Archive for the ‘Other Anti-Calvinism’ category

Responding to a Fellow Baptist Church

June 24, 2012

Recently I sent an email to the leadership of an SBC church in my local area, in regard to statements made in a sermon series a while back. Since these were made available publicly online, I felt it appropriate to respond. I didn’t originally write with the intent of posting my words, but I later thought that perhaps they could be of use to some reader.

Basically, in a couple messages (one in particular), a number of inaccurate historical and doctrinal claims were made regarding Reformed theology, Calvin, the SBC, and Presbyterians. I just attempted to address a few. Also, I felt that an inappropriate “warning” toward the SBC church I had been a part of was made as well.  In responding, I tried to be gracious and accurate, although I regret not having more time to bring out specific scriptures and detailed historical facts. Sadly I had delayed so long in writing that I just felt I needed to finally “get done with it”, and probably rushed a bit.

Perhaps this could serve as an example (certainly not a perfect one, but maybe a helpful one) for any folks who find themselves in similar situations, or at least it may help shed light on a point or two. It certainly is quite possible to respond to such claims graciously yet firmly regarding the truths in question.

I have changed the names of the churches and the pastors referred to below. My intent here is not to attack or criticize a particular man or church. I did receive a very brief but cordial response from the senior pastor to whom I wrote. I don’t know how seriously he considered my words, but I hope that perhaps something I communicated would be meaningful to him in some way at some time.

——————————————————————————————-

Dear Pastor Smith, and your fellow Pastors at East Baptist Church,

Greetings in Christ, and thank you for your service to Him. I know you are busy, and so I’m trying not to write too much in giving feedback about two messages I heard online, though I’m afraid it may go a bit longer than desired. If you are able to read and consider my thoughts here, I would greatly appreciate it.

 Just by way of introduction, we have lived in the area for over 18 years and have been members at West Baptist Church for almost that long.  We have a number of friends at your church and have been there for various events over the years. A year or two ago we also attended the funeral of our friend and fellow Gideon. My son and I played French horn at East Baptist for the local Baptist Association’s anniversary a couple years ago. I have tried to maintain a good relationship with East Baptist and her people over the years.

A while back a friend who has moved to East Baptist recommended a sermon to me, and exploring the sermons available, I discovered your past series on “What Others Believe”.  These messages were given a couple years ago, but are still available on your website.  I do encourage serious consideration of our own beliefs, practices and history, as well as those of other denominations and religions, for measuring all to the truth of God’s Word, and strengthening our reliance on it and our trust in Him, and also to help us interact in a meaningful way with people of other beliefs, so that God might use us to help them see biblical truths as well.

I have a number of convictions in common with Presbyterians, and also know that in past centuries Baptists have been closely akin to Presbyterians in many ways.  I’m also well aware of the “Reformed” issues and divisions within the SBC, so I listened to the message on Presbyterians and am mainly responding to that one. I did also listen to the talk on Methodists and the one by Pastor Jones on Lutherans.

One reason for writing is that at the end of the talk, a caution was given about West Baptist moving in a certain direction, i.e. a Reformed or Calvinist direction.  I’m not a leader at West Baptist and am not writing on behalf of her elders in any way; please just consider me a local Christian who has been a part of that fellowship for a long time.  As such, it is sad for me to see one SBC church publicly presenting a sister Baptist church in a negative light unless it is absolutely certain and necessary. I would also have encouraged dialogue with West Baptist leadership first to be assured if such a statement is accurate, and did not sense that such a relationship was established. Please forgive me if I’m wrong.  I noticed much grace in the talk on Methodists, and that you had discussed issues with Pastor Roberts there, and also Pastor Jones mentioned a Lutheran friend in his gracious message. Likewise, if you don’t already have a relationship with a Presbyterian minister where you can discuss beliefs and clarify your understandings of them, I would really encourage that, especially since historically Baptists and Presbyterians have been so closely linked.

In listening to your message, Pastor Smith, I was concerned to hear a number of areas in which I don’t think Calvin or Presbyterians were accurately represented. I’ll just try to touch on them in the next few paragraphs:

The Servetus issue is one that often is brought as a charge against Calvin, and some good things have been written to help critics understand the times and the situation. Servetus was a blatant heretic who even denied the Trinity, and those like him in Geneva were outspoken and ferocious in their attacks and threats toward Calvin, who worked strenuously to bring faith and morality to the city. Calvin alone did not condemn him, but he was part of the city council which corporately sentenced Servetus to death. In fact it is said that, whereas the penalty for heresy was burning to death, Calvin asked that the sword be used instead, out of compassion for the man. This was rejected, which may show just how much power Calvin had in this case. At any rate, Servetus’ death for heresy is more a sign of those times than a sign of Calvin’s character. This was a regular practice throughout Europe, as I suppose many considered that crimes against God were as serious as crimes against humanity. I don’t advocate what was done, but do acknowledge that certain virtues and sins are esteemed differently from one era to the next.

I was surprised that there was no mention of covenant theology in your entire talk on Presbyterians, as this is such an important part of their faith. Historically Baptists have had an appreciation for God’s continuing covenant with His people as well. More recently many have become more dispensational in their views, and God’s covenants seem rarely mentioned. But the practice you mentioned of Presbyterians baptizing infants is related to this understanding. Historically Baptists (credo-baptists) and Presbyterians (paedo-baptists) have had a relationship of mutual respect, especially since they both embraced the doctrines of grace (ex: TULIP), even though they differed in the area of baptism. And as you know, Methodists, Lutherans, and other Protestants practice infant baptism as well; it certainly is not only the Presbyterians who do. Yet these see it completely differently than do the Roman Catholics; it is not a guarantee of salvation, but a sign of entrance into the visible church as children in a covenant (believing) family, just as was circumcision in the Old Testament.  Presbyterians believe that God’s covenant with Abraham continues to this day, as in Romans 4, though administered in different ways.

You were surprised that Boice, the Presbyterian pastor and author, was evangelistic. Indeed it seems many today think Reformed and evangelism are words don’t fit together. But this is very far from the truth. In fact some of the most notable missionaries of past centuries, including the pioneers of modern missions (such as William Carey), were solid Calvinists, and today Reformed believers are still very evangelism-minded. Many non-Reformed believers have trouble seeing why this would be if we think God has His elect chosen and nothing can change that.  The fact is that we’re commanded to be a witness to the world, and though God knows who His elect  people are, we don’t know.  So we broadcast the gospel, as a sower broadcasts seed, not knowing where God will impart life. While God has ordained who would be saved, He has also ordained the “means” by which they would be saved, and that is primarily the preaching of the gospel!  So we must be faithful in these means, entrusting the outcomes to the Lord.

In regard to “free will”, you mentioned that God told Adam that he could freely eat of the trees of the garden.  But of course this isn’t really relevant to the issue at hand. First of all, Reformed doctrine agrees that Adam indeed had free will before his fall into sin. But afterward, scripture is clear that he and his posterity are all bound in sin, with our will not free but constrained by our sinful nature.  Calvinists believe that there are 4 states of man’s will: In Adam and Eve before the Fall (free to obey but able to fall), in all natural men since the Fall (in bondage to their sinful nature, not seeking God), in redeemed or regenerated men after conversion (able to obey though still choosing sin at times),  and in redeemed men in their glorified state in heaven (in perfect submission to God).  Even natural men do have some free agency in that they make free choices daily, but note that their choices will always be in keeping with their nature. So in regard to spiritual things, their will is not free; it is bound by a nature which only seeks its own desires, not God’s, and can’t even truly understand anything about God. This can only change if and when God grants the person a new nature.  And according to the scripture, He does this according to His good pleasure, that is, merely according to His own free will.  Why He chose us is a mystery to us, but we recognize it as grace alone, which none of us deserve. And therefore those who perish in their sins didn’t deserve that grace either. God is perfectly holy in His justice as well as in His grace. I believe your concern was especially in separating the concepts of free will and God’s sovereignty.  There is really no separation; they both just need to be understood properly, and both generally are not.

You mentioned that there was a “strain” of Reformed people or doctrine throughout Baptist history.  In fact, until about a century ago the majority of Baptists were Calvinists.  Throughout the centuries in both England and America, the Baptist confessions were Reformed, and the leading ones were based fundamentally on the Westminster Confession, the standard still held to by Presbyterians. The London Baptist Confession, for example, is very close to the Westminster except for a couple points, most notably the portion on baptism. The early Baptists wanted to make it clear that, though they differed in that area, they agreed fully with their Reformed brethren in their soteriology (doctrine of salvation), in which they were clearly Calvinistic. There were some more Arminian Baptists around, but these were not nearly as organized or numerous.  The founders of our Southern Baptist seminaries, such as Boyce, Broadus, and Manly, Jr., and the SBC’s early leaders were Reformed in their understanding of salvation.  At the turn of the 20th century, a Southern Baptist theologian and pastor wrote, “Nearly all Baptists believe what are usually termed the ‘doctrines of grace’”, and he went on to describe the Calvinist soteriology.  So I daresay it has been much more than a strain, and still is today, despite much of the SBC’s 21st century attempts to squelch it out.  The convictions of the “Founders” group or the Together for the Gospel (t4g.org) group aren’t really new for the Baptist church at all; they are in keeping with our Baptist heritage. The real change and danger has been that such a large portion of the Baptist church has within the last century moved to a fully Wesleyan soteriology (natural man’s will entirely free, no real power in predestination or election, etc.), which is completely inconsistent with our Baptist biblical foundations, and with the biblical movement (the Reformation) which gave us the name Protestants in the first place.

From Pastor Jones’ talk on Lutherans, I just wanted to mention two things. (I was raised Lutheran, by the way, and began attending a Baptist church in my teen years.)

First, you stated how the Reformation sought to correct many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. While this is true, the correcting of doctrinal issues was an even greater part of the movement. In Luther’s great treatise, “The Bondage of the Will”, written in response to the Roman Catholic scholar Erasmus (who advocated free will), Luther commended Erasmus on one thing. He said that Erasmus was quite right in getting to the heart of the issue of the time, which was a doctrinal one. Although Luther vehemently disagreed with him on matters of doctrine, he was glad that at least Erasmus wasn’t arguing merely about practices, as many did. So I’m just emphasizing what a crucial role doctrine or theology itself played in the Protestant Reformation.

Secondly, you mentioned how some denominations believe that you were either elected or not elected before you were born, and that this seemed to you a terrible way to face life. But isn’t this scriptural? As in Ephesians 1,  “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”, and other places.  The Reformed view (to which the Lutheran church historically also held) is that God not only knows who would come to faith in Him, but that He knows why they would, that is, because He would grant them spiritual life. As Romans 5 and other places show us, our whole race died spiritually in Adam’s Fall, and we are all deserving His condemnation for our sin. So if God would be righteous in condemning us, we are told He is also righteous in granting grace to whomever He chooses, as in Romans 9 and other places. Our will does play a part in the process, in the sense that it is bound as natural men by our sin, which we gladly followed, but freed to love and follow Him if and when He grants us life.  I could explain further and give numerous references, but I’ll leave it at that.

In this portion about election, you asked a question, and I think I could address it. You said Lutherans believe that predestination is only to salvation, not damnation. And you determined from this that it should imply that everyone is therefore predestined to salvation.  Your open question was for help in making sense out of this. I hope this is at least a little bit helpful: It has been a common historic Protestant view that God  graciously chose, out of a sinful and lost humanity,  a certain elect people for His own, not because of any foreseen good in them, but only due to the good pleasure of His own sovereign will. In doing so, predestining a certain group of individuals to eternal life, He “passed by” the rest of humanity, leaving them in their sin to the condemnation they justly deserve. (Even the elect deserve it, and would have it too, except for His grace.) So the “active” part of predestination is in working to bring some to salvation; the rest do not require His intervention in order to be condemned: they just follow their natural path. So this is sometimes called “single predestination”, in that He elects those He will save, and the rest are left to have sin run its course and have its consequences. I do have a bit of an issue with this view, in that as God is all-knowing and sees all of time, He is well aware of those who are not elected and even does things in the lives of the wicked, of which scripture gives many examples. Many Reformed people do therefore believe in “double predestination” in that all men are essentially appointed to one end or the other.

Please note that this does not mean that for a certain person considering the gospel or wanting to approach Christ, that one should take the fatalistic view that if they’re not elect, it’s no use. In fact, the signs that they are seeking Him could very well indicate that He is indeed working in their lives to draw them to Himself, as they may indeed be among His elect people! But a key point is that it is He that must first do the work to give them life, eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a heart of flesh (not stone). And once given these things, we do see and truly live. His grace, His inward calling, is effective – it always results in the salvation of those He extends it to. Men may and often do reject the outward calling of the gospel, but when God works to raise us to life, as He did to raise Lazarus, we do live indeed.

Brothers, so many of the Reformed views are so easily misunderstood by other Baptists, to the point that there has been much division and attacks within the denomination, both men and women boldly speaking out publicly and disrespectfully against their church elders, Reformed ministers being run off from churches and their families losing their means of income, etc.  It is a very sad situation within the SBC, and I suppose my main purpose in writing to you is to plead with you to consider the history of the denomination and of Protestantism, the unity of the denomination, and above all the truth of the Bible and whether a careful analysis of the whole of scripture lends credence to these doctrines. After years of study and consideration, I am convicted that it does.

There are so many scriptures and references I’d love to give, but I’m sorry to act as one who would profess to teach you, ministers of the gospel, and I know we are all busy men. I think I’ve written better things defending the Reformed faith before, with various scriptures and quotes included, but I’m trying not to take even longer here than I already have. If any of you would ever like to further discuss any of the issues mentioned in this email, please feel free to contact me anytime. I’d be glad to return emails or even to meet in person with you if desired. I live just off Main Street on Oak Lane, and work as an engineer here in town. And if you have taken the time to read through and especially more deeply consider some of the points I’ve brought out, I am deeply grateful to you. Truthfully my only agenda is for our mutual growth in truth for the sake of the Church and the glory of God.

God’s grace to you,

Darrin Lyon

Reformed Baptist Fellowship’s Response to Dr. Elmer Towns

March 27, 2009

Dr. Elmer Towns, co-founder and dean of the School of Religion at Liberty University, has long been known to oppose the revival of the Doctrines of Grace (commonly called Calvinism) within Southern Baptist life. (Dr. Towns had at least one article posted on baptistfire.com, the site which first prompted the creation of the blog you are now reading.)

Recently, Dr. Towns has published an article titled “What Should ‘Southern Baptist’ Have to Do With ‘Calvinist’?” in the Baptist Standard. The Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog has posted some helpful responses to this article, which responses are linked below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

A Response to Dr. John Compton’s “What is Calvinism?” : 3. Dr. Compton’s Methodology in Arguing Against Calvinism

November 6, 2008

[Introduction]

[1a.]

[1b.]

[2.]

3. Dr. Compton’s Methodology in Arguing Against Calvinism

Within Baptist circles, the most serious problem in regards to those who oppose Calvinism is not the idea that people have ‘free-will’ or the assertion that Christ’s death provides potential atonement for every individual- the most serious problem is does not concern a particular point of doctrine or an understanding of Baptist history- rather, the most serious problem is the methodology employed in arguing against Calvinism. Through providing an example that teaches a wrong methodolgy for theological reflection, anti-Calvinist Baptists run the very serious risk of leading a large multitude of Baptist congregants and students into a position that makes them succeptible to all kinds of erroneous doctrine. The wrong methodology I’m writing of, which is exemplified in the sermon under consideration, consists of: misrepresenting one’s opponents, a lack of biblical exegesis, and eisegesis. (more…)

A Response to Dr. John Compton’s “What is Calvinism?” : 2. Dr. Compton’s Conclusions Concerning Calvinism

November 4, 2008

[Introduction]

[1a.]

[1b.]

2. Dr. Compton’s Conclusions Concerning Calvinism

Dr. Compton argues for three conclusions concerning how Calvinism will harm churches. These three conclusions are as follow:

a.    Calvinism will kill missions.
b.    Calvinism will kill evangelism.
c.    Calvinism will split churches.

Points a. and b. above are similar enough that I will respond to them simultaneously. These points seem to be grounded in Dr. Compton’s false understanding of Irresistible grace, mentioned before, and are both proven false when we examine the historical evidence and contemporary evidence.

i. The historical evidence that Calvinism does not kill missions and evangelism:

Dr. Compton asserts that William Carey, “The father of modern missions,” was opposed by Calvinists in his missionary endeavors. This is rather obviously false, as Carey carried out his missionary work as a Particular Baptist (i.e., “Calvinistic” Baptist) minister, and wrote “The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation” as a Calvinist against the errors of the hyper-Calvinists. Other leading “Calvinistic” Baptist missionaries include Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, and Andrew Fuller.

ii. The contemporary evidence that Calvinism does not kill missions and evangelism:

Two examples of contemporary “Calvinistic” Baptist ministers who demonstrate that  Calvinism does not kill missions and evangelism are seen in the pastoral ministry of John Piper and the educational ministry of Albert Mohler.

- Calvinism does not kill missions and evangelism as demonstrated in the pastoral ministry of John Piper

John Piper, well-known for his Calvinistic theology, regularly preaches on missions as demonstrated by the more than two dozen sermon manuscripts specifically focused on missions found HERE. John Piper has been a regular speaker at the Passion Conference where he has influenced literally tens of thousands of college students to commit to not wasting their lives, to put aside any excuses, and to commit to missions for the glory of God. John Piper has led Bethlehem Baptist Church in a strong commitment to missions and evangelism; this is evident from the “Outreach” page on the Church website HERE, which demonstrates Bethlehem’s involvement on several foreign mission fields, in evangelism on college campuses, in outreach within neighborhoods around Bethlehem, in church planting and in other ministries.

- Calvinism does not kill missions and evangelism as demonstrated in the educational ministry of Albert Mohler

Since he has become president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.- a self-described five-point Calvinist- has led the Seminary in establishing the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Missions, and Church Growth, which is (of couse) dedicated to evangelism and missions, the very aspects of Christian life that Dr. Compton thinks are threatened by Calvinism. Under Dr. Mohler’s leadership, seminary students regularly partner with local churches, reaching out to Louisville in door-to-door evangelism. Several mission trips are conducted every year through the school. This year there is a special emphasis on missions and evangelism as Dr. Mohler has challenged the seminary community to embrace the dangerous task of boldly proclaiming the gospel throughout Louisville and throughout the world in what he calls “A Year of Living Dangerously.”

c. Response to Dr. Compton’s assertion that Calvinism will split churches

For this charge to be credible, Dr. Compton should produce evidence of clear-cut cases in which Calvinism (and not personality conflicts using the issue of Calvinism as an excuse) has led to church splits. Also Dr. Compton should realize that if he and others discontinue offering false definitions of Calvinism and raising false alarms over the disproven idea that Calvinism will kill missions and evangelism, then it be much easier for non-Calvinist Baptists to accept their Calvinistic brothers and sisters, thus leading to a decreased likelihood that Calvinism will split churches

A Response to Dr. John Compton’s “What is Calvinism?” : 1b. Irresistible Grace

October 30, 2008

[Introduction]

[1a.]

b. Irresistible grace

Compton explains the doctrine of Irresistible grace with the following statement:

“When God calls a person that’s predestined to be saved they cannot resist it, they will be saved: as some would even say, even if they never respond, or come to Christ, they’re still going to be saved, because God predestined it.”

The major problem with this statement is in the phrase, “as some would even say, even if they never respond, or come to Christ, they’re still going to be saved.” Is it true that some teach that Irresistible grace means that the elect will be saved “even if they never respond, or come to Christ”? Yes, it is true; a few years ago I heard a Primitive Baptist preacher teach this. But who are these “some”? Are they Calvinists? No, they are hyper-Calvinists.

Now, hyper-Calvinists are not Calvinists who have had too much coffee- a hyper-Calvinist is not a seminary student who is really excited about his Calvinism- rather, hyper-Calvinism is a distinct theological position. Hyper-Calvinism is a denial of “duty faith”: the biblical teaching that every person ever to live is under obligation to believe in Christ and that the command to believe in Christ must be proclaimed to every person. Hyper-Calvinism is also characterized by divorcing the effectual, inward call of the Holy Spirit- a call which will certainly lead to justification and glorification (Rom 8:30)- from the outward call of the proclaimed gospel. (The Apostle Paul demonstrates that the inward call only works through the outward call in Rom 10:13-14.) The above facets of hyper-Calvinism demonstrate the unbiblical and anti-evangelistic nature of this theological position.

But do some Calvinists also teach that sinners may be irresistibly granted salvation, irregardless of their response to Him? I assert (as you probably guessed) that the answer is, “No.” As proof for this assertion, I direct readers’ attention to the Canons of Dort. As Dr. Compton indicated, the “five points” of Calvinism are directly derived from these Canons, which were published in 1619 for the purpose of settling a dispute between the Reformed churches and the Arminians. As the Canons were written in contrast to Arminianism, rather than to refute hyper-Calvinism, there is no one head of doctrine devoted to proving that the gospel must be proclaimed and the sinner must respond in faith in order for salvation to occur. Yet there are several articles within the Canons that do touch upon this subject with enough clarity that a specific conclusion is inevitable.

Article 3 under the first head of doctrine states, “In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message [i.e., the gospel],” etc. For this statement, Romans 10:14-15 is quoted, “For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” etc. The next article states, “God’s anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel,” etc. In other words, those who are not brought to faith in the gospel are not saved from God’s wrath. Article 6 (titled, The Saving Power of the Gospel”) under the third and fourth head of doctrine states that,

    What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.

Here we see that salvation comes to believers through “the gospel about the Messiah.”

Finally, article 17 under this same head is titled “God’s Use of Means in Regeneration.” This article affirms that “the use of the gospel” is required for regeneration to occur.

An examination of the above articles demonstrates that the Canons of Dort consistently link the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit to the outward call of the gospel. Salvation for individuals apart from gospel proclamation is not considered as a possibility within the Canons (with the possible exception of the case of infants dying in infancy; article 17 under the first head of doctrine). Furthermore, the response of the person hearing the gospel is seen as crucial, for those who do not come to faith in Jesus are not saved from God’s wrath.

In conclusion, when Dr. Compton said in his explanation of what Calvinists believe concerning Irresistible grace, “…as some would even say, even if they never respond, or come to Christ, they’re still going to be saved, because God predestined it,” he misrepresented Calvinism, which teaches that people must come to Christ if they are to be saved. Perhaps there is someone out there claiming to be a Calvinist who teaches otherwise, but, as demonstrated above, such a person would stand in contradiction to the historic teachings of Calvinism and would be engaging in the error of hyper-Calvinism.

-Andrew Lindsey

A Response to Dr. John Compton’s “What is Calvinism?” : Introduction

October 23, 2008

Introduction
This blog began with a focus on providing a “response and scriptural rebuttal to the writings found at the anti-Calvinistic website BaptistFire.com” [quoted from our "About this Site" page HERE]. As most readers are aware, BaptistFire.com pulled down their entire site shortly after SBF was launched [you can still view the blank page for the BaptistFire.com site HERE], and so after finishing our series of posts addressing some of material that was on BaptistFire, SBF began addressing other, more current attacks on Calvinism.

To return briefly to our old practice of addressing arguments no longer on the Internet, I am writing today in order to respond to Dr. John Compton’s recent sermon titled, “What is Calvinism?” This sermon was preached on October 12th of this year, and was made available online [on this page] for about a week, until this past Lord’s Day, when it was removed.

Why address this sermon?
Readers may wonder why I am taking the time to respond to a sermon that is no longer on the Internet, a sermon that apparently has no more potential to shape a wide audience’s perception of Calvinism. The answer is that I believe that this sermon raised some issues that others may encounter as well- issues that were front and center on the old BaptistFire site and that are still being repeated in Baptist churches across the nation. I hope that this series will prompt readers to further reflect on these issues- for those of you who reject Calvinism, I hope that you will at least take the time to gain an accurate awareness of that which you oppose. For those of you who embrace Calvinism, I hope that you will take time to thoroughly learn what you believe and why you believe it so that you may be able to clearly and graciously articulate the doctrines of grace to others.

Clarification: not personal
In our culture, debate is a neglected form of communication. Even the presidential debates were actually less like debates and more like joint interviews in which the candidates seemed far more concerned with producing sound-bites than in attempting to weigh the merits or deficiencies of focused propositions. With the rise of moral relativism, people tend not to differentiate between statements of truth and matters of personal preference. As truth is viewed as being subjective rather than objective, people tend to over-identify a person’s truth-claims with the person himself. So that to attempt to refute a person’s statements seems like a personal attack. But I want to make clear that it is not my intention to attack Dr. Compton. I know next to nothing about Dr. Compton’s ministry at First Baptist Church Clinton, MS; the few things that I have heard second-hand have been generally positive. I am not foolishly attempting to give the impression that I, a struggling seminary student, think I am in any way better than John Compton, who has earned his doctorate and who pastors a large church. I do think that Dr. Compton made some statements in “What is Calvinism” that are contradicted by facts and in the next few posts it is my goal to examine specific facets of this sermon and to offer a response.

Outline of this series
In this short series of posts over the next few days I intend to examine Dr. Compton’s definition of Calvinism, his conclusions concerning Calvinism, and his methodology in arguing against Calvinism.

Timmy Brister dialogue with Dr. Steve Lemke

October 2, 2008

Day before yesterday Timmy Brister, a former SBF blogger and friend of this site, began posting a response to an article by Dr. Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. (Dr. Lemke is one of the scheduled speakers at the upcoming anti-Calvinist John 3:16 Conference.) Brister asserts that Lemke has misrepresented Calvinism, specifically in relation to how it effects the Southern Baptist Convention. Brister’s blogpost, titled “Steve Lemke and Christian Scholarship” [found HERE], became especially interesting as Dr. Lemke actually commented in the meta of the post. Hopefully, the interaction between Brister and Dr. Lemke will continue, with growth in grace experienced by all involved. Everyone reading this post is encouraged to click on the link above and to take part in the discussion.

-Andrew Lindsey

Email To and Response From Dr. Allen

June 20, 2008

On June 3, I sent Dr. Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, links to my articles on this site critiquing his arguments against Limited atonement [the last one can be found HERE].

Along with these links, I sent the following message:

As I believe that Limited atonement (better termed Particular redemption) is a doctrine taught in Scripture, it would be my hope to persuade you to abandon such arguments as those you offered in the lecture mentioned above. Barring this eventuality, I hope that the articles linked above will at least advance the conversation so that in your presentation at the John 3:16 Conference, the clear historical errors of your presentation last February will be corrected and the Reformed response to your exegesis and theology will be taken into account.

By His grace and for His glory,
-Andrew Lindsey

Re-reading this message, I think that I could have been more respectful and courteous, positive traits that I think were lost in my attempt to be brief.

As a dean of a major institution, I did not expect that Dr. Allen would actually respond to such an email, or, if he did, I expected his response to be (somewhat understandably) dismissive.

Instead, Dr. Allen emailed the following, just two days later:

Andrew,

Thanks for your email and concern. Rest assured I will do everything I can to be biblically, historically and theologically accurate in my presentation at the John 3:16 conference. While I appreciate your taking the time to listen and respond in the articles below, I must say that I don’t think it is my historiography that is in question. At any rate, I do hope you can attend the conference, and I would be delighted to meet you there and perhaps set aside some time to chat.

Blessings!

David L. Allen

Dean, School of Theology

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

I think that, on the whole, the above response was very gracious. I do hope, however, that Dr. Allen will reconsider the historical aspect of what I wrote, as I believe my response to his presentation was well-documented.

On “non-baptist reformed doctrine” in the Southern Baptist Convention

January 29, 2008

I don’t often check the blog of Dr. Ergun Caner, mainly due to the fact that he posts so rarely. So I was interested to see the news, posted December 18, 2007, that Dr. Caner is leading Liberty Theological Seminary to change its name back to Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. (Read the entire article HERE.) Now, as a student of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I’m all for the word “Baptist” appearing in the name of a seminary in which Baptist distinctives are promoted- in my opinion this is a simple matter of ‘truth in advertising.’ But the more interesting part is the specific reasons Dr. Caner gives for revising the name of Liberty Theological Seminary. Caner states:

…much as changed, both here at Liberty University and in the Southern Baptist Convention. Too many schools have Baptist in their name but not in their doctrine. Some have drifted into liberalism and cultural relativism; still others remain orthodox, but have drifted toward non-Baptist reformed doctrine and cultural isolationism. For us, this was our line in the sand. We want to build bridges to a lost world without burning the bridges of our doctrinal heritage. We are putting Baptist back in our name, and taking back a term that has been misused.

Notice first that Dr. Caner links “reformed doctrine” with “liberalism” and “relativism,” creating a list that seeks to established guilt by [entirely undefined] association in the same manner Dr. Jerry Vines attempted with his “Baptist Battles” sermon series back in 2006.

Also note that Dr. Caner does not define what he means by “non-baptist reformed doctrine.” Does he mean the reformed doctrine defended by P.H. Mell, one of the original delegates  who helped found the Southern Baptist Convention and went on to be President of the Convention for a total of seventeen years? Does he mean the reformed theology explained by J.L. Dagg, the first writing Southern Baptist Theologian, who wrote, “All who will finally be saved, were chosen to salvation by God the Father, before the foundation of the world, and given to Jesus Christ in the Covenant of Grace” [J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (1857; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1982), 305]? Does he mean the reformed theology taught by J.P. Boyce, the first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who wrote, “Election is an act of God, and not a result of the choice of the Elect… This choice is one of individuals and not classes… election is made through the mere good pleasure of God” [J.P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (1887; reprint, Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 348-350]? Does he mean the reformed theology celebrated by many of the pastors and teachers at the recent Building Bridges conference, to which his article alludes? A consideration of Mell, Dagg, and Boyce show that a reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation is far from “non-baptist.” Perhaps Dr. Caner means to indicate some other kind of “non-baptist reformed doctrine,” but if he really means to assert that there are Southern Baptist churches holding to a reformed doctrine of infant baptism, then he needs to give specific examples.

“No Views Contradict” – A Postmodernist Guide To Keeping God Out of a Box

December 5, 2007

In my last post, I talked about the clash between doctrinal certainty as held by Calvinists versus the postmodern embrace of ‘mystery’. Groups like the Emerging Church would often rather place matters of controversy beyond human reach, and I fear – treat revealed truth as though it were not revealed. I think another example of this postmodern tendency can be seen in this post by Chris Lyons, who is a vocal critic of Calvinism as well as pretty much any kind of Systematic Theology.

In his post, Chris Lyons gives his take on Arminianism, Open Theism, and Calvinism (though he mistakenly makes comparisons with fatalism).  Afterwards he concludes:

"In all of these views, systems are built upon one key aspect, or set of related aspects: foreknowledge, free will, relationship. I would posit, though, that each is but one view of the whole, which is impossible for us to see in its entirety. I would posit that each view, in and of itself, builds a system based on its own limited eisegesis of scripture. I would posit that the most accurate view possible for us to attain is in accepting that the basis of each of these views [...] are all correct and not in contradiction to one another. I would posit that any apparent contradiction exists because of the previously mentioned shortcoming in our blindness – we try to place God inside of time in order to understand Him, when He clearly exists apart from it." (emphasis mine).

The fact that it has always been understood throughout church history that there are obvious contradictions and incompatibilities between each of these views is something that Chris expects us to overlook.  Supposedly, they are all different angles on the holistic truth which can’t be known; there are no contradictions, and we are asked to simply take his word for it that this is a mystery that we should not try to explain.  On the surface, this thinking (which is common in postmodernism) seems very tolerant, but it’s actually very intolerant towards anyone who dares to declare that any one of these views are the truth while the other views are contradictory and false. That’s the one thing that is unacceptable and presumably can’t be true. Later on the page Chris Lyons explains that to accept any one of these views as being the true teaching that is revealed in the Word of God is equivalent to putting God in a box.

That brings to mind a post I read some time ago on Stand To Reason’s blog, about this overused phrase "Putting God in a Box":

"[The line is] actually kind of rude because it implies that we’re doing something illegitimate with God. But you know what? We all put God in a box – the box being how we best understand God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture. The box is one of God’s own nature we’re all just trying to figure out what the box looks like.

God should be in a box. What’s the alternative? God has no limitations on what He can be like or act like? That is frightening. God Himself is limited by His own nature. He can’t lie. He can’t sin. He can’t go out of existence. God’s box – the definition of what He is like – is what makes Him God and a Person we can love and trust and glorify. If God isn’t in some kind of a box, He would be arbitrary.

God’s box is the biggest and greatest box there is. He’s omniscient – He knows and believes all true things; but He cannot believe false things. He’s omnipotent – God can do whatever power can do. His potentialities are at the greatest limit of the attributes He possesses. But those very attributes define Him, they describe His box. Our goal is to get the best idea of what that box looks like."

While I think the Emerging Church and Postmodernists such as Chris Lyons are too often ready to shroud revealed truth in a cloud of mystery, I also think we must be careful to allow for mystery where it is legitimately encountered.  As John Calvin warns:

"The discussion of Predestination—a subject of itself rather intricate—is made very perplexed, and therefore dangerous, by human curiosity, which no barriers can restrain from wandering into forbidden labyrinths, and from soaring beyond its sphere, as if determined to leave none of the Divine secrets unscrutinized or unexplored . . . First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into Predestination, they penetrate into the inmost recesses of divine wisdom, where the careless and confident intruder will obtain no satisfaction to his curiosity . . . For we know that when we have exceeded the limits of the word, we shall get into a devious and irksome course, in which errors, slips, and falls will be inevitable. Let us then, in the first place bear in mind, that to desire any more knowledge of Predestination than that which is unfolded in the Word of God, indicates as great folly as to wish to walk through impassible roads, or to see in the dark. Nor let us be ashamed to be ignorant of some things relative to a subject in which there is a kind of learned ignorance." –Institutes, Ch. XXI, sect. I, II.

The key is, as Calvin said – to stay inside the limits of word, but at the same time being a Workman (2 Tim 2:15) with that which is revealed in scripture. On all sorts of topics, including election and predestination, we may not always like the conclusions that we come to in taking an honest and realistic approach to scripture. But really, it’s no different than another systematized concept that was once the subject of much debate, and yet is embraced by many postmodernists such as Chris Lyons, and that is the Trinity. There’s mystery in it – to be sure, but we are still able to systematically define it within the bounds of scripture, and we believe it is true – because that’s what the bible teaches about our triune and sovereign God.

Update: 12/6/07: Triablogue weighs-in with a response to Chris Lyons – see their post: Pachyderm Theology

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