Archive for the ‘Louis Ruggiero’ Category

"The God of Calvinism" – Chapter 1

February 23, 2011

Louis Ruggiero’s book, “The God of Calvinism,” begins with a chapter on the Trinity. The stated purpose is “to establish common ground between Calvinists and non-Calvinists as a solid foundation and common frame of reference for further reasoned discussion.” (p. 3) Much of the chapter is not particularly controversial.

Perhaps the only remarkable point to comment on is Mr. Ruggiero’s claim that the following is a one of “two critical points” that it is “important to understand”:

According to John 1:18, John 6:46 and Colossians 1:15 it was the LORD, the pre-incarnate Word of God, who is Christ, who spoke and interacted with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And it has always been this same person of God who has communicated with and reached out to humanity.

First of all, none of the passages in question mention the garden of Eden, and none of them suggest that it is always and only the person of Christ who have reached out to and communicated to God’s people.

Here are the verses.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Perhaps we could go back and forth about what these verses imply if we had only these verses. However, if we compare Scripture with Scripture we see that they must not imply that every communication from God to man has been specifically through the person of Christ.

Recall:

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

And in case you imagine that this was not the Father, recall that Peter tells us:

2 Peter 1:17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Moreover, there is more reason to think that the Father was communicating to Adam in the garden. Recall that when Adam sinned God pronounced a curse on the serpent, on the woman, and on Adam, but with some hope for us in there.

Genesis 3:14-15
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Notice that “her seed” is expressed referred to in the third person. This suggests that it is not the same person as the speaker. From this, as from the other examples, we may infer that it was God the Father (or perhaps God the Holy Spirit) who spoke to Adam in the garden.

Even if I’m mistaken, it’s unclear why Mr. Ruggiero thinks that this inference is “critical,” but perhaps we’ll discover the reason for its alleged criticality as we proceed through the book.

-TurretinFan

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The Introduction to "The God of Calvinism" (and Mr. Ruggiero’s biography of Calvin)

January 17, 2011

As we continue our review of, “The God of Calvinism,” we come to the introduction. The introduction begins by framing the position that Louis plans to take:

I made the decision to research this subject in March 2003, shortly after I debated Reformer James R. White on the subject of irresistible grace. As a result of delving deeper into the major doctrines of Calvinism during my study, I have concluded that neither Calvinism, nor what most people take to be its alter ego, Arminianism, is true.

At first I was going to say that he must not have studied Calvinism very well, if he thinks that Arminianism is Calvinism’s alter ego. Then, I realized that the book does not identify any editor. This is just an example of Mr. Ruggiero saying something he doesn’t mean. Mr. Ruggiero means that Arminianism is thought to be the polar opposite of Calvinism, but he has said “alter ego,” which means that the two are different manifestations of the same thing. Similar to Louis’ parenthetical “(this one no exception)” which omits the “is” and yet appears both in the “Why You Should Read This Book” section and on the back cover, this is an error that a skilled editor could have prevented. Nevertheless, one realizes that publishing Christian books is often not a very lucrative endeavor, and so we will simply have to deal with Mr. Ruggiero’s statements as best we can understand them.

The introduction contains its own introduction and then a summary of each of the chapters and parts of the book. There are three parts and fifteen chapters altogether. The first part begins with a chapter on the Trinity and divinity of Christ. Then there is a chapter in favor of prevenient grace, a chapter against Total Depravity, and a chapter in favor of synergism. The second part addresses the remaining points of the five points of Calvinism. It also includes a chapter that aims to criticize the Reformed doctrine of the universality of God’s decree of providence, particularly with respect to the sinful acts of men. The third part contains several chapters aimed at addressing “Replacement Theology.”

Lord willing, we’ll address Mr. Ruggiero’s arguments as they come up. From a rhetorical standpoint, his comment that Reformed theologians “blatantly reject” prevenient grace was interesting. We do reject the doctrine of prevenient grace.

It was also disappointing to see that on the topic of Total Depravity, Mr. Ruggiero alleges that Reformed theologians hold that Man is born “utterly depraved,” although that terminology suggests a position that Reformed theologians would reject.

There’s a conclusion to the introduction section, titled “And so…” which deals with what the impact of the book is supposed to be. In this section, we see the sad and blasphemous nature of the work.

The perspectives of God offered by Reformed theology depict a capricious, selective, arbitrary, unilateral entity who decrees sin, withholds salvation from the majority of mankind (for did He not say that the way was narrow and few would find it?), and in His singular agency disdains a relationship with mankind which involves in any way man’s response from his own heart. Such a God would, in this author’s perception, be a monster, and to paraphrase George MacDonald: Should there be such a God, it would be dishonorable to worship Him.

The point of this review is not to judge Mr. Ruggiero’s heart, but if we were to judge Mr. Ruggiero strictly based on what he said, it appears that he has blasphemed God (calling him a monster) and has declared worship of God to be dishonorable. That’s a very serious concern – and something that Mr. Ruggiero should probably rethink, at least because he believes Calvinists to be Christians – if not because of what Scripture says.

We commented on the ad hominem approach presented in the previous section, and we see it again at the conclusion of the introduction section. Mr. Ruggiero writes:

While this book hopes to present you with clear evidence from Scripture as to the deficiencies in Calvinist doctrine, conduct your own test. Consider those you know who embrace this teaching. If it is true (i.e. if it has power to cause its adherents to become more like Jesus), you should see clearly demonstrated in their lives the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

As I previously noted, this ad hominem approach is logically invalid. I’ve met nice people and mean people of almost every persuasion. I’ve met extremely kind Muslims, I’ve met extraordinarily nice Mormons, and some of the sweetest old ladies you’ll ever meet say their Rosaries in Latin because that’s how they memorized them. None of that establishes the truth of their doctrines.

Of course, all those who profess to be Christians should take this kind of issue to heart. We should seek to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (i.e the result of the Spirit’s work in our life):

Galatians 5:22-26

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

And again:

Ephesians 5:8-10

For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Notice that these are the fruit of the Spirit. Not necessarily the fruit of holding to correct doctrines, but the fruit of having the Holy Spirit in one’s life. That doesn’t mean that everyone who is a nice person has the Holy Spirit, but rather it is what should blossom in the life of every Christian, and should particularly be evident in the lives of those who were the opposite before they were saved by the power of God’s grace.

The introduction section ends, but there is one more piece of prefatory material, namely a brief biography of John Calvin. John Calvin’s death comes at the end of the first page, with the second and third pages dealing with the appearance of Arminianism.

Mr. Ruggiero goes on to claim that there are many varieties of Calvinism and then states:

Because of this, there are times when Calvinists accuse non-Calvinists of misrepresenting Calvinism. Most of the time, however, the non-Calvinist is simply responding to someone else’s own personal brand of Calvinism.

Hopefully we will have few occasions to accuse Mr. Ruggiero of such misrepresentation. However, when we do, we will be careful to see whether he is simply critiquing a view of other Calvinists or whether he is simply not correctly representing the Calvinists he is allegedly responding to.

Of course, no non-Calvinist biography of Calvin would be complete without a mention of Servetus. Ruggiero refers to Calvin’s “(documented) history of bitter hatred and persecution of those who disagreed with his beliefs.” No footnote accompanies that sentence, oddly enough, although the paragraph’s last sentence cites the New Encyclopedia Brittanica, volume 10, 15th Edition, p. 654, which appears to be the entry on Servetus.

A much better biography of John Calvin can be obtained freely on-line (via Google Books) both for on-line reading and download as pdf or e-book (link). That biography is written by someone who actually knew John Calvin.

-TurretinFan

"Why You Should Read This Book" Section of "The God of Calvinism"

January 15, 2011

Moving on in our review of Louis Ruggiero’s “The God of Calvinism,” we come to a prefatory section entitled, “Why You Should Read This Book” (pp. IX-XI). Part of this section also appears as the reverse cover material.

The section starts out by alleging that Calvinism “maligns God’s character,” but then goes on to malign the character of Calvinists, suggesting that Calvinism will “leave you simply a dead husk built of theory, academic argument, and self-righteousness, held together by the glue of pride in and dependence on one’s own understanding.” This malevolent characterization of Calvinists is then illustrated by alleging that Calvinism has a deleterious effect on evangelism and preaching.

It is falsely alleged, for example, that if a Calvinist were asked by someone, “What must I do to be saved,” the Calvinist would not tell him, “Repent of your sins and trust in Christ.” Yet, I can testify that I have told people this, and I know many other Calvinists who have as well.

A.W. Pink, one of the Calvinists cited in Mr. Ruggiero’s book wrote: “Christ merited and obtained the reconciliation of both sides, yet God is not reconciled to us nor are we to Him until we repent and believe. ” (The Doctrine of Reconciliation: Conclusion)

James White, another one of the Calvinists cited in Mr. Ruggiero’s book wrote: “Hence, I can freely and properly proclaim the duty to repent and believe to all, knowing that those who do so will be those God has drawn to Himself.” (David Allen’s False Accusation)

R.C. Sproul, another Calvinist cited in Mr. Ruggiero’s book wrote: “The requirement for entrance into the kingdom of God is to repent and believe in Christ.” (Now That’s A Good Question)

John Piper (also cited with respect to the Calvinist position in Mr. Ruggiero’s book) wrote: “This means that in times of relativism (like our own), when people do not cherish objective, unchanging truth, followers of Jesus will be accused of arrogance. They will proclaim that Jesus has all authority — because it is true — and that everyone should repent and believe in him and become his disciple.” (What Jesus Demands From the World)

And we could go on and on. Mr. Ruggiero‘s accusations against Calvinists simply aren’t true. In fact Calvinists have read the Bible and are willing to follow the example of Paul who told the Philippian jailer that he must repent and believe, when the jailer asked what he ought to do to be saved.

Mr. Ruggiero also makes another curious accusation. He claims that Reformed theology “rejects the power of the gospel in that it teaches that a person cannot accept it unless they are born again first.” What a strange accusation. How is the gospel’s power any greater under Mr. Ruggiero’s system in which a person can accept the gospel without being born again? It appears that Mr. Ruggiero’s system of thought might make man more powerful, but how does it make the gospel more powerful? It’s not clear.

Moreover Scripture clearly teaches:

Romans 8:7-8

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

And again:

John 3:3-8

Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus saith unto him, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ‘Ye must be born again.’ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. “

And further:

John 10:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.

So, I must respectfully say that it seems Mr. Ruggiero’s assertion is hollow. Scripture does not ascribe to everyone the ability to please God, but indeed Scripture makes it quite apparent that in order to see the kingdom of God, one must be born again.

Mr. Ruggiero concludes the section by suggesting that the ultimate measure of any doctrine is this:

No — a doctrine’s truth is fully proven only if its adherents are seen to clearly demonstrate, in their lives and in their character and in their relationships with those around them, the sweet, joyful, abiding love of Christ.

Actually, a doctrine’s truth is proven from Scripture, not from the behavior of its adherents. Imagine making a claim like that about a doctrine like “the existence of God,” or “the doctrine of the Trinity.” Surely, Mr. Ruggiero would not make such a claim in that situation, since he knows that there are many people who claim to hold to such a view and yet who do not exhibit the love of God in their lives.

None of this, of course, should lead one to suppose that I think that love for our neighbor (and especially the brethren) is unimportant. It is vitally important. If you do not love your brother whom you see, how can you say you love God who you do not see? (Sorry my idolatrous readers, you too cannot see God).

Nevertheless, the proof a doctrine is not the personality or holiness of its adherents. Proof of doctrine is determined by the one measure of doctrine, Holy Scriptures, as Mr. Ruggiero himself seems to admit in his “Introduction” section, which we will address next time, if the Lord wills.

-TurretinFan

Ergun Caner’s Introduction to Louis Ruggiero’s Book

January 14, 2011

Continuing my review of Mr. Louis Ruggiero’s book, The God of Calvinism, I come to the foreword by Ergun Caner. I had previously analyzed the auto-biographical aspects of that forward (here) so let me continue on to discuss the substance of Ergun’s statements.

Ergun writes:

Though this seems like quite a simple doctrine, in our overwhelming impetus for world evangelization, a new movement has arisen. This new form of Calvinism teaches that God created some (if not most) people for damnation. In short, God only loves a few.

Certainly this movement’s leaders have attempted to state this in a more loving way, but their favorite texts, such as Romans 9:13, buttress their belief that God desires to create people to specifically go to hell.

Obviously, sending the reprobate to hell is not the only purpose of the reprobate. There were many unbelievers who are the ancestors of believers. What non-Jewish person can claim that their ancestors from the time of Abraham to Jesus were all believers? So, God has more use for the reprobate than simply in sending them to hell.

Nevertheless, God does sometimes have as one of his purposes in creating a person the destruction of that person. This is plainly taught by Paul:

Romans 9:17

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Notice that the destruction of Pharaoh was not an end in itself. As a result of the destruction of Pharaoh, God’s name was widely declared and God’s glory and power were manifested.

But even more, I’d go on a few verses more to this:

Romans 9:21-24

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Is God the potter? Does he have the power to make a vessel (a person) to dishonour – to build “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”?

Caner goes on to describe what he thinks the thesis to Louis’ book is:

His thesis is simple: in proclaiming that God’s love is conditional, these new preachers have changed the nature of God Himself. They have changed His attributes. This is a vital distinction, and a pressing issue.

Now is as good a place as any to note that there is nothing particularly new about Calvinism. Perhaps Dr. Caner only recently became aware of it, but if he did even a modicum of research into the subject, he’d be aware of Baptists like Charles Spurgeon and John Gill teaching this many generations ago, not to mention the many non-Baptist Calvinists. It’s hardly a new issue or position, either in Baptist circles (Caner is a Baptist) or outside them.

Moreover, who is making God’s love conditional? Calvinists teach that God’s election is unconditional and they take heat for it. Calvinists do not teach that God’s love is conditional.

In contrast, folks like Caner teach people that “Jesus loves you, but …” with the “but …” being that God will still send you to hell if you don’t do what he says. What love is this? A love that is conditional on man’s obedience does look like a conditional love. On the other hand, a particular love for God’s peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2 and 26:18; Titus 2:14; and 1 Peter 2:9) is unconditional.

God is the shepherd – he is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2), saving us despite our demerit, not because we fulfill some conditions. The God of Calvinism is the God of the Bible and His love is unconditional.

Praise be to the Lord, the Almighty!

-TurretinFan

Louis Ruggiero’s "The God of Calvinism"

January 13, 2011

Louis Ruggiero (aka LouRugg) has written the dangerously-titled book, “The God of Calvinism: a Rebuttal of Reformed Theology.”

Ironically, the book has as front-matter before the (first) dedication “A Prayer at West Point Chapel.” The prayer reads:

Make us choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be contented with a half truth when the whole truth can we won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when right and truth are in jeopardy.

Mr. Ruggiero does not make any commentary on the prayer, so it is hard to know whether he appreciates the significance of a prayer to God that God “Make us choose” something. Does Mr. Ruggiero believe that God can make someone choose something? If he does, then he’s a compatabilist: someone who thinks that God’s directing of men’s choices does not take away the character of “choice.” In other words, if the prayer is answerable in the affirmative, it means that a choice can be a choice without being a “free” choice.

The prayer is a very Calvinist prayer in that sense. It recognizes that God can make us choose things, while it remaining true that we choose those things. Once a person realizes that, a lot of false objections to Calvinism fade away.

Does this point render the rest of Louis’ book moot? With God’s assistance, we will explore this shortly, Lord Willing.

-TurretinFan


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