As I have read the comments regarding my interview and a portion of my book, a few things deserve a response from me. First, I am greatly heartened by those comments, agreeing or not, that sought to interact with my actual words in a gracious manner. Being human, I know how hard that is, and hence my magnified gratitude and admiration for your valiant reliance on the Holy Spirit. Thank you!
Second, the comments have exposed a few of my descriptions that either need further clarification or that can be restated in a better way without sacrificing my point; for example, I used “God of Calvinism”, which I think would be better stated, “according to Calvinism, God….” I changed the wording in my following responses and will also in future revisions of my book. Also, I can see that the contrast between “vertical and horizontal passion” needs more clarification since so many infer that I am commenting on whether a Calvinist can be evangelistic, etc., which I am not. Thank you for helping me to see these.
If my inability to communicate has caused my words to unduly hurt some of you who disagree with my position, I am truly sorry and ask your forgiveness. I am and will continue working on this weakness.
The following remarks are to only briefly offer a few clarifications concerning misunderstandings about some of my comments that have appeared in this forum. Please forgive me if I leave you still in want of a more comprehensive response. I am sure you understand that I simply cannot rewrite my book here or comment sufficiently on every puzzlement.
Ronnie Rogers responds to selected comments from his recent posts.
This is the fourth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child.
Teachings espousing a limited freewill simply do not square either with Scripture or with life experience. Man does have options, both godly and ungodly (Prov. 1:29). Regarding election, Thom Rainer says that anyone who is lost forfeits salvation because of his or her own disobedience, not because of election or predestination.1 He acknowledges that a tension exists between humanity’s freewill and God’s sovereign choice and asserts that election is a sovereign, eternal decree from God which involves the choice of people to be the recipients of grace and salvation.2 I am comfortable saying that if election is understood as to service, it is extended to some; but if election is understood as to salvation, it is extended to all.
By Rev. Bill Harrell, Senior Pastor, Abilene Baptist Church, Martinez, Georgia. A native of Tifton, Georgia, Rev. Harrell came to Abilene in January of 1981. He is married to the former Carolyn Gibbs, also of Tifton. They have three daughters.
Recently, while in a discussion about the pervasive influence of Calvinism in our Southern Baptist Zion, I was surprised when I heard the term “preservation” when referring to the fifth point of that theological model. I had noticed that others also made this mistake and didn’t seem to notice the error. In a very subtle way, I brought the error to the writer’s attention, and he was most grateful for the fact that I had done so. Some might ask why get so picky about such a thing? Everyone knows what my friend was referring to and trying to say.
Not so quick. There is a world of difference between perseverance and preservation and we must not confuse the two. The core difference is that perseverance is a MAN work and preservation is a GOD gift. One is earthly and the other is heavenly. One is a work and the other is a gift. One man can do, and the other only God can perform.
At some point, it is fair to ask the question, “Is it good stewardship for me to pay for the institutional advancement of organizations promoting doctrines I do not embrace personally, nor desire to teach my children, nor favor publishing at Lifeway, nor seek to advance through church planting?” It is precisely here, in the practical outworking of our theological disagreements through our institutional struggles, that the same elephant we might overlook in our Sunday School class or church becomes absolutely impossible to avoid at the denominational level.
3. The Adversarial Agenda
Some have claimed that we not only have an elephant in the room, but we also have a snake in the grass. The only way to sympathize with such a sentiment is to consider whether a clearly adversarial agenda has been advanced by a network of Calvinist organizations relatively unknown to Traditionalist Southern Baptists, who secretly and quietly seek nothing other than to turn Traditionalist churches into Calvinist ones, a clearly stated goal they simply refer to as reform.
In their defense, it cannot be said that the Calvinists are doing anything they perceive to be wrong. Once one understands that they equate Calvinism with the true gospel of Christianity, any pejorative connotations are removed with regard to motive. Frankly, if I believed the way they do, I would also seek the spread of Calvinism everywhere, including the primarily Traditionalist churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the agenda is adversarial in nature just the same. In order to explore this further, we will (a) identify five such Calvinist organizations, (b) examine one purpose statement, (c) evaluate our conflicts as interpersonal or foundational, and (d) clarify the uneven rules of engagement that have thus far marked the contest.