Thursday, February 12, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 9 of 13)

This is part 9 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

8) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] An ecclesiastical relativist, because there is no authoritative Church."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

God did not leave "an" institutional church. God left the system of government by elders that had been practiced in the Old Testament (see, for example, Exodus 3:16), modified according to the needs of New Testament believers, with specific instructions regarding the qualifications of elders (Titus 1 and I Timothy 3). Nevertheless, believers are called not to be empty-headed but to be on the lookout for false teachers (I John 4:1) and the example of the Bereans is commended to them (Acts 17:11).

Truth is one. Thus we speak of "the truth" (Psalm 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.) and "the gospel" (Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.).

This can especially be seen in John's third general epistle:

3 John (the entire book)
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth. 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: 7 Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. 9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. 11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 12 Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true. 13 I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee: 14 But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name.

Notice how the church run by Diotrephes is not of equal merit with that of Demetrius. Why? The emphasis here (and I've highlighted it in bold) is on the truth. Certainly, John is speaking with special, divinely inspired authority. Nevertheless, John is giving believers a way to discern true churches from false ones. Recall that phrase "our record is true" hearkens back to John's conclusion to his gospel, John 19:35 "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe."

That is the reason we have the Bible: so that we may know the (singular) truth.

b) The Accusation Disputed

A relativist generally denies the existence of absolute truth. The concept of "ecumenical relativist" is not one that has a lengthy historical precedent. One supposes it means that one church is as good as another. Calvinism is generally used to refer to the 5-point view of God and man - to a view of monergistic soteriology - and to a view that man's will and God's predestination are compatible concepts. Calvinism is not generally used to describe a particular ecclesiology. Nevertheless, Calvinism's view of absolute truth would seem to be inconsistent with a view that one church is as good as another, as least applied to its fullest extent. Calvinism is generally and historically associated with the Reformers who argued that secession from affiliation with Rome was necessary, because (among other reasons) Rome had so corrupted the gospel. Clearly, those Reformers were not ecclesiastical relativists, at least as applied to the validity (or rather, lack thereof) of the church of Rome. Furthermore, while Sola Scriptura is not normally viewed as a part of Calvinism itself, it is the epistemological basis for the soteriology of Calvinism. Thus, no consistent Calvinist, true to his source of knowledge, could be a relativist in theological matters.

c) The Accusation Redirected

While historically Roman Catholicism viewed itself as being a unique church, modern movements of ecumenicism especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, as has lead to an increasingly relativistic mentality. To be sure, there is still some measure of proselytizing push exerted from Rome, but Rome has started to refer to those outside her communion as "separated brethren" and to suggest that the plan of salvation includes folks who are not in formal union with Rome, including even non-Christians, like religious Jews and Muslims. It is not total relativism - generally even these "inclusivist" types will still assert that Catholicism is best among the paths to heaven, but it is more relativistic than a view that says that a church that does not preach the gospel is not a true church.


Continue to Part 10


I thought it is worth pointing out that 2 John also has some similar themes to 3 John (discussed above):

2 John (the whole book)
1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; 2 For the truth's sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. 4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father. 5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 12 Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. 13 The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.
(emphases added, of course)

Notice that there are some of the same themes there of looking out for deceivers by clinging to the previously revealed truth, which is presented essentially as a synonym to "his commandments" and "the doctrine of Christ." These things are an objective reality, with Scripture being the unchanging, alone-reliable (today) measure of whether someone is to be received into your house or kicked out.


Anonymous said...

In those words from the disputation portion above:

"....A relativist generally denies the existence of absolute truth.

"....Thus, no consistent Calvinist, true to his source of knowledge, could be a relativist in theological matters.":

I would offer these Words of Scripture as another insight to the accusation against Supernatural governing among men. There does not seem to be an ecclesiastical relativist view from where God sees and hears it. He acts according to His predetermined Will and Foreknowledge. I would strongly suggest this is the Calvinist position as well :

Psa 94:8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise?
Psa 94:9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?
Psa 94:10 He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge--
Psa 94:11 the LORD--knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
Psa 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,
Psa 94:13 to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.
Psa 94:14 For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;
Psa 94:15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

When we consider your redirection of the accusation also, one need look no further than the following verses from the same Psalm; [but they can look to other Scripture as Scripture from most every part supports it as it does, here],

Psa 94:16 Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?
Psa 94:17 If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
Psa 94:18 When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
Psa 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

I do not see any support for the RCC Papacy ecumenical councils over its history in these verses, can you?

That point about the two variants is well taken, Diotrephes and Demetrius. I would hope that message of "Truth" would be conveyed back up the ladder to the Pope, if there was such an opportunity for Mr. Dyer to so convey?

Let the Truth stand! The government rests upon His shoulders. I am with Isaiah with regard to this. It seems to me what he prophesied then might be a warning for the RCC and the Papacy today to consider upon whose shoulders His Government rests:

Isa 22:19 And I will drive thee from thy station, and from thy state shall he pull thee down.
Isa 22:20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah:
Isa 22:21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
Isa 22:22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
Isa 22:23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.
Isa 22:24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.
Isa 22:25 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.

GeneMBridges said...

Who is the real "ecclesiastical relativist?" Mr. Dyer needs to look in the mirror. This objection is coming from a man who can't make up his own mind which church is the authoritative church, for he keeps changing his mind. What is his principled method and means of intuiting the authoritative church if it's resulted in such shifts in his thinking?

Anonymous said...

I have been studying Turretin today and came to his words here. I cite them for cause as they embrace government in a way that refutes the charge by Dyer that God's Church is embodied in "ecclesiastical relativism".

Turrentin, The Object of Predestination
by Dr. Francis Turretin


xxiii. In the execution, he (1) creates, (2) permits the fall, (3) redeems, (4) calls, sanctifies and glorifies. Thus it behooved God first to intend the glorification and redemption of man before he thought about his production or the permission of his fall (which everyone sees to be absurd). Now the illustration of mercy and justice in the salvation and damnation of men is not the ultimate end simply and absolutely (as to the government of man in general), but in a certain respect and relatively (as to the government of the fallen). For the ultimate end (as I have said already) was the manifestation of God's glory in common by the creation and fall of man. endquote.

Notice the absoluteness of God's decrees in Turrentin's words which reflects poorly upon and underscores yet again the nature of the Papacy and the RCC's intention is seen at odds with God's election!

It might be concluded that as God displays His glory upon Pharaoh, He will at the end of the day do the same for this ill founded ecclesiastical government, the RCC?

For this conclusion I cite Scripture then and it would be well to take note of them:::>

Rev 18:1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.
Rev 18:2 And he called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
Rev 18:3 For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living."
Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
Rev 18:5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

2EZ said...

Thanks for taking the time to write these responses to Jay Dyer. I've found your responses to be beneficial and encouraging.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks, I'm glad to hear that, Matt!

Thanks for quoting from my namesake theologian, natamllc! And I'm glad to see you're still keeping it Scriptural too. Don't give up the latter for the former! :)

Gene, there are some odd personal issues to be sure. I've tried not to go there, but to focus on the general matters relating to Rome.


Anonymous said...

Why is examining different positions in depth and being willing to change and modify my views so odd? I suppose neither of you have ever modified your views?

Turretinfan said...

Jay wrote: "Why is examining different positions in depth and being willing to change and modify my views so odd? I suppose neither of you have ever modified your views?"

I'll let Gene answer for himself, if he likes. As for me, my point is that I don't want to make this personally about you, Jay. Perhaps even mentioning that headed down that road, in which case I regret doing so.


Anonymous said...

For that you are a gentleman.