5 Questions Pulpit Committees Must Ask Prospective Pastors | Part Two

January 28, 2015

Dr. Jay Sulfridge |  Academic Dean
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, KY

*For more information about Dr. Sulfridge or CCBBC please click here.

The prospect should also be asked if he believes in Unconditional Election. John Piper explains the idea of Unconditional Election taught in Calvinism:

If all of us are so depraved that we cannot come to God without being born again by the irresistible grace of God, then it is clear that the salvation of any of us is owing to God’s election. Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is not condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness. We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith.[1]

The Baptist Faith and Message says of election, “It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.”[2] The free agency of man leaves all individuals free to accept or reject the Gospel call to salvation. Instead of teaching the freedom of all individuals to make that choice, Calvinism teaches that God unconditionally chooses certain individuals to be saved. Since Calvinism is not consistent with a belief in the free agency of man, a potential pastor must be asked, “Do you believe God unconditionally chooses certain ones to be saved?”

Pastoral prospects should be asked if they believe in Limited Atonement. This is the issue involved in the question, “For whom did Christ die?” The Baptist Faith and Message says of Christ, “He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.”[3] Most Baptists would say this refers to all men, and that one may say with complete confidence to any person, “Christ died for you.” Preferring the term Particular Redemption, one Calvinist stated their belief this way: “Put simply, Christ died only to save the elect, securing with absolute certainty their salvation.”[4] Since the issue of Limited Atonement would cause the Calvinist to say that Christ died only for the elect, they would say that the stranger can only be told with complete confidence, “If you are of the elect, Christ died for you.” A key question to ask a minister during the interview process is, “Do you believe Christ died for each and every person in the world?”

Irresistible Grace is another point of Reformed Theology that must be addressed. This teaching centers on the idea that when God has chosen (elected) to save an individual, His grace toward their salvation cannot be resisted, nor can His genuine offer be refused. Calvinism teaches, “The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistibly draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.”[5] Calvinists believe if God draws one to salvation, that individual cannot escape salvation. Piper says, “It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith.”[6] The idea of “running from God” has no place in Calvinist doctrine, even though Stephen said, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.”[7] The question to ask concerning this teaching is, “Do you believe anyone can resist God’s call to salvation?”

Perseverance of the Saints completes the TULIP acronym. Virtually all Baptists would be in agreement that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end. This is the heart of our beloved doctrine, the Security of the Believer. The only point in which a Calvinist might disagree with most Baptists concerning the Perseverance of the Saints would be in matters of why this doctrine is true. The Calvinists would say that perseverance is based on God’s unconditional election of that individual to salvation.

After studying the five points represented in the TULIP acronym, a clear picture of the basic tenets of the doctrine has emerged. Calvinism (reformed theology) teaches that man is so totally depraved that he is unable to respond to the Gospel call to salvation; that God has unconditionally chosen some individuals to save; that Christ died for those God has so chosen; that He draws those chosen ones to salvation with a call they can neither refuse nor resist; and that on the basis of that election, they cannot fall from that state of salvation. Except for the fact that the saved will not fall from grace, these teachings may never be mentioned unless the right questions are asked. Even then, care must be taken to ensure that simple, concise, relevant answers are given. Committees should investigate the candidate’s beliefs, point by point, without any hesitation to ask for clarification or to require a “yes or no” answer on any point. After all, your church is at stake, and no honest minister will be offended at your desire to know what he believes.

Five Questions Pulpit Committees Must Ask
1. “Do you believe in the Total Depravity of man?” (A “yes” answer here does not necessarily indicate Calvinism. The next question is the key.)
2. “Does Total Depravity, as you understand it, mean that those not chosen by God for salvation are unable to respond to the Gospel call?”
3. “Do you believe God unconditionally chooses certain ones to be saved?”
4. “Do you believe Christ died for each and every person in the world?”
5. “Do you believe anyone can resist God’s call to salvation?”


[1] John Piper, “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism,” quoted in Reformation Theology. Available online http://www.reformationtheology.com/mt/mt-tb.egi/499 .
[2] Southern Baptist Convention, “Baptist Faith and Message.” Available online http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp .
[3] SBC, “Baptist Faith and Message.”
[4] Chris Allen, “Reformshire: The Doctrines of Grace.” Available online http://www.reform-shire.blogspot.com/2006/11/doctrines-of-grace-2-5.html .
[5] GraceNet, “The Doctrines of Grace.” Available online http://www.grace.org.uk/faith/calvin.html .
[6] John Piper, “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.”
[7] Acts 7:51, KJV.

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Clay Gilbreath

Great article Dr. Jay! 5 questions for every pulpit committee! Amen.
In studying this topic for years, I have come up with 2 questions when discussing with Calvinists, that may be appropriate with Pastor Search as well:
1. Does God cause all things?
2. Does regeneration precede faith?
for me, a ‘yes’ answer to these 2 are a big departure from the Biblical, Baptist belief I have known all my life

Rick Patrick

Crystal clear questions deserve crystal clear answers. If the word count of the answer is longer than a twitter post, then you probably have yourself a Calvinist. Hemming and hawing, redefining words, and adding nuances and footnotes are tell tale signs.

Traditional Southern Baptist doctrine (in the Hobbs-Rogers tradition) is frankly much easier to summarize and express, a characteristic it shares with the Bible itself. Calvinism’s complexities require more theological terminology, which can sometimes be intimidating for laypersons. Don’t be fooled by words like “compatibilist” free will–which reduces to a denial of free will, at least the kind we believe in, which the Calvinist must refer to as “libertarian” free will. The more they talk about monergism, synergism, supralapsarianism, the ordo salutis and other terms not found in the Bible, the more likely you are dealing with a Calvinist. The complex nature of their system depends on the use of such terminology.

Remember, memorizing a list of vocabulary words does not make a candidate a smarter theologian.


    Rick, I think you are oversimplifying the level of simplicity and complexity of both belief systems.For some of us, the long-winded explanations on both sides can get confusing. Explaining either position is very easy and simple, until one begins to try to explain ALL the biblical texts.

    Just as a calvinist may go into a long explanation of why “all” doesn’t mean all in a certain verse…a non-calvinist may go into just as long an explanation to explain why certain passages that at first seem to say God chooses who will be saved in fact don’t belief that, whether they are espousing a Corporate election model, or a foreseen faith election model…those can get very involved. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have those discussions, but simply to realize not every answer is simple, on either side. Even trying to reconcile Romans “justified by faith not works.”…. when James says the opposite. It take some time to explain how those fit together. Traditionalist belief is not immune to this.

    For some, the simplest answer is to simply say, “The Bible teaches that God chooses us…and that we must choose him.” Some would say that person is a calvinist…some might just say he is a traditional (small-“t”) baptist. (of course, if we said that about faith and works, we run into more problems…are way saved by works or not?)


As a 5 point Calvinist I think you accurately summarized what we believe, but the last question on irresistible grace is not precise enough because I csn answer yes to it. Anyone who is not elect can and will resist God’s grace as it happens all the time. The question really should be asked: Do you believe God must regenerate a lost person in order to grant him the gift of faith in order for him to believe in Jesus. Irresistible grace does not mean God’s grace can’t be resisted. It means that for the elect God will ensure their regeneration and it will precede faith.

Overall these are great questions to ask. When candidating at my current church (10 years ago) I flat out asked the search committee this: do you have a problem with your next pastor being a 5 point Calvinist and then went on to clearly explain my positions especially on prayer and evangelism and missions.


Piper’s musings are prefaced above by a significant and all-important word: “If.” I applaud Piper for beginning this statement with a conditional word/clause. This serves as a crystalline example of how some Calvinists reason their system, and is a straw man of undeniable existence. Trads reject Piper’s premise because Piper and those of his ilk define total depravity as total inability. Hence, since Piper’s launching premise is false, then the trajectory of his concluding points is actually flightless.

William F. Leonhart III

Most Calvinists I’ve met would unashamedly answer each of your questions clearly and concisely. You may have met others. I can’t speak to your experience. What your article implies, however, is an idea that has been widely floated in the SBC: that Calvinist pastors are generally deceptive in their answers to these questions. Contrary to this notion is the fact that Calvinistic ministry leaders in the SBC such as Mark Dever (9 Marks) and Tom Ascol (Founders) have long called for honesty and clarity from Calvinistic pastors in the candidating process. Dever goes so far as to recommend that Calvinistic candidates interview with such blatant honesty as it may appear as though they are trying not to get the position.

Again, I don’t know your experience but I will say that, if the BF&M were as clear as say the Baptist Confession of 1689 on the issue of Calvinism, SBC churches would never hire pastors who disagree with them on soteriology. You seem to think it is that clear given your interpretation of it in this post. Many a Calvinist Southern Baptist would disagree with you. If it were that clear, I would think you wouldn’t feel the need to instruct Southern Baptist pastor search committees on how to ask the right questions to prospective pastors. As a side note, I would also venture to say that any church that would in good conscience sign the Traditionalist Statement would already be chomping at the bit to ask these questions of any pastoral candidate. So, if such a vast majority of Southern Baptists comprise the Traditionalist wing as was originally claimed by the architects of that statement, one would think they would already know the right questions to ask.

Doug Sayers

Thanks Dr Jay, you have brought up an important point. The question of grace vs irresistible grace should not be neglected when choosing leaders in Baptist churches.

Andy makes a fair point; the debate can get involved, but we really don’t need long winded arguments to distinguish between the two basic views.

I think one way to assess the candidate’s views on grace would be to take him to the church nursery and ask: “Do you believe that any of these babies could have been born reprobate, with no actual hope in Christ?” This question will effectively and efficiently cut through the muck. It will help the the candidate himself decide whether he is a true historical Calvinist or just one of many halfway Calvinists who hasn’t really thought through the implications of “unconditional election” and its ugly after birth “irresistible damnation

It is not mean spirited to make them deal with their own doctrine of irresistible reprobation. It helps bring clarity. Most professing Calvinists do not want to spend a lot of time on this aspect of the system. (I think it is much like using an outhouse, or portable toilet. You just get in and get out as quickly as possible. They believe it is a necessary doctrine . . . but they know that it stinks.)

    William F. Leonhart III

    If a pastor search committee appealed to emotion in order to teach me that the Bible is wrong when it teaches us, not only that our sins are deserving of death but, that we are enslaved to this sin and need God to free us from it before we can choose Him, I would take that as a sign that the church is unteachable and driven by man-centered emotions rather than God-centered humility. Such a show of dramatic pomp would result in my withdrawing my candidacy for the position. In such a case, I would say that you achieved your goal. A Calvinistic pastor decided not to pursue ministry at a church, not because he necessarily disagrees with the body as a whole, but because a pulpit committee saw fit to scare him off by demonstrating a defiant, unteachable spirit.

      David (NAS) Rogers

      Doug Sayers suggestion is not an appeal to emotion. It is a challenge for clarity and consistency. If a Calvinist doesn’t like the obvious implications of his doctrine then he needs to learn within the tension and not complain when it is pointed out to him.

        William F. Leonhart III

        It’s not the implications of the doctrine that are under examination here. It is the starting point. Such an appeal is saturated with emotion. It communicates to the prospective pastor that the search committee is ruled more by their perception of a doctrine than by its Scriptural veracity. It communicates: “If you affirm the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter you hate our babies, and we will not tolerate you!” Whether or not that is what is intended to be communicated, it is nevertheless what is being communicated.

        William F. Leonhart III

        It’s the same thing being communicated by Presbyterians when they try to appeal to the cuteness and innocence of their children when appealing to Baptists as to why we don’t see them as being in the covenant. It’s nothing but an emotional appeal centered on man, not God. Plain and simple.

          David (NAS) Rogers

          It is a preview of a probable question being posed to the pastor by a church member when he teaches Calvinism. Please show how it is not an implication of the doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement.

          Les Prouty

          William, “t’s the same thing being communicated by Presbyterians when they try to appeal to the cuteness and innocence of their children…”

          I think that is a caricature and actually a mischaracterization of Presbyterians and their view of children. No perhaps you found one or two who “appeal to the cuteness and innocence of their children” somewhere sometime, but that is not nearly the predominate view. In fact if anyone **seems** to “appeal to the…innocence of their children” I would think it is the Baptists, the more Traditional Baptists at least.

          Blessings brother.

        doug sayers

        Amen David. Emotions aside, this is a biblical issue. Sin is not imputed where there is no law.(Rom 5:13;4:15) It is biblically (and rationally) impossible that the guilt of Adam’s sin could be imputed to his posterity.

        I would need explicit biblical texts to believe that a baby could be born guilty of anything (let alone deserving of eternal wrath) before I could believe something so bizarre. Forced inferences from Rom 5 and Ps 51 will not convince me that Jacob or Esau had done anything guiltworthy before they were born.

          William F. Leonhart III

          I am not naiive enough to think that I can convince you of Calvinism in the comment section of a blog post on SBCToday. The best I can hope to do is to get you to stop misrepresenting Calvinism as teaching that people do “anything guiltworthy before they were born.” Please read over that section again in Romans 9. It makes clear that God’s choice was not based on anything either of them had done, but so that His eternal purposes would stand. Paul then goes on to anticipate synergist objections and to answer them. The question, again, is the starting point. Traditionalists want to start with man and his choice. Calvinists recognize that the Bible over and over again emphasizes God and His choice. His choice is not based on anything we do, past, present, or future. It is based on His good pleasure. If it was based on His foresight of our future deeds, we would all go to hell because that is all our deeds earn us.

          I would never imply that ALL Presbyterians cite the cuteness and innocence of their children. It is common, though, especially among mainline Presbyterians. I have heard several prominent conservative Presbyterian pastors, after they have argued theologically for their position, joke around about how cute they think infant baptism to be. I don’t find error to be cute, no matter who is involved.

            David (NAS) Rogers

            Traditionalists and Arminians do not start with man’s choice. That is a typical mischaracterization made by all too many Calvinists. The starting point is God’s salvific love toward all persons which is clearly taught in Scripture, especially in the new covenant.

              William F. Leonhart III

              Based on the definitions I’ve read, and based on the Traditionalist Statement, I can state confidently that the Traditionalist definition of God’s love stands or falls on the issue of man’s choice. If man has no choice, according to the Traditionalist, God is not loving. Thus, the starting point IS man’s choice. It is the crux.

                David (NAS) Rogers

                No, God’s love is prior. Man’s choice has no place to land and has no opportunity to occur outside of God exercising salvific-centered love toward “the world” by sending his Son. If God had not first revealed his love, no person would have anything toward which to respond.

                  William F. Leonhart III

                  Jesus told the Father in the High Priestly Prayer, in John 17, that He had kept all eleven of His apostles but not the “son of perdition” (Judas). What was He keeping them from? What was he allowing to happen in the case of Judas? Did Jesus know He would allow that to happen from eternity? Did Christ know what Judas would do? Did He try to stop him? Could He have kept him from doing it?

                    William F. Leonhart III

                    Furthermore, if He wasn’t keeping the other eleven, what would have stopped them from being just like Judas?

                    David (NAS) Rogers

                    I’m not sure what your point is with these questions.

                    William F. Leonhart III

                    The point is that the only thing keeping the eleven from being just like Judas was Christ’s keeping power. Now, before you say that the Traditionalist Statement affirms this truth, notice that Jesus did not keep Judas. This is talking about the full scope of their salvation from beginning to end, not just the preserving of it after they chose Him (remember, He chose them, not the other way around). “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37; NASB). If we have been chosen by the Father and given to Christ, we will come to Him. It is this same group of saints (the chosen / elect; cf. 1Pt. 1:1-2) that Christ keeps (1Peter 1:5). The ones chosen by the Father and given to Christ are also the same group He will raise up on the last day: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39; NASB).

                    The disciples had not fallen away for the same reason we won’t fall away, because they were kept by Christ, just as we are kept by the Spirit. Judas fell away because he was not kept by Christ. He was left to his own sinful devices. This Judas was likely a child among other children in a nursery in a first century synagogue. If you asked me whether God had chosen him to be saved and kept by Christ for all eternity while he was playing in that nursery, my finite mind and heart probably would have yearned to answer in the affirmative. But that ultimately would have been a demonstration of the fact that I don’t fully understand or comprehend the greater purposes of God.

                    Judas wasn’t the “son of perdition” as a result of his making a worse choice than Peter. Peter was far from perfect, even on that very night. In fact, Satan wanted to sift him much as he would sift Judas, but Christ prevented him. Christ kept Peter. According to the Traditionalist understanding of these things, why didn’t He keep Judas?

            doug sayers

            William, I offer no misrepresentation. Calvinist M Henry says (in his commentary on Rom 5) that those children born with handicaps and diseases could not be justly born that way if they were not chargeable with *guilt*. (A woefully earthbound view of justice).

            If the alleged divine decree to damn Esau was not based on anything that Esau would do then it becomes a judgment over *nothing* and you can’t have a judgment over nothing. Again, I would need explicit biblical proof to agree that the final judgment essentially took place before the foundation of the world and it was based on nothing in those being judged.

              William F. Leonhart III

              Again, Paul anticipates your objections in Romans 9 and answers them. God has prerogative in this, not man.

                Andrew Barker

                William: Rom 9 is quite clear on one matter. Jacob was chosen over Esau before either of them had done good or bad. I’ll repeat it again, just in case it’s lost on you. This was before either Jacob or Esau had done anything good or bad. So whatever it was that made God choose one over the other (and nobody claims to know why do they?) what we can be sure of is this. It was nothing to do with any guilt on Esau’s part. The text tells you that much! I can’t see how trying to imply inherited guilt helps your case either. Are you going to argue that Esau was unlucky in that he inherited a bit more guilt from Adam? I think M Henry was having a (another) bad day!

                  William F. Leonhart III

                  From The Baptist Confession (1689), Chapter Three – Of God’s Decree:

                  3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.
                  ( 1 Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23; Jude 4 )

                  4. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.
                  ( 2 Timothy 2:19; John 13:18 )

                  5. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto.
                  ( Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; Romans 8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 9:13, 16; Ephesians 2:5, 12 )

                    William F. Leonhart III

                    So, as you see, Calvinist Baptists don’t believe God imputed a sin to Esau the likes of which he did not own. Rather He, in His eternal decree, determined that He would leave Esau to act as a free agent. As a free agent in Adam, Esau would be a sinner, as are all of us. The difference between Esau and us is that God did not decree in His eternal purpose to rescue him from His sin. He determined beforehand to leave Esau in his sin and thus to deal with him justly. We all inherited the same guilt from Adam. It is a guilt we receive from him, but it is also a guilt we own and deepen. Some of us are graciously redeemed from this guilt. Others of us are justly punished for it. Since God is the offended party, and the only all-wise Sovereign, He has prerogative to choose whom He wills.

                    Andrew Barker

                    William: You completely miss the point that God’s election of Jacob had nothing to do with his behaviour, or the behaviour of his brother Esau either before he was born, or for that matter after they were born. Your assertion that Esau was left in his sin is simply that. It’s your take on it. There is no indication from scripture that Esau was actually rejected by God. It was only in the matter of inheritance and it can easily be argued that in fact Esau was primarily responsible for that situation.

                    There is plenty of evidence from scripture that Esau’s descendants did rebel against God and were constantly antagonistic towards their brother Israel. Hence the passage in Malachi. As ever, what is portrayed by many Calvinist/Reformed theologians as God’s rejection of Esau is actually Esau’s rejection of God. What is seen by many Calvinist/Reformed as God’s choice of an elect few and rejection of many is in truth a choice of one, Jesus Christ and all who are in Him. It is God’s prerogative to choose and he made his choice wisely.

                  Les Prouty


                  “So, as you see, Calvinist Baptists don’t believe God imputed a sin to Esau the likes of which he did not own.”

                  Absolutely William. The rest of your comments there are spot on. Well said brother.

                  It seems that non Calvinists want to believe that every human, born in sin, still deserves something from God. Deserves grace from God that is. But as you say,

                  “Some of us are graciously redeemed from this guilt. Others of us are justly punished for it. Since God is the offended party, and the only all-wise Sovereign, He has prerogative to choose whom He wills.”

                  Yes, we all do deserve something from God…damnation! But God in his great mercy reaches down to **some** of the mass of undeserving and **graces8* them. All of grace.

                    Doug Sayers

                    William, You insist that we “receive” guilt from Adam for a sin we did not actually commit. I am sure you can see and feel the folly of that. How can we be found guilty of (and culpable for) a sin that was committed by someone else before we were born? You offer no clear texts to support such a bizarre claim. Consequences… I get. Culpability… no way. (Rom 5; Ps 51)

                    Les says “Yes, we all do deserve something from God…damnation!.” No doubt… in adults who have sinned deliberately, but it is indefensible and unbiblical to teach that infants deserve damnation.

                    This is about the righteousness of God who does not impute sin where there is no law and would never punish the innocent.

                    So, one more time and then I’ll give it a rest. My question, which I have yet to hear any of my Calvinist friends offer a remotely plausible answer to, is simply this: By what law would/could sin’s guilt be imputed to a newborn baby? We have explicit texts, which teach that God does not impute sin when there is
                    no law. Where there is no law there is no transgression. (This is the apostle Paul… not Pelagius, Arminius, or John Weslius.) Where there is no actual transgression of the law there can be no guilt. If you are not guilty you don’t deserve to be damned.

                    Your system imputes sin apart from the law, thus it is built on a false premise and must be rejected.

                    Take a look at Paul’s experience in Rom 7:9 for a more plausible explanation.

                  Les Prouty

                  Doug, I’m probability ill equipped to do this, but I’ll take a stab at seeing if we can clearly understand each other with maybe, a little back and forth. You have said many times here, “Where there is no law there is no transgression.”

                  When do you believe “law” began?

                  Thanks brother.

                  Les Prouty


                  Another question for our discussion:

                  In scripture, can one be regarded as guilty of sin though he or she never actually volitionally committed a sin?

                    Doug Sayers

                    Les, only 1 comes to mind and He volunteered for the job! We praise his name that He was qualified, willing, and authorized to come and take our place! Newborn babies could not have volunteered to take the punishment for Adam’s sin.Thus, this cannot be an apples to apples comparison to the imputation that Paul is talking about in Romans. The context is clearly among those of us not born of a virgin. Nice try.

                    Remember what Jesus said about those who “would have no sin” if He had not come and shown Himself to them. He is not saying that they weren’t culpable sinners. He was saying that they would not be responsible for the sin of rejecting Him as the Son of God if they had not known about Him.

                    Here’s what I think Scripture is teaching. (Note: I cannot speak for the folks here at SBC Today, who are kind enough to enable/endure our discussion.) When Adam sinned He became dead in sin because the guilt of that sin was imputed to him via the unique law, which God gave him to obey. (No excuses. He understood the law and possessed the power to resist). As Adam’s progeny, we are thus born in sin via God’s curse on the race. (Consequences not culpability) When a small child sins (as they often do) – the guilt of that sin is not imputed to him/her. This sin is Adam’s responsibility and it is covered by the universal atonement of Christ. This is like those who are genuine believers… they are “sinners” but the guilt of their sin is no longer imputed to them. It is covered by Christ.

                    As we mature from childhood we become aware of God’s law and (in spite of God’s common grace) we sin against that law; we suppress the truth that is seen in creation and implanted on our hearts. Rom 1-2; Jam 1:21 At some point (which may be different in each person) the guilt of our sin becomes our own responsibility… we become dead in sin. This is what Paul is talking about in Rom 7:9. He was “alive” before the law came. When the law came – sin revived and he “died.” Like Adam, he became dead in trespasses and sins. When he was justified by faith he was “quickened” and enjoyed the “washing of regeneration.” Col 2:13;Titus 3:5

                    The Bible never says anyone was born dead in sin.

                    Romans 9 is about the unconditional election of Jacob for patriarchal blessings within the covenant made with Abraham. It is not about Jacob’s election to eternal life and Esau’s irresistible damnation (based on nothing he would ever do or not do!) We know that salvation has a meaningful condition; the just shall live by their faith. The election of Jacob did not.

                    Sorry so long. All this is covered in more depth in the book Chosen or Not?

                  Les Prouty


                  I’ll read over your reply more thoroughly and respond later. But before I do, I may have caused you to miss my first question.

                  “When do you believe “law” began?”


                  Les Prouty


                  Quickly, I had hoped to respond by this am but surprise visitors in the form of twin 5 year old grandsons came over to attend church with us as well as friends visiting church today and then back here for the day. Maybe tomorrow sometime I can reply.

                  If you or others would like to see what our Reformed church liturgy looks like follow the link. You’ll probably be surprised to see no references to Calvinism. :)

                  Blessings brother this Lord’s day.

Thomas Spivey

The BF&M 2000 is quoted as saying, “[Election] is consistent with the free agency of man.” Dr. Sulfridge later states, “Calvinism is not consistent with a belief in the free agency of man.” In Dr. Sulfridge’s thinking, is Calvinism inconsistent with the BF&M 2000 with regard to the doctrine of election?

If Calvinism’s doctrine of election is inconsistent with the BF&M 2000, would that make all SBC Calvinists who claim adherence to the BF&M 2000 inconsistent? I would argue that the intention of the BF&M 2000 was not to render itself inconsistent with Calvinism, especially since Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. was a member of the drafting committee. Certainly Dr. Mohler would not draft, approve, and subsequently sign a document which was inconsistent with his theological beliefs. I believe reading into the phrase “free agency of man” a polemic against Calvinism is outside the intent of the drafters of the BF&M 2000, and thus Calvinism would not be contradictory with respect to the doctrine of election.

Andrew Barker

Thomas Spivey: Is this not where Calvinists/Reformed adherents become victims of their own philosophy. I suspect the term “[election] is consistent with the free agency of man” was used because this allows the Reformed/Calvinist to adopt some form of compatibilist solution so that man can be seen to act ‘freely’ and ‘willingly’ and accept the Gospel. Reformed theologians appear to be quite happy with this soft determinism.

There are many, and I suspect Dr. Sulfridge is among them, who would not agree with the compatibilist argument and hence they may quite correctly argue that from their perspective the Calvinism system does not meet the requirements for claiming that those responding to the Gospel are acting as a free agents. What appears to be lost on many people who say they adhere to compatibilism is that while they may argue that the person responding is acting ‘freely’ they lose sight of the fact that the person still had no say as to whether or not they would be chosen for this freedom! So they may be acting ‘freely’ but this freedom has still been totally determined! Has it not?

    Debbie Kaufman

    Andrew: You keep using the words soft determinism. Determinism is kind of like que sera, sera whatever will be will be. As a Calvinist, we believe that nothing to do with God is the luck of the draw, or que sera, sera. But that God with all HIs attributes can do what He wants with Who He wants, whenever HE wants. We trust Him that much.

      Andrew Barker

      Debbie: I think I used the phrase soft determinism once. Is that too much for you? I’ve never said determinism is like que sera, sera. Those are your words.
      You then finish off painting a picture of your God who does what ever he wants with who he wants, whenever he wants. This is not much like the God I read of in the Bible, or for that matter the way Jesus behaved, but I will not elaborate.

      Your last point though is vaguely interesting in that it shows where you’re coming from. You seem to think these attributes of God bring about trust. I would suggest to you that what you are doing is constructing God in the way you find it easiest to understand. You appear to be quite happy to trust this picture of God which you have created for yourself. But others will find it rather limiting and while these are all attributes which God displays, it hardly sums him up properly. You want to trust a God like that? Be my guest, but don’t expect me to follow suit.

        Debbie Kaufman

        Andrew: There is not more than one Holy God or Trinity. There is only one God in three persons. The trinity. I count it as blasphemy that you folks use my God or your God in your sentences. They are not two seperate beings. So it isn’t my vs. your God. That is JW talk, not anything to do with Christianity; In the future God will be just fine.

        My view is that if you do not believe what I have written which is in scripture several times(Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in heaven, he does what pleases him”, Genesis 20:6 “Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.” and Numbers 23:19
        19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? ” There are many more) then you do not understand who God really is or what the word Sovereign means. He is God, we are not. End of story.

          Andrew Barker

          Debbie Kaufman: Quite frankly, whether you count this or that as blasphemy is of little account. Neither is the fact that you have written something which you say is in scripture. The devil quoted scripture to Jesus, although knowing him it was probably best described as a misquote. So this constant reeling off of scripture though good from one perspective, counts for very little if it is wrongly applied (which in you case is quite often).

          As for sovereignty, what an over used misunderstood concept this is within Calvinist/Reformed circles! It gets trotted out as the means of ending all argument or discussion and unfortunately, can be reduced to nothing more than a trump card. If you want a more balanced view on God’s sovereignty you could do worse than look at what Leighton Flowers has recently written on the subject.

          Returning to the subject in hand raised by Dr. Sulfrige, I quote John Piper again who says … “it is clear that the salvation of any of us is owing to God’s election. Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him.” But he then goes on to say “We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith.”

          So this means according to Piper that salvation is conditional on faith in Christ. But faith is unconditional on election. Therefore Piper is saying that salvation is conditional on unconditional election!

            Debbie Kaufman

            The devil misquoted scripture, not I Andrew. No wonder there is not talking to you. What I have said is what Baptists believe, it’s in the BFM 2000. Are they the devil misquoting scripture too Andrew? It’s basic Christianity 101.

              Andrew Barker

              The point about quoting scripture Debbie is that it’s no good simply quoting scripture. It needs to be applied correctly, that’s all. You give the impression that because you have quoted scripture, then what you say MUST be correct. It is not!

                Debbie Kaufman

                Funny, I would say the same for you, if you had quoted any scripture. But you have not.

        Debbie Kaufman

        You seem to think these attributes of God bring about trust.

        I would answer that you are somewhat correct. He is God. I trust him to always do the right thing because God cannot sin. He cannot lie, etc. He is well…..God.

        I haven’t created this for myself Andrew, again it is throughout scripture, from Genesis to Revelation in fact. It’s Orthodox Christianity 101. Every Christian regardless of being Calvinist or not believe this.

        A Steven Curtis Chapman song says it well:

        And the pain falls like a curtain
        On the things I once called certain
        And I have to say the words I fear the most
        I just don’t know

        And the questions without answers
        Come and paralyze the dancer
        So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
        Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
        On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

        God is God and I am not
        I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
        God is God and I am man
        So I’ll never understand it all
        For only God is God

        And the sky begins to thunder
        And I’m filled with awe and wonder
        ‘Til the only burning question that remains
        Is who am I

        Can I form a single mountain
        Take the stars in hand and count them
        Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
        He is first and last before all that has been
        Beyond all that will pass

        Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
        How unsearchable for to Him and through
        Him and from Him are all things

        So let us worship before the throne
        Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

          Debbie Kaufman

          Andrew: As for Christ, he did not heal everyone. He healed who he chose to heal, sometimes he went among the crowd, sometimes he retreated alone, he chose the disciples, he did not go to Lazarus and his sisters, he tarried when Lazarus died. All for a specific purpose.

          Andrew Barker

          Debbie Kaufman: I have no intention of going through the song, good though it may be. However, I will add that I make it a rule to be very careful about taking my theology from songs. They have a habit of saying things with a certain element of poetic license which can lead you down the wrong path.

          There’s that old hymn which goes ….. “wonderful things in the Bible I see”. The second line has been rewritten as: “some put there by you, others by me.”

            Debbie Kaufman

            Andrew:This song if very Biblical and best illustrates my own beliefs as seen in scripture. In fact it’s hard to read the Bible and not find this theology in every page.

              Debbie Kaufman

              Andrew: Do you think God is either inactive and just knows who is going to come(although that is no different than his choosing) in salvation or that you can control God? Or do you think He doesn’t know who is going to come to belief. Anyway you choose is problematic. If anyone comes to Christ or wants to, he/she is the elect. It’s not a hard theology. And God is not deterministic, He is God. Why is this so difficult. He never promised to be fair, he did promise to be just and merciful.

                Debbie Kaufman

                I know this has already been mentioned, but it bares repeating. If God were fair, none of us would be going to heaven, he never would have sent Christ. Grace and mercy however…..

              Debbie Kaufman

              Is any song that is modern or with a beat discounted Andrew? I was brought up Independent Fundamentalist and modern Christian music or anything with a beat to it was sin and not to be taken as theology. Is this your view?

              Andrew Barker

              I said I had no intention of discussing lyrics with you and I meant it.

Carmel Hoskins

God in who He is has obligated Himself to speak to every man at least once. Mercy says He may or may not knock upon the heart again. Grace is the mercy of God in acting upon the call of God in a man’s life by Christ Jesus. Mankind is inexcusable if he turns down the gift of God which is life eternal. God in justice had His only begotten Son to bare in His body the payment for our sin. Man who Rejects God’s pardon in turn chooses to pay for his or her own sin in Hell eternally. The only sin that God will not pardon is the one that man rejects Him. The Holy Spirit will not always strive with man, and man can sin away his day of grace. So in reality those who decide against God’s pardon are condemned now, and for all eternity. God’s wrath against sin was stayed in Christ Jesus, for God desires all men to be saved, and has no desire for man to die in his sin.

    Chad A. Edgington


    Will you please provide scriptural support for your first sentence? Also are you indicating that when God “speaks to every man at least once” is this is in a way where they hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? You are making quite a claim. How do you know this? Regardless of one’s interpretation of the doctrine of election, I don’t see how this fits into what the Bible says.

Andrew Barker

Piper: “We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith.[1]

So Piper’s bible reads like this Eph 2:8 for by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves it is by election! No need to bother with the Greek then!

    Les Prouty

    Not so fast as Lee Corso likes to say. All Piper is saying, and quite biblically, is that God does not elect people because He know they will exercise faith. That would indeed be conditional and would make our election dependent on ourselves. Rather, biblically persons do eventually believe precisely because God has elected them, chosen them before the foundation of the world.

    Andrew Barker

    As a rider to my comment, it should be noted that Piper contradicts himself within his short polemic.

    He first states that election is unconditional: “Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him”. He then proceeds to tell us that salvation is conditional. This is done to get everybody on board. After all, we all agree salvation is conditional upon faith don’t we! Piper says “we are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life.” So does Piper agree with us that salvation is conditional? No he doesn’t. He then says “but faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith”.

    In effect Piper is saying salvation is conditional upon unconditional election! wow! Thanks John. :)

      Les Prouty

      Andrew, you’re mixing “salvation” and “election” back and forth. Piper doesn’t contradict himself. You are mixing his wording up.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Andrew: Your interpretation of Piper is wrong and it doesn’t even make sense, but that is what happens when one tries to tear down an untearable statement. It’s clear what John Piper is saying. It’s not clear what you are saying however.

        Andrew Barker

        Debbie Kaufman: By your own admission you don’t understand what I’ve said, although you appear to be absolutely sure that I am wrong!! This speaks volumes.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Oh your definitely wrong Andrew. I’m certainly not confused there.

            Andrew Barker

            Debbie all you say is that my interpretation is wrong. But as ever you don’t address the issue.

            John Piper says that salvation is conditional on faith and that election is a condition for faith. But Piper says that election is unconditional. Therefore it follows that salvation is conditional on unconditional election. This is mixed up thinking from Piper.

            Not being SBC, I don’t get involved in choosing Pastors but I can see the sense of asking candidates for their view on unconditional election. If Piper can claim that he believes salvation is conditional on faith but at the same time that faith depends on unconditional election, then there is ample room for confusion. So “Do you believe God unconditionally chooses certain ones to be saved?”

Debbie Kaufman

Andrew: Yeah, it must seem scary to those who like to be in control to learn that you can’t control God, not even in salvation.

Dr. Chris Gray

It is troubling to me when I read Baptists who are reasoning like some above and when I read the “Traditionalist” statement of beliefs on Connect-316 (especially under Article 2).
My burden is regarding the blatant denial of some about what the Word of God says so clearly in Romans 5 (esp. vv. 18-21). Paul did not just say we inherit a “nature… inclined toward sin” or an “environment inclined toward sin.” No, he used the words “condemnation (yes this includes guilt) for all men” and the many were “made sinners” and as a result spiritual death came to all. Paul takes this understanding of universal condemnation of all persons to compare to how through one Man (Christ) the many can be made righteous.
We believe (at least I hope you do) in the imputation of the righteousness of Christ upon those who believe as that which we receive from outside ourselves, given to us as a result of the work of one Man, Christ Jesus. Imputed righteousness is not just our spiritual nature, it is our standing- how we are seen by the holy and just God, the Righteous Judge. If we believe this, we have to go back in Paul’s reasoning to affirm the imputed condemnation on all because of Adam’s sin. I am born with imputed condemnation and thanks be to God when I am saved I am born-again and have been imputed Christ’s righteousness on my behalf. Neither my earlier imputed condemnation nor the later imputed righteousness originated with me. Paul used our imputed condemnation (or guilt) as a base for his argument for how we can also have imputed righteousness from Christ. Paul assumed the people understood imputed guilt before he argued for imputed righteousness.
It is because of this denial of a biblical truth and for many other reasons that I will not sign the “Traditionalist” statement of faith on the Connect-316 sister site. I’m not looking that we be classified as Calvinists, Arminians, Traditionalists, or whatever label one may choose, but for the sake of the Gospel, doctrinal integrity, and making disciples, we definitely must be Biblical!

    Kyle Gulledge

    Brother Chris,

    I hope you, and your family, are doing well. I also pray that ministry is going well at your new church—and I am sure you are loving the weather. Thanks for reading the post here, but I must admit I am a bit confused. You said:

    “It is troubling to me when I read Baptists who are reasoning like some above and when I read the “Traditionalist” statement of beliefs on Connect-316 (especially under Article 2).
    My burden is regarding the blatant denial of some about what the Word of God says so clearly in Romans 5 (esp. vv. 18-21). Paul did not just say we inherit a “nature… inclined toward sin” or an “environment inclined toward sin.” No, he used the words “condemnation (yes this includes guilt) for all men” and the many were “made sinners” and as a result spiritual death came to all.”

    You then said:

    “It is because of this denial of a biblical truth and for many other reasons that I will not sign the “Traditionalist” statement of faith on the Connect-316 sister site.”

    You are claiming that the Traditional statement is Biblically flawed, or is denying a biblical truth. It seems, to me at least, that your problem is not with the Traditional Statement, but rather with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. The language used in the Traditional Statement was adopted from the BFM2000 as it states under Article III: “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” (emphasis mine). So are you saying that all Southern Baptists who affirm the BFM2000 are denying Biblical truth? Let me take it even one step further. Did you know that the very church you pastor now claims this statement: “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.”? (www.enoreebaptist.com/about-us/statement-of-beliefs) So are you telling me, and all of the readership, that the church you currently pastor denies Biblical Truth? I know you better than that Chris—I know you affirm Scripture. I fear the root cause of the disgust of the Traditional Statement and Connect 316 is due to the non-Reformed view that we stand by. But to claim that the Traditional Statement is unbiblical is ludicrous.

    May God continue to bless you in ministry brother. I will never think of shrimp and grits without thinking of you!

      Dr. Chris Gray

      Jonathan, it is good to hear from you. I appreciate you and all your church does for the Kingdom.
      Forgive me if I was unclear, which it seems that it was. I do affirm the BFM 2000 and believe it is a true and suitable declaration of beliefs for our Southern Baptist Convention as well as my church. I believe it is a good presentation of the beliefs held by a vast majority of those who call themselves Southern Baptists (even among the diverse theological peculiarities within those who believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible). I do not have any qualms with the section that you quoted from the BFM2000 which I also included in my comment: “his (all Mankind) posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” I do believe this! In my comment I believe I said that Paul did not “just” say that we inherited a sinful nature. Paul went further than just saying we have a nature proned to making personal sin a sure thing. He went further and said that we were condemned because of the transgression of Adam (Romans 5:18). The problem with the “traditionalist” statement is that it says that there is a denial that we were guilty in Adam before we had an opportunity to sin. This is a direct denial of what Paul plainly wtote. We see elsewhere the imputation of condemnation in Psalm 51 as well as in Ephesians 2:3 where Paul says that “we were by nature (physis) children of wrath” (nature speaks of our birth or being Man). I’m not sure why the traditionist statement went beyond the BFM2000, by claiming we were not born with the condemnation of sin already on us. To me it is not a Reformed vs. Non-Reformed thing. It is what the Bible says in plain sight versus what a statement of faith says, which represents the doctrine of traditional Southern Baptists.
      If you can, please help me with three things: Why does the statement in article 2 go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message and denies that we are condemned because of the sin of Adam? How else is one to interpret Romans 5:18-19? And third, if we have a problem with being condemned because of the transgression of one (Adam), then why should we not be equally disturbed and in denial of many being made righteous by the One, Christ Jesus?
      Jonathan, I promise you that I’m not trying to be a smart-aleck, I am willing to learn if I’m missing something here.
      God bless you from the land of “shrimp & grits”!

        Kyle Gulledge

        Shockingly Chris, I was thinking about your combination of shrimp and grits the other day when I drove by your old house! Lol! Good times. Let me reply to your comment shortly tonight, as it is a busy week for me.

        In your first question you ask: “Why does the statement in article 2 go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message and denies that we are condemned because of the sin of Adam? “

        Don’t you go beyond the BFM 2000 in believing that I/you/we are guilty of Adam’s sin? Nowhere in the BFM 2000 does it affirm that we are GUILTY of Adam’s sin. It simply states that we are born with a nature and environment inclined toward sin–and as soon as I/you/we are capable of moral action, I/you/we become transgressors and are under condemnation. So, in short, you have also gone beyond the BFM 2000. I will respond to your other questions as soon as I can. Be blessed brother.

Dr. Chris Gray

Clarification of my 3rd question:
(I am using a form of reasoning for the above question. Some think that it is not fair for many people being condemned because of the sin of one. If we follow that reasoning, it would seem that it’s not fair for the many to be made righteous because of the One, Jesus Christ.) You know what? It isn’t fair, that’s why it’s called grace! What we deserve, what would be fair is that He didn’t do anything to free us from condemnation.
We must believe that we are made righteous because of the obedient work of Christ’s death on the Cross.
Please let me rephrase my third question like this-
“If we are willing to believe that we (the many) are made righteous by the obedient work of the One (Christ), why can’t we also believe that we were also condemned because of the disobedience of one (Adam)?

    Rick Patrick

    Hi Chris,

    Let me jump in a second…although all this talk of shrimp and grits is making my mouth water! One way of viewing the imputation of guilt through Adam and of righteousness through Christ is to consider the need for each person to ratify or affirm these imputations. If righteousness was automatically imputed through the one man Christ for all persons, then we would have universalism. Instead, every soul must personally believe and trust in Christ, thereby ratifying and receiving His imputation of righteousness. In the same way, every soul must personally sin in order to ratify and receive the imputation of Adam’s guilt. We are born with a sinful nature because of Adam, but not with a guilty conscience. I never ate Adam’s apple. I ate Rick’s chocolate.

    Adam Harwood’s book “The Spiritual Condition of Infants” covers this subject thoroughly. You also might be interested in the Doug Sayers book “Chosen or Not,” which addresses this topic in Chapter 7 of 466 pages. We will be happy to provide you with a free copy at the Connect 316 Supper in Columbus if you can make it.

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