Friday, April 12, 2013

God Is Love As The Starting Point

It has been too long since I posted here at EC In Plain Language. Let me remedy that now. This post will be less ordered than others, and more of a reflection upon what has drawn me into the mood of what Myk Habets and I have labeled 'Evangelical Calvinism'.

What I am afraid of is that I am becoming what I don't want to be. Evangelical Calvinism is identifying a mood within the Reformed tradition that has a full court positive theology to offer. This means that the ultimate end of Evangelical Calvinism is not to find our self identity by what we are against; instead Evangelical Calvinism is about who and what we are for (Christ and His kingdom). I have too often reverted to the Fundamentalist mode of constructing theology from what I am against, or at least so using other expressions of Reformed theology in a way that makes it look like Evangelical Calvinism is nothing more than a negation of whatever that particular expression of Reformed theology is.

In Evangelical Calvinism edited book Myk and I end the volume with 15 theological theses that state what we are for, theologically. For the most part they are positive in orientation, and only identify where we differ from others in order to provide foil and better context for what we are actually for without demeaning, per se, the theologies that are necessarily at odds with our own stated approach. Here are the Fifteen Theses:

1. The Holy Trinity is the absolute ground and grammar of all epistemology, theology, and worship.
2. The primacy of God’s triune life is grounded in love, for “God is love.”
3. There is one covenant of grace.
4. God is primarily covenantal and not contractual in his dealings with humanity.
5. Election is christologically conditioned.
6. Grace precedes law.
7. Assurance is of the essence of faith.
8. Evangelical Calvinism endorses a supralapsarian Christology which emphasizes the doctrine of the primacy of Christ.
9. Evangelical Calvinism is a form of dialectical theology.
10. Evangelical Calvinism places an emphasis upon the doctrine of union with/in Christ whereby all the benefits of Christ are ours.
11. Christ lived, died, and rose again for all humanity, thus Evangelical Calvinism affirms a doctrine of universal atonement.
12. Universalism is not a corollary of universal redemption and is not constitutive for Evangelical Calvinism.
13. There is no legitimate theological concept of double predestination as construed in the tradition of Reformed Scholasticism.
14. The atonement is multifaceted and must not be reduced to one culturally conditioned atonement theory but, rather, to a theologically unified but multi-faceted atonement model.
15. Evangelical Calvinism is in continuity with the Reformed confessional tradition.

Now of course each statement as given in the book is provided with elaboration and further development coordinate with each of the statement's sentiment.

What I want to emphasize through this is that Myk and myself are identifying something has a vibrant life and trajectory of its own. In other words it is a positive approach to thinking theologically and biblically.

And as far as I am concerned, the first two theses are indeed the most important. God is love.


  1. Thanks for this summary. I haven't had the time to peruse your site like
    I've been wanting to in order to better understand what is "Evangelical Calvinism." So this post is timely. It is certainly refreshing to see a Reformed confession that starts with the love of God and the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit as the origin of the nature and expression of that love!

    As a Calvinist for over 30 years I had it drummed into my head that to believe in a universal atonement meant only one thing: a universal redemption of all. How do you reconcile the intention of God to include all in Christ with a paradigm where His intention is short circuited by either man's 'free will' or Satan ...or what?

    And the other point connected with this is the issue of assurance which I heartily agree is "the essence of faith." But how can anyone have true assurance apart from the knowledge of an objective union with Christ that includes our having already "been raised with Christ"? In other words that it is an eternal reality, not just a potential one.

    I am not trying to work up a debate here. I really love most of what I hear you saying as represented above. I just want to understand the position of the EC in light of what I see as a conundrum.

    I assume you have had a few exchanges with Randy Boswell over this. Perhaps you can direct me to where you have answered this already.

    grace and peace...

  2. Hi Phillip,

    Great to hear from you. At the outset, why did you bring up Rand Boswell, do you know him?

    No, at least Myk Habets and I would see universalism 'short circuited', as you say, not by appeal to anything positive like 'free will' (whatever that is to mean, theologically) or Satan, but simply by appealing to the surdness and inexplicable nature of sin. So God chooses all of humanity from Christ's vicarious humanity, but obviously not all end up choosing the life they have been elected to (obectively) in Christ's. So as Calvin argued the reason people reject their election (or for Calvin, salvation) in Christ, is per accidens, or per the accidents of salvation history. So there is an asymmetry between God's election and reprobation, at least in seeking to provide a theological accounting of it.

    Assurance is something, just as salvation, that is ec-statically given. So this presupposes that the ground of salvation, by first impulse, can never be one where we look to ourselves but to Christ. So the subjective is enclosed by its objective and determinative reality in and from Christ alone. In other words, there is by definition, no space left for the person to look at themselves before they look to Christ. This might present problems still for people, existentially and psychologically, but theo-logically this 'order' of things ought to check those problems by grounded both the objective/subjective sides of salvation in Christ alone. Our union with God is not contingent by anything we have done, but all that God has freely chosen to do for us in the vicarious humanity of Christ.

  3. I spent some time on Boswell's site and we exchanged some emails regarding UR and his studies in Scotland. I ran across your comments at his blog. I liked your tone in interacting with Boswell's hopeful universalism so I checked out your site.

    Thank you for the detailed answer. I desire to understand the position of EC. However, it appears I waded in over my head. I was hoping for more of a layman's answer(!) But it makes we wonder how it is that the Good News must be deciphered from a theological paradigm that appears to be so complicated. How would you explain the above if talking to your average Christian or an unbelieving seeker?

    But, whatever it's worth (and I could be totally off base in my interpretation) I have the following reactions to your points above.

    1. I thought God was "inexplicable" not sin. Does not your description of sin elevate it to the status of a god which will, if you believe in ECT, co-exist with God forever? Does this not reflect a form of pagan dualism?

    2. Why would there ever be asymmetry between God's word (which we are told will not return void) and reality? How could there be a disparity between God's words: "Let us make man in our image," "It is finished," "All things new," and what God finally accomplishes?

    3. I believe the incarnation has informed God just how distressing and debilitating are the existential and psychological pain of not being able to KNOW the love of God objectively. And it seems the only theological application that would check those problems superseding the existential and psychological is the revelation of 100% objective union. "In Adam all died; in Christ all are made alive."

    4. I am not following your explanation of the rejection of our election/salvation by means of "the accidents of salvation history." How does that translate to a real person who is struggling with whether they are going to end up with Christ or be the victim of some "accident of salvation history."

    I am with you when say our union with God is not contingent upon anything we have done etc., I just can't follow how ultimate restoration of all mankind would not be the only conclusion from so many of the points you make in your post and reply above.

    Again, I am more seeking to understand your position in light of my own and not trying to debate UR with you. I know Arminianism, (neo)Calvinism, Molinism but have little knowledge of EC (I assume you are saying that EC is the true view of Calvin and thus true historical Calvinism?) Most of my friends/family are in the "Calvinism" camp but recently several have become extremely disillusioned with it. I am not having UR conversations with them (yet) but wondering if they might want to explore EC (first...!).

  4. 1. God has revealed Himself in Christ (John 1.18), God is ineffable, but not inexplicable relative to His Self-revelation. Jesus Himself recognized the reality of darkness (sin) and its ongoing allure, and the impact it has in his teaching found in Jn 3.16ff. So there is no Manichean dualism or some such thing necessary for simply believing as Jesus taught that sin is a reality. God never revealed the why or the how of sin, just that it is (w/o explanation, other than the inferences that we can make of it as privatio or privation of God's life etc.).

    2. The asymmetry is simply an intellectual apparatus and grammar used to explain the reality that Jesus taught; i.e. that the darkness will condemn those of love it rather than the light. Your questions here are interesting ones, but for my money they must be delimited by the teaching of Scripture and the Dominical teaching of Christ; that is that ECT is a reality, even as psychologically unsettling that that is.

  5. Continued

    3. Of course, again, the 'all' ought to be delimited by other clear passages of Scripture that teach that not 'all' will be subjectively 'saved', even if they have been objectively reoriented to God in Christ.

    4. Philip, I sometimes have a hard time when people preface questions by "how does that translate to a real person" as if I am not a real person with struggles myself. To employ the language of accidents, is actually to employ Aristotle's or Thomas Aquinas' conception of essence and accidents. Accidents aren't what the regular person is thinking of when they hear it; instead it is a reality that is unnecessary to the reality of the thing under consideration. In other words I am a man by nature (or essence), and yet I am also a blogger. I could be a man w/o being a blogger, but I could not be a blogger if I was not first a man. In other words being a blogger, a tennis player, or whatever is incidental and not necessary to the essence of what it means to be a man. When this is applied in the way I have, in re. to salvation, it is to place people's rejection of their salvation in Christ into the realm that is outside of the essence of salvation (which is Christ Himself). And so it is simply to recognize that some people (because of the persistence of sin)are outside of Christ, and this based on a reality that given what Christ has done has no real adequate explanation other than to say that we don't have a logical causal explanation for why they have decided to love themselves and the darkness rather than the light.

    I see ultimate restoration of all humankind as in reference to Christ and His archetypal humanity for all. He is the firsfruits of God, He is the firstborn from the dead; it is the 'one for the many' motif. But because I believe that Jesus taught ECT, then I do not believe that the reconcilation of all things, in the end, requires that all people accept Christ as their Saviour. Like I said earlier, I see the reconciliation of all things as language that suggests reorientation, but not ultimate salvation, per se. I am not a determinist, ultimately; which anyone who holds to Christian Universalism is, this is just the flip side of particular redemption, or limited atonement. So I reject, philosophically, the logical causal determinism that gives shape to classical Calvinism as well as Christian universalism; and I choose to live with the dynamic tension that is revealed in Christ and His teaching.

    Here is a link to a post I wrote on Jesus teaching on Hell:

    No, I am not suggesting that EC is the true view of Calvin; just like I wouldn't say that classical Calvinism represents Calvin either. Calvin left many themes dangling, in confessional instead of dogmatic form, and so he remains open in some areas for constructive retrieval.

    It would be great if some of your family wanted to explore what we have called Evangelical Calvinism. It is more of a mood than a movement, yet me and Myk Habets have indentified 15 contours that we see as essential to the formation of our understanding of what it means to live in this mood.

  6. Thank you Bobby for the post here; I was however a bit disappointed that you simply listed the 15 points because all that did (for me) was make me go back to the book (which I have trouble understanding completely) or go back to your original blog (which I have trouble understanding completely)

    Your interaction with Phillip here is extremely helpful (at some points.) For the first time I understand the concept of accidens (you actually defined it!):)

    But you still like to use words like surdness which means that I have to go look it up to understand it (most people won’t take the time.) I know you are a real person – but you write and interact at such an academic level that those of us who really want to understand can become very discouraged.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I know you are trying, but at least over here perhaps you need to write at a more elementary level.

    I really like EC (I have no idea what UR is or ECT.) On your other blog you point out that you are simply writing out your thoughts in order to process them. I understand that, perhaps here at EC for the academically impaired, you could take a little time to unfold some things (I know and appreciate that yours is limited so maybe you cannot do this)

    It would be great to get a summary of the 15 points broken down. I read through the last chapter of the book with my son the other night and we wrestled together with what you and Myk were saying. Some points were understandable of course (Grace precedes law for example, although there were many words mostly in other languages that I could not understand) but other points were a real challenge to unravel (thesis nine for example)

    I looked up dialogical and dialectical and proceeded with the dictionary’s definition only to feel like you didn’t use the words as defined – it seemed to me that dialogic was a synonym for analytical!

    My sons comment made me laugh, he said “someone needs to get this man a thesaurus” maybe I need one as well. :)

    My point here is not to attack, but again to make the case for using this site to give more of a “layman’s answer (as per Phillips “I desire to understand the position of EC. However, it appears I waded in over my head. I was hoping for more of a layman's answer(!)”)

    For example you respond to Phillip at one point “God is ineffable, but not inexplicable relative to His Self-revelation. Jesus Himself recognized the reality of darkness (sin) and its ongoing allure, and the impact it has in his teaching found in Jn 3.16ff. So there is no Manichean dualism or some such thing necessary for simply believing as Jesus taught that sin is a reality.”

    I needed both a regular dictionary and a dictionary of biblical history to read this sentence!

    I often feel as if I am drowning here, I actually once drafted a comment to you that I apparently was too stupid to continue to read your blog, but decided not to send it and keep working on educating myself to “get it”

    I love your dedication to posting here; it is amazing to me how your mind keeps churning out blog after blog!

    I however feel really bad because I seem to be nagging you all the time to explain things better - but I am fighting for the not so smart (at least in my case.) I am sharing EC like crazy with whoever will listen to me, I just wish I understood some of the finer points a lot better.

    Perhaps I am asking too much and if so I apologize, keep posting and I will try to keep up. But in the end I am still crossing my fingers for an EC for dummies such as me!

  7. Steve,

    It is all about time, really. I don't have as much as I'd like. And it takes a lot of work, to break down and define all the various words I often use for precision's sake. But I will continue to try as I can.

    As far as the comments though; those will be determined by the kinds of comments I receive. If someone comments in a way that seems to have an understanding of certain theological and even technical things; then my response will largely be in kind. When Philip brought up 'pagan dualism' I presupposed that he was referring to Manicheanism, which is the dualist cult Augustine was apart of prior to his conversion to Christianity.

    How old is your son, and what does he think of EC; insofar as he grasps it?

  8. As far as dialogical; that would simply be in reference to the idea that God speaks through His Word, and so it is being used by us in a connotative way, in the sense that theology is dynamic and coversational, and this conversation is given shape by God's Revelation of Himself to us in Christ.

  9. The interesting thing is, Steve, as technical as you think we are in the book (and I grant that we are, relatively speaking); we aren't even close to being as technical as many of the theologians I have read or engaged with over the years :-)!

  10. What exactly would you like clarified? For me to try and provide a synopsis of all of the theses in layman language would require a lot of work. In fact I think that might even be a good little book project. ;-)

  11. Thank you Steve, I can relate to being "intellectually impaired." Yes, I feel that too and I also desire to understand but I am glad that while Bobby is gifted beyond me with intelligence it is not a requirement for understanding the kingdom(!) (btw--UR stands for Ultimate Restoration of all mankind and ECT is "eternal conscious torment")

    Bobby, I am grateful for your time and patience in your reply.

    I am forming a better understanding of your position as it relates to mine. I think what drew me into your site was the quote by T.F. Torrence as it appeared in the context of "TEC." That to me was a curious thing. The quote is just breathtaking and is not something I would have heard in my 30 years in my Reformed Pres church. As this sentiment must represent what you are about I am excited to share this vision with my friends/family who do not yet have faith for UR as I shared. It is definitely a "mood" I would like to see take root.

    It was the predestination doctrine, not knowing if God is really for you, that hijacked my assurance. But as I am trying to understand, if Christ has offered Himself in such a way as Torrence has so beautifully elucidated here then the only thing holding anyone from salvation would be ...what? Is it blindness? Is the "persistent sin" you are talking about breaking the 10 commandments or is it not believing the true nature of our Father? Do you believe forgiveness is prior to repentance and faith? (J. B. Torrence) If so is it the unbelief in the Father heart of God what ultimately keeps us from Him?

    1. I don't believe the why of sin is a mystery/inexplicable: "He consigned all over to disobedience that He might have mercy on them all." Rom 11:32 The mystery is perhaps how "the opposition" came into being which He then orchestrated to be used for greater good. ("You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..." Gen 50:20)

    As long as sin dictates to God how He should act then this "inexplicable sin" is in eternal opposition to God and IMO is therefore dualism. Sin does not dictate to God how He should act. Love does. His loving purpose is to "destroy the works of the devil," "not willing that any should perish."

    2. I won't argue against your conviction that ECT was taught by Christ. I understand you see no way around it at this time. Thanks for the link-I will read your post on it.

    3. I believe 'all' is defined by Paul as "all without exception" in passages such as 2 Cor 5 and Romans 5. Paul, who penned two-thirds of the NT, and who said in Acts 20:27 that he covered the "whole counsel of God," only mentioned "hell" once and it was this: "O Death, where is your victory; 'Hell' where is your sting?" (1 Cor 15)

    4. My apologies for sounding insensitive. I should have phrased it: the average person who has limited theological/philosophical knowledge. I also am a real person who has struggled with the issue of assurance and have watched as many others have been in bondage over this. But thank you for graciously explaining the philosophical terminology. I wanted a clearer definition of what you meant by "accidents" and how you pastorally would explain that to someone who is struggling, a child, or a friend who asks "How do I know that I am not self-deceived about my salvation?"

  12. continued...

    I am assuming there are a couple of foundational differences leading us to our conclusions on this. I believe one is the difference between the Augustinian/legal mindset and the Athanasius/Trinitarian/relational mindset(?) I am starting at "in the beginning" (John 1, literally "of first importance") with the relationship of Father, Son and Spirit not with sin/fall.

    The other would be a misunderstanding of what you see as "determinism." I agree that particular redemption IS determinism because it is tied to predestination. UR does not imply determinism. I think what is overlooked when questioning how all are reconciled to Christ is the very relational and God-inspired element of "romance." It’s what Jesus said He would do and what the prophets said God would do. John 12:32; Hosea; Ez 16; Isa 19 (

    You qualified what you meant by ultimate restoration to mean not literally all people but simply a symbolic/representative restoration in an archetypical way(?) But if I told you that "all" survived the plane crash and your mother was on that flight you would have sure hope, until you were told "No, we mean that all kinds of people survived" or "no, just a representative group survived." I think to talk of a reconciliation of all things (Col 1) and then say it really doesn't mean all things/people is not good news, especially if any of your family and friends went "down with the ship" of ECT.

    That "psychologically unsettling" feeling you spoke of, does that mean you would at least DESIRE that UR could be proven true?

    Thank you again for your gracious engagement with my questions.

    grace and peace...

  13. I agree with your last comment - you can call it EC for dummies!! :) (or EC for stevez who just doesn't get it!) :

    My son is 24 and smarter than I am so I read and we conversed about what the exact point you and Myk were getting at. He says he is having a hard time differentiating what I have been teaching and EC, it is all a blur to him at this point. And it was a bit much as we discussed points one through 9 in one sitting.

    I am halfway through Billings Union with Christ - read Purves on the same subject, both are very enlightening.

    Billings book is amazing as it answers many of the questions I am wrestling with (assurance and man's responsibility) I love the illustrations he comes up with and am tempted to buy his first book on Calvin.
    I don’t think he addresses (at least not so far as I have read) the point of the Holy Spirit awakening the believer to salvation – he rejects Arminianism and makes it quite clear why, but I can’t find the opposite of that, if God doesn’t take us by force, how does our will become awakened and cognizant enough to choose the narrow road over the wide road? (while other wills are not awakened at all)

    Does Billings hold to universal atonement? And what does UA have to do with why some people are still sent to hell. His stuff on free will was great but also left me scratching my head a bit.

    Anything else you would recommend from or about either Torrance or Barth? After reading Scottish Theology and mentioned John Knox to my hyper Calvinistic friend he said “what, that murderer?”

    I pointed out that Calvin as well has blood on his hands.

    It was a different time 

    Thanks for hitting me back. I will continue my ruminations and carry on in learning the erudite ways of the smart guys.

  14. Bobby, BTW, that last question regarding your "desire" for UR to be proven true was not asking you for the invitation for me to make an attempt. It was just something I was curious to know.

    Steve, I second your question: "if God doesn’t take us by force, how does our will become awakened and cognizant enough to choose the narrow road over the wide road? (while other wills are not awakened at all)" This was the nagging question I was left with when I needed to abandon my neo-Calvinism.

    I also wondered similarly: Are those who were atoned for but end up in eternal hell "forgiven" by God? (Hence my question above, "Is forgiveness prior to faith and repentance?")

  15. Philip,

    I am glad that you appreciate what TFT has offered and what EC is about!

    Actually if someone follows the Scotist thesis (technical theology alert ;-), then the existence of sin does not dictate to God how God should be or act--and I follow this thesis. Plus, TFT and my critique of classical Calvinism is one that says that classical theism (the philosophy behind classical Calvinism/Arminianism etc.)ends up collapsing God into the creation, by making God's being contingent upon meeting the dictates of the absolute decrees (which include sin); and so my critique is yours, but articulated differently. I will have to come back and explain the Scotist thesis at another time.

    Yes, read my post, I think it will be insightful for you, relative to how I approach this question.

    If I were to explain accidents to someone who is "un-trained," I would just say that reprobation, so called, has no real place relative to God's intended plan for creation and recreation in Christ. And that reprobation, proper, has been taken care of in Christ's assumption of our humanity, finally realized and put to death at the cross. I would say that the fact that people still reject their election in Christ remains a mystery. And I would further have to explain to them how I do not think from a logical causal Stoic and determinist framework when affirming such things.

    If I believed that UR could be "proven" true, Robin Parry would have been the one to persuade me; he almost did. But in the final analysis, for me, he did not.

    I am aware of the tradition of marital mysticism and Pauline theology, and advocate for a form of that from the Puritan Richard Sibbes. Nevertheless, if it can be said that this romancing or heavy wooing WILL terminate in the salvation of all, then when reduced, it still comes out as a qualified determinism.

    Actually, I do believe that all of 'real' humanity is saved, w/o exception. Real humanity is Christ's humanity for us. In order for individual humans to subjectively participate this, they must trust in the Father's promises to the Son, and thus trust in the Son, for salvation.


    I am not sure what Billings thinks about universal atonement, I will have to ask him; I'll let you know.

    And I am pretty sure Billings is more classical and Calvinian when it comes to 'awakening to faith', but he would believe that this comes from Christ's humanity first, I think.

    I will have to think further about some other recommendations for you.

    How would your friend substantiate that Knox was a murderer. It was a different time, I have a post somewhat defending Calvin in the Servetus incident. Not totally defending him, but providing historical perspective.

  16. Bobby, here are a few final things I would like to run by you with a number of questions and some concluding thoughts from my perspective. (I hope to be some of that "iron sharpening iron" and not annoying!) I understand if you don't want to take the time to go through all of it in a response here. But I leave it with you and have appreciated the dialogue. I will continue to seek to understand better the EC position as I continue to explore your site.

    1. What do we make of the fact that this gospel message that is defined by TFT has rarely been offered to sinners but instad it has been almost invariably a polluted gospel? Has God put the fate of mankind in the hands of so many incompetent preachers? Is it then in our own hands to create a saving faith out of the scraps of law and gospel un-rightly divided by most proclaimers of the "gospel"? I am feeling the tension that Steve brought up of where does the ultimate responsibility lie for our salvation?

    How does your theological paradigm provide for the unreached, the impaired, children, those who have been abused by the Church, those who have heard a truncated gospel or worse?

    2. Would it not be more Scriptural to rely on the "one faith" of Christ who believes in His own ability to redeem and recreate us in His image (His original intention) rather than in our faith that is first of all human, and second represents not one but millions of subsets of interpretations of that faith? And why do Scriptures like Gal 2:20 translate more accurately to say, "I live by the faith OF the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me"? (Also see Eph 3:12 in original.)

    Is it not of first importance what God believes and has revealed about His creation rather than of what we believe about Him? ("We love because He first loved us.") Is not the substance of our faith first in the faith/faithfulness of the Son of God? Is it not His thoughts about us that define us rather than our thoughts about Him that define Him? David was overwhelmed by God's thoughts of him in Psalm 139. His faith and worship were his response to God's loving thoughts towards him.

    3. Regarding determinism: Could it be that WE are the ones on a self-created path of determinism towards death and destruction through the bondage of lies and darkness, while God, who is the ONLY truly free Being in the universe, has set out to restore us into our ORIGINAL freedom as His image-bearers? ...into the original freedom we were intended to share "in the beginning" within the Trinitarian relationship where we, His Eikons, were birthed in His thoughts? (Eph 1; Jn 1)

    4. Maybe it is not sin that is the principle mystery. You are willing to consider sin to be "inexplicable" in order to maintain your paradigm but what if it is the love of God that is past finding out, inscrutable? Just because you don't know HOW His love could provide for all being ultimately restored does that mean you can't accept the "tension"? (which you seem to be willing to do with what you call "the inexplicableness of sin.") I have simply chosen to consider the ultimate triumph of the love of God to be the mystery I live in (and to be my "starting point.")

    Again, why does sin get to be that mystery of tension you choose to live in, why not the love of God? You are satisfied to leave the inexplicableness of an aspect of salvation to mystery and live in that tension. Why can you not live with the "tension" of the unsearchableness of God's love and mercy and ability to "draw all" to Himself, causing every knee to bow and tongue confess, reconciling all things to Himself to literally be "all in all"? (As Talbott points out there is just as much prima facie evidence for UR as the Cal/Arm positions)

  17. Continued...

    5. One word you used was "obviously" in the context of your human experience/reality as one of the evidences you used to conclude that not all are saved. Could that possibly be a dangerous assumption? For obviously Jesus was just a man ...and obviously He must have had a demon. Obviously the Messiah was nothing like Jesus. Obviously, the dead are not raised. Obviously, it is impossible for a rich person to ever be saved. Obviously you can't "call those things which are 'not' as if they are."

  18. continued...

    6. I understand why Parry almost yet still did not convince you of UR. It is enormously bigger than any one person or group could deliver. We need the Body of Christ to reveal it in its fullness. And I believe that is exactly what we are seeing. Our main thesis on our site/blogs is that UR is the comprehensive Story that the Body of Christ is revealing the same time (just not in the same location...yet!)

    At present His Body is torn asunder. It is dismembered and disfigured through our denominationalism and the desire for all of us to be right at the same time (well, maybe just mostly right).

    Throughout history parts of the Body have refused to occupy the same worship space because of their contradictory views. The Calvinists and Arminians call one another heretics. Yet we all claim to be members of the same Body.

    But both Calvinist and Arminian believers according to Scripture literally co-exist in the same Body (unless one group concedes that the other are not actually true members of Christ's Body but reprobates). This Body, together, creates the vision of the ultimate restoration of all. Granted both would be required to shed some doctrines. But if they hold up the doctrines they treasure the most the result is the message of the sovereign God who is able to do all He intended and desired to do "from the beginning," from within the Trinitarian heart of God.

    There is immensely more to this vision than just merging the Cal/Arm views. Different parts of the Body are illuminating for us the full Story of God through emphasizing: the true nature of restorative justice, God's "missional" heart, our identity in Christ, the return of a resurrection focus, the wider implications of social justice, the cosmic nature of redemption and "the restoration of all creation," the "radical grace" message, the rediscovery of the Trinity as it relates to our inclusiveness in Christ...and there are many more(!)

    So I am not dogmatic about what 'I' believe but I am dogmatic about the Body of Christ for whom Christ Himself prayed would be one in order "that the world would know." I stake my claim on this prayer by Jesus Himself to be answered. I believe we are seeing it. And I believe that you Bobby are a part of it as you delineate what you call "Evangelical Calvinism."

    I will end by saying that I appreciate your work here to rescue a vision of God which is much more Biblical and alluring than the one many Christians adhere to but are increasingly being disillusioned by. I know you would disagree at this time but I see EC as a precursor to something even bigger... "beyond all we could ever hope or imagine."

    grace and peace...

  19. Philip,

    You have asked way too much of me here; and I have already spent (literally) years responding and responding to all of your questions above. So I won't rehash all of that. You can buy our book and find out the answers to some of your questions, and you can start by reading some posts of mine in my Evangelical Calvinism category:

    Based upon your questions above, you have not grasped, really at all, what we are offering. When you say "our salvation", we don't believe salvation is our's, per se; the only saved humanity is Christ's, and so we offer a view of salvation that is Christ conditioned, grounded in Christ's humanity for us, and a view of salvation that is purely participationist. The Vicarious Humanity of Christ is key and central to our view of everything.

    I don't agree with you about Christian Universalism, and I don't see EC as part of that movement.

    We have a chapter in our book titled: "Suffer the Little Children to come to me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven": Infant Salvation and the Destiny of the Severely Mentally Disabled written by Myk Habets. Again, you will have to buy our book to find out how we answer this question. It is grounded in the Vicarious Humanity of Christ. Here is a post that I wrote that applies some of this to the kids who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut:

  20. Or Philip,

    You can read this, which is more pointed, and offers a glimpse into some EC themes:

  21. Bobby, hey, sorry...I don't know what came over me. : )

    But as I prefaced I was not expecting a personal response but I felt compelled to lay out my questions for your own pondering in case something resonated. But apparently I brought nothing new to your table beyond what you have already "hashed and rehashed" before and resolved in your own mind. And also, apparently, my questions reveal I have little clue as to what your view represents(!) I will read the posts you recommended. At first I was very discouraged but now I am intrigued to press on.

    In the meantime I will continue to direct those whom I know struggling within the neo-Reformed dessert to at least the inclusive understanding of our Trinitarian God through His incarnation in Christ. I have been sharing Athanasius' gem "On the Incarnation" with folks. Also I want to read more of TFT after being drawn by his quote here. AND I did order your book (ouch, $43! Amazon).

    But does there exist a "primer" on this topic of the vicarious humanity of Christ that might be easier to understand that I might share this more hopeful presentation of the atonement with those who would not be inclined to read your book?

    BTW, I was not saying you are a part of any movement except that of the Holy Spirit which is happening amongst the wider Body of Christ as one, together. That is why I feel compelled to understand your view because I believe it will fill out and enhance my theology as a co-member of that Body. And hopefully that means a better understanding of the person and work of Christ and therefore more love for Him...and others (that the world will know!)

  22. Hey Bobby, just want to mention that I now have your book and have begun to read it. I repent of my comment on the price, obviously I did not understand the value of a theological volume such as this(!) This is indeed an amazing compilation and I see now that it is worth every penny.

    I know that you don't want to be defined by what you're against but I find the fact that it is in contrast to the Federal Vision movement encouraging (which is the position of my former pastor which seemed to wreak havoc on the people).

    I know I am not going to understand or track with everything but I am loving what I am reading so far. Again, this could provide some real freedom for my loved ones and friends who are in desperate need of seeing, as you posted, "'God is love' as the starting point." Forgive me for initially coming on so strong with my probing questions and not primarily as a learner.

    I am now even inspired to dust off my Calvin Institutes and Commentaries.

  23. Phillip,

    Sorry if I came off more chipper than I should have! I realize that you have not been reading me for all that long, it is just hard for me, given my time constraints to try and explain all of this in primer like ways. That is something I need to work on for a publication or something.

    I am glad to hear that you got our book, and that it is blessing you. I would suggest reading the Intro and then chapter 15 and our Theses, prior to reading the rest of the book; this will help orient the rest of the volume, which is not as pointed in regard to explicitly naming the themes as Myk and I have in our theses. That said, these theses are developed in the rest of the essays of the book, sometimes, though in round about ways by looking at Calvin, Barth, Torrance and/or other Scottish theologians.

    Sweet glad to hear that Calvin is getting another hearing from you!

    The price is spendy, primarily because of the amount of pages, and thus ink and paper that has to be spilled in order to publish it :-).

  24. Hey your "chipper" was gracious. I can get very passionate and perhaps come across very ungracious at times. I have had a recent revelation about how you lose the beauty when you let passion turn into argument(!)

    I would be VERY enthused about a book for the average layperson that unpacks the EC view.

    As I was searching out material on the Torrance brothers I came across a Dr C. Baxter Kruger who studied under JBT. I have appreciated his emphasis on the Trinitarian inclusion of humanity (his site is called "Perichoresis"). Not sure where he stands as far as EC or UR. Are you familiar with him?

    Thanks for the tips on best navigating through your book. It is going well and I don't feel as lost as I had imagined I would be.

  25. Bobby, I just read through your material on Chandler/Piper since that is where I come from theologically. I am so excited that you are challenging these guys in such an educated manner (ok, so I am no longer chafed by your super-brain!) I feel like I really have some place to direct folks who are steeped (and personally drying up) in this theology. Several of them are pastors in churches that are falling apart so I think they may be ready to hear an evaluation of what clearly has not been working. After I read your responses to comments I respect and value even more your credentials (and your respectful and gracious tone!) I am realizing that you are not just an "expert" or an "intellectual" but more like a surgeon who can precisely cut away the diseased elements in our theology. We don't all need to be doctors, but we do need them(!) So I am glad there is someone like you who can pinpoint the problems. Most people just experience a vague sense that something is not quite right.

    I was trying to view McCormack's video and couldn't bring it up. I couldn't find it by googling it either but read some of his stuff. You piqued my interest so I really want to watch.

  26. Interesting! Indeed some of these are viable and true, and some of course could be debated!

    Btw, I have been in a personal great debate with someone over Barth's theology, and too both Barth and Von Kirschbaum, themselves! Wow, what "fundamentalist" judgments some have against Barth.. Just amazing! Of course I will always see Barth as a modern church father, though as all the fathers, never infallible!

    Anonymous? Not sure why my wordpress did not go thru...Irishanglican.

    1. Oh now it did! :) Or didn't...give me wordpress mate! ;)

  27. Apparently, you're redifining the meaning of the word "love".

    If it can mean "unconditionally condemning someone to eternal torment", it has no relation to our human word."

    Lovely greetings from Germany
    Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland

    Lothars Sohn - Lothar's son

  28. The true depth of God's love for mankind has not yet been fully revealed. It will be shown more fully in the resurrection of mankind to earth in Christ's kingdom on earth.


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