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Calvinists Do Err

September 12, 2017

By Ronnie Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, OK

Paul Helm demonstrates a common error among Calvinists, which is to evaluate through the grid of compatibilism the cogency of Extensivist’s understanding of God’s salvation plan that includes man being endowed with libertarian freedom, rather than evaluating whether Extensivism provides a comprehensive, coherent, and biblically consistent perspective. In contrast, one of my major objections to Calvinism is that I believe they fail to write, speak, pray, or preach consistently with their chosen perspective of compatibilism and decretive theology. Of course they reject libertarian freedom as I reject compatibilism, but we should be able to evaluate each other’s perspective without superimposing the very idea the other perspective rejects as the only test of cogency. I do argue that their perspective is biblically wrong, but when I focus my evaluation on their commitment to compatibilism and decretal theology, I seek to do so through the lens of compatibilism and decretal theology rather than libertarianism. When they evaluate Extensivism, it should be within the framework of my beliefs, which is libertarian freedom.

Helm argues that libertarian freedom leaves saving grace to be merely the “action of God that is causally necessary, but never causally sufficient, for human salvation . . . For in the incompatibilist view of freedom what must, in addition, be causally necessary for receiving God’s grace is a free, incompatibilist choice . . . Divine grace and such a choice are then together causally sufficient for faith in Christ … such a will has the power to resist or frustrate such grace from God . . . And given that humankind has a nature that is antipathetic to the rule of grace, we might expect such power to be exercised in the rejection of the overtures of grace . . . God’s saving grace is always resistible, and so saving grace can never ensure its intended effect.” (italics added)

Note, this is another example of Calvinism’s attack on otherwise choice. It demonstrates once again that all their talk of God’s salvific love for the non-elect or the non-elect being genuinely offered salvation in the gospel is by Calvinism’s own logic reduced to a hollow palliation under the crushing weight of compatibilism and unconditional election. Further, it makes all of their use of libertarian language all the more objectionable. Additionally telling is that he seems to equate determinism (God’s monergistic unconditional election which predetermines the elect) with grace. That is to say, determinism is grace and grace is determinism; therefore, any concept such as otherwise choice that is not unilaterally and singularly deterministic cannot be comprehended in grace. Of course, such definitional exclusions emanate from Calvinism and not from Scripture or even logic.

Helm places salvational grace in one category and libertarian choice in another by the phrase “in addition,” as though choice is not, or cannot, be a grace-enabled but undetermined component of God’s salvation plan. This leads to the obvious conclusion that faith, thusly categorized, emanates not from God’s gracious creative/redemptive plan but from man alone; it is thereby reduced to nothing more than an external contributor to grace—human virtue or work. Such misunderstandings germinate many errors in Calvinism’s understanding of Extensivism.

To correct his misunderstanding let me say precisely, Extensivists believe that the salvific action of God is both causally necessary and causally sufficient. What we reject is the Calvinist notion that it is causally determinative. Moreover, we believe the action of God in grace was designed with two components in mind rather than just one, and both are equally of grace—I will explain the difference later. Therefore, to propose that the “action of God” is only necessary but not sufficient is misrepresentative of Extensivism. Such thinking is an indefensible superimposition of compatibilism upon Extensivism.

I would mention that it is the unequivocal teaching of Scripture that faith is necessary for salvation—I would argue it is necessary for regeneration as well. Even within Calvinism, most are adamant in their proclamation that a person is saved by faith. Now granted, the faith comes as a predetermined free act that is subsequent to monergistic quickening which cannot be resisted and therefore completes salvation, but it is still essential for one to be deemed saved.

Consequently, the precise distinctions between the two perspectives are; first, libertarian faith is an undetermined free act of faith, whereas the Calvinist faith is a determined free act of faith; second, Extensivists believe that faith initiates salvation (as grace-enabled), whereas Calvinists believe it more closely approximates the consummation of salvation. Inextricably connected with this reality is the question of whether God freely chose to create man with otherwise choice and to restore such prior to actual salvation or not. If so, then grace is understood to restore the ability to choose in salvation, and it is not “in addition” to or instead of grace. Rather it is an integral component of the salvific grace plan of God.

Adam had choice due to creative grace. Subsequent to the fall, the restoration of choice in salvation is due to redemptive grace. That is to say, all that Adam had, including the ability to choose to follow God, was because God desired that for man in his creation plan; therefore, choice was never something that arose merely from man, but rather creative grace bestowed on man in creation. Similarly, man’s ability to choose in salvation is not a work of man or something “in addition” to God’s grace, but rather it exists solely because God desired for that ability to be restored in his salvation plan of grace.  

The grace-enablements that overcome the effects of the fall so that man may believe unto salvation do not eradicate or deliver an individual from all the effects of sin. They do not enlighten a person so that he can understand all that he might desire to know. Rather, they do sufficiently hold in abeyance the effects of the fall so that at the time of enlightenment and conviction, an individual may believe or resist the gospel, only now with greater knowledge, which is precisely what is seen in John 12:35–36.

Helm assumes that compatibilism is true, with its exclusion of actual otherwise choice, and man being endowed with otherwise choice is not as quite understandable since he is a Calvinist. What is not acceptable is his evaluation that libertarian freedom is found wanting because it does not measure up to some compatibly derived standard.

His proposed deficiency is not in libertarian freedom or in the Scripture. For example, if we suppose that God created man with otherwise choice (denied in compatibilism), then it seems to follow that it is well within his power to restore such choice through grace-enablements, which seems to be precisely what we see depicted in Scripture. In view of that, we are back to the center of the issue, which is the nature of God and man.

Helm’s proposal seems to indicate that Calvinists must either believe that God is incapable of creating and governing man endowed with otherwise choice, as would be the case if God cannot foreknow actual contingencies (acts of libertarian free beings), as Calvinists and other determinists often argue, or else they simply believe he could have created such a world but did not. The former is a view of God’s sovereignty, omnipotence, and omniscience that embraces the idea that God only knows what he foreordains (predetermines), which is the view I reject both biblically and logically. The latter option seems to mean that Extensivism is merely unfaithful to the beliefs of Calvinism, which is obviously and unabashedly true. This does nothing to undermine Extensivism’s biblical fidelity. Either option seems to posit the weakness of Calvinism. My comment here has nothing to do with Calvinist’s belief that Calvinism is true and Extensivism is not, but rather that Calvinists do not, or cannot, entertain the idea of Extensivism’s plausibility because they cannot disabuse themselves of compatible definitions and standards.

Furthermore, Helm equates one having the ability to resist the offer of salvation with being able to “frustrate” grace. Once again, he posits otherwise choice outside of God’s plan of salvation by grace, as though it is a competing rogue force outside of God’s sovereignty and against God’s grace plan. Admittedly, assuming compatibilism is true, it is impossible, given the same nature or past, for a person to choose at any time between accessible options regarding salvation.

However, assuming libertarianism is true, it is possible, given the same nature or past, for a person to choose between accessible options. This ability is not limited to salvation, so long as such choice is within the range of options. Subsequent to the fall of man, I do not contend that man can act or think righteously, or make a spiritually restorative choice apart from God’s redemptive grace. Thus, the difference between the two positions is not necessarily the degree of depravity nor whether grace is sufficient to accomplish God’s goal, but rather it is found in the question of what is encompassed in God’s “intended effect” or goal of provisioning grace. What is included and excluded in God’s plan for the creation and redemption of man.

Calvinism maintains that God’s salvific grace is to secure the salvation of the unconditionally elected while denying the same to the non-elect. All of which is accomplished within a compatibilist perspective. To even suggest the idea of God giving man a choice between accessible options within compatibilism is a twaddly distraction. In stark contrast, in Extensivism, God’s goal, “intended effect” of grace, is to provide salvation for everyone and secure it for those who exercise grace-enabled faith; accordingly, the exercise of faith is not “in addition” or some sort of interloper into God’s grace salvation plan but a God-appointed essential component.

Now regarding his conclusion that if the offer of salvation is resistible, saving grace can never “ensure its intended effect,” I would say this statement is only true within a deterministic compatibilism because if compatibilism is true that means God created man without otherwise choice, and it then easily follows that regeneration is irresistible and monergistic.

Whereas, if the “intended effect” is to redeem man whom God created with otherwise choice, it easily follows that salvation by grace includes the necessity of the person having the ability to exercise grace-enabled faith, while maintaining the simultaneous prerogative to resist, all within the range of options during the offer of salvation; even though the person would most assuredly have greater knowledge about what he was rejecting than he did prior to being enlightened by the gospel (John 12:35–36). If one denies man’s creative or redemptive ability to reject God’s grace, then he is actually superimposing compatibilism upon libertarianism, the Calvinist error.

Therefore, what Helm has demonstrated is that a plan encompassing libertarian freedom is incompatible with salvation viewed through a compatibilist grid; to which I say, of course. It does not accomplish the goal of Calvinist compatibilism, and that is the point. Instead the goal is and should be biblical fidelity.

As mentioned, a major difference between Calvinism and Extensivism is how grace operates. In Calvinism, grace is one dimensional and comes determinatively upon the elect from God via unconditional election and selective regeneration. In contrast, within Extensivism, grace operates two dimensionally but still from only one source, which is God. God’s grace provides everything for salvation, including the grace-enabled ability, at the moment of the gospel presentation, to be able to understand enough to exercise faith or turn and walk away. Both are acts of grace. It is true that man in sin can on his own resist God, but even this is only because God permits him to do so because if it were not for God’s plan of grace, man would instantly be annihilated. However, a sinner cannot reject the gospel with a full understanding of what he is rejecting without grace-enablement (Matt 12:30–32; John 12:35–36).

If the ability to resist the gospel was not a part of God’s plan, no one would be able to walk away from a sovereign and omnipotent God. Thus, grace in the libertarian view is causally sufficient for salvation when all aspects of the grace-salvation plan are present. A rejection of such places one in the camp of Calvinism, in which the call of the gospel is actually meaningless since neither the non-elect nor the elect (the latter prior to quickening) is capable of doing anything but rejecting the gospel; hence, deeply imbedded in the bowels of Calvinism, the gospel is not, in and of itself, good news. Rather, finding out you are on the unconditionally elect roster is the only good news.

Our evaluation of whether man is endowed with compatible or libertarian freedom should be determined from what we find in Scripture, rather than whether compatibilism and libertarianism are congruent, which is obviously not the case. As a system, I do not evaluate Calvinism by whether it is consistent with libertarian freedom, but rather whether it is consistent with its chosen moral freedom perspective of compatibilism. Calvinists should do the same when evaluating Extensivism as a system. The biblical cogency of each perspective can only be fairly evaluated when each perspective is properly defined; then which is the more accurately reflective of Scripture can be determined.

The disallowance of otherwise choice in Calvinism should always be as publicly obvious in their preaching, prayers, counseling, and writing as it is in their theological and philosophical rejection of such not being a part of grace.    

That is to say, be a compatibilist if you so choose, but be clear and consistent. Do not speak in ways that becloud that commitment by conveniently employing libertarian ideas that confuse the mutual exclusivity of the two perspectives (or lead the hearer to think libertarianly).

HOMER GENTRY LINDSAY, JR. – SOUL-WINNING PASTOR

September 11, 2017
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at the Christian Index and is used by permission.

Dr. Gerald Harris, Editor
Georgia Christian Index

I have been privileged to know some great men of God who have gone on to glory. I regret that many of our younger pastors and believers did not have a chance to know them or hear them preach. We must never forget the heroes of our faith.

So far, in this series we have considered great men like W.A. CriswellR.G. Lee, and Adrian Rogers. In this biographical profile we shall look at Homer G. Lindsay, Jr, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville with his father and then with Jerry Vines. This biographical sketch includes an interview with Dr. Vines about the man with whom he served as co-pastor in Jacksonville for almost 18 years.

Jerry Vines is engrossed in the message of Homer Lindsay, Jr. his friend and co-pastor at First Baptist Jacksonville, FL.

Homer G. Lindsay, Jr. was born in Nashville on July 19, 1927 to Ruth and Homer G. Lindsay, Sr. When he was 13 years old his family moved to Jacksonville, FL, where his father became pastor of the First Baptist Church. After graduating from high school, Homer, Jr. graduated from Stetson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In May 1952 Lindsay headed south to attend the Southern Baptist Convention in Miami where his father played the part of a matchmaker and introduced him to Shirley Tillman, a student singing in the Stetson Glee Club.

Lindsay fell in love fast, proposed to Shirley, and by September they were married. Lindsay began to look for a place where he could serve the Lord; and he preached in a church in Brunswick, GA that had a Sunday attendance of 300 people. The pastor search committee was impressed with Lindsay and asked him to let them consider him as a candidate for pastor.

He declined and said, “I don’t feel adequate.” The thought of serving a church that large petrified him.

LESSONS FROM HIS FATHER

Shortly thereafter, however, Lindsay accepted the pastorate of a 42-member mission in Miami. The mission became Northwest Baptist Church and grew from less then three dozen members to 3,280 members in the 16 years Lindsay served as pastor. During those years Lindsay led his church to become one of the great evangelistic churches in the Florida Baptist and Southern Baptist Conventions.

Much of what Homer G. Lindsay Jr. learned, he learned from his father. Homer G. Lindsay, Sr. became pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL in 1940 as the nation was coming out of the depression and was in serious financial trouble. Morale was low and contributions were dwindling. The church had a debt of $125,000, which was exceedingly burdensome at the time. The church had just lost a seven story educational building and there were no facilities for growth.

However, under the leadership of the energetic, 37-year-old pastor, a new era began. The church experienced tremendous spiritual, physical, and numerical growth. By 1943, the church was free from financial bondage and in 1948 the first new educational building was constructed debt-free.

In 1969 Homer, Jr. became the co-pastor with his father at First Baptist Jacksonville. From 1969-1988 the church’s Sunday School enrollment increased from 2,385 to over 14,172. Nine buildings were either purchased or constructed, including the 3,500-seat Lindsay Memorial Auditorium (1976) and the Preschool Building (1986).

OLD SCHOOL

One writer suggested that the younger Lindsay was a megachurch pastor who didn’t seek to be a megachurch pastor.

Homer Lindsay, Jr. was not as visible as some of the great pastors of the 20th century, but his allegiance to biblical inerrancy and his example as a faithful pastor and soul winner must not be forgotten.

He was “old school.” He didn’t try to be hip or cool and didn’t have a remarkable testimony that made people want to come hear his yarns and tales. He was just a man of God who loved Jesus; loved lost people. His life’s mission was to tell them about Jesus and preach the Bible in a plain, verse-by-verse fashion.

The Florida Times Union referred to Lindsay as “a shy man, a bashful man, someone ill at ease with strangers – a man with a broad, heavy-set face with big glasses that accentuate his eyes, giving him a slightly owlish look. Yet, those who know him best see the power of God at work.”

Anthony George, senior associate pastor of First Baptist Atlanta, grew up under Lindsay’s ministry and once stated, “My pastor talked about Jesus. And when he did you thought, ‘Man, he talked to Him this morning.’ And he led me to believe that Jesus is real and He is alive.

“Through his ministry,” George added, “hundreds of young people were launched out of that church, because he taught us that Jesus was real and that we could love Him with all of our hearts, minds, and strength.”

One blogger stated, “He pastored his flock. He didn’t travel to speaking gigs week after week. He didn’t go on the SBC preaching circuit. He never sought any glamor or recognition. He was just an obedient servant who loved God, family, and church.”

“INTEGRITY WAS HIS CHARACTER”

The Times Union reported in a July 1999 article, “Lindsay, a lifelong teetotaler, won’t even eat at an establishment that serves alcohol. When the Lindsays do go out to dinner, they eat at such restaurants as The Golden Corral or Cracker Barrel.

“He and Shirley live in the same single-family home in Arlington that they purchased 30 years ago when he returned to Jacksonville. It’s valued at just over $100,000. If the Lindsays socialize with anybody, it’s their family, who all reside in the Jacksonville area.”

When he was executive director-secretary of the Florida Baptist Convention, John Sullivan said, “His church regularly baptized more persons than any other church in [our state convention]. Dr. Lindsay believed and preached the Bible consistently. You never wondered about his commitment to the Bible as God’s Word. First Baptist Church was his life; integrity was his character; and a godly walk was his desire.”

On September 5, 1981, Homer G. Lindsay, Sr. died of cancer, and in 1982 Jerry Vines joined Lindsay as co-pastor. In 1993, the congregation moved into the present auditorium with a seating capacity of nearly 10,000.

The spacious worship center at First Baptist Jacksonville was generally filled for the much-heralded annual pastors’ conference. Homer Lindsay gave his full support to the conference although Jerry Vines was the one who implemented the event.

THROUGH THE EYES OF JERRY VINES

The Christian Index is grateful to Dr. Jerry Vines for allowing us to interview him in order to personalize and amplify this biographical profile:

The Christian Index: We know that Homer Lindsay, Sr. greatly influenced his son. Summarize how he did that. Were there other major influencers in his life?

Vines: Homer, Sr. was a great influence in his life. He motivated Homer, Jr. to be all God wanted him to be. Evangelist Eddie Martin taught him how to be a personal soul winner.

The Christian Index: What was Homer’s ministry like at Northwest Baptist Church in Miami?

Vines: He became pastor of the church when it was just beginning. He led it to become one of the largest churches in Florida. It led the SBC in baptisms one year during his pastorate.

The Christian Index: How did he come to the decision of calling you as his co-pastor at FBC in Jacksonville?

Vines: He and I prayed about it for two years. We both became convinced this was God’s will. I was elected by the church to come as co-pastor – co-equal in every way.

The Christian Index: What was it like being a co-pastor with Homer? How did you divide the responsibilities of the pastorate? What were the greatest challenges of being a co-pastor?

Vines: It worked very well for us. The things he didn’t like to do, I did, and vice versa. He worked primarily in the educational area, the evangelism, and youth. I focused on study and preparation to preach, along with the music ministry. There really weren’t any challenges, though I am not sure it is a model that will work for many men.

Jerry Vines and Homer Lindsay, Jr. made their roles as co-pastors work, because their gifts complemented each others.

The Christian Index: Most pastors have some eccentricities. Did Homer have some idiosyncrasies that you observed?

Vines: Homer was rather shy and withdrawn. He used to say, to me, “When I walk in a room and say, ‘Hello,’ I don’t know what else to do.”

The Christian Index: What were his major strengths? What were his weaknesses?

Vines: He was strong in church growth and evangelism. I hesitate to say much about his weaknesses. I think he would say that he didn’t preserve the results of his study better and would have outlined his messages.

The Christian Index: What was the church’s greatest experience during Homer’s years at FBC Jacksonville?

Vines: Beyond question, He focused his ministry on great evangelistic outreach. He had an amazing heart for winning people to Christ.

The Christian Index: What role did Homer have in establishing and implementing the pastors’ conference at Jacksonville or did he play a key role in the conference?

Vines: He asked me to start and organize the Pastors’ Conference. He was fully supportive of everything I did.

The Christian Index: How did he prepare for his preaching responsibilities? Did you work with him in planning your preaching schedules so as not to preach on the same text or book of the Bible during the same period of time?

Vines: He prepared, but probably would have said he should have prepared more. We actually never had to plan our preaching schedules. The Lord seemed to lead each of us in what books of the Bible to preach. We never overlapped.

The Christian Index: Describe Homer’s leadership ability at staff, deacon, and church business meeting (I am not assuming that he provided leadership at those meetings, but if he did, I would like to know how he handled those meetings).

Vines: We had a fairly small ministerial staff. He and I led the meetings ourselves. He was firm, direct, but fair.

The Christian Index: What role did Homer play in the Conservative Resurgence? He did not seem to have the visibility of many of our strong conservative leaders.

Vines: Homer was vitally involved in the Conservative Resurgence. Though not as visible as some perhaps, he was fully supportive and joined me in sending money to finance newspapers, mass mailings, and holding meetings

The Christian Index: What were some humorous things Homer did or said that you remember?

Vines: Homer was great fun to be around. He had a natural sense of humor. His stream of consciousness style of preaching caused him to say whatever came to mind at the time. That could be hilarious in the pulpit. I remember one youth camp he “generously” offered his cabin to me so I could finish our evangelism school lessons. He was willing to “sacrifice” and stay at the middle school camp. I was unaware at the time that he moved to an air-conditioned cabin and I got his cabin with no air.

At the time of Lindsay’s death, First Baptist had 26,000 members, 18 ordained ministers, an annual budget of more than $9 million and a full-time staff of 142. Its land and other assets were valued at about $60 million. The church was a perennial leader in baptisms in the Southern Baptist Convention. Paige Patterson stated that Lindsay was “the most singularly focused man that I have known in [my] life – one of the greatest soul-winners of all Christian history.”

Homer G. Lindsay, Jr., at age 72, died on February 13, 2000 as a result of complications from cancer. He was diagnosed with lymphoma on February 4, just one day after the funeral of his son, Homer Lindsay III, age 38. The younger Lindsay died January 28 after suffering a heart attack.

This quiet, unassuming, unpretentious servant of God did not seek publicity or greatness on this earth, but at the judgment seat of Christ it is doubtless that when his works are placed in the fire for testing they will come forth as gold, silver and precious stones.

The Centrality of Worship in the Scripture

September 10, 2017

Ed Steele, Associate Professor of Music
Leavell College, New Orleans, LA

[On this Lord’s Day, we are republishing this post from May 6, 2011. It traces the significance of worship throughout the Scriptures.]

Worship is central to the Scriptures from the beginning to the end. Worship is central to understanding the Old Testament. Man and woman were created by God for fellowship with each other and with Him. Since we live in a post-Eden world, we cannot know what it must have been like to walk and talk with God without any hindrances. But for those who have a saving faith and knowledge of the Lord Christ, such an unhindered walk will be part of what heaven is like. Whatever such a walk was, it must have been unhindered worship as well. There are a number of wonderful texts that trace worship in detail, but our purposes here allow me to just highlight a few.

Consider the first sacrifices offered to God: those of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. One was accepted and one was not. Since this predates any of the Jewish sacrificial system, one must look deeper than the fact that one of the offerings was with blood and the other wasn’t. Timothy Pierce (Enthroned on Our Praise: An Old Testament Theology of Worship. Broadman and Holman Academic: Nashville, 2008, 36) observes that Abel gave the first born, while Cain just gave of the land’s produce, implying a lack of intentionality. Worship had not been commanded but grew out of the relationship with God in the garden. Wrong worship led to tragic outcomes. Worship continues to be central to the message. Continue reading

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