“Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, Part 4

Part 4: “Calvinism and Denominational Doubt”

[The entire post below is a quote from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009), pages 542-543, with links added.]

Moderates were astonished to discover that Mohler advocated Calvinism and attacked him for it. Most conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the doctrine of predestination but were little troubled by Mohler’s views. Since the 1940s, Calvinism had grown in popularity in evangelicalism generally. London preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones influenced many evangelicals in the United Kingdom to embrace Calvinism through his preaching and his promotion of interest in the Puritans. A number of publishers reprinted Puritan writings to meet the growing demand. The writings of John Stott and James I. Packer popularized these emphases in Great Britain and in the United States. In the United States, such preachers and authors as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur taught an explicitly Calvinistic understanding of the Bible. Francis Schaeffer and Carl Henry, whose writings spurred an intellectual renaissance within American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, also contributed greatly to the spread of Calvinism’s popularity. Mohler had studied appreciatively the writings of many of these.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvinism’s popularity was spreading at the same time, drawing in part on the same influences. But many Southern Baptists were looking to their own past and discovered there a rich stream of Calvinist evangelicalism. They reprinted and read the theological works of nineteenth-century Baptists, especially of such men as James P. Boyce. Some formed the Founders Ministries, an organization that produced a quarterly journal and hosted an annual conference dedicated explicitly to the promotion of “the doctrines of grace,” as Calvinism was also known. Tom Nettles, professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, published in 1986 an extensively documented history of Calvinism among Baptists, which served as an influential introduction to Calvinism for many Southern Baptists. Nettles joined Southern Seminary’s faculty in 1997.

Convention moderates agreed with Mohler that Boyce and Manly were Calvinists, but they viewed Calvinism as part of an obsolete tradition of interpretation that included also the oppression of blacks and women. To “return to Boyce and Manly,” retired Southern Seminary professor Frank Stagg wrote, was to return to “slavery, silencing of women, the mean theology of Calvinism.”

Other Southern Baptists were puzzled or troubled by Mohler’s affirmation of Calvinism. At the 1995 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, two messengers questioned Mohler’s Calvinism. One said that he could not find Calvinism in his Bible. Mohler was disarmingly honest about his convictions. Most conservatives did not seem threatened by it even if they did not agree with him. He had never seen Calvinism as his cause. He wanted to promote the gospel of redeeming grace.

In the early twenty-first century some conservative leaders nevertheless began warning Southern Baptists of the apparent dangers of Calvinism. In 2008 two of the denomination’s leading conservative preachers, Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Woodstock, Georgia, First Baptist Church, and Jerry Vines, retired pastor of the Jacksonville, Florida, First Baptist Church, held a conference that challenged the five points of Calvinism. All the evidence, however, indicated that Calvinism was spreading, especially among younger Southern Baptists, despite the warnings.

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5 Comments on ““Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, Part 4”

  1. J W Says:

    Calvinism is spreading and will not be stopped.It is a move of God.

    • Bob Brewster Says:

      Calvinism espouses a god that will not hear the pleas of a repentant man unless that man is first drawn by grace. A grace that hears no pleas from outside the camp of Christ is no grace at all. God’s Grace welcomes those who thirst to drink at the well of life. None will be denied against their will. The Cross stands as a universal offer of Grace to all men, the right of refusal stands in their court alone. This by no means constitutes universalism.

      • strangebaptistfire Says:

        Bob,
        You wrote
        “Calvinism espouses a god that will not hear the pleas of a repentant man unless that man is first drawn by grace.”
        No, He hears the pleas of a repentant man, knowing that He drew him by grace. Without that grace there will not be pleas or repentance.
        “A grace that hears no pleas from outside the camp of Christ is no grace at all.”
        Well, actually, it would be grace within the camp. But that’s not the reality: He obviously hears those outside the camp or else they would not enter it.
        “God’s Grace welcomes those who thirst to drink at the well of life. None will be denied against their will.”
        I agree. But I’m not sure we agree about the extent of and damage done by original sin. Calvinists like me believe scripture teaches that man in his natural state has no desire for God. Fallen man’s will is entirely opposed to Him. Those He saves are given eyes to see and a heart to love Him.
        “The Cross stands as a universal offer of Grace to all men”
        It is offered but none will accept in unless they are changed internally. Thus Calvinists distinguish between the outward and the inward call.
        “the right of refusal stands in their court alone”
        I’m not sure how it could be defined as a right. We stand guilty before the Judge of the universe, and are fully at His mercy.
        But if in our court, it would always be refused for the reasons above. Thankfully, in His court He has given His grace according to His will. And if He has the right to show mercy to none, then He has the right to show it to some. He is sovereign.
        “This by no means constitutes universalism.”
        Well, that term can refer to universal salvation, which that may not directly constitute. But it can also refer to universal atonement, which you seem to be espousing. And some would say that if Christ paid for everyone’s sins, then all are saved. If He atoned for them, then I would think they are atoned for, no matter what a person chooses. There are many such problems with this line of reasoning.
        Thanks for stopping by,
        Darrin

  2. Bob Brewster Says:

    You say “Calvinists like me believe “ . I am a Christian and I believe God’s Sovereignty is broad enough to allow man to have and to act on a will of his own. Granted this will of man is limited by the inability to create. We are creations for God. He has given us the ability to chose Him are not. This is the Love that is demonstrated in John 3:16.
    Mark 12
    29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
     30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
     31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
    Here Jesus is calling on the created man to act on his own will, the will that God created him with, to first love God and then love his neighbor.
    To me the whole of scripture is to lead the sheep into the L0ve of The Great Shepherd by bending the will of man.
    Hebrews 1
     1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
     2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
     3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
    Jesus is the true reformer, not John Calvin or Martin Luther or who ever,
    Supralapsarianism, sublapsarianism and infralapsarianism are terms which indicate that we are in over our heads. To base a soteriology upon a system that presupposes what God was or what He was thinking before the foundation of the world, not only relegates God’s love to a misplaced grandeur of man’s imagination but violates the idea of a simple gospel. The Gospel is not only confused but is greatly damaged by such arrogant strides into philosophy and away from The Word of God.

    • strangebaptistfire Says:

      Bob,
      I’m a Christian too. I think you minsunderstand my intent in the four words you quoted at the start. You showed (and continue to show) a misunderstanding of Calvinism, which you (not I) named in your comment. So I wanted to clarify what they actually believe and identify myself as someone who has some familiarity with it.
      I’m not sure how your comments and scripture quotes here add to what we were discussing before.
      For one, it would seem contradictory to state that God’s sovereignty is demonstrated in the alleged surrender of that sovereignty to men. Again, men do have wills of their own, and these are always opposed to God, changed only by His own sovereign grace. John 3:16 in no way speaks to man’s abiliity. It says that He sent His son to save believers, i.e. whoever believes in Him = believers. That is, if you simply read what is written and don’t read into or overcomplicate it, which you appear to warn against.
      You mention the will God created man with; before Adam’s sin, that would be accurate. That is not applicable to his fallen posterity.
      You mention “bending” the will of man; I mention the need to change it. Is there a difference? Perhaps you think it only needs some persuasion, a little prodding; I say it needs transformation, a complete overhaul. Otherwise I’m not sure what our difference is.
      In terms of what the reformers accomplished, I wouldn’t say Jesus was the true reformer; He was the “Former” – He made the church and determined what it should be. The “re”formers, such as Luther and Calvin, were known as such because they merely sought to return the church to what it had been. They weren’t seeking to innovate, but to restore.
      Most are fine not contemplating infralapsarianism and such, and I haven’t here (so I’m not sure why you mention it), but neither would I criticize any who have humbly and biblically sought to have a greater understanding of their Lord, and deduced appropriate things from His revealed Word.
      I’m not sure what you find to be arrogant here. I would contend that one can and should use the mental facilities God has given to delve deeply into His word. Calvinism is anything but worldly philosophy; the libertarian free will and related system you espouse is much more closely influenced by that. Members of both the Calvinist and Wesleyan persuasions act inappropriately at times, to be sure. But as a way of understanding mankind and our estate, it would be Calvinism that tends toward humility and simplicity of interpretation; as we recognize our utter helplessness and inability except for His regenerating grace, and rely fully on His word for revelation, not the imaginations of men.
      Darrin


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