Monday, June 19, 2006

Book Review: The Trouble With TULIP

Jeff Riddle, pastor of the good Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, VA, has been very kind to allow us to print his book review of the new SBC President’s book. Let me preface this by saying that this is in no way an attack on Frank Page. I think he will make a very fine SBC President. However, I did see that his book has been put back into print now (for obvious reasons), and many copies were on display at the Lifeway exhibition @ the Convention last week. Since we’re probably going to be hearing more about this book, consider this a preemptive review. I’m sure that, if our friends at Baptist Fire were still with us, they would be promoting this book anyway.

Frank S. Page’s Trouble With The TULIP: An Extended Review and Response

Frank S. Page. Trouble With The TULIP: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism. Canton, Ga.: Riverstone Publishing Group, 2000: 80 pp.

Frank Page wrote this booklet while serving as Pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia. He now serves as Pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina and will stand as a candidate for President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006. Page holds a doctor of Philosophy degree in Christian Ethics from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The aim of this booklet is to express opposition to the theological system known as five point Calvinism, often referred to by the acronym TULIP (Total Depravity-Unconditional Election-Limited Atonement-Irresistible Grace-Perseverance of the Saints). Though Page’s tone is more irenic than some who have opposed the doctrines of grace in recent years, it is still plagued by many of the same maladies that seem to inflict those who decide they are “against” Calvinism. We will first present a summary of the booklet’s content and then offer a chapter by chapter response.

Summary of Content

The booklet’s content consists of six brief chapters. In chapter one (Introduction), Page notes that he does not set out merely “to disprove the philosophical system of Calvinism” but “look to God’s Word for his His clear teaching” (7). Chapter two (A Brief History) begins with this line: “The New Testament church taught that Jesus Christ died for all people” (11). Page further asserts: “There was no question in the hearts of the New Testament church as to the God-given ability of all persons to respond to God’s invitation” (12). From Page’s perspective, the early church knew only the preaching of universal atonement and free will decisionistic evangelism. As the years passed, “the church of Jesus Christ began to develop different thought systems or theologies about various issues” (12). He gives brief mention here to the conflicts between Augustine and Pelagius and the later conflict between the followers of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius over the doctrine of salvation. From Page’s perspective, then, the development of Reformed theology was a deviation from the pristine kerygma of the early church.

In chapter three (A Description of Positions) Page provides his outline of the five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism. As we shall see below, there are some serious misunderstandings and misrepresentations of these theological systems in this brief section. He then proceeds to present, as an alternative to both Calvinism and Arminianism, what he calls, “Five Points of Scriptural Soteriology (Theology of Salvation)” using the acronym GRACE:

G-Given through Christ (election)
R-Rejected through rebellion (resistible grace)
A-Accepted through faith (freedom of the will)
C-Christ died for all (unlimited atonement)
E-Everlasting life=security of the believer (perseverance of the Saints)

In contrast to Calvinism and Arminianism, Page sees his view alone as “a scriptural understanding” (31).

Chapter four (The Call for a Scripturally-Based Understanding of Salvation) appeals to “the massive number of simple, obvious scriptures which teach the true nature of salvation” as Page understands it (39). He accuses Calvinism of presenting God as “cruel and unloving” (40). He also states that “the issue of free will is at the very heart of the matter” (43). Page also argues that predestination in the Bible does not refer to God’s predestination of individuals for salvation but of God’s predestination of Jesus Christ as the means of achieving salvation for all those who will believe: “In other words, He did indeed predestine the how of redemption, not the who!” (45).

In chapter five (The Scriptural Definition of Key Words) the author offers his definition of three key terms in the debate: predestination, election, and foreknowledge. In Page’s system “Predestination is a divine act of the Lord whereby He makes redemption or adoption certain for the believer” (56). He pleads: “”Please know that God never predestined a person to hell and desires to save every person” (55). Election is not God’s choice of individuals for salvation but of the church corporately. With regard to foreknowledge, Page notes that just because God knows the future does not mean that he determines it. He chides “those who have gone to an extreme belief in Calvinism” adopting a belief that God “is totally responsible for all that does take place” (68).

Finally in chapter six (Conclusion) Page closes his argument by warning that with the resurgence of Calvinism “many people are falling into a trap set long ago” (73). Calvinists are adhering “to the teachings of one person” and accepting “a manmade system of logic” (73). He further warns that Calvinism dulls urgency in evangelism, noting: “If one studies the pages of history, one will see that Calvinistic theology (Five Point) has encouraged a slackening of the aggressive evangelistic and missionary heartbeat of the church” (75). In those who embrace Calvinism zeal for evangelism “is replaced by a cold, logical, haughty spirit” (75).

As an aside we might note that there are several errors of citation and spelling in the book. For example, the Reformed theologian William Shedd’s name is misspelled as “Shed” (pp. 9, 77) and Duane Spencer is referred to as “Dwayne” Spencer (pp. 21, 78). If the book is ever reprinted one would hope that these errors would be corrected.

Response to Page’s Objections

It is hard to know exactly where to begin in response to Page’s objections to Calvinism. This booklet is written on a popular level, so it cannot be faulted for failure to cover extensive ground in exegesis and analysis. There are, however, some gaping difficulties and alarming misrepresentations in this presentation. Perhaps it will be best to address these issues chapter by chapter:

Chapter one: Introduction.

There is an initial glaring difficulty in Page’s presentation. Namely, he assumes that while Calvinism is primarily a man-made philosophical system, his view is uniquely Biblical. The problem is that no Calvinist I am aware of is committed to “Calvinism” merely because John Calvin believed it. No. They are committed to it, because they believe it is what the Bible teaches. The issue is not what John Calvin wrote about the sovereignty of God in salvation but what Isaiah and Paul (and the other Biblical authors) wrote about it. The clarion call of the Reformers was Sola Scriptura! We can commend men like Augustine, Luther, and Calvin when their teaching is in line with what Scripture teaches. We Baptists, for example, do not agree with Calvin’s understanding of baptism and church government. We may, however, agree with him when he agrees with Scripture. The primary question is not, “What did Calvin teach about salvation?” but “What does the Bible teach about salvation?” This booklet offers very little quotation or interaction, much less detailed exegesis, of Scripture.

It is more than a little simplistic and presumptuous, and possibly either naïve or arrogant, for Page to imply that his perspective alone is the Biblical one. The very heart of the issue is indeed how one is to rightly divide the word of truth in those Scriptures which address salvation. Page also seems oblivious to the possibility that his own reading of the Bible, in the area of his understanding of the concept of “free will,” for example, might be colored by “man-made,” humanistic, Enlightenment philosophy.

Chapter two: A Brief History.

Again, this booklet does not presume to present an exhaustive sketch of church history and should not be merely criticized for its lack of detail. There is, however, a more critical problem with its content and the way in which the author perceives the flow of historical theology. Page assumes that the early church held to Arminian (synergistic) theology and that Calvinism (monergism) was a deformation of Christian teaching. As above, however, we must respond that what the Bible teaches (and the first Christians preached) is the very heart of the matter. What did Paul and the early apostles teach about salvation? What did they teach about human sin? What did they teach about the atonement? Did they teach that salvation was an act of divine-human cooperation (synergism) or an act of God alone (monergism)?

Page begins this chapter by citing the response to Peter’s preaching at Pentecost when men’s hearts were moved by the preaching of the gospel, and they asked, “What shall we do?” Page writes, “At this point, Peter did not tell them that there was nothing they could do, for salvation was simply a sovereign act of a sovereign God!” (11). Page cites this passage as if it cinches his argument. He implies that Calvinists do not believe that men must respond to the gospel. Again, this is not true of any Calvinists that I know.

The real question in Acts 2 is, “What initially moved the hearts of those men to believe in Jesus?” The Calvinist says that their hearts were moved, because God regenerated them. It is his work alone, and he gets all the glory for it. Regeneration precedes faith. They were born again. This is consistent with the descriptions of salvation we find elsewhere in Scripture. For example, later in Acts, we read this account of the conversion of Lydia: “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (16:14).

We know that the early church quickly moved away from many Biblical teachings. We can take the practice of church government as an example. In the writing of the Ignatius we find that within a few generations the early church had developed the practice of monarchical bishops (episkopoi) rather than seeing the bishop (episkopos) as the pastor of a local flock as in 1 Timothy 3. [1] We can also see how the post-apostolic church drifted away from core Biblical teachings on salvation.

The very heart of the Protestant Reformation was, in fact, the conviction that the church had departed from a Scriptural understanding of the doctrine of salvation. This included a rediscovery of the Biblical understanding of salvation as the work of God alone (monergism), rather than the Roman Catholic notion of salvation as the result of divine-human cooperation (synergism).

Page suggests the following historical scheme:

  • Biblical Christianity and early church (preach salvation as synergism)
  • Post-apostolic Christianity (Augustine introduces monergism)
  • Reformation (corrupted by fully embracing monergism)
  • Modern evangelicals (either reclaim synergism or follow corrupted monergistic views of Reformers).

I would, however, suggest this contrasting scheme:

  • Biblical Christianity and early church (preach salvation as monergism)
  • Post-apostolic Christianity (corrupted by introduction of synergism)
  • Reformation (reclaims monergism)
  • Modern evangelicals (either corrupted by return to synergism or fully embrace monergistic views of Reformers and Bible).

Again, what really matters is not who teaches the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation but whether or not the Bible teaches this as truth.

There are other points we might take issue with in this chapter. For example, near the end Page addresses those who love to point out that Charles H. Spurgeon was “an ardent Calvinist” (19). He comments:

While it is true that Spurgeon was indeed a strong believer in the sovereign grace and salvation of God, it also needs to be pointed out that he had serious opposition to both the belief and practice of “hyper-Calvinism” (19).

He then makes a confusing reference to “hyper-Calvinism” as “extreme, five point Calvinism” (19). The implication is that any who embrace the traditional five points of Calvinism (TULIP) are necessarily “hyper-Calvinists.” He also implies that Spurgeon was not a five point Calvinist. This is a glaring error on two fronts. First, Spurgeon was indeed a five point Calvinist. For evidence of this one needs only examine the text of the Bible Conference titled “Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace” held on April 11, 1861 at Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle Church. In the opening remarks at this conference, Pastor Spurgeon explained his commitment to “Calvinism” merely as Biblical theology:

It may happen this afternoon that the term “Calvinism” may be frequently used. Let it not be misunderstood, we only use the term for shortness. That doctrine which is called “Calvinism” did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth. Perhaps Calvin himself derived it mainly from the writings of Augustine. Augustine obtained these views, without doubt, through the Spirit of God, from the diligent study of the writings of Paul, and Paul received them from the Holy Ghost, from Jesus Christ the great founder of the Christian dispensation. We use the term, then, not because we impute any extraordinary importance to Calvin’s having taught these doctrines. We would be just as willing to call them by any other name, if we could find one which would be better understood, and which on the whole would be as consistent with fact. [2]

Among Spurgeon’s first words in the pulpit as Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle was the declaration: “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist.” Second, one may, as Spurgeon did, affirm the doctrines of grace (TULIP) without lapsing into hyper-Calvinism. Page does not grasp the distinction between a consistent evangelical Calvinist like Spurgeon and the hyper-Calvinists who frequently criticized the evangelistic preaching of Spurgeon. [3]

Chapter three: A Description Of Positions.

As noted above, Page’s outline of the doctrines of grace reveals several serious misunderstandings and mischaracterizations of evangelical Calvinism. We will point to two areas of concern.

First, in his discussion of total depravity, Page states, “Calvin believed that in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve fell into sin, the image of God in human beings was totally destroyed making man wholly and irrevocably corrupt in this life and incapable of any act or word or thought untainted by that corruption” (21). In Calvin’s Institutes, however, we read the words of the Reformer himself: “Therefore, even though we grant that God’s image was not totally annihilated and destroyed in him, yet is was so corrupted that whatever remains is frightful deformity.” [4] Most Reformed theologians understand “total depravity” to refer to “radical depravity.” The idea is not that we are sub-human but that no area of our lives escapes the impact of sin. Again, what really matters is not what Calvin says about sin but what Scripture says. The Bible teaches that we are sinners from the first moments of life and before we commit any actual transgressions (see Ps 51:5; 58:3). As Jeremiah said: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer 13:23). Calvinists would affirm the saying: “We are not sinners, because we sin; we sin, because we are sinners.”

A second misrepresentation occurs in Page’s description of unconditional election. He says: “Simply put, this belief means that God has unconditionally chosen some to be saved and some to be lost” (22). The idea is that God arbitrarily decides for some to be saved and some to be damned. The view that Page describes as typical of all Calvinists is that known as “double predestination.” Calvinists have, indeed, long debated the merits of this position. Double predestination would not, however, be the de facto position of all Calvinists. Instead of the scenario Page proposes, perhaps it is better not to understand God as arbitrarily assigning all men to one of two categories but, instead, to consider that all men are in the same category. All are sinners. All are deserving of his wrath. God would be justified to condemn every sinner to hell for eternity. This is not, however, what he chooses to do. In his great mercy, he chooses to save some. Why does he not save all? We do not know, but we trust that the Lord of all the earth will do right.

This latter view, and not double-predestination, is, in fact, the one present in the Calvinistic Baptist Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 (Article 3. God’s Decrees):

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace. Others are left to act in their sin to their just condemnation. [5]

This view of election which speaks positively of God actively choosing some sinners (the elect) while passively leaving other sinners (the reprobate) in their sin is also the view expressed in Spurgeon’s catechism:

Question 19: Did God leave all mankind to perish in the state of sin and misery?

Answer: God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer. [6]

It is certainly unfair to imply, as Page does, that all Calvinists would affirm double predestination.

When it comes to presenting his alternative acronym GRACE, Page begins by citing Titus 2:11-14, focusing on the statement, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Again, he offers no compelling exegesis but assumes that this passage refers to a universal “enabling grace” (28). He never explains, for example, why this verse could not be used in a similar vein to argue for universal salvation. In truth, Page’s GRACE is basic Arminian theology. Once again, Page misrepresents the Calvinistic views of election. After citing Jesus’s agonizing over his rejection by the people in John 5:40, Page asks: “Did he not realize, according to Calvinists, that people cannot refuse to come to Christ? Did he not know that if people are non-elect, they cannot reject, for they cannot decide?” (30). This verse, in truth, in no way contradicts Calvinism. All men reject Jesus. They love darkness rather than light (John 3:19). It is not that the “non-elect” (Page’s term and not one generally used by Calvinists) “cannot reject” or “cannot decide.” Rather, they have rejected Jesus and they have decided not to seek him, until and unless, by God’s grace, he opens their blinded eyes and softens their hard hearts and unstops their deaf ears.

Page’s GRACE is not an alternative between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is Arminianism, with the exception that Page wants to hold onto a shrunken form of perseverance of the saints which he calls “eternal security” (34). He is a one point Calvinist or a four point Arminian. The only problem is that one cannot logically hold onto any less than all five points in either system and be consistent. If one holds that all believers persevere in the faith, then one must believe that God holds them in the faith. Would Page not object that this could potentially violate the sovereign will of man? The Calvinist (and the Arminian) are, at the least, consistent. Page’s hybrid is not a Biblically and logically coherent system.

Chapter four: The Call For A Scripturally-based Understanding Of Salvation.

Page begins by discussing what Calvinism means for our understanding of the nature of God. He accuses Calvinists of having “pushed aside God’s love for an emphasis upon God’s sovereignty” (40). Again, he charges Calvinism with presenting a cruel and unloving God. If we are not careful, Page says, we can place an “overemphasis on sovereignty issues” (40).

In response, we might first note that Page says nothing in this booklet about either the holiness or righteousness of God. Surely these attributes are as significant as God’s love. In fact, we cannot fully understand God’s love for the righteousness apart from his hatred of unrighteousness. Second, we might ask if it is ever possible to over-emphasize God’s sovereignty. The Lord does not seem worried about that when he reveals his awesome power to Job in the whirlwind (Job 38-41) or when Isaiah writes of his majesty in Isaiah 40. Consider also the words of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4:34b-35:

34b For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

The problem in Scripture seems never to be that men will think too much of God’s sovereignty but too little.

Moving on to discuss “free will” Page seems to imply that this is a concept which Calvinists reject altogether. The problem is not that Calvinists deny the free will of man; rather they insist that man’s will is in bondage to sin. This is the point made by Luther against the humanist scholar Erasmus in his classic The Bondage of the Will. Again, the Baptist Confession of 1689 addresses this issue (in article 9. Free Will). It states that “God has indued the will of man, by nature, with liberty and the power to choose and act upon his choice.” It continues to state that, “Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but he was unstable, so that he might fall from this condition.” In the fall, man “has completely lost all ability of will to perform any spiritual good that accompanies salvation.” It continues to state that “He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.” Finally, however, it states that once God converts a man, “He frees him from his natural bondage to sin, and by grace alone He enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.” In the Calvinistic view, God does not, as Page says, “violate man’s free will” and “make him less than a person” or treat him as “only a puppet dangled on the string of fate” (43) but restores that which man has destroyed by his willful sin against God.

Finally we come to Page’s radical redefinition of the Biblical concept of “predestination.” In Page’s view predestination does not refer to God’s sovereign choice of the elect but of his choice of Jesus as the means by which the “elect” will be saved. In doing so he makes broad reference to “Ephesians 1-2” with no sustained exegesis. One must surmise he avoids exegesis of this passage, because it in no way supports his argument.

Let us listen to the plain message of Ephesians 1. Paul does not write a generic letter to any potential hearers, but he writes specifically “to the saints who are in Ephesus” (1:1). To these he writes:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

Note, Paul says that God “chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world” (v. 3). He does not say he predestined a plan or that he predestined the sending of the Messiah, but he “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.” This is the same God who has every one of our days written in his book before one of them comes to be (Ps 139:16) and who numbers each hair on our heads (Matt 10:30). This is the same God of whom the Proverbs say, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Prov 16:9).

In the end, like many who reject God’s sovereignty in salvation, Page wants to have his cake and eat it too. On one hand, he says that God’s choice in salvation is dependent on the free will of man, thus making man’s will sovereign over the free will of God. On the other hand, however, Page says that “salvation is the act of a sovereign God” noting that regeneration is “a change of heart that is begun by the Holy Spirit through the conviction of sin” (48). If this is true, then salvation depends on God and not man. Page’s view is inconsistent.

Chapter five: The Scriptural Definition Of Key Words.

We have already refuted Page’s redefinition of the “predestination.” We will turn our attention now to his redefinition of election and foreknowledge. First, with election, as with predestination, Page wants to shift the focus from the precise, particular, and specific to the general and generic. The image of election in the Bible, according to Page, is “more that of corporate than of individual selection” (67). Not surprisingly, Page labels Romans 9-11 as among “the most misunderstood passages regarding election” (64). When Paul writes in Romans 9:13, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated,” Page explains: “This does not refer to individual persons (Jacob and Esau), but to the nations they represent” (66).

In response, we must challenge the assertion that election refers only generically to the church as a corporate body rather than the particular individuals who make up the church. The concept of “corporate” election runs counter to God’s personal and individual concern for humanity. We have already cited Psalm 139:16 with its emphasis on God’s intimate knowledge of each individual human being: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.” With regard to salvation we should recall the image of the Lamb’s book of life where the names of the redeemed are written “from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8; 17:18; 20:15; 21:27). We might also compare the conversion and call of Paul when the Lord refers to him as a “chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15). God’s purpose in election is not merely for the church as a theoretical concept, but it is personal and particular for each individual constituent member of that body.

Page’s understanding of foreknowledge is essentially Arminian in that he affirms God’s exhaustive knowledge of all things while denying that God has sovereignly decreed the things that take place. Calvinism, he claims, has “gone to an extreme belief” that God is “totally responsible for all that does take place” (68). Again, Page prefers the Arminian option when he states: “The fact of God’s foreknowledge admits that He is certain of all that will take place, but His foreknowledge does not determine what will take place” (68).

Page applies this understanding of divine foreknowledge, as do other Arminians, to Romans 8:29’s assertion that those whom God “foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” As a long line of Calvinist exegetes have explained, however, the concept of “foreknowledge” here does not refer to prior knowledge of future events, but it is the language of intimate relationship. Even as in the Old Testament “knowledge” is used as a euphemism for the sexual union in marriage, so here in Romans 8:29 when Paul says that God foreknew those who would be saved, he means that God shared with them an intimate relationship in Christ.

God’s exhaustive foreknowledge does not negate his decrees. Those who insist on the Arminian understanding of foreknowledge must explain why it is better to affirm that God knows what will happen but chooses not to intercede to thwart evil occurrences, versus the Calvinistic view which affirms that all things that happen are in accord with God’s will, while trusting a sovereign God to work all things together for good (Rom 8:28).

Again, we would do well to learn from our Particular Baptist forebears who pondered the mysteries of God’s knowledge and decrees in their confessional statements. The 1689 Baptist Confession states that God has decreed “all things which shall ever come to pass,” but he does so in such a way that he is never “the author of sin.” The Confession continues: “Although God knows everything which may or can come to pass under all imaginable conditions, yet He has not decreed anything because He foresaw it in the future, or because it would come to pass under certain conditions.”

Chapter six: Conclusion.

As already noted, we reject Page’s claims here that Calvinism is some kind of “manmade system of logic” that Reformed men follow because John Calvin taught it. No. Calvinism is to be affirmed only to the degree that is agrees with the witness of Scripture. No one who has ever read the radically God-centered writings of John Calvin would ever wish to give more honor to Calvin than to the Lord of the Bible whom he worshipped.

As to the claim that Calvinism blunts evangelistic zeal, this is a charge often raised against Calvinism. In truth, some hyper-Calvinists in the Primitive or Hardshell Baptist tradition have been anti-missions. So, too, in practice have been many who hold to Arminian theology. On the other hand, evangelical Calvinists have proven to the most passionate, zealous, ardent, and effective preachers of the gospel the world has ever known. William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, was a convinced Calvinist. So too was Jonathan Edwards the colonial preacher used of God to stir the first Great Awakening in America. We have already made mention of Charles H. Spurgeon, the prince of preachers. In modern times we might mention men like Martin Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, D. James Kennedy, R. C. Sproul, and John MacArthur. All are committed five point Calvinists. The charge that Calvinism blunts a zeal for evangelism is off base. What Calvinism brings to the table is a passionate concern for the gospel and a confidence in the power of God to move in the hearts of unconverted men when the gospel is rightly preached. This is a quality that does not need to be condemned in this age but affirmed and promoted.

Page is aware that Calvinism is in resurgence in both the wider evangelical world and among Southern Baptists in particular. His booklet is meant to oppose this movement, but it does not in the end offer a compelling refutation of Calvinism. In fact, at many points, Page appears to misunderstand and even misrepresent evangelical Calvinism. He implies, for example, that all who affirm the doctrines of grace are hyper-Calvinists. This simply is not true. The booklet also suffers from a neglect of careful exegesis of Scripture. Though he tries to present his ideas as a hybrid of Calvinism and Arminianism, Page’s views are essentially identical with the latter. At one point, he states, “I would like to challenge all who truly believe in five point Calvinism to stop being closet Calvinists! If you truly believe these doctrines, then let others know about it. They need to know what you believe” (42). On this I can agree with Dr. Page. It is my conviction that confessional Calvinism can withstand the scrutiny of both Scripture and reason. It is the very tonic needed in many of our churches and pulpits suffering from the sickness of doctrinal superficiality. Yes, if this is what you believe do not be afraid to preach it.

1. See the epistles of Ignatius in Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I, in the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1912): 165-277. [back to main text]

2. Available online at [back to main text]

3. See Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon and Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1995). [back to main text]

4. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, Ed. John T. McNeil (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press): 189. [back to main text]

5. From Peter Masters, The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, Updated English with Notes (London: The Wakeman Trust, 1981). Emphasis added. All citations of this confession which follow are from this version. [back to main text]

6. Based on the Westminster Catechism, Spurgeon edited and reprinted this catechism in 1855 for use in his congregation. Emphasis added. [back to main text]

Jeffrey T. Riddle
Pastor, Jefferson Park Baptist Church

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