Friday, May 18, 2012

Calvinism Sells: More on Evangelical Calvinism

Nothing has really changed. It's kind of weird to have a certain blogging identity, like I do (like we all do, at some level). I mean mine has become rather specific, it seems (the name of my blog contributes to this, no doubt). My blog, relative to the hits it receives, almost dies when I talk about anything other than Calvinism (and things related). Yet, when I do posts on Calvinism (or the doctrine of Scripture), my hits per article surge dramatically. I'm not totally sure how I feel about this, but as I opened 'nothing has really changed'. What I mean is, is that ever since I've started blogging (back in 2005); my posts on Calvinism (Arminianism), and soteriology, in general, have always been the most popular. Indeed, I don't think this is simply my problem; I think, in general, that this is the case (blogosphere wide) for almost all bloggers who attempt to bring up this never ceasing hot button issue (e.g. the debate and continuum of Calvinism-Arminianism).

My greatest concern, though, is that so many folks (and I refer to the popular level) remain in a state of confusion; it's as if folk think the the binary between Calvinism and Arminianism (classically construed) cannot be reframed in a way that is actually 'Evangelical' and 'Scriptural' (and I mean thematically). I am afraid that people see 'the Evangelical Calvinist' and presume that this is simply a case of math wherein we have Evangelical + Calvinist = Evangelical Calvinism. But this is sorely presumptive, and these folk only are presuming through their lack of exposure to the history of interpretation, ideas, and theology in particular. It is really only arrogance, from my perspective, that keeps lay and academic thinkers, alike, in the muddle of the false binary that classic Calvinism and Arminianism represents (the recent dialogue between Roger Olson and Michael Horton only helps to reinforce this binary). What people on both of these sides of the same coin are failing to grasp is that it is possible to start with a different doctrine of God, within the Reformed heritage, than does the classical representation of Calvinism and Arminianism start with. It is possible to actually start with a Trinitarian understanding of God, within the Reformed tradition (whether that be Calvinian, Torrancean, Barthian, Sibbesian, et al.), that leads beyond and around the classical debate between Calvinists and Arminians. This is what I, at points, am continuing to try to do here at 'The Evangelical Calvinist'. And yet, I grow weary some times; at least in trying to persuade people that there is another way to think of such things relative to salvation theory (amidst its given doctrine of God).

I will try to do more posts, in the near future on this issue ... count this one as the first of many.


  1. Good luck, Bobby, to use a non-sovereignty term.

    1. I actually appreciate your posts on Dispensationalism more that the critiques of classical Calvinism that you do. I will have to say, though, you have really turned me on to Torrance!

    2. Its been awhile, Gojira.

      Why do you appreciate[less] my critiques of classic Calvinism; is it because you hold to classic Calvinist ideals and teaching?

      It is rather impossible, actually, to read TF Torrance w/o receiving a constant and implicit (if not explicit) critique of the metaphysics that provide the ground from which classic (theism) Calvinism moves and breathes.

    3. Hi Bobby,

      Yep it has been awhile.

      The "appreciateless" in my opinion really has more to do with the way your critiques are framed.

      Regardless of that, I don't doubt in the least the appropriatness of your identifying yourself with a different strand of Calvinism. Many "classic" Calvinists tend to forget the history of the movement. For example, not all Reformed Churches argeed with the Cannons of Dort (in fact not all Reformed Churches who disagreed with Arminianism in its total teaching were represented by the synod, if I remember correctly). The "Calvinism" as taught by, say, John MacArthur, TeamPyro, Triablogue, or John Piper is alien, as far as I am concerned, to the works of Calvin that I have read. Or perhaps I have missed your point. I can be bad about that. Anyway, today's "main" or classic Calvinism is the heir of Covenant Theology (something I doubt Calvin himself envisioned, but I could be wrong), and puritan....puritan....hmmmmm.... puritanology, for lack of a better word.

      "is it because you hold to classic Calvinist ideals and teaching?"

      In reply, I really have no idea what I am. Would someone tag me a Calvinist? Sure, prolly. But I would have to say I believe myself to be an odd one.

      Now on to Torrance: I have read his "The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers." I personally enjoyed it immensely! He certainly knows the Patristic period like the "back of his hand" so to speak. I have been interested in ordering his book "Christ the Mediator" I take it you would recommend it. I guess that is the short and sweet of it at the moment. All I can say is that what I have read so far of him I liked.

      I am very glad that you are still clean of Cancer; I am also very glad that your daughter is doing better. I pray nothing but the best for your family

    4. @Gojira,

      How are my critiques "framed?"

      All Reformed Confessions, per the Reformed understanding are supposed to be subordinate to Scripture; of course something like the 3 forms of unity (Belgic, Heidelberg, Dort) function, I would argue for many in the Reformed community today (like Westminster California types) in a magesterial role.

      I did a post quite some time ago (like years ago) entitled "The Rainbow of Calvinism" here's the link to a reposting of that post: . I think there are many heirs and expressions of the metaphysics that shape all Calvinisms (except for Evangelical Calvinism); and this is the "frame" that I always use when "critiquing" any kind of 'classic Calvinism'. I use "classic" intentionally, when I lump all these various modes of Calvinism together, sometimes; I use 'classic' because they all flow from the same substance metaphysical conception. So what is it about my "framing" in this regard that you don't like? Are you a fan of substance metaphysics? Many, many are. But I don't see how one can argue that this metaphysical construal, in its classic form, serves the grammar of the Gospel in a fiduciary way---relative to the revealed categories of the Gospel, which are revealed, of course, in God's Word, Jesus Christ. Substance metaphysics starts with a single composite substance (which is unitary, and impersonal by definition). Yet our God, revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son, is Triune, dynamic, and personal. So what is it about the way that I "frame" my critiques, Gojira, that you don't like? Do you support a the usage of a metaphysical framework that morphs God into an impersonal Lawgiver instead of a personal Lover (in the Triune sense)? Many, many do support this metaphysic; why do you, if you do? Many also assert that there is a different piety associated with Reformed classic Calvinism that belies the metaphysic behind it. In other words, many classic Calvinists assert that there is a disjunction between the God who is in se, in himself in eternity (de potentia absoluta); and the God who is revealed in historic-time ad extra, in the economy (de potentia ordinata). But this nominalist, split, combined with its classical theistic metaphysic places a rift, a wedge, between who God is in eternity and who God is in historic time; thus causing a rupture between the Father and the Son, and destroying the unity of the Divine Monarchia, and thus destroying the Christian concept of God ... placing, as Barth and Torrance both were fond of saying, a 'God behind the back of Jesus'. So you support the classical theistic, classic Calvinist framework? I am presupposing that you do, since you don't like the 'way' I "frame" my critiques; since the way I "frame" my critiques of any kind of classic Calvinism, is always through this framework---that is, through the framework that is critiquing the substance metaphysics that stands behind and under any form of classic Calvinism. That's fine if you do support this, many, many do; but then I am still left to wonder, why?!

    5. Continued @Gojira:

      Yes, "The Mediation of Christ," by TFT would be a good place to start. Or you could get his Edinburgh Lecutures recently, posthumously published and edited by his nephew Robert Walker. These are a two volume set, the first is entitled 'Incarnation' and the second vol. 'Atonement'. I would recommend all of TFT's books! His 'Grace in the Apostolic Fathers' is the publication of his PhD diss, thesis. Many Patristic scholars today would challenge TFT's historical analysis, but I think his strength is as a constructive theologian who works in creatively retrieving many of the Patristic and Reformed themes reading them through a constructive and personal appropriation of modern thinkers, primarily, Karl Barth, Michael Polyani, HR McIntosh, et al.

      Thank you for your prayers, we are, by God's grace, doing good!

    6. Just ordered the Mediation of Christ. Looking forward to reading it!

    7. Gojira,

      Sweet, let me know what you think once you do.

  2. Bobby:

    I'm looking forward to your posts on this. I was "converted" to classical Calvinism from Arminianism because it made more sense in light of what I read in Scripture but at times found it too restricting in that it seems sometimes to force an interpretive grid on Scripture as well as reinforce the dichotomy you mention. I keep thinking there has to be a better way. I'm looking forward to reading your end-run around the classical debate.

    Also, I'm wondering where I can get an overview of this. I recently got Torrancs's Incarnation and his Atonement and I'm guessing the latter will address it but where else would you point me. FWIW, I have assisted in several Systematic Theology classes and won the faculty award in Systematic Theology when I graduated with my MDiv. I say that to say I don't need a beginner's book.

    Love the blog, btw. You always give much to think about.


    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for sharing some of your background!

      Well, our book due out probably this June, now, will provide an excellent overview to what we have called 'Evangelical Calvinism'. Or, where we take this language of 'EC' from, from TFT, in his book "Scottish Theology." In fact, this book, by TFT is the impetus for what Myk and I have done with our forthcoming book. Myk and I offer 15 Theses in the last chapter of our book that will provide a good development for the trajectory and mood that he and I see EC taking. TFT's book is spendy, though ... not sure what the price on ours will be yet; but I think it should be reasonable. I will do an update post when it is finally available ... stay tuned. And thanks for the encouraging words about the blog.


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