Friday, August 12, 2011

The Liberalism Straw Man of Young, Restless Reformers

As Arminians, we often have to deal with a number of scurrilous charges and various innuendoes inflicted upon our faith by an assortment of polemicists, predominantly at the hand of the young, restless Reformed variety and their elder teachers. Whether it is a straw man of “free willism”, salvation by works  or open theism and a host of other unsupportable accusations, each is brought to nothing by the revelation of plain, simple truth. Truth will always bring to naught any straw man fabricated for divisive purposes. I came across another bale of straw dressed up as knowledge today. The following quote was offered to buttress another’s doctrine of mush and as always, truth will grind it to chaff.

"We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic
churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many
of them have already succumbed. And most invariably the
line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism,
from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism.
And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that
they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to
sustain itself. We are convinced that the future of Christianity
is bound up with that system of theology historically called
"Calvinism." Where the God-centered principles of
Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong
tendency downward into the depths of man-centered
naturalism or secularism. Some have declared -- rightly,
we believe -- that there is no consistent stopping place
between Calvinism and Atheism."

[Calvinism, hyper-Calvinism and Armimianism, pages 3-4,
by Kenneth G. Talbot & W. Gary Crampton; Still Waters
Revival books]

This is sheer ignorance. The "granddaddy of theological liberalism" was Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher who came out of the German Reformed theological stream and not Arminianism. The "daddy" of American Unitarianism is nothing but Calvinistic Puritanism. The United Church of Christ, the result of a merging of various Congregational Churches (previously Puritan), is one of the most liberal churches in the country. The Presbyterian Church - USA, straight out of the Calvinist Reformed tradition, rivals the UCC for promoting homosexuality in the pulpit and rejecting the infallibility of scripture among other liberal disasters.

Calvinists are quick to repeat the lie contained in this quote but as the above comments note, the greatest growth of theological liberalism in the church has come directly from Calvinistic Reformed sources without ever touching Arminianism. If we add other aberrant teachings to the mix we would also have to include the origins of the various Church of Christ sects that arose out of Calvinistic Presbyterians and Baptists (the Restoration movements of Campbell and Stone). If you are going to try to beat somebody with a propaganda lie, you better be prepared for the truth to knock some sense into you.


Anonymous said...

Consider my stomach officially turned. Seriously, I get so sick and tired of reading such historical inaccuracies, and equally sick and tired of people uncritically reading such inaccuracies without checking the history themselves, but merely assuming that such (inaccurate) statements are true. Thank you for setting the record straight in this brief post.

Jc_Freak: said...

What is really silly is that A vs C has nothing to do with liberalism at all. Liberalism is founded upon the principle of accommodating to our surrounding environment, and our surrounding environment says little about divine grace and election. It is equivalent to arguing that preferring anchovies on your pizza will cause you to be a communist.

Dave said...

Calvinist Matt Slick makes a similar argument in his response to Dan Corner, saying that Calvinism "is one of the few remaining branches of Christian theology that has not gone liberal."

As you pointed out in your post, Mr. Mallett, many of the most liberal churches come from the Calvinist tradition. Now the Calvinist can argue that such churches have abandoned or at least deemphasized traditional Calvinist theology, but in that case we can respond that the liberal Methodist churches have abandoned Arminius' and Wesley's emphasis on Holiness.

And what about Lutheranism? The biggest Lutheran denomination in America is the liberal ELCA. Shouldn't Luther's predestinarian theology have served as an antidote to liberalism?

In any case, if the authors want to use their fallacious "slippery slope" logic, they should be consistent. If any hint of "man-centered" Arminian ideas leads to liberalism, you'd best become a hyper-Calvinist. None of that sentimental humanist stuff about the universal offer of the Gospel.

A.M. Mallett said...

It seems that no matter how many times the slander and libel appears and is corrected, some polemicist somewhere will toss it out again hoping it might stick and tar another Christian. It is tiresome and has been going on, as you know, for over four centuries. Hopefully, as more Arminians participate in publicly setting the record straight, the children of God will recognize the slights and not be fooled by such lack of cleverness.

JC, I agree with that sentiment with regard to it not being an A-C issue. I view liberalism as a result of turning away from a Calvary focused faith in favor of embracing and accommodating a worldly perspective and that occurs across the theological spectrum regardless of soteriology.

Matt Slick holds to the party line with regard to his Calvinist perspectives however he has shown himself to be far more accommodating to those with a diversity of mainstream Protestant beliefs than many of the "young, restless Reformed" types who frequent his forums. I give him considerable credit in that regard. Having said that, it is frustrating to observe Matt make similar comments in a discussion thread only to disappear and not address the easy rebuttals of those who know better than believe some of the nonsense.

Pumice said...

The problem we all have is found in his phrase, 'system of theology historically called
"Calvinism."' Although we all have systems of theology and need to know what we believe they can become the tale that wags the dog, pun intended.

I do not read Wesley to learn the truth, I read Wesley because he seems to have read the same Bible I am reading.

Good content. Keep going.

Grace and peace.