BEYOND CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM:
TOWARD A BAPTIST SOTERIOLOGY

April 5, 2012



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


This is part one of a four part series. 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, and may be accessed here. The material published here is used by permission of the author.


Introduction

For over a century, Southern Baptists, by-and-large, have not felt the need to identify themselves as either Calvinists or Arminians. We were glad to affirm different aspects of each system, politely reject the points that were at variance with the clear teaching of Scripture, gladly accept those in our tribe who did affirm one or the other, and go on about the business of reaching the world around us for Christ. We did so without formulating a distinctive soteriology of our own. This has served us well, but, unfortunately, such détente appears to be coming to an end. For the last several years, voices calling for a recommitment to Reformed theology in Baptist life have become louder and louder. The Reformed-minded want to make the case that Baptists have always been made up of two groups, Calvinists and Arminians, and that they are representing and calling for a revival of just one stream in our soteriological tradition. They believe that this would be a return to the “normal” state of affairs and would balance what they perceive as an Arminian tilt in Southern Baptist life over the past couple generations. So, the way to get us back to where we are supposed to be is to force us to choose one system or the other. And that’s the problem. Most Southern Baptists don’t want to be one or the other. It is becoming clear, however, that simply stating that we are “neither” is not going to work.

The time has come for Southern Baptist to spell out exactly what we believe about the nature of salvation without appealing to either Calvinism or Arminianism. We must break with the notion that these are the only two options. We must break with the notion that these two options can be successfully integrated. We must break with the notion that we can “all just get along” without having a serious debate. We must break with the notion that the “Neither” position has a future. These blog posts are written in hopes that a new direction can be forged.

The Claim

After four hundred years, Calvinism and Arminianism remain at an impasse. The strengths and weaknesses of both systems are well-documented, and their proponents vociferously aver each system’s mutual exclusivity. These two theological programs have had sufficient time to demonstrate their superiority over the other and have failed to do so. The time has come, therefore, to look beyond them for a paradigm that gives a better account of the biblical and theological data. Indeed, the stalemate itself is related not so much to the unique features of each system but to a set of erroneous presuppositions upon which both are constructed. As the fault lines in these foundational concepts are exposed, it will become clear that the Baptist vision for soteriology, which has always resisted absolute fidelity to either system, has been the correct instinct all along. Baptist theology must be willing to articulate this vision in a compelling and comprehensive manner.

This post and the following three will outline four presuppositions shared by Calvinism and Arminianism that demonstrate the degree to which a new approach to soteriology is needed. One presupposition is primarily biblical, one is primarily philosophical, one is primarily theological, and one is primarily anthropological, although each is intertwined with the others.

#1 The Biblical Presupposition:

A. Individual Election (Calvinism and Arminianism)

The idea that God, in eternity past, elected certain individuals to salvation is a fundamental tenet of Calvinism and Arminianism. The interpretation of this biblical concept needs to be revised. Quite simply, when the Bible speaks of election in the context of God’s saving action, it is always referring to corporate election, God’s decision to have a people for Himself. When the election of individuals is raised in Scripture, it is always election to a purpose or calling within God’s plans for His people as a whole. In the OT, the writers understood election to be God’s choice of Israel, yet they also clearly taught that the benefits of corporate election could only be experienced by the individual Israelite (or the particular generation of Israelites) who responded faithfully to the covenant that had been offered to the whole nation.[1] This trajectory within the OT is unassailable. It is reinforced in the intertestamental literature and is the basis for the way election is treated in the NT.[2] The Bible, therefore, does not speak of God’s choice of certain individuals and not others for salvation.[3] When the Bible does speak of the salvation of individuals, its central concept is “faith,” never “election.”

Take away individual election, and the key components of Calvinism and Arminianism disappear.[4] God does not elect individuals to salvation on the basis of His hidden councils, nor does He elect them on the basis of His foreknowledge of their future faith. Simply put, God does not “elect” individuals to salvation. He has elected an eschatological people whom He has determined to have for Himself. This group will be populated by individuals who have responded in faith to the gracious, free offer of the gospel. The group, “the Elect,” is comprised of individuals who are “saved by faith,” not “saved by election.” This being the case, there is no longer any need for the theological maneuvering required to explain how God elects individuals without respect to their response (which evacuates the biblical concept of “faith” of all its meaning) or how He elects individuals based on foreseen faith (which evacuates the biblical concept of “election” of all its meaning).

Asserting that “individual election” should be abandoned is striking, to say the least. It is the foundation on which evangelical soteriology is often constructed.[5] It is painful to consider the enormous investment of time and energy that has been spent trying to reconcile how God chooses individuals and, at the same time, how individuals choose God, only to discover that the whole endeavor has been based on a misreading of Scripture. Nevertheless, most Baptists have never felt fully comfortable with either Calvinist or Arminian understandings of election because neither comport well with the whole counsel of God. The reason is clear. The Scriptures lead to the conclusion that Augustine, Calvin, and Arminius were simply wrong in their construction of individual election. Baptists have never been theologically or confessionally committed to these august theologians, and the time has come to move beyond them.

B. Individual Faith (Baptist)

The central biblical presupposition for a Baptist soteriology is, therefore, “faith” (Eph. 2.8-9). “Election” is a term that belongs properly in the Doctrine of God. Faith captures the fundamentally relational nature of NT soteriology. “Justification by faith,” which lies at the center of Protestant soteriological identity, speaks of the initiating and sustaining activity of God in bringing an individual into right relationship with Himself and the necessity of the individual’s response for God’s justifying work to be actualized in his life. While the totality of justification has numerous aspects (past, present, future, spiritual, physical, individual, moral, social, ecclesiological, cosmic, etc.), it does not happen without personal faith. Faith has a variety of nuances as well, but, ultimately, it is an act of the will that belongs to the believer. It is not a “gift” God gives to some and not others. When Baptists call people to salvation, we emphasize the biblical concept of faith, not election.


[1] See, for instance, Deut. 29:14-21. Israel is reaffirming the covenant promised to the patriarchs and to future generations. However, if there is an individual man or woman who boasts, “I have peace with God though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart,” the Lord will “single him out” from the people for destruction (vv. 18-21, NASB). Although the covenant is for the whole community, the individual must respond in faith in order to benefit from those corporate covenant promises.

[2] Critics of the corporate view of election will quickly raise Rom. 8:29-30 and 9-11 (among others) in defense of their position, but the pre-temporal election of individuals is not Paul’s purpose there. Rom. 8:29-30 is setting up Paul’s point in chapters 9-11 about two groups: Jews and Gentiles. The end of Romans 8 crescendos with the greatness of salvation in Christ. Verses 29-30 articulate God’s actions toward His people from beginning to end in order to bring about His ultimate “purpose” (28): God knew He was going to have a people; He determined to bring them into existence in Christ; He actualized that people in history through His call; He justified them by faith; He has determined to bring them into resurrection glory. In light of this incredible plan to have this kind of people for Himself, Paul is heartbroken at the beginning of Romans 9 that his Jewish brothers have responded to the gospel with unbelief. The Jews appear to be “out,” and the Gentiles appear to be “in.” But God works in unexpected ways. Jews are “out” now so that the Gentiles can come “in.” But the Gentiles coming “in” will ultimately cause the Jews to come “in” at the proper time. That is why Paul will continue to preach the gospel to Jews as a part of his mission to the whole world, looking forward to the response of a remnant by faith. One thing is certain: Romans 9-11 is not teaching the election of some individuals and the reprobation of others without respect to their genuine response of faith. Ephesians 1:4, 5, and 11 function in Ephesians 2 the same way that Rom. 8:29-30 functions in Romans 9-11.

[3] See William W. Klein, The New Chosen People: A Corporate View of Election (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001), 257–63 for an extended exegetical analysis of all the relevant biblical data concerning the concept of “corporate election.” Klein argues that there is not a single verse or overarching tendency in the Scriptures in support of the idea that God chooses certain individuals for salvation.

[4] Indeed, if “individual election” is what the writers of the NT meant, then Calvinism and Arminianism really are the only options, and Baptists should pick one and move on to other matters. It is significant that we have been unwilling to do so.

[5] For example, if individual election to salvation were removed from Millard Erickson’s massive systematic theology, there would be essentially nothing left in his chapters on “God’s Plan” and those in the whole section on “Salvation.” See Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).

Leave a Comment:

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Tom Shelton

I have a question: If corporate election is indeed God’s purpose and if God does indeed have all knowledge (which he does) then how can he elect a group without knowing who the individuals in that group are? Also, if he does know who the individuals are that make up the group how does he know?

    Eric Hankins

    Tom,

    Good question. My answer is that a group can have an existence apart from any individual member. William Klein uses the example of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. It was a legal entity before any player was signed. If the owner of the Rockies was omniscient, then he would have known who would eventually resond to his offer to be a member. God has decided to have a group, The Elect. He has decided how that group will be populated: by a faith response to the Gospel. Because He is God, He knows absolutely which individuals will respond because He is omniscient.

    Eric Hankins

      Tom Shelton

      Eric,

      I agree that God knows who will make up the group of the Elect but I disagree with how he knows. You are basically suggesting that he looks down the corridor of time to see who will choose him and then he names them the elect. This makes the people the final authority in whether or not a person is among the elect. I just don’t see that as biblical because it robs God of his sovereignty.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        God does not need to “look down the corridor of time” because looking down time is a misnomer when discussing God in eternity. So that is irrelevant.

        Your use of sovereignty is to be rejected. Sovereignty has to do with position and status of authority. God is in control of all things and works all things after His own council, but that does not entail God is all-controlling. If He were, then He is the author of all evil. That is to be rejected.

        It is improper to conflate the sovereignty of God with the concept of philosophical determinism, which is what you are doing. This is to be rejected for two reasons.

        1. If all you mean by “God is sovereign” is nothing more than “the universe is deterministic”, then you have made a statement about the universe, a created thing, and given it designations with your language that rightly belongs to God. This is idolatry, and there is nothing in the word sovereignty that entails philosophical determinism. I am certain you did not intend this…so:

        2. If the only way one can construe God as being sovereign is that the universe must unfold in a philosophically deterministic manner, then you have posited a wimpy God who can’t handle creatures with freedom, and such a God wouldn’t be the Biblical God who can achieve His purposes in Creation regardless of the freedom He has given his creatures.

        More to the point, you have implicitly presupposed “irresistible grace” and “unconditional election” in your objections. This is something that must be proved from Scripture, not assumed in your disagreement. Prevenient grace is sufficient to understand grace, especially in light of what the word charis means in the context of Ancient Near Eastern patron/client reciprocity (whether the patron is divine or not). Nothing about the word entails “irresistible-ness”, which makes that a categorical error to begin with and not worth a hill of beans in soteriology conversation, unless one wishes to engage in Calvinist private language games that have nothing to do with the Biblical data. Thus:

        1. The Bible never states that the universe is deterministic in the philosophical sense.

        2. Given in eternity God’s freedom to create this universe in which the elect in Christ have never NOT been known by God, God determines who the people of faith are. Had God created some other universe, the people of faith may have or may not have been different individuals who comprise the elect in Christ that He has known from all eternity. Hence, your objection “This makes the people the final authority in whether or not a person is among the elect” is both invalid and misguided as well.

        God must possess ALL KNOWLEDGE prior to His decree. Calvinists (and Molinists) are wrong to assume God’s knowledge is in the following logical order (respectively):

        Natural knowledge –> (decree) –> Free knowledge

        and

        Natural knowledge –> Middle-Knowledge –> (decree) –> Free knowledge

        Ironically, Arminius and classical Arminians (of the corporate election variety) properly understand that both are error, because God’s ATTRIBUTE of omniscience must be complete and total in order for it to be genuine omniscience, and not based on any ACTION of God (to decree is an action) taken in eternity logically subsequent to all His knowledge.

        For a Calvinist to ask someone of our persuasion how God can know everything completely logically prior to His decree rather in conjunction with it is something we don’t need to answer. I no more have to explain how God knows everything including future contingents any more than any classical theist needs to explain “where God came from” since the question itself is meaningless when discussing God. We only need to point out the error of Calvinism (and too Molinism) that placing the decree logically between God’s categories of knowledge is an affront to both his aseity and omniscience, because God is not dependent on any action taken in eternity to have complete omniscience and thus be God, because God knows all AND is completely free to decree or not and still know all (including future contingents of what can be, will be, and could have been…we can call this “middle-knowledge” if it helps AND STILL NOT call it Molinism, if it helps, because Molinism is rejected for its errors pointed out above). Place God’s decree logically prior to any of category of his knowledge like Calvinism (and Molinism) does, and that would by necessity have to come to pass so God has “all knowledge” if that is the model one posits, and thus that would be making creation as necessary as God Himself!!! Which is horrific!

        Sadly, Arminius did drop the ball because he spent too much time refuting Calvinism and doing reactive theology that he didn’t get too deep into developing the implications of his correction to Calvinism: Which is a robust Corporate election.

        Eric Hankins is spot on that we don’t have to do reactive theology to either, but simply move beyond them and ignore them altogether. I do it in my pastoral ministry, because these systematic categories are worthless, whether there are bits one agrees or disagrees with in both, because those aren’t the only theological frameworks from which to work, and the language is too well-poisoned for fruitful dialog among the consensus of Baptists who are wanting better frameworks and language to teach and converse on election and salvation.

        As the Sovereign God over creation, He has freely decreed that the people of faith in the Chosen One will be His elect. He knows them in eternity, not “looking down the corridors of time” that at that point logically prior to creation, did not even exist to “look down” anyway.

        If nothing else (though I think plenty else as well), Eric Hankins is dead on about the philosophical and exegetical presuppositions that are needing an overhaul.

volfan007

Very interesting stuff, Bro. Thanks for making us think. I, too, think that we need to move beyond any man-made system like Calvinism, Arminianism, or any other “ism.” We need to just approach the Bible, and let it say what it says….instead of trying to make the Bible fit into our system. There’s a lot of mystery in the Bible, which we just cannot know this side of Heaven.

Also, I served the Evansville Baptist Church inbetween Strayhorn and Arkabutla for 7 years…1999-2006. I would find myself in Oxford on occasion. We ate at a seafood restaurant on the highway to Batesville…right outside of Oxford…cant remember the name of it, right now. But, it was really good back then.

David

Jerry Vines

MOVE Dr. Hankins. Thank you for allowing your excellent discussion to be posted. Your dad first pointed me to your article when I was with him at the Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference. Your insights will be helpful as we dialogue on this crucial issue in Southern Baptist life. Jerry Vines

Jerry Vines

Well, I got MOVE in wrong place. Should be deleted. That’s what you get from old school guys. Jerry Vines

    Bart Barber

    I thought maybe Dr. Vines had a church lined up for you and was trying to get you to move. ;-)

      Eric Hankins

      When Dr. Vines says, “move” you better move! Thanks for the encouragement about the paper.

David R. Brumbelow

Very good, thought provoking article. Look forward to the rest of the series.
David R. Brumbelow

Chris Roberts

To paraphrase: This group tells us that this has always been the SBC position, that group tells us that that has always been the SBC position, but both groups are wrong! Hankins will tell us what has always been the SBC position!

It reminds me of an old joke. A man was visiting an island with a fairly substantial population and was surprised to find only three churches. He comments to his native guide, “Come to my small town and you will find at least a dozen churches! How is it that you all only have three?” “Well,” the native replies, “We used to have two, but people from each church started getting interested in unity and decided to start a new, unified church, so now we have three churches.”

There will always be another idea, another perspective, another notion, and every idea will always have names and labels. None of that is bad, in itself, but we need to keep our eyes on the goal: rightly dividing the word of truth. Since Southern Baptists have historically not taken up sides, that leaves liberty for Southern Baptists to occupy any of the three sides presented in this article. I’ll gladly work with any of them.

    Chris Roberts

    To clarify: “Since Southern Baptists have historically not taken up sides”… should read “Since Southern Baptists have historically not taken up an official position which describes the specific soteriological view of the SBC…” Individual Southern Baptists and individual SBC churches have, of course, often times made their position clear. Thus I clearly label myself Calvinist while Hadley proudly displays “non-Calvinist, non-Reformed” on his church website but the BF&M leaves room for us both.

Dan Nelson

Dr. Hankins,
This is a very timely article that deserves a lot of consideration from both sides of the issue. Though ascribing to some tenants of the Doctrines of Grace I cannot buy into Reformed Theology because if God already as damned some to Hell why am I calling them to Christ?
Historically it is difficult if not impossible for me to identify with a Reformed movement that persecuted and even martyred my spiritual ancestors: “The Ana-Baptists”. Some were not Orthodox but those that were still bore the brunt of there wrath for practicing believer’s baptism by immersion which is what we ought to standing for as vehemently as all the stuff coming out today trying to make everyone Reformed.
It is unfair of the reformed group also to label everyone “Arminian” who don’t accept everything lock stock and barrel in their system. Your discussion about cooperate election answers a lot of questions about this issue. I think it is worth considering.
We must not be pinned down by these labels. We must follow scriptural teaching in regard to election, faith and especially evangelism.
Dan Nelson II Pet. 3:9. I Tim. 2:4-6

    Joshua

    Dan,

    You said: “Though ascribing to some tenants of the Doctrines of Grace I cannot buy into Reformed Theology because if God already as ****ed some to Hell why am I calling them to Christ?”

    As a Reformed Southern Baptist, I can call all men to repentance because we don’t know who God’s elect are. Some will hear and believe by God’s grace, and others will reject the message because they love their sin and desire not the things of God.

      Eric Hankins

      Joshua,

      I appreciate your candor. Many Southern Baptists who want to describe themselves as Reformed do not understand that these implications that you point out are necessary to the system. What you are saying is that all people cannot be saved. In Calvinism, the lost “desire not the things of God” because they are incapable of doing otherwise. It has already been determined by someone else (God) that they will not be saved. This hard determinism makes God the cause of sin and evil. I believe that this will not do for the vast majority of Southern Baptists.

        Joshua

        Eric,

        I am saying that all people “will not” be saved, not “cannot” be saved. There is a great distinction to be made in these two phrases. God certainly can save every individual, it is certainly within his power of salvation. However, he has chosen to save the elect, so that his purpose of election might be known (Rom 9).

        I am glad you see the biblical truth that men “cannot desire the things of God,” yet your speaking negatively of this truth is questionable to me. Do you deny man’s incapability to desire the things of God?

        Also, what I have said in this post, and previously, does not represent “hard determinism” but “compatibilism.” I am surprised you would attribute “hard determinism” to my statements. Would you view Boyce or Schreiner as “hard determinists?”

          Eric Hankins

          Joshua,
          If God has decided not to save some, then what is the problem with saying that they cannot be saved? It’s the correct implication of your position. It is impossible for some people to be saved. There is nothing they can do about. They cannot be saved.

          But just for arguments sake, I’ll grant the distinction that God can everyone, He just doesn’t want to. This better than saying they can’t be saved? How is this better? It may, in fact, be worse. Am I a good father if I have the ability and the opportunity to save all three of my children from drowning, but only save one for no reason? How can a God like this be called good? He can’t unless “good” means something really different than what I think it does. Moreover, this is not what the vast majority of Baptists believe. I don’t even think it’s what Baptists who think of themselves as “Calvinistic” believe.

          Romans 9 does not teach that God chooses some individuals and not others for salvation. This couldn’t be further from Paul’s point.

          As for the phrase “hard determinism,” I wasn’t using it in the technical sense, but I apologize for the confusion. I just meant determinism, which has the quality of being “hard” or “heavy-handed.” “Compatibilism,” of course, is “soft determinism,” which is still terribly problematic. It does not release God from the charge that He is the cause of our decisions and not we ourselves, nor does it answer the charge that God is the cause of evil. I assume that Schreiner and Boyce are “soft determinists.”

          Joshua

          Eric,

          I shy away from the “cannot be saved” phrase because it is often loaded with other baggage (i.e. natural man is unfairly disadvantaged, natural man desires to be saved but cannot be, etc.). I believe it is more biblical and helpful to say that not all will be saved.

          Regarding the impugning of God by saying he doesn’t equally desire to save every man, I would point to Romans 9 and the biblical truth that God is both glorified in the judgment of evil men and the salvation of evil men. No man is neutral to God, all natural men hate God, are actively opposed to him, and want nothing to do with him. When this biblical truth provides the context of God’s election and non-election, then the idea of God not equally desiring to be gracious to all men is not so much of a stumbling block.

          I am not sure sure how you can make sense of Paul’s hypothetical objections and answers in Romans 9 if you remove individual election. According to your interpretation of Romans 9, you render Paul’s hypothetical objections meaningless. What Paul is teaching in Romans 9 is hard to swallow, I agree. But to interpret Paul’s teaching in a way where it has no offense is to violate the text as Paul obviously understood what he was teaching was offensive.

          For anyone interested in reading about individual election in Romans 9. Dr. Tom Schreiner’s article “Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical and Theological Reflections” is available for free here. http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/36/36-1/JETS_36-1_025-040_Schreiner.pdf

Les

This looks like an interesting series. I look forward to it. Not having the time right now to point out that individual election is indeed taught in the bible, save to point to John 6:35 ff and Romans 8:30, I suggest an able counter for Calvinism in general and individual election in particular is Southern Baptist Dr. Thomas Schreiner’s article on this very subject found here.
http://www.monergism.com/Schreiner%2C%20Thomas%20-%20Corporate%20and%20Individual%20Elect.pdf

    Eric Hankins

    Les,

    I read through this article when I did my original research, but I’ll read it again and post some thoughts.

    Thanks,

    Eric

      Eric Hankins

      Les,

      Schreiner’s basic argument is that corporate election demands individual election, that they are logically inseperable. He is simply incorrect. I used this illustration above: A wealthy man in Denver decided he wanted to have baseball team. He created an entity called the Colorado Rockies. If he had not made this decision, there would be no Colorado Rockies. If he did not have the means to make it happen, there would be no individuals playing basedball for the Colorado Rockies. So, the Colorado Rockies existed even though no individual players had committed to play. And no individual player would be coerced into playing.

      In the same way, God chose to have an entity called the people of God. He had the means and the power to populate it. If He had not done this, there would be no hope for a group called the people of God, and He would have been within His rights not to create such a group. He had the knowledge that it would be certain that it would be populated. He determined that freedom in the libertarian sense would be essential to an individual’s inclusion in the group.

      As for John 6:35 and Ro 8:30, nothing in those texts demands unconditional individual election. In fact, a Calvinistic reading of John 6:35 is obliterated by John 6:70: “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” This is either corporate election or conditional election. In Ro 8:30, the object of God’s predestining is plural.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Thomas Schreiner’s logic and presuppositions on the exegetical data are exceedingly bad. Brian Abasciano has clearly refuted all of this and the .pdf is available online.

        He is a dear brother in the Lord, but Dr. Schreiner is a bad exegete, plain and simple, but at least in his Romans commentary, he is a fair one to those whom he disagrees, and gets some choices right on occasion, but overall, I am depressed that this is supposedly the “best” Baptist scholarship has to offer in both our seminaries and evangelical commentaries (Not that Baker is SBC, but you know what I mean).

        I’d also like to remind everyone that Schreiner’s exegesis of double-predestination to both salvation and damnation he finds in Romans 9 is not only bad exegesis, not only against the typical Reformed Baptist position of single-predestination, but against proper exegesis and understanding of the passage altogether.

        How a passage recounting the HISTORY of God’s choices regarding a covenant people to defend God’s word has become a PHILOSOPHICAL passage about secret decrees and arbitrary salvation and damnation from eternity’s past is way beyond me, and way beyond Paul’s intent as well.

Ron Hale

Individual Faith makes biblical sense! Without faith it is impossible to please God!

Thank you Eric; it is great reading the work of a Pastor/Theologian – reminiscent of H.H. Hobbs!

    Chris Roberts

    And I’m not aware of anyone in this discussion who denies the necessity of individual faith.

      Les

      Agree Chris. Don’t we all here hold to justification by faith alone?

      Les

      individual faith alone? Yes.

      Eric Hankins

      It depends greatly on how you use the word “necessity.” Calvinists use it in a deterministic sense. Individual faith is as “necessary” as my choice of clothing today, meaning it cannot be otherwise because God has rendered it certain. Individual faith is as “necessary” as the tragic death of a child at the hands of a killer. God caused it. Individual faith is as “necessary” as individual unfaith. The damnation of the non-elect is caused by God as much as the salvation of the elect is.

        Joshua

        Eric,

        You said: “The damnation of the non-elect is caused by God as much as the salvation of the elect is.”

        This is the fallacy of equal ultimacy. God’s active pouring out of salvific grace is not equal to his passing over of the non-elect. Your statement reflects the errors of hyper-Calvinism, not the Calvinism of Boyce, Manly, and today, Schreiner.

          volfan007

          If God chooses one man to be saved, but doesnt choose to save another; then God…as sovereign God…has chosen to not save the lost man. Thus, that lost man has no hope of ever being saved. He is, in effect, predestined for Hell with no hope of ever being saved….according to the choice of God, since He is sovereign and arbitrarily chooses some to be saved, and chooses to not save others. That is the Calvinists view carried out to its logical end.

          Eric Hankins

          The “fallacy of equal ultimacy” just doesn’t work. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If God is the cause of an individual’s salvation, then He is the cause of their damnation. This, by the way, is the position of Boyce, who affirmed double predestination. This is the bind in which every moderate Calvinist finds himself: he can either be consistent with the logic of his system and unbiblical or he can be inconsistent (asserting out of thin air things like the fallacy of equal ultimacy) and faithful to the character of the God of the Bible.

          Bob Hadley

          Eric,

          It was great to see your taking the time to make your work available here and your careful and thoughtful interaction in the comment thread. You are absolutely correct in your conclusion, “God is the cause of an individual’s salvation, then He is the cause of their damnation.” It is impossible to preach predestination without the reality of reprobation. Some will argue man is responsible for his damnation not God. While that is a true statement, it is also true that ALL MEN ARE DAMNED because of their sin.

          The problem for the calvinist is when God chooses to redeem some, He also chooses not to redeem others. Since redemption for the calvinist is God’s sole doing, those who are not chosen have no hope. The gospel has no effect on the non-elect. This is terribly wrong. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to ALL WHO WILL BELIEVE. (Ro. 1:16) It is not simply preaching a message that God is going to use to speak to His elect; it is a message we are called to preach so that the Holy Spirit might use to prick the hearts of the lost and through the revelation of God’s Word and His promises they might be reconciled to Him by His grace through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

          Looking forward to your continued interaction here and the future articles. Have a GREAT EASTER weekend!

          ><>”

          Johnathan Pritchett

          First, give me evidence that there validity to the “fallacy of equal ultimacy”. Second, go look up what “good and necessary consequence” means. In fact, you can even find it in the Westminster Confession. :)

          Has Schreiner changed his view on double-predestination (hyper-Calvinism) since his commentary and comments on Romans 9?

          “Does this text suggest double-predestination? Apparantly it does” Thomas Schreiner, p. 501 Romans: BECNT

          “This too was part of his plan, thus double-predestination can not be averted.” p. 522, ibid.

          What bad exegesis, and apparently Joshua, your own comments would force you to agree.

          James White probably isn’t the best Calvinist to parrot, just so you know. ;)

          I can do this all day.

          Joshua

          Johnathan,

          You speak of what you do not know. To call double predestination “hyper-Calvinism” is in error. I challenge you to read more on the subject from Reformed authors, not the Geislers, Hunts, and Lemkes.

Les

By the way, Calvinists affirm that we are “saved by faith,” not “saved by election” as the author says. No Calvinist says individuals are saved by election.

    Chris Roberts

    More specifically, we are not saved by faith but by grace through faith. It is not faith that saves us, but God by his grace, grace which we receive through faith in Christ.

      Les

      Chris,

      You are right. I was not as specific as I should have been. It is by grace through faith. We often just take a short cut and say we are saved by faith, when it is actually faith which is the means or “by means of” as I was taught in Greek.

    Eric Hankins

    My argument is that, whether Calvinists like it or not, the core of their soteriology is that people are “saved by election.” The precipitating cause of an individual’s salvation is not a decision of faith that is his. The precipitating cause is God. He has decided who is saved and who is not saved without reference to an individual’s faith-decision. The actuality of an individual’s “decision” to trust Christ is merely an outworking of God’s prior decision to elect. Is there any other way to describe this except by calling it “saved by election”?

      Jason

      Maybe calling it “saved by grace through faith”? I think there’s a tension there that logically doesn’t make much sense.

        Eric Hankins

        The phrase “saved by grace through faith” has no tensions for me (a case I will make in the next blog) nor are there any logical problems. The problem exists only for the Calvinist, for whom faith is a gift given by God to some and not others, even though He has the ability to give it to everyone. If God gives this gift, there is nothing an individual can do to prevent his salvation. If God withholds it, there is nothing an individual can to do to be saved. Again, can this be mean anything other than “saved by election”?

          Joshua

          Eric,

          Yes, it can mean something else. It means saved by grace, a grace that actually saves.

          Jason

          Eric, you added a lot to my simple statement that I simply did not say. You may think I must logically come to that end, but that’s what I mean by tension and not logically making much sense. I’m comfortable with a both/and here.

    Ron Hale

    Les …

    We are saved “by grace through faith” in Jesus Christ; that sounds simple enough for me, I love it!

    However, J. Montgomery Boice in The Doctrines of Grace makes it sound much more complicated, as he says …
    “If the condition of the human race is as bad as the biblical doctrine of depravity indicates, then salvation must originate with God. It must be a work of the triune God, accomplished and applied by him without any assistance on our part. Since we are never going to seek him, he is going to have to reach out to us and save us (if, in fact, we are to be saved). And this is what God does. The first step in the reaching out is God’s determination to do it, which is what the word election refers to. It means that what happens in an individual’s salvation is determined by the prior decision of God, who established the decrees of salvation in Christ before the world began. … If election were based on anything that the sinner might be or do, then ultimately salvation would depend on human merit. But in order to prove that salvation is all of grace, election is a loving act of God’s sovereign will. Faith in Christ is not the cause of election but one of its results (p.30).
    It seems that for many … the “through faith” is linked and locked to the decrees of election and reprobation, as God regenerates the heart of the Elect (only them) so they will believe (faith).

    Me … I just preach that sinners can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

    Hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday!

      Joshua

      Ron,

      You said: “Me … I just preach that sinners can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!”

      So does every Calvinist.

        Eric Hankins

        I preach that every sinner can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Can every Calvinist preach that?

          Les

          Eric,

          I can preach that and I am a long time Calvinist.

          Joshua

          Eric,

          Yes, every Calvinist can.

        Bob Hadley

        I preach that every sinner can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Can every Calvinist preach that?

        The answer is NO. Calvinists may preach it but their theology will not allow it. The may preach that sinners may be saved but the underlying understanding is that those who come are those God has effectually drawn. Those who are not effectually drawn will not come to Him.

        Also, calvinists believe faith is a gift from God. In order for one to be saved by faith since faith is a gift from God, only those who have been given this faith can be saved.

        So, the calvinist cannot preach that every sinner can be saved because only those sinners that God gives saving faith to will be saved… and that faith is not available to MOST sinners.

        ><>”

          Les

          Bob, how can you say no? Joshua and I both just said we could preach that. You may think us inconsistent, but you cannot say we can’t preach it. I have many times and our sovereign God has been pleased to save some. BTW, we are not being inconsistent, notwithstanding your opinion.

          Chris Roberts

          “I preach that every sinner can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Can every Calvinist preach that?”

          Yes, absolutely.

          Bob Hadley

          OK guys… I would appreciate your response to WHAT I said… “The answer is NO. Calvinists may preach it but their theology will not allow it. The may preach that sinners may be saved but the underlying understanding is that those who come are those God has effectually drawn. Those who are not effectually drawn will not come to Him.”

          Are you saying that the qualifying statement to WHAT you say you preach is inaccurate with regard to effectual calling? I do not think so.

          ><>”

          Les

          Bob, I’ll take it phrase by phrase.

          ““The answer is NO. Calvinists may preach it but their theology will not allow it.”

          The answer is yes we can preach it and do. Our theology demands it. “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV)

          “The may preach that sinners may be saved but the underlying understanding is that those who come are those God has effectually drawn.”

          Calvinist’s theology acknowledges that is any sinner will believe in Jesus he or she will be saved. And, we believe what the scriptures say,

          “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
          (John 6:37 ESV) and,

          “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—”
          (John 6:44-45 ESV)

          “Those who are not effectually drawn will not come to Him.”

          Right. See verses just above.

          Bob Hadley

          Thanks Les.

          ““Those who are not effectually drawn will not come to Him.”

          Right. See verses just above.

          Then acknowledge the fact by your own admission that as a consistent calvinist, you cannot preach “every sinner can be saved.”

          Only those sinners who are effectually called by God can be saved. I will agree that it may be consistent for you to preach, “sinners can be saved”; that is linguistically correct. However, it is IMPOSSIBLE for a consistent calvinist to preach every sinner can be saved by faith.

          Happy Easter to you and your family!

          ><>”

          Les

          Bob,

          First of all, happy Easter to you and your family!

          “Then acknowledge the fact by your own admission that as a consistent calvinist, you cannot preach “every sinner can be saved.”

          Bob I cannot acknowledge that. The fact is that any and every sinner can be saved if he or she will believe and repent. But the fact is, the non-elect WILL NOT believe. Like, “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
          (John 5:40 ESV)

Matt

Foreknowledge is a powerful thing when you attribute it to the creator of the universe. If you believe the position that God elects a group and merely foreknows the individuals within that group, you still have not avoided the truth of God’s sovreignty in salvation. For God to passively foreknow who is saved, without deciding and bringing about which individuals will be saved, He would have to be a bystander watching a world already in motion. The fact that He was omnicient before man, angels, the universe, or anything else existed; and that he brought them all into existence, requires that he knowingly chose everything that happens in His creation. He knew that man would fall, Jesus would lay down His life at the hands of evil men, and who would and would not be saved if He created the way He did. Knowing these things, He then chose to create in a way that brought them all about. Before creation God could list all of His elect and all of the nonelect individually. He then set the universe in motion in just the specific way that He knew would bring each individual into existence and result in thier preordained salvation or damnation. If we, as Baptist, affirm that God is omnicient and that He created everything that is, then to be consistent we must also affirm that He has elected individuals for salvation.

    Eric Hankins

    Matt,
    First, there is a distinct metaphysical difference between knowing something and causing it. Just because God knows something ahead of time, doesn’t mean He caused it. Let’s take your third sentence and substitute “the Holocaust” for “who is saved”: “For God to passively foreknow the Holocaust without deciding and bringing about the Holocaust, He would have to be a bystander watching a world already in motion.” That works for me, and I hope it works for you. Of course, God is more than a bystander. In Christ, He made sure that no matter what humans do with their free will, they cannot thwart His ultimate purposes for creation. But He does not cause their decisions.

    Second, the kind of causation you are talking about is deterministic. In your view, God cannot bring about His ultimate purposes unless he meticulously causes each moment of history, each movement down to quarks. This does guarantee the outcome, but it makes us actors on a stage, actors who are made to do terribly evil things by the Director. As you say, God sets “the universe in motion in just the specific way that He knew would bring each individual into existence and result in their preordained salvation or damnation.” In your view, which is quite consistent in its Calvinism, God’s omniscience and individual election make it necessary that God causes people to be damned without their input. I reject this, and I think most Baptists do as well. I believe God can bring about his ultimate purposes without causing each decision. In fact, I believe God’s ultimate purposes specifically demand that people make decisions for which they are the cause. Can God not have the kind of universe He wants, one where decisions matter? Is this too difficult for Him?

      Matt

      I’m glad to see you responding to all these posts. First I’d like to reply to your substitution of the words “the Holocaust” for “who is saved.” You claim that the statement, “For God to passively foreknow the Holocaust without deciding and bringing about the Holocaust, He would have to be a bystander watching a world already in motion” works for you. This doesn’t work for me though. I have to agree that God intended for there to be a Holocaust the same way He intended for some to be saved and others left to thier sinful desires resulting in thier damnation. My point in my origional statement about God having to be watching a world already in motion was that he could not be passive in individual salvation otherwise. I have no misunderstandings about the difference between knowing something and causing it. What I’m saying is that He knew all the details of creating and then created in a way that brought all those details into reality. Would you agree with the statement: All known results of a voluntary action are intended by that action? An example of this would be my knowing that throwing a brick though glass will break the glass. If I throw the brick though the glass then it is an unavoidable fact that I intended to break the glass. If God knew that the results of creating the way he did would include the Holocaust, the fall of man, the crucifiction of Christ, and the damnation of all of the nonelect then it is also an unavoidable fact that God intended those results. The perfect foreknowledge of an omnicient creator logically prevents Him from being passive in the results of His creation. As a Calvinist I do not believe that God actively causes people to reject His plan of salvation when they may have otherwise followed Him. He created Adam as a good creature, but not an omnicient creature. Because of his lack of knowledge, Adam believed the lies of the serpent and the fall occured. God intended for this to happen, and since then men naturally reject God. Everyone sins and deserves damnation. No sinner has been forced to committ sins that they didn’t want to committ. Grace by definition is undeserved and God gives it to some undeserving sinners. The sinners who don’t recieve grace can’t complain of unfairness because they never deserved grace. In this sense God does not cause some to go to hell, because He never causes them to do anything that thier sinfull nature doesn’t want to do, including rejecting Him. In the sense that God created a world good but where sin would enter and as a result particular, known individuals would be eternally damned; God is the primary cause of everything including salvation and damnation. If this violates some peoples idea of free will… oh well. I would like to know where in scripture it teaches that the will of man is such a sacred thing. I believe the Holocaust happened because God intended it and like all things that happen, we know from scripture, they are “according to the purpose of His will.” and ultimately they “work for the good of those who love Him.” Noncalvinist seem to believe horrible things like the Holocaust happen because the sovreign Creator of the universe refuses to violate the will of some of His creatures. If there was no specific purpose, in the Holocaust, that worked toward accomplishing God’s grand plan, Then I wish God had violated Hitler’s will. Tell me which theology is God centerd and which is man centerd. I have been rambling on longer than I intended to in this post, but I ask that every one who reads these posts really consider these things with an open mind. I believe I follow calvinism to it’s logical end. Please do the same with the idea of corporate election without bias. Above all may God bless all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, both reformed and unreformed.

        Matt

        Just wanted to clear up something that I caught in what I posted above. The statement about God being passive in His foreknowing the Holocaust requiring him to be a bystander in a world already in motion is something that I agree with. The intention of my response above was to say that I do not believe that He is a bystander in a world already in motion. You claim that this statement “works for me.” Since your position in this whole debate is that God IS PASSIVE in individual election, something Calvinists do not believe, your claim that He is a bystander in a world already in motion logically requires that He either was not omnicient at the time of creation or He didn’t do the creating. If He was omnicient and created, then He actively and knowingly created a world with an inevitible Holocaust.

          Eric Hankins

          Matt,

          We are clear on where we disagree. You think God causes things like Holocausts and the damnation of sinners to hell without respect to their response to the gospel. I don’t. You deny that humans have free will in the libertarian sense. I affirm it. You think God caused the Holocaust and I think humans, using their free-will caused it. I think I stand with the vast majority of Southern Baptists on these issues.

          Without a doubt, God created a universe in which free will matters and has unbelievably painful consequences that He knew about ahead of time. He decided that it was worth the price of His Son in order to honor the free will of humans, which makes covenant possible, and still bring the world to His intended conclusion, which is to have a redeemed People on redeemed planet in redeemed relationship with Himself.

          Matt

          Of course I don’t believe God causes the damnation of sinners WITHOUT respect to thier response to the gospel. They are damned because of thier rejection of God. Although God decreed thier rebellion from eternity, they rebelled because they wanted to according to thier sinfull nature. Do you think Judas will be excused from punishment because he helped carry out God’s plan of salvation? God decreed and foretold Judas’ betrayal, but Judas acted out of selfishness. The scripture says what Joseph’s brothers “meant for evil God meant for good.” Were they excused since thier sinfull actions furthered God’s plan. Ofcourse not, because they chose to sin. In the same way, all the sinners in hell chose to rebel against God, there is not one person in hell who’s natural response to the Gospel wasn’t honored.
          I must say I appreciate your candor about how highly noncalvinists esteem the free will of man; however it is extremely troubling to me. I don’t see much difference in your statement, “He decided it was worth the price of His Son, in order to honor the free will of humans” and just saying God sacrificed His Son at the alter of human free will. If Jesus had to suffer and die to preserve our free will, then I would like to be the first to request that our wills be violated. Do you believe that children are molested and killed because God holds the free will of pedophiles and perverted psychopaths above the children’s lives? Was Hitler’s free will more important to God than the lives of millions that were killed in the Holocaust. There’s no denying that God knows these sins before they are committed and has the power to stop them. It sure sounds like you’re telling me that the only thing that keeps God from stopping these evils is His reverence for the free will of man. Once again, who is supporting a God centered theology and who is supporting a man centered theology?

          Bob Hadley

          Hey Matt,

          Not sure but this might be the first time you and I have interacted. Greetings from Florida!

          Your initial statement in this last comment is interesting. “Of course I don’t believe God causes the damnation of sinners WITHOUT respect to thier response to the gospel. They are damned because of thier rejection of God. Although God decreed thier rebellion from eternity, they rebelled because they wanted to according to thier sinfull nature.”

          I do not agree with this statement at all BUT it seems to me your statement is highly contradictory and an effort to say something that is not logically correct. If God decreed their rebellion then according to calvinist doctrine, “that is the only outcome because God’s decrees are always carried out.” So these individuals did not simply act according to their sinful natures; they rebelled because of God’s Divine decree. If their response was the response God decreed, then the decree takes precedence over their own natures. This statement simply cannot be true.

          God did foretell of Judas’ betrayal; however, Judas’ acted on his own to do what he did. He could have repented; Jesus’ destiny with Calvary would have still taken place. However, God knew what was going to happen; while it is certainly true He could have prevented it, He did not cause it. If a piece of fine china falls from a 3d story balcony, I know it will will break when it hits the floor; that does not mean I had anything to do with the china falling. God created the world and everything in it; the principle of “everything has an equal and opposite reaction” is true because God designed our world with that reality. He understands every action and reaction but that does not mean He causes it.

          Now to your tirade on “free will.” Your assertions here are almost beyond comprehension! WOW. I am confident you did not give much thought to the following statement, “God sacrificed His Son at the alter of human free will. If Jesus had to suffer and die to preserve our free will”; Jesus did not have to die to preserve man’s free will; as I see it Jesus had to die to provide pardon because of man’s free will… not to preserve it! Seems to me it was too well preserved long before Jesus went to the cross.

          The examples you pointed to are almost ridiculous… You wrote, “Do you believe that children are molested and killed because God holds the free will of pedophiles and perverted psychopaths above the children’s lives? Was Hitler’s free will more important to God than the lives of millions that were killed in the Holocaust.” Do you really want to go there?

          I have to agree with Dr. Hankins here… “You think God caused the Holocaust (and the molestation and death of little children) and I think humans, using their free-will caused it. I think I stand with the vast majority of Southern Baptists on these issues.”

          ><>”

          Matt

          Hello Bob,

          Just wanted to clear a couple of things up. There is certainly nothing contradictory about the idea that God’s decree is the primary cause for everything while the desires of sinful creatures provide a secondary or more immediate cause. Joseph’s brothers and God both intended the same thing but for different purposes; “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” You say that God’s decree is always carried out so, “These individuals did not simply act according to thier sinfull natures; they rebelled because of God’s devine decree.” You go on to say, “the decree takes precidence over thier own natures.” You make it clear that you object to this idea; and, correct me if I assume too much here, I think this is because you believe that God’s decree in these situations clears the sinner of responsibility since God decreed the sin would happen. Paul anticipated this objection in Romans 9:19 & 20. I’ll just let him answer this one directly, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?” I would also like to point out that this anticipated objection would make no sense at all if Paul was talking about corporate election here.
          About Judas you say, “he could have repented; Jesus’ desiny with Calvary would have still taken place.” This statement begs the question of whether or not he, as a fallen man, could have repented. Your example of a piece of fine china falling from a third story balcony doesn’t come close to applying to God’s knowledge of man’s sins and rejection of Him. You said, “I know it will break when it hits the floor; that does not mean I had anything to do with the china falling.” Of course you wouldn’t have had anything to do with it. If you were omnicient though and you had created the china, the building, the balcony, and the sidewalk below with perfect knowledge that the china would fall then by creating things that way, you did have something to do with it.
          As for my “tirade” on free will. I believe there is a misunderstanding where you quote me. You take the last part of one sentence and the first part of another and seem to lose my intended meaning in the quote. This may be partially due to my poor use of grammer when just typing off the top of my head like this. My point in the statement about God sacrificing His Son at the alter of human free will was that this awfull statement that reverses the roles of man and God sounds dangerously close to Eric’s statement, “He decided it was worth the price of His Son in order to honor the free will of humans.” Ofcourse I believe Jesus death was to accomplish the reconciliation of God and sinners. I believe God chose this specific plan of salvation because it best accomplishes his purposes. Eric’s statement about Christ’s death was that it was “in order to honor the free will of humans” I don’t belive he meant that Jesus’ death was meant to accomplish the bringing of honor to our free will, but it does seem to mean that redemption was accomplished through Christ’s suffering and death because any other way would have required the violation of man’s will. If this were the case, which it isn’t, I would definitely prefer to have my will violated. My point in bringing up pedophiles and perverted psychopaths, and yes I want to go there, is that noncalvinists hold the free will of man in such high esteem that it is thier explanation for why God allows these people to rape and kill children. If you are asked questions about why God allows these things or why He allowed the Holocaust when He clearly could have prevented it and your answer is because He wouldn’t violate the free will of man, then you are necessarily saying that the will of Hitler and perverts is more important to God than the lives of the victims. There seems to be no other reason for these horrible things happening. Calvinists believe that these things are awfull; however, they somehow accomplish something. We don’t always know exactly why bad things happen; but God knows, and tells us in the Bible that, like all other things, they are “in accordance with the purpose of his will” and they work toward His glory and the good of those that love Him.”
          As for your statement that the vast majority of Southern Baptists agree with you, that has no bearing on which side of this debate is right. At times in the past your statement was not true. The vast majority of people sitting in the pews of Southern Baptist churches have not really researched or thought deeply about the subject. This fact is why I think it is very important to have these debates. We need to be sure that we have a correct understanding of God and how He works. We need to make sure we are worshiping God as He is and not how we want Him to be. I believe we should worship God as the almighty Creator who created us for the purpose of glorifying Him. We exist for Him; He does not exist for us. The idea that He holds this high reverence for our free wills is unbiblical.
          Anyway, Bob, Eric, and everyone else on here; I hope you all have a wonderful Easter.

          Bob Hadley

          Matt,

          Thanks for your heart felt response… I am just now seeing it as this thread has grown to the point that it is indeed difficult to keep up!!! That is as you said, a good thing for the most part.

          You missed the point of what I said in the following statement…

          “If God decreed their rebellion (which is consistent with calvinist thinking) then according to calvinist doctrine, “that is the only outcome because God’s decrees are always carried out.” Because this is true, it also has to be true that these individuals did not simply act according to their sinful natures; they rebelled because of God’s Divine decree. If their response was the response God decreed, then the decree takes precedence over their own natures.” I made a couple changes to the original statement to help clarify my point.

          It had nothing to do with “clearing the sinner of the responsibilty” and resulting guilt…

          The point that I was making is this… if God decreed it it is no longer the result of man’s nature… because God’s decrees overstep everything including man’s nature, whatever that nature might be. Is that not the basis for irresistible grace; God’s effectual calling gives the totally depraved man a new nature which results in his repentance and new birth?

          The same thing must be true for the unregenerate if God’s decretive will is as the calvinist paints it. I believe God in His decretive will gave man the choice to chose Him and that choice brings God’s presence and His power and His provisions into our lives.

          When we choose anything other than Him, we sin because we have fallen short of His glory and that sin separates us further from His presence in our lives and that leads to waring in our members which creates problems in our environment which leads to all sorts of problems like murder, rape, and the like.

          God can certianly use those things for His glory but I do not believe for one minute that He is the One responsible for those thing happening in the world He created. The whole argument of God being subordinate to man’s free will is an arguement I have heard on a number of occasions in favor of support for God’s sovereignty… I submit there is a middle ground in that argument and that is where I will rest.

          May God bless you and your family as this Easter Weekend comes to a close… and a great one it has been indeed! May we celebrate the message of Easter every day as we share the greatest news this world will ever hear… as I closed my message this morning… I said…

          Praise God He is risen… He is not “there” referring to the empty tomb… praise God He is Here… referring to our congregation… and then I said more important than Him being here referring to the santuary, I said He needs to be “here” pointing to my heart.

          What a joy is it to be a part of the greatest service in the world… sharing the good news of the gospel with those He died to save!

          ><>”

          Matt

          Bob,
          Glad to hear you had a wonderful Easter. My wife, daughter, and myself had a great Resurection Day also.
          I didn’t intend to assume more than what you believe to be true when I wrote, “correct me if I assume too much here, I think this is because you believe that God’s decree in these situations clears the sinner of responsibility since God decreed the sin would happen.” All the objections that I have ever heard to the reformed doctrine of confluence have come from the belief that if God’s decree is the primary cause of everything, the sinner’s responsibility as a moral agent is deminished and the guilt of sin is then left with God. It still sounds like that is your objection when you write, “if God decreed it it is no longer the result of man’s nature… because God’s decrees overstep everything including man’s nature.” Wouldn’t an accurate paraphrase of that be: man’s sins are not the result of his nature but are the result of God’s decree. Again, correct me if I’m mistaken, but that seems to claim that God’s decree would take responsibility off a man for sinning since you believe God’s decrees overstep man’s nature.
          I also want to make sure that I am being understood when I state the reformed doctrine of confluence. We believe that God’s decree is the primary cause of everything, but that sin is still very much a result of man’s nature. We are in agreement that we seriously disagree on this point, and if by “oversteps man’s nature” you mean overides or violates man’s nature then we disagree there also. Calvinists believe that men provide the secondary or more immediate cause of many things that God decrees. This could be a good thing such as a doctor volunteering free medical services on a mission trip to a third world country or a bad thing such as Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. We DO NOT believe that God ever causes someone to sin in the sense that he works thier heart towards evil or makes them do a sinful thing that they would not have done. He has never placed a sinful desire in the heart of anyone. We believe that God created man knowing we would fall and with the intention of our fall. He did not lie to Adam or work his heart towards eating the fruit. Infact He told him not to eat it. God decreed the fall and intended for it to happen, but he was passive in that he simply allowed it to happen. Since the fall, we believe men are fallen and depraved. We all sin because it is in our natures. God has decreed that certain sins will happen. According to the Bible, these sins, like all things, are “according to the purpose of His will” and work toward God’s glory and the good of those who love Him. We believe that God does not decree sins that don’t ulimately work toward His purpose, and so no other senseless or purposeless sins exist. We see examples in scripture of God and men intending the same sinful acts but for different reasons. All the people responsible for Jesus death: Judas, Pilot, Herod, Ciaphas; committed the worst crime in human history for selfish, evil reasons. They also carried out thier parts in God’s plan of salvation. God accomplished an amazing, glorious thing using the same evil men who are at this moment enduring God’s punishment for thier parts in His accomplishment. This is because God never incited them in any way that would violate thier wills to do what they did. They did evil because it was what thier natures desired.
          When you say, “if God decreed it it is no longer the result of man’s nature.” I believe you are guilty of presenting a false dichotomy. You are implying that man’s nature can be responsible for sin or God can decree the sin as if these two things are mutually exclusive. The reformed doctrine of confluence teaches they can both be true and the Bible provides the examples. God’s decree is the primary and man’s actions are the secondary or immediate cause of the same thing.
          One more thing I would like to adress is how you equate God’s calling of the elect as stated in the point of irresistible grace with His passing over the nonelect. You say, “Is that not the basis for irresistible grace; God’s effectual calling gives the totally depraved man a new nature which results in his repentance and new birth?
          The same thing must be true for the unregenerate if God’s decretive will is as the calvinist paints it.” Yes we believe God works actively in the hearts of the elect regenerating them spiritually and giving them the desire to please and follow God. We DO NOT believe that God works actively in the hearts of the nonelect causing them to reject him though. Remember the point of total depravity? We believe they will all reject Him based on thier own sinfull desires; God would have no need of compelling them in any way. He just passively lets them continue being themselves.
          If nothing else, maybe we are getting a better idea of where the other is coming from. I do enjoy the discussion, and hope you and all my other brothers on here do also.

Jim Garlington

Outstanding article. I look forward to reading the rest.

Brad Whitt

Eric,

Thank you for your wonderful post. Thank you even more for your thoughtful, biblical, logical and winsome responses in the comment section. May we see more true Pastor/Theologians like you among the ranks of committed Southern Baptist leaders in the future.

Tim G

Great article and wonderful support in comment stream. You are a better theologian than your dad is a golfer! :)

Les

Gentlemen,

I may jump back in at some point. My Calvinists friends are very ably defending the faith as it is. I’m just too busy at the present.

I’ll say this. Ron, I agree with Boice and your statement, “Me … I just preach that sinners can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!”

Otherwise, I’m looking forward to Easter where we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the penal substitute for His people. i.e. paying for their sins, and not the sins of every human who would ever live!

    Joshua

    Les,

    Oh how you stir my friend. :) To stir more, everyone should have a listen to Southern Seminary’s Stephen Wellum and his recent faculty address on the necessity of Limited Atonement within Baptist ecclesiology. http://archive.org/details/DrStephenWellumSbtsWhatDoesTheExtentOfTheAtonementHaveToDoWith

      Les

      Joshua, it’s interesting how we are called inconsistent, essentially, as above. But if we dare accuse non Calvinists of inconsistency on the atonement, oh my. i.e. when we state that the bible teaches penal substitionary atonement (PSA) and that Jesus actually paid for actual sinners’ sins, and if one affirms that, then unlimited atonement falls apart else they are universalists. If the non Calvinists affirm PSA, then they affirm limited atonement. If they affirm unlimited atonement, they deny PSA. That’s a dangerous box to be in. I surely there are no Southern Baptists who deny PSA.

        Eric Hankins

        Joshua and Les,

        Again, I am so appreciative of your candor. Calvinism entails Limited Atonement. There is no way around it, 1 John 2:2 notwithstanding. I talk to a lot of Southern Baptists who want to ascribe to Calvinism, but they can’t stomach Limited Atonement, not realizing that the only option for them is universal salvation. Southern Baptists must understand that Calvinism entails all Five Points. I aver that the vast majority of Southern Baptists do not believe this and do not think it’s a good idea for others to believe this.

          Joshua

          Eric,

          According to many leaders and scholars within the SBC and out, they surmise that most of the SBC is semi-pelagian. If that is so, how much weight should be behind “what most Baptists believe and think is a good idea for others to believe?” The fact is, most churches need more building up in orthodox doctrine than fine-tuning.

          The founders of the SBC and most of those in the pulpit and pew had a Calvinist soteriology. Your comments are speaking as though Calvinism is so far from SBC identity that it should be condemned as a viable position in the SBC. Is this really what you believe regarding Calvinism in the SBC? And if “most of the SBC” believes this, do you believe they are wrong in such a belief?

          Bob Hadley

          Joshua,

          I would adamantly challenge any notion made by ANYONE that the SBC is largely semi-Pelagian. That assertion is completely baseless and since I have no idea WHAT “leaders and scholars” you are referring to, I would venture to guess that they are ones that you more frequently read. Th few charges I have seen make in this direction were made by calvinists.

          Make no mistake about it, SB’s do not believe man on his own has the ability apart from the work of God in their hearts to stand before God righteous. SB’s as a whole do not believe man has the ability to seek God apart from the work of the Scriptures and the convicting work of Holy Spirit in their hearts. Conversion is not effected by the efforts of men. It is solely the result of God’s grace and man’s faith that brings about his conversion.

          Just because the overwhelming number of SB’s in the pew and the majority in the pulpit are not calvinist, that does not make them semi-Pelagian. I am confident you understand this.

          ><>”

          Joshua

          Bob,

          I will wait for Eric’s response before replying to yours.

          Johnathan Pritchett

          Joshua, I have already pointed out above that you don’t even get right what SBC Calvinists think.

          The Semi-Pelagian charge is absurd. Heck, I wouldn’t even call Pelagius a “Pelagian” in the sense people toss that label around these days…though I am sure no one on this board has even read Pelagius to know what he got wrong and what he got RIGHT even.

          Ask any SBC pew-sitter and they’ll wholeheartedly affirm “total depravity” if we must use such language. And wholeheartedly affirm the necessity of God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit prior to conversion (but most non-Calvinists in the know would reject to calling that work “regeneration” proper).

          But they also think that such grace can be rejected, and so does the Holy Spirit, since He inspired Stephen to say “…you are always resisting the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 7:51)

          Most SBC folks I know believe that everyone can say no to God, and only by God’s grace can they say yes.

          But you can’t define grace to be a categorical error (as in being irresistible), or make it to mean something other than what charis meant to 1st century peasants in a patron/client reciprocity society from which the NT Biblical texts came.

    Eric Hankins

    1 John 2:2: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

    You guys are telling me that on Easter Sunday, you are going to tell your people that Jesus did not die for the sins of everyone in the congregation, only the Elect? I’m telling you, not only is that very troubling theologically, it is not going to be accepted in Southern Baptist churches. It’s not us. And it is why alot of young guys are getting themselves into trouble when they go into churches and start teaching this.

      Les

      Eric,

      I’m not preaching tomorrow, but if I were and I would not say that Jesus died on the cross and propitiated the sins for every person who ever has or ever would live. I would not tell them that Jesus’s death actually put away the sins of every person who ever has or ever would live. I would not tell them that Jesus was the penal substitute for every person who ever has or ever would live. I do not believe the scripture teaches that.

      Now though I do not personally know you, I’m confident that you are not a universalist. But the implication of believing that the scripture teaches that Jesus propitiated the sins of every person who ever has or ever would live is every person who ever has or ever would live has had their sins forgiven. If that is the case, then every person who ever has or ever would live would go to heaven when they die.

      Now it is debatable what 1 John 2.2 means, but whatever it exactly means, it cannot mean that Jesus was the propitiation for every person who ever has or ever would live.

        Eric Hankins

        Les,

        It’s really not debatable what 1 John 2:2 means. It’s only debatable for you because it really creates problems for Limited Atonement, which I don’t think is warranted theologically as well as biblically.

        Now, the whole line of reasoning that Jesus’ atonement must clear only actual sin is, once again, the demand of your deterministic view of God and creation. Since we are merely actors on a stage, our will is out of the equation, leaving only God’s will as operative. Since salvation is only through the death of Christ, and since human response does not matter, if Christ died for everyone, everyone would go to heaven. So, Christ’s atonement is limited.

        A question: within the Israelite sacrificial system, was the blood sacrifice sufficient to clear the sin debt of the Israelite who was unrepentent in his heart? Was this because there was something deficient in blood? Was blood sacrifice limited only to certain Israelites? If the answer is “no,” then it was possible for blood payment to be made for a specific individual’s sin without that individual’s sin actually being forgiven. Why aren’t those sins forgiven? Because the sinner chooses rebellion rather than repentance. And so it is with the shed blood of Christ, shed for all, bringing about forgiveness only for those repent and believe.

        Moreover, what I want those who are reading this conversation to understand is that you are articulating the correct Calvinist position. Limited Atonement is central to the system. It means that Christ did not die for everyone. It means that 1 John 2:2 cannot be taken plainly. The question for Southern Baptists is: Is this what we believe?

          Les

          Eric,

          I’ll be back later. About to do some outside work. For now I want to address your statement, “It’s really not debatable what 1 John 2:2 means.”

          The meaning of world in 1John 2:2
          The Greek word for world (kosmos) has several meanings in Scripture. First, world in Scripture can refer to the entire elect both Jew and Gentiles. Secondly, world can refer to the public who surround Christ, especially the Jews. Thirdly, world can refer to all kinds of people, such as kings and subjects. Fourth, world refers to humankind under the righteousness judgment of God. Finally, world can refer to the creation, or in the classical sense, to an orderly universe, or to a great number of people.[2] Dr. Walvoord a conservative Christian theologian offering a different perspective on the atonment taught that the phrase world in 1John 2:2 means that Christ in His death made a forensic provision for the entire world and has provided reconciliation for all, not just the elect.[3]
          John teaches that the whole world does not mean that every person will be saved, because the forgiveness of sins only comes to those who repent and believe the Gospel (1st John 2:4, 23; 3:10; 5:12; John 3:18; 5:24). 1John 2:1-2 is a difficult passage as it makes a distinction between a limited atonement and a universal one.
          There are several different ways in which this verse might be understood. John may be stressing the universal application of Christ’s work. When the scope of this verse is not restricted Dr. Boice a Reformed Pastor-Theologian believes that this passage teaches universal salvation and not universal atonement.[4] Dr. Towns a conservative Christian theologian believes that when one understands the meaning of the satisfaction Christ made for sinners on the Cross that the atonement cannot be limited.[5] Dr. Grudem a leading Reformed theologian believes that the preposition “for” in 1 John 2:2 is ambiguous with respect to the specific sense in which Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the world. He continues by stating it would be consistent with the language of the verse to think that John is simply saying that Christ is the atoning sacrifice who is available to pay for the sins of the world.[6]
          Dr. Long a Reformed theologian notes there are four primary references in the New Testament where the word “propitiation” is used (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). Three of the four references clearly teach propitiation is strictly limited to a definite people, namely, the elect of God.[7] Dr. Lightner espouses the view of four point Calvinists when he explains that the meaning of propitiation in 1 John 2:2 means all mankind without exception.[8] Dr. John Owen a famous Puritan theologian responds to the objection raised by Dr. Lightner when he writes that the issues in 1John 2:2 lies in the extent of propitiation and world in 1 John 2:2. Owen continues by stating that the four point Calvinist believes the meaning is obvious as the words themselves, they say, without any wresting, signify all men in the world, that is, world means world. Owen then asks: On what ground do they perish, all their sins having been expiated? [9]

          Seems there is some debate.

          Les

          Eric,

          You: “Those in favor of ignoring the plain sense of 1 John 2:2 are Reformed.”

          Well that is one way to slam good and godly men of God who have a different interpretation than you.

          Now it is possible that Jerry Bridges and Michael Horton and the late Jim Boice and JI packer and of course Calvin and John Owen are just “ignoring the plain sense of 1 John 2:2.” It’s possible that you and the other non-Calvinists are the only ones who have the corner on interpreting that text. Yes, all that’s possible.

          But I prefer that at this point you and these other godly men have diligently studied the text and have humbly come to different conclusions.

          Les

          Eric,

          You ask, “A question: within the Israelite sacrificial system, was the blood sacrifice sufficient to clear the sin debt of the Israelite who was unrepentent in his heart? and ff.

          I think the writer of Hebrews has already answered your questions:

          For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
          (Hebrews 10:1-3; Hebrews 10:4-7 ESV) For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
          Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
          “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
          but a body have you prepared for me;
          in burnt offerings and sin offerings
          you have taken no pleasure.
          Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
          as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
          (Hebrews 10:1-3; Hebrews 10:4-7 ESV)

          And then the writer puts a ribbon on it:

          And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

          (Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV)

        Tim Rogers

        Les,

        Your statement proves something that I have suspected all the time–Calvinists trying to state the non-Calvinists position do so from a Calvinists framework.

        the implication of believing that the scripture teaches that Jesus propitiated the sins of every person who ever has or ever would live is every person who ever has or ever would live has had their sins forgiven.

        You have completely left out man’s free will. That is what keeps us out of Universalism. You are still saying that we have no choice even when we point out that 1 John 2:2 is state clearly that salvation is dependent on Jesus and his blood. You leave out completely the preceding verses of 1 John 1:9. It is clearly telling us that we confess our sins–Free Will. You also leave out the following verse of 1 John 2:3 how do we know that we know him?–we keep his commandments! How can we keep his commandments–We must ask him to forgive us of our sins.

        Now, help me understand what “world” means if it doesn’t mean the entire world.

          Eric Hankins

          Les,

          The resource you are quoting proves my point. Those in favor of ignoring the plain sense of 1 John 2:2 are Reformed. Those who see universal atonement are not.

          Les

          Tim,

          I think we both know that I’ll say that “world” in this context means not just the Jewish “world” as they would expect but would include all peoples…races. Maybe tonight I’ll have a chance to point to why I believe that.

          But perhaps it would be helpful for you, Eric, Bob and other non-Calvinists who interpret 1 John 2.2 as referring to every human that ever has or ever would live…maybe it would be helpful for you to define propitiation for us Calvinists. Maybe we are using different definitions of what propitiation means. Could you do that?

          Les

          Les

          Eric,

          This should have been here as a reply to you.

          Eric,

          You: “Those in favor of ignoring the plain sense of 1 John 2:2 are Reformed.”

          Well that is one way to slam good and godly men of God who have a different interpretation than you.

          Now it is possible that Jerry Bridges and Michael Horton and the late Jim Boice and JI packer and of course Calvin and John Owen are just “ignoring the plain sense of 1 John 2:2.” It’s possible that you and the other non-Calvinists are the only ones who have the corner on interpreting that text. Yes, all that’s possible.

          But I prefer that at this point you and these other godly men have diligently studied the text and have humbly come to different conclusions.

      Eric Hankins

      Joshua,

      This post is my answer to your question about semi-pelagianism. For some reason, no “reply” button was available after your post.

      First, semi-pelagianism, when used in a Protestant context, has come to mean “Arminian” or, more to the point, “anything but Calvinism.” It is virtually equated with “synergism” so that anything but monergism is semi-Pelagian and bad. Therefore, the only real orthodox option is Calvinism, so everyone should be a Calvinist. This, of course, is viciously circular reasoning. “Semi-pelagian” is a useless term, terribly pejorative, hopelessly mired in medieval categories. No one thinks that way or talks that way because that worldview has been displaced. It’s just used by Calvinists these days because it sounds fancy and old and nobody knows what in the world it means, but it sounds bad. And no one wants to be in the vicinity of Pelagius. I reject the term. I am arguing that we get off the grid mediated to us by the Augustine/Calvin synthesis.

      Second, most of the SBC is semi-pelagian? Most of the Southern Baptist Convention is heterodox? Does that include Southern Baptists like me? I think men like Adrian Rogers and W.A. Criswell represent where most Southern Baptists are in their soteriology. Do you think they were semi-pelagian? If you do, I wouldn’t go around saying it. I don’t think most churches need a “building up of orthodox doctrine” (which mainly means indoctrination into Calvinism).

      Third, what leaders within the SBC are saying that most of the SBC is semi-pelagian? I don’t know of anyone outside the Founders group who is saying that. I guess there are some Presbyterians making that charge, but I don’t really think Presbyterians should be setting our theological agenda.

      Fourth, “how much weight should be behind what ‘most most Baptists believe and think others ought to believe?’” Uh, all of it. Unless we are moving to a presbyterian polity, the SBC will reflect the will of member churches, which are autonomous. The only way to change the soteriology of the SBC would be to take over some seminaries, produce Calvinist pastors, take over the literature used in the Sunday Schools and slowly move all the churches to a Calvinist soteriology. Hey, wait a second . . .

      Fifth, the founders of the SBC and most in the pulpits and pews also wanted missionaries to be able to have slaves. A conviction isn’t correct because it’s old.

      Sixth, this growing problem didn’t start with guys like me condemning Calvinism. For instance, the SBC gladly placed Al Mohler at Southern knowing full-well he was a Calvinist. We were proud and appreciative of his erudition and leadership. But the neo-Calvinists started the name calling and pushing, saying things like, “most Southern Baptists are semi-pelagian.” If they don’t want a fight, they shouldn’t use fighting words. So, now that the issue is being pushed, it looks like we’re going to argue it all the way out. I, for one, believe the logical conclusions of Calvinism are clear and they are dangerous, and I will be encouraging other Southern Baptists not to subscribe to it. I think that will be pretty easy because most of them don’t.

        Bob Hadley

        Very well said.

        FYI… when the reply button is not immediately below ones comment, go to the first reply button above it and that will place your comment in the last position under that particular thread… sometimes that is more difficult to follow than simply doing what you did and beginning a new one.

        Appreciate your input!!!

        ><>”

        Brad Whitt

        Eric,

        Again, thank you for your wise, Biblical and seasoned response. It not only shows the years you have spent in study in the seminary, but perhaps even more, so the years you have spent serving as the pastor of a local Southern Baptist Church. May God continue to raise up Pastor/Theologians like yourself in the SBC.

        Les

        Eric,

        I know I have a couple of other questions on here waiting for a reply from you, but you said above,

        “I, for one, believe the logical conclusions of Calvinism are clear and they are dangerous…”

        Could you please be more specific on the dangerous conclusions of calvinism?

        Thanks,

        Les

        Joshua

        Eric,

        If you do not believe that Southern Baptists are in dire doctrinal straits then I will just leave you with the recent words of Dr. Chuck Quarles who is a Vice President of Louisiana College, your Alma Mater, and the dean of Caskey School of Divinity.

        “The claim that Baptists did not win the battle for the Bible will probably puzzle many readers. However, evidence to support this claim is plentiful.

        For the last three years, Louisiana College has administered a newly-developed BASE (Belief Assessment of Spiritual Essentials) exam to incoming freshmen to determine how well they understand the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

        These are not the lofty doctrines that only erudite ivory-tower theologians discuss and debate in the back rooms of dusty libraries; these are essential gospel truths that a person must understand and believe to be considered truly Christian.

        Such doctrines include humanity’s sinful and lost condition, Jesus’ identity as God, the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation, and our Lord’s bodily resurrection.

        Here are some of our discoveries:

        • 78 percent believe that all people are basically good and have no real need for a Savior

        • 65 percent cannot identify a simple definition of new birth in a multiple-choice question. They think that being “born again” means experiencing reincarnation or transmigration in which a person who has died returns to earth in another life form so that they can make up for the sins of the past.

        • 54 percent think that faith in Jesus is unnecessary for salvation. In their view, as long as a person believes in a god and has fallen in love with him, her, or it, he is right with that god.

        • 42 percent believe that people go to heaven because of their personal morality rather than because of Jesus’ sacrificial death.

        • 32 percent do not know that Christianity affirms the Deity of Jesus Christ, even though the NT repeatedly insists that faith in Jesus as God is necessary for salvation.

        • 25 percent do not know that Christianity claims that Jesus literally rose from the dead.

        Overall, our freshman scored an 67 percent on the BASE exam, a failing grade, despite the fact that 90 percentpercent of the college’s incoming freshmen claim to be Christians and nearly 60 percent of them grew up in our own Louisiana Baptist churches!”

        Source: Baptist Mesage – Southern Baptists must learn to ‘choose our battles wisely’ http://www.baptistmessage.com/node/7527

        Mark

        An Arminian quote on American churches which would encompass the SBC as well.

        Today, semi-Pelagianism is the default theology of most American evangelical Chrsitians. This is revealed in the popularity of cliches such as “If you’ll take one step toward God, he’ll come the rest of the way toward you,” and “God votes for you, Satan votes against you, and you get the deciding vote,” coupled with the almost total neglect of human depravity and helplessness in spiritual matters. – Roger E. Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2006), 30-31.

        David gatch

        Dear Brother,

        What are the logical conclusions that are dangerous?

Les

Oh, and :)

Ron Hale

Eric,
By the time I began studying for the ministry in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Southern Baptists had moved away from Calvinism for almost a century. In my day, I didn’t face any Champions of Calvinism or Giants from Geneva. We did face a little thing called the Conservative Resurgence.

Apparently, some very determined Reformed thinking men rode the coattails of the CR and began working very diligently in Calvinizing the SBC. Ernest C. Reisinger wrote about the beginnings of The Founders Movement and its early participants before his death. Many of those early participants are now and have been in Baptist colleges and seminaries for 25 years.

Their momentum and morale seemed to increase dramatically about 10 years ago. Many have been wowed and wooed into this mysterious maze of secret wills, secret calls, where “world” means “the elect,” “depraved” means dead as a rotting fish, and “free will” means one is free to do whatever the divine potter decrees you to do. I know some that found their way out of the maze (amazing).

Since you are still one of the younger SBC pastors …

1. Were there things (leaders, books, conferences, etc.) that attracted you to the Calvinist movement?
2. What caused you to pull back, or what were the things that kept you in a more traditional Baptist soteriology?
3. If you had a 23 year old son going into a SBC seminary today, what would be your greatest advice for him?
Blessings,

Ron Hale

    Joshua

    Ron,

    So Calvinism had a 10-15 year run in the SBC back in the 1850/60s?

    Eric Hankins

    Ron,

    I am probably on the old side of the “younger pastor” group (40). My sense is that the Reformed “wave” really hit with the popularity of Piper’s “Desiring God” right around 2000. I had already been serving churches for a decade and was already in Ph.D. studies. Seems like most of the guys that are really for it are 5-15 years younger than I.

    1. I was never attracted to the Calvinist movement. I encountered my first real Calvinist professor during my M.Div. work. We had some lively debates, but I was never moved by the arguments. Other than that professor, Reformed theology was not really on my radar. All through Ph.D. work, it received scant attention. I preach in a university town, and Calvinism came on suddenly with the popularity of Driscoll, Piper and Platt and the Passion Conference with the students.

    2. I sat under the tremendous pulpit ministry of my father, Dr. David Hankins, throughout my formative years. Dad is a tremendous expositor of the Word. He preached the Bible. He lifted up Christ every Sunday. The churches grew tremendously in breadth, depths, and kingdom impact. Myriads came to Christ over the years through his preaching. I heard regularly about the Sovereignty of God, the greatness of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, the authority of Scripture, the seriousness of sin, the call to obedience and mission, and the fact the God desired for everyone to be saved. Dad never appealed to Reformed theology in order to make these biblical claims. I went to conventions and conferences for years where I heard men like Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Mac Brunson, Jack Graham, O.S. Hawkins, Johnny Hunt, Ronny Floyd, David Jeremiah, James Merritt, Fred Luter, Paige Patterson and others preach powerfully without any reference to Reformed theology. I went to Southern Baptists seminaries where I was taught a high view of Scripture and simple soteriology that said Christ died for everyone and everyone who heard could be saved and that, if I believed that, I’d better “go” because my going mattered.

    3. I’d tell my son to take all kinds of different professors and hear the different perspectives, but to stand up to any pressure to embrace Reformed theology. It’s sort of the cool thing right now, but it has implications that must be rejected.

      Ron Hale

      Thanks Eric,
      I appreciate the time and attention you gave in your reply … and … thanks for the tone and tenor throughout your comments. You are a Christian gentleman and scholar! May the Living Lord bless you on Resurrection Day!

        Joshua

        Ron,

        Still waiting for your evidence of Calvinism having merely a 10-20 year influence back in the 19th century.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “1. Were there things (leaders, books, conferences, etc.) that attracted you to the Calvinist movement?”

    I don’t know if 35 y/o pastor is “young” or not, but I went the other way. I grew up under the teaching of Dr. Steve Lawson. But as I grew and learned more about the Bible and the culture(s) from which it came, I realized that the presuppositions and hermeneutics of Calvinism are incorrect, so I had to reject it.

    “2. What caused you to pull back, or what were the things that kept you in a more traditional Baptist soteriology?”

    I have no idea what a traditional Baptist soteriology is, so I can not answer (in reverse) here.

    “3. If you had a 23 year old son going into a SBC seminary today, what would be your greatest advice for him?”

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Consume all perspectives, compare conjecture with Scripture, and never, ever accept a proof-text citation as support for any point in any book without checking it out for yourself.

    Jimmy

    Ron:

    You said, “Apparently, some very determined Reformed thinking men rode the coattails of the CR and began working very diligently in Calvinizing the SBC.”

    What are their names and exactly what are they doing (specific example) ?

Charles

Eric, Hello!

Brilliant! Perhaps when Dr. Vines said, “MOVE,” he meant, “MOVE to Southern Seminary and teach theology to Dr. Mohler and the rest of them.” Or “MOVE to Florida and teach the doctrine of election to Tom Ascol.

Just wishful thinking on my part.

Charles

Bob Hadley

Here is my thought for the day….

I believe God gave us the choice to choose. We had no choice in the matter. Additionally, While God gave us the choice to choose, He did not give us the choice to choose the consequences of our choices. He reserved that for Himself. God in His sovereignty chose to make us sovereign over our own choices so that He could make provisions for those who chose to choose Him!

Just had glory bumps come over me! Happy Easter to all! (Here I do mean ALL… not just the elect.)

><>”

    Les

    Bob, again Happy Easter to you. But could you restate please that paragraph above about God giving us a choice to choose and us not having a choice in that matter of choosing?

      Bob Hadley

      God gave us the choice to choose. We had no choice in that choice. God made that choice for us. (The choice or responsibility to choose that is.)

      God also chose the consequences of our choices.

      God in His sovereignty chose to make us sovereign over our own choices so that He could make provisions for those who choose to choose Him!

Tim Rogers

Les,

Lost the “reply” button so I will respond to your 1 John 2:2 response here. If you condition the word “world” to the Jews only we have serious problems with scripture application today. If “world” does not apply to everyone who ever lived or ever will live then please express to me how we can say the God so loved the “world” all who lived and all who ever will live?

Also, if “world” in 1 John 2:2 is speaking of the “world of the elect” then we have a serious issue with 1 John 2:15. You see Les, “world” means “world”. The meaning of the word is the meaning of the word. It seems that some want to argue that “is” depends on how someone defines “is”. I think we have already debated the absurdity of something like that.

    Les

    Tim,

    First, would you take a moment and answer my query about your definition of propitiation.

    Second, are you then saying that when we see “world” anywhere in scripture it is referring to every person that ever has or ever will live? I just want to make sure I understand your position.

    Thanks.

      Tim Rogers

      Les,

      Sorry, I did not answer that did I? :) From what I understand it is the appeasing of divine wrath. Thus, Jesus’ death on the cross appeased God’s wrath that will be poured out on sinful humanity. It doesn’t stop at just the appeasing of God’s anger, but propitiation also means that Jesus’ death is the atonement for the sins of mankind.

      Now, when the Apostle John said “Not for ours only” you must ask if John’s sins were atoned for simply because he was in the group of Jesus. If you say yes, then you have a problem with Judas being apart of that group. Thus, the atonement, or the propitiation, is completed and is now available. It is not automatic, it is applicable to those that, as the Apostle John freely chose, choose to repent of their sins and ask Jesus to come into their heart.

        Tim Rogers

        Les,

        Let me re-phrase my point on “propitiation”. According to the way it is used in 1 John 2:2 is is referencing the “appeasing of the wrath of God” toward mankind. In other words it is the turning away of God’s wrath from sinful mankind. However, one cannot stop at 1 John 2:2 one has to look to Romans 3:25 to understand 1 John 2:2. In Romans 3:25 it is evident that Jesus is the “propitiation through faith” which reveals a conscious decision on my part. Thus, 1 John 2:2 does not teach universalism which is what you are trying to say I, Eric, and others are bordering on. You see we hold you to “world” because “world” in this context means “world”.

        Les

        Tim,

        I agree that it appeases the wrath of God. I agree is is atonement and it is in the place of somebody. That is why we speak of substitutionary atonement. It appeases His wrath. The penalty of someone’s sin was poured out on Jesus. It is expiation…satisfaction of the sinner’s guilt. Thus penal substitutionary atonement.

        But when you then say that the wrath of God was appeased for sinners who will still suffer the wrath of God, well that’s when we differ and part ways on the nature or the atonement and propitiation. When you say that the guilt of sinners who will still be declared guilty by the Judge of the universe (because of their sin and rejection of Jesus) was put on Jesus, well that’s a problem.

        Again, whatever world means in 1 John it can’t mean that every person ever had their guilt put on Jesus and the wrath of God appeased on their behalf and that Jesus was their substitution.

        Now I know you are not a universalist. But if you are not, your position evacuates the atonement, its penal and substitutionary nature, of actuality.

          Tim Rogers

          Les,

          But when you then say that the wrath of God was appeased for sinners who will still suffer the wrath of God, well that’s when we differ and part ways on the nature or the atonement and propitiation. When you say that the guilt of sinners who will still be declared guilty by the Judge of the universe (because of their sin and rejection of Jesus) was put on Jesus, well that’s a problem.

          You just removed all responsibility from man. That is the reason we part ways. According to your position God will drag people kicking and screaming–“turn me loose, I do not want to go”–into Heaven. Why? Because they are the elect and have no choice in this matter.

          Les

          Tim,

          You said, “You just removed all responsibility from man. That is the reason we part ways. According to your position God will drag people kicking and screaming–”turn me loose, I do not want to go”–into Heaven. Why? Because they are the elect and have no choice in this matter.”

          Brother, where in the world did you get that from what I wrote? Please show me what I said that led you to believe that I have removed responsibility from man, and what I wrote that led you to believe that my position has God dragging a sinner kicking and screaming into heaven with no choice in the matter.

          And, do you believe that the atonement is both penal and substitutionary for the sinner?

      Les

      Tim,

      Just to clean up lingering questions, did you answer my question to you,

      “are you then saying that when we see “world” anywhere in scripture it is referring to every person that ever has or ever will live?”

      Thanks.

    Chad Ray

    If “world” does not apply to everyone who ever lived or ever will live then please express to me how we can say the God so loved the “world” all who lived and all who ever will live?

    So by this definition, Romans 1:8″ First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Does this mean Noah knew about the Roman Christians faith? Just curious?

    thanks,
    Chad

Dan Nelson

I’ve been out of this discussion for awhile but Joshua raised the issue about witnessing to everyone and God calling the elect out. We don’t know who the elect are but the elect will come forth by responding to the gospel and trusting Christ to save them. I agree wholeheartedly with this approach (witness to everyone).

But the question I would ask is this: Do we ever witness to the wrong person? If people within the group will never respond would we not be saying we are witnessing or preaching to the wrong people thus it makes evangelism a mistake to go to everyone since there are people who will not respond. I know we don’t know and God will convict those who will be saved. But it does make evangelism a little shallow if there are people we witness to who will never trust Christ.

It would be interesting in seeing a 10 year study of churches whose pastor is a 5 Point Calvinist does not give an invitation and will not aggressively share Christ with people and then other churches whose pastor does all these things and leads the church to have an evangelistic climate. I wonder who would have the most baptisms and conversions recorded.

The problem is that many 5 pointers say that numbers are just a sham and they don’t count or care to count. Well then we should have none of the numbers counted in Acts. They are one measuring stick but not the only one.

These are just thoughts that sort of reinforce my belief that if we believe certain people will not respond to the gospel ever (they’ve been elected not to) then I can’t help but believe it will decrease our motivation to share with them the greatest message in the world.

    Tim Rogers

    Dan,

    Just some other thoughts on witnessing to someone we do not know are the elect. What happens if we witness to someone and they want to receive Christ but after releasing to Christ find out they are not the elect? Also, how do we know we are not “casting pearl before the swine” when we are witnessing to someone we have no idea could be saved even if they wanted to be saved? One more thought. What does it say about our integrity to speak to someone about their opportunity to receive Christ when we tell them that Jesus has a free gift that is available for them to receive?

      Joshua

      Dan and Tim,

      All of your concerns have been answered numerous times in comment streams and are also available in the most basic books written on Calvinism. The fact that these basic questions are being asked year after year is astonishing.

      We are told to proclaim the Gospel and call all men to repentance. The Bible never tells us to only call some men to repentance.

      To assert there are men who want to be saved but can’t because they are not elect is ridiculous on its face.

    Matt

    I believe that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the elect giving them the desire to please God and follow His commands, one of which is to evangelize. As for numbers, how were Charles Spurgeon’s?

Les

Tim,

Are you joking now?

“What happens if we witness to someone and they want to receive Christ but after releasing to Christ find out they are not the elect?”

Pray tell, how would that person find that out?

Les

Les

Brothers all,

I posted these words on my Facebook wall this morning. By the way, you are all invited to connect with me there. I would be honored.

“There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

From In Christ Alone by Townsend and Getty

have a glorious resurrection day!

Matt

I would just like to make a couple of observations about limited atonement. I only ask that everyone would give serious, unbiased consideration to a couple of statements before applying them to the atonement. First, I would like to propose that any omnicient, omnipotent Being will always accomplish anything He attempts to accomplish. This must be true, because He will have perfect knowledge of how to accomplish His objective and all the power required to accomplish it. Second, since He will always accomplish exactly what He intends, His intentions can be surely known by the results accomplished by His actions. I would like to get some honest feedback on those two assertions from some of the brothers on here who are objecting to the doctrine of limited atonement. I not only believe these propositions are true, but that they are logically necessary. Now I would like to apply this to Christ’s atonement. The atonement accomplishes the reconciliation of God and man but not all men are reconsiled. Certain individuals are saved and other individuals are not. This leaves us with the logically necessary conclusion that God’s intent in the atonement of Christ was to reconcile certain individuals to Himself but not others. God has accomplished exactly what He intended. Even if you try to say that God merely foreknew the individuals who would be reconciled, He would also have known the individuals who would not be reconciled; and never intended to accomplish reconciliation for them. If He had intended thier reconciliation, He would have accomplished it; since it was not accomplished we know He didn’t intend it.

    Eric Hankins

    Matt,
    Here are the problems with the logic of limited atonement.

    First, it just cannot be reconciled with Scriptures, most notably 1 John 2:2. This verse rules out limited atonement.

    Second, I agree with your statement that “any omniscient, omnipotent Being will always accomplish anything He intends to accomplish.” Where we differ is that you think He must accomplish things in a deterministic way. Determinism is an unbiblical view of God and the universe He created. It is clear from Scripture that human willing matters to God, that we are more than actors on a stage. The Biblical God displays His omniscience and omnipotence more fully than your deterministic God in that He intended for free-will to matter and yet His ultimate purposes cannot be thwarted. Is God not wise and powerful enough to bring this kind of universe into existence? The Bible teaches that He is. In determinism, only God’s intentions matter. Therefore, God is the cause of everything including sin, evil, and the damnation of sinners. This is not biblical.

    Third, your propositions are “logically necessary” within your system. The determinism of Calvinism does indeed demand limited atonement, and I appreciate your making that clear. A lot of Baptists want to be Calvinists but they don’t want to affirm limited atonement. I hope you are helping them understand that it’s one or the other. But any system must be rejected whose internal logic demands that the clear intention of Scriptures like 1 John 2:2 must be ignored or abused. You say, “certain individuals are saved and certain individuals are not. This leaves us with the logically necessary conclusion that God’s intent in the atonement of Christ was to reconcile certain individuals to Himself but not others.” But not others? God intends not to reconcile some people? What of 2 Cor 5:19? “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” Your “logically necessary conclusion” is not a biblical conclusion. It is only logically necessary within determinism, which ought to be rejected for a lot of reasons.

    Now, I know you will accuse me of over-emphasizing human free will. This is also a necessity of your determinism. Since your logic demands that human intentions don’t matter, you reject any worldview that says it does, even if it is a biblical worldview.

    Finally, I want emphasize that the vast majority of Southern Baptists don’t believe in limited atonement.

      Les

      Eric,

      I would still like to see your definition of propitiation as well as penal substitutionary atonement (and whether you affirm penal substitutionary atonement) as I asked above.

      Also, you said just above, “In determinism, only God’s intentions matter. Therefore, God is the cause of everything including sin, evil, and the damnation of sinners. This is not biblical.”

      Which historical definition of “determinism” are you using to make that statement?

      Thanks.

        Eric Hankins

        Les,

        Propitiation means appeasing the wrath of God.

        I do indeed affirm penal substitution.

        By determinism, I mean “theological determinism,” the idea that every event is pre-ordained by God and caused by him. No events are “self-caused,” most notably the choices of people.

        While I am sure I know where this is going, I am glad to continue the discussion. I do want to note, however, from a denominational perspective, that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are opposed to the idea of limited atonement. If Reformed theology demands this, Southern Baptists are not going to be interested in being Reformed.

          Joshua

          Eric,

          So you you deny what the first Southern Baptist confession affirms?

          The Abstract of Principles:

          IV. Providence

          God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.

          Les

          Eric,

          Thanks for the reply. Couple of things.

          1. Since you affirm penal atonement, how do you account for sinners who ultimately reject Christ ending up suffering the penalty of their sin, since Christ has already bore their penalty on Himself on the cross (in your non-Calvinist view)?

          2. Same with substitution. How, if Christ is/was their substitute on the cross (“their” being those who reject Him ultimately and die apart from Him), is it that they are eternally punished if Christ was their substitute in His death?

          3. I affirm theological determinism, a soft version. That is, consistent with the LBC 1689:

          “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.”

          And it says, “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.”

          So, while the bible attributes human actions to God, it also attributes those same actions to man. One famous example is Joseph. The scripture says,

          “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because *you sold me here*, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. *So it was not you who sent me here, but God.* He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
          (Genesis 45:5-8 ESV)

          I think is is only fair to acknowledge that most Reformed folk would not hold to a determinism which as you said earlier as “God is the cause of everything including sin, evil, and the damnation of sinners.” I do not and frankly I don’t know any Reformed folks who affirm what you described.

          So we need not go any further on determinism, but I would like to see your reply to points #1 and #2 above on penal substitutionary atonement.

          Thanks.

          Eric Hankins

          Joshua,

          I reject the statement in the Abstract of Principles as self-contradictory: God causes all things, except when He doesn’t. God causes the free decisions of people.

          Les

          Eric,

          You: “God causes all things, except when He doesn’t.”

          I assume you believe in the sovereignty of God. How can the Abstract be contradictory and yet non- Calvinists assert that God is sovereign over all things but man’s will and THAT not be contradictory? Or maybe you don’t agree with that non- Calvinist assertion?

          Eric Hankins

          Les,

          You asked me a couple of things:

          1. “How do you account for sinners who ultimately reject Christ ending up suffering the penalty of their sin, since Christ has already bore their penalty on Himself on the cross (in your non-Calvinist view)?” Through great cost to myself, I can purchase a very expensive gift for another person, but I cannot force him to accept it. If he refuses it, then he bears the consequences of not having it. A Sovereign God has decided forgiveness must be accepted freely as a gift. My answer is the same for substitution.

          2. I get that London Baptist Confession appears to be advocating soft-determinism. I reject soft-determinism.

          3. You ask, “How can the Abstract be contradictory and yet non- Calvinists assert that God is sovereign over all things but man’s will and THAT not be contradictory?”

          Because the sentence “God is sovereign” is not the same as “God is deterministic.” The free acts of humans can never subvert God’s ultimate purposes. In fact, those free acts are part of His sovereign purposes. When a human uses his freedom to reject God, dies, and goes to hell, God’s sovereignty is on display. His rules are in force.

          Les

          Eric,

          Thanks for replying. I’ll just close with this.

          On your gift analogy, “Through great cost to myself, I can purchase a very expensive gift for another person, but I cannot force him to accept it.” Then you accomplished nothing. And I would say that in your view, Jesus’ death accomplished nothing either. I know you’ll disagree, hence our being on different sides of the atonement issue. Yours is a potential atonement. My view is an actual one.

          I’ll never understand it I suppose. But if a penalty has been paid, and sins forgiven as One stands in substitution for another, I cannot make sense of that “other” then having to make payment a second time (the first being paid by Christ) and step into the substitute’s place (the substitute having, well, substituted His place in that person’s place) and taking on himself the penalty for sins that has already been placed on Christ at calvary.

          In my view, that is neither truly penal nor substitutionary.

          But thanks for the interaction.

          Les

      Matt

      Eric,
      Glad to see your response. to begin, you claim to affirm my first proposition, “any omniscient, omnipotent Being will always accomplish anything He intends to accomplish.” but then totaly skip over my second proposition,which must be considered togather with the first for the conclusion to be clear. Instead you leave my argument to say that “determinism” is unbiblical, something I disagree with given your view of “determinism”. Later you return to the conclusion of my argument and claim that it is only logicaly necessary within “my system”. The only evidence you present to back this claim is that you believe my conclusion is unbiblical based on a forced interpretation of 2Cor.5:19 and 1John 2:2.

      Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my second proposition. Since we seem to agree that an omnicient, omnipotent Being will always accomplish exactly what He intends to accomplish, isn’t it true that we can know His intentions by what His actions accomplish? God always accomplishes exactly what He intends, so when we see what God has accomplished, we can be certain that it is exactly what He intended. God accomplished the reconciliation of certain individuals to Himself through Christ’s atonement on the Cross, so we know God intended the reconciliation of those individuals to Himself. He did not intend for anyone to be reconciled that was not reconciled, or they would have been reconciled. These are really just the necessary implications that we run into when considering the actions of an omnicient, omnipotent Being. By the way I don’t believe omnicience and omnipotence are qualities ascribed to God in only “my system”. If anyone can point out any logical fallicies in what I typed I will give them honest consideration, but, if not, telling me that 2Cor. 5:19 and 1John 2:2 contradict what is logicaly necessary sounds like an absurd statement to me.

      I believe that the Bible teaches the doctrines of grace as affirmed by Calvinists, but because bias blinds people to the meaning of scripture, I sometimes feel like it’s futile to debate the exegesis of certain verses in this type of forum. I’m sure some people on here will feel that I’m the one who is blinded, but since our interpretations are obviously so different on so many different pieces of scripture, I think we should at least be able to agree that someone is not applying hermenutics properly. Because of this, lets look at the two verses that you mentioned carefully and without bias.

      2Cor. 5:18 & 19 says, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not imputing thier trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” First of all we know that Paul is writing to fellow Christians since this letter is adressed to “the church of God which is at corinth with all the saints who are in all Achaia” The object of our disagreement seems to be what the word “world” means here and possibly what is meant by “reconciling”. I would tend to think that “world” means people of all nations of the world (I do not mean every person in every nation). This was a relatively new concept in the first century as opposed to the old belief that God was the God of Israel only. This concept of God reaching out through Christ to people of all nations is a pretty common theme throughout the New Testament. Lets see how this interpretation of world coincides with the whole text. Verse 16 tells us that “we regard no one according to the flesh” because those who are in christ are a new creation. this line of reasoning leads all the way up to verse 18 which starts off, “Now all things are of God” This goes along great with the interpretation of “world” meaning people from all nations, with emphasis on the fact that it is not just for Israel. Just read through all of it, and ask yourself honestly if this is a good possibility. Paul writes that God has reconciled “us” meaning himself and the gentiles in the church at Corinth, and “given us the ministry of reconciliation.” He goes on to say that the message of this ministry is, “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” To the Corinthian church this is doubly good news because, God has reconciled them to Himself and given them the message to deliver to other gentiles that salvation is not only for the Jews as was commonly thought before. Are there any legitimate hermenutical objections to this interpretation? I don’t consider the claim that it can’t be interpreted to contradict other scripture to be legitimate if the other scriptures have been the victim of bad exegesis. Now lets consider the interpretation that “world” means every single person past, present, and future. There is nothing that points to this view in the verses leading up to Paul’s use of “world”. This doesn’t rule out this interpretation though. Whether this interpretation is possible seems to depend on the intended use of the word reconciling. In This verse it seems to me that there shouldn’t be much debate. in verse 18 “reconciled” is spoken of as a past action of God toward people who are clearly believers at the time Paul is writing. Verse 19 expounds even further saying God was “reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing thier trespasses to them.” Now ask yourself honestly, if someone is reconciled and thier sins aren’t imputed to them isn’t that person saved? These words taken at thier plain meaning sure seem to require that to me. So the interpretation of “world” that indicates every person in the world ever would require us to believe that God was in Christ accomplishing universal salvation. I know that no one here belives that, but it seems to be the way the verse goes if we don’t go with the interpretation that means people of all nations. I know that in the 1John 2:2 verse you have affirmed that propitiation means a substitution that appeases the wrath of God but that somehow is not applied to the sinner unless he accepts it. Do you say that about reconciliation and not having sins imputed also? If a person is reconciled there is nothing left to punish. The word sure seems to mean that Christs atonement has been applied to them. Whether or not you agree with that, I believe that a fair look at the exegetical options for this verse show that the first interpretation I considered is the most probable; at the very least, I don’t think anyone would claim it to be impossible.

      As for 1John 2:2, I believe the same interpretation that I espoused above applies here also; although, to be honest myself, I do not believe the text itself demands it as much as the text in 2Cor. The same general arguments apply, and since the idea of God reaching out to the world, meaning people of every nation as opposed to Israel only, is such a common New Testament theme I cannot see why any person being honest with themselves would exclude it as a possibility. The idea that Christ’s atonement was a propitiation for the sins of all people ever but not applied to all doesn’t seem as probable since the word propitiation here is used in reference to the sins of two groups. One group is “the whole world” and the other group is referenced by the word “our” referring to John and the recipients of this letter, who are clearly believers. We know that the propitiation has been applied to one group why should we believe that it has not been applied to the other group? There’s nothing in the text to lead us to believe that the same word should be believed to be actual in reference to one group and potential in reference to another. Even if you do not agree with my interpretations of these passages, my main point in adressing them was to show that the interpretations endorsed by Calvinists are not impossible and don’t require me to “abuse” these verses. Since my exegesis here is not impossible, I would like to point out that it is not a valid argument to say that they MUST be interpreted in a way that seems to support your views on Christ’s atonement, and they cannot be held up to refute my argument about God accomplishing what He intends and intending what is accomplished.

      Also, really quickly, you wrote, “Since your logic demands that human intentions don’t matter, you reject any worldview that says it does, even if it is a biblical worldview.” This isn’t true, see my post, somewhere in all the posts above here, where I state the reformed view of the doctrine of confluence.

      Also, what is the point of saying,”Finally, I want emphasize that the vast majority of Southern Baptists don’t believe in limited atonement.” I didn’t think the debate was over which belief is currently more popular. I thought the whole point was determining which belief is correct. We can agree on what the majority of us do believe, but I’m concerned about what all of us should believe.

      God bless you. I know we can all sometimes sound a little belligerant when debating these things, and I know I can be one of the most guilty of this. Just wanted to say I thank God for the opportunities we have to discuss Him and His ways. I am also thankful to have you all as brothers in Christ.

Bill Mac

I find this view interesting. Even though a Calvinist, I understand the difficulties with unconditional election. However I have always thought the view of election based on foreseen faith to be an oxymoron. I find the author’s view much more tenable.

However the idea that this will somehow become (or should become) the recognized “baptist” soteriology is more than a bit far-fetched. Recent squabbles aside, it is much more likely that the folks holding the two more classic views will simply coexist, cooperate, and occasionally squabble as they have always done.

    Eric Hankins

    Bill,

    I’d love it if we could return to the status quo ante. For a long while, multiple approaches co-existed quite well. Unfortunately, it’s become much more than a squabble, and peaceful co-existence is not the object of New Calvinism. As has already been stated above, the New Calvinists believe “most Southern Baptists are semi-pelagian.” Statements like that are not the pathway to peace. If someone could get the New Calvinists to back off, I think everyone would be glad. Just your willingness to state that unconditional election has “difficulties” is huge. I don’t get the sense that New Calvinists are going to allow that. All systematic theologies, including mine, will have “difficulties,” at the very least. But the New Calvinists believe there’s is the only legitimate theological option.

    I don’t think my approach is far-fetched. My approach is simply giving definition to what most Baptists believe. Most Southern Baptists are not either Calvinists or Arminian. They are neither. They don’t believe in limited atonement and irresistible grace for sure. So, they are not Calvinists. They don’t believe in even the possibility of apostasy, so they are not Arminians. Right now, this position is known “non-Calvinism.” Pretty weak, pretty negative. So I am trying to give a constructive statement of what most Southern Baptists do believe because I think we’ve known for quite some time that neither Calvinism nor Arminianism fit well with our understanding of Scripture.

Ron Hale

Matt,

I’m sure you are very aware that Calvinists have differing beliefs on the atonement, and the “intent” of it.

You said, “This leaves us with the logically necessary conclusion that God’s intent in the atonement of Christ was to reconcile certain individuals to Himself but not others.”

Matt, when you read … 2 Cor 5:10 “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” … how do you interrupt “world” in that verse?

Also … when is the atonement “applied” to the sinner in your system of belief?

Blessings!

    Les

    Ron,

    You probably meant verse 19 of 2 Cor. Anyway, do you think that each occurrence of “world” (kosmos) means all people who ever lived or ever will live?

    Also, in that passage, Paul writes, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

    What does Paul mean that God was “not counting their trespasses against them?” Was the whole world of people forgiven?

    Thanks brother.

      Ron Hale

      Les,
      You are correct, it is 2 Cor. 5:19, thanks!

      I like what David Allen says in the book WHOSOEVER WILL concerning the intent of the atonement and this verse. While quoting G. Shultz’s Ph.D. dissertation from SBTS, he says, “God’s plan in the atonement was to provide a punishment and a satisfaction for sin as a basis for salvation for all humanity and to secure the salvation of all who believe in Christ.”

      He goes on to say, “High Calvinists (five-pointers) believe in limited atonement and thus interpret the word “world” here to mean the elect and not humanity. They argue that God’s limited saving intent necessarily requires that Christ provided a satisfaction only for the elect and thus to secure salvation only for the elect. Moderate-Calvinists, that is, those who reject a strictly limited atonement, believe God’s saving design in the atonement was dualistic: (1) He sent Christ for the salvation of all humanity so that His death paid the penalty for their sins, and (2) Christ died with the special purpose of ultimately securing the salvation of the elect. The classic Arminian and non-Calvinist view of the intent of the atonement is that Christ died equally for all men to make salvation possible for all who believe, as well as to secure the salvation of those who do believe (the elect).

      BTW, Les did you ever get a copy of Lemke and Allen’s book: Whosoever Will?

        Les

        Thanks Ron. I have not gotten that book yet.

        I understand what they right, intellectually. I just cannot understand it logically or biblically.

        When they say, “God’s plan in the atonement was to provide a punishment and a satisfaction for sin as a basis for salvation for all humanity…”

        And, “so that His death paid the penalty for their sins?..”

        I just cannot see where biblically nor logically God could actually pay the penalty for the sins of some people who end up in hell. How can that make any sense of justice? Sins paid for twice?

        But thanks for your reply.

        Les

          volfan007

          Les,

          It’s just like with the snake in the wilderness. The snake was put on a pole..everyone who looked to it in faith was healed. Those who didnt look were not healed. They could’ve been healed. But, they werent. Not because the solution wasnt available. Not because they couldnt look. Not because they werent chosen to look. They were not healed, because they didnt choose to look to the snake on a pole for healing from the poisonous, snake bites.

          And, Jesus was lifted up on a “pole” as the payment for our sins. And, all people, who will look to His cross for “healing” from their sin sickness will be “healed.” The payment is made. The solution is available to all, who will “look.” Some choose to respond to the calling and convicting of the Holy Spirit, and others do not. But, if they would look…in faith….they could be saved. The death of Jesus is sufficient to cover the sins of not only us, but for the sins of the whole world…everyone.

          The payment is made…yes. And, it’s applied to those people, who “look.” And, this does not mean that the death of Jesus didnt do what it was intended to do. It did exactly what it was intended to do….save those people, who will “look.” And, provide salvation for everyone, who will “look.”

          David

          Les

          David,

          That just doesn’t work to solve the dilemma non-Calvinists have on the atonement. If the debt was cancelled and the penalty was paid by the Substitute, then the sinner cannot be punished for crimes that the Judge has erased.

          Even our legal system recognizes this. If a prisoner, serving a life sentence, is pardoned, his crime is forgiven and his penalty is abated. Now if the prisoner refuses to look at the pardon document, the state cannot just decide to re-incarcerate him for his refusal to recognize the pardon. The pardon is done. It is not a potential pardon. It is an actual pardon.

          The remedy for sinners is what Jesus accomplished on the cross…actually accomplished. It is not in a “bank” somewhere awaiting to be dispensed if a sinner will acknowledge it.

    Matt

    Ron,

    I just posted some thoughts on 2Cor. 5:19 and some other things pertaining to the doctrine of limited atonement above in a reply to eric. I believe the word “World” in this verse refers to people of all nations, but not every person ever past, present, and future. I think the word “world” is used to place emphasis on a concept that was relatively new in the first century; that Yhwh, “the God of Israel” had worked reconciliation to Himself through Jesus for people from every nation, not just for Jews.

    As for the application of the atonement; I think in a practical sense it can be said to be applied in eternity. This is because the decrees of an omnicient, omnipotent God concerning the future are as sure as His decrees that have already actaully happened. I say in a practical sense because an atonement that has not actually been made yet cannot be applied to someone who doesn’t actually exist yet, except in the mind of God. The atonement is actually accomplished in time on the cross for the sins of individuals, and it is actually applied in time to the individual at the moment of regeneration. Ofcourse, the full benefits of the atonement aren’t realized until the individual stands before the judgement seat, until then the Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal and a guarantee. God bless.

Bill Mac

Eric: I agree with you that most Baptists are not strictly Calvinist or Arminian, but I don’t think you can say that most Baptists don’t believe in individual election. That’s the part I’m sticking at. I think your viewpoint is valid, but I don’t think it is a mainstream belief among Baptists. I could be wrong about that.

    Eric Hankins

    Bill,

    I would agree that the default position on election for most Baptists is that it has to do with individuals. That’s what I thought for a long time, although I held that there was a corporate sense as well because of the nature of election in the OT. I had never really worked out what I believed specifically about election because it just has not been a high visibility concept in Baptist life. As I got to studying it more deeply, I came to understand the concept of corporate election, and I believe it fits much better with what Baptists believe about salvation. But I’d agree that for most Baptists, it’s a new take on the matter.

Eddie Wren

Eric, Thank you for your willingness to speak up and discuss this important issue. I agree. To adopt reformed theology one must ignore many words: the world, whoever, all, and so on. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:4.

    Joshua

    Eddie,

    Have you read what Reformed theologians have to say about those words? I assure you, Reformed theologians haven’t just ignored them.

    Southern Baptists Boyce, Dagg, Manly, and Broadus have all answered these objections and properly handled the Word of Truth.

      volfan007

      Eddie,

      The Scripture you quote is one, amongst many, that causes me to not be a Calvinist.

      DAvid

      Eddie Wren

      Joshua,
      I have read some.

      Eddie

volfan007

“I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no precedence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see… They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other. These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that
6
are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge… but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring ….You ask me to reconcile the two. I answer, they do not want any reconcilement; I never tried to reconcile them to myself, because I could never see a discrepancy … Both are true; no two truths can be inconsistent with each other; and what you have to do is to believe them both.”

    Les

    David,

    We Calvinists love this passage from our Calvinist father and brother Spurgeon.

    Love this part. “That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see.”

    Amen!

      Joshua

      Great quote from Spurgeon!

      Here is a quote from one of the Southern Baptist founders J.L. Dagg and his Manual of Theology:

      “In the view which we have taken of God’s providential government, we have included the fact, that he so orders the events which occur, as to accomplish his purpose. This is called predestination. The purpose of God respects the end which he has in view; and also the means which he uses for the accomplishment of this end.

      The doctrine of predestination teaches that no event comes to pass, which is not under the control of God; and that it is so ordered by him as to fulfill his purpose. If it would thwart his purpose, the event is prevented; or if, in part only it would conduce to his purpose, only so far is it permitted to happen. This divine control extends over all agents, animate and inanimate, rational and irrational; and is exercised over each in perfect accordance with its nature, and with all the laws of nature as originally established. Physical agents are controlled as physical agents; and moral, as moral agents. The latter act as freely as if no providence over them existed. Their ends are chosen, their means adopted, and their accountability exists, just as if there were no predestination of God in the matter. Yet God is not unconcerned in any of these acts, but overrules each and all of them according to his pleasure.”

      http://www.founders.org/library/dagg_vol1/all.html

        volfan007

        I really like the part where Spurgeon says that you cant reconcile the two. And, I would add that God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are also 2 truths that cant be reconciled, but they’re both very true.

        Of course, we always seem to have people, out there, who try to reconcile them with their systems and “ism’s.”

        But, this side of Heaven…whenever man tries to reconcile the sovereignty of God and man’s free will and responsibility, then they fall way short into the realm of pure philosophy…the philosophy of man.

        David

          Joshua

          David,

          You have as many “isms” as the next guy. Even if your “ism” is the pious “biblicism.”

          volfan007

          Joshua,

          No, I dont. I’m not sold out to any system.

          David

Brett Cates

Some of the brightest thinkers in christendom have been debating this for hundreds of years. Thanks for clearing up the issue in one paper! I am sure it will go down in history as a landmark moment!

God is not subject to fallen notions of fairness or the sin tainted limited logic of His creation.

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