Category: Calvinism

Ten Myths about Calvinism:
Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition

A Book Review (Part 1)

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Ten Myths about Calvinism:
Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition

A Book Review (Part 1)



 
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


The subject of Calvinism and Reformed Theology has been one of the “hottest” topics in the evangelical world generally, and among Southern Baptists in particular. Ten Myths about Calvinism[1] makes a valuable contribution to that dialogue. It is authored by Kenneth Stewart, a professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Georgia, who embraces Reformed Theology but writes with balance and fairness that is missing many times in this discussion.

Four Myths that Calvinists Propagate, But Should Not

Of the ten “myths” about Calvinism that Stewart proposes, the first four are myths he believes that Calvinists are circulating, but they should not be doing so.  These four Calvinist-propounded myths are:
(1) that one man (John Calvin) and one city (Geneva) is determinative of all of Calvinism,
(2) that Calvin’s view of predestination must be ours,
(3) that the ‘TULIP” is an appropriate yardstick concerning who is truly Reformed in theology, and
(4) that Calvinists take a dim view of revival and awakening.

Myth 1:  One man (John Calvin) and one city (Geneva) is determinative of all of Calvinism.

Regarding the first “myth,” Stewart builds a convincing and well-documented case that Calvin’s writings were impactful in his own day, but no more so than Reformed leaders of other Swiss cantons.  Calvin’s theological impact had “actually gone into eclipse by the late sixteenth century” (p. 29), and a hybrid form of “Anglo-Calvinism” that had blended with other traditions had emerged (p. 29). Indeed, even in Geneva, Anglican evangelical writer Thomas Haweis remarked in 1800 that “I doubt if there remains a single professor or pastor at Geneva who adheres to Calvin” (p. 25); and British visitor Henry Drummond was unable to find a single volume of Calvin’s Institutes available for sale in Geneva in 1817 (p. 31). It was Victorian England that brought a resurgence in interest in Calvin’s thought by republishing and promulgating his works.  In tracing the influence of the other Reformed thinkers other than Calvin himself, Stewart is, as the subtitle of the book indicates, attempting to recover the full breadth of the Reformed tradition.

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Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Libertarian Free Will: Jesus’ Reaction to Jerusalem’s Rejection Reflects the Father’s Reaction

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Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Libertarian Free Will: Jesus’ Reaction to Jerusalem’s Rejection Reflects the Father’s Reaction

By L. Manning Garrett III, Ph.D., Pastor, East Laurel Baptist Church, Jackson, TN

Regarding last week’s article, “Two Versions of Free Will in Southern Baptist Life,” there were several comments pertaining to my reference to Jesus’ reaction to Jerusalem’s rejection of Him in Matthew 23: 37-39 and Luke 13:34-35. One respondent observed that it is not clear why nonCalvinists think this episode in Jesus’ life counts against Calvinism. I will show why I think this text supports the idea that Jesus believed that the Jerusalemites had libertarian free will — they rejected Him but could have accepted Him.

Calvinist compatibilists will argue that the Jerusalemites are responsible for rejecting Jesus because they were acting on their deepest desire: they wanted to reject Jesus. Further they will argue that the Jerusalemites “could not have accepted Jesus,” while libertarians claim that the Jerusalemites had the real option to accept Jesus but chose to reject Him. NonCalvinist libertarians and Calvinist compatibilists differ with respect to whether or not the Jerusalemites had the real option “to desire to accept Jesus.”

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Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Free Will: Two Versions in Southern Baptist Life

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Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Free Will: Two Versions in Southern Baptist Life

By L. Manning Garrett III, Ph.D., Pastor, East Laurel Baptist Church, Jackson, TN

This article is intended to be of interest to pastors and lay persons.  I do not begin with the assumption that all of the readers of SBC Today are familiar with the philosophical discussion surrounding the issue of free will. Nonetheless, the writer’s motivation is to encourage the reader to check out his/her view about free will with regard to an issue that is foremost in the mind of every evangelical Christian: whether one who rejects Jesus Christ as Savior, Son of God, Messiah, and Lord does so by one’s own free will choice and if so to ask: what does free will mean? It is assumed that most Southern Baptists will affirm that the decision to reject Jesus follows from a free will decision. In Southern Baptist life there are and probably have always been two versions of free will that separate most NonCalvinist and Calvinist Southern Baptists: libertarian free will and compatibilistic free will.

Most NonCalvinist advocates of libertarian free will maintain that in regard to a choice or action that was exercised the agent had a real option to have wanted to do otherwise. In other words, there were genuine alternatives other than the choice and action that was made.  Most Calvinists who hold to compatibilistic free will maintain that determinism eliminates real options but determinism does coexist with a free will.  So, the choice is determined but the agent also can be said to have exercised free will.  Clearly, there is a definitional difference among Southern Baptists over what it means to exercise a free choice.

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Using Logic in Theology:
The Fallacy of False Alternatives

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Using Logic in Theology:
The Fallacy of False Alternatives

By Steve Lemke, Provost and Professor of Theology and Ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

As a philosophically-trained theologian, it causes me considerable chagrin to see some of the most basic errors in logic committed over and over again in theological discourse.  This fuzzy thinking arises in every area of doctrinal from time to time, but (perhaps because of my interest in this area) I note it particularly in regard to soteriological discussions relating to Calvinism vs. Arminianism.  Over the next few posts, I want to identify several common logical errors which lead to ill-formed arguments, fallacious logic, and unsound conclusions. I apologize in advance that this discussion gets a bit technical at points, though I have attempted to convey it for a non-specialist audience. I beg for patience from those for whom it seems overly technical.

The Fallacy of False Alternatives (also known as the False Dichotomy Fallacy, False Dilemma Fallacy, All or Nothing Fallacy, or Black or White Fallacy) results when we simplify everything into an “either-or” choice, and thereby fail to take into consideration other viable alternatives. One of the common mistakes made by “shade tree” theologians is to oversimplify theology into Calvinism or Arminianism, as though those were the only choices regarding any given theological issue.  They are not.

In logic, an “either/or” statement can be described as a disjunctive syllogism (“either A or B is true”). The logic goes pretty easily from there – if not A, then B; or if not B, then A.  But many possible disjunctive syllogisms fall into the fallacy of false alternatives.  The syllogism works only if there are just two possible alternatives.  So, for example, the following argument might be proposed: “Either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan.”  (Hence, if Yankee fan, then not Red Sox fan; or if Red Sox fan, then not Yankee fan). These teams are fierce rivals, of course, and to be a fan of one almost guarantees not being a fan of the other (a Yankees fan will not be a Red Sox fan, and a Red Sox fan will not be a Yankees fan) – but these are not the only alternatives.  I happen to be a Rangers fan, so I could not properly be said to be either a Yankees or a Red Sox fan.  At times I might cheer for either the Yankees or the Red Sox, but I would do so not because I am their fan, but because either of them winning or losing might afford some advantage to the Rangers (such as home field advantage in the playoffs).  So the argument that you must be either a Yankees fan or a Red Sox fan commits the fallacy of false alternatives.

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Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology

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Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology

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


Total Depravity or Total Inability

Bernd Brandes was a person with a passion for pain.

This bizarre mania caused him to respond to an internet ad placed by another German man by the name of Armin Meiwes.  This spine-chilling internet ad declared that Meiwes was seeking “a young, well built man who wants to be eaten.”

Brandes responded and became the menu of Meiwes. This modern day cannibal was later sentenced to serve eight years and six months in prison. How would you like being the sleepy-eyed cell mate of Meiwes?

This story reveals the ever-present wickedness of mankind, that we are not deprived but depraved sinners. Forever and a day each of us will always fall short of the glory of God due to this sin nature.

Under the statement on Man, the following sentences taken from the Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 enlighten us on our depravity:

By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.

Throughout God’s Word, we see man’s devious and depraved nature has an explicit bias toward evil resulting in our certainty to sin; therefore, it cannot be escaped since our human nature has been corrupted by sin.

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