Book Review: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books (September 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1433520710
  • Crossway
  • WTS Books


Many thanks to Crossway for this review copy of Think by John Piper.

A Summary

The book begins with a Foreword from evangelical historian Mark Noll, who actually shared a dorm with Piper during their Wheaton days.  In the Introduction, Piper states that the plea of the book is “to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people.  It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love.  It is a plea to see thinking as a necessary, God-ordained means of knowing God” (p.15).  The basis of the book is Proverb 2:3-5 and 2 Timothy 2:7, and treatments of Matthew 22:35-40, Luke 10:21-22, 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16 and 8:1-4.

The heart of the book is divided into eight sections.  I. Clarifying the Aim of the Book. Piper reaches back to his teachings days at Bethel College and how a writing sabbatical of a book on Romans 9, The Justification of God, led to transition from academia to the pastorate at Bethlem Baptist Church.  Anyone who has ever read or listened to Piper for a while knows that outside of the Bible his hero is Jonathan Edwards.  Piper relates how Edwards impacted him as a thinker.  II. Clarifying the Meaning of Thinking.  Piper says, “But my main concern is how thinking relates to our pursuit of knowing God and loving God” (p. 41).  Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book introduced Piper to serious reading.  III. Coming to Faith through Thinking.  Piper demonstrates how the Jewish leaders proved to be Aristotelian in their thinking and couldn’t escape “Mental Adultery.”  He goes on to explore the nature of saving faith and how this is awakening.  IV. Clarifying the Meaning of Love God.  Vintage Piper emerges here.  V. Facing the Challenge of Relativism.  In Matthew 21:23-27, some Jewish leaders turn out to be relativists.  Piper writes, “The whole system of relativism is a morally corrupting impulse” (p. 108).  VI. Facing the Challenge of Anti-intellectualism.  Matters may be summed up thus: “The remedy for barren intellectualism is not anti-intellectualism, but humble, faithful, prayerful, Spirit-dependent, rigorous thinking” (p. 123).  Parallels are drawn between Luke 10:17-24 and 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16.  VII. Finding a Humble Way of Knowing.  Insights drawn from 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 10:1-4 reveal that “true knowledge” loves God and loves people.  And “All scholarship is for the love of God and man,” according to Piper.  VIII.  Encouraging Thinkers and Non-thinkers.  “Our thinking does not replace God’s grace.  It is the gift of grace and the pathway to more and more” (p. 184).

A Critique

With the help of his hero Jonathan Edwards, John Piper makes the case from 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 that regeneration must precede “saving faith.”  Piper poses the question, “How can such a darkened, sinful heart produce a way of thinking that gives rise to saving faith?”  Piper answers, “The answer is that God’s illumination and regeneration produce a profound change in the way the heart perceives reality” (p. 77).  Earlier in the chapter Piper writes about the nature of this regeneration, “But to embrace Jesus as your supreme treasure requires a new nature.  No one does this naturally.  You must be born again (John 3:3).  You must be a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 6:15).  You must be spiritually alive (Eph. 2:1-4)” (p. 72).

So according to Piper, the unregenerate thinker must first be regenerated, born again, be spiritually alive, be a new creation in Christ, before he or she can receive Christ through saving faith. But this makes no sense.  If I’m already regenerated, born again, spiritually alive, a new creation in Christ, why do I then need to exercise faith in order to receive Christ?

Concluding Thoughts

Outside of my objection to Piper’s use of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 and his placement of regeneration in his ordo salutis, I quite agree with his plea and especially his challenge to Christian scholarship to use their minds to love God and love people.  At any rate, God continues to goad me through the writings of John Piper.

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60 Responses to Book Review: Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

  1. wm tanksley says:

    To the best of my knowledge, Piper isn’t inventing his ordo salutis; it’s pretty standard Calvinist fare. I just finished listening to RC Sproul preaching the same thing. RC’s sermon cited many passages, but I clearly remember John 3, in which he pointed at 3:3 in specific.
    The idea is that first one is regenerated by the Spirit (so that they can see and desire God), then they can understand why Christ’s promises and mediation are something worthy of belief and faith; then faith is inevitable.

    I’m not saying you have to believe that; I’m only saying that Piper isn’t inventing a doctrine of his own.

    • T.C. R says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. But neither am I saying that Piper invented it. I believe my point about him using Edwards would go against that as well. Yes, it is standard. But I see it as an imposition on Scripture.

  2. Bobby Grow says:


    I know that you claim to be a Calvinist, but in what way are you a Calvinist? The ordo salutis that you reject is standard fare for all versions of Calvinism (even Evangelical Calvinism, except for the fact that we see this all ‘personalised’ in the vicarious humanity of Christ). I mean honestly you aren’t left with a whole lot of options, other than Arminianism in regards to the kind of ‘order of salvation’ you seem to be assuming. I suppose you could junk all of these traditions and just assert that you’re a biblicist, but then that would just take us full circle; since your grounds for rejecting the “ordo” hear are not on “biblical” grounds, but more in line with how a Libertarian free agency would object to Piper’s construal.

    So now you really have me curious in regards to how you think of yourself as a “Calvinist.”

  3. T.C. R says:


    Not at all! I stand with the likes of Erickson and Wright, of course, who argue for “call” as where this “awakening” takes place, not the standard “regeneration” that I’m here objecting to.

    As I often say, I’m a Calvinist with a few modifications here and there. 😉

    • Bobby Grow says:


      What’s the difference between “regeneration” and “awakening,” then? This sounds like semantics and not representative of a material difference.

      Do you believe that God only calls a particular (limited) group of people, and do you believe if this people are called that they will respond?

  4. Jon Hughes says:


    I’m with you on this one. Happy to be a biblicist, as Bobby suggests. No doubt the Bible teaches the radical depravity of man and the bondage of the will to sin… but the fact is that there is hardly anything in Scripture to teach regeneration preceding faith (I can only think of John 3:3), but there are a lot of verses to suggest that faith precedes regeneration!

    I consider myself to be broadly Calvinistic, but reject Limited Atonement and don’t see regeneration preceding faith – so can understand the Arminian charge from some quarters!

    • Bobby Grow says:


      I can appreciate what you’re saying, but there is a substantial difference between saying that you are calvinistic and calvinist. It seems to me that TCR is more calvinistic as you are, and not actually calvinist.

      • Jon Hughes says:


        I’m reminded of the hyper-Calvinists who accused Spurgeon of being an Arminian!

        My difficulty with Calvinism is when it becomes ‘logical’ rather than biblical. The really consistent ones are the supralapsarians, but that’s not a place I’m willing (no pun intended) to go.

      • Bobby Grow says:


        Actually, historically, most of the post-Reformed Calvinists were infralapsarians.

        But, no, I disagree, this isn’t parallel with what the hyper-Calvinists did with Spurgeon; but really more of a fundamental issue of ordo salutis, which I cannot think of any kinds of Calvinists who don’t have some sort of belief of regeneration prior to response of faith.

        You should like Calvin then, since his style was biblical/confessional vs. logico-deductive-locus (see Charles Partee’s “Theology of John Calvin,” he provides good coverage of Calvin’s style).

    • T.C. R says:


      By “awakening” I’m referring to that opening of the heart to response to the Gospel. It’s what happened to Lydia at Acts 16:14. Whereas regeneration is being born again, experiencing the new birth. It’s that crossing over from death to life through faith in Christ. This is John 5:24.


      I consider myself as standing in the same Reformed tradition as Wright and others, but of course with some modifications here and there.

  5. I agree with Bobby. I think TC is really a Wesleyan. For Wesley, regeneration and justification are two distinct things that take place simultaneously. Regeneration is the impartation of a new nature; justification the relative change before God.

    TC just needs to fess up and come home to his Arminian roots, but this time, an authentic Arminianism anchored more faithfully in scripture. 🙂

  6. T.C. R says:

    |That’s way to slippery of a definition/distinction for me, but if you’re okay with it . . . amen.|


    Question: what is that “crossing over from death to life” of John 5:24, if not what is called regeneration, but it is predicated on faith in Jesus?

    • Bobby Grow says:

      Yes, that’s a rather straightforward read. Of course what we’re referring to (Kyle as well) is the mechanics of what that entails. And I still would not be satisfied with how you’re defining it, if I were you. Although that used to be a satisfying approach to me.

      The question of course is why anyone would believe if they are dead in their sins? You know, the “bondage of the will.” 🙂

  7. T.C. R says:

    |Olson, I believe, holds to the security while William Birch does not.|


    Never knew that those who stand in the classic Arminian position hold to eternal security. Interesting! On what basis?

    • Bobby Grow says:

      I don’t know, I think I’ve heard Olson say that. I’m sure the basis would be “grace,” isn’t that what it is for all of us? 😉 Of course the question is how one understands “grace.”

  8. T.C. R says:


    I have no problem affirming on the basis of a text like Acts 16:14 that an individuals heart is opened to respond to the gospel message without calling this regeneration. “Opening of the heart” overcomes this “bondage of the will” without the notion of the impartation of a new nature. This new nature comes after faith in Christ, not before. Ala Luther, Here I stand; I can do no other. 😉

    Regarding Olson and grace, I don’t know how he can hold to eternal security and stand in the classic Arminian position. I’ll have to research the matter.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      Well, TC, I’m just sayin’ that where you stand is certainly not Calvinist ground. Btw, for a Calvinist regeneration is not a “new nature,” but “created grace;” whereby they are “enabled” to cooperate with God in appropriating the fruit of their election — or, eternal life.

      • T.C. R says:

        |So in the order of causation we have: 1) new birth, 2) faith in Jesus, and 3) the doing of God’s commandments without a sense of burdensomeness, namely, loving others. God causes the new birth. The new birth is the creation of new life that sees Christ for who he is and receives him, and that receiving severs the roots of the cravings of the world and sets us free to love.|

        This is from John Piper, a calvinist if there was any out there. Here’s the full post: here.

        Piper says the new birth is the “creation of new life.”

      • Bobby Grow says:


        Here’s what the Westminster Confession of Faith X ‘Effectual Calling’ says:

        I. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

        II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

        The idea of “created grace” or “infused grace” (even for Prot. Calvinists) is how regeneration is understood. It’s an enablement of the will. I have some quotes from Richard Muller to substantiate this further but I have to go and eat.

        Piper has provided an anecdotal rendering for popular consumption. But in order to understand what really stands behind that we should look at what is really meant (and a discussion on the sin/grace symmetry is at the core of that discussion, as the WCF illustrates).

    • Bobby Grow says:

      And to be honest TC, I don’t think where you’re standing is bad or anything, at all; to live with “biblical tension” is fine. I think it’s possible to resist the corner I’m trying to push you into. But I don’t think it’s also possible, if you want to stay suspended where you are, to also affirm that you’re a Calvinist still (I think what you’re saying and what a Calvinist says on the ordo salutis are mutually exclusive realities — and I also see the ordo salutis that you reject as a sine qua non of all Calvinist thought on soteriology).

      • kenny chmiel says:

        @ bobby, If taking away a “heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh” isn’t referencing a ‘new nature’ I don’t know what is. The created grace is making one a new person by changing their nature, which enables their created desire for god to reach out and want what it is attracted to. These metaphors are clearly teaching that one becomes a new type of person by regeneration.

    • Dan Reeves says:

      I just finished reading Olsen’s “Arminian Theology”. It was a fantastic read for anyone who wants to learn more about classical and what he calls evangelical Arminianism. He did not discuss eternal security at length – however I do remember him saying that it was his understanding that Arminuis himself did affirm eternal security, however later classical Arminians i.e. Welsey did not. He said it has never been considered by classical Arminians as a central issue – it is something Calivinists tend to be preoccupied with. Note: He was not saying it was not important, just not as important as other distinctives. I will try to find you some page numbers if I get a chance later. Either way, I would definitely read it if you get the chance – if anything to learn more about the Arminian position from proverbial horse’s mouth.

  9. T.C. R says:


    Here’s Grudem, another Calvinist: “As the gospel call comes to us, God speaks through it to summon us to himself (effective calling) to give us new spiritual life (regeneration) so that we are enabled to respond in faith” (Systematic Theology, p. 700). Here’s Grudem’s definition of regeneration: “Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life” (p. 699).

    Yes, the WCF speaks of “being quickened and renewed.” This is the language of regeneration. No conflict there.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      The conflict is that you keep referencing popular renditions of this, and not engaging what this all means in re. to grace. I’m afraid it’s just not that easy, TC.

      Even Grudem uses the language enablement. That comes from Aristotle/Protestant scholastic concept of habitus, which has been wedded to “grace” in the Calvinist conception. You can call this what you want, TC, but you’re playing semantic games. I challenge you to do more research on this other than simply flipping open a Piper/Grudem book. I can send you a PhD diss that will blow your mind, provide new horizons 🙂 . It’s a comparison and contrast with William Perkins and Richard Sibbes understanding of grace/sin. It will get you past this “simple” understanding of “regeneration” and such; and get you into the guts of what that’s really all about. You do understand that there can be equivocation (like between your reading of Grudem and the WCF,), right?

      • T.C. R says:


        I see no equivocation or semantic games here. Of course, grace is assumed. Neither do I believe it’s merely citing “popular” works here. Unless you mean to imply that Grudem and Piper have misappropriated the WCF, and so on. Grudem has given a definition, unless you think it is too simplistic.

        Perhaps I should now cite Horton, who is so dependent on the WCF in his latest Systematic.. 😉

      • Bobby Grow says:


        There’s just a lot more going on here than the straightforward aspects that you keep appealing to; primary of which is the metaphysics/ontology behind the ideas of regeneration etc. There is an “enablement” (per the language of the WCF even), but that is not as simple as the “biblical” idea of “regeneration” as you seem to think. I’m surprised that someone as interested as you are in researching and reading are satisfied with simply appealing to Horton/Piper/Grudem, and not digging deeper into the history of development on such things. Like I said, I have a PhD diss that I can forward to you if you’re really interested in understanding this at a deeper level.

        The way you’re talking about grace and such just illustrates that you haven’t dug into the history of this issue. You should.

  10. T.C. R says:


    Then you’re saying that the likes of Grudem, Horton and Piper don’t know what you’re talking about and have somehow not explored the matter as much as your have? That might be possible. But I pretty much doubt it as in the case of Grudem and Horton.

    But what really is at stake here?

    • Bobby Grow says:

      No, I’m not necessarily saying that; I wouldn’t set it up like that, like I know more than them or vice versa (or appeal to credentials either). I am saying though, that I was mentored and have TA’d for a guy who specialized in the area of English Calvinism (esp. in its Puritan development); and he provided a critical reading of the kind of theology that the Westminster style takes wholesale. The fact of the matter is, TCR, hard is it may for you to believe; is that folks like Horton eschew anything other than the post-Reformed orthodox development of Calvinism as a heterodox reading. But the reality is, is that there are historians and theologians of the period who thoroughly reject the historiography that someone like Horton uncritically accepts as the only story available.

      So maybe I do know more about aspects of the development of Calvinism than do Horton or Grudem, because they reject those developments ipso facto as heterodox accounts of Calvinist history. I’m, again, surprised that you’re so willing to accept these guys (the Westminster style of Calvinism) at face-value. I’m also surprised that you’re willing to read someone like Roger Olson on Arminianism at the first mention from Dan (above); but you aren’t equally ready to take up my offer to email you that PhD diss that would develop what I’m talking about in ways that cannot be developed in a blog meta.

      But yeah, I would assert that Horton Grudemen and Piper have not a clue about where I’m coming from on this; not because they’re stupid, or ill-studied, but because they have uncritically accepted a stream of thought and worked self-referentially within that stream (I actually have some personal stories about that, from first-hand accounts with some big names [like those you’re appealing to here] that would help illustrate the intentional ignorance that these guys operate from on this issue).

      I don’t know I forget how we got started. I think I was trying to bring some thickness to what “regeneration” in an ordo salutis looks like. My basic point was that the way you were taking “regeneration” was too simple, in regards to “apparent” proximate relation to the biblical understanding of “new birth” or “regeneration” (Jn 5.24). My point is that the Calvinist understanding is not as biblical as you seem to think it is; so your rejection of that, per the way you were construing it, was made on false pretenses. There’s more to regeneration as used by Calvinists than the way you construed. Of course Piper, Grudem et al will believe that “regeneration” is univocal with its biblical usage; but I’m asserting (and offering a whole PhD diss by email to substantiate and develop my assertion), that their understanding is not Gospel truth, and that it’s possible to understand the philosophical grounding behind their understanding of “regeneration” in an ordo salutis. If you were to read that PhD diss. you wouldn’t be able to read the WCF, and the passage I pulled for you, in the some way; you would understand what “created grace” is all about; you would understand what enablement language presupposed (in re. to habitus).

      What’s at stake is avoiding the hijacking of scripture in uncritical ways.

      • kenny chmiel says:

        Hey Bobby, was the Dissertation published? This is a joke, as is this, Ron frost really messed (or set you straight) you up. Oh, you got to love shy Ronnie advocating an ‘affective model’ against the traditional Calvinists at a second rate Biblical Seminary with a doctrinal history of despensationalism – weird right? Oh well such is the Evangelical Theological shopping market. Anyway I think on this one your splitting hairs for no reason other than to dog the Traditional Calvinists and their children.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        poisoning the well

  11. kenny chmiel says:

    @ bobby, If taking away a “heart of stone and giving them a heart of flesh” isn’t referencing a ‘new nature’ I don’t know what is. The created grace is making one a new person by changing their nature, which enables their created desire for god to reach out and want what it is attracted to. These metaphors are clearly teaching that one becomes a new type of person by regeneration and regeneration isn’t just enabling but also a changing of the nature. I think Piper, Grudem, sproul, etc are reading the WCF rightly. I have been listening to the creation of the new nature via regeneration for many years in my OPC church and it is always taught like this. Which is why the popular idea is as TCR has put forth.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      its in the ‘accidents’ not nature . . . do a little more research next time, kenny

      • kenny chmiel says:

        Aristotelian substance theory? – Snarky answer, which isn’t an answer, but I never really expected to get one from you. I did the research so I reject that dismissal. It is funny how you never answer the simple questions – talk about making the wells bitter.

  12. T.C. R says:


    I’ve read Olson before. While you may favor a PhD diss over Olson, I’ll go with a tried and true scholar and theologian like Olson over someone’s diss. I have not a clue about.

    Having said that, I see the value in what you’re insisting, but for now I’m content in gleaning from those who have appropriated the raw material in their writings and meditations. But I doubt it very much that these men have somehow skewered the matter. Kenny has just mentioned RC Sproul, for whom I have the utter most respect. I hardly doubt he would do such. Millard Erickson, with whom I agree, in his Christian Theology, interacts with the standard Reformed/Calvinist ordo salutis, and in so doing, defines regeneration in the same way.

    I rather go with the “simple” reading of John 5:24 and other texts like it any day. But if this PhD diss. somehow contains the key that unlocks the “knowledge” needed to really understand “regeneration,” then I will forever be lost to its true meaning.


    Thanks for point that out. There’s virtue in simplifying things. 😉

  13. kenny chmiel says:

    This is from the “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology” on Regeneration “Regeneration, or the new birth, is an inner re-creating of fallen human nature by the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit.” The simple question is, what is God’s grace acting on and making new? Is it the spiritually dead Human’s fallen nature or is it not? It seems Graces needs a subject to do something to. From what it appears you are saying Bobby by the idea of “created grace” is that Grace is doing the action without the subject of the human. That said I don’t think Grace is a substance given to humans like gas being put into cars to make them go, but I do think whatever that grace (it’s just a metaphor anyway) is, it is action on a subject to make them into something new.

    • Bobby Grow says:

      No, I’m saying that grace, in the framework we are discussing, must be “created” since its not the Spirit (but his activity that subsists apart from his inner-being); and therefore grace is seen as a created quality (vs. the uncreated Holy Spirit) that the elect are given in order to cooperate (habituate) with God in their salvation.

      Richard Muller says:

      gratia: grace . . . the gracious or benevolent disposition of God toward sinful mankind and, therefore, the divine operation by which the sinful heart and mind are regenerated and the continuing divine power or operation that cleanses, strengthens, and sanctifies the regenerate. The Protestant scholastics distinguish five actus gratiae, or actualizations of grace. (1) Gratia praveniens, or prevenient grace, is the grace of the Holy Spirit bestowed upon sinners in and through the Word; it must precede repentence. (2) Gratia praeparans is the preparing grace, according to which the Spirit instills in the repentant sinner a full knowledge of his inability and also his desire to accept the promises of the gospel. This is the stage of the life of the sinner that can be termed the praeparatio ad conversionem . . . Both this preparation for conversion and the terrors of conscience draw directly upon the second use of the law, the usus pedagogicus. . . . Gratia operans, or operating grace, is the effective grace of conversion, according to which the Spirit regenerates the will, illuminates the mind, and imparts faith. Operating grace is, therefore, the grace of justification insofar as it creates in man the means, or medium, faith, through which we are justified by grace. . . . (4) Gratia cooperans, or cooperating grace, is the continuing grace of the Spirit, also termed gratia inhabitans, indwelling grace, which cooperates with and reinforces the regenerate will and intellect in sanctification. Gratia cooperans is the ground of all good works and, insofar as it is a new capacity in the believer for the good, it can be called the habitus gratiae, or disposition of grace. Finally, some of the scholastics make a distinction between gratia cooperans and (5) gratia conservans, or conserving, preserving grace, according to which the Spirit enables the believer to persevere in faith. This latter distinction arises most probably out of the distinction between sanctificatio . . . and perseverantia . . . in the scholastic ordo salutis . . . or order of salvation. . . . gratia infusa: infused grace; viz., the donum gratiae, or gift of grace, bestowed by God upon believers and the habitus gratiae, the habit or disposition toward grace, created in believers by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Protestant scholastics deny that gratia infusa or gratia inhaerens, inhering grace, is the basis of justification. Rather gratia infusa is the result of regeneratio . . . and the basis of sanctificatio . . . the source of all the good works of believers. The orthodox, in the main, avoid the language of a habitus gratiae . . . and prefer the terms gratia inhaerens or gratia cooperans to the term gratia infusa in order to retain in their formulations the Reformers’ teaching concerning grace as a power of God or a divine favor (favor Dei or gratuitus favor Dei) that never belongs to man as an aspect of human nature but is always graciously given. (Richard A. Muller, “Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology,” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985), 129-31)

      Notice the circle Muller works in. He “tries” to make a distinction between gratia (grace) and gratia inhaerens (inhering grace or really habitual grace — notice how he says they don’t like to use that language, but still use the concept that that language symbolizes), but then at the end of the quote says that this grace that is given is never an aspect of man’s nature. Further, the circle that I’m noting with Muller’s definitions, is that he writes that “cooperating grace” is produced by “prevenient grace” (that grace which gives a capacity to the heart, will, mind [regeneration]); but that the former is contingent on the latter. But then, within the framework provided by “preserving/persevering grace,” if someone does not “persevere” then they never had prevenient grace; which ultimately presupposes that there really is no distinction between “prevenient grace” and “pesevering” except for an ad hoc assertion that there is.

      My point, all along, with TCR, has been that the way that “regeneration” is most often construed, by Reformed scholastic theology, is as if it is “personal;” but, it is clearly not (in the Protestant scholastic framework as defined by Muller), it is “created” and thus a “quality” that is incompatible with the personal/Triune (uncreated) nature of God (this point has nothing to do with ‘Affective Theology’ — have you read that diss, Kenny? or are you just bagging on it? [the diss was done at the University of London, not at a second rate biblical seminary]). The issue that I was trying to thicken for TCR, is that what’s really important is whether or not, in regeneration, whether that is impersonal (created grace) or personal (uncreated grace, the person of the Holy Spirit)? That distinction makes a huge difference, and reorientates his original problem with “regeneration” as if rebirth is something that happens apart from a personal/Triune disclosure of God in Christ to man.

  14. Jon Hughes says:


    Regarding English Calvinism, are you aware of R.T. Kendall’s doctoral thesis (published as “Calvin and English Calvinism”) on the subject? He is my former pastor at Westminster Chapel, and really wound up a number of British Calvinists by showing that Calvin himself was not a Calvinist in the ‘Five Point’ sense, and that it was Theodore Beza and those who followed who formulated Limited Atonement.

    • Bobby Grow says:


      Yes, I’ve read that. Of course you know Paul Helm did a refutation of that. I think the value of Kendall’s book is in highlighting Calvin’s ordo salutis (some of the history is a little shoddy though 😦 ). But that’s cool that he was your pastor! Brian Armstrong and a whole bunch of guys followed that thesis on Beza. Richard Muller and others (Trueman et al) have sought to thicken and undercut the “simple” idea that scholasticism started with Beza. They have a real point. But then I think they overstate as well.

  15. kenny chmiel says:

    Modern philosophy for your research Bobby – Modal Necessitarianism (associated with Saul Kripke), argues for the veracity of the modal system “Triv” (If P is true, then P must be true). The consequence of this theory is that all properties are essential (and no property is an accident).

  16. kenny chmiel says:

    @ Bobby It seems like your “Created Grace” taken from this mysterious Doctrinal Dissertation might use this idea of Accidents – Anti-Essentialism (associated with Willard Van Orman Quine) argues that there are no essential properties at all, and therefore every property is an accident.

  17. Bobby Grow says:

    Your references are fine, Kenny, if we’re doing constructive philosophical work; but we’re not, the issue under consideration is historical, and specific to the self-referential constraints provided by scholastics reformed.

    • kenny chmiel says:

      @ Bobby
      I don’t know what we are doing! It seems from one second we are talking about exegesis, then the next we are talking about historical theology, then the philosophical underpinnings of the Scholastic Calvinist positions on the order of salvation, and then a bit of dissing each other.

      I guess my question is what are we talking about, this questions comes up time and time again with you in these talks. I think I am asking something relevant only for you to come back and say snarky little comments like, “accidents, you need to do more research.” while not answering the question. Then I come back and propose philosophical questions, then you say it’s Historical and then don’t answer the question. TCR asks you a pretty straightforward exegetical Question and then you appeal to a PHD Diss.

      Seriously you’re a hard nut to crack, why do you even come down to this supposed low level of talk if you don’t talk the same language. Furthermore, What is the point of all this Anti- Traditional Calvinism for you, we get it, there are other reformed perspectives and you know about them – great! You don’t need to remind everyone on every topic out here.

      I like this blog for it’s diversity of topics and to keep hammering your pet historical knowledge gets a bit old. It’s a bit tiresome when someone asks you a basic biblical question and then you spin that shit into a historical theological debate that you control by setting the frame. E.G. You can’t say accidents glibly then when someone with some knowledge of what you are saying poses a Question about accidents in modern philosophy, since I didn’t completely know what you meant by that PHILOSOPHICAL term in your historical usage. You say NO OUT of BOUNDS. Well you don’t get to set all the terms of the talk all the time.
      If you want to talk about accidents in historical theological debate just say so and I can oblige you, but don’t pull that out when ever you want to evade a pretty straight forward question it is wrong and a bit weird. I know you don’t respect my Theological thinking and think I haven’t done the research, but then again has anyone, seeing that you know more about Historical Calvinism than Horton and Piper and Sproul, I frankly find this laughable. Enjoy the 3 replies you have on your Historical Theology Blog.

      • kenny chmiel says:

        @ Bobby, On your Muller reference, I think this is something so far from what TCR was getting at in his original post. It might have been something you wanted to talk about, which is my grand point here – it’s always about you and your dissing of fine traditional calvinists to people who might happen to like those people.

    • kenny chmiel says:

      Your best answer ever, I can respect that.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        whatever, kenny . . . how else am I supposed to respond to your style of cynical caricature and ad hom. My response to TC is right in line with my original objection, the fact that I want to try and develop that a bit, and provide quotes that help do that is not to disingenuously follow my “grand point;” it’s to highlight the fact that classic calvinism isn’t just dealing in biblical categories (and I could honestly care less if you don’t like that someone might question that there’s more than one style of calvinism, because historically there is). So it behooves all of us to try and understand what informs our theological categories so that we can more critically interact with how it either serves or distorts the Bible.

        Why you can’t deal with that, and simply deal with what I’m saying (instead of dropping some sort of philosophical quotes that have nothing to do with the context of what I’m saying)?

        Being a cynic is just being a cynic, if that’s your mo; whatever.

      • Bobby Grow says:

        I’m not attacking fine Calvinist people, I’m challenging what has become taboo to challenge; the machine of American (and Norwegian 😉 ) Calvinism. This definitely got deeper than I wanted it to be, but I really don’t know how else to talk about these things in soundbytes, which is why blogging sucks.

        But don’t worry, I plan on muting myself on such things at other blogs (like this one) in the future; it’s just not worth it, and there is no fruit in it. I apologize, Kenny, for getting so snarky. Please forgive me.

  18. Dan Reeves says:

    So…who’s interested in some hugs? 😉

  19. Pingback: The Task of All Christian Scholarship | New Leaven

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