“Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, Part 3b.

3: The “Calvinism” of the SBTS founders

[After the following heading, the remainder of this post is a quote from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009).]

b. The “Calvinism” of John A. Broadus (94-96)

Broadus undertook a study of Calvinism in 1857. He wrote Charles Hodge in an effort to acquire an edition of Calvin’s works. He asked his uncle Andrew Broaddus, a veteran Baptist preacher, “how far Calvinism should be carried.” His uncle affirmed both that God was completely sovereign and that humans were fully accountable to repent and believe in Christ, but their perfect compatibility was beyond human understanding: “I can not fathom the mystery connected with God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability.” Broadus concluded that the Calvinist approach was scriptural.

Throughout his career Broadus insisted that God was absolutely sovereign and humans were responsible. Broadus, like his colleagues, taught that God’s sovereign election was consistent with human responsibility and agency. The contradiction was apparent rather than real, even though human intelligence could not grasp their consistency. “The scriptures teach an eternal election of men to eternal life, simply out of God’s good pleasure,” but those who attain salvation “must accept the gospel invitation and obey the gospel commandments.” Christians cannot comprehend their consistency, bur “we must not for that reason deny either of them to be true.” God’s predestination unalterably secured the salvation of the elect, but none would be saved unless they voluntarily repented and believed. Like Boyce, Broadus appreciated Charles Hodge’s three-volume Systematic Theology and encouraged young ministers to read the “ponderous volumes.” A young James M. Frost, later the founding corresponding secretary of the denomination’s modern Sunday School Board, thanked him for it.

In various places Broadus expressed agreement with the Calvinist approach. He taught each person’s “natural depravity is absolutely total,” and that God’s grace was “not bestowed blindly nor by chance, but in all wisdom and intelligence,” according to God’s “sovereign pleasure.” It was the result of God’s predestination, which was “antecedent to and the ground of election.” God had a sovereign right over “sinful creatures” and was “under no obligation to show favor” to them. God acted justly in “choosing and rejecting according to his own purpose.” God chose them “not based upon faith as forseen by God” but based rather on “the decree of God.” This was because “all are equally deserving of punishment,” and “the decision between ‘vessels of wrath’ and ‘vessels of mercy’ must be left to God.” When Jesus praised the Father for hiding the gospel from the wise and revealing it to “babes” as the Son chooses (Matt. 11:25-27), Broadus explained that this was an act of “sovereign, electing grace.” Jesus as the “sovereign Son reveals the Father only to such as he chooses.” The proper response to God’s sovereignty was not to demand explanations, but to render praise, Broadus said, for Jesus did not explain “God’s sovereign dealings with men,” but rather taught the “propriety of the sovereign Father’s course.” Many persons criticized the “terrible doctrine of predestination,” Broadus said, but to the apostle Paul “this doctrine was the greatest consolation.” Predestination, Broadus held, “is the foundation of our hope.”

Broadus seemed to teach also the doctrine of particular redemption. He held the atonement’s intrinsic value was sufficient “that all should be saved if they accepted it” by faith in Christ, but Jesus intended it for the elect only. “His death was never expected, nor divinely designed, actually to secure the salvation of all, and so in the sense of specific purpose he came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Jesus died as a substitute, and “inasmuch as he bore the sins of others, they are discharged from guilt and punishment.” He “purchased them by enduring the punishment of their sins.” When Paul wrote that Jesus “died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14-15), it meant that he “endured the punishment instead of all believers,” who are forgiven through faith because they have shared in the death of Christ, “their representative.”

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