When I invest time and energy in a particular topic, I truly try to do so for reasons as non-political as possible. And my engagement of TJ316C (The John 3:16 Conference) has been for the very same reasons that motivated me to write The Potter’s Freedom. As a result, I really have not been looking to see what else is going on in the blogosphere concerning this. The few things I’ve noted were pointed out to me by participants in my chat channel. But this morning my RSS feed picked up Timmy Brister’s timeline of events. My name appears most often, but I followed some of the other links and found some fascinating material. I was unaware that the chart that had been used at the Conference was actually produced by Tony Byrne, the chief source of the false accusation against me of hyper-Calvinism. In a comment Mr. Byrne left on Brister’s blog he wrote the following:
Also, consider this: Where are the Calvinistic bloggers who are even slightly supportive or glad that my chart was distributed to all those attending the conference (about 800)? I did it to help them all (even the speakers) to accurately understand the theological and historical differences among the varieties of Calvinism and Arminianism. Think of it: If the non-Calvinists read it carefully, they will not be so prone to straw man orthodox Calvinism (whether moderate or high) as hyper-Calvinism. They will have no grounds for portraying Calvinists as if they do not believe 1) God loves all mankind, that 2) God desires the salvation of all mankind in his revealed will, that 3) God is gracious to all mankind, that 4) the Gospel should be offered to all mankind, that 5) some Calvinists actually believe that Christ suffered for the sins of mankind, that 6) most Calvinists affirm some sense of ability (natural) in the unregenerate, that 7) all orthodox Calvinists believe that men are evangelically responsible to believe.
Let’s look at the points Tony posted. 1) Yes, God does, but God’s love is not monolithic, right, Tony? Can Tony Byrne affirm that the love of God for the elect, i.e., redemptive love, is particular? Can God, like man, have different kinds of love? And would those at the Conference recognize the difference? Would Tony affirm, with me, that God will not be standing on the parapets of hell for eternity mourning the loss of the object of His eternal, redeeming love? Would those at the Conference?
2) Please note Tony’s own addition/modification in this, the key issue in the false accusation made by David Allen regarding me: “in his revealed will.” Is that not what I have said from day one, indeed, for years, even in my arguments against hyper-Calvinists? “God commands men everywhere to repent.” It is part and parcel of God’s revealed will that all men are to repent and believe. Every single one, man, woman, and child. All are held accountable to this command. So as far as “God’s law reveals God’s will” can take us (and it can take us only so far, as I have explained over and over again), then “God wills the salvation of all men.” Tony knows this, and Tony knows that I believe it. So, why is my further concern not to attribute to God the irrationality of decreeing Himself into eternal depression such a problem for him? Why is my refusal to attribute to the heart of the Triune God an eternal contradiction the sign of “hyper-Calvinism”? The very portion of my Dividing Line broadcast which Tony transcribed and provided to David Allen to function as his defense for the false accusation of hyper-Calvinism makes it painfully clear that I am addressing the idea of making unfulfilled desires and hence eternal disappointment for God the context of my comments! I can see why David Allen would misunderstand what I was saying, but why would Tony Byrne? What is more, would the attendees at the Conference agree with Byrne’s distinction regarding the revealed will of God and the decree of God? Would they not accuse Byrne of the very same error they accuse me of? I think they would. But for the last time (since you can only say the same thing so many times), I agree with what Tony says here. Enough of the silly controversy over that!
3) He surely is, for unless I am misreading my entire world news RSS feed this morning, He could wipe this planet clean in justice at any moment, to be sure!
4) The Gospel should be and must be not just “offered” to all mankind! The Gospel contains offer, and pleading, yes, but all in the context of command! God commands men everywhere to repent!
5) Yes, some Calvinists do. I do not believe God the Father would pour out His wrath in perfection upon His Son with no end or intention in sight. I see this as a violation of the biblical teaching concerning the work of the High Priest, the perfection of His offering, and the work of His as mediator. And I would ask Tony Byrne: does Jesus mediate for the non-elect? Does He stand in the presence of the Father pleading the blood He shed for them, knowing full well that in the eternal decree of the Triune God it had been decided that those individuals would never be saved?
6) I am uncertain what this specifically means outside of the obvious fact that all Calvinists I know of ascribe tremendous ability/capacity to the will of the unregenerate man: such a man will always resist God’s truth and will suppress that truth in rebellion. The will of man in sin will always oppose God and delight in error. The synergists’ assertion that “dead in sin” means “inactive” has been refuted over and over again.
7) Which is why I proclaimed Christ and the necessity of faith to him to all the Muslims in London just a few weeks ago, and have done the same with Mormons in Salt Lake City and Roman Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. and etc., in all sorts of places and contexts.
So, according to Tony Bryne, I’m just a plain ol’ Calvinist. Maybe Tony will call up David Allen now and we can get back to the key issue: the utter lack of meaningful biblical exegesis presented by the speakers at TJ316C?
Finally, I read David Miller’s letter to Jerry Vines (which Lumpkin very unfairly spun against Tom Ascol). Since I was not at the conference it was interesting to read someone’s take who was, in fact, there. I was uncomfortable with some of the language used (as I’m sure some have been with some of the analogies I’ve used on the DL), but it did show me some of my own blind spots. For example, as I have been listening I have, somewhere in the back of my mind, been making mental notes about the quality of the presentations. As I listened to Steve Lemke’s presentation I had noted that it was not very well done. Lots of pauses, disjointed, and just a bit more than muddled. But I really don’t focus on that very much, as my concern was the substance more than the presentation. But I did find this comment from Miller describing what I cannot hear (or even see on the DVDs) interesting:
This did however, provide a high level of entertainment as I watched Richard Land fall asleep on at least 3 occasions during Dr. Lemke’s sermon in which he departed from his assigned subject and drudged on and on as the congregation got quieter and quieter.
I did at this point feel some compassion for yourself as I saw your rear-end at least 3 inches off the pew giving Lemke physical signs of your discontent. I know it, you know it, and the Lord knows it! You were sitting there wishing that he would sit down and hush.
I had to chuckle just a bit at that, especially since I have tried, over the years, to be the one speaker who gets the whole thing back on track time wise when someone else just can’t manage the clock. And now as I think back over Lemke’s presentation, I can see things in a little different light.
I will be going over Lemke’s attempts to promote the freedom of man in resisting God’s salvific grace on tomorrow’s Dividing Line.