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Friday, March 18, 2011

Response to Kevin DeYoung, Part 1

The most thorough and widely touted refutation of Love Wins is a lengthy review by Kevin DeYoung, a pastor in East Lansing. I applaud Pastor DeYoung for his thoughtful and substantive approach. He's done an excellent job of explaining why conservative Reformed evangelicals (and no doubt many conservative Arminians as well) find Bell's views so troubling. Pastor DeYoung clearly takes seriously his responsibilities to defend the faith once delivered to the saints and to protect the sheep of Christ from false doctrine, but he carries out this task in a respectful and charitable way. I in no way endorse the common attitude among "emergents" and other less traditional evangelicals that substantive theological definition and debate is somehow "un-Christ-like."

I disagree substantively with Pastor DeYoung on a number of points, with regard both to his interpretation of Bell and to the theological standards he is using to critique Bell. Since his review is very well organized, I will follow his arrangement of topics, noting agreements as well as disagreements with his critiques.

I will start with DeYoung's third "preliminary," which attempts to close some "escape hatches" found in Love Wins.

As you’ll see, the book is a sustained attack on the idea that those who fail to believe in Jesus Christ in this life will suffer eternally for their sins. This is the traditional Christianity he finds “misguided and toxic” (viii). But in one or two places Bell seems more agnostic.

Bell is agnostic not about the claim that all who do not believe in Jesus in this life will suffer eternally (he clearly rejects this), but about the question of whether there will be some who, in spite of God's persistent offer of grace, eternally choose to turn God down. DeYoung continues:

These are strange sentences because they fall in the chapter where Bell argues that God wants everyone to be saved and God gets what God wants. He tells us that “never-ending punishment” does not give God glory, and “God’s love will eventually melt even the hardest hearts” (108). So it’s unclear where the sudden agnosticism comes from. Is Bell wrestling with himself? Did a friend or editor ask him to throw in a few caveats? Is he simply inconsistent?

The answer is much simpler. Bell is describing a position he regards as a serious theological option, held by "an untold number of serious disciples of Jesus across hundreds of years," not necessarily the position he himself holds. Bell's position is not self-contradictory or dishonest. He is consistent from beginning to end about his "agnosticism" concerning the question of whether some will eternally persist in saying "no" to God. He considers universalism to be a live option within Christian orthodoxy, but he does not consider it to be unquestionably true.

Similarly, at the end Bell argues, rather out of the blue, that we need to trust God in the present, that our choices here and now “matter more than we can begin to imagine” because we can miss out on rewards and celebrations (197). This almost looks like an old-fashioned call to turn to Christ before it’s too late. When you look more carefully, however, you see that Bell is not saying what evangelicals might think.
You don't have to look that carefully. DeYoung is proceeding on the assumption that Bell is somehow trying to pretend to be a traditional evangelical. He isn't. DeYoung doesn't want to allow Bell to say that our choices here matter unless Bell says that they matter in the same way DeYoung thinks they do. This is not a fair way to argue. By all means disagree with Bell. Condemn him as a heretic if you think you need to. But don't try to argue that he's being shifty or dishonest when he simply doesn't accept the dichotomies that you wish to impose.

He wants us to make the most of life because “while we may get other opportunities, we won’t get the one right in front of us again” (197). In other words, there are consequences for our actions, in this life and in the next, and we can’t get this moment back; but there will always be more chances. If you don’t live life to the fullest and choose love now, you may initially miss out on some good things in the life to come, but in the end love wins (197–198).

"Love wins" for Bell because God respects human freedom, so if people do choose to reject Christ eternally (something Bell hopes they won't do but recognizes as a possibility) love still wins. This isn't too hard to understand. The fact that DeYoung and other critics are confused by it says a lot for how their theological commitments restrict their ability to understand those who differ from them. If you have a theology that tells you that people who differ on major issues are probably not real Christians and thus are spiritually blind, then you aren't likely to take the trouble to think in the unfamiliar ways necessary to understand them. This is not a personal judgment on the character of Pastor DeYoung or his theological allies, but a judgment on the general tendency of conservative Calvinist theology.

The same problem plagues the next section of DeYoung's review, "Not Your Grandmother's Christianity," in which DeYoung argues that Bell is deeply conflicted about his evangelical heritage, wishing to criticize it while remaining faithful to it. To which I respond: you make this sound like a bad thing! I've noticed that conservative Christians, especially Calvinists, frequently portray any kind of mediating position or any position including tensions or paradoxes as a dishonest compromise, and urge folks occupying such a position to be "honest" and go all the way. After all, it's easy to deal with someone who rejects orthodox Christianity outright. But someone like Bell is annoying because he persists in identifying himself as an evangelical. DeYoung insists that Bell is trying to "evolve out of" his heritage, when Bell would say that he is calling evangelicals to be faithful to the best and truest elements of their heritage while questioning some other elements.

I understand how traditionalist Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox find this kind of language objectionable. But how can any Protestant object to such an approach on principle?

DeYoung ends this section thus:

This [Bell's supposed desire to "evolve out of" his evangelical past] presumes, of course, that the Christian faith is not a deposit to guard or a tradition that must not change (2 Tim. 1:14; 2 Thess. 2:15). Much of Bell’s polemic fails if there is a core of apostolic teaching that we are called, not just to embrace as part of our journey, but to protect from deviation and defend against false teaching (Acts 20:29–31).

I agree to some extent with DeYoung here. Bell is prone to rhetoric implying that any drawing of doctrinal lines is wrong and that there is really no such thing as heresy at all. This is an untenable position. However, the point at issue with regard to Love Wins is whether the particular claims made by Bell are at odds with the "core of apostolic teaching." I do not believe that they are. That doesn't mean that I agree with everything Bell says, and I certainly think he is often not the best advocate for his own positions.

I will end my response here for now. I will continue, when I have time, with a response to DeYoung's historical criticisms of Bell (and as a teaser: this is the place where I'm most inclined to agree with DeYoung--Bell's history is often very sloppy).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

OK--now that I've actually read the book. . . .

Here's a review of Rob Bell's Love Wins.

First of all, I had never read any of Bell's books before this. I have never been a fan of Bell or of megachurch celebrities or of people who write books
with short lines
like this and
even this.
(For one thing, it seems really mean to trees--perhaps Bell really isn't a liberal after all.)
When my students mention _Velvet Elvis_ I want to shake my head and say, "Can we please talk about Aquinas?" I bought and read this book because the controversy about it promised to get evangelicals talking about some issues that I think we desperately need to talk about. And in order to join in that conversation, I figured I'd better read the book that was causing the hubbub. I did not expect to be impressed.
In fact, I was impressed.
So impressed, that I think I'll try to write like Bell from now on.
In short, simple sentences.
Each one taking one line.
Like this.
Seriously, while I doubt I'll ever wean myself from long sentences with lots of parenthetical nuance, I and other academics could learn a great deal from Bell's skills as a communicator. The book has a good deal more depth than I expected or than most reviews so far have indicated. I wonder if in fact people aren't misled by the simplicity of style and presentation and assuming that Bell's nuance is simply inconsistent mush. It seems to me that on the contrary he is arguing for a consistent position with a good deal of room for mystery and speculation but little doubt about the main outlines. (To avoid suspense, I'll say that I think this position could be best described as "hopeful universalism"--quite a different animal, theologically, than straight universalism in my opinion.)
I certainly have a number of problems with the book (in terms both of content and method), and as I have time I'll describe them. But primarily I want to lay out what I think Bell's basic points are and why I largely agree with what I believe he is saying.

First of all, the only fair way to deal with the book is to step back from the heaven/hell question and understand Bell's broader argument about the nature of salvation. Bell is willing to be somewhat vague and elusive about heaven and hell because his broader agenda is to question a view of salvation that is primarily about escaping hell and "making it" to heaven. If these broader points are right, then his position on the afterlife is easier both to understand and to defend. As I understand this broader argument, it works something like this:

1. Salvation is God's redeeming and transforming work in the world, overcoming our sinfulness and restoring us to a right relationship with God, one another, and creation.

This seems like it shouldn't be controversial to me, but certainly many evangelicals speak as if salvation was simply about having our sins forgiven and going to heaven.

2. This saving work is God's, not ours. God has already acted decisively to save the world in Jesus Christ. Thus, nothing we do (including "accepting Jesus" or even repenting of our sins) changes God's attitude to us. Any differentiation between those who accept Christ and those who do not, those who repent and those who remain in their sins, purely affects our side of the relationship.

Here's where things get more complicated. Bell is drawing on the Augustinian/Calvinist conviction that salvation is God's work, as well as on the standard evangelical claims that Christianity is all about accepting what Jesus has already done and that true Christianity differs from "religion" because it is about grace and not works. (See p. 11.) Of course, this appears to lead either to universalism or to the view that certain people are eternally reprobate. Furthermore, historically the Catholic Augustinian tradition has insisted that the predestined need to be brought into a state of grace through baptism, to remain in it through perseverance in good works, and/or to be restored to it through penance; while the Calvinist tradition has taken on board the doctrine of justification by faith, so that all who believe (in a carefully defined theological sense) are elect and the elect are not God's children until they believe. (I will not talk about Lutherans here, because they're weird and because talking about them would lead us too far astray from Bell, though perhaps Bell ought to read more Lutherans.) Thus, the Augustinian traditions retain a tension between the claim that God has already saved us and the claim that there are conditions that we need to meet for salvation.

Modern American evangelicalism, of course, is typically not very Augustinian. As Calvinists would agree, evangelicals have turned "faith" into a human work by speaking of salvation as dependent on a choice to "accept Jesus." In philosophical terms, most evangelicals believe in "libertarian free will" (though the Calvinist minority is quite large and exercises influence far beyond its size). It is by our choice to believe or not that we place ourselves either among those whom Jesus has saved or among those who are damned. As Bell points out (still on pp. 10-11), it seems contradictory to say both "nothing you do can save you" and "you will be saved if you believe and damned if you don't."

At this point in his argument, it appears that Bell is indeed heading for universalism. If God desires the salvation of all, and if nothing we do saves us, then it seems obvious that all are saved regardless of their actions. But it becomes clear later in the book that Bell affirms libertarian free will strongly. This is why some readers have suggested that his position is incoherent. Logically, it seems that Bell must say either that all will be saved or that in fact what we do makes the decisive difference between being saved or not. Because I'm more or less trying to follow his arguments in the order he makes them (though with a good deal of summary, compression, and interpretation), I'll leave the question there for now. Same with the question of atonement theology, which may be the main difference between Bell's position and more old-fashioned Arminian evangelicalism. I'll deal with that in a separate post.

3. "Heaven" is the realm where God's will is done; "hell" is the realm where God's saving purposes are stubbornly rejected. Thus, both heaven and hell may refer to states of affairs existing right now. However, only in the "age to come" will heaven be fully implemented on earth.

This part of the argument clearly owes a great deal to N. T. Wright (particularly Surprised by Hope, which Bell mentions at the end of the book). There are some differences, partly but not entirely due to the fact that Wright is a good deal more careful. While Wright speaks of salvation as a present reality, I don't recall him speaking of heaven or hell on earth in quite the way Bell does (58-59). Indeed, Wright resists speaking of human beings "going to heaven" and does not describe the coming Kingdom as "heaven." Wright does a better job of maintaining the distinction between this age and the age to come. Bell also gives the body relatively less importance than Wright--he speaks of the disembodied dead enjoying "heaven" now, and the reception of new bodies in the final resurrection almost seems like an afterthought (at least compared to Wright, for whom it's the other way round). However, in this Bell is actually more traditional than Wright, and I like his emphasis on enjoying the presence of God. Wright's afterlife (or excuse me--life after life after death!) seems terribly busy to me, and I think Wright's hostility to Platonism leads him to miss some of the more contemplative, mystical themes in the NT and in Christian tradition. I find Bell preferable in that respect, although on the whole Wright is (of course) a much more profound and rigorous thinker.

4. God's wrath and judgment are always directed against evil and not against persons themselves, and thus are always directed toward the final goal of repentance and restoration. Kevin DeYoung (author of a thorough review of Bell's book from a conservative Calvinist perspective), accuses Bell of denying God's wrath: "In Bell’s theology, God is love, a love that never burns hot with anger and a love that cannot distinguish or discriminate." This is plainly false. Bell says:
When we hear people saying they can't believe in a God who gets angry--yes, they can. How should God react to a child being forced into prostitution? How should God feel about a country starving while warlords hoard the food supply? What kind of God wouldn't get angry at a financial scheme that robs thousands of people of their life savings? (38)
(Note: the view that God literally feels wrath is just as marginal in Christian tradition as universalism, but clearly both Bell and DeYoung are treating wrath as synonymous with judgment, and we don't need to get into the "does God have emotions" question here.) What Bell denies is a "wrath" consisting of final retributive judgment that closes off the possibility for repentance. Bell insists that the door is always open on God's side. I understand that for conservative Calvinists and perhaps some conservative Arminians this is an unorthodox position, but it's one shared by C. S. Lewis and many others. DeYoung's review risks misleading readers who don't share all DeYoung's positions into thinking that Bell is
farther away from the mainstream than he actually is.

When DeYoung says that Bell's God doesn't "distinguish or discriminate," that's certainly true in the sense that Bell's God not only desires the salvation of all (a view DeYoung no doubt finds erroneous but with which most evangelicals would agree) but desires the salvation of all at all times. (Again, we'll get back to this later.)

5. The historical person we know as Jesus Christ is the divine Logos incarnate. Jesus' death and resurrection inaugurate God's new creation and form the decisive act by which God saves the world. However, the Logos has always been at work in the world, so that human beings who have no explicit belief in and/or knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth may still be saved by this very Jesus.

This is the most important--and most difficult--theological topic in the book, as DeYoung recognizes. DeYoung has gone after Bell in the past for Christological fuzziness, faulting him (correctly, in my opinion) for speaking in an interview of "resurrection" in a general sort of way rather than the resurrection of Jesus. DeYoung finds in Love Wins confirmation of Bell's unorthodoxy, describing the book's Christology as a "Joseph Campbell 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' view of Christ" and as "classic liberalism." As with many of DeYoung's criticisms, this claim runs squarely up against what Bell actually says (when taken in context). Here's Bell's description of the resurrection in chapter seven, "Dying to Live":
It's the eighth sign, the first day of the new week, the first day of the new creation. The resurrection of Jesus inaugurates a new creation, one free from death, and it is bursting forth in Jesus himself right here in the midst of the first creation. The tomb is empty, a new day is here, a new creation is here, everything has changed, death has been conquered. (133)
DeYoung seems to assume that Bell regards the resurrection of Jesus simply as one manifestation of the "divine energy" present in the universe. (This is certainly a valid concern in the contemporary theological context: see the
2001 Vatican document Dominus Iesus, which criticizes versions of Catholic theology that reduce Jesus to "one of the many faces the Logos has assumed" (chap. 2).) But that's not what Bell says. Bell consistently speaks of the resurrection of Jesus in the terms quoted above--as an event that matters decisively for the entire universe. Bell's paradoxical claim that Jesus is "as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe" (155) is a claim about the centrality, not the relativity, of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Bell's point appears to be that this Jesus who walked around in flesh and blood is the eternal Logos present everywhere and at all times. This is not heresy. It's orthodoxy.

The claim that human beings who haven't explicitly believed in Jesus may be saved by Jesus is usually called "inclusivism." It's certainly controversial in evangelical circles, though generally not in RC or Eastern Orthodox circles. Bell is emphatically an inclusivist. I understand that some consider this heresy, but the issue has been around for long enough that no one is justified in treating this as some new, shocking claim by Bell, or in confusing inclusivism with universalism or pluralism, as some of Bell's critics have done. I won't go into that further here.

So what about universalism?

In chap. 4, Bell raises the question, "Does God Get what God wants?" Bell begins by pointing out the tension inherent in the claim by many evangelical Christians that on the one hand God is loving and desires the salvation of all, and on the other that God will damn those who do not believe in Jesus (95-97). Bell has gotten a lot of flak for this, but he's raising a point that Arminian evangelicals need to consider. If we really believe that God desires the salvation of all, then yes, it does seem that if some are damned "God does not get what God wants." That is, of course, a standard criticism by Calvinists. Bell then gives a range of Christian responses, from the argument that God respects human freedom (103-5), to the argument that those who reject God become "ex-human" (105-6), to a second-chance position (106), to universalism (107-9). Because of Bell's rhetorical style, it is easy to understand this section of the text as a progression from a position Bell wants us to reject to the one he wants us to accept. But he does not in fact say this. He says (109) that these are all positions that orthodox Christians have held, and that the tensions inherent in all of them are tensions with which Christians need to live (115). He appears to see strengths and weaknesses in all of them. On pp. 113-4, Bell affirms the key contention of proponents of the first position (see for instance Jerry Walls, Hell: The Logic of Damnation) that human beings might in fact choose damnation even in the face of heaven. And insofar as he gives a final answer to the question, it is that "we get what we want" (116ff). While I don't like this as a slogan, he seems to be getting it from Lewis's claim in The Great Divorce that there are finally two kinds of people in the universe: those who say to God, "your will be done," and those to whom God says the same thing. (I like Lewis's formulation better, because it makes it clear that salvation is a good deal more than "getting what we want.") Lewis says elsewhere (in the Narnia Chronicles) that "all find what they truly seek."

Bell's final position, then, seems to be that
a. we cannot know for sure whether anyone is damned;
b. if anyone is, it will be because they persistently refuse God's offers of grace; and
c. the door for return always remains open (see especially his interpretation of the open gates of the New Jerusalem on pp. 114-15).

To my mind, b is unquestionably orthodox. I would also defend a. I am less optimistic about this possibility than Bell appears to be, but I do not think it can be considered heretical. The most dubious claim is c. I like Bell's interpretation of the open gates, and I certainly agree with Lewis that "the gates of hell are locked on the inside." I agree with Bell heartily, in other words, when he says that God always stands open to forgive anyone who repents. The question is whether a person can become simply incapable of repenting. Bell seems unwilling to say this (though he doesn't rule it out), and he certainly doesn't seem to think that death ends the possibility of repentance. I'm unwilling to throw out the idea that this life is unique as a place where we can be converted from the way of death to the way of life. This traditional view, ironically, stresses the importance of this life, which Bell wants to do. I think there are good reasons for Christians to believe that death does in fact "fix" our spiritual condition in some way. And I wish that Bell had discussed this and many other issues more carefully and rigorously.

I have many other small disagreements with Bell which I won't go into here, since this review has become a monster already. All in all, though, I find this book to be a winsome defense of a "hopeful universalism" position, and a forthright challenge to the tensions inherent in conservative Arminian evangelicalism. Of course Calvinists hate it. Bell isn't really addressing Calvinism. He's calling Arminian evangelicals out on the ways in which we assume certain Calvinist theological positions while not thinking carefully enough about their implications. And that's a much-needed challenge.

In this respect the controversy has a lot of similarities to the open theism controversy. In both cases we see Arminian evangelicals taking certain Arminian presuppositions in directions that more conservative Arminians don't want to go. To my mind the open theist position is much more clearly in conflict with traditional Christian orthodoxy, and is generally flawed (especially in its more orthodox forms--the closer they get to process theology the less this is true) by an overly restrictive and insufficiently apophatic use of logic to limit theological options. The parallelism between the two controversies does not mean everyone who takes the "conservative" position on one will do so on the other, or vice versa (though generally open theists do not seem to be found among those completely rejecting Bell's position). But both controversies raise questions about the coherence of garden-variety Arminian evangelicalism. This tradition has historically been doctrinally amorphous. The greatest weakness of Bell and the emergents is their comfort with doctrinal fuzziness and their unwillingness to engage in rigorous theological debate. I consider this book a step in the right direction--it's still fuzzier than I'd like, but it makes substantive arguments and engages very serious issues in a readable but thoughtful way.

As I said in my earlier blog post, the big question lying behind this controversy (as behind the open theist controversy) is: what is our standard of orthodoxy? Bell's is too vague and loose, admittedly. But the standards being deployed by his critics are themselves questionable. When you have people claiming that Bell has abandoned the essentials of Christianity in this book, you either have people who are misreading Bell, in my opinion, or people who have the wrong definition of the "essentials" in the first place.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

George MacDonald, Rob Bell, and standards of orthodoxy

The evangelical world seems to be in a tizzy about a book that almost no one has yet read. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. That's how the world of the tweet works. As a guy who blogs about every year or so, I find it hard to keep up. I'm still trying to digest things that happened hundreds of years ago.

In a rare foray into modern times, I attended a talk last night about George MacDonald (1824-1905), an author who has played an important role in my life since I was about thirteen and discovered the wretched modernized versions of his novels available in Christian bookstores. And that got me thinking about how relevant Macdonald's legacy is to what shows some signs of becoming the next "big controversy" in evangelicalism.

MacDonald was kicked out of the Congregationalist ministry for suggesting that salvation might have a broader scope than traditional Calvinism allowed for. He eventually embraced a kind of universalism quite common in 19th-century "Broad Church" circles, though few expressed it as powerfully or as pungently as MacDonald. MacDonald believed that God was every bit as awesomely sovereign and terrifyingly holy as Calvinism taught, but that the consuming fire of God's love would eventually overcome human sin and rebellion.

The talk last night was under the auspices of the "C. S. Lewis and Friends" group at Taylor University, and focused on the well-documented influence of MacDonald on C. S. Lewis (who called him his "master"). Lewis never adopted MacDonald's eschatology entirely, but he devoted a good deal of energy to developing a doctrine of hell that took on board MacDonald's criticisms of traditional Western Christian ideas. Lewis's _The Great Divorce_, in which MacDonald appeared as a heavenly guide, explores just how it might be that a person could finally reject God's love and thus be damned eternally. When challenged by "Lewis" the character with the fact that he had been a universalist on earth. "MacDonald" the character responds that yes, it is possible that everyone will eventually be saved, but we cannot know this. What we know, _The Great Divorce_ argues, is that the action of God's mercy is endless and that we can only defeat it by ceasing to be in any meaningful sense human beings at all. And at the same time, we know that certain choices on our part close us off from God's love and drive us farther into the "outer darkness." That's all we need to know. (Jerry Walls has developed Lewis's views in a more systematic way, though without the hint of "hopeful universalism" found in Lewis, in his excellent Hell: The Logic of Damnation.)

Given Lewis's immense popularity in evangelical circles, it's disappointing that so many folks are responding to Bell as if Lewis's thoughtful reworking of MacDonald's ideas had never occurred. Certainly Lewis's name has been invoked in the blogs dealing with Bell, and a number of people have made the same points I've just made (like I said, I'm slow. . . . ). But there seem to be quite a few folks out there who admire Lewis while being willing to write Bell off altogether as a heretic. And one has to ask, why? One blogger suggested that Lewis was much more tentative in his positions than Bell, and that may well be true. But it doesn't seem to me to explain the disconnect.

John Piper, who has distinguished himself in an unfortunate manner by bidding "farewell" to Bell in a Tweet, has a thoughtful lecture available online addressing precisely this disconnect between how he views Lewis and how he views the "emergent" writers (this lecture was given last year, before the controversy over Bell's new book). Piper argues that Lewis is not a good source for "Biblical exegesis" or even doctrine, and that pastors should not rely on Lewis's writings as resources for their preaching. He claims that Lewis's "Mere Christianity" omits many points essential to the true Gospel. And yet, Piper invokes Lewis as one of the major influences on his life and work, because of Lewis's focus on "the unfathomable rock-solid objectivity of God and his Truth and his gospel as infinitely Beautiful and infinitely Desirable and, therefore, as the unshakeable ground of unutterable and exalted Joy." (Piper goes on to give more reasons, but this is the most "fundamental.")

I think one could make a case that there are serious internal tensions in such an attitude--how can Lewis really be so deeply rooted in the reality of God, on conservative Reformed terms, if he basically got the Gospel wrong? But whether that's the case or not, I think that this attitude is fairly common among conservative evangelicals and needs to be challenged. For me, on the contrary, Lewis was a powerful influence precisely because he drew me out of sectarian Protestantism into an appreciation for the breadth and depth of true Christian orthodoxy. Lewis is a conduit to the "Great Tradition" of Christianity. And that tradition has been wrestling with the questions raised by Bell for some time now, with productive results which conservative evangelicals would do well to take more seriously. (Note for instance the acceptance of "hopeful universalism" among fairly conservative Roman Catholics, and the explicit adoption of an "inclusivist" position by Vatican II.)

The deeper issue raised by the Bell controversy is this: is the Reformed tradition (as interpreted by "new Reformed" folks like Piper) to be accepted by evangelicals as the center of orthodox Christianity? Are Arminian evangelicals to go on attempting to justify their orthodoxy by appealing to standards set by the Reformed? I object to this approach not because it makes us "second-class citizens," though it does (that's an unworthy consideration when speaking of Christian truth), but because it puts the center in the wrong place. We ought to be asking how we would justify ourselves to Athanasius and the Cappadocians, not to John Calvin or even Augustine.

By all means, let's care about doctrine, as the new Reformed urge us to. Let's avoid fuzzy thinking. And let's first of all avoid the fuzzy thinking of taking a relatively marginal, dubiously orthodox strand of Christianity (Calvinism) as the standard against which new ideas (or not-so-new ones!) must be measured.