Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Calvinism Justifies the Means?

A few months ago Calvinist blogs were buzzing about the Jason Stellman case (a PCA pastor who is now a Roman Catholic). Stellman never taught Catholicism while he was Presbyterian, but Calvinists criticized him for not saying he was thinking about Catholicism earlier. Blaine actually taught contrary to his churches doctrine, undercover, to kids, but he gets a pass (at least from Derek of Theoparadox). I wonder if other Calvinists are fine with Blaine’s approach.

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/sneaky-calvinism-calvinism-on-the-sly-in-action/

18 comments:

THEOparadox said...

Dan,

I am sure that the vast majority of reasonable Calvinists and Arminians would be perfectly happy with his approach if they knew more about it. As it stands, a lot of internet-based "judges" are making a mountain out of a mole hill. He could explain further, if he wanted to, but he is not accountable to any of us, and given the many uncharitable and prejudicial judgments already leveled against him (including what is stated in your post), I don't blame him for following our Lord's example and remaining silent. In fact, I quite respect him for it. Really, the whole matter has been blown completely out of proportion, and the Pharisaical nature of the accusations made by certain internet Arminians is more than unjustifiable.

You might also note my further comments here:
http://www.contemporarycalvinist.com/2013/03/this-week-in-calvinism-march-1-2013.html

Thank you for linking to my post.

Blessings,
Derek

Godismyjudge said...

Derek,

This is what Blaine said:

"Just yesterday I was teaching (in my A/G church) my high school class the Scriptural truths about God's sovereignty in salvation. I cleverly did not use the terms "unconditional election" or "Calvinism." I simply explained what the Bible clearly teaches in, i.e., Ephesians 1 and Romans 8. The kids came up with some good questions, and what I noticed was that we (humans) desperately want to be able to explain everything.

A couple of the students hypothesized that, regarding foreknowledge, it was just that since God knows everything, he already knew who would choose him - that same ol' saw. I explained that first of all, that that is NOT what "foreknow" means, and then helped them to see that if it were true, then God is essentially bound by our decisions.

We went on from there to talk very briefly about the mysteries of God. At any rate, it was a fun exercise, and what you've posted today is just exactly where we were yesterday. I love these bits especially:
"The issue of human freedom and unconditional election is in the same apophatic domain. We can’t make sense out of them and once we do, we have entered into error.

And later, Will you trust me or will you redefine things?”"

I have no reason to doubt him. If you call that Pharisaical so be it.

God be with you,
Dan

THEOparadox said...

Dan,

Thank you for your reply.

Here's the problem:

You said: "Blaine actually taught contrary to his churches doctrine, undercover, to kids."

A more accurate way to say this would have been:
"Blaine openly taught contrary to the majority opinion in his denomination on a minor issue, to a high school class, in a ministry context I know absolutely nothing about."

It's a lot less sensational sounding when written more factually.

How do you know his pastor, the entire deacon board and all of the parents were not present in the class? Can you see how much you are assuming with "undercover"?

Exactly which part of Blaine's account do you have a problem with? That he taught the Scriptural truths about God's sovereignty? That he did not label those Biblical truths as Calvinist or Arminian (i.e., that he was wise enough to just teach the Bible and not stir up unnecessary controversy on a hot topic)? That he explained what the Bible clearly teaches? That he doesn't think we can explain everything? That he thinks God is not bound by our decisions? That he interpreted the term "foreknow" as a relational rather than epistemological term? Or that he relegated the whole matter of election to the category of mystery?

I fail to see why Blaine's story is even worth repeating or criticizing, unless one has an axe to grind and insists on reading it in the least charitable light. It certainly has no analogy to the case of Jason Stellman and the PCA.

I understood the initial misreading of the account and the possible concern on the part of some Arminians, but at this point I'm baffled by the way this is still being ridden around like a hobby horse (or, in some cases, a "high horse").

Really, any Christian who knows his Bible should see the problem with all of the assuming that is going on here (leading quickly to slander - perhaps unintentional - which is what your "undercover" comment amounts to).

I hope you can now see what I meant by "Pharisaical."

Blessings,
Derek

Godismyjudge said...

Derek,

Here's the statement of mine you objected to:

"Blaine actually taught contrary to his churches doctrine, undercover, to kids."

You also asked me "Exactly which part of Blaine's account do you have a problem with?" Here's Blaine's statement where where I got my statement from. My comments in brackets.

"Just yesterday I was teaching (in my A/G church) my high school class [to kids] the Scriptural truths about God's sovereignty in salvation. I cleverly did not use the terms "unconditional election" or "Calvinism." [Undercover and contrary to his Church's doctrine]

Now you and he say he was just teaching scripture. But scripture does not say foreknow does not mean foreknowledge or that unconditional election and human freedom cannot be understood. In this specific case, it's highly relevant that his Church's bylaws forbidding it's ministers to teach the impossibility of apostasy, which ends up contradicting the notion of unconditional election.

Even if his pastor were there (and I have no reason to think he was), what he did was still undercover. Even if the pastor told him to do it, Blaine would minimally still need to disclose that what he was saying is contrary to his church's doctrine. Omitting "Calvinism" and "unconditional election" and doing it "cleverly" are just aggravating factors in this case.

God be with you,
Dan

THEOparadox said...

Dan,

Your reading of the events does not give a brother the benefit of the doubt or assume him "innocent until proven guilty."

Let's be crystal clear in stating that Blaine did not in any way go against the doctrine of his church. The Assemblies of God is governed by 16 Fundamental Truths, all of which he affirms. Nothing he said went against any of those 16 fundamentals. He only disagreed with the published opinions of some of the denomination's leading theologians on a minor (non-fundamental) issue. He is under no obligation to say who he disagrees with when teaching (and in reality you have no way of knowing whether he mentioned that he disagreed with some in the A/G on this minor topic). If this is "undercover," you would have to say almost every Assembly of God pastor is undercover. The A/G is big enough to accept a wide variety of opinions, and their pastors often disagree on non-fundamental points. That's normal for any denomination. I always thought it rather interesting that one of their leading theologians, Gordon Fee, disagreed publicly with one of the 16 Fundamentals. He didn't say, "This is against the doctrine of my church," but he wasn't at all undercover about it. As far as I know, Gordon Fee is still an ordained A/G minister, and still teaches publicly against a fundamental they hold. In fact, Blaine is duty bound to disagree with Gordon Fee! Why not publish blog posts about that?

THEOparadox said...

By the way, I never said "foreknow does not mean foreknowledge." I intimated that Paul's use of this term carries more of the Hebrew notion of "know" (a relational connotation, as in "Adam knew his wife") than the Greek idea of merely having information. Again, your words - even in summarizing my words - present an uncharitable misrepresentation of what was said.

Likewise, neither Blaine nor I said "unconditional election and human freedom cannot be understood." I did imply that they cannot be fully understood (and are thus mysterious in their relation to one another). There is quite a big difference.

Nothing in Blaine's account mentions the "impossibility of apostasy," so I am not sure where you derived that. Unconditional election certainly doesn't make the apostasy described in Scripture impossible. Since the Bible speaks of apostasy, we Calvinists affirm the possibility of it. However, we have a different idea than Arminians about the mechanics of it (just as you Arminians have a different idea about the mechanics of God's sovereignty, election, etc.). The Reformed doctrine of Perseverance is quite a robust thing; I find it abundantly more sobering and far less tolerant of sin than Arminian teachings about conditional security. Blaine does not teach that imbalanced aberration called "Once Saved Always Saved," nor does he use perseverance to excuse sin. For Calvinists, perseverance is a driver toward holiness.

Looking closely at his words, Blaine never actually said he taught Calvinism. He said he taught the Scriptural truths on a certain topic. Arminians who read his words seemed to equate "the Scriptural truths" with "Calvinism." We Calvinists welcome this development. But Blaine, rather than labeling those Biblical truths as "Calvinism," taught according to his conscience and assigned a measure of mystery to the conclusions. A brilliant, balanced and wise approach, I think. I long for Arminian and Calvinist pastors everywhere to be so prudent in their presentations! I refuse to be so partisan in my theology that I can't appreciate a godly Arminian pastor openly teaching the Bible with sincerity according to his conscience and convictions. My own denomination is Evangelical Free; Calvinism generally prevails here. But I would welcome a Christ-centered, Gospel-preaching Arminian into our ranks with open arms. In fact, some of them go to my church, hold me accountable, encourage me, and minister by my side (and occasionally argue with me).

At the same time, I would be ashamed to call anyone "brother" who does not charitably accept godly Christian saints from the other side of the theological spectrum. We can disagree on theology without casting judgment on one another. So please refrain from judging your brother Blaine. Please stop imputing the least charitable meaning to his words, and instead rejoice that Christ is preached.

Blessings,
Derek

Godismyjudge said...

Derek,

Can those God unconditionally elects end up in hell? If not, Blaine’s teaching unconditional election goes against the AoG’s sanction on teaching “it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost”. If others also contradict AoG doctrine in AoG churches without disclosing it, that does not make it right.

I was addressing Blaine’s comments on foreknow and foreknowledge.

God be with you,
Dan

THEOparadox said...

Dan,

You asked: Can those God unconditionally elects end up in hell? If not, Blaine’s teaching unconditional election goes against the AoG’s sanction on teaching “it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost”

This is a great question. The logic seems reasonable on the surface, but I would suggest we add the additional factor of human knowledge before drawing the conclusion. We do not know who the elect are, or even that we ourselves will persevere to the end.

So, while true believers (i.e., the "elect," known only to God) cannot ultimately be lost, false believers (known only to God until they apostatize) cannot persevere. As professing believers, we have a measure of assurance, but must continue (persevere) in faith (with God keeping us) to demonstrate that our assurance itself is not false.

On this issue, above all others in soteriology, I find there can be an amazing commonality between Biblically balanced Calvinists and Biblically balanced Arminians. The reason is that we are all in the same position of not knowing with absolute certainty who will be finally saved. We are both (Calvinists and Arminians) called to practice the very same things: self-examination, ongoing repentance, putting sin to death, putting on Christ, clinging to Him in faith, hoping in His mercy, etc.

The greatest difference between us on this issue lies in our differing interpretations of what has happened when a professing believer falls away. The Calvinist says he was a false believer; the Arminian says he was either a false believer or a true believer who fell away. Either way, the outcome is the same and we all agree that the one who fell away perished.

A major difference is in our belief regarding whether God would actually regenerate a person at a point in time and later allow that person to fall away. Calvinists say "no" while most Arminians would seem to say "yes."

I am convinced that the Calvinistic understanding of perseverance/preservation is a more powerful motivator to holiness because (in my experience) the greater sense of assurance fuels greater service and desire to glorify God.

Nevertheless, I have to be honest in admitting that I reserve the possibility that I could be self-deceived and not a true believer. Yet even this thought spurs me on to faith and holiness, which are by no means complete but are growing (leading to greater assurance).

In short, I don't think Blaine can eliminate the possibility of his hearers falling away unless he offers them 100% assurance that they are true believers. At that point, I think your argument would hold.

There are a lot of fine nuances and balances that have to be maintained in this matter (for both sides). I actually prefer a Biblically grounded version of Arminian conditional election to the false assurance of OSAS. That doctrine is a scourge in American Evangelicalism!

I hope this makes sense and is helpful in furthering the discussion.

Blessings,
Derek

Felix Alexander said...

Pardon me for intruding Derek, but the AoG's sanction was on teaching “it is impossible for a person once saved to be lost”.

You also say that Calvinists say no to whether "God would actually regenerate a person at a point in time and later allow that person to fall away".

So are you then saying that there is a distinction between being saved and being regenerated? I hadn't heard this before; I thought they were simple synonyms.

drwayman said...

"A few months ago Calvinist blogs were buzzing about the Jason Stellman case (a PCA pastor who is now a Roman Catholic). Stellman never taught Catholicism while he was Presbyterian, but Calvinists criticized him for not saying he was thinking about Catholicism earlier."

Yet, Derek does not say that "the whole matter has been blown completely out of proportion, and the Pharisaical nature of the accusations made by certain internet Arminians [Calvinists] is more than unjustifiable.

THEOparadox said...

Felix,

Thank you for this question. You make a good point. In my own mind, there is not a sharp distinction between regeneration and salvation. However, I suspect that what the A/G calls "salvation" might not be the same as the regeneration I believe in.

See here, for example:
http://agchurches.org/Sitefiles/Default/RSS/IValue/Resources/Salvation/Articles/HowCanIBeSaved.pdf

I call this "easy-believe-ism," and would expect many people who are seemingly converted under this kind of teaching to apostatize.

Even if it was taken for granted that we are talking about the same thing, the insecurity of the believer is not one of the 16 Fundamental Truths and is thus considered to be a minor issue. An A/G pastor has the right to disagree with the denomination's published opinion on such a matter.

Blessings,
Derek

THEOparadox said...

Dr. Wayman,

First, how do you know I haven't said that?

Second, you are correct; I haven't said that - and with good reason.

According to Dan, Jason Stellman moved from Reformed Christianity to Roman Catholicism, possibly without proper advance disclosure. On the other hand, Blaine openly embraces Evangelical Calvinism within an Arminian-leaning Evangelical denomination that claims to agree with both Calvinism and Arminianism. Do you actually see a similarity between these two scenarios?

Other than what I have read on this blog, I know nothing about Jason Stellman and his departure from the PCA. I don't follow the PCA, didn't graduate from one of their schools, haven't studied their doctrine, haven't conversed with Stellman about his actions, didn't report any of this on my blog, and haven't read or followed the Calvinist response to it. I have no way of knowing if the matter was blown out of proportion (although I wouldn't be surprised if it was), and I don't know if some Calvinists acted pharisaically (although I wouldn't be at all surprised if they did). If they did, and you witnessed it, I hope you Biblically addressed the situation as a caring brother in Christ.

I also hope that others will follow my example and refrain from making judgments on matters (and people) they know little or nothing about. It's just the right thing to do.

Blessings,
Derek

drwayman said...

Derek why you are still fighting for Blainemonster is beyond me.

Of course I didn't expect that you had read about Jason Stellman. Hence, you wouldn't have an opinion. Dan is simply pointing out that people had no compunction about Jason, believing that he was wrong for not telling people what he was thinking. Did you catch that? What he was THINKING.... Seems terribly judgmental to me.

However, numbers of people have read Blainemonster's COMMENTS and you have repeatedly defended him, even to the point of saying that individuals who speak about things that they "know nothing to little about" are being "Pharisaical" and "unjustifiable"

You ask that we follow your example. I like that idea to a point as you are a beloved brother in Christ. However, your defense of someone who SAID things that were indefensible makes it appear that there is something to defend.

It is telling when the response to "unjustifiable" acts ends up in lengthy retorts and accusing others of sinning.

You cannot correct every "unjustifiable" act by others be they Christians or not that occurs on the internet when Blainemonster (or someone else you believe has been misrepresented) makes clearly indefensible comments.

It makes me wonder why you are so willing to fall on your sword for him when God alone is our True Judge. We serve a Sovereign God who is able to take care of this matter on His own.

At least I believe He is Sovereign, surely you do as well...

arminianperspectives said...

Derek,

You continue to miss the point. You keep saying that a pastor can disagree with the AG's position papers, etc. This is true to an extent. I was licensed with the AG even though I disagreed with pre-trib. I made that clear when I was being reviewed for credentials. I also made it clear that I would never openly teach my view of the matter in an AG church or speak against the AG position on pre-trib. For that reason, I was granted credentials.

That is the point you keep missing (on purpose? Hopefully not). AG ministers can certainly disagree with certain parts of AG teachings, but that does not mean it is OK to teach their views or contradict the AG views. That is what Blaine did. He taught against the AG views on a number of issues. I made it clear in my post on Blaine's actions that he has the right to believe whatever he wants. That was never the issue. The issue is teaching what he believes to HS students in an AG church as an AG minister, and especially in the one sided manner that he taught it (even making wild assertions about what foreknow does NOT mean).

Not only that, but his site for youth directs students to numerous Calvinist sites (even Triablogue, which you have recently denounced). And he has a post where he makes it plain that he believes true believers can never fall away, again, clearly against AG teaching.

Dale is right in that your continual defense of Blaine is really making his actions look indefensible.

Now, you keep saying that we just don't fully understand the matter. You even compare Blaine to the Lord in his "wisdom" in keeping silent on the matter. Why not use the same wisdom? If it doesn't matter to him to defend himself, why does it matter so much to you?

arminianperspectives said...

(continued...)

You say that we just want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Well, perhaps you should be a little less "narrow" and consider another perspective: that you are trying to make a mole hill out of a mountain in trivializing and continually excusing Blaine's behavior. It should be clear to you now that we simply are not going to agree, so why not let it go? You have made your point well enough. You have said we don't understand, that we have rushed to judgment, that we are sinful and narrow and on and on. OK, thanks for sharing your opinion. Please forgive us for disagreeing with your personal assessment of things.

Personally, it seems to me that you are not bothered by our not being open to a different perspective. Rather, you are bothered that we have not accepted "your" perspective. You are bothered that you cannot convince us that your perspective is accurate. The fact is that I have considered your perspective. I just reject it. Sorry if that bothers you so much. That doesn't make me narrow, it only means that I disagree. Either way, there is really no reason for you to continue to defend Blaine so strongly. He is a big boy and can defend himself. If he thinks it wise not to do so, then why not join him in his wisdom?

As far as your comments on regeneration in the AG, I am again a little baffled. You really do seem to be quite selective in how you read AG teaching, and here you site an article in the Pentecostal Evangel as if that perfectly represents AG teaching while ignoring what is said about the matter in official position papers. And your comments about easy believing are likewise baffling to me (as is your reference to the "insecurity of the believer" which is not how anyone who holds to the possibility of apostasy in Scripture would describe the position).

It is strange to me that you want things to be rather ambiguous in AG teaching when trying to defend Blaine teaching Calvinism, but when it comes to explaining the AG view on regeneration, you seem much more dogmatic and quote, not from position papers or official AG writings (like their "Bible Doctrines" book, which expands on and explains the 16 Fundamental truths), but a short article in the Pentecostal Evangel. But I am sure you have a very different perspective on that as well. Oh well, we will probably just need to agree to disagree again.

God Bless,
Ben

THEOparadox said...

Dr. Wayman and Ben,

You have shared many thoughts about what you think I have done and why you think I have done it. Volumes could be said in response; but at this point, anything further from me would not seem likely to be productive. I have learned much from our enlightening exchanges, and hope you have benefited.

Blessings,
Derek

arminianperspectives said...

You have shared many thoughts about what you think I have done and why you think I have done it. Volumes could be said in response; but at this point, anything further from me would not seem likely to be productive. I have learned much from our enlightening exchanges, and hope you have benefited.

My feelings exactly. God Bless.

Gary said...

Calvinistic Baptists have more in common with Lutherans on the Doctrine of Justification/Salvation than they do with their Arminian Baptist brethren.

When it comes to the conversion of an adult non-believer, Arminians, Calvinists and Lutherans are in full agreement: salvation occurs when the sinner believes. Baptism is not a mandatory requirement to be saved. We have theological differences on how belief occurs, but we all believe that the second a sinner believes he is saved. If he dies a second later, he will go to heaven. He is a Christian.

Our significant denominational differences arise when we talk about the salvation of the infants and toddlers of Christian parents: how are these young children saved? What happens if, God forbid, one of them should die before reaching the age where they are capable of expressing a saving faith in Christ?

The Arminian answer is this: God saves all infants and toddlers who die, even the infants and toddlers of non-believers. They have no hard proof from Scripture to support this belief, but they believe that King David's comments about his dead infant gives them support for their position. Infants who die are "safe" in the arms of a loving God.

Calvinists look at their children in this manner: Their children are either the Elect or they are not. Presbyterian Calvinists will baptize their infants to bring them into the "covenant" (whatever that is!) of the Church but do not believe that baptism has any salvific value. "If my child is of the Elect he will declare himself to be a believer when he is older."

A Calvinistic Baptist will not baptize his infant, but looks at Election in the same way as the Presbyterian Calvinist: My child is either of the Elect or he is not. There is nothing I can do but bring him up in the Faith and leave the rest to God.

Lutherans believe that when God told us to baptize all nations, he meant to baptize ALL those who are of the Elect. Many Arminians and Calvinists assume that Lutherans believe that anyone we run through the baptismal font will get into heaven. Not true! Only the Elect will get into heaven. We baptize our infants in the HOPE that they are the Elect. Is it possible that some of the infants of Christian parents whom we baptize are not of the Elect and therefore will not be in heaven? Yes! But that is a mystery of God that we do not attempt to explain or understand.

However, we believe we are to do our job of "baptizing all nations" (who are of the Elect) by baptizing our infants and we then leave their Election up to God. We then follow Christ's command to "teach" them in the Faith as they grow up, but when they are older it will be their responsibility to nurture their faith with prayer, Bible study, worship, and the Lord's Supper. If these infant-baptized persons abandon their faith and turn their back on God, they may very well wake up one day in hell! Baptism is NOT a "Get-into-heaven-free" card! Salvation is by God's grace alone, received in faith alone.

No faith--->no salvation--->no eternal life!

The Calvinist position on the salvation of infants is very confusing to me…

discussion continued at:

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/07/calvinistic-baptists-have-more-in.html