Logical ties in theological positions

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Leslie, Apr 25, 2014.

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  1. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    My impression is that the majority of Calvinists tend to be radical cessationists, infant baptisers, and amillennial. Is there some logical reason why this should be? Or is it an accident of church history? I'm a fairly radical Calvinist but a moderate cessationist, premillennial and a fence-sitter on baptism. Is there any illogic in mixing positions on these various aspects of theology?
     
  2. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm a Calvinist postmil, and there have been plenty of those.
     
  3. Fogetaboutit

    Fogetaboutit Puritan Board Freshman

    I guess it depends on your interpretation of "Calvinist". Do you only mean somebody who adheres to a calvinistic soteriology, or somebody who embraces Reformed Theology as a whole. The 3 views you mentioned belong to 3 different branch of theology. Baptism is usually associated with ecclesiology, the cessationist/continuationist debate belong to pneumatology and the millenial views belong to eschatology.

    The way you deal with each of these will depend on your hermeneutics. The way you reconcile the whole of scripture together will influence your view on each of these branch of theology. The traditional Reformed hermeneutics is to interpret scriptures through the covenantal model. From my understanding the 3 positions you mentioned would best suit the traditional Reformed view of scriptures and it seem the majority of Reformed christians would also agree. Maybe if you have any specific question regarding each (or any) of these view and why it fits better with the Reformed model it would help to clarify things.

    Do you have a firm understanding of Covenant Theology as opposed to Dispensational Theology? If not I would recommend you spend some time in "Covenant Theology" section of this board. I'm not saying it will answer all you questions but at least it would give you a better foundation to understand the logic used in many of these debates.
     
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I think Etienne hits the nail pretty close to dead-on.

    Consistency in the oft-overlooked matter of hermeneutics really does determine the final "shape" of particular theological expression. Historically, it may be possible to trace the relative stability of various churches and denominations to their ability to maintain regularity in addressing a wide variety of issues. The acceptance of an alien component/practice on an alternative basis will lead (eventually) either to a crisis and a breakup (or divorce of the alien element); or to a methodological synthesis, which may or may not prove to be as stable as what came before.

    There aren't very many dispensational Presbyterians today (though, a hundred years ago there were probably considerably more). There was a developmental period from the mid-to-late 1800s for dispensational thought--a period that corresponded (especially after the turn of the 20th century) with the advance of Modernism and creedal slippage. In America, dispensationalism grew transdenominationally through the Bible-Conference movement. Believers hungry for the Word, frustrated with their denomination's production of faithless clergy, found energy for their faith in popular (often dispensational) camp-teachers, who at least recognized the Bible as trustworthy and true.

    Dispensationalism, however, does not mesh well with the covenant-theology and hermeneutic of Reformed Confessions. In fact, it is at odds with it at crucial points; and this creates a tension that relatively few can live with. Typically, one commits to one or the other. And if it be dispensationalism that wins out, then Baptist theology, piety, and practice is simply a more-compatible system that can maintain more stability/consistency with dispensational views.

    An overriding commitment to the ongoing (normative) presence of extraordinary gifts and miracles leads to Pentacostal/Charismatic churches, as the natural resting-place for such centrality. Every combination (church) is some kind of compromise between the core-commitment, and lesser commitments that are more-or-less compatible with what is viewed as essential.
     
  5. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    A consistent view of the sovereignty of grace will affect the way these doctrines are handled. Some suggestions:

    (1) "Redemption accomplished and applied" enables one to distinguish with clarity the history of salvation from the order of its application. The charismata then takes its place with the other phenomena of salvation history while the application of salvation emphasises the ordinary work of the Spirit.

    (2) The election of grace brings out the divine intention and gift of baptism which helps one to see something higher than a subjective experience. Once this is perceived it is much easier to see past individualist ideas connected with mode and subject, and accept baptism as a means of grace to all who are born within the church.

    (3) The divine purpose provides an unifying element to the message of Scripture and thereby brings out continuity between the Testaments. In terms of subsequent history, the divine purpose places all people and events under the mediatorial dominion of Christ, which is the essence of realised millennialism, or what has come to be called amillennialism.
     
  6. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    By Calvinist, I mean the 5 points, nothing more. Historically, dispensationalism seems to have died back with the advent of the charismatic movement. The dispensationalists that are left in mainstream evangelicalism tend toward fundamentalism and extemely radical cessationism. Whether Reformed or Arminian, the position of radical cessationism presupposes a certain amount of dispensationalism; it says that spiritual realities are quite different in the current era than they were at previous times. Other than that, my own inclination is that the association of Calvinism with these other positions is an accident of church history. I don't see any logical reason why Calvinism need be associated with any one eschatology, or with either view of baptism.
     
  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mary, if you use terms in an idiosyncratic way, it will always be very difficult to communicate. Dispensationalism has a meaning. Saying "things were once one way and are now another" is not dispensationalism. When a term of description becomes a term of abuse it loses a large portion of its descriptive value.

    Let me turn the question around: is there any logical connection between your "moderate cessationism", your premillenialism, and your other positions?

    The 5 points are not a statement of "Calvinism." They are the answers to the five objections of the Remonstrants. If the Remonstrants had remonstrated on 7 or 12 points, we would probably speak about that number of points of Calvinism. The five points can't float freely by themselves; they have to be rooted in something, because without a doctrine of God, and indeed without a doctrine of the work of God in salvation they don't have a foundation. Historically, that doctrine can be found in the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism.

    Clearly there is some room for variety; John Bunyan and Greg Beale disagree on much and likely agree on more. The 1689 is very similar to but quite noticeably different than the Westminster Confession. But the real question is whether that is due to human inconsistency, genuine lack of logical connection, or a combination of both. Given how hard it is to be consistent, we certainly can expect that the first will be a significant portion of the explanation for the diversity. I think sorting out the second requires substantial familiarity with questions of theological method. Berkhof's Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology is probably one of the more accessible introductions to prolegomena.
     
  8. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

    My understanding of dispensationalism is that God worked in the past by different "rules" or principles in dealing with man than what He does at present. At definite periods of time, such as in Eden, Eden-Flood, Post-flood, Post-giving-of-the law, and the NT era, different divine policies were in effect. Is that not correct? During my teen years, between a Reformed childhood environment and a total rebellion against Christianity, I spent a lot of time in dispensational churches. I was using the word dispensational in that sense, not in the sense of a theory that Israel in the OT was saved by keeping the law. Sorry to have muddied the waters with idiosyncratic word usage. Your rephrasing the question is most helpful. Perhaps the link is my being a bit more of a literalist and less of a theoretician than most. Does that make sense?
     
  9. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Junior

    I agree Hermeneutics would seem to be a big part of the answer. A shared hermeneutics tends to lead to similar understandings about what the Bible teaches.
    Their seems to be a linkage between understanding of the covenant and eschatology that may be explained by a common hermeneutic.
     
  10. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Mary, what you describe is close to classic dispensationalism of the Scofield variety, which is easy to critique; it has been replaced in large measure by a progressive dispensationalism that is less obviously wrong. But it is still dispensationalism, and you will find both varieties to exist in cessationist and non-cessationist forms.

    But the key point here is that the identification of a difference is not the same thing as dispensationalism. If it were, all Christians would be dispensationalists for not offering animal sacrifices; Moses would be one for restricting sacrifice to the tabernacle; the author of Hebrews would be one for saying that in times past God spoke in diverse ways but has now spoken to us in his Son. There are differences in how God executes his saving purpose; there is no difference in what that purpose is or the essential basics of how it is appropriated. By faith Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.

    The question of cessationism is a different question from dispensationalism. The real issue is whether we are part of redemptive history or ecclesiastical history. To put the same thing another way, has God laid the foundation and we are on to superstructure, or is the foundation still in progress? There is some dispute as to what pertains to the foundation and what to the superstructure; how you determine that depends on theological method.

    I think you have identified something genuine in pointing to literalism as characteristic of your approach, but the contrast is not between literalism and theory: literalism is a theory, after all. And of course to say that one is being literal can beg the question. The question is, how is the letter to be understood? Many premillenialists give the preference to a physical understanding, though as far as I know none to such a degree that they have built a house on the Mediterranean coast so they can sea the beast rise out of the see. In other words, they recognise that there are definite limits to how physically things can be taken.

    Amillenialists don't (or shouldn't) admit that they are not being literal. It is a literal interpretation to understand the letters within the kind of literature they are. Poetry and instruction manuals don't use language the same way, and an insistence on interpreting a metaphysical poet the same way as DOS 6.0 User's Manual will not aid in understanding, nor will it be genuinely literal; on the contrary, it will distort the author's intentions. This seems very difficult to some, but I think that is in many cases a result of learned ignorance. The uneducated and illiterate it's been my privilege to know use and comprehend metaphorical language with little difficulty, as long as they have a point of contact for the metaphors. It is those with some education who have a harder time with that. "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

    Also involved is a recognition that theology is a post-canonical enterprise, of a different genre than revelation; and that inference is an indispensable and inevitable tool, so it needs to be used rigorously and well. Finally, a commitment to let each text speak on its own terms but to correlate harmoniously the results of all texts is essential to having a genuinely Biblical systematic theology.

    Differences can still arise among those who affirm the methodological principles I've set out, in part due to human weakness on all sides, in part due to differing plausibility structures and driving commitments, and in part because not all things are alike clear in themselves. But many of the big differences and frustrating disagreements among Christians arise because we don't share the same methods and are often entirely unaware of the questions of method.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  11. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mary not to pick you up on this point, but to say something that might help you. Radical, or indeed any kind of cessationsim does not presuppose a certain amount of dispensationalism, i.e that spiritual realities are quite different in the current era that they were in previous times. Quite the contrary, it presupposes that just like every other era revelation, the miraculous etc. only took place at important junctures of redemptive history, and at no time or era was widespread geographically, ethnically or personally. An accurate approach to the OT shows that there were long periods of time without revelation and the miraculous, and we expect there will be none in this era, until the great and glorious revelation of the Conquering Christ.
     
  12. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

  13. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Rev. Wallace, are you not perhaps overstating things a bit? Is it not so much the presence or absence of "the miraculous" that is in question in the continuationist / cessationist debates, but rather the continuing presence of people so gifted that they may be accurately described as having one of the "charismatic gifts" i.e. prophecy, tongues speaking etc?
     
  14. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    I don't think it is overstatement. Whether one looks at it in relation to people, or gifts, or miraculous, the evidence of the wide swathe of OT history from Adam to the latter prophets is that in general revelatory gifts were it seems never the expected possession of every believer, nor were they evidently present at all times. Instead they (people/gifts etc.) were clustered at important epochs such as the Exodus, or among important people e.g. the great prophetic era of Elijah and Elisha etc. especially. I believe it was O Palmer Robertson who first alerted me to this point. Where is the evidence that many, most or even a lot of OT saints had prophetic gifts? If it was so why was the clear outpouring prophesied by Joel so outstandingly fulfilled in a widespread fashion at Pentecost. If sons and daughers characterisically prophesied etc. would the prophecy have been something to be looked forward to as a great sign of the Messiah?

    Joel 2:28-29 28 "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
     
  15. Leslie

    Leslie Puritan Board Junior

     
  16. Free Christian

    Free Christian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Agree.
    Years ago when I was in the charismatic church, like many others also, they took everything they read where it spoke about things to come as if it was speaking to them, still to come or was still going on. And did not realise that many of these things had in fact come and gone. They did not see what they were reading as being an historical event now past. They would see these things with great excitement as something to expect or still perform. Little did they realise that there was/is greater excitement in the realisation that these things had come and gone and we are in fact further down the path towards the coming of Christ than they believed. They thought it was close but don't/didn't realise it was even closer than they think!
     
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