Rev. Ronnie Rogers Responds
Former Calvinist, Rev. Ronnie Rogers – and author of “Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist: the Disquieting Realities of Calvinism” — is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla. As well, he is a contributing writer for SBCToday.
Rev. Rogers sort-of burst onto SBCToday’s scene about two years ago when we became more aware of him, and particularly of his book. Since that time, he has written numerous posts for this blog, and in our opinion has offered sound responses to that which makes the majority of Southern Baptists uncomfortable regarding Calvinism (“majority” per LifeWay’s survey).
Reading after Pastor Rogers requires (for some) a dictionary nearby so one may learn the meaning of “elide” and “transmogrify” and a veritable cornucopia of other phrenic argot (or, more hard words). Wordsmiths must delight in words that replace several others, e.g., transmogrify: to transform as if by magic.
On September 13, SBCToday posted Pastor Rogers’ latest submission: “Is Libertarian Free Will Eternal?” The post continues to generate about 60 clicks/day. And it generated some comments that attempted to take Pastor Rogers to task.
One of Pastor Rogers’ responses to someone who took exception to the post, as well as his book, offered answers to the inquisitor that were stunning, outstanding and, frankly, debilitating to the commenter’s objections and apparent positions.
We decided to publish Pastor Rogers’ answers as a standalone post on the blog. We do this not to embarrass anyone at all, and we apologize in advance if that is the perception because it is certainly not the motivation. SBCToday offers this post for three reasons:
1. We want to share info we find valuable to our readers.
2. Similar to 1. We borrow Pastor Rogers’ words in noting that SBCToday “believe[s] the unbridled reality of Calvinism’s teachings and entailments need to be made known to both Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.”
3. The Calvinism Committee Report, aka T5, calls for continuing conversation about the issues noted below.
Here is the last sentence of Rev. Roger’s response. SBCToday thinks it apropos to begin with it:
“My concern is that people do not understand enough about Calvinism and alternative options. Consequently, misrepresenting Calvinism is contrary to my purpose and spirit”
– Rev. Ronnie Rogers.
Here is a comment to which Rev. Rogers responded:
“You were a four-pointer, rejecting Limited Atonement. The starting point for Calvinism is God’s knowledge before He created the world of those who were to be saved (the elect) and those who were not to be saved (the non-elect/reprobate). Non-Calvinists usually ignore this point, so I was confused as to how you could accept it and still reject Calvinism.”
Rev. Rogers’ response:
First, the starting point of Calvinism is not “God’s foreknowledge of those who were to be saved” because non-Calvinists believe that God knows everything. The starting point of Calvinism is that it pleased God to unconditionally elect some to Salvation and predetermined some for damnation (actively, passively or consequently). The position you stated, and Calvinism’s actual position that I stated are very different. Additionally, surely you are aware of the notable Calvinists throughout church and Baptist history who did not accept limited atonement (David Allen has done some important work in this area; for example, see his chapter in Whosoever Will).
As a four-point Calvinist, I recognized, as do other four-point Calvinists, that limited atonement logically fits into the Tulip. However, we also believe, that the clear and ubiquitous teaching of Scripture says Christ meaningfully died for the sins of the world. Consequently, the departure of a four-pointer from limited atonement is not due to his lack of understanding of Calvinism, but rather a decision to depart from the system of Calvinism when they believe it is contradicting the straightforward teaching of a panoply of scriptures. Now, you may continue to opine that four-pointers do not really understand Calvinism, but wouldn’t it be better to recognize that some can disagree with you and other Calvinists because they do understand and believe the clarity of Scripture is superior to the logic of the system? Someone can understand your position and simply disagree, i.e., disagreement does not entail not understanding. They may be right or they may be wrong, but that is a discussion beyond deeming that they do not understand because if they did….well…..
Now, you may want to dismiss me as an obtuse dolt who studied, taught and preached Calvinism for twenty years (I defended the arguments for Calvinism that I now reject) and spent another twelve years in thinking through some conflicts that I found between Calvinism and Scripture (as espoused by both four and five point Calvinists); however, it seems somewhat naive or hubristic for a five-pointer to conclude such about all four-point Calvinists today as well as many of the past. Again, David Allen has done us all a great service in cataloging many of the notables. Here are just a few from his book and blogs, Bullinger, Cranmer, Baxter, Hodge, Shedd, etc. I would suggest that the arguments about Calvin’s position have merit if for nothing more than his averring both sides of the coin in his commentaries, etc.
My dear brother, would it not be better to recognize that some do not reject limited atonement because they do not understand Calvinism (which implies if they did they would really not be so misguided) but simply reject the logic of some Calvinists understanding of the Scripture? Simply put, my rejection of any part of Calvinism, Calvinism’s re-inventions of some very clear scriptures, and the disquieting realities that I do not find reflective of the nature of God or the gospel as revealed in Scripture does not mean that I do not understand Calvinism, or Owen for that matter.
Another comment to Pastor Rogers:
“At the same time, you continue to affirm that God knew the non-elect when He created the world and that they were not to be saved; you also still affirm total depravity; and consequently, you affirm the role of grace to enable a person to accept salvation. People who understand Calvinism (Vance seems to, and Hunt enough to agree with Vance) know that they must reject Total Depravity and ignore God’s knowledge of the non-elect when He created the world. So, you called yourself a Calvinist by affirming TUIP but never grasped the significance of denying L. Then you became disenchanted with Calvinist theology while still affirming T and grace.”
And Pastor Rogers’ response:
I must admit, I find this concern quite baffling, and rather misleading, albeit unintentionally so. I will try to respond; first, of course, whether one is a Calvinist or not, God being omniscient, He has always known who the elect were, and for anyone to deny that God always knew who would be saved seems beyond the pale of orthodoxy. This is the kind of talk that clearly implies that non-Calvinists deny that God knew who the elect are, which is absolutely untrue your citations notwithstanding.
Again, the essence of Calvinism is not the affirmation that God knows who will be saved (the elect), but rather that He unconditionally chose some to salvation and did everything necessary to predetermine that these unconditionally elect would freely choose to believe (although their choosing was not between choices); this freely exercised faith arises from their new nature which was forced upon them; additionally, God simultaneously predetermined to withhold the same (He could have saved everyone) from the vast majority of His creation, even though He told His people to present salvation to them like it was really available. While I do believe you did so unwittingly, your wording is an example of double talk, which elides the actual teachings and disquieting realities of Calvinism and implies even worse for non-Calvinists.
I believe in election because the Bible teaches election, and I believe any true Biblicist must affirm election. Some Calvinists believe that rejecting Calvinism’s definition of election (unconditional) is the exact same as rejecting the biblical passages regarding election — only Calvinists are Biblicists. I would argue that the rejection of Calvinism’s unduly causal sovereignty and compatibilist free will is not the same as rejecting Scripture, some Calvinists claims notwithstanding. Thus, if you can accept that one can believe in election, while rejecting Calvinism’s definition, then you can see how I could have been a Calvinist-Biblicist and now I am simply a Biblicist. If you cannot, then you cannot.
Second, at one time I accepted Total Depravity (TD) as Calvinistically defined (compatibilism, dead with the only possible solution of unconditional election and regeneration then faith). Now, it is that understanding of TD that I reject. I make no pretense of my present views being consistent with the Tulip. I am in no way trying to mimic the TULIP, or define things in such a way that allows me to be a quasi-Calvinist. I reject the TULIP and anything that I say that is consistent with an aspect of it is coincidental. I am seeking to express what I believe the Scripture teaches to the best that I understand it. That being the case, I believe the Scripture teaches TD rightly understood. Again, I am rejecting Calvinism’s understanding as well as the idea that rejection is tantamount to rejecting the biblical teaching. The opposite of TD is partial depravity, which I categorically reject. Would you think I understood Calvinism more if I believed in partial depravity? I believe the Scripture teaches that man is totally depraved (extensively), so that every part of him is so affected by the fall that He will not and cannot come to God on his own—I believe I sufficiently explain this in my book.
Having been a Calvinist, I recognize the difficulty of some Calvinists to accept that one can believe in TD and reject Calvinism’s compatible understanding. Calvinists often chide non-Calvinists for minimizing the depravity of man (in some cases justifiably so), but when I, and others, teach TD (without Calvinism’s compatibilism) based upon incorporating all of the relevant characteristics as laid out in Scripture, it is said that we do not understand Calvinism — strange conclusions to me.
Calvinism is a system of thought that seeks to explore and explain the Scripture. It seeks to do this consistently, comprehensively, emanating from and reflective of a devotion to God, and many godly and knowledgeable followers of Christ believe the system is the best at handling the totality and perplexities of Scripture. It is also true that Calvinism is not Scripture. Nor is it the only consistent, comprehensive, system that reflects a devotion to God from a host of godly and knowledgeable followers of Christ. Having been a Calvinist, your conclusions about me notwithstanding, I understand how difficult it is for some Calvinist to believe that someone else may be right.
Another comment to Rev. Rogers:
“You make several allegations of double-talk by Calvinists (not that individual Calvinists do not say goofy things or not always say what they believe – but what Calvinists say and what Calvinism is can be different things), and I could not make sense of the reasons for your disenchantment with Calvinism from them.”
Now Rev. Rogers:
I have gone to great lengths to define what I mean by double talk (see authorial glossary in “Refections”), which unfortunately for some seems to have done little good. I do not mean espousing inconsistencies that arise from human frailty — goofy or inconsistent positions — of which we are all guilty. Rather, by double talk, I specifically and only mean thinking, praying, writing or speaking in such a way that obscures what I call the disquieting realities of Calvinism (as your earlier explanation of Calvinism seemed to do).
If a person accepts and unabashedly proclaims these realities, then he can be a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist; but if one is unwilling to face, accept and proclaim them, he cannot be a consistent Calvinist. Additionally, I am not calling anyone a double talker nor is my use of this term intended in any sense to be pejorative. Now I am very clear about this, and if you seriously read my book, I believe it would be difficult not to understand my meaning. I give numerous examples of what I mean by double talk throughout the book. It is the ubiquitous presence of such in theology books, commentaries, and messages of Calvinism that fuels my disenchantment.
You said: “I saw your allegations as straw men.”
I infer that you meant this to be a serious statement, and I take it accordingly. Actually, this one statement indicates that I wrote a book that was not based upon knowledge of the subject and therefore required manufactured arguments. Saying an argument is a straw man and demonstrating such to be the case are two very different undertakings. If you can show me where you think I made a straw man argument, I would greatly appreciate it. Then, either I will clarify, or if it is indeed a fallacious argument, I will disavow it, and then thank you for pointing it out to me. I am very susceptible to saying dumb things. I may have even made an invalid argument concerning problems within Calvinism (which I learned almost entirely from studying and listening to Calvinists), but I am not aware of any. I have no desire to misrepresent Calvinism because I believe the unbridled reality of Calvinism’s teachings and entailments need to be made known to both Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. I want people to really understand Calvinism as some very knowledgeable Calvinists do and forthrightly declare — which I applaud. My concern is that people do not understand enough about Calvinism and alternative options. Consequently, misrepresenting Calvinism is contrary to my purpose and spirit. (End of Pastor Rogers’ comments.)
SBCToday neither requires nor expects any busy pastor who may post here to be attentive to this blog either by responding immediately, later, or at all. If Pastor Rogers chooses to respond, then he will do so at his convenience. But after having read this, one may deem that discretion truly is the better part of valor.