Category: Calvinism

Theological Terminology Thursday:
The Study of Specialized Words Relating to Theology

Election

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Theological Terminology Thursday:
The Study of Specialized Words Relating to Theology

Election


By Ron F. Hale,
Minister of Missions,
West Jackson Baptist Church,
Jackson, TN


My fingers eagerly tore into a package that resulted in a “free” book. The book came to me as I pastored in the Kansas City area in 1989. The title of the book was: Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election by Robert B. Selph. Later I learned that Pastor Selph had sent this book to every pastor in the SBC. This was no small endeavor for the pastor of a small church in Prescott, Arizona.

Selph had been inspired by Founders Ministries and their early work called the Boyce Project. Ernest C. Reisinger (the founder of the Founders Ministries) had the goal of republishing the Abstract of Systematic Theology by James Petigru Boyce, the primary founder and first theology teacher of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The second phase of the strategy was to get Boyce’s Abstract to every student graduating from the six official Southern Baptist seminaries and a few more.[1]

In his book, Selph shares the following concerning Election and Evangelism: “If you really want to be invigorated in your faith and renewed in your courage to the task of evangelism, reflect upon how God has used the preaching of the historic doctrines of grace (election, predestination, etc.) to bring many to Himself in salvation!”[2]

History reveals that Selph’s view of election and evangelism caused meager results in reaching his community with the Gospel. Over the last twenty-four years (since the printing of his book), his church has reported only forty people being baptized, that is less than two people per year. The membership has gone from 118 members in 1988 (the year he wrote the book) down to 60 members in 2011.

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 2: Reflections on the Significance of What Happened

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 2: Reflections on the Significance of What Happened



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Reflections on the Daviess-McLean Decision

In Part 1, I shared my perceptions (from admittedly incomplete knowledge) about the decision of Daviess-McLean Baptist Association (DMBA) to deny the membership request from Pleasant Valley Community Church (PVCC). The main point was that although theological issues were involved in the decision because of the strongly Calvinistic doctrine of PVCC, the decision appears to have been based more on attitudinal issues by PVCC that the member churches of DMBC felt could be divisive. Here are some brief reflections on my understanding of the significance of the association’s decision to deny membership to PVCC, and the implications of this action for other churches and associations as we move forward.

(1)   The local church is the center of (earthly) authority in Baptist polity. Local church autonomy is a distinctive Baptist belief (as I have discussed). The local churches in Daviess-McLean Baptist Association were perfectly within their rights to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church. This determination was made not by associational officials, but by duly authorized messengers from the member churches of DMBA. They were voting as representatives of their own local church, not as representatives of the association as a whole. At the same time, DMBA has no authority to force PVCC to change their doctrine or practice. PVCC can worship as they choose, believe as they choose, and do church as they choose. The biblical foundation of church autonomy, of course, is the priority given to local churches in the New Testament. However, theologically it reflects that through the priesthood of believers (another Baptist distinctive), each member seeks the will of God, the headship of Jesus Christ, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and represents that divine leadership in voting on decisions in the church. This collective reflection of the will of God is much more reliable than putting this decision solely in the hands of a few fallible authoritarian leaders. This is a wonderful and marvelous thing that inflexible top-down hierarchical denominations like Catholics and Presbyterians “desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12, KJV).

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


News stories from the Western Recorder, from Associated Baptist Press, and Baptist Press reported last week that the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky chose to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church, purportedly in part because of the strong Calvinism affirmed by Pleasant Valley Community Church. In this article, I want to suggest my best guess of the factors which led to this decision. In Part 2 I want to suggest what could be some implications of this decision for other churches and associations in the SBC.

Some Important Caveats

These are some wise dictums which we should normally heed as guidelines for wise living:

Dictum 1: Don’t get enmeshed in other people’s fights.

Dictum 2Don’t speak about things about which you have little knowledge, because when you open your mouth you’ll reveal your ignorance.

I’m going to risk cautiously disobeying these wise dictums in order to comment on the denial of the application of Pleasant Valley Community Church to join Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky. (I could note that many blog commentators frequently violate both of these dictums). So let me do so with these important caveats:

(a) I do not know anyone on either side associated with this event, nor have I spoken with them personally or communicated with them. The only thing I know comes through published reports and commentaries, and a couple of conversations with persons closer to the situation who have communicated with some of the persons involved. I have not read all of the documents associated with the event. So I am writing based on the limited published information I have seen, along with some hearsay evidence. That’s not very strong evidence in a court of law or in the scholarly world, and as a former journalist I would not publish such unconfirmed opinions as a factual news story. So what I am sharing is just my opinion or speculation based on my best understanding of the limited information I have.

(b) I am not a member of a church in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association, so I have no real standing in this discussion. This is their decision, not mine. I am simply commenting on the event as an outside observer.

 

With those important caveats in mind, I will share my perception in this Part 1 of the root causes of this event. As I best understand it, there are two primary contributing causes that led to this event – one more theological in character, and the other more attitudinal in nature. At this point, I am more interested in describing the perceptions involved than the realities involved – that is, I’m attempting to understand what perceptions may have led to this decision.  I have no way of judging the accuracy of those perceptions. Perceptions aren’t always the same as reality, but they do impact reality. Again, I want to be very clear that some of this at least to some degree speculation on my part, based on the available evidence. Then, in Part 2, I’ll suggest some implications of this decision in other associations, and propose a way that might help avoid repeated occurrences of similar events in other associations.

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations (not Confirmation)

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations (not Confirmation)



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Introduction/Summary

This series has attempted to delineate historical doctrinal differences between Baptists and Presbyterians. Most of the nine points I have addressed were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability; the third Baptist distinctive I addressed was believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church;” and the fourth Baptist distinctive was baptism by mode of immersion, the fifth Baptist distinctive (in contrast with Presbyterian Calvinism) was baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, not sacraments; the sixth Baptist distinctive addressed congregational church polity (in contrast to Presbyterian elder rule); the seventh Baptist distinctive, examined the autonomy of the local church and how it is not a hierarchical denomination; and the eighth Baptist distinctive, I described the two scriptural officers (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon) and how they are not three (Pastor/Bishop, Elder and Deacon). The ninth and final Baptist distinctive that I will discuss is the importance of human freedom at conversion and how that undergirds the rationale for decisional conversion offered through gospel invitations.[1]

Distinctive Baptist Belief #9:
Decisional Conversion/Gospel Invitations

One basic fault line between most Baptists and Presbyterians regards the ability of sinful humans to respond to God.[2] The BF&M repeatedly affirms human freedom to respond and to make decisions. The “future decisions of His free creatures” are foreknown by God;[3] and God’s election to salvation “is consistent with the free agency of man.”[4] Persons are created by God “in His own image,” originally “innocent of sin” and endowed by God with “freedom of choice.” Even after the Fall, “every person of every race possesses full dignity.”[5] Salvation “is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” In regeneration the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus,” and repentance “is a genuine turning from sin toward God” and faith is “acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.”[6] The picture that emerges from the BF&M is that while sinful humans certainly cannot save themselves by any combination of good works, God requires persons to utilize the freedom of choice He created within them to respond to His gracious offer of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.[7]

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #8:
Two Scriptural Officers — (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon
(not Three Officers –Pastor/Bishop, Elder, and Deacon)

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Distinctive Baptist Beliefs:
Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians
Distinctive Baptist Belief #8:
Two Scriptural Officers — (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon
(not Three Officers –Pastor/Bishop, Elder, and Deacon)



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Introduction/Summary

All denominations that broadly share the Reformation heritage share more beliefs in common (orthodox Nicean Christianity plus key Reformation beliefs) than beliefs on which we differ. Despite these many points of agreement, it is the points of agreement on which theological discussions tend to focus. In an earlier post entitled “The Middle Way,” I asserted that centrist Baptists are “the middle way” between Arminians and Calvinists/Presbyterians. As evidence for this claim, I listed twelve points of doctrinal disagreement between centrist Baptists and many Arminians. Now, in this series, I am pointing out nine points of difference between centrist Baptist beliefs and the Presbyterian/ Reformed tradition. These nine Baptist doctrinal distinctives I will discuss do not include the five point summary of Reformed soteriology (best known in the TULIP acronym–for a critique of five-point Calvinism from a centrist Baptist perspective see our book Whosoever Will). In fact, most of the nine points that I will be addressing were explicitly held by the Particular Baptists in contradistinction from the Presbyterian or Reformed theology from which they separated themselves. These, then, are distinctively Baptist beliefs. The first Baptist distinctive I addressed was a cluster of interrelated beliefs — soul competency, priesthood of all believers, and religious liberty. The second Baptist distinctive addressed was the age (or state) of accountability; the third Baptist distinctive I addressed was believer’s baptism (or “the gathered church;” and the fourth Baptist distinctive was baptism by mode of immersion, the fifth Baptist distinctive (in contrast with Presbyterian Calvinism) was baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, not sacraments; the sixth Baptist distinctive addressed congregational church polity (in contrast to Presbyterian elder rule); and the seventh Baptist distinctive, examined the autonomy of the local church and how it is not a hierarchical denomination. For the eighth Baptist distinctive, I will describe the two scriptural officers (Pastor/Bishop/Elder and Deacon) and how they are not three (Pastor/Bishop, Elder and Deacon).[1]

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