Feedback: Why Don’t You Man Up?

This week’s feedback comes from reader H.P.  It is a good reminder that empty rhetoric does not amount to a reasoned argument.  H.P.’s comments are reproduced in their entirety, followed by my response.

Round 1

H.P.: “Why don’t you be a man and use a REAL document that expresses the full understanding of Calvinism like the Canons of Dort instead of arbitrarily quoting sources out of context.  Are you trying to be the next Dave Hunt on anti-Calvinism?  I would love to take up a debate with you and your ideology of Arminian demises.  Contact me [contact details removed]”

It’s interesting to note that you don’t explain how you define a “REAL” document, other than that it must express a “full understanding of Calvinism”. 

This raises the question, do Calvin’s Institutes not express a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that it “was Calvin who wrought out this system of theological thought with such logical clearness and emphasis that it has ever since borne his name.” (Boettner, pp. 3-4) 

What about Boettner’s Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – does that fail to express a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that among the endorsements for this classic work, we find the following:

“This is one of the most thorough and complete, as well as one of the most interesting and convincing statements of the doctrine of Predestination that has appeared in any language.  In addition Dr. Boettner provides in this book a scholarly and comprehensive statement of the Reformed or Calvinistic faith.  For more than thirty years The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination has been regarded as the authoritative work in this field.”

“Not only a clear and cogent presentation of the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, but of all the great distinctive doctrines of the Reformed Faith.”

“A book that will live for years as one of the most scholarly, helpful and interesting discussions of a difficult subject.”

“The mantle of Dr. Warfield, Calvinism’s most distinguished expositor and defender of the last generation, seems to have fallen on Dr. Boettner’s shoulders.”

“Whoever really wants to know what Calvinism teaches cannot do better than to read this book from cover to cover.”

What about A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God – does that fail in expressing a full understanding of Calvinism?  Granted, the book is not specifically about the TULIP (but then again, Calvinism is more than TULIP), but it is considered to be one of the classic texts on the Calvinistic view of providence, predestination, and the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ in general.  The review on R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries website gives this endorsement:

“This book … fiercely defends the sovereignty of God, and all the cognate doctrines such as the Doctrines of Grace. It is THE book to give to those just after conversion, and a prime book to give to anyone who defends the free will of man… It is an important stone to guide the steps of those who are not yet convinced of God’s absolute sovereignty over all persons and events.”

What about Edwin H. Palmer’s Five Points of Calvinism – does that fail in expressing a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that it was this book that made leading Calvinist exponent James White a “full ‘five pointer’”.  Monergism Books gives this endorsement:

“Using the classic TULIP acronym (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints), this primer on the five points of Calvinism is perfect for students and laypeople alike. Using the Scriptures from which they are drawn, Edwin H. Palmer analyzes each point and explains them in accessible language. Helpful discussion questions follow each chapter, making this book ideal for classes or study groups.”

What about another source that I have quoted from, R.C. Sproul’s What is Reformed Theology?  Given that this resource is touted as offering “a comprehensive introduction to Reformed theology,” I dare say that this qualifies as a “REAL” document on the subject.

Another book that I’ve quoted from is Boice and Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace.  I fail to see how anyone could libel this classic text as not being a “REAL” document on the subject of Calvinism, especially when a leading proponent of Reformed Theology, namely Dr. R.C. Sproul, writes the following: 

“In this book Drs. Boice and Ryken not only provide a lucid and compelling exposition of the doctrines of grace but also provide a historical framework for their development.” (From the Foreword) 

Another reviewer writes that the book is

“an in-depth examination of each of the five doctrines of grace. Eschewing the traditional TULIP acronym, Boice chooses instead to speak of Radical Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Efficacious Grace and Persevering Grace. Each of the points receives a full examination … This book provides a beautiful and captivating introduction to Calvinism.”

It’s funny also that you haven’t so much as attempted to substantiate your claims of me “arbitrarily quoting sources out of context”.  It has been well said that ‘what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof’.

I fail to see the purpose of the Dave Hunt question.

Perhaps I’m not the one who needs to man up.

Round 2

H.P. wrote back, now claiming that the aforementioned sources (from Calvin, Boettner, Sproul, Palmer, Pink, et al.) don’t qualify as “REAL” documents or express a full understanding of Calvinism:

H.P.: “No, not at all and here’s why: these sources that you list are documents that do not give an adequate definition of what Calvinists mean by the terminologies they have have. You have only arbitrarily quoted a few sources to show that Calvinism does not make sense, without acknowledging that these are variant expressions of their understanding of T.U.L.I.P. If you are going to attack a view, at least use a source that actually does into the polemical depths like the Canons of Dort prior to making a complete fool out of yourself.

If you would like, I would love to debate you.”

On the contrary, these works do indeed provide adequate definitions of what Calvinists mean by their use of theological terms. If you want to deny that these works are “REAL,” then that’s your choice, but bear in mind that it lacks any credibility. By denying that Calvin, Boettner, Shedd, Pink, Palmer, Sproul, et. al represent “REAL” Calvinism, you’re the one who is making a fool out of yourself.

Round 3

H.P. now comes back for one last bite at the cherry:

H.P.: “I can say your sources are misquoted because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position. I accept Calvin, Boettner, Pink, and Palmer, but these are variant expressions of the same key doctrines. Besides they are not as ‘in depth’ as the Canons, which I think you should read.

I have grown tired of the same meaningless rantings that anti-Calvinists such as yourself keep posting as if we have no alternative response. The Canons of Dort have done enough justice by exposing Armnianism for what it was: an error. I may not agree with everything, but you could take down the stereotypical arguments that you keep using over and over again. It’s kind of trite and lame.”

You said:

“I can say your sources are misquoted because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position.”

Mere assertion. I could just as well write ‘I can say that my sources are quoted correctly because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position.’ Mind you, if I were to reply thus, the discussion would not progress one bit. Without corroborating evidence, your statement is meaningless.

By the way, where are these supposed quotes that prove your position?  One would think that if you actually did have quotes that both prove your position and refute my position, then you would be a man and produce the alleged evidence rather than a whole lot of hot air.

“Besides they are not as ‘in depth’ as the Canons, which I think you should read.”

What’s to say that I haven’t read the Canons of Dordt? The fact that I haven’t yet quoted from them? That’s nothing more than an argument from silence, which is no argument at all.  (For the record, I have indeed read the Canons of Dordt)

“I have grown tired of the same meaningless rantings that anti-Calvinists such as yourself keep posting as if we have no alternative response.”

Such as? If you’re going to accuse me of “meaningless rantings,” why don’t you be a man (to use your words) and provide more than a mere assertion of such.

“The Canons of Dort have done enough justice by exposing Armnianism for what it was: an error.”

Debatable, but once again, you have done nothing more than simply assert your position, rather than provide a reason for it.

“I may not agree with everything, but you could take down the stereotypical arguments that you keep using over and over again. It’s kind of trite and lame.”

Actually, what is lame is that you keep accusing me of “meaningless rantings,” “stereotypical arguments,” and “arbitrarily quoting sources out of context,” but don’t (or is that can’t?) even substantiate your views.

Best regards,

Arminian

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