Over the past few years I have experienced what has become a regular occurrence when traveling and speaking across the US, UK, and Australia. I will be approached by someone, most often a man, who tells me his story of being a member of a Calvary Chapel, following the exhortation to read and study the Scriptures, and coming to an understanding of God’s sovereign grace and the perfection of the work of Christ on the cross. He will talk about how he began to ask questions, and very soon encountered a great deal of resistance, even being labeled a trouble maker. Many report they have left, and have found a home where the whole counsel of God is taught. Some are still there, fighting the good fight. I have stated now, a number of times, on the Dividing Line, that the current Calvary Chapel leadership will continue producing Calvinists as long as they continue to 1) ignore the reality of the system they oppose (choosing to present shallow straw-man versions and responses, as we have documented so many times), 2) while encouraging their followers to believe in all the Bible says, to study it, and to apply it. Over the past year many of those who approach me (I had two or three do this just last weekend in Minneapolis) use this same terminology to describe their own experience. “You know how you say Calvary Chapel produces Calvinists? Well, that’s me!”
It is painfully obvious that Calvary Chapel’s appointed Czar of Anti-Calvinism, George Bryson, is smarting over this reality, one that he knows is truthful and representative of the experience of Calvary Chapels around the world. So he has posted an article expressing his frustration, here. Does he provide a meaningful, biblical refutation of the exegesis of the key passages that keep leading people to the conclusion that Reformed theology is consistent and biblical? No, that has never been George’s forte. Instead, he creates another caricature, a bogeyman, to continue his attempts to frighten the sheep away from even thinking about considering both sides of the discussion. He paints of picture of poor me, with an “impotent gospel,” running around trying to convert Calvary Chapel folks, since I can’t witness with power to anyone else. It is sad to see George stoop so low. He knows he will not debate the key biblical texts against me (at least not with cross-examination!), and so he knows he can only snipe from afar, never engaging me directly (despite his bravado in claiming he will). So he has to ignore the reality that my focus has never been, and never will be, upon “evangelizing” Calvary Chapel folks. They hear what I have to say because they are looking for solid apologetic responses to atheism, liberalism, Islam, Mormonism, etc., and find those responses at aomin.org or in books such as The King James Only Controversy or The God Who Justifies or The Forgotten Trinity. I do not seek out Calvary Chapel folks: they seek me, mainly because they see me out engaging the Muslims or Mormons or atheists in the public square! This caricature of Bryson’s rings so hollow, it can only cause the thoughtful Calvary Chapel attendee to once again think the unthinkable: is it possible the current leadership of Calvary Chapel engages in this kind of straw-man, shallow argumentation because they truly do not have any answers to the big questions of the gospel? And once that question is examined, well…the results I see over and over again.
Just one note of correction (amongst many that could be offered) to George’s little blast. Note how he attempts to say that for Calvinists to preach the gospel to the lost, we must insist upon simply repeating the five points. This may be effective in his attempts to keep the ignorant in their ignorance, but once someone starts to think clearly and cogently on the topic, his argumentation becomes…silly. No serious minded person thinks that we are insisting that evangelism is nothing more than repeating the five points. The five points are biblical truths that George Bryson cannot refute, and continues, to this day, to hide from debating openly. But they are points that provide the framework in which one crafts one’s presentation so as to be consistent with biblical truth. So, one will not encourage the lost person to set himself up as judge, jury and executioner of God’s truth when one knows that God is the sovereign Creator and man is the rebel sinner, incapable of judging God. One will not present the work of Christ as a “nice thing God did for you” that then becomes the ground of trying to guilt the sinner into “doing something for God” when the biblical teaching of atonement is forefront in one’s mind. So George’s article only adds to the Calvary Chapel Conundrum: if you accurately represent the other side, folks may find the other side to be consistent and biblical; if you do not accurately represent the other side, folks will wonder why you are using double standards and dishonesty, and will look more closely at the other side. Such is the quandary of the one stuck representing man’s traditions rather than the whole and consistent truth of Scripture.