Tag Archives: brotherhood

More on handling theological differences between brothers in Christ

In a recent conversation via Google Buzz between a couple of Reformed brethren and myself I was told the following:

Nathan White – Wes-
I don’t see Calvinism starting with philosophy because it starts with what scripture explicitly says, that we were chosen, predestined, and even that God created vessels of wrath and mercy for His specific purposes, and then moves on from there and forms compatibalism based upon statements of God’s love, and inferences that God holds men accountable for their actions. Molinism cannot exegete a text in context and form a doctrine, and let that doctrine help interpret other tough passages, but Calvinists can easily do so with the explicit statements of Romans 9.

Scripture says that God is sovereign completely, and that man is held responsible for his and Adam’s sin. Those are two seeming contradictions, but not so in the mind of God. Molinism, at the end of the day, leaves sovereignty in the hands of man…completely.

Aaron Sauer – Only the Holy Spirit will open Wes’ eyes to the deep truths of scripture. Lord willing, one day he will realize that salvation is 100% of the Lord

Here’s my reply:

Aaron, come now. Please don’t be so disingenuous as to place foreign words into my mouth. I have never said that salvation is not 100% from the Lord nor will I. As Nathan has rightly stated, our differences lie not necessarily in our commitment to Christ or the truth of Scripture but in philosophy.

Nathan, I don’t see how you can claim philosophical immunity for your theological system and I don’t see how quoting Scripture we both agree is Holy and inspired helps your case any.

Molinism is built (as the Calvinist Alvin Plantinga states) on the twin notions of sovereignty and the limited free will of humans. I know it is popular to claim that Calvinism holds to a higher view of sovereignty than any other theological system (including Molinism) however I ask that you do Molinists like myself the charity of not redefining our words for us and simply accept it when we say that we in fact do hold to God’s complete soverignty over all of His creation.

Again, the issue here is in how we define sovereignty and what philosophical presuppositions we bring to bear on the texts. You seem to think (along with most Calvinists) that Romans 9 is wholly unanswerable from anything short of a hard causally deterministic view. I believe men like Geisler and Yarnell have done an excellent job of pointing out how, while the Bible does teach and confirm the doctrine of election, Romans 9 is not an apt text to use for God’s willful violation or robotic control of mankind’s will (which was given to him by God as beings created in His image).

I think a helpful place for us to start from would be to acknowledge and accept that Calvinism is built on a particular (no pun intended) philosophy (which I would argue is closely related to the Stoicism that Calvin wrote his doctoral dissertation on).

The question then is how well the underlying philosophy which guides the exegesis from a Calvinistic point of view answers all the questions raised by Scripture vs competing theological systems such as Molinism. The question is not, however, which one is “based on philosophy” vs “based on scripture” as the notion of a theological system devoid of philosophical input is simply incoherent.

The bottom line is that we really have to learn how to disagree and fight strenuously but fairly if we want to see the broken body of Christ healed in a real and meaningful sense.


How ought brothers in Christ disagree?

I was asked a couple of questions recently regarding unity and how I believe we ought to pursue it in regards to the Church of Christ. Since these questions cut to the heart of many of the struggles that occur in the body of Christ (unfortunately, often in the name of Christ) I figured I’d share them here. Enjoy!

“Do you affirm that unity is not to come at the expense of truth?”

I think this is a red herring as people can disagree on various theological points and still remain united by their commitment to Christ. Further, I find the very question here to be an implicit concession of my point above regarding the Calvinist tendency to treat the ideological position as of primary importance (something, I might add, which is also carried over into too many Churches) rather than our common commitment to Christ.

In other words, you are not a sum of your ideas and your value is not derived by adding up all of your ideas and subtracting the bad ones.

Our commitment to Christ and each other IN Christ is not predicated on our possession of right doctrine.

“Do you affirm that we can disagree and yet have unity?”

Are you asking if we can disagree and still remained united in our commitment to Christ? If so the sure, I don’t see why not. That is, as long as you DO place your commitment to our common Lord and Saviour as of primary importance.

Before you stroke out at my above statements or attempt to reply with the oft-used but seldom-understood refrain of “postmodernist!” let me hasten to add that I’m not saying that objective truth doesn’t exist or matter or that we ought not to vigorously state and defend our respective theologies.

All I’m saying is that past the very basic confessional creed laid out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (also captured in the ΙΧΘΥΣ acrostic) we have no reason to attempt and throw others out of a body and bride that is not our own.

In regard to camps, I try very hard not to have one so I find your question regarding “my camp” to be pretty spurious at best. If you are asking if there are non-calvinists who have acted poorly, then my answer would have to be yes. Even I have failed to attain to the ideal of unity Christ commanded us to uphold. However the beauty of the Christian message is redemption so my continued hope (no matter how dismal or unattainable it may seem at times) is that we would stop stabbing each other in the back (which includes trying to throw each other out of the Body of Christ) and work towards what Jesus told us would be a sign to the nations that He was sent into the world (what Schaeffer called “the final apologetic”).

In our search for unity, we need to give up the common refrain of “well you are coming from a philosophical position whereas I am coming from a _Biblical_ position” argument. If we can agree to forgo such infantile arguments or lines of thought then, and only then, will our conversations and debates become more fruitful than a mud slinging competition.