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Academic Discussion: Gary L. Johnson Style

April 19, 2009

Setting the record straight.

I would rather not do this, but once again Gary Johnson has made a public accusation regarding my treatment of him.  The following is a log of my entire interaction with him.  Everything above the deleted comment [scroll down] is still at the Calvin&Calvinism blog.  I saved the deleted commet to my hard-drive but not on the blog itself. His two following comments are still in pending at the old C&Cwordpress site.

The first time I deleted his comment was because of the insulting remark contained within it. I did not delete it because I was afraid to converse with him or anything like that. And as you can see from the discussion I had asked him not to make the conversation personal.   The two other comments after that are still in pending mode as I said.  As usual the underlining is mine.

Gary, I don’t know what to say to you.  Repent?…  deal with it, or something?




I noticed that you did not mention Jonathan H. Rainbow and his ‘The Will Of God And The Cross: An Historical and Theological Study of John Calvin’s Doctrine of Limited Redemption’(Pickwick,1990). Very important controbution to the discussion.

December 18th, 2007 at 7:07 pm

Hey Gary,

I’ve read it and I do not agree with it. I have lots of problems with his ahistorical treatment of the men he discusses.

I have started to critique it here:
Prosper on Redemption


Augustine on Redemption

His thesis is basically, a white hat versus black hat method. He alleged that Augustine held to limited expiation/redemption and that Prosper was the bad guy. Then comes Gottschalk who is the good guy. Then comes Aquinas et al, who are the bad guys. And then the Reformation returns to Augustine etc. Thats rough, on my part, but I think it captures the issue. The problem is, he reads his authors acontextually and in a lopsided manner.

Gottschalk is never cited by the Reformed; rather Prosper is repeatedly. The groupings he has are arbitrary. And his treatment of Calvin is unacceptable.

I can show that his readings of Calvin’s so-called wasted blood passages are non-sustainable and again ahistorical. The language actually has a lineage, and Rainbow provides none of that. Rainbow’s treatment of Calvin’s comments regarding the redemption of Christ and unbelievers is just incredible.

I have been collating information on exegetical trajectories. Take 2 Peter 2:1 for example: when all the material is read, Rainbow’s account of Calvin on that verse is clearly off the mark.

If you want to correspond, I am more than willing. A lot of what I am doing here is about the very topic Rainbow takes up.

I would encourage you to read the “For Whom Did Christ Die?” archive.


December 18th, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Am I correct in assuming then that you also differ with Roger Nicole on this issue?

December 19th, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Hey Gary,

Yes I have. I dont find him convincing. I find that he explains away critical comments from Calvin with speculation. That is not good historiography.

Again, I invite you to read some of the articles posted, and/or discuss this stuff with me any time.

I could also ask, what do you think are the strongest arguments Rainbow or Nicole bring to the table in support of their thesis?

But anyway, it is not something I let myself get bent out of shape over and start anathematizing others. I hope thats good with you too.

Take care

December 19th, 2007 at 8:38 pm

Roger Nicole will no doubt admit to any number of short comings-but as many of his former students can tell you- not being a good historiographer is not one of them! I would put my two friends Robert Godfrey and Scott Clark in that same catagory. I do hope you are not implying that people like Nicole, Godfrey and Clark are not real scholars becuase they differ with you over Calvin’s doctrine of the atonement.

December 19th, 2007 at 8:58 pm

Hey Gary,

Sure, there is no need to make it personal tho. I really dont care about Nicole’s credentials or Scott Clark’s etc. I really dont. What does interest me are the arguments claimed from or about the historical data.

With regard to Nicole and Rainbow, et al, I just dont see it. I think there has been a lot of sloppy work in all this. Rainbow just gives us fanciful interpretations of Calvin. He actually is a little less than accurate in some of his quoting of Calvin. Nicole just injects his own assumptions into Calvin, and then argues from them. Other comments from Nicole are just pure speculation. Its easy to say with Iain Murray that Calvin was just being “wonderfully broad.”

I believe I can quite easily document and demonstrate my assertions here. I just am not delusional that I can do this for you in a comments box, and only after a few rounds. For that reason I have been working on presenting a stable body of data which is testable by objective means rather than just wish-projection. But that all takes time, Gary: one has to actually spend a few hours reading the primary source material.

I will say tho, I just will not get into this sort of crazy line of thought that somehow gives folk like Nicole, Clark, Rainbow, cult-like expert status such that their claims are not testable or correctable.

If you wish to table the best argument you believe Nicole or Rainbow adduce, lets do that. I am interested in reading the primary source data first and foremost and then testing the various claims from the secondary literature by what is found in the primary source data.

Make sense?

So sure, table something if you like.

Did you happen to read any of the sources I have documented already?

For example, do you dispute Musculus, Bullinger, Zwingli, Vermigli? Do you believe Rainbow is right on Augustine, after reading my small critique of Rainbow on that? Can Nicole or anyone prove that Prosper’s synthesis was not the model accepted as standard in the 16thC?

Take care,

December 20th, 2007 at 1:42 am

For what it is worth, Steve Costley is also looking at Nicole’s treatments of various subjects:

The Logic of the Theology of John Calvin

Its really a blog by another name, but I like his subtitle too.


December 20th, 2007 at 5:37 am

” Cult like Status” ? This is my last visit to this site.

December 20th, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Hey Gary,

Thats fine. From your profile you look like an academic. Yet your approach here has been odd. I dont want to be combative but did you scope out my response to Rainbow on Augustine and Prosper at the links I provided?

If you never check back here, I am totally fine with that. :-)

Take care,

December 20th, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Odd, you say? I raised a question to you about the ommission of Rainbow’s work and you respond with a wave of your hand that the book has no merit. I ask about Roger Nicole, one of the most significant Reformed theologians/historians of the last 50 years, and you are even more dismissive about him. I then mention the names of two very highly thought of Reformed historians-Bob Godfrey ( one of my former professors) and my friend Scott Clark, and you heap disdain on them! I can only imagine , given you admiration for Kendall’s work you attitude toward Richard Muller and Paul Helm! By the way, other than Helm’s little book ‘Calvin and The Calvinists’ you really ought to read his most recent book ‘John Calvin’s Ideas’ ( Oxford,2004) . Paul is also a friend and contributed to a fothcoming book that I edited for Crossway that is due out inthe Fall of 2008.

December 21st, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Hey Gary,

I thought you were not coming back? ;-) <=friendly smilie.

You say:

Odd, you say? I raised a question to you about the ommission of Rainbow’s work and you respond with a wave of your hand that the book has no merit.

David: Well no, I didn’t do that at all. I would invite you to read again what I said. I gave reasons. And like I said, I don’t fool myself into thinking that the burden is on me to prove everything all the time in every place wherein I may make a comment. This is a comments box. I did give some reasons for my rejection of Rainbow and I did direct you to some posts of mine wherein I begin to develop a counter-argument which completely undermined his ‘white-hat/black-hat’ motif.

You say: I ask about Roger Nicole, one of the most significant Reformed theologians/historians of the last 50 years, and you are even more dismissive about him.

David: I reject the idea that I was “even more dismissive.” That is just not true, Gary. You are over-reacting. Nicole’s Ph.D was on Amyraut’s early phase. For the most part its a bibliography right? And in some critical ways he skews Amyraut. But his Ph.D is historical. What field is Rainbow’s Ph.D in? Is it systematic theology or history? If its the latter, his historical work is very sloppy. I have already started to show that. His survey is lop-sided and arbitrary. He leaves out so much that really discounts his claims about Bucer, Calvin and others.

Richard Muller is the only historian here on these topics who really spends a lot of time in his area of history.

You say: I then mention the names of two very highly thought of Reformed historians-Bob Godfrey ( one of my former professors) and my friend Scott Clark, and you heap disdain on them!

David: Again this is just emotionalism, Gary. I expect more from you given your bio. I never said I disdained them, never implied that. I have read Godfrey’s Ph.D and it is very helpful. Scott Clark, thats another matter. But I never expressed any disdain. You need to get it together, Gary.

However, I do constantly see a lot of disdain coming from Clark’s keyboard. For that reason he is just not my cup of tea, and so I avoid him and anything that he has written.

You say: I can only imagine , given you admiration for Kendall’s work

David: Where did I ever express admiration for Kendall in any of this? What are you reading? Gary, I implore you to think more academically and impartially. You might lighten up on the accusative tone too.

You say: you attitude toward Richard Muller and Paul Helm!

David: I have read a lot Helm too. His specialty is not history, not even systematics, its philosophy. His treatment [Calvin and the Calvinists] of Calvin on this is also very lightweight. Thats totally natural as its not his field. Where did you get my attitude toward Muller? I think Muller is wrong on some of this, but he is giving signs of moving in a better direction perhaps.

What I am getting from you is this impression: if I disagree with an academic in your camp, I must loath and disdain them. If I agree with them, I love love and adore them. Thats what I am sincerely getting from you.

You say:
By the way, other than Helm’s little book ‘Calvin and The Calvinists’ you really ought to read his most recent book ‘John Calvin’s Ideas’ ( Oxford,2004) .

David. I have read his ‘little book’ and looked at his other work on Calvin. I dont agree with his ‘little book.’ Is there something wrong with that?

You say: Paul is also a friend and contributed to a fothcoming book that I edited for Crossway that is due out in the Fall of 2008.

David: that’s great.

Now Gary, you are welcome to post here. I enjoy interaction with people who disagree with me because it forces me to think. But the interaction must be sound and solid. I wont allow infantile behaviour from anyone. If you are here just to take potshots at me then your posts will not be approved. If you want to interact with my ideas, research or claims, challenging them in a legitimate academic way you are more than welcome here.

Whats really cool about Helm is that he will process an idea without attacking the person presenting the idea, even if at the end of the processing he rejects the idea. I think Muller is like this too.

Take care,

December 21st, 2007 at 9:21 pm


One thing too, if you just want to talk about those who have talked about this topic, I am not really interested. If you want to talk about the subject matter specifically, even by way of secondary sources, thats fine.

If you just want to be bullish about what I talk about, thats not what I want to happen here.

I am sure you are a reasonable man and can see this.


December 21st, 2007 at 9:24 pm


I just saw your last post Gary. I deleted it. I am just not interested.

If you have any arguments against the positions on this blog from your secondary source literature, post that and I will take a look at it.

Take care,


Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 15:58:40 -0600
GLW Johnson
Gee whiz David, you are the one who got defensive over my asking about
Rainbow, Nicole, Godfrey,Clark ,Muller and Helm. Besides, given the way
you did a hat dance around Calvin´s reply to Heshusius- you are clueless
my young upstart


GLW Johnson
Submitted on 2008/01/03 at 6:46pm

Seth’s accusation is downright dishonest-he never emailed me and you deleted my response to you-so ‘dialogue’ is really impossible with you. I don’t know how you think you can really engage in theological discourse when you decide that any criticism of your claims is automatically ruled unacceptable and that you will only allow comments from peolpe who either agree with you or lavish praise on your ‘insights’.


GLW Johnson
Submitted on 2008/01/04 at 6:07pm

You are a first class jerk weed and a third class scholar bozo.

_____________________end of log________________________________

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2009 6:06 pm

    I expect the average arm chair theologian to stand behind his
    favorite (and usually partially read) theologians. It is strange to see author’s of books I have read, who are credentialed theologians (either historical, systematic, whatever) do the same thing.

    I think these guys need to stay off blogs and just be admired on the back of a book jacket. It is disappointing to say the least to watch them skip interacting with the source material and engage in personal attacks and hero defense as if THAT was the issue at hand.

    If the argument is won by who can drop the most names, I would give it to Johnson. If it is won by providing source material and some actual interaction (right or wrong) you get the gold star.

  2. Flynn permalink*
    April 19, 2009 6:23 pm

    Hey Josh,

    I don’t want to talk about this too much, but you are right. At the time it was just so strange with Johnson. I got the impression he just wanted to drop names. I read his opening comments thinking to myself, “Ive read everything Helm has to say on the topic, everything Nicole has to say on the topic, everything Rainbow has to say on the topic, and everything Muller has to say on this topic. Ive read Godfrey. I have not read Clark’s dissertation as its not relevant to my specific Calvin research that I could see. I have even spoken personally to Paul Helm–face to face–about a little of this. Ive also read gobs of secondary sources on the other side. I have read tons of primary source material, so if Johnson wants to bring up some specific point, he was welcome to.”

    Yet he never would get to any specifics.



  3. April 20, 2009 9:46 am

    Whatever Gary said or didn’t say, do you think it is wise to post private correspondence on the blog? Private correspondence is not necessarily meant to be scholarly interaction. I think you’ve got a confusion of categories here. I’m not sure very many people would really want to see this. I certainly have no wish to see this. Why post it?

  4. Flynn permalink*
    April 20, 2009 11:08 am

    Hey Lane,

    That is the thing, it was not private correspondence. All the comments were comments he either made at the C&Cwordpress site, or the 3 he tried to post there. Ive sat on the last three all this time despite his making similar public claims before now. This time though, enough is enough. So no, these were not private emails.

    Why post it? To set the record straight.


  5. April 20, 2009 1:09 pm

    I will also say that my interaction with Mr. Johnson was quite interesting and he loves to spout names for the sake of spouting names…I wish I would have kept the email from him.

    I would walk from a church if my pastor acted the way that he does.

    He acts like we are enemies instead of brothers in Christ.

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