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.
By Steve Lemke, Provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
What does constructive theological dialogue look like? Unfortunately, there are fewer
models today than might have been the case. On the one hand, the Balkanization of the SBC has led to many speaking to each other within in-groups but not really addressing the larger SBC fellowship. These discussions tend to produce a sense that everyone agrees that this perspective is right and everyone else is wrong. On the other hand, when other perspectives do interact with others, many blog and Facebook posts regarding theological issues are guilty of “flaming,” reducing to ad hominem insults, reducio ad absurdum stereotypes, and “straw man” arguments.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I have shared below (with permission from the participants) a discussion which took place on my Facebook page (in which it is not unusual to have discussions with 50 or more posts on some issue). I cite this discussion thread for two reasons: (a) it expresses the diversity of views even within the Calvinist, Arminian, and Baptist perspectives, and (b) it models theologians from different theological perspectives discussing an important belief by expressing real differences of belief with substantive content in a respectful spirit. To do so within the innate space limits of Facebook is quite an achievement!
The principal participants are Gary Shultz, Jr. (author of the book review, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, Missouri, whom I described as a “Calvinist” and he later qualified himself as a “moderate Calvinist”), Tony Byrne (a four point Calvinist who is a graduate of Criswell College and writes in the Theological Meditations blog), and James Leonard (a Cambridge scholar doing research at the Center for New Testament Textual Study at NOBTS, and a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians).
Dr. David Crosby, Pastor, First Baptist Church, New Orleans, LA
A friend told me last Sunday, “I want to take the country back.” He meant by this, I think, that he wanted to return to a time when the United States seemed to operate within a Protestant ethos.
My own sense of Christianity and the church is that we will always be a minority in a hostile culture, even when we think we are not. I never experienced a culture that I would call “Christian” in my upbringing. This includes my Bible-belt experience at a school in Central Texas in the late 60s. I was shocked at the behavior and conversation of my new “Baptist” friends. I couldn’t believe they claimed to be Christians.
My family and our faith always felt like a minority view everywhere we lived. So the desire to turn back the clock to some previous era when America was Christian and we prayed and read the Bible in public schools does not resonate with me. I experienced public education hijacked by the local Catholic establishment. They wanted nothing to do with Christianity as I understood it. The local priest opposed our Bible study and warned students not to attend even though the cafeteria served fish every Friday and everyone came to school with ash crosses on Ash Wednesday (except me).
Thursday is for Theological Terminology:
The Study of Specialized Words relating to Theology
Ron F. Hale, Associate Pastor, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN
Arminians taught that since God wanted all of mankind to be saved, He sent the Holy Spirit to draw all men to Christ. The human will, however, is free to reject the drawing power of the Holy Spirit. An example of scriptural defense of this would be found in Matthew 13 where Jesus teaches the parable of the sower and the soils. Obviously some reject the good seed before it even takes hold. Others allow it to be stolen through other personal decisions (Frank S. Page, Trouble with the TULIP, 2d ed. [Canton, GA: Riverstone, 2006], 27).
In a synopsis (pp 26-28) of the five points of Arminianism, Dr. Page shares the above definition. He points out that in 1618, several persons disagreeing with the orthodox faith of the Calvinist state church presented their beliefs to the Dutch parliament. These beliefs became known as the five points of Arminianism of which Obstructable or Resistible Grace is the fourth point.
The Case For Resistible Grace
Dr. Steve W. Lemke does an excellent job critiquing the reformed doctrine of Irresistible Grace (chapter five) in the book Whosoever Will: A Biblical Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism. Writing as a Biblicist, not an Arminian, Dr. Lemke lays out key Old Testament and New Testament texts showing Resistible Grace at work in the hearts and lives of individuals.
Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
This video is taken from a gathering in Times Square on the Sunday evening it was revealed that Osama Bin Laden was dead….
The demise of this terrorist, the man behind financing the bombing of the World Trade Centers, brings with it a mix of emotions for me. Therefore, there are aspects of his demise that sadden me as well as aspects that gladden my heart.
The Aspects that Gladden my Heart
Many aspects of this capture/killing certainly gladden my heart. It certainly is a just war theory that brings about the searching for and destroying of al-Qaeda. It is also a principle of war that if one cuts off the head of the snake, the snake dies. While al-Qaeda is certainly a freak of nature in that other heads seem to be a part of this snake, the death of Bin Laden certainly has dealt a tremendous blow to the organization. Bin Laden is no longer among the living so can never again plot such a despicable, diabolical deed as the one this nation endured.
I am also glad that justice seems to have been meted out for the families of the victims in the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the victims on the airplanes. Forty some passengers lost their lives, in a Pennsylvania field, trying to recover Flight #93. Their lives, while thwarting an attack, also meted out justice for those who had hijacked the flight. The best selling book authored by the wife of one of the passengers, Let’s Roll, expresses how Todd Beamer’s children were only 3, 18 months, and one still in the womb. Today we have children nearly 14 years old, 12 years old, and 10 years old that will only know their dad through published accounts. These are the children made famous because their mom had the where-with-all to put her emotions and thoughts in written form. What about those children whose parents never came home? What about those spouses who never came back that morning? What about that loved one who walked out of the house that day and the first thing their loved ones found was the half empty coffee cup left on the counter? These people have experienced just a small piece of justice with the death of Bin Laden.