Initially I was not going to mention this, mostly since I do not want to get into a flame war with the Calvinsit bloggers. Someone sent me a link to the Alpha and Omega Ministries website, “A Lesser-Known Heretic You Should Know About.” The article concerns Joel Finck, a hyper-dispensationalist and vocal anti-Calvinist, and the Berean Bible Society as a whole. This is a good example of why I think the word heretic is overused, especially in this case. Let me preface this by saying I have a great deal of respect for the Alpha and Omega ministry, some of James White’s debates have been very productive and he has produced a massive number of resources for defending the faith. I object to the loose definition of heretic in this particular article by Jamin Hubner.
Hubner is a decent scholar who has written a book answering Finck’s anti-Calvinist book. I looked it over and found myself in agreement with the theology in Hubner’s book, but that is no surprise since I walk on the Calvinist side of the street most of the time and think that much of what Finck says is inaccurate theologically. But to be an Arminian is not to be a heretic. (For the moment I will set aside the more radical “Open Theist” style Arminians, along with the more radical Calvinists. I realize there are far more problems there, but these two extremes do not help this discussion.)
Finck simply reads the Bible from a different set of presuppositions than I do, although we should both be considered “within the reformation” with respect to sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, sola Christus, sola Deo gloria. Shocking as it is to my Calvinist theological world view, someone can be a raving Arminian and still hold to the five solas. We may disagree about the nature of faith, grace and the application of atonement, but we are in agreement that we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross.
For Hubner, Finck’s rejection of baptism is more disturbing. That Finck rejects all forms of ritual baptism is enough to call him a heretic and place him in the same category as Arius or Harold Camping. This is despite the fact that Finck would agree with the whole Nicene Creed and the five solas which guide the Alpha and Omega ministry. Finck believes the only baptism that “counts” is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which occurs at salvation and he is disturbed by any ritual at all that appears to be necessary in addition to that baptism. To me, that emphasis on the Holy Spirit sounds fairly Pauline and his arguments are based on scripture, not his own visions or extra-biblical documents. In no way is Finck a cult member who relies on secret knowledge or some authoritative personality. As such, he is not a heretic, even if he is not going to be able to pastor the local Baptist or Reformed church.
I have met Joel Finck a couple of times and am fairly confident he would be in complete agreement with the Alpha and Omega doctrinal statement, which is not particularly Calvinistic nor does it include baptism as a requirement for salvation.
You can disagree with Finck’s conclusions on some doctrine. You can show that he is fundamentally flawed in his approach to Scripture. But you should not call him a heretic.