Monday, August 01, 2005

Steve Lemke's paper

In my last post I talked about SBC president Bobby Welch's article againts the Founders, and his use of a paper by Steve Lemke. Well, I was looking at a blog ( about the same thing, and Lemke himself made a response. Well, I responded to that. I thought I would copy my comment there and paste it here. For all of you. Enjoy!

Lemke writes: “Fourth, I also included an extended section in which I emphasized that there are many varieties of Calvinism, and distinguished a sofer “ROSES” version of Calvinism (i.e., Timothy George) from a harder line “TULIP” kind of Calvinism. My concerns were voiced not about Calvinism in general, but a trend line toward a particular kind of Calvinism.”

This is one of the problems with the paper, however. Are George’s “ROSES” softer than “TULIP”, or is it a restatement of the exact same doctrines in phrases that are less likely to lend themselves to misinterpretation? For instance, R.C. Sproul changes the phrases so that he ends up with RSDEP or something like that, which is completely useless as a memorable acrostic. Which is why TULIP uses the phrases it does; TULIP is easier to remember that RSDEP (or whatever it is). For instance, take the “T”, total depravity. Adrian Rogers tells us that this means that Calvinists teach that man is as depraved as he can be. But if you read anything by any Calvinist (even the “harder line”) who affirm TULIP, they will start out the discussion by saying that this is NOT what total depravity means. So a rephrasing of TULIP doesn’t necessarily make it any “softer”. It just may make it more understandable.

In his paper, Lemke goes through Timothy George’s ROSES and contrasts it with TULIP. But the contrast seems to be with something that doesn’t exist. For instance, “Compared with total depravity, radical depravity agrees that we can do nothing to save ourselves, but affirms that humans are not totally evil because we treatin the image of God despite our fallennes.” What 5-point TULIPer believes otherwise? All of the definitions for the terms in ROSES are the same definitons for the phrases in TULIP. So it is no softer. And by saying “in contrast to” Lemke suggests that TULIPers do believe that humans are totally evil, or that election is mechanistic that doesn’t “allow for human responsiveness.” In fact, Unconditional Election is what insures human responsiveness!

Another thing that has gotten people riled up is this comment in Lemke’s paper: “One stream is what we might call hard hyper-Calvinism (often associated with the Founder’s Movement)…” I do not know anybody associated with the Founders ministry who denies the duty of man to repent and believe or who denies the need for holy living in believers (the two major tenets of hyper-Calvinism). I’m not saying for certain that these people dont’ exist. But they are few, and the majority of the people involved in the Founders ministry would be quick to object to that person’s hyper-Calvinism. But, since Lemke associates the Synod of Dort (where Calvinism was really first systematized into points) as hyper-Calvinism, then this discussion is meaningless. We are working with two different definitions. With this line of thinking, Calvin was a hyper-Calvinist! That somebody can believe more than he believes is nonsense. And this is not taking into account the question of whether or not Calvin believed in particular redemption. Even if he didn’t, (though i think he did), he still definately affirmed the other four points, which is more than Lemke is allowing to belong to regular Calvinism. This all reminds me of people like Norman Geisler who calls himself a Calvinist by redefining all the points of doctrine. But what does the history of Calvinism say a Calvinist is? I think the answer would be at least someone who holds to TUIP, but for most people in church history, the answer would be someone who affirms TULIP. Lemke can redefine that to mean “hyper-Calvinist” but he has no historical precedent for doing so.