On today’s Dividing Line I offered some comments on last Thursday’s debate with Leighton Flowers in the Dallas area. Professor Flowers had already done so…repeatedly…in various forums. I expressed my disappointment with the debate, and the fact that we had debated two different topics. I had made my opening presentation on Romans 9, and he on Total Depravity. It is still worth listening to, but as far as a formal debate goes, it is not overly helpful. As part of my comments I made an observation that I honestly think any honest review of the debate would substantiate: one side engaged in meaningful exegesis of the relevant text (which WAS the topic of the debate), and one side did not. Now, it seems there is a large difference between myself and Professor Flowers as to what “exegesis” means. For him, it means weaving a grand narrative and then fitting portions of a text into your theological system. For me it means deriving your theology from the actual language, context, and flow of the text. Those are rather different definitions, as we saw in the debate. I don’t think Professor Flowers can defend his functional definition. I can defend mine. I don’t think it is worth my time to go around and around with him about the topic. I got the feeling from the first time I saw him on social media that that is exactly what he wanted. Perhaps I was correct.
In any case, after I offered my comments, Professor Flowers took to Twitter:
Now, note Flowers is simply refusing to hear what I’ve been saying, and what everyone else has been saying, too: he did not exegete Romans 9. He did, however, engage in eisegesis, a reading into the text of the conclusions he comes to from looking at (but not actually exegeting) other passages. I cannot force him to see the difference, though, a professor at a Bible college should know better. In any case, I replied:
To which he replied:
To which…I chuckled. We all know who he is referring to, and I can assure you, the reasons for that gentleman’s unwillingness to engage in serious debate is not difficult to discern. In any case, as I took a moment to type up this additional article for my blog I went to Twitter to grab a cleaner version of Leighton’s tweets. But I couldn’t find them. Then I discovered why:
Now, I don’t mind at all that Professor Flowers has blocked me: I have blocked him many times in the past for simply being so narrow in his focus that he just refuses to listen. But I think the reason for his blocking me was provided by another Twitter user:
I had, properly, identified this as a glowing example of “Anti-Calvinist Derangement Syndrome.” I think Leighton was, and is, properly embarrassed that he posted such silliness, and the best way to hide from that kind of embarrassment is to use the block feature (a feature that, I note, makes Twitter survivable).
Around the same time Leighton posted some of his notes on FaceBook as a refutation of my statement that it took him a great deal of time to get to making any comments on Romans 9. Once again, mouthing the words “Romans 9” is not exegesis. Saying “so this explains how I would understand these verses in Romans 9” is not the same as actually exegeting the text of Romans 9. And no matter how many times I repeat this, it is very evident that Professor Flowers is not willing to listen. The fingers are inserted in the ears all the way up to the second knuckle.
In any case, I honestly hope Professor Flowers keeps that block in place. I do not believe his pre-written sermon notes amounted to a meaningful presentation in our debate, and I really don’t have any interest in continuing to invest time in a position in which I find no merit whatsoever.
Upon getting home I found an email from Leighton Flowers rather less than subtilely suggesting I needed to correct this article. He included a few of the text messages back and forth between he and Emilio Ramos. Basically, Leighton insists that he never said he would exegete Romans 9. So, in other words, Leighton thinks you can determine the soteriological teaching of Romans 9 without exegeting Romans 9. And this is the whole issue, isn’t it? His system is based upon this way of thinking. I think that says it all, actually. And with that, I leave it to those with sufficient interest to listen to, or watch, the debate, and take from it what you will.