(Our gratitude to Hariette Petersen for pointing us to this testimony of a mother who lost her sons in the F4 tornado that struck Arkansas.)
I’ve never really been afraid of tornadoes. You see, I’m an Arkansas girl, born and raised. I remember the thrilling nights as a kid when my mother pulled us from our beds and we’d spend what seemed like all night giggling under a mattress in the hall with flashlights and teddy bears. It was fun.
And I’ve seen the aftermath, the piles of rubble, the death counts on the news. But you see, I’m an optimist. And all these things I have seen from an emotional distance. So the prevailing theme to them all is the hope that humans are able to cling to, the stories of survival. So I’ve never really been afraid of tornadoes.
At this point, we would like to affirm more clearly who we are from a positive perspective. Please note that as we make these affirmations we are not saying that Calvinist Baptists and Arminian Baptists are not truly seeking to be Baptists. We certainly believe that Baptists can be Calvinists and they can be Arminians, but we prefer not to allow ourselves to be defined by either of those great positions, because we see something even greater, something that deserves more attention and requires a higher allegiance. Likewise, theologians open to Molinism, such as Bruce Little and Ken Keathley, do their work with a firm commitment to evangelical Baptist convictions. What we are saying is that our own passion for God’s Word, for Christ and for His Great Commission necessarily places every desire for settling the long-running and seemingly intractable Calvinist-Arminian debate to the side. We recognize this is a debate that will continue to be held and should be held in certain restricted venues. However, the debate itself is trumped by our need to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, to proclaim Scripture, and to obey His Great Commission. Moreover, we believe our position is the mainstream Southern Baptist position, as Richard Land said in his chapter, “the Separate Baptist Sandy Creek Tradition has been the melody for Southern Baptists, with Charleston and other traditions providing harmony” (50). Here are our thoughts about these interwoven, mutually reinforcing and majoritarian priorities:
If you missed part 1, click HERE.
Let us address the negative side of this position statement, “We are neither Calvinists nor Arminians.” The book itself outlines many reasons why we are not Calvinists, but three of those bear repeating in light of our own priorities. First, we do not believe that Dortian Calvinism properly represents the gospel of Jesus Christ in its simplicity and profundity according to the Bible. We are uncomfortable with Dortian Calvinism because we believe its rigid structure is imposed upon Scripture and that it does not allow Scripture to form theology. As philosopher Steve Lemke queried about the Calvinist belief in irresistible grace, “Is Scripture being shaped to make it agree with one’s theological system, or is one’s theological system being shaped according to Scripture?” (127). Malcolm Yarnell was similarly concerned that an exemplary Reformed theologian’s methodological approaches to Scripture “reflect a thoroughgoing rationalism that is prior to and formative for his treatment of Scripture” (The Formation of Christian Doctrine, 50).
“The primary focus of Christians should be to carry out the Great Commission under the lordship of Jesus Christ according to the guidelines found in the inerrant Word of God.”
White Paper 36
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There is no doubt that many of our thoughts and prayers are focused on the victims of the tornados and tragedies that struck Mayflower, Vilonia, and other areas. While we can and will rebuild, the greatest loss is that of life. Friends have asked me how God could allow this to happen. This is a tough question, indeed, and a Christian’s response to it can bring someone closer to God, or drive them away.