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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nelson Price, Oxymorons, and Morons

Yesterday, I was one click away from posting a very hard response to Nelson Price's loathsome article, "Evangelical Calvinism Is an Oxymoron." As I was getting ready to click the "post" button, I realized a couple of things: (1) I was frustrated and angry, and (2) I had not personally and privately gone to Mr. Price for clarification and a better understanding of his position. As I have learned in the past, what a person is trying to say and what actually was said could be misconstrued in the mind of the reader, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't reading my thoughts or assumptions into his article. As a result, I saved my post as a draft and proceeded to write him an email. While the email and his response was personal correspondence, I do feel liberty to share with you the questions I asked him. These four short questions were intended to help clarify his definition and understanding of Calvinism. They are:

1. As a clarification (or qualification), could you provide your definition of Calvinism in a short answer form? 2. Do you stand by your article and presentation of Calvinism as historically and theologically accurate? 3. Do you believe Calvinism can be supported biblically? 4. Finally, do you believe that Calvinists have a rightful place in the SBC?
Mr. Price was gracious enough to reply back to me but also felt that my questions amounted to "an epistle" for him to write. He did not answer questions #2 and #3 but briefly commented on #1 and #4. For those of us who are Calvinists and Baptists (and no, that is not an oxymoron), Price argues that his definition of Calvinism is from the Westminster Confession of Faith and is encapsulated in these words: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life and others are foreordained to everlasting death." Now, this definition according to Mr. Price is very telling. First, he hangs Calvinism entirely on double predestination and throws out the emotional argument that God chooses some to go to hell. On his website, he write, "This clearly teaches God in His sovereignty chose to damn some people forever." For the uncritical and adrenal Christian, this definition is sure to turn them away from Calvinism. But is this an adequate definition of Calvinism? What if I asserted that Mr. Price's definition of the salvation robs God of His glory by making man sovereign and God helpless to save? What if I said that His understanding of a synergistic salvation leads to a "works-based" justification? Just to show how poorly Mr. Price understands, consider this deplorable illustration given in his article:
A graphic understood by many Baptists regarding predestination is illustrated by this. A mass of people are gathered at a bus stop marked “Planet Earth.” Along comes the Celestial Bus marked “Destination Heaven.” It pulls up and stops. The driver, who is God, opens the door, and says, “All destined for heaven get on board.” A number do. A missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives start on and God says, “Step aside. You haven’t been chosen to ride this bus.” A couple of infants start on and God tells them to step aside. Persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name are told to step aside. As the bus is about to depart and the door is closing God says to those not on board, “Catch the next bus.” “No,” they plead, “here comes the next bus and it is driven by Satan and marked ‘Destination Hell.’” “Sorry,” says God. “I didn’t choose to save you. Your love and commitment to Jesus doesn’t matter.” Belief in a loving God who would deliberately create some persons for the express purpose of sending them to hell is alien to Scripture. Neither can I conceive what one of the foremost Reform Theology authors of this day has said, "Sin was God’s idea.” Those not given to Calvinism are told they don’t understand evangelical Calvinism. That being an oxymoron it is hard to understand. Calvinism is a dagger in the heart of evangelism.
And if that is not bad enough, consider his conclusions about Calvinism regarding human responsibility:
Calvinism makes automatons of people. An automaton is defined as a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions. If man has no free will he is a puppet not a human being. . . .Calvin made the false assumption that the sovereignty of God precludes the free will of man. The counterpoint is that God in His sovereign will elected, that is, decided to give man a free will. To void man’s free will would make him a puppet not a person.
Or what about his assertion about missions?
Calvinism offers no incentive to go on mission trips, witness to the lost, visit for the church, or appeal for souls to be saved. Without such churches dwindle.
It is evident that Mr. Price wants to suppress church history and baptist history in particular, but all one has to do is look at some of our Baptist colleges and find the names of many Calvinists who were flame-hearted evangelists, such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, etc. What about other Calvinist missionaries such as David Brainerd, John G. Paton, or Henry Martyn? But note why Price comes to the conclusion about evangelism and missions. He has a faulty understanding of God's sovereignty and human responsibility and argues that a belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation nullifies a person's free response of which they are accountable. He writes elsewhere,
In some theological circles predestination has taken on a theological meaning God has predetermined every person’s fate in His sovereign will without regard for man’s free will. This concept makes null and void every Scriptural exhortation to evangelize and strikes a death blow to missions. It also makes God responsible for all of man’s acts, including sin. At no point does Scripture present election or predestination to the exclusion of or in conflict with the concept of man’s free will.
I don't know what theological circle he is talking about, but I can assure you it is not Calvinism. There are several other places that deserve attention and correction which I may attempt to point out and address at a later time, but suffice it to say that if Mr. Price has attempted to prop up and refute Calvinism, he has sorely missed the mark. He hasn't even begun to pick a tulip. Finally, let me say something that bothers me the most about Mr. Price's article. He is not a moron (though saying that Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron is quite moronic). With the training, experience, and bible knowledge under his belt, he should know better to misrepresent Calvinism in such dimmed light. He attempts to cast light over one particular area (which that alone is misunderstood) and chooses to leave the rest in the dark. Intellectual virtue and personal integrity demands that we treat one another fairly, accurately, and truthfully. In this sense, I find Mr. Price at greatest fault. Let me be clear that this goes both ways. Were a Calvinist to misrepresent or slander their Arminian brother with caricatures, half-truths, straw men, and ad hominems, I would call them out on it as well. There is no place for this type of articles and treatment of doctrine. Furthermore, there ought not be a place in the SBC for such mistreatment of Scripture. Mr. Price has built his attack (and yes, that's what it is) without any sound exegesis or biblical theology. That said, I am taken back to a recent post about the most important theological issues of our day and the prevalence of anti-intellectualism in our churches. The articles being published by such papers as The Christian Index are appearing to amount to nothing but sound-byte bullet points piped down from an anti-intellectual bias and baptist political machinations. The fountain of recent theological propaganda streams from the bedfellows of baptist publishing and baptist politicians - and this is an unholy marriage. What is forfeited in the process is a commitment to truth, integrity, and a passionate commitment to the church, the pillar and buttress of truth. While it is easy to refute that evangelical Calvinism is not an oxymoron, the ideas of Baptists as morons may prove to be much more difficult.

16 Comments:

Blogger Rev. Scott Welch said...

The misconception among many in the church is that the "umbrella" that covers all of Calvinism is double predestination. This is unfortunate. Calvinism in a nutshell is "God saves sinners!" Thank you for this post and for reminding me to exercise self-control when I am tempted to become the "Theological Hulk"...you know, "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

11/28/2006 05:42:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Scott said:
Calvinism in a nutshell is "God saves sinners!"

I say:
Amen.

Indeed, Calvinistic soteriology is Trinitarian to the core, contrary to those who oppose it.

11/28/2006 08:40:00 PM

 
Blogger Stephen Newell said...

It's pretty evident Mr. Price hasn't seen what I wrote here and here about what election and limited atonement imply for evangelism. Especially when you consider that those conclusions I came up with for the effect of limited atonement on evangelism is coming from a guy who doesn't hold that view.

It just goes to show you that, as Dan Phillips said, "ignorance is curable, but stupid is forever."

11/28/2006 09:44:00 PM

 
Blogger pregador27 said...

Ah the bus illustraton. No Bible there, but a faulty illustration. Here is a better version: God pulls up in a bus and says, All aboard whose coming aboard." His chosen ones step on, but the last one on turns to those remaining and says, "Aren't you coming?" The remaining reply, "No way, I have no desire to go on tha bus. Mine is coming and I prefer it." Of course that is not the party bus they thought of but the bus to hell with satan as the driver.

11/29/2006 12:18:00 AM

 
Blogger Highland Host said...

Timmy, you have given me the proof of what I suspected. I also sent an e-mail to Dr. Price, and I recieved that appears to be the EXACT SAME e-mail.
Methinks Dr. Price has been recieving a lot of e-mails from Calvinists. Also that he isn't reading them.

I thought I detected a form letter. Now I know I did.

11/29/2006 06:46:00 AM

 
Blogger WayneDawg said...

Timmy -

Is there a link that I can go to that explains clearly and simply with Biblical references the differences between Calvinism and Armeanism?

11/29/2006 08:17:00 AM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Waynedawg,

I am not very good with HTML in comments, but I will give it a try. If these links don't work, I will give you the URL to copy and paste in the address bar. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help. Honestly, there are hundreds of great sites which expound upon Calvinism but very litle on Arminianism. However, from the links below, you should get a pretty good idea of what the two theological frameworks is all about. Also, let me encourage you to listen to the MP3 provided by James White and Tom Ascol from their latest "debate" in Orlando. Here are the links I would direct you first.

1. Monergism - there are a ton of articles, MP3's, and links on the various topic headings.


2. Founders Ministries - check out the Founders Journal and Study Center

3. Reformed Reader - a focus on Baptists and Calvinism with some great historical documents

There are many more, but I thought these would be most helpful to you. Have a blessed day.

tnb

11/29/2006 01:12:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Predagor27,

I don't understand it, but everytime I hear non-Reformed folks attempt to explain Reformed doctrine, they inevitably use stories and illustrations. Why can't they explain the truth without resorting to fictional storytelling? The other problem with these illustrations is that I rarely ever hear a good one or one that is somewhat faithful to the point they are trying to make. Using illustrations and stories is an art, and unfortunately there are way too many who are abusing them for their own purposes than employing them to accurately elucidate the truth they are attempting to explain.

11/29/2006 01:18:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Highland Host,

I don't know if the email he sent me was totally a form letter, but having gone back and looked at it again, I can see parts of it where they are quite generic. I emailed him again with questions about his sermon Sunday night at FBC Woodstock, though not about Calvinism but his idea of "God-consciousness" (which I plan on writing about as well).

11/29/2006 01:20:00 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

Historic Arminianism in a nutshell--"God saves sinners."

12/02/2006 11:13:00 AM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Daniel,

Would it not be, "God makes salvation possible for all people?"

Could you elaborate why you believe that historic Arminianism justifies efficacious working of salvation?

12/02/2006 02:15:00 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

I'm not sure that I understand your question. What do you mean by "Could you elaborate why you believe that historic Arminianism justifies efficacious working of salvation?"?


If someone is saved, it's God's doing, not man's. For example, let's say that I was in a coma and needed a heart transplant. The doctor revived me, told me that I needed the transplant, and I responded by allowing him to do surgery on me. And the surgery works and I'm rescued.

Who takes credit for it? The doctor, of course! He did the reviving. He did the surgery. I was completely helpless, uncapable of saving myself unless he first revives me and then does the surgery.

It's an imperfect example, but that's kinda how I view salvation.

12/05/2006 12:34:00 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

BTW, I know that spiritually speaking, prior to the work of the Holy Spirit, we're not in a coma. We're dead.

It's just an illustration.

12/05/2006 01:21:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Daniel,

Let me ask you a couple of questions so that my question could clarify what I was trying to say.

1. Do you believe in self-engendered faith?

2. Do you hold to the libertarian position of free will?

3. How do you reconcile God's sovereignty and man's rsponsibility? Are they compatible in your view?

4. Does God know in advance the person's choice to become a Christian?

I think your answers to these questions would clarify the discussion and help me understand your soteriological convictions. Thanks.

12/05/2006 06:22:00 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

1. I'm not sure what you mean by "engendered." The revealing work of the Holy Spirit calls forth faith. Faith is a gift from God. Faith is made possible by the Holy Spirit working in the life of the unbeliever through the preaching of the Word. I think that Scripture is pretty clear that this work can be and is often resisted by the unbeliever.

2. Yes, I tend to believe in LFW. I do agree that "free will" is a misnomer. The will (our desires) is enslaved to sin. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that our decisions aren't metaphysically free. I believe that Greg Bahnsen made this sort of distinction in one of his articles, only he was a compatibist, of course.

3. I think that Molinism provides the best explanation of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. So I do think that they are compatible (meaning that there's no contradiction between them), just not in the philosophical sense (soft determinism).

4. Only an open theist would deny this.

Often, I feel that this issue reaches way beyond my mind. I don't always have the words to describe what I'm thinking. I don't know if that will help.

12/05/2006 06:57:00 PM

 
Blogger Dissenter said...

I do wonder what sort of people would describe a fellow Christian (be he Arminian or Calvinist or any other flavour) as "stupid" and "moronic". The Lord Jesus certainly gave us a commandment to "make disciples of all nations" but He also said "A new commandment I give unto you, love one another..."

The love that He talks about is agape (unconditional love) and surely includes being polite to people even if you disagree with them.

Dissenter

3/07/2008 04:58:00 PM

 

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