Andy Stanley and the Evidentialist Apologetic

Posted August 14, 2018 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Uncategorized

In an interview with Dr. Michael Brown in which he attempted to explain and clarify quotes found in the article, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, A StanleySays Andy Stanley” from The Christian Post, Andy Stanley declared: “I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’…” And in other venues, Stanley has urged Christians to stop saying “the Bible says…”

Andy Stanley is a mega-church CEO who professes belief that the Bible is without error; why would he refrain (and urge others to refrain) from saying “the Bible says”?

The Road to Emmaus

Stanley’s explicit concern in how he refers to Scripture is driven by his view of apologetics (that is, how Christians are to give a reasoned defense for their faith). In part, Stanley explains the fact of Jesus and the apostles’ use of phrases like “Scripture says” by appealing to the differing context of the earliest church versus where most believers find ourselves today. In some cases, Stanley might be theoretically OK with a direct appeal to the authority of the Bible. Stanley said: “There’s an apologetic for when you’re approaching an orthodox Jew, and there’s an apologetic for those who think that the Bible is just a book of fairy tales.”

But Stanley is inconsistent on this point, because there are times when he indicates that even the earliest believers (those in a Jewish context, who would have been raised to revere the Scriptures) were compelled to faith through the (extra-biblical) evidence set before them, contrasted with the authority of Scripture. In the context of saying, “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’…” Stanley explained that (in his view): “Jewish men and women who had given up hope immediately regained hope not because of something they read, but because of something they saw.

Elsewhere in his interview with Dr. Brown, Stanley expressed frustration that people objecting to his statements about the Bible are always bringing Luke 24:25-32 to his attention. Stanley declared: “of COURSE I know the story of the two men on the Road to Emmaus.”

But Stanley seems to miss the point of WHY people refer to that passage. When the risen Christ encountered two people “who had given up hope,” they did NOT ‘immediately regain hope because of something they saw.’ In their case, God actually kept them from seeing Jesus for who He was (see Luke 24:16). Before allowing them to really perceive His resurrected presence, Jesus prepared their understanding by teaching them through the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Gospel of John

In the interview with Dr. Brown, Stanley defended his earlier statement: “the whole Old Testament house of cards could collapse, and you still have the resurrection of Jesus.” Stanley referenced people who only read the Gospel of John, coming to faith in Jesus just through reading that Gospel, not starting in the Old Testament. But notice the words from the very first chapter of John’s Gospel account; the Apostle John records:

1) John the Baptist quoting Old Testament Scripture in indicating the purpose of his ministry;

2) The religious leadership questioning whether John was Elijah;

3) Questions raised concerning Christ (the Messiah);

4) The identification of Jesus as the Son of God and Son of Man.

All of this makes no sense without the Old Testament. What we take for granted is that, in our culture, people in general do have a kind of residual notion—at least a vague idea—of the biblical categories/terms mentioned in the first chapter of John. Because of this, it may make it easier for people to come to faith in Christ through reading one of the Gospel accounts. For missionaries to truly unreached people groups, however, biblical definitions for who God is and who Christ is must be built upon the Old Testament foundation before a person can come to faith in God through Christ. Even in our context, an authoritative reference to the Old Testament to define our terms is necessary.

Evidentialist Apologetics Taken Too Far

Stanley has repeatedly stated that the Bible comes at the END of our apologetic, and that he is concerned with presenting the gospel to those who doubt the Bible’s authority. Stanley claims that he is engaging in “classical apologetics”. This is a misnomer: Stanley does not engage in presenting the classical proofs for the existence of God (in the sermons and interviews I’ve seen from him, he is not challenging his listeners to think through the ontological argument or the teleological argument, etc.); rather, he is engaging in evidentialist apologetics—pointing people to historical evidences for why we should believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that He made divine claims of Himself, etc.

Is there any place for this kind of apologetic reasoning?

I would say that there may very well be. Especially in some interactions when I was a student at Georgia State University (from which Stanley also holds a degree), I’ve argued in this mode before. (You can see a written-out example of my own use of evidentialist reasoning at the following blogpost: http://alindsey4.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-bible-jesus-view-and-our-view.html .) If a non-Christian is denying that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God or if an immature Christian is having doubts about whether all the books we have in our Bible should be considered the Word of God, then for the sake of the argument, an evidentialist apologetic may be helpful. The Christian witness could explicitly bracket the question of the exact nature concerning the Bible, and look at what the evidence still indicates even if the absolute divine authority is not presupposed.

But notice:

  1. The evidentialist apologetic is (at best) limited and negative in its function. Examination of the evidence can clear away the film of supposedly reasonable-sounding doubts concerning the gospel message. It may be wise to use this on a case-by-case basis. However, to make it the regular apologetic preached from the pulpit, and to teach the children of the church to refrain from singing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” (as Stanley has recommended) will undermine, rather than bolster, trust in the authority of God’s Word.
  2. The evidentialist apologetic should never lead to a division between the authority of Jesus and the authority of the Bible. As the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (which Stanley claims to believe) rightly declares, “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one.” When using evidentialist apologetics, the faithful witness should make it clear that he is only doing so for the sake of the argument, and NOT because we believe that the Bible is a secondary or lesser authority. As people rightly say in church circles: “What you win people with is what you win them to.” In other words: people will continue to live in a manner consistent with the teaching and methods that brought them into the church. If they were brought into the church believing that the Bible is of secondary importance (at best), then they will likely continue to view it in that manner (at least practically). If they were brought into church believing that the Bible is God’s revelation to us, then they will likely come to love and cherish Scripture in a manner that is consistent with Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, etc.
  3. Finally: the evidentialist apologist must realize that no amount of evidence can place faith into a sinner’s heart. Faith comes through an authoritative proclamation of God’s Word (see Romans 10:17). If a person remains obstinate against hearing the Bible as God’s Word, then that person will not be brought to true faith, no matter how much evidence they see. I make this assertion not on my own authority, but on the authority of Christ, who taught us: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).
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Andy Stanley: “Cues from Jesus”

Posted August 10, 2018 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Uncategorized

A StanleyIn an interview with Dr. Michael Brown in which he attempted to explain and clarify quotes found in the article, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley” from The Christian Post, Andy Stanley declared: “I want you to take your cues from the Apostle Paul is terms of how we interact and how we value the Old Testament, and I want you to take your cues from Jesus.” He said that he gives his congregation this admonishment all the time. But elsewhere in the interview, Stanley said: “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’… I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’…” And in other venues, Stanley has urged Christians to stop saying “the Bible says…”

How did Jesus and the Apostle Paul interact with and value the Old Testament? Would the example of Christ and His Apostle lead us to conclude that we should refrain from saying, “The Bible says…”?

Searching through the Gospel accounts for the word “Scripture” (not even counting the times when the Bible is quoted without the word “Scripture” being used), we see that Jesus made many references to what the Bible says:

-Jesus charges His opponents with misunderstanding Scripture (examples: Matthew 21:42 and 22:29).

-Jesus presents Himself and His work as the fulfillment of Scripture (examples: Luke 4:21 and 22:37).

-Jesus cites Scripture as authoritative, using the phrase “the Scripture has said” (see: John 7:38; note that in his account of Christ, John as a narrator also uses the phrase, “Scripture says,” as in John 19:24 and John 19:37).

In his epistles, the Apostle Paul frequently uses the term “the Scripture says,” as seen in passages like Romans 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; Galatians 4:30; 1 Timothy 5:18. Paul so identifies Scripture with the speech of God that he even writes of the Scripture preaching the gospel to Abraham in Galatians 3:8.

Christians can follow Stanley’s advice to take our cues from Jesus and the Apostle Paul OR we can follow Stanley’s advice to stop saying “the Bible says”. We cannot do both. I would urge anyone reading this blog to take the former course and follow Jesus rather than Andy Stanley when the two clearly diverge.

Andy Stanley and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

Posted August 3, 2018 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Uncategorized

Following an article from The Christian Post on May 9, 2018 titled, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley,” Dr. Michael Brown conducted an interview with Stanley, allowing Stanley to further explain his views, while Dr. Brown questioned him concerning his beliefs in Scripture. (You can view the entire interview at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7Jcu03lJso&feature=share .)

In this interview, Stanley once again affirmed his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. In particular, Stanley has time and again declared that he affirms the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. But is Stanley’s teaching consistent with what is taught in the Chicago Statement concerning the authority of Scripture?

Consider the following statements from Andy Stanley in the Michael Brown interview:

A Stanley

  • “We don’t believe [Jesus] rose from the dead because the Bible tells us so… Our apologetic as Christians does not rise or fall on a text; it rises or falls on an event… I have been very, very, very focused for years, because of my desire to reach people who have left the church, to think more sequentially and historically than theologically, and that’s a really important point.”
  • “Years ago, I quit saying, ‘The Bible says’… “
  • “I’ve stepped away from saying, ‘The Bible says it; therefore, it’s true; the Bible says it; therefore, I believe it’… ‘The Bible says’ is great for people who take the Bible seriously. That’s not my audience.”
  • “Even if you don’t believe that stuff [the worldwide Flood, the Exodus, etc.], I’ve got good news: it’s secondary.”
  • Stanley defends his earlier statement: “the whole Old Testament house of cards could collapse, and you still have the resurrection of Jesus.”
  • In direct response to a question about whether the Bible is authoritative for Christians today, Stanley says: “when it is properly understood, when it is properly applied, it is obviously an asset, and [the Bible] enhances Christian experience.”

Now consider the following from the Chicago Statement:

  • The first statement in the Preface of the Chicago Statement is: “The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age.”
  • The first Article of the Chicago Statement is: “We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.”
  • From the Exposition section in the Chicago Statement: “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one.”

[Readers can view the entire Chicago Statement at the following link: http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf .]

If asked, “Do you affirm what the Chicago Statement says about the Bible’s authority?” I have little doubt that Andy Stanley would immediately say, “Yes.” But when we examine Stanley’s statements, it becomes hard (or impossible) to find consistency in how he would speak of Scripture (or not speak of Scripture) and how the Chicago Statement speaks of Scripture. In fact, if an interviewer were to ask Stanley whether he affirms the quotes I’ve cited (and others) from the Chicago Statement, and the interviewer did not mention where the quotes came from, I’m NOT sure that Stanley would say, “Yes.”

An authority is not an authority if it is consistently not cited. An authority is not an authority if it is considered “secondary” or supplemental. An authority does not just enhance experience. A proper authority is not just an “asset.” A just authority “binds the conscience” (as the Chicago Statement affirms concerning Scripture) concerning the areas to which it speaks, it is not a “house of cards” that can collapse without grave harm.

There are matters that the authors of the Chicago Statement kept together, which Stanley pulls asunder. Specifically:

  • It is clear from the Chicago Statement that its authors wanted to keep historical and theological [and scientific!] matters joined together (see Articles XII and XIII in particular), whereas Stanley desires “to think more sequentially and historically than theologically” (although he also expresses a desire to save many historical questions, like those concerning the Great Flood or the Exodus, for later consideration).
  • The authors of the Chicago Statement declared that “the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one,” whereas Stanley clearly views the authority of Scripture as second to the authority of Christ.

If someone pays attention to what Stanley says, then they will hear him affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I’m thankful for that, because I believe that the Chicago Statement is an accurate summary of how God would have us to understand the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of His written Word. However, I would also encourage everyone to read the Chicago Statement itself. Anyone who has been influenced by Stanley’s teachings should ask: is what he says (or doesn’t say) concerning the Bible consistent with how the Chicago Statement (which he claims to believe) speaks concerning the Bible?

On Andy Stanley and the Bible

Posted July 27, 2018 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Andrew

For a number of years, Andy Stanley (the pastor of North Point Community Church in the Atlanta area, who is quite influential in Baptist and larger evangelical circles) has been trying to get Christians to “unhitch” from God’s written word in different ways. (For example: see this 2006 article from this blog, which quotes Stanley arguing that we should replace Jesus’ words about pastors being “shepherds” of churches with the language of “CEOs” for today’s culture.) A few months ago, Andy Stanley preached a sermon series called “Aftermath” in which he again spoke of the relationship that Christians should have with the Bible. This led to an article from The Christian Post on May 9, 2018 titled, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament From Their Faith, Says Andy Stanley.” Responses to that article included one from Dr. David Prince (the pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church) in which Stanley was named a “modern liberal.”

On July 7, 2018, R.C. Kunst, who studied Theology at Moody Bible Institute and currently studies Logical Philosophy at Oxford University, published an interview with Andy Stanley. Kunst, who is committed to the inerrancy of Scripture, wanted to give a sympathetic interview with Stanley, allowing him to clarify his position. You can read the interview at the following link: http://appliedtruth.org/interviews-1/2018/7/7/interview-andy-stanley-pt-1 . Sadly, rather than alleviating concerns with Stanley’s position, that interview highlighted problematic elements of Stanley’s teaching.

The following interaction with Stanley’s words from the interview are given by Keri Folmar, via the Reformed Baptist Fellowship and Theology Forum on Facebook. (She gave me permission to broadcast these.)

“Stanley’s teaching about the Bible is heartbreaking…

“[Stanley says:] ‘The New Atheists crafted their attacks on Christianity assuming what the vast majority of Christians assume. An assumption I want to spend the rest of my life correcting. They assume or assumed that as the Bible goes so goes the Christian faith. That is NOT true. But most Christians think it is. There was no such thing as ta biblia / The Bible until the fourth century. Scripture, yes. But as you know there was no consensus around exactly what constituted Scripture for a looooong time. I argue that Christianity made its greatest strides before there was a The Bible and before there was an officially recognized Canon and way way way before most Christians could read and of course centuries before anyone would own their own personal copy of The Bible. My point? The foundation of our faith is not a text. It is an event. An event that was documented. But the document is secondary to the event.’

“There is so much that is wrong with these statements. First, Stanley rejects the statement that ‘As the Bible goes, so goes the Christian faith.’ But surely history has taught us otherwise. Christianity has never survived jettisoning the Bible. Look at the declining numbers in mainline churches today. Every false teaching starts with twisting or rejecting Scripture.

Second, there was certainly a Bible Christians used in the first centuries. We now call it the Old Testament. There is documentation from the first century that churches read from the OT scrolls (along with writing from the apostles) and pastors explained and applied the texts. Justin Martyr wrote, ‘On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a given city or rural district. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president through a sermon admonishes and urges the imitation of these things.’ No, it wasn’t in book form, but believers, even Gentile believers, in the first centuries knew their OT well. You can tell by how much the apostles used the texts for their arguments in the New Testament.

“The bound book called the Bible came later, but in the first centuries the writings of the apostles were being circulated to the churches, who recognized them as the authoritative word of God. No, individual Christians didn’t have the precious privilege of taking them home, to read them daily because the printing press had not yet been invented. But they were read in one church and then sent on to other churches. See Colossians 4:16.

Third, the argument that Christians made the greatest strides before there was ‘The Bible’ is also false. What did Peter use on the day of Pentecost when three thousand souls were converted? The Old Testament! What did the apostles (and Steven) use throughout Acts to proclaim the gospel? The Old Testament!

Fourth, Stanley rightly says that our faith is founded on an event. Praise God, we proclaim the news that Jesus died for sinners and was raised from the dead. But when Stanley argues that ‘the foundation of our faith is not a text,’ he forgets the power of that text. What sacred writings had Timothy been acquainted with from childhood? The Old Testament. And Paul says, those writings ‘are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 3:15). Then he says that ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…’ (2 Tim. 3:16). All of it!

“When Paul instructs Titus about elder qualification, he says, ‘He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it’ (Titus 1:9). (Notice the word is trustworthy.) Without the Bible, we have no sound doctrine. We cannot know Jesus without its message. We cannot know how to live the Christian life. We cannot grow. Trying to separate the message of Jesus from the Bible is dangerous. Stanley is not only disobeying Titus 1:9, but he is cutting the legs out from under himself when he preaches that Christians don’t need the Bible. The Bible is the foundation of our faith.

Just one more point: Jesus himself used the Old Testament to show who he was and what he had done (Luke 24). Who are we to think we’re wiser than Jesus? (And remember Luke, who recorded the words of Jesus, was a Gentile writing to a Gentile.)”

Responding to a Fellow Baptist Church

Posted June 24, 2012 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Darrin, Doctrinal Issues, Other Anti-Calvinism, Southern Baptist Convention

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

Thoughts on SBC Meeting 2010

Posted April 13, 2011 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Darrin, Southern Baptist Convention

Returning to some writing after considerable delay, I bring out just a few thoughts I’d jotted down last year in regard to the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I apologize for the belated post, but I believe it is still relevant.

In the news following the convention, I was struck by the words of a Georgia pastor who attended.  I am concerned that these words may be indicative of a dangerous arrogance within the SBC:

“If you think we can once again rise to the occasion and we can sail into a world in the 21st century that is more lost than it’s ever been, and we can once again become the greatest evangelistic force for the Gospel this world has ever seen, I encourage you to vote for this report.”

The greatest evangelistic force for the Gospel this world has ever seen?  I’m wondering how this gentlemen could square words like his with 1 Cor 3:7,

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 

Are we Southern Baptists anything?  Are we in competition with our brothers in other denominations to “win the world for Christ”, as the phrase goes?  I hope we don’t see our denomination as if we were football fans, rooting for the SBC’s dominance like we would for Auburn’s or Bama’s.  Is the glory really for God, or in truth do we reserve a good bit for ourselves and our denomination?

This same pastor also indicated in the news coverage that adopting the recommended changes meant turning the titanic away from the

“iceberg of declining baptisms, diminishing missions and what is becoming a dead orthodoxy” to the “same voyage than an apostle named Paul took 2,000 years ago into a world of … darkness.”

What really caught me here was this:  Ours is becoming a dead orthodoxy?  As I consider the SBC by and large, I often have difficulty finding any orthodoxy!  And I believe if we did sincerely focus on attaining that, help for many of our other concerns would follow as well.  I sense here the all-too-common notion that concern for doctrine and concern for evangelism must oppose each other, which is as unfounded and harmful to the church today as it has ever been.

Two quick notes from events of the meeting itself are:

I was encouraged to hear of Al Mohler’s good preaching on John 3, and

I must admit I was disappointed to hear of the appointment of Frank Page, past SBC President and author of the misleading, uninformed attack on historic Reformed soteriology, “Trouble with the Tulip”, to lead the SBC Executive Committee.  My understanding from a pastor friend who attended is that Pastor Page accepted despite receiving only a fairly narrow margin of approval.  I have concerns for the unity and doctrinal accuracy that would come of such an appointment, but I  hope and pray for the best, for the SBC leadership and for wise future decisions.

Owen on John 3:16 – Part 1b: God’s Love, the Reformed Perspective

Posted February 15, 2010 by strangebaptistfire
Categories: Darrin, Doctrinal Issues, John 3:16 Conference, Soteriology

Now we will consider “what we understand by the “love” of God, even that act of his will which was the cause of sending his Son Jesus Christ, being the most eminent act of love and favour to the creature; for love is velle alicui bonum, “to will good to any” [not necessarily to all]. And never did God will greater good to the creature than in appointing his Son for their redemption.”

Owen observes that God’s purpose in sending Christ, and His love for the elect, both work toward “the same supreme end, [which is] the manifestation of God’s glory by the way of mercy tempered with justice”.

Now, this love we say to be that, greater than which there is none.” We see that his continual argument is that God’s love for His people is and always has been much greater than a universal concept of atonement will allow.

Owen holds that “by love here is not meant an inclination or propensity of his [God’s] nature, but an act of his will (where we conceive his love to be seated), and eternal purpose to do good to man, being the most transcendent and eminent act of God’s love to the creature.”

 “It is the special love of God to his elect, as we affirm, and so, consequently, not any such thing as our adversaries suppose to be intended by it, — namely, a velleity or natural inclination to the good of all.  For:

 1) The love here intimated is absolutely the most eminent and transcendent love that ever God showed or bare towards any miserable creature… “loved,” with such an earnest, intense affection, consisting in an eternal, unchangeable act and purpose of his will, for the bestowing of the chiefest good (the choicest effectual love) … Whereunto, for a close of all, cast your eyes upon his design and purpose in this whole business, and ye shall find that it was that believers, those whom he thus loved, “might not perish,” — that is, undergo the utmost misery and wrath to eternity, which they had deserved, — “but have everlasting life,” eternal glory with himself, which of themselves they could no way attain; and ye will easily grant that “greater love hath no man than this.” Now, if the love here mentioned be the greatest, highest, and chiefest of all, certainly it cannot be that common affection towards all that we discussed before; for the love whereby men are actually and eternally saved is greater than that which may consist with the perishing of men to eternity.

 2) The Scripture positively asserts this very love as the chiefest act of the love of God, and that which he would have us take notice of in the first place: Rom. v. 8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and fully, 1 John iv. 9, 10, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In both which places the eminency of this love is set forth exceeding emphatically to believers, with such expressions as can no way be accommodated to a natural velleity to the good of all. [We should take note that the use of “might” in such verses may itself be a cause of confusion to the modern reader – it does not indicate a conditional nor vague possibility, but the positive assertion of something that will indeed take place.]

 3) That seeing all love in God is but velle alicui bonum, to will good to them that are beloved, they certainly are the object of his love to whom he intends that good which is the issue and effect of that love; but now the issue of this love or good intended, being not perishing, and obtaining eternal life through Christ, happens alone to, and is bestowed on, only elect believers: therefore, they certainly are the object of this love, and they alone; — which was the thing we had to declare.

 4) That love which is the cause of giving Christ is also always the cause of the bestowing of all other good things: Rom. viii. 32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” [i.e. consider forgiveness, sanctification, fellowship, glorification, etc. – are all men recipients?] Therefore, if the love there mentioned be the cause of sending Christ, as it is, it must also cause all other things to be given with him, and so can be towards none but those who have those things bestowed on them; which are only the elect, only believers. Who else have grace here, or glory hereafter?

 5) The word here, which is ἠγάπησε, signifieth, in its native importance, valde dilexit, — to love so as to rest in that love; which how it can stand with hatred, and an eternal purpose of not bestowing effectual grace, which is in the Lord towards some, will not easily be made apparent.

 And now let the Christian reader judge, whether by the love of God, in this place mentioned, be to be understood a natural velleity or inclination in God to the good of all, both elect and reprobate, or the peculiar love of God to his elect, being the fountain of the chiefest good that ever was bestowed on the sons of men. This is the first difference about the interpretation of these words.”

Praise God for His gracious, intimate, eternal, effectual love for His children!

The next set of posts will discuss the second matter, the object of this love, called here “the world”.