Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Hegelian Forray into Calvinism

Caution: Intramural Aside Ahead!
Those who could care less about debates in the Reformed blogosphere, skip this and read the posts below.

Okay, so the title of this post doesn't make any sense, but since the subject of this post is mostly dead around the blogosphere, I had to think of something - not to mention that it sounded smart, and that's enough to prop up my ego (which, let's be honest, is precisely what blogging is all about anyway). But the reason I thought this title might fit was because of what I've seen going on at one of those blogs I read semi-regularly - namely the web-home of Phil Johnson and friends, proudly blogrolled to your right. The atmosphere there lies somewhere between genuinely encouraging and noxiously abrasive - but there's enough of the former to keep me coming back to read the Godward musings of men loosely connected with my alma mater. Beyond the odd (as in occasional) devotional (in a good way) post, every once and awhile something very interesting takes place. Without making any value judgments about it (yet), you'll notice that from time to time some not-so-distant theological cousins show up and wreak the same kind of havoc on the PyroManiacs that others have accused of the PyroManiacs of unleashing on them. A strange role-reversal takes place whereby SOMEONE ELSE plays the role of the PyroManiac TO the PyroManiacs. It's enough to blow your mind, like when you find out that all of the characters John Cusack is interacting with in the movie Identity are actually some demented fat guy.

Man, I'm really not hitting with these analogies today.

In the past it's been those more fundamentalist than Phil and crew, but as of late it's been those who are more professedly Calvinist than the bunch. The kerfuffle erupted over a Francis Chan gospel presentation mentioned at the BHT which, apparently, wasn't hardcore enough for some of TeamPyro's Calvinist readership. The exacting, theologically Pavlovian terminology was conspicuously absent from his presentation, causing some Reformed watchdogs to foam rather than salivate, and the result was a basic defense of the video's integrity on the part of the TeamPyro crew. In a really great series of posts Phil, Frank and Dan all showed their dismay at the hair-splitting over-shrewdness of the critics.

The Pyros insisted that there is essential agreement, objected to vacuous labelling of their nuanced position, protested exaggerations about their view, balked at the bumper-sticker rhetoric being used against them, accused the opposition of not actually reading their posts and called for a greater appreciation for Christian conduct over an obsession with doctrinal precision. The Calvinist vanguard stood their ground, which (of course) was the self-professedly more consistent, more Biblical and more God-exalting position, to the exasperation of their "conversation" partners.

And the broadly-Reformed universe collapsed on itself.

This is where my opaque title comes into play - an over-simplified summarization of Hegel's philosophy of history involves a thesis sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Some previous TeamPyro posts (which Phil helpfully linked in his excellent article) warn against what he considers excessive listening and dialog. He's not a big fan of conversation. These posts also warn against being too narrowly divisive, of course - but they fail to create criteria by which someone is being "narrowly divisive" as opposed to "fighting for the Gospel" - instead they supply a kind of ad hoc criteria which defines divisiveness as "anyone to my immediate right" and heresy as "everyone to my immediate left". What becomes clear in all of this is that the Pyro's critics could have easily written the previously linked post about "conversation" with reference to the defenders of Chan. It's this kind of methodological problem that not only allows Phil to characterize me as one of the "doctrinally freewheeling TMS graduates" who "seem enthralled with certain currently-stylish flavors of epistemological skepticism", but also leaves himself wide open to the spirit of his critics' accusations (i.e. that he denies the absolute sovereignty of God, and possibly the Gospel itself).


Pastor Michael said...

Do you reckon there's any significance to Phil featuring your atavar's first cousin in today's post?

TheBlueRaja said...

Ha! I don't think so. I don't think Phil frequents this site very much (certainly not as often as I frequent his - and he surely gets less out of it if he does).

Pastor Michael said...

I'll be surprised if the sheer number of links doesn't at least get you PyroSpotted for this one.

TheBlueRaja said...

Meh. Not really looking for attention!

Raccafracca said...

Looks like your going to get some attention TBJ. I found your post from Pyro's site. When you told me this morning you've been blogspotted a couple times I didn't realize it was as recent as.....oh....NOW!!.

Raccafracca said... I just watched the now infamous video at My biggest beef with it was it took him SO long to get to the beach. Someone should post another site to rebut it called KeepMovingandSurfWhy

But seriously, I can understand both sides of the arguments. He is a little over the top with the "proposal" comments, but then again he does emphasize how we will be standing before fog in judgment.

This is what I am afraid of...people looking at everything through one shade of glasses (metaphorically speaking). Now I'm no seminary graduate. I hold no degrees or titles. I don't use or even spell big theological words (although I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night). But like many we tend to look and judge the world through lenses that we hold dear. For some it is homeschooling vs public school. for others it's what we eat and Sabbath day-o-week . For others is (fill in legalistic secondary topic hear).

Now, before you get your panties in a ruffle I know Calvinism Reformation something-or-others is more important than the afore mentioned examples.

BUT it is the same in this sense: If you can see God's love and sorrow for sinners beyond God's judgment for them, then you do not have a full and complete picture of who God truly is. Likewise, if you can not see God's wrath and judgment for sin past God's love then you do not have a complete picture of who God truly is.

To emphasize one more so than the other is (in my humble opinion) not representing God fully, adequately, or correctly.

Now that I have dared to tread where only theological giants and holier men than I dare tread...I shall return to my chamber for a night cap and so that you may now feel free to rip my post to shreds. I bid you goodnight.

Raccafracca said...

PS: Please add the word "not" in the 5th paragraph 1st line after the word "can". Someday I will actually proofread my post before I submit them.

TheBlueRaja said...

Preach it, Aeron. And going to seminary might actually make you LESS qualified to speak on the topic, not more!