The American Conservative on the Conservative Evangeliliberals

The American Conservative claims that “conservative evangelicals are more Republican than Republicans.” The piece is good not only for plugging a forthcoming title by Darryl Hart (From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelical Protestants and the Betrayal of American Conservatism) but also for raising the question about just what social and political gospel is if not the legacy of conservative evangelicalism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. If Dougherty gets the religious rightists right, and I think he does, what was exactly so wrong about Protestant liberalism? One can’t help but think it wasn’t so much having a socio-political gospel but having the wrong socio-political gospel. At least, when Jerry Falwell was asked to weigh in about civil rights in the 50s and 60s he sure sounded two-kingdoms-ish when he refused claiming it wasn’t his duty to comment on social and political issues. Then came the 60s and the Moral Majority. Could it have been that Falwell didn’t want to chime in because the cultural status quo at the time was aligned with his personal outlook so why rock the boat? But when the tide changed and push came to shove it was time to dive into the Bible and find proof texts for social, political and cultural conclusions? Lest anyone think this is cheap shot at the righties, when it comes to taking Christianity captive for culture, it could be that you don’t get Jerry Falwell without Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a helpful syllogism that some Reformed use to point out narcissism in the ranks: I am Reformed; I think X; therefore X is Reformed. It could just as easily be more broadly applied to generic evangelicalism to distill a similar notion that Christian faith and ideological outlook are synonymous: I am a Christian; I think X; therefore X is Christian.

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74 Responses to The American Conservative on the Conservative Evangeliliberals

  1. Rob H says:

    I’m just about finished with my first Hart book. Though it’s finally tidying up nicely and making sense, his writing is scanny and difficult enough I don’t think I’ll read another for a while. Great stuff, need a different author.

    I think what I can conclude from my studies so far is that the more Christians step out into the political arena with their religion on their sleeves, the more they compromise and the more the Gospel turns into a social or (coined by some other dude) moralistic therapeutic deism.

    I like something Hart said: Something like the Biblical reasoning for doing or not doing something is best maintained in the Church. Outside, reasoning should be focused on implications and results.

    I know that’s not ever going to be perfect. Maybe the LCMS dudes got it right in their policy. Church keeps out of the social service realm, even when it seems okay because it almost invariably involves compromise of the Message.

  2. Rob H says:

    “A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State” I’ll have it finished tonight. At last. Reminds me of when I was 10, slogging through the LOTR because I wasn’t big enough to handle it.

  3. Zrim says:

    Rob, it seems to me that many have the odd premise that they are doing some sort of disservice to their faith by not wearing it on their sleeve in the public forum and making it directly relevant. But it also seems to me that to do so is to actually do violence to faith. It is unbecoming and unhealthy in the same way public displays of affection can be harmful to those with whom we have the most intimate of relationships. If I make my wife into a spectacle by parading my affection for her around (and make her into something she isn’t) then in the same way I end up making Christ into something he isn’t by wearing faith on my sleeve. There seems to be good reason the Bible uses the analogy of marriage and whoredom.

    I never slogged through LOTR. I was more of a “Catcher in the Rye” type.

  4. Rob H says:


    I don’t get a lot of what you talk about most of the time (so far, but maybe I’ll catch on eventually). That said, I’m right with you ATM. I can connect the PDA and religion-on-sleeve problems. Not that I’m expert in proper public conduct with either.

    Christianity is identified in the Church setting. Is that what’s to be derived here? If so, as soon as it becomes more (adding elements), communicating an existence outside its own body, Christianity becomes something other. As in ecology – Introduce something foreign and the ecology doesn’t just lose or gain, it changes into something different. I got that idea from Dr. Gordon’s lectures, not my own head, so hopefully I concluded correctly.

    Sort of like what you said of displaying affection. There is some part of marriage ecology that doesn’t extend beyond the confines of the two who are married. To either bring the outside in or reveal the inside to the world is to change the relationship – make it other than what it is. One does not pat fanny in public.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Yes, but one is very much married in public. We wear rings, we say “dinner would be great, let me check with my wife when we are free,” we can use “I am married” as a valid and accepted reason for or against various behaviors, etc.

    So the question becomes, in what way does the analogy hold, so that things about marriage imply things about christianity&culture, vs the analogy fails, so that things about marriage do not imply things about christianity&culture.

    Rob, sorry I threw you into the deep end for your first foray into 2K! I could overcompensate by loaning you DVD’s “Biblical Case for Natural Law”, but probably a better rec would be JJS’s Dual Citizens. I’ve only read one chapter myself, but I have faith the whole thing is eminently readable.

  6. Zrim says:

    Rube, the rule about analogies is that they can’t be pushed too far. Eventually they break down.

    But my point is that it doesn’t seem fitting to treat that which is most intimate and private so publicly. This to me is also the irony of conservative evangelicalism (at least, the sort with which I am familar and the sort I recognize in the piece here). Its pietistic side is all about a greasy familiarity with God and its fundamentalist streak is all about angry culture war. The upshot is a lot of speech about love for God embodied, apparently, by a lot of fist clenching toward neighbors. Maybe a better sense of intimacy with God translates into more compromise with neighbor?

  7. RubeRad says:

    The irony works both ways. “most intimate and private” sounds very pietistic, individualistic, and QIREy — not very “ordinary means”-y. Reformed Christians with a proper understanding of both kingdoms should be able to have an interaction with both kingdoms that is “ordinary,” rather than being characterized by such “extraordinary” words as: sensational, radical, activist, angry, screaming, yelling, …

  8. Rob H says:

    Stupid tension. Always gotta be a tension. If only it was all black-and-white. Of course, then I’d be a pink baboon with a martini.

  9. Zrim says:

    Rube, I understand how “intimate and private” might sound QIRE-y, but I don’t think Reformed piety denies the inner life. I think it has another way of understanding it, a way that seems much more genuine. I think pietism has an extraordinary way of understanding the ordinary, which accounts for its greasy familiarity and superficiality. Its inside-out obnoxiousness is matched by the externalism of culture warriorism.

  10. Zrim says:

    No, you’d be a Fundamentalist, which means Welch’s instead of martini. And blue instead of pink (don’t want anyone thinking you’re gay now). I’ll leave the baboon remark alone, but you said it, not me.

  11. Rob H says:

    But being a blue baboon with a tiny cup of Welch’s just doesn’t seem fitting for a bona fide saint. I guess I’ll just loosen my bootstraps and carry on.
    I’m taking a light cruise through Jason Stellman’s 2k Primer articles over at CreedCodeCult. A bit easier to follow.

    Seems like a lot of the issue is really about using the Bible and our convictions in a public forum to argue a point that was essentially developed in that public forum. One thing I like is the thought that our Sunday Worship is a (maybe most) significant part where we assert our difference from the rest.

  12. RubeRad says:

    another way of understanding it, a way that seems much more genuine

    Yes, “ordinary”, rather than “extra-ordinary”. Not a secret knowledge (gnostic gnosis)

  13. PLM says:

    “I am Reformed; I think X; therefore X is Reformed.”

    How about if me and my friends got together and think X, would this not be fallacious:

    “We are reformed; We think X; therefore, X is Reformed.”


  14. Zrim says:

    Rob, yes, we blend in during the six days but stand out by withdrawaling on the seventh. But this will be the part where one will be accused of having a nominal and irrelevant faith or living duplicitously or esteeming one day over the rest. But isn’t thatthe point of the fourth commandment?

    PLM, I see no difference between individual narcissism and group delusion.

  15. RubeRad says:

    How many friends?

    But yes, it’s still fallacious.

    I think this formulation would be better stated “I think I am reformed (I accept the label ‘Reformed’); I think X; therefore, X is reformed”. The point is whether the content behind the label is defined by the wearer, or by the documents and history.

  16. PLM says:

    Zrim and Rube, thanks for this. Has it set in yet that the admission undermines the argument for Confessionalism Clark gives? Note how he argues how we should define what is “Reformed” in his book on the matter. Lesson for Clark: Study logic before you use it.

  17. RubeRad says:

    What admission?

  18. Zrim says:

    P(aul)LM, I am not using the syllogism to make a theological point but a larger critical one about ideology held by certain religionists, which seems to suggest that because certain political conclusions inhabit my Christian brain those conclusions must also be heaven’s. It’s not a difficult point to grasp, and I think you’d actually agree. Why you want to hijack it to undermine another guy’s theological point I don’t really understand, but that is your business.

  19. PLM says:

    The admission that the second form was fallacious too.

  20. PLM says:

    You used the syllogism to point out a flaw, but the same syllogism can be used to undermine the argument for Confessionalism you think is good, so I thought you’d not want to undermine your point by endorsing as fallacious and argument that undermines your position on Confessionalism. If you think the “we” argument is valid in terms of the argument for Confessionalism then presumably you’d have to think the other one is valid too, since they both appear to have the exact same form, just switching out c couple terms. Thus you couldn’t use it to make the point you said you wanted to make with it. So, yes, I think the point is a good one, and since you do too, that must mean you don’t endorse the argument for Confessionalism you have previously endorsed. That seems self-defeating. Why you’d want to post at cross purposes with yourself I don’t really understand, but that’s your business.

  21. RubeRad says:

    The admission that the second form was fallacious too.

    I don’t get it. Clark isn’t saying that Reformed is not what “you” (not meaning actually you, but whoever is saying “I” am Reformed; “I” think X; X is Reformed) say it is, because it is what “we” say it is, what he’s saying is that Reformed is what the confessions and catechisms say, and “you” don’t get to (re-)define what Reformed is.

    If you want to argue about whether Theonomy “is” Reformed, or “was” Reformed according to WCF(1646) but “is” not as of WCF(1789), fine, at least that’s in the category of “what do the Reformed constitutional documents define Reformed to be?”

    I guess you see Clark’s argumentation at some point being of the form “WSCAL is Reformed; WSCAL believes X –> X is Reformed.” If you showed that somewhere, then I missed it. Or more specifically “WSCAL is Reformed; WSCAL is Confessionalist –> Confessionalism is Reformed”?

  22. PLM says:


    “what he’s saying is that Reformed is what the confessions and catechisms say, and “you” don’t get to (re-)define what Reformed is.”

    No, that can’t be it, for at least three reasons: (1) the Confession and Catechism is just what a “we” wrote down on some paper, it’s the instantiation of the thoughts of a set of “we’s”; (2) the Confession and Catechism have been revised, so if the first set = Reformed, then the second can’t, and vice versa (per the indiscernability of identicals); and apropos (2), (3), it can’t be *whatever* the Confession and Catechisms say because you could do subsequent changes on each part and eventually have something that is contemporary evangelical Arminianism (recall my Confessionalism and the Ship of Theseus post), and whatever Reformed is, it’s *not* and *can never be* contemporary evangelical Arminianism. Now, I’m not saying that Confessionalism is wrong, far from it, I think Confessionalism or something close enough is right. I’m saying Clark’s *argument* (and the argument used by contemporary internet Confessionalists) is a bad one if the fallacy shown by the Clark syllogism is correct (and it is), hence, etc.

  23. RubeRad says:

    I don’t get it. What’s wrong with saying that the Reformers get to define “Reformed”, so the term comes to us with a definition already attached, and we don’t get to re-define it just because we feel like it? Other words don’t work like that. What if I decided to call myself black?

    Ship of Theseus is not applicable. Sure, we *could* gradually change (could have gradually changed) from Calvinism to Arminianism, but we didn’t. Or to put it another way, the historical evolution from the Reformation to contemporary evangelical Arminianism was accomplished by deviating from Reformedness, not by evolving the definition of Reformedness, precisely because the documents were not amended all along the way.

    (I am discounting the 1789 American revision, or the corresponding change to Belgic36(?), since the change was minor, so the distinction is only relevant to the question, “is” Theonomy “Reformed”?)

  24. PLM says:


    I don’t get it. What’s wrong with saying that the Reformers get to define “Reformed”

    Well, as we saw, this isn’t true, as some of their “definitions” get revised. You don;t really let the Reformers define Reformed. You let them insofar as you agree that they’re right, hence they can’t be the standard. Second, it’s a formal point of validity. If the “we” argument is invalid, then it doesn’t matter what terms get put in it, it’s still invalid, no matter what. You know this. The point with validity is that it isn’t truth preserving, so even if the premises are true, that doesn’t give us a reason to accept the conclusion. So, if the “we” argument is fallacious, and if that’s the argument for the definition of Reformed Confessionalists have given us, they’ve given us a bad argument.

    Ship of Theseus is not applicable. Sure, we *could* gradually change (could have gradually changed) from Calvinism to Arminianism, but we didn’t.

    Your very admission that you *could* change into that beast is enough to refute the idea, since, as I said, *whatever* Reformed theology is, it’s not contemporary, Arminian evangelicalism. If you agree with me, then you’ll be bound to admit the point.

    Discounting it? Minor to who? Those who agree with the change!? That seems ad hoc. Moreover, this is the taxi cab fallacy, you’re getting out when its convenient even though the cab can go further. The point is, it was a change, and if the set of propositions in the original Confessions = Reformed, then how does a non-identical set of propositions = Reformed? Moreover, we all know Clark wants to change more than the theocratic statements.

  25. RubeRad says:

    This is why I would never get far in analytic philosophy. You say potato, I say hairsplitting.

    So what’s the right way to define “Reformed”, if not by the binding confessional artifacts?

  26. Bruce Settergren says:

    On the other hand, if there’s money to be made as a professional hairsplitter . . . .

  27. Paul says:

    Rube, you’re looking at things wrong. Check it out:

    I never said we shouldn’t define reformed according to the reformed confessions and catechisms (though I’d make nuances here, and there’s obviously some problems with that def., since we don’t want reformed to be evangelical arminianism, but let’s leave this aside). I said that *IF* you claim that Clark’s little syllogism is an instance of a fallacy, and if you claim that swapping out “I” for “WE” but keeping the form the same is likewise fallacious, THEN *Clark’s* argument for confessionalism is likewise fallacious.

    You have options:

    (i) deny Clark’s syllogism is an instance of a fallcy.

    (ii) deny the “we” syllogism is an instance of a fallacy.

    (iii) deny Clark’s argument for how we define reformed is a good argument.

    (iii) make some other “hair splitting” distinction (my option).

    Lastly, I must again express confusion at your claim that the def. of ‘reformed’ is what the *binding* confessional artifacts say. It seems on that def., you’re not reformed. Moreover, it doesn’t allow for Clark’s desire to change *more* in the confessions (like stuff on worship, etc). How binding are they if any part can be changed? Now, if there’s some *core* part that *must* remain the same, then (a) this is to disagree with Clark and (b) what is it?

    In any case, I hope you at least see my argument wasn’t over hair splitting, it was about a mutually inconsistent set of propositions, such that you can’t hold all of them at the same time.

  28. jedpaschall says:

    Paul & Rube,

    I am late to this conversation here, if my inquiry generates redundancy, feel free to delete the comment. But, hopefully you guys can further clear up some questions here:

    Rube – How are you defining and arguing the stability of “Reformed”, and maintaining the accuracy of Clark’s syllogism?

    Paul – Conversely, why briefly is Clark wrong, and on what basis are we defining “Reformed”.

    As I read RRC it seemed that the syllogism was at the heart of Clark’s argument. I really do think he has a point here. But, my lingering issue is what about the few instances where we depart from the Reformers or the original drafters of the Confessions? It seems the confession makes provision for revision insofar as confessional stipulations and declarations can be demonstrated to be unbiblical. So do we define “Reformed” on the basis of 16th & 17th century confessions, or something else. I am split on this discussion honestly, because I do think “Reformed” must also be “biblical”, but a lot of what passes for ‘biblical’ these days isn’t befitting of the term and certainly isn’t reformed in any meaningful sense.

  29. Paul says:


    It was pointed out here that Clark’s syllogism expressed a fallacy. I then asked if a syllogism which appeared formally similar but just switched out one term (“I” for “we”) was likewise expressive of the same fallacy.

    The issue here is twofold: (a) *if* the two arguments are identical in form, then the “we” instance of the argument will also be fallacious, since *terms* do nothing to affect an argument’s validity or invalidity, (b) if it is claimed that they are not formally similar, then (i) what’s the difference between the arguments in form and (ii) other problems arise, like: What me and 80 other Reformed guys think doesn’t necessarily mean what we think is Reformed, but what other “we’s” think is apparently constitutive of being “Reformed,” even when this group of “we’s” are not identical, being separated by generations. So things get messy. Anyway, (a) was granted here, which moves quickly to the conclusion that Clark’s own argument for confessionalism is fallacious, being an instance of the “we” argument.

    Now, Clark’s argument for what “Reformed” equals is a “we think X” argument, the we’s thoughts simply being put own on paper. Hence, if we take (a) above, then Clark’s own argument is fallacious per an implication of his syllogism. If we take (b) above, then problems like I listed arise.

    Another problem that arises is that it leaves open the door that “Reformed” could become “evangelical Arminianism.” But whatever “Reformed” is, surely it can’t be that. However, we also know that the first group of thoughts given by the “we think” isn’t bindingly Reformed, for we have changes from the first “we think” to another “we think.” (Moreover, Clark would like to see more changes.) Since the original set of thoughts about what Reformed is not identical to the revised set, they are not the same sets. Indeed, since the first set of thoughts on the state are not, per what we’re told today, “Reformed,” then we have a counter example to “We think X, therefore X is Reformed.” Thus, there must be some essential set of propositions that constitute “Reformed” such that none of them can be lost without losing the system, while others may be changed. But this is a more “minimalist” definition of “Reformed,” and one not allowed by the argument in RCC; indeed, one specifically argued against.

    Essentially, the problem is what you point out in your last paragraph. But this leaves open a lot of questions. For instance, why aren’t covenantal baptists called “Reformed” when the LBC is almost identical to the WCF, differing in the *subjects* of baptism, but keeping the same covenantal picture — they just think we have positive revelation that removes children from getting the sign. Why does that change automatically mean you can’t be “Reformed” but changing sections on church and state doesn’t — indeed, it makes you more Reformed!? What standard do we use to determine when a change is acceptable? It can’t simply be that there is continuity with the original confession. Why: (a) the LBC didtake the WCF as its guide, and (b) Ship of Theseus problems rage, allowing “Reformed” to become, in, say, another 4 hundred years, something like evangelical Arminianism, just in case small changes were made to the original Confession and we can follow some sort of causal-historical path from those doing the latest changes back down to the original framers.

    My argument here neither is against “Confessionalism,” nor is it against the claim that the “I think X” argument is fallacious. It’s penultimately an ad hominem against those who both think Clark’s argument is good and also claim that the “I think X” fallacy is similar to the “We think X” fallacy. It’s ultimately against how Clark argues for Confessionalism in his book. There’s too many gaping weak spots, A little philosophy would have served him well 🙂 Seriously, there’s something of an argument for confessionalism out there, and there’s something right about the notion, I just think the argument requires some nuancing and cleaning up, as well as some stronger epistemological muscle. Apropos the latter, if I were keen to really defend and think about “Confessionalism,” making it more attractive to people within (and without!) of the Reformed community, one place I’d look is into the philosophy of social epistemology, the epistemology of testimony, and the epistemology of disagreement.

    Anyway, that’s a lengthy (sorry) answer regarding my “issue” here.

  30. Paul says:

    Sorry, didn’t answer Jed’s second question. I don’t have an answer on how to define “Reformed.” I haven’t thought about this issue as deeply as I could as I have other priorities and interests. Currently, I’m inclined to say that it’s vague. Consider the term “heap.” When is a heap of sand not a heap anymore? Say it’s a heap at 100,000 grains, well surely it’s still a heap at 99,999 grains, and surely it isn’t at 10 grains. Where’s the demarcating line? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: when something is definitely a heap, and when it isn’t. So I think it’s something like that. But other might not like this, for on my view someone like Greg Welty is Reformed, but he’s a covenantal credobaptist. Anyway . . .

  31. jedpaschall says:


    …if I were keen to really defend and think about “Confessionalism,” making it more attractive to people within (and without!) of the Reformed community, one place I’d look is into the philosophy of social epistemology, the epistemology of testimony, and the epistemology of disagreement.

    I am not going to argue that some of the philosophical means of analysis wouldn’t be helpful in describing “Reformed” from the outside looking in. But in terms of defining (as opposed to describing) what “Reformed” means I think we do need to take the queue of WCF 1.1, 1.4, 1.7 & 31.1-4 where doctrine and confessional matters are derived from Scripture and are determined by duly called councils.

    I can sympathize with you argument that there is a small measure of elasticity in the definition of “Reformed” as we can see in our current revisions to our confessions. But I firmly believe the starting point is Scripture for defining “Reformed” or in codifying Reformed doctrine in confessions and chatecisms, something I am sure we agree upon. I realize certain philosophical issues accompany the hermenutical process of interpreting scripture. I also do believe historical arguments, appealing to historical theology, are critical to the definitional process. I think this is the strongest contribution of Clark’s book. If our current self-understanding and praxis as Reformed Christians doesn’t resemble historical Reformed definitions and praxis, we should have a darn good reason why. We don’t lend authority to tradition, but we should have some compelling reasons for departing from or modifying it.

    I realize Clark believes all of the confessions are biblical, and I have no beef with this, but it is the responsibility for each generation to evaluate the biblical merits of our governing documents. I realize our contentions here reflect our interests, but I’d really like to see some in-depth hermenutical analysis of our confessions, as opposed to delving into the often dubious proof-texts. I don’t think that my argument constitutes an appeal to biblicism, but I do think that a healthy biblical re-evaluation of the confessions at generational iterations (maybe every 50-75 years or so) would be a good thing.

  32. Paul says:

    Jed, definitely. But *one place* I’d look is to the aforementioned places. I also agree with the starting point being scripture. Clark doesn’t, though. Clark said no one reads Scripture neutrally, we all come to it with grids, he goes to it with the gird of the Confessions. A hopelessly naive position, if you ask me.

    You’ll also get no beef with me on HT, as I argued for its use at my old blog, and several analytic theologians have made this point as well. Indeed, I think HT is vital in making the social epistemology argument I have in mind, so . . .

  33. jedpaschall says:


    I didn’t distinguish the difference between defining and describing well here. If I were an academic, then I as a Reformed Protestant could write a book in which I describe the Roman Catholic Church, using the means of analysis you provide (philosophy of social epistemology, et. al.). With these alongside some other analytical tools such as HT, historical, cultural, etc., I am sure that the work would be a sufficiently accurate description of the RCC in terms of identity and praxis.

    But, could I use these tools to define the RCC? I guess that is the core of my question to you on your assertion. Describing, however, seems to be an external exercise, defining seems to be internal, conducted by the stakeholders and representatives in a specific group, in this case “Reformed” Christians. To me the internal questions are almost exclusively answered by biblical/hermenutical processes where there would be departure from or modification to confessional statements. How would the means of analysis you have proposed help in defining “Reformed” versus describing “Reformed”? That is the heart of the question for me. Maybe an example of how you see it working would be helpful.

  34. RubeRad says:

    Regis, my answer is “(ii) deny the “we” syllogism is an instance of a fallacy.” “we” functions differently than “me” because of the way language works. At the outset of “my” life, the word “reformed” is already in circulation. What does it mean, wrt protestant theology? Well it came from the “we” that “did” the Reformation. They were the pioneers, they get to set the standard for the then-new term. “I” today do not get to co-opt the label into whatever I feel like. If we could just use language that way, then we could say that “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience”, and we could also say that “continuance in this covenant in the Garden … was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements“. We could also say that the baptized non-elect “never truly come unto Christ”, and we could also say that they “(not forever) truly come to Christ“. Fortunately, reasonable people do not [ab]use language that way.

    So your point about LBC vs. the 1789 revision is fair (and Clark undercuts his own argument that Theonomy is QIRC anti-confessionalism). But (a) as similar as the LBC may be to Westminster, the changes are much more extensive than the 1789 revision, and (b) how many LBC confessional baptists are there anyways? I bet a lot fewer than NAPARC members (i.e. english-speaking Reformed Confessionalists), which is already a very small number. Either way, it is only fair and honest to say that we affirm all the same old Reformed stuff as the original Reformers, except for X. So yes we are different. And it is important that we are aware and up-front and understanding about the differences.

    But ‘binding’ does not mean infallible, so it should not be surprising that there is evolution in what is binding. Is there an outer shell of non-essential and/or outright wrong stuff in the confessions, as distinct from an essential and biblical creamy center, which is the true bottom-line definition of Reformed? Sure, but what is it? You’re the epistemologist, you tell me how we carve the erroneous away from the infallible.

  35. Zrim says:

    Paul, what’s hopelessly naive: to go to the Bible with a grid or to go to it with a confessional grid?

  36. Paul says:

    Zrim, you go to the Bible with a Reformed Confessional grid and then find that the Bible teaches Reformed Confessional Christianity? Amazing! Anyway, first, everyone has a grid that they approach everything with. But this grid is fairly broad and unthreatening to Reformed Christianity. But apart from this uninteresting truism, it should be obvious that the Confessions don’t tell us how to exegete, they don’t give us any historical information from the ANE or first century, etc. So it’s naive. Crucial to exegesis is getting into the sandals of the original audience, the confession doesn’t do this. The confession is more of a systematic ordering of the Bible done after you’ve done your exegetical spadework. After you’ve done this, you will read the Bible through such a system. Fine. But this is why guys like Hart sound silly when they tell us that the Confession provides the exegetical heavy lifting for their arguments. Whenever I ask Hart to exegete some passage he’s relying on for his argument, he says, “The confession is my exegesis.” You’ve done this too. If you don’t see the problems with this, then I really don’t know what to say. Maybe we really are from two different worlds.

  37. Paul says:

    Jed, I have no problem taking what “Reformed Christians” have thought as defining what “Reformed” is, and I would use those tools to help in this process, and also defend it in a more sophisticated manner than Clark. But here’s my thing, in agreeing about how we “define” “Reformed,” I find the def. will be vague, not something cut and dry like Clark thinks. So for example, how do we define bald? I know bald when I see it, and I know not-bald when I see it. Where’s the demarcating line here? That’s my point. So, we have some essentials or paradigmatic doctrines that one cannot lose without losing the title “Reformed”. Same with baldness (something I am personally well acquainted with, BTW!). There’s paradigm cases, but the demarcating line admits of vagueness.

  38. Paul says:


    First things first, so what’s the *form* of the “we argument”? That the *term* “we” is different than the *term* “I” doesn’t mean the form is different, and if the form isn’t different, it’s fallacious. Right? Also, me and a bunch of Reformed guys thinking X doesn’t entail that X is Reformed. So, the argument isn’t truth preserving, thus it must be fallacious.

    Second, who says that changing the church/state stuff is not as big a deal was the LBC stuff? That seems convenient. And “more extensive” changes isn’t as big as changes to more important stuff. And we’ve also seen that Clark has “more extensive” changes in mind. Also, with the LBC, some aren’t really “changes,” but helpful *additions* (like active obedience). The bottom line is that they can trace their Confession back to the WCF, so why aren’t they Reformed?

    As per the def. and how to tell what is essential and what isn’t, I don’t have an answer. I can name a few things that are essential, but I don’t think that list is exhaustive. Right now I’m just drawing attention to the problems. I don’t have my epistemologist hat on, I have my skeptic’s hat on!

  39. Zrim says:

    So, Paul, when someone takes membership vows in a Reformed church, which include confessing that the doctrines as “summarized in the confessions of this church,” s/he is being hopelessly naive?

    I get your point that the confessions-creeds-catechisms aren’t exegesis strictly speaking. It is likely better said that they are the result of a more painstaking exegesis. But most of us aren’t exegetes. We’re simply believers, and believers who need a way to articulate what the Bible teaches. And some of us really do believe that the church has been gifted by God to do this. Maybe that’s what you think is naive, to look to the church? I can’t help but think this is what always lies at the base of your philosophical polemic against confessionalism, since the confessionalism point is really an ecclesiastical point. It’s a point the pietsists disdain as they esteem experience over the church, and it seems to be a point the philosophers disdain as they esteem the intellect and learning over the church. Both piestists and philosophers sound the same as they level the naivete boom against the confessionalist. I wonder if you both ever consider how your polemics end up mocking disciples.

  40. Paul says:


    “So, Paul, when someone takes membership vows in a Reformed church, which include confessing that the doctrines as “summarized in the confessions of this church,” s/he is being hopelessly naive? “

    Membership in a Reformed church doesn’t include this. But if it did, s/he may or may not be. If she has no clue what they are, yeah, that’s pretty naive and irresponsible. If s/he does so after study of the Bible and believing that the summaries of the confessions accurately summarize the Bible, no s/he wouldn’t be. But nothing I’ve said suggests s/he would be in this instance.

    “It is likely better said that they are the result of a more painstaking exegesis.”

    And in which case you don’t go to the Bible with a confessional grid to get your confessionalism. Moreover, many of the confessional positions are not based on good exegesis. And, since knowledge of the past is changing, that does affect our exegesis. And, since counter-exegesis has been given, we need to address that. You seem comfortable with the status quo, I’m not. Chalk that up to ourm different worlds.

    What do you mean by “the church?” There’s more to “the church” than “Reformed guys.” But, I have no problem with our doctrine being articulated and warranted within the context of the church (that’s part of what I think social epistemology can help with in explicating). I think this is what Eph. 4 teaches. But I draw from a larger and deeper pool than you do (and so did Calvin and other Reformer, BTW). So, I’m a huge fan of the church anmd the role it plays in the justification of our theological knowledge. Thus I fear that you have, again, misread me and my intentions. Whether this is intentional or accidental, I can’t say. But you’ve done it so much and I’ve corrected you so much, it appears to be the former. I mean, in this very thread I said that I *agreed* with confessionalism, and that I was using “philosophical polemic” to actually *defend* the notion. So I really don’t get why you misread me so badly and in such uncharitable ways. I guess I’ll chalk this too up to our living in different worlds.

    I don’t mock disciples, I want to train them in the faith delivered to the saints. We just live in differt worlds on how to do this. I think the training should be broader: including philosophy, apologetics, broad historical theology, basics of exegesis, catechism, systematic theology, biblical theology, etc. You seem to think, and you’ve said as much on occasion, that simply having them repeat the catechism 24/7 is enough. Perhaps you agree with Darryl Hart that focus on the rest is to deny perserverance of the saints (talk about fallacious inferences!). I dunno. I guess I’ll chalk it up to our living in different worlds.

  41. RubeRad says:

    That the *term* “we” is different than the *term* “I” doesn’t mean the form is different

    It’s not the term, it’s the referent of the term. Replace ‘Reformed’ in the syllogism with ‘Calvinist’, and it becomes valid or invalid depending on whether ‘I’ refers to myself, or to John Calvin. John Calvin is Calvinist in the sense that God is good, which is a different sense than the sense that I might try to assert “I am Calvinist”. There’s a hidden premise that needs to be made explicit about whether the ‘I’ or ‘we’ refers to the creators/originators of the content behind the label. Perhaps RSC’s fallacious form of syllogism (with the hidden premise that “I/we” is not the original Reformers) should be named The Non-Genetic Fallacy?

    Another way to look at it, when we say John Calvin is Calvinist, or the Reformers are Reformed, those statements are tautological, true by definition. RSC’s fallacious syllogism is fallacious for today’s “I/we” and not for the original “I/we”, because today’s I/we are attempting to use the statement “I am Reformed” in the same tautological, definitional sense. So, exposing the hidden premise, their argument is of the form:

    P1: I think X
    P2: I am Reformed
    P2′: (hidden) I am a Reformer
    P3: What I think is Reformed (follows from P2′, but not from P2)
    C: X is Reformed

    The argument is fallacious because of the falsehood of P2, and the whole problem arises from the confusion between P2 and P2′.

    who says that changing the church/state stuff is not as big a deal was the LBC stuff? That seems convenient.

    Find me a LBC confessionalist, and I bet 50 pushups (not necessarily contiguous) they will agree that the baptism stuff is a bigger deal, more extensive, and more important than the church/state stuff.

    we’ve also seen that Clark has “more extensive” changes in mind

    I dunno, I think he’s got solid confessional ground (westminster, at least) for his fairly strict Sabbatarianism, and I don’t recall exactly, but I bet he would claim confessional support for his EP as well. And strict subscriptionism was the third main contention of RRC, is he drawing that from the confessions, or is it a meta-confessional issue? Oh, if only the Heidelblogger were still around to answer these questions for us!

    I don’t have my epistemologist hat on, I have my skeptic’s hat on!

    If you weren’t so bald, maybe you wouldn’t need to wear so many hats!

  42. Paul says:


    You’re confusing validity and soundness. If a form is fallacious or not truth preserving, then it doesn’t matter what terms you put in, or the references of the terms. Both arguments can have true premises with a true conclusion or true premises with a false conclusion.

    Second, if you have some argument you can put forth as valid and then you claim that in order to be sound you must define the “we” in some sense like “the set of Reformers who drafted the Confession” or, “the set of Reformers who drafted all Reformed confessions,” well then clearly you disallow any revision to happen to the confession and for the confession to remain Reformed. So, you need another argument besides “we think X,” since that form yields arguments with true premises and a false conclusion. Once you give that new valid argument, you will need to define the “we” to make it sound. Let’s see you do this without getting into trouble.

    Third, your P1 -> C argument doesn’t work, since we know that the Confession was more like a consensus document, with some ostensible and paradigm reformers denying things like limited atonement, or other matters. Moreover, “what I-Reformer think is reformed” is true only if an X is Reformed just in case a Reformer thinks it. Well, first, we know that if Calvin thought, “Today is a nice day,” that wouldn’t be Reformed. Secondly, thinking “Servetus should be burned,” isn’t “Reformed.” Thirdly, if he thought, “Man has libertarian free will,” that would not be Reformed, but it would have to be on your definition (just in case = if and only if).

    What a LBCer thinks is irrelevant. However, this is besides the point, I don’t know if *in fact* it is. And, I don’t know if any of original WCFers would have thought so. And it’s not clear why that change wouldn’t be allowed while still keeping “Reformed.” Suppose every single Reformed theologian today all became convinced of credobaptism. So we amend the confession on that one point. Are you saying there would not exist any Reformed theologians?

    I’ll dig up my RCC where Clark suggests writing new confessions that include changes and additions.


  43. Paul says:

    Amend: Confusing validity with *truth*, not soundness. All sound arguments are valid. A invalid form doesn’t become valid when we make the premises true, e.g.,

    [1] All lawyers are geniuses.
    [2] Bill Maher is a genius.
    [3] Therefore, Bill Maher is a genius.

    Here, all three premises are false and the form is fallacious. Changing the terms in the above argument, or even the referents of the terms for that matter, and using all true premises doesn’t give us a valid example, for example:

    [1′] All dogs are animals.
    [2′] Rin Tin Tin is an animal.
    [3′] Therefore, Rin Tin Tin is a dog.

    [1′] – [3′] are all true, but the argument is still invalid. So, truth has nothing to do with validity.

  44. Paul says:

    oops, in my first [1] – [3], I meant to conclude that Bill Mahr is a lawyer.

  45. Rob H says:

    Well, if you’re going that way, PETA seems convinced that not all dogs are *just* animals. And our local Episcopilationists bless dogs. So maybe RinTinTin is a peopl?

    And I’m very unsure about the veracity of your line of Lawyer Reasoning.

    Just for levity 😉

  46. RubeRad says:

    Suppose every single Reformed theologian today all became convinced of credobaptism. So we amend the confession on that one point. Are you saying there would not exist any Reformed theologians?

    Yes, there would be a new flavor of “Reformed” which is distinct from American-Revision-Reformed. And I say that American Presbyterians are not identical to the original Westminster Presbyterians, because we changed the standard. Which backs the question up again to which changes/exceptions are essential, extensive, big deal, important, etc. But if everybody is knowledgeable and about the original standard, and open about their differences/exceptions from it, then who gets the label becomes less relevant.

    I’ll dig up my RCC where Clark suggests writing new confessions that include changes and additions.

    I think it would be useful for the confessions to nail down male-only ordination. But I don’t think the risk is worth it. We’d be more likely to make things worse than better.

  47. Jed Paschall says:


    I find the def. will be vague, not something cut and dry like Clark thinks. So for example, how do we define bald? I know bald when I see it, and I know not-bald when I see it. Where’s the demarcating line here? That’s my point.

    This is where I really do disagree with you. It seems to me you are taking the 30k foot view here on “Reformed”, and not the view from the inside of “Reformed”. Is that reasonable? As I see it, the internal definition of “Reformed” has a stable meaning at a denominational level first, where each current “Reformed” denomination operates with historically Reformed confessional standards, and on an ecumenical level NAPARC denominations recognize what church bodies are “Reformed” (or at least they should). While there has historically been some elasticity in how the confessional standards have been modified, it is not as if the modifications have been significant in terms of doctrine.

    I think if we applied your argument to say the NT, we could say it is hard to define the New Testament because there are so many textual variants. However, we have, in the eclectic texts of e.g. the Nestle Greek NT the autographa of the NT, and the historical arguments from church history to back the canon we hold as Reformed Protestants. An outside observer of Christianity might well say that the lines of the NT canon are indistinct, but from the inside, we know what the NT is. In the same way we know what “Reformed” is from the inside.

    Maybe there can be some confessional standards in the future that more clearly demarcate what confessional standards can and cannot be modified in order to be Reformed. Until then, internally we have to define “Reformed”, as flawed as the term might be in terms of precision, by our confessional standards.

    But I do agree with you here:

    I think the training should be broader: including philosophy, apologetics, broad historical theology, basics of exegesis, catechism, systematic theology, biblical theology, etc.

    This simply gives a well rounded approach to Christian ed. in the home. I hope to employ the same with my boys as they get old enough to grasp some of these concepts.

    I have more I’d like to interact with you on your LBC Baptist points, but alas, I don’t have the time today, maybe later though.

  48. Paul says:


    I think usage bears out my point. Until Clark, Confessionalism, and RCC, “Reformed” had a much broader meaning. So, credobaptist Greg Welty could be Reformed, and so could guys like John Piper. Most people think Paul Helm is Reformed, but he’s a credobaptist. Then guys like Scott Clark and Darryl Hart come along. They say none of the names before them are Reformed. The term “Reformed Baptist” has a proud heritage, and there’s a movement in SB circles trying to restore modern baptists to their “Reformed” roots. Scott Clark says guys like John Frame aren’t Reformed. I think Frame is Reformed. Scott Clark says that if I say “God is a person”, then I am not Reformed, since the “Confessions don’t confess that.” This is my point. If you say we have to define Reformed according to our standards, then those before the American change could say the same, and then not recognize you as Reformed. Me? I allow 2Kers *and* theonomists to be Reformed. Is this the 30 thousand ft. view? I dunno. I don’t think so. If you give necessary and sufficient conditions for being “Reformed,” you rile out some I think are Reformed. A def. cannot be too broad or too narrow. My view isn’t analogous to saying it’s hard to define the NT. However, what do you mean by that as it’s ambiguous? The books? The chapters? The verses? The words? On some analysis, it is hard to define the NT. Is the ending of Mark in the NT? Yes and no. Is the pericope adulterae in the NT? Is Mark in the NT? About 1 John 5:7-8. There’s NT scholars who will argue for different manuscript traditions, and for some of them, if I deny 1 John 5:7-8 or the pericope adulterae properly belongs to the NT, they’ll say I don’t have the true NT. So, at the level of *books*, I’m in line with everyone, no problem there. At the level of chapters, verses, words, I’m not. On that understanding it may indeed be hard to define the NT.

  49. Zrim says:

    Paul, I think you’re overstating matters to suggest that before certain folks and their books that credobaptism was safely in the Reformed orbit. It was quite clear to me many years ago that to be Reformed was to be paedo and that if I wanted to be Reformed I had to abandon my own credobaptism. How does one read Belgic 34 and not get this?

    Frankly, the view you express here helps to demonstrate the sort of sacramental latitudinarianism that abounds, even amongst those who identify themselves by their sacramental theology (Baptists…why aren’t there any Communionists as in paedocommunionists as in the mirror error of credo-baptism?). To wit, I know of one RB family that has been afforded “associate membership” (i.e. non-communing) in a local URC. Why a RB would seek membership in a paedo communion, and why that communion would afford a compromising status instead of encouraging them to find a church more consistent with their views, baffles me. My understanding is that the RBs are staunchly 2k and can’t find a RB church that is as staunch as this URC. Nobody could be more sympathetic than me on this. But isn’t the point of being (credo) Baptist more sacramental than ecclesiastical (2k)? The only way I can explain this is the irony of sacramental latitudinarianism on the part of those who categorically elevate their sacramental theology so high they identify themselves that way. And as for the church that affords a non-communing membership for credos, not only does this also suggest a subtle form of sacramental latitudinarianism, but if the analogy is familial then what sense does it make to say to someone that they are part of the family but mayn’t eat with us? If natural families don’t do this then why the supernatural family?

  50. Jed Paschall says:


    I’ll try this from a different angle here. Let’s say I claim to be a Roman Catholic, but I don’t hold to papal primacy. Can I still claim to be Catholic? Or, since that one is one of those obvious irreducible Roman doctrines, how about baptismal regeneration? Or transubstantiation? I am sure I could make a good argument that would satisfy some that since I hold all of these doctrines but, say, one of the above examples along with all other Roman dogma, I am still an RC. It might even satisfy a whole lot of those who stand outside of the circles that are substantially agree with me. However, it’s going to be a really tough sell for those Catholics that do subscribe to Roman dogma on these issues.

    The same issue runs true in “Reformed” circles. We hold justification substantially in common with confessing Lutherans, but we wouldn’t call them Reformed. We’d even commune them (in Presby denoms.). We also hold the same convictions on justification, and realistically, almost everything else with those (too few) who hold to the LBC, or who call themselves “Reformed Baptists”. We’d also gladly extend communion to RB’s. Reformed Baptists may even be part of a noble tradition, which I certainly think is the case. But, if we take our sacraments at least as serious as the Roman church does, can we extend our identity to a confessing body or bodies who don’t share one of the most critical elements of our doctrinal identity, even if there is fundamental agreement almost everywhere else? At the very least, on an internal, definitional level, I’d say no. This is what I have been arguing all along.

    Now, I am not about to say you aren’t Reformed because you claim God is a person, and as far as Frame, I haven’t read anything more than a couple of his articles so my assessment would be meaningless anyway. I also have little concern over whether or not Baptists call themselves ‘Reformed’ or ‘Particular’ or any other designation. But I don’t think it is productive for those of us who substantially carry on the identity and heritage of the Reformers, and have not modified critical doctrines to extend that confessional identity to those who don’t hold such important doctrines in common. I think it ultimately results in our inability to meaningfully distinguish ourselves from those baptists who hold such erroneous views on the sacraments.

    Those who are in the Reformed camp who are liberal with the designation “Reformed”, end up speaking volumes to those on the outside that our view on the sacraments isn’t that big of a deal, even if it is unintended. There just might be more self-identified “Reformed” that belong in the Gospel Coalition, Acts29, Desiring God, YRR crowd not to mention old school RB’s than there is in all of NAPARC. What exacerbates the problem is it communicates to a constituency of Christianity arguably more interested in Calvinism of at least some sort than there has been in the past half century or more that sacraments are a negotiable doctrine in Reformed Christianity. This is an inhibitor to the historic Reformed faith in a very real way.

    Let us call, in “Reformed” circles at least, our “Reformed” Baptist brothers confessing Protestants, or heck, even Evangelicals in my opinion. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of good going on in baptist circles academically, pastorally, or at the level of the lives of the laity. I have continued to be blessed by baptists who comprise family and friends, among some of the authors I still will read even over certain Reformed scholars on certain subjects. I do agree with you that we can’t make too wide or too narrow definitions for “Reformed”, but I can’t imagine why sacramental views would be on the negotiating table. Theonomists, 2k, Paul Manata, neo-Cals, Scott Clark, and Darryl Hart, should have room in the Reformed camp, and we can enjoy haggling over all of the issues we always do. But, in most arguments I have been in and around “Reformed” seems to be a definition that Baptists have longed to claim for themselves, and the real Reformed are the ones running around in their boxers wondering who took their trousers.

  51. Zrim says:

    Why aren’t there “Lutheran Baptists”? Maybe because Lutherans haven’t conceded the possibility, to their credit. Maybe there are “Reformed Baptists” because the Reformed have allowed for the possibility, to our demerit.

    A political analogy (for the sake of some thread relevancy) might be someone saying he’s a Republican who believes in bigger government and higher taxes. I’ve seen this before. I get someone claiming republicanism who also holds socially progressive views, but I don’t get someone claiming at once a political name and political view at odds with that name.

  52. Paul says:


    “How does one read Belgic 34 and not get this?”

    Probably because I’m dumb.

  53. Todd says:

    Are you sure your whole city isn’t Reformed? If you can do this after all:

  54. Zrim says:

    Todd, I think the city got that idea from Calvin College. I guess this is what transformationism is supposed to yield. Go religion!

  55. John Yeazel says:

    You can’t say that those video’s did not capture the essence and spirit of downtown Grand Rapids and Calvin College. Transformationalism is alive, well, hip and cool there still. That brought back memories of the time I spent there.

  56. John Yeazel says:

    Unfortunately, about 5 or 6 blocks from the downtown area on Division between Franklin down to about 28 th street there is a huge crack cocaine, prostitution and violence problem in the city. They did not depict that very well on the videos. Perhaps transformationalism is not all its cracked up to be. No pun intended.

  57. P. L. Manata says:

    John Yeazel labors under the impression that:

    Necessarily, if transformationalism is practiced at a city, then there will not exist any crack houses, prostitution, or violence at that city.

    Yikes! I’d hate to have to defend strong claims like that. Or there’s the other option: just make wild and outrageous claims, and then don’t bother to defend them at all. The latter is easier of you hermetically seal yourself off from all contrary opinion and simply rub elbows with those who agree with you. I admit that’s good for self-affirmation and glad-handing, however, it does seem to put a crimp in truth-seeking.

    To each his own, I guess.

  58. John Yeazel says:


    It was for hyperbolic effect- I find it ironic that Grand Rapids may well be on its way to becoming the Amsterdam of the US. No logic intended- just an observation. BTW, I do believe there is a place for logic in truth seeking- but the scriptures transcend logic when we cannot use logic to explain some of the statements found in scripture. But from what I have read from some of things you have said on posts you might not disagree with that. At least you acknowledged my existence with this post and your tone was less combative.

    I enjoyed reading your book review at Goodreads on that Gospel book.

  59. Zrim says:

    P.L. Manata (the Reformed logician formerly known as “Paul”) seems to labor under the impression that transformationism doesn’t have to live up to its redemptive-utopian claims. Yeow. But I suppose it is easier to make all sorts of platitudes about how Christianity is about making bad societies good and good societies better without ever having to admit that after 2,000 years Christianity hasn’t changed a thing. IOW, it sounds good and all, Paul, but Grand Rapids is just like any other place I’ve been or lived in–better than some, worse than others. I don’t see how Christians inhabiting most of this town has done anything special.

  60. Paul M. says:


    without ever having to admit that after 2,000 years Christianity hasn’t changed a thing.

    I guess this is that hyperbole you learned from John? If not, this is patently empirically false and you should be embarrassed for saying it.

    “P.L. Manata (the Reformed logician formerly known as “Paul”) seems to labor under the impression that transformationism doesn’t have to live up to its redemptive-utopian claims. Yeow.

    Well, that’s one story. Here’s another: Zrim has had to set of a straw man of transformationalism‚—complete with loads of that hyperbole he’s fond of—in order to knock it down. What seems more likely? That Zrim would misrepresent a position is has a strongly negative emotional reaction to and has his rep hanging on the fact that his analysis of transformationalism is correct, or that transformationalists said that transformationalism would leave exactly zero crack houses in a neighborhood? The smart money’s on the latter.

  61. Paul M. says:


    I don’t see how Christians inhabiting most of this town has done anything special.

    Unlike you, I’ve lived in many diverse areas across this country and also lived in a world you’ve never even stepped foot in (as far as drugs, violence, etc). Now, oddly enough, or contrary to expectations, I’m not a big fan of “Christianizing” neighborhoods, at least in the way people do it hear, but I can unequivocally state that things are different here than in San Diego, Austin, Miami, New York, T.J. etc. Moreover, the fatal flaw in 2Kers pointing to places that don’t ostensibly affirm Christianity while also having a “moral” society (e.g., some European countries), is that the Christian influence cannot be abstracted from where they’re at today. We need another couple generations before we can make any interesting empirical claims to that effect.

  62. Paul M. says:

    sorry for all the typos and such, but it is 1:40 a.m.

  63. Zrim says:

    Paul, you can anticipate all you want the empirical data. But I think the Book of Ecclesiastes–speaking of straw, the epistle of straw to all transformers and their reluctant champions–is actually onto something with all that “what has been will be again and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” stuff. You say I should be embarrassed for claiming that Christianity hasn’t changed anything, but I do wonder what you think the Teacher means when he gets brutally realistic about the human condition east of Eden. You sure are sunny about collective human potential for a Presbie.

  64. Chris Sherman says:

    Didn’t y’all go over this somewhere before or is it Déjà vu?

    Seems to me Buddhists, Mormons, Muslim, JWs, et al. do (moral) transformationalism as well as, maybe better than us Christians.

    Still, if there is any dying of self, of dying to sin and living unto Christ, if there is any power in the Gospel, seems to me that’s got to have some affect on society, even if it is somewhat transient in nature. Is there any real way to measure these things?

    Has anyone read anything on Calvinism’s or the Reformation’s affect on western civilization?

  65. Chris Sherman says:

    I didn’t know you could swing dance to that song. Was that really just a mass sobriety test?

  66. Zrim says:

    Chris, re the déjà vu, you might be thinking of this.

    But I’ll still take un/believers who do preservation over those who do transformation any day.

  67. RubeRad says:

    Chris, don’t you mean effect?

  68. Chris Sherman says:

    First instance – “affect” then again maybe “affliction” or “defect” is true as well these days.
    Second instance well ok “effect” works better, maybe.

  69. John Yeazel says:


    That was a very helpful distinction, ie., the preservation over the transformation thing. It is easy to go from transformation to the liberal progressive idea of change for changes sake. I wonder if a lot of transformationalists slip into the progressive idea without really realizing it?

  70. Zrim says:

    John, it seems to me that at least in the American mindset the default setting is on improvement (self and social). Which is why talk of transforming over against preserving seems to take so easily. The idea that we actually do a lot more maintaining than improving seems anathema.

    But I can’t even get my drive through orders to not return to me void. What makes me think I’m transforming the world for the better? Oh, that’s right, I’m indwelt by the Spirit. But what about my abiding sin?

  71. John Yeazel says:

    I’ll Ding, Ding, Ding you on that one Zrim!!!

  72. Chris Sherman says:


    I’ll see your maintaining and raise you 2 hotels on Marvin Gardens.
    I take it you didn’t play Monopoly growing up.
    Then again, maybe Monopoly is why the economy is in such a mess. We could have used a bigger dose of maintaining than “improvement”, maybe. Now, we hope for improvement whilst trying to maintain.

    Just curious, did you attend college, do you have a college degree?

  73. Zrim says:

    Odd the question is, but to college I did go, yes.

  74. RubeRad says:

    I’m guessing you graduated with honors from Dagobah State?

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