Sunday, February 19, 2006

Jeff Wright Fails at His Moral Equivalence of "the Debate"

(From my guest blog at the Calvinist Gadfly)

Jeff Wright has something to tell us about “the debate”:

What remains so stunning to me as I read the thread on the Founders’ Blog regarding Johnny Hunt’s SBC Presidential Candidacy and the Calvinist Gadfly’s thread induction of Johnny Hunt into the Arminian Hall of Fame (along with every other example of of the “debate”) is the similarity of methodology by both parties in the Calvinism “debate” .

Note this: in what follows Mr. Wright does not address the well prepared critiques of Johnny Hunt’s statements that have been produced on the web. He has not addressed Hunt’s implicitly Universalistic and Pelagian statements. He has not chosen to consult Google and respond to something he sees there. He has not chosen to defend Hunt’s nomination for presidential candidacy in the SBC. Rather, he introduces something that was, in fact, absent from the articles mentioned.

However, as much as both agree regarding tactics they are equally blind to the similarities. For example:

Unhelpful Labeling
Calvinist: Armininan
Non-Calvinist: Semi-Presbyterian

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with being called “Semi-Presbyterian,” though I believe the term is irrelevant to the debate. “Arminian” is a much more specific and relevant term. 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. It is much more specific and relevant to this discussion.

Perhaps Wright is among those who believe the term “Arminian” is too specific of a term to be applied to non-Calvinists. Generally, I use the terms “Libertarian” or “synergist” when referring to someone who opposes the doctrines of grace. But Libertarianism and syngerism are simply the basic tenets of of a more specific soteriological system, Arminianism. Non-Calvinists might object with the statement, “Well, I certainly do not agree with everything that Arminius taught or believed.” But that is not what “Arminian” means, any more than the notion that a Calvinist is someone who affirms “everything that Calvin taught or believed.” Rather, a Calvinists affirms the basic tenet of Calvinism, that is, monergism, and an Arminian is someone who affirms the basic tenet of Arminianism, that is, synergism.

Vitrolic Hyperbole
Calvinist: “Remember Calvinism is just a nickname for the true gospel.”
Non-Calvinist: “Five Point Calvinism is a VIRUS.”

I don’t see how either of these are “Vitriolic Hyperbole,” coming from either perspective. If Calvinism is true, then it is indeed the true gospel. If it is false, then it is indeed a “virus,” or worse. Does Mr. Wright have a problem with such absolute statements?

Furthermore, how does Wright believe he is helping “the debate” here? What does he want? Does he want Calvinists who affirm Calvinism to be true to allow for its negation to be equally true, or for non-Calvinists who disagree with Calvinism to allow for it to be equally true with their beliefs? Does Wright really want us to take two conflicting gospels, and call them both the same true gospel?

Faulty Evangelism
Calvinist: You don’t care about legitimate conversions, only numbers.
Non-Calvinist: You don’t care about evangelism, period.

Where’s Wright getting this material? Is he getting it from the Gadfly post or the Founders blog?

Reformed scholarship is known for sticking with the issues. It loves exegesis. It loves to engage in scholarly argumentation. Experientially speaking, the same cannot generally be said for those who oppose the doctrines of grace.

But would Mr. Wright like us to pull out the baptism statistics in these churches? Would he like us to script the ratio of baptisms per a member?

Faulty Icon(s) (the names are taken from the thread but others could be substituted)
Calvinist: Johnny Hunt is anti-calvinist. Watch out. Look to a godly man like John Piper, can’t imagine any one having a problem with him.
Non-Calvinist: John Piper is a hyper Calvinist. Watch out. Look to a Godly man like Johnny Hunt, can’t imagine anyone having a problem with him.

Did you notice Wright’s slight of hand? He parallels “Johnny Hunt is an anti-Calvinist” with “John Piper is a hyper Calvinist.” But shouldn’t he rather parallel it with “John Piper is an anti-Arminian“? Why the sudden switch? 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.

Calvinist: Dang it, we are not fatalistic, deterministic, or unevangelistic. However, if you aren’t a Calvinist you are an Arminian.
Non-Calvinist: Dang it, we are not Arminians. However, Calvinists are fatalistic, deterministic, and unevangelistic.

Once again, a false parallel. All non-Calvinists affirm the basic tenets of Arminianism. 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?

Cheap Potshots in Public Places
Calvinist: I’m going to put Johnny Hunt in the Arminian Hall of Fame
Non-Calvinist: Well, I just hope no one gets saved that’s not supposed to.

Wright ignores Johnny Hunt’s clearly Universalistic and Pelagian statements, as well as his outspoken attack upon the doctrines of grace. It is also interesting that the statement on the part of the “non-Calvinist” here is a direct quote from Johnny Hunt. Does Wright believe that it is wrong to hold people accountable for what they say to the church?

And you know what? Both sides justify their methods with
(A) They did it first.
(B) They did it worse.

I don’t see these “methods” at the Gadfly or at Founder’s, nor do I see this type of justification for such a method.

All the while they are pulling from the same bag of tricks and launching the same weapons from opposite corners of the ring at fellow believers.

It isn’t a solution but a lot of this could change if we saw the issue from this perspective. Add to it that the debate over Calvinism isn’t simple, easily reducible, or without room for disagreement between truly Orthodox (and well thought out, for that matter) positions.

I agree with Wright that this is not where the discussion should lead. I would love to sit down and discuss John 6 with Johnny Hunt. But I seriously doubt that Mr. Hunt would allow that to be the dominating topic of the conversation. Rather, based upon past evidence, it is most probable that Hunt would simply be throwing the same misrepresentations and strawmen at Reformed theology that we see here.

Evan May.

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