“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” I Thess. 5.18.
On the slim chance that you have pushed away from the table — the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc. — and venture onto the blog today or tomorrow, please list three of God’s blessings for which you are thankful. However, there is a catch: your list must be alliterative, like mine.
I’m thankful for my Savior, salvation and spouse.
by David R. Brumbelow
David R. Brumbelow is pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Highlands, Texas. He holds a B.A. from East Texas Baptist University, and an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow, which is about his father. David also wrote Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence, Free Church Press. David blogs at gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com, where this article first appeared Oct. 24.
We have a responsibility to be good citizens. We should do what we can to make this country a better place in which to live. As Christians, we are to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (the state), and to God the things that are God’s” Mark 12.17.
Scripture tells us to be respectful to the governmental authorities: Rom. 13.1-7; Titus 3.1; 1 Peter 2.13-17.
In a democracy, informed voting can make a difference for the better.
Since 2003, Dr. L. Paige Patterson has presided over Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Previously, Dr. Patterson was president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N. Car. The post below – an extensive and detailed sermon outline – originates from a student’s hand who heard Dr. Patterson deliver the message on August 27, 1998, at SEBTS. Checked for accuracy against an audio file of the sermon, the outline below is presented with Dr. Patterson’s permission and with SBCToday’s gratitude not only for Dr. Patterson’s sermon, but also for his leadership in our beloved Southern Baptist Convention especially since 1979.
Eight Theses Concerning the Doctrine of Election, 1 Peter 1.1-2
by Paige Patterson
I. Two mistakes can be and often are made.
A. To treat the doctrine of election in the Bible as though it did not exist at all.
1. There are evangelistic, missionary-to-the-core churches that do not speak of or teach the doctrine of election.
2. The pastor is afraid to speak of election even though it is prominent in the Scriptures, and this fear deprives members of one of their greatest blessings.
B. To construct one’s theology and soteriology primarily around the doctrine of election.
1. This model cannot be found in the Word of God.
2. The soteriology and even the theology of the New Testament is constructed around the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, His atoning sacrifice, and his Great Commission to take the Gospel to the end of the earth.
II. Any assessment of the soteriology of the Bible must reckon with the entire witness of the Scripture without facile handling of apparently divergent texts.
A. E.g., the ardent Calvinist says the “whosoever wills of the Bible” refer to the elect.
1. This is facile use of the Word of God.
2. It is a poor explanation of what the Bible says regarding the doctrine of election.
3. It does not consider the whole witness of Scripture.
III. Any construal of the doctrine of election which makes one more of an evangelist for a system of theology than an evangelist for Jesus and His free salvation to all men is seriously at odds with the Word of God.
A. More clearly: If one is more of an ardent advocate of Calvinism than you are of Jesus as an answer to men’s souls, then you are out of step with the clear teachings of the Word of God. This is determined by what one speaks of the most, Calvinism or Jesus.
IV. Any formulation of the doctrine of election which diminishes in any way either intentionally or unintentionally the passion for or aggressive practice of confrontational evangelism must be jettisoned as unworthy of both the spirit and the mandate of the New Testament.
A. More clearly – Whatever your doctrine of election is — if it intentionally or unintentionally slows you down in the task of confrontational evangelism, you have yet to discover what the Bible teaches about election.
V. Any formulation of the doctrine of election which eliminates some or most of all of the people on the face of the globe from any possibility of salvation at the outset and automatically condemns them to hell reduces the warning of Jesus about the unpardonable sin to little more than spiritual terrorism, or worse, deliberate deceit, since by definition every sin of the non-elect is unforgivable.
A. This thesis is the hardest to understand, but is the most devastating.
B. Jesus issued a poignant warning against an unpardonable sin.
VI. Election is somehow bound up in the foreknowledge of God.
A. Clearly in 1 Peter 1.2 “according to the foreknowledge of God….”
B. This raises the questions for Calvinists: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If God foreknows something to be the case, is it conceivable that it be any other way?” And the answer is “No.”
C. But be careful. Not once, but twice the Scriptures speak of election being bound up in the foreknowledge of God.
1. Romans 8.29-30 – For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
2. It cannot be argued or denied that this passage of Scripture is not sequential in nature.
a. Glorification does come after justification.
b. Justification does come as a result of calling.
c. Calling does come as a result of the predestining act of God.
d. Predestination is based in the foreknowledge of God.
3. Even though we don’t understand it, we must not deny that it.
VII. Although it is all together a healthy exercise to wrestle with the doctrines of election and responsibility, sovereignty and human freedom, the failure of 2000 years of theological reflection to crack the mysteries of God’s electing providence should instill humility rather than hubris in the interpreter.
A. For 2000 years people have been discussing this and it may be the only reason for building cafeterias and coffee houses on seminary campuses. No one has come up with an explanation to satisfy anybody else.
1. My explanation doesn’t satisfy you.
2. Yours for dead sure doesn’t satisfy me.
B. Under such conditions, is it not better to say, “God, in Your greatness you have done, thought and acted in ways too transcendent for me to embrace”?
VIII. If we are unable to resolve the apparent paradox of biblical instruction, its heavenly wisdom proving too transcendent for fallen intellects, then perhaps we should advance to a new question. Maybe instead of asking how it all works, we ought to ask instead, “Why is the doctrine of election in the Bible?”
A. If God has placed something in the text that seems to be too far beyond us, and we can’t make it all make sense with human logic as we know it, then why would he do a thing like that on such an important topic?
B. If you change the question from how does it all work to why is it there and then read Romans 8, it will unfold like a magnificent panorama of unparalleled beauty before your very eyes. You will discover four things.
1. As long as doctrine of election is in the Bible, salvation is God’s act from beginning to end.
a. It is not what man does, but it is what God does.
b. Man never thought of it.
c. Man never planned it.
d. Man can’t produce it.
e. Man can’t sustain it.
f. It is God’s act from beginning to end.
g. Romans 8:29-30 says “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” You do not read anything about man in this text.
2. As long as election is in the Bible, the impossibility of apostasy is made crystal clear.
a. Romans 8:35-39 asks who will separate us from the love of God?
b. When you come to Jesus Christ and you are regenerated and born again, you can never forfeit that salvation. How would it be possible for God to lose somebody He had elected to salvation?
c. As long as the doctrine of election is there in the Bible, it guarantees that once you are saved, you are always saved.
3. As long as the doctrine of election is in the Bible, it guarantees God providential oversight of His children.
a. Romans 8:28: And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
i. It doesn’t say that everything was good.
ii. (Mt 7:11) – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
iii. Your heavenly Father takes the worst things that the devil and life itself can deal to you by way of a hand, and He turns it into a winning hand and blesses you through the whole thing.
4. As long as the doctrine of election is in the Bible, we don’t have to worry about how the world is going to end.
a. It guarantees a designed climax of the age, even though we may differ on the specifics of culmination. All may be somewhat surprised – post-tribbers more than others.
b. Romans 8:21-23 says that the whole creation groans and travails awaiting something – what? – rejuvenation of God’s created order.
c. All is not out of control. Ultimately, we do not have to worry who has the missiles. We know that God is guiding world events inevitably toward the designed climax of the age, and election guarantees it.
C. So if you ask the question “Why is the doctrine of election in the Scriptures?” you will feel much better about the answers that you get. And you will have to leave unresolved, until we get to heaven, the question of how to reconcile the apparently divergent positions of Scripture.
Pass It On
Walker Moore founded AweStar Ministries, a missions organization that has put thousands of teens on fields ‘white unto harvest’ around the world.
I had just left military service when I started attending Hannibal-LaGrange College (now university). I was somewhat older than the other students, but not so old that I didn’t fit in. The college assigned Dr. John Burns to be my advisor. This professor had served as a missionary, translated the Bible into other languages, authored papers and co-written commentaries. In our first meeting, he asked me to tell him about my dreams and calling. With the elocutionary zeal of a new evangelist, I launched into my desire to be a famous preacher and speak to large masses of people. I could see his forehead wrinkle as I shared what God had laid on my heart.
(cont’d. from Sunday, Sept. 30)
SBC PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS
SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
San Francisco, California, 1962
HERSCHEL H. HOBBS (d.) served two terms, from 1961 to 1963, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Considered one of the most influential Southern Baptists of the 20th Century, Hobbs chaired the committee that wrote the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message Statement. A prolific author, Hobbs was the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City from 1949 to 1972. Hobbs was born Oct. 24, 1907, and died at 88 years of age.
When one speaks of “Baptist doctrine” he is usually understood. There are Baptist Confessions of Faith. Southern Baptist seminaries have their Abstracts of Principles. The Convention itself adopted a statement of “The Baptist Faith and Message.” But none of these is a creedal statement binding upon all Southern Baptists. They still hold to the priesthood of believers which extends to every Baptist both the privilege and responsibility of interpreting the Scriptures for himself.
What, then, is the cohesive force which holds Southern Baptists together doctrinally? It is their time honored principle of unity in diversity. This does not mean doctrinal indifference nor a theological hodge-podge. It means that each Southern Baptist extends Christian charity to those with whom he differs. It means that he recognizes the integrity of those with whom he honestly disagrees. By this principle Southern Baptists have been agreeable in their disagreements. They have resolved their differences in the greater unity of purpose as stated in their Constitution of “eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.” It is thus that Southern Baptists have and will continue to preserve their unity and strength.
It should be remembered, however, that this principle of unity in diversity imposes upon every Southern Baptist a sacred trust. The emphasis should be placed upon “unity,” not “diversity.” Liberty is no excuse for license. The greater body of Southern Baptists have always been a conservative people not given to extreme positions in theology either on one side or on the other. They have been, so to speak, a middle-of-the-road people. At given times the theological road has turned either to the right or to the left. But Southern Baptists have remained in the middle of the road. No Southern Baptist is justified in disturbing the fellowship by seeing how near to the edge of the pavement on either side he can come and still remain on the road. A common road sign is applicable here. “Danger! Soft Shoulders!” Nor should Southern Baptists seek to widen the middle beyond reasonable proportions. If they get out of their lane they may have a head-on collision with strange theological traffic headed in the other direction.
In their differences Southern Baptists must heed the injunction of the apostle Paul to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). But they must speak the truth as God gives them to see it. For Paul also enjoins, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8). But before they apply their anathemas let them heed the words of the author of Hebrews. “Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (12:12-13).
Still further, Southern Baptists must place a greater emphasis upon teaching and training its constituency. Defend the faith they must. But defense is not enough. For in the last analysis each Southern Baptist determines his personal faith for himself.
Obviously this emphasis imposes a great responsibility upon each church and pastor. By its very polity the denomination must wait upon the churches. And the churches look to their pastors for leadership.
The pastor has not discharged his responsibility merely by becoming a defender of the faith. The shepherd must not only defend but fee his sheep. He should guard them from predatory animals. But he may gather them in the fold and stand guard over them only to find that they have perished from starvation.
This can happen to spiritual sheep as well. In every theological crisis which has swept through the ranks of Southern Baptists, many were carried away because they “believed the Bible,” but knew little about what the Bible taught. Doctrinal conviction and understanding among the rank and file of present-day Southern Baptists leave much to be desired.
Southern Baptists do not live in a theological vacuum. Through the mass media of radio, television, and the printing press, to say nothing about daily personal contacts, they are exposed to varied theological positions. The pastor cannot be everywhere at the same time to stand guard over them. They only reasonable procedure is so to teach them that they may read and discern for themselves, and not be carried about by every wind of doctrine. This can be done by utilizing the various media of teaching and training provided by the denomination through the churches. The greatest need in Southern Baptist pulpits is a wave of expository preaching. When the sheep look up they should be fed.
Furthermore, Southern Baptists look to their colleges and seminaries to play a major role in meeting this crisis of our age. From time to time concern is manifested in this regard. Like any other Southern Baptist or state Baptist institution their schools are not above criticism. Nor should they be discouraged by it. They should fear more if they were ignored. This concern indicates that Southern Baptists realize the vital role of these educational institutions in the life of the denomination. They have seen the departure of many denominations from their historic faith begin in their colleges and seminaries. They have a right to be concerned.
But this concern should be expressed in love, not vindictiveness. To do otherwise only serves to defeat a well intended purpose as it creates a gulf between the churches and their schools. Nor should a particular problem be generalized so to throw a blanket of suspicion about the entire educational family.
The schools themselves are not without concern when problems arise. During the past year it has been my privilege, in response to invitations from the presidents, to meet with the faculties of all of our seminaries. In respective cases we have spent from two and one half to four and one half hours discussing their problems. I have found them to be concerned deeply about their relation to the denomination and the internal matters which affect them.
Out of these discussions have come four convictions. First, this generation of seminary professors is equal in fact or in potential to any in Southern Baptist history. Second, these men and women are aware of their responsibility and the trust placed in them by their denomination. But they hunger for understanding and help by the denomination as they discharge this responsibility. Third, they respond favorably to any interest shown in their problems. Without exception they have expressed appreciation that the president of the Convention would take time out of a busy schedule to consider with them their problems. Fourth, these people are worthy of our trust and understanding. The vast majority of them, largely unnoticed by the denomination, are teaching and training their students in a way to gladden the heart of every Southern Baptist. I am not unaware of those areas in which problems have arisen or could arise. But these should be dealt with in particular, not in mass.
The ratio of such problems is no greater now than in past years. When I entered the seminary thirty years ago Southern Baptists had two seminaries and one Bible Institute whose combined faculties would scarcely exceed that of one of our larger seminaries now. Now they maintain six full-fledged seminaries whose faculty members exceed many times those of former years. Southern Baptists had problems thirty years ago. They have them now. So long as God chooses to work through human personality they shall continue to have problems. But they are an evidence of life, not death. Southern Baptists should deal with them in such fashion as to make them the occasion of growth, not dearth and death.
Three affirmations I would make. These are not the affirmations of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nor are they those of its president speaking ex cathedra. They are the affirmations of one Southern Baptist as he views the current theological scene in our denomination.
First, Southern Baptists have a basic philosophy of theological education. It is not to teach theology for theology’s sake. Rather it is to teach, train, and equip men and women for the purpose of providing a Bible-centered and informed leadership for Southern Baptist churches and institutions. Any program of theological education which proposes to do otherwise is to depart from the purpose of those who established and continue to maintain their seminaries.
This does not mean that they expect their seminaries to ignore current trends in theological thought. Theological thought is never static. Any graduate of Southern Baptist seminaries should be thoroughly at home in this atmosphere. But he should be so grounded in the historical and grammatical elements of the Bible, and so orientated in the current theological scene, as to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff as he shepherds his flock.
Such a result involves not only the contents of instruction but the method of instruction. Someone has described some of the current methods of teaching as the “shock” method designed to produce thought. This method may be used beneficially in theological education as in psychological therapy. But it should ever be remembered that the difference between shock therapy and an electrocution is the skill of the technician and the amount of electricity applied.
Second, Southern Baptists expect the administrations, trustees, and faculties of their seminaries to insure that this underlying philosophy of theological education is brought to a full fruition in the products thereof. They are the repositories of a sacred trust which must be carried out.
The original framers of the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention wisely provided that the Convention shall not violate the charters of its institutions. This provision places a heavier responsibility upon the elected personnel of these institutions. The problems which invariably will arise should be dealt with by them cooperatively, courageously, patiently, prayerfully, and realistically.
The position of a trustee of a theological seminary is most vital. If ever one should be as wise as a serpent, as harmless as a dove, and as courageous as a lion, he should. He is a steward of eternal verities. He is the link between the denomination and its centers of theological training. Often there swirl about him conflicting streams of thought. And out of these swirling eddies he must help to chart the course of the ship which bears precious cargo indeed. He is deserving of the prayers of his denomination which he endeavors to serve.
One of the most vital functions of his office is to help to preserve within the teaching process the delicate balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. And in this he must have the full cooperation of the administration and the faculty.
Southern Baptists, on the one hand, should never deny to their seminaries the right of academic freedom. To do so would be to stifle the very genius of theological investigation and interpretation. On the other hand, they should never cease to require academic responsibility. Responsibility without freedom or freedom without responsibility is a misnomer. There cannot be the one without the other. God made man free, but He also made him responsible. Indeed, for freedom to serve its purpose it must be balanced by responsibility. A river flowing within its banks is free to carry the cargoes of commerce or to turn mighty turbines. But once it spreads beyond its banks it becomes a destructive deluge. In violating its responsibility it destroys its freedom.
Theological thought is like that. Southern Baptists grant to their theologians freedom of investigation and thought. Indeed, they expect them to think ahead of them. But they expect them to think down the road by which they may follow, not in the by-paths which lead to theological confusion. They ask only that they not get so far ahead that they cannot follow, nor speak in terms that they do not understand.
Southern Baptist seminaries must enjoy the confidence of their people if they are to serve them. To lose it would be to fail in their purpose. If Southern Baptists are to continue to blow the trumpet of God with a certain sound, it must be heard most loudly and clearly in their seminaries. For if not, who shall prepare to the battle?
Third, for Southern Baptists to fulfill their purpose they must retain their theological distinctiveness. Southern Baptists have enjoyed the blessings of God. But prosperity has its perils. One of their greatest perils at the moment is the growing desire to fit in rather than to stand out. There is something about frugal fare that strengthens. Luxury, on the other hand, tends to enervate.
Israel, flushed with the thrill of a God-given destiny, said, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8). But settled in the land of milk and honey they demanded of God’s leader, Samuel, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations . . . . ” (I Sam. 8:19-20). God told His prophet to grant their request, saying, “. . . for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (8:7). In their desire to fit in they ceased to stand out. Thus they took the first step that led to the hour when Jesus said to them, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:42).
This must not happen to Southern Baptists! They must continue to stand out. This is not theological snobbery but theological conviction!
Recently Doctor Hans Hofmann, a Harvard theologian and a native of Switzerland, stated that a new kind of theology is emerging in the United States. He says that orthodoxy, liberalism, and neo-orthodoxy will be discarded when this new theology takes hold. This new theology, says Doctor Hofmann, will emerge at the grass roots level in the churches. He state further that one concern of this theology will be whether or not God is being revealed, glorified, and enjoyed.
I quote approvingly another’s comments. “If this new theology does develop it will be simply because present day theologians have abandoned the grass roots of our religious bodies and are spending their own time in theological discussion among themselves and criticizing the Bible from a textual standpoint. While the theological world is putting great stress upon scholasticism and concern for the educated few, the masses making up the churches are overlooked . . . . If liberalism and neo-orthodoxy become the ‘norm’ among Southern Baptists, we can see easily how Professor Hofmann’s predication could come true.” The same may be said should the “norm” be an extreme form of Fundamentalism.
The words of Doctor Hofmann may well be a challenge to Southern Baptists. I would summon this Convention to accept that challenge! This does not mean that it shall forsake theological education. It means that with definiteness of purpose Southern Baptists shall support it with renewed fervor and strength.
Someone is going to shape and guide this new theology. And Southern Baptists are best fitted to do so. They are a “grass roots” people. Their success is due largely to the response given by the “grass roots” to the Gospel as Southern Baptists preach it. If Southern Baptists forsake their conservatively, middle-of-the-road interpretation of the gospel, the “grass roots” wills eek elsewhere for spiritual food and guidance. And Southern Baptists as such largely will have lost their reason for being.
This is not a call for retreat but for advance. It is not a plea to discard the intellect, but to employ it in giving to this age a theology which speaks to both the minds and the hearts of men. The “modern mind” is not without a soul. Whether a man be a Doctor of Philosophy or follows a plow his basic spiritual needs are the same. Southern Baptists cannot say that they have fulfilled their destiny until they have spoken to both.
In such an endeavor Southern Baptists must look to their colleges and seminaries for guidance. I am certain that such will be forthcoming. To do so will call for the greatest intellectual endeavor. It is much more demanding intellectually to blaze a new trail than to follow a beaten path. To create a new theological vocabulary, if such is needed, calls for more ingenuity than to repeat with strange and uncertain sounds the recently coined phraseology of other theological traditions. Southern Baptists’ greatest need in this regard is not a new vocabulary, but an understanding of the vocabulary which they now have. Southern Baptist theologians must employ every tool of investigation and research to prepare a highway of truth through the present-day theological wilderness.
This is not to say that Southern Baptists will forsake their traditional theological position. They must rather keep pace with the changing scene to interpret and declare it in terms that will find a ready response in the hearts of all men. The last word has not been said regarding the revelation of God. The revelation is complete. But man’s understanding of it may become ever larger as it is unfolded to him by the Holy Spirit.
Conclusions in research must be based on the autonomy of the Christian religion. The Old Testament must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament. Jesus Christ Himself is the final criterion of truth. The New Testament records of His person and work are their own best interpreter.
Southern Baptists will do well to heed the words of the apostle Paul. Literally rendered he says, “Beware lest any man take you away as spoils of war through philosophy, even empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic elements of the cosmos, and not according to Christ. For in him is continuously and abidingly at home all the attributes of deity, the state of being God in bodily form” (Col. 2:8-9, author’s translation). In short, Southern Baptists must judge their philosophy, and science, according to Christ, and not Christ according to philosophy and science.
Yes, this is an age of crisis. But Southern Baptists are not afraid of crises. They were born in a crisis. Their history reveals that they have passed through seven major crises. And Southern Baptists emerged from each stronger and more resolute than ever before. They have always turned a crisis into a conquest. God grant that they shall do so now!