Calvinism continues to be of issue, particularly at the popular Church level. I haven’t posted as much on this issue over the last few years, it seems. It hasn’t been intentional. My blogging is typically shaped by my reading, and since much of my reading time has been consumed by Barth’s Church Dogmatics my blogging has reflected that (and of course the various other readings I am doing concurrent with that). It isn’t that I don’t find these matters of import, or interesting, it is just that in certain respects I have so exhausted myself on the various themes that are present in the Calvinist discourse, that my motivation levels have dried up a bit. In other words, I think, for me, the issue is rather clear: classical Calvinism (and Arminianism) both operate from Thomist and/or more broadly, substance metaphysics, such that once that is understood it simply becomes a matter of whether or not someone is willing to submit to that as the most proximate way to explicate the teachings of Holy Scripture, or not. I do not think substance metaphysics of an ostensible ‘classical theistic’ sort does the type of heavy lifting that Scripture’s reality in Jesus Christ requires, and so I have jettisoned that for what I take to be the more proximate way (and when I say “jettisoned” that is only for rhetorical purposes; I never was committed to substance metaphysics, but only uncritically lived under its implications insofar that that had conditioned the theological world I had inhabited as a normal North American evangelical for so many years).
It is no secret that here at the Athanasian Reformed (aka Evangelical Calvinist) blog I work in the After Barth tradition. But of course, then, I also work, more broadly in the After Athanasius, After Luther, After Calvin, After Sibbes, After T.F. Torrance mood as well. Suffice it to say, in the main, I am committed to what TF Torrance calls an ‘onto-relational’ [metaphysic], or what for Barth turns out to be his Trinitarian and Christ concentrated actualism. This approach works well with a ‘narratival’ approach to Holy Scripture wherein the contours of Scripture’s reality in Jesus Christ are at the fore. I won’t attempt to unpack all of that here, but suffice it to say that, I think, as an Athanasian Reformed I am better situated to take the Protestant ‘Scripture Principle’ with a greater gravitas than are the supposed owners of that principle, namely: the classical Calvinist. This is to say, as an Athanasian Reformed, because of “my metaphysics,” as those are kerygmatically (evangelically) conditioned, I can better allow Scripture’s positive disclosure to determine the way I think theologically, thus avoiding the speculative and discursive substance metaphysics that both classical Calvinist and Arminian readings of Holy Scripture are funded by.
This post is just a statement of where I am at currently. I have greater concern with theological loci that will impinge and implicate themes present within classical Calvinism, but those do not necessarily dominate the work I am attempting to do currently. I think what the theologian comes to realize after a while is that certain histories of theological interpretation have a shelf-life. That is to say, you can run their courses, in the history, and its contemporaneous iterations, and realize that there is an ad infinitum nature to the discourse itself. That is to say, it is rather evident of where the theologic of the TULIP, or conversely, the Remonstrants leads. That isn’t to say engagement with the themes present in these discourses is insignificant, but it is to say that much of it remains only because of new audiences. That is, and this is simply a matter of education, there are always new Christians coming into the fold (praise the risen Christ!), and as such they will eventually be (hopefully!) confronted with deeper theological matters. For these folks, the proverbial can-o-worms is opened, and often, on the Protestant side, they are dumped into the middle of a fray that has been ongoing for literally millennia in the Church of Jesus Christ—except of course this discourse (of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility etc.) takes on a particularly Protestant coloring for the evangelical, as they have most often been received from the 16th and 17th century Post Reformed orthodox developments. Nonetheless, this new crop of Christians (and that is relative, because oft times Christians can be in the Church for decades before they ever start to potentially think deeply on things, if they ever do) enter a polemical situation that, indeed, has the ad infinitum character to it that was noted previously. For me personally I enjoy alerting people to the fact that there are other, better ways to think about Protestant and Reformed theology, ways that elide this typical binary between the Calvinists and Arminians, respectively. But the work of unfolding that for people can become tedious at points. Thankfully I feel like I’ve already done a lot of that donkeywork here at the blog, and via our two edited books on Evangelical Calvinism.
All I am attempting to communicate here is why my blog has taken on the character it has over the last few years. I still think the Calvinist and Arminian debate needs to be addressed and corrected, and I’m happy to help people do that. But mostly, I think the way I can do that is by pointing them to the hundreds of blog posts, and book chapters I have written and edited on the matter. That said, none of this means that I won’t write posts on classical Calvinism, and what I take as the better way away from that. But it is to say that the way I frame many of my posts forthcoming probably won’t explicitly indicate how it is that the way I am communicating, at the time, might reify the various themes (like Christology, Doctrine of God, Theory of Revelation etc.) folks are dealing with as they find themselves, unfortunately!, in the weeds of the classical Calvinist/Arminian (and thus Latin and Augustinian and Thomist) binary/dualism. I am still just as critical of classical Calvinism, and what TF Torrance calls ‘The Latin Heresy.’ But the way I enter into that fray just might not be as overt as once before (which you probably have noticed if you’ve read me for any amount of time).