Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paradigms in Conflict-Chapter 1 by David J. Hesselgrave

A while back I said that I would begin discussion Hesselgrave's book Paradigms in Conflict. I have been busy and I've posted about other things. In the time leading up to now I learned that my two compadres were reading the book as well. So, they said they would like to blog about some chapters. I, being busy, asked if one of them wanted to kick off the book and blog about chapter one. But, they would not. Why? Because they are wimps! :) Who wants to discuss sovereignty and free will on a blog? Not many. That's why I was trying to get one of them to do it. But, alas, someone must begin this book and I have decided that it will be me.

Before I jump into the main points of Hesselgrave's discussion, I think it might be wise to give a disclaimer. If you are a Calvinist you probably won't like his first chapter. Indeed, this chapter is not well argued on the finer points. He gets some things completely wrong. The most glaring one is on page 31 where he says, "William Carey (1761-1834) moved to [an Arminian] position after his rejection by some members of his own presbytery and it became the theological position of his Baptist missions board." Hesselgrave lists no sources. I have checked with a baptist historian on this. Carey started an organization which had the words "particular baptist" in it later on in his life. So, Hesselgrave is a little off here.

A couple of times his logic isn't too sound either and his arguments don't seem to flow together well. He also adds little words that could cause the readers view to be tainted. After discussing more Calvinistic views he turns his attention to three views that he believes are mediating options. He says, "All three are sincere attempts to wrestle with what the Bible actually has to say on this critical issue." As if the others don't. And the others contain John Piper, who I think has done a pretty good job of trying to wrestle with the text with his monograph on Romans 9.

Finally, the last thing that kind of got under my skin was the implication that missions spread due to the fact that people abandoned the Calvinistic theology. That is why, I think, he says Carey changed his view. In short, Hesselgrave doesn't give a fair representation to our reformed brothers and their missionary hearts.

Hesselgrave begins his chapter by categorizing different answers to the question of divine sovereignty and human free will. He has five: 1) Augustinian deterministic Calvinism (John Piper) 2) Moderate Calvinism (D.A. Carson) 3) A Mediate theological view (C. Gordon Olson) 4) Moderate Arminianism (Grant Osborne) 5) Open theism (Gordon C. Olson not the same as above; Clark Pinnock).

He then turns his attention to a loose exposition of Romans 9-11. I say loose because it only takes a little less than 6 pages to do when people have written whole books on one chapter. Here he basically works out his "Mediate theological view" with the text. Which, there is nothing necessarily heretical with what he says. In fact, I like his balance a little, though I still think it doesn't answer the question fully. And, he doesn't deal with other texts like Ephesians 1.

So, what is the point of his chapter? Mainly that human freedom and divine sovereignty can work together. He says, "In the end, divine sovereignty and human free will prove to be a perfect match, not an impossible mix."

I have to admit on my first reading of the chapter (my only reading) I did not catch how this affects missions. I have heard that it connects to the following chapter. I guess, he's suggesting that if you take a mediate position you'll do missions properly. But, maybe one of my compadres would like to shed some light on the matter in their reading of Hesselgrave's first chapter.

Through Christ,

PS- If you are wondering where I fall on the Hesselgrave scale, he would probably put me at a 1 or 1.75.

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