Thursday, December 13, 2012

Killing Calvinism?

Below is a collection of quotes from Greg Dutcher’s book Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside (Cruciform Press, June, 2012). The impetus for sharing these quotes is an exchange between myself and one of the Reformation21 editors. R21 is a web magazine published by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which I read regularly and have linked to quite a bit here at my blog. I have been a member of the Alliance ever since I joined the PCA over a dozen years ago. I've been blessed by their very strict standards of association and their unwillingness to compromise core doctrines. Unfortunately, the increasing influences of the Neo-Calvinist movement in the USA have begun to infiltrate the discernment of this group of otherwise well-respected men.

In particular, the most concerning issue at stake is what Mr. Dutcher's book directly addresses about how Calvinism is being destroyed from the inside. The Alliance has been extremely careful in its associations with outside organizations, but just recently has thrown in with a particular group of bloggers who call themselves "Triablogue". The lead blogger of this group, Mr. Steve Hays, is not an active partipating member of an Evangelical church and has no oversight or accountability of his writing ministry. In addition, his engagement into many Calvinist discussions and apologetic endeavors have brought great discredit and ill-repute upon the name of Jesus Christ.  Many reformed bloggers have been the recipients of his destructive and uncharitable internet interactions (Lane Keister, Reed DePace, James White, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Collin HansenMichael Spencer,  to name a few).  In addition, many non-Reformed bloggers have found Mr. Hays' defense of Calvinism weak and uncharitable and Mr. Hays' lack of accountability and ties to church authority disconcerting. There's no doubt that someone can be intellectually brilliant, yet heart-hardened against people, made in the image of God, and toward the life-changing message of the gospel. We must hold one another accountable for our words and deeds (praxis), not merely our theological positions. If our theology doesn't translate into doxology and a faithful witness, then something is not correct in our theology.

The purpose of this article is to call attention to the wonderful and beneficial work of Mr. Greg Dutcher, in which he clearly cites how such Neo-Calvinists are destroying Calvinism from within. I do hope that leaders of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals will take seriously their responsibility to vett their authors and ministry partners better, for the Gospel truly is at stake. Consider a few quotes from Mr. Dutcher's book:

I am concerned that many Calvinists today do little more than celebrate how wonderfully clear their theological windshield is. But like a windshield, Reformed theology is not an end in itself. It is simply a window to the awe-inspiring universe of God’s truth, filled with glory, beauty, and grace. Do we need something like a metaphorical windshield of clear, biblical truth to look through as we hope to marvel at God’s glory? Absolutely. But we must make sure that we know the difference between staring at a windshield and staring through one.” (14)

[Quoting Kevin DeYoung:] “Here are the two most important things you need to know about the rise of the New Calvinism: it’s not new and it’s not about Calvin. Of course, some of the conferences are new. The John Piper–packed iPods are new. The neo-reformed blog blitz is new. The ideas, however, are not. ‘Please God, don’t let the young, restless, and reformed movement be another historically ignorant, self-absorbed, cooler-than-thou fad.’” (16)

“‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!’ (Romans 11:33). When Paul reflected on the doctrines that make up what we call Calvinism, he was moved to rejoice in God. This is the key to not killing off today’s Calvinist upsurge. When we read our books, attend our conferences, and ‘Piperup’ our iPods, the primary goal must not be to gain a better understanding of 16th- and 17th-century doctrine. It must be to be blown out of the water by the God who has chosen us in infinite mercy and wisdom.” (18)

The best Calvinists that history has given to us were using Reformed theology to get a clearer hold on the majesty of God, the wonder of the gospel, and the exhilaration of Christian living. By God’s grace — yes, his sovereign grace — may we do the same.” (20)

[From a written prayer:] “May I never be more enamored with the theology that helps me see these things clearly than with seeing you.” (21)

We cross a line when we are more focused on mastering theology than on being mastered by Christ.” (25)

Jesus is not impressed with our Calvin, Edwards, or Machen when we cannot grow into people of kindness and self-control. It is simply time to grow up. We need to stop killing our Calvinism.” (30)

Our Calvinism should lead us to an overpowering sense that our lives are not our own.” (32)

This world desperately needs to see a robust, healthy Calvinism that celebrates the fullness of God’s ways and works — not a lopsided Christian who cannot get off of the hobbyhorse of God’s sovereignty.” (43)

“Here was the leading author of the New Testament [Paul] and a man who arguably had more insight into the character and ways of God than you or I ever will, and if we need proof that he could believe 100 percent in predestination and 100 percent in evangelism, here it is: ‘I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory’ (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul paid a high personal price, suffering hardship and spending himself to bring the gospel and preach the gospel to people who were already certain to be saved!” (55)

[From a written prayer:] “Would you convict me every time I pervert your sovereignty into an excuse for my self-indulgence.” (57)

I believe that if I do not pause and thank God for all of the people he has brought into my life, I am killing Calvinism in the worst way. God has so ordained and orchestrated my life, down to the finest detail, that to refuse to see God’s hand in bringing many wonderful non-Calvinists into my life would be a rejection of Reformed theology.” (66)

God does not need us to be his spin-doctors. When we feel compelled to make sure that his sacred Word does not give the ‘wrong impression,’ we are really demonstrating a tremendous lack of confidence in the clarity and authority of Scripture. . . . When we refuse to let our theology dictate Scripture, we are free to live with large doses of paradox. We are not afraid of passages that emphasize the need for good works. We do not feel awkward about verses that call on everyone to make a choice and take a stand for the Lord. Instead, we are free to put all of our hope in our sovereign God while striving to follow everything he has commanded us to do and be.” (74–75)

[From a written prayer:] “Just one sentence from you would have been a great gift, but you have given me a waterfall of truth in the pages of sacred Scripture.” (77)

I believe with all my heart that Calvinism is a treasure. It beautifully summarizes and systematizes the truths concerning our salvation revealed in Scripture. But treasure in the hands of fools is a frightening prospect, and nothing fuels a fool more than pride. I pray that my fellow Calvinists would join me in hunting down every vestige of pride in our hearts, right down to the last lingering impulse of arrogance.” (82)

[Quoting John Piper:] “I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative.” (88)

[In speaking to our daily devotional routines:] “Let Calvinism devastate you to the core and bring you to tears. . . . Every day I ask God to show me just how lost I would be without him.” (90–91)

Let’s accept the fact that Calvinism’s reputation has been falsely tainted and that few of the Christians who oppose it actually understand its tenets. Let’s accept the reality that our efforts will meet with opposition. If we believe that the heart of Calvinism is simply an accurate restatement of the gospel, then opposition based on misunderstanding should not surprise us — distortion of the gospel has been a principal goal of the enemy from the beginning.” (101–102)

I have great remorse about the number of people that might say that they were at some point afraid to talk about predestination and election with me. If people did not feel at ease in my presence then I have done a great disservice. Let me say it more bluntly: I have sinned. May God grant me and every Calvinist who falters in this area the grace to commend Calvinism with a gentle, merciful spirit.” (103)


Anonymous said...

Peacemakers and had an article about blogging comments, the tongue and the sinfulness of our hearts.
It gets to this same idea that you are talking about. Bottomline, when men like Steve Hays call people the kinds of names that he does and accuses them wrongfully of the things that he has, it demonstrates the crookedness of his own heart. It also displays the fact that he is so out of touch with the darkness in his heart that he glories in that which should bring shame.

I read his comments in the links that you referenced and his mannerisms were embarassing to me as a minister of the gospel.
Thank you for calling him out. I should hope that the men associated with the Alliance will do the same. Someday he will someday be held to account for every misdeed. - Terry

Deb W. . said...

Thank you, Terry, for dropping by and commenting. I did email the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and asked to consider their association with Mr. Hays, given his pattern of interaction on the web as we've both noted. However, they were not interested in my "amateur" appeal and stood by their friend. I guess it's time to move on, but I will be quite suspect of the YRR influence at ACE going forward, as it seems to have clouded their judgement, and most probably will have an impact on the reliability of their ministry in the future. Grace and peace to you.