Calvinism and the Bible Part 2 – Jerry Walls

Jerry Walls and Paul Sloan continue their series with an in depth look at  Romans 9.  If you haven’t seen part 1, watch it first.

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Filed under Arminian Audio, Arminian Video, Jerry Walls, Romans 9

13 responses to “Calvinism and the Bible Part 2 – Jerry Walls

  1. Dave

    Hi Kevin,

    It’s been a few months since I originally watched these two videos of Jerry Wall’s interview of Paul Sloan. So I re-watched them this week so I could make some comments.

    First, I appreciate his (Paul Sloan) historical background on the nation of Israel and their election to service to be the light of the world; to take the Word of God to the nations, and their failure after failure to do so. I also thought that the parallelism between Pharaoh and Israel was an interesting observation. Lastly, I think that the overall observation on God’s plan to use the hardening of Israel to direct the taking of gospel to the Gentiles, and then through Israel’s jealousy of the Gentiles, bring Israel into the children of God, is accurate.

    But this is not where the controversial and divergent views between Arminianism and Calvinism exist. The primary area is in Ch 9 (unconditional individual election vs election for service), and then secondarily in Ch 11 (what is the meaning of “All Israel will be saved”).
    Since the purpose of Wall’s presentations are to show what’s wrong with Calvinism, I would expect that he or others would not only provide their own view/interpretation of Scripture with robust justification, but also (and more importantly) show why/how Calvinist views/interpretation and its accompanying justification can shown to either be incorrect or heavily called into question.

    Paul Sloan’s discussion of Ch 9-11 is 95% an explanation of one potential interpretation of the passages. What he doesn’t do is actually provide any evidence of specifically why the Calvinist interpretation is incorrect. His primary (and often repeated) defense is “they just totally take things out of context”.

    It’s quite obvious that if Walls/Sloan wants to pick on Calvinism and the general view of Romans 9, they need to provide an argument against Piper’s very detailed study published in “The Justification of God”. More specifically, they would need to walk through pg 47-73 and show how his reasoning is flawed and unjustified. For example, Piper provides a justification of why 9:6-13 cannot be about election for service and nations; Walls/Sloan need to show how Piper is incorrect. Piper provides justification of why individual salvation is in view throughout, using several points and ample backup. Wall/Sloan need to show why this is incorrect, and not only that, but how it is possible to take a position of “service/nations” and have each verse and word actually make sense.
    On this last point, Sloan picks and chooses those portions of 9:6-13 and then 14-23 which can be made into fitting his interpretation, but skips past those which are (or seem to be) quite hard to align. Perhaps he does have an explanation for them, but he doesn’t mention them here; and it’s not like he was limited in time – it’s Walls interview, he can take as much time as he wants.

    I would expect more from anyone desiring to be a “budding New Testament scholar”. Overall this work is very light.

    On the positive side, I will give it to Paul Sloan that he stuck to Scripture and did not wade into making any philosophical defense, unlike what Walls does (which is natural for him, since he is a philosopher).
    But Walls did have to put in his $0.02 at the end saying [this interpretation] “can thus avoid pitting our best moral intuition against what the Bible clearly teaches”. Back on another Walls-related post, you commented to me about philosophical arguments saying that “Sure, he [Walls] uses philosophical arguments, but so do Calvinists. You just disagree with his philosophy. :)”. To be clear, in my opinion I don’t believe that any philosophical argument (by Armenians, Calvinists, or anyone) should be primary; sure it can be used secondarily, but primary defense of theology and doctrine should be Scripture. To try to define or measure God’s actions or words by the thoughts and ways of man is futile. God has already told us quite clearly that His ways and thoughts are not the ways and thoughts of man, so when we try to use our “moral intuition” to guide/justify/reject a particular method of interpretation, we are in error (in the method).

    If you know of any scholarly publications that specifically rebut (to the same technical, scriptural degree) Piper’s position in TJOG , please let me know. I haven’t seen any, but I imagine some do exist and I just am unaware of them.

    God Bless,
    Dave

    • Hi Dave, thanks for your comment. By the way, I really appreciate your desire to read stuff by Arminians. It’s not often that Calvinists (assuming you are one) are willing to read first hand works written by Arminians, and that’s awesome that you take the time.

      A generalization here, but it’s been my observation that Calvinists tend to focus on a few short passages to back up their doctrinal distinctives, while Arminians tend to look at the larger context of scripture for their distinctives. With regards to Romans, the Calvinist wants to focus on Romans 9:6-24, to the exclusion of other passages. The Arminian prefers to look at the larger context, in this case Romans 9-11, or even the whole book of Romans.

      So the Calvinist says “hey, lets focus on Romans 9:6-24, it affirms our doctrinal distinctive, discussion over.”

      The Arminian says, “Not so fast, your interpretation can’t be correct given the larger context of Romans 9-11.”

      That’s a bit what’s going on with Walls and Sloan here. They are looking at the bigger picture, and this will always irritate the Calvinist who wants to only focus on v6-24. I haven’t read Piper’s book, but he appears to do the same thing, discussing only Romans 9:1-24. For the Arminian, a discussion of Romans 9 is not complete without looking at all of Romans 9-11, particularly noting Paul’s conclusion in Romans 11:32.

      Having said that, there is an excellent and detailed Arminian scholarly work on Romans 9. “Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:1-9: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis”, by Brian Abasciano. It is obscenely detailed, thoroughly scriptural, and is a direct refutation of Piper’s book. Abasciano also has a follow up on Romans 9:10-18, but I don’t think it’s online. If I find it, Ill link to it here. Here’s part #1. http://evangelicalarminians.org/brian-abasciano-pauls-use-of-the-old-testament-in-romans-91-9-an-intertextual-and-theological-exegesis/

      Both Calvinists and Arminians use scripture, and both use philosophy. However, I think Calvinists depend most heavily on philosopy at the exact point where they disagree with Arminians. Limited/Particular Atonement and Irresistable/effectual grace. On these two points the Calvinist leans on philosophical assumptions rather than scripture (as there is little direct scriptural support). The Calvinist argument goes something like this: God is sovereign. Sovereignty means that God is in absolute control. It means he plans everything. If he doesn’t, he’s not really sovereign. Not everyone is saved, so it must be because God doesn’t want them saved.

      For this whole train of thought there is dependence on philosophy to the exclusion of scripture.

      Arminians, on the other hand depend most heavily on scripture at the point of disagreement. God loves the world. God wants everyone to be saved. We utilize philosophy to flesh out the existing scripture. If God loves the world, and if God wants everyone to be saved, why are some people not saved? Well, it can’t be because God doesn’t want them saved, scripture says He does. There must be some other reason. So then we end up with a different definition of sovereignty then the Calvinist does.

      God bless,
      Kevin

  2. Dave

    Hi Kevin,

    Well when it comes from a tech guy that loves to study God’s word, studying theology, memorizing scripture, hiking, backpacking, gardening, and politics, I figure you can’t be all that bad (since I am a tech guy with the same list, but alas I live in CA). I guess we’ll just either have to go into the Cascades or the Sierras and hash it all out.

    I don’t agree with your statements regarding a “narrow” Calvinist view vs a “broad” Arminian view of Scripture. In my view, the arguments from people like Hunt or Geisler are primarily philosophical with broad statements/generalizations to back up their assertions on particular text (this is obviously not always the case), whereas Calvinists are much more “technical” (and get called on that; being absent of heart themselves, not just in their doctrine); I can’t say that I’ve ever heard people complain about Calvinists being primarily philosophical.

    What I *have* observed is that (1) Calvinists don’t read Arminian books/writings and (2) Arminians don’t read the Calvinists, or (3) when they do, they interpret the writing with particular lens, seeing what they desire to see or not to see. So you read a book like Hunt vs White on Calvinism and they talk right past each other much of the time, never actually responding to what the other said or re-stating it incorrectly.

    Yes, I would state that I am a Calvinist, but over the years I’ve learned to accept the fact that the Scriptures are not 100% in either camp, and that the discussions (aka arguments) that go on between individuals do more harm than good, primarily because it makes this doctrine the primary point rather than Christ above all things (i.e. let’s keep the main thing the main thing). So it’s actually with much trepidation that I ever comment on your blog.

    As for Romans and Romans 9-11 in particular, well…a few things. One – it’s quite hard to comment on Piper’s position when you haven’t read his book yourself, right :-) ? Which is why I read Arminian books/writings; I want to read for myself what the actual authors say or don’t say; not what someone else said they said (which normally ends up being “spun”). So since I have read it and well as studied through his entire 200 sermons on the entire book of Romans (including 9-11), I can tell you that he obviously didn’t just focus on some particular verses or on only a portion of 9-11. (I’m sure that if Dr. Olson read/listened through them, he would have a slightly different view of Dr. Piper, but I’m sure would still obviously disagree with him on specific items; he just wouldn’t be so hostile toward him).

    Piper’s TJOG was “limited” to 9:1-23 because this is what he was trying to figure out (you have to hear the background which led him to write it), but if you look at it, obviously the exegesis is both narrow and broad, looking also at many different views and their justifications.

    As for philosophy, I actually can’t remember any time that I’ve ever read or heard Dr. Piper ever use the philosophy of man to defend a particular biblical interpretation. Perhaps he’s done it, but I’ve listened to/read much of his stuff.

    You mention Calvinists using philosophy for Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace (since there is little direct scriptural support). Here is Piper’s overview of LA:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/seminars/tulip-part-1#Atonement

    On IG:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/seminars/tulip-part-1#Grace

    Now you can take the position that you believe these are “out of context”, “misapplied”, “misinterpreted”, etc., etc. (which is the normal response) – that’s fine. But this is scripture, not philosophy. You just don’t agree with his use of it :-) (like I don’t like Wall’s philosophy).

    Thank you for the reference to Abasciano’s book. I will take a look at it.

    Dave

    • Thanks again for the comments Dave. It does sound like have a lot in common. What part of CA are you from? I love backpacking. This year I’m hoping to go Seven Devils in Idaho.

      As a side note, my scripture memorizing was part of the path that took me to a more thorough Arminian viewpoint. But I digress. :) I agree with you that Christ is primary, the A/C debate is a secondary issue.

      Most Arminians have read Calvinist works, granted we still interpret C works through our own lens. But I don’t think the reverse is true for most Calvinists (yourself excluded). I say this because C’s often don’t correctly represent what Arminians believe in their argumentation.

      I’ve read “The Potter’s Freedom”, and think White’s presentation was clearer and more convincing then Geisler’s. I’ve also read MacArthur, Horton, Piper (although not TJOG), Sproul, and Boettner. My favorite C is Francis Schaeffer.

      This is about par for course for Arminians, at least the A bloggers I interact with. We read a lot of works by C’s. Having said that – I’m not so sure that Hunt and Gesiler have read C works, or even A works for that matter – they tend to misrepresent both views. In “Chosen but Free”, Geisler is not able to articulate what Arminianism is. In fact he calls himself a Calvinist. But he’s a lot closer to the A view. Personally, I think his hybrid view makes his argumentation weak.

      Confession time now: I really can’t stand Piper. To me he comes across as overbearing – all too certain of himself, a sort of false humility couched in smugness. I’d rather read and listen to White, and he can get pretty brutal. :) Maybe you feel that way about Walls, and that’s fair if you do – he’s certain of himself as well. One of the reasons I don’t care for Piper (and here we disagree again) is because he does depend so heavily on philosophy. It’s key to his argumentation, but he doesn’t acknowledge his presuppositions. Here’s an example from the desiring God link you included: He quotes verses about Christ dying for us (and for the sheep and the church), points out that some won’t be saved, and then argues (here’s the philosophy) that this means Christ did not die for all. But the verses he quotes don’t ever state that Christ died for some to the exclusion of others. That Christ died for a group (or even just one person – see Galatians 2:20) does not preclude him dying for everyone else. Especially when other verses state that he did. So that’s the kind of philosophy I’m talking about – a precommitment to his view (particular atonement), quoting verses that says Christ died for a certain group, and extending the verses beyond what they state to buttress his philosophical viewpoint.

      Abasciano’s work is very good. I think you’ll enjoy it. Confession again: I haven’t read part 2. So you’ll have me beat there. I don’t have a lot of book money. I have seen his exchange with Schreiner.

  3. Dave

    446 pages – a bit of night time reading… 8-).

  4. Dave

    Hi Kevin,

    I couldn’t find any pdf of Abasciano’s second work on Romans 9:10-18, but it is available in print (which I ordered). In searching, I ran across this exchange between he and Thomas Schreiner relating to this work. They are found at:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Article.%20CORPORATE%20ELECTION%20IN%20ROMANS%209.%20Final%20JETS%20Version.pdf

    and

    http://www.monergism.com/Schreiner,%20Thomas%20-%20Corporate%20and%20Individual%20Elect.pdf

    Interesting reads.

    Dave

  5. Dave

    Hi Kevin,

    I live in the Sacramento area and have been since 1976. Grew up in the Redwoods (aka *real* trees) in Eureka, CA. Had cousins up and around Seattle for ever, so been there many times, but never in your neighborhood.

    Haven’t hiked outside of CA yet, but many places within: Yosemite, many places in the Southern Sierra (Whitney, Rae Lakes, Kings Canyon, Mineral King), Desolation around Tahoe, and then up around Lassen and Trinity Alps. My cousins and Uncle always wanted me to go into the Olympics as well as beach hiking with them; no luck so far :-).

    Yeah, I probably feel the same way about Walls and crew as you do about Piper. Admittedly there were times when I too thought that Piper came off as arrogant, but after listening to him preach for 8 years (which was his sermons on Romans; did that August last year until March this year), I found him to be funny, humble, not arrogant in the least, committed to diving deep into Scripture, and maintaining integrity. I would think that probably this would be true of most pastors/teachers that we don’t care for at a distance; there’s a difference once you actually get to know someone, especially if you meet them face to face and talk with them. That happened recently for me with Paul Tripp. I thought that he was arrogant and all about himself, very smug, etc. He gave a series of lectures at our church over the last 9 months. I was in a group that got to meet him and talk with him. I realized that he is a really funny guy, one that used to be arrogant and all about himself (as he says his wife will surely attest to), etc., but he is actually just a normal guy.

    As for Piper and philosophy, well we will remain at odds on that one, and I wouldn’t call your examples one of philosophy, but rather interpretive overreach. Using man’s definition of himself to then “judge”, interpret, and direct one’s theology is the type of philosophy I am talking about. “My definition of love is xxx, and God is love, therefore this scripture must mean yyy.” or “this interpretation goes against my moral intuition and therefore must be incorrect”. These are the types I’m talking about, and it’s these types of views which the current 18-30 age group is slammed with (and many times follows); of course, many over 30 will do the same.

    FYI, my church is Metro Calvary (www.metrocalvary.org). Richard Cimino is the pastor. Came up under Chuck Smith at CCCM.

    God Bless,
    Dave

    • Hi Dave, My wife’s family is from the Sacramento area too (Roseville and Auburn), so we stop through every now and then. My brother-in-law manages a little music store in Roseville called “The Strum Shop”. If you play guitar or the ukelele, check it out sometime. It looks like it’s fairly close to your church.

      I’ll be in Tahoe for a week this summer (in-laws 50th anniversary), so I’ll have to check out Desolation.

      I was hoping the Kings would be leaving and coming this way, but it looks like that was not decreed to be. ;)

      I’m sure I’d like Piper more if I sat down with him and had a cup of coffee. That’s probably true of most folks we disagree with. It does look like he stepped in it again, with his tweet on the OKC tornado. He should think more before posting stuff like that when people are hurting. From the Arminian view, it is better to mourn with those who mourn when disasters happen, rather than attributing it to the wrath of God.

      Speaking again of philosophy, I of course come to the exact opposite conclusion as yourself. :) The Arminian concept of love is biblical, grounded in scripture (like 1 John and 1 Cor 13), and it’s fleshed out in the life and person of Jesus Christ. How did he show love? “Love God, love your neighbor as yourself.”, “Love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you”, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.”, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life down for his friends.”

      The Calvinist concept of love is inadequate because it comes in as a secondary concern after it’s interpreted through the grid of the human idea of what sovereignty ought to entail. Using your example: “My definition of sovereignty is X, and God is sovereign, therefore this scripture must mean Y.”

      I’d define Calvinistic sovereignty as this: God is in meticulous control of everything. Nothing happens outside of his planned decree. Sproul states: “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.”

      The trouble is, I don’t think that’s a Biblically grounded definition of sovereignty. On top of that, such a definition inadvertently decreases both God’s goodness and his glory. Sovereignty means that God is able to accomplish what he pleases. It doesn’t entail that he must meticulously control everything, or that his glory is decreased if he delegates a measure of authority to his creatures. In contrast to the Calvinistic view, Arminians believe that God is able to accomplish what he pleases even with a creation that’s in decay and not functioning according to the principles of his original design. So things like twisters happen not because God in any sense decreed them, but rather because Adam sinned (contrary to what God preferred). Creation is now in decay as a result. Yet God still accomplishes his will. Creation waits in eager anticipation for God’s children to be revealed. And we will be! In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

      Thanks again for the discussion, and God bless!

  6. Dave

    I know where the Strum Shop is; in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s. I live in Roseville/Lincoln :-).

    Places around Desolation to hike (depending on where you are in Tahoe) include Horsetail Falls and Wrights Lake area as well as many trails that come in from the Tahoe/East side of the area.

    Yep too bad re: the Kings. Seattle is definitely in need of a good basketball team!

    Haven’t seen Piper’s comment yet, but I can imagine what it says without looking.

    Dave

  7. Dave

    Noting your wife’s being from Auburn, on my Mom’s side, my great, great, great grandfather came to Auburn in 1859. Migrated up to Humboldt County in 1870’s/80’s. I have some cuff links made from gold he mined, which his daughter had made for her husband. History is always fun… :-)

    On the love, sovereignty, … topics, well we will disagree and I of course don’t believe that the C views of this are non-biblical.

    So in your view, regardless of how it occurred, could God have stopped the OK tornado from happening? If yes, then why didn’t He? If no, then why not?

    Is there something God loves more than man?

    ::-)

    • That’s very cool! My wife’s family came to Auburn much later, in the 70’s I believe.

      Yes, we will have to disagree on topics of biblical love and sovereignty.

      Regarding the tornado, yes God could have stopped it. As for why he didn’t, I don’t know. I don’t consider it appropriate to spend too much time speculating on it. After the earthquake in Haiti I did a post on why disasters happen, and you can see that here if interested.

      For your second question, God is love. It’s to my knowledge the only attribute that scripture directly states he is. His love is most deeply expressed between the members of the Trinity. His love for humanity is perfect and of the same nature. Since we are limited, his expression is smaller. Just like you can pour more water into the ocean than you can pour into a glass, yet both can be full.

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