Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Conclusion

reflections-disenchanted-calvinist-disquieting-realities-calvinism-ronnie-w-rogers-paperback-cover-art Some may wonder why I would even bother to spend the time responding to each chapter of Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist: The Disquieting Realities of Calvinism, and I think that my answer would be twofold.

1) Because it is important.  The importance of God’s sovereignty, glory, grace, mercy, love, and Jesus’s work on the cross are of an eternal significance, therefore, understanding them is something that all Christians ought to take seriously.  The whole purpose of our being is to glorify our God, and that includes understanding His revealed word properly.  For Christians to sweep this under the rug, and dismiss it as though it were trivial or divisive, is a growing and disquieting reality these days.  That is why I appreciate Pastor Rogers writing this book.  It shows that the Truth is not secondary to him, but it is of utmost importance.

2) Because I believe a sufficient response was necessary.  As I said at the beginning, the arguments do not change much over time.  Anti-Calvinism has not really evolved, the same verses and counter-verses have been used for centuries.  But Pastor Rogers had written a blog article some time back (found here), that “responded” to James White’s review of his book, saying, “I was hopeful for a serious review from the Calvinist position, but I was disappointed.”  Now, having listened to the James White review, I thought otherwise.  While I thought that James White did not have any knowledge of Pastor Rogers personally, his critique of the book was spot on.  Another of Pastor Rogers’s blog articles stated that a reviewer had misquoted him numerous times.  So I wanted to remedy those issues.  Firstly, I quoted directly from his book, I did not attempt to create any arguments for him, but tried to reasonably understand his position.  Secondly, I wanted it to be a “serious review” of his book, in detail, and from someone who knows him, and his preaching, personally.  Most importantly, I did not want it to be said that no one seriously dealt with his objections somewhat exhaustively (though I would say a whole lot more could’ve been written).

Having now completed the chapters and major content, I want to now attempt to give some closing remarks on the book in particular and the debate as a whole.  Starting with the book:

Pastor Rogers’s Book

1) It is too repetitive.  This is not a bash on his writing ability or his knowledge of the subject.  But it creates a few practical problems.  One, it makes the book difficult to read because the flow is slightly disjointed, making the book less helpful for those actually wanting to follow the argument and come to their own conclusions.  Two, it makes it difficult for review and rebuttal, because it is hard to address the current problem without having to re-deal with one you’ve previously addressed (this critique is harder to put in words for a general audience, but if you were to personally review his book and answer each objection for yourself you may know what I’m talking about).

2) He never truly defines “Grace-enablement.”  One of the most oft-repeated paragraphs in the book is one dealing with so-called “grace enablements” which is really just another way of saying prevenient grace.  The problem being that he never truly roots the idea in any verse or argument from Scripture (and this of course is the problem with the doctrine altogether); I know that he references several verses, but those verses do not give an credence to his understanding, they could as easily apply to mine.  Additionally, Pastor Rogers becomes guilty of equivocation, sometimes using it as a universal prevenient grace and at other times an individual prevenient grace.  When individual fits the argument he seems to use that, and vice versa.  The problem is not really that difficult to understand; due to the fact that prevenient grace is not a biblical idea, it is hard for the Synergist (or Arminian) to determine where exactly the line is drawn.

3) He erects quite a few straw men, despite his best efforts to the contrary.  For anyone to deal with the opposing side of any argument, it is critical to have a good understanding of what the historic meaning of that belief system is (whether it be Calvinism, Arminianism, Islam, Mormonism, etc), because it lends credibility to your disagreements.  When I get the sense that Pastor Rogers does not understand the Calvinist argument, I start to think two things: either one, he was never truly a Calvinist as he claims (or he may have called himself one, but never really understood it), or two, he is purposely trying to obscure the argument so that it appears more disquieting and disenchanting than what it might actually be.  But again, this is nothing new.  The victim of the most straw men? you might ask.  A: The “will” of man.

4) He uses emotion to sway his audience.  I have a problem with this type of argumentation for more than one reason, and not just because it is bad practice in debating a Calvinist, it is simply bad practice for all of Christianity (especially as it engages the unbelieving world).  Think for a moment of the several cultural oppositions in this country (i.e. abortion, homosexuality, and tolerance of everything under the sun), then think of where the thrust and appeal of their argument lays…emotions.  “You’re being hateful!” “You’re hurting my feelings!” “That’s un-American!”  I suppose if all you base your argument upon is emotions, then this might sway you.  But if you are rooted in the revealed Word of God, it ought not.  Same for  arguments against Calvinism.  Pastor Rogers appeals repeatedly to those burning in hell (i.e. your grandma, your infant, your dog!).  He appeals repeatedly to the love of God (loosely defined): that God wouldn’t let anyone go to hell, He would never let evil happen by His decree, and so on.  And the most troubling of all…that God owes everybody an equal opportunity to be saved, as if it were somehow inherent in the nature of man.

5) It’s inconsistent.  But this goes for the whole argument as well.  As I stated numerous times, in order for an Arminian or Synergist to remain orthodox, he must remain inconsistent.  The statements that are made by them lend all the weight to Open Theism, Universalism, Pelagianism, and Liberalism.  It is a good thing that I believe Pastor Rogers to be inconsistent with the beliefs he professes, because when prays…he prays like a Calvinist.  When he preaches…he preaches like a Calvinist.  When he speaks about the glory and sovereignty and will of God…it’s much like a Calvinist.

The Argument as a Whole

I want to say a few things for the argument as a whole, and firstly to those who agree with me, so as to attempt to dissuade the “stage-cage Calvinists” lurking around the blogosphere, and encourage them to simmer down a notch when responding to Synergists and Arminians, and everyone else.

(**To the Stage-Cagers**) The reason some people believe as Pastor Rogers does is not because they want to insert their glory, or works, into everything about salvation.  For the longest time I used that rhetoric to beat my opponents into submission.  “You just want to have something to boast in!”  “It’s all about you and your glory!”  Let me say, firstly, that this is the case sometimes.  I think a great deal of sin and false theology has to do with our own pride or belief in our inherent worth…as though we warranted the favor of God just by virtue of being born.  However, I do think that there is another reason that some people believe this way, and it is this: they want man to be held responsible for their sin, with no chance of God being a cop-out.  Let me say that I agree, of course only a misunderstanding of the Calvinist position on man’s will, depravity, and responsibility would lead one to think we say otherwise.  But in the same way that we (Calvinists) do not like our position strawmanned, we must not automatically assume their position for them.  While the system of Synergism does inevitably give man something to boast about (Eph 2:9), it is not always the express intention of the one holding the belief.

Now to those who don’t agree with me:

(**To the Pastor Rogers Sympathizers**) If you want to understand the position of Calvinism, I truly recommend that you read something by a true Calvinist (I will list some resources below).  It is not always the best practice to only read your side of the debate, from people who may be further reinforcing your misconceptions (this goes for Calvinists as well, this is why I read Pastor Rogers book in the first place).  I am not so much interested in what a Calvinist thinks an Arminian believes, I want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.  By hearing the arguments of Calvinism, from a Calvinist, the disquieting realities may not seem quite as disquieting.

And One Final Thing:

This is kind of a pet-peeve: The whole notion that Pastor Rogers does not want to be labeled, but rather to be called a Biblicist is a bit irksome.  For the record, I hate the fact that we have “labels” as much as the next guy.  I also hate that we have 500 denominations in this country.  But that does not mean that they are not useful for determining the presuppositions, beliefs, stances, views, etc. etc. that a person might hold.  Pastor Rogers may want to be a Biblicist, but he is truly a Synergist (or semi-Pelagian, 4-Point Arminian, whatever you wish)…and I am a Calvinist (Reformed, 5-Point, Frozen Chosen…whatever).  Labels help clear the smoke a bit, because hopefully we all–as Christians–aspire to be Biblicists…

Calvinists Authors, and their Calvinist defenses, for the Truly Curious

James White: The Potter’s Freedom

John Piper: The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23

R.C. Sproul: Chosen by God

David N. Steele: The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented

Martin Luther: The Bondage of the Will

Lorrain Boettner: The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination

Calvinist Confessions and Catechisms

Belgic Confession

Canons of Dordt

Westminster Confession of Faith

Baptist Confession of 1689

SDG,

Jon

See the author’s response to my review: here.

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~ by TSL on March 17, 2013.

3 Responses to “Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Conclusion”

  1. […] Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, & Conclusion […]

  2. Thank you for this series on ROADC. Being an inexperienced five-pointer (although I consider that I’m past the “cage-stage”) I knew that there were doctrinal problems with this book, but it was difficult to articulate my objections. It isn’t long after I started reading Bro. Rogers’ book that I found numerous questionable assertions that left me feeling overwhelmed.

    I think that just as humans are vulnerable to physical blind spots, we Christians can also fall prey to theological and philosophical blind spots and see what we want to see, regardless of what is really there, disquieting though such things may be to some. I make it a practice to “keep looking around” so to speak, to avoid that tendency in myself and it’s important that believers should endeavor to do the same. Most importantly, we need to keep in mind what the Bible is actually saying to help us avoid doctrinal dead ends.

    Once again, thanks for your insights. The work you put into this series was well worth the effort.

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