Leighton Flowers is sincere and genuine…and that’s why Calvinists are angry with him.
Let me premise this article with a disclaimer: Dr. Flowers does not tell me what to write. Never has. Not once. On occasion he has asked me to amplify something he wrote but he has never told me what to say about him or what position to take on a subject. He does not hold up these blog articles for his editorial oversight, though perhaps some would argue he should.
The general consensus among the Calvinists who watch online teachers and engage in online discussions (“Internet Calvinists”) regarding Dr. Flowers is not that he is wrong, not that he is mistaken, but that he is a liar.
I will use a recent interaction to highlight this consensus
Leighton Flowers and Jeff Durbin
Jeff Durbin, who is an apologist focusing usually on such topics as Abortion and Mormonism, recently put out a sermon he gave at his church where he defends Calvinism from common objections. I will embed the sermon below:
Dr. Flowers put out a broadcast critiquing Durbin’s use of the Early Church Fathers to defend Calvinism and lo! “Apologia Studios”, presumably Jeff Durbin himself, commented during the live broadcast. Here is what he said:
According to Jeff (presumably), Leighton wrongly portray the point of Jeff’s use of church history not because he’s simply mistaken nor using faulty reasoning, but because he’s “misrepresenting the message”. In other words, Leighton really does know what the message is about, understands Jeff’s point regarding the church history references, and is lying about it.
My point is not just to point out the substance of the critique laid against Leighton all over the internet every day, but to display Dr. Flower’s response to it in real time, which is the real source of the Reformed anger towards him. Let me show you.
To Durbin’s accusation of dishonesty, Leighton said this:
I would love to know how I’m misquoting what you said, I’m playing you for yourself, you did just read the quote and then say ‘That sounds like a Calvinist’…I’m open to correction and so if you can explain to me how I can ‘do better’ that would be great”36:40
While Leighton is standing on what he said, he comes across as genuine in his openness to correction. “…that would be great” is not couched in sarcasm that says “I can’t possibly be wrong”, none of it is condescending and dismissive. You don’t have to take my word for it, I time-stamped the quote and will embed the video below:
The exchange continues:
Unwillingness to properly represent opponents is another way of saying Dr. Flowers is lying. Flowers responds:
Jeff we just disagree with each other, obviously, you’re a Calvinist and I’m not, I think we have different reasons for why we hold to the views that we hold to.37:25
Notice that he gives Jeff Durbin the benefit of the doubt, the charity, to assume that he is sincere, that he has reasons for believing as he does, and is sincerely mistaken; this is a level of charity that Durbin cannot give to Flowers.
What, specifically, have I said, Jeff…like, if you could quote me or just say ‘when you said xyz‘ you misrepresented me this way. That would help us because right now I’m playing your own words, I’m playing your video. And I’m letting you represent yourself and then I’m disagreeing with you…38:00
Here is the sincerity the Reformed Internet Teachers cannot muster and their Internet Calvinist followers know it and so they cannot stand it when they see it from Flowers, whom they are told is a liar.
I welcome you on the program, just like I have welcomed James White on the program, you have a standing invitation, if you want me to send you a link right now you can come on [the program] and defend yourself even now, if you’d like to. I’d love to have that conversation with you. I’m a nice guy…I’ll…let you have time to talk, if that’s what you want to do.
*Flowers then waits for a few seconds, and then says, smiling all the while, his tone being one of how silly this all is*
It doesn’t sound like he wants to, it sounds like he’s doing to do a show in response, just like James White! Why don’t you just come on guys? I’m nice, talk, face to face, we don’t have to do dueling shows…just talk…brother in Christ, talk…I don’t understand it.
Why Are We Doing This?
I’ll let two tweets from a Calvinist tell you:
This is about branding, not dialogue. Showing strength, not dialogue.
Matt Estes recognizes that Durbin calling Flowers dishonest makes it look like Durbin does not have good arguments. That’s true…it does. The part that Matt probably would not admit is that some of the arguments Jeff Durbin uses to defend Calvinism in this sermon are truly weak just from a rational standpoint. Durbin acts like he doesn’t have good arguments because he actually does not have good arguments.
While Calvinist sincerely believe they have good biblical reasons for their theology, know also they do not have good arguments for those reasons; that’s why Dr. Flowers’ demeanor in the face of being called a liar is such a threat to them. Calmly looking at the camera and going “Let’s talk about it and you can tell me exactly how I’m being dishonest” is an infinitely better response than “I’m not dishonest” because going on the defense let’s Durbin maintain the dialogue on Dr. Flowers’ character. “Let’s talk about it” asks Durbin to show his hand and so he has to call or fold.
Calvinists Are Playing To Win
Calvinists see the soteriological controversies in terms of power.
Leighton Flowers is a threat, and so the worst thing they can do to is give him any more air time. Flowers, and Provisionism, cannot be destroyed by argument, if it could, that’s what they would do. But they cannot so they throw the rhetorical kitchen sink at Flowers to see if he will flinch so they can assuage their collection conscious. Making him angry so he will be discredited is the goal.
What they don’t get is that the very reason Dr. Flowers does not get angry at being called dishonest is because he does not see the soteriological controversies in terms of power. He does not think that giving Durbin or White credit for the other parts of their ministries gives them power or some imaginary “brand points”; so he does so freely. Durbin, on the other hand, cannot do the same.
You may think I’m picking at low hanging fruit by quoting from anonymous Twitter randoms and that may be true. But it shows how the ideas and rhetoric propagated by Calvinist teachers filters down to their many followers who engage in the soteriological controversies online. You can trace a direct line from Durbin calling Flowers dishonest to this…
You don’t cordially engage with a liar, you say stuff like…
Not arguments. Not dialogue. Not Christian brothers who disagree talking about their differences. But “be quiet because we told you to be”. Why? Because Dr. Flowers is a threat, Provisionism is a threat, which cannot be destroyed with argument. When it comes to views I disagree with, I tend to think that more speech is better. If I think your arguments are bad, I want you to take more not less. So…why do they want us to talk less?
Is this self-aggrandizing and hopeful? Maybe. But if we’re such a silly, insignificant ministry, if we’re not convincing people and making good arguments, then why are Calvinists so mad at Dr. Flowers? It reminds me of when atheists are furious with a Being they do not think exists. It would be like being angry with the Tooth Fairy. Yahweh is the aroma of death to atheists; He reminds them their death is immanent and their lives are not their own and they hate him for it. Leighton Flowers is the aroma of death to Calvinists; unflappable, genuine truth-seekers, people who evaluate arguments and confessions, are their kryptonite, and they know it.