Friday, November 7, 2008

You're a Hyper-Calvinist

"James White is a hyper-Calvinist by the definition of Phil Johnson." - Dr. David Allen, John 3:16 conference

Wow. Who knew such a statement would carry such baggage. Well, I did and as soon as I read it here I thought "eww, here we go". Here we go, indeed. James has already responded here, and Phil has responded here.

Like James, I too have been accused of being a hyper-Calvinist by someone wanting to use Phil's Primer on Hyper-Calvinism as the criteria, and I find it needlessly divisive, not to mention ignorant and inaccurate.

In my case though, it'll likely go well under the radar. I'm not in the same league as James or Phil, and that's perfectly okay with me. I'm going to respond anyway since my accuser Tony Byrne has in fact accused me once again at John Mark's blog.

Here's the accusation from the comment thread there:

Tony // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Carla,When you were in Paltalk in the past, you were in agreement with the 5solas group (Brandon Kraft, etc.) that denied “duty-faith,” in addition to denying that God wills the salvation of all men by will revealed. Moreover, you were all staunchly denying common grace (i.e. the concept itself, not merely the terminology). Those are the FACTS, and those were my criteria. I don’t know what you believe today. I hope you have adjusted your viewpoints on thost topics. But, the above things used to be your actual position.

Grace to you,
Then moments later an add-on comment:

Tony // Nov 7, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Oh, I could also add that you were all staunchly opposed to the notion that God loves any of the non-elect in any sense.

The above topics and more are covered in Phil’s Primer.

A brief timeline is required so I hope you'll take the time to read these things (as a sidenote, Tony mentions PalTalk in his comment at jM's blog, and what follows is almost soap-opera style drama that was such a HUGE part of PalTalk and from what I hear, remains this way today. Please forgive the longwindedness of this, but the background is needed to understand where all this comes from):

In January of 2005 I wrote a post called Bad Theology According to Phil. What prompted that post was the notice that someone sent me, that Phil had listed the parent site of one of the forums that I helped moderate in his Bad Theology bookmarks page. The "group" that Tony mentions above, 5Solas, is the one Phil listed on his bookmarks page. Tony Byrne, along with several others were on PalTalk at the time trying to tell people that Phil had specifically condemned my chat room there (then called 5Solas Bible Fellowship - later changed to Sovereign Grace Bible Fellowship - then finally closed in 2006 as I got sick of the nutcases on PalTalk causing so much strife and division and drama that fellowship was nearly impossible) as a hyper-Calvinist chat room. For the record, Brandan Kraft of 5Solas had virtually nothing to do with my chat room, other than the fact that a couple of years prior (on msn chat) we chose the name together and he occasionally helped me moderate the room, as I was a moderator for his forum. As Brandan's theology became more extreme, he spent less time in our chat room and I spent less time on the forums, even though I was still a moderator there. Phil Johnson didn't even know the chat room existed, nor was he referring to the chat room OR any of the people moderating it, when he wrote his piece for the Bookmarks page. When folks came in the chat room asking about it (after hearing about it from people like Tony, and his friends), many of the current moderators in the room didn't even know who Brandan was, nor had they ever heard of the 5solas site. That's how "connected" Brandan and 5Solas was, to my chat room at that time.

I want to clarify two things about this. One, when I wrote the blog post mentioned above, I really struggled with it. Initially, my post was to jump to Brandan's defense in a personal "this is my friend you're talking about" way, more than anything else and that was a mistake. In doing that I attempted to take on what Phil had written about Hyper-Calvimism and that was my next mistake, as I pointed out a year later when I wrote this post attempting to revisit and clarify a little bit. At the time, I really didn't understand what hyper-Calvinism is, nor did I understand the various levels of it or the various things people mean when they use the label. It can get very confusing, very quickly. I was far more dogmatic in that first post than I had any right to be.

The other thing I want to clarify is that when I wrote this post, I hadn't been following all of Brandan's posts at 5Solas and I didn't know how extreme he had become. When I read through later on, I cringed and fully understood why Phil said what he did. More than anything I responded initially to defend my friend, while Phil wrote to critique his theology. Two different levels and I made the mistake of mixing the two up.

In the post mentioned above written a few months later, I still struggled through understanding hyper-Calvinism. What do people mean when they say common grace & duty faith? How do you know what a non-salvific love for the non-elect looks like, compared to a salvific love for the elect? These are incredibly weighty subjects and if you talk to 5 different people you are sure to get at least 11 different answers. Not everyone knows what in the world they're talking about on these subjects and unfortunately they just keep talking and confusing others, like me! To this very day, a lot of this doesn't make sense to me based on the teachings of men I have heard over the years. For me, it doesn't square with what I read in Scripture and I don't know to MAKE it square, or if it even does. Admitting this doesn't not make me a hyper-Calvinist, it makes me honest about not fully understanding these teachings. In the past I have voiced my opinion on these things and done so without being fully informed and that has been my error. I'm still learning how to eat the meat and spit out the bones, as the saying goes. Some of these things just just still do not seem clear to me.

A year later, Tony shows up again (this time in the combox at Frank's) and makes his accusations again. I wrote about this here, attempting to clarify once again, and Frank took up for me in the combox at his place. My hat is off to Frank for actually reading what I wrote, rather than reading what someone wanted me to be saying so as to fit into his neat little category of hyper-Calvinism and continue accusing me of holding to it.

There have been other discussions and posts on this over the last couple of years, but that's the gist of it. Going back to Tony's claims of today however, I have actually tried to clarify all this before and it seems to fall on deaf ears. I was never, have never and am not now, a Hyper-Calvinist. I am on the other hand, sometimes over-zealous with my opinions, not always clear enough when I should be, and easily frustrated by people who get ticked off when you don't just agree with them from the start, then slap a label on you and walk away. I'm learning not to be so eager to opine, to be more clear and define what I say, and not get so frustrated with people that won't listen. It's a process, and if I have to be popped into a category of hyper-Calvinist while I make my way through that process, then that's their issue, not mine.

When I read James White's response today to this accusation, I agreed 100% with what he said:

"If you believe you have to affirm that God is disappointed in Christ, disappointed in His attempts to do something He tries to accomplish but can't, to avoid being called a "hyper-Calvinist," then let's stop playing games about the meaning of words. If you can evangelize, call men to Christ, believe in common grace, etc., and still end up smeared by the "hyper" name, then clearly the debate has devolved down to a level beneath what is proper for believers."

I hope all that made sense. Oh, and if you've read all that, now you know why so many people (myself included) hate PalTalk. It's a breeding ground for theological insanity. Yeah, I went there before I realized what a train wreck it really was.

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