Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Vincent Cheung and 18th century English Hyper-Calvinism: The temptation to over-react

Fourthly, the Hyper-Calvinists were sincere men of average intelligence, but they lacked a prophetical and discerning spirit. They keenly desire to glorify God and mistakenly believed that God was more glorified in the exaltation of free grace in the pulpit and on the printed page, than in the evangelism and conversion of men. They became so obsessed with the defence of what they regarded as sound doctrine that the evangelistic note of Scripture as basically an overture by God towards sinners was muted. This lack of interest in evangelism (and a reference to evangelism in their books is virtually impossible to find) came, as we have seen, with the deduction of the duty of ministers in preaching from the secret will of the Lord, the will of His decrees. They did not realise what a baneful influence their doctrines would have upon those who followed in their footsteps. [Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1765 (London, UK: The Olive Tree, 1967), 148]

As we have seen, it was a reaction within Nonconformity to Neonomism and Arminianism that resulted in the rise of Antinomianism and Hyper-Calvinism in the early 18th century. The Noncomformist pastors and theologians had good intentions, but good intentions alone is insufficient in the Christian life. Sadly, their efforts resulted in an arid church climate, such that God used the Evangelical Arminian John Wesley in the later half of the 18th century to chastise them for their lack of concern over evangelism, which was caused by their flawed theologies. Likewise, I am deeply concerned over the extreme views emanating from the online pen of Vincent Cheung, and the almost fanatical devotion his followers have for his views to the point of comparative neglect of many others.

My question to Cheung and his followers are thus: Are you open to the possibility that you just might be wrong? Does it not bother you at all that no one else in the entire 20 centuries of church history held to your position? Can you see that you just might have overreacted to the errors of the modern contemporary American (and American-influenced) churches, in the same way as the 18th century Noncomfromists overreacted to the errors of their time?

When you read those whom you disagree with, do you try to read them to understand where they are coming from, instead of circling the wagons and pigeon-holing them into a particular category? I am no Vantillian, but I appreciate Van Til's writings even where I disagree with some of what he says. Can you say that about those whom you disagree with, and actually try to understand where they are coming from? Would you even consider the objections people have made, instead of imputing whatever meaning you please to the words they use, and see any critique of e.g. rationalism, as an attack on rationality?

I admire your zeal, but it is greatly misplaced. Your philosophy has clouded your thinking, instead of clarifying it. There is a reason why tradition (small "t") exists, not that we are held captive to it, but that it guides us in the path we should go in our theologizing. Christianity was not born yesterday, and true theology has not been lost until the dawning of Vincent Cheung, or anyone else for that matter. Shouldn't you be guided by the Reformed and Christian tradition, instead of thinking that everyone, every single one of you is doing theology de novo? To raise some precedents, almost all biblicists have deviated in some way from the faith, from the Seventh-Day Adventists to the Jehovah's Witnesses to even Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell (founders of the Stone-Campbell movement). The fruit of biblicalism has been anything but biblical, so why do you insist on going down that path?

The temptation to over-react is always there. But overreactions almost invariably have potentially deadly consequences. For the sakes of your souls, please abandon Cheungism. Being "logical" (as opposed to being truly biblical and logical) is not a sufficient price for jeopardizing your salvation. Stop being so proud and certain of yourselves, and come and learn from the Reformed tradition. Not everything found in the Reformed tradition may be right, but at least you will be on the right track.

If you persist in Cheung's errors, be warned that it would lead you onto a path of death. For the sake of your souls, awake from your slumber and abandon it now. Do not be deceived, there is no life in that way, and only fools tread in that path.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Prov. 14:12)

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