Everyone can recognize a caricature when they see one. Here is how our President is portrayed and the President himself. The caricature grossly exaggerates some feature or characteristic of a person in order to visually portray that person in a certain light. Here we are to believe that President Bush not only possesses these huge fly-out ears and little beady eyes but a level of intellectual shortcoming as well. Caricature is used of ideas and concepts as well, usually of an idea with which you disagree. The caricature contains some element of the original idea, just enough to make it identifiable. It is then lampooned and distorted in a way intended to either belittle or dismiss the thought without actually engaging the idea. It is often intellectually dishonest.
So, what role should caricature play in the discussion of theology? Is God’s word and its interpretation and application the domain of comedy and not-so-subtle deception? Certainly, Elijah was not kind to the prophets of Baal as he questioned why their god was indisposed, perhaps in the rest room but by and large, the Bible presents the unvarnished truth without resorting to deprecation rooted in falsehoods. Because we engage in discussion that has eternal implications, those who write and speak on topics relating to God and His truth should consider carefully how we present our ideas.
Steve Camp has once again done his best to caricature the Calvinist-Arminian theological debate by portraying Arminian theology incorrectly. In a post entitled “The Five Points of Free Will” he writes this;
The previous post represented a condensed version of the five points of Arminianism that sparked the development of the five points of Calvinism at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 as a theological and biblical corrective to the heretical views of Jacob Arminius.
The previous post is where the real caricature appears as he presented this little cutesy test by which one could engage in a witch trial of your own to determine if, according the theologian Camp, you held to the correct framework. Here are the questions which he claims to be representative of the Arminian framework:
1. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists of his ability to choose good over evil in spiritual matters. T or F?
2. God selected only those whom He knew would of themselves freely believe the gospel. It was left entirely up to man as to who would believe and therefore as to who would be elected unto salvation. God chose those whom He knew would, of their own free will, choose Christ. T or F?
3. Christ’s redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. Although Christ died for all men and for every man, only those who believe on Him are saved. His death enabled God to pardon sinners on the condition that they believe. T or F?
4. The Spirit calls inwardly all those who are called outwardly by the gospel invitation; He does all that He can to bring every sinner to salvation. Man’s free will limits the Spirit in the application of Christ’s saving work. The Holy Spirit can only draw to Christ those who allow Him to have His way with them. Until the sinner responds, the Spirit cannot give life. T or F?
5. Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) – man’s response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, “choose” to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. T or F?
Reading the comments attached to this quiz is typical of the CalBloggers as they high-five one another for scoring so high on the exam without once pointing out that this does not accurately reflect the theological points made by the Remonstrants. (BTW, according to Mr. Camp, the answer to all of these should be False, something that an Arminian would agree with.)
Okay, everyone had a bit of fun and in a few days the post will scroll off into blog oblivion but when do we begin to consider the long term effects of this kind of discourse? Mr. Camp’s blog is quite popular and many (most?) accept whatever he writes without challenge or correction. Because he inaccurately portrays a theology that he does not support, he is either a) disingenuous or b) ill informed on the topic on which he writes. Which I dare not speculate but leave that up to you to decide. Although, Steve, it seems to me that there is something in the Bible about bearing false testimony…