If you have been following my blogging from the beginning (which my guess is at this point is that hardly anyone of you has — started in 2005) you will recognize the names that are prominent in this post. When I first realized there ever was such a thing as a theoblogosphere (or bibliosphere) one of the first blogs I ran into was Phil Johnson’s (at that point) Pyromaniac blog. As a newly minted seminary grad I felt armed with a knowledge of historical and biblical theology that I thought I could offer a constructive and critical voice for the members of Phil’s community; so I started my commenting career. Mind you, if you don’t know, Phil Johnson is and has been for years, John MacArthur’s executive director for Mac’s Grace To You radio program, as well as MacArthur’s editor for all things published; he also serves as a staff pastor at MacArthur’s church in Sun Valley, CA: Grace Community Church. After maybe a year or so, relative to my time visiting his blog, he expanded his blogging efforts by making his blog a group blog with his friends Frank Turk and Dan Phillips; he renamed it in the plural: Pyromaniacs.
Suffice it to say, they weren’t a fan of me; particularly Frank Turk and Dan Phillips. How do I know this? Because almost everyone of their responses to me was snarky. You see, the Pyromaniacs, along with MacArthur, are ardent Baptistic Spurgeonite 5 Point Calvinists; and of course I’m not! As a result of my training in seminary in the area of historical theology, and the mentorship I’d received under Dr Ron Frost in this area, I’d become aware of the antecedent and informing history of ideas wherein something as reductionistic as 5 Point Calvinism had taken shape—reductionistic in the sense that 5 Point Calvinism is not the full basket of what genuine Reformed theology entails (but it is what shapes the theology of John MacArthur, and indeed, the Pyromaniacs). So I’m still “friends” with Phil Johnson on Facebook, and just today he posted the following.
I was somewhat taken aback. And so I left the following comment to which Phil responded, then I responded; so on and so forth.
But it was this Martin Lloyd Jones point about the role of interpretive tradition that I constantly was banging on in my comments at the Pyromaniacs’ blog; and it was this that mostly Frank Turk, Dan Phillips (less Phil Johnson), and a host of their regular commenters responded to me with vitriol for. Just as I note in my comment to Phil on Facebook, it was the Aristotelian basis of their 5 Point Calvinist theology that I wanted folks to at least recognize as the informing theology in regard to how they were coming to their exegetical conclusions. I wanted the MacArthurites to stop and be critical about their Bible reading and study, and recognize that they weren’t reading ‘pure Bible,’ that they indeed were committed to a particular metaphysic which had real life consequences on their theological and spiritual thinking. I never got an amen from Frank or Dan on that; usually, again, it was always just pure snark.
So when Phil said what he said in his comment to me today—i.e. that it just proves I never understood them—it left me scratching my head. But it was nice to see that at least Phil, in principle, could admit that he has interpretive tradition. Of course he’s convinced his interpretive tradition is completely correlative with what the Bible teaches; but it’s a step in the right direction when any of us can admit we have interpretive tradition operative in our Bible reading and biblical exegesis. So I just wanted to give a kudos to, Phil Johnson for affirming what I so laboriously tried to get across to his comrades so many years ago: Kudos, Phil!