The Continental Divide of Theology

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JJ Hoban's picture

I've been arguing this point for years in my ministry and it has been absolutely soaked up by my people.  I am very thankful that this is making its way into fundamentalism via SI and your re-posting this excellent, compact article. It's been a long time coming and I too hope that this brief article spurs the church (and findamentalism) into deeper theological waters with a growing love for God and His glorious salvation delivered to his elect!

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Don’t you love the humble spirit of Calvinism?
David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

:^)  Seriously, the article is a wonderful example of the slippery slope fallacy of informal logic--the author is more or less connecting a string of undesirable outcomes and claiming the cause is a degradation of "the bulb", so to speak.  So while I accept a lot of what Calvin said about divine sovereignty, I must at the same point remember that a lot of Reformed denominations (e.g. PCUSA) have fallen into the exact same trap.

I once led a Bible study where two "participants" ALWAYS made it into a discussion of what we culturally view as Calvinism vs. what we culturally view as Arminianism--I just made sure we gave them room and led the others through Hebrews as best I could.  And note that I say "cultural view", not actual views of Calvin or Arminius--neither had, as far as I could tell, read a word of either, which seems to be par for the course in this debate.

But having read--but not fully understood--The Institutes, I can confidently say that the debate isn't just about Calvin, but also about those he drew from--the writers of the Apostle's Creed, Augustine, Aquinas, and the like.  And I'd bet a shiny new nickel that most of the combatants in the debate haven't read much of them, either.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

Quoting the article: "This is the highest of all thought, and it divides all doctrine into two schools. Historically, these two ways of thinking about God and His saving grace have been called by various names. Some have identified them as Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Others have named them Calvinism and Arminianism."

Not only is this an Either/Or fallacy, it is historically and theologically nonsense.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm a Calvinist. There is a young couple I know. They're new Christians. The only Calvinistic churches I know of in driving distance of them are a bit cold, chilly, and are basically Seminary classrooms. One doesn't even have children's bible classes, because they think that all children (even nursery age) should worship with parents. Should I tell them to go to the chilly Seminary classroom? Or, would they be better-served at the local Calvary Chapel, which is warm, conservative but Arminian in their soteriology? What should I tell them to do? 

I'll tell them to go to Calvary Chapel, and I think they'll be better served there, even if their soteriology isn't the best. I wish I could recommend a warm, Calvinistic church for them to go to. There just isn't one in the area. 

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?

Craig's picture

He forgot to mention those who rightly adheres to the inerrancy of Scripture, but rejects both Calvinism ans Arminianism.

Ron Bean's picture

As a new Christian nearly forty years ago, I became aware of the Arminian-Calvinist debate and I heard the numberless false caricatures each painted of the other. Thankfully, an older mentor advised me to take the summer and read and study the Pauline Epistles, especially Ephesians and Romans. His rules were simple: use a Bible with no footnotes and no other books or commentaries were allowed. He said that at the end of the summer we would sit down and discuss the matter again. We met in September and by then nearly all my questions had been answered.

When people ask me about the matter today I give them the same advice and it still works. Sure, there are some who've said, "If you emphasize Ephesians and Romans, you're bound to be a Calvinist." And then there was the man in a Bible class who, after the teacher simply read Romans 8:28-30 without comment, loudly responded, "I disagree!"

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

JJ Hoban's picture

Here I was hoping that SI was coming around to the beauty of sound Biblical teaching throughout the ages.  I find it quite sad that someone has to scrounge around blogs that they apparently disagree with and frankly have no business frequenting if that is their disposition.   And then on top of that, they repost it on a blog where apparently very few agree with it (most are hostile to it) and then with self-rightousness they attack and destroy a fellow Christian brother (or even the biblical truths of Scripture).  Has SI really deteriorated to this kind of childish bantering and "low blow" attacks?

If Iron sharpens Iron, why are you using iron to destroy another?

TylerR's picture

Editor

SI posts many different articles from many different authors, from many different theological perspectives. In just the past week, I recall posting pieces by Carl Trueman (conservative Presbyterian), Roger Olson (certainly not a fundamentalist), Doug Wilson (he is his own category), Jason Allen (President of Midwestern Baptist Seminary) and now Steven J. Lawson (Reformed dispensationalist - this article). You learn from other perspectives from reading them. Feel free to glean what you like from the articles, and discard the rest. 

If you're only looking for articles written by independent, fundamental, generally non-Calvinistic dispensational Baptists, then you'd do well to simply subscribe to Frontline and the Proclaim & Defend blog and call it a day. They do a fine job at the FBFI, and they're solidly in that orbit. 

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?

TylerR's picture

Editor

The author of this piece, Steven J. Lawson, runs the DMin program at Masters Seminary. He is a committed Calvinist, and the sovereignty of God is obviously important to him. It's important to me, too. You put emphasis on what's important to you. Surely we can all understand that?

  • Some Baptists are "bigger" Baptists than others. It's very important to them.
  • Some dispensationalists are "bigger" dispensationalists than others.. Our brethren at Dispensational Publishing House, for example, are busy compiling a "dispensational church directory." It's important to them, so they put emphasis on it. 

Likewise, a committed Calvinist like Lawson thinks God's sovereignty is important. His ministry focus is on expository preaching. That kind of preaching is doctrinally heavy and substantive. In short, it's the very anti-thesis of the kind of shallow, generic and man-centered programs and methodologies that has infected a great deal of "evangelicalism." These churches are usually characterized by a de-emphasis on doctrine and more Arminian soteriology.

Calvinists have their own potential pitfalls (I mentioned chilliness in a post above), but shallow doctrine usually isn't one of them! 

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?

Bert Perry's picture

One thought regarding JJ Hoban's comment is that the process of iron sharpening iron--I just taught my son how to sharpen his pocketknife over the weekend--is grating and removes things that sometimes we want to keep.  And as such, it is important, if we really want to sharpen iron, to be willing to have some bit of unpleasantness as we remove that which does not serve God well.

In this case, people took the author to task for some lapses in logic, and for simply ignoring a fair amount of evidence that does not comport with his thesis.  In the process, we can, if we so choose, learn to approach arguments properly--and to the extent our views are correct, they are strengthened.  

Please; let's not assume that iron sharpening iron is a nice, pretty process.  Anyone who knows church history knows this is not the case.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

JJ Hoban wrote:

Here I was hoping that SI was coming around to the beauty of sound Biblical teaching throughout the ages.  I find it quite sad that someone has to scrounge around blogs that they apparently disagree with and frankly have no business frequenting if that is their disposition.   And then on top of that, they repost it on a blog where apparently very few agree with it (most are hostile to it) and then with self-rightousness they attack and destroy a fellow Christian brother (or even the biblical truths of Scripture).  Has SI really deteriorated to this kind of childish bantering and "low blow" attacks?

If Iron sharpens Iron, why are you using iron to destroy another?

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Craig's picture

The systematic, expository preaching and teaching of the Bible is the great need of the day for the American church and I am thankful to those men who are faithful in rightly dividing the word of truth. They may not be well known. Many don’t have T.V. or radio shows or write books, but they are faithful to the Bible as the word of God … and they are not all Calvinists.

Paul Henebury's picture

If we all agreed with you my brother how would iron sharpen iron?

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.