This post is a response to the latest over at BTWN.
Tim Hurd disagrees with Dr. Leighton Flowers on, well, just about anything theological. Recently, he had a guest, Len Pettis, on to discuss a broadcast Dr. Flowers did on the Sovereignty of God.
Disagreement = Nefarious Motives
It is not the disagreement, itself, that piques my interest here: It is that, in Tim Hurd’s intellectual world, someone disagreeing with him means that person has nefarious motives and deficient character. Bringing this uncharitable and anti-intellectual assumption out will be the focus of this article. As Tim introduces Leighton Flowers to his audience he says:
14:15, “He could probably quit every other job he has and just do Soteriology 101. He’s made quite a profit warring against the Calvinist understanding of the Scriptures”
Two points about this are fascinating. First, Tim is acknowledging that Soteriology 101 is successful and continues to grow. So they are well aware of the success this ministry is having in terms of numbers of clicks, likes, downloads and other markers of “success” in the internet world. Secondly, Tim puts forth as true something he cannot possibly know is true or not: that Dr. Flowers has made a “profit” on Soteriology 101, so much profit in fact that he could quit his other jobs. He could have easily deduced that Dr. Flowers has patrons that give monthly, as well as one time donors, and so the ministry has some financial support. That’s easy to see. But Tim takes it a step further and claims that there has been a “profit”. Evidence, Tim?
But even further than that is the implication that profit, itself, is Dr. Flower’s goal. That he’s making money attacking the truth, knowing what he’s doing, and laughing all the way to the bank. That’s the picture of Dr. Flowers Tim Hurd is attempting to paint for his listeners. Dr. Flowers is a dastardly figure worth scorning and fearing because…money!
The disagreement that spawned this latest article was about Dr. Flowers saying that God’s sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God. They watched the “5 Points that Led Me Out of Calvinism” video and provided commentary. I will respond to a few points they make in the video and then to some of the points made in the article. My main focus will be the rhetorical tactics used in place of arguments.
They start watching Dr. Flowers’ video at the 17:50 mark and to introduce Dr. Flowers’ words Tim Hurd calls him a “professing Christian”. Do you see what he did there? It would be the same as if I said, “Well, Leighton says he’s not a racist but let’s see” or “professing non-wife beater Leighton says…”. I’m setting up the person as someone not to be trusted when they speak because of the degenerate character I have labeled them with before you hear their words. In Christian circles, this comes with questioning the person’s salvation with “professing Christian…”
Is God’s Sovereignty Eternal?
Let’s quickly address the impetus for this kerfuffle. In the video being reviewed, Dr. Flowers states, “Sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God that would be compromised by the actions of free moral creatures.”
To his credit, Tim eventually does play Dr. Flowers full argument, but has a “right off the bat” response to which he asks his guest, “Do we understand any attribute of God to be not eternal?” Clearly, he assumes the answer to this question is “no” and that this answer is so demonstrably obvious that only a dastardly villain like Dr. Flowers would think otherwise. Yet, Len also thinks that a certain attribute of God isn’t eternal, so I guess the idea is not that outlandish after all.
Len answers Tim’s question, “Yea, sure.
Tim: “Which one?”
Len: “Wrath, anger, certainly before sin came into the world there would have been no reason for God to have wrath”
Yes, exactly. Now do the same thing with Divine Rule…go ahead. Here. I’ll start: “Certainly before there was nothing to rule there would be no reason for…”.
Tim then disagrees and corrects Len on this point, the exact same point Dr. Flowers is making, but Tim does not seem to be afraid of Len. Weird.
Len: “Just because He couldn’t express an attribute does not mean the attribute did not exist”
To be fair, Dr. Flower did not say God’s sovereignty didn’t exist, he says it is “not eternal”. So yes, that’s exactly what it means. If God could not express an attribute that exactly means the attribute is not eternal. The expressed attribute is the product of the eternal attribute it gets expressed from. This is not the least bit controversial. According to Monergism.com:
“The Sovereignty Of God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy”
The kicker is that Len said this exact same thing about God’s wrath, that there was nothing for God to have wrath on until creation. Dr. Flowers is simply making the same point regarding God’s sovereignty; that Divine Rule requires a creation to rule over. Exactly how Monergism.com defines it and probably a dozen other systematic theologies.
Here is a comment left under Tim’s tweet about this article:
Perhaps Mr. Lacky is also a nefarious truth-denier for profit?
What is fascinating about the following discussion in the next several minutes of the video is that they have a difficult time finding the nuance in which they can claim all of God’s attributes are eternal. Len had to pause and think about exactly how he wanted to say it. It’s a difficult concept! Which is far from the dogmatic introduction Tim gave to Dr. Flowers’ argument.
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
The video I have been discussing so far is contained underneath an article. The article is a re-posting of a YouTube comment left by Eric Smith. Mr. Smith starts with:
“The frightening thing about Leighton Flowers is the fact that he knows what he is doing. He knows what the Bible says about these doctrines but refuses to believe those verses because he actually does have his own idea of God.”
Dr. Flowers understands the truth but stubbornly denies it because he worships a god he made up in his own mind. This isn’t an argument, it’s pure character assassination. Instead of “Dr. Flowers is wrong because <insert argument here>” it is “Dr. Flowers is wrong because he’s an idolator; worshipping himself”.
Not only this, but we should be scared of this sort of person. We should not attempt to cordially engage with this person in order to bring them out of their error. No, idolators ie. everyone who disagrees with us, should be feared and reviled. This is the theme of the rest of the article but it also seems to be a constant theme of Tim Hurd’s Twitter feed. A cursory glance pulls up tweets such as:
Run! Flee! Warn! And whatever you do, do not partner with unbelievers on anything! Tim Hurd is not seeking to teach his listeners how to form cogent, solid arguments to defend their viewpoint in order to more effectively engage with those whom they disagree with. He’s teaching them fear and ridicule.
Here is one last quote from the article I would like to address:
He leans on his own understanding and is spoiled by vain deceit and philosophies after men (after the principles of the world) and he doesn’t trust the Lord. This violates Proverbs 3:5 and Colossians 2:8.
I am seriously afraid for Dr. Leighton Flowers, because his obsession for stamping out Calvinism has led to the most unbiblical views I’ve ever heard.
Unfortunately, many that follow him either are as obsessed as he is or they haven’t fully read and studied what the full counsel of God says about this subject.
This isn’t meant to be an insult, just a fact, because as you read and study the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 2:15), you find that the doctrines of grace and God’s attributes (particularly God’s sovereignty) are all over the Bible.
He’s not insulting you, see, he just knows you don’t read your Bible as much as he does. The intellectual bankruptcy is astounding. This is what passes for argument over at BTWN and if you parrot lines like this there is a chance you will get promoted on the main page. Mr. Smith isn’t making an argument; he’s telling a story. The story he is telling is that there are two kinds of people in this debate; those who are idolaters versus those who read their Bibles. The storyteller is not telling his reader anything about the argument so that you can be able to reason through it but only the sort of person you will be if you disagree with him. The implied question is, “You don’t want to be that sort of person, do you? Of course, you don’t.”
Considering the diversity of theology of the entire history of Christendom brings into focus how absurd Mr. Smith’s myopic view of theology is. No one in Christianity but his tiny, particular brand of Reformed theology has ever sincerely read their Bibles like he has, apparently. Tim actively pushes this sentiment and encourages his listeners and readers to fear those whom they disagree with and ridicule the “other” that is to be feared. These are the rhetorical tactics Tim Hurd employs. It is those tactics, and not our differences with his theology, that makes it impossible to have discussions with a bible thumping wingnut.