Randy Alcorn on the use of labels and applying our own definitions to other arguments

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Revmitchell, Jan 14, 2015.

  1. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
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    Trevin Wax: You use the historic terms “Calvinist” and “Arminian” while recognizing that these labels can obscure whenever they are used to conclude that “all believe A” or “none believe B.” You also warn against taking the other side’s terms and applying them to our definitions. How do our labels and terms frustrate and hinder meaningful conversation on these issues?

    Randy Alcorn: My wife Nanci and I learned years ago that we got into trouble by attaching our own meanings to the other’s words. One of us would reason, “If I said that, what I would mean is this.” Then we’d take each other’s words to their logical conclusion (according to our own logic, not the other’s). Only when we realized this did we learn to understand and appreciate each other.

    For example, an Arminian says, “People have the freedom to choose as they wish.” A Calvinist responds, “Oh, so you don’t believe people have sin natures or that God is sovereign?” Shocked, the Arminian responds, “What? I believe in both!” The Calvinist insists, “No, you don’t,” because he doesn’t understand that what to him are logical conclusions to the Arminian’s statement are not logical conclusions to the Arminian!

    Similarly the Arminian hears the Calvinist say, “God elects people to salvation and empowers them to believe.” The Arminian concludes, “Then you don’t believe people have the ability to make choices; you think they’re robots, and there’s no point in prayer, evangelism and missions.” In his mind, all these are perfectly logical conclusions to the Calvinist’s statement. But they are not what the Calvinist believes! That’s why we need to ask a person what they believe and listen to their answer, asking clarifying questions, instead of reducing them to a theological stereotype.

    Both Calvinists and Arminians say “God is sovereign,” but mean different things by sovereign. The same goes for the term “free will.” When Calvinists and Arminians use these terms in conversation without understanding what it means to the other person, miscommunication is inevitable. Then tensions rise, and soon one or both are frustrated and defensive.

    It’s fine to label ourselves, but I think it’s wise and kind to avoid labeling others. No one likes being put in a box. (I am always amazed to hear people tell me what I really believe!) When it comes to terminology, especially in conversations regarding God’s sovereignty and meaningful human choice, I’d recommend using our definition or understanding of terms in place of the terms themselves until we know we’re on the same page. It may take longer to explain, but we’ll know what we’re really talking about.


    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/16...as2&tag=redletters-20&linkId=GVQJHB7SMZVFYOI7
     
  2. Revmitchell

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    This is the very thing I have been saying for a long time happens continually on this board.
     
    #2 Revmitchell, Jan 14, 2015
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  3. InTheLight

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  4. PreachTony

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    This is rather excellent, Rev. Thank you.

    I know I've fallen into this trap many times (and given my nature, will probably fall into it again in the future).

    Good stuff, brother.:thumbs:
     
  5. blessedwife318

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  6. go2church

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    Sounds a lot like what was taught I was growing up. Not sure when the issue became such a hot potato.
     
  7. BlueMoon

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    Good book. I got it for Christmas. That same passage in the OP struck me as well. Alcorn does try to be fair to both sides. Although he makes it clear that he is a four-point Calvinist, I don't think I've read another book on the topic where both beliefs are spelled out so clearly, and such fair treatment is presented for the side opposite the author's. He also does a good job of addressing the assumptions of both, and even shares good-natured familiar jokes about both.

    As one who leans toward the Arminian view, I respect Alcorn tremendously and appreciate his Christ-like humility displayed in this work.
     
    #7 BlueMoon, Jan 16, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2015
  8. Dr. Bob

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    Lots of truth - we "libel" when we "label" others. And have found others' misconception of our ministry thus requires we define ourselves more clearly.

    When folks ask I say we are "reformed" Baptists. Some will ask "Have you been bad?" So that needs more explanation.

    Then they see the name of our church "Sovereign Grace Church" (which should tell them we are Calvinistic/Biblicist position on doctrines of grace) and they wonder it we are part of Sovereign Grace Ministries (founded by charismatic catholics). So this demands more explanation.

    And wouldn't dare use the word "fundamentalist" since that is now linked to Islam bombers.
     
  9. Baptist Believer

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    And you are correct. Unfortunately, it is not just limited to the sovereignty/free will discussions.
     

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