Patterson’s points persuade toward unity and amity

May 14, 2013

by Dr. James Willingham

Southwestern Seminary president, Dr. Paige Patterson, made two points in a blog post a few months ago on Election* that could yield spectacular results.

His post, and specifically points 7 and 8, I think could end the Calvinist/Traditionalist bickering, could lead to implementing another move like Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt in a worthwhile prayer effort, and could result in the Third Great Awakening.

In Patterson’s Eight Theses on Election, points 7 and 8 light the way.

Point 7 involves humility while point 8 evokes this question: “Why is the doctrine of Election in the Bible?”

Clearly, Dr. Patterson felt the impact of his studies of 2,000 years of theological reflection on the mysteries of God’s electing providence. His remarks on the inadequacy of explanations should provoke smiles — even laughter. Patterson states:

“A. For 2000 years people have been discussing this and it may be the only reason for building cafeterias and coffee houses on seminary campuses. No one has come up with an explanation to satisfy anybody else.

1. My explanation doesn’t satisfy you.
2. Yours for dead sure doesn’t satisfy me.”

Patterson follows this levity with the gut-wrenching question:

“B. Under such conditions, is it not better to say, ‘God, in your greatness you have done, thought, and acted in ways too transcendent for me to embrace?’”

That is why Patterson states in point 7
“… the failure to crack the mysteries of God’s electing providence should instill humility rather than hubris in the interpreter.”

A Calvinist could not say it any better. Both approaches need to be circumspect with reference to the views of each other. Patterson’s view plainly demands caution of all parties concerned.

We need to line up both groups on the same side in a show of collegiality, camaraderie and commitment to working through the differences. Patterson might well have opened the way for us to do so with his question: “Why is the doctrine of Election in the Bible?”

It is in his elucidation of that question that Patterson has transcended the differences between Calvinists and Traditionalists. Point 8.A is a teaser, but point 8.B gets to the nitty-gritty.

Look at B.
A Calvinist could not put the four things about this doctrine any better. Note the first thing: “1. As long as the doctrine of election is in the Bible, salvation is God’s act from beginning to end?”

Patterson lists six points in the negative, cites Romans 8.29-30, then notes: “You do not read anything about man in this text.”

Patterson makes three other points about Election that are germane, relevant, and meaningful. Turning to his thesis concerning election being bound up with foreknowledge, one encounters a tension here, an unresolved issue.

Even so, point 8 turns Calvinists and Traditionalists into the same path, on the same side, tackling the differences together. This accords with earlier Baptist allowances for differences, like the Separates and Regulars union from 1787-1800.

Patterson has said enough to not only encourage continued cooperation but even to spur it on. After all, if one feels free to hold his beliefs, and free to let others hold their beliefs, and free to change either way, then we have unity and amity.

Returning to the link between foreknowledge and election, Patterson notes: “3. Even though we don’t understand it, we must not deny it.”

In fact, “the mysteries of God’s electing providence” lies at the heart of the solution. Calvinists are ready to admit that there is no reason for God to accept them, no good, nothing, nada. Traditionalists likewise sing, “Why should He love me so?”

Even a Traditionalist can buy that because he knows from the Bible and experience that every human’s nature and practice is sinful. Patterson therefore notes that God’s “ways are too transcendent for me to embrace.”

It is this retention of “the mysteries of God’s electing providence” and the “ways too transcendent for me to embrace” that hold the secret of enablement and empowerment for Traditionalists and Calvinists to work together in a spirit of brotherly love.

There is, likewise, Patterson’s point 8: “If we are unable to resolve the apparent paradox of biblical instruction, its heavenly wisdom proving too transcendent for fallen intellects, then perhaps we should advance to a new question. Maybe instead of asking how it all works, we ought to ask instead, “Why is the doctrine of election in the Bible?”

The point here is that Patterson’s careful, insightful, and thoughtful writing on Election offers a way to allay tensions and to move Southern Baptists on to better things by allying the parties on the same side of reverence, worship, service, and awe.

There is every reason to begin a continuing prayer effort that spans our theological differences and seeks the spread of the Gospel throughout the whole earth (every soul won to Christ, and that for a thousand generations). Like Spurgeon, the groups could pray for the conversion of the whole earth. And like Wesley and Whitefield, we could look on one another as bound to be so close to throne of God that we on the outer fringes won’t be able to see the ones so near to God.

The last time Baptists did such thing, it led to the Second Great Awakening and to the launching of the Great Century of Missions or what we know as the modern missionary movement.


A former atheist, Dr. James Willingham was converted to Christ in 1957. He gave his life to God in the Gospel ministry in 1958 and has pastored churches in Missouri and North Carolina. Rev. James has lived a life dedicated to the Lord and his church.

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Rick Patrick

Dr. Willingham,

This is a nicely written, thought provoking piece…and thanks for separating the sentences into paragraphs!

Norm Miller

Dr. Willingham:

Thank you for the tenor of your commentary, as well, of course, for the content. I am moved by what motivates you, for I know you have been praying for a 3rd Great Awakening for more than three decades.

Whereas you and I have not agreed on all things at this blog (surprise, surprise), I am happy to offer you the opportunity to post an article that challenges us all equally and reasonably. — Norm

    dr. james willingham

    Norm: When I first encountered you, in coventry, in what is the word? Anyway, in being restricted due to saying something that might be taken wrong, I thought we might never get on together. Just goes to show how wrong we all can be. In any case, God has other plans, plans far better than any we can devise. I was even more surprised, when I read Dr. Patterson’s article on election. For the first time, I began to believe my prayers might even be answered in my life time. Can you imagine the Traditionalists and the Calvinists coming together in unity and amity for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, to advance His glory in all the earth?


Good post – Well done! thank you for your work and gracious spirit


“Turning to his thesis concerning election being bound up with foreknowledge, one encounters a tension here, an unresolved issue.”

There is no tension here, no unresolved issue except in the desires of people for the Bible to say something else.

The basic question is not, “Why is the doctrine of Election in the Bible?” but ““Is the doctrine of Election in the Bible?” It is there.

God elected (chose) those whom He would save (regardless how one thinks it came about) before the foundation of the world. God’s foreknowledge of this, and all things, is certain and all will come to pass as God foreknows. Thus, the number of the elect is certain and not one more will be saved than that number elected and foreknown by God and the number of the reprobate is equally certain and not one more will be lost that that foreknown by God.

The preaching of the gospel has the purpose to draw the elect to Christ and that purpose will most certainly be accomplished, but it will not, and cannot and is not intended to, draw the reprobate to Christ. God’s election stands and Gods foreknowledge can tolerate no other outcome than that God has decreed by His election and inscribed in His foreknowledge.

    dr. james willingham

    Well, the number might well be said to be certain, but, apparently, it is a number that even God would not care to try and count (Rev.7:9). Compare the stars of heaven and the sand by the seashores of all the earth which as the Bible says cannot be numbered for number and you have a great contrast with the feeble beginnings and outlooks on this end. I have come to consider that Rev.7:9 might be an example of Divine humor to cheer on God’s suffering servants in this world, a bit of absurdity to make them laugh in the midst of their suffering. It is a strange thing, indeed, to feel joy in the midst of terrible griefs.


      Rev 7:9 refers to “…a great multitude, which no man could number,…” I don’t see that it says anything about God not being able to number them. Certainly, since God is omniscient, not only can he number them but He can call each by name and even knows every event of every second in their lives. Nothing about each one of them is hidden from Him. But I think you are correct; those whom God is saving greatly exceeds those whom we think Him to be saving. Who knows; maybe God will save all.


    The preaching of the gospel has the purpose to draw the elect to Christ and that purpose will most certainly be accomplished, but it will not, and cannot and is not intended to, draw the reprobate to Christ. God’s election stands and Gods foreknowledge can tolerate no other outcome than that God has decreed by His election and inscribed in His foreknowledge.

    So much for unity and amity…


      But such division is justified. People have two opposing and opposite views for which their can be no reconciliation.

      However, the opposing views are not about whether God has elected to save (We all agree that He has) but on the way in which God goes about choosing. The bottom line is that all agree: God saves the elect, and by whatever manner He chooses to do so, the elect will be saved.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        I think the internet fosters this division among both laypeople and academics.

        I share the Gospel with Calvinist brothers. We also watch Razorback games together, make music together, and devour good food together at Southern Baptist potlucks.

        If there ever becomes more that divides us than unites us, then we are wicked and not the Church Christ heads and Paul expounds.

        I love discussing and debating theology, even heatedly so, but there’s more to life, and even unity, than that.

        Having said all that, to Randall’s point of whether the Traditionalist statement and traditionalists themselves are reactionary. I’d say some of it is reactionary. It is reactionary where it needs to be reactionary and no more, no less.

        I don’t mind Calvinists. I certainly don’t mind more growth in Calvinist circles within the SBC. What I, and others, do mind is the supposition of Calvinism having some sort of theological superiority, the arrogance in saying so, and the often subtle and often blatant attempts by Calvinists to impose Calvinism as the default theology in the SBC when the still majority of Southern Baptists reject it, whether it comes to SS curriculum, Convention and Seminary leadership and professors, Conference speakers, etc.

        Those things are worth reacting to, because they are often underhanded, and in some cases, laced with notions that are completely false.

          Randall Cofield


          Having said all that, to Randall’s point of whether the Traditionalist statement and traditionalists themselves are reactionary. I’d say some of it is reactionary. It is reactionary where it needs to be reactionary and no more, no less.

          Perhaps “exclusionary” would have been a better adjective in my postulation.

          I think the current imbroglio could be greatly ameliorated if both “sides” would simply state their positions positively without setting them in juxtaposition to the other. Generals and Particulars have coexisted for generations in the SBC, and I, much as you have posited here, am convinced we can continue to coexist.

          Grace to you, brother.


            “I think the current imbroglio could be greatly ameliorated if both “sides” would simply state their positions positively without setting them in juxtaposition to the other.”

            I agree with that Randall. But our problem is the leader of the SBC YRR and an entity President whose income also comes from Non Calvinists goes around saying things like, “If you want to see the nations rejoice for Christ, then New Calvinism is the only place for people to go” and many other unfortunate things that are “exclusionary”. The latest of propping up Mahaney who moved to Louisville to be near the seminary is another huge problem. I am not interested in being involved with a shepherding cult SBC. Calling your peers in Christ, semi heretics was not helpful either. Nor calling for people to be “marginalized” because they supported the Trad statement.

            In fact the list is long and extends to NAMB helping to plant Reformed only Acts 29/Sojourn type churches. To complain about one side “reacting” to such goings on for years without mentioning “cause/effect” is either willful blindness or delusional. I do understand that many in the Reformed wing of the SBC view such behavior on one side as totally normal. I get that. Does not mean I agree with it. I have experienced too many YRR come into churches with their “only we have the true Gospel” attitude to dismiss it. You really need to clean up your wing of the SBC before you complain about the Trad statement being “reactionary” or “exclusionary”. It was a normal response to what has been bred in the Reformed wing of the SBC.

Jim P

There is a book written by Morris Kline titled, “Mathematics the Lose of Certainty.” A shocking title to those who have to believe mathematics and science will answer all the problems that plague this sin filled world. The last chapter in his book, he comes to this conclusion after looking at the panorama of the history of math. It is this: “Mathematics is artificial.” You tell this to someone who has dedicated his life to mathematics and they’ll what to hit you over the head with a baseball bat. This was my experience.

Some one once said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life: and these are they which testify of Me, but you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

The Person who said this wasn’t just hit with a baseball bat, He was crucified.

Theologian must be guarded people if they don’t end up in the same boat and the theologian who would not come to the Person who could give them Life.

    Jim P

    The last sentence is…

    Theologians today better be on their guard least they end up in the same boat as the theologians of the past who put their theology before the Person who could give them life.


      Two examples arguing for the ability to edit one’s posts.

      1. It’s “Mathematics, the Loss of Certainty.”

      2. “Theologians today better be on their guard lest…”

        Jim P

        Ok you’re a good editor


          To be a good editor one need only want to read what he is editing and it helps to have interesting material to work with. Some comments I don’t want to read but read them anyway. Some comments I don’t want to read so I ignore them. Some comments are interesting, so I read them with greater interest and am more likely to spot anomalies. I make my share of mistakes, so I sympathize with those who do the same.

            Jim P


            I’ll take whatever sympathy comes my way and your corrections were appropriate. I do think there’s valid point related to the article and regret those mistakes distracted from what it says. I learned a lesson. Thanks

            Jim P

            “a valid point.” thought a lesson was learned. Still a way to go.

    dr. james willingham

    Jim P: Your remarks remind me of a discussion I use to carry on with a mathematician, when I taught history at South Carolina State way back in the early 70s. He was a graduate of Columbia Univ., and it was a surprise to me that we were able to talk at all, being in such different fields. The artificial nature of mathematics was a subject with him or something to that effect, and yet I am reminded that there is a correlation between the mathematical models in the minds of the mathematicians and the mathematical nature (?) of the universe or, at least, how the universe answers to mathematical analysis to some degree. The problem begins, when the universe takes a vacation from math as we know it and involves math as we cannot yet conceive it. I heard some years ago of a scientist of rmathematician from the old Soviet Union who figured out somehow that the universe was only about 6000 years old and even wrote a paper on the subject which the Soviet Academy of scientists turned dow, not because they could find any error in his math and formulas but because they did not like the content!!!

    Which reminds me that the Calvinists, and I count my self one, might be surprised to find that the most calvinistic, nauseating long drawn out pleadings of God with the truths of the tulip outline might be the most engaging, enthralling, enticing, entrancing, electrifying, enlivening, enlightening invitations ever made to the souls of men. Consider how Dr. Eusden, the translator in the 1900s of the first text book in theology used at Harvard in the 1600s, William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity, stated; “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,…” That led me to think of Roms.9:13 as the Hardest Invitation in the Bible, an invitation to receive God 1) Who does not think like we do, 2) Who does not love like we do, and 3) Who does not act like we do.


“but ““Is the doctrine of Election in the Bible?” It is there.

God elected (chose) those whom He would save (regardless how one thinks it came about) before the foundation of the world.”

What you make of the doctrine of Election is NOT in the Bible. There is a “doctrine of Election” but it is not about God choosing those He would save.

    Alan Davis

    Well written. Both Dr Willingham and Dr. Patterson. Enjoyed and challenged


    “What you make of the doctrine of Election is NOT in the Bible. There is a “doctrine of Election” but it is not about God choosing those He would save.”

    If the non-Calvinists could actually show this to be true, the discussion would have ended long ago. That they have not is evident as the continuing discussion shows. All they have done is say, We want free will to rule, so we will define election differently.


      The burden of proof is upon the Calvinist to show indubitably that the Bible has a doctrine of “Election unto salvation”, not for the Non-Calvinist that it doesn’t exist.

      It’s relatively easy to come with red herrings such as free will that have nothing to do per se with election unto salvation, but all I am asking the proof from you that the Bible teaches such a thing as God choosing those He wants to save.


        Really!! Both Arminians and Calvinists maintain that God chooses those He wants to save. I don’t see that arguments are lacking for people to inspect. The Arminian/Calvinist debate concerns the manner in which God goes about choosing whom to save. There are some non-Calvinists who object to the idea that God chooses whom He will save. Let those people deal with the arguments already put forth before asking for more.


          So, that’s your cop out then. I don’t care about designations (Arminians or Calvinist), but about the Biblical truth.

          Does God not choose (elect)? Of course. Let’s see who He chose:
          Abraham. Are all those of Abraham saved? No
          Israel. Are all those of Israel saved? No
          The twelve. Was the son of perdition saved? No

          Let’s see who He did not choose (=non Israelites):
          The Ninevites. Were they not saved? Yes, they were
          Rahab and her family. Was she not saved? Yes, she was
          Ruth. Was she not saved? Yes, she was

          So, we see from these examples that there was no “election unto salvation” then. So, why would it be now?


            OK. I am confused. Of course God chose the Ninevites and sent Jonah to call them to repentance. God saved Ruth through Naomi. God saved Rahab through the spies. Was it by accident that God sent Jonah to Ninevah or Naomi and her husband to Moab or the spies to Jericho? Hardly. Has not God reserved a remnant of Israel that he has saved?

            If those are not examples of God’s election to salvation, what else could they be?


            “If those are not examples of God’s election to salvation, what else could they be?”

            They’re not. Because we that not all the elect are saved, whereas non-elect are.

            So, Ninevites are elect because they were saved?
            So, if you’re saved you were elect and if you are elect you will be saved. You are a good circular reasoner. I guess you are confused.

            God wants all to be saved and to come to repentance, just like the Ninevites. Acts 17:30. So, did God elect all????

            Johnathan Pritchett

            What confuses me is that rhutchin will go round and round with just about everyone around here but me.

            I am still waiting for responses to my posts I put under his from like two months ago onward…

dr. james willingham

To Jim P and holdon: The nice thing about doctrine is that, as absurd as it might seem, it has a useful purpose in God’s Kingdom service. Dr. Patterson touched upon this, when he mentioned the issue of paradox. In my counseling collection I have a work bearing the title, Therapeutic Paradox, and it led me to consider how paradox is a term often used in Christian theology. Thus, I came to conclusion that these terms that seem so reprehensible to us might well be therapeutic paradoxes, designed to accomplish some soteriological purpose in God’s gracious work. When one compares Jesus telling His Neighbors at Nazareth that Elijah and Elisha were not sent to any widows and lepers in Israel, but they did minister to a widow and a leper that were no Jews, compare I say, with that of His words in the presence of the woman of Canaan, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and sees her response, one gets the feeling that the Nazarites in the murderous rage at his suggestion of election really missed the point, whereas the woman of Canaan (and Sidon like the woman to whom Elijah was sent) came and worshipped Him really grasped the paradoxical purpose. And this becomes even more clear in her response to our Lord;s saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” She agrees with Him, saying, “Truth, Lord, but even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Here she takes the place of the dog, the image of reprobation, if ever there was one,and uses it as the basis of her plea for the Lord’s mercy. Then our Lord bestows His highest commendation on her, “Great is thy faith. Be it unto thee as you will, as you please.” Imagine that. Using total depravity and Reprobation as a basis for a plea by a lost sinner for that sinner to be blessed? Contrary, to what some folks think, we all can preach as one Calvinst did, on the subject, “Tenthings a sinner can do to be saved.” I suggest that these truths are therapeutic paradoxes designed to restore free will to a person, a sense of responsibility, the willingness to accept responsibility, to take the blame, and yet find in the joy of that realization, the desire to call upon Jesus in the way of a sinner, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.” Or the Publican who cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” My brother-in-law who is a traditionalist was led to use that prayer by a Calvinist who won him to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a minister and has been serving the Lord for 50 years, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, a Traditionalist like many of you who read this writing. And I love him. He is my brother-in-law, a brother to me, married to my dear sister, and they have a son who like my son is a minister. And my nephew like his father is a Traditionalist. Rather naturally, I don’t want to see my fellow believers in Sovereign Grace to beat them over the head any more than he wants to see Traditionalists do the same to his brother-in-law and nephew, my son.

When I was pastoring and my brother-in-law came to visit us, I would invite him to preach for me. I didn’t tell him how to preach (Good grief! He is a graduate of Southwestern Bap. Theol. Sem.) and said, “Amen!” every time I could. My ordaining pastor also ordained my brother-in-law, and his deacon, a man who was in the first wave of soldiers that went ashore on the Normany beaches, I think Omaha Beach, was the father and signer of his signer of his son’s ordination paper as he was the signer of mine. And there on both ordination papers is the name of Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, a supralapsarian hyper calvinist (his words), who founded the American Race Track Chaplaincy and pleaded with my step-father to look to Christ until tears ran down the man’s face.

Randall Cofield


I sent you an email in response to the one you sent me, but it was kicked back. Looks like something with your filter.

Grace to you, brother

Randall Cofield


I want to personally and publicly commend you for posting this article.

It is precisely this spirit of cooperation between those who hold differing but conservative views that has made the SBC the mightiest missional machine this fallen world has ever observed.

With that, I am….


    dr. james willingham

    Dear Brother Cofield: You really caught what I was throwing. You sensed and expressed the reality of what I desired. If we can continue and even further it with better developments of relationships of affection and appreciation, we might well see a Third Great Awakening. The relationships between George Whitefield and John Wesley, I think, were meant to show us the way, that is, in the ending of their relationship in this world, both speaking of the other as being so close to the throne and the speaker being so far from it that the one would not be able to see the other.

      Randall Cofield

      Excellent post, Doc.

        dr. james willingham

        Thanks Brother Cofield. Your a jewel, too. And to Mr. Pritchett. Good scholarly works have been written all along, some even by Southern Baptists. Wanting to be based upon facts, especially the factuality of the NT teachings, is certainly a worthy aim. I have some 40 to fifty volumes in the various doctrines of grace. The supply is really overwhelming, if taken in the whole realm of Christian History. For example, just consider Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will. And then read John Wesley’s journal and his letter of response to Whitefield’s effort at reconciliation. Don’t forget Jonathan Edwards Memoir in his works (2 vols.) published by Banner of Truth. Man what I would give to have all his works published by Yale Univ. Press. I am tired and must retire. Remember us in your prayers as we have to move…and at our age and condition that is not an easy thing to contemplate.

    Norm Miller

    Thank you Randall. It is the kind of article that challenges us all, ‘chides’ us all, encourages us all. I am happy to publish more of these. Hats off, however, to Dr. Willingham, for writing the piece. Again, Randall, thank you.

    Just yesterday in private email I was accused of all manner of things. My publishing this article is not in answer to those baseless charges, because Dr. James and I have been planning this for a few weeks. — Norm

      dr. james willingham

      Just want to say that Norm edited my original article, and he did a superb job. This fellow has many hidden talents, talents hidden by the controversies and mudslinging, no doubt. I just wonder how mahy of you fellow on the Traditionalist side are wonderfully talented individuals, and what could you accomplish, if you set your mind to a course of amity and unity? And the same goes for my Calvinistic buddies. Think what we could accomplish, if we set out to work out the details for enabling and empowering people who differ on some things to work together.

      In 1970 as new, freshly minted Instructor in History at South Carolina State, I was chosen for two be one of two leadrs for a group of High School Students in a Race Relations Conference designed to ease tensions in a community where integration was being implemented on a massive scale. Two and a half years previously that community, Orangeburg, South Carolina, had experienced the Orangeburg Massacre in which the National Guard and State Troopers shot into a crowd of Black students on the campus of South Carolina State College, killing three and wounding about 20 others. As the white leader of the particular group, paired with a Black leader, we used various psychological techniques to get the students to understand one another and to work together. The process seem to work, and the integration proceeded apace.

      Perhaps we need theological conferences in which mediators and reconcilers, one from each of the theological persuasions, would work together to lead groups of both persuasions to learn how one another thought, how to work together, how to get along. One thing is sure, we need to establish unity and maintain it, so that the work of missions and evangelism can go forward. These mediators would need special training perhaps, and some might already have training in that direction. The leaders could work out how the process can occur and what are the results desired, maximizing freedom while stressing responsibility for maintaining relationships that are optimum. Consider how and my brother-in-law I would do as leaders. he is a Traditionalist and I am Calvinist. Now you know the charges of deceit, meanness, etc., are not going to fly. Why should they? Well, he is my brother-in-law, and it would hurt my sister…and the truth runs the other way, too.

      I had a good friend, Dr. L.G. Meadows who was a Traditionalist in the fullest sense of the word, while our theology differed we were quite friendly and amiable in our relations. I helped his son-in-law, a music minister, secure a place of service. Dr. Meadows was a tremendous personality. He had led the fight against the Gang that ran sin city, Phoenix City. Alabama back in the fifities. His deacons had to carry guns to guard him. He baptized the gang leader’s wife and daughter. He also baptized on of the leading henchmen who said they would find him out by the rive dead which they did. Dr. Meadows led the music for Dr. George W. Truett in a revival in Alabama. I tell these things to get people to thinking, thinking in terms of unity, amity, of peace and harmony, of working together. I have seen it done before, and it can be done again.

    Chris Roberts

    Indeed, a good article. If only we would see Traditionalists writing things like this, I could breathe a bit easier.

      Norm Miller

      A Trad posted it, and welcomes more like it. No kudos for that?

        Chris Roberts

        Yes, thanks for posting it. It stands as exhibit A that perhaps the recent spate of posts and comments here and elsewhere undermining the idea of unity won’t get the last word.

      dr. james willingham

      Chris: There are Traditionalists who could write such. Right now, however, there are a lot of hurting people on both sides. We have rubbed the wound raw with contrary views, not considering that our Lord ask us to speak the truth in love. And, yes, I know that love can be in a rebuke, etc., but not all the time. Let us grab the positives and run with them ahile.

      Think of the sinner’s prayer controversy last year. I think David Platt meant well, but my brother-in-law was actually led to Christ bya Calvinstic Youth minister using the sinner’s prayer. Now I am not about to straighten out that youth miinister from so many years ago (he might not be alive now…he went on to pastor a good sized FBC out in California, and my brother-in-law went on to pastor some leading FB churches, become a Home Missionary and have a son who is a preacher, too. He has both Traditionalists and Calvinists in his association and speaks well of both.

      Take a closer look at the moderator of this blog, Norm Miller. I want you to know that I was impressed by his editing of my effort above. He was objective, concise, maintained fully what I was trying to do, paid due respect to the effortof Dr. patterson who set the keynotes for my comments. Believe me, I have some reason to know a skilled hand in the writing field, when I detect it, being the possessor of five degrees plus work on number 6 and having actually taught college level courses in three different institutions as well as having delivered a lecture at an Ivy League school. Why don’t you write something of a positive nature and lets see if we can get around this big set-to, resolving it into a basis for going forward in a real evangelistic and missionary effort. And I do not speak of you compromising your convictions, but to do it in a way that respects your convictions as well as those with whom you disagree. Is your God big enough for that? I believe He is, and the same could be said for others of the Traditionalists and Calvinists who are making comments on this blog. Then try out Norm and see what I found out. This fellow is a jewel and a genius, too.

      We all need strokes. Rhutchin and holdon all need strokes as well as the others. My aim is to get us to praying for another awakening and believing that God can do it, regardless of our theology. and even with a view to blessing us as His children even when we only have a smattering of understanding of how His truth really works. After all, we reward children for trying, like my Grandma use to act when my sister and I made her mud pies. That elderly lady who was born in 1892 in Tennessee acted like they were her best chocolate pies (of course, she didn’t eat them, but she acted like she did and you can imagine how that made my sister and I feel). She crossed the Mississippi River on Cottonwood Point Ferry going to Missouri to live in 1900 and 72 years later I crossed at the same ferry going to preach her funeral in Arkansas where she and our grandfather had raised us.

Johnathan Pritchett

I have to disagree here. While I do agree with the humility bit, I think, and I am sure some Calvinists will agree with me on this (despite disagreements on election itself), that election is not too difficult to understand.

Why is the doctrine of Election in Bible? Because God has His purposes.

Why does God save, because of His great love and mercy for which He will demonstrate to glorify Himself.

None of these things are difficult to grasp. “Election” is simply defined differently between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, and its mechanics are explained differently between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

Lower case “d” divine election is found in A.N.E. pagan literature as well. It isn’t like the concept is strictly a Judeo-Christian one. It also isn’t like we can’t figure this all out with hard word and good argumentation.

This debate has as much to do with the social science departments as it does the theology departments. What we need is more scholarship in the area of election (and strictly election) and less popular works on it. How and what did ancient Semitic people think on this. How and what did Greco-Roman people think on this. What similarities and differences are there between the Judeo-Christian election tradition in the Bible and pagan traditions. Etc., Etc. This project is barely off the ground, sadly.

Just saying…



I read a comment on FB that intrigued me….Brad Witt made the comment…and, I’m not quoting him word for word, but he said something to the effect of… if all babies are of the elect, then, at what point do they become the unelect? I mean, some Calvinists say that all babies are a part of the elect; right? So, if all babies are a part of the elect group, then when do they become a part of the unelect group? Or, are all babies really a part of the elect group? And, do all babies really suck on pacifiers?


    Norm Miller

    That is a sticky wicket for Calvinists. I predict you will not get a biblical answer for that question. — Norm

    Randall Cofield


    I think you (and Brad?) may be misunderstanding. The common Calvinistic assumption is that all babies who die in infancy are part of the elect. It’s speculative, but no more so that the Trad assumption of “safe” until the “age of accountability.”

    Sorry to squelch your “gotcha” moment. :-)

    Grace to you, my fellow Sonic-loving brother.

      Norm Miller

      If all the elect are determined before the foundations of the world, then the point at which they die is of no consequence. — Norm

        Randall Cofield


        Well, as long as we’re speculating about the particulars of the hidden, eternal, all-wise, all-good council of the Almighty…

        Doesn’t it stand to reason that an infinitely good God, knowing, yea even foreordaining who would die in infancy, would choose to redeem them every one from the Curse? After all, the God choosing was not bereft of knowledge concerning when the object of His choosing would die.

        Grace to you, brother.

          Norm Miller

          Speculating? Building a theology on speculation is ill-advised. Further, to hear some Cals on this topic of infant death, etc., (upon which they all do not agree), one would think that the Cals’ opinions and speculations are foregone conclusions. — Norm

            Randall Cofield


            Building a theology on speculation is ill-advised.

            Yet again, we are in complete agreement on this point.

            If this continues we may wind up sharing a room in the Father’s House.



        From what I have read from some calvinists, crib deaths and abortions are reserved only for the elect. It’s their early death or abortion that proves that these infants are among God’s elect. In other words, crib deaths and abortions do not make a child “elect”, but rather the child suffers crib death or an abortion specifically because they are “elect”.

    Randall Cofield

    Oooooh! How providential was that? Notice the time of Norm’s post and my post immediately above.

    God does have a sense of humor….




If you lived close to me, I would buy you a beverage of your CHOICE….. :)



lol…hold on a minute…I didnt finish that last sentence to Randall….I got a phone call while I was typing…lol…I meant to say, “If you lived close to me, I would buy you a beverage of your
CHOICE at Sonic.” lol…I would not buy any old beverage from any old place….and certainly not alcohol…not saying that Randall would pick alcohol…but, I thought I’d better be more clear….lol… didnt want anyone thinking that I’d turned into a drinker, or anything….lol.


Job King

The real question/challenge is:

1. How many people actually want unity and amity?
2. How many people will only accept unity and amity on terms and conditions that are unworkable (i.e. one group wanting terms/conditions for another group that they would never accept for themselves)?

My belief is that the people in group 2 actually belong in group 1 incidentally.
So the questions need to be asked:
1. How many want trads and Calvinists to remain in the same convention?
2. How can this be done in a manner that is not too onerous or unfair for one side or another?

That is the core of the debate, and discussing things like theology and church history are simply ways of avoiding it by talking past it. Is there a way for trads and Calvinists to coexist in the SBC in a manner where reasonable members of both groups (and by “reasonable” I mean people who do not try to impose conditions on one group that they would never accept for themselves) can be happy?

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