Archive for the ‘John 3:16 Conference’ category

A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 1a. The Historical Question in Regards to Martin Luther

January 15, 2009

[Read my live-blog account of this presentation HERE.]

1. The Historical Question

At the beginning of his presentation, Dr. Allen mentioned a long list of theologians, including Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, Bunyan, Edwards, Hodge, Strong, etc. Dr. Allen asserted that all of these theologians were Calvinists, and that all of these theologians rejected Limited atonement. To examine each of these theologians’ statements concerning the extent of the atonement would require at least a year, and so I will focus attention on only two historical figures mentioned by Dr. Allen in his presentation; namely, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards. (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Addendum to the Historical Question

January 13, 2009

In my previous post responding to Dr. Land’s use of history at the John 3:16 Conference, I conceded that, based upon the quotes cited by Dr. Land, it appears that John Leland, an influential Baptist minister in Massachusetts and Virginia in the late 18th and early 19th century, did seem to advocate some form of hybrid system of Calvinism and Arminianism. I made this concession especially in light of a statement from Leland presented by Dr. Land, which said, “the preaching that has been most blessed of God, and profitable to men, is the doctrine of  sovereign in the salvation of souls, mixed with a little of what is called Arminianism.” A commenter on that previous post, Brent Hobbs (who, I believe, is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), questioned the concession I had made and (in effect) challenged me to examine primary sources of John Leland. I have subsequently been searching through The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland (available on Google Books HERE), and have been surprised at the vigor with which Leland defends certain doctrines that most people would certainly describe as “Calvinistic.”

I would like to focus readers’ attention on two works from Leland in particular: The “Appendix” to The First Rise of Sin and a section of his letter to the Elder James Whitsitt. (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 3b. Romans 9 in Dr. Land’s Framework

December 22, 2008

1. The Historical Question

2. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time

a. In Mere Christianity

b. In Miracles

3. Romans 9

a. In Ironside’s Lectures

b. In Dr. Land’s Framework

Building on Ironside’s assertion that Romans 9 has nothing to do with eternal, personal salvation, but is only concerned with national privilege and temporal blessings, Dr. Land argues for two different types of election in the Bible, namely: salvific election and Abrahamic election. Dr. Land outlines three ways to differentiate between these types of election:

i. Abrahamic election is corporate, salvific election is individual;

ii. Abrahamic election is unto “special people” status, salvific election is unto salvation;

iii. Abrahamic election is “not connected to anything,” salvific election is connected with foreknowledge (though not based upon foreknowledge).

In terms of the above framework, Dr. Land believes that Romans 9 is concerned with Abrahamic, and not salvific, election.ef

Before examining each of the three ‘differences’ listed above, it is important a prelimenary question must be answered, namely: Is Dr. Land exegetically justified in his assertion that the argument in Romans 9 switches to a consideration of an entirely different type of election than that found in Romans 8? Dr. Land himself cites Romans 8 in relation to salvific election (specifically, in order to demonstrate that salvific election is connected to foreknowledge). Dr. Land then follows Ironside in viewing Romans 9-11 as parenthetical, so that these chapters do not continue building the soteriological argument established in Romans 1-8. Remembering that the chapter divisions do not exist in the original text, we must insist that grammatical proof be given before accepting such a hard break in the Apostle’s flow of thought. Grammatical proof that the argument in Romans 9 concerns eternal, personal salvation (even while discussing God’s sovereign purpose for national Israel!) is offered by Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in his commentary on Romans:

Some scholars claim that Paul is concerned only about the historical destiny of Israel in 9:6-23, but Paul’s anguish over Israel in 9:3 is rooted in their failure to obtain salvation. In other words, the historical destiny of Israel that concerns Paul relates to the salvation of Israel. The wording used in 9:6b-29 confirms that the issue at the forefront of Paul’s mind in these verses relates to salvation, not merely to historical destiny. In Paul the phrases tekna tou theou (children of God) and tekna tes epangelias (children of promise; 9:8) refer invariably to those who are the saved children of God (Rom. 8:16, 21; Gal. 4:28; Phil. 2:15). That the issue remains salvation– even when he refers to Isaac and Jacob– is corroborated by Rom. 9:11-12, which uses soteriological terms: erga (works), kalein (to call), ekloge (election). The soteriological import of these terms in Paul can hardly be denied. Soteriology continues to be the issue in Rom. 9:22-23, which contrasts “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” with “vessels of mercy that were prepared beforehand for glory.” Paul often uses the word apoleia (destruction) for eschatological destruction, while he frequently uses doxa (glory) to describe the eschatological splendor awaiting believers (Rom. 2:10; 8:18; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; cf. Col. 3:4; cf. E. Johnson 1989: 127). Finally, the argument in Rom. 9:32-11:32 substantiates the idea that eschatological salvation is the matter at hand. What troubles Paul in 9:30-10:21 is that Israel has failed to believe in Christ and therefore is not saved. What gives him hope in chapter 11 is that God has promised to remove ungodliness from Jacob and that ultimately “all Israel shall be saved” (11:26-27). Any attempt, therefore, to sever the historical destiny of Israel from salvation in this context in unpersuasive. Paul’s heart is rent with sorrow because so many of his kindred had rejected the message of the gospel and are therefore destined for judgment.

To address the three points mentioned above: (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 3a. Romans 9 in Ironside’s Lectures

December 15, 2008

1. The Historical Question

2. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time

a. In Mere Christianity

b. In Miracles

3. Romans 9

In discussing the biblical doctrine of election, the Christian must carefully consider Romans 9. This chapter, among other texts in Scripture, is foundational to the Calvinistic understanding that God’s election of sinners to salvation is not conditioned upon anything within those sinners who are chosen for salvation. In responding to the appeal to Romans 9 in order to establish Unconditional election, Dr. Land (both in his presentation and during the Question and Answer session) directed those present at the John 3:16 Conference to H.A. Ironsjde’s comments on this chapter. Dr. Land also responded to Romans 9 through offering a framework to distinguish Abrahamic election from salvific election.

a. In Ironside’s Lectures

Readers of this post are encouraged to view Ironside’s writings on Romans and to determine for yourselves if the comments I make below are accurate. I base my comments on Ironside’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, which was also reprinted in the Kregel Ironside Expository Commentary on Romans and Galatians.

In exploring any commentary on Scripture, I have found the three following questions to be helpful in evaluating what I read: i. What major theological presuppositions does this author bring to the text? ii. Are this author’s comments consistent with Scripture? iii. Are this author’s comments internally consistent?

The following is a consideration of Ironside’s Lectures on Romans structured by the questions above: (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 2b. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time in Miracles

December 11, 2008



2b. In Miracles

Miracles is, in my opinion, a philosophical masterpiece. Lewis’ argument against naturalistic materialism based on a contemplation of Reason is truly devasting to the anti-supernatural worldview of the atheists. A consideration of Lewis’ thoughts on the Incarnation- the “grand miracle” in which “the Divine Spirit dwelled within the created and human spirit of Jesus”- will certainly lead Christians into greater worship of God with our minds.

Having written an entire book on miracles, Lewis adds an appendix [Appendix B] to give some consideration of providence and the relationship of our prayers to God’s providence. Much of this chapter is commendable as well; I could easily double the length of this post celebrating Lewis’ insight into questions such as, “How can God answer prayers without constantly supplying miracles in such a way as to make the natural order incomprehensible?” “If God desires to preserve a natural order, how can He providentially answer prayers that would necessarily presuppose certain past events?” “As God is not bound by time, why can we not pray that He would change events in the past: for instance, by making it so that a certain loved one would not have died a week ago so that he or she could still be with us?”

There are some significant problems, however, with certain aspects of Lewis’ philosophy in Miracles.  In Appendix B, as in his earlier contemplation of the God’s relationship to time in Mere Christianity, these problems surface with his attempt to preserve libertarian ‘free-will.’

Lewis illustrates God’s relationship in time to ‘free-will’ creatures with the following: (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 2a. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time in Mere Christianity

December 9, 2008

[Read part 1 of my response to Dr. Land HERE.]

2. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time

Dr. Land titled his presentation, “Congruent Election: Understanding Salvation from An Eternal Now Perspective.” This “eternal now perspective” is based on C.S. Lewis’ theory of God’s relationship to time. While live-blogging Dr. Land’s presentation [as you can read HERE], I failed to record the specific reference[s] from Lewis given by Dr. Land. Thankfully, blogger johnMark, who was also present at the Conference, noted the reference to Miracles, appendix B [you can read johnMark's account of this presentation HERE]. I believe that I recall Dr. Land also mentioning Mere Christianity (and, in any case, I think that C.S. Lewis’ argument in Miracles is developed from his earlier discussion of this issue in Mere Christianity), so in this post I would like to make some observations on Lewis’ discussion of God’s relationship to time found in Mere Christianity, Book 4, chapter 3, “Time and Beyond Time.” (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 1: The Historical Question

December 5, 2008

[Read the live-blog account of this presentation HERE.]

1. The Historical Question

Before specifically addressing the doctrine of Unconditional Election, Dr. Land gave some comments on the historical situation of Calvinism among Baptists in America. Dr. Land introduced these statements with somehing to the effect of: ‘Some Calvinists have tried to abscond our history, which is broader than they have presented.’

Dr. Land’s presentation of Baptist history in America seemed particularly focused on an attempt to demonstrate that Baptists in the South have regularly held to a soteriology that was a mix between elements from both Calvinism and Arminianism, rather than being especially Calvinistic.

For evidence to support this claim, Dr. Land presented selections from the writings of John Leland. Dr. Land claimed that John Leland articulated a distinctive Southern Baptist soteriology before there was a Southern Baptist Convention. John Leland is certainly an important figure in American Baptist life, most often noted for his views on the relationship between church and state. As Dr. Land demonstrated, Leland also apparently advocated a mixed soteriology of elements from both Calvinism and Arminianism about 70 years before the Southern Baptist Convention was founded. But in my training in both history and philosophy (my Bachelor’s degree is in history, with a minor in philosophy) it was repeatedly stressed that just because one event precedes another does not mean that the first event was causal or formative to the second; there must be specific proof linking the events and demonstrating the relationship between them. It is apparently true that Leland advocated a mixed soteriology; it is also true that the Southern Baptist Convention was formed about 70 years later, but was Leland’s soteriology formative in the understanding held by Southern Baptist’s concerning matters of salvation? To prove this, Dr. Land would have to produce documentation from the founding generation of Southern Baptists verifying that they were influenced by Leland’s writings in this specific area.

Additional evidence was given in relation to the New Hampshire Confession, a Confession drawn up in 1833 that allowed for greater latitude in doctrinal positions than many previous Baptist confessions (the extent of the atonement, for example is not mentioned), and which was certainly influential to the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention. In regards to the New Hampshire Confession, the historical claim of Founders Ministries must be noted; namely, that each church or association represented at the original meeting to form the Southern Baptist Convention held to the 1689 Confession, or its American versions- the Philadelphia and Charleston Confessions- all of which are certainly Calvinistic. If this claim is true then by their own confession the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention were, by definition, Calvinistic, and so Dr. Land would have to prove this claim to be false if he wishes to assert the primacy of the New Hampshire Confession during the founding generation of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Finally, Dr. Land asserted that we have a Charleston tradition, but this tradition has always been the harmony to the melody of the Separate (revivalistic) Baptist tradition. In this statement, Dr. Land seems to return to a two-stream theory of Southern Baptist origins. In the context of the John 3:16 Conference, it seems like the second of these streams (the Separate, or “revivalistic,” Baptists) was presented as being non-Calvinistic. The Calvinism of the Separate Baptists has been established, however, by a careful examination of documents from the Separate Baptists themselves, as demonstrated in the Founders Journal issue titled “Sandy Creek Revisited.”

-Andrew Lindsey

Man’s Condition

December 1, 2008


This was just intended to be a response to Andrew’s previous post, but as it grew a bit lengthy, I thought to generate a follow-up post regarding Dr. Patterson’s comments about total depravity at the “John 3:16 Conference”. I hope that SBF readers may find something useful for contemplation here as well as in the fine observations Andrew is providing. I know that we both encourage further discussion and civil debate among readers.


Man’s depravity according to Dr. Patterson is not total, and so he should not refer to it as such. If we can hear and appreciate the preaching of the gospel (the “helicopter blades” in the analogy), our intellect is not fallen, and if we desire to be saved from our condition (the sea), then our will is not fallen. So then the fall and thus our depravity are not total. It is of concern to see leaders in the SBC desiring to hold on to some language which appeases Baptists’ sense of man’s misery in sin and the need for God’s grace, but then muddying the issue with an unbiblical elevation of fallen man’s abilities. As Calvin said of early church fathers who erred regarding free will:

To avoid delivering any principle deemed absurd in the common opinion of mankind, they made it their study, therefore, to compromise between the doctrine of the Scripture and the dogmas of the philosophers.


One huge problem with the sailor analogy is that it’s quite obvious to the sailor that he’s in danger and needs saving. However, in the spiritual realm, the natural man has no sense of this. He “loves the darkness”, and spiritual things are “foolishness to him”. It was said that he can just barely hear, and so he can respond. That concept does not appear to be biblical. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” seems more appropriate. When God opens ears, the message is loud and clear, and is embraced by the hearer; when He doesn’t, he remains completely deaf.


It is awful to use the scripture about Abraham’s age and feebleness, which was in regard to fathering children, as a case for the ability to believe despite spiritual deadness. I appeal to any who use this reference as such to please stop such an embarrassing misuse of scripture. Further discussion could be provided, but really should not be necessary in this case. It’s an absurd argument.


Dr. Patterson apparently claimed that we are not guilty except through our own transgression. What then does it mean that we are “by nature children of wrath”? Why did David say “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”?


Our guilt was imputed to us before we did anything. One of the best ways to see this truth is to examine the “as” and “just as” comparisons in Romans 5. Of course, merely a reading of 5:18 shows us “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Does condemnation not imply guilt?


But beyond that, back to the direct comparison the scripture is drawing: In Christ, the second Adam, are we righteous by our actual deeds? No. Was the righteousness passed down to us via our lineage? No. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us – we are declared righteous – even though still sinners, as Luther observed. So likewise, Adam’s guilt is not ours only when we actually transgress, nor was it merely passed down through our ancestors, but it was imputed to us as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Simply stated, all men in their natural state are declared guilty by God due to the guilt of Adam, and all of God’s elect are declared righteous due to the righteousness of Christ. This is quite surely the biblical perspective, and very different from that presented at this regrettable conference.



A Response to Dr. Paige Patterson’s Presentation on Total Depravity

November 29, 2008

[Read live-blog account of this presentation HERE.]

“Total depravity”

Dr. Patterson referred to his understanding of human sinfulness as “Total depravity” throughout his presentation, though at the end of his presentation he made it clear that his understanding of this doctrine differs from the Reformed understanding.

A great start, as all should agree

The first half (roughly) of Dr. Patterson’s presentation was one of the very best explanations of Total depravity that I have ever heard, to the point that  thought, “If he continues like this, then I would like to have this sermon distributed to every Southern Baptist church as a clear explanation of this doctrine.” Dr. Patterson’s exposition of Romans 3:10-18 and Romans 5:15-18, with a cross-reference to Genesis 3, were particularly helpful.

A controversial point of the presentation

Dr. Patterson was clear in presenting the biblical truth that all descendants of Adam are, by nature, corrupted by sin. Dr. Patterson denied, however, that this corruption, which will inevitably lead to individual sin, actually brings guilt upon an individual until the individual consciously chooses to perform a sinful action. The difference being (if I understand correctly) between consequence and condemnation. The idea that people are corrupted by sin from conception, yet not guilty due to this corruption, is certainly controversial. The Abstract of Principles- the confessional document of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (where Dr. Patterson used to preside) and of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary- clearly states that the human nature we receive from fallen Adam places us “under condemnation” even before we become  “actual transgressors” [in Article VI. "The Fall of Man"]. If the Abstract is in error at this point and should be amended, this should be demonstrated by a careful review of what the Scriptures say on this topic. This is where scholarly debate, which is almost entirely absent from Southern Baptist life, would be truly helpful.

What can a dead man do?

In his presentation, Dr. Patterson mentioned Ephesians 2, in which Paul explains to believers that we were once dead in trespasses and sins, but have been made alive by God. The Reformed exegesis of this passage asserts that this being made alive must happen (in its logical order) prior to faith. Dr. Patterson wished to explain that faith can precede being made alive by proving that a dead man can have faith. In support of this, Dr. Patterson turned to Romans 4:19, “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:” (KJV). As others have pointed out, reference to this verse conflates a a physical condition (number of years the body has lived, which is certainly no offense to God) with a spiritual condition of deadness that entails rebellion against God. Dr. Malcolm Yarnell tried to give a defense of Dr. Patterson’s presentation of this point during the Question & Answer session (Dr. Patterson could not be present for the Q & A session); readers can read the synopses of Dr. Yarnell’s answer as reported by me and johnMark and determine if his answer alleviated this problem.

Dr. Patterson also gave an illustration of a sailor damaged by an explosion, and cast into the sea. An admiral sees the sailor knocked into the sea and sends a helicopter to save the sailor. The sailor can barely hear, but faintly hears the whir of the helicopter blades, and he signals the helicopter, which saves him. Dr. Patterson says that we are like the sailor in the sea, God is like the admiral, and the whirring of the helicopter blades is the preaching of the gospel. We can barely hear the gospel due to our depraved condition, but if we respond to what we hear, we will be saved.

Dr. R.C. Sproul responds to such illustrations with the following counter-illustration:

[Sinful man] is not merely drowning, he has already sunk to the bottom of the sea. It is futile to throw a life preserver to a man who has already drowned. If I understand Paul, I hear him saying that God dives into the water [without being signaled, presumably, by the drowned man] and pulls the dead man from the bottom of the sea and then performs a divine act of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He breathed into the dead man new life. [R.C. Sproul, Chosen By God (Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1986), 116.]

Readers are invited to review passages such as Ephesians 2:1-10 or Ezekiel 11:19 (Ezekiel 36:26), which speaks of the Lord replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh and giving a new spirit, and to determine for yourself which of the above illustrations does better justice to the biblical presentation.

Assessment Of and Conversation About John 3:16 Conference Starting Tomorrow

November 28, 2008

In my live-blogging of the John 3:16 Conference for my intention was to give readers an accurate sense of what was said at the Conference. Until now, I have offered little in the way of an assessment (and virtually no argument) concerning what was said at the Conference. Further posts on the John 3:16 Conference here have been delayed by personal and academic hardship that I have faced. Starting tomorrow, I hope to address some things that were said at the John 3:16 Conference and to encourage discussion about these issues on this blog.

On supposed inaccuracies in my live-blogging

At least one fairly well-known non-Calvinist SBC blogger has accused me of misrepresenting what was said at the Conference. If he or anyone else would like to point out specific misrepresentations, I will be happy to correct them- as I wrote above, I have strived for accuracy.

On the other hand, I have received what amounts to some mild criticism that I under-reported controversial aspects of some presentations. Those who have heard CDs from the Conference have felt that some speakers spoke in a more aggressive manner and even said some more incendiary things than what was represented in my posts. I take this criticism seriously as well, and would like to explain: First, “tone” is hard to convey in written form and one’s perception of a speaker’s tone can be very subjective, so I made little if any comment on such things; Second, I am a fairly slow typer, and did not want to bring any unfair criticism upon any speaker- therefore, there were certainly a couple of times at the Conference where a speaker said something and I thought, “Did he just say what I think he said?” but before I could process what I’d heard, the speaker was articulating another point. Not wanting to misrepresent what was said, I would skip it. If any reader who has listened to CDs of the Conference would like to add comments about things I missed in this way I would be happy to read your response in the meta of this blogpost.


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