Leighton Flowers and the Diminishing Arguments of the Anti-Calvinist Camp

It has been a while since I last posted, but it has been a very busy few months: new job, new house, new baby. But I wanted to get back to writing.

Turns out it was another SBCToday article by Leighton Flowers—someone I have posted about in the past—that drew me out of my break from blogging. Leighton Flowers is a regular poster on SBCToday, and he is the proprietor of a website that really targets nothing but Calvinist theology at soteriology101.com.

In the past he has made interesting—albeit unpersuasive—arguments for his anti-Calvinist side, and he has tended toward a slightly more measured approach than most of the individuals commenting or posting at SBCToday. That, of course, was one of the things I could respect. Unfortunately he has recently become like many other anti-Calvinists, that talk about nothing more than their anti-Calvinism, and has begun posting articles that are—for lack of a better word—juvenile and unthinking. I get it though, if you read my introduction to the last series I did on his posts you’d know that Leighton Flowers strikes me as one trying to make a name for himself; one way to do that is to post inflammatory posts about Calvinism that your side will eat up, and will probably get you speaking engagements at their seminaries. And with Leighton’s poor attempt to defend his interpretation of Romans 9 against James White, it’s no surprise that he would resort to the arguments that he knows can only last on SBCToday.com.

In his latest blog post at that site, title “What If I Am Wrong?”, Leighton Flowers relates how he once heard that question posed during a debate between a Christian and Atheist.  “What are the practical, real world consequences if what I believe, teach and practice is in error?” The question is an important one, one worthy of careful thought, and one that I don’t think Leighton Flowers really put the thought into before writing his article.

His article is not terribly long, so I’ll try to respond to most of it (his words will be in white).

—————–

As I have said before, we are either rightly standing in defense of God’s glory or God has sovereignly determined for us to be wrong for the praise of His glory (his emphasis).

Leighton has used this line before, but he reduces down the issue so that he can easily defeat it. God’s decree does not negate man’s will or responsibility—I know he knows this, so I hate to see him continue to act like Calvinists don’t hold a compatibilist worldview. You’ll see what I mean as we go on.

“If I am mistaken, no fewer people are going to heaven, no less glory will be given to God than what He decided and nothing I do will ultimately harm or hinder the desire of God for this temporal world or the eternal one to come.”

Does Leighton feel that God’s glory is something that can be increased or decreased by the actions of his creatures? I would imagine that both sides, when pressed, would say that God’s glory does not change, only the expression of it, and the realization of it by His creatures. The issue that is being overlooked is that the Word of God does tell us that our actions can “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30) and “dishonor God” (Rom 2:23). So while we never detract or add to God’s glory in any ultimate sense, we do please, honor, and glorify Him in the way that he has condescended and covenanted with his creation.

Leighton is right though, what he does or doesn’t do will not affect the number of elect or subvert God’s plans, but that doesn’t mean his actions are not important: God ordains the means and the ends. Leighton is responsible for what he does or does not do. I’m glad he recognizes that God’s plan cannot be thwarted, however.

“I literally have nothing practical to gain by converting to Calvinism.”

This is where he loses me.

Why is the test of something’s validity or worth based on what you can gain from it practically? If a right view of God, His character, the Gospel, evangelism, preaching, missions, and apologetics are not something practical to gain (or lose), then I’m afraid of what is. If the attitude is, “it ultimately doesn’t matter what I believe about God,” then I think we need to start elsewhere. But aside from all that, who cares what you gain from it practically? The statement is ironic: when your theology starts with man, so do all of your measures of practicality. Now that’s something practical right there.

“And I know if the claims of Calvinists are true and God wants me to become one, then I certainly will. In fact, I sincerely pray He converts me to adopt sound theology. I have no desire to teach false interpretations of scripture as I believe I did for many years, so I can honestly say I am open to correction.”

I do want to give him credit here; I do think this should be our prayer, namely, a right view of God.  No one has ever had a perfect theology but Jesus, and if they did have one, they didn’t live it out perfectly at all times. But I think he undermines this statement in the article.

“I wonder how many Calvinists have objectively evaluated this question.”

Leighton has a terrible tendency, as do many others on SBCToday, to only apply arguments to one side, without fairly recognizing that most of the commenters on SBCToday have clearly never evaluated anything outside of their comment box.

The same question could be asked back, and it should probably be asked of every honest, fair-minded individual on the face of the earth. It’s important to ask, “what if I’m wrong?” But that doesn’t mean you then doubt everything you run into. You test the validity of a position not by what you gain from it, or what makes you feel better, or what you think God should look like, but what is actually stated in Scripture. So far Leighton, or any other non-Calvinist on the SBCToday site, has never given a compelling reason—from Scripture—to abandon Reformed theology.

Leighton goes on to give a list of what he thinks are negative consequences of believing Calvinism.  Really none of them are new, and Calvinism does not own the market on any of them, I’ll try to be brief on each:

“Countless church splits.”

Again, like I said, he has a problem of blaming Calvinist for things that could easily be applied to any theology. But actually, I’d want to see the numbers…not a vague “countless.”

“Much time, resources and energy wasted over the issue.”

This classifies under what I called juvenile. Google “Leighton Flowers”, and you find it difficult to find the web pages that don’t have anything to do with Calvinism.  Every post by him on SBCToday is about it, his Soteriology 101 page is about it, his debates are about it, he’ll probably find this blog and comment about it… it’s laughable that he should even state it.

This goes back to his statement about nothing practical to gain, and it makes his statement about wanting to have a right theology sound disingenuous. How could time, resources and energy spent on having a right view of God be wasted? I admit there is much time wasted talking solely about it—but I think it comes from those who make it their hobby-horse…like Leighton Flowers.

“Hyper anti-evangelism by some who take the view to their logical ends.”

Hyper-Calvinism is heretical, and it isn’t Calvinism, so this really doesn’t apply.  If I wanted to play this game, I would accuse his side of open theism and exalting man, and I bet I could make a better case for it.

“Some repulsed by a seemingly monsterous [sic] view of God.”

Uh, Leighton…when has that ever been a measure for who God is? This is a silly statement, and any reasonable reader will see it as such. The idea that God is holy and will judge sinners in hell is a monstrous thought to most, shall we change those positions? Some have, will you? You know–I hope—that that is no measure for who God is, only Scripture.

“Some falling into fatalistic handling of temptations and addictions (if God wants me to quit this addiction or resist this temptation He will give me the effectual grace to do so).”

I actually think this is a good one, it doesn’t make me want to abandon right views of Reformed theology; it does make me want to correct those who think this way. Taking a view to incorrect ends has never made the actual position incorrect though.

“God’s character of love, grace and genuinely providing salvation for every person being clouded and subverted.”

Circular reasoning and equivocation. Leighton is assuming his position, and is using ambiguous language that needs to be defined or proven. Namely, “genuinely providing salvation for every person.” What does that look like? How do you provide a salvation that doesn’t save?

“‘Cage stage’ Calvinists turning unbelievers off to God.”

Already addressed above. They might need correction in their heart not necessarily their doctrine (but don’t be fooled, there are “cage stage” synergists too…just venture over to the SBCToday comments and try to insert a reasonable thought…dare you).

Leighton then concludes his article:

“What are Calvinists really accomplishing by converting believers to adopt Calvinism? Practically speaking, if Calvinism is correct, the Calvinist’s arguments are not going to determine who will or will not adopt Calvinism anyway and if Calvinism is false, then a well intending Calvinists shouldn’t want to risk converting others to a false interpretation anyway.”

We’ve already addressed this really, but what Leighton makes Calvinists into is fatalists, not Calvinists. God ordains the means and the ends, Leighton can’t seem to figure that one out unfortunately. But this paragraph is honestly a jumbled mess of incoherence and false assumptions.  No need to parse it at this point, it refutes itself for those who take the time to understand Calvinism.

To be clear, I think Leighton has a problem with the Scriptures, not Calvinists. The fact that he uses no Scripture, but only what he thinks are clever arguments, is one indication.

…according to the purpose of Him who works ALL things according to the counsel of His will…
-Eph 1:11

…declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…’
-Isaiah 46:10

These verses are not unclear or ambiguous, and there are so many more like it. If you read Leighton’s article you’ll get a sense that he has a rather disturbing issue with God being one who created Him, owns Him, saves Him, and knows the plans He has for him.

To conclude, I think one of Leighton’s major hang ups is why a Calvinist would do anything because God predetermines everything anyways. He can say Calvinists are fatalists all day if he’d like, but it’s not what they are, and we do not believe in a deistic god who winds a clock, with a master plan, and then lets it run without being intimately involved or working within the means. The incarnation completely obliterates that false notion. We exist within time and space, we exist as creatures who do not know the decree—we know that God works by means, and He has ordained to use us as the means for conversion and His glory—rather than mocking that fact, it might be good to submit to it and worship Him, rather than trying to make this Calvinism issue into a word game you can win. That would be extremely practical…

SDG,

Jon

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~ by TSL on December 5, 2015.

3 Responses to “Leighton Flowers and the Diminishing Arguments of the Anti-Calvinist Camp”

  1. Welcome back, Jon!

  2. Glad to see you’re posting again! I greatly enjoy your stuff :D

  3. Thanks, guys. Looking forward to doing some more writing. If you two ever have something you’d like me to post or repost let me know. Be glad to share thoughtful posts.

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