Calvin's Cornelius Plantinga says peace, peace...

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For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge...  (Malachi 2:7)

After the post on Calvin College's billboard campaign lauding themselves for being dirt-renewers, one reader defended Calvin by providing links he believed would explain their dirt-keeping campaign. He commented:

Actually Calvin College teaches about renewing minds and renewing the earth. Judging by the sarcasm in your second paragraph it sounds like you started with a negative pre-disposition toward the college. (Did you really think the photo depicted a religious ritual?) The billboard you saw was one of six scattered around West Michigan, each with a different photo and message. You can get more context of the campaign here: And you can get more context for Calvin's approach to education here: I doubt I have swayed you in any way but at least your readers will have more context.

I read his links and responded by...

providing these links to other Baylyblog posts giving the larger context for my condemnation of Calvin:

Dear (John Doe),

Some other posts on Calvin:

[Tim Bayly]

Then, after the above comment, I added another one:

[Dear John Doe,]

From your second link, this quote from Cornelius Plantinga Jr.:

* * *
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Old Testament prophets called shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or cease-fire among enemies. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.

We are now fallen creatures in a fallen world. The Christian gospel tells us that all hell has broken loose in this sorry world but also that, in Christ, all heaven has come to do battle. Christ the warrior has come to defeat worldly power, to move the world over onto a new foundation, and to equip a people—informed, devout, educated, pious, determined people—to follow him in righting what’s wrong, in transforming what's corrupted, in doing the things that make for peace.

That’s what Christian higher education is for. It’s for shalom. It’s for peace in the sense of wholeness and harmony in the world. It’s for restoring proper relationships with nature and other humans and God, and for teaching us to delight in the wonders of creation that remain. As my teacher Nicholas Wolterstorff used to say, Christian college education equips us to be agents of shalom, models of shalom, witnesses to shalom.

I believe we could summarize our calling in Christian college education as follows: in an academic setting, with the peculiar tools, perspectives, and resources of academe, we have to equip ourselves with the knowledge, the skills, and the attitudes that can be thrown into the struggle for shalom, the battle for universal wholeness and delight. The calling is exceedingly broad. We must never narrow it down to personal piety.
* * *

If "webbing together" isn't enough, how about "delight." "Shalom." "Peace." "Universal flourishing." "Joyful wonders." "Delight." "Delights." "Wholeness." "Harmony." "Delight." "Delight."

What more can be said?


[Tim Bayly]

The text of this second comment was changed to remove a statement I'd made, originally, with respect to Dr. Cornelius Plantinga, that "The man is a dupe." I didn't remove it because I'd changed my mind, but because I didn't think I'd provided enough context for my condemnation of Plantinga. But before my removal of the statement, another reader asked me to explain it, and I felt I must. Here, then, is my explanation put up originally as a comment, and now as a post:

Dear (John Doe),

I’d pulled that word from my comment before noticing you asked this question, so let me make a brief attempt to explain myself.

Until a couple years ago, Cornelius Plantinga had served as president of Calvin Seminary for almost a decade and his brother, Alvin, is one of the more respected Christian philosophers, today. So these men should have the sort of discernment of good and evil, submission and rebellion, justice and oppression, truth and lies that is worthy of their reputation and the leadership they’ve accrued within the church. Remember that Christ is the Lord of the church and His message of shalom was “unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish."

But this is not the clear note sounded by Cornelius Plantinga despite his inclusion of a paragraph talking about Christ coming to do war against earthly power. The text is triumphalist patter about Christian higher education that is meant to inspire large donations to the school's capital campaign or endowment.

Honestly, what is he saying? Yea, “shalom” and all that, but shalom with whom? Muslims? Polluters? North Korea? Iran? Citigroup and General Motors? NARAL?

Despite claiming he and higher Christian education stand in the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament, the one thing clear about the man is that he’s running from God’s prophets and their work as hard and far as he can, and that he wants Calvin College and Seminary to remove anything approximating the prophets' Godly witness and suffering from the campus as well as their parent denomination.

Not repentance and faith, but transformation. Transformation is what the liberal wing of the Reformed world speaks of and preaches in order to give the feeling of calling men to repentance without actually doing it. To Plantinga, the problem today has nothing to do with God’s wrath against man, but “human’s” lack of knowledge of the shalom God has already accomplished (which merely needs to be announced and tended).

Meanwhile, for decades Plantinga’s college and seminary have been at the forefront of leading rebellion against God and His Law by promoting women pastors and elders and eating away at the church’s faithful witness to God’s condemnation of sodomy.

Calvin profs and their leaders have spent decades, now, destroying their church’s faithful witness, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to sin and righteousness and judgment. To them, Hell is no real place to which God consigns for all eternity those who refuse to repent and believe. Rather, “hell has broken loose in this sorry world.” Note the lower cap. Hell is no place like Calvin or Grand Rapids, but just a force that has "broken loose." And note that God has not loosed it; hell has loosed itself.

Honestly, it’s unimaginable to me that anyone who knows the prophets could be bamboozled by Plantinga’s tripe, but it’s hard to overstate the hatred of Christians today for the gift of discernment. We will do almost anything to keep a heart of wisdom far from us. I wonder if anyone in the Dutch world ever read Plantinga’s words reproduced in my comment below and remembered what a real prophet prophesied about such men:

How can you say, "We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us"? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, They are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, And what kind of wisdom do they have?

Therefore I will give their wives to others, Their fields to new owners; Because from the least even to the greatest Everyone is greedy for gain; From the prophet even to the priest Everyone practices deceit. They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, "Peace, peace," But there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:8-11)

Again, to point out the obvious, the false wise men who claim to teach the Law of the Lord say “peace, peace.”


[Tim Bayly]

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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