06 February 2012

Justification Controversies in Contemporary Reformed Protestantism Part 2

Lutherans by and large have always retained this heavy focus on Justification by Grace Alone…the key word being Sola or Alone. Luther even added the word to the Romans 3 text, arguing the Greek implies it. This came to dominate much of Lutheran theology. Lutheranism became associated with what we call the Law-Gospel hermeneutic, categorizing Scripture into imperatives (law) vs. Gospel (grace).

This focus led Luther to struggle with the book of James, calling it an ‘epistle of straw’ and questioning its canonicity. The Reformed wing has certainly not gone to this extent, but some have revived the Lutheran Law-Gospel hermeneutic in an effort to explain the many (and what must be troubling) warnings and commands found in Scripture. Repeatedly the New Testament exhorts Christians to ‘do’, to change, to transform, to work out, to make, to put to death and so forth.

This camp places these imperatives into the category of Law as opposed to Gospel. Christ they would argue keeps the commands for us, our works are nothing. They’re right of course about our works and they’re right that anything we do isn’t us, but Christ working in us. So the answer is to focus on Christ and the works (so to speak) come on their own since it’s not us anyway.

While this is certainly true, the Scriptures just don’t present these ideas in this form. The Law-Gospel hermeneutic is something that has been placed over the text, being derived from making Sola Fide the Centraldogma.

Others have argued this form of thinking, in Reformed circles often tied with Predestination, has made shipwreck of what the Bible says about the Church, the Christian Life, Assurance and so forth. These camps have argued that Justification by Faith Alone is true, the Law-Gospel hermeneutic and the placement of Sola Fide in the central position (as it were) has been a mistake, and they have set about to recover a more full orbed teaching of what the Bible says.

The one side placing the emphasis on Sola Fide accuses the other side of works salvation and sacramentalism, while the other camp arguing for a more comprehensive understanding of salvation accuses the other camp of Easy Believism, a watered down gospel and of practically speaking an elimination of the doctrine of Sanctification.

The largest group is probably somewhere in the middle trying to synthesize the different views and often more concerned with clinging to their understanding of the historic creeds. Of course all these groups (with the exception of people like me) are trying to ‘claim’ the historical confessions support what they’re saying.

There’s a lot of dishonesty and self-deception when it comes to the Confessions. The arguments are very reminiscent of what we find in the United States with regard to the Constitution. Many are arguing from the standpoint that…the Confession (or Constitution) COULD be made to say that, or doesn’t necessarily speak AGAINST this or that, when everyone knows full well the original authors didn’t mean what the person is suggesting.

Such a reality is highly problematic to creedal subscriptionists!

Because in addition to the theological arguments the issue of historical continuity is just as, if not more important. That’s unfortunate but a reality. Every side is trying to claim they have historical standing. Nothing is worse than the charge of novelty, the very charge levied against Protestants in the 16th century by the Roman entity.

I argue this is an abuse of creeds and confessions. They are at best guides, and as I’ve said many times before, using them this way makes them into ossified chains. Truth is indeed absolute and objective, but our understanding of it is at best limited and subject to error. Error is not always turning the wrong way and embracing a lie. Error can be much more subtle and theologically more often than not the greatest error is speculative systematic theology based on a reductionism. This is not to say Systematic Theology is inherently of no value. This is not to say limited speculation is forbidden. But often the theological tendency has been to Anchor (see glossary), to pick a logical focal point, and then construct a massive theological super-structure based on the Anchored Centraldogma.

If there is something approaching a central dogma or doctrine in Scripture it is that of the Incarnation which in and of itself defies Systematic mapping or subjugation to syllogistic evaluation.

If the Incarnation is unverifiable via syllogistic deduction or induction, or to put it more simply, if the Incarnation is not something we can logically explain, and it is the Central focus of God’s Revelation to us…that ought to tell us something about how we approach theology.

As I’ve argued elsewhere, the Incarnation is not illogical even employing temporal-based logic. It must be understood as Supra- or Meta-Logical. The Incarnation is Revealed to us and we are not to pick apart the Person of Christ, we are to accept His Person based on the testimony of His work. The Incarnation can only be understood…by faith.

The disagreements stem from both Centraldogma and method. These issues when addressed end up entangled once more in the historical claim debate and at present there seems to be no way out, no solution, no means of reconciling the various factions.

As a person who no longer identifies with Reformed Christianity, I’m quite outside of the debate. I hold to doctrines some within Reformed circles sympathize with and several that exclude me entirely from their community.

Sadly in the end, from an outsider’s perspective, it seems to be more about institutional control than anything else.

Michael Horton and much of the Westminster West faculty, many Klineans and people like Tullian Tchividjian represent the side advocating what I call hyper-Solafideism.

While I disagree with them on these issues, I am largely in agreement with them with regard to the doctrine of Two Kingdoms and their critique of Theonomic and Dominionistic theology. I think Tchividjian might be exception considering he took over the pulpit previously occupied by the late D. James Kennedy, one of the most vocal proponents of what I often refer to as Christo-American Sacralism.

Norman Shepherd, and the group known as the Federal Vision would be representative of the other camp. (Federal referring to Foedus, Federal or Covenant Theology in this case, not referring to some kind of political action)

This would include people like Douglas Wilson, Steve Schlissel, Steve Wilkins, John Barach and others. Sadly, though I am more than a little sympathetic with them on these issues, the movement is largely compromised of Theonomists.

Thus I find myself both in sympathy with and in strident opposition to…both camps. The emergence of Federal Vision around 2002 startled me because my good friend (from part 1) and I were discussing these same issues at the kitchen table in 1998 and had been for a few years prior.

How did we come to these positions? Ironically we were somewhat isolated from the American Reformed mainstream. We had formulated our ideas while overseas with nothing more than old books at our fingertips and endless hours of discussion and debate. Though we realized Calvin himself did not exactly teach what we believed or what the Federal Vision was to come out with a few years later, we also realized that most Reformed people we encountered in the United States in the late 1990’s were not in line with Calvin either…at least in terms of spirit and methodology.

Since then I’ve moved farther and farther away from John Calvin on several fronts, but on these issues I’m pulled back to his writings and methodology. I don’t find most people who claim to be his followers, to be in line with his Christian Humanist way of reading the Bible. On this point at least they would do well to return to the Genevan font.

I have been nothing less than frustrated by the rapacious dialogue at work in Reformed circles. The accusations are disheartening and often times what’s most disappointing is listening to people critique the other side without even understanding where they’re coming from. I’ve used the illustration before but it’s like a man in a skyscraper shouting from the 70th floor at another man in an adjacent building on the 30th floor. They can’t understand each other. They don’t even realize what the problem is. Until they return to the sidewalk, to ground level, they’re not going to resolve anything.

The other day I encountered a glimmer of hope. I often listen to the Christ the Center podcast, put out by some folks associated with Westminster Seminary’s Eastern campus outside Philadelphia. The West campus is in the north San Diego area. I remember as a lost teenager drinking beer and shooting pool down the street from it, thinking, “huh, wonder what that place is?”

Anyway, Christ the Center was doing a podcast on Sanctification and I was most pleased to hear some other people in Reformed circles not belonging to either of the ‘fringe’ camps (which I both reject and embrace) having an intelligent discussion on this issue. And it was interesting to me because they picked up on the fact that Hyper-solafideism, or as they refer to it, Hyper-forensic soteriology effectively undermines the doctrine of Sanctification.

I don’t agree with everything they said, nor do I agree with how they were trying to parse it out in systematic terms…but I could agree with much they were vocalizing and the spirit in which it was said…was excellent.

What was even more surprising was that one of main panelists was Richard Phillips, the pastor of 2nd Presbyterian Church in Greenville South Carolina. I used to attend there pretty regularly back in 1998, before he was there. Phillips in the past has put me off for at least two reasons. One, any pastor who touts his military ‘service’ and boasts of his leadership of combat units  receives an immediate black mark in my book. I find it pretty sick to be honest. Two, Phillips wrote an essay in perhaps the most helpful book debating Federal Vision theology. It’s called, “The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision.” In this book proponents of both camps go back and forth arguing the issues. Phillips was set up in opposition to Steve Schlissel and Schlissel is pretty hard on Phillips…and I have to say I completely agreed with Schlissel. I thought Phillips position was a perfect expression of modern Reformed theology with all its flaws.

But here he surprised me. I thought his understanding was much more nuanced and insightful. I still don’t agree with his commitments, but the discussion and his insights are worth listening to. He’s striking a still flawed but healthy and certainly much more helpful and wise middle ground, and I hope more people within his camp will listen.

To sum up, the issues stem from a fundamental divide over methodology. Little of the argument engages along these lines. Everyone is usually arguing up in the superstructure and frankly it ends up being an unproductive waste of time.

The answer to both the Justification dilemma and the other issues related to Dominionism that I’m constantly harping about is in hermeneutical method. How do we read the Bible? I continue to argue the answer is found in the Incarnation and in the Apostolic witness of the New Testament. The clear perspicuous didactic passages of the New Testament teach us how to read the entirety of Scripture. The Incarnation teaches us how to relate the Already and Not Yet, the Divine and Human, the Invisible and Visible, the Eschatological to the Temporal in the realm of theology.

Perhaps the supreme irony to this debate and it comes up constantly is the fact that the Hyper-Forensic crowd (holding to essentially a Lutheran doctrine of Justification) criticizes the Hyper-Covenant crowd (Federal Vision) as having Sacramentalist tendencies. Of course the Lutherans themselves while holding to Justification by Faith Alone are also accused of teaching Baptismal Regeneration, and they see no conflict. Now I personally find the Lutheran explanation of this to be rather lacking and convoluted but I don’t find the concepts to be in conflict if properly understood.

Just the other night I stumped a Reformed man on this issue. He was saying Federal Vision’s teaching regarding Baptism overthrows Justification. I said the Lutherans hold to a form of Baptismal Regeneration and you certainly can’t accuse them of playing fast and loose with Justification can you? On that point our Lutheran friends are more concerned with accurate Scriptural fidelity than adherence to systemized logic.

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again here, on these issues I’m quite sympathetic to what might be called a conservative Anglican position, as in the 39 Articles. I completely disagree with Anglican polity and liturgy but I think their rather broad and somewhat seemingly undeveloped position on the relationship between Justification by Faith Alone and the Sacraments is quite balanced and faithful (I think) to the text of Scripture without imposing a system on it. Few readers here will resonate with that statement but remember Ryle remained Anglican and Packer still is. The Reformed have generally been unfriendly to deliberately ‘undeveloped’ theology, but I think they’ve gone too far, not only in their probing but in the construction of dogma. Rather than unify I think it has actually proved schismatic. I definitely find their polity to be so.

I continue to watch these debates with great interest. I’ve been wrestling with these issues since my earliest days as a Christian. These theological issues and the entirety of Church History have led to me constantly re-think and re-examine many of these issues.

System, method, history, historical theology, and how all this is playing out today is what has driven me for many a year and from my perspective all these things come together at certain points…and that’s why I continue to write and comment even if very few are interested in what I’m saying.

I hope some will find my somewhat different and extra-factional viewpoint to be helpful in trying to navigate what must be for many an overwhelming and quite confusing factional struggle.


Protoprotestant said...

Dave, maybe that helped some to clarify? We can talk more if you want to pursue it.

If you're interested and are familiar with the Reformed world I wrote a long ramble awhile back touching on many of these issues. It can be found at:

It's not an easy read for those unfamiliar with the arguments. I'm caught in the middle on these issues. I agree in part with the both the camps that are at each other's throats. And I also disagree with them when it comes to other areas.

And then in another sense...I've just sort of punched out of the whole Reformed world and some of its mindset.

Many would call me an Anabaptist when it comes to the Kingdom, but Baptistic minded folks and many Presbyterians are uncomfortable with what I'm saying about sacramental efficacy and the visible covenant.

These things are often put in opposition...I'm trying to say they don't have to be.

Also if you're interested...it's a bit laborious but the series on what I call hyper-solafideism might be of interest. Here's the link to part 1:


Hope that helps. Thanks for showing interest.

Jim C. said...

Hey Proto,

I realize the subject of this post completely departs from the topic at hand but I was hoping to get your two cents.

First, I understand that this website is useful as a forum for those Christians who will not go along with the flag-waving right-wing demographic in the West - who are critical of both the domestic and foreign policies of the United States - an empire in all but name - and I have appreciated this immensely.

Sometimes, however, we forget that we're just as critical of the other side...of the Russias, the Burmas, the North Koreas and - most saliently given recent events in world news - the Iranians. I've been following what's been happening with the Iranian situation for the past couple of weeks and to say the least it's disturbing. The thought of a totalitarian, third-world religious dictatorship whose president is a textbook psychopath acquiring nuclear weapons is hardly comforting, especially since their pugnacious rhetoric - especially against Jews - indicates that they may actually use them.

Thus, the option of a pre-emptive strike has been on the table, especially the Israeli one.

Of course I know what your stance is on this kind of thing and I'm largely in agreement with you. I guess my question is, what information are we not getting? What isn't being said? Why are all these Harvard-educated politicians gunning for something that would invariably spark World War 3? Am I missing something?

I'm also asking because you've exhibited a remarkable breadth of knowledge on just about everything you've discussed on this blog.

Again, my apologies for diverting the topic in this direction.

Jim C.

Anonymous said...

It seems my thinking about some of these things are not nearly as finely developed and nuanced as yours. You are certainly more studied and likely more intelligent than I. My issue is that I can't easily discern where the differences lie. I have read those older articles you mentioned, though I may re-read them per your suggestion. I have read virtually all of your articles since I've discovered your blog about a year ago or so, and I have continued to read reformed authors, yet I feel quite in agreement with both. I don't really see where the strong differences lie. The thing is, there are certain systems of thought I fled from: I was absolutely convinced of the unbiblical nature of theonomy and dispensationalism, and uncomfortable with the man-centeredness of certain arminian theology. So I felt that I had found a home in Reformed authors (at least the ones I read) because they appear to argue from the scriptures very effectively against theonomy and dispensationalism, and I appreciate many recent titles in "biblical theology." What I've read is Christo-centric, understands the unity between old and new testaments (opposed to dispensationalism), and the disunity of the testaments (opposed to theonomy). From what I've seen (and maybe I'm just reading the right people)they seem to think about things in terms of the dialectic you mention (though perhaps not in those terms). They point to scriptures that unequivocally describe God's soveriegnty and providence, while also pointing to scriptures that indicate we should pray and share the gospel with all, and that from a human perspective we must initially choose God and perservere and not fall like those in the wilderness. They argue against easy-believism and stress sanctification, advising that if our lives are unchanged and there is no repentance perhaps we must re-examine our profession of faith.

Anonymous said...


Yet I appreciate the focus of someone like Ridderbos who notes that Paul always rooted the imperatives in the indicatives. Yes, we are to pursue sanctification, but not to save ourselves by our own strength and merit, but in the overwhelming gratitude of having been saved by such an act of mercy and grace. They describe the already and the not-yet and seem to understand our currrent position (as you do) as one akin to being in Babylon - we are strangers and aliens awaiting return to our true home, the heavenly Jerusalem. We don't fight spiritual battles with worldly weapons. I listened to Irons, I listen to Alistair begg, read stuff by G.K. Beale, Kline, Ferguson, thought Anthony Hoekema's "The Bible and the Future" was a brilliant description of a non-dispensational understanding of eschatology, etc. I guess ultimately, what I'm probably doing is subconsciously filtering out what is not useful, and focusing on what I feel is biblically sound. I probably do the same while reading you. But becuase I feel so much in common with them and so much in common with you, I am not able to pin-point what you deem to be such a major divide. If it simply about making certain logical deductions and systematics a priority over and against scripture, then we are in absolute agreement, though there may be some reformed who are in agreement with you there as well (though I could be wrong). Ultimately, scripture must always be the measure of truth. As a side note, I was horrified the other day while listening to Roger Olson; he is arminian but stated that certain passages clearly do seem to spell out God's sovereignty, but he cannot believe that they mean what they seem to mean because if they did he would have to believe that God was a monster. Thus he rejected the perspicuity of the scriptures and judged them and God on the basis of his own fallen and finite understanding of love and justice.


Anonymous said...

One further note - I always thought Luther's response to the book of James was absurd. If your theology causes problem texts, or even a problem book, you need to reassess your theology, not the canon.

- dave

Cal said...


Good read. I'm glad you bring up Incarnation and how centrally important it is for Scripture. It is the center, not merely some add on or theological jargon to make sense of it. Jesus is the key. So I have to stress also, that right alongside Incarnation as a principal point is resurrection. I think the two go hand-in-hand all through Scripture. The promise that 'the pit' ain't the end. When Paul was in Greece, the Athenians confused what Paul was saying but asking 'What foreign gods is he talking about?'. They thought Christos and Anastasia (Christ and the Resurrection)were two individuals because Paul had one come right after the other. Christ and the Resurrection. Incarnation and Resurrection. Important themes all through the Scriptures!

Cal said...


I guess I can interject a little. I don't count myself reformed, nor arminian but I can understand Olson's rejection. I don't know what he said but I've heard similar arguments. His point over sovereignty is how much God actually uses it, so to speak. There is a tendency in some sloppier reformed people to talk and act like psuedo-muslims in that God wills everything, even evil (in a moral sense). This should horrify someone and is contrary to Scripture that places the agency on those who commit evil.

Now God is said to be moving in all things, even evil, working it towards good. BUT. It never says He is progenitor of sin. God did not will the holocaust.

Now, I think Scripture paints that we indeed act contrary to the will of God and yet through it, His will is still successful. Liberty is a big theme in Scripture, about responsibility and I don't think its a trick or contrary to God moving through history.

I'm a mess when it comes to soteriology and sovereignty, I think I fall somewhere in the Lutheran category. We can't say Yes to the grace of God without the Holy Spirit moving, our options are No or Not No, which doesn't mean Yes. I don't count broken surrender and faith in King Jesus as a works-righteousness towards salvation.

Also, I like what you said about Babylon and the Kingdom of Heaven! It's rather sad fellowshipping disciples of Messiah are considered 'religious' more than 'political'. Every meeting is like a chapter house for citizens of a foreign country. The fact we are strangers is a political statement, we serve one King and are only residents under all the false kings, emperors and presidents that abound. They are preserved for awhile, but their thrones will be swept away when the Heavenly City descends and we live with the King through His age, which is never ending.


Protoprotestant said...

Jim C,

Thanks for your confidence and interest. Actually you read my mind. I have a file full of notes and the segment I had moved to the top for the next article was on Santorum and Iran.

I was mostly done with it. It looks like I'll divide into 3 parts. I should have the first part up tonight.

It's all disturbing on many fronts.

Protoprotestant said...

Cal, I appreciate your comments. We may differ on this point.

See I would say God didn't 'will' the Holocaust in terms of his revealed will for man. It was sinful mass murder.

But I would say in terms of Providence...he did will it.

I realize that makes God into a monster to some. I guess I don't think he's a monster...I think he's God.

Love is one of God's attributes but it's not his only one or even his primary.

If I turn rationalist at this point which many do...saying God willed it means he bears the guilt and that's where I think we're into Romans 9 territory. Can the pot say to the potter why have you made me this way?

Paul seems to say you can't got there.

The Nazis did it and they're guilty. It was all part of God's plan but the guilt is their own.

I know the math doesn't work out on that...but that's a big part of what I'm talking about here. I'm saying the math is the wrong math to deal with that question.

I view soteriology this way as well.

God desires ALL to be saved.

Yet only the elect are saved.

Faith results from regeneration which is the Holy Spirit changing me. My freewill doesn't enable me to choose to believe and thus I'm regenerated as a result.

And yet in terms of my sensory and emotional perspective which I'm accountable for...I have to choose to believe in Christ. In fact I'll go further I have to keep choosing to follow Christ every day. I have to keep believing, it's not merely a once-for all act....at least from the human temporal vantage point.

I think for most Americans if not most Westerners the God of the Bible is indeed a nightmare and a horror. I think that's why they're not very interested in him at all.

A big part of I think (for many reasons) is our tendency toward rationalization...trying to impose the scientific method and logical grids on an infinite God.

Protoprotestant said...

Dave thanks for your comments. I don't know who's smart and who isn't...but your note shows you're no slouch.

Are you the same David that used to comment awhile back?

As much as I gripe about the Reformed world I think it's probably pretty clear that I still haven't fully escaped that world. I'm still largely operating within those general circles and I'm heavily indebted to Reformed theology even though most within it would disown me.

I guess I would say one problem is a lot of these factions kind have these package-deals...it's not just one set of doctrines but a whole conglomeration which they've often linked together.

Overall I think the Kline group is better. They've got a better grasp on the Bible, but I just think they've taken some elements and systemized them at the expense of certain portions of Scripture.

The Luther issue with James is kind of what everyone does at different points...except they don't want to jettison a whole epistle, but they end up with the problem passages that vex them.

To the Escondido/Horton/Klinean group...that's a loose grouping of course...they would say I'm defining faith as faithfulness. I'm saying faith is something more than assent. They say of course it's more than assent, but I think on a practical level that's what it ends up being.

They're very Christocentric which is why they're in better shape,but even their Incarnational focus seems to be based on a reading through the lens of Justification. Again, they're much better on the 2Adams and all that...I agree with them....but it forces them to construct a definition of Faith and salvation that just can't account for all the conditionals and warnings in Scripture.

They would say I teach that you can lose your salvation...which I do. But I say that you can say that and retain Divine Predestination and Justification by Faith Alone...though again I don't think the Sola-construct is always very helpful. It's not historical and I think that express formula is not clearly found in the NT. I'm not saying it's wrong but I'm saying they've used it wrongly.

Also their understanding leads them to a kind of abstract view of the Sacraments. Again you can't say their efficacious or of any real use with that understand of Sola Fide. They would accuse me of Baptismal Regeneration and Paedocommunion...which I don't deny though many misunderstand what is meant by believing the waters of baptism to be efficacious and the elements of the Supper, recognized as signs of covenant renewal and participation provide visible signs and demonstrations of salvation.

The Biblical Theology guys aren't going to come out and deny they believe in Sanctification but the link I provided was interesting because even people who are hostile to the Federal Vision understanding of the Imperatives (which indeed can only be understood as rooted in the Indicatives)...even these people are seeing the problems with the BT groups grasp of Sanctification.

The people and books you cited...all good reads. Hoekema's book was great...though he also has a Dutch Kuyperian understanding of culture. I just throw that out to say...I have many books on my shelf that I appreciate but there's always something...something a bit off. I'm sure many readers here feel the same way! (smile)

Protoprotestant said...

Cal, (and Dave)

just a quick point...I guess I should probably make myself more clear. When I'm speaking of the Incarnation as a theological key or if I'm referring to Christocentricity that always refers to the Person and Work of Christ. We have to understand his Humanity and Divinity, his active and passive obedience (Dave that's a point I disagree with the FV guys...they tend to deny the active obedience part)...his role as prophet priest and king....birth, life, death and resurrection. It all goes together. Praise be to God. It's so awesome...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am the same David. I never left; I've been here all along lurking in the shadows. Thanks, I think that does help a bit. As I said, I do think much of it lies in subtleties and the degree of dissent probably depends upon which particular theologian we are discussing. For instance, regarding the sacraments, I know that I have heard Begg (on Truth for Life) and Horton (White Horse Inn) discuss the fact that they find themselves in a middle ground. They do not view them as being efficacious in an absolute sense (as in Catholic theology) or as being spiritually empty symbols that are merely an outward confession of an inward reality, but they do view them as efficacious in a mysterious, spiritual sense that falls between these two. In fact, I know Horton talks often of the fact that the scriptures declare the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments as being some of the central means of Grace by which God and the Spirit work in the hearts of His people. And Begg has called them necessary. Anyway, I guess I understand what you mean about package deals; I've been rejecting the package and dealing with things item by item without realizing that that is something that may not approved by some. I don't really move in those circles or have opportunity for discussion/debate. I just read and absorb and shape my thinking, but find myself largely in agreement with them as well as you. So it's interesting - I'm sure certain interactions have led you to feel the way you do, but most of what I've currently been reading/listening to are quite in agreement with you...and them. In fact, just recently both Begg and Horton have been speaking regularly and critically of the altar call or sign a card once and you're saved always or carnal Christian type of thinking about salvation and sanctification. In fact, the frank, even somewhat harsh delivery of Begg's recent sermon was striking compared to what one usually hears in a church in 21st century U.S. He was quite fired up and called on his congregation to search themselves earnestly and inquire as to the extent and authenticity of their repentance and faith lest they fail to find themselves part of the heavenly Jerusalem. So again, I find you guys to be beating the same drum so to speak, unless I'm still missing something.
David C.

Protoprotestant said...

On those points...yes I'm totally in agreement with them.

I've heard Begg from time to time. When I drive up towards New York for work I pick him up on a Christian station out of Buffalo. He's really good on the whole issue of Calvinism and the Free Offer. He understands the two sides. He's really bad on worship which is strange because the circles he runs in (kind of the Banner of Truth crowd)wouldn't agree with him at all.

Horton is great on many things. He's definitely part of what the Christ the Center podcast would call the hyper-forensic crowd or what I've called hyper-solafideism (I go a bit further than they do). He's good on Two Kingdoms but he's still a Kuyperian in his approach to culture. He's written those books on the culture wars...they're kind of a mixed bag to me. I agree with much but also disagree with much.

I'm just trying to spell it out a bit on these particular guys.

My advice...stick with the Reformed guys but keep an open mind. If you're looking for a future within one of these circles you'll have to stay within certain boundaries.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, as I've said, I pretty much find myself in agreement with you on just about everything. I've never had a beef with Begg, but I just hear his sermons, not his worship. Regarding Horton, I've never read anything of his. If he's Kuyperian, then him and I would find ourselves parting ways at that point. I've just heard his radio show, and find it descent though often a little repetitive from episode to episode. Horton's not one of my favorites by any means. I just brought up those two because you mentioned sanctification and the sacraments as places where there might be disagreement, but from what I recently heard from them you seem in agreement.

I guess I just found it interesting that you seem to think you'd be quite the black sheep of the reformed world, but most of I read there has vast overlap with what I read here. That's all. I was just trying to pinpoint at which points you felt there was such sharp divergence. I think mostly my failure to identify is just that I am not as familiar with the depth and nuances of their arguments as you are. To me, from a surface perspective, you seem quite similar.

- Dave

Protoprotestant said...

Please don't think I was knocking those men...I'm sure they're good men, better men than I am.

As far as being a black sheep...that's only if I speak up and engage. That's only if I try to enter their circles.

I'm sorry it's the case but largely they're uncomfortable with people like me out in the congregation. They usually want you to be an elder and part of the leadership or they want you gone.

They want knowledgeable people but not too knowledgeable...not to the point you can question them. Then you're a threat.

I am a bit of a cynic I suppose. I've just had too many run-ins and more than once I'm sitting in front of a group of elders getting a grilling and frustrating them because most of them aren't knowledgeable enough to get into it and the others see me as a threat because the tendency we all have is to take this or that point and carry it out to the 'nth' degree. And so they're looking at me and even though we mostly agree...and we do...they see me as potentially teaching wrong views concerning salvation, sacraments, history, things like that...which when you put it that way...sure sounds like a big deal.

Oh I think somebody like Horton would love to have me living next door so we could talk over coffee or something...but I'm not a party guy. I'm not going to sign the Three Forms of Unity (in his case, he's URC) and so that pretty much ends it.

I wish I had more time...I'm saying this in general not to you specifically. I would actually like to write more in-depth and pointed pieces and probably get a couple of websites going, maybe some podcasts. To what end? I don't know. There's not a whole lot out there who would listen, but some would. I'd like to have the time to really dig in on some issues...not to nit-pick but to look at what's happening. I'm afraid that requires a lot of hours. The stuff I do here I can bang out pretty fast. Obviously I run at the mouth and since I can type like the wind, it can pour out my fingers. But tomorrow I'll be back at work...listening to podcasts, news and lecture but I won't have the time to sit down and take the pages of notes I'd like to put together. The typing is largely done at 530am or at night after the kids have gone to bed.

I guess all I can say is...when I've talked to OPC pastors and elder and PCA pastors and elders they get upset. It's not because of me or the way I'm coming across. I know how to communicate. I know how to be polite and respectful. I know how to present things in a non-confrontational way....very unlike what I'm usually doing here.

Usually I stump them, but then they mull it over and come back and when we have round 2 or 3...they're often pulling out the guns. Sometimes they want to engage, other times they just want you silenced.

They've just made the whole form hinge on a huge body of dogma and so you almost have to sign on to the whole system and method or else you're out. A lot of these men like me personally. They like talking to me. We have a great time over coffee...they just don't want me in their congregation.

Cal said...


By no means am I laying claim to God and trying to scrutinize and rationalize His movements. But when it says God is Agape, I don't hold it in tension rather it all other attributes flow in and out of eachother. Can someone disobey God? Yes, but may God forknow who disobey? I think so too, but the one acting is still making the choice. I know you're very careful to not put the abacus down and calculate like some reformed thinkers. I think choices made are really choices (not saying you don't).

I just hope that I'm not coming off as a deist or deist-lite. Maybe from your viewpoint I am? I can say that God did not will the Holocaust, but in His infinite wisdom and forsight, the maximum good came from such evil and the Kingdom was not swallowed by Hades.

I don't like using the pot-potter analogy when talking about speaking to God about what's happening. Some people use it as a bludgeon to beat people into submission when they ask honest questions. We miss the point that God is simply saying, in a sense, "You can't even know what's happening tomorrow, how can you talk about my actions in fulfilling my promise".

I was never in reformed circles, I grew up in a humanistic-quasi-catholic environment, floated over to a non-descript desitic religion echoing Jefferson and when I was born again, I read stuff all around and went to a Southern Baptist congregation (a friend would joke that it's liberal; you're not ostracized if you imbibe or dance!). I'm not really sure where I stand denominationally, I don't think it matters much. I've been called a fundamentalist and I've been told I'm about "the early church". I just hope I'm being loyal to the words of Messiah.