Critiquing someone, another Christian, particularly someone who has a personality cult behind them never produces the kind of light one would hope for; not usually anyway. My last two posts, obviously, have offered up lineaments towards a critique of John MacArthur. They do not represent full court critiques, or fully developed critiques; instead they presuppose, for one thing, that my readers have been reading me for a long time. If you haven’t been reading me for a long time then you’d be unaware of my history with the Pyromaniacs, and critique of the MacArthurite “theology” that they put forward (they are mostly retired now as bloggers). The newer reader would also be unaware of the countless hours I have spent offering critique, particularly historical theological and constructive theological critique of the theology and metaphysics that funds John MacArthur’s style of 5 Point Calvinist soteriology and his exegetical conclusions.
Like I just noted, offering critique of someone like John MacArthur really never produces any type of good fruit. What posting like this typically does is attract folks who are die-hard defenders say of someone like John MacArthur, and in their responses they will typically attempt to besmirch anything you have written that is contrary to how they think of someone like John MacArthur. Just as I could have predicted I’ve had one such type of respondent. He didn’t use his real name (which I really don’t like), but went by the handle Edingess (maybe his name is Ed Ingess). He charged me as a slanderer of John MacArthur&co., unscholarly, disingenuous, and a host of other things. He wants me to write him an essay critique of John MacArthur and to critically prove all of my claims directed toward MacArthur et al. (as if I haven’t already done all that work over the years here at the blog and my other blogs over the years — since 2005). I ended up banning Edingess from my blog, because his comments were of a badgering nature, and did not represent the kind of responses I deem acceptable here at my blog. Here’s one of his last comments to me; this comment is responding to some prior exchange we were already having:
I never asked you to write an exegetical paper of Gal. 1:6-8. I assumed you had done so. You are just as sectarian as MacArthur unless you are a complete syncretist which is logically impossible because even syncretism excludes those who are opposed to it. If your definition of sectarianism is to exclude false teachers from the church and false churches from the Church, then you will have to show why you have found a better way. You strike me as just another ecumenical love-crazed-God evangelical at this point. What I wanted to see was a post you had done on Gal. 1:6-8 so that I could evaluate your methodology. I am not sure if your typical reader knows much about exegesis and I know an awful lot of bloggers tossing that term around a lot these days but rarely do I ever see it practiced with skill. And the comments you are making are certainly leading me to question whether or not you are as skilled as your credentials would imply. That is why I am looking for a sample. I have heard Phil Johnson on Gal. 1:6-8 and many other topics as well. I am well-trained in biblical exegesis. I can say there is NOTHING wrong with how Phil or John handle that text. If you disagree, you need to show your readers why and provide a clear demonstration. My guess is there will be a lot more personal philosophy mixed in with your exegesis but I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Prove me wrong. What I am accusing you of is slander and being unfair and unkind and unloving in your criticism of these men, not to mention, unscholarly.
Let me respond point by point to Edingess’s claims, and charges.
His charge of syncretism is very unusual. My primary critique of MacArthur et al. in both of my posts is that he and they do not make a critical distinction between the prefabricated theology they bring to the Text, and the exegetical conclusions they come to as a result of that. In other words, the issue isn’t “syncretism,” the issue is a kind of sleight-of-hand by MacArthur et al. in regard to not informing their people that they are using an interpretive tradition (i.e. classical Calvinism) to come to their exegetical conclusions (this is not just a problem that MacArthur et al. has, it is quite pervasive, particularly among evangelical and some Reformed scholarship wherein informing theological conclusions are simply read into the text as if those conclusions represent the true and orthodox faith without question). The consequence of not doing this, is that when someone like me comes along, people like Edingess become perturbed because they seem to think that MacArthur et al. are just engaging in sound exegetical practice. But that’s petitio principii, or question begging. Edingess actually illustrates the problem by his emotional attachment to MacArthur and the belief that MacArthur is just teaching the plain and simple Gospel truth.
My definition of sectarianism is simply that when one tradition, or another, adopts the attitude that their ecclesial location and interpretations are at a level of orthodoxy over against every other tradition or denomination in the church catholic, which then leads them to ostracize every other tradition or denomination. In other words, sectarianism is when a denomination, tradition, or even an individual comes to believe that they alone have the corner on orthodox Christian Gospel reality, and nobody else does.
Edingess wants me to show how I have found a better way. Edingess, you have a couple options: 1) You can spend the time necessary perusing my blog in order to familiarize yourself with how I think I have found a better ‘way’, or you can read our Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church and then our forthcoming Vol.2 Evangelical Calvinism: Dogmatics&Devotion. I have put in the time and work necessary to express how I think I have found a more viable way in regard to approaching the Gospel revealed in God in Jesus Christ; I am not going to do extra work for someone just because they are Johnny-Come-Lately.
Edingess wrote: “You strike me as just another ecumenical love-crazed-God evangelical at this point.” I will take most of that as a compliment; but since I know Edingess used that in a pejorative sense, let me respond. Yes, I actually do believe in a love-God (call me crazy!), and happen to be quite ‘ecumenical’ in the best sense of that word; let me explain. I am “ecumenical” in the sense that the creeds (i.e. Niceno-Constantinopolitano) are ecumenical in regard to their catholic and orthodox reach. I am also “ecumenical” because the implications of the Incarnation itself require that. Jesus Christ assumed humanity, all of it, in himself; as such, there is an inclusivity in the asumptio carnis, precisely because of its particularity, which for my money, requires a view not only towards the church, but towards all of humanity, that sees all of humanity as dearly beloved by God in Jesus Christ. So yes, I am “ecumenical.”
My credentials? I have two earned degrees in Biblical Studies and Theology, one at the graduate level. I have written and defended an exegetically based Master’s thesis on I Corinthians 1, and have published two academic theological books on the issues pertaining to the very issue under consideration: i.e. Calvinism. I have spent the last fifteen years, in particular, focused on historical theology, constructive theology, with a particular intensity orbiting around the issues of Reformed theology in its development in the history of ideas and intellectual heritage of the church. If I must speak like a fool, then so be it.
You are well trained in biblical exegesis? Well why didn’t you say so, Edingless? I suppose you want me to take your magisterial endorsement of MacArthur just as you want me take you as an authority on what constitutes sound biblical exegesis or not. Petitio principii.
I have shown my readers why I disagree, and have done so by engaging with the most up to date research on the development of Reformed theology and soteriology. Just because you haven’t read what I have written on the topic doesn’t mean I haven’t demonstrated it; it just means you haven’t exposed yourself to it yet. What are you waiting for?!
Your accusations are baseless and presumptuous. Like I noted, I have already spent years and years providing the demonstration you assert I need to provide. And you say I am slandering these guys in unfounded ways. It’s not slander when the critique is not at the man, but instead at the ideas that the man is putting forward. It is time for you to put in the donkey work, put your money where your mouth is, and get busy reading how I have made the demonstrations you say I still need to make.