The Truth About New Calvinism: A Review in Three Parts (Part 2A: The Bad)

Paul M. Dohse, Sr. The Truth About New Calvinism: Its History, Doctrine, and Character, Vol. 1. Xenia, Ohio: TANC Publishing, 2011. 146 pp. Spiral-bound. $14.95

TANC We looked last time at the one aspect of The Truth About New Calvinism that I found commendable, namely, it’s concern with the rising problem of antinomianism.

Today I have the much more distasteful job of speaking about portions of the work that are more troubling. While I appreciate Mr. Dohse’s concern for the dangers presented by antinomianism, I cannot overlook the massive problems in his work, not least of which is what I can only characterize as extremely shoddy research.

Bear with me while I substantiate my accusation.

One example of Mr. Dohse’s shoddy research can be found on page 23, where Mr. Dohse writes,

How we approach the Bible is known as Bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible. New Calvinism makes much of complicated theologies that create dichotomies in Scripture concerning God’s law. New Calvinism has adopted most of its bibliology from Geerhardus Vos who was a Reformed theologian. Vos devised a comprehensive theology for interpreting the Bible known as Biblical Theology. The foundation of this bibliology originated with Johann Philipp Gabler.

The source for Mr. Dohse’s claim is a Wikipedia article (!), which is problematic on several fronts. First, because the author of the article in question is unidentified, it is extremely difficult to judge the author’s expertise in the field covered by the article. Moreover, the portion that Mr. Dohse uses to substantiate his claim is itself unsourced, which doesn’t allow you to critically interact with the claim being made.

Using Wikipedia as source in an academic setting is a massive faux pas that usually results in an immediate failing grade.

What’s worse is that the statement made is demonstrably false; Johann Philipp Gabler is not in any way the source of Biblical Theology as it was formulated and practiced by Geerhardus Vos. The discipline known as “biblical theology” was practiced long before Johann Philipp Gabler was even born. Herman Witsius (Economy of the Covenants, 4.1-17) and John Owen (Biblical Theology) both wrote works on “biblical theology” long before Johann Philipp Gabler cracked his first book, and Jonathan Edwards preached a series of sermons on the subject (A History of the Work of Redemption) that was published posthumously in 1782. Please note that these are just three examples of biblical theology that was published before Johann Philipp Gabler’s time—there are a lot more that could be adduced, but I’m not doing so for the sake of space.

What Mr. Dohse doesn’t seem to be aware of, despite his claim that “this book…is the product of almost five years of intense research,” (8) is that Vos stands in the same stream with the great covenant theologians of the Reformation—an oversight that could be forgiven if it weren’t for the fact that Mr. Dohse is clearly aware of Dr. Richard Barcellos, whom he mentions in his chart found on page 92, and who wrote his doctoral dissertation (published in 2010, before TANC was published), The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology: Geerhardus Vos and John Owen, Their Methods of and Contributions to the Articulation of Redemptive History, on this very subject.

I wish that this was an isolated problem, but it’s not…as we will see tomorrow.

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"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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