the oblique approach lest he provoke a response from his true quarry.

I have news for you, Michael. You’re not the center of the universe. This particular debate is not about you and your bad karma.

BTW, notice that he doesn’t have any problem with a Lutheran like Josh as the self-appointed arbiter of who’s truly Reformed.

Then, to finish it all off, Spencer pretends to take offense on behalf of the Lutherans for my contrast between Lutherans and Reformed Baptists. This is yet another double standard.

Again, I’m merely answering McCain on his own terms. McCain chose to cast the issue in terms of which tradition is more Christocentric—the Lutheran or the Reformed.

Notice, once again, that Spencer doesn’t have any problem with McCain framing the debate in those terms, or answering the question in his own favor.

But if I respond in kind, Spencer then pretends that this is somehow improper.


  1. Steve, I think that somewhere in the back-and-forth castigations a worthwhile question has been dropped. In the quote from Michael, it's hidden in the "this" in reference to "the heart of Josh's argument." I wonder if you'd care to respond to the "this"; namely, the divergent views of the sacraments held by the Reformed and the RBs. It is my understanding that RBs do not have them. In my experience in mixed company, when the various Reformed confessions speak of the sacraments as "means of grace," the RBs in the room clear their throats through clenched teeth. Why do RBs reject the sacraments as means of grace and yet think of themselves as Reformed in the tradition of Calvin, the Westminster divines, et al?

    Furthermore, as others have pointed out, covenant theology decisively frames Reformed doctrine and practice. Reducing Reformed doctrine down to tulip is like reducing Eastern Orthodox theosis down to the Eucharist. They're certainly related to one another, but the specific sense of tulip (and the Orthodox eucharist) is given by the overarching theological framework. It sounds really strange to hear or read expositions on tulip as if it can be dehistoricized from its theological context; or put another way, RB theology seems both eclectic and anachronistic. It seems odd to someone confessionally Reformed like me (as well as certain truculent Lutherans) that RBs think of themselves as Reformed since RBs explicitly reject the framing theology and the accompanying sacramentology and ecclesiology that follow from it.

    What is the point of doing apologetics as an RB if there's nary a trickle of refutations of Calvinism, presbyterians, Heidelberg confessors, etc? It seems that the very things that make RBs distinctive are the very things that they don't talk about. Why is that? The only blogger I've read that makes the effort to earnestly defend these distinctives is ct. She does a fine job of making it quite clear that the Reformed and Lutherans and ... corrupt biblical doctrine and practice with their theology of the sacraments and the church. Do not RBs share this view, generally speaking?

    I don't know if you are RB, Steve, but would you care to explicate what exactly is Reformed about RBs? Further (so as not to leave Josh out), what is reformational about RBs? I think it would make an enlightening discussion to address the substance of Josh's original broadside.

  2. >"I’d add, at the risk of kicking over a hornet’s nest, that as a practical matter, Lutherans like McCain put their faith, not directly in the Savior, but in the sacraments. They are not looking to Jesus, but to the wafer and the font. By contrast, Reformed Baptist (sic) do trust in Jesus alone."

    Don't you love it when someone says "I'm posting a hornet's nest," and then they procede to call anyone who comments a psych case?

    The case that some reformed Baptists now beleive they are the true representatives of the reformation has been made by better people than me:

    Josh and I have fought, and fought, and fought over all things Lutheran. But when I first met him 2 years ago, he was already talking about the attempt of some Reformed Baptist quarters to police the rest of the reformation.

    You made the succinct statement that your team believed in Jesus and the other team believed in sacraments. I don't need to make the point about who is claiming to be "truly reformed."

  3. Is consubstantiation reformed? Seems pretty close to transubstantiation to me, a doctrine hardly reformed.

    Is infant baptism reformed? Didn't the RCC do it for 1000 years before the Reformation?

    Imputation, predestination, election sound like reformedly distinct words to me, and RBs certainly subscribe to these, and more, and the 1689 LBC is 95% WCF.

  4. He didn't mention me by name, and I have a new book I'm trying to read, and Narnia opens tomorrow and I haven't written one single book review for that, and the Baptism thing has started up again at my blog. I don't have time to determine if Spencer/iMonk is today feeling even-keeled enough to be taken serious long enough to not take seriously.

    However, I can offer this: it seems like the real problem for those that the BHT want to brand "TR" is a concern over whether the Reformation mattered in the first place, and whether it still matters today.

    Rather than use my rusty forcepts and a dirty rag to extract that log from their collect eye, I offer iMonk and his monk-ees the opportunity to tell us clearly whether the reformation mattered when it occured, what mattered about it, and whether any of that actually matters to day in some detail.

    Answering "yes, all of it, yes" would be dodging the question. Since you all claim to be protestants but have some sympathy or honor for Rome, demonstrate some honor or sympathy for what you say you yourself believe by substantiating in in some way.

    Let me tell you: I hate interacting with Tim Enloe on this topic. I think he muddies the water with a toxic mix. But in his case, he can demonstrate what it is he thinks the Reformation was "really" about -- even if I am certain he is wrong. He has an argument to deal with, rather than ipse dixit and ad captandum vulgus. (the Latin was for his sake if he reads this; for the monk-ees, I said "because I said so" and "appealing to the mob")

    Can't wait to see what this brings forth.

  5. Since I've never put myself forward as the Barney Fife of the reformed world, nipping all dirty theological misbehavior in the bud, this discussion isn't about me. It's about Josh's assertion that the Reformed Baptist are Baptists who love TULIP, but aren't Reformed.

    So this is "when all else fails, tell the other fellow to produce his Reformed credentials." I don't have any. I moved out of that house and I'm not interested in coming back in. But I'm also tired of having my car shot at every time I'm in the neighborhood.

    This habit you guys have of telling other people what they have to do to talk to you is hilarious: White- Call my show. Fide-0- produce your SBC membership. Turk- Give your reformed testimony.

    Can I buy this game in a box?

    Now you can write 28 other BHTers and they can tell you their answer to your demand that they produce Reformed credentials acceptable to you.

  6. I see: I'm a bad guy for thinking there are some arguments and positions which deny reformational premises and the extant models of Reformed theology, but to call some one "TR" (thereby saying, "they think they are Reformed, but ...") is in fact internet Hoyle.

    My reformed confessions are on-record, iMonk. I would affirm the LBCF with only one question (the exclusivity of immersion), and the WCF with only a handful of questions (cf. LBCF). Unlike your hecklers at BHT, I don't just hurl jibes into the blogosphere with enough bluster to ensure the faint-hearted won't question me: I can play by the rules of engagement I offer.

    The offer I have made here is based on your own complaint. If we who are labelled "TR" are the problem, let's see what the solution looks like. If it looks like the emotional incontinence of a person who cannot control himself long enough to think twice about condemning the ministry of God's people for his problems in marriage, family and professional life, then the comparison is easily made. If that's not what the readers of this thread and all related ravings are supposed to be comparing to, this would be a good time to give them something to hold onto.

  7. "If we who are labelled "TR" are the problem, let's see what the solution looks like."

    And then he takes another ad hominem shot at iMonk.

    Frank, I think a start to a solution would look a lot like you shutting up if you can't get over your beef with iMonk.

  8. >but to call some one "TR" (thereby saying, "they think they are Reformed, but ...")

    I have no argument with your claim to be reformed. I agree with Josh that the mainstream of the Reformed world would find the claim of Baptists to be the true heirs of reformed theology odd. As Josh says, if Calvin would burn you at the stake, you may not be reformed. But I accept that you folks are as confessionally reformed as anyone else. I expect you and I would agree on 98% of the SLCF. I probably like its article on scripture better than you do.

    My use of the phrase TR refers to those- some Macarthur Baptists and some PCA/OPC Presbyterians- who relate to the rest of the evangelical world as the truly reformed. It particularly refers to those who says things like- and I quote- "Those of us concerned with true orthodoxy are watching you." That's TR-ish for "nip it in the bud."

    If that is not what is going on various blogs you and I are both familiar with, then my apologies. If Mr. Hays can say that Lutherans trust in sacraments, while Reformed Baptists trust in Jesus, then excuse me for thinking that's a claim to be truly reformed.

    If Jason can say it's "Luther to Calvin to Spurgeon to Macarthur to his church," and that's not a claim to be truly reformed, I apologize.

    If John Bomboro is incorrect in saying that the approach in Fool's Gold is to assert Reformed Baptist views with no mention of the rest of the reformation, then I'm out of line.

    I can't imagine that any of you would, if asked by a neutral source 6 months ago, "Do you consider your approach to be truly reformed?" would have said no.

    So listen....I have no particular stake in all of this "TR" ism. If the shorthand is offensive, I'll find something more generic, like the Macarthur Reformed Baptists. (MRBs)

    I simply believe Josh's original point is cogent.

  9. Dan --

    "my beef with iMonk" doesn't seem to include telling him to "shut up". What kind of people say, "I disagree with you, so shut up?" I mean, aside from vacuous liberals on TV and the recently-departed Robert Funk when outmanned in a live radio debate -- who thinks that "shut up" is a great way to resolve conflict or to advocate for truth?

    Isn't that the startling irony -- that I want to work this out by giving iMonk the opportunity to say exactly what he means and those who come to his defense have consistently said -- in nicer ways, and in more aggressive ways -- "shut up"?

    If that's the high-minded way of dealing with a conflict, I really don't want to see the guttersnipe in you come out. I am certain the guttersnipe in me would be completely outdone in no-time flat.

    Back to the clown car with you. There's no more water in your seltzer bottle, and your whipped cream seems to have slid off your pie plate. Send out the next guy and make sure there's more in his powder bag than talcum.

    And look at that: the clown car metaphor still has some meat on the bone. That's the great thing about thinking about what you write before you belch it out into the bandwidth -- you give yourself the room to represent yourself with more than 4-letter words and smack talk.

  10. Spencer is turning this around. At issue is not whether I or the RBs regard themselves as Calvinists. This issue, rather, is, on the one hand, critics who do not regard RBs as bona fide Calvinists and, on the other hand, the constant insinuation that RBs regard themselves as the only bona Calvinists.

    For an RB to regard himself as a bona fide Cavinist doesn't mean that he regards a confessional Presbyterian (for example) as sub-Reformed or non-Reformed.

  11. iMonk --

    Today I read (and linked) to a post by Doug Wilson, who was roasting Brian McLaren for his inexplicably-stupid book A Generous Orthodoxy. Pastor Wilson's main point was that McLaren has, to a certain degree, levelled all the relevant criticisms of his book rhetorically as he wrote through, and then made fun of them, thus dismissing them and avoiding them. It's a technique that buffers the writer from actually answering the question posed.

    You do the same kind of thing here.

    [DrBombay]"My dear boy, we would agree on 98% of our theology. It's not theology I'm worried about, you dear child. It's the attitude I'm grieved over. The smugness associated with the criticism of other people, wot."[/DrBombay]

    If it is your contention that you personally do not mean "TR" as a term of derision -- in spite of posts like the one immediately prior to your DrBombay posts here, or your first post in this comment box to Steve -- but you can't speak for the others at the trough at BHT, or you can't control what goes on over there and you can't police those you allow to post there, it's obvious you think I'm stupid.

    That is what's insulting. Being heckled is hardly insulting: being told, "my dear boy, you're not being heckled! You're being garnered with a laurel fit for Dr. MacArthur," in order to avoid defending your opinion is insulting.

    My chiropractor says my spine is in good alignment. I can give you his number if you need a professional opinion about yours -- because I'm not a chiro, and I don't know anything about your spine. Ask your defenders how that argument works.

  12. If you're going to lose it Mr. Turk, find a nice quiet spot on the internet and say whatever you want. Or hit me in the email where you can just get it off your chest. Or start a blog where we can just yell at each other. Or blog about me for a month so the whole blogosphere will come running to your doorstep. You screwed up my family's Thanksgiving. Why not Christmas?

    >it's obvious you think I'm stupid.

    No, I don't. I don't comment on IQs and mental states. I leave that for the big boys.

    You are off the wall with your hatred for me. It's a spectacle to watch.

  13. I wrote the following this afternoon when "centuri0n" first asked for my reformed credentials:

    "I cannot produce my reformed credentials. I do have an opinion written on this napkin:

    I think the reformation was a good idea that seems to have produced some heroes, some truth (5 solas), some great expressions of the faith (Heidelberg Catechism) and a lot of subsequent chaos as well, no doubt because it was a mixture of God's work and our own screw-ups. If you mix in the political, the sociological, the psychological and the historical angles, it is hard to say it was just a simple renewal of the church. I'll count Luther's stand against indulgences as a high point, Luther's condemnation of Zwingli as a middle point, and Luther's treatment of the peasants as a low point. (Unless you count Luther being cited as an early Reformed Baptist. That would be lower.) I think a lot of what was good in the reformation was taught by people who would have killed each other if they spent much time together, which says something about what we ought to try and avoid.

    What I really think is this: Acting like you "are" the reformation, you "own" the reformation, or that you are the living embodiment of the reformation is a childish, but serious, delusion. That goes for denominations or individuals. Squawking about yourself and your posse as "the reformed" is living in a myth. A fairy tale. A fiction. It's like looking out my window and seeing my neighbor dressed as Batman. If you are a Protestant of any kind, it's part of your heritage, but I'm pretty sure reading Calvinistic literature and going to Calvinistic conferences don't give you the rights to put "The Reformation! Tonight and Every Night!" on your church sign or to arrest your neighbor for insufficient monergism.

    The Cambridge Declaration comes really close to distilling the good stuff out of the Reformation, but please hear me on one point: The Reformation gives us PLENTY to repent of, and anyone who declares himself a "modern reformer" as a way of getting one up on the rest of us might want to consider buying a superhero outfit to wear at all times so the rest of us will know what's coming.

    I took Reformation history from Dr. Timothy George. I enjoyed it. But that was then, and this is now."

  14. Frank said: "who thinks that "shut up" is a great way to "

    How does your ad hominem attack on iMonk, to wit: "If it looks like the emotional incontinence of a person who cannot control himself long enough to think twice about condemning the ministry of God's people for his problems in marriage, family and professional life,...."

    "resolve conflict or to advocate for truth?"

    Maybe I'm missing something. I only asked you to shut up if you couldn't restrain yourself from such ad hominem attacks. Your calling me a guttersnipe kind of blows that hope. But, I'm a lawyer, and have been called far worse.

  15. Dan --

    I'm starting to think you're not a real person -- you're a hoax blogger, right? Because my argument was that iMonk should be able to demonstrate how he is different than the "TR" if, in fact, he is different in a way that overcomes his complaint about the "TR".

    You're not a hoax blogger? You're sure you're not PP?

    The part about him being emotionally-incontinent is not my argument: it is a reference to the conflict already on the record, which it turns out has never produced anything but agreement with my facts and disagreement with the audacity I demonstrated in bringing them up. Unfortunately, it appears that the standard fare of BHT hooligans is to class all arguments against them as ad-hom and tilt their noses at 45° to the floor.

    Which would be fine if, thereafter, they could see over their big red noses. It leaves them vulnerable to things like the garden rake Dan is about to step on. Again, "shut up" passes for an argument, ignores the complaint made, and then (in classic slapstick fashion, so points for comic genre acumen) tries to slam the window prop shut on the fingers of the other argument.

    If it's not new schtick, at least it's audience-tested. Perhaps the next time you can bring out the big styrofoam judge's gavel or the bucket of confetti.

    Or better yet: answer the question. THAT would be original.

  16. iMonk:

    Nobody acts like the "own" the reformation. The problem is whether the Reformation meant anything -- or if it was a dirty theological fad that, 500 years later, we can just turn in for a new set of robes.

    In that, if we do not deny that the Reformation "meant something", what did it mean?

    The folks on my side of the court, who are hardly denominationally monolithic, say it meant something which is important even today. I'm asking you if you think that is true, and if so, in what way.

    How does that amount to saying I "own" the Reformation -- except by exaggeration in order to avoid answering the question?

  17. I answered your question in some detail above. I don't expect you to read it, agree with any of it, or care. I expect you to continue selling t-shirts.

    I will repeat this: the habit of your team of making demands of people in comment threads does nothing to divert me from my conclusion that you have delusions of wearing badges that say "Sheriff of the Reformed Blogosphere."

    For the record, I have no idea who Dan is, nor have I ever spoken to him.

  18. Frank:

    (1) I wouldn't think I'm a hoax blogger, as I don't have a blog but only read many of the more well known Protestant blogs when time permits;

    (2)I guess the argument you are making is that repeating an ad hominenm attack makes it not ad hominem. That is certainly an original argument, whether it is valid or not.

    (3) I hope that at some point you will realize that your vitriol only serves to obscure what are some valid posiitons. Since I discovered it about six months ago, I have become a regular reader of Steve's blog, I am a lifelong Bapist,and have found myself becoming increasingly convinced by much of what he has said here about reformed distinctives. I don't have a dog in this fight, but I am convinced that you have helped make it an ugly one with your use of phrases like emotional incontinence just as much as those who throw around labels like TR have. Why is it too much to ask for you to stop it?

  19. Frank: I'm not Dan.

    Dan: I'm not you.

    To myself: I'm not Dan, nor am I Frank. I'm frank, but not Frank.

    This reminds me a bit of the lyrics from "I Am the Walrus," something like "I am me and you are he and he is she and we are all together...." [or something like that].

    If there are any other online personalities that I need to deny being, just drop by the PP blog.

    You may now resume your original programming.

  20. I hope nobody's offended, but there is a very high level PP post just put up dealing with this material at the usual high scholarly level that we all expect.

    Frank, the post is dedicated to you.