Category: Calvinism

One Man’s Suggestions for Calvinists and Non-Calvinists

by Ronnie Rogers

Although I no longer don the Calvinist label, I do continue to recognize the system of thought as an option within historic Christianity as well as Southern Baptist life. Further, I have no interest in personally attacking my Calvinist brothers’ and sisters’ devotion, piety, or love for God and His word, for I do sincerely believe that most Calvinists are truth seekers. I do not wish to expel Calvinists nor to be expelled by them from SBC life, but rather to suggest and take some substantive steps to help all of us know God better. I assume that is what the vast majority of those of us in this discussion truly desire; although, there is obvious disagreement in how to accomplish this quest.

In order to continue to move our discussions toward lucidity in both articulation and understanding of our various theological perspectives, I would like to suggest implementing the following ideas within Southern Baptist life. My suggestions are drawn from my life as a Southern Baptist, which include both the perspective I gained in my years as a Calvinist and now my post-Calvinist reflections. While I view my suggestions as necessary, I also view them as partial and modifiable. I believe that some of the steps should be implemented immediately, while others are clearly long term goals that may take years. I offer my suggestions with no more credentials than being a rather obscure but concerned Southern Baptist.

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The Predestination Paradigm:
The Plan or the Man?

by Ron Hale

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


Can you picture in your mind the most magnificent church that you have ever entered? For me it was walking into St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna, Austria.

Seeing the big picture, the architect must have initially pictured and purposed the Cathedral in his mind.  He studied the lay of the land and marked out the length and width of the building — first conceptually, then onto paper in design drawings.  Yet, the concept preceded the construction.

Eventually men with rougher hands marked out the outer walls with stakes or markers in preparation for building.  They studied the plan and began to dig the foundation and lay stones.  Therefore, the “marking out” of the building plan beforehand was imperative. 

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The Founder’s Ministry

RickPatrickBy Dr. Rick Patrick
Senior Pastor
Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church
Hueytown, Alabama


Martin Luther founded the Lutherans. John Wesley founded the Methodists. The views of John Calvin are foundational to the Presbyterians. In the same way, historians consider our Baptist founder to be Englishman John Smyth, who recovered the doctrine of believer’s baptism in 1609 by first baptizing himself and then baptizing his small group of followers in Amsterdam.

Acknowledging Smyth as our denominational founder does nothing to diminish the role of our Lord Jesus as the Church’s One Foundation, nor does it deny the rich heritage of the Anabaptists dating back to 1525 in Switzerland, whose sacrifices remind us of our place among the Radical Reformers rather than the Magisterial ones. Neither does Smyth’s role as founder ignore the influence of later Baptists whose various tributaries joined our main stream, and whose contributions are certainly welcome today.

However, when considering the place of John Smyth in Baptist life, for obvious reasons, there can be no Baptist tradition more traditional than his, and there can be no Baptist founder more foundational than him. This is not to say that Baptists today will agree with Smyth at every single point any more than Lutherans will agree with Luther, but the basic gospel of our Baptist founder clearly deserves to be recovered in our churches.

After Smyth’s death in 1612, a confession of over one hundred articles was published entitled “Propositions and Conclusions Concerning True Christian Religion.” Whether written by Smyth just prior to his death or reduced to writing by his followers just after, this confession most clearly expresses the traditional Baptist doctrine of our founder.

While the headings are added, the quotes are verbatim, and article numbers are cited:

DENIAL OF INABILITY

That God created man with freedom of will, so that he had ability to choose the good and eschew the evil, or to choose the evil and refuse the good, and that this freedom of will was a natural faculty or power, created by God in the soul of man. (Art. 14)

AFFIRMATION OF FREE WILL

That Adam sinning was not moved or inclined thereto by God, or by any decree of God but that he fell from his innocency and died the death alone, by the temptation of Satan, his free will assenting thereunto freely. (Art. 15)

DENIAL OF INFANT GUILT

That infants are conceived and born in innocency without sin, and that so dying are undoubtedly saved, and that this is to be understood of all infants under Heaven, for where there is no law there is no transgression, sin is not imputed while there is no law, but the law was not given to infants, but to them that could understand. (Art. 20)

DENIAL OF REPROBATION

That as no man begetteth his child to the gallows, nor no potter maketh a pot to break it; so God doth not create or predestinate any man to destruction. (Art. 25)

AFFIRMATION OF FOREKNOWLEDGE VIEW OF PREDESTINATION

That God before the foundation of the world hath determined the way of life and salvation to consist in Christ, and that he hath foreseen who would follow it, and on the contrary hath determined the way of perdition to consist in infidelity, and in impenitency, and that he hath foreseen who would follow after it. (Art. 26)

AFFIRMATION OF GENERAL ATONEMENT

That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and that God in His love to His enemies did send Him; that Christ died for His enemies; that He bought them that deny Him, thereby teaching us to love our enemies. (Art. 28)

How can we best call Baptists to return to the traditional beliefs and doctrines of our Baptist founder? How might we promote the traditions of our Baptist heritage so as to return our denomination to its doctrinal moorings? Perhaps an organization committed to the recovery of these traditional Baptist beliefs espoused by our founder might be appropriate. To avoid confusion with any other group not based upon the beliefs of our singular founder, we might consider adopting the name The Founder’s Ministry.

Michael and Margaretha Sattler: Until Martyrdom Do Us Part

 

by Ron Hale

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


Michael Sattler (c.1490 – May 20, 1527) was a former Catholic monk who came to see the Bible through a different prism and point of truth. His new beliefs set him free from the Benedictine monkhood and later to marry a woman named Margaretha. The couple fled to Zurich in 1525, where they joined a growing Anabaptist movement. Sattler and his bride were eventually martyred for holding differing beliefs and practices than those of the Roman Catholic Church of their era.

Before his death, Sattler was instrumental in helping draft a simple but straightforward Anabaptist confession of faith. This took place in the city of Schleitheim, Switzerland, north of Zurich, near the German border.

Historians consider the Schleitheim Articles the first Anabaptist confession of faith, and it received a wide distribution, especially after the martyrdom of Sattler and his bride. Ulrich Zwingli saw a need to publish a repudiation of these Articles, and it was released late summer of 1527 and called: Refutation of Anabaptist Tricks. John Calvin published a refutation in 1544.

Michael-Sattler-300x249On May 17, 1527, a trial began with a long list of indictments against Sattler. Two of those charges would cause 21st century Baptists to take great notice, for Sattler was found guilty of: 1) teaching against infant baptism, and 2) teaching against transubstantiation (the elements of the Eucharist actually becoming the substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist).

The Schleitheim Articles discloses what Sattler believed about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As you read them, judge how closely they resemble your beliefs as a Southern Baptist:

Baptism … shall be given to all those who have been taught repentance and the amendment of life and [who] believe truly that their sins are taken away through Christ, and to all those who desire to walk in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and be buried with Him in death, so that they might rise with Him; to all those who with such an understanding themselves desire and request it from us; hereby is excluded all infant baptism, the greatest and first abomination of the pope. For this you have the reasons and the testimony of the writings and the practice of the apostles. We wish simply yet resolutely and with assurance to hold to the same.

Concerning the breaking of bread, we have become one and agree thus: all those who desire to break the one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ and all those who wish to drink of one drink in remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, they must beforehand be united in the one body of Christ, that is the congregation of God, whose head is Christ, and that by baptism. For as Paul indicates, we cannot be partakers at the same time of the table of the Lord and the table of devils. Nor can we at the same time partake and drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils. That is: all those who have fellowship with the dead works of darkness have no part in the light. Thus all those who follow the devil and the world, have no part with those who have been called out of the world unto God. All those who lie in evil have no part in the good.

Michael Sattler became a “marked man” since he was the chief author of these Articles. Along with other Anabaptists, the Sattlers were arrested in Horb, Germany, and later taken to Rottenburg, Germany, for trial. After a hurried travesty of justice, the gruesome verdict was read:

Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon wheel and there with glowing tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic.

Forty-eight hours later, on May 20, 1527, Michael Sattler suffered everything in the horrible decree, beginning with the cutting out of his tongue. Eight days later, Margaretha received her “third baptism” as she was drowned in the Neckar River. She was offered freedom if she would renounce her faith, yet she bravely faced her death and told the judges that she would rather have gone into the fire with her husband.

I do not dredge up this horrid history to awaken old religious animosities, but to share the great price of persecution that previous generations have paid, and, to point out the benefits those sacrifices still provide!

Michael Sattler’s life, writings, and courage are important to remember, and here are a few reasons. First, he and his wife lived out the courage of their convictions. Second, Sattler and the early Anabaptists of the Radical Reformation were faithful to the simple truths of the Bible as their sole authority; they did not allow the interpretations of man or the established Church scare them away from living out the New Testament Church model. Third, the Sattlers’ testimony, Michael’s teachings, and their character became the “glue” that held early Anabaptists together as they walked the righteous path forward – fearing no man. Sattler’s tongue was removed, but his death continued to speak volumes.

Last, Southern Baptists may still debate our ancient origins and tribal succession, but we cannot deny our indebtedness to the Anabaptists and their simple but clear teachings on believer’s baptism, the memorial meal of the Lord’s Supper for baptized believers, and for being ardent guardians of religious liberty – dying if they must!

Down-playing or even denying our Baptist heritage and distinctives can give the impression of being hip and cool in the 21st Century; however, as the flames licked the agonizing body of Michael Sattler, he exhibited a “cool” that we cannot even begin to fathom.

© Ron F. Hale, Dec. 4, 2012

 

Sources to study:

Ched Spellman, Wait Upon My God: The Contribution of Michael Sattler to Our Baptist Heritage, The Center for Theological Research, December 2007. (Winner of the 2007 Baptist Theology Research Award at SWBTS).

William Estep, The Anabaptist Story (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1963.

C. Arnold Snyder, The Life and Thought of Michael Sattler (Scottsdale: Herald Press), 1984.

 

 

 

 

Incineration vs. Decapitation: What to do with Servetus?

RickPatrickBy Rick Patrick 


According to The History and Character of Calvinism by J. T. McNeil, in 1553 John Calvin requested that Michael Servetus be decapitated as a traitor rather than burned as a heretic. In light of this merciful request, Calvin’s friend William Farel chided him for his undue lenience. However, it did no good and Servetus was burned at the stake.

Who among us cannot sympathize with Farel’s concern? Frankly, Calvin’s softness in proposing merely to cut off the head of a man who so clearly deserved to be set on fire is puzzling. What kind of girlyman allows a heretic who denies both the Trinity and infant baptism to get away with the mere wrist slap of head removal?

Clearly, Calvin hoped in this matter that cooler heads would prevail–except, of course, for that of Servetus. When rebuffed by the Geneva Council, Calvin undoubtedly felt he had been burned, ironically the very same sensation that the heretic felt last.

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