I am not one who likes to criticize Leighton Flowers for having such a narrow apologetic focus. Dr. Flowers’ ministry is dedicated entirely to refuting Calvinism, and this irritates many of his opponents, most notably, Dr. James White. While many take issue with Flower’s myopic apologetic, I do not. I believe that the wealth of access we have to information today is making the “jack-of-all-trades” apologist a relic of a bygone age. I have no problem with an apologist focusing his efforts exclusively on something like textual criticism, or refuting Mormonism, or defending the Trinity, etc. Thus, if Dr. Flowers wants to only focus on Calvinism, so be it.
That stated, there is a danger to Dr. Flowers’ method. Dr. White has regularly warned Dr. Flowers of becoming “imbalanced” due to his sole focus on Calvinism. When all theological energy is oriented around one issue, or one group, it can be very difficult to remain balanced. Systematic and biblical theology can be neglected when theologians have tunnel vision. And I do believe Dr. White’s warnings to Dr. Flowers are looking more and more prophetic. So, while I take no principled issue with Leighton’s narrow focus, I think it is unwise as it is causing him to become, as Dr. White says, imbalanced.
Case in Point
The more recent example of this imbalance was seen in an argument he recently posted on his Youtube community page which best demonstrates how corrosive Leighton’s anti-Calvinism is. Flowers attempted to attack Calvinism on the basis of the doctrine known as “The Assurance of Salvation.” He attempted to offer a logical argument that, on Calvinism, Christians being assured of their salvation is impossible. Below is a screen shot of his argument.
What’s Determinism Got to Do with It?
Flower’s logic in this argument is horrendous. The primary problem with his argument is that the second premise is absolutely irrelevant to the argument. Flowers has crammed Determinism into an argument that has nothing to do with Determinism. This is a form of of the non-sequitur fallacy.
If the Bible teaches that people can think they are saved when they are in fact not saved, then every professing Christian must provide a reason for why they do not consider themselves among that group. Whether we were predestined to be fooled or we autonomously fooled ourselves, the fact remains that we might be fooled. Flowers is trying to blame Determinism for a problem that is not at all germane to that doctrine.
To show this more clearly, I edited out of Dr. Flowers’ argument the irrelevant data. Notice how the argument flows perfectly well without any reference to Calvinism:
It’s not good that the entire second premise of his argument can be removed and the argument not only makes sense, but is significantly stronger. That premise is unrelated to the argument entirely.
The fact remains that, in light of the fact that some people can be wrong about their own assurance is dilemma with which all Christians must wrestle. In other words Dr. Flower’s hasn’t asked a poor question, but he has poorly asked a good question. There is a good conversation to be had among Christians about whether we can be assured of our salvation, but this is something entirely unrelated to Determinism. All Christians must answer the question Dr. Flowers asked: How do you know you’re not wrong about your own salvation? But this question is pertinent to Calvinists, Arminians, Provisionists, and every other person claiming knowledge of the divine. Whether or not God has an immutable decree is irrelevant to both the question and its answer. The issue of assurance concerns epistemology. Flowers has tried to turn a question of epistemology and psychology into a question of soteriology.
An Accidental Admission
In case you are unconvinced of my point thus far, let it be known Dr. Flowers accidentally affirmed my critique.
It appears I was not alone in my reaction to his argument. Many pointed out that the problem he is probing is not at all unique to Calvinism, nor is it even exacerbated by Calvinism. Enough people pointed out his irrelevant second premise that Dr. Flowers was forced to do a bit of damage control, but only dug the hole he was standing in even deeper.
When Flowers is presented with the same criticism I have made here he answers by abandoning his original argument and presenting an entirely new argument! When Dr. Flowers says “The difference is that on Provisionism we teach and believe that God is the kind of God who wishes the very best for all His creation and thus would never decree for any person to believe they are a child of God when they are not” he is making an entirely new argument against Calvinism. So he has not clarified his first argument as he thinks he has done. Rather, he has abandoned his argument and posited a new one! Allow me to show you.
Leighton’s first argument looked like this:
P1: In Scripture some people are fooled about their salvation.
P2: God predetermined that those people would be fooled about their salvation.
C: Calvinists cannot know if they are truly saved.
Now, how would we formulate the argument in his explanation?
P1: God is kind.
P2: A kind God would never fool a person about his salvation.
P3: Calvinism’s God fools people about their salvation.
C: The God of Calvinism is not kind.
These two arguments are not the same. One cannot possibly be an explanation of the other. They are categorically and formally different. One is valid, one is invalid. One deals with epistemology, the other deals with theodicy. Dr. Flowers, in trying to defend his first argument, had to abandon it and present a new one. This means he has yet to actually answer the question posed to him by so many of us.
Why This Matters
The purpose of this post was not just to dunk on Dr. Flowers or pick low-hanging fruit. I didn’t join the fray here for an easy victory. I circle back to my introduction to explain that there is a larger teaching moment here.
Dr. Flowers is a smart, capable thinker. The illogical nature of this post is beneath him. His body of work and his credentials will demonstrate that this is unbecoming of him. The problem however is that he has only doubled down! Rather than just admit it was a poor argument and delete it, notice the rest of his commentary as he “explained” why his first argument is a true problem only for Calvinists:
Dr. Flowers posted a really bad logical argument. After this was pointed out to him by many people- including Provisionists- he provided an even worse explanation, wherein he posited a new, unrelated argument. Yet he continues to claim that his logic is sound and the question so many have raised has been answered.
Dr. White’s warning to Dr. Flowers is vindicated. Dr. Flowers is so blinded by his hatred for Calvinism that he cannot even see very basic logical mistakes that listeners from both camps are pointing out to him. When a very smart man doubles down on such an obviously poor argument, there is a dangerous bias poisoning his thinking. Dr. Flowers is allowing his hatred of Calvinism to infect his reasoning. It is apparent to me that every argument against Calvinism is a good one in Leighton’s mind.
On a Personal Note
I do need to say one final word as a kind of appendix. When Dr. Flowers made his video against me, one of his favorite arguments was to accuse me of the “tu quoque” fallacy. I spent a lot of time defending myself from that charge. I find it interesting that he did not accuse his non-Calvinist friend of “tu quoque” when his friend pointed out Leighton’s argument against Calvinism also works against Provisionism.
My hope is that people are beginning to see that Dr. Flowers regularly engages in a kind of argumentation that it forces people to respond as I did, by turning it back on him. The fact remains that Dr. Flowers has made such a habit of deconstructing Calvinism with issues latent in his system, or by blaming Calvinism for things it is not organically responsible for, that those who respond are forced to say “but what about you…” It’s not tu quoque. Dr. Flowers forces our hand in how he argues. My hope is that by now people will see that Dr. Flowers is the problem, not me.