Why I Don’t Respond to Every Critic or Debate Every Calvinist

Over the past few years many, many people have asked me to respond to critics–most of them Calvinists. Many have also pressured me to enter into public debates with specific Calvinist theologians and radio personalities. I decline most such invitations and urgings. I choose my conversation partners carefully.

For one thing, I simply do not have time to get into long, protracted debates with everyone who criticizes me or Arminianism. They are too numerous.

But that does not mean I shy away from all such debates. I choose my debate partners carefully.

Long ago here I said I was done debating or even paying serious attention to fundamentalists. It’s as useless as debating most Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their minds are already made up and nothing anyone says is going to influence them to think otherwise. And they are often only out to score points rather than to engage ideas.

Also, I do not have conversations or debates with people (however large their following might be) who use ridicule, insults, interruptions, imprecations, etc., as rhetorical devices.

I said I pick my conversation and debate partners carefully. Anyone who thinks I have not engaged with Calvinism and Calvinists is simply ignorant of the facts. I have had a sustained, twenty year dialogue with Michael Horton, a Calvinist I respect who never uses trickery or deceit or hostility and is always respectful of people with whom he disagrees. I think Mike speaks well for all Calvinists and the issues he and I have discussed in writing and in public cover the relevant questions adequately.

On the other hand, in the case of one leading Calvinist (perhaps the best known one today), I was subjected to a hostile inquisition under the guise of “just getting to know each other.” I was assured it was NOT an inquisition, just an invitation to conversation for the sake of better understanding each other. After two hours of seemingly respectful but intense debate he told me he was reporting our conversation to constituent pastors of the denomination for which I then worked–specifically a loosely organized group of them who were attempting to get one of my colleagues fired. During the “conversation” (which was an inquisition and the Calvinist pastor knew it but attempted to deceive me) the Calvinist pastor said he would do his best to get me fired if I did not side with him and his friends in attempting to get my colleague fired (even though I did not agree with my colleague about the controversial issue). I forgive that Calvinist pastor for his attempted betrayal of my trust, but I will never trust him.

When people ask me to respond to critics, they often do not know the history behind why I won’t. I have good reason not to trust certain people and stay away from engaging with them for that reason. For there to be genuine dialogue (which is what I am interested in) there must be trust.

I have done my duty (and pleasure) in having dialogue and even debate with Mike Horton–a true gentleman and Calvinist scholar whose goodwill I trust.

And this is one reason I opened this blog–as a place to respond to respectful, civil critics and to enter into dialogue and even debate with them. I do my best here to respond to critics who offer reasonable, civil, respectful criticisms based on a charitable reading of what I have written. I simply delete comments and questions that demonstrate no interest in respectful dialogue.


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