Friday, May 30, 2014

"Troubling trends"

Arminians have seized on this article by Merritt:

Of course, Arminians don't see themselves in any of this. It's always the other who suffers from these defects.

i) I'm unpersuaded by the oft-cited distinction between "new Calvinists" and old Calvinists. For instance, what does it even mean to classify Piper, a huge fan of Jonathan Edwards, as a neo-Calvinist? 

ii) There's an obvious point of tension between Merritt's accusation that the new Calvinists are "isolationists" and his contention that more vocal and visible strain that has risen to prominence in recent years. They’ve been called the “young, restless, and reformed” or neo-Calvinists, and they are highly mobilized and increasingly influential.

iii) The new Calvinists often engage those outside their tradition. They are frequently polemical in that regard. Indeed, Merritt says that under "egotism." So that's another inconsistency on his indictment.

iv) The charge of "tribalism" posits a false comparison. For other groups are just as tribalistic. Arminians are tribalistic. Lutherans are tribalistic. Charismatics are tribalistic. Environmentalists are tribalistic. Darwinians are tribalistic. And so on and so forth. 

v) The charge of egotism reflects the false modesty of critics who refuse to acknowledge their own dogmaticism and intolerance. 

vi) Within the same section, he simultaneously accuses Calvinists of ousting Tullian Tchividjian and "closing ranks" or  “sweeping under the rug when it comes to insiders."

But both those allegations can't be equally true, for they tug in opposing directions. 

Same thing with the ousting of Bruce Waltke. Merritt pounces on that example, but how does that illustrate Calvinists closing ranks? Isn't that Spring cleaning rather than sweeping under the rug?

vii) He makes the absurd allegation that as the ego inflates, the body rises and one begins to speak from above rather than from across. This is often seen in the way neo-Calvinists speak as if they are the arbiters of the term “gospel.” Search the term “gospel” on the web site of the Reformed publisher Crossway and you’ll see what I mean. 

How would that be any different that if we went to the website of a Lutheran publisher like Concordia? Or a Baptist publisher like B&H? Or an Arminian publisher like Seedbed? 

viii) Merritt alleges that:

Because Tim Keller has become something of a prize hen for Calvinists—New York Magazine called him “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city”—you won’t likely hear other neo-Calvinists mention Keller’s views. Tribalists attempt to “clean house” when it comes to outsiders but “sweep under the rug” when it comes to insiders.
As Roger Olson, Baylor University professor and author of “Against Calvinism“, told me, “[Neo-Calvinist's are] a tribe, and they’ve closed ranks. Somehow they’ve formed a mentality that they have to support each other because they are a minority on a crusade. Any criticism hurts the cause. I’ve seen the same thing among feminists and black theologians.”
Olson says that when he speaks to Calvinist leaders, they will often critique the movement and its other leaders in private, but never in public. My experience has been identical.
“There is a fundamentalist ethos in [neo-Calvinism],” Olson says. “You get pats on the back and merits for criticizing outsiders, but not for criticizing insiders. There is a system where if you are young coming up in the ranks, you get points for criticizing or exposing those outside the movement but it’s not your place to criticize those who are above you in the movement itself.” 

That's demonstrably false. Keller is the target of relentless criticism within the Reformed community. For instance:

ix) Notice how often Merritt quotes Olson in his article, as if Olson is an impartial critic of Calvinism. Likewise, he quotes Scot McKnight, another prominent Arminian apologist. All this proves is that Arminians disapprove of Calvinism. 

Merritt's article is just an incoherent hatchet-job to disguise his leftwing agenda. 

1 comment:

  1. Here's an actual "troubling trend", but somehow I don't expect the SEA to pick up any articles by Merritt on this topic. Unless of course it turns out that Calvinism is somehow involved, then it will all be very nefarious indeed...