If anyone happened to see the comments following my last post, he or she will know that Bobby Grow, whose own blog first inspired me to create my own, has expressed frustration with the approach to blogging that I have adopted here, especially with what pertains to the Evangelical Calvinism that he and Myk Habets have promoted. It seems that contrary to my desires and best intentions, I have given the impression that I have wanted in some way to profit by, steal from, or otherwise use Bobby and his work for my own ulterior motives. To hear that I have done this is heartbreaking, because nothing could be further from the truth, although I admit that I can understand why Bobby (or anyone else for that matter) would think this. Unfortunately at times, despite our best intentions, the things we do to help and support others can often come across as just the opposite. And since this has occurred between Bobby and I in a somewhat public way (through the blog and Facebook), I thought it appropriate to write a response as a blog post with the hopes that I can, if possible, make amends and restore a relationship with someone whom I admire and respect.
So first off, I want to apologize. I want to apologize primarily to Bobby for anything that I’ve done to give the impression that my intention was to profit by, steal from, or otherwise use him and his work for my own ulterior motives. In this case, it is not enough simply to say “I didn’t mean to do that!”. Nothing short of a public apology will suffice, and so that is what I want to offer here and ask for Bobby’s forgiveness. I also want to apologize to anyone else to whom I’ve given this same impression, not least to Myk Habets who has worked closely with Bobby to shape and present the Evangelical Calvinism for which I have tried to advocate. My desire has never been to treat EC as though it were something of my own creation. If I have given that impression, then I am genuinely sorry.
I would like to offer, by way of my own story, a bit of clarification as to why I have taken the approach that I have to this blog. I do not mean this as self-defense or self-justification, merely to (hopefully) clear up any misunderstanding that might exist. Prior to latching on to Bobby’s and Myk’s vision of EC, I had been a fairly typical, Piper-like 5-point Calvinist for quite some time. A couple of years ago, there were a number of factors that caused me to begin to question this position. Things came to a head when, during the course of my MA studies, I began to study Karl Barth and, not long after, T.F. Torrance. The research that I was doing for my MA thesis heavily involved a similar kind of theological retrieval and emphases that characterize Bobby’s and Myk’s EC, although at the time I was unaware of what they were doing.
It was only a matter of time, however, until I finally found their book, which I devoured like a starving man at a banquet. The direction that my own studies were taking me, in line with Barth and Torrance, seemed crystallized by them in a clear and concise way. There is not, of course, an official EC confession as such, in contrast with the federal Calvinism which can find its primary grammar in the Westminster Confession. So when I discovered EC as Bobby and Myk were offering it, it provided something concrete and tangible that I could latch on to, something that both confirmed the many thoughts swirling around in my own head and further illuminated the path forward to learning more. It offered me, as it were, a community of like-minded individuals who, rather than simply being Barthian, Torrancean, or (God forbid!) neo-orthodox, could band together under the auspices of the EC vision that Bobby and Myk were outlining.
The more I learned (especially from reading Bobby’s bog), the more my desire grew to support what Bobby and Myk were doing and to help spread and promote EC as much as I was able. I contacted Bobby, expressed my deep appreciation for what he was doing, and floated the idea of starting a blog of my own as I had been so inspired by his. He was very encouraging, and so I created Reformissio, with the goal of, if not exclusively, at least largely writing posts discussing and promoting EC-related themes. I thought that although not perhaps on the same level as Bobby, I could possibly play at least a small role in spreading the word, so to speak, about EC and in sharing my excitement over what I had discovered. I am, after all, a missionary at heart.
This is where, however, the problem started. I realized that in order to write about EC, I couldn’t simply write about whatever I perceived it to be. There are, of course, many other bloggers who write on related themes – Barth, Torrance, Reformed theology, etc. – but few (if any other than Bobby!) that style their ideas specifically as EC. Since I was interested in writing not simply about Barth, Torrance, Calvin, etc. but in writing specifically in promotion of EC, I thought it necessary to make sure that my posts were similar enough in substance to Bobby’s in order to qualify as legitimately EC. Just as Westminsterian types get upset when Barth and Torrance as referred to as Reformed, I believed that Bobby and Myk would be less than pleased were I to start writing about EC but say things which were different from or even in contradiction with the vision that they had laid out in their fifteen theses. Thus, in these few months that I have been blogging, I have attempted to be consistent with and faithful to that vision, looking to Bobby’s blog as a kind of baseline according to which I (and others) could judge the compatibility between what I promote as EC and what EC truly is according to Bobby and Myk. If I was to promote EC, I wanted readers of my blog to be able to identify what I was offering as in harmony with the EC that has come to be known through the book and Bobby’s blog. I didn’t want to create confusion about EC; it was out of my deep respect for and excitement about Bobby’s and Myk’s work that I wanted stay as close as possible to the kind of thing they were offering. My impression was that Bobby was excited about what I was doing.
It seems that I was wrong, and this attempt appears to have misfired. I fear that rather than being a help and support to Myk, and particularly to Bobby, I have given the impression that I am simply out to take over the space that they have created, that I only want to enjoy the fruits of their hard work without having been there from the beginning to laboriously prepare and till the soil. Looking back, I can see how I have given this impression. I would have loved, more than anything, to have started studying Barth and Torrance years earlier, to have been in on the EC conversation from the beginning, to have started blogging back in the days when Bobby started himself. However, there is no turning back the clock. At this point in time, I can only extend my deepest apologies for any frustration or problems that I may have created, and ask for their forgiveness.
So where does this leaves things for Reformissio? I don’t want to stop blogging. I have found it immensely helpful to myself in working out ideas, and I have also been able to reach some people that prior to reading my blog had no knowledge of Myk, Bobby, or EC. I’m still excited about EC, and I still desire to help and support (not supplant or usurp!) Myk and Bobby in their work. However, I’m not exactly sure how I can do that without continuing to give the impression that my underlying intention is, as mentioned above, to profit by, steal from, or otherwise use Bobby, Myk, and their work for my own ulterior motives. Perhaps rather than calling what I’m doing “Evangelical Calvinism”, I need to find another name for it or simply not call it anything at all. Perhaps I should stop promoting EC as such and simply return to and blog about the original sources that led me to EC in the first place. I’m not sure how that would help Myk and Bobby in promoting EC, but I am willing to make that change if it would salvage relationships and clear up misunderstandings.
I am also open to advice or suggestions. I know that many have expressed their appreciation for what I am writing. Perhaps some of you may have some ideas as to where I can go from here. My interests remain what they are – theological retrieval, patristics, the Reformation, Roman Catholicism, Calvin, Barth, and Torrance – and I hope to be able to continue writing about these topics in the future. I just want to do so in such a way that I avoid giving offense, creating problems, or inadvertently repackaging someone else’s ideas as my own. If Bobby and Myk are, like Luther, the first-generation Reformers that got EC off the ground, then I, as the second-generation EC, am still seeking my own voice. I ask for your patience and prayer.