Monday, February 20, 2006

Fruitful Discussions

Jeff Wright has responded to my guest blog at Calvinist Gadfly:

1. What Evan apparently doesn’t understand that it isn’t that I won’t address “well prepared critiques of Johnny Hunt’s statements, it is that I haven’t seen any. Alan’s original post is a poorly grounded attempt (which I’ve discussed with him at the Calvinist Gadfly) at doing so and, beyond that, I’ve not seen any full treatment of the issue. I might not be looking in the right spot and would welcome links to a “well prepared critique” of Hunt’s statements.

Wright has me question how intently he read Alan’s original post, for Alan linked to several critiques. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to consult Google for such difficult matters.

2. When Evan writes about Hunt’s “implicitly Universalistic and Pelagian statements” he again repeats Alan’s earlier error of speaking as if that were indeed the case with Hunt’s statements which it is not. I pointed this out to Alan repeatedly as did Gene Bridges of Triablogue.

Wright ignores the word implicitly in implicitly Universalistic and Pelagian. He humorously cites Gene as a source, but Gene would agree that these positions are implicitly Universalistic and Pelagian, even though they may not be in actuality.

While Mr. May might not have a problem with the term it was obviously used in the Founders’ thread regarding Hunt’s presidency as an invective by Dr. Caner. Considering that the term “Arminian” is used in the same way by those in the Calvinist camp (such as on the Calvinist Gadfly’s blogroll) I grouped the two terms together. I simply cannot agree that the term “Arminian” is “more…relevant to this discussion.” However, even if that is the case my original grouping is valid considering the usage found in discussions of Calvinism.

Why can’t Mr. Wright agree that “the term Arminian is more relevant to this discussion” than the term Semi-Presbyterian? As I said originally, The term “Presbyterian” refers to more than a simple soteriology. It also refers to a church polity, a sacramentology, a covenantology, an ecclesiology, etc, and most importantly, a church organization. But the term Arminian is simply a soteriological term. Does Mr. Wright disagree?

I’ll not dwell here long other than simply pointing out that Evan’s attempt to define Calvinism or Arminianism as merely “affirming the basic tenet of” either system is severely lacking.

It is? Why? All non-Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of Arminianism. I challenge Mr. Wright to find me one non-Calvinist who is not a synergist or a Libertarian. And he may claim to not be synergistic, but I will be able to demonstrate synergism in his beliefs with ease. This is simply because the main thing that is at stake in this debate is the efficacy of the will of God. This is central to the discussion, and it is the marking stick for both sides.

For instance, I find much more to agree with within Calvinism (central tenet: God’s glorification of Himself in exercising his sovereignty) than Arminianism. However, I wouldn’t necessarily identify myself as a Calvinist because I cannot embrace limited atonement.

Mr. Wright has served as an example for us. Mr. Wright is a non-Calvinist, who does not subscribe to all of the points of Arminianism, but still affirms the basic tenets of Arminianism. To reject efficacious redemption is to reject the efficacy of the will of God. This is synergism, not monergism. This proves my statements that all Calvinists affirm the basic tenet of Calvinism (monergism), for to affirm monergism is to affirm all of the points of Calvinism, and by contrast, all non-Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of Arminianism, mainly, synergism or Libertarianism.

Perhaps non-Calvinists consider the labels “synergist” and “Libertarian” to be insulting. I believe this is not because they fail to accurately portray their beliefs (I stand firmly behind my contention that all non-Calvinist affirm these tenets). Rather, I believe this is because synergism and Libertarianism are, in essence, insulting viewpoints. No one wants the marking standard for his theology to be the notion that man’s ability to frustrate God’s will is more important that God’s ability to accomplish his will. A non-Calvinist may focus greatly on the love of his God (a love that, in reality, loves no one in particular). He may focus greatly on the precious myth of the free will of man. But these do not hide the essence of his anthropocentric theology. This makeup does not cover the betraying blemishes of synergism and the denial of the sufficiency of grace.

…However, the term is still used as an invective regardless of whether or not it accurately categorizes the position of those to whom it is applied.

How does Mr. Wright know what is within the hearts of those who use the term?

It boggles my mind to see how it might be concluded that I have “a problem with…absolute statements” because I note that “Calvinism is a VIRUS” and “Calvinism is a nickname for the Gospel” are intended not so much to further honest discussion as they are to cast opposing viewpoints in a negative light. I thought that would be obvious from my original post. If I have failed in that regard I apologize.

Is it not necessary to “cast opposing viewpoints in a negative light” in order to establish strong positions concerning these viewpoints? Does Wright want us to disagree with someone, and not tell anyone that we disagree and the reasons why we disagree? The statement “Calvinism is a nickname for the Gospel” is surely a statement that can be made in love. But it is also a necessary statement. I’m sure that Mr. Wright is well aware of this Spurgeon quote:

“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.”

Does Mr. Wright think there was hatred in Spurgeon’s heart as he made this statement? Or perhaps Spurgeon was, in a loving attitude, separating what he thought was the Biblical gospel from the unbiblical gospel. Is this wrong?

And to answer Mr. May’s question, no. Absolutely not. To use Pauline language “May it never be.” What I desire is for those engaged in the debate to abstain from such fruitless and juvenile tactics and engage in the spirit of George Whitfield, John Wesley, Al Mohler, and Tom Ascol. These men, of far greater mind than most, hold (/held) to their positions strongly and defend (/defended) them in the same manner yet found a way to do so that promotes the spread of the gospel. Furthermore, the discussion of the issue coming from such men as I have listed before manages to allow room for disagreement without personal slander, misrepresentation, or pettiness. That is what I would like to see.

I agree with Wright that in taking absolute positions, we must abstain from fruitless and juvenile tactics. But does Mr. Wright believe that the statement “Calvinism is the true gospel” is a “fruitless and juvenile tactic”? Does he think that Spurgeon was utilizing a “fruitless and juvenile tactic” when he made this statement? I find it interesting that he lists Whitfield, Mohler, and Ascol. Does Mr. Wright wish that I present quotes from these men that look much like that Spurgeon quote? He is absolutely right that “the discussion of the issue coming from such men …manages to allow room for disagreement without personal slander, misrepresentation, or pettiness.” But does Mr. Wright believe that the statement “Calvinism is the true gospel” involves “personal slander, misrepresentation, or pettiness”?

…Experientially speaking, I find the (b) part of that statement to be untrue.

Then I’m glad that Mr. Wright has had pleasant experiences in these dialogues that many of us have not.

…Furthermore, Evan assumes a great deal to much when he writes “Perhaps it is because in reality the statement “Johnny Hunt is an anti-Calvinist” is one that can be easily demonstrated, while the statement “John Piper is a hyper Calvinist” is one that would be extremely difficult to demonstrate.” Both are poor, poor misrepresentations of the men in discussion.

Jeff, you cannot honestly equate the statement “Johnny Hunt is an anti-Calvinist” with the statement “John Piper is a hyper-Calvinist.” Johnny Hunt, plainly and simply, hates the doctrines of grace. He detests the notion that God would be efficacious in his will to save those whom he chooses. He is very passionate about this hatred as well. John Piper, on the other hand, is the direct opposite of a hyper-Calvinist.

1. The first statement is patently untrue and is easily demonstrated. See my earlier discussion of whether Salvation can be lost once granted.

This was in response to my statement “All non-Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of Arminianism.” My response is that “the first statement is patently true and is easily demonstrated.” Once again, I challenge Mr. Wright to find me one non-Calvinist who does not affirm the basic tenets of Arminianism, mainly, synergism or Libertarianism.

2. I am prepared to show Mr. May where the terms “fatalism” and “hyper Calvinism” were used as insults within the thread. I am also prepared, per my original statements, to show where those terms are miss-applied. For example, see where Dr. Caner refers to John Piper as a hyper Calvinist. See also where Dr. Caner describes Calvinism as predetermined fatalism.

I do not disagree that the terms “fatalism” and “hyper-Calvinism” are indeed used as insults. What I do disagree with is that the ordinary use of the term “Arminian” is insulting. My basis for distinguishing between the two, which Wright does not address, is that it can be easily demonstrated that the basic tenet of Arminianism is synergism or Libertarianism, but it cannot be demonstrated that Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of fatalism or hyper-Calvinism, for Calvinism in its very essence is anti-fatalistic and anti-hyper Calvinistic. But non-Calvinists are certainly not anti-Arminians.

3. Truly astounding. Evan asks whether or not I fail to see the distinction I made in my post. No, Calvinism is not fatalistic or deterministic. Considering the falsehood of that assertion I pointed out it’s improper application to Calvinism when used as an invective. Is this really so hard to grasp from my post. Others seem to have understood it as I specifically intended.

No, what I asked is if Wright failed to see the distinction between calling a non-Calvinist Arminian and calling a Calvinist a hyper-Calvinist. These are not the same. Calling a non-Calvinist “Arminian” is calling him based upon the basic tenets he affirms. However, calling a Calvinist a “Hyper-Calvinist” is calling him the direct opposite of what he affirms. This is what I meant when I asked, “Is Wright prepared to show us that all Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of fatalism or hyper Calvinism (i.e, “unevangelistic”)? Rather, Calvinism in its very essence is the direct opposite of fatalism and hyper Calvinism. Does Wright really fail to see the difference?” By “the difference,” I meant the difference between calling a non-Calvinist Arminian and calling a Calvinist fatalistic.

I can’t speak to how Dr. Hunt would react in such a debate. However, I would like to note that I encouraged Alan to approach Dr. Hunt about a debate as opposed to fruitless (and incorrect) efforts such as his thread detailing Hunt’s inclusion in the “Arminian Hall of Fame.” Hopefully we might see such in the future.

The induction into the “Arminian Hall of Fame” is not as fruitless of an action as you believe it to be. We have already seen its fruit.

Evan May.

1 comment:

  1. Quick FYI: I responded here -