Defining the Elephant
Part 2 of 2

July 25, 2012

By Dr. Rick Patrick
Senior Pastor
Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church
Hueytown, Alabama


At some point, it is fair to ask the question, “Is it good stewardship for me to pay for the institutional advancement of organizations promoting doctrines I do not embrace personally, nor desire to teach my children, nor favor publishing at Lifeway, nor seek to advance through church planting?” It is precisely here, in the practical outworking of our theological disagreements through our institutional struggles, that the same elephant we might overlook in our Sunday School class or church becomes absolutely impossible to avoid at the denominational level.

3. The Adversarial Agenda

Some have claimed that we not only have an elephant in the room, but we also have a snake in the grass. The only way to sympathize with such a sentiment is to consider whether a clearly adversarial agenda has been advanced by a network of Calvinist organizations relatively unknown to Traditionalist Southern Baptists, who secretly and quietly seek nothing other than to turn Traditionalist churches into Calvinist ones, a clearly stated goal they simply refer to as reform.

In their defense, it cannot be said that the Calvinists are doing anything they perceive to be wrong. Once one understands that they equate Calvinism with the true gospel of Christianity, any pejorative connotations are removed with regard to motive. Frankly, if I believed the way they do, I would also seek the spread of Calvinism everywhere, including the primarily Traditionalist churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the agenda is adversarial in nature just the same. In order to explore this further, we will (a) identify five such Calvinist organizations, (b) examine one purpose statement, (c) evaluate our conflicts as interpersonal or foundational, and (d) clarify the uneven rules of engagement that have thus far marked the contest.

(a) Calvinist Organizations

While many Traditionalist Southern Baptists attended WMU meetings or Deacon Body functions, Calvinist groups were busy organizing themselves for what they perceive as a great movement of God among this generation. Granted, with a few notable exceptions, these are not primarily Southern Baptist groups, but their membership consists of many Southern Baptists, and more importantly, their reform goal, which I refer to as Calvinization, extends to all people everywhere, including, of course, the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. To those who claim that groups outside the Southern Baptist Convention should remain irrelevant to this discussion, I must counter that if a group seeks to Calvinize my church and denomination, I care not whether their attempt is from within or from without, they are still seeking to change my organizations, and thus my convictions require the mounting of a defense against their stated intention.

Nine Marks is the group specializing in those ecclesiological matters mentioned above, and is highly concerned with the reform of church discipline, membership roll administration and promoting the use of elders. The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel are exciting evangelical conferences with speakers who are mostly drawn from outside Southern Baptist life. These conferences model preaching styles and content consistent with Calvinist doctrines and emphases.  The Acts 29 Network is a church planting organization committed to starting new churches served by pastors (including many Southern Baptists) who are required to be exclusively Calvinist in their theology. Finally, the Founders Ministries is a Southern Baptist organization that has existed for almost thirty years under a purpose statement clearly devoted to the Calvinization of Southern Baptist churches, a purpose which is explored in greater detail in the following section.

(b) Purpose Statement

The purpose of Founders Ministries is the recovery of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the reformation of local churches.

At first glance, it would appear that the Founders Ministries simply wants to accomplish the innocuous goal of making our churches better. I do not doubt, from their perspective, this is exactly what they seek. However, we must consider what they mean. First, by recovery of the gospel, we understand they contend the gospel presently being proclaimed by the vast majority of Southern Baptists is a false or a lost one in need of recovery. Second, by the word gospel they mean the Calvinist understanding of the gospel, which differs in important ways from the Traditionalist definition. Third, notice the desire for reformation, not merely of one single local church, but rather of local churches in the plural form.

We can properly infer if the goal of the Founders Ministries, and other Calvinist organizations, were to be completely realized in its ultimate expression, the clear desire among these various organizations is the complete Calvinization of ALL the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Believing as they do that Traditionalist churches need to be reformed, or Calvinized, it would be cruel of them to leave any unchanged, with only a false or lost gospel in need of recovery. I should hope it goes without saying, from the Traditionalist perspective which disaffirms this lost gospel, their effort amounts to a theological takeover attempt, which must be resisted on the grounds of clearly differing doctrinal principles.

(c) Interpersonal or Foundational Conflicts

At this point, it may be helpful to step back for a moment and take a deep breath, asking ourselves a general question about the manner in which we have thus far engaged in the debate as Calvinists and Traditionalists. Many have suggested that the two sides in this debate have behaved rather poorly, hurling unkind charges at one another and engaging in ad hominem personal attacks. We are left with the implication that our disagreements are, in fact, minor ones that have been blown wildly out of proportion by our crude misbehavior and complete lack of interpersonal communication skills. Against this notion, may I humbly suggest, while we have at times communicated poorly with harsh language and strident blog post comments, what if there truly exists, at the deepest level of our present conflict, a fundamental and foundational disagreement responsible for driving all of the poorly worded arguments and unfortunate mischaracterizations of others? What if we are not merely Baptists behaving badly? What if our fundamental visions for the future of our denomination reveal irreconcilable differences?

(d) An Uneven Contest

It has been demonstrated, on the basis of at least one clearly defined purpose statement, that Calvinists are seeking to operate upon Traditionalists in ways that  would transform Traditionalist churches into Calvinist ones, ultimately resulting in the Calvinization not only of our churches, but of the institutions in Southern Baptist life those churches mutually support. In other words, they are seeking reform. It must be noted that although several organizations exist to Calvinize churches that are currently Traditionalist, there is not one single organization actively seeking to Traditionalize churches that are currently Calvinist.

This situation can be compared to a football team’s scrimmage in which the blue team always lines up on offense while the gray team always lines up on defense. Indeed, there are only two real measures Traditionalists have taken in the struggle thus far. First, the Whosoever Will conference and book have broadly defined a theological  framework offering an alternative to Calvinism in Southern Baptist life. Second, the Traditionalist Statement has more or less defined the defensive playbook, and signed up an informal list of defensive players.

The response to these measures by Calvinists has been interesting to observe. Having for years encountered little resistance in Southern Baptist life to their surprisingly unrecognized movement, the presence of the gray team’s defensive squad on the practice field has been met with a sense of indignation. Forget for a moment that the gray team is disorganized and has no offense. How dare they show up, define themselves and post a sign up list for tryouts! I believe it is not divisive in the least for Traditionalists to defend the doctrines of their churches and institutions from beliefs they cannot in good conscience embrace. In fact, the next logical step strategically for the Traditionalists would be the creation of an organization whose purpose statement might mirror that of the Founders Ministries by seeking to Traditionalize Calvinist churches in the Southern Baptist Convention whose gospel so clearly requires correction in the opposite direction.

Conclusion

The elephant in our Southern Baptist room does not stem from some overblown doctrinal skirmish or a mere case of Baptists behaving badly. Rather, it consists of a multifaceted theological debate manifesting itself throughout nearly all of our major institutions, being driven primarily by an adversarial agenda embraced by one group of Southern Baptists who are totally committed to reforming another. Seeking a peaceful resolution, let us not underestimate our profound differences, but rather acknowledge that they are as massive and imposing as an elephant.

 

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Not The Original Les

Hey Rick,

I’ll go first with my first comment. Yesterday on part 1, I asked, “what would Trad churches then do? Pick and choose where their monies flow? i.e. Trad churches funnel money only to like minded church plants and Calvinistic churches funnel their money only toward like minded church plants?”

You replied, “But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. I’m still continuing to define the problem in Part Two. After it is clearly defined, we may begin exploring some of the options for moving forward.”

Today, you say,

“At some point, it is fair to ask the question, “Is it good stewardship for me to pay for the institutional advancement of organizations promoting doctrines I do not embrace personally, nor desire to teach my children, nor favor publishing at Lifeway, nor seek to advance through church planting?””

So, back to my question of yesterday, “what would Trad churches then do? Pick and choose where their monies flow? i.e. Trad churches funnel money only to like minded church plants and Calvinistic churches funnel their money only toward like minded church plants?”

Les

    Rick Patrick

    Les,

    Yes, that is one possibility for a solution. Within the umbrella of the SBC, people already possess soteriological choice in selecting Lifeway curriculum and seminaries. If we simply label more clearly what we are offering through NAMB church planting, possibly tailor the same basic VBS material into two tracks depending on gospel presentation preferences for children, and designate a few of the Fuge events as clearly “Reformed,” then this is one possibility for resolving this situation. I am sure there are others.

    One advantage of the approach you have mentioned is that we all remain Southern Baptists, but clearly articulate which of the two major Southern Baptist views primarily informs our preaching, teaching and writing. It would not eliminate our two distinct theological positions, but it would eliminate any suggestion of “a quiet revolution,” to borrow a phrase from the title of the book linked below.

    http://bit.ly/N1SFGF

Kyle Thomas

I don’t like the way some Founders-types seem to equate their Calvinism with the gospel. (Maybe that’s because I’m not a calvinist.) So, I’m with you that they should make a distinction, as I think most calvinists in the SBC do.

But I think by putting T4G in the same category, you are conflating two different things. T4G is just a conference – a big one, and growing, yes, but it’s a reformed-influenced conference, not an organization that exists with the purpose of reforming or calvinizing any church.

Also, I don’t think it’s helpful to use terms like “defensive” and “offensive” strategies – as if Calvinists and Trads are two opposing teams. We are ALL Southern Baptists. Instead, using your football analogy, I’d tweak it and give you the picture of what’s actually going on. Satan is scoring goals while Trads and calvinists are off on the sidelines arguing about their plays.

Meanwhile, the rest of us just want to be in the game. That may be why the Trad statement didn’t get that many signatures, and why Founders members are still a very low percentage of the SBC. Most Southern Baptists out here aren’t interesting in spending our lives in debate over “percentage of influence” and “who has the microphone.” We just want to see God get glory and people get saved.

    Rick Patrick

    Kyle,

    I appreciate your thoughts. If you’ll notice, I was very careful in the football analogy to present us all on the same team. It is not two football teams, but a scrimmage between the blue and gray squads OF THE SAME TEAM. The point here is simply that Calvinists have organized to score points and promote a reformation, while Traditionalists have not yet organized to score points and promote a counter-reformation, but rather have barely organized even to defend against the so-called “quiet revolution” envisioned by Reisinger and others.

      Kyle Thomas

      You’re right, Rick. I didn’t read you carefully enough. My apologies.

      Still, one wonders why we’re scrimmaging when we’re in the middle of a championship game… ;)

      It’s game time. People are going to hell. And we’re arguing about plays.

    Tim Rogers

    Kyle,

    If you will notice T4G has a statement about who they are and how they began. Dr. Mohler, Dr. Dever, CJ Mahaney, and Dr. Ligon Duncan came together with this vision to come together to promote their conviction as stated:

    T4G is convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Churches and among those who proclaim the name of Christ. Therefore, the goal of these friendships, conferences, and networks is to reaffirm this central doctrine of the Christian faith and to encourage local Churches to do the same.

    They are clearly trying to move the local Churches to their understanding of the Gospel. If you go here you will notice a “double-speak” that gives a clear distinction of Calvinist doctrine clearly expressed in their Affirmations and Denials. This “double-speak” is exactly what Dr. Ronnie Rogers revealed in his 4-part series on SBC Today. On such example of their “double-speak” is

    Article VIII

    We affirm that salvation is all of grace, and that the Gospel is revealed to us in doctrines that most faithfully exalt God’s sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone.

    We deny that any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting the Gospel that denies the centrality of God’s grace as His gift of unmerited favor to sinners in Christ can be considered true doctrine.

    The portion that I have emboldened and underlined is clearly “double-speak” for Calvinism. The four who came together are Calvinists, and only those they invite to speak affirm Calvinism as their soteriological base.

    While T4G and The Gospel Coalition are not as, in your face, as The Founders Ministries, they are doing the same thing. Trying to reform Traditionalist churches in stealth-like fashion.

      Kyle Thomas

      Tim,

      A little humility on both sides would be helpful here.

      Calvinists need to clarify and make sure they are not saying that their theological system is “the gospel” and that anyone who deviates from their theology is somehow not as right on the gospel as they are. The gospel is not a system of theology.

      Meanwhile, Jerry Vines saying that 5-point Calvinism is a move away from the gospel is just as unacceptable.

      Let’s get back to preaching Christ crucified and raised – something both sides should agree on!

        Donald

        “Calvinists need to clarify and make sure they are not saying that their theological system is “the gospel” and that anyone who deviates from their theology is somehow not as right on the gospel as they are.”

        And yet, that is what they are saying, seemingly believing, and appearing to be their motivation to reform the rest of us.

        Tim Rogers

        Kyle,

        I am 100% agreeing with you about the humility needed on both sides.

        Let’s look at how this humility plays out in words. Dr. Jerry Vines expressing a move toward 5-Point Calvinism is a move away from the Gospel. If that is the only statement you have read by Dr. Vines I could understand someone thinking it is arrogant. However, that statement was not made in a vacuum. Dr. Vines made that statement concerning the thinking and promotion of by some that “Calvinism is the Gospel”. His point, when he made that statement, was that moving toward a man designed system was moving away from the Bible and the Gospel.

        Dr. Mohler, on the other hand, in an interview stated that Calvinism was the only system there was that would maintain Biblical inerrancy. That statement was made in an interview with a Reformed group, (that he started), and broadcast all over the internet. To this day, Dr. Mohler has never taken back those words or rephrased them to be less arrogant.

        I will 110% agree with you that the Gospel is not a system of theology. However, that is not what is being promoted by those leaders who maintain a strong allegiance to Reformed theology.

    Not The Original Les

    Tim Rogers,

    I’m not seeing what you call double speak. How is the bolded section double speak?

    Thanks,

    Les

      M. R. Williams

      I still haven’t figured out what “double-speak” is!

      Respectfully,
      Michael

        Bill Mac

        Double speak is a polite way of saying deception.

          M. R. Williams

          So, I’m looking at what was bold printed in article from T4G. Where’s the deception?

          Respectfully,
          Michael

            selahV

            Michael,

            The double speak is that the “Gospel” is not the same by definition as what Traditionalists preach. Would that we could all preach Jesus died for all the sinners in the world. However, we are at an impasse as to who and what “all” means. According to Article VIII “the Gospel is revealed to us in doctrines that most faithfully exalt God’s sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone.

            We deny that any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting the Gospel that denies the centrality of God’s grace as His gift of unmerited favor to sinners in Christ can be considered true doctrine.”

            I’ve emphasized portions of Article VIII above.
            These words are non-negotiable to the writers of this document. They do not recognize “any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting” the Gospel by anyone other than doctrines recognized and sanctioned by their T.U.L.I.P. If they did they would not be dismissive of traditionalists and would not be calling their document semi-Pelagian.

            The calvinist spokesmen on this blog have repeatedly said that the traditionalist have a man-made theology. That their “doctrines” are in “error” or are “heretical”. Trads have been told that their Gospel soteriology does not give God all the glory or appropriate the proper amount of grace to receive Christ correctly. They are told they do not “understand” man’s state of sin, “total depravity”.

            Therefore, if these arguments put forth here, at this blog and other blogs, are any indication of what that article states, we speak in two different languages. Plain and simple. Calvinists may say one thing and when we accept it as what we understand it to mean, then we are told we do not understand and it is because we are not Calvinists. We are accused of bashing rather than trying to explain the differences. We are divisive because we want a clear distinction and want the distinction to be spelled out clearly for all. This article VIII clearly states that Calvinists “deny” our understanding of Grace doctrine because it is not “considered true doctrine”.

            While Traditionalists say that they believe salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ, and repentance of sin, it is not accepted by Calvinists as the same as their definition of “God’s sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people…”

            At least, this is how I interpret “double-speak” from the perspective of this lay-person’s understanding of all the comments and arguments against what Traditionalists believe. I’m no theologian. I just read what people say and give weight to their arguments of communication. And that is what I believe Dr. Patrick is saying with his charge of doublespeak in Article VIII. But I am only one person. I could be wrong. selahV

            Bill Mac

            M.R. My guess is the idea that while they may say what is in bold, that it is really Calvinist code meaning something else. You will see the same in the criticism of the Gospel Project. While what has come out clearly has no overt reformed theology, a word or two picked out are paraded as reformed code words.

            selahV

            Bill Mac, actually, no. that is not what we are saying. We are not interpreting “reformed code words”. We are showing what we mean by double-speak via the Articles they have and the arguments they show in comment streams. At least that is what I am trying to do. selahV

              Norm Miller

              selahV: You have articulated so much so well in your previous two posts, especially. What Trads face is something like this: Trad is minding his own business. Someone comes along and kicks him. Trad wants to know the reasons for the abuse. The aggressor accuses Trad of being an aggressor for simply asking the questions. Trad says that’s unfair. Aggressor says, “Be quiet. Don’t you want unity?” — Norm

            Chris Roberts

            Norm,

            Where does SBC Today fit into that equation? What Calvinist blog has done anything like SBC Today in launching attack after attack against the “other side”? Yes, Calvinism is growing, but Calvinists have not tried to reduce the place of non-Calvinists in the SBC. On the other hand, attacks are frequently and repeatedly launched against Calvinism and Calvinists by the good folks of SBC Today. As far as the internet world goes, I’m not aware of any other site attempting anything like what we find here.

Not The Original Les

Rick,

By the way, since you are in the B’Ham area, do you know my old friend who is pastor at Crestway Baptist Church?

Les

    Rick Patrick

    I have not met Dr. Jimmy Wilson, if I have the right church in mind here. Pleasant Ridge is in the Bessemer Association, and we simply don’t cross paths all that much with the Birmingham folks. If I do meet him, I’ll tell him the “New and Improved Les” says hi.

      Not The Original Les

      Yes, Jimmy Wilson. He was the pastor in Monroeville, AL where I grew up and was instrumental in my coming to faith in Christ way back in 1983. Very good preacher and a great guy. He and I actually drove back and forth to Mobile College (Univ. now?) in 1984 for a NOBTS extension class. Love that guy. If you do cross paths, do say hello for me.

      Les

RobertSC

I fundamentally disagree with almost everything in this article, however at least you stepped up as a man and called names, something almost everyone else has been unwilling or unable to do up until this point.

Unfortunately, I do agree with the earlier comment that Satan scores while our team argues in the huddle.

    Rick Patrick

    Robert,

    Thanks for reading, and I respect your disagreement over the primary issues of this conflict. I do agree with you that the Enemy wins as long as we are forced to spend our time and energies on this internal struggle. It is precisely because I share that concern and would like to see us find a peaceful resolution that I have taken the time to attempt a clear definition of the problem itself.

    Believing a clearly defined problem helps pave the way for a solution, I am hopeful that we can address these matters, resolve them, and move forward in our service to the Lord.

      Bill Mac

      Believing a clearly defined problem helps pave the way for a solution,

      This is of course true, but in order for there to truly be a solution, both sides have to agree on the problem, which in this case is most certainly not true. If only one side defines the problem, then the only solution open to that side is a forcible one.

        selahV

        Bill Mac, why don’t you define the “problem” from your point of view. I’ll even post it on my SBC encounters blog for all to see. selahV

Chris Roberts

“Indeed, there are only two real measures Traditionalists have taken in the struggle thus far. First, the Whosoever Will conference and book have broadly defined a theological framework offering an alternative to Calvinism in Southern Baptist life.”

It’s worth remembering that the Whosoever Will conference came in response to the Building Bridges conference. That in itself says a lot about who is seeking to do what in the SBC. In the Building Bridges conference, Calvinists and non-Calvinists came together to, well, build bridges. But some were not happy with this arrangement, even criticizing some of the sponsorship (Founder’s) of the conference. They turned around and put together their own conference, once which did not seek to build bridges but sought only to to oppose.

One might hope that the recent attempt at a “traditionalist” movement would finally give this particular group of SBC non-Calvinists something positive on which to focus, but that has not happened. In any discussion there will always be times of criticizing the argument being made by others, yet the non-Calvinist, “traditionalist” position has continued to be characterized by almost nothing but criticism. So far the Statement itself is just about the only (semi) positive document produced, and even it is presented in the context of opposing Calvinism. Since the Statement, post after post after post has been written and published on SBC Today that seek to undermine Calvinism.

In all of this, one group has sought unity while another group has sought only to attack and slander.

    Norm Miller

    Chris:
    I take great exception to your last sentence: “In all of this, one group has sought unity while another group has sought only to attack and slander.” This sort of inaccurate, insensitive generalization bespeaks your ignorance of what some Calvinists have said here and elsewhere. One example among many on this blog is the characterization of one Calvinist that Pastor Rogers’ pen exuded excrement. So, before you go laying ALL the blame on ONE group, you would do well to hone your memory a bit. — Norm

      Chris Roberts

      Individuals do a host of individual things, but groups do show general trends. The “traditionalist” “group” has continually been characterized not by a desire to put forward a positive theological position of their own so much as a desire to attack Calvinism on every angle, even inventing conspiracies which seek to take over the SBC (which is what I mean by slander).

        Norm Miller

        Chris: Your characterization remains an unfair generalization, and is still inaccurate. Once again, your memory is inadequate. The TS is a theological statement, yet you say Trads haven’t made a theological statement. Your saying there is no conspiracy doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist, and ignores what has been documented repeatedly as the Founders’ apparent desire to “recover the Gospel.” Further, I have read what is now public correspondence that proves there has been a plan (another word for conspiracy in this case) since the mid-80s to ‘R’eform the SBC. Your generalized statements are flatly wrong. — Norm

          Chris Roberts

          Norm,

          Please note that I mentioned the Statement as the only exception, yet an exception which is nonetheless presented to distinguish one position from Calvinism so its positive nature is still somewhat limited.

          “Further, I have read what is now public correspondence that proves there has been a plan”

          Where is this public correspondence? Who are the people behind the plan? What have they done to seek to accomplish this plan? I still don’t buy any of the Calvinist conspiracy theories being floated by SBC Today.

            Norm Miller

            I stand corrected RE: TS. My apologies.
            However, the TS’s “positive nature is still somewhat limited” [your words] is such only to those who don’t like it. It is exceedingly positive to those who affirm it. So, once again, your generalizations stated as fact are w/o foundation.
            I would remind you of one of your comments of a few days ago in which you use another generalization about “most surveys” in the SBC regarding how many points SBC Calvinists hold. I believe it was Brad Whitt who set that record straight.
            The correspondence I noted is on the web. You bring your proof of your many claims, and I will happy to link to the documentation I have seen.
            Chris, I can’t believe that you would deny there is a move to ‘R’eform the SBC. There has been much documentation on this blog to indicate the connections and the agendas. The more astute readers here will know to what I refer. Just because you “still don’t buy any of the Calvinist conspiracy theories being floated by SBC Today” doesn’t mean they do not exist. — Norm

            Chris Roberts

            Norm,

            I would love to see the majority of people in the SBC become Calvinists. This ought to surprise no one – I believe Calvinism is a biblical doctrine and that those who disagree with Calvinism are in the wrong. Thus I want more and more people believing what the Bible teaches about God and man and God’s work in salvation. I know many other Calvinists feel the same way. Conversely, many non-Calvinists see Calvinism as a disaster which ought to be opposed (as evidenced by all the posts on this site).

            I have no doubt that many fellow Calvinists, including the Founder’s ministry, want to see people in the SBC embrace Calvinism, but that we want people to believe certain things is not evidence of a movement or conspiracies.

      Brad Reynolds

      Norm
      Good point. There are still some in the Calvinist camp who insist on calling the TS Semi-Pelagian (heretical). Attacks???

        Chris Roberts

        Brad,

        I’ve given numerous good reasons for why the Statement is semi-Pelagian. I realize you don’t accept my reasons and that’s fine, but I haven’t pulled this idea out of thin air. I find the evidence monumental and conclusive and see no reason to back down from what I consider a simple observation of reality. There is no disunity in this.

        On the other hand, there is something at least demeaning in trying to restrict other people from saying things we don’t like, no matter what their justification. You do not want me to say what I believe, no matter why I believe it. You have accused me of sinful divisiveness because of my firm position, no matter how many times I have explained it to you. You have not been content to simply disagree and move on, you write new blog posts dredging up the issue yet again, then accuse me of being divisive when I do not agree with you. This is hardly brotherly love.

          Tim Rogers

          Chris,

          Couldn’t get to a reply button for you above, but I want to reply to a comment you made. You said;

          I believe Calvinism is a biblical doctrine and that those who disagree with Calvinism are in the wrong.

          We are speaking about soteriology which by any one’s theological triage system is a first tier doctrine. If you believe non-Calvinists are wrong then why do you want to partner with us? If you, and others, desire to change the entire SBC to a Calvinist doctrinal group, then why are you working with us? Why not go out and form your own group and do what Calvinists do there?

          I can tell you that while I do not agree with Reformed soteriology, I would never say it was “wrong”. It is not what I believe the bible teaches, just like I do not believe the Bible teaches infant baptism. But, I do not call Calvinism ‘wrong’–misguided maybe–but not wrong.

          But, if you want to call us “wrong”, then good luck with that Unity thing.

            Chris Roberts

            Tim,

            Why is it wrong to use the word wrong? Or is it right to use the word wrong? Am I right about predestination? If not, what option does that leave except that I am wrong? I believe you are not correct about the Bible’s teachings on these issues, which means I believe you are wrong. There is nothing divisive about believing someone to be wrong, but I think we enter dangerous territory if we shy away from the language of right and wrong when it comes to truth.

            One of my concerns is that in this discussion we are trying to impost postmodern notions of truth on the terms of the debate. We are not allowed to speak of right and wrong, simply what we as individuals believe. But there is right and there is wrong. I have found myself to be wrong plenty of times, and it’s quite possible (actually, it’s pretty certain) that some of the beliefs I currently hold are wrong. This is not language to shy away from, this is language we need to embrace.

            I believe you are wrong about human nature, about election, about the extent of the atonement, etc, etc, but I do not believe your error is anywhere near being serious enough to warrant division. As you know, the word “soteriology” includes quite a bit, and Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree on probably most aspects of our soteriology. We disagree on less vital points of our broader soteriology.

          Brad Reynolds

          Chris,
          I was actually addressing Norm but since you jumped in:
          Again. This issue is not disagreement. The issue is you continue to call brothers and sisters heretics. Now you may choose to redefine the term but we do not (nor do church historians for that matter) accept your redefinition. We would prefer you stick to the Christian definition found in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. I have tried over and over again to argue that were the shoes reversed you would rightly assume my calls for unity were vacuous if I called you a heretic

          – but you refuse to hear. And THEN you speak of the non-Calvinists as attacking. Please!

          Even your own Calvinists brothers have refused to use the term Semi-Pelagian. Some have even stopped using it once they understood the definition and heard our comments that we believe God’s grace initiates salvation.

          It is not as if I alone have said this. Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (someone you mentioned earlier as a respected non-calvinists), Dr. Adam Harwood, three other V.P’s of TMC, Peter Lumpkins, Dr. Eric Hankins, and scores of other bloggers have written about this (not to mention the numerous ones offended as commenters here). And yet you continue your crusade (even writing articles) to label us as SP for no apparent reason – creating wakes of division – and then wonder why in the world we would call such divisive contentious work unChristlike? and also wonder why we would question your claim for unity?

          Chris, I work very very hard at being Christlike and kind in comments on blogs (something difficult for us all) but I WILL NOT have someone call me a heretic and then expect me to be unified. To allow such would in my mind enable such unwholesome action. I hope this will help you understand your use of SP creates an atmosphere where you will never see unity with the signers of the TS anymore than we would find unity with you by calling you a heretic before we started discussing issues.

          This is not personal Chris – I have faithfully prayed for you and your family the last two nights (by name). But it is convictional. Hence, this comment.

            Chris Roberts

            Brad,

            You will be glad to know that I have never called you nor do I consider you a heretic.

            Please note my repeated attempts to explain what is meant by the brief definition of semi-Pelagianism found in the Oxford dictionary. It is not meant to be a comprehensive explanation and has been badly abused throughout this discussion.

            Brad Reynolds

            Chris
            SP = heretic. Please excuse us for trusting church historians, church history textbooks, the Oxford Dictionary, and others over your word. I think we would be unwise to do otherwise.

            I can honestly say I hope God graces your church and family. I will continue, however, to point out who continues to namecall in these discussions. It is not the Trads. I point it out because i think this is the easiest way for the noninformed to truly SEE who is being divisive. Both sides claim the other is, but only one side is calling the other heretical. I could try and explain this to you again but I would rather read Calvin’s Institutes again tonight than to do so. And since I have desire for that I will bid you a good evening.

            Not The Original Les

            Brad,

            Just to be clear, at least one other trad supporter, and I think more than one, has called Calvinism, the historical theology many of us hold to, demonic and heretical. Certainly not many have, but a few.

            I have not called anyone heretics to my memory. I didn’t think I’ve called trads SPS.

            God bless,

            Les

            Brad Reynolds

            Les
            Good point – and I would certainly not deny both sides have been guilty of such. But I would argue that the genesis of the current name-calling began when a leader in the SBC (Dr Mohler) said the document had apparent SP leanings. Thus one side started the name-calling. Granted, an eye for an eye was OT and via progressive revelation we should not respond in turn. I think Dr. Mohler could end some of this, just as he began it, by simply coming out and saying while he at first thought it had such leanings, upon closer examination realizes it doesn’t. Such statesmanship would match his reputation.

            I would further argue none of the ones you are referencing called for unity via a SBC resolution while name-calling yet accusing the other side of attacks and slander.

            So perhaps you have a point. It isn’t just the name-calling which we should point out but also the duplicity. Please keep in mind I am not excusing any for name-calling – of which both sides are guilty, and from which I asked all to refrain in my article.

            Chris Roberts

            Brad,

            Several people had noticed the semi-Pelagian nature of the Statement some time before Mohler released his public comments. My own post went out two days before Mohler’s comments and I know I wasn’t the first person saying it.

            Brad Reynolds

            Chris
            Do you just have to argue every single minor detail?
            I really have no clue who falsely identified it first. I probably should have used the word impetus rather than genesis. My point, and I mean no offense when I say this, but multitudes more listen to Dr. Mohler than most Calvinist bloggers, and for good reason (he is very knowledgeable – which is perhaps why he never identified it as SP). Moreover, I would argue many would not have even gone there had he not said “apparent” and “leanings.”

            Chris Roberts

            Brad,

            It’s an important clarification since your phrasing seems designed to malign Mohler for saying what he said. You want to ascribe blame to him for the accusation even though the accusation did not begin with him and is not found in his comments with any degree of force. As far as I know, Mohler has not offered further comments on the matter, so his only contribution to the semi-Pelagian debate were a few sentences that spoke of appearance. Now, I don’t think there is anything in the world wrong with making the comparison between the Statement and SP since I think the observation is accurate, so if Mohler had spoken quite a bit more about the semi-Pelagian nature of the Statement he would have been justified in doing so. But as it stands he did not go anywhere near that far and the controversy cannot in any way be attributed to him.

            Brad Reynolds

            Chris
            If you desire to be recognized as the genesis of this it is fine by me. And again, no offense intended but I had not even heard of you before this blog here. I had no clue you had written anything on it. But when Dr. Mohler writes on it people listen. And granted he wisely never said it was SP (he must have recognized it wasn’t) but as a seminary President his words carry weight. Had you and a few others published it I honestly think it would be a mute issue (again no offense intended).

            As a person of supposed unity you may want to look up the definition of malign and then reconsider its use since phrasing is important.

            I did refrain from the entering definition of SP with you but I unwisely tried to help concerning Dr. Mohler and his influence being far more reaching and being the very impetus of the SP discussion. In fact we probably would not be having it had he not said something – so in that sense he could be called the genesis.

            I am unable to avoid some proverbial warnings at this time and thus bring to a close our communications.

            Chris Roberts

            Brad,

            “If you desire to be recognized as the genesis of this it is fine by me.”

            You might note that I stated that I was before Mohler, but others were before me. I cannot take credit for being the first.

    Mary

    Building Bridges between 4 and 5 point Calvinists isn’t exactly building a bridge across a great chasm.

      Mary

      Just FYI this is from Founder’s blog promoting Building Bridges conference:

      http://blog.founders.org/2007/10/building-bridges-southern-baptists-and.html

      MC
      Tom-do all the speakers subscribe to the Doctrines of Grace? Thanks

      Tom Ascol:

      No, about half of the speakers can be classified as “5 point Calvinists.” Several of the rest are very “Calvinistic” but do not believe all five points. The areas of greatest theological contrast in the conference, I anticipate, will be effectual calling and particular atonement.

      Beyond that, I expect some serious challenges in each presentation and lively exchanges in the panel discussion–all of it in a spirit of genuine, fraternal love.

      Chris Roberts

      Mary,

      I’ve got the book of articles published from the Building Bridges conference (“Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue”) and it’s fairly balanced between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, including Malcolm Yarnell among the non-Calvinist contributors to the conference.

        Mary

        So Chris Roberts you’re claiming Ascol’s description of the conference he organized is inaccurate?

        Building Bridges was “mostly” between 4 pointers (who Calvinists like you claim are not really Calvinist) and 5 pointers.

        That’s another part of the elephant is the fact that Cavlinists will continue with the deceptive claim people like Danny Akin, Kevin Ezell et al are really not Calvinists so look how much Calvinists want to work with Traditionalist.

        It’s the U not just the L that’s a problem.

          Chris Roberts

          Check out the conference lineup for yourself and tell me what you think.

            Mary

            I’m just a dumb woman Chris, I never actually thought of looking at the names so what does it matter what I think.

            Since you declare yourself as always right because no one can convince you other wise, what’s the point. I provided the link for anyone who wants to take a gander. And I provided a direct quote from the organizer of the conference. I think there’s like actually names of the speakers.

            And as to your attack against the Whosoever Will conference – Whosoever Will was in response to all the Calvinists conferences – such as Together for Calvinism and The Calvinism Coalition and of course all of the Founder’s Conferences. For years prior to Whosoever Will the Calvinists met multiple times annually to bash Traditionalists, but whoah hold the door Nellie let the Traditionalist hold a conference and all of sudden the Calvinists start their whining. How dare Traditionalist have a conference why won’t they sit down and shut up. Look how divisive they are! We only want to reform the SBC! Nothing divisive about that! What’s their problem.

            Unity to the Calvinist is you Traditionalist better not dare be thinking of organizing and having conferences and supporting Traditionalist leaders in the SBC – only Calvinists are allowed to do that. If you Tradtionalists do that it just shows you don’t want unity like us Calvinists. We want unity around the platform to reform the SBC.

        Tim Rogers

        Chris,

        Dr. Yarnell was the only non-Calvinist. Dr. Keathley is a Molinist, which is merely a closet Calvinist trying hard not to say he is a Calvinist but he operates in the same philosophical system as a Calvinist. JD Grear, doesn’t know what he is, as he freely admitted at the conference. However, he wrote a book called The Gospel; Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. It has a forward by Timothy Keller, someone Greear doesn’t know, and the first five endorsers are Mark Dever, Tullian Tchividjian, Matt Chandler, Timothy Keller, and David Platt. All of these men are avowed Calvinists. Whether you know it or not, Calvinists do not endorse non-Calvinists books on The Gospel. Now, would you like to speak a little more about the “ballance” of the Building Bridges conference? I was there I don’t have to listen to the tapes. As a matter of fact, I live blogged the event. Balance is not a word I would use for that conference. One pastor even said it was the will of God for a reformed Pastor to split a non-reformed church. He called it a “back door” revival.

          Chris Roberts

          Tim,

          Danny Akin – has he ever said where he falls? I think that a lot of people assume he is a Calvinist, but I don’t know whether or not the assumption has merit. I won’t say where his theological convictions fall, just raising the question.

          Ed Stetzer, as far as I know, is not a Calvinist. I could be wrong, but I’ve never seen anything from him which would make me think he is a Calvinist, nor am I aware that he has ever claimed to be one.

          Yarnell is not a Calvinist.

          Nelson is not a Calvinist.

          Lawless is not a Calvinist.

          Keathley is not a Calvinist. He was also a contributor to Whosoever Will, so evidently someone sees his views as countering Calvinism.

          JD Grear, I couldn’t say, nor could I say about some of the other contributors, but clearly Yarnell was not the only non-Calvinist present.

            Tim Rogers

            Chris,

            Here is the deal. You seem to be defining Calvinist as someone only that ascribes to all 5 points. Now, if that is your position we can stop all of this back an forth right now. Because that is a Dortian Calvinist, something all Calvinists have requested we stop using the term.

            Let’s look at Akin. He is an Amyraldian or “Moderate Calvinist”. Thus he defines himself as a four pointer.

            Nelson–at the time of the conference identified himself as a 4-point Calvinist.

            Lawless–stated at the Building Bridges conference that he was three and possibly four point Calvinist because he signed the Abstract of Principles, but he did not adhere to all 5 points.

            Thus, once again, Yarnell was the ONLY non-Calvinist in the conference. He clearly stated that he was not a Calvinist from the Dortian strain.

            Chris Roberts

            Tim,

            No, I don’t insist that a Calvinist must be five point. I was going by various things the individuals were saying which seemed to me to put them in the non-Calvinist camp. It appears I was wrong, so thank you for the correction.

    Dale Pugh

    Chris:
    “In all of this, one group has sought unity while another group has sought only to attack and slander.”
    There have been wrongs from both sides of the argument. Though you were the one who invited unity at the Convention, there are others within your theological bent who could care less about unity. In the spirit of truth I would call on you to recognize and acknowledge that fact. It has not been all good from either side of the table. The Calvinists have not taken the high road at all times, and neither have the Traditionalists. To say that one group has been all “peace and light” while the other has been “out for blood” is a gross misrepresentation.
    And before you blast me for putting words in your mouth, yes, I know you did not use those particular words. They are my words. I used them to describe what I see as your position on the discussion that has taken place here and in other places. I am not saying that you in particular do not want unity. I am saying that the debate has, at turns, taken on a very mean spirit from both sides. It is always best to avoid words like “only” when that has not been the case.

      Chris Roberts

      Dale,

      “Though you were the one who invited unity at the Convention, there are others within your theological bent who could care less about unity. In the spirit of truth I would call on you to recognize and acknowledge that fact.”

      I agree and recognize and acknowledge this. One does not have to look far to find Calvinists who have been less than charitable (yes, I know many would put me in that category, obviously I disagree). But I don’t have in mind so much the actions of individuals as the direction of movements. On the whole, SBC Calvinists have been clear in our desire to work together with non-Calvinists. We will state our beliefs, we will disagree when we think others are wrong, and we will continue to work side-by-side for the cause of the kingdom. Certainly there are exceptions, but on the whole that is what I have seen.

      Contrast that with the movement being pushed by SBC Today, a movement whose sole defining characteristic is its opposition to Calvinism. A variety of viewpoints have been presented, some contradicting each other, but all unified in the theme of opposition to Calvinism. Along the way, conspiracies have been invented and claims have been made that Calvinists are trying to take over the convention.

      I would say the majority of SBC non-Calvinists are not interested in the new antagonism against Calvinism. The majority of SBC non-Calvinists clearly disagree (and often disagree quite strongly) with Calvinist theology yet have shown a clear desire for unity.

    Rick Patrick

    Chris,

    You wrote: “In any discussion there will always be times of criticizing the argument being made by others, yet the non-Calvinist, ‘traditionalist’ position has continued to be characterized by almost nothing but criticism.”

    Would you agree that this statement, more or less, CRITICIZES Traditionalists?

    I would like you to open your mind to an idea that may at first be difficult to grasp from your particular perspective. Here it is: “Traditionalists have our own specific doctrinal viewpoints that could be articulated clearly even if Augustine and Calvin had never existed.”

    Let me suggest that our existence is NOT merely to OPPOSE Calvinism, although I admit it has been received that way by a great many Calvinists. We are not only AGAINST what you believe. Rather, we are FOR what we believe.

    If we have failed to make that clear in the past, I apologize. Yes, our viewpoints clearly do clash, but there is more to our viewpoint than merely opposing yours.

    Finally, we do not oppose unity, but rather seek a resolution to our differences, with the understanding that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal with it.

    Blessings,

    Rick

      Darryl Hill

      Bro Patrick, I don’t know if the statement you have made is true or not, but I will say this. Your entire Traditional Statement, as written, is a document designed to distinguish your group from Calvinism. If what you say is true, then why is there a continual need to compare and contrast your beliefs with Calvinism? Why not just promote your own viewpoint and ignore Calvinism?

      If you look at history, you will see that these same debates have been going on throughout the church age. You will likely not agree with this, but what we’re debating here is all about man’s power at the point of salvation. It’s not the exact same thing as the things I’m about to mention, but it’s the same basic premise:

      Augustine vs Pelagius
      Luther vs Erasmus
      Calvin vs Arminius
      Whitfield vs Finney

      It’s the same debate. And each time, it was one group’s REACTION to the idea of sovereign grace. The debates were framed differently and there were differences in the stances of the debaters, but the fight is the same. Does man have power to choose on his own to be saved? That’s it.

      The same thing seems to be happening this time around. There is no question a reformed resurgence is happening. Until the so-called “elephant” got big enough to start squeezing some folks, nobody cared. But now, since it’s becoming clear that this thing isn’t going away like the latest fad (because it’s not just a fad), some are reacting. But that’s exactly what it is- a reaction. If it weren’t for this, this traditional statement wouldn’t exist.

        Rick Patrick

        Darryl,

        Granted, each group opposes the other group’s theology. That’s what I meant by the “adversarial agenda” of the Founders, which began in 1982.

        Today, thirty years later, we finally have an “adversarial counter-agenda” on the part of the Traditionalists.

        It has been interesting to me to observe how many people feel that the Traditionalists are the ones making waves or being contrary or causing friction, when the Calvinists have been pursuing their reform agenda for thirty years, basically unopposed.

        I guess I’m just trying to say that we do not need to characterize each group only from the perspective of their opposition to the other one. Sure, as each group promotes what they DO believe, they will contradict what the other group believes, but I feel it is a mistake to characterize either group only in terms of their opposition to the other one.

          Darryl Hill

          I hear what you’re saying Bro. Patrick. I can respect your perspective and I know I would be aggravated if people always defined my beliefs based on my disagreement with someone else. I do think that is the nature of the debate, though. But I think I’ve said enough on this topic above, so I will just hush. :-)

            Tim Rogers

            Darryl,

            Your entire Traditional Statement, as written, is a document designed to distinguish your group from Calvinism

            While the preamble states that, if you look at the system the thoughts we are trying to distinguish is the philosophical system that Calvinism is strictly bound–Augustinian.

            Darryl Hill

            So Bro. Tim, it seems you are saying that the actual purpose of the document is NOT what the document actually claims as its purpose.

            Honestly, I think some of you guys are figuring out what you believe as we go here. I first heard this argument against Augustinian’s construct about a week ago, but this same thought is making its rounds because it seems to be bothering Calvinists. I really don’t care, to be honest. Either way, it seems clear to me that, as has been the case in the past, the entire “traditional” position is defined by its disagreement with the reformed position.

      Chris Roberts

      Rick,

      “Traditionalists have our own specific doctrinal viewpoints that could be articulated clearly even if Augustine and Calvin had never existed.”

      I understand that and can accept it in theory, though in reality the Statement was presented not as a positive set of beliefs but as a series of contrasting statements, intended to differentiate one belief from Calvinism. From its core the Statement communicates, “Here is why we aren’t Calvinists!” If there were any doubt about this in the affirmations and denials, the preamble settles the issue.

      “Let me suggest that our existence is NOT merely to OPPOSE Calvinism, although I admit it has been received that way by a great many Calvinists. We are not only AGAINST what you believe. Rather, we are FOR what we believe.”

      Again, I could accept that, if that were being demonstrated on SBC Today. Look at the last several dozen posts. A small handful deal with practical matters in the church and other various non-theological items while the majority of the posts are direct attacks against Calvinism. They are not arguments for the “traditionalist” position, they are arguments against the Calvinist position.

      “we do not oppose unity, but rather seek a resolution to our differences”

      What would be a resolution to our differences? We are not going to agree, we are not going to resolve our disagreements, so what do you see as an acceptable outcome? Is it really unity to say that Southern Baptists should be willing to consider de-funding entities which are led by or have materials produced by Calvinists?

      “with the understanding that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal with it.”

      Absolutely agree with that.

        Rick Patrick

        An acceptable outcome to me would involve (1) complete transparency concerning Calvinism in our convention, and (2) provision for each church to have soteriological choice in supporting our institutions, so Traditionalists do not have to pay for a reform in our convention which we oppose.

          Chris Roberts

          Rick,

          In what sense does that fit the definition of unity? In what sense is that cooperation? In what sense does that remain one convention cooperating together in the work of the gospel if funds are being divided between perceived ideological camps?

            Rick Patrick

            Chris,

            Well, we still cooperate to pay for all the infrastructure and buildings and printing presses that benefit each side. We still work together in Disaster Relief and other theologically neutral issues. We still oppose abortion and the redefinition of marriage. We still tell people about Jesus–we just do it in slightly different ways. Perhaps it’s the theological equivalent to the way our music folks offer both Traditional and Contemporary worship styles. Instead of a blend, you do one at the early service and one at the late. That gives people choice. AND…they are part of the same church.

            Chris Roberts

            Rick,

            Would you be willing to see your financial support go to missionaries who are Calvinists?

    Donald

    “In all of this, one group has sought unity while another group has sought only to attack and slander.”

    Chris “Hubris” Roberts,

    Wow! You of all people speaking against “attack and slander”. I’m……..flabbergasted.

      Donald

      Sorry….I’m out of line.

      Donald

    peter lumpkins

    Chris,

    You don’t have a clue about the John316 Conference. I was personally privy to the discussions in the initial stages of the conference. Building Bridges never came up; Building Bridges was never mentioned. Fact: J316C was in no way, shape, or form a “response” to Building Bridges not to mention a reaction to a supposed disappointment with Building Bridges. To suggest it was without the least indication one has credible knowledge to the contrary is nothing less than staged incredulity.

    Nor can the J316C be compared as do you to Building Bridges so far as the platform is concerned for the simple reason it was never intended to be a “dialog” but rather was billed from the beginning as a “monologue”–that is, as a “response to Five Point Calvinism.” Hence, to criticize the conference because it didn’t meet the purpose you recreate for it is plainly absurd.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

Adam Harwood

Rick,

You wrote that the current conversation within the SBC is a “multifaceted theological debate manifesting itself throughout nearly all of our major institutions, being driven primarily by an adversarial agenda embraced by one group of Southern Baptists who are totally committed to reforming another.”

I agree.

The men of those 5 groups (9Marks, Founders, etc.) are all my brothers in Christ and co-laborers in Christian ministry. Nonetheless, your statement is true.

Thanks for your article.

In Him,

Adam

    Rick Patrick

    Adam,

    Thank you for your kind response. I appreciate both your insights and your irenic, cooperative spirit in working together with our fellow Southern Baptist brothers and sisters.

    Blessings,

    Rick

    Johnathan Pritchett

    This is a well written article, and it clearly defines the issues, especially regarding the “adversarial agenda”. There are some unstated things I would like to mention as well that weren’t directly addressed. At least from my perspective.

    Of course, usually being the odd Trad out, I must say that for me, the main Elephant is soteriology. I am actually in agreement with at least some portions of all those groups listed.

    BUT, what I find disconcerting is that because those groups have mostly defined themselves by Reformed soteriology, and in many cases are indeed adversarial about it, much of the positives they offer is clouded over by it. They essentially shoot themselves in the foot with many SBC churches because of this, and this tone and agenda also creates a false impression regarding those churches that are resistant to these organizations. Trads don’t appreciate the overall undeserved stereotype.

    There are many Traditionalist SBC churches that are robustly Biblical in faith and practice, and the false idea that Traditionalist churches are not is unfair. There are plenty of Calvinist SBC churches that do not live up to the standards of 9Marks, The Founders, etc. and there is the false impression given that Calvinist SBC churches are the only ones robustly Biblical in faith and practice when this is obviously false.

    That is the worst of it for me. That there is some premise in those groups that the only way to achieve those positives they do offer for all churches where agreement should be, is if one embraces a Calvinist soteriology. That premise is what I reject. For example:

    I am all for bold Gospel preaching with clarity.

    I am all for church discipline and it is too often ignored in many SBC churches. But this is true whether the church is Calvinist or Traditionalist. Jesus taught it, the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. :)

    Likewise, I am all for clearing up membership roles. I believe “inactive member” in a local congregation is as much a square circle as “gay marriage” and think such lists should be called “inhouse mission and restoration roll” or something and the words “inactive” and “membership” together be nowhere near our vocabulary. Typical (not all) “inactive members” are not local church members by any Biblical standard and they usually blasphemy the name of Yahweh among the nations by their lifestyles, which then is reflected unfairly on the local body where they claim membership while not ever attending, participating, growing, and being active. The “inactive member” roll is one of the greatest lies the church tells, and one of the worst idols in many SBC churches.

    While I do think “elder-led” or “pastor-whatever” is little more than a semantic trick overly stated by our Calvinist friends in regards to church leadership (and members always vote with their feet, if anything else), and that the “pastors and deacons” in most properly functioning Southern Baptist churches do lead from the front in a proper, Biblical way; I can agree that there are many cases, but again, in both Calvinist or Traditionalist SBC churches, where congregationalism runs a muck and becomes anti-Biblical and in need of change.

    I am all for being a fellow cheerleader in the killing of wimpy, inauthentic, “Cultural Christianity”, and too will be glad to see it finally gone (even though I don’t think this will necessarily mean a further decline in active membership and attendance, in the long term at least, but quite the contrary actually).

    There are other areas of agreement between me and these organizations as well. I even go further than my 9Marks brothers in some of these areas and think that sooner change is better than later, gradual change (which is compromising at best, and deceptive at worst), because the Bible should not ever be compromised for any period of time so that Christians who already claim to believe it and in its authority in general eventually come around to actually agreeing with it’s contents and putting Biblical principles into action on their own timetable, regardless of people perhaps taking offense. God is quite offensive to man in many areas, and “boo-hoo” to man for it if they can’t take it.

    Having said all that, my disagreement is mainly soteriological, and I try to keep it friendly. My disagreement is also with the premise that one must be a Calvinist in addition to affirming the good that these organizations promote. If Southern Baptists in these organizations would drop the adversarial tone and agenda, stop equating Calvinist soteriology as “the Gospel”, and start directing their energies towards common Biblical and common Baptist goals rather than Geneva’s goals, their reception and purpose, in the good things they do offer, would be better received within the broader spectrum of SBC churches. It isn’t mainly because we Trads don’t want to work with them, it is because they don’t want to work with us, unless we change to match their soteriology.

    Just my $0.02

    Now, in fairness to my Calvinist friends, I do think that because soteriology is the most debated issue, it is considered by many of us Trads to be the only thing we think of that attracts younger believers to Calvinism. Rather, I can say, along with many of my YRR friends as well, that it is because Christians who are excited about a robustly Biblical outlook mainly find all the ins and outs of ecclesiology and the full Kingdom life being outwardly and publicly discussed in Reformed circles more so than anywhere else.

    That’s fair. I can admit that. Traditionalists have been asleep at the wheel in regards to promoting a full Biblical outlook and popularizing all dimensions of theology, especially from our own popular pastors and theologians, though it is because they were too busy simply living it out without loud rhetoric. In any case, if that were not the case at least in public perception, New Calvinism encroaching in being popular as it is, in the manner it encroaches in with the side effect of arrogance and being adversarial, would not even be a factor in the SBC. So, for that, we can not entirely fault them (at least I can’t), even if some of their conclusions are disagreeable, and it unfortunately leads to elitism and arrogance on the part of many in their flocks, even if such attitudes are unintended.

Dale Pugh

Rick:
And here I thought you were just our favorite baby sitter over at Voices….. :-) (The emoticon is for Dave Miller.) Then I read all this and say, “Wow! These are some interesting thoughts.”
In the spirit of the pulpit I have 3 questions (I tried to come up with a poem, but I’m just not in the mood today):
1. Who gets to decide what our most important issues would be? Is soteriology the crux of the problem? Egalitarianism vs. complementarianism? Peace and War? Stewardship? All are addressed on the BF&M, so which ones are critical to us? I hope you see my point–which issues will we choose to do battle over and who will decide that?
2. Once the issues have been named, who gets to decide what the right answer is going to be? Will we form a committee or will we just let Al Mohler and Paige Patterson duke it out? I’d buy pay-for-view to watch the latter…..
3. Now that the elephant has been revealed, how would you suggest that we go about taming this sucker? It’s big. It’s mean. It has those huge tusks that keep knocking things over. Plus, there’s all that stuff that needs to be swept up off the floor……
You raise some valid points. Others have added to those points in the comments. I’m not sure this whole matter is headed anywhere I want to go, but it is an SBC problem, and I’m one part of the SBC.
Blessings to you, bro!

    Rick Patrick

    Dale,

    Thanks for reading. (And yes, I do manage to annoy people at BOTH of the major SBC blog sites.)

    1. I think the primary issues in this particular struggle are the ones I identified in Part One: Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Missiology and Anthropology. As for some of the other items you mentioned, I think both sides of this debate are more or less in agreement on issues like complementarianism, just war and storehouse tithing.

    2. As for the process of finding the right answer, I don’t believe we will ever hash out a theological compromise, but rather a practical one to satisfy the institutional struggle and the adversarial agenda aspect of the elephant. WHO will do this? I believe the committee Dr. Frank Page is forming will be charged with finding a resolution to the conflict.

    3. Once again, taming the elephant will be the work of the Baptist statesmen appointed by Dr. Page for this task.

    Have a blessed day!

    Rick

      Chris Roberts

      Rick,

      “taming the elephant will be the work of the Baptist statesmen appointed by Dr. Page for this task.”

      Two things surprise me here: 1, there have been no complaints from the SBC Today crowd about Dr. Page forming a committee without convention approval. Considering all the fuss surrounding others who have taken the initiative, I’m surprised nothing has been said about Dr. Page’s actions. 2, do keep in mind that the convention has not appointed the committee. It is not appointed to tame any elephants, though it can bring recommendations which will hopefully be helpful to the SBC. I support the committee, I look forward to hearing what they will say, but let’s remember that this is an unofficial study group put forward by an individual in the convention, not by the messengers of the convention.

        Rick Patrick

        Chris,

        You raise some good points. I wonder if the absence of publicity means he really is just forming a group of advisors to help him make decisions. In that case, you’re right, it will not be a convention committee, although one might make the case that the Executive Committee CEO has more authority to form a committee than the SBC President since the Executive Committee transacts SBC business when the convention is not in session.

        I have not heard a word about the membership of this consensus accord group.

        I wonder if the group has formed yet. Also, he might

          Rick Patrick

          Please disregard the last line.

          (On a personal note, I wish I could access and edit posts and comment streams here–one feature I do like about the SBCVoices blog.)

            Chris Roberts

            I was curious about that last line. :)

            I haven’t heard anything one way or another about Page’s group, not even to know if they have been assembled or begun working. I assume we won’t hear anything until they have something to release.

      Dale Pugh

      Thanks Rick!
      1. I appreciate the clarification, and would agree that there are those things which should be emphasized. I also agree that there are those things on which there is little debate.
      2. I’m in agreement with Chris here. (Did I just say that?) The committee “is an unofficial study group put forward by an individual in the convention, not by the messengers of the convention.” What real power does a group of SBC “statesmen” (whatever that means) have without the backing of the Convention messengers? They’ll sit around and talk about it. They’ll go to their favorite hangouts to eat. They’ll go back and talk about it some more. Some one will come up with some document. It will be presented to the Convention as a report. And once again, that’s all there is to it.
      Who is in this group? Dr. Page’s buddies. Anyone from the rank and file of Southern Baptist’s? Of course not. Pastors and laymen from the biggest, hottest, most high-profile churches will be allowed. Big names from the southeast and southwest. Possibly California. Now maybe Iowa or one of the other “I” states (wherever Dave is from). But where is full representation? Improbable? Absolutely. Impossible? Not likely. [I apologize for the rant.]
      3. So we Southern Baptist’s leave it up to those guys to take care of it for us? I’m a little concerned. This discussion has been carried on here and other places by those of us sitting in our mother’s basements in our housecoats. Remember? Does the responsibility for how this all works out rest with them and them alone? So they’re going to work it all out for us?
      In the words of Oz, the Great and Powerful, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” He really wasn’t all that great or powerful when the rubber met the road. This committee will do well to just come up with some kind of statement for the Convention.
      Oh well……Back to my popcorn………

        Dale Pugh

        I apologize for the cynicism present in my previous comment. But I do question the real value in the process.

Mike Davis

I still don’t think most of the sheep out in the SBC churches see this issue as an elephant or care to see any kind of SBC power struggle between Calvinist purists and Traditionalist purists.

    Adam Harwood

    Mike,

    I think most sheep in SBC churches are unaware of the present discussion.

    In Him,

    Adam

      Mike Davis

      I think most sheep in SBC churches are unaware of the present discussion.

      I agree, Adam. But I also don’t think most are concerned about resolving the issue of irresistible grace vs libertarian free will or of seeing a struggle for control of the Convention.

      Sometimes I think we bloggers get so caught up in the debate we forget a lot of churchgoers out there aren’t as intent on parsing the secondary and tertiary issues in doctrinal statements to the degree we are.

    Donald

    “I still don’t think most of the sheep out in the SBC churches see this issue as an elephant”

    I hope you intended “sheep” in a biblical sense, rather than more “animal farmish” ;-p

    The “elephant” reference is to the huge animal in the room everyone is ignoring or hasn’t noticed yet. Hopefully, we can get all those sheep to notice it and get up to speed on the issue.

    Dale Pugh

    Possibly it’s a wooly mammoth?

Robert

Darryl wrote:

“Bro Patrick, I don’t know if the statement you have made is true or not, but I will say this. Your entire Traditional Statement, as written, is a document designed to distinguish your group from Calvinism.”

And what is wrong with that?

If you look at calvinists they always write up statements (e.g. confessions) to distinguish their set of beliefs from others.

“If what you say is true, then why is there a continual need to compare and contrast your beliefs with Calvinism? Why not just promote your own viewpoint and ignore Calvinism?”

My opinion on this is that the so-called Traditionalists want everyone in the SBC to be thoroughly informed about the different options regarding views on soteriology. Ignorance is not bliss, and so they want everyone to know precisely what is being discussed and where the important disagreements are. It like preparing a person to be an informed voter by providing information to them regarding the differing candidates. And they cannot “ignore” calvinism because the calvinists are making a concerted effort to take over and control the denominational beliefs and centers of power (e.g. seminaries).

“If you look at history, you will see that these same debates have been going on throughout the church age. You will likely not agree with this, but what we’re debating here is all about man’s power at the point of salvation.”

True the same debate has gone on for centuries ever since Augustine introduced false deterministic theology into the church bloodstream. Previous to Augustine you don’t find deterministic beliefs, TULIP, being taught or believed by anyone. For hundreds of years you do not find any calvinists or calvinist theology in the church. Augustine introduces the first deterministic theology beliefs and the church has been debating them ever since.

Darryl says that “what we’re debating here is all abut man’s power at the point of salvation.”

I would say it is more accurate to say we are debating a determinist versus a non-determinist understanding of soteriology/theology.

In determinism God preselects who will be saved and who will be damned in eternity. He then controls everything so that what was preplanned is realized in history. What this means is that in the area of “man’s power at the point of salvation” in determinism man is regenerated first and then this regeneration forces him to have a faith response to the gospel. In exhaustive determinism free will as ordinarily understood does not exist, so everyone only and always does what they were predestined to do. So in this deterministic scheme no one has any choice in the matter of salvation (if you are preselected for salvation, you have to become a believer and you never had a choice, and vice versa, if you are preselected for “reprobation”/damnation, you have to become a nonbeliever and you never had a choice). So really the whole debate is about whether or not Christians should adopt deterministic beliefs regarding salvation (one side, the calvinists, the determinists say Yes, the other side, the non-calvinists, the non-determinists say No). And each side interprets biblical texts and everything else by either their deterministic or non-deterministic grid. The debate resurfaces whenever and wherever the issue of theological determinism rears its ugly head.

“It’s not the exact same thing as the things I’m about to mention, but it’s the same basic premise:
Augustine vs Pelagius
Luther vs Erasmus
Calvin vs Arminius
Whitfield vs Finney”

And everybody on the left side promoted and argued for theological determinism. Everybody on the right side promoted and argued for non-determinism.

“It’s the same debate. And each time, it was one group’s REACTION to the idea of sovereign grace.”

“Sovereign grace” is merely a calvinistic phrase, a synonym for theological determinism.

“The debates were framed differently and there were differences in the stances of the debaters, but the fight is the same.”

True, different words for it, but the same disagreement: should Christians hold to theological determinism or not?

“Does man have power to choose on his own to be saved? That’s it.”

I always thought this language (“to choose on his own to be saved”) was extremely inaccurate and misleading. This is so because all orthodox Christians believe that in order for a person to be enabled to choose to be saved, they have to have experienced the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. So according to orthodox Christianity NO ONE CAN CHOOSE ON THEIR OWN TO BE SAVED. This choice is only possible if they have first been enabled by the Spirit to make this choice.

But if they have been enabled in this way by the power of the Spirit then they are not “choosing on their own to be saved”. Now once it is shown that all orthodox believers believe this. The next step is that the real difference is then seen. The difference is not one side claiming you can be saved on your own (that is the Pelagian heresy versus the other side saying that you need God’s grace to be saved. Because again all orthodox Christians who are not Pelagians believe that you cannot be saved “on your own” without the grace of God.

So then we get closer to the difference: so who receives this grace of God that enables a person to choose to trust in the Lord for salvation???

And here theological determinism comes clearly into play. For the determinist, only those preselected receive the grace of God which enables a faith response. For the determinist, all who receive this grace will be saved as it cannot be resisted. For the determinist only those preselected for salvation receive this grace (the reprobates do not receive it because God does not desire to save them but instead preplanned for them to be unrepentant sinners and end up in hell being eternally punished for their preplanned unbelief).

For the non-determinist a person must receive this grace but it can be (and often is) resisted. For the non-determinist God gives this grace even to those who never end up becoming believers. So if you really want to know what is being fought here it is the same old battle initiated by Augustine (theological determinism versus non-determinism). People’s views on sovereignty, free will, salvation, providence, individual biblical texts, etc. etc. all revolve around their basic commitments for or against theological determinism.

“The same thing seems to be happening this time around. There is no question a reformed resurgence is happening. Until the so-called “elephant” got big enough to start squeezing some folks, nobody cared.”

Nobody really cares when only a few people espouse theological determinism because then it is not seen as any sort of threat. However it does become a concern when some are trying to convert all other Christians to theological determinism. When some are trying to convert an entire denomination to theological determinism.

“But now, since it’s becoming clear that this thing isn’t going away like the latest fad (because it’s not just a fad), some are reacting.”

Of course they are reacting, look at church history and you will always find intense and strong reactions to those who want Christians to hold to theological determinism. This never changes nor should it. Theological determinism has been viewed by the vast majority of Christians throughout church history as a false theology that has false beliefs, unbiblical beliefs and causes division and confusion wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. This is amply shown throughout church history whenever someone or some group **attempts to convert** other Christians to theological determism away from other orthodox beliefs (e.g. the orthodox beliefs that Jesus died for the sins of the World because God loves the world not just a preselected few).
Wherever you find theological determinism you find division and confusion and even spiritual pride.

That is why you will often hear those newly converted to theological determinism saying things such as: “it was in 2012 that I embraced the doctrines of grace”, “it was in 2012 that I gave up my man-centered theology for doctrines of grace” etc. etc. These are all diferent ways of saying the same thing (i.e. I converted to theological determinism). Listening to these testimonies of conversion you note they are not excited about a conversion to Christ but conversion to a theology!

These “conversions” also suggest a “have” and “have not” mentality (those who have this second blessing, this later conversion to theological determinism are the “haves” with everybody else being the “have nots”).

“But that’s exactly what it is- a reaction. If it weren’t for this, this traditional statement wouldn’t exist.”

And I am glad for this reaction. I hope the Traditionalists make it absolutely clear what theological determinism entails (what Rodgers calls the disquieting realities of calvinism). I hope the Traditionalists inform people as to exactly what theological determinism involves. I hope it is all out in the open for all to see, where it can be exposed for exactly what it is.

Robert

    Darryl Hill

    Robert, I am not a determinist and that is not the source of this debate. This debate is about man’s freedom and ability to choose salvation apart from the working of God’s grace. That’s the debate. Man demands freedom to accept or reject without God’s intervention. You can frame it as you will. Perhaps for you this is what it’s about, but if you think the majority of Southern Baptists think this debate is about determinism, I think you need to go to a Traditionalist church and interview the congregants. They don’t know what you’re talking about. The rub is about freedom and rights. We demand it. But we take our freedom to destroy ourselves.

    Scripture makes it clear that man does one thing with his libertarian freedom- he sins, then sins, and then sins some more. Man chooses one thing with his libertarian freedom- he chooses to exalt self. You give a man, unaided and unenlightened by the power of the Holy Spirit, the choice between repentance and sin, he will choose sin every time. Give him the options of submitting to the Lordship of Christ and being his own master, he will choose option B every time.

    This issue was not invented by Augustine, either. It was the Apostle Paul who said “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” and again he said “there is none who seeks for God.” And Jesus Himself was the One who said, “No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

    These ideas were not invented by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitfield, or even Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, or JI Packer. These ideas were spoken in Scripture. And it was Paul who said, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, and those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified…” Paul introduced these concepts. Successive theologians have simply TAUGHT what was already there.

    So, feel free to paint all who follow the doctrines of grace as determinists, but it won’t stick. But at least we agree on one thing- I stand on the side of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon and Whitfield. You stand on the other side, hurling words like “determinism.” I don’t mind standing with these men at all, I’ll just tell you. I also don’t mind standing with the words of Paul, Jesus, and Peter, who all taught these things as well.

      Daniel Wilcox

      Darryl,

      You say “I am not a determinist.”

      I must say, you are about the only Calvinist I’ve met in 50 years who wasn’t a determinnist!
      And Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon and Whitfield were determinists, in fact “hard” determinists. (I am not saying, they were only one kind of determinist.)

      But all Calvinists claim to hold to Total Inability and Unconditional Election at least. A very few were uncertain about Irresistible Grace.
      This is what makes them determinists.

      If I am born incapable of repenting and accepting Jesus as my savior (unless unconditionally elected) that is determinism.

      I could recommend a list of the many thousands of pages written by Calvinists affirming they are determinists, but I assume you have read some of the books already.
      (One of professors at university earned his PhD. on Jonathan Edwards, was an expert on Calvinism. We had many talks about theology.)

      Maybe what you are saying is that you are a soft determinist–a compatibilist?

      Or what can you possibly mean by saying you aren’t a determinist?

      Thanks for the dialog,

      Daniel Wilcox

        Darryl Hill

        Yes Daniel, I mean that I am not a determinist in that I do not believe that it is some impersonal force out there that controls things so we should all just sit in our pajamas all day and watch the world go by.

        I suppose if you nailed me down, I’m a compatibilist. But the thing which offends me most about the connotation surrounding determinism is that our actions don’t matter and this would lead someone to become a hyper-calvinist, saying, “What we do doesn’t matter. God doesn’t need my help converting the heathen. If He wants them saved, He will do it. God doesn’t need to hear my prayers. If He wants it done, He will make it so.” Scripture teaches me no such thing. I definitely balk at the way Robert framed my position for me. When I read Scripture, I see that everything we do matters. Go ordains both the means and the ends.

        And I would also balk at the deterministic or fatalistic idea that Calvinism would present life as just an exercise in futility. And when I say that most Baptists have no clue what determinism is, I think that is correct. So, while the idea of determinism, soft determinism, or compatibilism may be thrown around in the theological debate, I believe that the man or woman in the pew is mostly concerned about freedom or free will. That is what Hollywood has been feeding us for the last half-century.

        I should hasten to add, as the BF&M says, the sovereignty of God in salvation is consistent with the will of man. That is, God does not force people to submit nor does He reject people desperately seeking to repent of sin. Man exercising his will in repenting and believing. The problem is that a natural man, when he exercising his will, rejects God. But when God opens his eyes and he sees the reality of the situation, he willingly runs into the arms of a loving Father.

          Daniel Wilcox

          Hi Daryl

          Thanks for your reply:”Yes Daniel, I mean that I am not a determinist in that I do not believe that it is some impersonal force out there that controls things so we should all just sit in our pajamas all day and watch the world go by.”

          But, Daryl, no Christian determinists thinks that we are controlled by “some impersonal force.”

          In fact that is the very reason, Christian determinism is so upsetting to Christian non-determinists. For TULIP and other forms of theological determinism claim that our very personal God controls all in such a way that most humans are foreordained to eternal destruction as Calvin and others claimed!

          Such a claim is not Good News for us millions who aren’t Calvinists. Why would God hate us so much to foreordain us to Hell?:-(

          Then later you say, “God does not force people to submit nor does He reject people desperately seeking to repent of sin.”

          On the contrary, the very substance of theological determinism (Augustine, Calvin, etc.)
          is that people CAN’T “desperately seek” to repent, not unless they are UNconditionally elected, and are irresistably drawn and regenerated before; then those limited number can repent.

          This I suppose is endless, right? I have been a strong believer in “predestination” since I was in college. One of my secular professors was astounded when I explained in discussion that I believe I was predestined before the foundation of the world in Christ.

          But notice the predestining of the Good News, is bad news to nobody, because it is Conditional Election. God wills and loves for everyone to salvation.

          But not Calvinism. It
          foreordains most of us to damnation. As so many Calvinists have told me for so many years.

          Thanks for the dialog,
          Daniel

            Darryl Hill

            Daniel, I think our issue when discussing these things is that we are discussing them as though they exist in a theoretical vacuum and we are seeing them as though they have already happened. I think the Bible often uses language like this when speaking of God’s sovereignty.

            I suppose the practical outworkings of these doctrines could have varying effects, depending upon how one might choose to apply them. One might take them the wrong direction I suppose and become an arrogant elitist attempting to find the elect and figure out who should be invited to our members only club.

            The way you frame Calvinism is that it is this unloving God wanting glory for Himself and moving people around like pieces on a chess board. That is not the way I see it at all.

            And that is not the way I see Scripture, nor is it the way I understand what Augustine, Luther, Calvin or Jonathan Edwards intended.

            Our actions in this life matter. Our prayers matter. Our words to people matter. Preaching the Gospel matters. Obeying the Great Commission matters. As I said above, God ordains both the means and the ends. Believing that God is sovereign has not paralyzed me from taking action. It has not stopped me from praying believing. It has not stopped me from reaching out to people in hopes that they might come to a knowledge of the truth.

            I don’t know how it all works bro. I really don’t. I know that God is sovereign and that what I do in life matters. So I trust Him as I take action. I persuade men while knowing God must call. Jesus Himself taught people and then said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

          Robert

          Darryl wrote:

          “Yes Daniel, I mean that I am not a determinist in that I do not believe that it is some impersonal force out there that controls things so we should all just sit in our pajamas all day and watch the world go by.”

          Who ever said that a theological determinist believes “that it is some impersonal force out there that controls things so we should all just sit in our pajamas all day and watch the world go by”????

          In this statement Darryl is confusing one definition of **fatalism** with theological determinism. One common understanding of fatalism is the idea that no matter what you do the outcome will be the same. So your actions don’t matter because whatever you do the outcome will be the same. But this idea, this version of fatalism is irrational. If a person chooses to shoot someone in the head or not shoot them in the head, the outcome will be different. It appears to me that Darryl thought that I was suggesting that he holds to fatalism in this sense. I don’t believe that calvinists are fatalists in this sense.

          Darryl then writes:

          “I suppose if you nailed me down, I’m a compatibilist.”

          But a compatibilist ***is*** a determinist.

          I am more and more convinced that Darryl is just not aware of what the terms determinism, fatalism, etc. mean in current discussions.

          “But the thing which offends me most about the connotation surrounding determinism is that our actions don’t matter and this would lead someone to become a hyper-calvinist, saying, “What we do doesn’t matter. God doesn’t need my help converting the heathen. If He wants them saved, He will do it. God doesn’t need to hear my prayers. If He wants it done, He will make it so.””

          That is a good example of fatalism, but that is not determinism. So Darryl conflates fatalism and determinism.

          “ Scripture teaches me no such thing.”

          Agreed, scripture does not teach the pagan idea of fatalism (that no matter what you do the outcomes are the same so it really does not matter what you do).

          Calvinism also does not teach this version of fatalism.

          “I definitely balk at the way Robert framed my position for me. “

          I never framed your position for you, I said, and said so accurately that you are a theological determinism.

          “When I read Scripture, I see that everything we do matters. Go ordains both the means and the ends.”

          Everything we do, does matter, which is why all will be judged for what they do at the final judgment.

          God does not ordain everything (“both the means and the ends”) that is exhaustive determinism and it is false.

          “And I would also balk at the deterministic or fatalistic idea that Calvinism would present life as just an exercise in futility.”

          This is partly true and partly false. If exhaustive determinism is true, if God has predestined everything, then for those who are predestined to be damned their life is an exercise in futility. They are predestined to be damned. Their every action, including theirs thoughts, their every sin is predetrmined. They are then judged at the final judgment for being and doing exactly what God predetined them to be. Then eternally punished for being and doing exactly what God predestined them to be and do. That would be a life of futility.

          “ And when I say that most Baptists have no clue what determinism is, I think that is correct. So, while the idea of determinism, soft determinism, or compatibilism may be thrown around in the theological debate, I believe that the man or woman in the pew is mostly concerned about freedom or free will. That is what Hollywood has been feeding us for the last half-century.”

          OK then educate yourselves. There are resources that carefully and accurately explain theological determinism.

          For example, in the book WHOSOVER WILL edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke check out chapter 10 “Reflections on Determinism and Human Freedom” by Jeremy Evans. Evans does a good job of explaining the terms including determinism and showing how calvinism is a form of theological determinism.

          Robert

            Darryl Hill

            Robert, you are correct when you said that I was confusing determinism with fatalism. I will admit that. I’m still learning and becoming accustomed to some of this terminology.

        Robert

        Hello Daniel,

        I appreciate your posts. It is nice to see someone familiar with the terms like determinism and clearly laying out the problems with theological calvinism/determinism.

        Robert

      Jim G.

      Hi Darryl,

      With all due respect, Robert is exactly right. The theological disagreement IS about determinism. Everything, especially the extent of created human freedom, flows from our view of God’s providence.

      Let me be up front and state my own working definition of determinism: it is article 3.1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

      If God interacts with the world as WCF 3.1 says, then there can be no libertarian free will, because every human choice is determined. There can only be compatibilist free will, which is itself a form of determinism (I am unaware of any classical theologian who has stated otherwise.).

      Obviously created human freedom is constrained by the way in which God governs his universe. Anyone who places limitations on created human freedom does so expressly because of an already-existing idea of how meticulous the providence of God is. If we begin with determinism (the WCF 3.1 variety), then compatibilism is the only possible way to see any human freedom. (If we were to begin with naturalistic determinism, then human freedom would be completely illusory.)

      With Robert, I do not believe the NT writers were determinists. I certainly do not believe Jesus was a determinist in any way, shape, or form. After having studied this topic fairly exhaustively, I must concur with him that determinism was introduced into Christianity by Augustine, especially due to his Manichaean and Neoplatonic influences. I would even submit that which cemented his determinist turn was his dialog with Faustus the Manichee in around 395. After that time, Augustine adopted his (to borrow Greg Boyd’s terminology) “blueprint” model of the world, which he handed down to his successors, mainly the Magisterial Reformers, and then down to today.

      I believe that today’s determinists read the Bible through their glasses of the Augustinian-Calvinist-blueprint synthesis, and therefore sees God’s determining and meticulously providential hand behind every human action. I do not believe this to be the best way to read the Bible for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which that it makes God the mastermind behind all sin and therefore makes him at once both good and evil. This damages the biblical witness of God beyond what I am willing to allow, and therefore the price we must pay for being a determinist is in my opinion too high.

      The theological disagreement is about determinism. The greater struggle we see, though, is about power.

      Jim G.

        Lydia

        Thanks Jim. Excellent comment.

        Robert

        Hello Jim,

        “With all due respect, Robert is exactly right. The theological disagreement IS about determinism. Everything, especially the extent of created human freedom, flows from our view of God’s providence.”

        Nice to see your agreement here.

        “Let me be up front and state my own working definition of determinism: it is article 3.1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”
        If God interacts with the world as WCF 3.1 says, then there can be no libertarian free will, because every human choice is determined. There can only be compatibilist free will, which is itself a form of determinism (I am unaware of any classical theologian who has stated otherwise.).”

        Agreed. The WCF is one of the best examples of theological determinism in existence.

        “Obviously created human freedom is constrained by the way in which God governs his universe. Anyone who places limitations on created human freedom does so expressly because of an already-existing idea of how meticulous the providence of God is. If we begin with determinism (the WCF 3.1 variety), then compatibilism is the only possible way to see any human freedom. (If we were to begin with naturalistic determinism, then human freedom would be completely illusory.)”

        Agreed.

        “With Robert, I do not believe the NT writers were determinists. I certainly do not believe Jesus was a determinist in any way, shape, or form. After having studied this topic fairly exhaustively, I must concur with him that determinism was introduced into Christianity by Augustine, especially due to his Manichaean and Neoplatonic influences. I would even submit that which cemented his determinist turn was his dialog with Faustus the Manichee in around 395. After that time, Augustine adopted his (to borrow Greg Boyd’s terminology) “blueprint” model of the world, which he handed down to his successors, mainly the Magisterial Reformers, and then down to today.”

        Agreed. It is nice to see that you are also very familiar with Augustine and his influences as well.

        Speaking of Boyd he is working on a book project in which he is going to go after “blueprint theology”. That will be interesting. I disagree with Boyd on his open theism but he is sharp and will have some good arguments against theological determinism I am sure.

        “I believe that today’s determinists read the Bible through their glasses of the Augustinian-Calvinist-blueprint synthesis, and therefore sees God’s determining and meticulously providential hand behind every human action.”

        Yes, and many are unaware of the Augustinian glasses they are interpreting scripture with.

        “I do not believe this to be the best way to read the Bible for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which that it makes God the mastermind behind all sin and therefore makes him at once both good and evil. This damages the biblical witness of God beyond what I am willing to allow, and therefore the price we must pay for being a determinist is in my opinion too high.”

        Agreed, again you appear to be very familiar with the nature and problems of theological determinism.

        “The theological disagreement is about determinism. The greater struggle we see, though, is about power.”

        Sadly I think you are correct about this too.

        Jim I enjoyed and appreciated your comments immensely.

        Robert

          Jim G.

          Thanks for the encouragement, Robert. I have benefitted from much of what you have written, from Randal Rauser’s to Roger Olson’s to this blog. I rarely comment on the others. I infrequently comment here.

          I am VERY interested in Boyd’s third and fourth book of his “trilogy.” He’s about 8 years behind schedule. I believe I read he is going to split his work on the blueprint into two books – I think one on Greco-Roman philosophical background and one on early church interaction with and gradual acceptance of (in the West) the blueprint model. I am doing some research myself into the history of determinism in Christianity from Augustine forward. I have found it all fascinating. I hope to have it in book form in a year or two. I’m also doing an ETS paper on the christological difficulties of a deterministic worldview this fall in Milwaukee. Maybe you and I should “sit down” sometime and compare notes.

          Jim G.

            Lydia

            “I’m also doing an ETS paper on the christological difficulties of a deterministic worldview this fall in Milwaukee. ”

            I would love to read that!

            Robert

            Hello Jim,

            “Thanks for the encouragement, Robert. I have benefitted from much of what you have written, from Randal Rauser’s to Roger Olson’s to this blog. I rarely comment on the others. I infrequently comment here.”

            Likewise, thank you for your encouraging words.

            “I am VERY interested in Boyd’s third and fourth book of his “trilogy.” He’s about 8 years behind schedule. I believe I read he is going to split his work on the blueprint into two books – I think one on Greco-Roman philosophical background and one on early church interaction with and gradual acceptance of (in the West) the blueprint model.”

            Apparently there is so much information to deal with, that the project may require two separate books. That is fine, I want all that information available to people. I predict that information will be devastating against the blueprint model/calvinism which Boyd is challenging. Most people are ignorant of church history. If they only knew how there was no evidence for calvinism between the New Testament era and Augustine. If they only knew Augustine’s views/errors and the backlash and response even in his own time to his deterministic beliefs. People wrongly think calvinism has been with us throughout church history when it has not. It started with Augustine and pops up occasionally afterwards. People also don’t fully appreciate how much of a role determinism plays in calvinism.

            “I am doing some research myself into the history of determinism in Christianity from Augustine forward. I have found it all fascinating. I hope to have it in book form in a year or two.”

            Sounds good, definitely get that information out. I am a big believer in informed decisions, the better the information that you have to work with the better your decisions. I am convinced if everything is out in the open for people to evaluate for themselves they will (as the vast majority of Christians throughout churh history have done) reject theological determinism.

            “I’m also doing an ETS paper on the christological difficulties of a deterministic worldview this fall in Milwaukee. Maybe you and I should “sit down” sometime and compare notes.”

            Sounds good, I would enjoy that. Can you post your email so that I can contact you off line?

            Robert

            Jim G.

            Sure, Robert. My email is jgifford@nlts.edu. It is my work email, but it is easy to contact me there. I agree with your point about “informed decisions.” I’m truly hoping that more information in people’s hands will help them make a better decision.

            Jim G.

      Not The Original Les

      Darryl,

      I was supposedly schooled yesterday when I ALS said I was not a determinist. In a strict sense, I’m am a determinist, that is a sort of determinist. One always needs to define terms.

      I said yesterday that I prefer to call myself a compatibalist. I stand by that. If one wants to drill down and subdivide determinism into hard and soft determinism, then I would fall under the soft category. Nevertheless, I call myself a compatibalist.

      In the same way, those here who hold to a universal atonement I’m sure don’t want to be referred to as universalists. See, again definitions are important.

      So I’m with you Darryl.

      And I really like this quote from Sproul.

      “We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will. Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent”. Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor seperately from God’s meticulous providence.”

      Maybe we found just refer to trads as “inconsistents.”

      Les

        Mark

        Les,

        It’s really about who is doing the determining.

          Not The Original Les

          Mark, so true. I’m just thankful God determines. Left to my fallen nature and enslaved will I would never have repented and believed in Christ.

        Darryl Hill

        Yes, I guess I should have said, “I am not a hard determinist or a fatalist.”

        I would agree that God’s sovereignty in salvation is a central component in this debate, but I still believe that the driving factor is free will, which is certainly related.

        In other words, if I walk up to your average church member and say, “Do you think God has the right to save whomever He wants to save?” I would get the same affirmative answer from either a traditionalist or a calvinist. But if I walk up and say, “Do you believe man has free will in salvation?” I think we’d see where the real issue is with humanity.

        The traditionalist would say, “Of course we have free will in salvation!” The calvinist would say, “Our wills are bound in sin and must be set free from sin before we will repent and believe.”

        Our issue is that we (humanity) demand autonomy and we don’t believe a choice is free unless we could have also equally declined it. That is the issue, in my view. We neglect to consider that any person, when shown by the Holy Spirit the mercy, grace, and love of God, would willingly run to Him. I call that triumphant grace.

          Not The Original Les

          Darryl, well said. It’s all about self autonomy. We humans just cannot stand that we are subject to a King.

          Not The Original Les

          John Frame has a nifty little key:

          God controls man’s free decisions.
          John Frame

          1. Choices are either caused or uncaused.
          2. If a choice is uncaused, then it springs from nothing and is, therefore, morally irrelevant.
          3. Choices are morally relevant.
          4. Therefore, choices are caused (and therefore necessary).
          5. The causes of choices are either chosen or not chosen.
          6. If the causes of choices are chosen, then an infinite regress of choices and causes must precede any choice.
          7. An infinite regress of causes and choices is impossible, therefore, the causes of choices are not chosen.
          8. From 4 and 7 –> Choices are causally necessitated by something not chosen.
          9. LFW contradicts 8, therefore, LFW is false.

            Jim G.

            I’m not buying assertion #2. Wouldn’t #2 also imply that all of creation, since it is ex nihilo, be morally irrelevant too?

            Jim G.

            Not The Original Les

            Jim G,

            Please elaborate. I love talking about this part of our agreements and disagreements. Caveat, in a short while I’ll be leaving for the eveinng. I’m choosing to go to a nice restaurant with my family. But, be back later.

            Les

            Darryl Hill

            I don’t think I’ve ever thought it through to that depth, but it makes sense.

            I’ve often made the argument when someone harps so strongly on free will that there are so many causes that affect us that are beyond our control, we sound silly demanding that we have made choices based purely upon our own wills and not based on any factors outside of ourselves.

            For example: I didn’t choose my country of birth, my date of birth, my city of birth, who my parents were (and on down the line), what their beliefs were, my dna, my personality, the environment in which I was reared, the people who interacted with me growing up, the trials of my life, and on and on. How can I make the claim of libertarian free will when I can’t even control who I am or what I naturally prefer?

            Not The Original Les

            Also Jim G, this is obviously only a short piece from Frame. You can see much more of Frame on this subject at monergism.com (hope I don’t get banned for referring to such a site). He has written extensively on it as have of course many others.

            Les

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Actually, not so nifty.

            P2 with its unsupported sub-conclusion is clearly false, begs the question of whether undetermined choices come “from nothing” (see below for more on this), and a non-sequitur.

            P4 is a non-sequitur from P2-P3, as is its own parenthetical (no choice is necessary in that sense, nor does the moral relevancy issue from P2-P3 have anything to do with the causation of choices any more than the price of tea in China does).

            P4-P7 are baseless since they include unsubstantiated claims about causes and “chosen-ness”. Factors and influences for deliberations in making choices are not themselves determinative causes for choices (to say otherwise would be question begging the entire argument’s purpose…whoops…same problem as P2 alluded to above), but rather could be simply factors that lead to making choices regarding those factors when options are presented to an agent to make (or to even not make) a choice. That is equivocation anyhow, which is another problem of the argument on the whole.

            In any case, the argument fails due to being riddled with problems.

            I like Frame, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy his Lordship series and other writings even if I don’t agree with every detail, but he isn’t as good a logician as he is theologian.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Darryl Hill, you wrote:

            “For example: I didn’t choose my country of birth, my date of birth, my city of birth, who my parents were (and on down the line), what their beliefs were, my dna, my personality, the environment in which I was reared, the people who interacted with me growing up, the trials of my life, and on and on. How can I make the claim of libertarian free will when I can’t even control who I am or what I naturally prefer?”

            The problem with your reasoning is that you are confusing biological and environmental factors with moral ones. That dog don’t hunt, and as such is a false comparison with moral factors.

            If you say otherwise, then I am guessing you think people are morally and environmentally pre-determined to certain religions, committing crime, having abortions, homosexuality, getting drunk, etc. rather than those things being moral actions of sinners. No Calvinist I know asserts this as being the case.

            (This is leaving aside one’s view of divine determinism/LFW/etc. as a completely separate issue, which is precisely why making this kind of comparison is invalid)

        Daniel Wilcox

        Hi Les,

        Yes, Sproul states it so well as you say:
        Sproul:
        “We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will.

        Exactly, that is why both hard determinism and compatibilism are determinism and why such theology is of no hope, and is such despair.

        Only if God loves every single human and through his Spirit woos us and we have a choice whether to accept God or reject God, do we have “free will.” However, I prefer not to use the term “free will” because it is such an “empty bucket” word with so many unclear meanings.

        I would rather say, that contrary to Sproul and all other determinists of whatever shade,
        that God created all humans capable of responding to God or not responding to God. TULIP is completely contrary to the Good News because it is deterministic.

        ThenSproul says
        “Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced.”

        On the contrary, in Calvinism we have NO choices at all. This was best demonstrated to me by a famous short book of Calvinism which said in the first paragraph that if it was foreordained I would not be able to put the book down:-) Really!

        What a trip:-) That’s one of the best hooks I’ve ever read by a writer.

        Or one Calvinist pointed out arrows are “free” to go to their target, humans are “free” to sin.

        That isn’t what most people mean when they think of freedom, certainly not Americans when they talk of people being “free.”

        Calvinism is so despairing because from the beginning as Calvin and all Calvinists since emphasize only a limited number of humans have been chosen for God to love for salvation.

        We’re not talking armchair theology here. Whether or not God gives humans a choice makes all the difference.

        I am glad I trust in the God (the God of Billy Graham, etc,) who loves every single person who ever lived, and gives every single person an opportunity to respond or to reject his love.

        That’s the Good News, not various forms of determinism.

        Thanks for the dialog,

        Daniel Wilcox

          Darryl Hill

          Daniel, I would just like to say that, though I disagree with your point of view, your desire to actually discuss the issues is very refreshing. Praise the Lord for that! :-)

          Chris Roberts

          “I would rather say, that contrary to Sproul and all other determinists of whatever shade, that God created all humans capable of responding to God or not responding to God.”

          I agree with you – God created all humans capable of responding or rejecting him. But the Bible clearly points out that we chose to reject him, chose sin, chose our own way, and as such have been so thoroughly corrupted that, left to ourselves, we would never choose him. Thus we will eternally give thanks to God that he chose us when we never would have chosen him.

      Robert

      Darryl wrote:

      “Robert, I am not a determinist and that is not the source of this debate.”

      You **are** a determinist and as is now being confirmed by others theological determinism is the source of this debate.

      “Scripture makes it clear that man does one thing with his libertarian freedom- he sins, then sins, and then sins some more. Man chooses one thing with his libertarian freedom- he chooses to exalt self. You give a man, unaided and unenlightened by the power of the Holy Spirit, the choice between repentance and sin, he will choose sin every time.”

      Agreed, APART FROM THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MAN IS IN AN AWFUL, LOST, SPIRITUALLY DEAD CONDITION.

      “Give him the options of submitting to the Lordship of Christ and being his own master, he will choose option B every time.”

      Some problems with your statement here.

      First, the majority of humanity will never genuinely have those options if your exhaustive determinism is true (i.e. if God predestined who will be saved and who will be damned from eternity as all your famous determinists have said, including Luther, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards: then those predestined to damnation will never ever have the genuine choice to choose to submt to Jesus or not, they will never experience the preconversion work of the Spirit which enables faith and so will never have a chance to believe, and that is what needs to be brought out into the open for all to see, what this determinism really leads to ).

      Second, the non-determinist, the non-calvinist, the Traditionalist believes that if a person has experienced the work of the Spirit and been enabled to make the choice to trust the Lord, then some will do so and some will not do so. To declare as you do here that someone could be in the place to genuinely have those options (which could only be true if they had experienced the work of the Spirit) and yet will never choose to trust the Lord is a direct insult against the work and power of the Spirit. The fact is every one of us who is genuinely saved experienced that choice due to the work of the Spirit and we made the choice to trust, so your statement is outright false. The reason I am confident when evangelizing is precisely because I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to enable a faith response in even the most hardened sinners. From your comment here if it were true, then my confidence is misplaced.

      “This issue was not invented by Augustine, either.”

      Actually if you studied church history you would find that Augustine is the first to introduce deterministic theology into church thinking. Between the New Testament era and Augustine no one was espousing or teaching or believing what we today call calvinism. You can ignore church history but you cannot rewrite it to say calvinism was believed in the church before Augustine.

      “It was the Apostle Paul who said “for the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” and again he said “there is none who seeks for God.” And Jesus Himself was the One who said, “No man can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.””

      Right and none of these verses teaches or establishes theological determinism.

      The message of the cross is foolishness to those not enabled by the Spirit to believe. None seek after God if left to themselves. But God does not leave us to ourselves, he sends the Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. When Jesus said no one can come to me unless drawn that was true. What do you think the preconversion work of the Spirit is? That is the drawing that enables a faith response to the gospel. The same drawing that John said would draw the world to Christ (cf. Jn. 12:32).

      “These ideas were not invented by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitfield, or even Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, or JI Packer. These ideas were spoken in Scripture.”

      No, theological determinism is not presented in scripture, if it were then bible believing Christians would all see it and believe it. As it stands the vast majority of bible believing Christians reject theological determinism/calvinism.

      “And it was Paul who said, For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, and those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified…””

      Excuse me but you missed something in Romans 8 which you cite here. The text does not say that He predestined people to salvation (you read that into the text when it is not there). The text does say that we are predestined to BECOME CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON (which is taken to refer to our glorified state when we have the spiritual body like Jesus already does or to sanctification that we are predestined to be like Jesus in character).

      “Paul introduced these concepts. Successive theologians have simply TAUGHT what was already there.”

      Paul never introduced theological determinism or deterministic concepts. Theological determinists read their determinism into certain verses written by Paul. A classic example of this is the determinist treatment of Romans 9. They isolate certain verses from Romans 9 trying to use them to prove their determinism. But the major mistake they make is that Romans 9 must be interpreted in light of all of Romans. And Romans 9 is specifically part of a unit (Romans 9-11) which must be interpreted together and not isolated. Once you don’t isolate it, you find that Romans 9 primarily talks about the fact that God is sovereign and does as He pleases (and he pleases to save people through faith and not the works of the law). Romans 10 talks about the importance of the condition of faith to salvation. And in Romans 11 Paul puts it all together and discusses how it worked out with first century Jews and Gentiles.

      “So, feel free to paint all who follow the doctrines of grace as determinists, but it won’t stick.”

      It will only “not stick” with determinists who are ignorant of determinism and not open about their determinism. The fact that determinists such as Feinberg openly acknowledge they are determinists proves the term determinism is neither a pejorative term not a reference to being heretical. It is just a way of distinguishing people’s views on free will (i.e. libertarians affirm what is ordinarily meant by free will and determinists/compatibilists deny it).

      And again the phrase “doctrines of grace” is merely determinist lingo for their deterministic beliefs.

      “But at least we agree on one thing- I stand on the side of Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon and Whitfield.”

      You can stand on the side of famous theological determinists all that you want. All that means is again you **are** a theological determinist.

      “You stand on the other side, hurling words like “determinism.””
      And you can “hurl” the word libertarian at me, it does not bother me at all.

      “I don’t mind standing with these men at all, I’ll just tell you. I also don’t mind standing with the words of Paul, Jesus, and Peter, who all taught these things as well.”

      Everybody says they stand “with the words of Paul, Jesus and Peter”. I have had non-Christian cultists say the same thing to me.

      “who taught these things as well”

      Again, I have had lots of non-Christian cultists make this same claim. And again everybody believes that.

      My perspective is that determinists such as you *****interpret***** the words of Paul, Jesus and Peter ******according to your determinism****** while I and others who are not determinists interpret these same words ****WITHOUT your deterministic grid****. So we interpret things differently, one side in line with theological determinism the other not in line with theological determinism.

      Robert

        Darryl Hill

        Robert, thanks for challenging me to go deeper. I appreciate it. I just want to be clear. Do you believe that pre-conversion work must be done by the Holy Spirit in the heart of a lost person before they will respond to the call of the Gospel?

        You said above: “Agreed, APART FROM THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MAN IS IN AN AWFUL, LOST, SPIRITUALLY DEAD CONDITION.”

        If you agree that the Holy Spirit must enable in some way a person’s faith response to the Gospel and has perfect foreknowledge yet created the world as it is anyway, then how do you avoid being a theological determinist yourself? Most people who reject compatibilism also reject the idea that God must do some kind of preconversion work in a person’s life before they will respond.

        I think I agree with much of what you are saying, actually. I don’t think I’d have any trouble working with you at all, unless I’m missing something.

Mark

Rick,

You stated, “It is precisely here, in the practical outworking of our theological disagreements through our institutional struggles, that the same elephant we might overlook in our Sunday School class or church becomes absolutely impossible to avoid at the denominational level.

Do I understand you correctly that you would allow this “elephant” in your own church where you have more direct control, but would rather tame the elephant at the denominational level where you have less control?

If I understand correctly, this reasoning seems backwards. It seems as though a pastor would first be most concerned about his local autonomous church and secondarily about the denomination made up of independent autonomous churches.

    Rick Patrick

    Mark,

    Thank you for your excellent question, which gives me the opportunity to clarify my position.

    I view the entire Calvinism-Traditionalism debate as a Tier Two theological concern, meaning it does not separate Christian from non-Christian, but it is significant enough that both positions within one individual church, I believe, becomes problematic. Hence, we screen for Calvinism in minister searches, and our teaching is consistently from the Traditionalist perspective, in my own local congregation. This is my personal view.

    However, there are many autonomous churches in our convention, including that of Chris Roberts if I recall from earlier blog discussions, that view this matter as a Tier Three concern, more along the lines of whether or not one’s children are allowed to read “Harry Potter,” a minor concern within a church family that accepts both Calvinist and Traditionalist perspectives.

    The reason I feel this elephant cannot be overlooked at the denominational level might be compared to the “least common denominator” in mathematics. As you bring Tier Two churches together with Tier Three churches in the denomination as a whole, I believe the default position must be the more restrictive Tier Two perspective.

    Merge a more rigid and exclusive position with a more flexible and inclusive position and, by definition, the exclusive one will define the relationship. I hope this is making sense. There are churches that straddle the fence on this issue, but I don’t think the denomination as a whole can do that, because there are other churches that do not.

      Chris Roberts

      Rick,

      So everyone must be more restrictive because a handful want to be more restrictive?

      And I’m still curious in what sense it is unity if Calvinism is allowed in isolated pockets but not given a place at the broader SBC table. This is not unity, it is barely tolerance. We agree on the BF&M, that ought to be enough to give everyone a place at the table.

        John

        Chris,
        You can have a place at the round table, even Norm said so on his first post. Just be sure the chair is still there when you go to sit down.

        Rick Patrick

        Chris,

        I don’t know about that handful. I think it’s more than that, but let me try to illustrate this exclusive-inclusive relationship more clearly.

        Suppose you’re about to play a game of pickup basketball. Someone suggests playing “shirts and skins” in order to tell the teams apart. One team has five guys, but the other has three guys and two girls.

        The team with five guys is flexible and willing either to play “shirts and skins” or to just memorize teammates. But the team with three guys and two girls is more restrictive. If you insist on playing “shirts and skins” they are not going to play, but are going to go home. (These are good, modest Christian girls.)

        What do they do? What I’m suggesting is that in any partnership, if one party has absolutely non-negotiable terms, then those terms must be met. One must cater to the more restrictive side or the “deal breaker” kicks in and you no longer have a partnership.

          Chris Roberts

          Rick,

          I understand the concept. You believe that even though the SBC has on several occasions affirmed the BF&M as a sufficient standard for our full cooperation, participation on the convention level should be restricted by something other than the BF&M because some in the SBC believe Calvinists should not be given an equal place in the convention.

            Rick Patrick

            No, I believe Traditionalists have the right to “opt out” of the quiet revolution promoted by the Founders Ministries, Southern Seminary and the Abstract of Principles, the original “more restrictive than the BFM” statement in SBC life.

Luther Jones

“Frankly, if I believed the way they do, I would also seek the spread of Calvinism everywhere, including the primarily Traditionalist churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the agenda is adversarial in nature just the same.”

By your own definition, isn’t Rich Patrick’s actions adversarial in wanting to keep funds from going to SBC projects which are Calvinistic? And if so, where is Scriptural justification for being adversarial against other Christians?

Isn’t the work of SBCToday especially “adversarial” by advancing so many Calvinist-bashing? I don’t know how this one could possibly be denied with any honesty. And if SBCToday is adversarial against Christians, where is the Scriptural justification for this?

Is not be your own definition SBCToday probably the most adversarial group within the SBC? Is any group more adversarial than this group?

Are Traditionalists being adversarial?

It seems to me that the biggest adversarial campaign within the SBC and the biggest enemies of peace and unity within the SBC are the SBCToday and a number of Traditionalist authors and commenters. Isn’t that a fair assessment? If not, please show how any group could be possibly thought to be more adversarial than you. It doesn’t seem possibe. You win the award for being the most adversarial against unity in the SBC. Your mission, which you have chosen to accept, will, I would predict be the biggest adversarial movement against the SBC’s mission of advancing the Kingdom of Christ. In other words, your movement will be the biggest assistance to the advancement of Satan’s cause.

-Luther

    Rick Patrick

    Luther,

    “By your own definition, isn’t Rich Patrick’s actions adversarial in wanting to keep funds from going to SBC projects which are Calvinistic? And if so, where is Scriptural justification for being adversarial against other Christians?”

    First, my name’s Rick…I only wish I were rich. :-)

    Second, I admit my actions are adversarial with regard to the Founders Ministries desired reformation of my church and denomination. By definition, we oppose each other’s views, and this goes both ways.

    Third, when Paul opposed Peter to his face, you have scriptural opposition to another believer. That rebuke was personal, but this one is denominational.
    Methodists are Christians, but my church can (and does) refuse to pay for their church planting, since we oppose the theology they are propagating. Similarly, even within the SBC, we can oppose our support of the promotion of doctrines we disaffirm. There is no requirement that one must commit to the advancement of Calvinism in order to be involved in Southern Baptist missions, although such is indeed a requirement in order to be involved with the Acts 29 Network.

    For my church to desire to plant Traditionalist Only churches is no more adversarial than for Acts 29 Network churches to desire to plant Calvinist Only churches. If the latter is acceptable, as an expression of local church autonomy, then so is the former.

      carl peterson

      “For my church to desire to plant Traditionalist Only churches is no more adversarial than for Acts 29 Network churches to desire to plant Calvinist Only churches. If the latter is acceptable, as an expression of local church autonomy, then so is the former.”

      Okay. So you would be okay if all reformed SBC churches and organizations promoted only Calvinism and Calvinists. Okay. Somehow though I thought that was part of what brought on this whole debate. That the Calvinists were just promoting Calvinism and not soteriologically neutral. I mean if a seminary wanted to be reformed and thus wanted to just train reformed and Calvinist ministers then that would be fine also. But I have read repeatedly on this blog that the Calvinists were bad because they were trying to promote their brand of soteriology above other forms of Baptist soteriology.

      And really I think if you had some churches funding some missionaries (let’s say) through NAMB or whatever it is called today and not others. Well I think then you would end of up having two (or more) different denominations. I think a split would then be viewed as already taken place except by name so it would not take long for the split to be in name also.

        Rick Patrick

        Would you rather the SBC have a Calvinist Division and a Traditionalist Division in the same denomination or just have two denominations?

        I would argue we have those divisions already, but we just haven’t identified them clearly enough to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.

earl simmons

Okay. Look at it this way..According to the Calvinist doctrine Only God knows each person’s destiny. So why is it so important to adopt the doctrine in all our churches? Why not let each person decide what they think of Jesus as we do now? What is the true motive behind the Calvinist’s desire that we adopt their theology? Anyway none of them agree on how many points they adopt or will preach. So if we let everyone preach which points he likes we still will have no agreement. Can you imagine how many Baptist churches we will have on every corner as people try to decide where to go to hear a pastor who teaches one’s favorite version of Calvinism? What a mess!!! All this just to get everyone to agree that Calvinism is the true Gospel> Folks, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Darryl Hill

    Please Brother Earl, you act as though every person who believes the doctrines of grace stands up and gives TULIP as his outline for the morning sermon. The differences between being a 3pt, 4pt, or 5pt Calvinist has so little affect on the practical outworkings of a church’s work, the difference might only be noticeable under an electron microscope. The bottom line is that all those men would believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. They would preach the Gospel believing that the only way any person will respond is if God opens their eyes to see their need. It’s not satanism bro.

    rhutchin

    The author says, “According to the Calvinist doctrine Only God knows each person’s destiny.” Not only is this what Calvinism teaches, but it is true doctrine. God knows each person’s destiny. So, what is the issue here? That there is something wrong with teaching that which the Bible says??

rhutchin

The post is a good example from those who realize that they cannot win the theological debate with Calvinism so they create an emotional climate to influence people.

Calvinism claims to accurately and truthfully convey that which the Bible tells us. If there is error in that which the Calvinists are teaching, then expose those errors and root out such heresy (which is what error is). Don’t play the game that the author is proposing. Meet the elephant head on and deal with the real issues which are, and always will be, theological.

    Rick Patrick

    rhutchin,

    Actually, I do realize that neither Calvinism nor Traditionalism will WIN this theological debate, but that both sides will continue to believe what they believe.

    On the other hand, I also realize the existence of denominational politics (in ours and in every other denomination) and the reality that two-thirds of this conflict has to do with how the theological debate plays out in the power struggle over our institutions and in the various reform and counter-reform agendas being advanced by both sides.

    And by the way, it’s not a game that I am proposing. It’s a negotiation to make peace, one way or another, and move forward.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    And your post is a good example from those who realize that they cannot win the theological debate with Traditionalism so they declare a win anyway with an emotional climate to influence people.

    Traditionalsim claims to accurately and truthfully convey that which the Bible tells us. If there is sharp disagreement in that which the Calvinists are teaching, then expose those disagreements and root out such disagreement (this is what disagreement is). Don’t play the game that rhutchin is proposing. Meet the elephant head on and deal with the real issues which are, and always will be, both theological AND denominational.

    :)

      rhutchin

      That which the traditionalists have great difficulty (and non-Calvinists in general) is the concept of God’s omniscience. I have yet to see a good non-Calvinist treatment of omniscience that explains how it works its way through the a non-Calvinist theology.

      So, if you could recommend a good book that tackles this issue head-on in a non-Calvinist framework, that would be great. Got one?

        Johnathan Pritchett

        You don’t like anything by Craig? I enjoy some of it, though not all of it, but I think Calvinists have a bigger problem with omniscience.

        Calvinism:

        Natural knowledge / decree / free knowledge.

        Molinism fairs slightly better:

        Natural knowledge / middle-knowledge / decree / free knowledge.

        I agree with many of my Calvinist friends that if “middle-knowledge” is merely a single logical moment (why not a trillion of them?) after God’s natural knowledge, then it is redundant and unnecessary.

        I am also not satisfied with a “simple foreknowledge” view such as Hunt espouses, and of course, I reject open theism.

        In any case, I reject that whole paradigm above as philosophically worthless and undermining of God’s omniscience because it places a logical dependence where none should even exist. This is for the one simple reason that the total knowledge content of an omniscient being should not and never be co-dependent in eternity with an action. Since I reject the logical impossibility that God can ONLY know future contingents if He meticulously decrees them, since this presupposition has clearly been refuted by folks whom I may disagree with on other things (like Craig), I need not worry myself any further with the issue and am content with a question mark for now.

        Period.

        So you ask, “how does God know what He knows?”

        Response: Because He’s God, and I no more need to explain HOW God knows what He knows any more than any classical theist needs to explain HOW God has always been and is eternally existent sans the cosmos, other than explain THAT He has always existed necessarily. God’s eternally existing necessarily is a THAT answer, not a HOW answer, and no classical theist has ever given a satisfactory treatment of HOW this is so (nor needs to), but it doesn’t keep either of us from believing the THAT even if we fail to account for the HOW to the satisfaction of atheists and skeptics. Same issue for me regarding God’s omniscience.

        Either the framework of “natural knowledge/ decree/ free knowledge” is of philosophical categories derived from theological inferences which were in turn derived from exegesis, or they are bogus speculation. Since I in good will (I’m a former Calvinist myself) believe they are the former, and I disagree at the exegetical level with Calvinism, I (and other Trads) have different theological inferences, which lead to other philosophical categories to accommodate them, and so forth.

        If pressed, I am content to let my exegesis stand, defend my theological inferences from them, and only posit philosophical categories as needed. So far, I have only needed to posit THAT God knows everything in order to consistently carry through my theology and exegesis, and thus far have not needed to explain the HOW in detail regarding this particular area, since it is merely philosophical musing anyway. So I limit it to thus:

        God knows everything / decrees the world He wants, which is this one we live, move, and have our being. :)

        While some may want to suggest that this isn’t “deep enough”, I could care less because the typical framework of understanding God’s knowledge in eternity detailed above isn’t really “deep” at all, but rather it is speculative at best and ultimately found to undermine omniscience.

        It, of course, also goes without saying that there is no exegesis derived from Scripture that supports the assertion that God CAN ONLY know because He meticulously foreordained all things whatsoever comes to pass (meaning, I have a more robust understanding of concurrence than Reformed theology can allow when pressed). No verse from Isaiah gets anyone to that conclusion, for instance. In fact, Isaiah would protest against that God can ONLY KNOW something if God DOES something, as I do, since the paradigm above STILL gives God a logical moment (hash that out however you like, but the following claim stands) in His knowledge in eternity that is scarcely better than open theism.

          Robert

          Hello Jonathan,

          I appreciated your post especially as it seems that you make the same distinction that I make between THAT God knows versus HOW God knows.

          “So you ask, “how does God know what He knows?”
          Response: Because He’s God, and I no more need to explain HOW God knows what He knows any more than any classical theist needs to explain HOW God has always been and is eternally existent sans the cosmos, other than explain THAT He has always existed necessarily. God’s eternally existing necessarily is a THAT answer, not a HOW answer, and no classical theist has ever given a satisfactory treatment of HOW this is so (nor needs to), but it doesn’t keep either of us from believing the THAT even if we fail to account for the HOW to the satisfaction of atheists and skeptics. Same issue for me regarding God’s omniscience. “

          This is the same distinction that I make when it comes to God. I know THAT God knows all things (including the future) because that is what is revealed when scripture is properly interpreted (i.e. that God knows all things). But scripture does not tell (nor do we really need to know) HOW God knows.

          I make this point to people by reminding them that God is a Spirit without a brain and nervous system or sense organs. So he does know things in the same way we do (we have to use our brains, our sense organs). We also know that he is everywhere present (which certainly helps when it comes to knowing what is going on! :-)). We also know that his relation to time is not the same as ours. We also know that he created the world out of nothing and has design plans for the things which he created (which again means he knows quite a bit about what is going on). So we have tons of evidence to declare THAT he knows everything. On the other hand we really do not know (and possibly could not undertand it) HOW God knows what he knows. And knowing that he knows everything is sufficient for us, we really do not need to know how he knows what he knows.

          “Either the framework of “natural knowledge/ decree/ free knowledge” is of philosophical categories derived from theological inferences which were in turn derived from exegesis, or they are bogus speculation. Since I in good will (I’m a former Calvinist myself) believe they are the former, and I disagree at the exegetical level with Calvinism, I (and other Trads) have different theological inferences, which lead to other philosophical categories to accommodate them, and so forth.”

          And I would maintain that our exegesis informs us only THAT he knows all things, not HOW he knows all things. No bible verse reveals how he knows. What this means is that when talking about HOW he knows we are in speculation land! :-)

          “If pressed, I am content to let my exegesis stand, defend my theological inferences from them, and only posit philosophical categories as needed.”

          Sounds fair to me!

          “So far, I have only needed to posit THAT God knows everything in order to consistently carry through my theology and exegesis, and thus far have not needed to explain the HOW in detail regarding this particular area, since it is merely philosophical musing anyway.”

          Yes that is the rational conclusion to take in my opinion. And that is what an orthodox believer really needs to maintain. Based on scripture we affirm THAT he knows everything. But we do not need to explain HOW he knows what he knows (though atheist skeptics and calvinists demand to know! :-) ).

          “So I limit it to thus:
          God knows everything / decrees the world He wants, which is this one we live, move, and have our being. :)”

          And that world that “He wants” is one which is not fully predetermined. That world that “He wants” is one where we sometimes have and make our own choices (i.e. free will as ordinarily undertood is present in this world that “He wants”).

          “While some may want to suggest that this isn’t “deep enough”, I could care less because the typical framework of understanding God’s knowledge in eternity detailed above isn’t really “deep” at all, but rather it is speculative at best and ultimately found to undermine omniscience.”

          Going “deeper” than THAT he knows everything into HOW he knows everything **is** “speculative at best”.

          “It, of course, also goes without saying that there is no exegesis derived from Scripture that supports the assertion that God CAN ONLY know because He meticulously foreordained all things whatsoever comes to pass (meaning, I have a more robust understanding of concurrence than Reformed theology can allow when pressed).”

          To assert that God can only know things because he meticulously foreordained them all, is both speculation and begging the question (merely assuming the determinist view is true).

          “No verse from Isaiah gets anyone to that conclusion, for instance. In fact, Isaiah would protest against that God can ONLY KNOW something if God DOES something, as I do, since the paradigm above STILL gives God a logical moment (hash that out however you like, but the following claim stands) in His knowledge in eternity that is scarcely better than open theism.”

          The passages in Isaiah make the strong and clear point that he does in fact know everything in contrast to false gods that do not speak and know nothing. Isaiah makes statements that contrast the true God with false gods, they are attacks on pagan gods and pagan concepts of god. But none of these statements tells us HOW God knows what He knows nor does it follow from the fact that he knows everything to the conclusion that he has predetermined everything. Again, determinists often read in their determinism into these passages. But strict exegesis of these texts does not present exhautive determinism nor how God knows what he knows. A faithful believer is only obligated to believe THAT God knows everything.

          Robert

        Donald Holmes

        “That which the traditionalists have great difficulty (and non-Calvinists in general) is the concept of God’s omniscience.”

        I am wary of posited attributes of God such as omniscience and omnipotence. These are linguistic constructs unrelated to anything in our personal experience. They have no real meaning and are prone to paradox (“I can find a stone too heavy to life, which is something God cannot do”).

        At best, these are theological inferences. While sometimes useful, to argue about inferred man-made linguistic devices is of little real value.

    Dale Pugh

    Rhutchin–
    Error is not heresy. At least that’s what we’ve been told recently by those on the Calvinist side. Thus, we semi-Pelagians are merely in error, not heretical. Maybe the definition of heresy is changing…….again?????

      rhutchin

      I think the Calvinists are giving the trads the benefit of the doubt (i.e., assuming that the Trads don’t understand what they read in the Bible and don’t grasp the seriousness of the positions that they are taking-being still milk drinkers). Otherwise, there is no way to downplay error.

        Rick Patrick

        rhutchin,

        Thank you for giving us the benefit of the doubt by assuming our lack of reading comprehension skills with regard to the Bible and our ignorance of theological positions we do not understand anyway due to spiritual immaturity.

        Rest assured, brother, I am more than willing to offer you in return this very same benefit of the doubt.

        Chris Roberts

        rhutchin,

        If all error is heresy, then we are all heretics. No one is right about everything.

          Dale Pugh

          Chris:
          I AM going to get to that post on the Council of Orange this weekend. We can talk over on your blog…..
          Blessings, brother!

        Dale Pugh

        Well, I haven’t yet had a Calvinist tell me that 4 degrees, 38 years as a believer, and 35 years in ministry have been a total waste. Wish I’d known before I spent all that money and put all that work into it. I guess there’s a first time for everything, just like there was a first time for being called a semi-Pelagian. I think it’s wrong on all counts, but what do I know?

John

Rick,
You and SBCToday have been great in pointing out the main difference between Calvinist and Traditionalist. Sovereign Grace vs. Free Will. Calvinist are not sitting around worrying about hypothetical Traditional curriculum. Calvinist are not concerned with the latest polling of percentage of Traditionalist vs. Calvinist in order to see if this weeks ratio is 10% to 90% or 30% to 70% or the likely ratio of 33.3% to 33.3% to 33.3% to divide the gold. 33.3% saying just shut up about it! I am here to Glorify God not Calvinist or Traditionalist.

The Adversarial Agenda is in some Calvinist and Traditionalist heads. The majority of us do not know why the Holy Spirit has worked in us currently to be Traditionalist or Calvinist. We know we are going through sanctification each and every day and that is good enough for us. Many of us are sure that the day we are brought into the kingdom many things will be revealed and ones soritolgy may not be high on Christ list for us to tell him about. What may be high on his list is how we treated our brothers in Christ.

So I leave you with this Rick,

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)
Do Not Be Anxious
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

    Rick Patrick

    John,

    Thank you, and yes, God has all this under control. We can trust Him to handle these issues and work them out for His glory. In the process, He chooses to use you and me in making this peace.

    I realize some would rather we all just ignore this and look the other way. For others, we are convicted that we cannot look the other way in light of the reform agenda some have embraced and are actively pursuing in seeking to change our denomination. Thus, I am “engaged” in the process of discussing this issue, but rest assured, I am not “anxious” for God will supply my needs.

Mary

How on earth can we screech “unity” when we have SBC Institutions which exclude Traditionlists from being on staff by using the Abstract of Priniciples. I understand that some old dead dudes decided that forever and always Southern and Southeastern Seminary were to be Calvinist forever, even after the point where the Calvinists do not have the money to support them. So according to Calvinists we are not supposed to tell people in the pew exactly what their money is funding. Gotta keep that hidden or they might not fund it anymore.

How is it unity when a majority of NAMB church plants would not accept the letter of a Traditionalist church member? We’re supposed to pay for churches that would refuse us membership and we’re supposed to keep that info on the down low all for the sake of unity.

The biggest worry for the Calvinists in the SBC is that the jig is up and people are starting to understand that when Calvinists take over they start excluding people and they want to do it with money from the heretics.

Calvinists have been designating their funding to only those like them for years, but get a hint that people who have the money in the SBC might start funding only people like them – then all of sudden we start talking about division and discord.

If the resurgnance of Calvinism is so organic than you got nothing to worry about. How insane is it that anyone is against complete and total transperancy in the SBC. You think it’s great to have Calvinists seminaries, fine, but you have to tell the people keeping the lights on. You want to plant a bunch of Acts29 knockoffs? More power to you, but you’d better be up front that those churches only accept a certain kind of Christian.

Unity comes with transperancy. Who are the ones against the transparency?

Now we could all just decide that churches designating funds to only those “like them” will ultimately destroy the Cooperative Program. So what then. Well then we would have to agree that the SBC Institutions should be serving the entire SBC and not just serving certain minorities. Of course the Calvinists don’t like that because this Calvinism thingy isn’t quite as organic as it seems. If two seminaries became neutral and taught all sides fairly you might not be seeing so many Calvinists.

A good poll would be how many people go into the Calvinists seminary and they were not Calvinists but come out as raving YRR? Organic like a rise in liberalism has nothing to do with the fact that liberals took over higher education.

But for Calvinist unity means Calvinist designate money to people like them and the heretics of the SBC have to give money to everybody otherwise it’s just not fair.

    Scott

    “How is it unity when a majority of NAMB church plants would not accept the letter of a Traditionalist church member? We’re supposed to pay for churches that would refuse us membership and we’re supposed to keep that info on the down low all for the sake of unity.”

    I would love to hear your evidence for this claim.

        Scott

        That in no way addresses the claim that you made. You said that the “majority” of NAMB church plants would not accept a traditionalist member. Do you have actual evidence to support this claim or not?

          Mary

          You want to claim that Acts 29 churches have open membership and you don’t have to agree with their Statement of Faith to be a member? Is that what you’re claiming? Founders Friendly churches all have open memberships? That 9 Marks is not encouraging rigid membership requirements?

            Scott

            Again Mary, you have failed to prove your statement. You stated that the majority of NAMB church plants would not accept Traditionalists as members. Do you have actual, real evidence to back up your claim or is it conjecture based on limited personal experience?

            Scott

            For the record, I haven’t claimed anything. You have made a claim and you have shown nothing to suggest that your claim is rooted in reality.

            Mary

            The actual real evidence that you can’t deal with Scott is that reformed church plants have rigid membership requirements. You can deny that and try to claim that somehow we are to believe that churches that are affiliated with Acts 29 have open membership – no requirements as far as a statement of faith. You can try to deny that 9 Marks and Founder’s don’t encouage churches to have rigid membership requirements.

            You can deny the reality that everybody knows Scot. One of us is lookin’ like a fool about now and it ain’t me Scot.

            But keep on attacking me saying I haven’t provided the proof that everbody in these discussions know and in another context you Calvinists would be braggin about. Calvinists love to point to how well they do at setting up their churches. Part of that is having membership requirements.

            Scott

            1. Rigid membership requirements do not mean that you have to be a Calvinist to join.
            2. You still have not shown that this applies to the majority of NAMB church plants.
            3. I’m not attacking you. I’m asking you to prove a statement that you made. Facts are our friends.

          Mary

          OK Scott, I think we can all see that you don’t believe that evidence is pointing to a majority of NAMB church plants being reformed. You also somehow believe that rigid membership requirements ala Acts 29 are not in place. People can decide for themselve if your denials pass the smell test. Somehow everything that is known about all these fabulous church planting experts – everything that they do that’s so great – we’re just supposed to ignore all that.

          So do you think it would be wrong for an NAMB church plant to be exclusive in it’s membership? Should NAMB put restrictions on church plants about who the church plants can allow to be members? Should NAMB be completely up front about exactly what types of churches they are planting and should the statements of faith, constitutions, and bylaws of those plants be made available to those supporting NAMB? Or should Kevin Ezell be allowed to be condescending and dismissive when he claims he only cares about planting churches who affirm the BFM? Should church plants be restricted to the BFM if that’s all NAMB actually cares about?

          Transparency, Scott, Calvinists are against it.

JohnS

I have said from the beginning to my friends, this is what the “traditionalist statement” is all about. The “Statement” from Dr. Hankins is an invitation for calvinists to leave the Convention or be forced out. Articles like this are going to became more numerous and the attacks on SBC calvininsts will be more shrill. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I see this coming.

    Rick Patrick

    John,

    You may be right and that day may be coming. But let me be perfectly clear. Nothing I wrote suggests that I would like to see all Calvinists leave the convention or be forced out. I think there is room for us all inside the Southern Baptist Convention, as long as we are transparent about our presence, our motives and our influence, and as long as we do not ask people to support financially the promotion of doctrines which violate their consciences, since they disaffirm such positions. If we can manage to work out that type of a compromise, I think we can move forward. At least, I hope so.

      JohnS

      Sir, with all respect, I would not have written as I did if I did not think that your article was exactly what I portrayed, an invitation for SBC calvinists to quit the Convention or be forced out. I re-read your article and that is what I see in it.

        Rick Patrick

        Well, I disaffirm your notion that in this article I have invited Calvinists to quit the convention or be forced out.

        However, I freely admit that I disagree with their theology, believe we have issues to work out in leading our institutions, and must call upon our various organizations that are pursuing a reform agenda to be more transparent about their intentions, and to refuse bristling at the mere existence of the counter-reform organizations which may soon arise.

    Tim Rogers

    John,

    The “Statement” from Dr. Hankins is an invitation for calvinists to leave the Convention or be forced out.

    Go to the Preamble of the statement and show me one phrase that invites Calvinists to leave the convention.

Tom Parker

Another day spent discussing Calvinism and non-Calvinism. For almost two months straight that has been the daily topic. How much longer will this go on?

Chris Roberts

Request for a future post on SBC Today:

One thing I would like to see is a positive argument for the nature of man and what it means for the Holy Spirit to draw a person prior to their salvation. Spell out the exact nature of man’s condition: in what sense are we inclined toward sin, yet not incapacitated? Spell out the Spirit’s work prior to conversion: to what degree and in what way does the Spirit draw people? I am especially interested in what you mean when you say the Spirit must draw us. I would like to see more than the brief summary provided in the Statement.

Don’t just argue against Calvinists, I already know you disagree. I want to know what you believe.

    Tim Rogers

    Chris,

    If you cannot read the TS and find out what we believe, then you are seriously hindered in reading comprehension.

      Darryl Hill

      With respect Bro. Tim, but the traditional statement doesn’t answer Chris’s question. I’ve heard this said by many Traditionalists- that they agree that the Spirit draws people to Christ prior to conversion, but I’ve yet to see an explanation of that drawing and its effect on the person’s libertarian free will.

      Chris Roberts

      Tim,

      No confession, creed, Statement, etc, presents more than a summary of any given position. The Statement reveals a lot in broader scope, but not many finer details. I would be interested in seeing some of those finer details as pertains to the nature of man and just what God does to, for, and in man prior to conversion. These questions are not answered in the Statement which only speaks in generalities. It tells me that God draws but it doesn’t spell out how God draws, leaving me to speculate from other conversations. I would prefer not to have to speculate.

    holdon

    “One thing I would like to see is a positive argument for the nature of man and what it means for the Holy Spirit to draw a person prior to their salvation.”

    Re. the nature of man:
    1. We need to distinguish man’s built: the structure. This is how God made him.
    2. On the other hand we need to see his “bent” or inclination. It’s the wayward direction of “natural” (as opposed to spiritual) man.

    It is entirely consistent with Calvinism to make these distinctions by the way. But the important part is that we honor God in what He has made. Man is in this respect (his structure) is not a piece of garbage, but an image and likeness of God.
    With this “built” come a number of features that are inherently “godly”: made by Him. Capacities to speak, think, love, judge, govern (“have dominion”) etc. are capacities conferred by Him. The Holy Spirit does not need to redress that. The basic structure and fabric of Man is still there as a witness to His handiwork.
    But number 2: the wayward directions man is headed in, away from God, separated from God, alive in sin and dead in trespasses and sins: this is the part that God is interested in redressing and bringing back to Him.

    So, remember in these discussions: structure and direction as separate things. Responsibility flows from the fact that we are His structure and how we use it. We’re not saying: depraved man cannot think clearly: he can with God given abilities (even if he doesn’t recognize it), but he is held responsible for how he uses these abilities.

      Chris Roberts

      holdon,

      What does the Holy Spirit do in man prior to salvation to draw man to salvation?

        Don Johnson

        Chris,

        He convicts man of sin, his lack of and need of righteousness, and there is judgment coming.

David Rogers

Rick,

It seems to me your post assumes that most everybody in the SBC would naturally identify as either “Traditionalists” or “Calvinists.” My question is where does that leave people like me, who appreciate certain emphases of many of those identified with both of these groups, but who at the same time do not sense a need to throw their lot in with either side. I don’t know what percent of Southern Baptists would identify with this position, but my suspicion is that it is quite a bit more than is often assumed in conversations on these issues.

Also, though I realize that the issues at stake have a certain degree of relevance for a robust understanding of biblical doctrine, it seems to me the amount of recent discussion on SBC blogs and other media on both sides of this issue far outweighs their relative importance in the larger scope of biblical teaching. Perhaps I am a bit naive on this, but I long for the day in which we can appreciate brothers and sisters in Christ, and their contribution to the edification of the Body of Christ, without first feeling we have to “vet” them on the basis of their stance on the so-called 5 points of Calvinism.

If we feel we must take sides with regard to Calvinism, why not, while we’re at it, take sides with regard to millennial views as well (and a handful of other issues that Southern Baptists differ among themselves on)?

If forced to choose between supporting “Calvinist”-leaning projects and “Traditionalist”-leaning projects within the SBC, I (and I imagine many others) would have to choose either both or neither, but never one to the exclusion of the other.

    Rick Patrick

    David,

    Thanks for your insightful comments. I did not intend to assume that everyone would pick a side, however. Granted, I did not discuss those with views in the middle. I believe those in the middle could be offered the same kind of clearly defined soteriological choice. For those churches who don’t care whether they are supporting the reform of the convention or not, they would have the freedom to do either or both.

    With regard to the significance of the issue, I have to place this in a different category than eschatological views. Occasionally a church might split over that, but not like what we’re seeing with Calvinism. You don’t see the blogs light up. You don’t see the Building Bridges conferences. It’s just not the same.

    Why? First, because salvation doctrine is so central to our primary work, unlike millennial views. Disagreeing about salvation is a major disagreement. Second, there are no formal organizations with an official purpose statement to reform the convention and recover the pure truth of Amillennialism.

    In other words, eschatology has component one of my list–a theological debate. However, it does not have the institutional struggle, nor the adversarial agenda.

      David Rogers

      Rick,

      Thanks for the reply. It would be important that those who don’t clearly identify with one side or the other be given the option to support either side or both. However, in my case (and that of many others, I suspect), my real preference would be to support projects that embraced all sides as well as the in-between positions jointly, whether than different projects that supported them separately.

      And, yes, indeed, for some reason the Calvinism wars seem to attract a good amount of attention and interest among a certain sector of Southern Baptists. For me personally, though, I sincerely feel my millennial perspective influences my general approach to ministry and missions more than my perspective on the 5 points of Calvinism. I remain baffled as to why Calvinism needs to be such a lightning rod issue.

        David Rogers

        That should read “rather than different projects that embraced them separately.”

        Rick Patrick

        Why a lightning rod issue? Imagine your position was indeed Traditionalist. Then imagine a growing sense that Calvinists were quietly reforming our institutions (schools, literature, mission boards, etc.) and teaching people doctrines you do not believe. Finally, imagine they quietly gain influence among our boards and committees such that they can use your Traditionalist CP gifts in order to pay for this very reform you do not support.

        Yes, part of it is the theology. But part of it is the sense that the minority group in the convention is exercising power over the majority group in order to promote that which the majority disaffirms. Kinda seems unfair. The only way to stop it is to make the majority aware of what is going on.

        If you do that, you get called semi-Pelagian (and worse) by people who insist they are all about unity.

        Kyle Thomas

        David,

        Though you are not enlisting signatures, I think you represent the majority of Southern Baptists. ;)

        Darryl Hill

        I agree with you David. This whole thing is being blown out of proportion. This set of 2 articles definitely is designed to force folks to pick a side, whether Bro Patrick will admit it or not. I’d say the majority of Baptists don’t even know what is going on here and would be totally blind-sided by this article.

        But Bro. Patrick and others believe that the calvinists are trying to take over the SBC and ruin churches. So, here we are. I personally agree with the doctrines of grace, have been in a church that is majority like yourself, and have been doing just fine since my theology changed 7 years ago. I’ve had opportunities to leave but God has kept me here. If what Bro. Patrick asserts is true about my agenda, I guess I’m failing miserably in my deceptive ploy to turn all my brothers and sisters in calvinists. aaaahhhh!

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