Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward a Baptist Soteriology
Part 3: Theological Presuppositions

April 17, 2012



Eric Hankins is the Pastor of First Baptist, Oxford, Mississippi


Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the third of a four-part series by Eric Hankins entitled “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward a Baptist Soteriology.” This series attempts to frame Baptist soteriology in a different structure than the traditional “TULIP” comparisons with the doctrines of Calvinism or Arminianism.

  • In Part 1, Hankins contrasted “individual election” (a key Biblical Presupposition in Calvinism and Arminianism) with “corporate election” in a Baptist soteriology.
  • In Part 2, he contrasts the Philosophical Presuppositions of “The ‘Problem’ of Determinism and Free-Will” in Calvinism with “The Freedom of God and the Free-Will of People” in a Baptist soteriology.
  • Now, in Part 3, he contrasts the Theological Presuppositions of “Federal Theology” in Calvinist soteriology with “Covenant in Christ” in a Baptist soteriology.

The Theological Presupposition in a Reformed Soteriology:

Federal Theology

Both Arminians and Calvinists assume a “Covenant of Works” between Adam and God in the Garden of Eden, even though there is no biblical basis for such.[1] The Covenant of Works, they assert, was a deal God made with Adam whereby Adam would be rewarded with eternal life if he could remain morally perfect through a probationary period. Failure would bring about guilt and “spiritual death,” which includes the loss of his capacity for a good will toward God. Adam’s success or failure, in turn, would be credited to his posterity. This “Federal Theology” imputes Adam’s guilt and total depravity to every human.[2] In Calvinism, actual guilt and total depravity are the plight of every person. Free-will with respect to salvation is, by definition, impossible, and with it, the possibility of a free response to God’s offer of covenant through the gospel. The only hope for salvation for any individual is the elective activity of God. In Calvinist soteriology, election is privileged above faith because regeneration must be prior to conversion. In Arminianism, the effects of Federal Theology and the Covenant of Works must be countermanded by further speculative adjustments like “prevenient grace” and election based on “foreseen faith,” a faith which is only possible because prevenient grace overcomes the depravity and guilt of the whole human race due to Adam’s failure. All this strays far beyond the biblical data. Such speculation does not emerge from clear inferences from the Bible, but is actually a priori argumentation designed to buttress Augustine, not Paul.

God’s gracious action in Christ is not “Plan B,” a “Covenant of Grace,” executed in response to Adam’s failure at “Plan A,” the “Covenant of Works.” The pre-existent Son has always been the center-point of creation and covenant. Adam was not created and placed in the Garden for the purpose of demonstrating moral perfection through his own efforts.[3] This original “works righteousness” was read into the Garden by Pelagius and assumed by Augustine. Adam was not being called to moral perfection; he was being called into world-changing covenant relationship. The command not to eat of the tree was simply a negative construal of God’s offer for Adam to know Him and be satisfied in Him and His plan alone. It was a specific instantiation of the covenant offered to Adam and Eve in Gen. 1:26-28: In a blessed relationship with God, they were to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over it.[4] In the Garden, Adam was being asked to do what Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel, David, and, ultimately, everyone would be asked to do: trust and accept the gracious covenant offer of God in Christ for the purpose of bringing the created order to its intended conclusion. Adam and Eve were to respond to God in faith. The sensual temptation of the fruit itself came after the temptation to question God’s character and His covenant plan. It was in Adam’s rejection of God’s covenant offer that he failed to be moral. In Christ, God re-offers the covenant through successive renewals, culminating in His final offer of the gospel revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate Son. Adam was asked to believe God and bless the whole world, as were Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and ultimately Christ, who succeeded where all others failed. His victory is extended to all those who put their faith in Him, just like Abraham, the father of the faithful did.[5] Covenant in Christ by faith is not “Plan B;” it is the point of the Bible.

Once again, speculation such as a Covenant of Works, Federal Theology, prevenient grace, etc. are little more than theological “fudge factors” designed to make the Augustinian synthesis work. They do not emerge from the biblical text but are a priori arguments pressed into the service of a fifth-century Catholic bishop, not the authors of the Scriptures, and Baptists have never been comfortable with them. These adjustments mitigate the centrality, power, and immediacy of the biblical concept of “covenant” which has, at its heart, God’s desire for a relationship with His people through a real response of faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the nexus of Baptist soteriology.


The Theological Presupposition in a Baptist Soteriology:

Covenant in Christ

In a Baptist soteriology, Christ is the central object of belief. He is believed as the mediator of covenant relationship, the full expression of the kingdom of God, eternal life, God’s ultimate purpose for everyone and for the cosmos (John 3:16). We have no interest in a series of extra-biblical covenants created to bolster a soteriology that does not take seriously the necessity of personal faith as an expression of free-will. In our preaching, we do not burden people with the calculus of covenants of works, grace, and redemption. We do not invite people to believe in Calvinism or Arminianism. We offer Christ alone, the only hope of Adam, Noah, Abraham, the Patriarchs, Moses, David, Israel, and the whole of humankind. His perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection comprise the object of confession and belief that is sufficient to save (John 14:6, Rom. 10.9-10).

It is safe to say that Federal Theology, Eternal Decrees, Covenants of Works, Grace, and Redemption, and prevenient grace have played essentially no major role in the expansion of the Baptist witness, especially among Southern Baptists, from the late nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries. This is not because ordinary Baptists are unintelligent or simplistic in their beliefs; it is because ordinary Baptists have played a significant role in the direction of denominational identity, and they have been serious about what the Bible plainly does and does not say. Baptists have known that these things were unnecessary for the articulation of God’s unstoppable plan to redeem the whole world through the bold proclamation of salvation in Christ alone by faith alone. From the beginning, the work of Christ in creation and redemption for the purpose of covenant relationship with humankind has always been the center of the biblical narrative. There is no need for an alternate metanarrative of secret decrees and hidden covenants to sort out the history of redemption. The plot of God’s purpose for humankind can be found right on the surface of the text from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, all summed up succinctly in John 3:16.[6]


[1] William J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation: A Theology of Old Testament Covenants (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 44–46, Reprint.

[2] The principle text for Federal Theology is Rom. 5.12-21, but the evidence within this text and its place within the argument of Romans speaks against such an interpretation. The strict parallelism between Adam and “all” demands a strict parallelism between Christ and “all,” necessitating universalism, which is not possible theologically and not the point exegetically. Paul’s focus in the passage is clearly on physical death and eternal life, not the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all people (the same is true for Eph. 2:1-7 and 1 Cor. 15:20-28). Paul’s point: Adam’s sin brought in the condemnation of death for all people. All people demonstrate that they deserve such condemnation by their own sin. Christ, the sinless one, has overthrown that condemnation by receiving it undeservedly into Himself, which is the ultimate act of obedience, and rising again. All who ratify Christ’s obedient life, death, and resurrection with their faith in Him will have eternal life.

[3] This is not to say that perfect obedience was not the standard; it was just not the point. True obedience is the expression of covenant faithfulness and utter dependence on God.

[4] Eugene H. Merrill, Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 17.

[5] In Gal. 3:8, Paul states quite clearly and without any need for further explanation that “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, ‘ALL THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.’” This single covenant in Christ is also in view in 1 Cor. 10:4: “. . . and all [Israel] drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”

[6] Jerry Vines, “Sermon on John 3:16,” in Whosoever Will, ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 13–15.


These posts are adapted from Eric Hankins’s article “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianims: Toward a Baptist Soteriology,” published in the online Journal for Bapist Theology and Ministry, Spring 2011, Vol. 8, No. 1. It is amended and reposted here with the permission of the author.

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darryl brunson

Eric,
Thanks for the clearer picture . Have always thought the first offer of grace was when God offered Adam the chance to trust Him in the garden. Now have a better understanding. Keep up the solid exposition.

Mike Davis

You write,

In our preaching, we do not burden people with the calculus of covenants of works, grace, and redemption

While there may be some debate within Baptist tradition and evangelical thought about the covenant of works, orthodox Protestant tradition, including Baptist tradition, has always understood the covenants of grace and redemption to be nonnegotiable components of the gospel, whether one takes a Calvinistic or an Arminian position. In addition, the imputation of Adam’s guilt to unredeemed humanity is clearly described in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000:

By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race…and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.

This implies a direct imputation of guilt (Federal Theology) and affirms an indirect imputation of guilt through the inheritance of a sin nature (Total Depravity or Total Inability and thus the inability to satisfy the requirements of righteousness). If you deny this portion of the Baptist Faith and Message then you are moving into a Pelagian view of the nature of humanity in claiming Adam’s sin did nothing to affect human nature or human legal standing before God. That view does not conform to Baptist thought.

    Eric Hankins

    Mike,

    The fact that there is “some debate about the covenant of works” is precisely my point. The reason that there is some debate concerning the covenant of works is because it has no biblical basis. It is made on the logic of Augustinianism. When one assumes a covenant of works, then Calvinism just flows right out. When one rejects it for its lack of biblical justification, Calvinism is in big trouble.

    I do not deny that there concepts in the Bible that can be described as “covenants of grace” and/or “covenants of redemption.” What I reject is what both Calvinists and Arminians believe those phrases mean, and I reject that they should be understood in tandem with a “Covenant of Works.”

    The “imputation of Adam’s guilt is clearly described in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000”? Hardly. “Man brought sin into the human race” is a far cry from God imputing sin to humanity. Adam’s “posterity inherit(s) a nature and an environment inclined toward sin” is an even further cry from a “clear description” of the imputation of guilt.

    Your reading of the BF&M is without warrant. You say I am in danger of semi-Pelagianism? I say you are in danger of divine determinm, which envisions a God who creates people for the purpose of damning them, who punishes people for someone else’s sin, who sends infants to hell for His own glory, who makes it impossible for myriads to be saved. This whole vision is based on a covenant of works that is woven whole cloth out of thin air rather than the clear teaching of Scripture.

    You attempt to make the case that your reading of the BF&M “implies” Federal Theology and Total Depravity, and makes me a semi-Pelgian. Do you see how circular this reasoning is?: “Since everything must be read in a Calvinist way, the BF&M must affirm Federal Theology (even though it doesn’t sound like it), which demands Calvinism. Since anything not Calvinist is semi-Pelagian, anyone who disagrees with me is a semi-Pelagian.” This won’t do. You’ll have to make an argument that begins with the biblical basis for a Covenant of Works.

    Finally, you say my view assumes that “Adam’s sin did nothing to affect human nature.” If you take a look at the section of my paper on the “Anthropological Presupposition” you will find that such a charge will not stand. Adam’s sin ruined everything. But it did not render us guilty and it did not render us incapable of responding to the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Spirit. Very few Southern Baptists think it did.

      Joshua

      Eric,

      You said: “But it did not render us guilty and it did not render us incapable of responding to the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Spirit. Very few Southern Baptists think it did.”

      Here is a historical Baptist timeline of the affirmation of the imputation of guilt from Adam’s sin to all his posterity which you deny and believe is ahistorical.

      One may deny original sin if they must, but one cannot revise history.

      London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689:

      They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and their corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

      SBC Abstract of Principles 1858:
      …through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.

      Baptist Faith and Message 1925:
      …he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.

      Baptist Faith and Message 1963:
      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, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation.

        Eric Hankins

        Joshua,

        First, as a Baptist, I am just not super-concerned about what the old confessions say. I care about what the Bible says.

        Second, can you not see the gigantic difference between the language of the 1925 BF&M and the 1963? All the changes weaken the possibility of a Calvinistic reading.

        Third, if Southern Baptists have such a profound heritage of Calvinism, why are 90% of them not Calvinists?

          Chris Roberts

          I thought you were writing this series of posts as an examination of what Baptists believe? If so, what Baptists have said historically is certainly relevant. You are certainly correct that it’s more important what the Bible says than what the confessions say, but when discussing what Baptists have believed and do believe, the confessions are relevant.

          As for the difference in the 25 and 63, the changes are unfortunate because you are right, they do weaken the confession. But the 1963 confession (and the 2000 confession) still affirms that with Adam as the head of the race, his fall caused a change in the rest of humanity. It doesn’t go into great detail as to the nature of that change, so the BF&M leaves room for disagreement, but one cannot affirm the BF&M without acknowledging that the fall of Adam and Eve introduced a change to every human descended from them, .

          Joshua

          Eric,

          What the Bible says is at the core of all of our concerns. To say you don’t care what the historic confessions say seems antithetical to your purpose here. It is the return to what our confession says that returned the SBC back to conservative theology which allowed you to earn a PhD at SWBTS under inerrantists. To say “I am just not super-concerned about what the old confessions say.” is concerning.

          Are you seriously arguing that because “90%” of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists, which is a debatable statistic, that the SBC is not “confessionally” Calvinistic? This is not a valid argument and ignores basic historical realities that are staring us all directly in the face. To say Southern Baptists have deviated from their historic doctrinal beliefs is accurate and factual. To assert that because Southern Baptists today don’t believe “A” or “B” doesn’t negate the doctrinal heritage present in previous Southern Baptist confessions. Could not this argument have been used by the moderate errantist back in the 70’s and 80’s? It is not a good argument.

          Let us disagree on doctrine while maintaining reason and honesty in our assessments of Southern Baptist history.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Eric: The argument of I just care what the Bible says is so old, I am Calvinist and it is because I also care what the Bible says, in fact Calvinism teaches that scripture interprets scripture and the Bible is the final authority. I could be wrong in my interpretation of scripture, but it’s hard for me to believe that I am considering so many passages that I read in Romans, Ephesians, John etc. that seem to affirm the five points.

          Debbie Kaufman

          I might also add to what I’ve said that I believe both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have been Baptists and Southern Baptists. But, I will teach what I believe the Bible teaches, as I affirm you to do the same. People in the pew are much smarter than given credit for in discerning.

        Steve Lemke

        Joshua,
        It is true that what you have quoted is one stream that flowed into what we now know as Southern Baptists, but it was just one stream among many streams. For example, let me cite a couple of confessions which lean the opposite way, that predate those you cite:

        John Smyth in his Short Confession of 1609 affirmed, “That there is no original sin (lit., no sin of origin or descent), but all sin is actual and voluntary, viz., a word, a deed, or a design against the law of God; and therefore, infants are without sin.”

        The Short Confession of Faith of 1610 affirmed that none of Adam’s posterity “are guilty, sinful, or born in original sin.”

        The focus in both of these early Baptist confessions (also found in many early Anabaptist confessions) is on guilt from actual chosen sin, not inherited guilt (and thus rejects federal theology, as Eric has described it). So, again, the stream of theology you cite is a legitimate tributary to the Baptist river, but it’s not the only game in town (to switch the metaphor midstream) (:-).
        swl

          Eric Hankins

          Joshua,

          First, my paper and blog posts are not arguing that there is not a Calvinist component to our heritage. But I will say that a strong case can be made that Calvinism has not been a controlling component for quite some time, as the difference between ’25 and ’63 reveal.

          Second, I can assure you, the only thing the BF&M did for the conservative resurgence was get in the way because its article on Scripture wasn’t clear enough. The only “confession” consistently employed was the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. Southwestern didn’t move conservative because of supposed Calvinism in our confessions. It moved conservative because of good ol’ Bible Baptists like Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, etc. who were most assuredly not Calvinists. No one was talking about Calvinism during the Resurgence.

          If the 90% statistic is debatable, then debate it. I got it from Ed Stetzer’s research at LifeWay.

          I am seriously stating that we are not confessionally Calvinistic. The BF&M 2000 is our confession, and it is not Calvinistic. 90% of our pastors are in disagreement with it if it is.

          What you are really arguing is that we used to be Calvinistic a long time ago and that we should be again, since, as you stated earlier, “many leaders” in the SBC say “most” Southern Baptists are semi-Pelagian, that we have “drifted from our historic beliefs.” Well, that is a different kettle of fish, and, as Steve Lemke points out, you can’t even make that case.

          Joshua, I’m not sure you understand Baptist polity. If Baptists decide that they want to deviate from an older Baptist confession, then that’s what happens. You may want to make the case that we are wrong, but you’ll have to do it from the Scriptures, not old confessions. In Baptist life, the majority sets the direction and you are in the vast minority.

          Are you accusing me of being dishonest and unreasonable in assessment of Baptist history? May I ask how?

          Chris Roberts

          “In Baptist life, the majority sets the direction…”

          At the church level. What has been disturbing recently is the number of those who seem to want to dictate from the convention level whether or not Southern Baptists are permitted to be Calvinists. One remarkable thing about SBC polity is that the majority in the convention do not set the direction for any churches within the convention. Autonomy remains.

          Joshua

          Dr. Lemke,

          Thanks for the reply. I provided Southern Baptist confessions as well as Baptist confessions. Can you provide an historic Southern Baptist confession that specifically denies original sin as Smyth’s did?

          I would be interested in such evidence of Southern Baptists historically denying original sin.

Chris Roberts

Eric,

Another interesting post, yet with some items that warrant clarification and response.

Both Arminians and Calvinists assume a “Covenant of Works” between Adam and God in the Garden of Eden, even though there is no biblical basis for such.

To clarify, it is not Calvinists in general who propose these covenants, but covenantal theologians. One can be Calvinist and not have a covenantal understanding. There are Calvinists who identify with New Covenant theology and those who are Dispensationalists, and in general neither of these positions would affirm the distinctions made by covenant theology.

For myself, I’m reluctant to recognize the covenants of works and grace because they are not explicitly identified as such in Scripture. But I understand the point of covenant theologians that whether or not these are explicitly identified, the frameworks exist. In your own post you are willing to argue for a covenant in the garden even though no such covenant is explicitly stated, so I’m not sure how your position is any stronger than theirs.

In Calvinism, actual guilt and total depravity are the plight of every person. Free-will with respect to salvation is, by definition, impossible, and with it, the possibility of a free response to God’s offer of covenant through the gospel.

Yes and no. Because we are born in sin, with natures corrupt by sin that lead us away from God, we will never choose God. Free will is not abolished by total depravity – we are still free to choose what we will. It is just that what we will is always going to be against God. The “impossibility” of salvation is from the side of the individual making the choice: such individuals, left to themselves, will never want to choose God. There is never a situation when an individual wants to make a choice one direction but is prevented from doing so. He is free to choose what he will, he always wills to choose against God.

In Calvinism… the only hope for salvation for any individual is the elective activity of God.

Amen.

In Calvinist soteriology, election is privileged above faith because regeneration must be prior to conversion.

I’m not sure what you mean by privileged above – election is not more important than faith, per se, but is a necessary component along with faith. We will not have faith unless God gives it to us. God does not give it to those not elect. We must have faith to be saved. We cannot generate faith on our own or from within ourselves, it is a gift of God.

In Arminianism, the effects of Federal Theology and the Covenant of Works must be countermanded by further speculative adjustments like “prevenient grace” and election based on “foreseen faith,” a faith which is only possible because prevenient grace overcomes the depravity and guilt of the whole human race due to Adam’s failure. All this strays far beyond the biblical data.

I would agree with you that this position is highly speculative and goes beyond what Scripture tells us. Nonetheless, from my experience this is the view held by most Southern Baptists – at least when it comes to election being foreseen faith; many Baptists have probably not considered prevenient grace one way or the other. I believe your view on this would put you at odds with many of the contributors to the book Whosoever Will.

God’s gracious action in Christ is not “Plan B,” a “Covenant of Grace,” executed in response to Adam’s failure at “Plan A,” the “Covenant of Works.” The pre-existent Son has always been the center-point of creation and covenant.

Agreed – but I think you are digging a hole for yourself. Namely, in what sense is the Son the center-point of creation and covenant prior to the fall? In what sense was there a covenant prior to the fall? How was the creative and redemptive work of Jesus the center of the biblical narrative prior to the fall?

Put another way, how would God’s plan have been different if Adam and Eve had never fallen into sin? We know that God knows what human beings will choose to do. What God’s choice to redeem people through Jesus only in response to what God knew Adam would choose? In what sense was Jesus redeemer before the fall? And if God’s decision to send a redeemer was predicated on the fact that man’s choices left him in need of redemption, in what sense do you say that the redemptive work of Jesus was not plan-B? I know that these questions create difficulties for Calvinists as well (thus we have even more highly speculative debates over things like infralapsarian and supralapsarian), but I want to point out that your position does not avoid such problems.

The only way for the redemptive work of Jesus to be a central in the biblical narrative is if Jesus is redeemer; the only way Jesus can be redeemer is if there is something to redeem us from – our sin; the only way to say that the redemptive work of Jesus is not Plan-B is if in some way the fall was always part of God’s plan.

Adam was not created and placed in the Garden for the purpose of demonstrating moral perfection through his own efforts.

This was not the purpose for his being placed in the garden, but it was an expectation.

The command not to eat of the tree was simply a negative construal of God’s offer for Adam to know Him and be satisfied in Him and His plan alone.

This is an interesting point, I had not thought of it quite like that. But it is not entirely accurate. God wasn’t simply telling Adam, “Be satisfied in me.” He was also telling Adam, “Don’t eat of this particular fruit.” I will join you in the realm of speculating what God intended with this command. I think of it more like Satan with Job, “Yes, he’s obeying you now – but look how you’ve blessed him! Press him a bit, and see what he does then!” In that sense, the tree was a test. It is all well and good to be obedient and to delight in God and to enjoy God’s blessings when that is the only available option, but how will Adam do when other options are presented? This is somewhat speculative, but no more so than your notion of what the fruit was for.

In the Garden, Adam was being asked to …trust and accept the gracious covenant offer of God in Christ for the purpose of bringing the created order to its intended conclusion.

And he was asked to demonstrate that trust by obedience to this command: do not eat the fruit.

It was in Adam’s rejection of God’s covenant offer that he failed to be moral.

It was in Adam’s disobedience of God’s command that he failed to be righteous.

In Christ, God re-offers the covenant through successive renewals, culminating in His final offer of the gospel revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of the Incarnate Son.

I’m not altogether clear what you are suggesting. Do you imply that throughout history there have been times when mankind have had additional Eden-type moments, times when we could have returned to the way things were originally intended to be? When you put Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David on the same level as Adam, do you mean that their obedience could have returned the world to an Edenic state?

Covenant in Christ by faith is not “Plan B;” it is the point of the Bible.

It is the point of the Bible because of our need. Sin created the need for that redemption by faith.

They do not emerge from the biblical text but are a priori arguments pressed into the service of a fifth-century Catholic bishop, not the authors of the Scriptures, and Baptists have never been comfortable with them.

I’m sure you are at least casually aware of the many biblical arguments that have been made for these positions. It is clear that you reject those arguments, but I am curious why you choose not to at least acknowledge them or respond to them in some way. It isn’t enough to tell me that those men who argued so frequently from Scripture were unbiblical in their arguments; show me why their positions were wrong. Show me where they misuse the texts they cite.

In a Baptist soteriology, Christ is the central object of belief. He is believed as the mediator of covenant relationship, the full expression of the kingdom of God, eternal life, God’s ultimate purpose for everyone and for the cosmos (John 3:16).

I might agree, depending on what you mean that Christ is… God’s ultimate purpose for everyone and for the cosmos. When you mention John 3:16 do you mean that it expresses God’s ultimate purpose for everyone and for the cosmos? I would express this differently. If there is one verse that presents his purpose, I would choose Ephesians 3:8-12: a purpose of manifesting the wisdom of God, displaying his excellencies, making his goodness and grace and power and might evident to all things, a purpose accomplished through Christ. In a nutshell, I think you are saying that God’s ultimate purpose is to see us come into relationship with himself, a relationship found through Christ. I am saying that God’s ultimate purpose is to manifest his glory, and this is accomplished through Christ.

We do not invite people to believe in Calvinism or Arminianism. We offer Christ alone

I would be interested in knowing who out there does differently. When I call people to Christ, I do not call them to a particular theological system. I call them to repent of their sins, confess they are unworthy and in need of grace, to cling to the grace of Christ, to commit themselves to follow him. I call them to Christ. As they grow in their knowledge of Scripture, I want to disciple them to understand the Bible rightly, which means they will (hopefully) realize that Calvinist soteriology is an accurate summary of what the Bible teaches.

His perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection comprise the object of confession and belief that is sufficient to save

Amen and amen, and I’m not aware of anyone who would say otherwise.

Baptists have known that these things were unnecessary for the articulation of God’s unstoppable plan to redeem the whole world through the bold proclamation of salvation in Christ alone by faith alone.

If I want to teach someone how to get light, I show them the light switch and show them how to flip it on. I don’t have to go into the dynamics of electricity, etc. Finer points of doctrine, a more specific understanding of Scripture is not essential to salvation. But if someone wants to go from turning on the light to being an electrician, I expect them to grow in their knowledge. If someone wants to go from being a babe in Christ to being mature, I expect them to grow in Scripture.

From the beginning, the work of Christ in creation and redemption for the purpose of covenant relationship with humankind has always been the center of the biblical narrative.

This goes back to the issue of God’s ultimate purpose. This is perhaps the fundamental line on which Calvinists and non-Calvinists disagree: is God’s greatest purpose to manifest his glory, or to be in relationship with us? I think it is ego more than Scripture which leads us to conclude that God’s greatest purpose is a relationship with us. Passages such as Ephesians 3:10 are too direct and are found too often to conclude that God’s purpose is something other than his glory. What God does in Christ to accomplish our salvation furthers the demonstration of his glory – and we should rejoice that God has chosen to manifest his glory through us.

    Mark

    Chris,

    On you point about the Covenant theology, John Darby, the father of dispensationalism and futurism, was a paedobaptist Calvinist.

      Chris Roberts

      I also had John MacArthur in mind. John Piper has remained somewhat neutral.

      John Wylie

      Mark,

      John Darby was raised Anglican but became a Plymouth Brethren which are not paedobaptist.

        Mark

        John,

        I believe there were two types of Brethren, one of which accepted infant baptism via household baptism. Darby wrote the following in a letter on November 4th, 1869.

        I shall only therefore present to you what scripture affords me on the subject, for if ever I hesitated, and, like others, I was exercised about it, I have NO doubt as to infant baptism of the children of a Christian.

        Darby offers a few criticisms of Baptists in the same letter.

    SAGordon

    Chris,

    Very well said.

    SG!

    Joshua

    Chris,

    Amen and well said!

    Les

    Chris,

    I could not have said it any better. Well done.

    Eric Hankins

    Chris,

    You have quite a bit in your post, and I will try to respond to most of it. However, it is your last paragraph that really settles the matter quite nicely: “This is perhaps the fundamental line on which Calvinists and non-Calvinists disagree: is God’s greatest purpose to manifest his glory, or to be in relationship with us? I think it is ego more than Scripture which leads us to conclude that God’s greatest purpose is a relationship with us.” That dichotomy is both false and pernicious and forecloses on the task of speaking of God intelligibly and biblically. A God obsessed with His glory is the god of Platonism, not the God of the Bible. If His glorification of Himself is paramount, and creation critical to it, then his glory is predicated on the existence of the created order, making God’s creation of the world necessary rather than a free act. Only the Trinitarian God can create freely. Only He who is satisfied in relationship with Himself, needing nothing to add to His glory, is free to create simply for the joy of relating. God’s greatest expression of Himself in relationship with creation is covenant relationship with free human beings.

    Here are my answers to some of your observations:

    One, I know what Covenant Theology is. I am speaking of theology that emphasizes Adam’s Federal Headship over humanity, which you clearly espouse, as do all Calvinists. Adam’s Federal Headship demands a covenant of works, which you also espouse. You are “reluctant to recognize” a covenant of works, but in the end you do. When you accede to a covenant of works, Calvinism is pretty much your only option, unless you add in some more speculation and get Arminianism. There is unquestionably a covenant in the Garden: Genesis 1:26-28. It is the controlling covenant for the rest of the Bible.

    Second, once again, I understanding what soft-determinism is. If you assume a covenant of works, soft determinism is a good theory of “free will.” If you reject it favor of the clear teachings of Scripture, then soft-libertarian free will is clearly a better, more biblical, more philosophically tenable view of the nature of the will.

    Third, we understand each other about the Calvinistic view of election, which is deterministic, and therefore, not suitable to describe the God of the Bible. You say, “We will not have faith unless God gives it to us. God does not give it to those not elect.” Thank you for making it clear. 90% of Southern Baptists do not believe this.

    Fourth, as I stated in my last post, I believe that most Baptists have a poor understanding of compatibilism and that manifests itself in a lack of consistency concerning the nature of election. Corporate election settles these matters.

    Fifth, God didn’t have a plan for “before” and another plan for “after” the Fall. Human beings were created with the need for covenant relationship. Adam needed it before the Fall. Because I am not a tri-theist, I don’t believe the Son was in an emergency kit, only needed after the Fall. Adam always needed the Son. He always needed the Spirit. He wasn’t going to be righteous “on his own” before the fall. That’s Pelagius talking. If he had not sinned, he would have continued to walk in faith according to the gracious extension of God’s love. When he did sin, this plan was not thwarted. It continued right on. You say sin created the need for covenant in Christ. Wow! I couldn’t disagree more.

    Sixth, why is the Augustinian-Calvinist synthesis unbiblical? That’s what the whole paper is about. But I’ll run through the logic again (1) Predestination and election do not mean that God chooses some and not others for salvation (see the passages I cover in the footnotes on part 1). (2) God does not deterministically save some and not others because 1 John 2:2 and John 3:16 prevent such a conclusion (3) God doesn’t impute guilt and incapacity for response to humanity because Adam failed in a covenant of works-nothing in Genesis 1-3 indicates that is the case, the First Adam/Second Adam passages in Paul can’t be read that way successfully, and Ephesians 1 and 2 do not speak of “spiritual death,” as I prove in the last section of my paper.

    Seventh, let’s do a little exegesis. You propose that Ephesians 3:8-12 states that God’s ultimate purpose is “a purpose of manifesting the wisdom of God, displaying his excellencies, making his goodness and grace and power and might evident to all things, a purpose accomplished through Christ.” My question is, what is Paul’s point in these verses? Ephesians 3 is about the mystery of the ages being revealed, namely that the Gentiles were always the object of God’s saving desire. This is what Paul means by the “wisdom of God,” this is what he means by God’s “eternal purpose.” Not to glorify himself but to save the world. You’ve about convinced me that Ephesians 3:8-12 really may be just as good as John 3:16 to talk about the ultimate purposes of God to be in relationship with us!

    Eighth, why would you “call people to Christ,” ask them to repent, or ask them to commit? The fix is in. The saved will be saved and the damned will be damned. Why would you ask them to do anything? Oh, that’s right, God elects the means as well as the people. And we’re right back to determinism. We’re just a bunch of robots.

    Finally, if someone wants to know how the lights work, I don’t show them the hot-water heater. If someone wants to know what it means to put their faith in Christ, I don’t tell them there is a whole other system operating that doesn’t have anything to do with them.

      Chris Roberts

      A God obsessed with His glory is the god of Platonism, not the God of the Bible.

      And yet we have passages like Isaiah 43:7, …everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made… and 48:11, For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. We cannot escape the pursuit of God’s glory throughout the gospels, noted again and again by the gospel writers and pointed to as God’s purpose in places like John 11:4, But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” In Revelation 16:9 the judgment leveled is that these people did not repent and give him glory – refused to glorify the God who is worthy of all glory. Again and again throughout the Old and New Testaments we can point to similar passages, all of which highlight one great truth about this created reality: all things exist for the glory of God. This is not Platonism, this is biblical Christianity.

      If His glorification of Himself is paramount, and creation critical to it, then his glory is predicated on the existence of the created order, making God’s creation of the world necessary rather than a free act.

      I understand your point, and that leads to a necessary clarification. If I had said that, I would be as bad as the preacher who says, “God created us because he needs something to love.” But as you note, part of what we affirm as Trinitarians is that God is sufficient and complete in himself. He does not need anyone or anything else to be more than he is. This also means, his glory is not made greater by the presence of humanity. We do not exist to give him more glory. Nonetheless, we do exist to shine his glory, reflect his glory, make his glory known.

      At the end of the day, I don’t think any of us can know just why God has created us. We can know some things that he is doing through us – entering into covenant relationship, showing his glory, etc – but why a God who is already complete and sufficient in himself would ever do such a thing is beyond our ability to speculate.

      Adam’s Federal Headship demands a covenant of works, which you also espouse.

      There is no necessary connection between a belief in federal headship and the covenant of works. I’m not sure why you would insist that there is. I believe in Adam as federal head because of passages like 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Romans 5:12, etc, which I think lead to the unavoidable conclusion that Adam is head of the entire human race, leading us all into sin, and in the same way Christ is head of all who cling to him by faith, leading them into life. I realize there are people who disagree with this interpretation, but I am baffled as to how.

      I believe that most Baptists have a poor understanding of compatibilism and that manifests itself in a lack of consistency concerning the nature of election.

      So please go back and edit the description of what your posts are about: not what Baptists do believe, but what you think Baptists should believe.

      Because I am not a tri-theist, I don’t believe the Son was in an emergency kit, only needed after the Fall… You say sin created the need for covenant in Christ. Wow! I couldn’t disagree more.

      I say that sin created the need for a redeemer. We do not need a redeemer unless there is something from which we need to be redeemed. You mentioned that Christ the redeemer was always central in God’s plan for creation, which means it was always part of God’s plan that there be something which needed redeeming.

      He wasn’t going to be righteous “on his own” before the fall. That’s Pelagius talking.

      What is your biblical evidence for this? You are right that Adam and Eve were to live in covenant fellowship with God. Apart from God they could not fulfill their reason for existing. But that is not the same need for God as we have. I need the righteousness of Christ to cover me because I am a sinner. Even though I live now in relationship with God, I still need something done about my sin. On my own, I am lost. Unless Christ pays for me and covers me and deals with the penalty of my sin, I am lost. Unless God gives me his Spirit and transforms my dead heart into a living heart and guides me and grows me and sanctifies me to become like Christ, I remain just as sinful and dead as I was before salvation. None of this is true for Adam before the fall. He did not need a redeemer. He did not need the Spirit to convert his sinful heart. He did not need the Spirit’s sanctifying work to overcome the sin that dwelled in his flesh – there was no sin.

      Pelagius’ error was not that he misunderstood what Adam was like at creation but that he thought that even after the fall, we could continue to be what Adam had been. This error is repeated in one form or another by all who claim we do not inherit any stain of sin from Adam.

      Which leads to a question – in what sense does Adam’s sin affect us? Is my nature any different now than Adam’s was? Is the only difference between us found in the sinful influences of the world, or did Adam’s fall cause something to change about humanity? What is different between Adam and me?

      why is the Augustinian-Calvinist synthesis unbiblical? That’s what the whole paper is about.

      I am not asking for abstract responses to philosophical or theological positions, I’m asking why in this paper you do not interact with the biblical arguments made by Calvinists. You say none of these positions have any biblical support and yet when I read people like Calvin and Edwards and Piper and a host of others, I find page after page of convincing biblical exposition. You say that passages such as Ephesians 1 & 2 do not speak of spiritual death, etc, why not? Where are the Calvinists wrong in what they say the Bible teaches? It is disingenuous of you to claim that their positions are thoroughly unbiblical as though Calvinists pull ideas out of thin air. Perhaps I misunderstand what the Bible says. I don’t think so, but stranger things have happened. But you aren’t going to convince me that my ideas about the Bible are wrong unless you show me from the Bible why they are wrong.

      This is one thing that impressed me about Calvinism early on. I have seen many people argue that Calvinists rely on logic and philosophy rather than Scripture, and yet when I compare the writings of Calvinists to the writings of non-Calvinists, I often find a much greater devotion to the text from the Calvinists. And yet you say their arguments cannot be found in Scripture? My eyes tell me otherwise.

      Ephesians 3 is about the mystery of the ages being revealed, namely that the Gentiles were always the object of God’s saving desire. This is what Paul means by the “wisdom of God,” this is what he means by God’s “eternal purpose.” Not to glorify himself but to save the world.

      I thought you might go that direction with the text, but pay attention to Paul’s progression. Yes, his purpose in this passage is to show that the gentiles have been brought into the church, God has broken down the wall of hostility (2:14), etc. Significant though is that Paul says in verse 10, so that through the church – he did this calling of the gentiles, building one body in Christ composed of people from all humanity, not just the Jews – so that something might happen with the church. What will happen? The manifold wisdom of God might be displayed to all creation. You say this wisdom is his wisdom in bringing in gentiles, but I think his wisdom is the wisdom of his plan in its entirety. This is hinted at back in Ephesians 1:17-22 when Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom to the Ephesians, wisdom to understand the hope we have in Christ, the inheritance given to the saints, the greatness of God’s power which is demonstrated in the work of Christ which culminates in Christ reigning supreme over all things. In other words, I think in Ephesians 1:17 Paul is praying for the Ephesians to receive the wisdom of God through the Spirit that they might know and find comfort and joy in the majesty of God’s plan for his creation, a plan that finds its high point in the exaltation of Christ.

      This is seen even clearer in Ephesians 2:4-7, especially verse 7: …so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Why has God done these marvelous things for us? So that in the coming ages his grace to us will be on display.

      In his glory, part of his glory, part of the good news for us is the word that God truly loves us and desires relationship with us. I do not want to minimize that, although in my response to you I’ve focused on the chief end of God’s work: his glory. But one aspect of his glory that goes on display, chiefly through the church, is his love and mercy toward us. He did not have to love us, he did not have to save us, he did not have to create us, and his glory would not be any less if every one of us were in Hell as we deserve. But for his own reasons, he has chosen to shine his glory through the church.

      why would you “call people to Christ,” ask them to repent, or ask them to commit?

      I cannot help but wonder as to your motivation in asking this. It has nothing to do with our discussion and seems instead to point back to the attempt of non-Calvinists to try and force an anti-evangelistic face on Calvinists. At the end of the day, the question is the same for the Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike: why is it necessary for anyone to call people to Christ? Why does God work through human beings at all? If he wanted, he could surround the earth with angels and proclaim the gospel. If he wanted, he could automatically save everyone, or just the elect, or no one at all. A million options are available to God. Why has he, with all his might and power, chosen to work through the preaching and teaching and evangelism of human beings? I think the Bible gives us some hints as to why, but whatever the reason, he has chosen to do so. Whatever your soteriology, everyone should acknowledge that God does not need us to spread the gospel in order to save people. He could make the trees talk, he could plop Bibles into the laps of all the lost – in their own tongue. He could give dreams and visions to everyone, as he has to some. The list of possibilities is endless.

      But he chooses to use people like you and me. And thanks be to God that he has given us something to do of eternal significance. We do not toil away our lives on meaningless things but have been given work of lasting value. So we go and tell and we stay and build and we labor in the field and we edify the church and we walk in obedience to Christ. What other reason is needed?

        Eric Hankins

        Chris,

        1. It might be helpful for me to hear your definition of “glory.” Is it something like “reputation”? I think the emphasis is on revelation for relationship, God making himself known. The glory of the Trinity is the eternal sharing of the Three Persons. Glory with respect to creation is God’s revelation of Himself for the purpose of calling us into covenant relationship. This is why God made us. He didn’t have to, but when He did, this is why.

        2. See the definition of “Federal Theology” from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: “The first Adam was the federal head of the race under the covenant of works; the Second Adam, Lord Jesus Christ, is the federal head of all believers under the covenant of grace.” The covenant of works is essential to the understanding of federal headship.

        3. I believe that Baptists do believe what I believe about the nature of the will. They just need to be clear about what compatibilism means because they don’t think it means what you think it means.

        4. “You are right that Adam and Eve were to live in covenant fellowship with God. Apart from God they could not fulfill their reason for existing.” That’s all I’m saying. This is not what Pelagius thought.

        5. We inherit a sin nature of Adam.

        6. I deal with Ephesians 1 and 2 and “spiritual death” in the next post.

        7. Your exegesis of Ephesians 3 just won’t work: “You say this wisdom is his wisdom in bringing in gentiles, but I think his wisdom is the wisdom of his plan in its entirety.” I am not the one saying what wisdom is in this passage, Paul is-it is the bringing in of the Gentiles. I think what you really mean (which is what Piper does) is that every text is about your definition of the glory of God, no matter the context, no matter if the word “glory” even appears.

        7. The “God can do whatever He wants” argument is viciously circular. Of course He can do whatever He wants. The question is, what, in fact, does He want? What has He said He wants in the Bible? He wants a relationship with any human who freely responds to His Gospel in faith. That’s what God wants. He could have created the deterministic world you describe, but He didn’t.

      Lydia

      “A God obsessed with His glory is the god of Platonism, not the God of the Bible.”

      AMEN!

Resequitur

“We have no interest in a series of extra-biblical covenants created to bolster a soteriology that does not take seriously the necessity of personal faith as an expression of free-will.”

Yes, it is clear your interest is a persistent misrepresentation of Historic Christian belief. All you’ve done here is argue fallaciously (poisoning of the well), and have not even bothered to deal with the exegesis that has been done for the past couple thousand years (not to mention the past FEW centuries). This is pitiful work for someone who is a pastor. I would have expected better.

    Ron Hale

    Justin or Resequitur,

    You said to Eric: “Yes, it is clear your interest is a persistent misrepresentation of Historic Christian belief. All you’ve done here is argue fallaciously (poisoning of the well), and have not even bothered to deal with the exegesis that has been done for the past couple thousand years (not to mention the past FEW centuries). This is pitiful work for someone who is a pastor. I would have expected better.”

    It is one thing to join in the “give and take” of a post, but don’t your think you have gotten a little to personal — nasty, that is? Charging him with “pitiful work” “for someone who is a pastor” “you would have expected better”…

    Your blog identifies you as:
    I’m Resequitur. I’ve been transferred from darkness to Light by God’s grace. I’m Reformed in my worldview, Which means that I seek to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Thinking my thoughts after God’s thoughts revealed in the scriptures more and more as I conform to Christ’s image, and await my glorified body, by the power of the Spirit.

    Really … have your thoughts written out in words been taken captive by your obedience to Christ?

      Joshua

      Ron,

      Is “pitiful work” not a mere opinion like the opinions recently given by Bill Harrell?

      I guess the opinion that young seminary grads can’t find church’s to pastor so they are forced to plant A29 churches or the opinion that those who approve of Driscoll’s book (Danny Akin) only do so because they are users of hardcore pornography is kind and pleasant.

      I await your rebuke of Brother Harrell.

        Randy Everist

        All that is simply irrelevant to his point, Joshua.

          Joshua

          Randy,

          No, it is not. It shows Ron’s own inconsistency.

          Randy Everist

          Joshua, but that fact is irrelevant to whether or not Resequitur’s comments have been taken captive by Christ! Or would you say the following conditional is true:

          If someone is hypocritical concerning some concept X, then his view of X is false

          So long as this is incorrect (and not only so, but informally fallacious), pointing out his hypocrisy does nothing to undermine it. There is one other such conditional, such as:

          If he was wrong, then you are too.

          This would be used with the hopes that he says, “I am not wrong” and hence Resequitur is not either. But here’s the interesting part. If the conditional is incorrect, it’s irrelevant. If the conditional is correct, it is only in agreeing with Ron that you can maintain any sense of relevancy. That is, if you think the conditional is true, but nonetheless think it is the case Ron is correct, then you think it is the case that the antecedent is false as well (truth tables show this). But you don’t seem to think Ron would be correct here (that is, you seem to think the relevant comments suffer from the same malady). But then it follows that Ron is correct in the comment above, and/or the criticism fails.

          Joshua

          Randy,

          I’m sorry, I am not following your statement.

          Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have used “pitiful.” I condemn Res and his ruthless comments.

      Resequitur

      Yes Randy, my words were chose carefully. when you ignore points given by your opponent, to intentionally deceive (especially when you know better) it’s pathetic.

    Eric Hankins

    Resequitor,

    I was warned when I first started research for my paper that, after publication, I’d likely run into the “angry Calvinist.” Well, nice to meet you. I’ve come to realize that the logic of the Neo-Calvinist is essentially this: Historic Christian belief=Calvinism; good exegesis=Calvinism; great research=Calvinism. The truth is, I’ve dealt with the pertinent Scriptures while you guys have offered essentially no rebuttal except to say that my exegesis isn’t Calvinistic. I know this is tough to swallow, but that’s not an argument. As to the exegesis of the past thousand years, let me remind you of another chap who had the guts to cut against the grain of a thousand year-old exegetical tradition. His name was Martin Luther. Now, I am in no way comparing myself with that great Reformer (who was dead wrong about the nature of the will), but I am adhering to the principle of a “reformed church always reforming” and the old Baptist principle of “further light.” This openness to the Scriptures kept us from all kinds of false doctrine, and I believe it has kept us from capitulating completely to Reformed theology.

    Finally, if my unwillingness to bend to the Reformed perspective qualifies my work and ministry as “poor,” I pray God would grant me the privilege of increased “poverty.”

      Resequitur

      “I was warned when I first started research for my paper that, after publication, I’d likely run into the “angry Calvinist.” ”

      Hardly angry, as I said, it was more disappointing that you would post the same nonsense after being corrected, not to mention quoting any sources, you’ve just made assertions.

      “I’ve come to realize that the logic of the Neo-Calvinist is essentially this: Historic Christian belief=Calvinism; good exegesis=Calvinism; great research=Calvinism. ”

      1) Am I the angry-Calvinist or the Neo-Calvinist? You tend to throw around words a lot without any definition.

      2) Yes, historic christian belief, you would’ve known that if you dealt with the sources

      3) Are you familiar with exegesis? You say things like ” I am just not super-concerned about what the old confessions say. I care about what the Bible says.” Yet you taunt us for asking for the exegetical argument. Inconsistency is a telling sign of a failed argument.

      4) No, the consistent testimony of Scripture should lead one to Reformed Theism, and a consistent weighing of history should also prevent us from certain error.

      ” The truth is, I’ve dealt with the pertinent Scriptures while you guys have offered essentially no rebuttal except to say that my exegesis isn’t Calvinistic. ”

      Dr. Hankins,

      The point I’m getting across is that as the person making such claims against the Covenant of Works, against Original sin, et al. it is your duty to deal with the arguments offered by certain proponents and citing what is necessary. This is the problem, I’m disappointed that you didn’t bother to do any of that, It’s like you are arguing against a ghost, and if you expect anyone to take you seriously in your arguments against a view, you should at least be able to demonstrate your familiarity with it. You may indeed be familiar with it, but all I’ve seen is an ardent dismissal.

      ” I know this is tough to swallow, but that’s not an argument. ”

      Nor is outright dismissal, sprinkled with genetic fallacies.

      “As to the exegesis of the past thousand years, let me remind you of another chap who had the guts to cut against the grain of a thousand year-old exegetical tradition. His name was Martin Luther. Now, I am in no way comparing myself with that great Reformer (who was dead wrong about the nature of the will), but I am adhering to the principle of a “reformed church always reforming” and the old Baptist principle of “further light.””

      It’s funny you would appeal to Luther, who would disagree with you for the exact same reasons I am disagreeing with you. You see, you too have your traditions sir, you have not escaped from the grip of Pelagianism, nor have you swam completely across the tiber yet. You are not familiar with the principle of Sola Scriptura and the impact it has on the methodology of historical theology that the Reformed employ. It seems like the more you type, the more revealing it is that you are just unaware of the issues.

      “This openness to the Scriptures kept us from all kinds of false doctrine, and I believe it has kept us from capitulating completely to Reformed theology.”

      Your openness to Scripture only goes so far as the traditions you are trapped by allow, as you haven’t made it to the moor of consistent Christian theism as given to us by God’s Self-revelation in the Scripture. So by all means, continue to lead your brothers to paddling in the tiber, with James 3:1 at the forefront of your mind.

      “Finally, if my unwillingness to bend to the Reformed perspective qualifies my work and ministry as “poor,” I pray God would grant me the privilege of increased “poverty.””

      It’s hardly your unwillingness to bend to the Reformed perspective, as it is your denial of Christian theology. A lot of what you said is hardly a Reformed distinctive, but rather an essential. And by essential, I mean that those who deny it have sunk into unorthodoxy. Both Reformed and Remonstrant (Arminian) agree of some of what you’ve denied here, because it is unorthodox.

Robin Foster

Ron

Well said. I have appreciated the give and take with this post on the comment stream. The discussion has been very challenging. Resequitur has obviously failed in that respect. Blogs are not a means by which we debate the theological suppositions of the last 2000 years in detail. It is where ideas are expressed and challenged. The vetting out of the ideas are done mainly in the comment sections. Dr Hankins is challenging all of us to rethink our ideas to either make a change or reaffirm what we believe. What Resequitur has done is what many call “drive by commenting.” Rather than carrying a discussion with Dr Hankins intelligently in Christian charity and respect, Resequitur has accepted the vile things of the world and has affirmed my decision nearly two years ago to drop out of active blogging.

Mike Davis

Eric,

Well, I’ll give you this much, you certainly don’t hesitate to jump in and engage in the comment box and that makes the discussion interesting!

You seem to be making this an issue about Calvinism, but the imputation of Adam’s sin to unredeemed humans and the inheritance of a sin nature as a consequence of Adam’s sin are not Calvinist issues–Wesley and Arminius would both affirm these doctrines, as would many non-Calvinist Baptists.

You suggested I read your paper on “Anthropological Presuppositions”. I had, in fact already read it over at the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry website. One of the reasons for my concern about your semi-Pelagian construct is the fact that these aren’t just casual blogposts but are excerpts from a formal paper you have produced, and have no doubt put a great deal of thought and editing into to make sure you are saying exactly what you want to. I know you are aware that Pelagius did not feel the nature of Adam’s descendants was in any way affected by Adam’s sin, and he did not believe in the concept of the imputation of Adam’s guilt. But I believe both doctrines are held by most Baptists today and historically, and also most evangelicals. So other than on the issue of substitutionary atonement, which I’m glad to see you affirm, I think the ball is in your court to distinguish your view from Pelagius.

Thanks for the interaction.

    Randy Everist

    I think his view is easy to distinguish from Pelagianism, though I don’t know if he would take this route. He could simply say that although the image of God within man is not eradicated, it nonetheless retains a proclivity to sin, so that even if man can avoid sin, he nonetheless will not do it without God’s intereference. In this case, rather than sin being necessary (a truth about something’s essence) it is accidentally necessary. So while there are possible worlds in which I avoid particular sins, and even possible worlds in which I avoid every sin, there nonetheless are no possible worlds in which I would actually refrain from all sin, and thus the would-counterfactual “If I were instantiated in a possible world, I would commit at least one sin” is true in every possible world, for the truth about what I would do in a particular world is true in every other world of that particular world. But since it is true in every set of maximally specified circumstances in which I could be instantiated that I would-not refrain from all sin, or would commit at least one sin, then it is true of every possible world that every particular world in which I am instantiated I would freely commit sin.

    In that case, it’s not actually metaphysically possible, even if logically possible, for me to avoid sin and hence be redeemed of my own merit. Any non-divine being, given enough chance to show moral choice, would eventually choose to sin (some would even claim this is a feature of non-perfect beings, of which there can only be one). So while we may or may not agree with the above, it’s certainly a way that avoids original guilt (as opposed to original sin) and federal headship without at all being Pelagian.

      Les

      Randy,

      That is a way to avoid Pelagian. But how does one get there exegetically? For the more historic position of Adam’s federal representation, one can at least make a case for the Romans 5 passage, even if Eric rejects that interpretation.

      Thanks.

        Randy Everist

        My point is that it’s not identical to Pelagianism, and no exegesis (sans theology–which interestingly may not even be able to be done) will exclude it by rendering it impossible. This holds even if one disagrees with any proffered exegesis. In short, it’s irrelevant to the change of Pelagianism.

          Les

          Randy,

          “…will exclude it by rendering it impossible.”

          No, I was looking not for a negative proof but a positive proof for such a construct.

      Eric Hankins

      Nicely done!

      Bob Hadley

      The key ingredient in proving Pelagianism is rooted in Randy’s phrase of being “redeemed of my own merit.” The fact that man is not totally depraved or a victim of total inability has nothing to do with Pelagius’ charge and to continue to argue that point is ridiculous and demeaning.

      The power of the gospel can change lives and can save the lost. There is NOTHING Pelagian about that statement. God does it. How man responds is another matter altogether but please exercise some responsible level of criticism; calvinists don’t like the strawmen arguments so why use them?

      ><>”

        Les

        Bob,

        No straw man arguments going on here. We’re just having a discussion and a rather good natured back and forth. How is it demeaning?

        Join is if you will.

        Les

          Les

          “Join IN if you will.” Sorry.

          Bob Hadley

          There is no hint of Pelagianism in Eric’s piece. That is all I was saying. That argument in general of non-calvinist Southern Baptists has been mentioned. That was my point.

          Glad things are civilly being placed.

          ><>”

      Matt

      Randy,

      You present an interesting concept in your post. By making the distinction between sin being an essential aspect of human nature as opposed to sin being merely accidental to our natures, you claim that although avoiding sin is logically possible it is actually metaphisically impossible. I’m sure we all agree that no one, other than Christ, ever has or ever will live a life without sin, and so it is agreed that a sinless life is indeed impossible. However, your argument is not about what actually is in this world, but makes claims about what could be in all possible worlds. Since logic is not a seperate field of study, but rather rules for rational inquiry into any field of study; I do not see any meaningful difference between logical possibility and metaphisical possiblity. This leaves the question of whether it is truely possible, in any possible world, to live without sin if we assume that sin is not essential to human nature. You illustrate your point by saying that you can live without these particular sins in these possible lives and without those particular sins in other possible lives, but that you cannot live without all sins in any one possible life. Why not? If it is possible to avoid any particular sin, why would it be impossible to avoid those same particular sins in succcession? You say, “Any non-divine being, given enough chance to show moral choice, would eventually choose to sin” This isn’t neccessarily true if we are not essentially sinful. I won’t attempt to guess what the probabilities are concerning the choice to sin or not to sin in any given situation. It doesn’t matter, if you assume, that in any particular situation, there is a possibility of not sinning; you have a number to start with. In the next situation, you have another possibility and so on throughout the course of a life. These possibilities, whether expressed as percentages, fractions, or decimals are multiplied togather to find the possibility of living a sinless life. This may be an extremely small possibility, but I just want to demonstrate that if you believe that sin is not an essential part of human nature, it is possible, without distinction, to live sinlessly in some possible universe. So, the Pelagian problem is not avoided. I just want to show the logical reprecussions of saying that our fallen natures are not essentially sinful. I am not accusing anyone on here of being Pelagian, since no one is claiming that people are capable of living lives that are rightious in God’s sight.

    Eric Hankins

    Mike,

    I do indeed make the case in my paper that both Calvinism and Arminianism appeal to Federal Headship. That is precisely my point. I reject Federal Headship because, for Calvinists, it makes it necessary that humans are actually guilty before they sin, that their libertarian free will is obliterated, and that God only wants to regenerate some of them. I do not believe these things. I do not think the Bible can be read this way. I am quite certain that most Southern Baptists don’t believe these things, either.

    Now, I do believe that Adam is the “head” of sinful humanity. I believe that his sin is the “origin” of ours. I believe that the Fall resulted in disastrous consequences for the whole cosmos, including human beings, manifested most severely in our inability to save ourselves and in the fact that our only hope is the Gospel. But I do not mean these things in the Calvinistic sense. If I use them in the Calvinistic sense, then I have to deal with the implications: God does not want to save all people, God foreordains sin, etc.

    My perspective is not semi-Pelagian. As you say, “Pelagius did not feel the nature of Adam’s descendants was in any way affected by Adam’s sin.” Indeed, I reject this. Humanity was profoundly affected by Adam’s sin. However, I would challenge you Calvinists to see if you could find more suitable terms for positions at variance with your own. Strictly speaking, semi-Pelegianism is an issue that is internal to Roman Catholic theological debate. It is rooted in Greek philospophical contructs that I don’t think any of us share. To hold the position, one must view grace, the soul, “movement” of God and humans in a very Roman Catholic sort of way. Moreover, the only option, when these two systems are the only choices, is a strict Augustianism: out of the “massa damnationis,” God selects a few, a number that can be neither incressed or decreased. In your view, if you don’t believe that, your only choice is Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. I reject this dichotomy as false from the start and utterly useless in the present discussion. I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian. I am neither Pelagian nor Augustinian. I am off that grid.

      Mike Davis

      Well, I actually see it as more of a trichotomy than a dichotomy (no ability whatsover because of original sin vs reduced ability because of original sin vs no reduced ability or inability whatsoever as a result of original sin), and I know you claim to be “off the grid” but I still think virtually every view can be put in one of the three categories. Just to clarify, do you believe Adam’s kids had in their essential nature (ontologically, not just because of his example or their environment) less capacity to obey God than Adam had, and that this was a consequence of his original disobedience?

      By the way, I know you have taken lots of your time to comment in this thread, so I understand if at some point you say “enough is enough” and decide to stop responding in this particular comment box.

      Also, just to clarify my position on another matter since a number of commenters have weighed in on the issue: I also believe that infants that may have died before they reached the age of accountability would go to heaven. I think there is a strong case for this in 2 Samuel 12: 23 and Psalm 8: 2. My views on this subject pretty much agree with John MacArthur’s take on this issue.

abclay

Eric, thank you for the interaction you are providing.

Just some clarity on one point. Is it your position that all mankind did not become sinners because of Adam’s transgression(fall)?

Thanks in advance.

    Eric Hankins

    Abclay,

    You’re welcome.

    I believe that once Adam sinned it became inevitable but not necessary that all people would sin once they reach a point of moral responsibility. If I believed that we became guilty because of Adam, then I would have to believe that at least some infants who die go to hell.

      Chris Roberts

      If I believed that we became guilty because of Adam, then I would have to believe that at least some infants who die go to hell.

      Such a conclusion is not necessary. Although the Bible is nowhere clear on the fate of children who die, there are hints. Consider a passage like Deuteronomy 1:39 – God allows the children into the promised land even though they, along with their parents, did not enter the land when God commanded them to. They shared the guilt, yet God says they had no knowledge of good and evil. This is as close to an age of accountability as the Bible ever gets. The guilt is real, yet the accountability is not theirs. The same for all descendants of Adam who die as infants.

        Eric Hankins

        Chris,

        First, Ezekiel 18 settles the issue of the transfer of actual guilt from one person to another, and the issue of the nature of judgment. It is based on actual sins. The inference for infants is clear. If they don’t sin, even if their fathers are sinners, they are not going to be punished.

        Second, I think Deut 1:39 actaully makes my point, not yours. Joshua gets to go in because he did what was right. He is not punished along with that generation because he is not guilty. The children get to go in because they did not know good from evil, when their parents sinned, so they are not guilty. Now, the sin of that generation affected Joshua and the children. They had to wait forty years, but the punishment was failure to enter the land because the sin was a refusal to take the land.

Les

ERIC,

Would this be in agreement with your view of all born after Adam?

“Pelagianism teaches that human beings are born in a state of innocence with a nature that is as pure as that which Adam was given at his creation. As a result of his basic assumption, Pelagius taught that man has an unimpaired moral ability to choose that which is spiritually good and possesses the free will, ability, and capacity to do that which is spiritually good.”

Or how would your view of all born since Adam differ?

Thanks.

    Eric Hankins

    Les,

    I do not agree with Pelagianism, and I want to reiterate that I believe the Augustine-Pelagius reference point is played out. It functions within a metaphysical framework that is defunct and sets up dichotomy where the only options are the humanism of Pelagianism (or semi-Pelagianism which is just as bad) or the determinism of Augustinianism (which is preferable but still terribly flawed).

    My view of the effect of the fall is that sin is inevitable but not necessary a la Millard Erickson.

      Les

      Eric,

      Thanks for the reply. So I hear you rejecting Pelagius. But do you agree that all born since Adam are born innocent?

      And do you believe that “man has an unimpaired moral ability to choose that which is spiritually good and possesses the free will, ability, and capacity to do that which is spiritually good” as Pelagius taught, even if you reject Pelagius?

      I’m sincerely not trying to trap you. I don’t think for a minute I could do that if I tried.

      Also, you said in another comment, “If I believed that we became guilty because of Adam, then I would have to believe that at least some infants who die go to hell.”

      No, I don’t think you would HAVE to believe that about infants. I am a Calvinist who stands with a long line of Calvinists who hold to original sin and guilt and yet believe that all infants dying in infancy are regenerated and are immediately in the presence of the Lord.

        Adam Harwood

        Les,

        It is a pleasure to meet you.

        Like Dr. Hankins, I am a Southern Baptist who rejects both Pelagianism and the statement that infants are innocent.

        I think it is possible to provide a biblical justification for this view. Also, a nice summary is provided in the current edition of the BFM. (Of course, this is the confessional statement of all of six seminaries as well as our denominational agencies.) Article 3 explains that Adam’s “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.”

        Because infants are born with a sinful nature, they cannot be and should not be labeled innocent. However, because infants have not yet committed any sinful thoughts, attitudes or actions, they are not condemned.

        See my post below to Mark on infant salvation.

        This is an interesting, engaging discussion. I appreciate the opportunity to be included. Blessings, friends.

        In Him,

        Adam

        Eric Hankins

        Les,

        I do not believe that “man has an unimpaired moral ability to choose that which is spiritually good.” I believe man’s moral abilities are seriously impaired, that he cannot save himself. I am with Adam Harwood on the fate of infants.

Mark

Eric,

Would you accept the Natural Headship Theory instead? This theory is presented and agreed with in contrast to Federal Headship in the book Whosoever Will page 37. Natural Headship is also stated as being a theory that “many Reformers advanced.”

    Eric Hankins

    Yes.

      Mark

      Well, according to Whosoever Will, a book against Calvinism, this theory was also held to by Reformers i.e. Calvinists.

        Eric Hankins

        It’s been a little while since I read that chapter so I’ll have to brush up a bit before I reply and my copy is at my office. I’ll hit you back tomorrow.

    Adam Harwood

    Mark,

    Nice to meet you. I won’t attempt to speak for Dr. Hankins but this touches on an area of interest to me. I hope it’s okay to insert myself into this conversation.

    I’m a lifelong Southern Baptist who has always rejected both Federal and Natural Headship. I don’t read Romans 5:12-21 (or any other passage of Scripture) to teach that all people inherit the *guilt* of Adam. Augustine argued that guilt is inherited by all people because we were physically present in Adam in the Garden (Natural Headship). Calvin taught that Adam was our representative (Federal Headship).

    Instead, I see in the Adam-Christ parallel in Romans 5 that all of us are sinners in Adam and can be saved in Christ. But, like Millard Erickson, I also see that the Bible teaches that we must ratify the work of Christ in our life (otherwise we would be Universalists). I must personally ratify the work of Christ in order to be saved. I must repent of my sins and place my faith in Christ. In a similar way, I have a sinful nature but must personally ratify the work of Adam in order to be considered guilty before God. I must knowingly commit a sin in order to ratify the work of Adam.

    Paul’s writings, as an example, make a strong case that people are judged for their sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions but not (despite the claims of many systematic theologians) their sinful nature. And that is how I can think of infants with a sinful nature stepping into eternity and being welcomed into the arms of Jesus. Not because God elected these infants, passing over others who will be judged guilty and condemned to hell due to the actions of Adam. God welcomes infants because without inheriting the guilt of Adam, infants have no guilt for which to atone. Perhaps infants are included in God’s renewal and restoration of creation (Romans 8, etc.). I’m not sure that Scripture is clear on this final issue. But I’m strongly persuaded that I have only been guilty before God for my own sins, not the sins of the first man, Adam.

    Blessings on your studies.

    Adam

Mark

Since my books are all packed due to my recent home purchase I looked online for the quote. For the benefit of everyone reading, here is: page 37 of Whosoever Will.

Besides, I should be doing my seminary homework. :)

Eric Hankins

I’m not seeing a reference to what the Reformers believed on this page, or on the page before or after.

    Eric Hankins

    Oh, I see it, sorry. I don’t know what Reformers he’s talking about. All Reformers are not Reformed.

      Eric Hankins

      Mark,

      I will say that Patterson’s chapter on Total Depravity in Whosoever Will is a fair description of my position. I’d probably come at a few of the issues a bit differently, and I don’t think it’s helpful for us to use the term Total Depravity because that’s a TULIP term and we are not using it as such, but, on the whole, I agree with it.

Bill Mac

Regardless of how you come down on this issue, it is refreshing for a blog author to come into the comments and engage the commenters. Thanks.

    Jason

    Agreed. I’ve stayed away from discussion, but have really enjoy the exchange.

    Chris Roberts

    That’s one nice thing about this blog. Many of the SBC Today folks are willing to jump in the well with us.

      Eric Hankins

      Let me say thanks as well. This is my first blogging “experience,” so I am sort of learning the ropes.

volfan007

Eric,

Let me ask these questions to clarify in my mind exactly what you’re saying. You are saying that the human race fell along with Adam and Eve, and we inherit a sin nature from them…that we are born into a fallen, sinful state….BUT, not GUILTY of sin until we’re aware, and willfully sin against God. Correct? Am I reading you right?

Thus, babies are born with a “bent towards sin” in their hearts, and exist in a fallen body, which is weak to temptations. But, that baby is not guilty of sin, just because Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Correct?

Also, the mentally handicapped would fall into this category of not being responsible for their sins, because they’re not morally aware enough to be able to commit willful sin; true?

Just trying to think thru exactly what you’re saying, here.

Thanks,

David

    Eric Hankins

    Yes, I’d say that describes my position pretty well.

    Robin Foster

    David

    Thanks for the concise summation. It helps.

      volfan007

      Robin,

      You are welcome, Sir. I’m always trying to be a blessing to someone everyday!! :)

      David

Ben

I have to admit two things:

1) I don’t understand the motive behind this constant polemical attempt from SBCtoday and others, which is reflected perfectly in this series, to hijack the term “Baptist” for its own theological viewpoint (eg., “Toward a Baptist Soteriology).

Could somebody help me understand the motive? If it’s simply, “I’m neither Calvinist or Arminian,” then find another term other than “Baptist” for your position because “Baptist” is a larger circle that both those who are more Calvinistic or more Arminianistic in their soteriology fall into. It like a Granny Smith saying to a Red Delicious, “You’re not an apple because you’re not a Granny Smith.” Absurd!

Let’s keep in mind what the distinctive are between Baptists and Non-Baptists. Nathan Finn, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Seminary, just defined Baptist distinctives yesterday in a blog interview at http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/2012/04/17/for-the-record-nathan-finn-on-being-baptist-part-1/ as these four: 1) a regenerate church membership; 2) believer’s baptism by immersion; 3) congregational freedom; and 4) a free church in a free state. That’s what makes a “Baptist” a Baptist. Within Baptists, we have Southern Baptists, which I would add at least three other distinctives: 1) The Bible is the Word of God; 2) Salvation is by grace alone; and 3) The believer is eternally secure. There are Baptists who disagree with this second set of distinctives who are not Southern Baptist, but are nonetheless Baptist.

We then need to go a step further within the Southern Baptist bunch to then say: what kind of Southern Baptist are you? One question of kind could be pursued in soteriology. Oh, you’re Calvinistic. Oh, you’re Arminianistic. Oh, you’re Semi-Pelagian. Oh, you claim to fit under no previously conceived category. Another question of kind could be pursued in ecclesiology under the type of congregationalism practiced. Another question of kind could be pursued in eschatology. Oh, you’re Dispensational. Oh, you’re historical premillennial. Oh, you’re postmillennial. Oh, you’re amillennial.

Just calling your soteriological position “Baptist” simply will not do! Unless you’re trying to say to your Calvinistic Baptist brother that he is not a Baptist.

2) I’m absolutely dumbfounded that there are biblical Christians who deny the imputation of Adam’s sin to the entire fallen human race.

I guess I need to get out more! The imputation of Adam’s sin to the entire fallen human race is the essential complement of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the entire redeemed human race. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 makes this clear. All in Adam inherit death, which is the wage of Adam’s sin. All in Christ inherit life, which is the wage of Christ’s righteousness. Every single person to ever be born is in Adam, but only the born again are in Christ. So, every person ever born inherits sin, but only the born again inherit righteousness.

Furthermore, Romans 5:12 makes it clear than in Adam all sinned. Death spread to all men from Adam “because all sinned” in Adam.

The question to really settle this is: is there human death between the moment a child is conceived and the moment that child has their own sin counted against them? Of course, there is. If sin is not imputed from Adam to all the human race, there would be no death in humanity until the “moment of accountability.” Therefore, Adam’s sin is imputed to every person.

I firmly believe that every child who dies before their moment of accountability will go to heaven, but it will not be because they are innocent. Proof of their guilt according to Paul in Romans 5 is that they still die. Not being held accountable and being innocent are two very different statuses. While children before their moment of accountability and the mentally handicapped who never reach their moment of accountability are guilty, God in His mercy does not hold them accountable because they do not have the natural capacity to understand God’s glory revealed in nature or the gospel revealed through Scripture. Therefore, they are excused.

    Eric Hankins

    Ben,

    1. Many of us believe that there is an attempt to “hijack” the term “Baptist” by New Calvinists. This whole debate didn’t even exist a few years ago. The non-Calvinists weren’t pushing an agenda. We were fine with some soteriological pluralism in our ranks, just as we are with eschatological pluralism. We were happy with a guy like Al Mohler leading Southern. But the New Calvinists started poking people in the eye, calling names like “semi-Pelagian,” making fun of terms like “plan of salvation” and “the sinner’s prayer,” shouting louder and louder that the SBC’s biggest problem is that it has departed from its Calvinistic foundations, insisting that the Five Points really are the Gospel, that New Calvinism is the only future for young Southern Baptists. You guys aren’t saying it’s okay to be non-Calvinistic; you’re saying that it’s wrong to be non-Calvinistc. And now you’re fussing because you’re getting some push-back? You’re the one’s starting the fight. Here’s the deal: 90% of us aren’t Calvinists, we are not interested in that being changed by a small group of vocal enthusiasts.

    2. You’re second point proves my first. You can’t believe that there are biblical Christians who deny the imputation of Adam’s sin to the human race AS YOU DEFINE IMPUTATION. I don’t deny the imputation of Adam’s sin. I do deny that it is imputed in a Calvinistic sense, that it renders us guilty, that it totally incapacitiates a free response to the Gospel, which demands Reformed theology. And most Southern Baptists agree with me, and don’t want to change. We don’t want to be Calvinists. We’re fine with you being a Calvinist unless you are not fine with us.

      volfan007

      Eric,

      This is about the clearest and most precise answer to what’s going on in the SBC that I’ve ever heard. I especially liked the way you said that we were fine with a pluralistic soteriology in the SBC, until the New Calvinists started making it a matter of fellowship.

      That’s the truth.

      David

      Mark

      Eric,

      Where is an agenda to be noted? You write of “New Calvinism,” but who represent it? Also, what you write can be said to be against what early Southern Baptists believed so would you say they are also New Calvinists?

      I am astounded that your reasoning is basically, “Well, you started it!” (Whoever “you” is.) Is the “you started it” defense one that a minister of the gospel should employ? I have my doubts, especially, in the SBC where the theological foundation was Calvinistic and you seem to try to push back to a point which screams “Calvinists get out now!”

      Instead, a better approach may be to make some of the complaints you made above (though actually showing them would be nice), rebuke those Calvinists as true Southern Baptist brothers and attempt to reconcile and further cooperation.

      Also, as I pointed out in another comment, Arminian Roger Olson actually shared his opinion a few years ago the pelagianism and semi-pelagianism is rampant in American Evangelical churches. If forms of pelagianism are present, there is no reason not to weed them out and offer correction. I’m sure this would be the course of action if hyper-Calvinism were rampant.

        Eric Hankins

        Mark,

        You don’t know who is representing New Calvinism? Do you think I am making the term up? Just google “New Calvinism.” It has been mentioned specifically at T4G this year, a group Mark Dever and Al Mohler helped found that is drawing huge numbers of young SB pastors. New Calvinism has been mentioned specifically by Mohler as the only real option for young evangelicals. Here’s a quote from a 2009 Time Magazine article:

        “Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don’t operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, “everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world” — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention.”

        Now, Mohler knows only 10% of Baptist pastors are Calvinists, but he is on record as saying that New Calvinism is the wave of the future. He has led Southern to be a flagship of Calvinism. Southeastern essentially hosted T4G this year. If this is not an agenda to turn the convention in a new theological direction, I don’t know what is. Now, if the New Calvinists convince the other 90% of pastors and churches that this is the way to go, then the SBC will be Reformed in its theology, then that’s that. But if the New Calvinists think the 90% are going to lie still and let it happen, they’re wrong.

        As a minister of the gospel, I am unashamedly taking up the “you started it defense,” in the great tradition of Paul at Antioch. Five Point Calvinism is not what I believe. It is not what most of us believe. We tolerated it because the Baptist Calvinists of the past generation were honest about its real weaknesses, didn’t lead with it, didn’t force it on their congregations, didn’t go around calling us “semi-Pelagian,” didn’t start Reformed-only church planting networks and Reformed-only conferences. These are the actions of people with an agenda, not the actions of partners, not the actions of people who truly value the non-Calvinist perspective. We valued the Calvinist perspective, loving the things about it that fit our understanding of Scripture, politely refusing the things that didn’t. But that’s not good enough for New Calvinists. Anytime we object to things like Limited Atonement, New Calvinists throw a fit. “It’s non-negotiable! It’s what we’ve always believed! Any fool can see it’s the only way! It’s all or nothing!” If those are the options, I choose nothing.

          Mark

          Eric, congratulations on judging your brothers in the worst light possible. So much of what you assert takes so long to untangle and unpack that your contribution drains the few nutrients out of an already unhealthy discussion.

          Joshua

          Eric,

          So, because Mohler and Akin are associated with Calvinism, they are forcing it down your throat? Wow. I don’t believe those churches around SBTS and SEBTS believe the way you do, nor do most Southern Baptists. I am thankful they do not.

          Eric Hankins

          Joshua and Mark,

          My point, which you guys refuse to engage (although I don’t know why), is that Mohler and Akin are advocates of New Calvinism. Calvinism has not been a problem. New Calvinism is. Also, I’m not all that worried about Josh and Mark being proponents of New Calvinism. It’s a free country. But Al and Danny work for the Southern Baptist Convention. They lead institutions that train pastors and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. And they are pushing these future leaders in a direction away from the soteriological convictions and spirit of the vast majority of Southern Baptists. The fact is, the churches around these seminaries do have a problem with what’s going on. An association in Kentucky refused membership to church whose pastor was advocating the New Calvinism he learned at Southern. I believe the vast majority of Southern Baptists have a problem with this emphasis on New Calvinism.

          How am I judging my brothers in the worst light? Am I lying about Reformed-only conferences and church planting networks? Did I make up the idea of a movement called New Calvinism? I’m I lying about their advocacy of New Calvinism as the only real theological option for young pastors? Joshua quoted favorably the idea that most of us are semi-Pelagian. You guys pound away on this stuff, and then act upset when people object to the pounding.

      Robin Foster

      Eric

      Thanks for this clarification. I do believe in an imputation also, but I don’t believe we are rendered incapable of a free choice. How God works out his sovereignty and man is responsible is a mystery in my opinion. Or I may just be theologically lazy. :-)

    Ben

    Eric,

    1) I’m not sure how I got lumped in with those who say it’s wrong to be non-Calvinist or that Calvinism is the gospel. I’ve never said that and pray that I never will. I’m not fussing about push-back. I’m “fussing” about you and your stripe trying to corner the word “Baptist” for your own viewpoint. It’s nothing more than misguided polemical semantics. If those of the Calvinistic stripe in the past tried to corner the word “Baptist” for themselves, they were employing misguided polemical semantics as well. Both of you are wrong in doing so. If, as you say, Calvinists in the SBC started the unnecessary fight over which viewpoint has sole propriety over the “Baptist” nomeclature, is it biblical for you to finish the fight? I think not. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

    By the way, you never actually interacted with my reasoning from point 1. You simply employed the Tu Quoque fallacy in your response. Did Finn or I miss some Baptist distinctives? Is “Baptist” way much more narrow than he or I assert?

    2) Eric, you said, “I don’t deny the imputation of Adam’s sin. I do deny that it is imputed in a Calvinistic sense, that it renders us guilty…” Perhaps I’m totally ignorant, but I didn’t know there were different definitions of “impute.” Impute simply means to be credited with something. How can sin be imputed to a human but not render them guilty? If sin is imputed to me, I own it. It’s mine. And if sin is imputed, so is guilt. Can sin and guilt be separated? I don’t understand how it can be. To have sin is to have guilt.

    I said nothing about how this imputed sin affects the capacity of our will. That’s a different discussion.

    Again, as with point 1, you didn’t engage my reasoning here in point 2. Perhaps you are too busy or too tired. It’s certainly been a long comment thread for you. Where did I go wrong in my reasoning from the Scripture in point 2. Again, there is ample human death between the moment a child is conceived and the moment that child has their own sin counted against them. If sin and guilt are not imputed from Adam to all the human race, there would be no death in humanity until the “moment of accountability.” Since there is ample death, we can conclude with Paul that Adam’s sin and guilt is imputed to every person.

      volfan007

      There is death, because the fall of Adam in the Garden. Every person does not have to personally sin, in order to die. And, Eric told you that he believed that we do inherit a fallen, sin nature and mortal body from Adam. He just doesnt believe that Adam’s sin makes us guilty of sinning.

      David

        Mark

        If infants die “because the fall of Adam in the Garden” isn’t that indicative of Adam’s sin being imputed to those infants since the wages of sin is death?

          volfan007

          Just because Adam’s sin brought death into the world, and affected the entire universe in such a terrible way, doesnt mean that a baby is guilty of sin….and that we’re guilty of Adam’s sin.

          I’m not following why you think it has to be that way, Mark.

          David

          Les

          Mark, do you find it bizarre just a bit that this even is up for debate? Original guilt? Sin brought death. This is the bad news part of the whole bible story. No sin? No death. No sin? No need for a savior.

          Mark

          Volfan007,

          I’m sorry, but I am not following your reply to me. I did not say anything about guilt. However, I believe you have just made a case for the imputation of Adam’s guilt onto the infant from your own position.

          I.e. If your point is that the baby is not guilty of sin, but still dies then it must be because of the imputation of Adam’s sin or there is no death.

          Les, bizzare is a good descriptor.

          Joshua

          Les,

          It is only up for debate because tradition has blocked meaningful exposition of the text. The text cannot mean what it says because tradition says it cannot.

          volfan007

          I believe what Eric is saying is that Adam’s sin is imputed to all people….that’s why we’re born with a sin nature, and why our bodies die. But, the guilt of Adam is not imputed to us…and, it doesnt make us incapable of responding to God in repentance and faith…

          I believe like the Bible teaches…that we’re born with a sin nature due to the sin of Adam…and that’s also why we get sick, die, and why all the bad things in this world exist. But, we still can respond to God in repentance and faith. It doesnt make us incapable of responding to God.

          David

      Eric Hankins

      Ben,

      I am learning that in the back-and-forth of blog interactions, layers of arguments and emphases start to develop and it makes it hard to hear each other’s points, so let me re-state my main argument.

      1. Since 90% of Southern Baptist pastors are not Calvinists, and about the same amount are not Arminians, what are they? For a long while, Southern Baptists have been content to say, “Neither.” Not both. Neither. We were fine to have Calvinists in our ranks, but the vast majority has been neither. New Calvinists are pushing us to pick one or the other. I am advocating that we stick with “Neither,” and articulate what we mean by that. I call it a “Baptist” soteriology because it describes the vast majority of Southern Baptists, and because I think being neither is an expression of our unique Baptists identity (No creed but the Bible!).

      2. I am not saying that Baptists can’t be Calvinists. Calvinism has been an important stream in our history. We have always maintained some pluralism and flexibility in our soteriology. I am saying that the typical Baptist isn’t a Calvinist, hasn’t been for some time, doesn’t want to be in the future, especially if it is forced on them by the 10% who are.

      3. I am not arguing that there is not a strong heritage of Calvinism in our past. Nor am I arguing that there are not some good things from that tradition that can help us today. What I am arguing is that today, we are not Calvinists, and we have good reasons for not being Calvinists and remaining so.

      4. Much of the discord over this issue is being spurred by New Calvinism. New Calvinism is making Reformed theology a front burner issue. This has not been the Southern Baptist way for over half a century. I am arguing that there are good reasons for it remaining so. Nathan Finn is right in not putting Reformed theology in the list of Baptists distinctives. That’s exactly my point. It isn’t what makes us distinctive and it doesn’t belong at the center. New Calvinists think it does.

        Joshua

        Eric,

        You state: ” I am not saying that Baptists can’t be Calvinists. Calvinism has been an important stream in our history. We have always maintained some pluralism and flexibility in our soteriology. I am saying that the typical Baptist isn’t a Calvinist, hasn’t been for some time, doesn’t want to be in the future, especially if it is forced on them by the 10% who are.”

        Where is all this “forcing” people to be Calvinists? I keep reading your statements like this but honestly have no idea where this is taking place.

        Also, just for the sake of clarity, not everyone is a “New Calvinist.” There are those of us who read and agree with great Southern Baptists like Boyce, Dagg, Manly, etc. Would you call them “New Calvinists?”

          Eric Hankins

          Joshua,

          1. You stated in what I considered to be a favorable way the opinion that most Southern Baptists are semi-Pelagian. Al Mohler, who right now is arguably the most influential man in the SBC, is leading the charge for New Calvinism at a seminary that all Southern Baptists pay for, which is producing Calvinists at a much higher rate than is reflected by the make up of the convention. He runs a highly successful New Calvinist organization called T4G. Sovereign Grace Ministries just moved to Louisville to be near the seminary, by its own admission. We now have a Reformed option for Sunday School literature, written in part my Matt Chandler who leads a church planting network that is Reformed only. And you “have no idea” where the pushing of New Calvinism is taking place?

          2. So, you reject New Calvinism? You think it is the wrong direction for our convention? Would you mind sharing where you believe it is wrong? You realize that in doing so, you will be at variance with Piper, Mohler, Platt, and Dever, for starters.

Mark

Tom Nettles makes the following observation on headship in his review of Whosoever Will.

Paige Patterson, who expresses appreciation for the conscientious attention to the biblical text given by Calvinists, does an excellent job of affirming human sinfulness including a display of strategically selected Scripture passages. While he accepts Adam’s natural headship and the consequent corruption of humanity, he rejects federal, or covenant headship as a negative reflection on the justice of God and a poor background for the virgin birth (37). If this were “the scholarly argument” one might expect Patterson to acknowledge that those who believe in federal headship normally also accept the natural connection between Adam and his posterity as the source of spiritual corruption. They see it as subordinate to federal headship for they defend the justice of God in permitting the flow of corruption by seeing it as a punitive measure for our sin in Adam. One would also expect an explanation as to how imputation of righteousness through union with Christ, our covenant head for righteousness, is consistent with a pure natural headship in our relation with Adam.

Chris Poe

Eric,

Along with the others, I appreciate your participation in the comments here.

Earlier in response to a comment from Mike Davis, you wrote:

“You say I am in danger of semi-Pelagianism? I say you are in danger of divine [determinism], which envisions a God who … punishes people for someone else’s sin…

If God never punishes anyone for someone else’s sin, how can penal substitutionary atonement stand?

    Ben

    Wow! Really great, simple, and vivid point, Chris! I’m eager to read a response.

    Joshua

    Chris,

    Great reply and a valid concern!

    A hypothetical atonement cannot be reconciled with penal substitutionary atonement.

    volfan007

    Because, Jesus chose to die in our place. He chose to do it. God didnt just punish Jesus, because of our sin. Jesus chose to die in our place. The Father asked the Son to do this, and He willingly, lovingly did it.

    BTW, I’m glad that I dont have to be punished for other people’s sins. I’ve got enough of my own to answer for.

    David

      abclay

      It’s refreshing that Eric is “hanging in there” and really clarifying for all of us. Thanks again.

      I agree that Jesus “chose” to do the will of the Father, but the punishment was still administered. The issue wasn’t can someone “chose” to do it, the issue was the inconceivable notion of a God “who punishes people for someone else’s sin”.

      Also, it seems to me that you (Eric, and others who believe this way) are advocating a salvation for Infants who die (death being a consequence/inheritance of/from Adam) under a Covenant of Works. Is this correct?

      Thanks for your reply in advance.

Bob Hadley

Nice question… If God never punishes anyone for someone else’s sin, how can penal substitutionary atonement stand?

Jesus WILLINGLY laid down His life to pay the penalty for our sin; God did not arbitrarily punish Jesus for my sin; Jesus took my punishment Himself and paid the debt.

There is a big difference in Jesus’ willing sacrifice and God’s punishing me for Adam or my parent’s or anyone else’s sin. As I see it, your question is not as definitive as you are suggesting it might be.

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Mark

I’m confused about where this post posits that the Federal Headship theory is the Augustinian view or not because the Augustinian view is actually the Natural Headship theory. Augustus Strong agrees with and notes that most of the Reformers held to the Natural Headship view and it also seems that Patterson agrees with it in his chapter in the book Whosoever Will.

    Eric Hankins

    Alright. This part of the discussion has (as we say in Mississippi) “gotten wrapped around the axle.” So, let me start over with my argument.

    One, Adam’s fall had profound consequences for all humans, bringing in death for all, predisposing our nature to sin (which is what I mean by “sin nature”), so that it is inevitable but not necessary that we sin, thus ratifying the sentence of death pronounced over us. This is what I mean by Adam’s sin being “imputed” to us. Now, I know this is not what Calvinists mean when they use the term “impute.” I know that I am not playing by the specific rules of the imputation/impartation distinction mediated to us by the Calvinism/Arminianism debate because I think those rules are imposed by philosophical systems that are defunct. But, whatever “impute” means, it cannot mean that I am rendered both actually guilty and actually incapable of a faith response to the Gospel without being elected and regenerated first. Why? Because of all the necessary but unbiblical implications of such thinking: determinism, God as the cause of evil, the elimination of libertarian free will, the punishment of people for crimes they did not commit, the foreordination of people’s sin, God’s unwillingness to save all, etc.

    Two, Adam’s fall had profound consequences for all human beings because he is our “head.” What does this mean? Paige Patterson chose to employ the concept of “Natural Headship” in distinction to “Federal Headship.” In my research, I, too, thought this was a nice way to distinguish between what I believe are the effects of the Fall and what Calvinists believe are the effects of the Fall. While this distinction has precedent in the history of theology, it probably is more confusing than helpful because “Natural Headship” and “Federal Headship” are usually thought of as working in concert, not contradistinction. And these terms function primarily in the domain of Calvinists and Arminians, of which I am neither. So, I’m probably better off going with my man Adam Harwood and rejecting the use of both concepts. Once again, we find another area where the old categories just won’t do. When Calvinists hear “Natural Headship” being used in a non-Calvinist way, it just doesn’t compute. So, in what way is Adam our Head? Again, whatever headship means, it can’t mean that we are declared actually guilty of Adam’s failure to keep a supposed covenant of works, etc. etc.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– Roman 5:12

abclay

I read through the comments again to see if I missed an answer to my questions and I could not find them so I will post again in the hopes that there is still interest by the author or someone who understands the soteriology the author is promoting and maybe they can clarify a couple of points.

Mr. Hankins made the implication that the notion of a God “who punishes people for someone else’s sin” is outside the boundaries of his theological framework.

A commenter then asked the question, “If God never punishes anyone for someone else’s sin, how can penal substitutionary atonement stand?”

There were several answers given by others (not Mr. Hankins) who stated that penal substitutionary atonement was congruent with the soteriology of Mr. Hankins because the Christ chose to take the punishment, it was not forced upon Him.

I agree the Christ willingly gave Himself to do the will of the Father, yet the quandary remains. The issue wasn’t about someone being able to volunteer to receive the punishment, it was ‘would God punish someone else for another’s sins’? God still meted out the punishment on the sinless Christ. How does penal substitutionary atonement fit into the author’s salvific narrative if God doesn’t punish someone for another’s sins?

Secondly, based on my limited understanding, Mr. Hankins argues against a pre-fall Covenant of Works stating that there is “no biblical basis for such”. He then states that because Adam’s posterity does not inherit the guilt of Adam, that infants who die are “not guilty”. Now if they are “not guilty”, then I must presume that they are, in fact, innocent because they have not yet transgressed the law.

Does this new Baptist soteriological model presented by Mr. Hankins advocate for a Salvation by Works for infants? Was a Covenant of Works instituted by God post-fall? If so, what biblical evidence is there for such?

    Eric Hankins

    abclay,

    Sorry for the delay in my response. Been speaking at a marriage conference for church planters.

    1. That question is just all mixed up. Even in your view, humanity is not atoning for Adam’s sin. They are being punished for guilt that is imputed to them, but Adam’s guilt is not being transferred to them in the way that our guilt is transferred to Christ, unless you think Adam was somehow declared innocent when his sin got transferred to humanity. In your view, Adam’s sin was not imputed to humanity because we were innocent and qualified sin bearers, it was imputed to humanity because of a covenant of works that has no basis in scripture. Could the logic of this be any more circular?: “why are we guilty? Because Adam failed to keep the covenant of works. Well, we’re does the idea of a covenant of works come from? We infer it from the fact that we have been declared guilty.” This won’t do.

    But, just for the sake of argument, I stand by my statement that God doesn’t punish people for other people’s sins. Ezekiel 18 makes that abundantly clear. God punishes people for the guilt of their own sins. He does not arbitrarily punish innocent people for the guilt of another. That’s immoral. Moreover, in the unique case of God’s righteous standard, the intercession of humanity could not suffice to pay the price for Adam’s sin, even if God was the kind of God who punished people arbitrarily. Adam didn’t need just any old intercessor; he needed a God-Man.

    The question of whether or not a person can voluntarily stand in for another person’s punishment is a different issue. If a friend gets a parking ticket, I can pay the fine. It is perfectly legal for me to do so and the debt is satisfied. People act sacrificially for guilty people all the time. But i cannot justly be arbitrarily declared guilty for another’s parking violation and ordered to pay. It is central concept of the atonement that Jesus did what He did willingly. John, especially, is quite careful to make sure that this not missed. The fact that Christ was willing (I lay my life down willingly) is essential to the efficacy of the atonement.

    2. I certainly am still waiting for someone to demonstrate from the Bible the existence of a covenant of works. Even an inference from scripture that such a covenant is necessary would be a good start.

    Dr. Adam Harwood makes the point that, in this discussion, infants are not innocent in the sense that are free from the impact of the fall. If given opportunity, they will inevitably sin, even though it is not necessary that they do so. But they are “legally” innocent. I cannot be punished ahead of time for a crime I have not yet committed.

    Moreover, in your view, infants aren’t being punished for their own sinfulness, they are being punished for Adam’s sinfulness. How does this fit with Ezekiel 18?

    How could I be advocating a works righteousness for infants if my point is they haven’t done anything good or evil? Are they with God because they have done something good? No. They are with God because the Bible says God does not punish people for other people’s sins.

Scotty

I am late to this discussion, but it is astounding to find a Baptist pastor using Charles Finney’s arguments (and he was using the arguments of Pelagius regarding the limited depravity of the human family) as statements of orthodox theology. To deny the imputation of Adam’s guilt because we cannot be charged with sin we have not committed is to take away Christ as the last Adam who stands in the same covenant role to bring us imputed righteousness. No discussion, just mourning.

    Eric Hankins

    Scotty,

    Indeed, you are late to the discussion. I refer you entirety of this thread before you start chucking rocks.

    Here’s the deal: your version of the imputed righteousness requires that Christ died only for the elect, that God foreordains the codemnation of the lost to hell, that He does not desire the salvation of every sinner. It requires Five Point Calvinism. 90% of Southern Baptists don’t belive that, the comparisons with Finney and the nonsense about Pelagius notwithstanding. If you’re surprised that I believe this, you must not get out much.

      Scotty

      Respectfully Eric, I read every word of the discussion and you don’t have a clue what my version of the imputed righteousness of Christ is. All you have is your assumption about necessary connections from your point of view. The arguments of Finney and Pelagius are a matter of historical record. If you have read them then you cannot fail to note they are the exact arguments you have made relative to the imputation of Adam’s sin. I have not attributed any implications of them to you. I have only noted that they are the same arguments. The reason I have done that is because THEY ARE!

        Eric Hankins

        Scotty,

        Alright, pray tell, what is your understanding of the imputed righteousness of Christ? Enlighten us, please.

        The views of Pelagius and Finney are nothing like my views. You’re saying it doesn’t make it so. You have to offer evidence. Let’s hear it.

volfan007

Scott,

So, because Eric is not a Calvinist, he is Pelagianist? Because he does not believe in total depravity as a Calvinist does, that he preaches a works salvation? Really? Am I reading you right?

You know, I dont accept the analogy of man being like a dead corpse, laying on the ground, unable to even respond to God.

I hold with the analogy that man is sinking in a stormy sea….with no hope of saving himself….if God doesnt save him, then he will surely drown….

Does that make me a Pelagianist?

David

    Scotty

    David, I think you know you are reading me wrong. I did not say anyone was a Pelagianist. I said nothing about anyone’s beliefs about works salvation. The historical facts are there for anyone to see. The connection between the imputation of Adam’s guilt and Christ’s righteousness is in Romans 5. You have read your perceptions into my words. You have responded, not to what I said, but to what you thought I meant.

    I don’t care about determining doctrine by analogies – either yours or mine. If you want to refute what I said, then all you have to do is to show that I have not fairly made the comparison between the arguments about the imputation of Adam’s guilt Eric has made with the arguments of Finney and Pelagius. Anything else is, in my opinion, just smoke and mirrors.

      volfan007

      Scotty,

      You most certainly implied that Eric was a Pelagian. With all of your mourning, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. That’s exactly what you were doing, when you told him that his views are the same as Finney and Pelagian…what else are we to infer from such a statment? C’mon, Brother….own up to your own implying and insinuating.

      Rejoicing,
      David

        Scotty

        David, what you infer has nothing to do with what I say. If I had wanted to say Eric or you were, in my view, Pelagians I know how to say it plainly and that is what I would have done. I stated a fact that neither of you has addressed. The arguments given about the imputation of Adam’s sin are the same as Finney and Pelagius. The fact is that when you say what you believe about salvation I agree and find I am as much a Calvinist as you and you as much an Arminian as me. It is why I did not assign a label, but dealt with particular statements. I stand by them. I also believe Boyce, Broadus, Manly and Carroll would join my mourning. It is not an attack.

      Eric Hankins

      Scotty,

      There is nothing in what you have said to refute. All you do is make accusations, then assign us the homework of explaining how your false accusations shouldn’t stick. It’s like me accusing you of being a purple unicorn, offering no evidence, and then demanding that you explain how it is that you are not a purple unicorn.

      There is nothing in Romans 5 that demands the imputation of sin in the Calvinistic sense. Let’s hear your case.

        Scotty

        Eric, neither you nor David has responded to the only “charge” that I actually made – only to ones that I didn’t!
        I said that the arguments you are making are the same arguments as Charles Finney and Pelagius. I further said I think that is appalling and something to be mourned. I don’t that my response is something to be refuted. That’s all I said. If you choose not to respond or to ignore what I actually said that’s okay with me. Have a good night.

          Eric Hankins

          Scotty,

          I’ll try one more time: In what way are my arguments the same as Pelagius and Finney? You’ll have to offer an argument, some evidence, something. If you don’t, then it’s just name-calling, which certainly is to be mourned.

Les

From Theopedia:

Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam’s sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation.

What say you all?

It denies the imputation of Adam’s sin,
original sin,
total depravity,
and substitutionary atonement.

Which of these do you affirm or deny?

    volfan007

    Les,

    I deny that man is basically good and morally unaffected by the fall.

    I affirm that Adam’s sin caused man to be born with a sin nature.

    I affirm that man is depraved, but I dont believe that man cannot respond to the calling of God.

    I affirm that Jesus died for the sins of man…that He died in my place…for my sins.

    I absolutely deny that man can earn salvation by good works.

    So, you think I’m a Baptist Christian, who is not a Pelagian? Can you say that I’m not even a semi-Pelagian, even though I’m not a Calvinist?

    David

Les

David,

I’m not going to call you or anyone else here a Pelagian or a semi-Pelagian. But I do think that some of you are dangerously close to one or both of those, unintentionally, as you seek to distance yourselves from Calvinism.

For instance, you and others say you affirm substitutionary penal atonement. But then you say that Jesus substituted for everyone and endured the penalty for everyone. Well, that is, as kindly as I can say this, double speak. It cannot be both.

But that’s just one example. Another is babies. Some of you here say they are not born innocent, but als that they are not guilty. Again, “not innocent and not guilty” at the same time? Kindly, besides being unbiblical, that’s nonsensical.

But you all will have to just label yourselves.

    Eric Hankins

    Les,

    You need to respond to what volfan007 said because it’s salient. You quote a definition of Pelagianism that states that it views humanity as basically good and unaffected by the Fall. Volfan007 states that he does not believe that. I have stated over and over again that I do not believe that. But you guys just keep restating it over and over again. Why? Because it’s pejorative. When someone refutes what you guys say, you never acknowledge it, you just move on to the next stock argument you were taught in your “blogging against non-Calvinism workshop.” No luck with Pelagianism? Start in with the distinction between actual and potential atonement. I took you to task on this on another post, you never responded satisfactorily, and now you’re dragging it up again here, instead of completing the discussion of Pelagianism, which you brought up.

      Les

      Eric,

      Hmmm. “your “blogging against non-Calvinism workshop.” I don’t remember that workshop. That’s all I will reply on that, lest I move yo your level of discourse.

      “You need to respond to what volfan007 said because it’s salient.”

      I did. Did you not see what I wrote? It’s right above where you posted.

      “But you guys just keep restating it over and over again. Why? Because it’s pejorative.”

      Careful Eric. You’re going to motive. I think that workshop is taught by Jesus and we are taught that none of us here on earth can know motive.

      “When someone refutes what you guys say…” But you have only declared that you are not the same as Pelagian. BTW, I have called no one a Pelagian. I was careful in my response to David (which you apparently didn’t see) to make sure I reiterated that.

      But I did say, “But I do think that some of you are dangerously close to one or both of those, unintentionally, as you seek to distance yourselves from Calvinism.” I stand by that. I then gave two examples.

      Here is what I quoted about Pelagianism,

      “It denies the imputation of Adam’s sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will.”

      I then asked “Which of these do you affirm or deny?” David replied above.

      But I showed below that where his view of the atonement is a denial of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), despite his claim that he does not deny it. I think he believes he holds to PSA,
      but I don’t think so.

      Look, some of you here appear to hold to some of what Pelagius held. I’m not calling you Pelagian any more than you coud fairly call a 1 point Calvinist a Calvinist. But you’re flirting with it.

      One more for instance. Babies. You and David state that you do not agree with “Pelagianism [when it] views humanity as basically good and unaffected by the Fall.” Fine. But then you say that babies are innocent “legally.” You earlier say babies are “not guilty.” Well, where do you find that distinction? In the legal system, I think “not guilty” means not enough evidence is present to convict while innocence is there is no crime at all.

      “I took you to task on this on another post,” And I’m still smarting!

      “you never responded satisfactorily.” To your satisfaction.

      Les

Les

One addition for clarification:

I said, “For instance, you and others say you affirm substitutionary penal atonement. But then you say that Jesus substituted for everyone and endured the penalty for everyone.”

I should have added, So if Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of everyone as their substitute, then what in the name of Sam Hill are some of those people doing in eternal torment receiving their jut penalty for their sins that Jesus paid for already as their substitute?

But then, if you say that He just made their (everyone’s) forgiveness AVAILABLE and they have to believe, then it wasn’t an ACTUAL atonement…only a POTENTIAL atonement. Again, not only unbiblical but nonsensical.

    volfan007

    Les,

    I absolutely disagree with you. There’s nothing unBiblical or nonsensical about saying that Jesus died for the sins of every person, but it’s only effective in those that believe. His death is sufficient to cover the sins of every man, woman, boy, and girl. His death was sufficient to forgive all the sins of all people. But, like any gift, it does not become our gift, until we recieve it. But, God has provided…. And, I really am having a hard time seeing why you cant see that.

    David

      Les

      David,

      I know you and I disagree on this doctrine. You wrote,

      “There’s nothing unBiblical or nonsensical about saying that Jesus died for the sins of every person, but it’s only effective in those that believe.”

      Well, yes I think it is unbiblical and nonsensical (I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, just that it does not make sense; not logical) when we admit what propitiation really is and what substitution means and what it means to pay the penalty for someone else.

      Here’s the issue, again: Jesus atoned for someone’s sins. Biblically, He put their sin away. He removes sinners’ sins as far as the east is from the west. He satisfied the wrath of God. He took the penalty due for those sinners on Himself.

      Now, if on that cross He did all that for some persons who someday die in unbelief and are destined for an eternity in hell undergoing torment and punishment for eternity because of their sins, BUT WAIT, you say Jesus already took their punishment, actually took their sin punishment in His body, in their place (substitution), then how come they are undergoing torment and punishment for eternity because of their sins?

      Can you not see the problem here?

      “His death is sufficient to cover the sins of every man, woman, boy, and girl. His death was sufficient to forgive all the sins of all people.”

      No problem agreeing with this statement. No one in this debate disagrees on the SUFFICIENCY of the atoning work of Jesus.

      The disagreement is on the the degree of His efficacious work. Was it efficient for every human.

      “But, like any gift, it does not become our gift, until we receive it. But, God has provided…”

      Then what you are saying is that the atonement is some sort of “general” atonement not designed for anyone in particular, but for everyone in general. The forgiveness is just sort of out there in a general “bank” of some sort waiting on anyone to come make a withdrawal.

      Very impersonal.

      “And, I really am having a hard time seeing why you cant see that.”

      My thoughts exactly.

      Les

        Eric Hankins

        Les,

        As I have proven before, the distinction between sufficient and efficient atonement is false. Everything has to be defined in a deterministic Augustinian manner for your distinction to work.

        Must I accept a gift that has been bought for me? If I don’t, does that mean the gift was not actually bought for me. That the person didn’t really want me to have it. Must I accept the freedom won for me on the beaches of Normandy? If I choose, as an American, to behave as though the Nazi’s are in charge, does that mean that those troops didn’t really die for me? Must I accept a pardon that has been granted to me? If I don’t, does that mean a pardon was not actually offered. If I am serving a life sentence and someone enters the prison and begins serving on behalf, must I accept the substitution? Does it mean that a price is not being paid for me? In that sense, my sentence is being paid for twice. Why would I do such a stupid thing? I’m not arguing that sinners are smart.

        Moreover, (this just occurred to me) the sinner never finishes paying his debt in hell, it just goes on for eternity. So in reality, his sin is not paid for twice.

          Les

          “As I have proven before, the distinction between sufficient and efficient atonement is false.”

          How? I must have missed that.

          On your analogies, two things. Analogies are nice. But they are not scripture. You need to prove from scripture where sins atoned for, actually atoned for and guilt removed and penalty paid, where the forgiven and set free person is held accountable again.

          But even on your best analogy, you mix meanings.

          “If I don’t, does that mean a pardon was not actually offered.”

          A pardon is, well a pardon. “A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the cancellation of the relevant penalty”

          You used the word “offered.” Are you then saying that in the atonement, forgiveness was not actually wrought and the penalty was not cancelled? Forgiveness and cancellation was only “offered?”

          As I said to David, besides your views being unbiblical, they are nonsensical.

          Les

Les

Eric,

Just to make clear,

“Must I accept a pardon that has been granted to me? If I don’t, does that mean a pardon was not actually offered.”

See how you mixed “granted” and “offered” in your analogy?

Was it granted? or was it offered? Was propitiation “granted” or “offered?”

I suppose in the legal system one could be granted a pardon and still call himself unpardoned. But legally, that person is pardoned…forgiven…no penalty. That is what the bible clearly teaches, that Jesus accomplished the pardon for sinners on the cross. He did it. Over. Once and for all.

Les

How ’bout a few quotes:

“…among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:3 ESV)

Shedd: “The semi-Pelagian, Papal, and Arminian anthropologies differ from
the Augustinian and reformed, by denying that corruption of nature is
guilt. It is a physical and moral disorder leading to sin, but is not sin
itself.”

Finney on Ephesians 2.3c: Finney said that Eph 2:3c “cannot, consistently with natural justice, be understood to mean, that we are exposed to the wrath of God on account of our nature. It is a monstrous and blasphemous doctrine…”

    volfan007

    Les,

    I believe that we’re the children of wrath before we get saved. We’re under the wrath of God, until we get saved. I believe Eph. 2:3.

    David

      Les

      David, I do believe that you believe that.

      But how, then, can an infant be not guilty ( no imputed Adamic sin) and be yet under the wrath of God and still go to heaven? How, under your belief system, does that happen? If they are born under the wrath of God, and as yet committed no actual sins at a few days old, and have not Adam’s sin imputed to them, how can they get out from that wrath and be with the Lord should they die?

        volfan007

        Les,

        I believe that God does not hold babies and mentally handicapped people accountable for sin. They do not know what they’re doing. So, you think that babies and mentally handicapped will go to Hell, because Adam sinned, and they are guilty of the sin that Adam did.

        David

          Les

          David,

          I said above on April 17,

          “I am a Calvinist who stands with a long line of Calvinists who hold to original sin and guilt and yet believe that all infants dying in infancy are regenerated and are immediately in the presence of the Lord.”

          In context I was only discussing infants. I will add here that I include the severely mentally handicapped with infants as well.

          Les

          volfan007

          Les,

          How do infants and the mentally handicapped go to Heaven without being born again? I mean, if you believe that they are guilty of Adam’s sin from birth…guilty, mind you….then, how do they go to Heaven without being regenerated? Where are the Scriptures to back this up? that show that they are regenerated?

          David

          Les

          David,

          First, I admit up front, as do all theologians, that biblical evidence for what happens to infants dying in infancy is not absolutely clear. The London Baptist Confession says of the scriptures,

          “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture.”

          So any doctrine on this matter will either be explicit or implicit and may be inferred.

          The LBC says under the heading Effectual Calling, in agreement with the WCF,

          “Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

          So the LBC and the WCF essentially go no further than speaking of the elect. Some, however, take it further. Most Reformed theologians in history have taught that all infants dying in infancy are in fact saved by Chist as described above.

          Warfield said of this issue,

          “Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act of their own; and their salvation is wrought by an unconditional application of the grace of Christ to their souls, through the immediate and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit prior to and apart from any action of their own proper wills . . . And if death in infancy does depend on God’s providence, it is assuredly God in His providence who selects this vast multitude to be made participants of His unconditional salvation . . . This is but to say that they are unconditionally predestinated to salvation from the foundation of the world. If only a single infant dying in irresponsible infancy be saved, the whole Arminian principle is traversed. If all infants dying such are saved, not only the majority of the saved, but doubtless the majority of the human race hitherto, have entered into life by a non-Arminian pathway.

          I agree with Warfield.

          Spurgeon, preached on 2 Kings 4.26. Take a look at it. http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0411.htm

          Spurgeon makes the case very well. I also recommend A Theology of Infant Salvation by Robert A Webb.

          Now of course, one cannot affirm even this possibility if one does not also affirm monergistic regeneration prior to conversion. But I do so affirm that and so there is nothing hindering God from regenerating an infant.

Eric Hankins

Les,

1. On the scriptural proof for actual forgiveness of a sinner who is later held accountable for the same crime: of course, this is ridiculous, and the request once again demonstrates how your Calvinist presuppositions control every question. You assume that forgiveness can be granted without consent. Show me a place in scripture where forgiveness is granted without the consent of the offender. There is none. If forgiveness has actually happened, it is only because a price has been paid and accepted. Your system demands that forgiveness be imposed without consent and withheld in spite of desire.

2. “A pardon is, well, a pardon.” You are unfamiliar with the case of Wilson v. The United States. Andrew Jackson pardoned Geroge Wilson for a capital crime and Wilson refused it. The Supreme Court ruled that a pardon must be accepted in order for it to stand. Offered, granted, whatever. It was actually made available, sufficient and efficient to pardon, yet it was refused. Wilson hanged for his crime. Was he thought of as being punished twice? No. He was thought of as having refused the gift of life, but he was not going to be forced to take it.

3. Ephesians 2:3: I suppose you are pointing me to the thought, “we were by nature children of wrath.” That’s supposed to prove the imputation of Adam’s guilt? How? We are given absolutely no hint as to how it is that we are children of wrath, or what exactly that means. You have to impose the idea that Adam’s sin brought this about. You have to impose the idea that children of wrath means that we are incapable of any response to God because he has withdrawn that capacity. None of these supposed inferences are drawn from the text and they are hardly Paul’s point. He has just finished talking about the glory of church and he is moving to the astounding truth that it is a Jew/Gentile church. Here, he is making the descriptive statement that Jews and Gentiles both were in a horrible mess, as far from God as they could be and headed in the wrong direction. Why are they so sinful? Paul doesn’t say. They just are. It’s in their nature, something I don’t dispute. Now, I know you will point me to the phrase, dead in your trespasses as “spiritual death” but I’ve already demonstrated in my paper that that is an invalid interpretation.

3. Your statement from Shedd is a far cry from your definition of Pelagianism from theopedia, which highlighted the idea that man is basically good and untouched by Adam’s sin. I would agree that corruption of nature is not guilt, although lumping me in with Roman Catholicism and semi-Pelagianism, is like me lumping you in with Muslims because of your determinism. Once again, digging up a second rate quote from Shedd so that you can call be semi-Pelagian is little more than name-calling.

3. Finney, of course, is wrong. Your employment of this quote as being in the vicinity of what I think just demonstrates your commitment to viewing anything non-Calvinist in the most pejorative light possible. The question is not whether we are children of wrath by nature but why we are children of wrath by nature. My view that because of Adam our sin is inevitable but necessary fits perfectly with Eph. 2:3. It is taught in Erickson’s Systematic Theology, a staple of Southern Baptist theology. No one thinks Erickson is a semi-Pelagian, except, apparently, you and Shedd.

    Les

    Eric,

    “On the scriptural proof for actual forgiveness of a sinner who is later held accountable for the same crime: of course, this is ridiculous, and the request once again demonstrates how your Calvinist presuppositions control every question.”

    Well at least you recognize you have no scriptural leg to stand on. I was not asking for an example, though that would be nice. I was looking for you to prove for scripture your doctrinal position of penal substitutionary atonement where sinners are later, I suppose un-substituted for and the paid penalty reversed.

    But you know what, I think we are done here on this one. This you said, “this is ridiculous, and the request once again demonstrates how your Calvinist presuppositions control every question” actually demonstrates the utter futility of having a sensible argument with you. You actually think you have no non-Calvinist presuppositions? But just so you know, I became a Christian in 1983 and came to embrace the Reformed faith quite on my own. Whatever suppositions I have now are post non-Calvinism. You see, I’ve been where you are theologically. Can you say the same?

    One last thing. I know you said you are new to blogging. Let me share with you an example of how NOT to interact. Actually happened.

    Person #1 says to person #2, “Anyone who is not premillennialism just has not read their bible.” Person #1 is a pastor.

    Person #2 is a very distinguished professor of systematic theology (now retired) and is published numerous times over his distinguished career. Oh, and person #2 is amillennial and didn’t dignify with a response.

    Person #1: major fail and appears, well fill in the blank.

    Happy blogging and maybe we’ll try again.

    Les

      Eric Hankins

      Les,

      As anyone can see, I gave salient, scriptural, and measured responses to each of your concerns, as I have attempted to do throughout these discussions. But the pattern continues. Rather than responding to what I have said, you restate a position that I have demonstrated does not work unless you assume Calvinism first. Nowhere does God revoke atonement after applying it. On that we agree. But nowhere does God apply atonement without the consent of the sinner. I defy you to provide scriptural evidence that he does. But I can’t get you to interact with that.

      You say a pardon is pardon no matter what. I provide you with a stone cold analogy from jurisprudence about a man who refuses a pardon that has actually been provided. No response from you whatsoever.

      I demonstrate that Ephesians 2:3 does not demand a reading of imputed guilt. No response. That the charge of Pelagianism and capitulation to Finney will not stand. No response.

      Then I get the default New Calvinist refrain: “If you were a Calvinist, you’d see how great this system really is. Since you’re not, there’s no sense talking to you, debating the facts. You just haven’t thought about it hard enough like I have.” As I’ve said about 50 times already in these exchanges, that’s not an argument. If ever there was an example of not how to blog or have any other discussion, this is it.

      Now, I agree that our interchanges have probably reached the end of their usefulness, but I am certain that the fault is not entirely mine.

        volfan007

        Eric,

        Amen.

        David

        Les

        Eric,

        I’m certain as well that the fault is not entirely yours as well.

        Les

        Sorry, too many “as wells.”

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