Why do pseudo-Calvinists complain so much about mean Calvinists? If you thought much about total depravity in your own life, you might not be in a nice frame of mind during waking hours. Or if you pondered most of the Bible, saw what happens to law breakers or how Christ interacts with the self-righteous, you might not be inclined to don a yellow-happy-face pin. Or if you considered the majesty and sovereignty of God and tried to imagine how a holy and righteous God puts up with a world that — let’s say — falls short of his standards, your jaws might be tight a lot of the time. So why does Daniel Montgomery continue the meme of the Gospel Allies that TGC Calvinism is nice and other kinds aren’t? Do these folks actually think that Mr. Rogers is more interesting than Christopher Hitchens? Then why make avoidance of offense the hallmark of your brand?
The main point for considering Montgomery’s post, though, is an odd metaphor that he invokes from TKNY about theological vision (w-w anyone?):
Without the clarity of a comprehensive theological vision, we succumb to emphatic theology with no connection between all the different fragments of theology and the arenas of our lives. As Tim Keller argues, if theological confession is our hardware and methodological strategy our software, we desperately need the theological “middleware” of vision to bring our confession to life and inform our methodology. This is an extension of Richard Lints’s siren call in The Fabric of Theology. Reflecting on the necessity of having a coherent theological vision, Lints writes:
The Christian gospel calls us not only to a well-formed theistic matrix but also to make conscious connections between that matrix and the other matrices of our lives. What I believe about God ought to influence how I view my own identity, my vocation, my family, my leisure pursuits, and so on. It is this matrix of matrices that I have been calling the theological vision. It is composed more narrowly of the theistic matrix (what I will be calling a theological framework) and more broadly of the interconnections between the theistic matrix and all other matrices in one’s noetic structures. Theology involves not just the study of God (theistic matrix) but also the influence of that study on the rest of one’s life (theological vision). It is possible to distinguish these two levels, but they are never separable in practice.
One way to spot a true Kuyperian from a poser is to watch for metaphors. The more organic, the more Kuyperian since Abraham Kuyper himself everywhere employed images from the natural world — roots, branches, life-giving sources, the folk with ties to the fatherland. But Keller and Lovelace employ mechanical and even mathematical metaphors to try to explain the way that theology functions in Christian devotion.
I can’t think of a better way to remove a church’s confession from officers’ and church members’ consciousness than by likening it to computer hardware. If anything, ecclesiology is the hardware on which the software of confessions runs so that users may worship and serve God. But this is a poor analogy. I prefer the stool (preferably handmade) to the computer. Confessional Presbyterianism is like a three-legged stool with polity, confession, and liturgy each constituting a leg. Remove one and confessional Presbyterianism falls and confessional Presbyterians land on their arses.
But TKNY’s computing metaphor may explain the dynamics of TGC. When your fellowship is digital and web-based, you may wind up treating doctrine like computer hardware — invisible and beyond your competency. Keller may explain more than he knows.
By the way, Montgomery quotes Piper on the appeal of Calvinism to a certain type of person:
There is an attractiveness about [the doctrines of grace] to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative. So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive, or intellectualistic. I’ll just confess that. It’s a sad and terrible thing that that’s the case. Some of this type aren’t even Christians, I think. You can embrace a system of theology and not even be born again.
Obviously, Piper has never encountered Jason and the Callers.