September 16, 2005

Consistency, Calvinism and Paradigm Shifts

Here is yet another excerpt from an informal online discussion. The other person spoke about sticking with interpretations that are consistent and "contextual." My reply was as follows:

We should avoid contradictions, but that can be problematic also. We often reject things that are contradictory to our preconceived theological grids and systems without critically evaluating our system in the first place. Take your Double Jeopardy argument for instance. It's probably not the case that another Calvinist has pointed out to you the problems with that argument. You're used to knocking Arminians over the head with it, without knowing that your opening doors to antinomianism in doing so. The argument backfires, and entails many anti-biblical positions. One can reject it and still be Calvinistic.

If my reply to that Double Jeopardy argument caused you some confusion, then take some time to slowly work through your system again. Examine what's going on in your thinking. Why are you adopting a Higher view than Calvin did? Calvin is not the standard of truth, but he was no Arminian. He didn't take the High Calvinist interpretation on a number of things, so that should give us some pause to consider what we are doing in going higher. Calvin's system is much older. It wasn't until the time of Beza and the rest that men went higher in their decretal reading of things. Even though it may seem like there is a standard "Calvinistic" orthodoxy, modern views are really the product of the proliferation of Puritan and Protestant Scholastic writings since the 1960's. It becomes difficult for people who are immersed in this Protestant Scholastic paradigm to understand other Calvinistic alternatives, such as the perspective of C. Hodge, R. L. Dabney and W. G. T. Shedd. This is why I quoted them for you in my reply to the Double Jeopardy argument.

So then, something may seem internally consistent to us from within a particular paradigm, but we need to test our overall paradigm to begin with. This can scare us no matter who we are. Adopting a new paradigm impacts our entire vision of things. Most of the High Calvinists make ad hoc adjustments to their system, rather than adopting another Calvinistic paradigm. If they can tweak "world", "all", and "children" etc. to imply elect, then their system is safe, and it seems to have explanatory power. The result, however, is a stretching of the language of God's word. This becomes even more astonishing when presuppositionalists do this. They, of all people, should know how powerful our underlying philosophical and theological presuppositions are. Presuppositionalists should be the most epistemologically self-aware, but sometimes this is not the case with respect to their "Calvinism."

Consistency is a good test for truth, but God's word is a better test of truth. Our views should be consistent with God's word, and not merely be consistent with our own theological constructs and systems. We should believe God's word, whatever it says, and then wait on him to give us the understanding of it's consistency. We should believe in order to understand.

I would encourage you to read my post on Paradox and Mystery. It may help you to see what I am trying to say on the consistency principle as a test for truth:

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