They’re Creeping In! Pt. 4

By Evan May

We are continuing our series of responses to the “Crept in Unawares…” article from BaptistFire (the first three posts can be read here: 1, 2, and 3). We now move on to the second paragraph:

Southern Baptist Calvinists Are Well Organized

They have an organization called Founders Ministries. They have a web site and hold regular meetings. They claim that since some of the original founders of the Southern Baptist Convention were Calvinists that the SBC should hold to these doctrines.

First and foremost, the Founders Ministry desires to bring the Southern Baptist Convention back to its historical roots of the Doctrines of Grace because they are biblical doctrines. The fact that this is the historical position is just the icing on the cake.

In any case, I’m curious what purpose this paragraph serves. Should I not just note: “Southern Baptist Arminians are well organized. They have an organization called ‘BaptistFire.’ They have a web site and hold regular meetings. Oh… and they’re anonymous”?

The Southern Baptist Convention, however, was not founded over the issue of Calvinism. Rather the founders of the SBC held that whites owning blacks in slavery was an acceptable behavior for Christians. As far as we can tell, Founders Ministries does not advocate a return to slavery. Which makes it a rather odd name for the organization.

1. It is, at best, an understatement to portray the central focus of SBC founders as initiating the SBC in the agenda of the advocacy of slavery. Did the gospel have nothing to do with it? Did furthering Christ’s church and fulfilling the Great Commission have no place in the desires of the founders of the Convention? I believe that anyone who has acquainted himself with the writings of the founders (which I fear that the BaptistFire contributors have not) can answer these questions with a resounding “No.”

2. The unstated argument here is basically: “it would be ridiculous for us to return to our roots concerning slavery, and therefore, it would be ridiculous for us to return to our roots concerning Calvinism.” But the error here glares. Let’s say that the SBC one day becomes Unitarian. Would it then be ridiculous to call the SBC back to the historical, Biblical, and orthodox position of Trinitarianism simply because the SBC was initially sympathetic to slave-holders?

3. I am truly curious of what extent the BaptistFire contributors acknowledge the reality of the SBC founder’s embracement of the Doctrines of Grace. This was not some dispassionate, mental attestation. One only has to read the words of Basil Manly to be well acquainted with how these founders viewed the theology of the Reformation:

The greatest reason, however, why the Christian family is divided on one or the other side–rejecting one or the other of these great doctrines–is that the doctrine of dependence on the Divine being, throws us constantly into the hands, and on the mercy of God. Proud man does not like it;–prefers to look at the other side of the subject; becomes blinded, in part, by gazing at one view of the truth, alone; and forgets the Maker, in whom he lives, and moves and has his being.

…The Scriptures, in no ambiguous manner, intimate the true reply to this question. We are confident that “he that hath begun a good work in you will perform it &c.” “Draw me; we will run after thee.” I will not multiply quotations; the current of scripture ascribes the incipient operation of God. “I have loved thee, with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” “Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

But how was it in your experience? Let us go back, in our consciousness, with this question: for, if there is a work of grace in us, that work is a subject of consciousness, to some extent. Now I ask any Christian man to say–Did you go, irrespective of motive; go first to meet him and then he came to meet you? Did you, without a change of heart, resolve to change your own heart? And did this effort, self determined, self-sustained, self-dependent, succeed?

If so, the credit of the whole operation, the merit of the work, belongs to you. The Christian heart replies;–no, Jesus sought me first. I remember a pious old Methodist Lady, singing with my Mother, that hymn–”Come thou fount of every blessing;” and when she reached the verse “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God”–she burst into tears, and hid her face in her handkerchief, and said,–Yes, it was so, it was so.” There spoke the true Christian heart. Take a true believer away from theological creeds and technicalities, from the musty volumes of controversy and the arena of bitter strife, and there is but one voice on the subject;–”Not unto us, not unto us, but unto God be all the glory.”

The Calvinists have a clear goal — the conversion of the SBC to Calvinism

From their Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] web page: “Do you really think the SBC can be reformed? Absolutely!”

“Reformed” as used by the Calvinists in the above context does not mean reformed from liberalism or unbelief. It means “reformed” or converted to their belief that God doesn’t want everyone saved and that Jesus didn’t die for the whole world.

1. To have faith that God would bring his church back to a Biblical doctrine of salvation, one that ascribes the work of redemption wholly and unequivocally to him alone for his glory alone, is a noble faith.

2. The term “reformed” comes from the historical doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that the BaptistFire contributors are ignorant of this is quite telling.

3. Of course, we shouldn’t expect this anonymous author to define the doctrines of the Reformation in a fair manner that actually and honestly informs the reader of their principles. Rather, unqualified and ambiguous language is used. Do I believe that Jesus died for the world? Yes, I do, but I define that word in its biblical context, not on the basis of the BaptistFire-assumed reading. Do I believe that God fails to accomplish his will to save those whom he desires? No, I do not. Rather, I believe that God saves completely and efficaciously whom he desires.

The Calvinists have a clear tactic — deceitfulness in your pulpit!

While theologically in error, Calvinists are not stupid.

How terribly kind of BaptistFire! ;-)

Calvinists realize that the vast majority of Southern Baptists believe Jesus loves the whole world.

More loaded, unqualified, and ambiguous terminology, nothing more. He (or she) fails to define for us “world.” In fact, the notion of defining the term probably seems outrageous to BaptistFire. But that is simply exegetical ignorance. Furthermore, the author fails to distinguish between redemptive love and common love. All of this and more was pointed out in my first post.

Calvinists know that Southern Baptists overwhelmingly believe that Jesus desires the salvation of everyone. The Calvinists are smart enough to realize that if they should openly promote their beliefs in Southern Baptist pulpits, most churches would boot them out so fast it would make their heads spin.

Yes, it is terrible that the state of the church today is such that it opposes a Biblical and God-glorifying doctrine of salvation. In any case, we have so far yet to see a single ounce of substance in this article. Where’s the exegesis of John 6? Where’s any exegesis? Where’s the substance?

The challenge, then, for the Southern Baptist Calvinists is how to convert Southern Baptist churches to Calvinism without letting the local churches know that the primary goal is to convert the church to Calvinist theology.

No, the challenge is to bring the church back to a Biblical doctrine of salvation without confusing the church with terms concerning which websites such as BaptistFire have already poisoned the well.

Sounds impossible? It’s not. In order to meet this challenge, Founders Ministries has a how-to-do-it manual on their web site for covertly converting a church to Calvinism. Their web site says,

[quote] * In the pulpit, don’t use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.[/quote]

“Calvinism,” “reformed,” “doctrines of grace,” “particular redemption” — these are the buzzwords and phrases used to identify doctrines that are contrary to John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 1 John 2:2, etc.

1. The simple and sad fact is that before books like Dave Hunt’s What Love is This?, many had never even heard the term “Calvinism.” So their first acquaintance with the term comes from someone who himself does not understand the doctrines. In fact, Dave said once on a radio program, “Well, first of all, I’m very ignorant of the Reformers.” So, while many of the church audience is simply ignorant of the term, many have only a misconception of its meaning. In fact, I would be willing to bet quite a large sum that if I asked one of these anonymous authors to explain for me the doctrine of effectual call (irresistible grace), he would be unable to do so without erring. This fact is ever-more true of those who are unacquainted with this terminology.

2. The author once again cites John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, and 1 John 2:2. We’ve already looked at these texts, but the author has yet to provide any exegesis of them.

3. Notice that the anonymous author does not tell us what the phrases mean, but what they supposedly don’t mean (”contrary to…”).

Most informed Southern Baptists would immediately recognize these phrases as contrary to what the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches believe.

Most “informed” Southern Baptists (that is, SBC folk who have been biased because of the poisoning of the well by websites like BaptistFire and authors like Dave Hunt who are simply ignorant of the Doctrines of Grace) haven’t a clue what the actual teaching of Calvinism is. And BaptistFire has not made a single effort to “inform” them of the positive claims of Reformed Theology. Rather, it has simply told us what Calvinists supposedly “do not believe.”

Founders Ministries is therefore advocating not using identifying terms which would immediately reveal to the congregation what they believe.

Rather, the Founders are responding wisely to unfair and dishonest well-poisoning.

This is deception, pure and simple.

Why? Why is it deception to frame the discussion in Biblical terms that have not already been abused by people like Dave Hunt and the anonymous BaptistFire contributors? Why is it deception to know your audience? He (or she) never tells us.

While these Southern Baptist brothers are certainly not what God was referring to in Jude 4, their methods sound much like the heretics of Jude’s day: “For there are certain men crept in unawares …”

In other words, this author compares the Founders to the false teachers/apostates “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” But, certainly BaptistFire does not agree with Jude’s assessment that these false teachers were “designated for this condemnation“? I always find it ironic when opponents to Reformed theology cite texts that support Reformed theology.

We believe that a Calvinist preacher who takes a position of leadership in a Southern Baptist church should be open and honest about his intentions to attempt to change the long held theological beliefs of the church. A preacher who believes Jesus doesn’t love the whole world should just come out and say so.

Ignoring the persistence in unqualified, unspecified terms, I believe the Founders Ministry has made its Calvinist doctrine clear. How else does BaptistFire know about it?

A young seminary graduate should inform a church if he doesn’t believe the words in a song that most every Southern Baptist church sings: “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world.” The Baptist Hymnal, p. 592 (Convention Press, Nashville 1991).

Very ironic, not only are the BaptistFire contributors unable to competently exegete their central Biblical passages, but they are unable to competently exegete their own hymns! Notice that this song qualifies it’s own use of the word “world”! What is the next line that follows? “…All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” This song qualifies and defines its use of the word “world” as “from every tribe tongue people and nation.” Jesus doesn’t just love Jews. He doesn’t just love white people. His love is does not discriminate between kinds of people. But the BaptistFire contributors confuse love without discrimination with love without differentiation.

Anyway, of course the pastor of a church should inform his congregation of his doctrine. That is, of course, not what the Founders Ministry is arguing against. Rather, they rightly and wisely note that using loaded, unclear, or well-poisoned theological terms is not always the best way to teach the church. I can teach the church about the doctrine of election without using loaded terms like “supralapsarianism.”

Churches who are calling pastors need openness and honesty, not someone who has “crept in unawares.”

I think the Founders Ministry has been quite open and quite honest (do you notice the irony that the author of this article is, on the one hand, writing about a group, The Founders, that is very out and in the open [unlike the anonymous contributors of BaptistFire], and then on the other hand describing SBC Calvinists as “crept in unawares”?) , and to continue to compare them to the Jude 4 passage concerning those who deny the very deity of our Lord is a distracting red herring. Where’s the exegesis? Where have these authors addressed the relevant issues?

We’ll continue to critique this article in the next post!

Evan May.

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10 Comments on “They’re Creeping In! Pt. 4”

  1. Josh Buice Says:

    Evan,

    You did a good job in discussing the issues which were placed on the table by Baptistfire.com – however – it is very frustrating to see their claims – but never an exegesis of one single passage.

    The point of doctrine is to bring out of the text the original meaning rather than placing traditional doctrines into the text [exegesis vs. eisegesis]. The best and only true way to do this is through proper exegesis. Like yourself, I am still waiting on one single text to be broken down and explained properly through true exegesis.

    Baptistfire is a rant site based on traditional doctrine which is not committed to true biblical exegesis. This is the root problem with Baptistfire.com!

    Josh Buice
    Practical Theology Discussions
    http://www.joshbuice.blogspot.com

  2. David Hewitt Says:

    …..and is the problem with many of our churches too, Josh.

    May God bring Reformation and Revival!

    SDG,
    DH


  3. The hypocrisy of an individual who will accuse Tom Ascol and others – who are upfront with their beliefs and who they are – of having “crept in unawares,” and yet remain anonymous in doing so is amazing. Who is aware of who the people at Baptist Fire are and who allowed them to creep in?

  4. Gayla Says:

    “The point of doctrine is to bring out of the text the original meaning rather than placing traditional doctrines into the text [exegesis vs. eisegesis].”

    Ah…thank you for this Josh. I hadn’t understood the term eisegesis, and this helps me tremendously. 🙂

    Again, great analysis Evan.

  5. Gene Says:

    The Southern Baptist Convention, however, was not founded over the issue of Calvinism. Rather the founders of the SBC held that whites owning blacks in slavery was an acceptable behavior for Christians. As far as we can tell, Founders Ministries does not advocate a return to slavery. Which makes it a rather odd name for the organization.

    Notice what is not said: The Charter signatories all came from churches that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The PCF and the Charleston Confession are almost identical. Were there non-Calvinists in the SBC near the time of founding? Yes, but it took quite some time. J.R. Graves, the father of Landmarkism was a member of RBC Howell’s church, which was a PCF church, but later in life, Graves wrote:

    The doctrine of eternal and unconditional election, and reprobation as taught by Calvin, and assented to by many professed Christians, we utterly repudiate–it finds no place in our faith and affections. It is as contrary to our reason as to our understanding of the Word of God….Either He will save some, who disbelieve the truth, and damn some who love our Lord Jesus Christ; or He must invincibly force some to love Him and some to hate Him, so that He might damn them. Both of which suppositions are contrary to the plain construction and spirit of the Bible, and effectually destroy all human accountability and moral agency.

    He said this in the process of asserting that Free Will Baptists’ baptisms were to be considered “alien” and to be rejected.

    This comment, however, is most telling:

    Did He dispossess Himself for the time of His omniscience, close His eyes, and decree a certain quantity, instead of a certain character, for salvation? Impossible for eternal wisdom thus to act! What would you think of that man before whom was set a large measure full of gold coins and pieces of tin of the same size and, being freely offered all he chose, should–instead of carefully selecting the gold–should shut his eyes and be satisfied with clutching a handful of whatever kind it might be! Would an infinitely wise God thus discern between the righteous and the wicked?

    Thus, it appears that on the one hand he was willing to assert that FWB Arminians have a false gospel because they affirm the possibility of apostasy, hence supposedly denying Sola Fide, yet on the other hand he compares those who believe to gold coins. They have a superior moral character, and this is what moves them to believe. Apparently, Graves didn’t stop to think that this assertion means that God elects persons based on foreseen faith that is dependent on their superior moral character. Ergo, this gospel may affirm Sola Fide, but it denies Sola Gracia and turns salvation into a kind of remunerative justice. Those who are saved are those that are of superior moral character. Seeing their choice, which is morally virtuous, God confirms it. This is the beginning of salvation by merit and actually proves the Reformed objection to conditional election.

    As for the slavery issue, even this is glossed over. The complaint that led to the split between North and South had to do largely with the home missionaries. In that day, the South had the most “frontier” for establishing new work in the US territories and states. The Home Mission Society had stated it would not make slave ownership a litmus test for missionary appointments. They didn’t follow through on this. The result was that the South took its cookies and went home. The societies divided up the agencies and properties where they could and each went their own way. Yes, many Southern Baptists defended slavery, but they also did great work among the slaves. Does this excuse their pro-slavery stance? No. On the other hand, it does paint it in a light that is more truthful than not.

  6. Francesco De Lucia Says:

    Go on this way brothers, and may God grant eyes and hearts to accurately see and believe the truth about these most important issues to those who oppose you and the truth, through this blog.

  7. 4ever4given Says:

    I have nothing of significance to add here … I just want to say how much I enjoy reading this blog.

    They wrote: “While theologically in error, Calvinists are not stupid”

    No, those who embrace the Doctrines of Grace are not stupid, nor theologically erroneous. Biblical Theology is just that… Biblical. As I wrote on my site, the distinctive points of the Doctrines of Grace are “taught by Jesus and confirmed for us in Scripture by the apostle Paul” and then systemized by Calvin… NOT as a teaching that “emerged in church history” apart from Scripture. Truly the Doctrines of Grace are not just mere doctrine… For “this doctine is designed to be worn and not just hung up in the closet of our minds.”

    May I, as a women that embraces the Doctrines of Grace and the Biblical complementarian view, live it out proclaiming… NOT TO ME, O LORD, NOT TO ME, BUT TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY!!!

  8. Rick Potter Says:

    Evan,
    I’m really enjoying this series. It is very informative and useful to me.

    Thanks,

    Rick

  9. Michael Schueckler Says:

    Quote: Southern Baptist Calvinists Are Well Organized. They have an organization called Founders Ministries. They have a web site and hold regular meetings. :End Quote.

    I think this is simply meant to poison the well. After reading it, I could visualize the Founders secretly gathering together in a dark castle with hooded cloaks. Lightning strikes and reveals a hunched Marty Feldman. (I have an overly active imagination.)

    All fun aside, this is excellent work Evan.

  10. Gene Says:

    You’re right…and the irony there is that between 1979 and 1990 or so, this was the same kind of thing the “Moderates” in the SBC said with impugnity about the Conservatives. So, apparently it is okay, if you are an SBC member that Baptistfire supports, to be well organized, and seek to “take over” the SBC, but it’s not okay to organize into a ministry(which has no political aim whatsoever in the SBC) if you are Calvinist. Um, okay.


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