Category: Baptist Identity

Calvinism and Arminianism: Two Rivers that Run Through Us


By Ron F. Hale.
He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.


While living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I loved looking down at the cityscape from the perch of Mt. Washington. You could ride the incline car up the steep hillside and see the confluence of the Ohio River as the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers came to an end at “The Point” in downtown Pittsburgh; Three Rivers Stadium is nearby. Depending on the weather in southwestern Pennsylvania, some days you could see muddy waters from one river flowing into the headstream of the Ohio River, while the other river brought much clearer water. These two rivers (one cloudy and one clear) seemed to flow side-by-side while slowly mixing and mingling together in the formation of the mighty Ohio.

Two rivers of theological thought have historically flowed through the mainstream of the Southern Baptist Convention. The waters have been muddied a bit by the Great Awakenings in America, the Sandy Creek revivalist tradition of Separate Baptists in the South, the Charleston tradition influenced more by Particular confessions of faith and their pastors trained in Presbyterian seminaries like Princeton, and the adoption of new Baptist confessions and statements of faith forged in the New World.

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THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST

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THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST


By James Leo Garrett, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Historical and Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This is the first in a series of three articles by Dr. Garrett on “The Future of Baptist Theology with a Look at Its Past,” which was presented at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at an event. Part 1 reflected on the past in Baptist theology; Parts 2 and 3 anticipate its future.


Part 3: Looking to the Future of Baptists

From my studies of the four-century history of Baptist theology I have come to the conclusion that the principal differentiating issues among Baptists during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries were the Calvinistic-Arminian difference, or to be more specific, the issues that differentiate the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618-1619) and the followers of Jacob Arminius who framed the five Remonstrant Articles (1610). I looked at this issue in the first part of this series. In part 2, I began looking at what issues would likely surface in the future. In this final part, I will continue my look at future issues, focusing on issues important to church and the Southern Baptist Convention

My proposals, of course, do not constitute a complete list even as we acknowledge the difficulty of speaking about the future. I would ask seven questions. The first four questions dealt with hermeneutics, evangelism, and eschatology. I will now continue with three questions that surround church and denominational issues.

5. Are many Baptist churches to adopt ruling elders? Will Baptist megachurches retain a residue of congregational polity?

Although the Philadelphia Association for a time in the eighteenth century had the practice of ruling elders, such has been almost totally absent from Baptist churches in the United States until recent years. Perhaps as a consequence of the neo-Calvinism among Southern Baptists and or the influence of Dallas Theological Seminary, not a few Southern Baptist churches have established ruling elders, sometimes so as to produce major division in the congregation. Some have argued that elders are almost identical with “church staff,” but the crucial issue is whether the elders alone make decisions that according to congregational polity are normally to be made by the congregation. Some insist that all elders be ministers of the church, but to be decided is the question as to whether all elders are equal in authority or one elder, the pastor, has unique leadership. New Christians in Baptist churches or members who have come from other denominations often are quite amenable to ruling elders, whereas traditional or lifetime Baptists tend to be opposed to such. Few seem to realize that this is one of the marks that historically differentiated Baptists from Presbyterians.

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THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST

">

THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST


By James Leo Garrett, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Historical and Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This is the first in a series of three articles by Dr. Garrett on “The Future of Baptist Theology with a Look at Its Past,” which was presented at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at an event. Part 1 reflected on the past in Baptist theology; Parts 2 and 3 anticipate its future.


Part 2: Looking to the Future of Baptist Issues

From my studies of the four-century history of Baptist theology I have come to the conclusion that the principal differentiating issues among Baptists during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries were the Calvinistic-Arminian difference, or to be more specific, the issues that differentiate the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618-1619) and the followers of Jacob Arminius who framed the five Remonstrant Articles (1610). In the part 1 of this three part series, I took a look at the Calvinistic-Arminian debate. In this part let’s look at issues that will likely surface in the future.

Will the Chief Differentiating and Characterizing Issues of the Past
Have a Significant Bearing on the Future?

First, because Baptists closely connect salvation with church membership, it is likely that soteriological concerns about the relationship between humanity and the divine will continue to resurface in Baptist life.

Second, likewise the issues surrounding revelation and the Bible, Christology, human origins, and eschatology are likely to resurface among Baptists.

Third, although some of the Baptist distinctives will continue to be strictly less distinctive of Baptists as other Christian denominations and nondenominational indigenous movements embrace some of them, Baptists may continue to be less than effective in teaching and fleshing out these historic distinctives amid their own people.

Fourth, Baptists may continue to rediscover their debt to the patristic consensus and to recognize their debt to the Magisterial Reformation as well as the Radical Reformation.

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THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST

">

THE FUTURE OF BAPTIST THEOLOGY
WITH A LOOK AT ITS PAST


By James Leo Garrett, Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Historical and Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This is the first in a series of three articles by Dr. Garrett on “The Future of Baptist Theology with a Look at Its Past,” which was presented at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary at an event. Part 1 reflects on the past in Baptist theology; Parts 2 and 3 anticipate its future.


Part 1: Looking Back on Four Centuries of Baptist Theology

The Chief Differentiating Theological Issues among Baptists

From my studies of the four-century history of Baptist theology I have come to the conclusion that the principal differentiating issues among Baptists during the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries were the Calvinistic-Arminian differences, or to be more specific, the issues that differentiate the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618-1619) and the followers of Jacob Arminius, who framed the five Remonstrant Articles (1610). I have also concluded that the chief differentiating doctrinal issues for Baptists during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the liberal-evangelical issues. Now, let’s first take a look at the Calvinistic-Arminian debate.

These differences were initially manifested in the separate and distinct origins of the General and the Particular Baptists in England. They are essentially soteriological, dealing with the relationship of the divine and the human in our salvation. I have challenged the accuracy of the commonly used acronym to specify the Dortian doctrines, the TULIP, for it was not so much total depravity that separated these two theological systems from the Arminian viewpoint as it was the nature of repentance and faith— whether they are the gifts of God or the responses of human beings. Each of these Dutch-derived theological stances was capable of spawning extremes, notably Hyper-Calvinism from Dort and neo-Pelagianism from the Arminians. I have offered, possibly for the first time, five distinguishing marks of Hyper-Calvinism: the supralapsarian order of divine decrees; the pre-temporal covenant of redemption made by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Sprit; eternal justification somewhat separated for the exercise of faith in time; rejection of offers of grace to the non-elect; and antinomianism. Hyper-Calvinism plagued the Particular Baptists during the eighteenth century, and Pelagian positions can be detected among the liberal and modernist theologians in the Northern Baptist Convention in the early twentieth century.

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Competitors to Biblical Authority


By Dan Nelson, Pastor,
First Baptist Church,
Camarillo, CA


A very distinctive mark of Baptists is our insistence that biblical authority as our sole authority for faith and practice. I realize that this is hardly an exclusive claim for every church with a high view of God’s Word. For these churches could make a similar statement. As a matter of fact, there may be a misunderstanding of perceived arrogance by Baptists about this position. So far, I have tried to disclose a biblical perspective for our emphasis. I want to do the same here.

The claim of biblical authority is not inferring that Baptists are the only ones approaching everything from a biblical perspective. What I have always said is that “we don’t say we are the only ones right in our church, but we believe the Bible is our authority and we try to follow the Bible as closely as possible”. This position is my disclaimer statement to those who feel we might sound arrogant or intolerant about this particular topic.

To understand this position, we need to understand the competitors to biblical authority. I am not saying that these competitors erase belief in biblical views but that these factors compete for that position. What are these other sources of authority?

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