Monday, February 18, 2008

Trouble with Frank Page, part one

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an orderly account and explanation concerning the things that have been done among us in the book, Trouble With the TULIP by Dr. Frank Page, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things in a mediocre manner from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, O Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

I know I’m late to the party, here, on this weighty tome, but for my own discipline and exercise of mind and heart I plan to do a chapter-by-chapter review of Dr. Frank Page’s book, Trouble With the TULIP. If someone else gets something out of this, then that’s a bonus. I don’t want to write book myself, so I’ll jump right in and try to exercise some word-count restraint.

INTRODUCTION

I note a couple of things right off the bat. The first is the size of this book. There are only 71 pages of text (!) and my quick estimation by counting lines per page is that it contains less than 22,000 words. I know that might sound like a lot if you were assigned that amount on a college research project, but for a published book that apparently aims to dismantle the core theology of the entire Protestant Reformation, that is laughably puny. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a howler. I mean, we’ve had non-Calvinists leave comments in our metas that are comparable.

My own published book, which is not meant as a weighty work at all, is four times that size. And, sitting on my shelf right here, I have a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith (a mere summary of Calvinism, not a defense or a careful exegetical explanation.) It is 99 pages in much smaller typeface. And that’s leaving off the two catechisms that go with it.

On top of that, we are informed in the Introduction to TWTT that Page will also show (somewhere in the process of dismantling Calvinism) why he doesn’t call himself an Arminian. I don’t know how many, or few, words that’ll take, but I’d guffaw about that if I was of that persuasion.

I also note that TWTT is published by Riverstone Group Publishing. This is a house that helps writers self-publish their books.

Now, as an author who has some experience with shopping a book around looking for a publisher, it’s hard for me to fault a writer who self-publishes. Well….no, it’s really not. Again, it makes me smirk a little.

My experience is this: Christian publishers are very reluctant to publish a book by a first-time author, unless the author is a well-known figure within evangelicalism, or pastors a large church, or else somehow has some mechanism already in place by which he might reasonably be expected to sell a large number of books quickly, based on who he is. My point is, Dr. Frank Page, recognized mucky-muck in the world’s largest Protestant denomination, has all of that stuff. He should have no problem getting anything published.

But here’s the other thing: Some publishing houses are radicals in that they still require that your book have some substance to it.

I don’t want to make too much of this minor point, but it is a question that pops into my head right at the get-go. Why did famous Frank Page have to self-publish a teensy weensy little book that packs enough dynamite to undo the Reformation?

Well, turns out, I don’t have to wait very long to start getting an answer to that.

In the second paragraph of the Introduction, Page describes Calvinists as people who “believe in a five point system of theology, developed by the reformer John Calvin and his followers.” [p.5]

As a Calvinist, I would never describe myself that way. I also, for example, would not describe Arminians as people who believe a system developed by Jacobus Arminius, as it was fed to him by certain Jesuits seeking to undo the spread of Protestantism. I would never do that!

Right from the beginning Page seeks to portray Calvinism as devotion to a man, and never hints that maybe Calvinists see “Calvinism” as a nickname for the gospel that the Bible reveals. It can’t be that we think the Bible leads us to certain conclusions.

In fact, that sort of assertion on our part is expressly disallowed on the next page, when he mentions that Calvinists have a “rampant” spirit among them which leads them to assert such outrageous things as Dr. Loraine Boettner did when he said,

“As will be shown, the Bible contains an abundance of materiel for the development of each [point of the TULIP]. Furthermore, these are not isolated and independent doctrines but are so interrelated that they form a simple, harmonious, self-consistent system.” [Quoted on p.7, parenthesis mine.]

Page seems irritated that Calvinists would claim to have the Bible on their side. Instead, he asserts that he will show us how to develop a pure, Scriptural soteriology and not “a system of logic” or “adhering in blind devotion to the teachings of any one scholar.” [p.7]

We also get a taste of what irks Page about the whole deal. He thinks doctrines like Limited Atonement paint a “not so pretty picture” picture of Jesus [p.6]. Of course, this is just the introduction, and he may go on to bolster his case later, but I’ll be waiting to see how it’s so much prettier to envision a Savior who didn’t actually secure salvation for anyone, but rather only made it a theoretical possibility; and why it’s ugly to think maybe He actually saved whole multitudes.

19 comments:

Fred said...

Gordan, I can't wait until you get to Page's interpretation of Acts 13:48. He'll be able to point out the erroneous explanation you used in the pulpit Sunday. Ready the Proton Torpedoes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gordan Runyan said...

Fred, we've upgraded to Quantum Torpedoes, being a top-of-the-line starship and all...

However, because of this comment, I got curious and had to skip ahead to his mention of that text. I must admit his "argument" left me making the same face my daughters used to make as they were filling up a diaper. My wife dubbed it their Poopy Face, and it never boded well for anyone.

Fred said...

You, starship Captain are going up against the most concise volume of Scriptural Soteriology the universe has ever seen (all 71 pages of it).

Not since Q (not to be confused with the non existent Q source of the NT) has a foe been so formidable.

The data you possess (not to be confused with the android) may not be enough. The force of Page's argument (not to be confused with 'the force be with you') is that he alone has boldly gone where no man has gone before. He's gone to the Scriptures.

But do not fear. Your first officer Spock (not to be confused with the vulcan)that is Dr. Spock will be at the ready when the next poopy face comes on.

I need to be posting this at Incrediblog.

Gordan Runyan said...

Fred: I need to be posting this at Incrediblog.

Yeah, heavens, we wouldn't want to be guilty of confounding blog themes. Nice comment, though. I liked the Q reference.

kingofbleh said...

Gordan -

I'm new to your blog, so please don't flog me if I am speaking out of line. I am not sure if you're church is SBC or not. I am a 5-point Calvinist who is a member of an SBC church. I've grown up in SBC churches all of my life. I fully agree with what you are saying about TWTT. It is certainly emblematic of what most in the fundamentalist camp of the SBC think of the reformed resurgence. But in fairness to brother Page, I have to say that he has done much as SBC president to get some of those on the Arminian/Synergist side to tone down the anti-Calvinist rheotic and promote honest, open dialog.

I dunno, I guess maybe I feel we could have done a lot worse than Frank Page.

Nonetheless, I look forward to reading what you have to say about the book and thank you for posting your thoughts.

Lucas Defalco

Gordan Runyan said...

Lucas,

Actually I am SBC and am all up-to-speed on the debt the denomination owes to guys like Dr. Page. I don't have a problem with that, and I know that he has done some good stuff with Dr. Mohler and others on this issue.

BUT, like I say, this book is self-published and self-promoted, and I got my copy because there are folks within the SBC who think it really is the sword to swing at Calvinism. So, I don't doubt that Dr. Page is a good guy overall and has done good things; but this book is still out there: it's not like he's withdrawn it. In fact, he's paid for a Second Edition to be printed. So when he is cordial with Dr. Mohler, I don't know, it strikes me as Colonel Sanders publically advocating fair treatment of chickens, even while back at the restaurant he heats up the grease.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you keep commenting. Nobody gets flogged around here unless they really want it.

C.T. Lillies said...

There's always poopy, especially within the SBC. Most Southern Baptists who have problems with the Tulip have a serious problem with Limited Atonement. I think its because they don't really understand that without it the cross of Christ is an afterthought.

Gordan Runyan said...

CT Lillies, I think you hit it on the head. It is the L that's the sticking point. I don't understand how others get away with saying Unlimited Atonement, but NOT Universalism. I mean, apparently there really are limits somewhere, even if you don't like the Calvinist answer.

kelly jack said...

I think they know that there is a serious movement within the SBC back to the Doctrines of Grace and they are circuling the wagons.

Reformed Renegade said...

Go get 'em Gordo. I love this kind of stuff. One never knows whether to laugh hysterically or cry uncontrolably over this ignorant kind of argumentation.
The limited atonement issue is always the hang up for non-Calvinists. I always argue that everyone limits the atonement. You either limit it in scope or in power. If you truly believe God is who He says He is then you must build your theology around the fact that it is limited in scope.
I look forward to your analysis of this not-so-sound little tome.

C.T. Lillies said...

It seems like every sermon I've ever heard has a bit at the end like, "You're the only person standing in the way." Come on, you've heard it, admit it...

Gordan Runyan said...

CT,

Ever thought of changing churches? LOL

kingofbleh said...

C.T. and Gordan -

Dr. Akin over at Southeastern made a good observation about many of the so-called "4-pointers" around the SBC. He said that many of those who profess problems with L actually are making arguments against Unconditional Election. I've seen this happen often in my own experience. Many people get the two confused because IMO L is not really a fifth point, but really a subpoint of U. They go hand in hand logically which is why many would get them confused and choose to argue against the "lightning rod" wording of Limited Atonement.

Lucas Defalco

Gordan Runyan said...

Lucas, I totally agree with that. How does it make any sense to be a 4-point Calvinist? If God has chosen the elect to salvation, doesn't the atonement of Christ have to apply to them and them only?

BTW, I've cheated and read ahead and Dr. Page does not fit that description. He's not a four-pointer. I think he might claim to be a one-pointer, but his version of Eternal Security is not the same as Calvinistic perseverance. The former is radically antinomian, while the latter establishes all the commandments.

On every one of the five points, he is not only not Calvinistic, but he is much closer to flirting with Semi-Pelagianism than most well-read Arminians. I honestly think he approaches Open Theism on a couple of counts.

Rhett said...

It's a real shame that the book is being distributed in the SBC.

Boyce and Dagg are probably rolling over in their graves!

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Unfortunately, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico gave a copy of TWITT to every SBC pastor in the state. I have also posted some comments on this @ lightforliving.blogspot.org. We need to pray for common sense to be restored to the convention. Look forward to hearing more from you concerning this issue.

Gordan Runyan said...

Pastor Bob,

For some reason, I couldn't get your link to work.

That's how I got my copy of TWTT--I'm a SBC pastor in New Mexico. If you are too, I'd sure love to make contact with you.

Please email me

reformnm@yahoo.com

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

Gordon,

oops, I possted the wrong address it is lightforliving.blogspot.com not .org.

Your right about Page; he is definately a semi-pelagian. In fact he sounds just like the Christian Church/ Church of Christ that I left behind years ago.

blessings!

Chosen but Free said...

Where did Lucifer and Adam get their desire for their first sin. Norman Geisler asks this question. He goes on to say,
1. God cannot give anyone the desire to sin
2. Originally, neither Lucifer nor Adam had a sinful nature
3. The will does not move unless given a desire by God or by its own nature

more later