Friday, March 14, 2008

Appealing To The Body

Recently I have come under a bit of disgruntled complaining from some of my Calvinist brethren for using an argument that, in the secular world, would be considered a fallacy of appealing to a majority. Now, if I were to make the claim that something must be correct since 80% of the people agree, I would normally agree with them that this would a fallacious appeal albeit possibly truthful nonetheless. However when we are discussing the things of the Holy Spirit and scriptural truths, being in the Body of Christ counts for something. When the large majority of believers, faithful and lovers of the LORD, reject the unique distinctives of Calvinist doctrine the church and it's Calvinist members should take heed.

Orthodoxy is founded upon a common and historic agreement in the creeds, the fathers and general acceptance in the church at large. Most Calvinists and non-Calvinists would agree with this premise when it comes to determining what is orthodox doctrine in the church yet Calvinists seem to balk when the same premise is applied to their particular doctrines. To be fair I am sure there are Baptists and Wesleyans that react in a similar manner. Within our own tradition we view "Once Saved Always Saved" and it's Presbyterian accompaniment "Perseverance of the Saints" as questionable and not well founded on scripture. Yet we generally do not declare our opponents to be undermining the Gospel as Dr. John Piper recently declared of us. Instead we consider those doctrines to be in error and as well view them as unessential doctrine.

The connection between how we determine orthodoxy and an appeal to a large majority of the saints, particularly those called to pastor and teach, to keep us from being tossed to and fro, becomes apparent when we realize that nobody taught anything resembling any point of Calvinist TULIP until Augustine. Even then the doctrines that formed much of the Calvinist distinctive were not generally accepted within orthodoxy in Augustine's day nor any other time until Wycliffe embraced predestination. The early Calvinist Reformation built itself upon Augustine and not orthodoxy and it's scriptural understanding. Hence, I appeal to the historicity of the church in particular the early church fathers, the writings of the Apostles and the continued agreement that the strong majority of the Body in Christ has today in refusing the Calvinist viewpoint.

Of course the argument from a lot of Calvinists is to point to the church at Rome and make the claim that they too were once orthodoxy and had a lock on what would be considered a majority. That is only true if you believe the Roman Catholic Church represents the orthodox Christian church. I do not hold that opinion and when I refer to orthodoxy I am appealing to the entire church age. Another reply has been the suggestion that the church might well be wrong with baptismal regeneration being an example and adhered to by most of the church throughout its post Nicene years until the Confessional period of the Reformation. That is probably the strongest argument I have encountered yet even this falls by the wayside when we realize that the large majority of the body of Christ agrees that baptismal regeneration is not essential doctrine. The issue is not over what we agree on but over what is in disagreement. With that in mind, it remains a fact that most of the church today refuses the Calvinist distinctives on solid historic and orthodox grounds. It is proper to turn to the church today, it's predominant pastors and teachers grounded in the scriptures and orthodoxy, to assist us in determining what is proper doctrine and practice in the church today. On that count, Calvinism is refused.