Friday, February 03, 2006

McDuffie--a sad postscript

This is my last post on Rev. Joel McDuffie and his unfortunate and embarrassing diatribe against Calvin and Calvinism. His personal attacks against me and "your [my] readers" in private emails have continued. That is hardly reason enough for this final post, but as Centuri0n pointed out in his comment yesterday, McDuffie is sadly too representative of a sector of "Hunt and Corner" followers who continually misrepresent the doctrines of grace.

I have made one final appeal to him, encouraging him to submit what he has written to someone he trusts who will speak plainly to him. We all need those kinds of people in our lives and we should open ourselves up to them. They can be a great means of grace to us if we will listen and receive correction when offered.

In his last email, Rev. McDuffie again accuses me--and you--of not understanding Calvinism and wants to "enlighten" (his word) us. To do so, he gives me a "summary from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology."

Here is that "summary" as he copied and pasted it in the email:

A main premise of Calvinism is God’s sovereignty and His complete control over everything. This means nothing happens in the world that is outside of God’s control. Another premise of Calvinism is God, in His sovereignty, has arbitrarily decided who will go to Heaven and Hell. God pre-determined (predestined) the eternal state of each person. Those who were chosen (elected) to go to Heaven are called the elect, and those who were chosen to go to Hell are called reprobates. (Source: Evangelical Dictionary of Theology p. 186-188.)

Now, I have used the EDT for over twenty years. While I certainly have not read every article in it, I have read widely in it--enough to know that it is generally a very balanced and reliable source for things theological. When I got this email, I went back and read this article (by WS Reid) again. Suffice it to say that if the article had a virus, the above summary would be in no danger of catching it! But, hey, don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself here.

After reading it for yourself, go take a peek at the source (now tertiary to Rev. McDuffie) for his "summary" which he cited to me, without attribution, in his email. You can read it here (look under Calvin's picture--at least they got that right!).

Rev. McDuffie did not cite a primary source. He did not even honestly cite a secondary source. Rather, he depends on a tertiary source--namely, Michael Bronson--as his authoritative insight by which to enlighten those of us who have been benighted by reading primary sources.

This, as I have already said, is sad. Not only because of the mischaracterization of a man and a theology, but also because of the slipshod way that truth has been handled. The 9th Commandment is still in the Bible and we are not free to ignore it simply because we disagree with someone. God cares about bearing a false witness! Those of us whose stock and trade is truth should be the most careful of all in making sure, to the best of our ability, that what we say about a man or his views is honest and accurate.

I have invited Rev. McDuffie to correct me publicly at any point where he believes that I have misquoted or misrepresented him.


Brett said...

Rev. McDuffie does not believe in God. In fact he doesn't really know his own beliefs. If he doubts my claim that he does not believe in God, let me enlighten him.
My aunt's best-friend's cousin said so.

Brian Hamrick said...

I think I am most concerned for this man's flock.

Let's pray for his repentance.

Brett, I think it's clear this man believes in God. The question is, what God does he believe in and what is his God like?

GeneMBridges said...


I looked these up too. So, Rev. McDuffie, to enlighten us, you have lied to us. How quaint.

Let's be clear here.

1. If Rev. McDuffie would like to email me, he is more than welcome to do so. I will happy to post his emails at Triablogue and deal with them there. My email is available through my profile.

2. Alternatively, I'll be happy to meet him at in the theology forum. Let's see how his theology stands up there among many others, including his peers and a few professors from Baptist seminaries and colleges.

3. If Rev. McDuffie has time to email on Calvinism, perhaps he should go ahead and start his own blog. Then, rather than spamming he could work out his issues on his blog for the rest of us to evaluate.

4. Finally, I want to deal with this charge of "arbirtrary." Rev. McDuffie, what is arbitrary has no purpose. According to Reformed theology, and, you know Scripture, God has chosen a covenant people with a purpose. I should think that what is done with a purpose is not arbitrary, so, in attacking reprobation, you supply a reason, thus undermining your own objection.

There is a sense in which mercy is arbitrary in a way that justice is not, for mercy, by definition, is undeserved, and not, therefore, obligatory. Reformed theology does not teach there is no selection criterion at all. It is merely hidden and undisclosed. We do not tell God He is arbitrary for what not disclosing His reasons. Is a storm that God causes “arbitrary?”

Let's take Deut. 7. When God tells Israel that He chose them because He loved them, not because of their foreseen faith or wickedness or because of their numbers or power, and that He delivered them from Egypt not because they were faithful or because He felt sorry for them, but because He remembered His covenant with the Patriarchs, was this arbitrary too? This is the same reason that Reformed theology says God elects believers, Rev. McDuffie. The Holy Spirit remembers the covenant He has with Christ and the Father to apply the work of the cross to those the Father has given in love to the Son. It's that simple. We teach nothing the Bible does not teach, and one can't help you never engage us in an exegetical discussion. Would you care to make that attempt?

To say that it is arbitrary in the above sense is not to say that it's unjust or unfair, for inequality of treatment is only unjust when it denies a party his just claims to something. But, by definition, no one has a just claim on the "mercy" of God. All are condemned as sinners and deserve death. (cf. Romans 3).

If the purpose of reprobation is to manifest the mercy of God (Romans 9), then how is that arbitrary? By attacking the doctrine of reprobation, the objection has just supplied a reason for reprobation. Something would only be arbitrary if it had no rationale, no overarching aim.

What is arbitrary has no reason or criterion and therefore no purpose. Scripture declares in Ephesians 1 that we have been predestined according to the kind intention of God’s will, and Romans 8 says that part of the reason has to do with God’s intention that Christ be the firstborn of many brethren and that part of this purpose extends to us being conformed to Christ’s image. Therefore, election/predestination is in no way “arbitrary” because it is not random or purposeless.

Just because God has not revealed something to us, that is not a reason to reject truth or criticize it. If that was so, we would lose many of the doctrines of our faith, up to and including, but not limited to, the simultaneous divinity and humanity of Christ, the atonement at Calvary, the virgin birth, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, creation from nothing, and the Trinity, and all accounts of all miracles! We do not edit God, based on the limits of what is mysterious, even within the confines of Scripture, for He simply does not explain everything to us! We are, however, responsible to study and understand God’s Word properly for what He has revealed to us. This includes the sovereign righteousness and freedom of God in all matters, including individual salvation.

On the contrary, Rev. McDuffie, it is your view view that makes damnation and election arbitrary. The Calvinist says that God creates the damned as a means of manifesting his attribute of justice.

By contrast, Arminians can't give any reason for why God would make men knowing they would sin and fall under condemnation and never believe and be saved.
Moreover, since God is not actively foreknowing and predestinating people, in the Arminian system, we see real impersonal determinism working itself out by way of real fatalism.

If you would bother to open some primary sources, Rev. McDuffie, you'd see that fatalism requires libertarian free will to work out its ends. Calvinists deny libertarianism. It's this contra-causal freedom you believe yet with already fixed results (the certainty of election based on infallibly foreseen faith) that results in real fatalism. For, since a man is only free if he can choose in a manner contrary to his nature, but the results are certain already (that he will be saved is infallibly foreknown by God), then we must conclude that this is salvation by chance and that, no matter what he does, he will still be saved, since, at some point, even act in a manner contrary to his nature and character. That is the very definition of fatalism, and, God looking down the corridors of history, Rev. McDuffie, to figure out who will believe and who will not, a thing inherent in each individual, is the same kind of favoritism that God condemns in James 2. You see, in Calvinism, election is based on God's mercy, not anything intrinsic in man. However, in your system, election is based on foreseen faith, something intrinisic in man. In our system, election is unmerited; in yours it is a type of salvation by merit. Your accusations are nothing more than mirror-reading, sir. You are the one affirming an arbitrary view of election and reprobation and basing election on favoritism.

Thus the free will position that seeks to preserve man’s freedom of choice is, in reality, impersonal and fixed, thus being both deterministic and fatalistic. The only way to make it less fixed is the way of Open Theism, which denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God! The Calvinist position is personal, and God is active in the lives of people who make real choices with real moral boundaries. Calvinism is thus inherently personal for both God and man! We agree with Arminians that real, impersonal determinism and fatalism are repugnant to God and man and perversion of the gospel. We thank them for pointing this out. Why then, we ask, do they believe that very thing themselves? The same applies to favoritism, yet they believe this as well.

Rev. McDuffie, this is the age of the internet. My church includes several folks that once believed as you do about these things because of pastors like you. Then the internet came, and they started looking up the things they were being told. They found out they were not true. Then, they were angry at their pastors for having lied to them about what Scripture teaches and about what other Christians believe. They felt hurt and deceived. You are only hurting your flock. Is that really a place you want to go?

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

I think I understand the way Jesus felt when He cleared out the temple. I believe that Jesus not only had a surge of righteous indignation at what they were doing to His Father's house; however, I now believe (thanks to Rev. McDuffie) that Jesus experienced great sadness and pity for the individuals themselves.

K. Morse said...

I think Mr. Bridges summed it up nicely when he said:


Scripture Searcher said...

There are dishonest frauds in every profession - yes, even in the Christian ministry!

Now you see why I stated what I did in my two previous posts!

I stand by both of them as I do all I put in print for the public to read.


Sadly, this is not the only confused and half-baked pastor in the SBC and elsewhere! How tragic! To be so arrogantly ignorant and so proudly unteachable!

Two words that I seldom use come to mind at this early hour of another day the Lord has made (Psalm 118:24):

Asperity and asinine - both
seem very appropriate to describe this troubled man.

We must pray for him and others of his ilk.

Highland Host said...

Brett. I nearly choked when I read the last line of your comment! That sort of satire can be dangerous!

Brett said...

"That sort of satire can be dangerous!"
I'm glad I didn't make a political cartoon of the situation.

Alex F said...

It seems that when one is unable or unwilling to engage in reasoned discussion and debate, one will necessarily resort to flame throwing rhetoric and ad hominem attacks.

And there's probably nothing we can say to change (open?) his mind.

Stephen Newell said...


Thanks for that massive comment. You've made me rethink the use of the word "arbitrary" in this context. I'm a guy who's investigating the doctrines and in an attempt to underscore that election is in no way dependent upon the individual, I called it "arbitrary election" in that election is solely about God's good pleasure. I may have to go back and revise that now.

That said, I want to apply something Prof. Chad Brand said about folks who make election their "pet doctrine" do this situation: they ought to be locked in a room and the key conveniently lost for a little while!

Thanks for a wonderful and educational blog.

David B. Hewitt said...

Hi, Stephen.

I would agree that we should guard against making something a "pet doctrine;" that is, about the only thing we talk about. I have had to think about that at times relating to Reformed theology. However, it has been coming up in my mind and conversations a lot simply because of the misrepresentations levelled against it and the fact it is a hot topic.

However, your warning is indeed appropriate. Balance is important.

Thanks for the reminder.

Dave Hewitt

Burt Harper said...

I called and I have spoken with Brother McDuffie. I think some you should schedule a fishing trip with him sometime. You should get to know each other. He said he believes Reformed Baptist are good people. I believe he holds no ill will to any of you. If you asked him how he felt about you I would dare to say that he loves each of you. He is simply teaching the doctrines he has studied for over 25 years. I believe some of the statements that have been made about him here would warrant a conversation with the man before reaching such verdicts. "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Matthew 18:15 KJV

G. Alford said...

Ok, I have tried to stay out of this one (in public anyway) but I can no longer do so…

In spite of Burt Harper’s post that McDuffie “believes Reformed Baptist are good people” and that “he holds no ill will to any of you” this guy just can’t stop the slanderous attacks. Here is the title of his last article in the local paper “JOHN CALVIN’S COCKEYED CONCLUSIONS”.

As if his title was not offensive enough he opens his article by stating in the first paragraph that “There is no polite way to deal with the heretical teaching of Calvinism. It is as far removed from biblical truth as any other heresy.” Then he goes on to attack the doctrines of Total Depravity and Original Sin saying they are “absent from the entire Old Testament.” and that “New Testament passages in Romans used to support it, actually teach just the opposite. Total Depravity and Original Sin were Calvin’s conclusions not Biblical fact. The first major point of Calvinism is based on an erroneous philosophical conclusion from a couple of scriptures taken out of context. Scriptures, which actually teach the opposite of what, he concluded about original sin.”

Incredibly in all of this he does not quote even one verse of Scripture!

Sorry Burt, but I do not think I would be willing go fishing with this man! Actually I am compelled to give my fellow Reformed Baptist Brothers just the opposite advice that you gave – Stay away from this man… See (Matt.15:10-14)

James said...

Have you guys recently asked the average SBC Arminian pastor what happens to the native in the jungle who has never heard the gospel if he dies?

You get answers like:

1. Not sure
2. God’s mercy is wide and therefore they go to heaven
3. Because they have not been confronted with the gospel they are not accountable

This has been a recent experience with more than one pastor. I think this is more wide spread then we realize.


Burt Harper said...


The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork Ps. 19:1

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Rom. 1:19-20 (KJV)

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; Rom. 2:15 (KJV)

Man can know of God through his creation. Romans 1 gives us an example of what happens to man when he rejects God. Man can reject his conscience and man can reject God as creator when he sees the creation. God knows a mans heart. He knows if man is rejecting his conscience and rejecting God's partial revelation of Himself in nature. If man does not reject his conscience and God's natural revelation will God reveal Himself to man by sending the Gospel to him? So that man will have the opportunity to excersize faith? I believe so. I have heard personal testimony that would be an example.

About 20 years ago I heard a missionary to New Guinea tell this story. A native man placed faith in God and gave this testimony. He said that when he was a young man he would climb the tallest tree and look out over all he saw. He said by looking at what se saw he knew there had to be something other than the witch doctors. There had to be an explanation for what he saw other than their legends and stories. He said now I am an old man and God has sent you to tell me about Him so now I can know.

I believe this man is a good example of God works to reach those who havent heard the Gospel yet.

I think I know, but what do you believe about this story?

James said...

We are not to wait around and hope unreached people groups have experiences like you described in your story. I believe we should obey our Lord’s mandate (Matthew 28:18-20) and “rescue the perishing”. Those without Christ are daily slipping into eternity condemned in their sins.

The bible is clear that faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

Rom 10:14-17
14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!"
16 However, they did not all heed the glad tidings; for Isaiah says," Lord, who has believed our report?"
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

We must go!


Burt Harper said...

Preache it Brother. Yes we must go. That is why the man heard the Gospel. Missionaries went. Yes we are to go. Did you understand the mans's testimony?

Burt Harper said...

When I said a native man placed his faith in God and gave this testimony. I have faulted here. I left out an important detail that I would have had you assume. I should not have done that. It is my error. The missionaries preached the Gospel to these natives and many placed their faith in God. One of the native men then gave the above testimony. I meant to illustrate that one can see creation and learn something about God. I believe that if a man responds to Gods creation in a way that would please God, then God can prompt Christians through the leading of the Spirit to take him the Gospel. So then that man can know more about God and his love for him that He sent His Son to shed His blood to atone for our sins. Then a man can place his faith in Christ or reject Christ.

Jim from said...

I have compiled some interesting quotes from Michael Bronson (who Dr. Ascol mentioned above) against Calvinism, in case anyone is interested. Some examples:

"If [Calvinism] were true, you would expect an even distribution of Christians all over the world".

"If [Calvinism] were true, parental influence should not increase or decrease a child's chance of becoming a Christian".

More on this page. Bronson's website is called