03 January 2007

I walk the line

A Balanced Plea for Balance
by Phil Johnson

cripture says, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There's an equilibrium to be maintained in true spirituality, and it's only our sinfulness that makes us become unbalanced in one direction or the other.

The obedience God demands requires our implicit compliance to all of His revealed Word, and He expressly commands us "not [to] turn aside to the right hand or to the left." (Deuteronomy 5:24). The way of truth is well worn (Jeremiah 6:16) but narrow (Matthew 7:14). There are dangerous ditches on both sides of it, and we are so prone to waywardness that we need constant checks to keep from veering off track to one side or the other (Isaiah 30:21). We sometimes have to fight to keep our balance. In the words of Hebrews 4:11, we have to labor to enter into rest.

But balance is a tricky word. Mention it in connection with truth or spirituality, and people tend to think of a board balanced on a fulcrum, like a seesaw on the playground. If you move to one side, that end goes down, and if you move to the other end, that end goes down. We all learned as children that the only way for just one person to play on a teeter-totter is to get in the middle and stand with one foot on one side and one on the other and balance the board that way.

I'm afraid too many people take that approach with the problem of discerning truth. They take a dialectical approach, where you resolve every issue by seeking the middle ground between two opposing extremes—as if you could combine an erroneous thesis and its equally erroneous antithesis and come up with a synthesis that is somehow true.

It's not particularly helpful to think in such terms. While it's true that errors often exist at opposite extremes on both sides of any given truth, you can't necessarily find the truth by starting with opposite errors and searching for the via media between them.

I'm always a bit wary of people who seek the middle of the road on every issue. Have you noticed, for example, that whenever the doctrine of election or the question of human "free will" comes up, someone will invariably declare that he (or she) holds a position that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian but is squarely in the middle of those two "extremes"? A lot of people seem to imagine that there is some safe, logically-coherent, middle-road position where divine sovereignty and human responsibility essentially cancel one another out.

Let's be honest: That claim is often employed in an effort to stop meaningful discussion rather than advance it. Many people who take that approach simply don't want to work through the difficulties posed by the tension between the gospel call and the sinner's inability, or between God's absolute sovereignty and His wrath against sin. They imagine that if they take a position in the middle of the road and cover their eyes, they can simply avoid all such problems altogether.

That's not a biblical way of thinking. Scripture (as well as true Calvinism) stresses both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The truth is not a midway point where neither emphasis is taught at all, but a balanced doctrine where both sides of the truth are fully stressed.

The balance between Christian liberty and godly living is also like that. Don't look for a comfortable midway point between legalism and license. There is no safe "middle road" between legalism and license. In fact, legalism and license often go hand in hand and are found together, because they stem from the same wrong view of sanctification. Legalism is often a smoke screen for carnal living.

But New Testament sanctification properly stresses both liberty and love for Christ; both freedom from the law and freedom from sin; both emancipation from the bondage of our sinful flesh and slavery to righteousness as the only way to enjoy our new life in the Spirit.

Most Christian doctrines achieve balance in a similar way. Forget the midway point on a continuum, the fulcrum on a teeter-totter, and the yellow stripe in the middle of the road. When we speak of balancing these two truths, the idea is more like two oars on a rowboat. Try to paddle a typical boat with the paddle on one side only, and you will just go around in circles without making any progress. The harder you row with one oar, the faster and tighter your circles will be.

You'll never get anywhere spiritually unless you put both oars in the water.



Phil's signature

38 comments:

David said...

"Scripture (as well as true Calvinism) stresses both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The truth is not a midway point where neither emphasis is taught at all, but a balanced doctrine where both sides of the truth are fully stressed."

I had a long post, but it all came down to one word

Amen.

YnottonY said...

Loved the possum picture as an illustration ;-)

Robert F said...

Thanks Phil for the post! Now I'll just point to your post whenever someone wants to tell me that for the sake of balance, we must only teach the middle ground, and not stress particular truths.

DJP said...

While it's true that errors often exist at opposite extremes on both sides of any given truth, you can't necessarily find the truth by starting with opposite errors and searching for the via media between them

That's a very balanced statement on balance. Well-put!

centuri0n said...

What? You mean that some people want to feel like they have some rational bacon on the stove when in fact they are just burning grease?

And some people are so uncomfortable with disagreement that they would rather throw it under the bus rather than resolve it?

I don't believe it. I've never seen such a thing.

centuri0n said...

For the readers, btw, the upgrade of Blogger to New Blogger at my blog has (I am sure you are relieved by this) boxed me out of posting on the front page of TeamPyro.

I didn't have anything to say today anyway which deserved the front page, but I have something to say at my blog today which was probably not Pyro-worthy, but you might enjoy anyway.

It has to do with balance, I think, but only as a consequence of balance.

Carla said...

"Have you noticed, for example, that whenever the doctrine of election or the question of human "free will" comes up, someone will invariably declare that he (or she) holds a position that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian but is squarely in the middle of those two "extremes"?"

Constantly. I even used to be one of those folks that made similar statements, for the very reasons you mentioned.

When it occured to me that I was simply being lazy, I was ashamed and determined to educate myself to find out where I really did stand.

Thanks for posting on this today, it's a good reminder for us all, on any issue.

donsands said...

Very good thoughts for me to consider. I have a tendency to think this way.

Not so much about the relationship of election/free will, law/grace, but other doctrines perhaps such as eschatology.

Would eschatology fall into this same thinking?

danny2 said...

great post, phil.

the man who fears God will avoid all extremes.
ecclesiasetes 7:18

an interesting verse i've heard used to justify cowardly, fence riding living...however, fearing God is not really a "middle of the road" response, is it?

thanks for a clear, straight forward post!

Nicholas Z. Cardot said...

Great post and cool pictures to illustrate it.

Ebeth said...

Can only quote Paul: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. [Phil 2:12-13; ESV]

Mister G said...

Pat Robertson walks the line...here is an article regarding his "walk" from Breitbart.com:

In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in "mass killing" late in 2007.
"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

Robertson said God also told him that the U.S. only feigns friendship with Israel and that U.S. policies are pushing Israel toward "national suicide."

Robertson suggested in January 2006 that God punished then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke for ceding Israeli- controlled land to the Palestinians.

The broadcaster predicted in January 2004 that President Bush would easily win re-election. Bush won 51 percent of the vote that fall, beating Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. He also predicted Bush's victory for a second term in 2005.

"I have a relatively good track record," he said. "Sometimes I miss."

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.

Frank Martens said...

"Many people who take that approach simply don't want to work through the difficulties posed by the tension between the gospel call and the sinner's inability"

I agree with this to a point.

In the Tucson Calvary church (which I was a part of for a while, and yes the off shoot of Chuck Smiths church), the lead pastor said he took the middle. And then he contended for why he took the middle. It wasn't like he was trying to dodge the hard issues and make everybody happy. He had actually studied (granite in error) and based upon his perception of scripture he taught what he believed scripture was really saying.

candyinsierras said...

Re: Pat Robertson. At least Pat Robertson will be spared a terrorist attack, since we all saw how hurricanes steer away from him.
I say we all move to Virginia Beach for safety.

Sorry Phil. Rabbit trail.

BReformed said...

As you said, "In fact, legalism and license often go hand in hand and are found together..." I would go a teensy bit further and say that they are two sides of the same coin. On that basis, I am bewildered by those who cannot throw away the coin and see the "balance", as it were, as something totally removed from the middle of the road.

The balance is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the only "facility" that prevents us from "fulfilling the lust of the flesh." Given this fundamental difference of Spirit-living, I would offer a different suggestion than using "both oars", if you'll pardon the cliché, "If you want to walk on water, you need to get out of the boat." (That is not an endrosement of John Ortberg's book.) The oars and the boat are what the Spirit replaces. You won't get anywhere spiritually without the Spirit.

I recall John MacArthurs's outstanding sermon just a few weeks ago on GTY concerning the will of God. He said, "Why do I preach? Because I want to." That is the result of Spirit living well outside of the boat, and divorced from the entanglements of this life. All of us should strive for that kind of "walking in the Spirit". Then, and only then, does our outward living glorify God without the frustration of "balance".

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Good point.

"Have you noticed, for example, that whenever the doctrine of election or the question of human "free will" comes up, someone will invariably declare that he (or she) holds a position that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian but is squarely in the middle of those two "extremes"?"

People who say this can be really annoying. I think many of them are too lazy to think about the issues.

God Bless

Matthew

David Williamson said...

There is actually a third way between the calvinist and Arminian position: dispensationalism - which I'm no about to endorse, but which is strong in the 500m-member Pentecostal movement, the charismatic subculture and the Plymouth Brethren.

Do you think it is America's two-party political system which has nurtured a culture defined by binary opposition?

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

David, I am a Dispensationalist and reject both Calvinism and Arminianism.

However, I do think a lot of people who refuse to identify themselves as Arminians or Calvinists have never really engaged with the issues. They seem rather fuzzy in their thinking.

Many seem to think that Arminians should just stop arguing with Calvinists and Calvinists should stop talking about election all the time.

When it comes down to election, one must either opt for Monergism or Synergism. There is no real middle ground between some variation on either position.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Phil Johnson said...

I actually had a paragraph in my first draft of this post which I edited out because I thought it sounded superfluous. It essentially made the point that those who claim to have found a third way between Calvinism and Arminianism usually are unable to articulate the distinctive views of the two positions they claim they have rejected, and they never, never seem to bother attempting any cogent explanation of how a "middle road" position would deal with the Remonstrants' five points in any new and distinctive way. Usually, on examination, their views turn out to be classically Arminian, semi-Pelagian, Pelagian—or, occasionally, merely self-contradictory (or otherwise incoherent).

If the gentleman Frank Martens described is really an exception to that rule, I'd be interested in a brief synopsis of his system. It would be a remarkable work of theology indeed.

Also, David: dispensationalism deals with completely different issues than the points of dispute between Calvinists and Arminians. It's not a "third way." It's possible to be a dispensationalist AND a 5-point Calvinist (S. Lewis Johnson comes to mind); and it's equally possible to be a dispensationalist and a hard-core Arminian. Portraying dispieism a "third way" between Calvinism and Arminianism really muddies the issues in all three systems.

BReformed said...

And Gerstner says exactly the opposite: It is not possible to be a 5-point Calvinist and a dispensationlist.

It's hard enough for me to be Calvinist and Grace Brethren, let alone a Christian and a dispenstaionalist. I can't imagine combining all four. (That was a joke.)

SolaMeanie said...

Interestingly, I have been asked by my ministry's powers that be to review a book by a fellow named C. Gordon Olson called "Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism." I think it's a few years old but I hadn't heard of it until recently.

Considering the logical progression of the five points, I think (before reading the book) that it will be difficult to find a third way between the two sides that gells biblically. I am sure someone will dispute that!

YnottonY said...

Phil said:
"It's possible to be a dispensationalist AND a 5-point Calvinist (S. Lewis Johnson comes to mind)"

Actually, in his later days (probably from the mid 1980's onward), Dr. Johnson would not have considered himself a dispensationalist. Listen to his series on The Divine Purpose (not to be confused with the series The Divine Purpose in History). He rejected the two people of God dichotomy that seems essential to dispensationalism. He held to one people of God, even though he still distinguished between Israelites (physical descendants of Jacob) and Gentiles. Each party are co-heirs of the Abrahamic blessings as they are found in Christ, and there's no distinct eschatological plans for each group (Johnson was historic premillenial and inclined to post-trib views later on, from what I could tell).

However, Dr. Johnson didn't speak of "Israel" as representing all those in the church. An Israelite or Jew is a physical descendant of Jacob, and a "true Jew" is a believing or faithful Israelite. Thus, the church is made up of Jews and Gentiles, but they are on equal legal standing in Christ as co-heirs of the promises.

As to Phil's main point about the capability of dispensationalists to also be 5 point Calvinists and be consistent, I don't know. They do exist, but whether they are consistent or not, I am undecided.

I also wanted to note with regard to this post that the claim of "balance" is often just question begging. If we believe some particular proposition, it's because we think it's true. Therefore, all of us think our beliefs are balanced, more or less. When we say that someone else is unbalanced, we're just presupposing that our position is the correct position.

If someone differs from you and says, "I think we need balance here," there essentially saying "My view is right and yours is not." A plea for balance is not an argument. It just seems to be an assertion that one's own beliefs are correct.

YnottonY said...

"there essentially saying..."

should be:

they're essentially saying...

I didn't want to delete my comments a second time to correct all the typos lol man!

donsands said...

"all of us think are beliefs are balanced"

I would say we all have to believe that there is absolute perfect balance in the Holy Writ. Actually, that goes without saying really.

My belief that God grants repentance and faith to a dead sinner is my very strong conviction, and I would not shrink back from this belief, because there is Scriptural evidence, which verifies my belief.

Other brother's in Christ feel that faith is not a gift from God, but man does this without it being meritorious.

Some others try to stand on a middle ground which does not exist.

Though I have disagreed, and even argued with my non-reformed brothers, I do respect them for standing firm in their convictions, and we are able to fellowship in the gospel of Christ, because we are both fired-up about the gospel.

Those who say, "election smelection, let's just get along and love one another", are the ones it's difficult to serve the Lord with. I'm not sure exactly why, but maybe it's an apathy in their hearts towards the Word of God.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phil, you used a word in your post that I like better than balance: tension. Although in a postmodern world, the modernist penchant to categorize everything in tidy theological grids is clearly alive and well. I've seen some in the blogosphere claim that there are no tensions or mysteries in the Bible.

Personally, I think we are to exist in and appreciate the tension. It is also important to point out that tension is God-ordained. I suppose that could be a topic for another day.

DJP said...

David, ynottony....

Can you be a Calvinist and a dispensationalist? If only there were someone we could ask... someone alive... someone who were both aggressively and unapologetically Calvinist, and aggressively and unapologetically dispensationalist. If only someone had written on that very question!

Wouldn't that be cool?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Spurgeon: "This may seem to you to be of little consequence, but it really is a matter of life and death. I would plead with every Christian - think it over, my dear brother. When some of us preach Calvinism, and some Arminianism, we cannot both be right; it is of no use trying to think we can be - 'Yes,' and 'no,' cannot both be true. Truth does not vacillate like the pendulum which shakes backwards and forwards . . . . One must be right; the other wrong" (Found in Jan/Feb edition of Modern Reformation, pg. 33).

Phil Johnson said...

BReformed: "Gerstner says exactly the opposite: It is not possible to be a 5-point Calvinist and a dispensationlist."

Yeah, I know he said that. But he stopped far short of demonstrating it. (He also more or less admitted that John MacArthur did not fit his paradigm.) Lots of people (including more than a few dispensationalists) have claimed dispensationalism and Calvinism are incompatible. That would certainly be true if no-lordship soteriology were deemed an essential aspect of "dispensationalism." (That was Gerstner's belief and the reason for his charge that every brand of dispensationalism constitutes "dubious Calvinism.")

My friend Reggie Kimbro likewise insists dispensationalism is ultimately hostile to the doctrine of justification by faith. I think that view is historically unfair in a similar way.

I do, however, agree that LOTS of dispensationalists have butchered their soteriology in various ghastly ways, but I don't see that any of those errors are necessary ramifications of dispensationalism's actual distinctives—even if you let, say, Ryrie's Dispensationalism Today define what's truly distinctive about dispieism. This article is a pretty good summary of the point I am making. See also Dan Phillips's post (linked above).

YnottonY: "Dr. Johnson would not have considered himself a dispensationalist. . . . He rejected the two people of God dichotomy that seems essential to dispensationalism."

How he felt about the label in his later years, I don't know. But he certainly did consider himself a dispensationalist while he was on the faculty at Dallas, during which time he was also a 5-point Calvinist. If he later attempted to shed the label "dispensationalist" (I haven't heard that claim before), it was not because of any radical shift in Johnson's theology, but most likely in order to avoid misunderstanding caused by those (dispensationalists and their critics alike) who insisted on front-loading their definitions of dispensationalism with all the baggage of Scofieldism, no-lordship theology, and Hal-Lindsay-style sensationalism.

However, as I said, I'm not aware that S. Lewis Johnson ever formally disclaimed dispensationalism per se. Can you document that? A link to a sermon where he "rejected the two people of God dichotomy" doesn't count. MacArthur rejects the notion that Israel and the church will be eternally distinct, and yet he still calls himself a dispensationalist.

I don't call myself a dispensationalist, but oddly enough, some of the very same people who insist that dispensationalism is incompatible with Calvinism do call me a dispensationalist—and then accuse me of inconsistency because of my Calvinism. Go figure.

As you might surmise, a discussion about what constitutes true "dispensationalism" would quickly become complex and wearisome, and I'm not the least bit interested in making that the point here, because it's not germane to any point in the above post. So let's just say I would concede the point that dispensationalism and Calvinism are incompatible, if you assume the soteriological peculiarities of the Scofield-Ryrie-Hodges tradition are essential to dispensationalism itself. Problem is, no important dispensationalist I know of—including Ryrie himself—would seriously argue that those ideas are essential dispensationalist distinctives. (Ryrie ultimately boils dispensationalism down to only one essential point: that OT Israel and the NT church are not one and the same.)

Anyway, my original answer to the earlier comment still stands: dispensationalism is not a "third way" between Calvin and Arminius. It deals mainly with eschatalogical, ecclesiological, and hermeneutical questions, not the debate over "free will" and God's sovereignty in election. It's not really a parallel to either Calvinism or Arminianism.

Now, lest this comment-thread melt down into a dispute about dispensationalism, let's leave it at that. Anyone who wants to inveigh against dispensationalism or expostulate in favor of it can do it elsewhere. It's not really the point of this thread.

YnottonY: "[S. Lewis] Johnson was historic premillennial and inclined to post-trib views later on, from what I could tell."

I'd like to see that documented, too. His sermon series on eschatology, the only teaching I can locate from him on the subject, is thoroughly futuristic (not historic) premill, from start to finish. And he emphatically argues for a pretribulational perspective.

YnottonY: "A plea for balance is not an argument. It just seems to be an assertion that one's own beliefs are correct."

Of course I agree. That's why I brought this issue up apart from the context of making any argument. Still, I think it's valid and important to recognize that 1) any truth can be taken to an extreme; 2) we're all sinfully prone to do that; and 3) we need to guard diligently against turning to the right hand or the left.

Jonathan Moorhead: "you used a word in your post that I like better than balance: tension.

I would agree, but not without one vital qualification: The postmodern connotation usually injected into the idea of "tension" needs to be guarded against. The fact that there is "tension" and "mystery" in revealed truth should not be used as justification for subjectivism and irrationalism. Sadly, those who love to invoke terms like "mystery" and "paradox" these days usually then make a beeline for socially constructed notions of truth.

Jonathan Moorhead: "Although in a postmodern world, the modernist penchant to categorize everything in tidy theological grids is clearly alive and well."

Like I said, there are dangerous ditches on both sides. All of us need to guard against making the bogeymen appear so large on one side that we chase people off the edge on the opposite side. But it seems to me that the hordes of lemmings nowadays are jumping off off the edge in the exact opposite direction from the one you're raising this caution about. Just be sure you notice the danger that lurks behind you as well.

Jonathan Moorhead: "I've seen some in the blogosphere claim that there are no tensions or mysteries in the Bible."

Really? Where? I know that's John Robbins's view, but that certainly isn't the direction the prevailing wind is blowing these days. That's without a doubt a dangerous precipice we need to avoid, and lots of people these days seem to be deeply concerned to avoid it. But again: Don't back away from it so far that you fall into the chasm on the opposite side.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Phil, I am completely on board with the warnings. Not falling off into hermeneutical chaos (Derrida) is part of appreciating the God-ordained tension. Deut 29:29

The person that comes to mind who rejects tension and mystery is none other than our beloved Antonio.

Gojira said...

Hi Phil,

If I am not mistaken, S.Lewis Johnson was helping out in teaching Greek at Tyndale Theological Seminary before he died.

http://www.tyndale.edu/index.php

I'm sure he would have had to have signed their doctrinal statement, which is dispensational, as I do not think that the then president, Mal Couch, would have had anyone who was not dispensational.

Larry! said...

I agree; as a Wesleyan, I haven't found a third way between Calvinism and Arminianism.

It amazes me how coal miners could listen and understand Whitefield and Wesley's outdoor sermons (due to the convicting power of the Spirit) but we in contemporary society are reticent to dwell on meaty doctrine.

voiceofthesheep said...

"Have you noticed, for example, that whenever the doctrine of election or the question of human "free will" comes up, someone will invariably declare that he (or she) holds a position that is neither Calvinist nor Arminian but is squarely in the middle of those two "extremes"?"

Phil,
I love MacArthur's comments on the CD where you interview him on the topic of election regarding free will. He says that unregenerated man is most definitely, absolutely, free in his will to to do as he so chooses...it is just that the only thing he can choose is to sin.

Bhedr said...

alTension? absolutely.

Balance...yes we want to avoid we all live in a yellow submarine mentality but rowing oars...yeah thats good. I have often thought of the tension in a tightrope and the balance one needs in walking it. Thats narrow and very fine. No room for mistake. And death to the one who fails to understand the importance of balance. We are gambling with mens souls in handling truth if we don't endeavor to handle it properly. It should be considered a very fearful thing for anyone to handle the word of God.

YnottonY said...

Hi Phil,
I agree that Dr. Johnson would have considered himself a dispensationalist while he was at DTS, but, as you probably know, he was only a "5 point" Calvinist during his later years there. He mentions some of the dates, history and information about that in one of his lectures (I think it's the Suffering Savior series). As you might imagine, he came in to some conflict as a result of his change (Gary Long influenced him on the L point).

I think he shifted to more of an emphasis on continuity instead of discontinuity later on (maybe in the 80's while at TEDS), but I would not be able to document a place where he said "I am not a dispensationalist". In the Divine Purpose lectures, he is certainly sympathetic to many of their theological concerns, but also critical in key areas. If one can still be a dispensationalist if they only affirm that "OT Israel and the NT church are not one and the same", then I suspect that he could fit under that broad umbrella. I think he would view the church as being birthed in Acts 2 as a "new man", but also see some continuity with the OT believing remnant (so it's not completely "new" in the sense of being entirely discontinuous).

Basically, I think he was reluctant to disclose those areas where he made changes because he wanted people to study the issues for themselves. His influence at Believers Chapel is profound, as you can imagine. There are some who might say, "Oh, that's what Dr. Johnson believes? Then that's what I believe as well!" He wanted people to study the bible for themselves and arrive at the most reasonable position. Also, I think he probably saw people getting very upset over some of these non-essential matters so he was reluctant to say anything about minor adjustments to his philosophy of redemptive history. That's how I read him after having some face to face conversations with him at Believers Chapel in the secretaries (Lorrie Rothfuss) office on Friday afternoons.

I also remember telling him that I was inclined to be historic premill with post-trib leanings and he smiled and nodded (along with his wife) in an affirming sort of way. Anyway, that's not enough to say that he was definitely in that position. Perhaps I should not have spoken so dogmatically in saying "he would not have considered himself dispensational," since I can't objectively document that at the moment. It is my impression from conversations and his later teachings. All I can say is that one should listen to The Divine Purpose series and see what one thinks. There's more of a stress on continuity than many dispensationalists would allow. He's critical of both Covenantal and Dispensational systems, but does ultimately seem more critical of Covenantalism than of Dispensationalism.
With respect to his tribulation views, I would point to the series on Revelation (check message #9 and message #10). He seemed to be punching holes in the "immanent return" arguments that pre-tribers use, as I recall. I also cannot document a definite place where he said he was definitely "post-trib," but he seemed inclined that way in his exposition of Revelation (listen to #10 and see) that was done in the mid-1990's (later than the Eschatology series). The Divine Purpose series was taught in the mid-80's, probably 1985 or 86 if I remember. I believe he was teaching some classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School during that time. I will have to listen again to the Eschatology series that you mention. It's been awhile since I listened to that series.

Plus, I generally stink at eschatology as it is. I don't want you to give the impression that I have an agenda in making my statements. My purpose was to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Incidently, Dr. Johnson also has a tape series where he's critical of some of G. E. Ladd's views (a historic premill advocate). You may want to check them out once they become available online. If one can be accurately labeled a "dispensationalist" if they adhere to the minimalist idea that you present above, I suppose that he could be classified in the same position as MacArthur, even though Johnson was the greater expositor hahaha just teasing! ;-)

I wanted to make some statements regarding Dr. Johnson without derailing the thread topic, so I concluded with talking about the balance issue. You commented that, "I think it's valid and important to recognize that 1) any truth can be taken to an extreme; 2) we're all sinfully prone to do that; and 3) we need to guard diligently against turning to the right hand or the left." I very much agree.

Thanks for the interaction,
Tony

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

This post of yours Phil, reminds me of an interesting back-and-forth that occured between my blog and Dan Edelen's very popular blog. It started after Dan posted his version of a "balance" post, saying:

"On the topic of Calvinism and Arminianism, like I wrote in a previous post, are those two positions possibly at the extremes and not in the center of where the Lord would have us be?"

I took the opportunity to write about this odd 3 sided coin that everybody seems to want, in which there is supposed to be some middle ground between "God chooses" and "man chooses".

This resulted in a flury of angry "OH YES THERE IS A MIDDLE GROUND!!" comments on my post and on Dan's follow-up "I've been Hunted Down" post. My favorite comment on that thread was the one that declared me to be a "Calvinistic lemming" and then went on to say . . .

"[Jim] starts, of course, with the excluded middle: it is black-or-white with no room for gray or mystery. This is pretty typical, as you know, of anal retentive people who cannot tolerate anything that they deem to be a “mess.” Things have to be settled, nailed down, boxed in, and under control. Including God: nothing like a predictable God to bring one a false sense of comfort and security. And to absolve oneself of personal responsibility or accountability. Like Bertrand Russell, his kind are determinists in their outlook. His statement, “there can not be anything except for vegetarians and non-vegetarians,” is interesting. It fails to see the bigger picture, i.e., that all life - including human - has to devour other living things (whether flora or fauna) to survive. Extra, unnecessary categories do not clarify but confuse. So, too, with terms such as Calvinism and Arminianisn when the lines are drawn in indelible ink. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re C or A: what matters is living in obedience to Christ. ... I’m not in favor of people straddling the fence but I’m also tired of those arrogant, elitist Calvinists (may their tribe decrease) pontificating on things they know no more about than most, and a lot less than some. They don’t own the terminology".

The question that I have is, why do all of the blogs that seem to espouse a supposed middle ground, end up being highly critical of (or even hostile towards) Calvinism, and don't have much to say against Arminianism? That doesn't sound very much like someone in "the middle".

Frank Martens said...

Phil said: "Usually, on examination, their views turn out to be classically Arminian, semi-Pelagian, Pelagian—or, occasionally, merely self-contradictory (or otherwise incoherent)."

Phil... Oh no doubt. I agree that their views were quite contradictory. I missread what you were saying in that I thought you said that what people, who take the middle road approach, say when they reach a hard spot take the easy way out in saying... "oh well I don't want to cause contention so that's why I stand here" or something of the sort. My fault.

No doubt do we find self-contradiction in those who take the middle-road approach. What most of the pastors at Calvary will say is that they agree with 3 of the points but not the other 2. But unfortunately if you don't agree with at least one, the rest of them break and can't hold.

What I find though is that they will contend for their position. Granite in much error by usually saying that God's foreknowledge is in his knowing how a human being will respond. It's a weak argument at best, but they use it, and then they'll bounce around in scripture attempting to show how God responded in ways that centered around man's actions (i.e. saying that God knew that it was going to happen but changes what he really wants according to man's choices, or some weak arguement of the sort).

I don't remember all the arguements they use off the bat. Unfortunately I'm no longer anywhere near that church anymore so I could not go back (tomorrow for example :) and hash this through again.

centurio said...

Phil, thanks for the fantastic post! I think only the correct Deuteronomy verse is 5:32 instead of 5:24. Thank you once more!

Phil B said...

Yea!! Finally its here! Is this where you will now address Molinism and its "middle earth" positon? I've been waiting for this for a long time.