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.