Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trouble with Frank Page, part three

The third chapter of TWTT is titled “A Description of Positions” and starts to form the meat of the book, such as it is.

Dr. Page gives very general summaries of the five points of Calvinism, followed by the five points of Arminianism, followed at last by his own “Five Points of Scriptural Soteriology.”

He’s got his own five points arranged so that they’ll fit under the acrostic GRACE. Very clever…not. (It reminds me of certain political advocacy groups in the US who seem to come up with the acrostic they’d like to call themselves, and then are locked into forcing words into their official title for the sake of fitting the acrostic, and not because that’s what they really are. Like COMPASSION: Coalition Of Middle-class Persons Avowing to Save Sick Infants in Our Nation.)

As we’ll see a little later, his GRACE acrostic doesn’t follow the pattern of addressing the same points as the other five-point systems, and even repeats one point for the sake of the label.

If I was going to be all nit-picky, there are things I’d change in his definitions of the TULIP, but not a great lot. They’re basically okay, or would be with minor tweaking.

My complaint at this point is not so much what he writes, as it is how little he writes. In a book whose subtitle is "A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism," Dr. Page spends a whole five pages in fairly large-font print defining the TULIP. A single page per point is a "closer examination?" I hardly think so. This is your doctor ruffling your hair and slapping your fanny and pronouncing you fit as a fiddle.

But under the heading for Limited Atonement, there is a line that deserves some consideration, especially in light of the discussion that has taken place in the comments section of the second of these reviews.

He lists some Scripture references, which he says Calvinists use to defend Limited Atonement, and then laments that Calvinists spend “much time…explaining away the passages which portray a universal application for the atonement.” [p.24]

Okay, I’m thinking that the word “application” there is problematic, at best. Does Dr. Page believe that there are Scriptures that teach that Christ’s atonement is universally applied? This is different than saying the atonement is universally “available,” or even universally "offered" or universally “intended.”

If all sin, universally, has had the atonement of Christ applied to it, then all sin has been perfectly atoned. I do not believe that Dr. Page intends to teach this, but rather, that this is merely another instance in which the holder of the Ph.D. could’ve been a bit more careful in his scholarship. I don’t want to make too much of this instance.

So, we’ll skip down to Dr. Page’s summary of the five points of Arminianism.

Under the heading of “Free Will” he says that this is what the Arminians taught:

“Human beings could certainly choose good or evil.” [p.26]

This is eye-opening, because Page has previously defined the Pelagian heresy as the belief that “every person could choose to sin or choose to be righteous.” [p.14] If I was an Arminian, I think I’d be offended: Dr. Page has basically equated classic Arminianism with Pelagianism.

He goes on to prove still more that his understanding of Arminianism is nearly as thorough as his understanding of Calvinism (tongue planted firmly in cheek there.)

“Even though we are all influenced by sin, the Arminians believed that there was still enough good left in mankind for him/her to accept Christ for salvation.” [p.26]

I’m a Calvinist, not an Arminian, but even I know that this is not what the Arminians believed. The whole reason they came up with the doctrine of Prevenient Grace was to find a way to give fallen man the ability to choose to be saved. They didn’t believe fallen man’s natural condition allowed for that possibility apart from a specific work of grace, which would have the effect of rescuing him from his total inability to receive the gospel.

If Arminianism is what Dr. Page describes, then Arminianism = Pelagianism.

Now, I don’t think his description of Arminianism is correct, but the disturbing thing about it is this:

Dr. Page implies throughout this book that the Arminians have their soteriology basically right. That is, he agrees with all but the last point of what he has described as Arminianism, as we will see.

I don’t know that I’ve been clear enough about what disturbs me on this point:

Dr. Page overwhelmingly affirms the teaching of Arminianism, as he has characterized it. And his characterization of Arminianism is Pelagian. (By his own definition.)

Honestly, I don’t desire for a moment to think about the implications for the president of my denomination.

This is already a long post, so we’ll save an examination of his GRACE acrostic for next time.


Gordan Runyan said...

By the way, just to tie this in to the last post's comment section, I do believe that Dr. Page's views on the nature of fallen man are outside the boundary even of the BFM 2000. He agrees with the statements I've quoted above, concerning the ability of the carnal man to choose to be righteous, which not only seems to violate that confession but also (IMHO) falls outside the realm of historically orthodox Christianity.

C.T. Lillies said...

I think nine tenths of the Baptists I've met in my life would affirm the choice thing.

Highland Host said...

Being something of a Wesley scholar, I can affirm that Dr. Price hasn't a clue what classical and Wesleyan Arminians actually believe. I dare anyone to read Wesley on Original Sin and then say Arminians believe that there is any good left in man after the fall!

No, what Page presents is, as you say, Pelagian. Ergo, if he agrees with it he is a Pelagian of some sort. Which is what I'd argue most modern free-willers are, since they have been affected by liberalism's Pelagianism. That is why they affirm the salvation of all dying under 'the age of accountability', whatever that means (twelve, according to my old Seminary principal, who was brought up in circles where that doctrine was taught).

Gordan Runyan said...


I think you accidentally inserted Price for Page in that first sentence, but this is understandable, considering the amount of effort you've put into your examination of Nelson Price recently.

For anyone who has not read the Highland Host's work on Price's attacks on John Calvin, do yourself a favor and jaunt over to