Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Whether I'm A Calvinist, Response To Perry Robinson, Etc.

I got home from work earlier this evening, and I just got done reading through the dozens of posts that resulted from my comments earlier today. Al Kimel referred to all of the Triablogue staff as Calvinists, and Steve Hays responded:

"Actually, I don’t know that Jason Engwer is a five-point Calvinist. I invited him to join the team for other reasons."

I've addressed this issue in a few forums in the past, although I haven't addressed it since joining Triablogue, as far as I recall. I did comment on it in a thread here last year, though, before I joined the Triablogue staff, and Steve might have gotten his impression from what I wrote in that thread. I'm not a Calvinist. I've attended an Evangelical Free church since around the age of four, and there are people in that denomination on both sides of the issue. I don't know enough about it to take a confident position. I have read some books, followed some debates, and such, but I still have a lot of unanswered questions, have heard of positions on the issue that I haven't studied yet, and don't consider it an essential, though it is important.

As far as I know, Steve has never said that only Calvinists would be on staff. I know that Eric Vestrup was on the staff for a while, and he isn't a Calvinist. Most of us are, though.

On his blog, Al Kimel wrote:

"The Church Fathers are only of interest to them to the degree that the Fathers confirm their exegetical conclusions. That the Church Fathers were not five-point TULIP Calvinists does not bother them."

I'm not sure how Al would know what's "of interest" to me in this area. I do think highly of the church fathers, and I've read thousands of pages of their writings. I've distanced myself from segments of Evangelicalism that ignore them or are highly dismissive of them. I do think that the fathers have some relevance to Biblical interpretation, especially the earlier fathers. They're also significant in a lot of other contexts. I don't consider Al's description above to be an accurate assessment of my view of the fathers.

Later in the thread, Perry Robinson made some comments about me, although he repeatedly misspelled my name as "Enweger". We've had discussions in the past, including at Al Kimel's blog, so I'm not sure why he'd misspell my name, unless the misspelling has some significance I'm not aware of. If it's a deliberate misspelling, I've missed the significance of it.

Perry writes:

"What Enweger needs to look at to present a significant problem for Orthodoxy is what the Bishops taught (1 Tim 3:16-17) since they are the principle teachers of the Faith."

There is no verse 17 in 1 Timothy 3, so I assume he meant to refer to 2 Timothy. And 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't lead us to Perry's understanding of the significance of "what the Bishops taught".

I'm aware that Eastern Orthodox don't think that every church father was orthodox on every issue, that they don't consider the fathers infallible as individuals, etc. I'm also aware of the other issues Perry raises in his response. I've been over these issues with Perry before. In my original post, which Perry is responding to, I linked to one of my posts here earlier this year, in which I interacted with arguments like the ones Perry is raising. My comments were posted at Al Kimel's blog as well, and Perry, to my knowledge, never responded to me on those points in either forum.

I don't deny that Eastern Orthodox give explanations for why they reject patristic beliefs that they disagree with. But Grano1 suggested that there was a continuity of belief. Even if you think that the fathers were speaking fallibly when they opposed the veneration of images or opposed praying to the deceased, for example, the fact remains that they did hold such positions that aren't consistent with modern Eastern Orthodoxy. To go from not baptizing infants or baptizing them only when they're near death, on the one hand, to baptizing all infants without regard to nearness of death, on the other hand, is a change. To go from opposition to the veneration of images to venerating images is a change, not a continuous belief. To go from praying only to God to also praying to the deceased and angels is a change.

Perry can raise some qualifiers if he wants to, such as an Eastern Orthodox standard for "what the Bishops taught", but I think that most people would consider the contradictions between the church fathers and today's Eastern Orthodox more significant than Perry does. For Perry to act as if my post suggests that I'm unaware of the qualifications he discusses is misleading, especially when I addressed such issues in a discussion with Perry earlier this year.

On infant baptism, Perry writes:

"Enweger’s material on infant baptism has been discussed here before, but let me pick out one goof. One line of evidence against infant baptism is supposedly the belief that children were not guilty, and therefore had no need of baptism. The idea of children being guilty came later. Well this supposes that the function of baptism is primarily to remove guilt."

Perry doesn't tell us what "goof" in my comments he's responding to. Where did I make the argument he's objecting to?

I don't know what Perry has in mind, but I recommend that people compare my posts on infant baptism (the ones I linked to earlier today and the others available in the archives here) to Perry's claim that infant baptism has always been a teaching of the church. I've largely repeated the sentiments of the paedobaptist patristic scholar David Wright on this issue. Nothing Perry has written in response so far (today or earlier this year) overturns my position. The reason why Perry has to keep appealing to the fallibility of individual church fathers, what some people might have believed without leaving a record of their beliefs in the historical record, etc. is because the historical record doesn't support Perry on these issues.


  1. Jason, jumped to the conclusion that you were a Calvinist based on your participation in Triablogue. I was wrong.

  2. Jason,

    Isn't the recognition of God's sovereignty in salvation, as well as the implications of the doctrines of grace, essential? I'm not saying you necessarily have to be a Calvinist to be saved, but these issues are of utmost importance in my estimation. I respect the fact that you carefully study a matter before stating an opinion, but I think this issue should be next on your table for consumption!

  3. The Pontificator wrote:

    "Jason, jumped to the conclusion that you were a Calvinist based on your participation in Triablogue. I was wrong."

    Thanks, Al. I think a lot of people assumed the same thing or something similar on the same basis. I doubt you were the only one.

    Sola Fide wrote:

    "Isn't the recognition of God's sovereignty in salvation, as well as the implications of the doctrines of grace, essential? I'm not saying you necessarily have to be a Calvinist to be saved, but these issues are of utmost importance in my estimation."

    When I refer to "essential" beliefs, I have in mind those beliefs that are necessary for salvation. I agree with you that it's an important issue, but I don't consider it essential.