Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More Caner Critique

Gene Bridges, ever loquacious, enjoins the post-NLJ frenzy and adds a resounding rejoinder (Warning: rather lengthy at 4,500 words) to Caner's article. He goes quote-by-quote through Caner's article and gives answer to each assertion.

I would love for those who read this blog to read both links above and sound off with their reactions and answer to these questions (just curious - that's all) :
  1. Is Caner's use of "hyper-Calvinism" correct?
  2. Is it acceptable to say "I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist (which means "Calvinist" to Caner). I'm not an Arminian. I'm a Baptist"? If yes, why? If no, why not?
  3. What do you think happens to babies when they die? Why do you believe that?
  4. Do you think God loves every single person who has ever lived and will live in the same way and to the same degree?
  5. What is your opinion on "altar calls" (not "invitations" but "altar calls")?
By the way, Bridges, one of the best (and lengthiest) writers in the blogosphere, lives in Winston-Salem - not too far from Statesville.

23 comments:

Jim Pemberton said...

Good blog by Gene Bridges! I'll give your questionaire a whirl, Jeff...

"1. Is Caner's use of "hyper-Calvinism" correct?"

His use is obtuse and implies that he lacks the understanding someone in his position should have.

"2. Is it acceptable to say "I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist (which means "Calvinist" to Caner). I'm not an Arminian. I'm a Baptist"? If yes, why? If no, why not?"

It depends on what is meant. Caner also admits that Baptists are all over the place theologically. Perhaps this explains his lack of theological clarity. If he believes something, why doesn’t he spell it out? I say that I’m loath to call myself a Calvinist because my theology is not centered on Calvinism. I am Christian because I desire my theology to be centered on Christ. I simply agree with Calvin on his Reformed theology. I’m not afraid to declare particular alignment with a school of thought. I’m open to challenge, lest I’m in error. However, challenges and struggles have made my positions very strong.

Also, where he confuses Hyper-Calvinism with Calvinism, I would suggest that different brands of Arminianism are also often lumped together. I appreciate Gene’s acknowledgment of this.

"3. What do you think happens to babies when they die? Why do you believe that?"

The scriptures are inconclusive. Therefore, an appropriate theological answer is, “I don’t know.” I think the historic speculations have been helpful, but to draw conclusions where the scriptures do not requires extra-Biblical premises. This is called eisegesis. If we don’t know, who shall we say determines the infant’s fate other than God? Is such not God’s sovereign prerogative? Whatever questions we have about God’s sovereignty, as Dr. Caner points out, how can any Christian deny that God is sovereign? Who does Dr. Caner say determines a dead infant’s fate if not God? He doesn’t say.

"4. Do you think God loves every single person who has ever lived and will live in the same way and to the same degree?"

No. The Bible is fairly clear on this. Deuteronomy 7:7 and, by implication, John 14:21. God also hates some people: Psalm 5:5. I believe that God loves everyone in the manner outlined in John 3:16, but that there are some instances in which He doesn’t love everyone the same. Admittedly, the passages that talk about God’s love toward us are few compared to the fact that we should love God and love others with God’s love.

"5. What is your opinion on "altar calls" (not "invitations" but "altar calls")?"

(Right: I got the idea that even Gene’s discourse on “invitations” carried the same meaning as “altar call”. There is a difference...)

I classify the altar call as a tool with no intrinsic moral value of its own, but that it can be used for good or for ill. For example, during a time of conviction it may be helpful for one to seek immediate prayer for one’s spiritual condition. Why prevent people from coming before the congregation for prayer? If there is a great need discerned in the congregation, why not encourage any to come forward for immediate prayer? I notice that sometimes when we pray at Western Avenue and people are invited to come and kneel at the “altar” (on the steps). Tthis bears a similar function as the altar call. I’ve also seen where people come forward at the invitation for prayer instead of presenting themselves before the congregation as candidates for baptism and/or membership. I’ve not seen them turned away without prayer. This is healthy for a church. On the other hand, I would say that the altar call should not become a defining mark of a church and that ministers should not use it to quantify their ministry. I believe these are some of the common abuses that were referred to.

impossibleape said...

3.
Yes, but of course we can't be sure of every case.
I have an 19 year old disabled son who functions at about a 1 year level.
No expressive language, a little receptive language. He is not toilet trained, he strikes out unexpectedly and his smile illuminates my world.

I have struggle with the evangelical formula for salvation. It never sat well with me but my son's condition forced me to stop asssenting to a dogma that assigns most of humanity to hell.
Salvation is not saying the right things, thinking the right things, or even doing or believing the right things.

It is simply about being humble enough to accept grace when it is clearly offered.
Most people don't get that offer in terms that work till death. I have come to beielve that most people will get to heaven based on a witness from Christ himself at the moment of death.
NDE's and basic fairness indicate that someting like that must be so.

At that moment of clarity my son, and the billions of people born prior to Christ and geographcically and culturally beyond the reach of the gospel will get the gospel from Jesus himself and then the judgemnt (and then none can say I did not know...even my son will know and I believe he will be humble enough to accept the offer).

5.If we lived our Christian lives in a way that gives glory to God, by loving and serving others, we wouldn't need to have as many altar calls.
Sometimew I see altar calls as a substitute for Christians living out the gospel in the world.
If we got down to it, the abusive manipulation of emotions at a hyped services wouldn't be neccessary.

Jim Pemberton said...

Greetings, impossibleape,

Against whom do you argue? Your first comment agrees with mine: "...we can't be sure of every case," after my, "...an appropriate theological answer is, 'I don’t know.'” Nevertheless, you start off this comment with "Yes, but..."

So, I would say that on the surface we agree. However, we have different reasons. You make an emotional appeal using your disabled son, made in the image of God and born with the same condition of sin as the rest of us. However, this appeal concludes in a doctrine that, to my knowledge, is not scripturally derived.

I have made no conclusions except that God is sovereign. I wouldn't be so presumptious as to state definitively what God plans to do with His sovereignty outside of what He has clearly told us He does with it through His prophets: the writers of the Holy Scriptures.

As it is, He has given some instruction on Godly wisdom through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. This Godly wisdom is associated with people who are believers in Christ. From this letter, it seems as though Godly wisdom is not contingent on much knowledge or intelligence as it is on our attitudes. This Godly wisdom is informed by the Holy Spirit who unifies the church through humility and purifies the church through righteous judgement. It's all in I Corinthians and can be supported by the teachings of Christ. Nevertheless, my point remains the same: we must exegete, not eisegete.

Don't miss that we all appeal to emotion at one point or another. I agree that it should not be abused. The difference is whether we use emotion to develop doctrines that are not scripturally supported or use emotion to bring us into subjection to God as revealed in the scriptures. We must be careful not to confuse the movement of the Holy Spirit with mere "hype".

Jeff A. Spry said...

ImpossibleApe,

Jim beat me to it but you have made some grave errors in your thinking.

You wrote "My son's condition forced me to stop asssenting to a dogma that assigns most of humanity to hell."

Your first error is exactly what Jim said - your son's condition "forced you" to stop believing something. You are using extra-biblical emotional appeals to supercede the clear teachings of Scripture. It matters not what we WISH Scripture taught, it only matters WHAT Scripture actually teaches. On this issue, Scripture is unclear but I can say this dogmatically - God is good, God is just. Everything He has done or will do (even with your precious son) is GOOD in His eyes and everything He will do with the eternal soul of your son is just. God cannot and will not be called into question by anyone on that day. We will all praise Him for the administration of His justice on that day.

Second, you talk about a dogma that "assigns most of humanity to hell." The Bible says that the descendents of Abraham (true Israel - the redeemed) are as innumerable as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky. Hardly a pittance. Also, it seems from your statement that you might think the multitudes in hell don't really belong there. Is this true?

Jeff A. Spry said...

Jeff's answers:

1) Is Caner's use of "hyper-Calvinism" correct? Absoulutely not. I challenge anyone to find any reputable theologian who agrees that hyper-Calvinism is equivalent to Calvinism. Even Geisler knows he couldn't redefine historical terms so he invented a new word - "extreme Calvinist" - in his "Chosen But Free." We can discuss the accuracy of that nomenclature later.

2) Is it acceptable to say "I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist (which means "Calvinist" to Caner). I'm not an Arminian. I'm a Baptist"? If yes, why? If no, why not? No - doing so is to make a category mistake. Beyond the fact that Hypers are not truly Calvinists (see Caner's dogged determinaion to confuse here), it is possible to be both a Baptist and a Calvinist. I am one. You can also be an Arminian and Baptist. Caner is one (a four-point Arminian, at least).

3) What do you think happens to babies when they die? Why do you believe that? The Bible simply does not say with sufficient clarity to give a definite opionion. I rest confidently and peacefully in the knowledge that God is good and God is just. PERFECTLY good and PERFECTLY just. Anything that happens to an infant that dies in this world will be seen as good and just in the world to come. No one will dare raise (or want to raise) an accusation of unfairness against God at that time. We will see things as He does.


4) Do you think God loves every single person who has ever lived and will live in the same way and to the same degree? No and I don't see how anyone could think this. Why do we deny God the same things that we claim and demand for ourselves. Is God less? Do you love another woman in the exact same way and degree as you do your wife? Do you love my kids in the exact same way and degree as you do your own? What would your wife or kids think if you did. How "special" would that love of God that we clamor for truly be? A bumper sticker says "God loves you . . . but then again, He loves everybody." I don't feel quite so loved now.

Answer this: Did God show the same love to the first-century Chinese (already a dominant culture at that time) as He did to the first-century Jews? What about the Canaanites living in Palestine during the 400+ years of Israelite captivity in Egypt? We are confusing "love" with our concept of "fairness." We expect and demand that God act fairly. He has never done this. What of all the other widows starving in the drought around Zarephath? What of all the other cripples at the pool of Bethesda longing for healing?


5) What is your opinion on "altar calls" (not "invitations" but "altar calls")? Every sermon should have an invitation. But invitations do not necessiate an altar call. Altar calls did not even exist until the time of Finney. Somehow, the Church managed. Today, the church is filled with unregenerate individuals who think they are saved because they walked forward at the close of a sermon. I say that a sermon that needs an "altar call" acontextually TACKED ONTO THE END is not a real sermon. Invite people to respond to the meaning of the sermon - which should also be the meaning of the biblical author of the text you just expounded.

Chuck said...

1 Is Caner's use of "hyper-Calvinism" correct? No. At best he doesn't understand it. I hope that's the case because if it isn't he's being intellectually dishonest.

2 Is it acceptable to say "I'm not a Hyper-Calvinist (which means "Calvinist" to Caner). I'm not an Arminian. I'm a Baptist"? If yes, why? If no, why not? I suppose, but you walk a slippery slope simply identifying yourself as Baptist. Fred Phelps is Baptist. I certainly don't want to be lumped in with him.

3 What do you think happens to babies when they die? Why do you believe that?

I have no idea. Scripture, to my knowledge doesn't address that directly. Like you said, God is just and good and that's good enough for me.

4 Do you think God loves every single person who has ever lived and will live in the same way and to the same degree?

No way. Did he love Hitler the same way that he loved Peter? Doubt it.

5 What is your opinion on "altar calls" (not "invitations" but "altar calls")?

Personally I don't care for them. They are deceptive to those with limited understanding of what salvation really is.

impossibleape said...

Hi Jeff and Jim:
Hi guys.
I was wondering how the standard evangelical concept of salvation by hearing and believing and confessing can possibly provide the number of saved people as Jeff indicate he believes will be there?

If the kingdom will be full as Abraham's revelation indicates then how can the evangelical formulation be correct?

If propostiional faith is paramount (as it seems to be for biblicists) then how can we avoid the trap of a tiny heaven and an overful hell?

And if that is God's best plan then can we blame people for despairing or for looking for good news elsewhere?

Jim Pemberton said...

Impossibleape,
Evangelicals have a bad habit of quantifying everything. I suppose it can be useful when applying resources efficiently to meet needs, but that's where the usefulness ends. You seem to have the same problem:

"I was wondering how the standard evangelical concept of salvation by hearing and believing and confessing can possibly provide the number of saved people as Jeff indicate he believes will be there?"

All Jeff typed was:

"The Bible says that the descendents of Abraham (true Israel - the redeemed) are as innumerable as the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky. Hardly a pittance."

Also, hardly a certain quantification. I would say that multitudes have already come to faith. It's my hope that many more will. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to guess how many. I'm certain that many have not believed. There is a reason that Christ gave us the Great Commission.

Biblicists? Unless the Bible is reliable (and there is good reason to believe it is), on what basis can we claim any knowledge of God? To not be a "Biblicist" is to claim that I have the authority to create God in my image. No, but there is a standard that the Creator has given us to serve as a foundation for our understanding. Unless God opens our minds to His standard we will not be able to apprehend the truth of it. This standard is demonstrably objective for the sake of accountability. We know this standard because God has marked it with a particular historical context, specific prophetic fulfillment, and truth with the capacity to resonate in the depths of a fallen soul created in the image of God Himself.

"how can we avoid the trap of a tiny heaven and an overful hell?"

It's not our place. We take the good news to people, but it's up to the Holy Spirit to quicken them.

"And if that is God's best plan then can we blame people for despairing or for looking for good news elsewhere?"

They either have faith or they don't. If they don't know the gospel, how can they despair BECAUSE of it? As it is, we have reports that Christ has come to people in societies closed to the gospel in order to give them faith by miraculous means. I'm not going to put God in a box. By the same token, I can't deny any aspect of His plan of salvation just because I don't like the implications. God is God and I am not. He will do as He pleases and I will do as He pleases to the best of my fallen/redeemed ability.

impossibleape said...

"Biblicists? Unless the Bible is reliable (and there is good reason to believe it is), on what basis can we claim any knowledge of God?"

Perhaps knowledge is not what it is all about. That is the problem with propositional faith. It not only excludes those without the teaching but also those unable to absorb the teaching and that means the vast majority of all humanity since the begining of time.
Evangeical theology can and often does slip into a gnostic exclusivist club where only those with special knowledge can get in.

Jesus' incarnation made the club equally available to all people from the beginning of time till the end and from the four corners of the earth to the heights of the heavens.

Welcome to the club........

Unless you prefer special knowledge, then you may be entering the club that proudly claims 'we will travel the farthest reaches of earth to make a disciple', while not recognizing that the disciple being created will be twice the child of the hot place as the exclusivist evangelist.

Jim Pemberton said...

Perhaps you missed what I typed earlier:

"He has given some instruction on Godly wisdom through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. This Godly wisdom is associated with people who are believers in Christ. From this letter, it seems as though Godly wisdom is not contingent on much knowledge or intelligence as it is on our attitudes. This Godly wisdom is informed by the Holy Spirit who unifies the church through humility and purifies the church through righteous judgement."

I also typed:

"I have made no conclusions except that God is sovereign. I wouldn't be so presumptious as to state definitively what God plans to do with His sovereignty outside of what He has clearly told us..."

Saving "knowledge" is more akin to the "knowledge" that refers to an intimate relationship where we are aware of God's work within us than it is a quantifiable set of information to which we assent. Where we have the capacity and the relationship, we assent. That's why the presentation of information is necessary. Where we don't have the capacity, the relationship may still be possible and is contingent on the Holy Spirit as always. The Bible simply doesn't address this directly, and we mustn't invent theology that God didn't reveal.

Know that the sovereign God who is just and gracious will handle the messy details even if we don't know exactly what He will do.

Jim Pemberton said...

One other thing. I read much from liberal Christians about Jesus being "inclusive" and how being "exclusive" is wrong. Above all, God is Holy and Jesus teaches us to be Holy. The meaning of "Holy" is to be "set apart"; in other words, "exclusive".

Jesus ministered to sinners and sent his disciples out to make disciples of non-Jews. This is inclusivity of a sort, but to be a disciple of Christ is to be granted an exclusive identity in Christ. Out of gratitude, we desire others to have this identity as well and become agents of the gospel charged with taking this "knowledge" of God, the gospel, to other sinners so that they may have this exclusive identity as well.

So, we have the Godly desire to include as many people in this exclusive status as possible. But we must adhere to the information that God has given us or we can include no one. After all, we are admitted on His righteousness, not our own.

impossibleape said...

you've answered with grace and wisdom


I'm glad you didn't take offense to the hot place reference


I happen to believe that the job of the holy spirit is to lead us into all truth so I agree with most of what you say, I just don't make the bible into more than what it says about itself
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

It isn't part of a Holy Quadinity.

Jim Pemberton said...

"[The Bible] isn't part of a Holy Quadinity."

True, but it is our source of information from which we ascertain that God is three persons, as well as discover our need for His salvation.

impossibleape said...

What would you or Jeff or other propositonal Chrsitians say to the proposition that



Any one who insists that their bibilical interpretation (personal or school of Calvinism, hyper or nonhyper, Reform, Catholic, Arminian, liberal, conservative, emerging, Orthodox or whatever)
is
The Way
The Truth and
The Life

is probably wrong?

Jim Pemberton said...

Your proposition begs the question that all theological formulations are equal. I suggest that all theological formulations must be subject to a discernable standard so that we do not fall into error regarding the truth of who God is and what our relationship with Him should be.

I once outlined my apologetic of this standard in an article on my currently inactive blog analyzing a book report I found in Christianity Today. You can read my article at here.

Jeff A. Spry said...

Impossibleape,

You asked what we thought of this statemtn: "Any one who insists that their bibilical interpretation is
'The Way, The Truth and The Life' is probably wrong?"

I do believe in propositional truth. Therefore, it is most likely that all of those positions but one is wrong. They surely can't be ALL right. Also, most of them are antithetical to the other and we no from the Law of Noncontradiction that A cannot be equal to non-A. Therefore, your question is flawed.

Now, which ONE position is correct - that is the true question.

impossibleape said...

The question remains

after so many years of head cracking, hard thinking, heretic burning and endless palaveringdo we have the full unvarnished truth?

I think we may be getting closer to the truth but it remains a mystery seen thru a glass darkly

I think we have come a long weay but we have a long way to go

just think about how sanguine we christians were about slavery for 1800 years but we fnally got the message

we do progress in our theology but I don't think propositional thinking will get us to the next step up

impossibleape said...

of course that is my opinin and will only be known to be true if it pans out in our unfolding history

Jim Pemberton said...

"I think we may be getting closer to the truth but it remains a mystery seen thru a glass darkly"

So you do believe in propositional truth - otherwise you wouldn't have made this comment.

While it's true that we often get propositional truth wrong, that doesn't mean that we can't get it right - or that it doesn't exist. The reason we often get it wrong is because we are fallen and prone to clouding the "glass" with our own desires. We should still try to improve out understanding, but the only way we have of knowing if we have it right is if it agrees with God's revealed truth.

impossibleape said...

"the only way we have of knowing if we have it right is if it agrees with God's revealed truth."

That is just the problem

christians have slow roasted other human beings for disagreeing with their particular intrepretation of revealed truth


the truth is that the truth is not as revealed as many claim and most would like


at best it is an unfolding revelation and we haven't gotten it all unravelled yet

I believe a better way of understanding is coming and it may come by way of emergence


but I try not to be too dogmatic about such things

Jim Pemberton said...

"christians have slow roasted other human beings for disagreeing with their particular intrepretation of revealed truth"

The tension you have witnessed is due to the fact that we live in a fallen world. Paul's letters were all about this dynamic, so we can see that it's nothing new. I have no problem being roasted. In fact, I rejoice. One of Jesus' teachings is that we will suffer for His sake. Another element that is easily discerned from the epistles to the early Church is that apostates often come from inside the Church.

Your contentions continually ignore the reasonable arguments that we have set forth and you fail to set forth anything that is grounded in the teachings of Christ that you appealed to earlier. If you deny the source of your information about Christ, you have no reason to invent theology that this source contradicts. Therefore, by doing so you deny Christ Himself.

Indeed, Christ's teachings are undeniably propositional and He challenged the religious leaders of His day who relativised truth for their own selfish gain.

"but I try not to be too dogmatic about such things"

Your tenacity against reason and persistence in trying to convince us otherwise betrays the fact that you are more dogmatic than you are willing to admit.

impossibleape said...

"The tension you have witnessed is due to the fact that we live in a fallen world."

that is the reason we can not get too dogmatic about our opinions and interpretations

God will be God even we if don't understand Him and His purposes perfectly.

Our understanding grows over time and that is the reason we need to get past making propositions paramount. Or else we will go on claming "my propositions are better tnam yours, nyah nyah na nahyah".

Doing is more important than knowing or preaching.
Unless it is the kind of preaching as St. Francis taught us.

"Preach at alltimes and even use words when neccessary."

Your picture indicates that you try to balance the talk with a hug now and again and that is definitely a good thing to encourage and emulate.

Jim Pemberton said...

impossibleape,

You make dogmatic statements like, "we can not get too dogmatic about our opinions and interpretations," preceded by, "that is the reason". You use reason to declare that we shouldn't use reason. Then you go on to state more dogma after this fashion:

"God will be God even we if don't understand Him and His purposes perfectly."

"Our understanding grows over time and that is the reason we need to get past making propositions paramount."

"Doing is more important than knowing or preaching. Unless it is the kind of preaching as St. Francis taught us."
[so St. Francis is authoritative and the teachings of Christ are not?]

"...a hug now and again...is definitely a good thing to encourage and emulate."

How can you state these things as fact without a reasonable propositional basis? Not that I disagree with all of them, but I have a reason to believe what I believe and don't deny that it is propositional.

Incidentally, my "hug now and again" is not a balance to my "talk". It directly grows out of the propositional truth that you wish to deny. Hennessy and her mother, Maria, live on the dump. I could tell by their clothing that they had just come from the mission outreach. Their faces shone with the glory of God. Maria continually praised God for healing Hennessy of a life-threatening illness within the past year. The hug you see in picture, was not where I went and sought her out for a photo-op. Hennessy ran up to me and would have hugged me at the waist anyway if I hadn't picked her up. Jeff Grose happened to turn around at that instant from snapping another photo and caught it by happenstance.

Does Hennessy know every detail about salvation? I doubt it. However, I have every evidence that she's my sister in Christ. As such, she was in a position to minister to me at that moment with everything she had.

Propositional truth? Yes. Do we need to know everything to be saved? No. Does God tell us some things? Yes. Otherwise, we have no knowledge of Him at all. But the fighting you like to argue about doesn't come from orthodox Christians - it comes from those who dissent from orthodoxy and deny what God has plainly told us.

Have I vilified you or those who believe as you do? No. I have merely defended what I believe and pointed out the logical error that makes it impossible for me to believe what you believe. But you have insinuated that what I believe makes me some sort of a meanie for excluding people from salvation. I assure you, I have no deciding power over who goes to heaven. If you have issues with propositional truth excluding people from heaven, you need to take it up with God.

I merely try to use what God has given us in the way He has indicated He wants it used. Jesus and the apostles used propositional logic when they applied the Hebrew scriptures, and I merely follow their example. Like Hennessy, I can only use what I have been given. I cannot invent what I have not been given. Truth is more substantial than a pair of arms. A hug lasts a moment. True hope is eternal. What Hennessy gave me was more than a hug. She gave me assuring hope that God was using me to accomplish His purposes. This is the true meaning behind my avvi: that God gives us everything we need to accomplish His purposes, and that includes certainty, through a reasonable apologetic, that He keeps His promises.