A report on a conversation with a Calvinist

A report on a conversation with a Calvinist October 17, 2011

A few people who “visit” here occasionally have accused me of being unwilling to engage with Calvinists in conversation or answer their questions.  That’s baloney, of course, and they make fools of themselves by showing they don’t keep up with things.  I have been engaged in a 20 year conversation with Calvinist theologian Michael Horton.  I have been a guest on his radio program (The White Horse Inn) and portions of our conversations have been published in Modern Reformation and Christian Scholar’s Review.  Just because I don’t engage in conversation with their favorite Calvinist doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to engage any or all Calvinists in conversation about our theological difference.

Notice I’ve used the word “conversation” a lot.  That’s what I value and am willing to engage in–friendly conversation that doesn’t at all shy away from differences but is civil and respectful.  Unfortunately, not all Calvinists (and probably not all Arminians) are like Mike who is a scholar and a gentleman.  His approach is so different from so many contemporary Calvinist spokespersons.  In my experience with him, he has never used ridicule or sarcasm; he strives for fairness in the ways he describes his opponents’ theologies–even when he disagrees with them very strongly.

This past Saturday evening (October 15) Mike and I engaged in a vigorous 90 minutes conversation in front of a live audience of about 500 (at least).  I assume portions of it will be on his radio program and I think some of it (or another conversation of the same nature) will be in Modern Reformation.  Not once during the 90 minutes (and it may have been a little longer) did we stoop to ridicule or sarcasm.  Sure, we both shot some barbs the others’ way, but they were always with a smile and of the nature of gentle ribbing.

This is how the Calvinist-Arminian conversation should be conducted: in an atmosphere or mutual respect without hostility, ad hominem attacks or sarcasm.  I wish more were of that nature.

I have agreed to engage in another such public conversation with Mike in January.  I’m not sure yet of the specific venue.  He’ll probably be announcing it.

Do these conversations actually change any minds?  Well, who knows?  There are some people who haven’t decided yet which theology of God’s sovereignty they’ll adopt.  But, for the most part, I suspect those who came to the conversation already had their minds made up.  What we did was explain our positions for ourselves (as opposed to having them only described by critics) and underscore both our disagreements and our common faith in Jesus Christ.

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