Good afternoon Alpha and Omega Ministries, I wolud like to start out by saying that I thank God for your ministry. I have a lot of you dabates on dvd and several of you books and have used these materials in refuting Catholics, JW’s, and Mormons. I do however have one doctrinal disagreement with your theological views. I do not agree with the five points of Calvinism in there entireity. I have read many arguments on both sides and now hold a “moderate” view. I believe that both extremes have some aspect that are and others that are incorrect. My point in writing this is to ask if you think that this is an issue that the church should be so divided over. We spend so much time debating fellow believers on these issues when we could spend that time refuting cultist. I do agree that this is a doctrine that we should have a position on and be able to prove in light of scripture, but I hate the fact the those who love Jesus are spending so muct time arguing over differences when we should cling to our common love for Christ and the lost. Please tell me if and why you find this to be a topic that the church should be divided over. R.W.
Thanks for writing. When you say that you appreciate the debates we have done, I wonder, have you noted how central to my argumentation is the idea of consistency? Having benefited from the ministry of the late Greg Bahnsen, I am surely committed to the need of consistency. I must be consistent first and foremost in my own positive presentation of God’s truth, and secondly, by demonstrating the inconsistencies of those who oppose that truth, I seek their salvation as well as that of those who would be misled by them. And the reason I am fully committed to the defense of, and the centrality of, the gospel of grace finds its origin and source in the very same commitment to consistency that drives my apologetics.
I do not believe there is a “middle ground” between the idea that God saves, perfectly, in Jesus Christ alone, to His glory alone, and the idea that man is the final determiner of whether God will succeed in the matter of His own self-glorification. I have surely seen many attempts at creating a “middle ground,” but every single one I have ever seen bears the unmistakable mark of inconsistency.
I have addressed this question many times on The Dividing Line, but for now let me just be brief. I am Reformed, a Calvinist, or whatever else you wish to call me, because I apply the same rigorous standards of consistency to my own faith that I apply to those of others. I cannot point my finger at others and say, “See, you are inconsistent!” while cobbling together a man-made theological system of my own. If I demand that God’s Word be held as the highest standard, and that stringent rules of consistent exegesis be applied in responding to the claims of others, I cannot “give a pass” to my brethren who refuse to apply such stringent standards to themselves, and I must apply them to my own teaching and preaching as well.
Now, you say this is “dividing” the church. If by the “church” you mean the broad, professing body of believers, that’s true. Human traditions are to blame for this, not those who consistently seek to call themselves and others to a firm and unwavering biblical standard. When it comes to the matter of the grace of God in the gospel, one thing is for certain: over the past decades I have become utterly convinced that those who oppose the doctrines of grace simply cannot mount of consistent exegetical defense of their position. Look at Hunt, at Geisler, at Page—it matters not who it is, we have torn holes in their presentations using the very same standards we use in defending the deity of Christ or the resurrection, and we have done this over and over again. How many of those who yell the loudest in condemning God’s sovereign grace are actually willing to stand up and defend their claims in formal debate? And when a few do enter the arena, what has been the consistent result when they have sought to answer direct questions in cross-examination? Let me remind the readers of what does, in fact, take place when you ask folks to deal directly with the text:
So in answer to your question, RW, when you say “Wouldn’t it be better to be refuting a cultist?” well, surely, it would be wonderful if we only had to worry about those outside the church. But in what generation has that ever been the case? Even the apostles did not get to have that luxury, so why should we? If they had to deal with false teachers, and if they had to exhort us to stand for sound doctrine, knowing that the tendency is to compromise, to allow traditions to over-throw the testimony of Scripture, why should we think we will not have to engage in the same activity today?