I’ve just made a new Blogosphre friend, Michael Spencer, of both Internet Monk and the Boar’s Head Tavern. He helped me understand that Dispensationalist Fundamentalist so-called “Reformed Baptists” attack-dogs like James White and others like him do not represent Reformed theology or Calvinism. I find this a relief, to say the least. Here is what Michael had to say over at Boar’s Head Tavern about my post on Calvinism.
Link: Boar’s Head Tavern.
Paul McCain on Calvinism
Paul McCain- Lutheran Blogger and recently in a fracas with Hays and White- posts his concerns with Calvinism: The Calvinist doesn’t have Jesus at the center of his “system.” It’s a serious charge.
While I wouldn’t write Paul’s essay exactly as he has, I think no one will be surprised that I sympathize with much of what Paul is saying and feeling, and it is part of why I no longer call myself a Calvinist. There is an issue here- an issue that even my Calvinistic friends in the BHT have to deal with. How many footnotes have to be inserted in our “Calvinism” to keep Jesus Christ- rather than some theological point in the mysterious nature of God- as the center point of our faith? If you choose to live in the “house of Calvinism” these days, how much time do you have to spend explaining that you aren’t like the people burning heretics in the back yard?
It’s a particularly good point to be made as we approach Christmas. I call myself a Christian Humanist because I meet God not in a theology text’s discussion of the attributes of the Divine Being, but in the point-in-time, historical, human person of divine infant in Bethlehem, fulfiller of all God’s promises made in God’s auto-biographical story of Israel and revealer of the God who is wholly other. Nothing is more admirable about Luther than his commitment to the quest to make Christianity a meditation on Christ Incarnate, Christ Crucified and Christ Reigning.
In my opinion, what McCain has experienced and read in some quarters of the Reformed blogosphere is the outworking of theological hubris that puts the theology of the adherent in far too prominent a place. It runs the constant danger of not being a confession of simple faith in Christ alone. In some versions, it seems to be the gospel of presenting a commitment to a system, some of which goes beyond the “revealed God” of the incarnation to the “mysterious counsels of God” deduced by the theologian’s ruminations.
What I would say to McCain is that his experience of internet Calvinism can be very deceptive. The Barney Fife’s make a lot of noise while they are nipping everything in the bud. The Tim Keller’s and the Michael Horton’s don’t spend their time gutting bloggers for trophy. When you calmly survey the entire reformed web, and don’t give too much place to the camp that sees dispensational independent Baptist fundamentalism as the only proper heirs to Reformed Theology, you will see a more balanced- and Christ centered- picture.
Internet Calvinists themselves know this. The lines in the PCA are clearly there to see, as well as many other places. Many Calvinists (see Founders.org for instance) are warmly Christ-centered, and put theology in its proper, helpful, but not central, place in the Church’s life.