After serving in the Marine Corps in North Carolina, I have often pondered why my home state of Michigan has such an abysmal Southern Baptist presence. When I lived in North Carolina we would often joke about the numerous Southern Baptist churches, saying “you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting three of them!” Yet you can live your entire life in a Michigan town and never have one person talk to you about the Roman Road.
How do I know? I grew up in a small Michigan town and it wasn’t until I was stationed in Pensacola, Florida, that I had my first encounter with a Baptist who lived like an evangelist. This is what is at stake. Michigan and states like it can either become Gospel powerhouses, or choose to doom endless generations to birth and death where the message of “salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone” will never be delivered to them. Apart from Southern Baptists, communities are gridlocked by “sacraments” of other denominations and the “grace + works” theologies of others that rob people of the power of the Ephesians 2:8-9 Gospel.
The purpose of this article is to explore why Michigan and states like it are ages behind other states. In my years as a pastor and a leader, I have several suggestions that point out why Michigan is falling short.
Calvinists are deterministic in the compatible style. All determinists argue that events happen because they were determined to happen in the way they happened. Events are the result of God’s determined plan and salvation cannot be conditioned upon faith.
Arguing for determinism, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “The singling out of one from another must finally be sought not in the human will, but in God who singles out one from another by His Grace.” He cites such verses as 1 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 9:15, and Philippians 2:14.
He specifically engages the issue of libertarian free choice in his argument against Molinism. He provides a good example of how determinists argue against libertarian freedom in general and as related to salvation in particular. Garrigou-Lagrange says, “Let us suppose that Peter and Judas situated in equal circumstances receive equal prevenient grace; then God sees Peter consenting to accept that grace, and hence singling himself out from Judas who does not consent, not on account of the grace, for an equal grace is indifferently offered to each. Therefore it is because the will decides to accept the grace. Thus do all Thomists argue against Molina, and they thus affirm as revealed the principle that can be called ‘the principle of predilection,’ namely, that no one would be better than another unless he were loved more and helped more by God.’” Here are my thoughts on his comments according to my understanding of Scripture.
Once the better choice is made by Peter, the consequences of salvation do clearly make Peter an essentially better person, but obviously that is only because of grace. Therefore, according to Extensivism, both the choice and the betterment resulting from the choice are due to the grace of God. To wit, no aspect of salvation in Extensivism (or existence for that matter) happens apart from grace. It is neither necessary nor expected that this fit Calvinism’s determinism; only that it fits what we find in Scripture. Thomists (Calvinists) seem not to be able to conceptualize God’s plan being comprised of his equal love and help for everyone, including grace-enabled freedom to choose differently. We should not be surprised to find Calvinism’s exclusivism here since it pervades the core tenets of Calvinism—unconditional election, limited atonement, and selective regeneration.
First, I would note it is not the will per se that decides, but it is the libertarianly-endowed Peter and Judas as the efficient causes of their actions who decide. Each decides and carries out his decision by exercising his will. Second, being so constituted to possess libertarian freedom is solely a grace act of God in creation, and therefore, not some rogue force operating outside or contrary to the plan and grace of God; it would only seem to be so in a Calvinistically-determined system. Third, the ability to exercise their will in choosing is always by grace, regardless of their choice. Peter’s choice to consent was no more a choice provisioned by grace than Judas’s choice to not consent. Each is able to choose differently because it was the will of God for man to be able to do so. That is to say, God’s endowment of man with libertarian freedom does not attenuate the need for and presence of grace. Consequently, Garrigou-Lagrange’s issue seems to be with God’s decision to endow man with libertarian freedom. What if God said to him, I chose for the will to work libertarianly rather than deterministically as you teach? Would he say that cannot be?
It may be cogently argued that equal grace is the raison d’être (reason for being) for otherwise choice resulting in different outcomes, as Extensivism contends. Garrigou-Lagrange says that Peter’s singling himself out is “not on account of the grace, for an equal grace is indifferently offered to each. Therefore it is because the will decides to accept the grace.” In this, he presupposes, but does not demonstrate, if individuals can exercise their will differently given the same grace, that such ability cannot be the result of grace. But there is actually no reason, outside of a deterministic system, why a person’s freedom to will different outcomes cannot be because of grace as indeed Extensivism argues.
He is simply limiting the purpose of grace to ensure a certain outcome rather than grace enabling man, at times, to create different outcomes. This means that Garrigou-Lagrange’s limitation is not imposed by Scripture, logic, the inability of God, or a deficiency of grace, but rather determinism’s narrowness precludes such a state of affairs. He seems to have simply drawn his conclusion that the equal grace did not include the will (technically the efficient cause) to be able to choose differently within the same grace, which is, in fact, the essence of libertarian freedom. Therefore he says that the singling out is “not on account of grace” (if libertarian freedom was true). But Extensivism contends that the singling out is precisely because of grace that affords otherwise choice in an equal opportunity.
Garrigou-Lagrange’s portrayal is that if a person can by an exercise of his will choose a better outcome than someone else, it demonstrates a greater grace and love from God. This conclusion is true in Calvinism’s determinism but it is not demonstrated in Scripture nor is it logically necessary in a non-deterministic approach such as Extensivism. Extensivism contends Scripture teaches everything is by grace, including libertarian freedom and its entailments.
 Compatibilism contends that determinism and moral responsibility (free choice) are compatible; hence the name. Free choice is not attained by lessening the deterministic nature of compatibilism. Rather, it is derived from defining free choice to mean so long as one chooses from his greatest desire, he has made a free choice. Importantly, the greatest desire is determined; consequently, compatibilism provides only a determined free choice.
 Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, tr Dom. Bede Rose (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1944), 462. Garrigou-Lagrange was a prominent 20th century neo-Thomist. See also Thomas P. Flint, Divine Providence, The Molinist Account, ed. William P. Alston (New York: Cornell University Press), 117.
 “Theological Determinism” from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-det/ accessed 1/3/16. See responses by indeterminists to his argument.
 Garrigou-Lagrange, One God, 463, quoted by Flint, Divine Providence.
 Extensivist is used in the place of non-Calvinist.
According to an anecdote in an 1826 newspaper article, Thomas Jefferson attended a small Baptist church a short distance from Monticello roughly a decade before the American Revolution. On one occasion, while dining with the Pastor, Rev. Andrew Tribble, Jefferson was asked what he thought about the Baptist form of church government. He replied that he “considered it the only form of pure democracy that then existed in the world, and had concluded that it would be the best plan of Government for the American Colonies.”
Imagine the eye rolls one would receive from enlightened elitists in Washington today upon mentioning that the primary architect of America’s governing system was schooled in his political philosophy by his observations of a small town Baptist congregation!
Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers would later frame the United States Constitution in such a manner that its first three articles would address the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government, each with its own limited powers held in check by the other two. This system was intentionally inefficient, designed to prevent any branch from ruling with an iron fist. It was deemed better to get nothing done at all than to get a great deal accomplished without sufficient accountability to leaders constitutionally charged with looking at each decision from a different point of view.
Roughly 250 years after Jefferson’s conversation with Tribble, it would be wise for Southern Baptists to allow him to return the favor, advising us to borrow a page from his political philosophy playbook. In order to operate in a manner most likely to prevent any branch of Southern Baptist government from ruling with an iron fist, we must create a judicial branch capable of balancing the powers of the other two. Continue reading