Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 4

Read the series so far.

The Calvinism/Arminianism debate considers three essential issues: (1) The degree of God’s activity in human salvation, (2) the degree of human culpability, and (3) the degree of human activity in salvation. Historically Calvin placed strongest emphasis on God’s activity in salvation, whereas Arminius tended towards emphasizing human volition over God’s volition. Ultimately the two theological traditions are trying to resolve the apparent conflict between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, and they both attempt resolution by means of extra-biblical rationalistic constructs. I suggest it is due to the artificial nature of these arguments that there has been no historical resolution to the debate. Because the base of authority for both sides is subjective (rationalistic theology) rather than objective (exegesis), neither side can, in my estimation, claim the full authority of Scripture. Hence, the longstanding and unresolved debate.

In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul expresses his desire that the Corinthians “learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” In order to maintain the proper humility (and to ensure the highest degree of accuracy), it is best when dealing with the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1) not to expand their definitions beyond what God has revealed. This is an important principle broadly applicable throughout the Christian life, and certainly in resolving any theological difficulty.

Therefore, preferring an exegetical approach to a strictly rationalistic one, I am willing to endure some uncertainly in theological conclusions insofar as the Bible does not address certain details, rather than to build a theological construct that answers every detailed inquiry but which is not grounded on the certainty of revelation. In other words, where the Bible is silent, I prefer to be silent rather than trying to extrapolate a theological system that can’t be exegetically defended. Still we are left with the question: if neither Calvinism nor Arminianism is sufficient explanatory devices, then how can we explain the biblical data? Answering that question is the task of parts 4 and 5 in this series. A simple series of biblical assertions is sufficient to accomplish that task.

  • Assertions #1 and #2 provide foundational data to address the questions.
  • Assertion #3 answers the Calvinistic concept of total depravity.
  • Assertion #4 answers the Calvinistic concept of unconditional election and the Arminian concept of conditional predestination.
  • Assertion #5 answers the Calvinistic concept of limited atonement and the Arminian concepts of universal atonement and saving faith.
  • Assertion #6 answers the Calvinistic concepts of irresistible grace and perseverance of saints, and the Arminian concepts of resistible grace and uncertainty of perseverance.
  • Assertion #7 answers the rationalistic premise underlying the entire Calvinism/Arminianism debate.

#1 The Biblical God Exists, and He is Holy

  • In the beginning God… (Genesis 1:1)
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)
  • and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:3)
  • Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last…And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:11, 16)
  • “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
  • “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” (Revelation 4:7)

#2 He Has Revealed Himself Authoritatively

  • Then God said … (Genesis 1:3)
  • that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
  • God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  • No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten one (monogenes) who is God, in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18)
  • All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
  • 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. 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.” (Romans 1:16-17)

#3 He Has Described the Human Condition as Universally Fallen

The descendants of Adam did not choose to be born, and yet we are all held accountable for his sin—we are all condemned. The human condition was not chosen by anyone after Adam, yet we prove we are in Adam’s likeness and image by adding our own sin.

  • for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:17)
  • she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
  • When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image… (Genesis 5:3)
  • Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
  • through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…by the transgression of the one the many died…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men… (Romans 5:12, 15, 18)
  • For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
  • both Jews and Greeks are all under sin… as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” (Romans 3:9-12)

(Next, Assertions 4-7)

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate Dr. Cone's work on this topic and have benefited from looking at the issue from this angle.

But there are difficulties involved in trying to distinguish "exegetical" from "rational" (in the sense of "arrived at by use of reason").

  1. Even some of Chris' assertions are supported by inferences from the texts involved.
  2. Did God intend us to limit our study of theology/theological conclusions to direct statements or are we supposed to include inferences?
  3. If inferences are properly included, should we try to limit them to logically necessary inferences only? ('necessary' in logic-world=a conclusion that cannot be false if the premises are true)
  4. If so, is it even possible to consistently distinguish between necessary inferences and more complex ones? And...
  5. If necessary inferences can be asserted with authority and dogmatism, why not necessary inferences from necessary inferences, etc.?

Personally I don't see how we can or should avoid thinking our way to additional conclusions based on what God has revealed. But I also can't see how we can claim equal authority for these.

Relevant: series some yrs ago by KBauder on the topic of reasoning from Scripture etc.

Steven Thomas's picture

Ironically, Dr. Cone employs questionable exegesis to promote an exegesis-only approach to theological construction.  The context of 1 Corinthians 4:6 shows that Paul's concerns have nothing to do with "expanding definitions" of the "mysteries of God beyond what God has revealed."  Rather, he employs what appears to be a well-known proverb to forbid judgment of another's motives.

Steven Thomas

JohnBrian's picture

Quote:
...the base of authority for both sides is subjective (rationalistic theology) rather than objective (exegesis), neither side can, in my estimation, claim the full authority of Scripture. Hence, the longstanding and unresolved debate.

I disagree.

All of the Calvinists I know affirm that it is exegesis that leads them to Calvinism. The base of authority is the text of scripture. My former pastor frequently repeated the phrase "what does the text say."

While not directly related to the author's post, I have noticed that when it comes to 2 Peter 3:9, the Calvinist quotes the full verse, whereas the non-Calvinist more frequently quotes only a portion of the verse!

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I have appreciated this series. I am Calvinistic, and I add the "ic" at the end because I don't fit neatly into a Reformed box. However, I cannot help but wonder when I read this: 

I am willing to endure some uncertainly in theological conclusions insofar as the Bible does not address certain details, rather than to build a theological construct that answers every detailed inquiry but which is not grounded on the certainty of revelation.

whether, after the series is over, we have really gotten anywhere. Will we be left with nothing more than an appeal to "mystery?" I hope we get something more than that. The concept of "mystery" can be abused by some men as an excuse for fuzzy thinking. It can also be legitimately used when Scripture isn't clear on something.

However, if we are left hanging in the lurch with an appeal to "mystery," I don't believe we'll have actually solved anything. Everybody who had a good systematic theology professor for soteriology, hamartiology and anthropology knows there is tension in this area. So, in the end, what conclusion will this series leave us with? I'm looking forward to the conclusion and I hope it's helpful. I just hope we go beyond "mystery."

I think Aaron is spot on with his remarks about inferences and conclusions. As an example of what I feel would be an appropriate use of "mystery," we can see the idea of compatibalism in Acts 4:26-28:

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 

Here we see the truth that wicked men made free and intelligent decisions that resulted in Christ's death. We also see that those actions were determined beforehand by God. Thus, based on logical conclusions from the evidence, we see that (1) men are perfectly free to do what they want, but (2) God is even more free, and our freedom is subordinate to His in some way. Thus, the issue of compatibalism.

  • How do man's free will and God's sovereignty work, precisely? At this point it could be appropriate to refer to "mystery" while giving a few amplifying remarks and still more examples from Scripture. The point is that, in a way we may not precisely understand, God's will is apparently above ours. He is the Creator, we are the creatures (see also the comparisons in Isa 10:15).
  • On the other hand, it would be sloppy and wrong to just throw up your hands and retreat behind the bulwarks of "mystery" and deny God's decree and sovereignty in the death of Christ! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yup.  Good observation, John.  That's also true of John 6:37.  I don't how many years went by before I ever heard a preacher quote the whole verse in a sermon, but I heard the last half quoted perhaps hundreds of times.

G. N. Barkman

AndrewSuttles's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

All of the Calvinists I know affirm that it is exegesis that leads them to Calvinism. The base of authority is the text of scripture. My former pastor frequently repeated the phrase "what does the text say."

I must agree.  This type of shallow argumentation will lead many "on the fence" into the Calvinist camp as soon as they take the time to investigate the matter themselves and discover that there is a rich Scriptural heritage in the Calvinist camp.  I understand that one only has so much space on a website article like this, but simply stating that Calvinism is purely rationalistic is silly on the face of it.  I hope truth seeking brothers will dig a little deeper than what Dr. Cone has provided for us here.

AndrewSuttles's picture

Quote:

Because the base of authority for both sides is subjective (rationalistic theology) rather than objective (exegesis), neither side can, in my estimation, claim the full authority of Scripture. Hence, the longstanding and unresolved debate.

I wouldn't claim this for my side and I'm charitable enough not to claim it against the side I oppose.

There are many unresolved debates within the church and these all help us to study more closely and to keep our iron sharp.  This does not mean that the issues is not clear from Scripture, or that certainty is equal with rationalism.  

As an aside, I'd like to posit that there is a continuum of theological positions in this area.  I would like to propose the following and would be eager to receive any correction from those that are better studied.

Continuum of positions on responsibility: Man's Will vs. God's Will

Pelagianism  -->  Semi-Pelagianism  -->  Weslyanism  -->  Arminianism  -->  Calvinism --> Hyper-Calvinism  -->  Fatalism

 

Don Johnson's picture

AndrewSuttles wrote:

As an aside, I'd like to posit that there is a continuum of theological positions in this area.  I would like to propose the following and would be eager to receive any correction from those that are better studied.

Continuum of positions on responsibility: Man's Will vs. God's Will

Pelagianism  -->  Semi-Pelagianism  -->  Weslyanism  -->  Arminianism  -->  Calvinism --> Hyper-Calvinism  -->  Fatalism

Pretty interesting, seems accurate enough to me although some might differ. One of the huge problems in this debate is that when we get frustrated with the other side we resort to name-calling. From my bias, it seems that one side resorts to this sooner than the other, and the terms they like to throw around are "Pelagian," or, if they are in a good mood, "Semi-Pelagian".

Name calling really isn't helpful, it isn't accurate, and it shows that the name-caller has run out of arguments so time to nuke the opposition with the dreaded P word (or the H word on the other side).

P.S. - I think there are also a few labels in between A and C, which are not fully embracing either view.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

AndrewSuttles's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

P.S. - I think there are also a few labels in between A and C, which are not fully embracing either view.

I think an Amyraldian would fit there.  Lutherans would fit in somewhere too.  I'm not sure, but the Dallas Seminary guys like Walvord might be something like Amyraldinism.  I *think* WGT Shedd advocated a view that the Atonement was universal, but redemption (the actual purchase) is particular to the elect (or something like that).

In defense of what you have said, I don't think there are many Semi-Pelagians around (I do know some anabaptists that are semi-pelagian, as was Charles Finney who has influenced untold thousands).  I really think the majority of evangelicals are Weslyan.    I think Calvinists are outmoded (behind the times) when they write against Arminius.  Wesley is the most influencial theologian "in my opinion".

Don Johnson's picture

Something must be wrong!

Yes, I agree with what you are saying. Most of the folks at Southwestern Seminary generally would call themselves Molinists (3 pointers) so there's another "middle" label.

I agree that Finney would be probably at least Semi-Pelagian, but the term is mostly used against Wesleyans, Armianians, Brand X (that's me), and Molinists. On the other hand, we who are not Calvinists are too quick to call five pointers Hyper-Calvinists. We can never have productive conversations, even if we maintain our disagreements, when we start throwing the extreme labels around.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

Name calling really isn't helpful, it isn't accurate, and it shows that the name-caller has run out of arguments

Don, I wonder if it isn't a bit harsh to associate the use of historical and well-defined labels with name-calling. Labels are helpful because they are accurate. They help to shorten arguments because they are shorthand for a set of beliefs.

You are a Baptist. That is a label. When someone calls you a Baptist, you don't think they are calling you names. The same is true in this discussion. The fact that a party to the discussion may not be informed as to the idea behind a label does not make the label inaccurate or unhelpful.

And as a Baptist, you are not in total agreement with everyone else who claims that label. It simply puts you in a camp with respect to certain ideas which may be fleshed out differently. Again, the same is true in this discussion. Being a C or an A or anything else is not a statement of total agreement but of general agreement.

Earlier in this thread we had someone claim to be neither C nor A, and then proceed to identify himself by two beliefs that were clearly Arminian, and perhaps semi-Pelagian in one case. He apparently didn't know that there is a historical name for what he believed. Denying that name does nothing to change anything. A rose by any other name is still a rose.

So IMO, we should be less worried about the use of labels in this discussion because (1) we are not worried about it elsewhere, and (2) they are helpful.

Don Johnson's picture

For example, if I were to try to shut down discussion with you by labeling you a Hyper Calvinist, how would you react?

All too often, many who are Wesleyan, Arminian, or something less "free-willy" than that is called a Semi Pelagian. It isn't true and it isn't right.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

Larry, inaccurate use of labels advances no cause

I agree. Does anyone disagree?

For example, if I were to try to shut down discussion with you by labeling you a Hyper Calvinist, how would you react?

I would say that either you don't know me or you don't know hyper-Calvinism. Either way, that doesn't mean the label doesn't work. It simply means it was wrongly applied. I don't think anyone who has ever heard me talk about it can mistake me for a hyper-Calvinist unless they don't know what a hyper-Calvinist is.

All too often, many who are Wesleyan, Arminian, or something less "free-willy" than that is called a Semi Pelagian. It isn't true and it isn't right.

I agree. But often people who are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian don't know it because they don't know what it means. They take great offense when someone calls them what they are. Again, the point is that the label has a meaning, whether or not someone knows what that meaning is.

Thanks, Don.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Larry if you're going to call a man a heretic at least have the guts and integrity to name the semi-semi-pelagian that you accuse!

I didn't call anyone a heretic. I said someone espoused two views that were at least Arminian, and perhaps semi-Pelagian depending on exactly what was meant. I didn't mention the name because it wasn't important. There was no need to focus the attention on someone when that post had long passed. My post was about the idea that labels are helpful because they have a meaning. Naming the person did not further that point in any way.

Again, note my point: Labels can be helpful because they describe a set of beliefs about something. They are not the same as name-calling.

AndrewSuttles's picture

It might be helpful if we define our terms a bit.

A Pelagian is someone who believes that men are born in a state of spiritual neutrality and must earn salvation through good works.

A Semi-Pelagian is one who believes a person is born in a state of spiritual neutrality, but uses his free will to accept the gospel for salvation.  This person still believes that God offers salvation by grace, but denies that man is born in original sin or in a dead spiritual state. Someone with this view might believe that all babies who die go to heaven because they have no sin.  These folks usually believe that everyone sins because sin is so prevalent in the world, but we are not born sinners.  I believe ana-baptists and a lot of the early 19th Century revivalists held this view.

A Weslyan believes that Christ's atonement removes the stain of original sin so that everyone comes into the world in a state of moral and spiritual neutrality.  I think these folks usually have some sort of 'age of accountability' view of children.  Each person is given the light of nature and the drawing work of the Holy Spirit.  As men cooperate with this drawing work, they are led to salvation.  As men resist this work, they are hardened in their sins.

The Arminian views are similar to the Calvinist, except that he grounds eternal election on God's foreknowledge that those He chooses would accept Christ if they were neutral. 

The Calvinist believes that a man enters the world spiritually dead, and so the gospel is preached to all, but only the enlivening work of the Spirit will enable the man to believe.

I don't have enough experience with hyper-Calvinists to comment on their beliefs.

This is the way I see it (in a nutshell).  Much more could be said.  I've known believers and attended churches that taught most of these.  I think the Weslyan view is the most prevelant in American Evangelicalsim and Fundamentalism (though I'm aware of and have heard some Semi-Pelagians preach). 

I don't think these labels are pejoratives, but some are guilty of being overzealous in their use of labels...

JohnBrian's picture

See the doctrinal statement of the Hyper-C
Gospel Standard Churches in England
and note especially Article's 26 and 29:

Article 26
We deny duty faith and duty repentance – these terms signifying that it is every man’s duty to spiritually and savingly repent and believe.

in direct opposition to Acts 17:30

Article 29
While we believe that the Gospel is to be preached in or proclaimed to all the world, as in Mark 16. 15, we deny offers of grace; that is to say, that the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately to all.

Regular Calvinists MIGHT affirm the rest of their doctrinal statement but would deny both of these.

C's agree with A's that all men everywhere are commanded to repent, but disagree on the ability of natural man to repent.

C's agree with H/C's that natural man lacks the ability to repent but disagree that such lack means he is not required to repent.

When non-C's refer to C's as H/C's it is most often because C's do evangelism differently. I cover that difference in my Preaching and Evangelism article.

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Don Johnson's picture

Larry wrote:

I agree. But often people who are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian don't know it because they don't know what it means. They take great offense when someone calls them what they are. Again, the point is that the label has a meaning, whether or not someone knows what that meaning is.

But the problem is that usually those using Semi-P as an insult are doing so to people who deny the core doctrine of Semi-Pelagianism. It makes me suspect that it is the insulter who doesn't know what the term means, not the insultee.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't think I've met anyone yet that likes being characterized as hyper anything. Usually "hyper" means "in my opinion extreme and promptly dismissable as extreme." 

So on a practical level, I don't care much for it. It's mostly emotive. But avoiding it is difficult because often a more extreme variant of A doesn't have a good name for itself... they just call themselves A (or "true A," "genuine A," "authentic A" etc.) even though there are important differences. The fight between a view and the "hyper" version of the view is often over who can make a rightful claim to being the genuine article.

All of which distracts from looking at the evidence and reasoning and understanding what view is true and in what ways.

As for semi-pelag. etc., similar problems. Once a term gets used pejoratively too much, even folks who might have gladly owned it previously start to take offense. So is there a shorthand for "folks who reject several of Pelagius' points but accept a couple of them, in particular these..." ?

Don Johnson's picture

I don't know anyone who accepts any of Pelagius' theology, especially those who are smeared with his name. If you look at Andrew's "continuum" above, there are clear distinctions that can be identified along the line. Usually, the Semi-P smear is attached to anyone left of Calvin. It's just not right.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

James White famously says any "true" Arminian is an Open Theist! So, anyone to the left of Calvinism is a heretic in his view. To be fair, I think James thinks most "non-Calvinists" are just "in denial Calvinists".

Ron Bean's picture

What are we to call those who say that God would not command men to do something they are incapable of doing?

What are we to call those who say that God, in His grace, has enabled all men capable of repenting and believing?

What are we to call those (like some at a Christian institution) who believe that all children are born innocent with a natural ability to believe?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry's picture

Moderator

But the problem is that usually those using Semi-P as an insult are doing so to people who deny the core doctrine of Semi-Pelagianism. It makes me suspect that it is the insulter who doesn't know what the term means, not the insultee.\

Quickly, I can't comment on that because I don't know enough to say what is in the mind of those who usually use "Semi-P" as an insult, nor have I read many who I think were using it as an insult. Here, I can only speak for myself since I often known what I am thinking, and speaking for myself, I did not use it as an insult.

Here's one statement to which I referred: "What I mean is do I believe men are totally sinful? Yes. Do I believe they are depraved in the way that Calvinist books mean it? Not exactly because I do not think that man is so sinful that he does not respond to the Spirit and Word of God, especially after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Several things led to my statement about being Arminian or possibly semi-Pelagian. If the "man" here is referring to all men without exception, and asserting that all men without exception are morally able to respond, then it sounds like either (1) the Arminian view in which total depravity of all men is met by prevenient grace given to all men without exception which restores the ability to respond (or not) to God, or (2) the semi-Pelagian view in which the affects of Adam's fall are not passed down to all men totally, rather the will is only weakened by sin making man able on his own to cooperate with God's grace in salvation. Perhaps there's a third option, or perhaps his statement is just awkwardly worded and didn't communicate what he really believed. But there is no denial of a core tenet of semi-Pelagianism here. Again, the person is not the issue and so he is not identified by me; the comment is the issue, and my comment is that this person denies being Arminian while embracing at least one and perhaps two of the key defining tenets of Arminianism, or perhaps semi-pelagianism.

I think a lot of people believe things that have historical labels of which they are not aware. So they deny being something primarily because they don't know what the something is that they are denying. And I think a lot of people are perhaps a bit oversensitive about these things. Let's get over ourselves. If you are tagged with a label, then explain why you don't deserve, or if you don't care, then ignore it. But let's not get bent out of shape over it, particularly in these kinds of situations.

 

Mark_Smith's picture

The man who wrote that is me...you could just ask rather than wonder at a label.

Don Johnson's picture

...to be able to neatly pigeon-hole a theology.

But as I say, the use of Semi-Pelagian in particular is used with one purpose, to shut down discussion of the point and force your opponent to the defensive. It isn't right and it is rarely, if ever, accurate.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

Don,

Most conservatives we know in Baptist circles fall into the Calvinistic or Arminian side of the theological continuum.  I don't know too many who would say that man is born neutral.  I know many who hold to prevenient grace, however.  I hold to total depravity and that man must have a effectual work of grace in order to truly come to Christ.  That would be a Calvinistic view.  I think the total depravity doctrine is key and the easiest to demonstrate from Scripture.  Read the NHBC on this.  It is very clear.  Most conservative/fundamental Baptist organizations use the NHBC as a foundational doctrinal commitment.  We have used it for decades in the IFBAM.  The problem I come across is that many Baptist pastors are so ignorant of systematic theology and historical theology, they don't even know what these confessions mean when they read it. 

Pastor Mike Harding

Larry's picture

Moderator

The man who wrote that is me...you could just ask rather than wonder at a label.

I could, but remember, the reason I didn't mention your name is because I had no desire to make it about a person, or to make it about a particular label. I wanted to keep you out of it so perhaps we could focus on the issues at hand. I don't wonder at a label. I don't really even want to discuss the comment because it doesn't matter to me what you believe. You are welcome to believe what you want, and I mean that sincerely. It really makes no difference to me. My point was different.

My point was merely to talk about the usefulness and propriety of labels in contrast to Don's assertion. I think they are helpful and I think they should be used accurately. When someone says, "I believe X," there is quite often a long historical trail of that belief. It is quite often identified with someone (Calvin-ism, Wesleyan-ism, Pelagian-ism, Lutheran-ism, etc.), even though that person may not be a full representative of what it later came to mean. It is true that labels only mean accurately to people who understand the label. But that's the way all language works. And I think Mike is right that a lot of people simply don't know historical theology. I admit that it's not my strongpoint.

In the end, my only point was that labels are useful and should be used accurately, even if the person who deserves the label doesn't know what it actually means.

 

Mark_Smith's picture

You're good my man. You labeled me as a potential heretic, then said it wasn't personal. Then you said people who reject being labeled are too sensitive. You also said more than once people who don't like labels are ignorant of theology. So, anything I say makes me look like an idiot... Well played.

Don Johnson's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

Don,

Most conservatives we know in Baptist circles fall into the Calvinistic or Arminian side of the theological continuum.  I don't know too many who would say that man is born neutral.  I know many who hold to prevenient grace, however.  I hold to total depravity and that man must have a effectual work of grace in order to truly come to Christ.  That would be a Calvinistic view.  I think the total depravity doctrine is key and the easiest to demonstrate from Scripture.  Read the NHBC on this.  It is very clear.  Most conservative/fundamental Baptist organizations use the NHBC as a foundational doctrinal commitment.  We have used it for decades in the IFBAM.  The problem I come across is that many Baptist pastors are so ignorant of systematic theology and historical theology, they don't even know what these confessions mean when they read it. 

Well, I am not really debating the terminology here, although I don't really like even using Calvinist or Arminian, because if these terms are strictly defined, most of us are neither. I think I've heard you describe yourself as Calvinistic, which is accurate, but it isn't the same as Calvinist.

What I am objecting to is the constant use of Semi-Pelagian (and sometimes Hyper-Calvinist) as a slur to shut down debate.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

Mark, Let me try to end and bow out with this:

I didn't label you anything. I did not use the word heretic. I said that a person claimed to be neither of two options and then identified himself by two beliefs that were clearly at least one option and perhaps a third option. In other words, the beliefs espoused already had a label. I didn't make it up. And remember, I intentionally did not mention you, because it wasn't about you and it isn't personal. It still isn't about you. You are the one who called attention to yourself, not me. My point was and is about the usefulness of labels.

I do think that some are too sensitive (and might you be showing that here?). You believe what you believe and I am okay with that, even if I think it is wrong. If you don't like the name that has been used historically, that's fine. But it still has a name. If you object to the label because you don't think it fits, that's fine too. But make the case. Show us why you don't deserve that label.

I didn't say people who don't like labels are ignorant of theology. I said some people who deserve a label sometimes don't know what that label means. Is that really disputable? Someone may know much about theology, but not know historical theology. Mike said the same thing.

If you would like to explain what you meant, I will probably read it. I doubt I would respond because, as I said, it doesn't really matter to me.

At the end of the day, my point is that labels are useful precisely because they mean something. Most of us accept that (even insist on it) when it comes to things like "Baptist" or "Presbyterian." To omit the label is, for some, compromise and weakening, hiding what we really believe. I just don't see the big deal.

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