Semi-Pelagianism? A Plea for Clarity and Charity

June 7, 2012

By Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Director of the Oxford Study Program, Director of the Center for Theological Research, and Editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Recently, the charge of semi-Pelagianism was leveled against the signatories of the statement on the traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation. Please allow me to respond with a clear denial of the charge and an appeal for anybody entering this conversation to, first, clearly substantiate any inferences and claims, primarily appealing to Scripture, and, second, rise above inflammatory rhetoric.

First, regarding “semi-Pelagianism.” What is it? It is a postbiblical issue. According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd edn), the semi-Pelagianism of the 4th and 5th centuries “maintained that the first steps toward the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later.” It is worth taking a minute to reread that definition. (Did you read it again? Okay, let’s continue.) Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the second Council of Orange in 529. While such a council does not carry ecclesial or theological authority whatsoever for Baptists, I believe most Baptists, including the Statement’s signatories, would agree with that council’s condemnation, which is later called “semi-Pelagianism.” Moreover, it is very instructive that the same council also condemned the doctrine that God predestined men for evil. I would agree with the council’s condemnations on both of these counts and invite all Baptist theologians to join me in agreement. (By the way, all Baptists are theologians.)

Note here that we doubt the comments of Herman Bavinck, who has been cited as an authority on semi-Pelagianism by a group known as “The Gospel Coalition,” are particularly helpful in this free church conversation. Bavinck scorned Anabaptists, Pietists, Methodists, and, yes, Baptists for being too pious and for, inter alia, taking such biblical passages as the Sermon on the Mount literally. Bavinck, moreover, said Baptists erred in shifting the focus “from baptism itself to the believer’s acceptance.” (Guilty! See chapter two of my The Formation of Christian Doctrine for more interaction with Bavinck.) Finally, Bavinck argued that the Baptist idea that original sin does not entail original guilt is part of semi-Pelagianism. The Baptist Faith & Message itself in article three then would likely be classified a “semi-Pelagian” document under such a partisan definition. Our confession states clearly that Adam’s “posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” If our common Southern Baptist confession is “semi-Pelagian,” then we are all “semi-Pelagian,” whether we are Calvinist or something else, at least according to Bavinck, the Dutch Reformed self-professing opponent of Baptists.

Second, the authors and signatories of the statement have made it clear that they affirm the priority of divine grace in nearly every article of the statement, including article two. Indeed, article two itself states, “While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” Moreover, article four, on “The Grace of God,” states, “We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.” A careful reading of the document thus indicates that the signatories believe that faith comes to human beings as an act of divine grace, just as the cross and the proclamation of the gospel are acts of divine grace. Personally, I have always taught my students that divine grace has the priority in salvation, from beginning to end, and I will continue to do so.

We do not claim to know all the details of how divine sovereignty relates to human responsibility, because we do not believe Scripture reveals all those details. We do claim, however, that God is sovereign and gracious and that man is simultaneously responsible to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, because these things are revealed in Scripture. We approach theology this way because we are satisfied that the Word of God is the sufficient and unique authority for Christian theological reflection. Church history is helpful as a laboratory for the exposition of Scripture, which is our authority, but the Christian tradition with its condemnatory councils and burnings of human beings does not carry any authority for us “traditionalist” Baptists. (Honestly, for this reason, I don’t really care for the term “traditionalist,” and prefer “Biblicist” or “Baptist,” but others object to our use of those terms.) Systematic theology is also helpful, but it is a human response to divine revelation, and not authoritative in and of itself, as I recently discussed elsewhere.

Now, the appeal for clarity: Please, as you enter this conversation, whatever position you take, clearly substantiate your claims. Substantiation helps with clarity in definition and discussion. Feel free to use tradition as part of your substantiation, if you must, but please join it primarily with direct appeals to Scripture. The statement cites plenty of Scripture and we are ready to engage those texts and any biblical text from a Christ-centered perspective. I would covet your engagement with me in the holy writ. I am more comfortable and happier there than anywhere, for the Bible is God’s Word and He talks to me there deeply in my heart (Romans 10). Please also clearly state where you stand on an issue. I have stated my position, and I would like to hear what you believe Scripture says. We can learn from each other that way.

Alongside this appeal for clarity, I ask you to join me in a commitment to charity. Paul says that we should be at peace with all men, “as much as is in you” (Romans 12:18). I know that my sinful flesh is at war with the spirit in me, and I hope you will join me in committing to letting the Holy Spirit, who brings joy and peace within, reign within. As part of this commitment, it would be helpful if all of us refrain even from the appearance of speaking evil of our brothers, including the use of inflammatory words like “heretic,” “hyper-Calvinist,” and “semi-Pelagian.” This will only be possible as a work of grace, but I still hope we will respond responsibly to His grace. Peace to you, my brothers in Christ, Calvinist or otherwise.

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peter lumpkins

Excellent, Dr. Yarnell. I linked to your piece in my upcoming post.

With that, I am…
Peter

    Leslie Puryear

    Speaking of credibilty, since you are not a Southern Baptist, what is your interest in our issues?

      Leslie Puryear

      John,

      It is a credibility issue. What do you hope to do by commenting on SBC blogs of which you have no practical interest?

      Whatever is decided in the SBC on these issues will not impact you or your church in any form or fashion, but these decisions will impact ours.

      Therefore, your contribution to these conversations are without true merit as you do not have a vested interest in its outcome.

      I say this, not to denigrate you or your comments, but just to frame your comments in their true context.

      Regards,

      The Original Les

    Brennen

    i disagree. I don’t think this article was excellent. I think dr mohlers article gave a much better return for the time spent reading.

    Brennen

    Hey I charitably and sincerely refer everyone to ben simpson’s comments below and dr yarnells response to ben. Good stuff.

Lydia

“Church history is helpful as a laboratory for the exposition of Scripture, which is our authority, but the Christian tradition with its condemnatory councils and burnings of human beings does not carry any authority for us “traditionalist” Baptists. (Honestly, for this reason, I don’t really care for the term “traditionalist,” and prefer “Biblicist” or “Baptist,” but others object to our use of those terms.) Systematic theology is also helpful, but it is a human response to divine revelation, and not authoritative in and of itself, as I recently discussed elsewhere”

Amen and thank you.

Ron Hale

Dr. Yarnell,

Thanks for issuing this call for clarity and charity. As this important discussion continues across our beloved convention of churches, may we look through the lense you are suggesting.

SBC Layman

Well stated Dr. Yarnell. I agree that while interesting and illustrative, it really matters little what long-dead men who believed many other things we would not agree with today defined as heresy. Scripture is our guide. I like your approach – let’s state our views and defend them from Scripture. There is no place for Baptist anthemas in this conversation.

Mary

Thank you Dr. Yarnell and thank you SBC Today for posting this here.

selahV-hariette

May the reasoned and calm approach you’ve given us, be caught and received with enthusiasm to model for all who come by these streams of discussion. I appreciate you more with every reading of your wisdom. Thank you, selahV

Rodney Kent

I believe and have stated under the original topic that the beliefs of others and their historical theses on items does not make something true or false. Only the scripture with the Holy Ghost indwelling and teaching us has the priority over statements made by historical statements.

It is true that name calling is not good, but calling a theology a cult does not denote that we have called the people names. If I call Calvinist teachings a cult, that is my perspective of it from my research into the Bible on this subject, and the belief that the Holy Ghost has given me this perspective on that issue. I would be amiss if I denied the scriptures and enlightenment of the Holy Ghost in this matter.

Thus, I will continue to call the Calvinist T.U.L.I.P. doctrine a cult with no spritual guilt regarding this issue. Why should a Calvinist go ape over the fact that someone disagrees and condemns his belief? Is this not the same action taken by Muslims when someone denigrates their cult?

Many have criticized me for taking the stance for the theology of freewill for all men regarding the acceptance or rejection of salvation through faith. It does not bother me one iota, as my faith in my savior and his Words and wisdom of the scripture confirms to me that my faith in this issue is not in vain. So, the criticism I receive from some of the Calvinist is irrelevant to me. However, they become incensed when I prove their theology is false by scripture.

The debates are essential to both sides. It brings all scripture out in the open to be studied as a confirmation or denial of a view of the issue. It also becomes a teaching guide to be able to see certain scriptures taken out of context as the debates continue. I have found that if someone really gets upset over statements about their view of scripture, it makes them study the issue more and more from the scriptures to prove the other person wrong. In doing so, they often find that they have been taking verses out of context.

Rodney Kent

    Todd

    Rodney,
    How would you define “cult”? And do you believe it is possible for someone to believe in justification by faith alone in Christ alone, and at the same time be a part of a cult?

    Les

    Mary and Lydia,

    Where are you? Mr. Kent is a signatory.

      Lydia

      Hi Les,

      Probably the same place you are with violence in Israel? :o)

      Actually, Mr. Kent said he was 76 on another thread. I know age should not matter but I just cannot help it. Guess it is the Southern upbringing. I would rather suffer what I thought was unwarranted rebuke from a senior than rebuke back. I do not, however, feel that way about 20somethings. :o)

      Does it help if I say I do not totally agree with all he writes?

      I would really like to hear your response to Dr. Yarnell’s post concerning semi Pelagianism. Did he make the case?

        Les

        Lydia,

        “Probably the same place you are with violence in Israel? :o)”

        Ah, but I’m not complaining in many places of what anyone is saying, on either side. A few times, but not many. And I am trying hard to steer clear of launching ad hominem attacks.

        As to the SP accusation, I have tried to refrain from that too. I have stated I disagree greatly with article 2. I think it is poorly written. The whole thing is trying way too hard to NOT be any label. That may have led to imprecision.

        I’m at this time this evening reading Dr. Olsen’s 2nd post about this matter.

          Lydia

          “The whole thing is trying way too hard to NOT be any label.”

          Are you speaking of some historical doctrinal label? Not sure I am following you.

          Les

          “Are you speaking of some historical doctrinal label?”

          Yes. “We’re not Calvinists. We’re not Arminians.”

          We’re Traditional Baptists!

          mary

          And Les where exactly are these “many” places Lydia and I are complaining? W. GA, SBC Today – I think that may be two. Before yesterday I didn’t even wander off the W.GA ranch because it takes too much effort to muddle through the swarm of Calvinists behaving badly and then whining that nobody will talk them – I mean come on, after they’ve called you every name but a child of God why won’t people talk to them!

    mary

    Mr. Kent, Calvnism is not a cult. It’s certainly true that we are seeing cultic practices in some of these YRR churches – controlling who members are seeing, smacking down dissent, shunning those who don’t tow the line, etc. but Calvinism is a perfectly orthodox belief. There are actually some very nice Calvinists. They don’t happen to be posting here at this blog, but they’re out there.

      Les

      Hey Mary, wait just a minute. I’m a Calvinist and I’ve been told once that I was a nice person.

        mary

        Were they the same people who thought making a statement disagreeing with Calvinists is as violent as the violence in Israel?

          Les

          Mary, come on. You’re smarter than that. I can tell from your writing. You can do better.

        mary

        Yeah Les, you’re right I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. I know the rules. When a Calvinist declares a statement is not offensive it’s clearly not offensive.

          volfan007

          Rodney Kent,

          I would have to disagree with you about Calvinism being a cult. They believe the Gospel. It’s just in the finer points of theology where there’s disagreement. But, they are orthodox. Wrong, IMHO; but orthodox.

          David

      Alan Davis

      hahaha…thanks Mary…ouch! I will try to be a very nice Calvinist from now on. Though some of my Calvinisit brothers might not call me Calvinist…lol, go fiqure. Anyway thanks for the point that is well taken Mary.

      Alan Davis

    selahV-hariette

    Brother Kent, I also find myself at odds with much of what some professing Calvinists doctrinally hold to, especially in that God predestines some men and women and children without any recourse to hell…in that some Calvinists read Scripture to mean that though man “is without excuse” in accepting Christ, they are incapable of opening the door of their minds to believe, to hear the knock at the door of their hearts to receive and obey the clear teaching of Biblical salvation: If you believe in your heart, confess with your lips, and turn away from your sins then He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness and seal you with His Holy Spirit forever.

    That said, though I disagree with their teachings, I do not call them a “cult” or even cultish. Some reformed churches may appear cultish when observed, but the dear Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ who have befriended me in my life are not part of a “cult”. They love me and I love them. I will always love them. In fact, there are some Calvinists who have treated me with gut-wrenching disdain, but I love them too. I chalk it up to them not really knowing who I am or what I truly believe in my heart. 1 John 4 speaks eloquently to my thoughts on love:

    19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

    .

    I was taught as a very young child to memorize John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” I truly believe the fact that God gave me that verse as a child gave me the cornerstone to comprehend all I needed to know to come to Jesus. Through the nearly 64 years I have lived, and my husband pastored (23 years), I have grown in my faith and understanding of Christ my Lord. I have grown in my love for those who do not love me. I have learned to forgive the unforgiveable (including myself), and have mercy upon those who have no mercy upon me. I have learned to obey God when obedience brought ridicule, rejection and broken relationships with family, friends and the world. I have learned that though brothers and sisters in Christ can sometimes show less light than a lightning bug (including myself at times), that we indeed still have the Light within us Who has overcome the world.

    I truly pray that you can make room in your heart to comprehend that to accuse dear brothers and sisters in Christ as practicing a “cult” is no less offensive than telling we who agree with the Statement that we are “heretics”. Both arguments do little to advance communication or edify or unite us in Christ. There is a multitude of room to discuss the differences we have without throwing mud on the Bride of Christ. I pray you and yours are blessed beyond measure with the wisdom of God and the comfort of His Spirit in days to come. In Christian love and hope, selahV

Ben Simpson

Dr Yarnell,

I appreciate your call for clarity and charity. I’ve certainly been sharpened by the dialogue here. I know that one of the goals of this “statement” was to at least spark conversation. It’s certainly done that.

The timing of all this was really interesting to me in that I was in the middle of teaching a 2-part church history class for a Discipleship Training class at my church on Augustine when the “statement” was published. Of course, you can’t talk about Augustine without talking about Pelagius.

I posted on Monday here at SBCtoday that I do believe that article 2 is semi-Pelagian and gave my reasons, namely that it espouses 1) the inheritance of Adam’s consequence (death) and corruption (sin nature) but not his culpability (guilt) and 2) the notion that the sinner still has the natural ability without the enabling grace of God to exercise faith unto salvation. I’ve not been convinced yet to change my conclusion. Apparently neither has Dr. Roger Olson who doubled down on his conclusion that article 2 is semi-Pelagian.

Dr Yarnell, the part of your article here that I find most interesting is that you cite that in 529 the Council of Orange condemned semi-Pelagianism and that you believe most Baptists, including the Statement’s signatories, would agree with that council’s condemnation, but you failed to recognize that article 2 of “A Statement of the Traditional Baptist Understanding of Salvation” would be condemned by the Canons of Orange as well. How could the signatories agree with the council’s condemnation but sign a statement the council condemns.?

Read canons 3-6:

Canon 3 – If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

Canon 4 – If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Canon 5 – If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

Canon 6 – If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

I’m afraid that your call for clarity really needs to be answered by the framers of the statement who need to amend article 2, and I say so with great charity.

    Darryl Hill

    Excellent post Ken. Those canons from the Council of Orange leave no doubt where they stood. And it begs the question: what has changed? And if indeed our first Baptist confessions acknowledged the same things, again I ask- what has changed? Has truth changed? Were these earlier Christians in error? Or are we so influenced by our culture and religious traditions that we read our biases into the text? It is the latter and I know first hand because this is my experience. It took 2 months to convince me mentally and another year before I would truly accept it. No man is able to choose to come to Christ of his own will without a prior work of grace.

    Malcolm Yarnell

    Thank you for yet more discussion on history. Well, these are interesting canons. Unfortunately, none apply to this document. Now, where do you find yourself in the matters raised by the original statement. What biblical texts do you wrestle with here?

      James

      Dr. Yarnell,

      The scriptures to be wrestled with as a result of article 2 are referenced in Ken’s posted quotation of the canons. Please respond to those scriptures. Thank you.

      James

        James

        Incidentally, I mean no disrespect to any party in this discussion and, like Dr. Mohler, I think it can provide a very interesting move forward for the SBC as a whole.
        But Ken’s post did raise scriptural evidence for the contentions and I am eager to hear your reply to those scriptures, Dr. Yarnell, because I am very eager to learn more on all these perspectives having reached only limited conclusions myself.

        Thank you kindly!

    Ben Simpson

    Bro Malcolm,

    You are the one who said that you believe most Baptists, including the Statement’s signatories, would agree with that council’s condemnation at Orange. You pointed to history, not me. I simply pointed out that when you actually look at the canons of Orange, the condemnations at Orange also condemn aspects of the SOTTSBUOS. It seems to me that you must agree since you changed the subject in your reply to me.

    Surely you are right in implying “But what do the scriptures say?” but how can one affirm the condemnation of Orange and affirm article 2 of the SOTTSBUOS when they contradict one another?

      Brennen

      Dang, Ben simpson nailed it

Steve Martin

Semi-Pelagians disagree with the following in that they believe they contain something within themselves, some spark of goodness that is capable of choosing God:

The Scriptures make it clear that we are “conceived in sin”.

And in Romans, St. Paul makes it clear that “no one seeks for God”.

The Gospel of John tells us that we are born “…not of the will of man…but of God.”

“Faith is a gift”. God gives us faith while we are “dead in our sins and trespasses”.

We do have freedom (limited) to choose many things in life…but not when it comes to the things of God. That is 100% His business and doing. We are born rejecting the Living God and we stay that way until He (as Jesus said to Peter), reveals to us the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. (“Blessed are you Simon Peter, for flesh and blood (us) has not revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven.”

There are more…but you get the picture.

Thanks.

Nelson Banuchi

Mr Yarnelll states, “Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the second Council of Orange in 529…I believe most Baptists, including the Statement’s signatories, would agree with that council’s condemnation, which is later called ‘semi-Pelagianism.’ Moreover, it is very instructive that the same council also condemned the doctrine that God predestined men for evil.”

A significant historical fact either unknown, (in my experience) ignored, or, if known, not pointed out by Calvinists in discussions with them.

Lydia

“Are you speaking of some historical doctrinal label?”

Yes. “We’re not Calvinists. We’re not Arminians.”

We’re Traditional Baptists!”

But Les, I am not either Calvinist or Arminian.

I think this is a very positive for all of us in the long run.We should be about doctrinal debates. IMHO, We simply must debaate the Augustine/Plato/Calvin filters for understanding scripture. I think the filter is one reason Romans 3 is interpreted so woodenly by Calvinists. To be honest, I was not sure there were any pastors left in the SBC who did not use the Augustine filter. I have been delighted to find they do, indeed, exist!

    mary

    Lydia, how many years on these blogs have people been saying I’m neither Arminian nor Calvinist and yet no one ever believed us. They cannot think outside the box – “Buuuuuttt you have to be – I have to be able to label you… ok you must really be a Calvinist and you’re too dumb to know it like Al teaches. It’s better to be dumb because otherwise you’re just a heretic!”

    You’d think somebody who sooooooooo smart like Al Mohler who knows many of the people who signed this Statement would have figured out what they believed by now. It’s such a shock! These new ideas!

Les

Dr. Yarnell,

Would you be able to interact with the 2nd part of the denial in article 2 relative to man’s condition pre Christ and his ability to exercise faith?

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”

This phrase seems to be at the heart of the discussion on semi-Pelagianism.

Thanks,

Les

    Malcolm Yarnell

    Les, I have dealt with the issue of original guilt in this post and of the inference of “free will” in a post on my blog, and others like Dr Harwood have dealt with this issue repeatedly, so there really is no need to pursue this again.

    Dear all, I have other tasks in both ministry and family to pursue. I regret to say that the Lord has limited further interaction for awhile. Blessings to all.

    Les

    Well, that was a disappointing reply. I was really hoping you would actually deal with the part of the article that is most crucial to this discussion.

    Thanks anyway,

    Les

      Leslie Puryear

      As a non-Southern Baptist, why are you do interested in our issues. You seem to cruise SBC blogs in order to promote Calvinism. Again I ask, what is your interest in our issues?

      The original Les

        mary

        Les, Lester there loves him some Acts 29. But you know there’s no “formal” association with Acts 29 or anything – just planting churches that agree with the BFM!

        Les

        Les Puryear,

        Well I do find it strange that some of you on here seem to imply that if one is not a SB, we have no interest here and some have suggested we bow out of the discussion. Is that really the way discussions among the body of Christ should be conducted?

        But to the heart of your question, Les.
        1. I hold ordination as a Southern Baptist, though I am not pastoring a SB church at this time.
        2. The ministry I direct has partners with several SB churches, so it makes sense to engage the issues affecting those churches.
        3. I have close family members who are members of SB churches, so it makes sense to engage the issues affecting those churches.
        4. As a Christian, I have an interest in what is going on in the wider body of Christ.

        I don’t come on here are anywhere to “promote Calvinism.” I am a long time fully Reformed Christian and I would wich that all believers everywhere saw it the way I see it. But I know that will never happen. At the same time, whenever I can I try to engage conversations (mostly graciously, though sometimes I fail) and will promote Calvinism in the process.

        Thanks for asking. But asking others to leave the discussion does come across rather small. I would suggest you all not continue to do that.

        Les, not Lester as Mary the supreme assigner of nicknames says :)

          Leslie Puryear

          Les,

          I will respond to you as I responded to John.

          Since you do not pastor a SBC church, whatever is decided in the SBC on these issues will not impact you or your church in any form or fashion, but these decisions will impact ours.

          Therefore, your contribution to these conversations are without true merit as you do not have a vested interest in its outcome.

          I say this, not to denigrate you or your comments, but just to frame your comments in their true context for the other readers.

          Regards,

          The Original Les

          Les

          Leslie,

          Do my connections via my family, ministry at least, and my ordination perhaps, not mean anything as to having a “vested interest in its outcome?”

          The other Les

      Les

      John,

      I am awaiting clarification on article 2, particularly the second part of the denial:

      “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”

      Dr. Yarnell chose not to address it either in the original post or in my follow-up question. I have yet to see anyone directly address it thoroughly. Until then, I have to agree with Roger Olson:

      Back to the statement of the traditional Southern Baptist belief about salvation. I am not accusing the authors or signers of semi-Pelagianism. But, as it stands, the statement affirms it, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It begs correction. When corrected, however, if it is ever corrected, to include the necessity of prevenient grace due to incapacitation of will, it will be an Arminian statement whether that term is used or admitted or not. The only reason I can think of why the authors won’t amend it is to avoid being Arminian. Is that good enough reason to rest in theological error?,/blockquote>

        mary

        Gee Lester, I can’t imagine why Dr. Yarnell won’t come out to play. He’s had his intregrity questioned and you’re BFF there is implying Dr. Yarnell is just too dumb and afraid to engage. Who wouldn’t enjoy hanging out with you Calvinists? You guys are a laugh a minute. I need you to stop being so funny – my sides are hurting.

Rick Patrick

Dr. Yarnell,

I have long suspected that I was not a heretic, but it is such a comfort actually to read it in print. Thank you.

mary

Right, me calling him Johnny is the same as Johnny attacking the integrity of someone like Malcolm Yarnell.

Real nice friends ya got there Les.

I have no idea why the Traditionalists won’t engage in conversation. I mean who wouldn’t want to hang out with people who call you stupid, biblically illiterate, heretics, question your integrity……

    Les

    Whoa, whoa, whoa Mary.

    “Right, me calling him Johnny is the same as Johnny attacking the integrity of someone like Malcolm Yarnell.

    Real nice friends ya got there Les.”

    Why are you dragging me into your ad hominems on John?

      mary

      Uhh, you were defending him as a guy not doing anything wrong in the other thread there Lester. Accusing me and Lydia as being just like him. Yeah me calling him Johnny is so vitriolic compared to him calling people liars, idiots, heretics, lacking in intregrity etc etc….

      You know what they say Leslie (nah I like Lester better) about lying down with dogs….. you wanted to gig me by defending Johnny boy there and so now you’ve got a new BFF. Play nicely – oh wait you’re Calvinists, never mind.

Jeph

Here’s my suggested solution for Traditionists,

http://righteousbutnotyet.blogspot.com/2012/06/suggested-interpretation-of.html

    Leslie Puryear

    Thanks, but statement needs no revision. It is biblically sound as it stands.

    mary

    Let’s see a 21 year old psych major v. a man that even someone like Al Mohler would have to admit is one of the best SBC Theologians.

    I’d really love to see the Bible verses which teaches all these young guys – maybe it’s Paul to Timothy and I’ve missed it – “Timothy, don’t let anyone despsise you for your youth and you owe no respect for elders who don’t agree with your theology. Now Timothy you know me and Peter disagree about some things so you be sure and teach Peter a thing or to. Go ahead and call him names like stupid and a heretic and question his integrity. “

      Jeph

      Mary, did you even bother reading the link I gave? If you did, I’m totally amazed how can you make such an ungracious remark and aim it against me.

      -Jeph

        mary

        Yeah Jeph, I’ve been reading you for several days now.

        You’re right, how terribly ungracious of me to point out your creditionals vs those of Malcolm Yarnell.

        mary

        And Jeph, how gracious of you to try to help us out so you won’t have to declare we’re all a bunch of ignorant heretics anymore. I mean, I know it’s really important to me that you not call me a heretic anymore. But what can you do if no one will take you’re oh so gracious advice – if they refused what you’ve freely offered, why you’ll have no choice but to call us all a bunch of biblical illiterate heretics. You tried to correct these biblically illiterate men with their doctorates in theology. They just won’t listen.

    selahV-hariette

    Jeph,

    I have to admit, your post had me “hooked” for a little bit. The Japanese have a custom about “saving face”. You tell your opponent something nice about them before you charge them with unbecoming behavior so they don’t lose respect for your oncoming admonition. I kinda feel like you tried to save face before you charged us with the inability to comprehend what we believe…and then proceeded to interpret what we think we mean in the most charitable way you could muster.

    I do sincerely accept your apology for previous accusations of heresy, though. Thank you, brother. selahV

      mary

      Hariette, here you are being nice again.

      Don’t you know we really don’t know what it is we believe. Not just you and me and Lydia, but all these men with these letters behind their names – they don’t know what they believe! Astounding!

      And the thing is what believe isn’t new and it’s not something that men like Mohler and Ascol didn’t know before this. They knew and that’s why they believe they need to “reform” the SBC. They’ve always thought we’re a bunch of yahoos who know nothing and they need to take control for our own good.

      This is just bringing it all out into the light of day. We’ve taken a stand and now the balls in their court. Is there really room in the SBC for those who don’t accept Calvinism. Is there really room in the SBC for those whom Calvinists have labled heretics? Can you allow heretics to control seminaries or gasp be elected vice president of the SBC? Time will tell.

Leslie Puryear

Malcolm,

Great post. Those who continue to protest our statement will probably never agree with our explanations. This wonderful post should be the final statement on the ridiculous accusation of s-p. We have answered the charge and now it’s time to move on.

    mary

    No one has answered in the right way! The Calvinist get to decide when the answer is right and since the answer doesn’t agree with Calvinism it can never be right.

      Leslie Puryear

      LOL! Not anymore.

Mike Davis

John,

Sorry to have to say this, brother, but comments like this are not helpful.

JC

First of all…I would like to say that I appreciate Dr. Yarnell’s response as it is gracious, humble, and Scripture filled. I am a graduate of SWBTS and I took professors that were “Reformed” and others that were more “Armenian” while I was there and I did this intentionally. I will say that someone is not a heretic for believing in one or the other, however, one can move into the heretical realm if they become a “hyper-calvanist” or “hyper-armenian” in which they go to the extreme of “no need for evangelism” or “evangelism is everything”.

With that said, I am often confused by the armenian point of view when they say (as Dr. Yarnell has), “We do claim, however, that God is sovereign and gracious and that man is simultaneously responsible to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, because these things are revealed in Scripture.” This quote implies that humans have “equal” power over salvation. How can human beings have “equal” power with God over anything? If God is “Sovereign” as stated above, then how are humans equal to that? If God is Sovereign over everything including the little things, such as “knowing the numbers of hairs on our heads’ (Luke 12:7), then I would think that He has to be in control of Salvation. Sovereignty itself demands that He is in control. From Theopedia, “The Sovereignty of God is the biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God works not just some things but all things according to the counsel of His own will (see Eph. 1:11). His purposes are all-inclusive and never thwarted (see Isa. 46:11); nothing takes Him by surprise. The sovereignty of God is not merely that God has the power and right to govern all things, but that He does so, always and without exception. In other words, God is not merely sovereign de jure (in principle), but sovereign de facto (in practice).”

I appreciate what Dr. Yarnell has said, but I must also agree with Ben above that while most of what was written is not semi-pelagian, some of it is and would be condemned by The Council of Orange. It is the smaller, hidden things that Reformed brethren have a problem with.

I left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2006…in my time that I obtained my MDIV from 2003-2006, the faculty was a healthy mix of Reformed and Armenian. Paige Patterson came on board half way through my schooling. I respect him and many others for their fight to return the SBC to conservative roots. However, to say that this is not an intentional fight by Paige and other professors and pastors to intentionally try to “burn at the stake” the multitude of young reformed Pastors who prefer to follow the teachings of Mohler, Keller, Piper,Driscoll, and others, is just preposterous. Look at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary now…all the “Reformed Professors” have been fired (aka, forced out). Many I knew personally, so when the rebuttal comes that they were not forced out, that will be a fabrication of the truth.

My question now goes back to Mohler’s point…why do we need this document and to have all these “prominent leaders” many of whom I respect (or used to), when we already have as a convention, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000????? Could it be…because of this (please read and note that this is a secular magazine)… http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1884779_1884782_1884760,00.html

I hate to see leaders starting a battle that just doesn’t need to be there. If we are supposed to be Great Commission Churches, then why is this “Statement” even here?

    mary

    When you were studying Armenian what did they say about the genocide? I’m suprised that SWTS has classes on the country near Turkey. Learn something new every day.

      Brennen

      Mary, u single? If yes, comments like this will surely bring u a lot of awesome godly men. If no, your husband is one blessed man!

    Lydia

    Sometimes the computer ‘corrects” this word for us. It is very frustrating to try and remember to uncorrect it!

    Wyman Richardson

    JC, it’s “Arminian,” with an i.

    Thought I might give you a tad less sarcastic “head’s up” on that than the one you received.

      Lydia

      Guys,

      Some computers autocorrect it for you depending on the situation and people forget to go back and fix it. How about some grace for the e?

      Everyone here knows they are not referring to guys in Armenia.

        Wyman Richardson

        Lydia,

        I agree completely and hope I was being graceful. In fact, my comment was posted yesterday only because JC received one very sarcastic comment from somebody else that I thought was a bit much, so I thought I would clarify. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted a thing as I truly don’t care about the spelling.

        Wyman

mary

You know Johnny, you should check out the blog SBC Voices. You’d fit right in there.

Lydia

As I said on another thread to this same comment: I certainly hope your education at an SBC seminary was not subsidized by the offerings of the very people you have come to so disdain.

This is one reason some of us are so concerned about what the offerings of mainly non Calvinist money to the SBC is supporting at the seminaries. Is the money supporting the indoctrination that breeds such arrogance we have seen from so many YRR?

    Lydia

    John,

    Some of us do not believe that Christianity was only properly understood and systemized by a man, who was also a state church despot, in the 16th century. Some of us find this absolute devotion to Calvin a bit Orwellian and insulting to Jesus Christ.

    What horrible name did I call you? If I called you something you find insulting I apologize. Perhaps it was “Calvinist”? (just kidding)

      mary

      “Perhaps if you humbly and teachably listened to them, you would find that what you mistook for arrogance was their being right.”

      Oh gosh, that’s about as funny as anything I’ve seen these last few days.

      Jay Beerley

      Lydia,
      Surely, SURELY, you would not characterize the Reformed positions on understanding salvation as “properly understood and systemized by a man, who was also a state church despot, in the 16th century.” I can’t tell you how A) insulting and B) ignorant of Church history that comment is. Calvin the man would be mortified if he knew what he thought to simply be the biblical teachings about sovereignty and salvation were named after him. BESIDES, it was not Calvin who propagated the TULIP, but it was a clarification after the Remonstrances of the followers of Aremnius. Surely you know this, right?

        Lydia

        “Surely, SURELY, you would not characterize the Reformed positions on understanding salvation as “properly understood and systemized by a man, who was also a state church despot, in the 16th century.” I can’t tell you how A) insulting and B) ignorant of Church history that comment is. Calvin the man would be mortified if he knew what he thought to simply be the biblical teachings about sovereignty and salvation were named after him. BESIDES, it was not Calvin who propagated the TULIP, but it was a clarification after the Remonstrances of the followers of Aremnius. Surely you know this, right?”

        Hi Jay,

        How exactly can you prove that Calvin would mortified about it being named after him? Yes, I am familiar with the fact that TULIP came after Calvin. But that only makes it even more confusing why it is called Calvinism. (wink)

        I realize that many Calvinist want to frame the debate as to what is allowed to be mentioned about the man who systematized the Augustinian determinst view of God. But I do not buy into that at all. I think it is completely fair to investigate and discuss his behavior AND his teaching as some like to say: Doctrine drives behavior.

        I also think it is fair to discuss his belief that the sacraments were a means of Grace, infant baptism (because that plays into imputed guilt) and his support of, and career in, the “state church”. So his role in Geneva both religious and political (because the lines are fuzzy in such a system) is important as to who he was as a man.

        To me this is a natural curiosity born of calling the Gospel, “Calvinism”. I am constantly surprised that “Calvinists” have such a problem with discussing these important aspects of Calvin.

        In the end, my position is that it cannot be seperated from politics. Calvin was part of a tyrannical 16th Century Systematized European religion that elevates certain (religio/political) men “in praxis”. I am constantly trying to figure out how that can be attractive to SBC people today. There are so many contraditions in what Calvin taught vs what he practiced that it is dizzying. For example, How did he ever know who was regenerate in a state church were membership and attendance were mandatory?

        So when one goes to Calvin to understand what they believe, it is concerning to me as I look at the practices of those beliefs. I personally do not think they can be seperated. It would seem to me that Baptists, by implication of our love of autonomy, would have much more affinity with those tortured, drowned or imprisoned by the Reformers for truth such as Hubmaier, Mann, etc.

        I know many Calvinist find my thinking silly and ignorant. I know because they are constantly telling non Calvinists how ignorant they are. I have to chuckle because that is so like Calvin!

          Les

          Lydia,

          “sacraments were a means of Grace”

          They are!

          “infant baptism (because that plays into imputed guilt)”

          Exactly how?

          “I know many Calvinist find my thinking silly and ignorant.”

          No comment needed.

            Lydia

            Hi Les, Then I should have the Lord’s supper every day in mass so I can get me some more grace! Thanks for the heads up!

              Les

              Lydia, only time for a quick reply between planes to Haiti.

              You show yourself not to understand “means of grace.”

              Grace to you.

          Jay Beerley

          Lydia,

          “How exactly can you prove that Calvin would mortified about it being named after him?” I certainly can’t prove it, but I can deduce it since he was a man who would not allow his grave to be marked with his name in fear that people will come to bring honor to him, instead of where it rightly belonged with Christ.

          “I realize that many Calvinist want to frame the debate as to what is allowed to be mentioned about the man who systematized the Augustinian determinst view of God. But I do not buy into that at all. I think it is completely fair to investigate and discuss his behavior AND his teaching as some like to say: Doctrine drives behavior.” I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I like to frame the debate as believing the clear teaching of the whole counsel of God.
          However, your last comment there is intriguing. What man would pass this behavior test you claim? So, if I commit a sin, should my congregation disregard my preaching?

          “I also think it is fair to discuss his belief that the sacraments were a means of Grace, infant baptism (because that plays into imputed guilt) and his support of, and career in, the “state church”. So his role in Geneva both religious and political (because the lines are fuzzy in such a system) is important as to who he was as a man.”
          Yes, the sacraments are a means of grace, as is Bible reading and prayer, and gathering with believers for church. Infant baptism is not related to imputed guilt (unless you’re a baptismal regneration person, which is not Reformed teaching). It is related to Covenantal Theology. It is the new circumcision. (That’s not my beliefs, but the beliefs of the traditional Reformed).

          “To me this is a natural curiosity born of calling the Gospel, “Calvinism”. I am constantly surprised that “Calvinists” have such a problem with discussing these important aspects of Calvin.” I don’t call the gospel Calvinism. I call it the gospel. I don’t know ONE person who wouldn’t do the same.

          “In the end, my position is that it cannot be seperated from politics. Calvin was part of a tyrannical 16th Century Systematized European religion that elevates certain (religio/political) men “in praxis”. I am constantly trying to figure out how that can be attractive to SBC people today. There are so many contraditions in what Calvin taught vs what he practiced that it is dizzying. For example, How did he ever know who was regenerate in a state church were membership and attendance were mandatory?”
          You’re pretty harsh on that period of history. So, in your logic, NO ONE would be worthy of listening to at this juncture? It’s just the way things were. And it is an EXTREME logical fallacy to disregard the teaching because of some errors of the person. It’s called as hominem. It is not an argument. And again, let’s not pretend these thoughts originated with Calvin. What are your feelings about Martin Luther? Maybe I don’t want to know.

          “So when one goes to Calvin to understand what they believe, it is concerning to me as I look at the practices of those beliefs. I personally do not think they can be seperated. It would seem to me that Baptists, by implication of our love of autonomy, would have much more affinity with those tortured, drowned or imprisoned by the Reformers for truth such as Hubmaier, Mann, etc.”
          I’m sorry, I think this is just silly. I go to the Bible for what I believe, and get help from all sorts of other godly men throughout history to help me understand. Your last statement is awfully licentious. You have not provided ONE biblical interpretation. You just want to slander men of God who lived over 400 years ago. Unhelpful.

          “I know many Calvinist find my thinking silly and ignorant. I know because they are constantly telling non Calvinists how ignorant they are. I have to chuckle because that is so like Calvin!”
          Again, un-Christ-like comments are not helpful. I don’t know why you have such venom for this man. And apparently for the sovereignty of God.

            Lydia

            “I certainly can’t prove it, but I can deduce it since he was a man who would not allow his grave to be marked with his name in fear that people will come to bring honor to him, instead of where it rightly belonged with Christ.”

            That is commendable but certainly does not negate the imprisonment, torture and bannishment of those who dared to disagree with his ST.

            “However, your last comment there is intriguing. What man would pass this behavior test you claim? So, if I commit a sin, should my congregation disregard my preaching?”

            False dichotomy of sinless perfection and total depravity. Is there any difference in the Augustinian/Calvinist filter between torturing people and yelling at your kids once in a while?

            “Yes, the sacraments are a means of grace, as is Bible reading and prayer, and gathering with believers for church. Infant baptism is not related to imputed guilt (unless you’re a baptismal regneration person, which is not Reformed teaching). It is related to Covenantal Theology. It is the new circumcision. (That’s not my beliefs, but the beliefs of the traditional Reformed).”

            As I told Les “means of grace” most likely had a different definition. Just one pedantic example would be those who do not have a bible or wait years to have one to study miss out on this means of grace? Not so sure I agree with you about infant baptism and imputed guilt. Why else would it be necessary even as regeneration?

            ” I don’t call the gospel Calvinism. I call it the gospel. I don’t know ONE person who wouldn’t do the same.”

            When you read throughout these threads this is pretty much what one sees: What the “Reformers” taught or decided in councils as correct biblical understanding. We have seen Spurgeons quote that Calvinism is the Gospel and on and on.

            “You’re pretty harsh on that period of history.”

            As harsh as torturing people or bannishing them for disagreement on interpretations? I am simply trying to figure out how “brilliant” theologians studied the NT and came to those practices?

            ” So, in your logic, NO ONE would be worthy of listening to at this juncture?”

            Not at all. History is always worth reading. To learn from, especially. In many cases what not to repeat but also looking at what people believed as truth that caused them to behave in certain ways.

            ” It’s just the way things were. And it is an EXTREME logical fallacy to disregard the teaching because of some errors of the person. ”

            That is our difference. I do not call torture, bannishment and drowning in the Name of God simply “Error”. I want to understand how what they believed about God allowed them to participate in such behavior. Obviously there are people who disagreed during that period who paid dearly for saying so.

            “It’s called as hominem. It is not an argument. And again, let’s not pretend these thoughts originated with Calvin. What are your feelings about Martin Luther? Maybe I don’t want to know.”

            It is ad hominem to discuss the Reformers beliefs in practice?

            “I’m sorry, I think this is just silly. I go to the Bible for what I believe, and get help from all sorts of other godly men throughout history to help me understand. Your last statement is awfully licentious. You have not provided ONE biblical interpretation. You just want to slander men of God who lived over 400 years ago. Unhelpful.”

            I think the Holy Spirit helps us understand. I do think we can learn from others….even historical persons! I just cannot separate their practices from their beliefs so easily as others do. I do not consider it slander if it is true. As the definition of slander is about statements that are untrue.

            “Again, un-Christ-like comments are not helpful. I don’t know why you have such venom for this man. And apparently for the sovereignty of God.”

            Another false dichotomy. Questioning Calvin’s “practices” of his “determinist God” beliefs is considered “venom” and being “against the Sovereignty of God”. See, you just elevated Calvin without realizing it.

Richard Coords

The charge of Semi-Pelagianism is a bad distortion. The SBC has published comments affirming Total Depravity. See here: http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=33792

Manfred

The article claims, “Our confession states clearly that Adam’s “posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” ”

Even Rome admits people are born in bondage to sin – not merely inclined toward it. They erroneously think infant baptism cleanses Adam’s sin and off to the race they go. For any Christian to think that one is not under condemnation until he is “capable of moral action” is a denial of our inherited sin that mars all from the womb. This denial is part and parcel of why some folks have rightly called this remonstrance semi-Pelagian.

Steve Martin

I found this class quite informative (biblically so), on the subect of who chooses whom, when it comes to faith in God:

http://theoldadam.com/2012/06/09/free-will-or-bound-will-2/

Quite good, indeed.

Lydia

Ya’ll know what is going on at SBC Today? Seminary class. The sort of seminary classes that seem to be missing from some of our more Calvinistic seminaries…. which is why we have this problem as some seem to be more indoctrinated than educated. As a person who had to do some research on Pelagianism because it was a favorite word on NC blogs, I found so many different and confusing explanations of it, I would be concerned about accusing anyone of even leaning toward it.

Brennen

Well after reading the comments, I’ve forgotten about soteriology and remembered I’d definitely rather live on the corner of a roof.

Jay Beerley

Dr. Yarnell,
Just concerning your “clarity” point of your post:

Why has there not been a hermeneutic released with this post instead of the list of proof texts? I would think that would actually help clarify.

And, one more question about allowing the Bible to be our guide. I am in complete agreement that the word trumps history and councils and everything else. So here’s my question:
Since it seems to be one of THE foundational natures of the position of this document, tell me where the Bible instructs your definition of “free will” that is consistent with this document.

Les

Lydia,

“sacraments were a means of Grace”

They are!

“infant baptism (because that plays into imputed guilt)”

Exactly how?

“I know many Calvinist find my thinking silly and ignorant.”

No comment needed.

Lydia

You are right, Les. I long thought that a large part of the problem in this whole debate are differing definitions.

Ed Franklin

Les said: I am awaiting clarification on article 2, particularly the second part of the denial:

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”

Dr. Yarnell chose not to address it either in the original post or in my follow-up question.

********Yes, me too, Dr Yarnell, and I am a Southern Baptist (ordained ’79 and still a member in good standing of a SBC congregation).

In hope that that qualifies me for a straight answer. Why do you not deal with the most clearly semi-pelagian sentence in the statement? (I can’t even spell Bavinck but I know what semi-pelagian means….)

Rodney Kent

Reply To selahV-hariette

I understand your feelings, but I must (am impelled) to teach the truth as presented in the scriptures. It is a fact that both Calvinism and Freewill are opposite and one is wrong. I find Calvinism is a cult like all the cults which take portions of scripture out of context to fit their preconceived belief.

I harbor no ill feelings toward anyone on the boards, but I cannot do less that state the obvious, Calvinism is a cult, and Satan is using it to try and take away hope for the lost. It is destructive and divisive. If I state that Calvinism (the relgion) is a cult, I have not insulted the people who believe in it. My statements are against the false teaching of this doctrine. However, I have no control if someone wants to tie themselves to this cult. I can do nothing about it, because the teachings must be condemned as a cult, which it is.

Rodney Kent

Dr Steve H Hakes

As an aside, must we still talk gender incorrect language? “predestined men”, “peace with all men”? I have over several decades opposed gender neutrality and advocated gender accuracy.

Alan Davis

” A careful reading of the document thus indicates that the signatories believe that faith comes to human beings as an act of divine grace,” Mr. Yarnell

hmmmm…….

“We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person.” Traditionalist document.

Dear Mr Yarnell,
I am not trying to be difficult but I can not see how your statement above concerning the signers of the document fits with the stated portion of the very document they signed. They deny that faith is an act of God but you say they believe faith comes by divine grace… ? I thought divine grace is an act of God. So which is it?

Mr. Yarnell thank you for your gracious article. I do appreciate your tone and a call to clarity, thank you.

Alan Davis

Alan Davis

” A careful reading of the document thus indicates that the signatories believe that faith comes to human beings as an act of divine grace,” Mr. Yarnell

hmmmm…….

“We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person.” Traditionalist document.

Dear Mr Yarnell,
I am not trying to be difficult but I can not see how your statement above concerning the signers of the document fits with the stated portion of the very document they signed. They deny that faith is an act of God but you say they believe faith comes by divine grace… ? I thought divine grace is an act of God. So which is it?

Mr. Yarnell thank you for your gracious article. I do appreciate your tone and a call to clarity, thank you.

Alan Davis

Alan Davis

” A careful reading of the document thus indicates that the signatories believe that faith comes to human beings as an act of divine grace,” Mr. Yarnell

“We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person.” Traditionalist document.

Dear Mr Yarnell,
I am not trying to be difficult but I can not see how your statement above concerning the signers of the document fits with the stated portion of the very document they signed. They deny that faith is an act of God but you say they believe faith comes by divine grace… ? I thought divine grace is an act of God. So which is it?

Mr. Yarnell thank you for your gracious article. I do appreciate your tone and a call to clarity, thank you.

Alan Davis

Jason Mahill

Thanks for the clarification on semi-pelagianism. It is frustrating to speak with reformed students and pastors at times because it seems that if you disagree with Dr Mohler and the rest of the so-called “reformed” crowd, then you are either semi-pelagian or arminian.

This kind of attitude is not new and continues on other issues. For example, when I expressed to a few friends that I think John MacArthur’s particluar doctrinal distinctive called “Lordship Salvation” is incompatable with scripture, I was asked if I agreed with “Antinomianism” taught by people like Charles Ryrie, AWANA, and the “Other Dispensationalists” at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Unfortunately, it seems when students and pastors do this, they actually show how ignorant they are of the people they criticize and the theological labels they use. When this “Antinomianism” statement was made to me, I went back to my Church History notes on it for its definition, compared it with Ryrie and other writers from DTS, reviewed Lance Latham’s Free Grace doctrine taught in AWANA, and compared this Free Grace distinctive to Martin Luther.

Turns out, while Martin Luther held on to infant Baptism, his doctrine of salvation by faith alone was in agreement with Ryrie and Latham’s understanding of it while MacArthur’s understanding is more in line with the Puritans and Pietists a century later.

It is my hope that those of us who refuse to use systematic theology to get the Bible to make sense will have meaningful discussions with our TULIP friends… understanding that some people need constructs of systematic theology to smooth over things that look contradictory… while the rest of us simply have no desire or need to get everything to make sense because we have accepted the fact that the Bible is not supposed to meet our expectations or necessarily be clear on all matters.

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