The Gospel Coalition's Accommodation to Postmodernism in their Statements on Inerrancy

"[T]he TGCstatements on the face appear evangelical but the nuanced language can have more than one meaning."

14883 reads

There are 106 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The analysis is pretty sloppy.

The author may be misrepresenting Schaeffer where he footnotes him on "all that it affirms." Though I'd have to look it up.

The grain of truth is that both Chicago and TGC were/are meant to rally a pretty broad and diverse chunk of christendom. So to some, "all that it affirms" allowed them to sign on while holding to theistic evolution and the like. But the statement is about inerrancy not about creation. For what it is, I can't really see what would improve it. There are no perfect human doctrinal formulations. And things just get messier if you try to freight a statement on inerrancy with assertions about creation and age of the earth. Better to deal with these topics separately.

It's interesting that a guy who probably rejects the ancient creeds as authoritative in any way wants to fault TGC for basically saying that human doctrinal formulations are always imperfect and less authoritative than Scripture. That is precisely the author's position, I'm pretty sure!

What he seems to fail to do with postmodernism--along with many others lately--is analyze it in its actual context: modernism. What TGC (no doubt imperfectly) and others have tried to do is counter both postmodernism and modernism as well. The latter rejected subjectivity, the former elevates it. The truth really is somewhere in between.
So what looks like accommodating postmodernism is often really an effort at appropriate distance from modernism.

Bert Perry's picture

Having grown up in a liberal Methodist church, and having interacted with a number of people of that kind of bent in the ELCA and other "liberal" denominations, I've got to note that the big problem is not in general the creedal or doctrinal statement.  It is in general that those who want wiggle room will take wiggle room whether the clear meaning of the text (Bible text or doctrinal statement text) allows it or not.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think this entire series has been pretty sloppy in general. He seems desperate to show that a Calvinist soteriology will result in all the mess we see in evangelicalism today. You'll notice that the subtitle for his entire series is, "New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism - The Same Disaster." He repeatedly refers to the "New Calvinists" and their methods. The author has not proven (in any of his articles) that a Calvinist soteriology is the root issue in evangelicalism. I suspect he has a problem with Calvinism in general, and is grasping at straws.

The author approvingly quotes a man who accuses the TGC's doctrinal statement of implicitly catering to postmodernism:

". . . the writers of TGC’s foundational documents, rather than offering a more Biblical approach to the understanding of truth, have instead simply embraced the spirit of this age and are articulating nothing more than a ‘Christianized’ version of postmodernism."

This is so very amusing, because D.A. Carson (one of the authors of TGC's doctrinal statement) wrote a monster book about the very dangers of post-modernism 17 years ago. Has this author read it? I have. Has he read this one? What about this one

The thinking is sloppy. The arguments are sloppy.

  • If the man has a problem with Calvinism, then I beg him to make his articles about soteriology.
  • If he has a problem with evangelicalism in general, then make the articles about that.
  • If he actually does believe that a Calvinist soteriology is the cause of the evangelical morass we see today, then prove it. All we've been given are anecdotal facts (e.g. "He's a Calvinist, and just look at what he did . . .!"). 

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?

mrecker's picture

Thanks for reading my articles and for taking the time to comment.   It sounds like you like the word sloppy! 

Aaron, you entitled your post, "HASTY" then you said:

"The author may be misrepresenting Schaeffer where he footnotes him on "all that it affirms." Though I'd have to look it up."

Your first statement after calling my work sloppy is to make a somewhat hasty statement yourself, questioning even the accuracy of my referencing of Schaeffer.  If you read The Great Evangelical Disaster, especially on the pages I footnoted in the article, pages 44-45, this matter of inerrancy was the all important issue to Schaeffer.  He writes very clearly, "Evangelicals today are facing a watershed concerning the nature of biblical inspiration and authority.  It is a watershed issue... Within evangelicalism there are a growing number who are modifying their views on inerrancy of the Bible so that the full authority of the Scripture is completely undercut." (P.44,45) Then on page 56 he called the Luasanne Covenant of 1974 the "new loophole" and he most definitely speaks about evangelicals using all the right terms, "infallibility, inerrancy, and without error, but upon careful analysis they really mean something quite different from what these words have meant to the church historically."  I would definitely encourage you to read for yourself what Schaeffer wrote, but I was not sloppy in accurately portraying what he said.

The reality is that Keller promotes a social gospel and cultural renewal, approves and promotes Roman Catholic mysticism, views the Roman Catholic system as a true church (in Reason for God), is a theistic evolutionist, and that is just the beginning.  So when he co-authors a statement in the Scripture, there is no doubt in my mind that these practices come out through his beliefs, and those beliefs are foundationally in Scripture.  

I believe it is far more sloppy for Keller to call the RC system a true church or to promote RC mystics than what I have written.  I find it interesting that you are so quick to critique what I write as sloppy and seem to have a knee jerk reaction to defend Keller.

Tyler, my problem is not with Calvinism in this series.  In fact, I have read CH Spurgeon every week of my life for 30 years.  (And I have read Gagging of God.)  I am not a Calvinist, that is for sure, but I respect Calvinists, and we have various soteriological views in our church.  The point of my series is not to prove that Calvinism leads to the accommodation and "the mess we see in evangelicalism today," as you say.  In fact Peter Masters of The Metropolitan Tabernacle has written very strongly against the worldliness and accommodation to the spirit of this world in the New Calvinism.  The point of my series is to simply show that the original tenets of New Evangelicalism, which according to Schaeffer led to a great disaster, are being followed by the New Calvinists today.  I believe there are definite parallels.  If you don't see it, then perhaps you don't want to, but I have listed those tenets of New Evangelicalism and I have attempted, howbeit in a sloppy way, to show that some in the New Calvinism are following the same path to disaster. It's ultimately not about Calvinism, it is about worldliness, accommodation, and a refusal to separate from apostasy and Romanism.  And some of the New Calvinists have already shown the disaster, as evidenced by the recent abuse convictions relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries and as well as Driscoll's sad unraveling.   

C. Matthew Recker

Shaynus's picture

My understanding about the idea of scripture being inerrant "in all that it affirms" has to do with the idea that scripture could quote Pharaoh, who then tells us to worship Rah. We would not be obligated to think Pharoah was either authoritative in what he says or that he was correct that Rah exists, because the Bible itself doesn't affirm that idea. 

Don Johnson's picture

Even the words of Satan are accurately described. I don't know of anyone who advocates inerrancy meaning we should follow Satan's words.

When you say that Scripture is inerrant in all that it affirms, you suggest that it could be errant in that which it merely reports, like the words of Satan, Pharoah, whoever. And some will say that Scripture doesn't affirm a six day creation but reports it. And on it goes. To say that Scripture is inerrant in all that it affirms is to not say enough and leave room for error.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Shaynus's picture

Hey Don, I agree that inerrancy would mean an accurate reporting of what Satan or Pharaoh said. I'm saying that what they said could turn out to be lies. In other words, because of the story, we shouldn't trust these guys, and saying that the Bible is true in all it affirms is just stating the obvious to a postmodern culture which may not completely understand how truth works. What would you guys say about the Chicago Statement? 

http://www.bible-researcher.com/chicago2.html

Steve Davis's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Even the words of Satan are accurately described. I don't know of anyone who advocates inerrancy meaning we should follow Satan's words.

When you say that Scripture is inerrant in all that it affirms, you suggest that it could be errant in that which it merely reports, like the words of Satan, Pharoah, whoever. And some will say that Scripture doesn't affirm a six day creation but reports it. And on it goes. To say that Scripture is inerrant in all that it affirms is to not say enough and leave room for error.

Don,

I understand that Scripture is inerrant in all that it affirms but not all that we affirm about Scripture. The errant is us. It's one thing to say Scripture affirms a six day creation. It's another to affirm that Scripture affirms that the only valid scriptural affirmation is that creation was accomplished in six 24 days in the relatively recent past. That's interpretation. It may be a valid view but disagreement is not an inerrancy issue (or is it for some?).

Steve

AndyE's picture

I have never heard that this “in all that it asserts” terminology was designed to weaken the scope of inerrancy.  Like Shaynus, I thought it was intended to defend against charges that the Bible is in error when it uses, to quote the Chicago statement, “a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.”

So, later on, when in the exposition section, the Chicago statement says, “Similarly, 'inerrant' signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions”, I don’t see that they are trying to insert any wiggle room to limit or weaken the concept. Even in regard to creation, it specifically says, “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”

I have no doubt that we are seeing new and modern (as well as old) attacks on the concept of inerrancy, and I don’t have Schaeffer’s book, so I can’t read what he had to say, but if “in all that it asserts” is not good enough, then what would be better terminology that takes into account literary devices, reporting of falsehoods, and the like?

Andy

TylerR's picture

Editor

If you want to see a real attack on inerrancy by some elitist scholars, see this new book here. The author says that the "traditional, old guard" who formulated the Chicago Statement are literalistic and embarrasing:

On one side, we have what might be termed an “old guard” – authors like Geisler and Farnell, as well as major name popular preachers like John MacArthur and Paige Patterson, and ideological leaders like Albert Mohler and Robert Land. The frontline of this guard states that inerrancy is closest in spirit to an idea that the text is to be read “as it stands,” (Kindle Locations 135-138). 

The author says he stands in the "new wave" of conservative scholarship on the other side:

"But according to those like myself on this side of the equation, the perception of “inerrancy” offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable, leading us down a path of endless epicycles of explanation, artificialities, and illogic. The end result will be to bring down scorn on the Christian faith and contributing to its demise in the Western world," (Kindle Location 145).

The author therefore believes that "traditionalists" are embarrassingly literal, and are not sensitive to cultural context of the day. He believes that "[t]he social and cultural values of the Biblical world were such that a literary production could act as a sort of coded message to report an entirely different truth than what one would get if a text were read as historical narrative," (Kindle Locations 224-225). It is hard to escape the conclusion that the author is, in effect, creating a new magisterium of sorts - how can mere mortals like us decipher these literary clues? We must look to the elitist scholars like him. 

He is indeed elitist. For example, he systematically castigates men who are "traditionalists," saying they don't have the training to critique this more refined view of inerrancy:

  • ​MacArthur "is ill qualified to moderate this debate. His highest degree is a Masters’ in Divinity, and his educational background includes a stint at the academically suspect Bob Jones University," (Kindle Locations 343-344). 
  • Mohler "is no more in possession of training relevant to this debate than the others. His degree is in historical and systematic theology, not something like New Testament studies or interpretation," (Kindle Locations 359-360).
  • Paige Patterson "apparently did some good in the past, but in more recent years has become a figure of questionable moral dealings . . . Other than that, Patterson adds nothing new. His credentials are irrelevant as well: He has a doctorate, but it is in theology," (Kindle Locations 362-366).
  • F. David Farnell: "In the end, the only remotely qualified person enlisted by Geisler for this work is his co-author, David Farnell. His doctorate is in New Testament, which is at least somewhat relevant; however, his record of publication is almost wholly limited to The Master’s Seminary Journal, which is John MacArthur’s periodical… not the sort of publication record to be expected from a serious scholar devoted to research," (Kindle Locations 371-374).

This entire small book is a blatant assault on inerrancy. The arrogance and contempt for the "old guard" is quite clear. This kind of arrogant, NT scholarship magisterium is a far more serious threat than speculative readings of TGC's doctrinal statement. 

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?

mrecker's picture

That is interesting Tyler and of course I would agree that the attack against those like MacArthur or Mohler who do have a solid view on inerrancy, because they do not have credentials or the right education, comes straight out of the original attack against the apostles, accused of being unlearned and ignorant men.  But getting back to my original point, it is sure that Schaeffer saw that inerrancy was surrendered in the New Evangelicalism.  That was one of the foundational points of his book, The Great Evangelical Disaster.  I believe that the same possibility is bubbling in some areas of the New Calvinism.

Don't you think that it is possible that statements like Keller's on TGC foundational documents are appeasing those very same elitist scholars who castigate the more "traditional view?"  Keller's ability to nuance and assuage both sides keep those who write this book from lumping Keller in with Mohler and MacArthur, or so it seems.  Don't you think there is at least a remote possibility that Keller can speak in such a way to please those elitists as well as evangelicals?

C. Matthew Recker

TylerR's picture

Editor

mrecker:

I see TGC doctrinal statement as solid. It is intentionally worded so as to please a diverse group of conservative men, but it nevertheless solid. This is the nature of politics when dealing with a parachurch organization with many constituents. For example, we find this in an FBFI resolution from 2004:

"We must continue to study, know, and defend the essentials and to agree to disagree, if necessary, on those which are not (such as philosophy of youth work, pastoral authority, political involvement, versions, certain aspects of Calvinism, dating, divorce, evangelism/discipleship methodology, etc.). As Baptists we certainly wish to practice the doctrine of individual soul liberty and allow others to do so, but we need to pursue unity in every biblical way that we can, especially in a day when there is much division over things not essential," (Resolution 04-07).

Should I interpret this as evidence that the FBFI as a whole is headed towards outright synergism and Pelagianism? Not at all - that would be without merit and slanderous. The FBFI is a diverse group of men who have very different views on certain aspects of Calvinism. This resolution was, it seems, meant to reassure a broad group of people that the organization had room for them. The TGC's statement is likewise nuanced on purpose. The above discussion is a testimony of how detailed the definition of "inerrancy" can get. 

In other words, I don't think TGC is pandering to elitists or otherwise capitulating. I think it recognizes that there is a discussion in the rarified circles of actual conservative scholarship on what "inerrancy" means. I also think the fact that D.A. Carson was an author is why the statement is so nuanced. He's not an ivory-tower guy per se (he's written some very practical books), but a guy who was "only" a well-educated Pastor wouldn't have seen fit to be so nuanced. I'm not so sure it was even necessary. I wouldn't have done it. 

I basically think there's plenty else to criticize about the so-called "New Calvinism" than TGC's doctrinal statement. 

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

mrecker:

Here is my basic question:

  • Out of all the theological minefields out there in the world, why do you see the New Calvinists, in particular, as a threat we need to warn people against? 

    • Why is it more pressing than Matthew Vines' book?
    • Why is it more pressing than religious liberty?
    • Why is it more pressing than challenging a post-modern way of thinking?
  • Why is it more important than other issues facing fundamentalism? 

One of my more pressing concerns about fundamentalism, to be very honest, is that I think we have tunnel vision about the "New Evangelicalism." Fundamentalism, as a movement, came about in opposition to theological liberalism. Yet, much of what fundamentalists write on is mired in the milieu of the "New Evangelical" controversy from the 1950s.

We're known for being militant about not being evangelicals. We're not noted for being militant about theological orthodoxy. That's a problem. We play perpetual defense.

One of the reasons I'm cobbling together a group of men to respond, chapter by chapter, to Matthew Vines' book on SI is because fundamentalists ought to be out there defending the faith against liberalism, not just battling "new evangelicals." We need to do more in that arena. 

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?

Greg Linscott's picture

...and the Doctrinal Statement committee chose not to use the specific  term "inerrant," but spelled out "without error."

Scriptures: The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments were originally written without error.[i] The Spirit moved the Scripture writers[ii] to produce the inspired text[iii] using the words that God intended in every topic addressed. [iv] The Bible remains the final authority on all matters of faith and practice.[v]

 

[i] Proverbs 30:5-6; John 17:17; Romans 3:4

[ii] 2 Peter 1:21; Hebrews 1:1; 1 Peter 1:10-12

[iii] 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 14:37

[iv] 1 Corinthians 2:13; Matthew 5:18; Deuteronomy 8:3

[v]  John 10:31-38; 12:48; Hebrews 4:12

They were tasked with creating a brief statement in language that would be readily understood. I think they did a fine job. But perhaps we need to prepare ourselves for a critique like Pastor Recker's... [insert wry grin]

I think this installment was better than previous entries, because it did begin with a concession that there are things CEs get right (the citation of the T4G statement). But it does seem to me that in the series overall, Recker begins with an assumption and seeks to prove it, rather than drawing a conclusion based on gathered facts. Even in this thread, Pastor Recker argues for the legitimacy of his case in this way:

And some of the New Calvinists have already shown the disaster, as evidenced by the recent abuse convictions relating to Sovereign Grace Ministries and as well as Driscoll's sad unraveling.   

But how would "we" respond if someone tried to make a case against separatist fundamentalism, let's say, and they would make a statement pointing to the Ernie Willis case, or Donn Ketcham and ABWE as an illustrative of the flaws of core Fundamentalist principles? The fact that there are excesses and scandals in their circles of influence does not necessarily make them more right or wrong, any more than the example of an exemplary LDS family unit legitimizes their errant theology. The fact is, we in Fundamentalism haven't been free from our own issues and concerns (J. Frank Norris, BJU inter-racial dating ban, Jack Hyles, etc etc...). We would think it terribly inappropriate for someone to begin a refutation of secondary separation by pointing at some of these problems as the "fruit" of the disaster that such erroneous, isolationist conclusions produces. If there is a point to be made, it begins with the Scripture text and interacting with specific teachings, not "guilt by association" over scandals.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

alex o.'s picture

TylerR wrote:

If you want to see a real attack on inerrancy by some elitist scholars, see this new book here. The author says that the "traditional, old guard" who formulated the Chicago Statement are literalistic and embarrasing:

On one side, we have what might be termed an “old guard” – authors like Geisler and Farnell, as well as major name popular preachers like John MacArthur and Paige Patterson, and ideological leaders like Albert Mohler and Robert Land. The frontline of this guard states that inerrancy is closest in spirit to an idea that the text is to be read “as it stands,” (Kindle Locations 135-138). 

The author says he stands in the "new wave" of conservative scholarship on the other side:

"But according to those like myself on this side of the equation, the perception of “inerrancy” offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable, leading us down a path of endless epicycles of explanation, artificialities, and illogic. The end result will be to bring down scorn on the Christian faith and contributing to its demise in the Western world," (Kindle Location 145).

The author therefore believes that "traditionalists" are embarrassingly literal, and are not sensitive to cultural context of the day. He believes that "[t]he social and cultural values of the Biblical world were such that a literary production could act as a sort of coded message to report an entirely different truth than what one would get if a text were read as historical narrative," (Kindle Locations 224-225). It is hard to escape the conclusion that the author is, in effect, creating a new magisterium of sorts - how can mere mortals like us decipher these literary clues? We must look to the elitist scholars like him. 

He is indeed elitist. For example, he systematically castigates men who are "traditionalists," saying they don't have the training to critique this more refined view of inerrancy:

  • ​MacArthur "is ill qualified to moderate this debate. His highest degree is a Masters’ in Divinity, and his educational background includes a stint at the academically suspect Bob Jones University," (Kindle Locations 343-344). 
  • Mohler "is no more in possession of training relevant to this debate than the others. His degree is in historical and systematic theology, not something like New Testament studies or interpretation," (Kindle Locations 359-360).
  • Paige Patterson "apparently did some good in the past, but in more recent years has become a figure of questionable moral dealings . . . Other than that, Patterson adds nothing new. His credentials are irrelevant as well: He has a doctorate, but it is in theology," (Kindle Locations 362-366).
  • F. David Farnell: "In the end, the only remotely qualified person enlisted by Geisler for this work is his co-author, David Farnell. His doctorate is in New Testament, which is at least somewhat relevant; however, his record of publication is almost wholly limited to The Master’s Seminary Journal, which is John MacArthur’s periodical… not the sort of publication record to be expected from a serious scholar devoted to research," (Kindle Locations 371-374).

This entire small book is a blatant assault on inerrancy. The arrogance and contempt for the "old guard" is quite clear. This kind of arrogant, NT scholarship magisterium is a far more serious threat than speculative readings of TGC's doctrinal statement. 

Dallas Seminary's Dan Wallace has endorsed Holding and Peter's book contra Geisler and Farnell. I have been looking into this and have interacted on Wallace's blog and with Nick Peters over the past several months.  Dan Wallace is a specialist in this area of textual studies and of what the bible affirms about itself.

Previously this issue has been simmering for quite some time with Geisler actively lobbying seminary presidents not to hire Mike Licona (Nick Peters' father in law and mentor). The antics of Geisler are really outrageous when carefully and thoughtfully examined. I invite anyone to see the well-argued defense of Mike Licona: "Chicago's Muddy Waters".

The Master's Seminary Journal from last spring has been a platform for Geisler and Farnell. It sounds good if one only looks at one side of the argument. I would invite hearing both sides before a determination is reached on who is correct as Proverbs instructs: "the first to state his case seems right..."

As Christians we are explicitly commanded to examine everything carefully and not just respond with a knee-jerk reaction of what is assumed to be "orthodox." "Orthodoxy" is an illusion (there is a book with this title that explains this better than I can). The issues and antics are fairly complex but not totally insurmountable to discern if studied and weighed carefully. Some things to note:

a.) Dan Wallace does not agree totally with Mike Licona or at least doesn't think so but Geisler's antics of politicizing and recruiting "names" to sign on to the CSBI constitute an 'authority grab': setting up a universal church council-like corralling of a doctrine of a narrow defining of the text of the scriptures. There are many issues involved which are not apparent by looking at the issues superficially.

b.) The personal responses by Holding on Amazon's review forum toward some posters has saddened me. This may have been reviewers of other works. We should not get lost in our passions and forget being faithful to The Lord, waiting on Him, and doing the right thing. Sometimes it seems that people operate in the flesh and try to do the Lord's work. This is what the Crusades resembled. However, just because someone acts badly does not mean they are wrong.

c.) Geisler is an Old Earth proponent (not that this is necessarily wrong) but sets up some interesting bed-fellow snuggling with Fundamentalists and the YEC crowd. Overall My position on other doctrinal issues is closer to Geisler than the other side but greater core-issues are at play where careful discernment needs to happen. To illustrate this point: Jesus was very Pharisee-like in doctrine and ministry early on in His ministry (the Pharisees were mostly correct in their overall formulations), however at crucial junctures they had fatal flaws such as self righteousness, disenfranchisement of certain others who were undeserving of it, and false religion to name a few. Ultimately they were the serpent's seed despite being better in orthodoxy than some others. Christ, in His Person, redeemed sinners who were not immediately correct on all points (some points up for debate). I think we all can agree that it is better to be a redeemed unorthodox sinner than an orthodox snake.

d.)This seems to me over-defining position which sets one up for despair by painting themselves in a corner when certain textual issues are given by the unbelieving crowd. Its a subtle trap, I would contend.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Ron Bean's picture

Does this article mean to intimate that TGC is embracing past-modernism and/or denying inerrancy?

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

mrecker's picture

Tyler I am all for what you propose, so go for defending Biblical Christianity against liberalism.  I have never said that exposing the dangers of the New Calvinism is more important or more pressing than the things you referenced. I believe we should contend for the faith.  I felt a burden to show a valid comparison between the New Evangelicalism and the New Calvinism.  I go back to my thesis.  Schaeffer said New Evangelicalism was a GREAT DISASTER.  I believe he was right.  And I believe the same errors are being made by the New Calvinism.  So I am not getting bogged down in the past, but showing how the past is being repeated presently.  That has happened once or twice in history, has it not? A lot of young men are being led in the wrong direction by the New Calvinism.  If you think that what has happened and is happening at Northland is a good thing, then we won't agree, but I definitely do not want our church or other churches and ministries that have been established with Baptistic and separatist convictions to go in that direction. 

Ron, I am saying that TGC statement accommodates post modern thinking and it can open the door for the denial of inerrancy.  It is a muddled statement, and I shared two illustrations from history, the Luasanne Covenant and the Downgrade controversy where doctrinal statements can take on a double meanings.  I sought to show also, for example, that the Scripture does much more than "convey truth."  It is truth.  I simply believe people should be warned of the danger to come.  Again, as I pointed out in the article, it took 30 years for the bad fruit of New Evangelicalism's re-statements of Biblical inerrancy to occur.

Perhaps Holding and Peter's book, Defining Inerrancy, which Tyler has indicated does attack those who hold to inerrancy, will be embraced by some of the TGC men. TGC statement is confusing enough to probably go either way.  And as Alex points out, some in evangelical circles are already taking Holdings view vs. Geisler.  Sounds like Battle for the Bible all over again.  I wonder which side Keller would fall down on?

 

C. Matthew Recker

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have Geisler's book, which prompted Nick Peter's book. I also read the Master's Seminary Journal issue you mentioned, which was essentially a platform for Geisler (as you said). I also understand that MacArthur will be having a major conference dedicated to inerrancy in the near future. 

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

A few questions:

  • Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to call your article series, "Conservative Evangelicalism and the New Evangelicalism: The Same Disaster," then?
  • Why single out Calvinists? Do you feel the "new Calvinist" movement poses a threat to fundamentalists? Wouldn't it be better to say that an looser, evangelical philosophy to ministry in general, characterized by a de-emphasis on separation and militancy, is the reason why young men are being led astray? 
  • What, exactly, is a "New Calvinist?" 
  • I'm a fundamentalist. I'm a dispensationalist. I'm also Calvinistic. I've never listened to or read Piper, Mahaney or Driscoll. I listen to The Briefing and have two of Dever's books. Am I a "New Calvinist?"

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?

Jay's picture

But how would "we" respond if someone tried to make a case against separatist fundamentalism, let's say, and they would make a statement pointing to the Ernie Willis case, or Donn Ketcham and ABWE as an illustrative of the flaws of core Fundamentalist principles? The fact that there are excesses and scandals in their circles of influence does not necessarily make them more right or wrong, any more than the example of an exemplary LDS family unit legitimizes their errant theology. The fact is, we in Fundamentalism haven't been free from our own issues and concerns (J. Frank Norris, BJU inter-racial dating ban, Jack Hyles, etc etc...). We would think it terribly inappropriate for someone to begin a refutation of secondary separation by pointing at some of these problems as the "fruit" of the disaster that such erroneous, isolationist conclusions produces.

Yes, this is exactly the problem, and why I think that a lot of Fundamental(ist) ministries lead towards bashing Evangelicals.  It's a lot easier to point out other people's problems than it is to deal with your own. 

I'd be FAR more inclined to read P&D if they actually, you know, dealt with issues in the Fundy world instead of promoting yet another critique of those and the "terrible horrible no good very bad" evangelicals (to borrow the title of that famous kid's book).  If you want to discuss issues that are actually occuring in the Fundy world, you have to go to this site, the FFF, SFL, or dissidens' websites.  And there are a LOT of people that think that this site in particular suppresses a lot of stories that should be wider dissemination.  As someone who worked behind the curtain for a few years here, that charge is ludicrous.

Tyler, I suspect that most people aren't interacting with "Defining Inerrancy" for two reasons.  One, our position on inerrancy is firmly settled.  As the SI Doctrinal Statement says, [We believe in] "[t]he plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life."  Secondly, I don't think that most people who could interact with Holding and Peters would want to.  For whatever reason, but probably mainly the first.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

mrecker's picture

1. Tyler, take your pick.  Why didn't I call my very white dog "Blondy" rather than "Vanilla"?  (Well, my daughter named him first) The reality is CE and NC are somewhat synonymous terms as I understand it. New Calvinism is more well known and perhaps more accurate as there is a strong emphasis upon Calvinism. I have heard it said, and I would agree, that "Together for the Gospel" is really Together for the Five Points of Calvinism Gospel; "The Gospel Coalition" is really The Five Points of Calvinism Coalition.  

2. I have not singled out Calvinists one time in this series. I have said nothing negative about Calvinism, not one time in this series. (Nor have I even mentioned the word, "music" in my series.) In part three of this series on "Why Dispensationalism is Important," I said:

"Obviously not all historic Fundamentalists agree on the timing of Christ’s coming and not all Biblicists are Dispensationalists... I do not believe that if a person rejects a Dispensational theology for Calvinism worldliness always results."  

3.  I would encourage you to read E.S. Williams book, The New Calvinists: Changing the Gospel and features chapters on Tim Keller, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll. Williams, a member of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, is a medical doctor.  He has an interesting web site and on this home page he gives some of the overarching points of the New Calvinism: www.newcalvinist.com.

I would add that this New Calvinism is drastically different from traditional Calvinism or the Reformed Baptists I have known, in the history I have read, and here in the Northeast.  Specifically, New Calvinists hold to a continuationist position on tongues, elevate elements of a social gospel (by some), and practice a contemporary Christian music philosophy, which is a cause in the worldliness of the movement.

I am not picking on Mark Driscoll, but I discovered this on their web site in the bio of one of their pastors, Tim Smith, who has been at Mars Hill Church for a long time. Remember that Driscoll was welcomed by Piper, Mahaney, and Keller and many of the New Calvinists for many years, until recently.  Here is what it says:

"Pastor Tim is the lead pastor of Mars Hill Portland. He came to Mars Hill in the summer of 1999, having never owned an electric guitar, been in a band, or written a song. Somehow, by God’s grace, he became the worship pastor and has been able to hang on and give shape to a movement of well over 30 worship bands leading many local churches. Tim is the husband of Beth and the father of three daughters. He enjoys good food and whiskey." (http://marshill.com/pastors/tim-smith)

WHISKEY? On their web site?  They have one paragraph to tell about one of their pastors and they boast he likes WHISKEY!  That is an example of the worldliness of the New Calvinism. Mind-boggling.  

 The New Calvinism is obviously has had a strong influence in Fundamentalism and many have drifted to that movement for many reasons I am sure.  It has influenced my family and my friends.  Obviously that is a concern to me as I believe in the position of Biblical separatism.  

4.  Why do you ask?  I am not your judge but if I had to evaluate based on what you said, obviously no! I don't see how you could be based on what you said! 

May the Lord great bless you my brother.  Thank you for your service to the Lord Jesus Christ and have a great weekend preaching Christ, His Word and the power of the Gospel!

C. Matthew Recker

Don Johnson's picture

I've been out all day, so here are a few summary thoughts and observations about the discussion.

First of all, it seems that this debate has attempted to defend TGC from Matt's charges by pointing to a suggested weakness in his argument over the word "all that it affirms." This language is not the language of TGC, but of Lausanne, at least as far as the quotations we have in Matt's paper. According to what Matt writes, no less than Francis Schaeffer picked up on this language and found it problematic. I think I have his book somewhere, but I can't put my hands on it just now (still packed away, 3 years and counting...), thus I can't look it up.

If you think about what Matt is saying, the weakness Schaeffer picked up at Lausanne is replicated in the TGC documents with other slight shifts in language that give room for similar errors. That's his point. The New Calvinists (as illustrated by TGC) are replicating New Evangelical errors.

So in all this debate here on SI, some are attempting to deflect criticism of TGC by seizing on an illustration from Schaeffer about Lausanne. You aren't really dealing with Matt's argument at all. (Which is typical of these sorts of debates - find some perceived flaw, no matter how minor, and constantly beat the author into submission over that one point.)

As for the Chicago Statement, it has been awhile since I read it, but as I recall I think that it is a pretty good document. But TGC's documents are not the same thing as the Chicago statement.

And on the statement that the Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms, that has long been a fairly weak way to define inerrancy in my opinion. The T4G statement Matt also cited is much better.

Finally, I think the point of comparison, i.e. that New Evanglicalism shares significant points with New Calvinism is a valid point. I appreciate Matt raising the issue.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Shaynus's picture

mrecker wrote:

"The reality is CE and NC are somewhat synonymous terms as I understand it." 
 

Pastor Recker, I'm sorry but you don't understand it if that's what you think. There are loads (millions) of Conservative Evangelical Southern Baptists who are not only not Calvinists but are agin' it and make a ruckus at the Convention every year about it. That's just one example of non-Calvinists who are clearly conservative evangelicals. There are many others. 

"I have heard it said, and I would agree, that "Together for the Gospel" is really Together for the Five Points of Calvinism Gospel; "The Gospel Coalition" is really The Five Points of Calvinism Coalition."
 
This is either slanderous or highly uncharitable, and I'm disappointed.  

mrecker's picture

Tyler, you sound quite sensitive to the term, New Calvinism.  The fact is, I did not invent the term and Piper himself gladly embraces it.  Piper writes in this post that is entitled, "The New Calvinism and the New Community:"

"I am part of the New Calvinism and feel a sense of fatherly responsibility to continually speak into it dimensions of biblical truth that I think it needs to hear." Here is the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-new-calvinism-and-the-new-comm....

Hmmm. Why did Piper not use the term "Conservative Evangelical?" So I am only using their terminology that they prefer.

Shaynus, as you wrote "There are loads (millions) of Conservative Evangelical Southern Baptists who are not only not Calvinists but are agin' it and make a ruckus at the Convention every year about it. That's just one example of non-Calvinists who are clearly conservative evangelicals. There are many others."

Thanks for that, but I am not uncharitable or slanderous of anyone. It seems to me that the speakers and leaders of two of the leading New Calvinist groups are Calvinists.  This is what Piper said as he laid out points of the New Calvinism:

"First, the lecture is called “on Theology, Culture, and Mission.” In my title, the Doctrines of Grace (or the five points, or soteriological Calvinism) correspond to theology. The meaning of race corresponds to culture. And the call to pursue a new ethnically diverse community corresponds to mission.

Second, the Doctrines of Grace are biblical and true and beautiful; the sovereignty of God is glorious beyond words; and the gracious, governing hand of God in all the details of our lives is precious and sweet. And since I love to talk about what is biblical and true and beautiful and glorious and precious and sweet, this is my theme."

Many of these men, like Piper, are unabashadly Calvinist. How am I slandering them by noting they are Calvinists and even New Calvinists because that is what they are calling themselves. 

Plus my focus in this series IS NOT ON CALVINISM, but on a NEW CALVINISM that is replicating the NEW EVANGELICALISM in many ways.  Can you not give that any credence?  I have sought to take one point of the New Evangelicalism at a time and show a comparison to the New Calvinism.  Can you not see any compromise in Keller?  Does he not follow in the same path of New Evangelicals of old by elevating the Social Gospel and compromise by calling the Roman Catholic Church a true church?  Or in Piper that his church was in the General Baptist Convention, now Converge Worldwide, which is a part of the National Association of Evangelicals? The NAE is mainline New Evangelicalism, is it not?  Can you not see that it is dangerous for Piper to speak with say, Carl Lentz (Hillsong NYC) at a Passion Conference?  Or to partake in a Lectio Divina with Roman Catholic sympathizer Beth Moore?  

Come on now, my brothers.  You can attack me all you want, but can you not see any errors in the New Calvinism?

 

C. Matthew Recker

Shaynus's picture

There is only one gospel correct? To say they are for the "Five Points of Calvinism" Gospel is to divide the gospel into different types. It also implies that they sit around in a room plotting Calvinism's takeover of the world. That's how I took the statement. To me, intended or not, it's offensive to these men to use terminology in this way. I should have been more clear about how I took it. 

I love you Matt, but the assertion that Conservative Evangelicals was synonymous with New Calvinism struck me as a clear example of Aaron's impression that your thinking here was sloppy. You clearly have a lot that you're concerned about in this area, and the issues are complex, but I don't think you're connecting the dots very clearly. Here's an example: you wrote "Or in Piper that his church was in the General Baptist Convention, now Converge Worldwide, which is a part of the National Association of Evangelicals? The NAE is mainline New Evangelicalism, is it not?" Frankly that's logic a conspiracy theorist might use, but it doesn't really mean much. 

I was a member of Capitol Hill Baptist for a few years. Mark Dever and Thabiti Anyabwhile were my pastors. I've heard Dever be quite critical of New Evangelicalism. Having lived in the New Calvinist world for about 10 years (though I wouldn't take the title myself) the comparison to New Evangelicalism doesn't make any sense to me. 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Shaynus wrote:

mrecker wrote:

"The reality is CE and NC are somewhat synonymous terms as I understand it." 
 

Pastor Recker, I'm sorry but you don't understand it if that's what you think. There are loads (millions) of Conservative Evangelical Southern Baptists who are not only not Calvinists but are agin' it and make a ruckus at the Convention every year about it. That's just one example of non-Calvinists who are clearly conservative evangelicals. There are many others. 

"I have heard it said, and I would agree, that "Together for the Gospel" is really Together for the Five Points of Calvinism Gospel; "The Gospel Coalition" is really The Five Points of Calvinism Coalition."
 
This is either slanderous or highly uncharitable, and I'm disappointed.  

This might be at least part of the core problem here. Shaynus already demonstrated that many NEs are not NCs. I think another distinction that is missing is that not all Calvinists are NCs either. I am wondering as I read here if some of the other Calvinists, at least soteriologically speaking, on this board who are expressly not new evangelical in their beliefs are feeling like they are being lumped in without distinction. 

I also think a timeline is important to consider in the discussion. I think it is safe to say that NC has taken on a movement form that has a definable trajectory. While some of us may have been more open to the NC idea when it first began to take hold, say 5-10 years ago, we may no longer be as comfortable with the trajectory and movement that it has become. So, some quotes may be affected by time. Personally, I was encouraged when the young, reformed and restless crowd first began gaining traction. American Baptists, going all the way back to the Philadelphia confession, were historically Calvanistic in their soteriology. However, I agree with Matt that too many of the NC leaders presently seem more interested in pushing cultural envelopes than in being doctrinally astute. For some it seems like being different and standing out is the goal, and that is not why I am a Calvinist. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Shaynus's picture

Exactly Chip. Well said. To use the blind men and elephant analogy, there are different parts of many elephants we're talking about.

If historically speaking Evangelicalism is a big river, there are many streams (Fundamentalism, New Evangelicalism, New Calvinism) that merge and diverge throughout time and in different related doctrines and practices. Tim Keller's view of cultural renewal is not because he's a Calvinist as much as it is other streams he's in (and streams he's actually creating). Many Calvinists would be critical of Keller on how he relates to culture. 
 

TylerR's picture

Editor

mrecker:

You wrote:

Plus my focus in this series IS NOT ON CALVINISM, but on a NEW CALVINISM that is replicating the NEW EVANGELICALISM in many ways.  Can you not give that any credence?  I have sought to take one point of the New Evangelicalism at a time and show a comparison to the New Calvinism

Your series is about Calvinists, mrecker. I am not sensitive to it; it is in your title. You are trying to establish that New Calvinists are making the same mistakes as New Evangelicals did in years gone by. You aren't talking about non-Calvinist evangelicals, you're talking about Calvinist evangelicals very specifically and particularly.

You continued:

Can you not see any compromise in Keller?  Does he not follow in the same path of New Evangelicals of old by elevating the Social Gospel and compromise by calling the Roman Catholic Church a true church?  Or in Piper that his church was in the General Baptist Convention, now Converge Worldwide, which is a part of the National Association of Evangelicals? The NAE is mainline New Evangelicalism, is it not?  Can you not see that it is dangerous for Piper to speak with say, Carl Lentz (Hillsong NYC) at a Passion Conference?  Or to partake in a Lectio Divina with Roman Catholic sympathizer Beth Moore?  

Of course I see it. I don't travel in those circles. I don't read those men. I don't follow their blogs or Twitter accounts. They're nothing but names to me. I skimmed through Keller's Galatians for You in a bookstore, and actually thought it was pretty terrible. I'm not surprised at their associations; they're soft on separation. Is this a surprise?

Let me be very honest with you - my initial thoughts on this entire series was that it was, in essence, a sort of circling the wagons for non-Calvinist fundamentalists, characterized by a series of guilt by association charges about New Calvinism (e.g. "Keller is a Calvinist, and look here . . . " and "Driscoll is a Calvinist, and look here . . ."). I saw it's basic theme as being "Calvinism is bad, evangelicalism is bad, see what they produce together, so let's hold the course, boys!" My apologies if that offends you.

  • You have made some very good points throughout the series.
  • That article you mentioned on the New Evangelical characteristics from 1956 is absolutely critical. I wrote a small article for SI on this a while back.
  • Your series clearly demonstrates that separation is essential. The sad story of Fuller, chronicled in Marsden's book, proves this.
  • I just think you needlessly restricted your fire to Calvinists. I wonder why you did.

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?

Pages