Dr. Akin Is a Brave Man

Since I started blogging some 20 months ago, there have been more attacks against Reformed doctrine than I could possibly begin to recount on this blogpost. Most recently, the inflammatory articles have come with increasing force and greater frequency from key politicians in the SBC. The argument made by many that Calvinism has become the “whipping boy” of the SBC has proved to be unfortunately true.

During this period I have oft wondered where all the Baptist theologians and historians have been in the midst of such gross inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. One can surely understand why they would want to stay out of some issues which are considered controversial or even petty, but the issue of Reformed theology in our Convention is a big deal, and the vitriolic responses against it have been boiling over. It is in that context I am most grateful to read the words of Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in his recent letter to his students and faculty.

Dr. Akin has stood in where many SBC leaders I suspect have feared to tread. Himself not a five-point Calvinist, Dr. Akin has greater concern for theological integrity and faithfulness to the exposition of Scriptures (something which many anti-Calvinists are seriously neglecting). Furthermore, Dr. Akin directly addresses the words of recent irresponsible comments from Dr. Bill Harrell, chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC, Ergun Caner, dean of Liberty Theological Seminary, and Dr. Nelson Price, a leading influential figure in Georgia Baptist life.

As I stated in my response to Dr. Price, the center of my contention is not that Southern Baptists are not Calvinists but that they are not being biblical. Furthermore, they have misrepresented Calvinism with reckless and inexcusable comments which should be abandoned no matter what theological stripe you bear. Finally, most if not every attempt to refute Calvinism has been without exegesis but rather stories, illustrations, and proof texts taken out of context. With that said, I want to express my appreciation to Dr. Akin by calling for fair treatment of one another as well as a renewed commitment to developing pastors and ministers as theologians and sound physicians of souls. Below is the public letter sent out to the Southeastern family. I hope it finds wide readership and is received by all those who are feeling tempted to write yet another “ill informed and sloppy” article.


A Plea For Theological Responsibility And Integrity 

  

In recent days it has become painfully evident that many Southern Baptists do not “do theology” very well. Some are apparently ill informed and sloppy. Others trying to be cute, are bombastic and irresponsible. Despite our rhetoric to be “people of the Book, we do not know the Book very well. We do not grasp its rich theology. We are failing, and failing miserably, to obey 2 Timothy 2:15-16: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness.”

I want our students to do better. I want you to do theology well. I want you to be clear and careful thinkers, gracious and competent teachers. I want you to be able to articulate a biblically balanced theology with conviction as well as charity. I want our Lord to give you the wisdom of knowing which theological hills are worth dying on, and which ones brothers and sisters in Christ can agreeably disagree, and yet love each other and work with each other in building the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and reaching the nations with the gospel. 

If you are wondering what are some of the careless theological statements I have in mind that has moved me to put this challenge before you, let me note just a few that I have heard coming from a number of different directions.

1) You cannot attract a crowd and build a church on expository preaching. It is true you can build a crowd without biblical exposition, but you will never build a Christ-honoring New Testament Church without faithful exposition of the whole counsel of God’s inerrant Word. Further, a number of churches in our Convention have built both a growing church in terms of breadth and depth. It does not have to be an either/or scenario.

2) Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron. Anyone who knows church and Baptist history knows how irresponsible this statement is. William Carey, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon, James Boyce, Basil Manly Jr., and John Broadus are just a few of the great missionaries, pastors, and theologians who embraced a Reformed Theology. You may be convinced that Calvinism is wrong. However, do not make yourself look foolish by saying there are no passionate, evangelical Calvinists.

3) Five-point Calvinism is the same as Hyper-Calvinism. This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700’s that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man’s responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin. The overwhelming majority of five-point Calvinists would reject each of these positions. Spurgeon, himself a five-point Calvinist denounced in the strongest measure these errors in Spurgeon and “hyper-Calvinism.”

Now, those of you who know my theology know I am not a five-point Calvinist. I believe Unconditional Election is not incompatible with “the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures” (Abstract of Principles, art. IV), I affirm a Universal Provision with a Limited Application as it pertains to the Atonement, and I believe Effectual Calling to be a much better way to describe a significant aspect of the salvation process than Irresistible Grace. Further, anything that weakens the missionary passion of the church and the evangelistic favor of an individual is both dangerous and useless to the Church. Perhaps what some mean by “hyper-Calvinism” is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.

4) Calvinists are worse than Muslims. The irresponsibility of this statement is tragic. It is one thing to disagree with your brothers and sisters in Christ on a point of theology. It is incredible that you would place them in the category of unbelieving militants who murder innocent victims in the name of Allah.

5) Jesus was a Calvinist. Theological foolishness is not limited to one theological perspective. In a Pastor’s Conference a few years ago one of my pulpit heroes made this statement. Recently a friend of mine wrote a book with one of the chapters entitled, “Christ, The Calvinist.” Such statements are wrongheaded, and yes, again irresponsible, at several points. First, the statement is historically anachronistic. Second, it is Christologically disrespectful. Jesus is the Lord. He is the King. He is God. Our Savior is the grand subject of Christian theology. So whether it is Whitefield, Boice (men I greatly love and admire), or whomever, to call Jesus a Calvinist is theologically misguided and pastorally dangerous. Yes, Jesus believes God is sovereign but He also taught man is responsible. Yes, Jesus taught, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44), but He also gave us the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20).

6) You cannot teach your young people theology. I have a simple and direct challenge: try it. Try it and see what happens. I suspect you will be wonderfully surprised. I suspect some of you will be significantly put to the test! Though I could say much more let me conclude with a simple but helpful beatitude: “Blessed are the balanced, for they will avoid unhealthy extremes.” This is true in doing theology. This is true in our speech. This is true for all aspects of the Christian life. 

I love you and thank God for you. May you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Christmas.

Daniel L. Akin 
  

HT :: Founders

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11 Comments on “Dr. Akin Is a Brave Man”

  1. Drew Says:

    Receiving this e-mail on Friday made me ever so thankful to be a student at SEBTS.


  2. Nathan,
    I was very greatful for that article. I sent a link to it to Bill Harrell who I have been dialoging with. I am ok with people who disagree, but I am glad a neutral voice has finally said something regarding these ridiculous statements. May God’s Word continue to be proclaimed among the nations! Ble Blessed!

  3. J.D. Says:

    Very refreshing. We need more like Dr. Akin to put a stop to the theological sloppiness that abounds, not only in the average baptist church, but also in the very places where theological understanding should be premier – that is in the seminaries.

    It will be intersting to see how the stupidity of Dr. Caner plays out. Dr. Falwell is no friend of Calvinism but he doesn’t like walking around with that black eye either. He may eventually find that Dr. Caner’s assets are better used somewhere besides a seminary.

  4. Josh Says:

    Does anyone know if the Professors got a similar email?

    Josh
    “…the word of God is not bound.”
    –2 Timothy 2:9

  5. 4ever4given Says:

    I will be in prayer for you all.

    Press on in HIS truth and HIS love for HIS glory.

    Ex Animo,
    Lisa

  6. Drew Says:

    Yes, the e-mail was sent to all students and all faculty and staff


  7. Typical Calvanistic defense;no opponents really understand Calvinism.
    They are “sloopy” in their study of the Bible.
    All the really big names of the past were Calvinist’s.
    The enemies of Calvinism say mean things to the Calvinists.

    Oh,for the good old days when Calvin knew how to deal with dissenters!

  8. Timmy Says:

    Dennis,

    What do you mean typical Calvinist defense? The fact is, the majority of people seeking to attack Calvinism are constructing straw men to burn and fail to accurately present it. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with me regarding their differences over Calvinism, but at least do me the favor and present it accurately, historically, and factually. If you cannot do that, then whatever else you say is irrelevant and inconsequential. Ergo, it is incumbent to qualify the term Calvinism with whomever I or anyone else talks to. Most likely, there will be referencing an idea that is a far cry from what I espouse.

    I am sorry sir, but I feel that you know very little about the current ethos and ecclesiological landscape which we find ourselves in. All I can say at this point to you is that the attack on Calvinism is documented, has been addressed, and is being corrected. Dissent is not the issue. The Bible, exegesis, church history, and Christian integrity are the issues.

  9. Kim Says:

    The only problem I have with Calvinists, Reformists, Predestinationists etc is the fact that they push what they believe on those of us who don’t believe that way. We recently lost our pastor and have already gotten another pastor. There were several people who felt he was a Calvinist from the first time he preached, but he was voted on and elected to our pastor. In the past several months he has begun slipping little comments into his sermon such as; “we are commanded to be saved, we have no choice” If that is his belief why did he lie when asked about his beliefs. He told the deacons and anyone who asked that he was not Calvinist.

    Why would a pastor come into a non-Calvinist church and cause problems? If he believes this way then why not go to a church of like belief?? We have lost close to 50 people because of this.

    If you believe that way fine, but don’t push it on me.

  10. Gene Says:

    ^For starters, if you’re going to accuse an elder in the church of lying, in a public forum at that, then you need to obey Scripture and have two or three witnesses.

    Second, he may not have been asked, were you on the search committee? If so, then he may not have been a Calvinist when he took the pulpit. Contrary to popular belief, there are men who take pulpits whose theology changes over time.

    In point of fact, we ARE commanded to be saved more than once in Scripture. Scripture phrases what we call an invitation variously as an invitation, an offer, and a command. What did he say that was unbiblical?

    What does the church’s confession say. It surprises many folks to learn their confessional documents are Calvinistic.

    You said: If you believe that way fine, but don’t push it on me.

    1. If the issue was baptism, would you feel the same way? The Trinity? justification by faith alone?

    2. So, we’re left with “why Calvinism?” Why is that your threshold. It seems to me that your attitude would prove too much if you were consistent with it.

    In point of fact, I know of churches that have lost people for the opposite reason. A non-Calvinist starts taking pot shots at the doctrines of grace from the pulpit and they leave, because they know what is said is simply not true. Take a look at the PCA these days. It’s growing because many Baptists are leaving, not because they’ve renounced their beliefs in baptism, but because they are made to feel like aliens and strangers in their churches for being Amyraldians or Calvinists.

    Which leads me here: The only problem I have with Calvinists, Reformists, Predestinationists etc is the fact that they push what they believe on those of us who don’t believe that way.

    And why are non-Calvinists free to do that to us, but we are not free to do that with you? Perhaps they wish to “push” it on you because it’s, you know, truth and we are obligated to believe it. The ones that want a monologue, particularly on the internet, are not the Calvinists. There is no agenda at Founders or ARBCA to convert the SBC and her churches to covenantal, Reformed Baptist churches, despite what some bloggers I’ve read say.

  11. Kim Says:

    Yes, he was asked if he was Calvinist. He emphatically said “no”. He has only been at the church about 18 months and within weeks he was preaching the Calvinist doctrine. He was told that our church did not agree with the doctrine of election and we didn’t want it preached. He said he didn’t have a problem with that, yet he is constantly making comments from the pulpit that say otherwise. I don’t think it is right for a Calvinist to come into a non-calvinist church and preach their doctrine. And…it would be just as wrong for a noncalvinist to do the same in a calvinist church. It is my priviliege to not believe the doctrine of election just as it is yours to believe it but I would never come to your church and start trying to change your mind.


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