Friday, January 12, 2007

Will I Loose My TR Card Over This Post?

Just a few words about this past week's "tiff" in the blogosphere. You know the infamous "video." (Strike's up Darth Vader's theme from Star Wars).

If you'll notice, I've kept out of this...until now. I'll be catching flack for this.

1. We need to distinguish for a moment between what is said because of a reaction to what many of us experienced in the past and the relation of the Pauline order. The Pauline order in Romans, for example, is not - hear me well - a prospectus for evangelistic method. It's a theology text that follows the the order of knowing, rather than the order of being. The Reformers, even the ogre of many, Beza, stated that Romans provided the order for learning theology in a teleological fashion from what the believer has experienced to the more heady doctrine of God (ergo: depravity, justification, sanctification, the ordu salutis, election). Beza went the other direction in his Tabula, as did Perkins in Golden Chaine, but they both said this could not be understood apart from the Pauline order first. This "ontological order" was for the classroom for the mature Christian who already understood the doctrines from the other direction.

But we're not teaching theology in the classroom when we do evangelism. We aren't giving a prospectus for theology or theological method; we're sharing the gospel, and that is often tailored to the individual situation.

Many of us come from antinomian, easy-believism backgrounds. Its natural to react negatively to this video. But this leads me to

2. We need to separate our emotional reaction from our reasoned response. I am on record as stating that I have a far greater issue with the easy believism of the SBC and the IFBx people than the Wesleyans. I'd rather coopeate with the later in a single effort if necessary than the former. I disagree with the whole idea of prevenient grace in their theology. I disagree with "free will" as they define it. But they are just as horrified by easy believism as I am, and I am not going to mistake the objectivity of what Christ did and the scope and effectuality of the cross and grace with a person's subjective beliefs about the structure of the ordu salutis. I certainly am not going to evaluate an entire ministry based on a single video. What's next, shall the non-equivalentalists among those who believe in particular redemption and the equivalentalists squabble if one side allegedly muddles the doctrine of atonement?

3. Just this past month and again this past week, I was castigated by one James Jay, a man with no church - go figure - and one who has apparently interacted with James White. Mr. Jay thinks that it's not enough that I believe in particular redemption, defend it, and teach it myself, but I have to label all general redemptionists (and that includes Amyraldians and other "4 Pointers" out there, not just Lutherans, Arminians, and others) "unregenerate." Apparently, you have to perform that single work of superogation in order to be "truly saved," not just "TR." Of course, when I learned he had no church, it was pretty easy to tell him not to bother criticizing me, my ministry, or my church when he is not part of one himself- and he likely never will be, since he's the only one going to heaven - him and a group about the size of the Heaven's Gate cult.

I had planned to post that conversation on my church blog in toto to show them what a real hyper-Calvinist is like. I think now I'll post it here as well with no comment options (because Mr. Jay has forfeited the right to interact under Titus 3), just to give us all a little reminder of where this sort of fiestiness can lead if we don't police ourselves more closely. And this goes for people on both sides of the issue. You see, nobody really starts out like Mr. Jay; it takes time. Today, they seem perfectly reasonable, but they keep on and on and on, until one day they are off in a corner begging for a dime for a cup of proverbial coffee and talking to themselves is a schizophrenic fit. So, I think what I'll do is provide the moral equivalent of an object lesson, rather like taking your kids to the local jail to show them what life is really like. It's a lesson they will hopefully never forget.


  1. I left this on cent's blog:

    "The Pauline order in Romans, for example, is not - hear me - a prospectus for evangelistic method. It's a theology text."

    But doesn't the Holy Spirit have the right to define what is in our Gospel presentation? Isn't that part of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture that I am confident you hold so dear? So we are supposed to come up with better ways of presenting the Gospel than Paul? Are we free to take out what the early church left in?

    "But we're not teaching theology when we do evangelism. We aren't giving a prospectus for theology; we're sharing the gospel, and that is often tailored to the individual situation."

    We aren't teachiing theology? Huh?! Theology simply means "knowledge of God" I even saw the term "oracles" used somewhere... Hmmmm... If the Gospel is not theology, then I guess I have no clue what theology is.

    We are going through the book of Romans on Sunday nights at church. We are learning how the gospel is the theme of the book.

    Rom 1:14-17
    14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.
    15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
    17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

  2. Yes, he does, but Paul is not preaching an evangelistic sermon . Romans is the equivalent to what we know as a sytematic theology text. The theme is the gospel, but the gospel is also the theme of your average Systematic Theology textbook.

    Tell me, Marie, do you believe we have to cover all the issues in Robert Reymond's Systematic theology text at that level in order to be faithful teachers of doctrine in the churches?

    We aren't teachiing theology? Huh?! Theology simply means "knowledge of God" I even saw the term "oracles" used somewhere... Hmmmm... If the Gospel is not theology, then I guess I have no clue what theology is.

    This is yet another stellar example of how certain persons will import meaning into others'words and equivocate in the process.

    Teaching theology can mean: catechesis. It can mean "teach a detailed prospectus." It can mean: teach the most rudimentary truths related the the most basic presentation of spiritual truth. I stated that Romans is not a prosectus for evangelistic method, it is a theology text. I then stated, we are not teaching theology in the classroom when doing evangelism." No, we are not doing in depth instruction on the finer points of the five points of Calvinism or the doctrine of election or the ordu salutis or epistemology or theological prolegomena like my two cited examples, Beza and Perkins. We may be bringing rudimentary information, or, if we're dealing with a sophisticated prospect, doing in depth apologetics. As I stated, it varies with the person. The gospel is about repentance from sin and faith in Christ, not the finer points of soteriological structure.

    The Reformers, the very ones you hold dear, held that there were at least three levels to instruction. One was catechesis-theology for the church. The other was scholasticism- what we'd call systematics. I have written nothing that they did not teach themselves. You're a librarian, hunt down Richard Muller's Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics and crack open Volume 1.

    The former was to be done before the latter. You don't teach the Table of Predestination, before you teach Romans itself. Likewise, you don't need to teach the principles of soteriological structure to the unregenerate person in order to effectively share the gospel with them. On the other hand, what you believe *yourself* will affect your presentation, but at the same time don't conflate what is done in a classroom with what is done in other settings. For heaven's sake, the Lord converted R.C. Sproul from the reading of a single rather obscure text in Ecclesiastes.

    The early Baptists faced this same problem. Hanserd Knollys in particular had problems, because there were those in his day that started thinking that if everybody didn't preach the the same material in the same way and if everybody didn't have the same sort of "conversion experience" as everybody else then the gospel wasn't being preached and they may not be true believers. This followed him for many years and he had to be disabused of it.

    This is precisely the sort of thinking that leads to hyper-Calvinism. It happened in the 18th century,and it can happen again. You and your friends, in my opinion, are dangerously close to proving the thoughts of the critics of Calvinism and Calvinists in the SBC, and you're making the same sorts of arguments that will lead you eventually to declare Arminians as a whole are unregenerate if you don't step back.
    I agree with Phil Johnson on this one, Marie, and would strongly advise you not to bring that conversation to this blog. There's a rule here not to bring the axes you have to grind from other blogs to this one. I've addressed this here, because it has so affected everybody else.

    I'm not a fan of the video. I happen to agree with Brother James White about the presentation in general, and I fight against "muddling" all the time, but I also recognize that I have to separate my emotional response from reality, and there are people who God saves through all of this. If not, then pray tell, where was the gospel preached such that people could be saved from the Nicene period forward to the Reformation? All I am saying is that you don't have to feel obligated to put a man through a whole theology class in order to effectively share the gospel. What is so unclear about that?

  3. Gene,

    Amyraldians shouldn't be lumped in with "4-pointers", that is historically inaccurate. That's one of the reasons Moses Amyraut's name is mud among modern day Calvinists--most of whom have never even read Amyraut's works. He was a moderate Calvinist, like Calvin was himself :-)

    I didn't like the video either. That's the kind of gospel I heard when I was unconverted, and, if anything, kept me from Christ. I don't mean to be overly critical of it though, I understand what you're saying...



  4. "But we're not teaching theology in the classroom when we do evangelism. "

    This may be true, however, James White said it best though... "what you win them with is what you win them to."

  5. "All I am saying is that you don't have to feel obligated to put a man through a whole theology class in order to effectively share the gospel."

    I think there is a difference between the 'man' in your view here and the person who establishes themself as a teacher and preaches a gospel that is flawed.

    When Pricilla and Aquila found Apollos, they rejoiced but then went and corrected his theology... in love, over a meal most likely. ;)


  6. Amyraldians shouldn't be lumped in with "4-pointers", that is historically inaccurate.

    That's a distinction without a difference. Yes, there is a difference. Amyraldians affirm particular election after universal salvation, but in the end that means denying substitutionary atonement.

    So you end up the same place as a four pointer. I don't think a theological treatise needs to be written for every compromise between what is known as "calvinism" and Arminianism do we? He did at least distinguish you as a separate group "amyraldians and OTHER four pointers". So what if he summarized the logical conclusion of your position?

  7. I am emailing Genhe instead of replying here. I think we should do that from now on. We are brothers and sisters, not enemies. And the whole TR posts seem to be fueling the fire too.

  8. oops meant to say Gene Cook :)

  9. LOL Bridges, not Cook....


  10. Gene,

    I have, to date, mostly stayed out of this thing. I'm rather disappointed myself by what I've seen. I'm not naming names or pointing any fingers, but it sure seems like maybe this isn't being handled very well to me. In particular, it seems to me that a lot of people aren't listening to what is being said. I'm particularly not going to label anyone because I've only read a little bit, and I don't know who is quoting who and all that. Plus I don't think it would do anyone any good.

    However, I did want to say something about all this. I agree with what people on your side are saying about all this to the extent that God uses weak vessels to accomplish his purpose all the time. Many of us were indeed saved in less than theologically sound churches. Many people in even worse times than we are now were saved by God's grace.

    Now. Having admitted that, I have to ask, does that mean we should promote that as a viable method? It seems to me that we should strive for presenting the most accurate truth of the Gospel of God possible, and thus give the sinner the strongest start possible, rather than say hey, it doesn't matter because God has used this kind of thing before and we turned out ok.

    I know you better than to think you would advocate this, but you have accused the other side of being in danger of hyper-calvinism. On the other side, you're in danger of becoming exactly what the arminians accuse us of, that we only obtain brothers in our system of belief by taking them from their churches. That our only evangelism can come from either their methods or in their churches.

    You and I both know that's not true. We both know that many men in our tradition were some of the strongest evangelists and missionaries in church history. And they did it w/out compromising on these things.

    So why is it so wrong to expect that of our contemporaries?

  11. For what it's worth, I'm not going to get into the debate over the video. I only saw it yesterday, and I've only read a little bit here and there because (frankly) it doesn't interest me that much.

    Thus, without taking sides, may I suggest it might be worthwhile to look over Acts and see what the disciples actually did do in practice during their evangelism?

    I know that what's recorded isn't the entirety of what was said; but it gives us Luke's idea, at least, of what the important keys of evangelism is.

    I think we'll find that what is taught by Peter and Paul to the non-believers isn't the entirety of the book of Romans; yet you'll also not find the typical "evangelical" calls, such as no "you need to have a relationship with Christ." IMO, seeing the summary there will show us at the very least what Luke thought the most important parts of the Gospel were....

  12. Micah,

    I agree in principle, but on the other hand, as Calvinism itself resurges, I see God reforming the Church in our time. So, this is true in one way, but not as true in another.

    Marie, got your email. Micah is not as "supportive" of your comments as you think.

    Also, you're a stellar example of what Shamgar calls not listening.


    "My side?" What is "my" side? You see, this is my only comment on this affair. I've not taken any side. "Promote?" Where have I "promoted" the methods here? If anything, I'm steering a middle path, and I'm refusing to evaluate all one man has done by one video.

    And that's what the Reformed tradition has sought to do. You see, I'm inclined to agree with Turretin commenting on similar things in his own day: the Lutherans err in excess, in which every doctrine is of first importance; the Arminians err in defect, where they reduce them. However, I also agree with Turretin, Ursinus before him, and all the other Reformed divines that the doctrine of election and predestination is not necessary to present the gospel effectively for the salvation of the soul. It's necessary for the life of the church, but you don't have to present it every time you evangelize. It's also worth mentioning that the Arminians were never said to err in their theological prolegomena in terms of these doctrines - but the lack of clarity of the others, namely the Person of Christ himself and the Trinity in particular and their emphasis on promises and precepts and Scripture to the exclusion of clarity elsewhere.

    I've just seen too many people start talking about "the Gospel" and what is necessary to present the Gospel turn into to Mr. James Jay. In fact, as you all will see - if you all will have the patience to wait until next week - that's the same sort of way Mr. Jay argued, only for him, the issue was limited atonement.

    As to Amyraldians, there is a distinction with a difference. Their doctrine of atonement is such that Christ dies for all men without exception, thereby satisfying the foedum hypotheticum (hypothetical covenant). The full "value" of this is then imputed to the elect as individuals and collectively. The atonement also underwrites several things, like the external call.

    In 4 Pointism (for lack of a better term), men are either made savable or unbelief is exempted, or the atonement is "potential." It just depends on the 4 Pointer. This isn't the same as Amyraldianism. Amyraldianism is conceptually very different, because of the hypoth. covenant but functionally not the same due to the value of what is imputed to the elect.

  13. fwiw...

    I'm of two minds on this subject. I haven't gone through the video in excruciating detail, but I have listened to Dr. White talk about it on the Dividing Line and he does go through exactly what Chan states. And I'm inclined to agree with Dr. White... there are some ways where the Gospel message in this video is lacking.

    However, I also know what it's like to reason with unbelievers. And I empathize a great deal with the passionate plea Chan makes to get them to consider their worldview for a moment. I have many non-Christian friends I want to grab and shake and wish I could believe for them. And my "profession" (comic book writer and wanna be fiction novelist) throws me headfirst into the realm of the religiously disenfranchised, if you'll permit me that term. The outcasts. The sinner's sinner. Comic geeks aren't the guys still living in their mother's basement anymore (not exclusively anyway)... they're roughly my age (mid-twenties) and are goths, punks, tattoo-laden, piercing-wearing, Bible (or Christian) hating people. Trying to play the Calvinist Evangelical to that crowd leaves you in one heck of a tough audience.

    I can't slide down the golden chain of redemption to them. I can't point my finger at each person I pass and proclaim the whole law and Gospel paradigm. I thanked God the one time I got so far in a conversation as to talk about the basic basics of predestination with a nonbeliever and, sadly, haven't had a repeat of that conversation since. This is a tough mission field and so I know exactly who Chan is talking to in his video and what he's trying to convey. And I praise his effort... even if it falls short.

    Basically put... yes, I think he played fast and loose with terms and wording and, personally, I would not have worded things the same way in the situations I face during stuff like comic conventions. But I'm really disheartened to see the outcry of heterodoxy coming from my Reformed brethren... no, not the correction that someone like James White offered as I believe he was pretty even and did not lapse into ad homs... but the bashing that takes place when we demand every jot of a Gospel presentation is fit for a seminary term paper.

    Have we forgotten how to talk to our brethren... even our non-Reformed brethren... and gently correct them when they are in error? Have we forgotten how to listen to them, ask questions, and come alongside them in love as we help one another in a common goal... to reach the lost for Christ? Where's the understanding and compassion when someone doesn't see something exactly the way we see it? No, not speaking of relativism, but of that basic knowledge that Christ shed His blood for Brother Chan and that makes us part of the same community. We're forgotten how to speak in light of that awesome truth.

    There's my three cents. ;-) (Two cents adjusted for inflation.)

  14. Gene,

    Thanks for making those important clarifications.


    I appreciate your input, but you illustrate my point. It is not uncommon for a calvinist to make assertions about Amyraut without having read the primary sources. If you take up such a study you will find that he simply asserted what Calvin himself asserts. Universal expiation but limited application to the elect of God. There is no denial of substitutionary atonement....

    I know this is not the subject of the post, so I digress. Sorry...

  15. Gene,

    You are correct. I am sorry that I labeled it as 'your side'. After I started commenting I went back and rewrote the first part, feeling that it was critically important to try to keep away from making this in any way personal, and not to make assumptions about where people stand.

    I'm afraid I didn't hit all the places where that happened, and I apologize for that. I will say though, that you are endorsing the videos method of evangelism, so to some extent, where you draw the line between supporting those types of methods, and not supporting them but rather endorsing a stronger and more fully orbed presentation, we obviously fall on opposite sides of it. (Though, from your clarification I think we're about close enough to shake hands. :-)

    I agree with you that the doctrines of election and predestination do not have to be presented every time you evangelize - as those doctrines - but they should definitely influence the things you say. While we don't need to catechize them while proclaiming the gospel, we ought not to misrepresent them either -- either verbally or simply through omission in their influence.

    You know, we can all be soft and easygoing about the means of evangelism, but that has been done before in human history, when things like the anxious seat were invented. Hey, it's getting results right? People are coming, and they're making professions of faith right? So those who opposed it, and endorsed traditional methods were generally shouted down as being too rigid.

    Where has that led us? Should we not learn from history? Should we not encourage one another to strive for the most biblical proclamation possible? When someone commits to Christianity believing it to be one thing, and we then put them in a SS class and teach them that really that was just to get them in the door and that the truth is really this more difficult thing -- how is that not a bait and switch? How is that better for the new Christian to have to struggle with such radical shifts between what they were won with and what they were won to?

    Steve, Gene:
    As to the issue of amyraldianism, I specifically meant there is no distinction in results, not that there is no difference at all. I acknowledged that they get there different ways.

    I own to the fact that I have not read all of the primary sources (and none of Amyraut's). It's unlikely I'll ever get around to reading all of it.

    I'm not going to try to get you guys to hijack this thread in order to try and educate me on how exactly you think this doesn't deny substitutionary atonement.

    However, if Christ's death was substitutionary, and was made for all men, then you have universalism or injustice (double jeapordy). You can dress it up in choices and application but I don't see how you avoid that being the issue if you start with dying for all men without exception. Perhaps one day I'll meet an amyraldian who has read the primary sources one day who can explain it to me. :-)

    Or, Steve, you can pop in to AOMin's irc channel someday when we both have some time and we can have a private chat if you'd like. I'd be more than willing to hear your explanation.

  16. Shamgar,

    Thanks for the invitation. In the mean time you should check out That sight has some great material, and addresses "double jeopardy".

    God bless,