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
Before I begin interacting with Mr. Dohse’s claims regarding Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I need to begin by saying that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a student at Westminster. This is a matter I have no personal stake in whatsoever.
In Chapter 6, titled “The Westminster Connection,” Mr. Dohse writes,
Machen was infatuated with the idea that Christ’s perfect life was part of the atonement. Supposedly, Christ had to obey the law perfectly in our stead to make justification valid. this was known as Christ’s ‘active obedience’ and His death on the cross, according to this theology, was his ‘passive obedience.’ (TANC, 59.)
There are a couple of things that I want to say at this point, not all of which rise to the same level of importance.
The previous chapter of Mr. Dohse’s work is titled “The New Covenant Theology Connection,” which is a sustained polemic against the New Covenant Theology of Fred Zaspel, John Reisinger, and Jon Zens. Perhaps I’m wrong to have the expectation that Mr. Dohse demonstrate a connection between Westminster Seminary’s founder, J. Gresham Machen, and New Covenant Theology, but I have that expectation none the less. Mr. Dohse just moves from one topic to the other without explaining why it’s important as we move from the subject of New Covenant theology to the subject of Westminster Seminary to note that Machen believed in the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. The connection between the two is not apparent, and isn’t made clear. Is Mr. Dohse aware of the fact that Machen was a covenant theologian who would have opposed NCT himself?
The other problem is found in a later paragraph on the same page, when Mr. Dohse says,
Others believe Christ’s obedience to the cross was sufficient for a valid justification by virtue of who He is—His righteousness had no need to be established, nor was there a need for him to obey in our stead for sanctification purposes.
But in the preceding paragraph, Mr. Dohse said that Machen believed that it was necessary for Christ to keep the law in our place “to make justification valid.” So which did Machen believe? Was Christ’s obedience necessary for justification, or for sanctification? Or is Mr. Dohse just confused on this point, and doesn’t know the difference between the two?
Then we have this statement,
Another founder of Westminster who left Princeton with Machen was Cornelius Van Til who was a close friend of someone we are familiar with from chapter 3, Geerhardus Vos. Vos was a professor at Princeton as well where he honed his Biblical Theology interpretive theories. (TANC, 60.)
Having read the whole book (more than once, now) I have no idea why this paragraph is included. Cornelius Van Til is never mentioned again, and he doesn’t explain what Van Til has to do with New Covenant Theology, or with the Australian Forum and Robert Brimsmead, who is apparently the boogeyman that Dohse believes is the source of all of the problems in “New Calvinism.”
Then there is further confusion to be found a couple of pages away,
The Forum’s influence [at Westminster] must have been significant. One writer’s opinion is that the Forum ‘shaped the thoughts and ideas’ of Dr. Michael Horton who is a well-known Professor at Westminster’s campus in California. (TANC, 62.)
Westminster Seminary, California is an entirely separate school that has been independent of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia since the early 1980’s. So what’s the connection between the Australian Forums supposed influence at Westminster (in Philadelphia) have to do with Michael Horton, who was a student at Westminster (in California) before he became a member of the faculty there?
There are some huge leaps of logic involved in this chapter that are (1) unsubstantiated, and (2) totally misleading because Mr. Dohse doesn’t distinguish between two different schools separated by 2700 miles.
This is the product of “five years of intensive research”?