Historical Southern Baptist Soteriology, pt. 2/3

April 22, 2014

What Were the Early SBC Leaders’ View of Salvation?
by Emir Caner, Ph.D.
President, Truett-McConnell College
Cleveland, Ga.

(Read part 1, HERE.)
(Download this essay and all the other theological presentations presented at the 2013 John 3.16 Conference, HERE.)

Transition and Tumult (1820-1845): A Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation

At the turn of the century, two movements arose that both tempered Calvinism as well as flamed the fires of evangelism: the rise of the modern missionary movement and the unification of the Regular and Separate Baptists. First, the modern missionary movement was born out of the hearts of Particular Baptists William Carey and Andrew Fuller. The later published his work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, in 1786, transitioning English Calvinism into a more missiological model. That was especially the case in 1801 when Fuller, after debating with a General Baptist, revised his book, proclaiming a general atonement and indefinite invitations. He writes:

If the atonement of Christ were considered as the literal payment of a debt – if the measure of his sufferings were according to the number of those for whom he died, and to the degree of their guilt…it might be inconsistent with the indefinite invitations…But it would be equally inconsistent with the free forgiveness of sin, and with sinners being directed to apply for mercy as supplicants, rather than as claimants….If the atonement of Christ excludes a part of mankind in the same sense as it excludes fallen angels, why is the gospel addressed to the one any more than the other? The message of wisdom is addressed to men, and not to devils. The former are invited to the gospel supper, but the latter are not. These facts afford proof that Christ, by his death, opened a door of hope to sinners of the human race as sinners; affording a ground for their being invited, without distinction, to believe and be saved.116

Additionally, Fuller articulated that faith is not a gift from God, but the responsibility of man. He writes in Gospel Worthy, “If faith in Christ be the duty of the ungodly, it must of course follow that every sinner, whatever be his character, is completely warranted to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul.”117 Finally, Fuller rejects Total Depravity as articulated by some of his contemporary High Calvinists. He states, “If by total Mr. B. means unable in every respect, I grant I do not think man is, in that sense, totally unable to believe in Christ.”118 Fuller broadened the atonement and demanded the response of sinners.

Regardless of how to categorize Fuller, there is no question that he wore his theological struggles openly and his theological views developed. Baptists in America, themselves struggling with theological definition on predestination and election at the beginning of the nineteenth century, appreciated his transparency. Fuller’s debate with Arminian Daniel Taylor, the General Baptist who saw revival ensue in his New Connexion group, was published for all to see. Fuller readily admitted that as a Particular Baptist, he could not answer the arguments of Taylor. Fuller states, “I tried to answer my opponent…but I could not. I found not merely his reasonings, but the Scriptures themselves, standing in my way.”119

Thus, Fuller modified his view from particular atonement to general atonement, as Peter Morden demonstrates in his dissertation, Offering Christ to the World:

Fuller both clarified and modified his theology of salvation between the years 1785 and 1801, years in which this theology was a crucial motor for change in the life of the Particular Baptist denomination. The most important change was his shift from a limited to a general view of the atonement during his dispute with the Evangelical Arminian Dan Taylor.120

The maturation of Fuller’s faith would be borne out on Baptists in America as well.

During the same time as Fuller’s theological struggle, Baptists in America, attempting to unite into one movement, were working out their own theological maturation. Regular Baptists (Calvinists) argued, as one chronicler recollects, “Separates were not sufficiently explicit in their principle, having never published or sanctioned any confession faith; and that they kept within their communion many who were professed Arminians.”121

Separatists responded, “[It is] better to bear with some diversity of opinion in doctrines, than to break with men.”122 In 1801, Regular and Separate Baptists in two associations in Kentucky joined together for the sake of the Gospel. Their terms of union demanded fidelity to “the infallible Word of God” and simple Biblicism. The plan of the newly formed United Baptists included eleven principles “that by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures” and “that the preaching (that) Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion.”123 As Dr. W. Wiley Richards concluded: “In the Terms of Union adopted in 1801, the doctrines of election and extent of the atonement were omitted from the eleven brief articles.

Concerning depravity, it makes the simple assertion that humans are fallen and depraved creatures.”124 Irresistible grace is nowhere to be found; only eternal security is stipulated clearly. Article five states, “That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory.”125

While unity among many Baptists occurred, there were still deep divisions between Separate Baptists, who mocked tenets of Calvinism such as unconditional election, and Regular Baptists, who excluded general atonement ministers from associations.126 Ironically, the one common denominator for missionary Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike was the protracted revival meetings, the means of converting the sinner. One historian writes:

This most important type of revival service for Baptists was the protracted meeting. This was a revival in which generally several ministers preached for an extended period. With preaching only once a month, church began to depend on the annual protracted meeting for revival, usually in August and September when the farmers had the most leisure, for spiritual rejuvenation and the gathering of converts. The annual revival became so important that many churches and pastors expected no conversions except in that period. S. E. Jones, pastor at Murfreesboro, claimed that some preachers ‘think that the gospel is a sort of a dead thing, and that the Holy Ghost is incapable of operating except once a year.’127

Neither Calvinist nor Arminian but Baptist:
The New Hampshire Confession and the Rise of the Southern Baptist Zion.128

About a decade before the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptists in New Hampshire were about to write what would become the most disseminated confession in the history of Baptist life in America.129 This document would serve as the predecessor of the Baptist Faith and Message. The doctrine was so unique that longtime Southwestern Seminary theologian James Leo Garrett explains, “One can conclude that the label ‘moderately Arminian’ would be as accurate as the term ‘moderately Calvinistic.’”130 Another writer asserts, “Calvinism and Arminianism are almost ignored.”131

According to Dr. Richard Land, the New Hampshire Confession (1833) solidified the fact that the Sandy Creek soteriology, with its skepticism towards Calvinistic interpretations of particular redemption, unconditional election, and irresistible grace, was now the majoritarian view of early Southern Baptists.132 While there were and are classical Calvinists in Southern Baptist life – men like P. H. Mell (1814-1888) who served as president of the SBC for a record seventeen years133 – they were not and are not the “melody” but the “harmony.”134

The New Hampshire Confession can be best described as a simple biblicism that unites doctrines of Scripture without philosophical speculation. While some may find it ambiguous in its rendering, many Baptists found it refreshing in its uncomplicated articles. For example, compare Article III, “Of the Fall of Man,” with the Philadelphia Confession of Faith, “On the Fall of Man”:

Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742)

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free… From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.135

New Hampshire Confession (1833)

We believe that man was created in holiness, under the law of his Maker, but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners, not by constraint but choice;…positively inclined to evil.136

The difference is not merely in the articles themselves, but in distinct articles omitted from the New Hampshire Confession, including the following soteriological articles:

1. Of God’s Decree
2. Of Divine Providence
3. Of God’s Covenant
4. Of Effectual Calling
5. Of Adoption
6. Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof

In its place, the New Hampshire Confession places heavy emphasis on a new article: “Of the Freeness of Salvation.” The statement sets the 1833 confession apart for its importance to Baptists who at the very least believed in human responsibility if not libertarian will. Article VI states:

We believe that the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial penitent, and obedient faith; and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, but his own inherent depravity and voluntary rejection of the gospel; which rejection involves him in an aggravated condemnation.137

The confession, quoting different Scriptures, references Matthew 23:37 as a defense of the article, the passage where Jesus cries out to Jerusalem and His desire for her, yet she was not willing.

With the confession gaining prominence across the South, many churches and associations began adopting the statement. In 1843, three associations in Tennessee affirmed the new confession’s article on the freeness of salvation and then articulated that none of the articles adopted were to be “construed in their meaning as to hold with the doctrine of particular, eternal and unconditional election and reprobation.”138 Two years later, the Sandy Creek movement adopted a new confession of faith at the same time as the Southern Baptist Convention was formed. The confession was a near replica of the New Hampshire Confession, with the exception of excluding two articles (“Of Repentance and Faith” and “Of Sanctification”). The new Declaration of Faith (1845) was different than the 1816 confession that spoke of effectual calling and election from eternity. Like the New Hampshire Confession, the new Sandy Creek confession affirmed in full the “freeness of salvation.” The discussion of election, under the article “Of God’s Purpose of Grace,” is now “consistent with the free agency of man.”139….(Part 3 tomorrow).
_____________________

116Andrew Fuller, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, in The Complete works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, n.d.), 21-22.
117Ibid., 383.
118Ibid., 438.
119David Allen, “Preaching for a Great Commission Resurgence” in The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in our Time, Chuck Lawless and Adam Greenway, eds. (Nashville: B&H, 2010); http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2011/04/in-a-section-entitled-hindrances-to-preaching-and-the-greatcommission-dr-allen-addresses-the-shift-in-andrew-fullers-theolo.html.
120Ibid., 295.
121David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1813), 60-62.
122Ibid.
123Lumpkin, 146.
124W. Wiley Richards, “Southern Baptist Identity: Moving Away from Calvinism,” in Baptist History and Heritage (October 1996), 28.
125Lumpkin, 146.
126See Wardin, 112-114. The case of exclusion was as follows: “When Elijah Hanks (1793-1871), pastor of the Knob Creek and Friendship churches, which were members of the Cumberland Association, began preaching that Christ tasted death for every man instead of dying only for the elect, three leading pastors of the association, including Garner McConnico and Peter S. Gayle, visited him around 1829. His refusal to change his views resulted in his churches being excluded from the association.”
127Wardin, 52.
128I am indebted for this title of this section to the paper written by Allen, Keathley, Land, Lemke, Patterson, Vines, and Yarnell, “Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists” at http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/neithercalvinistsnorarminiansbutbaptists.pdf (accessed May 27, 2013).
129The New Hampshire Confession was printed in Brown’s Baptist Church Manual, Hiscox’s Baptist Church Manual, Pendleton’s Baptist Church Manual, Baptist Why and Why Not (1900), Mullin’s Baptist Beliefs, 1925 BFM, Carroll’s Articles of Faith, and Haynes’s The Baptist Denomination (1856).
130James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology: A Four Century Study (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2009), 132.
131James Edward Carter, The Southern Baptist Convention and Confessions of Faith, 1845-1945 (Th.D. Dissertation, SWBTS, 1964).
132Richard Land, “Congruent Election,” in Whosoever Will, 50.
133For a biography on P. H. Mell, see Emir and Ergun Caner, The Sacred Trust (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003).
134Ibid.
135www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/phila.htm#6 (accessed May 27, 2013).
136http://baptiststudiesonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/the-newhampshire-confession-of-faith.pdf (accessed May 27, 2013).
137Ibid.
138Richards, 58.
139Purefoy, 199-214, 205. No explanation is given as to why the two articles are omitted.

 

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Tim Rogers

Dr. Caner points out something that many seem to overlook. The first Confession of faith in the Sandy Creek Tradition was in 1816 and Basil Manly was the Clerk. It was a strong Calvinistic confession. Notice the article on Salvation:

We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

Notice also:

That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.

Then in 1845 they presented another confession. Notice the difference in the understanding of election and effectual calling:

That election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; f59 that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; f60 that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable; f61 that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; f62 that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; f63 that it is ascertained by its effects in all who believe the Gospel f64 is the foundation of Christian assurance; f65 and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence. f66

Notice also what is called The Freeness of Salvation:

That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; f50 that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial and obedient faith; f51 and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ; f52 which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation. f53

One thing that was retained in both confessionals:

1816

That the church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to communion at the Lord’s table.

1845

That Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water, f81 in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit; f82 to show forth in a solemn and beautiful emblem our faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, with its purifying power; f83 that it is pre-requisite to the privileges of a church relation, and to the Lord’s Supper, f84 in which the members of the church, by the use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; f85 preceded always by solemn self-examination. f86

The notes seen in the 1845 confession are scripture references, something the 1816 confession did not have.

(NOTE: The first two quotes are found on pages 70 & 71, and the second two quotes are found on pages 138 & 139 in the book, “History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association,” by George Purefoy.)

    Carl Peterson

    Tim,

    You said:
    “Then in 1845 they presented another confession. Notice the difference in the understanding of election and effectual calling:

    That election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which he regenerates, sanctifies, and saves sinners; f59 that being perfectly consistent with the free agency of man, it comprehends all the means in connection with the end; f60 that it is a most glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, being infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable; f61 that it utterly excludes boasting, and promotes humility, prayer, praise, trust in God, and active imitation of his free mercy; f62 that it encourages the use of means in the highest degree; f63 that it is ascertained by its effects in all who believe the Gospel f64 is the foundation of Christian assurance; f65 and that to ascertain it with regard to ourselves, demands and deserves our utmost diligence. f66

    Notice also what is called The Freeness of Salvation:

    That the blessings of salvation are made free to all by the gospel; f50 that it is the immediate duty of all to accept them by a cordial and obedient faith; f51 and that nothing prevents the salvation of the greatest sinner on earth, except his own voluntary refusal to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ; f52 which refusal will subject him to an aggravated condemnation. f53”

    Were you trying to say that these quotes cannot agree with Calvinism or the Reformed view of Christianity? I believe a Reformed person can agree with both these statements. Maybe that is not what you are trying to point out though. But per Reformed teaching it is the duty of all men to accept that gospel and nothing prevents man from accepting the gospel except himself and his own refusal to obey the Lord. God does not stop man from obeying and putting his faith in Christ. I think most Calvinists would also state that man is free. Although some would disagree with what a Reformed person means by the free agency of man (compatibalism).

    But maybe I did not read your post correctly.

      Robert

      Hello Carl,

      I came across your post and in it you wrote:

      “But per Reformed teaching it is the duty of all men to accept that gospel and nothing prevents man from accepting the gospel except himself and his own refusal to obey the Lord. God does not stop man from obeying and putting his faith in Christ. I think most Calvinists would also state that man is free.”

      I don’t think that what you say here is accurate at all.

      I say this because John Calvin who *was* consistent in his Calvinistic views taught/asserted that the fall of Adam and Eve was decreed by God. So God desired for the fall to occur, he preplanned it, he ensured that it would occur by controlling all of the circumstances.

      Note -I reject all of this, as I believe in contrast that while God foreknew the fall would occur he neither planned it or ensured that it would occur.

      What logically follows from Calvin’s view of the fall is that God intended, decreed that the fall would occur with the result that all human persons would be born spiritually dead and according to the Calvinist conception of depravity this also means that they are completely unable to come to faith, they are stopped from believing by depravity which God himself decreed/ordained/preplanned (whatever term you prefer) they are prevented from accepting the gospel by an event that God himself decreed! In this Calvinistic thinking the only persons who can possibly believe despite depravity are those given effectual grace by God (i.e. the elect, those preselected for salvation by God).

      So according to this Calvinistic reasoning, these Calvinistic beliefs, all people except for the elect are stopped “from obeying and putting his faith in Christ” prevented “from accepting the gospel” by the reality of depravity.
      A depravity that *God himself* decreed by means of the fall of Adam and Eve.

      So it is false and inaccurate and also misleading (if Calvinistic reasoning is true regarding the fall, depravity, effectual grace, etc.) to claim that “God does not stop man from obeying and putting his faith in Christ”. It is false because assuming that God is extremely smart (I would go further, he is omniscient and foreknows all future events) God knew that in decreeing the fall (again assuming consistent Calvinism to be true), he was also decreeing that all of the non-elect (those not chosen for salvation, those God chose not to give effectual grace to, those God instead chose for damnation) would be stopped “from obeying and putting their faith in Christ” prevented from “accepting the gospel”. It is misleading because these statements present a false picture: as if in consistent Calvinism God genuinely wants all to be saved, that God does nothing to prevent people from coming to faith in Christ (when in reality He decreed the fall which makes it impossible for people to come to faith in Christ unless given effectual grace, which is only given to the preselected elect). Only a non-Calvinist can truthfully make the statements that you made Carl (about nothing preventing people from coming to Christ or God not stopping people from putting their faith in Christ). A Calvinist who believes that God decrees all things (including the fall) cannot make these statements truthfully or without being misleading.

      In consistent Calvinism God decrees everything (or as the confession puts it “he ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”): and that everything includes the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden and the resulting depravity that does stop all of the non-elect “from obeying or putting their faith in Christ.” Put another way if you claim that God decrees everything, then you cannot simultaneously claim that he does not decree some things. If all is decreed then that includes everything and that includes the fall of Adam and Eve and depravity that resulted from the fall. And keep in mind that it was Calvin, not some “hyper-Calvinist” who claimed that God decreed the fall and desired for the fall to occur.

      Robert

        Carl Peterson

        Robert,

        Thank you for the reply. I think you would agree with me that your argument stands or falls based upon God (if Calvinism is correct) that man cannot act freely and be responsible for the fall and their own depravity if God predestined the fall. Thus per Calvinism (according to you) God not only allows man to sin but instead causes man to sin and the fall to occur. Of course Calvinism dos not teach that God caused Adam to sin although I read your post that If Calvinism is true then that is indeed what happened. Thus if God’s sovereign will is for mankind to fall then God causes mankind to fall. However, could it be that God’s sovereignty could include man’s own free actions? I know the Traditionalists teach much the same. Why can’t a Calvinist? Why can’t God be so sovereign that he can He does not have to control man in a way to cause men to put their faith in Him or to sin? If man is depraved because man chose depravity then your argument fails.

        First, you use the word intended. What do you mean by that? What I am saying is that God can choose that somethings will occur in His sovereign will that go against what he would like for mankind to do. Obviously, we both agree that God does not stop man from sinning and God does not want there to be sin and evil in the world. God is still sovereign and yet he allows for at least some type of freedom of choice for man and with this freedom of choice comes responsibility.

        Thus I reject that God ordaining events to occur limits the freedom and responsibility of mankind. I believe the Bible teaches both and holds these things in tension. God can ordain something to come to pass but still the cause of that act is mankind. Thus God does not cause sin but has ordained every sin.

        I think that everyone and every theologian has to deal with the problem of a sovereign God allowing evil to occur. It is tempting to limit God’s sovereignty but I think that is a great error. And again I think Calvinism teaches that total depravity is God allowing man to do what man wants to do. Mankind since the fall wants to sin. So if God does not step in with grace mankind will do freely what mankind wants and desires to do. God allowed Adam and Eve to rebel. He did not stop them. He knew it was going to occur and ordained it. But again I think that dos not limit the freedom of man. I do not understand it But that is what I believe. Just as a Traditionalist can state that God is still full sovereign yet he does not ordain events to occur. One could claim that for a Tradtionalist God is impotent and less than sovereign. But I have seen Traditionalists argue that He is still sovereign even though mankind has libertarian free will. A Traditionalist can’t explain this. I do not see why a Calvinist would need to be able to explain how man has freedom of choice (maybe not libertarian free will though) and moral responsibility although God decrees things to occur in his sovereign will.

        CARL

          Robert

          Carl I presented a rather simple argument that refuted a claim that you made. Instead of dealing with the argument you simply ignored it and then tried to change the subject to other issues.

          “I think you would agree with me that your argument stands or falls based upon God (if Calvinism is correct) that man cannot act freely and be responsible for the fall and their own depravity if God predestined the fall.”

          My argument was not about personal responsibility: it was about how if Calvinism( and God decrees all events) is true then God is in fact preventing and stopping the majority of the human race from ever having an opportunity to be saved. You claimed that under Calvinism people have an opportunity to be saved (including the non-elect or “reprobates”). That claim is false if Calvinism is true and God decrees everything: then as Calvin claimed, God decreed the fall which resulted in most people never having an opportunity to be saved.

          “Thus per Calvinism (according to you) God not only allows man to sin but instead causes man to sin and the fall to occur. Of course Calvinism dos not teach that God caused Adam to sin although I read your post that If Calvinism is true then that is indeed what happened.”

          Actually if God decrees every event (both ends and means, our every thought, our every desire, our every action, etc. etc. etc.) then he does cause us to do whatever we do (whether it is good or sinful). Just like a puppet master causes the puppets to do whatever they do because he completely controls them by means of pulling their strings. This is something you Calvinists leave out of your discussions: the kind of control that God exercises over people if everything is decreed. If all is decreed then all is controlled directly, completely and continuously. You folks want to argue that he exercises total control of people (like a puppet master) and yet simultaneously that we are “free” and doing our actions with freedom and so responsible for them. But total control of us by God wipes out both free will and responsibility.

          “Thus if God’s sovereign will is for mankind to fall then God causes mankind to fall.”

          Again, in Calvinism God desires for the fall to occur and decrees it and controls things to make sure it happens: in non-Calvinism God foreknows the fall but neither decrees it nor controls things to make sure it happens.

          “However, could it be that God’s sovereignty could include man’s own free actions?”

          Yes, that is precisely what non-Calvinists believe (i.e. that God created a kind of world where we have genuine free will in our choices). God’s sovereignty is the concept that He does as He pleases. If it pleased Him to create us with free will as ordinarily understood, then that is the way the world will be. There is no contradiction between sovereignty and free will. There is a contradiction between claiming that God decrees everything and at the same time we have free will. There is a contradiction between claiming that God decrees everything and at the same time that the non-elect have an opportunity for salvation (if God decrees all events, all means and ends, then He decrees who gets an opportunity to be saved and gets effectual grace and He also decrees who does not get an opportunity to be saved and who does not receive effectual grace).

          “I know the Traditionalists teach much the same. Why can’t a Calvinist?”

          Because a consistent Calvinist believes that God decrees all things. If God decrees all things then free will as ordinarily understood does not and cannot exist. Now if you reject the idea that God decrees all things, then you could be a Calvinist and also hold to free will (e.g. I have a friend who runs a major apologetics ministry and who is a five point Calvinist and yet also holds to libertarian free will.).

          “Why can’t God be so sovereign that he can He does not have to control man in a way to cause men to put their faith in Him or to sin?”

          Again, then you are positing the idea that God does not decree all things. If he does decree all things then He exercises total control of us (including our minds and wills and bodies and movements, everything).

          “If man is depraved because man chose depravity then your argument fails.”

          People don’t choose depravity. And I was talking about Calvinism where God decrees everything including depravity. You completely ignored, skirted my argument.

          In the rest of your post you then try to change the subject (e.g. talk of limiting God’s sovereignty, not at all my argument) and I will not reply to that attempt. :-)

          Robert

            Carl Peterson

            Robert,

            “My argument was not about personal responsibility: it was about how if Calvinism( and God decrees all events) is true then God is in fact preventing and stopping the majority of the human race from ever having an opportunity to be saved. You claimed that under Calvinism people have an opportunity to be saved (including the non-elect or “reprobates”). That claim is false if Calvinism is true and God decrees everything: then as Calvin claimed, God decreed the fall which resulted in most people never having an opportunity to be saved.”

            The two go hand and hand but okay. What I said was that nothing stops the reprobate from believing but the reprobate themselves. They hate God and do not want to believe the gospel. They never will. I do not believe that God sets up a road block or stops anyone from believing. This is not what most Calvinists believe. I think you err because you equate opportunity with a willingness to believe. One can have an opportunity to believe and yet never want to believe. I hate coffee. I will never choose coffee. However, nothing is stopping me from choosing coffee except my hatred of it. Nothing is stopping the reprobate except their own hatred and that they just do not want to believe.

            You also err because you are not taking compatibalism into account. You might not agree with it but you must take it into account since most Calvinists hold to some form of it. Thus you cannot simply claim that since God decrees something in history that mankind does not have a choice and thus an opportunity to believe.

            “Actually if God decrees every event (both ends and means, our every thought, our every desire, our every action, etc. etc. etc.) then he does cause us to do whatever we do (whether it is good or sinful). Just like a puppet master causes the puppets to do whatever they do because he completely controls them by means of pulling their strings. This is something you Calvinists leave out of your discussions: the kind of control that God exercises over people if everything is decreed. If all is decreed then all is controlled directly, completely and continuously. You folks want to argue that he exercises total control of people (like a puppet master) and yet simultaneously that we are “free” and doing our actions with freedom and so responsible for them. But total control of us by God wipes out both free will and responsibility.”

            I do not believe that God Sovereign election means that men are puppets and God is the grand puppet master. I do not know many Calvinists who believe that. In fact compatibalism again denies that. This is not something that is understood completely since we are not God and only see things darkly. But it is a tension in which we have to live. The Traditionalist also lives in tensions but they are different ones. See mylast post for that.

            “Again, in Calvinism God desires for the fall to occur and decrees it and controls things to make sure it happens: in non-Calvinism God foreknows the fall but neither decrees it nor controls things to make sure it happens.”

            Okay well here is a good example of what I was writing above. How can God be sovereign when he is not sovereign over the actions of his creation? Did God want the fall to occur? If you say a qualified yes then you are like the Calvinist. If you say no then can God be sovereign when things occur that he does not in any sense want? How can we trust this God to save us from sin and death if things occur that he does not want (in any sense) and thus is out of His control? See the problems that occur on both sides now?

            “Yes, that is precisely what non-Calvinists believe (i.e. that God created a kind of world where we have genuine free will in our choices). God’s sovereignty is the concept that He does as He pleases. If it pleased Him to create us with free will as ordinarily understood, then that is the way the world will be. There is no contradiction between sovereignty and free will. There is a contradiction between claiming that God decrees everything and at the same time we have free will. There is a contradiction between claiming that God decrees everything and at the same time that the non-elect have an opportunity for salvation (if God decrees all events, all means and ends, then He decrees who gets an opportunity to be saved and gets effectual grace and He also decrees who does not get an opportunity to be saved and who does not receive effectual grace).”

            So if sovereignty means that “God does as he pleases.” And there is sin and evil in the world then he pleases to have sin and death in the world. It really does not matter if that is because man has freewill or not. God could have made a world with no freewill or mankind with free will. Thus by your admission (or at least if you are consistent) then God in some way wanted the fall to occur and sin and death to enter into the world. Thus you also have a God who pleases to allow sin and death to be a part of the world (for a time).

            Also it is a rather poor definition of sovereignty to say that it means that God does as he pleases. I would think that a definition of God’s sovereignty would have to speak to some idea of providence even if it is not the Reformed idea of it. The definition is just to vague and unclear. It means almost nothing except it really makes the problem of evil more noticeable ( and your own case) since God wanted there to be sin and death in the world (in some sense) since there is sin and death in the world. If God does what he pleases then the world is as he pleases and thus sin and death are part of the fallen world because he pleases it to be so. See that is the problem. I think Christianity gives the best explanation to hte problem of evil with a good and sovereign God but one cannot side step the notion that God does not in some sense want or desire evil and sin in the world because there is sin and evil in the world. Saying evil and sin is due to man’s free will, while true, does not really answer the question about why there is sin and evil in the world when there does not have to be. god could have made us robots or he could have done many other things. God did not. He chose to allow sin and death in the world. He knew it would come if he allowed mankind to have freewill and he still allowed it.

            One could again say that the way you have spoken about God’s sovereignty limits it because He cannot control what mankind does. He is reactive and active. This is not necessarily my argument but it is the argument a reformed person might argue which in some ways is similar to one you are using against the Calvinist (except it is against the Traditionalist and thus attacks God’s sovereignty and not his love).

            Also I have no idea who a consistent Calvinist is since what you argue goes against what most believe. I think you have made a strawman. Also mankind chose total depravity. That is what the fall was all about. mankind chose to go against god and thus chose total depravity. God’s decrees do not make mankind not responsible nor make it so man kind does not choose.

              Robert

              Carl I really believe that you refuse to see what your position logically entails. It it as if you were in denial of what it really amounts to. If corrected you simple respond that those who correct you just don’t understand it. You maintain that God decrees every event and yet also want to claim that men have free will and remain responsible. If all is decreed then we have no free will, as our every choice is just as decreed as everything else and personal responsibility becomes a joke (cf. we would laugh about someone holding a puppet responsible for its actions, yet under Calvinism where the human person is just as controlled as the puppet we are supposed to believe that compatibilism eliminates this: that just doesn’t work which is why the vast majority of Christians across all theological traditions have rejected and will continue to reject your Calvinism/theological determinism).

              Take for example the excellent example you gave when you next wrote:

              “What I said was that nothing stops the reprobate from believing but the reprobate themselves. They hate God and do not want to believe the gospel.”

              And who decreed that they *be* “reprobates”?

              And who decreed they would be nonbelievers?

              And who decreed that they would “hate God”?

              The same person (under Calvinism) who decrees EVERYTHING.

              Carl as you are in denial of the logical implications of your position you play this game that goes like this. If something is bad, like a person being a “reprobate” or “hating God” you blame the human person for it. But what you leave out, forget, refuse to deal with, are in denial about, is that if God decrees everything as you believe, then God decrees the unbelief of that person, then God decrees that person hates God. Then God decrees everything about them (their every thought, action, and movement, all of it, with no exceptions).

              “I do not believe that God sets up a road block or stops anyone from believing. This is not what most Calvinists believe.”

              Denial yet again: if God decrees all then he decreed the fall, the resulting depravity which according to your view makes it impossible for the reprobate to believe. So God literally prevents them from believing and blocks them from believing and makes it impossible for them to believe.

              “I think you err because you equate opportunity with a willingness to believe. One can have an opportunity to believe and yet never want to believe.”

              This is another failed Calvinistic attempt to rationalize things away. If God decrees everything, then God decrees our desires as well. So for the reprobate he decrees that they never have the desire to believe. He decrees their unbelief. He decrees their hatred of him. He decrees it all and then sends them to hell for being and doing exactly what he decreed for them to be and do. This is really gruesome theology and makes God an extremely hateful person (i.e. he hates people from eternity and sets them up for hell and makes sure they end up there, this is chilling stuff).

              Carl consider your illustration that:

              “I hate coffee. I will never choose coffee. However, nothing is stopping me from choosing coffee except my hatred of it. Nothing is stopping the reprobate except their own hatred and that they just do not want to believe.”

              Again you just don’t see it. Stay with you coffee example. If God decrees all things, then who decreed that you would hate coffee? And if God decrees all things then those whom he decreed to be reprobates were decreed to hate God. If all is decreed it does not matter what you are talking about it is all decreed by God.

              If all is decreed then your hatred of coffee is JUST AS decreed as the “reprobates” hatred of God.

              But you keep playing the game claiming that God decrees all things, but then when it is something bad you blame people not God. But if God decrees the whole puppet show, then he decrees the good things the puppets do on stage just as much as the bad things they do: no difference.

              “I do not believe that God Sovereign election means that men are puppets and God is the grand puppet master.”

              Ok and how is the control exercised by the puppet master over his puppets any different than the control exercised by God over us? Again if all is decreed then God completely controls us and this type of control is remarkably similar to how the puppet master controls his puppets. Why do people keep bringing up the puppet master analogy?

              Robert

                Robert

                Part 2

                Carl you asked:

                “Okay well here is a good example of what I was writing above. How can God be sovereign when he is not sovereign over the actions of his creation? Did God want the fall to occur? If you say a qualified yes then you are like the Calvinist. If you say no then can God be sovereign when things occur that he does not in any sense want? How can we trust this God to save us from sin and death if things occur that he does not want (in any sense) and thus is out of His control? See the problems that occur on both sides now?”

                You seem to define “sovereign” as being in control of. Again, the Bible does not teach that God controls us at all times like a puppet master. In the past they spoke of the King being sovereign over a Kingdom, it never meant that the King controlled the actions and thoughts of all of their subjects at all times. It referred to the extent of the King’s authority. And similarly God has authority over the entire creation but this is not the same as saying he is directly, completely and continuously controlling every element of the creation.

                “Did God want the fall to occur?”

                No.

                “If you say no then can God be sovereign when things occur that he does not in any sense want?’

                Yes, just as the King remains sovereign over his kingdom though some things happening in His kingdom are not what he wants to happen. Since mistakenly assume that sovereignty means total and direct control, that makes no sense to you. But non-Calvinists do not see sovereignty the way you do (and neither does the Bible for that matter: remember that Jesus told us to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is done in heaven, in heaven done perfectly, on earth not always done).

                Furthermore, God’s sovereignty has to do with doing as he pleases. He pleased to create a world where people have genuine free will which means they can both choose to do the right thing and choose to do the wrong thing. God sovereignly decided to create that kind of world, not a world where he was the puppet master controlling our every thought and action.

                “So if sovereignty means that “God does as he pleases.” And there is sin and evil in the world then he pleases to have sin and death in the world.”

                No, your statement here is not logical at all. God desiring for a world where sin could occur is not the same as saying that God desires for a particular sin to occur in exactly the way it does (as is true in determinism/Calvinism). If I allow my daughter to have some of her friends come over to play: I am desiring for the possibility of them playing nicely with each other. If they then instead argue and fight with each other that would not be pleasing to me. By my allowing her friends to come over, my allowing them to come over is not at all the same as me being pleased that they argue and fight with each other. Most people, especially parents understand these kinds of things first hand, and easily. Apparently Calvinists don’t understand such simple logic. They instead argue, as you have just done, that if I desire for my daughter to have fun with her friends and I allow them to come over that if they then argue or fight then that is what I desired and that is what is pleasing to me. Again your logic does not follow at all.

                Your next comment unwittingly questions God’s sovereignty (again it means that He does as He pleases including creating the kind of world that he wants to exist).

                “It really does not matter if that is because man has freewill or not. God could have made a world with no freewill or mankind with free will.”

                Yes God could have created a world with no freewill: where he was the puppet master and we were the completely controlled puppets. He could have done so if you speak merely of God’s power. But God does not do things simply out of power, he also does things out of his character. And what is His character? He has experienced perfect love within the trinity for eternity. He is personal, He is relational, and he is love. Such a person is not going to create other persons who are mere robots or puppets. Instead he is going to create a genuine person who has their own mind, their own will, their own choices. And why create genuine persons capable of making their own choices and and also capable of love? Jesus said that if we were His disciples we could share in the Trinitarian love, we could love as God loves (we could love God this way and also love others this way). So God decided to create creatures capable of loving and worshipping him and doing so through their own choices. Put simply he created human persons to be very different than completely controlled puppets.

                Robert

                  Robert

                  Part 3

                  “Thus by your admission (or at least if you are consistent) then God in some way wanted the fall to occur and sin and death to enter into the world. Thus you also have a God who pleases to allow sin and death to be a part of the world (for a time).”

                  You add something to the view of a non-Calvinist that we do not hold to. You add the claim that if God creates a world where there is sin and death that that means that “you also have a God who *pleases* to allow sin and death to be a part of the world”. No, God could create a world where he is not pleased by sin and death in His world even though he knows it will occur in that world. God is not pleased with sin, my bible says he hates sin, that he is holy. Now either he hates sin as he say she does, or he is pleased by sin as you claim would be true in a world where he allows sin and death to occur.

                  Which should we believe, his own self attestation, or your claim which you came up with in an attempt to argue for your Calvinism and against non-Calvinism?

                  Human parents bring little humans into the world knowing they will sometimes be hurt or hurt others, sin or be sinned against: should we abort them all to prevent them from coming into this world? And if we don’t abort them all does that mean or prove we don’t love our kids? Again, where do you get this logic from Carl?

                  “Also it is a rather poor definition of sovereignty to say that it means that God does as he pleases. I would think that a definition of God’s sovereignty would have to speak to some idea of providence even if it is not the Reformed idea of it. The definition is just to vague and unclear.”

                  Your comments here appear to be not logical. How so? Because when we define sovereignty as the Bible defines it (that he does as He pleases and no one can stop him from doing what he wants): then we can ask the question what kind of world did God desire to create? And that goes to everything. That goes to why sin and evil exist. That goes to what kind of plan of salvation God would develop. That goes to why there would be this present world where sin is present and why he would create a new heaven and a new earth. That goes to why we have free will and are not puppets or robots. You see the kind of world that God creates sets the parameters for everything else that occurs.

                  Likewise when believers commit to having a godly home, that sets the parameters as to what should be happening there as well.

                  “It means almost nothing except it really makes the problem of evil more noticeable ( and your own case) since God wanted there to be sin and death in the world (in some sense) since there is sin and death in the world.”

                  You keep making these statements where the logic just does not follow.

                  Note your logic:

                  “since God wanted there to be sin and death in the world (in some sense) since there is sin and death in the world.”

                  Your logic is that if something occurs in the world, then it follows that God wanted that something to occur.

                  So since rape occurs in this world, God wanted those rapes to occur. So since child molestation occurs in this world, God wanted those acts to occur. So since A, B, C . . …….. occur in this world, God wanted those things to occur. Again you completely fail to understand that for the non-Calvinist it is not that God desired for these particular evils or sins to occur as they did: rather, God created a world where people could make choices that resulted in those evils and sins.

                  God creating people who could do those things is not the same as God desiring for those things to occur.

                  God creating people who could fall in the garden is not the same as God desiring for them to fall in the garden.

                  And it does not follow logically as you claim, that if something happens in the world then God was pleased for that specific thing to happen.

                  “If God does what he pleases then the world is as he pleases and thus sin and death are part of the fallen world because he pleases it to be so.”

                  This is yet another howler logically speaking. It does not follow that if God does as he pleases THE WORLD IS AS HE PLEASES. Going back to my daughter’s friends coming over. If I do as I please as a Father and allow her friends to come over, and if they end up arguing and fighting, it does not follow that this arguing and fighting is my house being as I pleased! Can you see what you are leaving out completely Carl?

                  You are leaving out the reality that there are multiple genuine wills in this world. God desired for Israel to be a hold nation and an example to other nations: that pleased Him, that is what he says he desired for them. And yet for the most part they did not please Him, they rebelled against Him, grieved him, frustrated him. Why? Because they had genuine wills of their own and they chose to often do the wrong thing. I can allow other kids to come over and desire for them to have a happy time. But they have wills too, and if they choose to argue or fight they will do so. And if that happens under my roof it does not follow that it was pleasing to me!

                  “Also I have no idea who a consistent Calvinist is since what you argue goes against what most believe. I think you have made a strawman.”

                  It is not that I have created a strawman (consistent Calvinism refers to Calvinists who are consistent with what follows if God decrees all events, most are not consistent with this premise, some are such as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, most today are not because they want to believe that all is decreed but then they want to claim that people have free will and are responsible even though their every thought and action is decreed).

                  “Also mankind chose total depravity.”

                  That is an absolutely ridiculous claim. None of us chose depravity. If depravity is our condition when we are born, we were born with it; it was not our choice at all.

                  Robert

Norm Miller

Regardless of how to categorize Fuller, there is no question that he wore his theological struggles openly and his theological views developed. Baptists in America, themselves struggling with theological definition on predestination and election at the beginning of the nineteenth century, appreciated his transparency. Fuller’s debate with Arminian Daniel Taylor, the General Baptist who saw revival ensue in his New Connexion group, was published for all to see. Fuller readily admitted that as a Particular Baptist, he could not answer the arguments of Taylor. Fuller states, “I tried to answer my opponent…but I could not. I found not merely his reasonings, but the Scriptures themselves, standing in my way.”119

The above quote from Dr. Caner’s essay (part II) is significant in a few aspects:
1. There appears to be “wiggle room” for Dr. Caner regarding Fuller in Caner’s “Regardless of how to categorize Fuller” qualifying clause.
2. Dr. Caner uses Fuller as a microcosm of the macro-issues prevalent among Baptists of his day.
3. Most telling is Fuller’s acquiesence to Taylor’s points, and Fuller’s admission that Scripture offered Fuller no comfort in his position on particular atonement.

As the Drs. Caner and Allen show, Fuller relented to biblical and not ‘systematic’ theology.

Bart Box

Dr. Caner,

Dr. Haykin addressed this in his response to your post above, but I thought I’d add some additional quotes from Fuller for clarification and further light on Fuller’s views.

You say, “Additionally, Fuller articulated that faith is not a gift from God, but the responsibility of man. He writes in Gospel Worthy, ‘If faith in Christ be the duty of the ungodly, it must of course follow that every sinner, whatever be his character, is completely warranted to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of his soul.'” The quote you supply does not argue against the notion of faith as gift, only that faith is a duty required of all. Those ideas (faith as gift and faith as duty) are not mutually exclusive in Fuller’s thinking. For example, in the same work Fuller says this: “It is certain that a great part of the world have never heard the gospel; that the greater part of those who have heard it disregard it; and that those who believe are taught to ascribe not only their salvation, but faith itself, through which it is obtained, to the free gift of God.” Again, from GWAA, “The Scriptures clearly ascribe both repentance and faith wherever they exist to Divine influence.” And, finally, from the same, “The Scriptures uniformly teach us that all our sufficiency to do good or to abstain from evil is from above; repentance and faith, therefore, may be duties, notwithstanding their being the gifts of God.”

One may disagree about the theological consistency of faith as simultaneously gift and duty (that was, after all, one of the main issues Fuller anticipated/addressed), but there is no doubting that Fuller saw them as theologically coherent.

Blessings,

Bart

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