More Calvinistic Than Calvin? Invitation to Join the Jury

The book, More Calvinistic Than Calvin? (MCTC) was published in 2023 by a team of local seminary lecturers under the leadership of Bishop Hwa Yung. [The book is available from Canaanland Book Store]. The aim of the book is to refute what it describes as “hardline Calvinism”, and to counter the influence of “hardline Calvinism” among college students in Malaysia.

Dr. Poh Boon Sing of the Reformed Baptist Church (Damansara Utama) has just published a rebuttal of More Calvinistic Than Calvin? on the internet, Beware of the Ecumenical Agenda (BEA) [<–link to file download].

I managed only to give the new book a super quick browse. Will give it a more thorough read after completing some urgent tasks presently.

BEA offers vigorous rebuttals to what it deems to be superficial and unsubstantiated misrepresentations of (hardline) Calvinism as presented by MCTC. Malaysian Christians should read the two books and decide for themselves whether the writers of MCTC and BEA have been fair and accurate in describing the opposing views and evaluate whether the rebuttals from both sides are well-founded and cogent.

The book, BEA would have been more effective if it refrains from bringing in the so-called “Ecumenical Agenda”among “neo-evangelicals” at the end of the book. Yes, Christians should be concerned that inter-church fellowship should not require compromise of core Christian doctrines. It is arguable that leaders of many contemporary evangelical churches are guilty of dereliction of duty in neglecting to teach the whole counsel of God which includes solid biblical exposition and sound doctrines to their congregations.

But the issue of inter-church fellowship and cooperative ventures in mission which BEA identifies as the “ecumenical agenda” is not the main focus of MCTC. Raising the issue of “the ecumenical agenda” will distract readers from the main focus on the alleged problems of (hardline) Calvinism. The debate would be more fruitful if BEA just responds to the alleged deficiencies of (hardline) Calvinism raised by MCTC by correcting what it deems to be distortions of Calvinism in MCTC and demonstrating the biblical basis and cogency of the teachings of historical, mainstream Reformed theology.

In passing, we should note that outstanding scholars of historical theology like Richard A. Muller emphasize that it is more accurate to use the word “Reformed movement” instead of “Calvinist movement” since historically, the movement was not shaped by John Calvin alone. The movement was also shaped by other peer leaders-theologians like Martin Bucer, Theodore Beza, Peter Martyr Vermigli, Gisbertus Voetius, Zacharias Ursinus, William Perkins, Francis Turrretin, Petrus van Mastricht, etc.

May the ensuing debates between readers of MCTC and BEA be fair and vigorous so that Malaysian Christians may be awakened from their dogmatic slumber.

Correction (5 March 2024) –  Updated and corrected the link to the book Beware of the Ecumenical Agenda (BEA).