Calvinist IMB President Dodges Pastor’s Inquiry
By Kyle B. Gulledge, Associate Pastor
Southview Baptist Church, Rosharon, Tx
A few weeks ago, a fellow Southern Baptist, Cooperative Program supporting pastor, Mathew Vroman, contacted the International Mission Board (IMB) regarding the beliefs of the IMB President, David Platt, as it relates to limited atonement. To say he got the run around is an understatement.
Matthew Vroman is the pastor of Eastside Community Church in Detroit, Michigan where he has served since 2011. Prior to coming to Michigan he and his family served as missionaries to Turkey. Below is his account of events in trying to get information regarding David Platt’s position regarding his Calvinistic beliefs in general and specifically on Limited Atonement.
Recently, we had a guest speaker who preached on the need to share our faith. He is nationally known and used to work with many well-known ministries. I knew he had taken a public stance against the non-Biblical position called Calvinism. Obviously, when people stand on truth and the Gospel not everyone applauds and I understood that many churches/ pastors/ ministers had come out against him. We discussed Southern Baptists and the changing nature of the convention.
Then he shared something that I could not believe: “You know David Platt is a Calvinist.” For those of you who do not know David Platt is the head of the largest mission organization in the world… The International Mission Board. If that was true, Mr. Platt believed in limited atonement. Limited atonement teaches that Christ only truly died for the elect and not everyone. Although as a convention, we are composed of many different believing churches and Christians (some Calvinists and some not), it was amazing that the head of IMB, potentially, does not believe in Christ dying for everyone.
When we were missionaries in Turkey, I went because I believed that in a nation of over 70 million people, everyone could be saved. I see this belief as fundamental to our understanding of missions according to the Bible. If limited atonement is true, then John 3:16 needs to be changed to read: For God so loved only the elect, but not the entire world. Other verses like 1 John 2:2 might need to be worded as “but also the sins of only the elect, but not the whole world.” The obvious problem is that these verses do not say elect, but world (John 3:16) and sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
My concern was grounded in the dangers of brothers and sisters in position of missional leadership who hold to this weak view of the majestic sacrifice of Christ. Thus, I decided I would call IMB and ask for myself instead of just believing this speaker. I called and talked with someone who said they were Mr. Platt’s assistant. I explained to him I was concerned and why. I emphasized to him that I could not wait to hear Mr. Platt’s position on limited atonement. He was very respectful and professional, but basically communicated to me that David Platt is committed to reaching the World for Jesus Christ.
Then I asked him, “So you are not going to answer my question about limited atonement?” And he wouldn’t. After I got off the phone, I was amazed the mission organization that represents SBC churches would not communicate a stance on limited atonement, taken by the director. I decided to call back and talk with someone else and a very nice lady with church-relations talked with me. She agreed to get back with me, but communicated it would be a week or so. After a week I received the same answer.
It is amazing that the SBC communicates they are open and partnering with us, but can’t communicate with a cooperating church about the director’s stance on the Gospel. I realize they are busy and do not have a great deal of time, but the Gospel is central to everything. What Mr. Platt believes about limited atonement will impact how he functions in leading IMB and preaching the Gospel to the ENTIRE world.
Why would David Platt not simply come out and say what he believes? Why does he think he has to hide his view? Although most of us disagree with him, this is no justification for being evasive.
It is hard to believe that this the kind of response a Southern Baptist,Cooperative Program supporting pastor receives when asking about the theological/soteriological stance of an agency head. As the following quotes compiled by SBCToday and Connect 316 (based on his writings and sermons) show, clearly, David Platt believes in Limited Atonement.
David Platt in his own words:
“From the story of Job to Paul’s description of Satan’s attack in his life in 2 Corinthians 12, we see how Satan not only acts within the sovereign permission of God but also ends up accomplishing the sovereign purpose of God.” David Platt, Radical Taking Back the American Dream (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010), 173.
“You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do.” David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2010), 32.
“Scripture definitely talks about the fact that God loves the entire world, all people in the world. At the same time, fourth, God has a particular love for chosen people, in scripture, undeniably.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 27:44 minutes.
“I praise God that he has not left the invitation to salvation up to sinful men and women who in their rebellion would never choose him.” David Platt, Follow Me, (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013), 49
“That’s the propitiation picture . . . God’s wrath has been satisfied. Sins have been paid for. How will they still go to hell if their sins have been paid for and God’s wrath has been turned away? . . . Christ endured the wrath of God for all sins of some men . . . Christ therefore died for the purpose of saving a certain people; the elect.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s) By David Platt, 13:34 minutes.
“If Christ died for all and not all are saved, then His purpose was not accomplished. Are you going to say that the cross of Christ is ineffective to save? Christ therefore died for the purpose of saving a certain people; the elect.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 14:19 minutes.
“Jesus died for the elect, for the church, in the sense that, his death is indeed efficient only for them. God has a particular love for a chosen people. That is what scripture teaches.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 31:16 minutes.
“God, in his sovereign mercy, ordained that your life and my life would be counted among the reached and, if you are a Christian, the saved. So, yes, it is a graciously particular atonement. But it’s also a globally particular atonement. Christ has not just purchased you and me; he has purchased people for God from every tribe and every language and every people and every nation. All of them.” David Platt, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions,” T4G, The Underestimated Gospel, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014), 71.
“The sovereign will of God is that people from every people group will be ransomed by Christ…That is the point of the atonement. Particular atonement drives global missions.” David Platt, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions,” T4G, The Underestimated Gospel, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014),72.
“Therefore, we can go to the hardest people group on the planet, preach the gospel, and know that at some point…somebody’s coming out. And the reason we know this is because Christ has already purchased them for God. Do you see how God’s sovereignty provides unshakable, death-defying confidence in the face of dangerous people groups?” David Platt, “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions,” T4G, The Underestimated Gospel, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2014), 84.
Faith is a Gift:
“It’s granted to you to believe in him, that faith is the gift. Faith is something we have by grace. It’s not God has done all these things in Christ to come to this part of the table and now we have to add faith.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 16:00 minutes.
“So through the cross, God enables and empowers His people to trust in Him and this is God’s secret will, what He decrees….Not everybody trusts in Him. That’s the decreed will of God, the secret will, what He decrees.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 31:48 minutes.
“…we humbly acknowledge the gracious efficacy of Christ’s death which secures the salvation of the elect… there is not contribution from man to make salvation possible. It is all of grace and it is all for his glory and even our ability to believe is blood bought from Christ and it is unfathomable, unexplainable, but the reality is, I have contributed nothing to my salvation; he has saved me.” David Platt, Secret Church: The Cross of Christ – Part 4 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhKWC1gsf_s, 2013), 32:28 minutes.
“Similarly, inviting Jesus to come into your heart is impossible when you’re dead in sin. In your death, you need someone else, completely outside of you, to call you to life and enable you to live.” David Platt, Follow Me, 34
One might ask, “why would you need an answer from the IMB regarding Platt’s stance on Limited Atonement when we have his sermons and writings to look back to?” I would reply that is why it is all the more bizarre that he and his staff would not just come forward and answer the questions when asked. It seems that more and more our agency heads are trying to keep us in the dark about who they are and what they believe regarding their soteriological positions. They have our Cooperative Program money. We should be able to get their soteriological viewpoints without getting the run around.
We, as Southern Baptists, have a right to question and hold our agency heads and employees accountable. Our agencies and their employees have the obligation to be open and forthright with every mom and pop Southern Baptist in our convention. Sadly, this is becoming epidemic in more and more of our agencies, not just the IMB.