This past weekend (Saturday, January 28) I engaged in another public dialogue with my favorite Calvinist Michael Horton. While I strongly disagree with some of his characterizations of Arminianism (e.g, “man-centered theology”) he is a gentleman and a scholar who never stoops to using ridicule or insults and always strives to be fair in his descriptions of theologies with which he disagrees. And he never makes it a personal issue; he can express very strong disagreement while remaining friendly. That’s rare in today’s theological climate among evangelicals. I won’t even bother to read or engage in conversation with people who use ridicule to demean those with whom they disagree theologically. But I will go out of my way (for example to Orange County, CA and Miami, FL) to engage in friendly, vigorous conversation about theological differences. And I have done that many times.
This past weekend Mike and I spoke and engaged in conversation about our theological differences before an audience of mostly Calvinists. No one was hostile or aggressive or uncivil. Nobody made jokes at others’ expense to humiliate or ridicule them. No one misrepresented others’ views. (There were many questions from the audience and everyone was extremely polite.) I didn’t feel like Daniel in the lions’ den at all. Many members of the audience bought my book Against Calvinism and asked me to sign it for them. (A couple even had me sign’s Mike’s book For Calvinism!)
And yet, in spite of all the niceness, Mike and some of the audience members asked hard questions and pressed for biblical and reasonable answers. I did my best to provide them from an Arminian viewpoint. I pressed Mike for Calvinist answers and he always responded helpfully.
I told the audience and I repeat here that I have no problem with Calvinism in confessionally Reformed churches. My problem is when Calvinism becomes popular in contexts where it is not historically the norm and then is promoted as THE only truly biblical view. In such non-confessional contexts (e.g., many Baptist churches) Calvinism should be held as opinion and not elevated to status confessionis. What is happening in many Baptist churches is the adoption of the Second London Confession of Faith as an instrument of doctrinal accountability.
And I object when many in the young, restless and Reformed movement tout Calvinism aggessively as the one and only respectable Christian theology (“the doctrines of grace” and “simply a transcript of the gospel”).
If only these disagreements could be handled everywhere and at all times as they were by us at this event in Miami.
I believe the event will be posted for viewing at the web site of The White Horse Inn (Mike Horton’s radio program) and at Zondervan’s web site. The event was co-sponsored by those organizations.