On November 29, SBC Today posted Dr. Harwood’s essay titled, “The ETS, the AP, and the BFM.” (Read it here.). Within three days, the essay generated more than 100 online comments, including this one from Rick Warren: “Adam reveals a very important distinction that I had not noticed between BF&M and Abstract.” Also, “This article was helpful, and so are many of the comments afterward.” (http://goo.gl/Xmggg). The following post reveals Dr. Harwood’s further reflections on the subject.
“Does Southern Seminary have an institutional commitment to a theological position which is not affirmed in the BFM and excludes many Southern Baptists?”
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is comprised of churches with a variety of theological commitments. Among those groups are Calvinists, non-Calvinists, and others who refuse either of those theological monikers. This convention of churches cooperates in Great Commission work. That cooperation involves operating six seminaries. Faculty at these institutions train pastors, missionaries, and other leaders for SBC churches. Also, some seminary faculty publish biblical and theological works for SBC churches. Because Southern Baptists are a theologically diverse group, all the seminaries should allow for theological differences which are permissible within the convention’s statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM).
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 10: The Repentance Aspect of the Gospel Invitation
This is the thirteenth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child. All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Strict emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit and minimization of the response of man disarm the importance of the biblical teaching of repentance.1 The word metanoia means a change of mind, heart, and direction on behalf of the individual in response to God. Who would deny that Jesus came to call sinners to repent? The Bible teaches that He came to save what was lost, this means the unrepentant (Matt. 18:11). Jesus said to His listeners that they too would perish, unless they repent (Luke 13:3). He came calling sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). All have sinned (Rom. 3:23). Therefore, Jesus calls all to repentance.
Newport smartly notes that, by definition, sin is a free and responsible act of disobedience and is man’s fault, not his fate.2 He argues that the New Testament description of God’s judgment on sin clearly teaches that each human is accountable to God for the use of his or her freedom.3 God’s justice makes all of us accountable for our choices. God does not force His will upon anyone. He invites people to respond. Each person has an option.
Calvinism does not seem to factor in Scripture which teaches that it is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. And the Bible is replete with evidence regarding this.
By Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor
First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.
As I said in my previous post, I appreciate greatly Jon’s desire to make a friendly reply to my blog post that also deals honestly with the places where we differ. In this post and the next, I will address the content of his critique. Let me begin by saying that I am absolutely in favor of Christ-centered homiletics when it is done with a desire to preserve authorial intent. There are places in Jon’s critique where it seems that he thinks I believe that the interpretation of OT texts shouldn’t take into account their relationship to the grand redemptive story of the gospel:
However, while I appreciate him raising the discussion, I would differ with his conclusions. Eric states that Christ-centered exposition is all the “rage” among reformed preachers. Actually, it should be the rage among all Christian preachers. After all, Paul said that it is “Him we proclaim” (Col 1:28).
Over the last few days, Jon Akin has offered a three-part response to a blog-post I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Jon’s series is called “A Defense of Christ-Centered Preaching: A Friendly Response to Eric Hankins,” and I thought I’d offer a three part reply. The subsequent posts will deal with the content of what he wrote, and there are several aspects of his argument that I will be challenging. But I want to begin by heading in a little different direction.
This first part has to do with Jon’s desire to offer a “friendly response,” an objective I feel Jon achieved with great effect. What you see in Jon’s tone and treatment is an obvious effort to avoid any gratuitous potshots while still speaking plainly and honestly about our areas of disagreement. This is a skill that is absolutely essential as we work through some of the tensions in our “life together” as Southern Baptists. In fact, I believe that Southern Baptists are actually more skilled at this than most. A fairly consistent criticism of us is that we are always fighting with each other about something, constantly wrangling over our disagreements. Certainly, anecdotes of church splits abound and the term “business meeting” hardly evokes feelings of warmth and good will. However, when you look at how other large denominations have fared over the years, it is clear that Southern Baptist have been able to come together around the truth in ways that others have not. We have managed, so far, to avoid the Scylla of divisive dogmatic fastidiousness and the Charybdis of death-dealing doctrinal faithlessness. The boundary between what counts as “essential” and “disputable” in matters of faith and practice has a subjective component that can only be approached through prayerful and careful debate. Rather than avoiding such debate, we must continue to embrace it, sharpening one another as we do so.
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 9: The Theodical Aspect of the Gospel Invitation
This is the twelfth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child. All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
I remember hearing from one of my seminary professors how a very close friend of his had been electrocuted while working on an air conditioner. After the funeral, many of the man’s closest friends gathered at his home for food and fellowship. During this time, several of the men commented that it must have been God’s will for the man to die, to which the rest agreed; except for my professor. He told us that he had listened to about all of this nonsense that he could stand and he finally spoke up and boldly asserted, “I think it was probably God’s will that he not work on the air conditioner with it plugged in.” The silence in the room was deafening.
Too often, God gets blamed for what He did not cause. Let me explain, from Scripture, the best biblical representation I have ever seen regarding causes of death. The text is 1 Sam. 26:10, which, I believe, does a marvelous service of describing three primary sources which can bring about death to people. These three are acts of God, acts of nature, and acts of man.
David was on the run from King Saul, who, in his madness, was intent on killing Israel’s future king. In one particular encounter, David’s military companion, Abishai, was sure that God had orchestrated things such that David would be Saul’s executioner and effectively end this fiasco once and for all. But, again and again, David wisely declined to kill the troubled king. Instead, David explained to Abishai that there were at least three causes of death for man. My exposition of David’s words is both an attempt to use them to help explain the problem of evil and suffering in the world and an attempt to defend the righteousness and goodness of God, which is known as a theodicy, hence, my categorization as a theodical weakness.
The first thing I notice that David said concerning death is that the Lord may strike one down. This I describe as an act of God. Such an act suggests the direct divine intervention of God in a matter. Usually, this sort of death is seen to be punitive. The chilling examples of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3) as well as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) are biblical accounts which appear to fit the category of death being orchestrated by a direct act of God.
The next possibility that David mentioned is that Saul’s day will come that he dies. This suggests death by way of what I call an act of nature (see also Num. 19:16, 18). No direct divine intervention is mentioned. No divine punishment is implied. The deaths of Abraham (Gen. 25:7-8) and Jacob (Gen. 49:33) serve as biblical examples of those who simply die of natural causes. Heart attacks, strokes, and other causes related to aging and worn out bodies fit into this category. Usually, tornado, hurricane, and flood victims also fit into this category, although I readily acknowledge the fact that evil powers may use nature to kill, as can be seen in the case of Job’s family (Job 1:18-22). I also believe that the number of deaths by way of natural causes can be reduced by using caution regarding eating habits and taking cover when storms arise.
The third statement David makes is quite intriguing. David asserted that Saul may go down in battle. This I label as a death being caused by an act of man. One may be killed in battle, killed in a car wreck, killed in a shooting, and so forth. The biblical examples of the deaths of Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-4) and Uriah (2 Sam. 11:14-17) illustrate death brought about by an act of man. Similarly, some diseases can be traced to man, like AIDS, tobacco related cancer, radiation (sun) exposure, and more. And, I once again acknowledge that evil powers may use people to kill people (Job 1:13-17).
Not everything that happens is caused by God. There are acts of God, acts of nature, and acts of man. We would do well to remember these categories when it comes to explaining evil and suffering in the world. God is good and has man’s best in mind; yet, the human mind and demonic forces seek to raise a barrier between God and man by questioning the goodness of God and making Him responsible for all evil and suffering, when He, in fact, has allowed man to sow what he wishes. But with sowing also comes reaping. Man wants to sow evil and then blame God for reaping suffering. The true culprits are people and demonic forces. Faith in Jesus Christ can protect us from demonic forces, but what will protect us from us? We must cease saddling God with all the ills of the world and assume the responsibility for our own demise. David clearly described three different possibilities and refused to lump them all together as acts of God, so neither should we. Calvinism has no answer other than “the sovereignty of God in predestination” when it attempts to explain causes of death. Such a defense is lame as well as blasphemous, in that it is shallowly ambiguous, untrue to Scripture, as I have sought to demonstrate in 1 Sam. 26:10, and is an affront to the righteousness of Almighty God. God (theos) is righteous (dike) and in Him there is no unrighteousness. These two Greek words brought together render the transliteration theodicy, or, more precisely, “Godrighteous.” Calvinism has an appalling theodical weakness.
The next article in this series will explore the repentance weakness of Calvinism.