The Current SBC Calvinism Debate:
Observations, Clarifications, and Suggestions

July 4, 2012

By David L. Allen, Professor of Preaching, George W. Truett Chair of Ministry, Director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching, and Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen is co-author of Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.


The release of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” has engendered a Convention-wide discussion and made nation-wide news. Tongues have been wagging and fingers have been pecking computer keyboards ceaselessly these past few weeks. The Statement has received both acclaim and criticism. In reflecting on the tsunami of words, and as a conversation partner along with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I have asked the Lord to help me be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. I hope the following thoughts will be helpful as we continue the conversation in the days ahead. By way of brief personal background, I have served the local church for 26 years, 21 of those years as a senior pastor of two churches. I have served two theological institutions in the classroom since 1985. In addition, I served on the Board of Trustees at one of our SBC Seminaries for 12 years. In the interests of full disclosure, I am a signatory of the document.

Two things are crystal clear. The issue of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention is not going away, and finding our way forward is not going to be easy. Calvinism is viewed through many prisms in the SBC. Some see it as absolutely vital to the health and prosperity, both theological and otherwise, of the SBC. Others view it as theologically flawed, a niggling nuisance spawning various levels of problems, including divisiveness, in the churches. Regardless of which camp you are in, or somewhere in the middle, Southern Baptists need to proceed with caution in the days ahead. When it comes to Calvinism in the SBC, a fair amount of misinformation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation characterizes the current climate. This makes it difficult for most to cut through the discrepant fog.

The first place to begin, it seems to me, is with our common ground. As Southern Baptists, what we agree on far outweighs what we disagree on: 1) We agree on the BFM 2000. 2) We agree on the Lordship of Christ. 3) We agree on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. 4) We agree on the exclusivity of the gospel and the lostness of humanity. 5) We agree that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not to mention a host of other issues on which we agree. Virtually all of us recognize that Southern Baptists are not going to agree on Calvinism. However, that does not mean that this discussion should not happen! While the debate about Calvinism is necessary, it is absolutely essential that all involved desire, speak, and work for unity. There is a difference between union and unity. Two cats with their tails tied together have union. They sure don’t have unity! Southern Baptists all agree that our unifying doctrinal statement is the BFM 2000. It is sufficiently broad in latitude that we can all live, breathe, and work under its umbrella. In fact, Calvinists and Traditionalists, for the most part, have been doing that already for quite a number of decades.

Second, because of this common ground in the BFM 2000, we should avoid at all costs the Scylla of attempting to run all Calvinists out of Dodge and the Charybdis of attempting to return us as a Convention to the Calvinistic theology of some of our founding fathers. Neither of these will bring us together. In fact, both approaches will foster division. I have on occasion sought to correct overzealous Traditionalists who have questioned the place of Calvinists in the SBC. It is any and every Baptist’s right to be persuaded that a Calvinistic Soteriology reflects the teaching of Scripture. Being a Calvinist should not be a Convention crime. Calvinists have and should always be free to have a place at the SBC table. Any church that feels led of God to call a Calvinist pastor should do so without hesitation. I serve a seminary that has some Calvinists on the faculty, some of whom I myself recommended to the administration for hiring. I have on occasion recommended other Calvinist faculty members to other SBC colleges and seminaries. I have and continue to work side-by-side with Calvinist brothers and sisters in the churches I pastored and in the seminary I serve.

On the other hand, Calvinism should not be a Convention cause either. The publication of an article by a Southern Baptist professor just a few years back entitled “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist” is an example of one aspect of the current problem in the Convention. My friend, Dr. Danny Akin, said back in 2007: “I have Calvinist friends who say they hope and pray for the day when all of our seminaries have presidents and faculties that are five-point Calvinists” (Calvinism: a Southern Baptist Dialogue, 253). Dr. Akin rightfully eschews such a sentiment, but this validates the concern of many Southern Baptists that some Calvinists in the SBC do indeed believe we would be better off if we reverted to Calvinism unilaterally in the seminaries. If there are Calvinists who feel this way about the seminaries, perhaps many of them feel this way about SBC churches as well. Of course this is a recipe for disaster. As long as Calvinists, individually or as groups, continue to seek to make it a cause with the intention of moving the SBC towards Calvinism, then we will continue to have a problem.

If we are to come together in unity, we must do so as Baptists, not as Calvinists and Traditionalists. We must unite around Baptist distinctives which includes the only glue that can hold us together: a biblical Baptist theology wedded to a Great Commission resurgence of evangelism and missions. We don’t have to cease to be Calvinists or Traditionalists to be Baptists. We’ve had both from day one. Let us debate the theology of Calvinism and let the chips fall where they may, but deliver us from attempting to Calvinize or de-Calvinize the SBC.

Third, we need to love and respect one another even though we are not in complete agreement on every theological point. This is the clear mandate of Scripture. We should speak the truth in love and avoid strident, emotive language. May we not allow the opinions of others about us, whether positive or negative, to cause us to reciprocate in kind (the negative that is!) to our fellow brothers and sisters or cloud our assessment of their doctrinal positions. One of my favorite stories about General Robert E. Lee concerns the time he was asked by President Lincoln his opinion of one of his officers in the Confederate army. Lee responded that he thought the gentleman was a good man and a fine officer. Someone nearby reminded Lee that this particular officer had been critical of the great General. Lee’s response was classic: “Yes, that’s true.  But the President asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.” Deep-seated convictions usually breed deep-seated emotions. Deep-seated emotions, left unguarded, can breed deep-seated sin. Fair-mindedness coupled with plain-spokeness is what scores a direct hit. A thick head and a thin skin is a bad combination for theological dialogue. Scrappy, sarcastic, sardonic speech and writing chills the air quickly. It is incumbent on all of us to engage the concerns and questions that come our way in a straightforward manner, rather than appearing to evade and dissimulate. We’re not here to hornswoggle anyone. On a related note, those on both sides of the issue should refrain from drive-by verbal “shootings.” We don’t need innocent casualties via collateral damage. Failure to be careful in these areas will not exculpate us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Remember, the enemy is the devil, not each other.

Fourth, we need to be reminded that the truth of a given position is in no way related to who or how many hold that position. Positions should be evaluated on their merits and ultimately according to their comportment with Scripture, not because high profile leaders and/or churches or groups hold them or don’t hold them. The fact that the majority of Southern Baptists do not adhere to Calvinism is no argument against whether it is true or false. The fact that some of the early Southern Baptist leaders were Calvinists is no argument that Calvinism is true or false nor is it an argument that Calvinism should or should not be embraced today. Neither the popularity nor unpopularity of something should play into the discussion of whether that something is true or false. Each of us should take to heart the approach of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

Fifth, generally speaking, all Southern Baptists are concerned about theology. With respect to the current discussion, some of my Calvinist friends as well as some of my Traditionalist friends need to become better and more careful theologians and historians. Some Traditionalists need to be aware of and respect the Calvinistic heritage of the SBC. Some Traditionalists need to read more broadly in the area of Calvinism in order to understand its theology and why Scripture is interpreted the way it is in a Reformed Soteriological framework. On the other hand, some of my Calvinist friends need to shore up their theologizing as well. I have observed through the years that some Calvinists, especially young Calvinists, make two mistakes. 1) They simply take their theology from Calvinist writers without filtering it through the New Testament. None should be a theological epigone. 2) They read predominately, if not exclusively, contemporary Calvinist authors and neglect the writings of the earliest generations among the reformers and the reformation, Calvinist or otherwise. Calvinism is not monolithic. In fact, it never has been. Disagreement among Calvinists themselves over Limited Atonement since the Reformation, not to mention other issues, makes this clear. The TULIP acrostic is itself a 20th-century construct.

In this vein, all of us are prone to a number of errors which we should heartily strive to avoid: 1) subsuming one set of Scripture passages under another set of Scripture passages in order to maintain a particular doctrine or belief system; 2) prejudicing that which is logical over that which is paradoxical in the Scripture, 3)  succumbing to logical fallacies in an attempt to maintain our particular theology; 4) doing systematic theology before one does Biblical theology and/or allowing systematic theology to trump biblical theology; 5) confusing one’s theological system with the Gospel and reacting as if a critique of the system is a challenge to the Gospel; 6) confusing a critique of someone’s doctrine as a critique of that individual personally; 7) engaging in ad hominem attacks; and 8) questioning one’s motives (which are often wrongly judged and can only be surmised at best unless one directly speaks to his/her motives for what he says and does). I suppose, at one time or another, each of us has fallen into one or more of these or similar traps. Ted Williams ended the 1941 baseball season with an extraordinary .406 average. But even with this remarkable feat, he still grounded out, flied out, or struck out roughly six times out of every ten at bats. No one bats a thousand. We need to cut each other a little slack along the way.

Sixth, it is crucial that we avoid misrepresenting someone’s theology. I have found that when this happens, it is usually the result of a lack of understanding the specifics of a position, or of overzealous rhetoric. There have been times in the past when Calvinists and their theology have been misrepresented by those who disagree with them. Anyone deliberately misrepresenting Calvinism is wrong, should repent of such misrepresentation of the views of fellow Christians, and immediately cease and desist in such behavior. Those who in the past have misrepresented Calvinism from a lack of understanding Calvinist doctrine should take steps necessary to rightly understand Calvinism before they speak critically of it. Our Calvinist brothers and sisters have every right to expect those of us who disagree with them to accurately represent their doctrines. Likewise, Traditionalists have every right to expect the same from their counterparts, including the right to critique Calvinism without being accused of denying cardinal doctrines of the faith. We actually do believe in the sovereignty of God, election, total depravity, etc.; we just don’t believe in your interpretation of them. We must learn to distinguish between Scripture and our interpretation of Scripture. The former is inerrant; the latter is not. I hope my Calvinist friends will acknowledge that the reason I and other Traditionalists are not Calvinists is not because we do not understand Calvinism, but because we actually do understand it, and find aspects of it inconsistent with Scripture. Without a reciprocal acknowledgment of these and similar factors, dialogue and progress in the debate is ultimately an exercise in futility.

Furthermore, and this is crucial, we must distinguish between a belief system and our inferences or implications that we draw from that system. When we say that something “implies” such and such, we mean that if you affirm doctrine x, then said doctrine implies y. When doctrine x is critiqued by arguing that it implies y, sometimes those who adhere to doctrine x assume doctrine x is being denied or distorted, willfully or not. It is the difference in logic between saying “A is B” and saying “A implies B.” Sometimes we are unclear in our discussions and false conclusions are drawn because we fail to make this crucial distinction. This failure leads to mischaracterization, misrepresentation, misinterpretation, and hence, misunderstanding.

Thus, the current SBC discussion on Calvinism is sometimes hindered by the failure 1) to accurately describe what the other side believes, 2) to accurately describe what the other side is attempting to do (that is, disprove a particular doctrinal point via use of a reductio ad absurdum argument), and 3) to accurately distinguish between what one believes from what one thinks might be inferred from that belief (in other words, to use a “straw man” argument). When these kinds of things happen, it becomes virtually impossible to read what others write or listen to what others say without partiality. Emotive language and emotive thinking are often slippery slopes to straw men arguments and generally erect signs that read “Dead End Street.”

This, I believe, describes some of the misunderstanding surrounding the debate concerning the Traditionalist Statement on Salvation. Some in the press, on blogs, and in comment threads have accused the statement of “distorting” Calvinism, setting up “straw men” arguments, and “inaccurately” describing the theology of Calvinism. I do not believe this charge is accurate. For example, I have seen several occasions where the statement has been criticized for “saying” or “implying” that Calvinists believe a person can be saved apart from repentance and faith. The Statement neither says nor implies such. Some have apparently wrongly inferred this from the Statement. There is a huge difference in “implying” and “inferring.” Implication is in the mind and pen of the writer; inference is in the mind of the reader. Writers/speakers imply; readers/hearers infer. Traditionalists are well aware that Calvinists don’t believe anyone is saved apart from repentance and faith. The real difference between Calvinists and Traditionalists here is the nature and function of the will in salvation. Traditionalists believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom. Calvinists don’t. But both groups affirm the necessity of repentance and faith for salvation. Mischaracterization is one thing. Disagreement with someone’s critique of your position should not ipso facto place the disagreer under condemnation of mischaracterization. One person’s mischaracterization is sometimes merely another person’s critique. May God help us to be less shrill in our rhetoric; less sloppy in our understanding and use of history, theology, and language; and make every argument and counter-argument biblically tethered.

Seventh, is the Statement divisive? Division, like most things, occurs in varying degrees and is not always unhealthy or wrong. One degree of division is the simple fact that some believe Calvinistic doctrines and some don’t. Some Calvinists believe in Limited Atonement, while other Calvinists and all Traditionalists don’t. Calvinists believe in Irresistible Grace while Traditionalists don’t. “Almond Joy’s got nuts; Mounds don’t.” This kind or level of division is not at all unhealthy. Another kind of division occurs when people of a like theological mind tend to pal together. They spend more time talking, texting and emailing one another than they do those in the other group. Again, this kind of division is not unhealthy. A third kind of division is when people in one theological camp think, speak, and act in ways that promote their theological convictions. They sponsor conferences. They join together to produce books. This naturally divides them from those who hold differing theological convictions. This kind of division is likewise to be expected and is not in and of itself necessarily unhealthy.

But there are unhealthy divisions as well. When people think, speak, and act in ways that seek to promote their theological convictions with an agenda, stated or unstated, to marginalize those who differ with them theologically, this kind of division is unhealthy. When people fail to be courteous and respectful in their discussions with those who disagree with their theology; when they engage in emotive language, straw-man arguments, and misrepresentation; this kind of division is unhealthy. It is divisive when people insist that their view is the only correct possible reading of Scripture or even to insist that those who disagree with them are heretical. When leaders unfairly favor one group over another in hiring practices, service opportunities, committee representation, book and literature production, etc., this creates unhealthy division. This is especially egregious if the favored group is in the statistical minority in the organization.

In daily life, healthy division is unavoidable. Theological disagreement need not be divisive, need not entail unhealthy division, and need not result in disunity. To preserve unity will require focused effort on the part of all parties in this discussion. May God help us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit who is our source of unity.

Finally, the entire enterprise calls for a healthy dose of humility and prayer. The worm of pride is ever threatening to eat into the fruit of the Spirit. Adrian Rogers used to talk about preachers who could strut sitting down. God deliver us from ourselves and a tin God complex in this debate. To reflect God’s light, we should not seek the limelight. As Southern Baptist missionary Miss Bertha Smith used to say: “Even the donkey that brought Jesus into Jerusalem knew that the applause was not for him.” The goal in this dialogue should not be to win at all costs. The goal should be to win the world for Christ at all costs. May God grant it for His glory.

Let the dialogue continue.

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Travis Yates

Sir,
I appreciate this article. It was one if the more humble of writings I have seen on the issue. I have seen the two camps referred to as “Calvinists and Traditionalists” and frankly I don’t understand that?

What tradition? Certainly, a non Calvinist majority has dominated for 75 years but long before that Southern Baptist’s held a very wide Calvinistic theology.

Our history is important and I get the sense from some that they stop history 100 years ago.

Again, I do appreciate your comments here.

    JoeJ

    Dr. Allen wrote: “We must learn to distinguish between Scripture and our interpretation of Scripture. The former is inerrant; the latter is not. ”

    This short statement is one of the more insightful in this whole debate.

      volfan007

      JoeJ,

      Amen.

      David

Fletcher Law

Love all my brothers who preach Christ crucified.
Concerning new labels -“Traditional Baptist”
Makes me remember CBF churches using the label “Traditional Baptist” and another “OrthodoxBaptist”.
I know there is no similarities in CBF and the SBCer “Traditional Baptist” but it just with any new label or a new group that is going to use it you can be sure others outside the group will not understand the label. With all the theological confusion new labels will just cloud things up more.

    Tom Parker

    Fletcher:

    You said:”I know there is no similarities in CBF and the SBCer “Traditional Baptist” ”

    Really??

David Mills

Thank you Dr. Allen for this excellent piece of pastoral counsel.

Reminded me of Jesus words to Saul–“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” We must exercise great caution when speaking about others.

BTW, my esteem of you has always been great, but it has risen even higher with your use of “hornswoggle”!

Stan Britton

Although it doesn’t need mentioning, Dr. Allen presents a very hearty argument here. We must come to some agreement or at least an agreement to disagree on the issue of soteriology. Belief in how a person comes to Christ is important but that is (read: should be) overshadowed by a deeper commitment to preach the unadulterated Gospel message.

My only contention is the labeling of Traditional vs. Calvinist. This argument, in general, juxtaposes a Calvniistic soteriology against a “traditional” one that is 350 years its junior. In all 3 BF&M statements, the statement on Man presupposes that man is not a transgressor until “he is capable of moral action.” It is presumed that this position defends an “age of accountability” when one simply doesn’t exist. The concept and doctrine of original sin is explicit in the Scriptures and needs no further descriptive explanation. Man is a sinner from his birth, even from conception.

If the traditional view is incorrect on when a man needs salvation, could it be that it is incorrect on how a man receives salvation? There is no human action apart from repentance that accompanies salvation and even so, that is initiated by God (Romans 2:4). When we preach a Gospel that God initiated, how much sweeter it is to recognize that He pointed out not only my need for a Savior but also my need for repentance in order to come to that Savior. For as much as I train and coach my sons in their activities, our Heavenly Father acknowledges our depravity and “coaches” us through conviction of sin, the depth of repetance and discovering endless joy in His patience and kindness toward us!

There is nothing good in us, not even one who seeks for God (Romans 3:10). As such, if there is nothing good in me apart from Christ, from whence does the faith comes to express my need of Him? It can, and does, only come from Christ. A God-initiated, Christ-exalting salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone!

    t.r.

    “There is nothing good in us, not even one who seeks for God (Romans 3:10). As such, if there is nothing good in me apart from Christ, from whence does the faith comes to express my need of Him? It can, and does, only come from Christ.”

    AMEN! Well said, brother Stan!

    Denilio Gorena

    Great word, Stan!

Clint Pressley

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for a good word on unity and civil discourse in our SBC community. Voices like yours will push the conversation forward in a unifying and Christlike manner.

Appreciative,

Clint Pressley

Bob Hadley

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for your thoughtful input. While it is becoming increasingly obvious that there are a variety of issues clouding the discussion and impeding the probability of any amicable resolution with respect to co-existence between the Cals and the Trads in the SBC, I believe you are absolutely correct in pointing out that we have been able to co-exist for decades. The theological differences have always existed and yet we have managed to work together relatively well. Personally, I wish that is where we still were. I agree with the general consensus I read that says we need to be focusing on the lost instead of shooting at our own.

Unfortunately, theology does matter. It matters to the cal’s and to the trads. If it did not matter, I suggest we would not be having this debate and facing these issues. The cal’s do not like the theological position of the trad’s and vice versa. The reality of this whole issue is really simple. It appears that the cal’s have taken a firm theological stand to “correct the theological misgivings of those in the SBC who are not calvinist in their theology.” If that were not the case, then we would not be facing this problem. So, while theology is vitally important on both sides, it is the change in the tolerance of one group over the theological position of the other that has indeed brought this issue to bear today. This “change” is what I believe divides us.

I really appreciated your pointing out the differences in implying and inferring. Sometimes the discussions get really out of whack when our implications are intentionally employed to set the stage for certain inferences on the reader or hearer’s part! It seems awful easy to read someone’s critique of a theological position and respond with an errant inference and a corresponding implication to appear to say one thing while really meaning another! I am convinced many of these strawmen arguments are created in our own minds as opposed to the minds we are being critical of.

My sincerest prayer is that God will bring resolution to this terrible time in our convention’s existence and make us all stronger through it. I am confident that God is indeed sovereign and there is a solution to all this and God will indeed work all things together for our good and His glory because I believe we are indeed all called according to His purpose. May God continue to bless the SBC and all of our churches and ministries and its entities, for His glory and the benefit of the whole world!!

Thank you again for your very well worded, heart felt, Spirit filled article.

><>”

    Bill

    Bob… I agree also with Dr Allen and believe he has done a superb job of identifying core issue and making helpful solutions.

    Respectfully, you have violated the spirit and suggestion of this article is saying,

    “The reality of this whole issue is really simple. It appears that the cal’s have taken a firm theological stand to “correct the theological misgivings of those in the SBC who are not calvinist in their theology.” If that were not the case, then we would not be facing this problem. ”

    In saying this, not only have you placed 100% of the fault for the current climate upon calvinists but you have mischaracterized calvinists and spoken to a motivation they do not have. Neither myself (or the calvinists I know and read) feel the need to correct “those… who are not calvinist in their theology.” Most of the pastors I meet with regularly for prayer and partner with in my association are not calvinist and they do not know I am calvinist – because I don’t beat that drum or push any agenda. Most calvinists (and most traditionalists) I know are simply quietly leading their churches either unaware or weary of this manufactured kerfuffle.

    I do not doubt that some calvinists do behave as you are saying, but I would submit that there are just as many calvinist “head hunters” who are campaigning to eradicate calvinists. They declare calvinists to all be arrogant and divisive pushing an unloving, unbiblical, shameful, and even damnable heresy. Associations have published pamphlets on how to identify and dismiss calvinist pastors.

    So, I must disagree. The problems hindering profitable partnership and discussion are not one-sided. Both sides must own responsibility, call for civility, and operate in humility and grace. Just as Dr Allen has aptly stated.

      Bob Hadley

      Bill,

      I understand your position and also understand that you and i will disagree on this point. However, seeing that this division is relatively new and having already acknowledged that cal’s and trad’s (or whatever anyone wants to call us all) have gotten along for a long time, are you suggesting that my position of who has moved is inaccurate? I mean… if one does not accept the fact as I see it that the calvinists have amped up the promotion of their theological postulates, then there would be no reason for us having this conversation.

      To try to argue otherwise would force one to say the calvinists are doing what they have always done and now all of a sudden the non’s are making up things to run us off… sorry. That is not going to work. It is no accident that the level of calvinist influence in EVERY entity and every activity of the convention that has any level of significance is not carefully being watched and orchestrated by certain ones to make sure the calvinist revival gets the most bang for the CP dollar.

      As for your retort to my comment about calvinists wanting to correct the errant theology of the SBC… I know you are familiar with the comments relative to the Gospel and getting it right for a change, bla bla bla bla bla. No one can actually try to argue there is not a concerted effort being made to bring reformed theology into the SBC… it is a stated goal of the Founders Org…

      I am not saying at all that it is wrong to bring ones theological convictions to the table and to the entities and to the churches… I am simply saying that move is what has fueled this divide because believe it or not there are those of us who do not want to see the SBC calvinized… and it is way too calvinized today as far as I am concerned.

      That is my point. I had NOTHING to do with the changes that someone else has brought to the SBC and I am simply saying I do not like those changes and am in favor of reversing those changes.

      ><>”

        Bill

        Bob….

        By “reversing those changes” do you mean you are in favor of either running off or marginalizing or silencing calvinists?

        Could it be that there is another explanation to the evolution of this “controversy” other than the “other guys” “amped” this all up and it’s all “their” fault?

        Could it be that while both have existed for quite some time, it is the awareness of calvinism that has been “amped up” and not any agenda?

        Might it also be that in light of an increased awareness of calvinism some (who have graciously allowed calvinists to exist so long as they knew their place) have “amped up” their efforts to thin out the calvinist herd?

        Are there more calvinists now than there were a few decades ago? Yes. Are they trying to take over anything? No. Are there some on both sides who need to change the way they operate? Yes. But assigning blame unilaterally is not accurate nor is it helpful.

        The point is that both sides represent biblically faithful and historically baptist positions. Both sides need to operate faithfully and lovingly. No one has any reason to feel threatened. No one should be marginalized.

        Please, reconsider your evaluation of the current situation and your estimation of your calvinist brothers.

        Bob Hadley

        Could it be that there is another explanation to the evolution of this “controversy” other than the “other guys” “amped” this all up and it’s all “their” fault?

        Might be… but I don’t think so, which is the thrust of my last two posts. So… you have your opinion and I have mine.

        ><>”

        Bob Hadley

        Bill Mac

        I do not like what I see going on in the entities of the SBC; I did not like some of the dynamics that I observed taking place at the SBC… so… I am for change. What that change will look like, I have no idea. We will have to see what happens and how the streams run and where momentum takes us on both sides… in the kind of situation we are now in, it is all relative.

        Your side has a significant advantage.

        ><>”

          Bill

          (1) Wrong Bill….

          (2) I genuinely believe we’re all on the same side.

          Lydia

          So we all sorta kinda agree to not agree. :o)

        Randall Cofield

        Bob,

        I mean… if one does not accept the fact as I see it that the calvinists have amped up the promotion of their theological postulates, then there would be no reason for us having this conversation.

        Brother, would you deny the Calvinists in the SBC the right to live, preach, and promote what we believe to be the truth?

        Peace

          Bob Hadley

          nope… but do you deny me the right to do the same? I disagree with the tenets of calvinism and as a result, I do not believe those who are proponents of it need to be everywhere I turn where the entities and committees of the SBC are concerned.

          ><>”

          Randall Cofield

          Bob,

          I struggle with the way you frame many of your statements.

          Are you saying that you don’t think Calvinists have the right to threaten (by living, preaching, and promoting what they believe to be truth) the “dominance” of Neo-Traditionalists in the SBC?

          Peace

          Leslie Puryear

          I just could not resist answering this question. :)

          If you would like to teach Calvinism in a Calvinist church, then by all means, go for it. But if you want to infiltrate traditional Baptist churches for the purpose of “reforming” them to Calvinism, then I have a huge problem. For me, it is the agenda that many Calvinists have to “reform” traditional SBC churches that is the issue.

          The Original Les

    Jeremy Crowder

    Agree it’s not just Traditionalists in the SBC I bet if Pastors and Theologians among any non-Calvinist group would state that out of all groups Calvinists are the ones that want to correct other people’s theology. It is always something that we are doing that causes concern that needs to be pointed out. I don’t know of any Wesleyan, Arminian, Lutheran, or (insert additional term) that is known to be constantly correcting others theology they may exist but none comes to mind. A possible exception is Dr. Roger Olson but still he fails in comparison to the many popular Calvinist blogs and radio ministries.

rhutchin

The article speaks in generalities when it is time to address specifics. The author says, “We actually do believe in the sovereignty of God, election, total depravity, etc.; we just don’t believe in your interpretation of them.” OK. Let’s actually start addressing those different interpretations.

Here are some major issues that each side should address.

1. Is God truly omniscient? If God knows the future and knows the identities of both the elect and the reprobate before He creates the world, how does this work through everything else we believe.

2. Is man really totally depraved? What are all those verses that describe unsaved people telling us?

3. If salvation is by grace and grace is of God, can God act with prejudice toward the elect in bringing them, and only them, to salvation? What purpose does grace serve toward the reprobate when we know that God knew them before the creation of the world and had already determined their destiny?

4. Let’s address the problem of evil. The atheists say that evil in the world means that God cannot be good. Why do some Southern Baptists fall for this foolishness. God is good and all that He does is good; why do some doubt that?

    Les Prouty

    “We actually do believe in the sovereignty of God, election, total depravity, etc.”

    Well, not all who signed thr document believd in total depravity…ahem Brother Bob.

    volfan007

    Sadly, we see a prime example of what makes it extremely hard to have unity. Sad.

    David

      Not The Original Les

      David, I trust that brother Bob takes what I said in the playful way I intended it. He and I have had very cordial and friendly banter on other forums about TD. I suppose I should have put a smiley face.

        Bob Hadley

        The unrepentant Les…

        oh… did I say that????? Since there was NO smiley face I am ticked! You know I am kidding. I am grateful for our exchanges, I think… certainly for the spirit of them; I am probably guilty of being less gracious than you have been a time or two… but it was more for emphasis than anything.

        I appreciate your spirit and consider you and all here brothers. I know we cannot all be right! :)

        ><>”

        Leslie Puryear

        Glad to see your new moniker. :)

        The Original Les (since 2005)

Rick Patrick

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for your wise, articulate, statesman-like counsel. You have exemplified the manner in which we must speak graciously to each other in working through these issues, rather than talking past each other to score debating points.

While I found your content insightful, I was even more impressed with your tone, which was simply beyond reproach.

    Tony Byrne

    I totally agree, Rick. If the counsel of Dr. Allen is followed in this post, it will promote health and well-being for Christ’s church in the SBC on all sides.

    Too many in the church today don’t know how to properly talk to each other about theological differences. Resolving that issue first, it seems to me, is more important (or a deeper issue) than talking about the theological differences themselves.

    “The worm of pride is ever threatening to eat into the fruit of the Spirit.” ~ David Allen

      selahV

      Tony, I knew you would see this article as it was written to imply. You are a good egg. Thank you for seeing the logic, reason, and conciliatory tone and message Dr. Allen seeks to convey to us all. I for one am going to re-read this post. I liked:
      “The fact that the majority of Southern Baptists do not adhere to Calvinism is no argument against whether it is true or false.”

      I might have added that “The fact that some of the Calvinist Southern Baptists do not adhere to or agree with the Traditional SOS is no argument against whether it is true of false. Would you agree to my thought on that addition to Dr. Allen’s thoughts?

      Good to see you on the streams. selahV

        Tony Byrne

        Hi Selah,

        Thanks for the compliment.

        Dr. Allen said:

        “The fact that the majority of Southern Baptists do not adhere to Calvinism is no argument against whether it is true or false.”

        What Dr. Allen is addressing above is an argumentum ad populum fallacy. In other words, truth is not arrived at by counting noses :-)

        You infer the following:

        “The fact that some of the Calvinist Southern Baptists do not adhere to or agree with the Traditional SOS is no argument against whether it is true of false.”

        That is correct. I think everyone would agree with that. Whether Calvinists or non-Calvinists agree with or disagree with the recent Traditional SOS is not decisive as to its truth. Whether the statements in it are true depends upon 1) whether it comports with biblical teaching and 2) whether it accords with sound principles of reason (i.e. logic or rules of correct inference).

        Remember what Luther said:

        “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

        Even if one disagrees with Luther’s theology on points, one should agree with his criteria for determining what is true, i.e. “scripture and plain reason.” These are the tools God has given us to use to know Him, but each should be used carefully and prayerfully, even as we seek, respect and test the wise counsel from those that came before us in history.

        “Let not the names of men draw thee one way or the other; nor make thee partial in searching for truth; dislike the men for their unsound doctrine; but call not doctrine unsound, because it is theirs; nor sound, because of the repute of the writer.” – Richard Baxter

        Grace to you,
        Tony

          Ron Hale

          Tony,
          I haven’t seen you as of late, good to know you are still alive. Actually, I knew that because I visit your website at Theological Meditations at least every week. Blessings!

Mike Davis

Dr Allen,

The real difference between Calvinists and Traditionalists here is the nature and function of the will in salvation. Traditionalists believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom. Calvinists don’t.

I don’t think a better 30-word summary of the debate could be given. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and fair treatment of both sides.

Max

“There is a difference between union and unity. Two cats with their tails tied together have union. They sure don’t have unity!”

Whew! Brother Allen, that is the most vivid illustration of our dilemma that I have seen yet! I suppose that the longer those cats fight and pull, the harder the knot will be to untangle. So, what are we to do? I then read a little further and see that you answered that question at the end of the 10th paragraph: “We need to cut each other a little slack along the way.” Cut those tails and set ’em free! When I saw this posted on Independence Day, I thought you going to go in a different direction with your observations, clarifications, and suggestions. ;^)

Seriously, sir, you have added a heap of level-headedness to the recipe. We certainly have a bad case of preachers strutting while they are sitting (to borrow your Adrianism). Unfortunately, while they are sitting, they are writing. May others follow your example and speak their piece with cooler heads and civil tone … and wait until pride blows over before getting back to the keyboard.

“May God help us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit who is our source of unity.”

Amen and Amen!

Not The Original Les

I thought these sentences were very good and BOTH groups should heed them.

“we need to love and respect one another even though we are not in complete agreement on every theological point. This is the clear mandate of Scripture. We should speak the truth in love and avoid strident, emotive language. May we not allow the opinions of others about us, whether positive or negative, to cause us to reciprocate in kind (the negative that is!) to our fellow brothers and sisters or cloud our assessment of their doctrinal positions.”

and…

“Scrappy, sarcastic, sardonic speech and writing chills the air quickly.”

I have been guilty of both.

Not The Original Les

Sorry for the confusion on my name. I have been commenting across three devices as Les Prouty, Not The Original Les, LesPro and a while back just Les. Henceforth I will try to get them all in sync using Not The Original Les linked to my blog.

volfan007

Dr. Allen,

If everyone in the SBC would heed your wise words, then there would be TRUE unity in our great Convention of Churches. Sadly, I think we’ve got some people, who really dont want unity. They want conformity to all doctrines, or else.

Dr. Allen, it’s very easy to see why you’re a Professor in one of our great Seminaries. Thanks for your truly wise words. May we all heed them.

David

Ron Hale

Dr. Allen,

I want to thank you for your words of true wisdom concerning our doctrinal discourse. We all know that the blogoshere can be bombastic and hypercharged. We all need to remember that we will one day be judged for every word we say and write. Since I am a grad from your seminary, if you catch the tenor and tone of my blog debate being less than civil and certainly not Christian … please use the public forum to chew me out. Blessings!

    Darryl Hill

    Agreed. I would welcome a rebuke from Dr Allen as well. I know I failed in this at times here. It is VERY difficult to keep things from becoming personal when we are so passionate about the topic. And it is very hard to see it for myself when I am the guilty party.

Damon Rambo

Dr. Allen,

While I appreciate the general sentiment of what you have wrote, I find your (and others) use of the word “traditionalists” to describe the Pseudo-Arminian position in the SBC, as outright offensive and disingenuous. This type of historical revisionism does nothing but foster division. Carving out a 75 year period where the pseudo-arminian position has had a majority, and calling them the “traditionalists” and ignoring the century of time before it, including its most prominent founders, is horribly misleading and intellectually offensive. The Triennial Convention was founded, almost exclusively, on the backs of Calvinists. Our earliest documents are Calvinist. Our oldest Seminary required agreement with Calvinism in order to be a professor (the Abstract of Principles). You, and the others of this movement, need to be a bit more honest.

    Godismyjudge

    Why stop at the founding of the SBC? Why not go back to the first Baptists who opposed Calvinism? You have to start somewhere and so long as you define your terms it’s not dishonest.

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Damon Rambo

      You need to quit listening to Ergun Caner. The SBC can be traced, not to the Anabaptists, but to Calvinist English Separatists, who INTENTIONALLY unified themselves their Presbyterian brothers by copying their statement of faith word-for-word in places.
      The anabaptists (who by-and-large held to some absolutely absurd doctrinal positions), are NOT the forebearers of modern Southern Baptists.

        Godismyjudge

        Damon,

        I didn’t mention the ana-baptists. I was talking about the first baptists, John Smyth and Thomas Hewes. They opposed Calvinism.

        God be with you,
        Dan

          Damon Rambo

          John Smythe and Thomas Hewes were not the first baptists. First, I would argue that they held to some non-Baptist doctrine. Second, we find the roots of the English Separatist Baptists (to which we can trace the SBC, historically), to the “True Confession” of 1596 (which was used to draft the First London Baptist Confession, and is decidedly Calvinistic), which was 10 years before Smyth’s “Baptist” conversion.

    volfan007

    And sadly, we see another reason why unity is so hard to come by in the SBC. Pseudo-Arminians? Seriously? And, the SBC was founded on the backs of Calvinists? Have you heard of the Ana Baptists and Sandy Creek?

    And, why in the world are some of you, Calvinists, tore up so bad about us calling ourselves Traditionalists? I mean, it’s not like we called ourselves the Founders. :)

    David

      t.r.

      The “trad” document even goes against Sandy Creek beliefs. You guys are the extreme. Perhaps “Hyper-freewillers” rather than traditionalists would be more accurate?

      Randall Cofield

      David,

      Have you heard of the Ana Baptists and Sandy Creek?

      Why do you guys keep claiming the Sandy Creek Baptists in support of the TS? They were Calvinistic! Even one of the prominent signers of the TS acknowledges this:

      “The Sandy Creek tradition was … less Calvinistic, though, to be perfectly fair about the whole matter, it was certainly a long way from being Arminian, because the Sandy Creek statement of faith has a very Calvinistic strain to it also.”
      –Paige Patterson

      Peace

      Damon Rambo

      You need to quit listening to Ergun Caner. The SBC can be traced, not to the Anabaptists, but to Calvinist English Separatists, who INTENTIONALLY unified themselves their Presbyterian brothers by copying their statement of faith word-for-word in places.
      The anabaptists (who by-and-large held to some absolutely absurd doctrinal positions), are NOT the forebearers of modern Southern Baptists.

      And to the man above: my apologies. I apparently clicked the reply button in the wrong spot.

      Damon Rambo

      Hey, how about just calling your self “Freewillers”? It is not offensive, and it is descriptive of your position. Or, better yet, “Free Will Baptists”….oh, wait. Maybe you just need to change denominations, instead of changing ours?

      Damon Rambo

      If you are going to quote Peter Lumpkins as a serious source on the SBC and Calvinism, I am going to start quoting Wikipedia and old Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

      But for the record, Lumpkins admits in one of those articles that such was “Not a typical Baptist of the south”…

        Lydia

        You know, Damon, some YRR over at SBC Voices called Peter the “anti Christ” and our new 2nd VP said nothing. That is why I am not surprised at your contempt. Anyone who actually researches and presents facts of history or has the nerve to speak up is marginalized by the YRR.

        It is just another reason to be very concerned about YRR polity and how they prefer to be ruling elders. With the arrogance and attitudes we have seen displayed in this debate, the SBC should be very concerned.

        And not all Baptists were in the South so not sure why we cannot look at what they believed in that same era. Boyce was trained by Presbyterians and was pro slavery.

          Damon Rambo

          Lydia,

          I am certainly not “Young, Restless and Reformed” (assuming that’s what you meant by “YRR”). Nor do I hold “contempt” for Peter Lumpkins. I do, however, have contempt for his continual ignorance of history, his attacking of those brothers in the reformed camp (even when he has to lie to do it, as he did with Dr. Al Mohler), and his general attitude.

          As far as “elder-led” polity (which is not really “elder led” since the congregation still has ultimate veto power), most of us like that, simply because it is biblical. Tell me, what do you do with the numerous texts that tell you to submit to the elders in the church? Ignore them?

Scott

Thanks Dr. Allen for this article that I believe charts a good way forward. There has got to be a way to have this discussion while still working together. I think that one thing that has to happen immediately is that Calvinists and Traditionalists must stop blaming each other for the current climate. We have to admit that we have both contributed to the tenor of the discussion and pray that God would change our hearts towards each other.

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Allen,
Great post. We all need to take it to heart.

Look forward to hearing you preach next week in Paris.
David R. Brumbelow

Randall Cofield

Dr. Allen,

I am appreciative of your call for christian courtesy, civility and cooperation. I am convinced that a great deal of what has been said on both sides needs to be walked back. The preamble to the TS might be a good place to start.

While I am aware that the same could be said of Calvinists, one thing that has been disturbing for me is to see the regularity with which the Neo-Traditionalists have attributed beliefs to Calvinism that are simply uninformed. This began with the Preamble to the T.S., and the T.S. itself, and it has continued with the lead articles and interviews on this thread. If I believed a fraction of what has been attributed to me as a Calvinist I would dig a hole, crawl into it, and pull it in behind me.

Which brings me to a statement you made:

The real difference between Calvinists and Traditionalists here is the nature and function of the will in salvation. Traditionalists believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom. Calvinists don’t.

I agree absolutely with the first statement here. The nature and function of the will indeed is the difference between the Neo-Traditionalist and Calvinist soteriological frameworks.

I respectfully disagree with you as to the second statement. Again, while I know the same might be said of Calvinists in relation to understanding Neo-Trads, your postulate does not accurately represent the Calvinist position. And this lies at the very center of the problems we see in the T.S.

The heart of the T.S. is its emphasis upon libertarian free will. In the case of the T.S., this type of free will is the ability to choose between the good of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and the evil of rejecting the same. This was our initial reading of the Statement, and this has been confirmed in virtually every commentary posted posted here in defense of the T.S. And this is the point that elicits every objection Calvinists have offered. To that extent, I agree with you that this is the real difference between Neo-Traditionalists and Calvinists.

You state that Neo-Traditionalists believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom (presumably libertarian free will). Then you state that Calvinist do not believe Compatibilism denies genuine freedom (ie. libertarian free will). This is not an accurate understanding of our position.

Stated plainly, Calvinists deny that man’s will is completely free to choose between good and evil (libertarian free will). We believe man’s will is utterly bound by his sin nature. Every choice (a key word in the TS) man makes is in accord with his fallen nature. Hence, man cannot chose God unless and until his fundamental nature is changed. Scripture everywhere makes this clear:

Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

And:

Ro. 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
(See also Jn. 8:42-45, Ro. 3:10-19, etc.)

The nature of the leopard is to have spots. The nature of the Ethiopian is dark skin. The nature of the sinner is to sin. None can change their nature. That requires a supernatural act of God. Hence, the carnal mind cannot be subject to God, nor can a “flesh” man please God in any way (including repenting and believing–both God-pleasing acts). The sinner, the carnal, the fleshly are bound by their nature and are helpless to change their nature.

This is what I see as lying at the heart of our disagreement: Neo-Traditionalists believe man has a libertarian free will (genuine freedom, as you posited it). Calvinists don’t.

A significant difference exists between this statement and your statement. I hope this helps clarify our differences so that we can have a more meaningful discussion.

I in the spirit of your post, I am open to correction if I have misrepresented Neo-Traditionalist position in any way.

Grace and Peace, brother.

    Tony Byr

    Randall, I don’t think you have properly understood the second part of what you quote. The second part is this:

    “Traditionalists believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom. Calvinists don’t.”

    You then say:

    “Neo-Traditionalists believe man has a libertarian free will (genuine freedom, as you posited it). Calvinists don’t.”

    Your statement and his seem to make the same point. You’re actually in agreement. What Allen is saying is that 1) he thinks the Calvinist view (i.e. compatibilism or free agency) logically entails a denial of “genuine freedom,” and that 2) Calvinists do not think their view entails a denial of “genuine freedom.” That’s all you’ve said above and that is all Allen has said above. I don’t see that he has misrepresented Calvinism in the above quote. Maybe he has elsewhere, but not in the above quote taken from this post.

    Both parties, the Calvinists and the non-Calvinists, think their position is able to sustain some sense of “genuine freedom” in all men, including the unregenerate. It’s just the case that Calvinists do not think unregenerate men have libertarian freedom, or the power of contrary choice, as you have said above. Non-Calvinists think the liberty of spontaneity (as over against a liberty of indifference) is not “genuine freedom,” hence their attempts at a reductio ad absurdum.

    I don’t see where Allen has misrepresented the Calvinist view. If you think otherwise, quote it, and we’ll examine it together.

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Tony,

      What Allen is saying is that 1) he thinks the Calvinist view (i.e. compatibilism or free agency) logically entails a denial of “genuine freedom,” and that 2) Calvinists do not think their view entails a denial of “genuine freedom.”

      Yes, that is what I understand Dr. Allen to be saying.

      However, Calvinism contends (on the scriptural grounds offered above) that unregenerate man is in no way free, but is enslaved to sin to the extent that all he does is displeasing to God. There is no freedom in his unregenerate state, only complete bondage to sin. All that is done is done from a sinful motive and is therefore sin. Calvinism denies any form of freedom in relation to sin.

      Dr. Allen’s statement is a little difficult because to the way he constructed it. But if you look at what he is saying it is this:

      “Calvinists don’t…believe that Compatibilism implies a denial of genuine freedom.”

      This is not correct. Calvinists flatly deny that man, in his unregenerate state, is in any way free in relation to sin. He is completely bound by his nature to sin–to the extent that he cannot do that which is good.

      Hence, when you say:

      Both parties, the Calvinists and the non-Calvinists, think their position is able to sustain some sense of “genuine freedom” in all men, including the unregenerate.

      the Calvinist would say: No, we don’t.

      Blessings to you, brother.

        Tony Byr

        Randall said:

        “Calvinism contends…that unregenerate man is in no way free, but is enslaved to sin to the extent that all he does is displeasing to God. There is no freedom in his unregenerate state, only complete bondage to sin. All that is done is done from a sinful motive and is therefore sin. Calvinism denies any form of freedom in relation to sin.”

        Dr. Richard Muller said the following in a recent interview with R. Scott Clark (see minute 7:39-8:26):

        “If you read Francis Turretin’s Institutes of [Elenctic] Theology, at the beginning of each topic, he has a state of the question. What are we actually discussing here. A good example is when you ask the question, “do human beings have free choice?” Turretin will say we are not discussing the question of whether human beings have free choice in every day matters. There’s no debate. They do. We’re not discussing the question of whether human beings have free choice to obey the law on a daily basis, the civil law or moral law. We all agree, they do. What we are debating is the specific question, “do human beings have free choice in matters of salvation, matters of being righteous before God, and the answer we have is no they don’t. We disagree with Rome and Arminians and the like on that point..”

        I would encourage you to check out Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Theology, eds. Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010). Note what is said in summary about Franciscus Gomarus’ (one of the highest of the high Calvinists) position specifically on free choice after the fall but before conversion:

        “In sum: a human being after the Fall and before conversion, although he is free, cannot produce spiritually good acts just by himself.” p. 142.

        In other words, there is a sense in which the unregenerate man is free and a sense in which he is not. It is not the case that he is altogether without freedom as you have represented things. I don’t want to busy myself with lengthy quotations from this book, but they also cover the positions of Zanchi, Junius, Voetius and Turretin.

        A man like D. A. Carson (a Calvinist) calls himself a compatibilist precisely because he thinks some sense of human freedom (and therefore responsibility) is compatible with divine determination. In the revised version of his doctoral dissertation on the subject of “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility,” Carson says that responsibility means a personal relationship of obligation and accountability toward God, and that since it is personal and accountable, it “presupposes some measure of real freedom” (p. 3). Compatibilistic freedom is “The idea that human freedom is not inconsistent with God’s having rendered certain what is to happen.” Millard Erickson, Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 34. If one does not think man remains in a sense free, they are by definition NOT a compatibilist. See also what Richard Muller says about the Reformed position on “liberum arbitrium” (free choice) in his Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 176-177.

        Dr. Allen is representing the Calvinist view correction when he says they believe their view is compatible with “genuine freedom.” Where they differ from Rome, Arminians and the like is in the nature and extent of that freedom. Again, read what Richard Muller said above in the audio. He’s representing the Reformed view accurately.

        p.s. The way this comment section is set up is too difficult for me to follow things coherently. This will therefore be my last comment under this particular post at SBC Today.

        Grace to you,
        Tony

          Randall Cofield

          Tony,

          The bulk of what you have offered above is dealt with decisively in J. Edward’s “Freedom of the Will.”

          To reiterate, ultimately, unregenerate man is free to act according to his will, but his will is inexorably enslaved to sin. This is not freedom, but bondage.

          As I stated earlier, Compatibilism is not necessary to establish responsibility. According to scripture (without regard to you quoted sources) sinners sin, rebels rebel, and we know better…hence we are all guilty. That is the scriptural and Calvinistic construct of moral responsibility.

          Those who argue that Compatibilism is sufficient for moral responsibility are dancing to the tune of the libertarian free will crowd. Not necessary when we simply believe what the Word of God actually says.

          Peace, brother

    Godismyjudge

    By genuine freedom, I think he means freedom Sufficient for moral responsibility. Compatiblists believe in some freedom but not freedom from determinism. Per libertarians that’s not enough freedom to ground moral responsibility. Compatiblist do think such freedom is enough for moral responsibility.

    I still think of of the total depravity question as somewhat of a red herring. Yes there are some differences in the details but at the end of the day both sides agree grace is needed to be able to believe.

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Bob Hadley

      Dan,

      Not sure how TD can be seen as a red herring… I do not believe TD or more specifically TI is Scriptural. As for your last statement, it did make me think… a good deal… “at the end of the day both sides agree grace is needed to be able to believe.”

      I will agree with this statement. I do not believe it is grace that effectually causes anyone to believe nor do I believe this grace is irresistible. So, while I would say your statement is correct, there are more differences in how we will flesh out that statement than similarities.

      ><>”

        Randall Cofield

        Bob,

        ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear;
        And grace my fears relieved!
        How precious did that grace appear,
        The hour I first believed!

        Sola Gratia

        Godismyjudge

        Bob,

        I generally agree (though I could affirm TD depending on how it’s defined). But yes, there are tons of other differences to discuss. You mention a key one for me. Sure we need grace but why must grace be irresistible? It’s like asking why use a nuke when a oil can would do? Another in my mind is determinism. Even assuming for the sake of argument that all we can do is sin, if God decrees for an unregenerate man to yell at his wife, can he go out back and smoke pot? Another is the idea that God’s grace is always at work. If so, we still have freedom, but if not, God is treating people who are unable as if they were able.

        So when I call TD a red herrring, these are the kinds of issues that I think are not being discussed.

        God be with you,
        Dan

          Bob Hadley

          Dan,

          I probably misunderstood your reference to TD in the first post. Here is an interesting thought to what you were mentioning… where effectual call is concerned… I have seen some indicate that it is continual as opposed to punctiliar… I am finding the idea of effectual call being continual a difficult concept to fathom… for if it is continual… then it is not effectual as far as calling is concerned… because that would imply a series of denials or it would not be continual… so would not effectual call have to be immediate and without recourse on the individual’s part?

          I can accept and most certainly agree that man is depraved and I do not even have a problem with total depravity but inability is where I cannot go…

          ><>”

          Randall Cofield

          Dan and Bob

          Dan said:

          Sure we need grace but why must grace be irresistible?

          Personally, I found God’s grace irresistible when I was saved.

          By God’s grace, He brought me to a point where I saw my sin so utterly black and vile that I was overwhelmed with brokenness and sorrow. Subsequently, God by His grace revealed to me the matchless beauty of Christ’s selfless sacrifice for my sins. These two acts of God’s grace caused my soul to be ravished with the incomparable, Altogether Lovely Person of Lord Jesus, and I found Him so irresistible that I flew to him in glad repentance and jubilant faith! I could do no other!

          Tears flow down my face even now at the remembrance of that glorious night.

          How precious did that grace appear,
          The hour I first believed.

          That’s what Irresistible Grace means to me.

          What does it mean to you men?

          Sola Gratia

          Godismyjudge

          Bob,

          I don’t have a problem with the term “effectual call” and won’t offer that term up for Calvinists to define. If Calvinists define all the terms the discussion is over and Traditionalism is toast. Effectual means either “producing an effect” or “able to produce an effect”. I do think God’s call is able to produce conversion.

          If we are talking a call that is a cause which produces conversion as it’s effect, then yes, I suppose that call would logically be at one point in time. The cause produces the effect. If the effect was not produced the cause was not effectual (in that sense). By definition, there’s not room for resistance or the effect to not be produced.

          As for inability, I suppose the natural question is unable to do what? Save ourselves? Sure we are unable. Believe in Christ without the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Sure we are unable. But if the question is are we unable to believe without irresistible grace, then I will stop there and say we are not unable in that sense.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Godismyjudge

          Randall,

          My conversion experience was about the same as you describe, though I was very young at the time. I suspect our difference isn’t so much in our experience, but in our interpretation of the experience or more importantly our understanding of what the bible has to say about that experience.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Randall Cofield

          Dan,

          Setting aside biblical construct, in your practical experience, did you come to a point at which you found Christ irresistible?

          Peace

          Bob Hadley

          Randall,

          The night I got saved I had cried myself to sleep for 3 nights after revival services as a 10 year old boy… and on that Thursday night… I prayed and asked God to forgive me of my sin and for Jesus to be my Savior but instead of me flying to Him… He reached down and picked me up and took me in his arms and I went to sleep knowing that I was His and He was mine.

          The sense of lostness is the most horrific experience in my life… and there is no doubt that God saved me from my lostness.

          Now… did I have a choice in the matter… I will say the answer to that question is probably no… I said I was not going back to that church but I did… I could not get to sleep without crying myself to sleep because of this horrible lost condition… and for a 10 year old boy… that was in and of itself incredible because I was the all-American kid… not much trouble at all… but I knew I was lost…

          So… mu testimony is probably as calvinistic as any… but to say that God chose me and because He chose me I was His may be as true as apple pie and vanilla ice cream… but it is a DOG that will not hunt for me as I read the Scriptures…

          I find consolation in my theological position… for as a calvinist… you ought to know better than anyone… if God wanted me to be a calvinist them i would be one… so I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be today… now tmoorrow… who knows what can happen…

          I told a charismatic one night… who was going to see that I got baptized in the Holy Ghost… he said… just jabber something… get that words flowing… I said… the God I serve can cause me to walk upside down on that ceiling… he does not need me to help Him out… especially where a prayer language is concerned… well he said I didnt believe… I told him I did believe… and if God wanted me to speak a 1000 languages it would be no problem for God…

          I believe in the sovereignty of God… I believe He loves me and He loves you and every man woman boy and girl; He is no respecter of persons… He sent His Son to pay the penalty for every person’s sin and it is effectuated in our lives when we believe that He is indeed everthing He says He is and that He will do everything that He says He will do… that is what I believe the Bible says.. I know that is what is says to me and I will continue to preach it just as it is to people just as they are… until Jesus comes… and then the calvinists can have control of the SBC! (Dont get all up tight… that is a joke.)

          AMEN and AMEN.

          ><>”

          Godismyjudge

          Randall,

          I was 6 at the time. I do remember my desire for Christ was strong but I don’t remember specifically thinking “I can’t say no” or something like that. I was quite busy thinking of Christ at the time :-).

          God be with you,
          Dan

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Dan,

      Per libertarians that’s not enough freedom to ground moral responsibility. Compatiblist do think such freedom is enough for moral responsibility.

      I don’t entirely subscribe to some of the tenets of Compatibilism, particularly when it is used to argue sufficiency for moral responsibility.

      The libertarian free will idea is an Enlightenment construct, and from the idea it is argued that God is in some way beholden to man’s free will (particularly, He must not “violate” it). The argument follows that for man to be held morally responsible he must have libertarian free will.

      It is the “requirement” of libertarian free will for the existence of moral responsibility that I reject.

      Sinners sin, rebels rebel, and God has declared all guilty on the grounds that we know better (Ro. 1:18-32, Ro. 3:10-19). In God’s construct libertarian free will is not necessary for moral responsibility. :-)

      Blessings, brother.

        Godismyjudge

        Randall,

        An enlightenment construct?

        I don’t press for LFW to hard on the basis of moral responsibility. I do think we have deep intuitions that responsibility requires the ability to do otherwise. But while I think Calvinism has serious philosophical problems, I think it has bigger problems with scripture.

        God be with you,
        Dan

          Randall Cofield

          Dan,

          An enlightenment construct?

          The manner in which it is being used to defend the TS–yes.

          Soli Deo Gloria

Randall Cofield

To All

I believe this is the whole root of the disagreement between Neo-Traditionalists and Calvinists:

Neo-Traditionalists believe man has a libertarian free will. Calvinists don’t.

What thinkest thou?

Blessings, brothers and sisters

    Mike Davis

    Hi Randall,

    I thought Dr Allen’s description was a good concise summary, and he does include the point that Calvinists also believe unregenerate humans have a choice. Obviously, the precise definition of the extent of the “freedom” of that choice is the crux of the debate between both sides, and even to some degree within both sides. As far as I remember (and I’ve read it quite a bit) I don’t think the TS uses the term “libertarian” free will, although that is the adjective many Traditionalists use. I think the focus on the term “libertarian” has been greater since Dr Braxton Hunter’s post. Also, without trying to speak for the Traditionalists, it appears some of them believe libertarian free will was never lost in the fall while some appear to believe it was granted as a gift subsequent to the fall as a kind of Traditionalist version of prevenient grace. I apologize to the Traditionalists if I didn’t get that completely accurate; I am still trying to analyze the things you guys are saying :^). Also, some Traditionalists hold to total depravity (but may define it a little differently than Calvinists) while other Traditionalists believe the fall impairs but does not result in total depravity.

    Anyway, blessings to you, Randall, and to all you Traditionalists and Calvinists out there and have a happy July 4th. It is a beautiful day in South Texas and I’m gonna go see if there are any hot dogs left.

Matt

Dr. Allen,

You say that no one should be misrepresented in thier beliefs and apply this to both sides of the debate. You wrote, “Traditionalists have every right to expect the same from their counterparts, including the right to critique Calvinism without being accused of denying cardinal doctrines of the faith. We actually do believe in the sovereignty of God, election, total depravity, etc.” Here is a quote form the author of the “traditional statement”, Eric Hankins, that I believe shows that He does not believe in total depravity in any sense:

“Nothing in Scripture indicates that humans have been rendered “totally depraved” through Adam’s sin. Genesis 3 gives an extensive account of the consequences of Adam’s sin, but nowhere is there the idea that Adam or his progeny lost the ability to respond to God in faith, a condition which then required some sort of restoration by regeneration or prevenient grace.”
-Eric Hankins in part 4 of his series “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism” found here on the SBCToday archives in April.

    Lydia

    My goodness Matt. This horse had been beat to death. Hankins and many of us do not agree with the Calvinist definition of total depravity.

    So what exactly is your point?

      Matt

      Lydia,

      My point is that he denies that the fall has left us incapable of any possitive response to the gospel. He not only denies the need of effectual (irrisistable) grace, he also denies the need of prevenient grace.

        Lydia

        “My point is that he denies that the fall has left us incapable of any possitive response to the gospel. He not only denies the need of effectual (irrisistable) grace, he also denies the need of prevenient grace.”

        I deny it, too. (Considering definitions)

        So can you find a new heretic to name us after? What else can be done since there is no state/church to deal with us? Is there a dungeon at SBTS I don’t know about? :o)

          Matt

          Lydia,

          Once again, I’ll have to finish off this gallon of whiskey I’m drinking, beat my wife, and then kick my dog. But after I finish doing all my daily Calvinist duties, I’ll get to work on building that dungeon for all of you that disagree with me.

          The sad thing is that is probably the only thing I have ever typed on here that you believe.

        t.r.

        I know. He even denies prevenient grace. The only person that I know of (other than Eric Hankins) to deny the need for even prevenient grace is Pelagius. And you all signed this document?! My word!

          volfan007

          TR,

          Yes, we did. We did sign it. Gladly. And?

          David

          Randall Cofield

          t.r.

          Indeed. Remember all the caterwauling that went on when Dr. Mohler stated that the TS seemed to have semi-Pelagian tendencies?

          I think he was being gracious. What Dr. Hankins and Lydia are contending seems to be full-blown Pelagianism.

          Peace

          Lydia

          Matt, I am just confused why you seem so put out at our hermeneutic. You have made Hankins quotes front and center as if they are some sort of theological crime. It is not as if they are news. We have been discussing them for ages now ad nauseum.

          I am trying to figure out where you are coming from. Are you unable to cooperate with people who hold to a different view than a determinist God? What is the deal?

          Lydia

          I am thinking of naming my new dog either Pelagius or Servetus.

          Don Johnson

          Lydia,

          As you are well aware, “irresistible grace” is not found in the Bible. More importantly, it’s not taught in any way, shape or form in the Bible.

          Randall Cofield

          Lydia,

          I am thinking of naming my new dog either Pelagius or Servetus.

          Why not just go with “Anti-Christ”?

          (obligatory)……… :-)

          Peace

          Matt

          Lydia,

          My point in quoting Eric Hankins’ statements here is to show that the intention of the author of the “traditional statement” seems quite a bit different than Dr. Allen’s defense of the statement. I believe that Dr. Allen has substantialy different beliefs than some of Dr. Hankins’ beliefs, and that Dr. Allen has written in a much more decent and gracious tone than what Dr. Hankins intended in his statement.

          If you name your dog one of those names, I may be tempted to come find and kick your dog (or maybe burn it at the stake). :-)

          As you requested, I posted links to several videos of people using “sinner’s prayer” on yesterdays article “SBC New Orleans” by Dr. Hankins. It currently is “awaiting moderation”, but I would invite you and anyone who may think that our concerns over abuse of “sinner’s prayers” are a witch hunt to check them out.

          God bless

          Lydia

          “My point in quoting Eric Hankins’ statements here is to show that the intention of the author of the “traditional statement” seems quite a bit different than Dr. Allen’s defense of the statement. I believe that Dr. Allen has substantialy different beliefs than some of Dr. Hankins’ beliefs, and that Dr. Allen has written in a much more decent and gracious tone than what Dr. Hankins intended in his statement.”

          Matt,

          Here is the problem I see with your explanation that I think will only serve to frustrate the YRR and divide the SBC even more.

          You are attempting to define what is acceptable to the New Calvinist wing and what isn’t from the Trad position. He who defines, wins.

          Ok, So David Allen’s words are more YRR approved. Hankins are not. But Allen signed the document. Are you trying to say they don’t really agree on the statement? Or that David is just nicer in the way he states things?

          So Hankins is more direct. So what? Why does it matter? Hankins is not allowed to have his view like Mohler (an employee! Not a pastor!) is allowed to say publicly that his learned brothers did not know what they were signing? And allude heresy? That has been allowed and now he is saying some people need to be marginalized. What gives him the right to say that?

          And that is where this brings us. I think this is nothing but an attempt to marginalize Hankins for his plain speaking. As long as we dress up our differences in flowery language acceptable to the YRR then all is ok? I think not.

          Why is it you all think you make the all the rules? Marginalize people? That is the part I do not get. We “cooperate”. We do not “rule” one another.

Matt

Dr. Allen,

Here is a good example of a “reductio ad absurdum” style argument used by the author of the traditional statement minus the argument. This one is found in the comments section of part 4 of his series “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism”:

“There is nothing about your explanation of Calvin above that makes sense unless God is a deterministic, evil-causing tyrant, who purposefully creates some people in order to damn them. This is not the God is the Bible. This is who God is when Five Point Calvinism is run out to its necessary conclusions.”
-Eric Hankins

    Godismyjudge

    Matt,

    Do you have a link to that document? I would appreciate it.

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Matt

      Dr. Allen,

      I agree with and commend your comments, “I have on occasion sought to correct overzealous Traditionalists who have questioned the place of Calvinists in the SBC. It is any and every Baptist’s right to be persuaded that a Calvinistic Soteriology reflects the teaching of Scripture. Being a Calvinist should not be a Convention crime. Calvinists have and should always be free to have a place at the SBC table. Any church that feels led of God to call a Calvinist pastor should do so without hesitation. I serve a seminary that has some Calvinists on the faculty, some of whom I myself recommended to the administration for hiring. I have on occasion recommended other Calvinist faculty members to other SBC colleges and seminaries. I have and continue to work side-by-side with Calvinist brothers and sisters in the churches I pastored and in the seminary I serve.” but here again is a statement made by the author of the “traditional statement”:

      “the only acceptance germane to this discussion is the acceptance of Southern Baptists, who don’t accept the necessary conclusions of Five Point Calvinism and don’t want seminaries and agencies that produce people who do.”
      -Eric Hankins in the same comments section mentioned above

        Lydia

        “It is any and every Baptist’s right to be persuaded that a Calvinistic Soteriology reflects the teaching of Scripture.”

        Matt, That depends on what you mean by “Persuasion”. You mean the Godfather type of persuasion of using church discipline, keys to the kingdom and “ruling” elders. That is not persuasion that is coercion and using “education” to intimidate people.

        You will claim that does not happen but it most certainly does and more people are catching on to it. And no, I am not naming names at this point. I do not have permission.

        Are you, by any chance, the same Matt who claimed on Voices that pulpit committees are too ignorant to ask the right questions so it is not your responsibility to enlighten them? (paraphrase)

          Matt

          Lydia,

          No. I am not the same Matt who made that comment on Voices.

          As for the quote, “It is any and every Baptist’s right to be persuaded that a Calvinistic Soteriology reflects the teaching of Scripture.” You would have to ask Dr. Allen what he meant by that since those are his words. I simply took them at thier plain meaning that people have the right to be persuaded by scripture and reason.

          God bless

          Lydia

          “You would have to ask Dr. Allen what he meant by that since those are his words. I simply took them at thier plain meaning that people have the right to be persuaded by scripture and reason.”

          Good point!!!

      Matt

      If you go to the comumn on the right side of Dr. Allen’s article above and click on archives then click on April you will find a list of articles on this website from April of this year. These quotes come from the article “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism” pt.4 “The anthropological presupositions” and also from Erics responses in the comments section.

        Godismyjudge

        Thanks for letting me know where it is Matt. I read it and he does say that God always initiates, that we need the Holy Spirits drawing and the Holy Spirit enables us. If you just look at that once statement you might end up with an unbalanced view of Dr. Hankins’ beliefs.

        God be with you,
        Dan

Christian

At our former church the pastor decided to give calvinism a platform. Small groups were formed and all the books were by calvinists. The calvinists in the church became very bold to the point that one teacher of children informed the class that probably not all of them would be chosen to go to heaven. Now tell me please how do the two belief systems have unity when something like this occurs? This is what is happening on a larger scale in the SBC . The two systems do not mix. I can worship with and be friends with a calvinist but I can not support their beliefs with my offerings. How can the two opposite systems of belief exist in the same church? I do not believe they can. It is inevitable you will have instances like this occurring within the church. After all the teacher was only teaching what he believed was truth.

    Bill

    Christian… I am sorry that happened. But please do not assume that that teacher represents the norm or the goal. That particular teacher was superficial in his understanding and foolish in his application and communication of what he was learning. He should have been focusing on the goodness of God and helping those kids understand their need for Him as sinners. We need not concern ourselves with who may or may not be chosen… That should never be the point; we don’t know and it’s not our business. We certainly should never declare to anyone they are not; as long as they are breathing they might be! We are called to make sure everyone hears and plead with them to be reconciled to God.

    The truth is the two can work alongside one another. I let those who differ from me preach in my absence (or even when I’m there) because the gospel will be preached: God created us, we rebelled and stand in judgment, Christ is our only hope, respond by grace in faith and repentance.

    Matt

    Christian,

    As a Calvinist, I will be the first to say that this is a discussion for mature Christians. As with many theological teachings, this discussion would have no place in a class full of children. I think the lady who made that statement was very irresponsible, and should stick to teaching the basics of the gospel and stories from the Bible. I personally attend a church where I am in the minority. There are no problems there, and when I comment on things in Sunday school from a “Calvinist” point of view, no one even seems to notice since everyone wants to acknowledge God as our Sovreign, mighty, Creator and Sustainer of all to whom we owe everything.

    God bless

      Christian

      How would you prevent events like this from happening? The pastor can’t be in every classroom. This is calvinistic doctrine. At what point in time do you tell your children that God only chooses some to go to heaven? This is why I can’t support calvinism with my offerings. Sorry, in reality the two doctrines do not mix in the same church. I will respect a reformed church but I can not give support to it.

        Matt

        Christian,

        I would hope that the people chosen for possitions in childrens ministry would have a little more discretion than that. I would also hope that someone in that church would kindly talk to that teacher and explain what is and is not appropriate for discussion for children too young to understand all of the doctrines of grace. An oversimplified statement like the one you mentioned could be easily misunderstood by those too young to fully comprehend the whole story of how our sovreign God has chosen to accomplish His work of salvation. I’m sorry you have had such a bad experience with someone who lacked discretion and is a Calvinist. The number one goal of all Calvinists, and all Christians, should be the proclamation of the gospel. I would hope that we could all support eachother in that, but I’m sorry if you feel like you can’t support any Calvinists anymore.

        God bless

      Lydia

      “As a Calvinist, I will be the first to say that this is a discussion for mature Christians.”

      Well this is interesting. Do you make sure Piper audio is off when the kids are in the room? I mean I understand having to turn Driscoll off when even your teens are in the room but how do people deal with children hearing Calvinist preaching then on these topics?

        Matt

        Lydia,

        I don’t personally have any Piper audio. I have a six year old daughter and love for her to hear Calvinists preach the gospel. She is not old enough to understand the finer points of theology yet, and I would certainly not tell her and others her age something that is oversimplified like the statement, “some of you may not be chosen to go to heaven.” There are some stories straight out of the Bible that I would not read to her. Would you read Judges 19 to children? Some things are only appropriate for Christians who are old enough and mature enough to understand them. I would also not like my daughter to be told things that I believe to be untrue concerning God; like He allows people to do terrible things for no other reason than He wouldn’t want to violate thier wills or that the faith and love for God that she feels in her heart is something of her own creation instead of the work of God in one of His children.

        God bless

          Lydia

          Matt,

          I read the NLT to my then 6 year old all the way through from Gen to Rev. We do it every 2 years and are now in Matthew for the 4th time. And yes lots of questions but what is REAL interesting is how the questions change from year to year.

          Have you ever had to answer this question: But mom, what if Lucifer repents?

          Answer: Go ask your dad. :o)

          But I tell my child people are responsible for their behavior,…even Christians. (wink)

          “like He allows people to do terrible things for no other reason than He wouldn’t want to violate thier wills”

          Except those He decides to regenerate, right?Then He violates their will?

          ” or that the faith and love for God that she feels in her heart is something of her own creation instead of the work of God in one of His children.”

          Oh my.

          Matt

          Lydia,

          If you read your six year old Bible stories that involve homosexuality, rape until death, and mutilation; maybe the Sunday school teacher Christian mentioned isn’t the only one who lacks discretion.

          I too teach my daughter that people are responsible for thier actions.

          Did you realize that the statements you quoted me on were things that I said I believe to be untrue concerning God?

          God bless

          Lydia

          “Did you realize that the statements you quoted me on were things that I said I believe to be untrue concerning God?”

          Not sure what this means.

Robin Foster

Dr. Allen

As always, very insightful to our current situation. I’m thankful you are speaking to this with grace and wisdom.

Matt

Dr. Allen,

You say, “I have seen several occasions where the statement has been criticized for “saying” or “implying” that Calvinists believe a person can be saved apart from repentance and faith. The Statement neither says nor implies such.”, but once again here are the words of the author of the “traditional statement”

““In Calvinism, the only remedies for this state-of-affairs are the “doctrines of grace” in which the free response of individuals is not decisive.”

“We react with consternation to the ideas…that reprobation without respect to a response of faith brings Him the greatest glory”
-Eric Hankins again in the comments section of pt.4 of his series “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism” found in the archives of SBCToday in the month of April 2012.

    Matt

    When I brought up these statements that Eric had made and explained the Calvinists possition pointing out how these statements were misrepresenting Calvinism, Eric ignored what I wrote and replied:

    “Calvinists do not believe that human decisions matter in any normal sense of the word “matter.” Their decisions cannot be otherwise, and so they are actors on a stage. They go to hell for their own sins, but they had no opportunity to do otherwise. This is simply not freedom. I am not misrepresenting Calvinism in this.”
    -Eric Hankins from the same commemts section mentioned above.

      Lydia

      Matt, I totally agree with his statement. And I am thrilled someone in the SBC finally had the nerve to say it outloud.

        Matt

        Lydia,

        I’m sure he is thrilled to have your support.

Steve Lemke

Friends,
It’s not helpful to battle over the word “traditional” Baptist. It has just been a “descriptor” term in the present debate. I would agree that it is not the best terminology. The phrase “traditional Baptists” has just been a “descriptor” term in the present debate, and it refers to the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of the last few generations of Southern Baptists, and thus the it is the “tradition” that current Southern Baptists have received from the prior generations. But in the long history of Baptists, this theological pendulum has swung back and forth several times.

Calvinistic (no Baptists are complete Calvinists, since they deny many fundamental Calvinist doctrines) or Reformed Baptists are good descriptors. What would be a good descriptor of the majority of Baptists who disagree? The problem is that whatever label you propose is unacceptable to either side. LifeWay Research has demonstrated yet again (http://www.lifeway.com/ArticleView?storeId=10054&catalogId=10001&langId=-1&article=research-sbc-pastors-polled-on-calvinism-affect-on-convention) that they overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists are neither Arminian nor Calvinist in identity, but simply, “Baptist”). Indeed, Dr. Allen is a signatory of the statement, “Not Calvinist Nor Arminian, But Baptist” (http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/NeitherCalvinistsNorArminiansButBaptists.pdf). So we don’t want to be called (nor is it accurate to call us) semi-Arminians, semi-Calvinists, semi-Pelagians, or semi-Methodists. We prefer to call ourselves “Baptists.” But if we simply call ourselves “Baptists,” the “Reformed Baptists” would likely object, saying (rightly) that they are Baptists, too. So how do we distinguish ourselves from Reformed Baptists, without allowing the categories of Calvinism to define us? Well, we could call ourselves “mainstream” or “majoritarian” Baptists. Or, we could just use the descriptor “traditional Baptists” and understand what is meant by that descriptor without making a big deal about it . . .

    Randall Cofield

    Hi Steve,

    Brother, I think the problem here lies in the fact that TS Baptists are trying to carve out a theological niche for which there is no historical precedent. They don’t want to be categorized as Donatists or Waldensians, Pelagians or Augustinians, Arminians or Calvinists, Generals or Particulars. Such are the problems associated with blazing “new” theological trails.

    “Traditional” was coined for the title of their initial foray into the world of Baptist confessionalism, and they quickly turned the phrase, styling themselves as “Traditionalists.” The problem is that “tradition” implies historical precedent. Their beliefs have no historical precedent. Hence, the objection to the term.

    The only appeal they have is to contend that the “majority” of SB have believed what they are positing for maybe 50-75 years. In the scope of the long and rich history of the Baptist faith, that hardly qualifies as an historical precedent.

    If they are going to insist that we use the term of their choosing, I suggest we call it what it is:

    Neo-Traditionalism.

    They are trying to establish a new and novel soteriological paradigm.

    Such are the hazards when we eschew “the old paths, where is the good way.” (Jer. 6:16)

    Grace to you, brother.

      Donald

      “They are trying to establish a new and novel soteriological paradigm”

      LOL

      Brad Reynolds

      Randall,
      Please take this in the kind spirit in which it is written:

      One’s lack of knowledge of the theology of historical men like Balthasar Hubmaier does not negate its existence.

      BR

    Max

    Whew! If we throw any more “descriptors” into this mix, the denomination I have been a member of for 50+ years will no longer be recognizable to the masses which support her. “Southern Baptists” used to be such a good fit for us … we knew who we were! The current flurry to modify our identity by hybridizing our theology and ecclesiology will soon have folks in the pew wondering which end is up.

    In the area I live in is a town called Halfway … aptly named by its founders because it is halfway between two larger cities. There is a Halfway Baptist Church there. That may very well be the descriptor of the new SBC if we merge much more into “majority” belief and practice (whoops, sorry about using that descriptor).

    Leslie Puryear

    Steve,

    I agree with everything you said except for “Reformed Baptists.” Those two words together are an oxymoron. Baptists did not have anything to do with the Reformation. That is one reason that a true Baptist will not celebrate “Reformation Day,” like some of our Calvinist brethren.

    Historically, those who have labeled themselves as “Reformed” actually have some connection with the Reformation. Baptists have no connection with the Reformation, thus there cannot be any such thing as a “Reformed” Baptist.

    The Original Les

    P.S. Even my Presbyterian friends agree with this so it’s gotta be true. :)

t.r.

I truly appreciate the call for unity among Calvinists and Traditionalists in this article. Amen to that! I also appreciate the author’s admission that the founding fathers of the SBC were Calvinists, when he wrote how some Calvinists today would like to “return us as a Convention to the Calvinistic theology of some of our founding fathers.” But this fact shows just how very inappropriate and deceptive it is for the signers of this document to call themselves “Traditionalists”. What were the Calvinist founding fathers of our convention if not traditionalists? By virtue of the founding fathers, do not the Calvinists within the SBC also have a right to the title “traditionalist”?

    selahV

    Hi t.r.
    If the Calvinists want to call themselves traditionalists, that is certainly their choice, I’d think. However, don’t believe they ever really wanted to be known as traditionalists….have they? Now, on the other hand, we kinda like the name, kinda like Southern…most of us like that too–we prefer Biblicists, but some of the reformed brethren want that name too. Seems they want them all. lol. Have you happened to read Trey Medley’s take on the Trad Statement? http://whytheology.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/my-take-on-the-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-gods-plan-for-salvation/

    Ron Hale

    t.r.,
    What about General Traditionals and Paticular Traditionals or Charleston Trads and Sandy Creek Trads?

      Randall Cofield

      Ron,

      …..Charleston Trads and Sandy Creek Trads….

      Interesting you should raise that “distinction.” The Sandy Creek Baptists were hardly “Traditionalists” in the newly-coined sense of the term. Even one of the signers of the TS acknowledges this:

      “The Sandy Creek tradition was … less Calvinistic, though, to be perfectly fair about the whole matter, it was certainly a long way from being Arminian, because the Sandy Creek statement of faith has a very Calvinistic strain to it also.”
      Paige Patterson

      Peace

        Ron Hale

        Contrast in the Sandy Creek Baptist Associations Principles of faith
        in 1816 and their declaration of faith in 1845
        (Source: A history of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association by George W. Purefoy pages 105 and 204)

        Article 3 and 4 from the 1816 principles of faith

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

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

        contrasted with article VI in their 1845 declaration of faith.

        VI. Of the freeness of salvation.

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

          Randall Cofield

          Ron,

          So you don’t deny that they were quite Calvinistic in their 1816 confession.

          As for article VI of the 1845 confession, there is nothing in that statement per se that disagrees with Calvinism. At best it is ambiguous.

          What I do find interesting is that you didn’t include articles III & IV of the 1845 confession….

          Perhaps you could share those with us?

          Peace, brother

          Ron Hale

          Randall,
          Here is the 1845 version from Sandy Creek Association, America’s third Baptist Association … they soon dropped other reformed templates:

          III. Of The Fall of Man
          “That man was created in a state of holiness, under the law of his maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners; not by constraint but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, wholly given to the gratifaction of the world, of Satan, and of their own sinful passions, and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.”

          Sandy Creek Baptist Church and Association … today … use the BFM2000.

          I think Bro. Shubal is happy about that.

          Blessings!

      t.r.

      Sadly, but honestly, you neo-trads don’t fit in any stream in the SBC. Even Sandy Creek is far too Calvinistic for you guys.

      Sandy Creek Confession:
      Article 3
      That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.
      Article 4
      We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

        Ron Hale

        t.r.,
        Those articles are the earliest ones that Sandy Creek clearly moved away from. I would say that Founders website only posts the earliest version.

        In 1845 … they voted in a new confession.

        Again, here is article III in the later version:

        III. Of The Fall of Man
        “That man was created in a state of holiness, under the law of his maker; but by voluntary transgression fell from that holy and happy state; in consequence of which all mankind are now sinners; not by constraint but choice; being by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God, wholly given to the gratifaction of the world, of Satan, and of their own sinful passions, and therefore under just condemnation to eternal ruin, without defense or excuse.”

t.r.

Author of the “traditional statement”, Eric Hankins, denies even the need for prevenient grace, making him the new Pelagius:

“Nothing in Scripture indicates that humans have been rendered “totally depraved” through Adam’s sin. Genesis 3 gives an extensive account of the consequences of Adam’s sin, but nowhere is there the idea that Adam or his progeny lost the ability to respond to God in faith, a condition which then required some sort of restoration by regeneration or prevenient grace.”
-Eric Hankins in part 4 of his series “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism” found here on the SBCToday archives in April.

    volfan007

    tr,

    Hey, Dude…why dont you take a break. You’re gonna hurt your eyes from being on the computer so much. I suggest that you go to the Sonic and buy a large, Cherry coke. They’re good.

    David

      Randall Cofield

      David,

      Kinda painful to see these statements by Dr. Hankins contrasted with what Dr. Allen posted, isn’t it?

      Peace

      volfan007

      BTW, tr, take Randall with you. He really needs a break.

      David

        Randall Cofield

        Shall I take that as a “yes”? :-)

      Lydia

      LOL!

      It is too hot to go anywhere, though. Even the pool was hot.

    Ron Hale

    t.r. and Matt,
    Please keep the Hankins Helpers coming …these non-Calvinists nuggets may lead to a nice devotional book. Thanks for the research.

      Randall Cofield

      Ron,

      Shall we declare Oxford, MS the new Geneva? :-)

      Peace

        Ron Hale

        I would like to publish them, his great writings has opened a door of conversation that will help the SBC in many ways!

          Randall Cofield

          Ron,

          Despite the fact that he is caricaturing and misrepresenting Calvinism? How does this “help the SBC in many ways”?

          Your position here is startling, especially in light of your commendation of Dr. Allen’s plea in this post.

          Peace, brother.

      Matt

      Ron,

      Maybe Zondervan will publish them.

Darryl Hill

Excellent article Bro. David. You have summarized the discussion well. You have accurately and with gentility pinpointed the trouble spots we have encountered in this discussion. And you have eloquently articulated my heart on this matter. My prayer is continued cooperation. I do not expect a return to Calvinism and I do not intend to push for such a change. I have definitely witnessed straw man arguments from both sides and ad hominem attacks from both sides.

I am also certain I have failed in my desire to disagree agreeably. Not one of us is above reproach and we’d all do well to remember that. And we are not enemies, even if we disagree.

I am convinced that continued cooperation is both best and possible. We must forget about who is to blame and focus on a way to resolve to live at peace with the Kingdom in view. May God grant us grace in these days.

Thanks for this article. I appreciate it more than you know.

Randall Cofield

The more I read the TS the more convinced I become:

The TS has opened a door that will allow Open Theists to plant a foot squarely in the midst of our Convention. If the TS is widely embraced in the SBC, we will be fighting the battles of the ’70’s and ’80’s all over again in the ’20’s and ’30’s.

Lydia

“As you are well aware, “irresistible grace” is not found in the Bible. More importantly, it’s not taught in any way, shape or form in the Bible.”

Don,

Right now I have this burden for all these little Calvinst kids waiting for their own “irresitible grace” because the “love they might feel for God is of their own creation”. This breaks my heart.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Lydia: Irresistable grace is that God can overcome our resistance. The child who loves God is being saved, is saved. That is one of the signs of a born again Christian.

    Irresistable grace doesn’t say that grace can’t be resisted either. It does say that God in his mercy and in his Sovereignty, overcomes our resistance to God. 1 Corinthians 15:10.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Salvation is not a you do this and I will do that proposition.

        Tony Byrne

        Be careful with the term “salvation,” Debbie, since it is broad. Actually, “salvation” is an “if you do this, then I will do that” proposition. “If you believe (this), you shall be saved” (that), says the scriptures. There is a sense of conditionality in justification (salvation begun).

        What Calvinists object to is not that salvation is conditional (if-then), in the instrumental sense (faith being an instrumental cause not a meritorious cause). Rather, they object to the idea that God’s initial quickening act by the Spirit (i.e. “regeneration” in a systematic theological sense) is brought about by anything we do, hence the commonly used term “monergism” (one-working) for that particular act of God.

        “Salvation,” properly speaking, refers to our justification (salvation begun), sanctification (salvation ongoing) and glorification (salvation finished). We are doing things (instrumentally) to bring about these states of affairs, but not things that merit these benefits.

        It is therefore false, or at least not representative of the Calvinist/Reformed position, to say, “Salvation is not a you do this and I will do that proposition.”

          Debbie Kaufman

          How about I put it this way Tony. What a Holy God requires we cannot do. But God does not leave us to ourselves to fulfill those requirements. He does it through us. This is especially true with salvation. He requires something of us, belief, faith in Jesus Christ. He however does not leave us to ourselves to accomplish this.

      Matt

      Debbie,

      Lydia’s comment “Right now I have this burden for all these little Calvinst kids waiting for their own “irresitible grace” because the “love they might feel for God is of their own creation”. This breaks my heart.” is in response to her misreading my statement, “I would also not like my daughter to be told things that I believe to be untrue concerning God; like He allows people to do terrible things for no other reason than He wouldn’t want to violate thier wills or that the faith and love for God that she feels in her heart is something of her own creation instead of the work of God in one of His children.”

      I think she thought I said true instead of untrue or something like that. Now she is making fun of her own position because she mistakenly thought I said I believed it.

      Pretty funny.

        Randall Cofield

        Matt,

        I’m not so sure it was a misreading of your statement. It seems she might have been manipulating your statements to advance her position.

        Of course, Lydia could easily clear things up if she so chose.

        Peace

          Matt

          Randall,

          I don’t know what she is thinking. I was saying that I don’t want someone telling my daughter that the faith and love for God that she feels in her heart is something of her own creation. I tell her that it is evidence of God working in her heart. I have no idea how this position could lead to Lydia’s statement, “Right now I have this burden for all these little Calvinst kids waiting for their own “irresitible grace” because the “love they might feel for God is of their own creation”. The part of her statement that she puts in quotes isn’t even an accurate quote. I was just thinking that the only way that she could think that “Calvinist kids” would think that the love they feel for God is of thier own creation is if she thought I was saying that I thought this was true and was what I wanted my daughter to be taught. I was thinking this was pretty funny since she is the one who thinks that faith is not a gift from God.

          Like you say, she is the one who could clear this up. I will admit there is no telling what goes on in her mind.

          God bless

David L. Allen

Matt, you have commented several times by quoting me and then quoting Dr. Hankins from an article he wrote back in April. It appears to me that the gist of your comments is an attempt to make the point that Dr. Hankins has done or not done what I have said we all should not do or do in this discussion. In order to respond, I went back and read his article and the interchange of your comments and his that you cite here.

I would suggest several things in response. It seems to me to be an unwise practice to take a smattering of an author’s comments from another source and reproduce them here apart from their context. I recognize you cannot bring the entire context of Dr. Hankin’s article itself, much less the comments you and he made to each other, to this comment thread. All the more reason in my opinion to be wary of doing what you have done. This makes it difficult if not impossible for anyone, me included, to assess the validity of your assertions and respond with any semblance of confidence that I won’t misinterpret or misrepresent what you and he have said. I will attempt to proceed with caution.

Second, you are concerned that Dr. Hankins has misrepresented Calvinism. You state that Dr. Hankins does not believe in total depravity “in any sense.” Frankly, having read his article, it seems clear to me that you have inadvertently misrepresented him by this claim. Dr. Hankins does indeed affirm total depravity, and that quite clearly. What he does not affirm is the notion that total depravity includes total inability. Two things are important to notice here. First, he already stated in the previous paragraph that he affirms total depravity. Second, notice Dr. Hankins put “totally depraved” in quotation marks in the paragraph in his article where you quote him, indicating he is using the term as Calvinists use it to mean “total inability.” Notice also his use of the word “ability” in his statement you quote. Dr. Hankins is not denying total depravity. He is denying an interpretation of total depravity that includes “total inability.” Thus, it seems to me, your conclusion that Dr. Hankins does not affirm total depravity “in any sense” is not well founded.

Matt, with respect to your comment at 6:01 pm Wednesday, I appreciate your agreement and commendation of my statement you cite. To give a generous read on Dr. Hankin’s quote you cite, (as we should always attempt to do in discussions like this), it seems to me what he is intending to say is something like this: “the majority of Southern Baptists don’t accept high-Calvinism and its negative entailments (negative from the perspective of those who aren’t Calvinists) and prefer that Southern Baptist seminaries and agencies which are owned and operated by Southern Baptists predominately reflect the views of the majority in the convention.” There is a difference between a seminary functioning with the intention of producing five-point Calvinist graduates and a seminary that operates without such an intention but that has some of its graduates committed to five-point Calvinism when they graduate. No one should have any qualms about the later scenario. It appears to me that Dr. Hankins is arguing against the notion of an SBC seminary or entity intentionally trying to produce Calvinists. If this is the case, he certainly has the right to his opinion about the issue, just as you have the right to challenge him if you desire. Finally, given my quote that you cite before Dr. Hankin’s quote, I take it you think he would disagree with what I wrote. I doubt he would, but since I cannot speak for him and it would be unwise on my part to attempt to do so, I will leave it at that.

Now concerning your comment at 7:06 pm, Dr. Hankins made clear in his article from which you cite that he is not interested in using the terminology and concept of “prevenient grace” from the intra-mural debates among the Reformed 400 years ago. Granted, these terms are still used today by Arminians and Calvinists, but as Dr. Lemke stated in his comment earlier, we are approaching the debate as neither Calvinists nor Arminians. Since the Statement on Soteriology clearly affirms no one can be saved apart from God’s initiation and consummation of salvation, it seems clear Dr. Hankins does not deny what you assert he denies. You are correct, however, that he does deny two things: 1) Total Depravity when defined as including “total inability,” and 2) irresistible grace.

With respect to your comment and quotation of Dr. Hankins at 5:46 pm, I think it is important to point out that Dr. Hankins is arguing that, based on a previous commenter’s statement (he refers to “your explanation of Calvin”), he thinks such a brand of five-point Calvinism logically entails a form of hard determinism. Again, he is entitled to make this claim just as you are entitled to refute it. I’m not quite sure what you mean when you state “here is a good example of a reductio ad absurdum argument used by the author of the traditional statement minus the argument.”

Concerning your comment at 6:32 pm, I would say it is certainly possible for any author to make a written statement and then later turn around and contradict what he had previously written. However, before we accuse him of such, we should seek to make sure we understand exactly what he is saying in both statements. Again, this is a matter of attempting to give an author the benefit of the doubt by a charitable read on his meaning. You quote my comment about the statement, which I presume you agree with, then quote Dr. Hankins in an effort to show that he does say or imply what I said the document itself does not say or imply. In Dr. Hankin’s first quote you cite, he does not assert or even imply that Calvinists believe one can be saved apart from repentance and faith, he merely indicates he disagrees with Compatibilism. In his second quote you cite, Dr. Hankin’s is speaking about the subject of reprobation. Again, he says nothing about whether Calvinists believe that one can be saved apart from repentance and faith. Were he to believe such and/or state such, he would be misrepresenting what Calvinists believe about compatibilism. It appears to me that you are drawing an inference from what he does say that, in my opinion, is an invalid inference.

Finally, in your 6:38 pm comment, it seems to me that the key to Dr. Hankin’s quote is the phrase “in any normal sense of the word ‘matter.’” By his use of this phrase, it appears he is making a judgment that compatibilism as a construct to explain human freedom has negative entailments with respect to human decisions. Calvinists do indeed believe that human decisions “matter” in the issue of salvation. Whether the proposition they believe, namely, human decisions “matter” in a compatibilist framework, is true or false, is another matter (no pun intended!). Dr. Hankins obviously thinks the proposition is false. No doubt, Calvinists disagree with his statement. Whether Dr. Hankins is distinguishing these two things (the belief and its entailments) in his own mind as he wrote, I cannot say. It would have been helpful had he done so in his written statement, as such would remove the criticism that he has misrepresented Calvinism. But, as I said in my article, none of us bats a thousand on these kinds of things.

Please forgive the length of my response to your comments. I do hope I have correctly understood your points and that my comments are helpful in some way.

    Matt

    Dr. Allen,

    I will try to answer your points in the order you gave them.

    1. I do not believe that I have taken any of Eric’s comments out of context, and have provided instructions to where they can be found for anyone who cares to look them up. These are only a few among many that could be dug up from his four part series. I would encourage anyone to read his articles and ensuing comments to get a good perspective on where the “traditional statement” is coming from.

    2.It seems very clear to me that Dr. Hankins is denying total depravity. What in the world does that term mean to you if it does not include some level of inability. His article and statements make it clear that he is not just dening the term “prevenient grace” as used by Arminians, but he is denying the entire concept. He explains that his definition of God’s acting first is Jesus’ atonement on the cross and the preaching of the gospel. There is no type of grace needed whatsoever, in his view, to prepare the heart for the gospel. In his view man is totally capable of responding positively to the gospel as long as he hears it. This is not total depravity in any sense that I have ever heard it, and his sentiments seem to be well stated in the quote I provided. I would welcome you to look up article 7 of the Council of Orange and see if what Dr. Hankins writes does not match up to what was found to be semi-pelagian and was called heresy. Notice that I say what the council found. I am not making the heresy accuasation.

    3.Here you are attempting to soften the words of Dr. Hankins. He says, ““the only acceptance germane to this discussion is the acceptance of Southern Baptists, who don’t accept the necessary conclusions of Five Point Calvinism and don’t want seminaries and agencies that produce people who do.” He does not say anything to the effect that “the majority of Southern Baptists don’t accept high-Calvinism and its negative entailments (negative from the perspective of those who aren’t Calvinists) and prefer that Southern Baptist seminaries and agencies which are owned and operated by Southern Baptists predominately reflect the views of the majority in the convention.” No. It sure sound more like he disagrees with it, as do most SBers and they don’t want any seminaries and agencies producing people who they disagree with. There really isn’t any more context surrounding this quote that could possibly been deleted to the effect of misrepresentation. The fact is that many times durring this series of articles, which Dr. Hankins commented on often, he would get into a debate and say things that he probably would not have said had he taken the time to censure himself. Again, I don’t just make this observation with the intent of everyone on here taking my word for it. I hope people will go back and read all of the articles and especially the comments.

    4.I think I have already touched on this in #2. Dr. hankins does not use quotation marks in his reference to prevenient grace and makes it clear that no grace is needed to prepare the heart for salvation, because, in his view the will is still perfectly able to exercise faith and repentance upon hearing the gospel. Once again, to Dr. Hankins Jesus going to the cross and the preaching of the gospel are God’s initiation of salvation. In another place he equates the gospel with the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is clear that there is no actual work of the Holy Spirit in preparing the heart for the gospel and he believes no such work is needed.

    5.Dr. Hankins’ comment here was in response to a comment posted by Josh who freaquents this site. This was Dr. Hankins’ response to Josh’s explanation of how God worked according to the reformed view. Instead of engaging what Josh had posted, he simply made this statement about what calvinism was reduced to if followed to it’s logical conclusion, “There is nothing about your explanation of Calvin above that makes sense unless God is a deterministic, evil-causing tyrant, who purposefully creates some people in order to damn them. This is not the God is the Bible. This is who God is when Five Point Calvinism is run out to its necessary conclusions.” Ofcourse he thinks the absurdity is that God would be an evil-causing tyrant… I would be a little scared to make such statements; what if he is wrong or what if God doesn’t appreciate Eric Hankins judging Him by his standards of ethics? I see the reductio ad absurdum style argument because Dr. Hankins reaches what he sees as an absurd conclusion to Calvinist thought without presenting the argument to follow what Josh posted to it’s logical conclusion.

    6&7. I put these two togather because they should have been in the same post originally. You say, “In Dr. Hankin’s first quote you cite, he does not assert or even imply that Calvinists believe one can be saved apart from repentance and faith, he merely indicates he disagrees with Compatibilism.” No, Dr. Allen, he says, “In Calvinism, the only remedies for this state-of-affairs are the “doctrines of grace” in which the free response of individuals is not decisive.” What do you think he is talking about when he says “the free response of individuals” if he is not referring to thier response to the gospel? I invite anyone to go back and look for any context surrounding this quote that would suggest anything else. You are correct that the second quote is in reference to reprobation, but look at it: “We react with consternation to the ideas…that reprobation without respect to a response of faith brings Him the greatest glory” This sure sounds to me like he is saying people are damned without any respect to thier response to the gospel. I objected to this, and Dr. Hankins had every chance to clear up the misunderstanding if there was one. the final quote you mention was his response to my objection that this misrepresented Calvinism by saying that, in Calvinistic belief, God sent people to heaven or hell without regard for thier response to His gospel. This is why he said, “Calvinists do not believe that human decisions matter in any normal sense of the word “matter.” So, he contended that we didn’t believe that the decision of how to respond to the gospel mattered in any normal sense of the word matter, and so he was not misrepresenting us. You even seem to think that this was his intention in these quotes when you say, “it is certainly possible for any author to make a written statement and then later turn around and contradict what he had previously written.” I know you are bending over backwards trying to give Dr. Hankins the benefit of the doubt, but it just doesn’t work. I also do not believe that he has changed his position since the same language is used in one of the denials of the “traditional statement”, and in it’s preamble he makes it clear that he no longer finds it beneficial to state points of agreement with Calvinists.

    I’m sorry if this is a little rushed. It is late and I need to get some sleep. God bless.

      Godismyjudge

      Matt,

      Dr. Hankins has said the Holy Spirit enables us and we need the Holy Spirit’s drawing and the Holy Spirit works on the heart and God takes the initiative. I do think you misunderstand him.

      For my own part, the issue is if we require irresistible grace or if grace is resistible. Sure, without grace we would be unable to believe but God in His mercy reaches out and doesn’t leave us in that hopeless state.

      God be with you,
      Dan

        Matt

        Dan,

        If you read through his explanations, Dr. Hankins makes it pretty clear that he equates the Holy Spirit’s drawing with hearing the gospel. He doesn’t seem to mean that the gospel is accompanied by the Holy Spirit working in a person’s heart making them able to respond possitively because he makes it very clear over and over again that he believes we are not unable. He also explains that God’s initiative in salvation is Christ’s work on the cross and the preaching of the gospel, not the Holy Spirit’s work in the heart. He also denies the need of both effectual and prevenient grace, not just the terms. You seem to have a more orthodox view by saying that we are in a “hopeless state”; he does not believe that we are in a hopeless state.

        Matt

        Dan,

        Let me offer a little correction to what I just posted. Dr. Hankins does claim that we are in a “disaterous state”, but he explains that this is that due to our own sins we are unable to work our way back to God, not that we are in need of any work in our hearts.

        Here is another quote from Dr. Hankins found in the same article mentioned above. This is his view of prevenient grace:

        “For Arminianism, total depravity, which is purely speculative, is corrected by prevenient grace, which is even more speculative, and makes total depravity ultimately meaningless because God never allows it to have any effect on any person.”

        Am I misrepresenting him here? does he believe in total depravity in any sense?

        God bless

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Allen,

    In your article you stated:

    Sixth, it is crucial that we avoid misrepresenting someone’s theology. I have found that when this happens, it is usually the result of a lack of understanding the specifics of a position, or of overzealous rhetoric. There have been times in the past when Calvinists and their theology have been misrepresented by those who disagree with them. Anyone deliberately misrepresenting Calvinism is wrong, should repent of such misrepresentation of the views of fellow Christians, and immediately cease and desist in such behavior.

    It was with great interest that I read your above response to Matt in relation to some of Dr. Hankins statements concerning Calvinism. In some places you appear to be clearly defending Dr. Hankins, and in others you seem to be giving him quite the benefit of the doubt. My question is this:

    In your opinion, has Dr. Hankins, at any point during this debate, misrepresented Calvinism, demonstrated a lack of understanding of specific positions of Calvinism, or been over-zealous in his rhetoric about Calvinism?

    Grace to you, brother

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

Since this blog, like all the others, has become a knife fight, I can make a couple of points without being accused of poisoning the well.

FIRST POINT: Article 2 sounds to me like total depravity and Article 4 sounds like prevenient grace as these concepts were long ago defined by Wesleyan Arminians. The main points of the Wesleyan system of grace include: (1) man as totally depraved and not capable of either thinking or doing any good thing, (2) the grace of god revealed as the Holy Spirit works in the heart of every man (Titus 2:11); (3) the Holy Spirit beginning, advancing and perfecting everything that can be called good in man and leading the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience; (4) cooperation by some men allowing the Holy Spirit to quicken, aid and direct free will; (5) resistance by other men who make a first-cause, free will decision to reject the grace of God.

SECOND POINT: By the 1646 Westminster Confession (God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass) and the 1689 London Baptist Confession (God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass), God is the first-cause of all evil. All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were willed by God before anything existed except the Trinity. Nothing happens outside the will of God!

Matthew 12:31, 32 and Mark 3:29, 30 present the “unpardonable sin” of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Attributing, to Satan, Christ’s authenticating miracles, done in the power of the Holy Spirit, is one path to blasphemy. What about attributing Satan’s evil to the Holy Spirit? Is that less heinous than attributing the Holy Spirit’s goodness to Satan? Might that be another path to blasphemy? This issue was raised long ago by John Wesley (http://evangelicalarminians.org/Predestination-John-Wesley-Charges-that-Calvinism-Makes-God-Out-to-Be-Worse-than-the-Devil) . Traditional Baptists have three choices. The logical consequences of Calvinism are: (1) not blasphemous; (2) blasphemous and we reject them or (3) blasphemous but we accept them as legitimate alternatives in the name of peace and unity.

    Matt

    Dr. Bruce,

    FIRST POINT: Here is what the author of the statement says about prevenient grace in part 4 of his series “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism” which can be found here in the SBCToday archives:

    “For Arminianism, total depravity, which is purely speculative, is corrected by prevenient grace, which is even more speculative, and makes total depravity ultimately meaningless because God never allows it to have any effect on any person.”

    SECOND POINT: The story of Joseph gives us a good example of how God is the primary cause of the sinfull actions of Joseph’s brothers. God intended thier sins from eternity, but He did not work in thier hearts giving them sinfull desires. He also intended the same actions but for different reasons. Gen. 50:20 say, ” what you meant for evil, God meant for good”.

    We do not believe that God works evil in anyones heart. We do believe that He intends evil actions to accomplish His purposes. You must admit that God knew of every sin that would ever play out in time before He created and then created knowing that his act of creation would ultimately result in all these sins happening. Ofcourse God rules over His creation and intervenes to prevent sin from happening at some times, but at others He simply allows sins to happen. We believe that there is no such thing as a gratuitous sin; God only allows sin that He intended from eternity to accomplish His purposes. We don’t always understand how thing further God’s purpose, but we take comfort in the fact that our sovreign holy Father is in control of all things at all times. Is this “blasphemy”? I certainly prefer this to the idea that God allows the most heinous crimes to be committed for no other reason than the notion that He would not want to violate the criminal’s free will.

    God bless

      Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

      FIRST POINT: When the Traditional Baptist says, “I am not Arminian, I am not Calvinist, I am Baptist,” I hope he does not mean, “I am going to invent my own adolescent theology and not worry about internal consistency, history or compatibility with Scripture.” If this is what the Trads are doing, the SBC is doomed. We already have Traditional Beliefs, zero to 7 point Calvinism, universalism and chrislam.

      Total depravity is not purely speculative. The powerlessness and inability of man is everywhere apparent in Scripture. The question of total depravity has never marked the dividing line between Arminianism and Calvinism. You and I can probably agree on that point.

      SECOND POINT: We will probably not agree on the origin of evil. Here is my take. God created both angels and humans as first-cause agents of choice with the free will to accept or reject God’s wishes in every situation. God placed certain angels in charge of his creation. Some began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels. They began to corrupt God’s work and exercise a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence so that all of creation was in bondage to decay. That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor. “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw. Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them. Rebellious angels and humans, under the leadership of Satan, are the first-cause of all evil.

      The world, at every level, is at war. We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not. The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare. God the Son began the process of taking back his creation. The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but the process of repossession and reconstruction of creation only began. Jesus expects his people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

        Matt

        Dr. Bruce,

        I think you and I are in agreement regarding total depravity. I did not intend to imply that everyone who signed this statement was denying our natural inability to come to God without some type of grace, whether effectual or prevenient. I was just pointing out what I think many signers are unaware of; that Dr. Hankins’ intent in the words of the statement are not the same as thier beliefs.

        I would agree with most of what you wrote on your second point, with the biggest difference being that we also believe that God knew all of this from eternity; and when He created, He intended to bring it all about. He restrains evil where it would not work toward accomplishing His purposes, but has intended the evil that He allows to happen from eternity, which would make Him the primary cause. I don’t see any way around this without denying His omnicience.

        God bless

Brandon Smith

This is possibly the most helpful addition to the debate that I’ve seen from Dr. Allen. Thank you, Dr. Allen, for your willingness to stand for Calvinist inclusion and even promotion within the SBC. Additionally, it is always important to point out that both sides of the coin have arrogant proponents that perpetuate misunderstandings about the beliefs of each respective camp.

To me, the main problem still lies in the term “Traditionalist.” It is an unhelpful term in general. Soteriological majority within the SBC throughout our history is debated by historians. Therefore, there can be no “traditional” view. If nothing else, the convention has always been diverse theologically and the “traditional” soteriology of the convention should more appropriately considered non-existent.

    Brandon Smith

    Also, it would be extremely helpful for Dr. Hankins to stop demanding things from his Calvinist counterparts in interviews, acting as though he is owed an explanation for Reformed folks to be part of the family. Give me a break.

      Lydia

      Brandon, It is ok for Mohler, an SBC employee not a pastor, to speak of “marginalizing” people in this debate? Where does Mohler get his power to marginalize people? Give me a break.

      It is becoming obvious the YRR attempt to marginalize Hankins and promote someone you think you can control because they are nicer. We get it.

Reece

I have been on several mission trips to India and Africa……I have yet to see any of them sitting around debating this issue. I have also yet to see any of them fighting over who’s view should be named the first view, the traditionalist, the founders, the orthodox….etc. They have more important things to do than sit at a computer and debate issues that we can’t fully know. Why spend all of this time and energy arguing over something that we are all so limited to fully understand anyway? Why not instead use that energy to make disciples, or to pray. All of the bickering, debating, and even belittling each other has very few positive outcomes, and is mostly a waste of time. I highly doubt that it pleases God. Besides that, you aren’t going to change that person’s mind that you are debating with. Both of you feel strongly about how you believe God works and how he doesn’t. My advice, stop wasting time and take a dose of humility… both sides of this debate. Go do something that is much more valuable and eternal than a silly debate on issues like this. None of us know for sure how God works…..only God knows this……keep this in perspective as you spend hours debating this issue. The truth is, we are limited and we should be humble about how we go about forming our Theology on how God does his thing. I think the reason for all the debate is because there is a true, mysterious, tension found in the Bible concerning salvation. You see both sides if you look carefully and without skewed vision. I think it was inspired and recorded that way, because you are never going to be successful in fully understanding God’s ways. If you study this issue long enough, you will either become frustrated, or you will become prideful in your final decision. Both sides, stop this bantering to each other’s deaf and prideful ears…….find unity in what we both can agree on, and go to work for the Kingdom! By the way, thank you Dr. Allen for your article. It was written humility and with great care for our convention.

David L. Allen

Randall,

Your question is difficult to answer for the simple reason I have not read everything Dr. Hankins has said about Calvinism at SBCToday since last April. I can only speak to what I have read, most of which would be subsequent to publication of the Statement. Even then, I have not read everything he has said in comment streams, etc. Thus, based on what I have read, in my opinion, he has not misrepresented Calvinism, or demonstrated a lack of understanding of specific positions of Calvinism. His rhetorical zeal is evident at points along the way, and it appears to me it usually has to do with what he considers to be negative entailments of certain doctrines of Calvinism expressed in response to criticism of his own comments. I might also add that I am attempting to give the benefit of the doubt to many of my Calvinist interlocutors on this comment thread and others as well who, in my judgment, have engaged in a fair amount of overzealous rhetoric themselves.

    Tony Byrne

    OK, I have to comment again :-)

    Like yourself, Dr. Allen, I have not been able to read everything Dr. Hankins has had to say about Calvinism. I did, however, listen to this interview (click) he did. You’ll notice that he represents Calvinism as saying the non-elect cannot be saved. They have no possibility of being saved. It isn’t that Dr. Hankins is saying their position ENTAILS that view, but he describes them as actually having that position. Again, it is the common difference between saying P is Q as over against P entails Q (a point you make above).

    Granted, if one reads what contemporary Calvinists are saying today, especially the younger ones that frequent blogs and interact in the comments, you won’t get much nuance at all. In fact, they will often mislead other people about the history and theology of Calvinism. That’s happened in the above comments in this post. If Hankins is just going by what contemporary TULIPers are saying (and they won’t even know about the criticisms of the whole TULIP construct as given by Dr. Richard Muller, Dr. Ken Stewart and others), then Hankins’ representation of Calvinism is certainly understandable. Frankly, I am even inclined to think that this generation of Calvinists (in the US) may be the most ignorant in history. For that reason, some of the misrepresentations are their own fault, not primarily the fault of the non-Calvinists.

    However, Dr. Hankins and others need to heed what you have said above, that is:

    “Some Traditionalists need to read more broadly in the area of Calvinism in order to understand its theology and why Scripture is interpreted the way it is in a Reformed Soteriological framework.”

    Specifically, what they need to read “more broadly” are the Calvinist theologians and scholars, not the ignorant (and commonly young) TULIPers that are so rampant.

    Again, in the interview, Hankins said Calvinists don’t believe that anyone else, other than the elect, can be saved, or have the possibility of being saved, etc. In contrast, note what the Puritan Nathaniel Vincent (1638-1697) said long ago:

    “Thus you have the Properties of the Day of Grace. In the fourth place I am to lay down the Reasons, why such a Day of Grace is granted. Several reasons of this may be assigned.

    1. One shall be drawn from the Son’s Incarnation, and taking our nature on him. Hence it comes to pass, that unto Man such kindness is expressed. The Apostle says, Verily, he took not on him the nature of Angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham, Heb. 2. 16. He was made in the likeness of Men, therefore mankind is the dearer to him. There is a difference put between apostate Angels and fallen Men; I speak even of those, that through their own wickedness and folly miss of salvation. The reprobate Angels never had a remedy provided, nor a Day of Grace afforded; Christ assumed not their nature, but as soon as ever they had sinned, they fell, like lightning, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, from Heaven to Hell. But Man was not thus dealt with; even those whom the Apostle calls Vessels of Wrath fitted to destruction, are yet endured with much long-suffering, Rom. 9. 22. Their salvation is in it self really possible, I say, in it self, though all things consider’d there is an impossibility of any other event, than the destruction of sinners continuing in their rebellions; and this real possibility of salvation will make them cast the whole blame of their perdition on themselves, that the day of salvation was trifled away, and the salvation of that day was neglected. Nathaniel Vincent, The Day of Grace in Which the Chief of Sinners May be Turn’d and Healed (Boston: Re-printed for Alford Butler, and sold at his Shop, the lower End of King-Street, near the Crown Coffee-House, 1728), 52–54.”

    In the case of Nathaniel Vincent, those that ultimately neglect the day of grace (i.e. the non-elect) have a “real possibility” of salvation, though he qualifies it by noting that sinners, as unrepentant sinners (i.e. “sinners continuing in their rebellions”), cannot be saved.

    Many Calvinists in the past, specifically around the time of W. G. T. Shedd’s day, were making the distinction between natural and moral barriers to salvation. Thus they could say that the salvation of the non-elect is NOT a natural impossibility, since Christ as a man removed those “legal barriers” that necessitated their condemnation), but it is a moral impossibility since they remain in unbelief. That’s how they sustained that statement in the Synod of Dort which says their destruction is “wholly imputed to themselves”:

    “And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly imputed to themselves.” (Synod of Dort, Second Head, Article 6)

    The salvation of the non-elect is therefore not an ontological or physical impossibility, since they 1) have all the faculties necessary to believe (i.e. “natural ability”) and since 2) Christ has removed all the legal barriers that necessitated their immediate condemnation. The impossibility of their salvation is moral, due to their own rebellion, and is “wholly imputed to themselves.”

    Anyone with a doctorate degree in theology and is talking about Calvinism should know these things, especially if they are evangelicals. Sadly, too few know about these crucial distinctions, and even Calvinists themselves today neither know about nor understand these distinctions. Nevertheless, they are vital and important, otherwise the legitimate offer of the gospel to all is undermined and the sincerity of God is besmirched.

    Dr. Hankins needs to be acquainted with these things before he publicly goes on record telling the church that Calvinists believe the salvation of the non-elect is an “impossibility,” or that they “cannot” be saved. If his representation of Calvinism was actually the case, all Calvinists should abandon the view, for the destruction of those that perish could NOT be “wholly imputed to themselves.” God himself would be guilty of making sham offers to them through our proclamations. However, Calvinists need not go the route of a hyper-Calvinist denial of an indiscriminate, free and well-meant offer. Hankins, in effect, represented the Calvinist view as if it is the hyper-Calvinist view.

    I hope that helps.

    Your friend in Christ,
    Tony

      Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

      From Chapter 3: “Of God’s Decree” in the 1689 Baptist Confession of faith. “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.”

      More than 150,000 people die in this world each day. Some souls are saved from eternal damnation but most are not. The Calvinist believes, at the end of each day, not one of the lost could have been saved even if the level of Christian evangelism had been increased by a factor of one billion for the past 1900 years. Conversely, at the end of each day, not one of the saved could have been lost if the level of evangelism had long ago dropped to zero. Before the world was formed, the Calvinist believes God assigned each person to one of two mathematical sets; elect and non-elect. Nothing can move a single person from one set to the other. When the Calvinist evangelist addresses a throng, he is not praying that all will be saved. He merely wishes to be God’s instrument for helping the elect identify themselves prior to their unconditional regeneration.

        Tony Byrne

        What you have said above provides an opportunity to underline, again, something Dr. Allen said in the main post. He noted the “crucial” distinction between claiming 1) X is saying Y and 2) what X is saying logically entails Y.

        Allen said:

        “It is the difference in logic between saying “A is B” and saying “A implies B.” Sometimes we are unclear in our discussions and false conclusions are drawn because we fail to make this crucial distinction. This failure leads to mischaracterization, misrepresentation, misinterpretation, and hence, misunderstanding.”

        In light of this, Dr. McLaughlin, I could ask you the following question:

        1) Does the Puritan Nathaniel Vincent believe the salvation of the non-elect is a real possibility?

        Note carefully that this is NOT the same as asking this question:

        2) Is Nathaniel Vincent’s position that the salvation of the non-elect is a “real possibility”) consistent with his view of election?

        The reader can see that you ignored my quotation of Nathaniel Vincent. Since many today don’t know about this Puritan and Presbyterian stalwart (as well as the younger brother of Thomas Vincent who was chosen to be catechist to John Owen), here is a statement by the well-known Calvinist Charles Hodge:

        “2. It is here [in John 3:16], as well as elsewhere taught, that it was the design of God to render the salvation of all men possible, by the gift of his Son. There was nothing in the nature, or the value, or the design of his work to render it available for any one class of men only. Whosoever believeth, etc. This is not inconsistent with other representations that it entered into God’s design to render the salvation of his people certain by the death of his Son.” Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 17.

        Hodge maintains this view in his Systematic Theology text as well, so there is more than one instance of what he says above. Observe the bolded section in the quote above. Again, I ask you the following question:

        1) Does Charles Hodge believe the salvation of all men is possible?

        This is NOT the same as asking you if you believe Charles Hodge view that the salvation of all men is possible is consistent with his view of election.

        When Dr. Hankins said that Calvinists do not believe that all men can be saved, or that all men can possibly be saved, was he correct when it comes to the views of Vincent and Hodge? An honest man *must* say he was not correct. If you, Bruce, with Hankins, want to argue by way of a reduction ad absurdum that both Vincent and Hodge were not consistent with themeslves, then that’s fair game. Establish your case logically. That’s a different issue, just as the two questions above are two different issues. However, if you and Hankins want to say that Vincent and Hodge did not believe the salvation of all men is possible in some sense, then you are in fact guilty of a straw man fallacy, which is a thing that Dr. Allen is cautioning us against in these polemical exchanges.

        I am not here to defend the view that Vincent and Hodge were consistent with themselves when they advocate for a Calvinistic view of election and yet say the salvation of all men is a “real possibility,” as I consider that a red herring. I could defend it here, but I won’t, and one reason is that it is off topic. My point above was that Hankins (and now you) are not properly describing the Calvinist view when you say they do not believe the salvation of all men is a real possibility.

        As Dr. Allen knows, I can quote many more Calvinists who say that all men are in a saveable state. But, if you will not here Vincent and Hodge, then neither will you hear them either.

        My point was to underline something Allen said and to show how it pertains to something Hankins claimed. Allen said this:

        “…the current SBC discussion on Calvinism is sometimes hindered by the failure 1) to accurately describe what the other side believes, 2) to accurately describe what the other side is attempting to do (that is, disprove a particular doctrinal point via use of a reductio ad absurdum argument), and 3) to accurately distinguish between what one believes from what one thinks might be inferred from that belief (in other words, to use a “straw man” argument). When these kinds of things happen, it becomes virtually impossible to read what others write or listen to what others say without partiality.”

        When you use the words “at the end of the day,” Bruce, I am not clear about what you mean. Are you speaking to logical entailment? Or are you saying, like Hankins, that Calvinists don’t believe the salvation of all men is a “real possibility” in any sense? It seems you’re saying the latter.

        Your last few statements I found to be offensive, but I suppose I can understand why you are saying it given how many Calvinists, particularly the young unstudied ones, are speaking today. You said:

        “When the Calvinist evangelist addresses a throng, he is not praying that all will be saved. He merely wishes to be God’s instrument for helping the elect identify themselves prior to their unconditional regeneration.”

        In contrast to your claim, I would point out what Jonathan Edwards said during a general call for sinners to come to Christ:

        “God makes it the duty of all the godly now to be concerned for your salvation…God makes it the duty of all the godly, to love you with a sincere good-will and earnest affection…God makes it the duty of all sincerely to wish well to you;…He requires all to be concerned for your salvation, and by all means to seek it…Now the godly who know you, desire your salvation, and are ready to seek, and pray for it. If you be now in distress about the condition of your souls, you are not in such a forsaken, helpless condition, as those that are damned; but you may find many to pray for you, many who are willing to assist you by their advice and counsels, and all with a tender concern, and with hearty wishes that your souls may prosper…you have godly parents to pray for you, and to counsel and instruct you, who you may be sure will do it with sincere love and concern for you. And there is not only the command of God, God hath not only made it the duty of others to seek your salvation, but hath given encouragement to others to seek it. He gives encouragement that they may obtain help for you by their prayers, and that they may be instrumental of your spiritual good. God reveals it to be his manner, to make our sincere endeavors a mean of each other’s good.”

        These statements are hardly compatible with your representation of Calvinism.

        If the differing parties in the SBC are to make progress in terms of coming to a mutual understanding, they must not confuse “A says B” with “what A says entails B,” yet that is precisely the mistake you are making here, Bruce.

          Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

          Is the following statement true? “Before the world was formed, the Calvinist believes God assigned each person to one of two mathematical sets; elect and non-elect. Nothing can move a single person from one set to the other.” If this statement is true then everything else is polemic gymnastics!

          Tony Byrne

          I continued to respond to Bruce below. See here (click).

dr. james willingham

I think it would be advisable to bring to bear a past commentator on this issue. Elder Silas Mercer, father of Jesse Mercer (the founder of Mercer University), in a Church Letter, 1787, Georgia Baptist Association, wrote:
Dear Brethren,–We are fully convinced that Salvation (cap. sic) is all, of grace, or all of works; for they cannot be mixed in this business; and if it be by grace,then the doctrine of Election (cap.sic), or God’s love to his people, is the very foundation of our salvation; and is that foundation of God which standeth shure (sic);…; but should this foundation be removed, what would the righteous do? for (sic) with it go their vocation and perseverance, together with their justification. For we think, the doctrine of imputed righteousness stands or falls with the doctrine of election,….Therefore, we believe to be the duty of every Gospel minister, to insist upon this soul comforting, God honoring doctrine of Predestination (cap. sic), as the very foundation of our faith.”
We cannot see how the plan of salvation can be supported without it. And we believe it to be a doctrine which God generally owns and blesses to the conviction and conversion of sinners, and comforting of his saints. For blessed be the Lord, we can say, that we know by a blessed experience, that it hath had this effect amongst us….” To the above, I would mention that 6 years earlier one of my ancestors, Holland Middleton, was appointed by a court in Georgia as one of two executors of the Will of Elder Daniel Marshall. He was later mentioned in Henry Holcombe’s History of Alabama Baptists (1840) and went on to die in Texas, a preacher of Sovereign Grace. One of my personal friends was a direct descendant of Elder Elijah Craig, and my grandmother who raised me was a Craig and gave our son her family name for his first name. The records are clear about what these people and others like Fuller, Carey, Furman, Gano, Marshall, Rice, Manley, Boyce, etc.

Rev. Luther Rice, the father of missions among Southern Baptists, stated: “How absurd it is, therefore, to contend against the doctrine of election, or decrees, or divine sovereignty. Let us not, however, become bitter against those who view theis matter in a different light, nor treat them in a supercilious manner; rather let us be gentle towards all men….” In reply to one who seemed afraid to hear references to the decrees of God in the pulpit, Rice said, “Does the brother mean to imply that ‘purposes and decrees’ are not found in the Bible, and do not, therefore, constitute any part of ‘the gospel?’ If found here, why should they not be preached? Ought not every preacher of the gospel be able to say with Paul: ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,’ and if so, must he not ‘PREACH PURPOSES(caps. sic)?'” Memoirs of Rev. Luther Rice, 332,333, 337.

Why are these truths coming back to the fore? Could it be in answer to prayer? For the doctrines? NO! For another visitation of God, a revival, a Third Great Awakening. In the Fall of ’72 after preaching to the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association on the subject, A Great Awakening, I began to pray for a revival, which turned into a prayer for a Third Great Awakening and have continued to do so until this very day. The prayer now, like Spurgeon’s devotionals in Evening by Evening for Aug.6 and Dec.24 are for every soul upon earth, for an awakening to happen by persuasion, and then to continue for a 1000 generations. Note: Not a prayer for doctrine, but from 6 years of intensive research in church history, especially Baptist history, I know that that the theology which produced the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions is the theology of Sovereign Grace as is clearly indicated in the writings of that period. From 1740-1820 Protestantism underwent a transformation changing from a Gospel recovery effort that was combative, conflicted, and contentious into an outgoing, we will win you with persuasion movement the put Missions to the fore. The original theology with which they sought to win the lost and the whole world of sinners was set forth in the terms of the Acrostic TULIP along with Predestination and, yes, even Reprobation. Each one of the truths is an invitation to sinners, the most compelling, winsome, persuasive, attractive, magnetic, appealing, drawing, pleading, stirring, thrilling, adventuresome, fascinating of doctrines. Have you folks ever heard of therapeutic paradoxes? That is what these teachings are, paradoxes which appeal for the impossible. Jesus spoke of what He did as being a demand for the impossible (Mk.10). He even spoke of reprobation to one woman, using a repulsive term, saying, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” She agreed, and even turned His very words into an argument for salvation, “Truth, Lord, but even the dogs even of the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Crumbs was a great honor to Christ, suggesting that the merest amount of His grace and favor would be more than adequate to meet her needs. Gentlemen, you ought to not worry about this and let those who preach Sovereign Grace be. After all, it was the Sovereign Grace preachers of Virginia in the Union of Separate and Regular Baptists in 1787 that allowed that the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man should be no bar to communion which tells you where most of them stood. Biblical orthodoxy is far more liberal than so-called liberalism which is really just old skepticism borrowing the dress of truth. The Awakening is coming and soon. Just read Jonathan Edwards’ calvinistic tract, Humble Attempt, to unite people of all denomination to pray for the spread of the Gospel among the nations. Do you all know who was moved by it to so pray? Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Luther Rice, and others. What will happen, if Southern Baptists were to read and follow the directions of Edwards as our ancestors and predecessors did long ago and experienced the blessing of the Second Great Awakening and the launching of the Great Missionary Effort?

      dr. james willingham

      I thought this was a serious discussion, but I see it is nothing more than semantics, feedback loops designed to evade resolutions, and other smatterings of disingenuousness. Have you never read Wesley’s response to Whitefields efforts to end the border wars? It is in his Journal, and he admits that there are some who are chosen, that there are some who reach a state from which they never fall. Evidently, that letter, in response to the initiative of Whitefield was enough to begin the process of reconciliation. What is sad is this whole SBC Today attack on Calvinism is beginning to look like just that with a surreptitious purpose of driving the wedge of division in ever deeper. In addition, it is historical ignorant, completely avoiding the issue of how the calvinists of Separate and Regular Baptists could make a allowance whereas our Traditionalists seem bent on bending the whole affair out of shape and getting complete control of the SBC with no room for what they perceive now as a fatal heresy. I have seen some poor writing in my time, but this whole affair smells to high heaven.

Tony Byrne

Bruce said:

“Is the following statement true?

“Before the world was formed, the Calvinist believes God assigned each person to one of two mathematical sets; elect and non-elect. Nothing can move a single person from one set to the other.”

If this statement is true then everything else is polemic gymnastics!”

You’re still missing the point. My point is *not* that 1) Calvinists are consistent with themselves when they say a) unconditional election is true and that b) it is also true that in some sense the non-elect can possibly be saved. I am simply telling you, and showing you plainly, that 2) they do *claim* that the non-elect have a real possibility to be saved. Therefore, rather than arguing that Calvinists don’t say the non-elect can possibly be saved (the straw man of Hankins and yourself now), the non-Calvinist should rather argue that Calvinists are not consistent with themselves when they *say* the non-elect can possibly be saved.

Perhaps you might see the point if we changed the topic to make the same point. Consider the popular Muslim and Atheist claim that Christians don’t believe God is one (straw man) since they believe God is triune. If you heard that, you would immediately recognize that as a straw man fallacy. Why? Because Christians do in fact say, as strongly as possible, that God is one, and that they are truly monotheists. Rather, what the Muslim and Atheist should attempt to argue is that Christians are not consistent with their claim to believe God is one since they also believe God is triune (reductio ad absurdum).

I have shown you two quotes where Nathaniel Vincent and Charles Hodge plainly say that it is possible, in a sense, for the non-elect to be saved. Here are a couple more. The first is from Davenant, an English delegate to the Synod of Dort:

“Again, that is not to be judged absolutely impossible for a man to do, which if himself by a voluntary act of his own hindered not, might by him be done. And thus we say the non-elect have a power or possibility to believe or repent at the preaching of the Gospel: which power might be reduced into act, if the voluntary forwardness and resistiveness of their own hearts were not the only hindering cause.” John Davenant, Animadversions (London: Printed for John Partridge, 1641), 256-257.

William Barlee is a Reformed theologian who wrote against Thomas Pierce’s views. Barlee said:

“Secondly, They do not only say, that it is possible, by virtue of Christ’s merits, for all men to be saved, in case of true Faith and Repentance [He references Davenant and William Twisse, a Westminster divine, in the margin for support]; but in that case they shall certainly be saved, by virtue of Christ’s death.”William Barlee, A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination, Formerly Asserted (London: Printed for George Swawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), 87.

So now we have Vincent, C. Hodge, Davenant, Barlee [along with his appeal to Twisse] who say that the salvation of all men is in some sense possible. As I see it, here are your only choices:

1) Admit that Tony is right that Calvinists (at least those I have cited above) say that the salvation of all men is possible, and thus that Hankins misrepresented them when he said they don’t believe the salvation of all men is possible (i.e. he and Bruce committed a straw man fallacy), or

2) Deny that Vincent, Hodge, Davenant and Barless said the salvation of all men is possible, and thus engage in dishonesty, or

3) Continue to change the subject by seeking to argue that these Calvinists are not consistent with themselves because of their view of election, and thus to engage in a red herring fallacy.

Pick one. Or, if you don’t want to pick one, just answer this question:

4) Do Nathaniel Vincent, Charles Hodge, John Davenant and William Barlee say they believe the salvation of all men is in some sense possible? If you say “yes,” you’ve granted my point (see option #1 above).

——————
p.s. For the Calvinists reading this (this postscript is *not* for Bruce to respond to, as it is off topic), the answer to the dilemma that Bruce is raising with respect to the alleged incompatibility of a Calvinistic view of election and the possible salvation of the non-elect gets to the distinction between natural (or physical) possibilities and moral possibilities. In effect, Bruce’s objection is no different from the typical non-Calvinist argument that the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty nullifies human responsibility. It’s the same as (or parallel to) arguing that, given the Calvinist conception of God’s decretal/efficacious will, no man is responsible to believe the gospel since they are in no way able to believe. Jonathan Edwards, and Andrew Fuller after him, distinguished between natural and moral ability in order to maintain that all men are in fact responsible to believe since they have the natural capacities/abilities (i.e. a mind and a will) to believe, even though they lack the moral ability/power to do so. Thus, in the case of the unregenerate, it is possible (in a physical or a natural sense) for them to believe, but it is not possible (in a moral sense) that they can believe. Similarly, it is possible for the non-elect to be saved since 1) they have all the necessary faculties to believe and 2) Christ has removed the legal barriers that necessitated their immediate condemnation, which is why they are in a different condition than the fallen angels. The decree of God’s election does not put up physical or natural barriers that hinder the non-elect from being saved. The decree of God relates to his purpose to leave them in a state of moral inability, not natural inability. The decree of God does not take away their natural faculties by which they could respond, nor does the decree of God put up a fence around the death of Christ. On the contrary, he has opened a well of salvation in Christ’s death whereby all men can be saved, in so far as his death is truly sufficient for all, and this gives them a real possibility, naturally speaking, to be saved. That’s Vincent’s point, Hodge’s point and Davenant’s point. So, if you are going to answer an objection like Bruce’s, the answer is in the direction of the Edwardsian distinction between natural and moral possibilities, and pointing out how the decree of God relates to the latter, not the former.
—————————-
I hope that helps :-)

Grace to you,
Tony

    Don Johnson

    Tony,

    If I remember correctly, you do not hold to LA, so I could possibly see why you might think the “non-elect” have a possibility of getting saved.

    How does a 5 pointer think there’s a possibility of the “non-elect” getting saved? I don’t think any of the 5 pointers commenting here would think there is a chance.

      Tony Byrne

      It’s true that I do not hold to the strictly limited, or Owenic, view of the atonement, even though I retain a sense of particularity in Christ’s intent in dying that pertains to the elect alone (which is why my view remains within the boundaries of Dortian teaching). What I reject, as you may know, is the limited imputation of sin to Christ, such that He only satisfied for the sins of the elect when He died.

      When it comes to the high Calvinists (as I call them) that believe in a limited imputation of sin to Christ, I would also argue (like the non-Calvinists) that they cannot *consistently* maintain the saveability of all men, or that the non-elect can possibly be saved, for they have no remedy available. What most of them try to argue, however, is that Christ’s death is sufficient for all, and that this gives them a basis for consistency. The thing is, though, they are confused when it comes to sufficiency. They only have a hypothetical sufficiency, or bare sufficiency view (as Ussher, Davenant and Polhill point out), and that can’t actually support the view that all men are saveable.

      That’s what most of them will do, I suppose.. They will go in the direction of saying Christ’s death is “sufficient for all,” but have really abandoned the classic Lombardian conception of that formula. They’re not conscious of how they (as well as Owen and Turretin) have revised the formula.

Randall Cofield

A Suggestion To Resolve the Current Theological Impasse

After six weeks of wrangling, one thing seems apparent: “Talking” about Calvinism and Neo-Traditionalism is not going to resolve our differences. Neither will “blogging” or “commenting.” This should come as no surprise, for these issues have been debated by better theologians than ourselves for the better part of 2000 years.

As Calvinists and Neo-Traditionalists, we find ourselves bound together by the commonality of the Baptist faith and the more specific denominational distinction “Southern Baptists.” Calvinists are no more or less Southern Baptists than are Neo-Traditionalists, and Neo-Traditionalists are no more or less Southern Baptists than are Calvinists. And we are stuck with each other, like it or not.

I, as a non-hyper Calvinist, do not consider my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters to be heretics. I trust that my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters do not consider me a heretic. If this be the case, I would offer the following as a solution for our current impasse.

Calvinists should resolve to avoid telling Neo-Traditionalists how they should preach and proffer the Gospel, and vice versa.

Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to avoid telling Calvinists that we cannot live, preach, and teach our beliefs with liberty in the SBC, and vice versa.

Calvinists should resolve to avoid telling Neo-Traditionalists how to do mission work and plant churches, and vice versa.

Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to avoid telling Calvinists that their leaders are unworthy of leading entities within the SBC, and vice versa.

Both Calvinists and Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to love one another with a pure heart fervently.

There is a point which is being completely overlooked in this debate: Both sides have errors in their respective theologies. As Calvinists, we do not know what our errors are, else we would correct them. Conversely, Neo-Traditionalists do not know what their errors are, else they would correct them.

If we give ourselves to the above five resolutions and to advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with abandon, errors on both sides of the divide will be exposed and corrected over time.

Soli Deo Gloria

PS: The fact that there are 5 resolutions in my proposal is of NO significance whatsoever. And to my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters: No, the devil did not make me do it. :-)

dr. james willingham

The problem is that this matter of theological differences is not the issue; it is the opportunity for growth and development. Working our way through the differences would bring about a better understanding, a greater sense of compassion and an increased desire for God to be glorified. Patient restraint would suggest that we might really need to reconsider all sides, and that goes for both sides. There is something bearing down on us, namely, a Third Great Awakening. It could be beyond our lifetimes, but I hope and pray that it is closer than that. One thing cannot not be denied, and that is the theology which was involved in the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions, that is, from approximately 1740-1820. We might well need to learn how to use some of the mediation techniques such as were used in Race Relations Conferences back in the sixties and seventies. One I remember in particular that was very helpful was the Johari Window’ it gave participants insights into themselves as well as into their opposite numbers in the conferences.

Denilio Gorena

Dr. Allen:

I have always appreciated your approach to difficult issues within our Southern Baptist Convention. Your words of encouragement stand in contrast to so many on both sides of the discussion tend to show to each other. It is evident that you have taken the time to pray through what it is that you write, say, teach and preach instead of simply spouting off in opposition to someone of a differing opinion.

As I have thought so many different times, you are not simply a spokesperson for our Southern Baptist Convention but a true Statesman who brings togetherness even in the midst of controversial discussions and debates.

Thank you, Dr. Allen, for your encouragement.

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