By Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
In New Orleans we have medians on major boulevards which are traditionally called “neutral grounds.” These medians provided a boundary (somewhat of a demilitarized zone) between the various ethnic neighborhoods in New Orleans (French, Spanish, Irish, Italian, etc.). The members of the other ethnic group were not welcome to cross those lines, but anyone could be in the “neutral grounds,” the middle ground between them.
There are middle grounds between various theological polarities as well, including plenty of middle ground between Calvinist and Arminian Theology. In response to my recent post “Using Logic in Theology: The Fallacy of False Alternatives,” it has become apparent that some dear Arminian and Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ are really struggling with the logical fallacy of false alternatives. In a parallel discussion on my Facebook page, one Baptist who “gets it” wrote a sarcastic parody of these responses which seem not to “get” this fallacy, and thus keep demanding an “either/or” Arminian or Calvinist identity: “But you still didn’t tell us which of the two you are!!!!! Which ONE is it? Are you sitting on the fence? You know what God says about being neither hot nor cold. . . .“ Indeed. It is rather amusing when the response to an account of the fallacy of false alternatives is to keep insisting that there are only two alternatives and demanding which of those alternatives you are. That’s not “getting it.”
Some have asked (in this blog and in other places) at what points the authors of Whosoever Will if at all we differ from Arminius, or at what points we disagree with Arminianism. Frankly, it would be difficult to enumerate all the ways in a setting such as this. To give a simple answer, since most of us serve at confessional Southern Baptist institutions which require affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a condition of employment, to say that we were Arminians would require that we immediately resign our positions for departing from our doctrinal confession at least at the point of eternal security. Clearly, we have many more points of affinity with Arminianistic Baptists in the General Baptist or Free Will Baptist tradition than we do with pure Arminianism (because these Arminianistic Baptists have already denied some key elements of Arminianism proper, just as most Calvinistic Baptists have denied some key doctrines of Calvinist Presbyterianism proper). But we disagree with General Baptist and Free Will Baptists at some points as well.
Lessons Learned from Iraq that Apply to Ministry Anywhere:
A Southern Baptist Chaplain in Action
By Dr. Page Brooks, Chaplain for the Louisiana National Guard, Assistant Professor of Theology and Islamic Studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Founding Co-Pastor of the Mosaic Church in New Orleans
Throughout the Bible we see where God sometimes leads individuals into the desert to teach them some powerful spiritual lessons. Whether it was the Israelites, John the Baptist, or Jesus Himself, the desert experience was always powerful in bringing to life spiritual truths.
I had my own experience in learning spiritual lessons in the desert, but this particular trip was because of my role as a military chaplain while I was deployed to Iraq in 2010. I serve as a chaplain with the Louisiana National Guard and deployed with the 1-141 Field Artillery out of New Orleans, Louisiana. We served in two locations of Iraq during the year. In the first part of our deployment we were stationed in Tallil, near the Kuwaiti border. Our soldiers performed convoy operations all over Iraq, starting from our base in Tallil. The second half of the deployment we were stationed in the International Zone, Baghdad. We provided security for areas of the International Zone and the US Embassy.
Though we went through loss of life and other difficult situations, I had wonderful deployment. I loved being with my soldiers and ministering to their needs. In the midst of the incredible ministry with the soldiers, God not only used me to touch their lives, but God used them to teach me a few lessons of my own that I would use when I returned to the States as I returned to my teaching ministry and church plant.
This is a list of recent blog posts which we found interesting. That we found them interesting doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with or endorse the ideas presented in the posts, but that we found them to be intriguing and thought-provoking. (They are listed in no particular order of interest). Please post your comments to discuss any article that strikes your interest. If you have recent blog posts to nominate, please send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the SBC
“Rebuilding Baptist Identity: Reestablishing the Priesthood of All Believers,” by Jeremy Craft at the Helwys Society Forum, building a case for the doctrine of priesthood of all believers.
“2025 and the Southern Baptist Convention,” by Tim Rogers on the Southern Baptist in North Carolina blog, with his predictions of what the SBC might look like in 15 years.
“Elderizing the Southern Baptist Convention, Part 1,” by Peter Lumpkins at the SBC Tomorrow blog, with a discussion of the theological proclivity of churches with elder rule and its place in historic Baptist polity. http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2011/05/elderizing-the-southern-baptistconvention-part-i-by-peter-lumpkins.html
“An Appeal for Clarity in Discussing Baptist Elders,” by James Leonard on the Arminian Baptist blog, with thoughts on the biblical and historical basis for elders in Baptist life.
“Healthy Denominationalism or Denominational Ultrism?” by Jason Duesing on the Southwestern Seminary website, utilizing the example of John Broadus and Jeremiah Jeter in how to stand up for Baptist distinctives without being a jerk about it.
Using Logic in Theology:
The Fallacy of False Alternatives
By Steve Lemke, Provost and Professor of Theology and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
As a philosophically-trained theologian, it causes me considerable chagrin to see some of the most basic errors in logic committed over and over again in theological discourse. This fuzzy thinking arises in every area of doctrinal from time to time, but (perhaps because of my interest in this area) I note it particularly in regard to soteriological discussions relating to Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Over the next few posts, I want to identify several common logical errors which lead to ill-formed arguments, fallacious logic, and unsound conclusions. I apologize in advance that this discussion gets a bit technical at points, though I have attempted to convey it for a non-specialist audience. I beg for patience from those for whom it seems overly technical.
The Fallacy of False Alternatives (also known as the False Dichotomy Fallacy, False Dilemma Fallacy, All or Nothing Fallacy, or Black or White Fallacy) results when we simplify everything into an “either-or” choice, and thereby fail to take into consideration other viable alternatives. One of the common mistakes made by “shade tree” theologians is to oversimplify theology into Calvinism or Arminianism, as though those were the only choices regarding any given theological issue. They are not.
In logic, an “either/or” statement can be described as a disjunctive syllogism (“either A or B is true”). The logic goes pretty easily from there – if not A, then B; or if not B, then A. But many possible disjunctive syllogisms fall into the fallacy of false alternatives. The syllogism works only if there are just two possible alternatives. So, for example, the following argument might be proposed: “Either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan.” (Hence, if Yankee fan, then not Red Sox fan; or if Red Sox fan, then not Yankee fan). These teams are fierce rivals, of course, and to be a fan of one almost guarantees not being a fan of the other (a Yankees fan will not be a Red Sox fan, and a Red Sox fan will not be a Yankees fan) – but these are not the only alternatives. I happen to be a Rangers fan, so I could not properly be said to be either a Yankees or a Red Sox fan. At times I might cheer for either the Yankees or the Red Sox, but I would do so not because I am their fan, but because either of them winning or losing might afford some advantage to the Rangers (such as home field advantage in the playoffs). So the argument that you must be either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan commits the fallacy of false alternatives.
Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology
by Ron F. Hale, Minister of Missions, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN
Total Depravity or Total Inability
Bernd Brandes was a person with a passion for pain.
This bizarre mania caused him to respond to an internet ad placed by another German man by the name of Armin Meiwes. This spine-chilling internet ad declared that Meiwes was seeking “a young, well built man who wants to be eaten.”
Brandes responded and became the menu of Meiwes. This modern day cannibal was later sentenced to serve eight years and six months in prison. How would you like being the sleepy-eyed cell mate of Meiwes?
This story reveals the ever-present wickedness of mankind, that we are not deprived but depraved sinners. Forever and a day each of us will always fall short of the glory of God due to this sin nature.
Under the statement on Man, the following sentences taken from the Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 enlighten us on our depravity:
By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. 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. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.
Throughout God’s Word, we see man’s devious and depraved nature has an explicit bias toward evil resulting in our certainty to sin; therefore, it cannot be escaped since our human nature has been corrupted by sin.