Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trouble with Frank Page, part four

Dr. Frank Page has just spent a whopping seven pages analyzing both Calvinism and Arminianism. Finally, after all that grueling labor, we can get to the meat of the matter, and that is, his solution to the problem. And, it seems as if we’ve got here just in time, too! Note the not-arrogant-at-all manner in which Dr. Page introduces it:

“Rather than accepting a belief system which is based upon a reformer’s beliefs or teachings, I propose that we adopt God’s teaching on salvation. It is time for the clear communication of a biblically based understanding of how God has reached out to sinful humanity and how sinful humanity can come into God’s kingdom. In other words, it is time for a clear understanding of the doctrine of grace!” [p.28]

Well, Glory be.

Y’know, honestly this is tough stuff to read. Joseph Smith has got nothing on Frank Page. If you believe their respective pronouncements, they’re both latter day rescuers of the pure truth of God, which they both have found hopelessly corrupted by Christendom.

But you’ve all suffered through movies where the 30-second advertisement was about five times better than the actual show. That’s kind of what we get here with the unveiling of Page’s GRACE acrostic, obviously meant to replace the TULIP, seeing as how that older one is all graceless and stuff.

Be that as it may, right off the bat, we run into the number one, overwhelming deficiency of this book. That is this: Not a single passage or verse of Scripture is actually exegeted.

Oh, now, to be sure, many verses are quoted and many more are referenced, but not a single one is actually examined for the sake of really finding out what it might mean. Throughout the book, rather than careful interpretation and application of the historical-grammatical method, what we get is verses quoted to us with the heavy-handed presumption that they obviously teach exactly what Page wants them to teach.

If that doesn’t have you shaking your head, remember again that Page bills this book as “A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism.” It’s okay if you laugh out loud.

Consider this example, which I think is dumbfounding, of a place where even a little bit of exegesis would have been nice.

“Perhaps the greatest, single place in which this grace [the previously uncommunicated doctrine he has above promised to communicate] is described is Titus 2:11-14.” [p.28]

And what does Dr. Page actually do with this passage? Interpret it carefully? No.

Failing that, does he at least quote the whole passage? Nope. He quotes about the first dozen words and then makes an unproven assertion about what the rest of the passage goes on to teach. I’m not kidding. I wouldn’t make this stuff up.

This is the way the whole book is. Mention a text. Maybe quote it, though most often don’t. Finally, assert what the text teaches without bothering to try and prove it.

Anyway, on to the acrostic.

G = Grace Given through Christ.

After straining to grasp what he was getting at in this section through multiple re-readings, I am now somewhat confident that what this is supposed to mean is that when you “accept” the grace that is in Jesus, then you will be elected. He could’ve saved some time by simply quoting Ergun Caner’s mantra, “Elected because I selected.”

After referencing, but not quoting or exegeting [again] Ephesians 1-2, Dr. Page further asserts his dogma: “In essence, Paul states in these two chapters that God elected a way of salvation as well as a people to propagate that way.”

This is Dr. Page’s doctrine of predestination. God predestined a plan of salvation, but not the individuals who would avail themselves of it. However, once they do cause themselves to be elected, then they become part of the Church, which God has predestined as a whole to preach the gospel. “In other words, He did indeed predestine the how of redemption, not the who!” [p.45, emphasis his.]

There will me much more to say about Dr. Page’s definition of terms like predestination, later.

R = Grace May be Rejected through Rebellion

Obviously, the R does not correspond to the U in TULIP. The G maybe does, as explained above. This point counters TULIP’s Irresistible Grace.

Page starts off this section by rightly observing, “The issue of the freedom of the will is of paramount importance.” [p.30] This writer certainly agrees that the power of the fallen will is key to the entire discussion.

If Dr. Page, or anyone else, could demonstrate Libertarian Free Will from the Bible, this whole debate would’ve been over from the Remonstrance. Sadly, consistent with his modus operandi thus far, Page does not seek to carefully support his position from Scripture. Rather, once again, he simply issues a decree and seems to call it a day. “Human beings do have the ability to choose.” [p.30]

In this section, it is painfully obvious that Dr. Page does not understand the Calvinistic distinction between the inward/effectual call of saving grace and the outward/resistible message of salvation in the presentation of the gospel. If anyone in the Bible ever refused the gospel offer, that is seen as proof against Irresistible Grace.

This section ends with maybe the most egregious example of Dr. Page’s making a claim to biblicism and then utterly failing to give any evidence of it. Back on the topic of what fallen man is capable of, he says, “However, I call again for a scriptural understanding.” [p.31]

Here, here, Dr. Page! The crowd is all behind you on that one. Now, let us have it, please. Show us, we beg you!

But after his clarion call for letting Scripture guide us, rather than turn to Scripture, he simply quotes an Arminian writer who restates Page’s own position on free will, again without any Bible support.

A = Grace Can be Accepted Through Faith

This seems to simply be the positive corollary of the last point. You can either accept or reject God’s grace, is his point. Ho hum. Hardly anything in this section ruffles my feathers, much less contributes to the destruction of Calvinism.

C = Christ Died for All

Less than a single page is here devoted to making the case for Unlimited Atonement. Again, no exegesis of any passage.

E = Grace Insures Everlasting Life

About a page and a half stating the modern baptistic doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved, which is really neither Arminian apostacy nor Calvinistic perseverance. No exegesis of anything. Merely assertions.

The bottom line is that Dr. Page’s heralded, supposedly reformational, Scriptural soteriology is merely the five articles of the Remonstrance, with the last one replaced by Eternal Security, which both sides at the Synod of Dort would have found strange.

6 comments:

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rhett said...

Gordan,

As I've read your series, it's refreshed my memory of how absurd the book really is...

Though I laughed all the way through the book when I read it, I'm starting to think it's not all that funny afterall.

It's actually a disingenuous attempt to inoculate Southern Baptists against the Calvinist position. Sadly, it will be highly effective because I have found that the extent of many Southern Baptist's theology is summed up in the following confession:

"All I know is my momma and daddy were Baptists. I grew up in a Baptist church. And I believe once you're saved, you're always saved."

Yet, with such fodder being fed to the ignorant masses, some of our esteemed leadership thinks it is we bloggers who should be chided!!!

(Oh man, I feel a rant coming on..! ;) )

Gordan Runyan said...

Rant on, brother!

That certainly is how the book is being used in my State, for one.

BTW, could you do me a flavor and delete the comment right above yours. I signed in and it wouldn't let me get rid of it, for some reason. Thanks.

Rhett said...

Ahhh... The wonderful feeling of zapping spam. Thanks Gordan! ;)

kelly jack said...

Rhett,
Your comment really hit home because in many ways that was me for most of my life.I hate to think that we are in a battle for the minds of the masses within the sbc but it really does come down to that.
The books and sermons coming from the top in the sbc are a direct rebuke to the folks that do hold these Doctrines and as weak an argument they have they know that the first impression is always the strongest.
For those of us that are in church's where these Truths are'nt taught these blogs are a valuable asset.Keep up the good work everyone!
I believe it was Spurgeon that said that we don't need to defend a Lion, just let him out.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

Gordan Runyan said...

Amen to that last sentiment, KJ, just preach the Word.