A question facing Baptist churches

Those that hold to biblical inerrancy- believing that God used humans as passive instruments to record the Bible or that God whispered revelation into the prophets’ ears and they simply wrote down what God said verbatim- discount human agency in the recording of Scripture. Thus, biblical inerrantists elevate the Bible to the point of idolatry and displace Jesus as the unique Word of God.

Hopefully, everyone reading the paragraph above will see the glaring errors in its presentation. Southern Baptists especially, having had to deal with this issue so often during the Conservative Resurgence, should immediately think of about half a dozen valid responses to the charge that biblical inerrancy equals idolatry. The conclusion of the previous paragraph does not follow the premise, but more fundamentally, the premise confuses the definition of biblical inerrantism- the belief that Scripture is without error- with a kind of dictation theory of Scriptural transmission- the idea that God used people as passive instruments or merely spoke His words in their ears for them to write down verbatim. As the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy declares: “We affirm that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared. We deny that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.”

The point of the above consideration is simply this: 1. Wrong definitions inevitably lead to wrong conclusions; 2. Southern Baptists, due to our history during the Conservative Resurgence, should know to be careful in correctly defining theological positions.

Which brings us to the August 2, 2007 Alabama Baptist article by Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr. titled, “A question facing Baptist churches: Does Dortian Calvinism really matter?” The concluding paragraphs of this article contain the following:

Teaching that leads to apathy in evangelism, depreciation of the Christian witness, making non-Christians less than accountable for their impenitence or unbelief and breaking the bonds of Spirit-wrought Christian unity should carry with it a measure of accountability. Such outcomes should create the obligation to reassess one’s teaching.

Where does Dr. Garrett get the idea that Dortian Calvinism “leads to” the sins he mentions above? Has he conducted some sort of poll? Has he looked into the souls of Calvinists to see if we are apathetic in evangelism or if we fail to properly appreciate the value of Christian witness? No, the above conclusion is derived from demonstrably faulty premises earlier in his article. Dr. Garrett had written, “adoption of a theological mind-set that emphasizes the fewness of the saved rather than the vastness of the harvest has posed a problem for Baptists who meaningfully call themselves missionary.” But where does Dortian Calvinism emphasize the “fewness of the saved”? As seen in a previous article, Dr. Garrett apparently misconstrues the doctrine of Limited atonement as teaching that few, rather than “many” will be saved. In that same article, I showed from one of Spurgeon’s writings- in defense of Calvinism– that Limited atonement is entirely compatible with the belief that “there shall be multitudes upon multitudes brought to know the Saviour, and to rejoice in Him.”

As many have pointed out, everyone claiming Christianity (apart from the universalists) believe in some form of Limited atonement- that, at least, the effects of Christ’s atonement are limited so as to not apply to those who persist in unbelief and are thus consigned to Hell. The question is whether the effects of the atonement are limited by the will of Man or by the intention of God. Calvinism responds- based on Scriptures such as Hebrews 10, the end of Romans 8, etc.- that Christ, in His death on the Cross secured specific benefits that will certainly be applied to a particular people. This effort to read Scripture in its context and to glorify Christ as a Victor- rather than as a Being who intends to save everyone but fails- eternally frustrated by the will of Man- in no way leads to “apathy in evangelism” or “depreciation of Christian witness,” but rather empowers our witness as we can stand as confident ambassadors of the King whose will must certainly be done.

Apart from this idea that Calvinism is a “theological mind-set that emphasizes the fewness of the saved rather than the vastness of the harvest,” Dr. Garrett’s other major erroneous premise in this article is stated in the following extended sentence:

When a congregation is taught that repentance and faith are accomplished by the Holy Spirit without any human accountability or obligation, that the grace of God overwhelms the elect so they cannot resist or continue in unbelief and that only a fixed number of human beings from eternity has been predestined to salvation, one should not be greatly surprised to find that the personal witnessing of members declines if not ceases.

Notice especially the phrase, “without any human accountability or obligation.” As mentioned in several previous posts, this is an error that is constant throughout Dr. Garrett’s articles. From the Canons of Dort to the present day, Calvinists have consistently taught that sinners are accountable to God for their lack of faith and that they are obliged to believe. The preaching of men such as Spurgeon, Whitefield, MacArthur, and Piper in this regard is not an aberration or a modification of “Dortian Calvinism” as Dr. Garrett would have us believe, but is rather an application of biblical doctrine that men have labeled “Calvinism.”

In conclusion, I would like to point out that everyone this side of heaven tends towards selfishness and we are thus all too often apathetic toward eternal matters. The vast majority of professing Christians do indeed fail to appreciate the value of Christian witness. When we do witness, it is all too easy to be ‘polite’ and fail to impress people with their accountability before God. In this situation, Christians in Calvinist systems may seek to justify their sin with an appeal to God’s sovereignty in salvation just as I’ve heard Christians in more Arminian systems rationalize their failure to witness by saying that the people around them are not yet at the place in their lives where they are willing to hear the Gospel. But wrong actions cannot be blamed on sound theology. Just as the Crusaders in the Middle Ages killing in the name of Christ do not invalidate faith in our Prince of Peace, a Christian’s failure to witness does not invalidate the God of the Gospel- the Sovereign Lord of our salvation.

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30 Comments on “A question facing Baptist churches”

  1. Justin Says:

    Andrew, I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m starting that exciting journey of college hunting, and I wanted to know if you could point me in some direction. I am looking for a college with Reformed Baptist beliefs, and offers degrees in either ministry/preaching, biblical and theological studies, and/or apologetics.

    I discovered Boyce College a while ago, but I would like a fuller list than just one college. Thanks for any help you could offer.

  2. Being a SBTS student, Boyce is my first recommendation. Master’s College is the only other I can think of off the top of my head- though they are dispensational and thus vary somewhat with Reformed Baptist beliefs as stated in the First and Second London Baptist Confessions. Perhaps some other readers can chime in if they know of anything. I’ll ask around and see if I can find anything else out for you.

  3. Barry Says:

    Everyone has to deal with inerrancy, and it isn’t a church matter as much as it is a personal matter. It is an issue that isn’t going to go away anytime soon and irrespective of truths or inaccuracies we ultimately ask ourselves if an error or deliberate deception by an author actually impedes us from taking the good out of the bible that is there. I don’t think so. Few of us require science as a confirmation for our doubts about certain aspects of the bible. We can judge for ourselves.

    However, by steadfastly declaiming that one is a literalist, which I think is the aegis of the claim to biblical inerrancy, one has to be looked on today as being part of a unique and I think shrinking group.

    Part of what keeps bringing this subject around to us today is that there is less fear among people toward the subject of belief itself. Even a hundred years ago there would be few people brave enough to flatly admit in public that they were not a believer. Today is different, and scholarship, research and science tell us more, nearly every year, about ancient texts.

    Brace yourselves, my friends.

  4. Justin Says:

    Thanks Andrew!

    I really want to go to Boyce myself, but my mother is hesitant about it (she isn’t a Christian, so she doesn’t understand exactly why I prefer Boyce) and also she is afraid that “if something happens to you” then she won’t be able to help because of the long distance.

    But my own reason for asking is, like I said, if I am not accepted to Boyce then I need to go to plan B, C, and D. So any information is greatly appreciated.

  5. Robert Says:

    I would also point out the fallacy that’s committed in his conclusion. I’m a staunch Calvinist and I street preach and witness plenty…

    I see no problem with that…

    The Christians I know who DON’T regularly share their faith are Armininian and Calvinist’s alike.

    No certain one or the other

  6. Barry,

    inerrancy was only mentioned as an illustration. Did you have any thoughts on the main point of the post?

  7. Barry Says:

    These seem to be continually recurring themes for administrators and writers within the SBC who are at odds with 5-pointers. Limited Atonement and Witnessing.

    Andrew, do you envision a time when the subject of Limited Atonement between Baptist brethren will cease to be the supreme sticking point to the acceptance of one another?

    Witnessing aside (which is tough enough for anyone), I’m wondering if Limited Atonement has to be the reason for, what appears on the surface to be, the tremendous unrest between the two groups of Baptists. They seem not to like one another and they’ll use Limited Atonement almost like a spear to try to hurt one another.

    Do you see a day when the two parties can get past this issue or do you see it as one of those chronic problems that have been around a long time and will continue?

  8. Barry,

    Re: do you envision a time when the subject of Limited Atonement between Baptist brethren will cease to be the supreme sticking point to the acceptance of one another?

    It probably will not cease to be controversial. The texts which speak of “world” and “all” are so numerous (due, I believe to the need for “all” of us to be encouraged in assurance of salvation and to have a worldwide vision for evangelism) that those influenced by an Arminian perspective cannot fail to find ammunition for their doctrine.

    The texts demonstrating Christ’s work on the Cross as securing specific benefits that will certainly be applied to a particular people are likewise clear and compelling to those from a Calvinist perspective, so that we are conscience-bound to try to persuade our brothers who hold to general atonement.

    This issue is, from either perspective, so central to the Gospel message that we cannot simply “get past this issue.”

    However, those that differ on Limited atonement can certainly co-operate (as we constantly do within the Southern Baptist Convention) for the cause of the Gospel, and even treat one another with love and respect. For instance, the dean of the school of theology here at Southern Seminary, Dr. Russell Moore, is an outspoken proponent of General atonement, yet I have learned more from him and been encouraged more by him than perhaps any one other faculty member. I hope for the opportunity to convince him of the error of his position- that it is inconsistent with other positions that he holds, but I certainly don’t want to use this doctrine like a “spear” to hurt anyone.


  9. Barry Says:

    Thanks Andrew.

    Could you speak to the evangelical or wittnessing issue with respect to why those with the Arminian perspective seem to chronically use that as fuel against Calvinists?

    Unless I’m mistaken, passing on the Good News can take many forms. Has it been written that we all need to stand behind a microphone with a rock band behind us? It seems to me that the Pauline Corpus is steeped with letting others see us, in how we live, as an example of one’s faith.

  10. Trey Says:


    North Greenville University in Greenville, SC is a great choice. I graduated from there last December with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Studies. The school overall is not reformed, but the Christian Studies department very much is. The professors are top notch, and very passionate about the word of God, and the providence of God. Hope you find what you are looking for.

  11. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    “Christianity (apart from the universalists) believe in some form of Limited atonement- that, at least, the effects of Christ’s atonement are limited so as to not apply to those who persist in unbelief and are thus consigned to Hell. The question is whether the effects of the atonement are limited by the will of Man or by the intention of God.”

    This is certainly true and the doctrine of limited atonement is inseparable from the Gospel. It simply cannot be removed from a Christian understanding of soteriology.

    It therefore remains to define limited atonement. Garrett’s lumping together diverse subjects to cast shadows upon another is reminiscent of the tactics of Calvinisms detractors like Frank Page. Garrett states:

    “When a congregation is taught that repentance and faith are accomplished by the Holy Spirit without any human accountability or obligation…

    By what kind of congregation would that be taught? A hyper-Calvinist congregation?

    “that the grace of God overwhelms the elect so they cannot resist or continue in unbelief…”

    And that?

    “and that only a fixed number of human beings from eternity has been predestined to salvation…”

    It is nonsequitor, the first two have nothing necessarily to do with this at all. And as you said above, Garrett, unless he is a “Universalist” limits the atonement by some aspect. And, hopefully he does so in an eternal, decreedal sense, or he lists dangerously towards an open theology.

    “one should not be greatly surprised to find that the personal witnessing of members declines if not ceases.”

    He is right, if the first two are tied to the last, this one, limited atonement, would have a great possibility of discouraging witnessing. The obfuscation of one doctrine by intertwining it with others, not even part of the system under consideration, does nothing to elucidate the doctrine of limited atonement, however.

    Thanks for mentioning the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This statement follows the same form as the determinations of Dort. It states what is the doctrine, and what it is not. Should there be a similar statement crafted on limited atonement? Well in fact, more than one has already been crafted. But, they have been rejected by remonstrators. The unfortunate thing is that through time the detractors from orthodoxy, being allowed to remain with in the orthodox loaf, leaven the whole lump. It is with the resurgence of the orthodox that the real cries of hate begin. And it is not with those who first crafted the orthodox creeds. It is the remonstrants that strive so ardently to divide and then excise.

    In Frank Page’s “The Problem with Tulip,” he says, “To say that God has chosen or elected some to be lost would limit the atonement of Jesus Christ. Remember that this is one of the duties of Satan. It is always his intent to limit the work of Christ on the cross.” Page makes several claims that the doctrines of grace are heretical teachings of Satan, doctrines of men, anti-biblical.

    I will not enlist everyone who is Arminian in the hate campaign of people like Page and the many other leaders of the SBC. On the other hand we cannot for a moment begin to think that their soft-peddle of cooperation does anything to remove their desire to see Calvinism and the DoG disenfranchised, once and for all. It is simply naivete’ to believe that. Most Arminians, as Page would say of most Calvinists, simply do no know what they are in to. Nor, I would add, what their Arminian leaders are up to.

    The mischaracterization of inspiration as a arguement against inerrancy is falacious. So also is the mischaracterization of God’s agency in drawing men to God, his work in regeneration and their bearing on the wills of individuals. We have the testimony of Scripture that is unequivocable that men spoke as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. We have the testimony of Scripture that displays the credibility and incredulity of the men who wrote, repleat with their characters intact. We have at the same time the testimony of Scripture that God creates, that he then recreates a new man, born from above in the likeness of the Son, who does nothing but the will of his Father. The simplistic caricature of the opposition to the doctrines of grace do not even begin to capture the beauty and the magesty of the God who is Creator. That men wrote exactly what God intended they write, and that man would respond to God precisely the way God intends upon their hearts that they should respond, escapes the “conservative” who believes in inerrancy but seeks to maintain man’s inviolable autonomy. It is a false dichotomy to pit God’s sovereignty agains man’s responsibility. It is God who makes man responsible, both to write what he has declared, and to repent. And, that infallible, yes, irristable, work, is God’s alone.

  12. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Excuse me, that should be the “Trouble with the Tulip.” Must get it right, a simple error like that could blow the whole case!

  13. Jim Pemberton Says:

    Your correct description of inspiration that accounts for inerrancy is very much the “verbal plenary” inspiration I learned at Columbia International University.

    I have considered that any view that holds inerrancy true must be Reformed. Otherwise, how could men accurately write what God wanted written and still maintain their autonomous “free will”? I’d like to know how otherwise orthodox anti-Calvinists explain inerrancy with any systematic consistency.

  14. Justin Says:


    Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll have myself a look around.

  15. Barry Says:

    Inerrancy requires acceptance, not sustained thought.

    The more an individual takes the time to read the bible on his (or her) own and to review critiques and studies of these ancient texts the greater is the likelyhood that one might begin to have an open view regarding the many facets of the bible. It does not require deep analysis to accept inerrancy, it only requires an unwavering trust.

    The premise that it is the reformed thinker who principally embodies inerrancy would suggest that surrender and simple acceptance ultimately prevail over analysis. It does not strike me that someone who wholeheartedly embraces analysis, as a 5-pointer appears to do, would also be a rigid literalist unwilling to accept that men have committed errors, in writing, over the years that have not simply been egregious–they have been deliberate.

    Are we to conclude that because men and women, today, put into published works deliberate distortions and outright lies that this was entirely absent 2,000 years ago?

  16. Jeff Says:

    Has anyone heard Dr. Bruce Ware’s concept of multiple purposes for the atonement? I’ve heard him discuss it in person, but I don’t know if it is in print in one of his books or not. I know that it is not a strict Limited Atonement view, but I think that it may provide a suitable middle ground which could allow people to have open discussions regarding the purpose (or extent, if you prefer) of the atonement without worrying about being spear-struck.
    Grace and Peace,

  17. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    No, we do not accept texts of the bible uncritically. And, it is true that men who wrote it could have deliberately inserted errors. The task, should you decide to accept, it is demonstrate where they are.

    What is your definition of “rigid literalist?” And, can you show us those errors that were deliberate.

    I can’t agree that inerrancy does not require sustained thought, and we do not have to merely “accept” the inspiration of Scripture and therefore it’s inerrancy. Inerrancy by the way refers to the original docs, not any translations or extant manuscripts. We simply do not have the originals, as far as we know, to be able to say that copies are exactly the same. That is not necessary, though. If you can point out any internal inconsistency, any external contradictions, which would lead us to doubt that we have essentially what was in the originals, you would be the first.

    So tell us, in your “deep ananlysis,” with whom have you published? Which scholars have you debated in print or person? Have you ever interacted with James White about your discoveries? Here, you can present your findings to him:


    and let us know what he says. I sure he will be happy to entertain any true scholarship you can produce on Scriptural errancy with his own indepth analysis.

    I think if you look at the history of “fundamentalist Arminianism” you will find that there was a decided anti-intellecualism which lead (they being the majority religious persuasion) to giving away the ground on inerrancy to the skeptics and secularists. And, I think that you will find that it was not until quite late, when they realized that they had become marginalized to the point of insignificance, did they begin to reinvest in the intellectual defense of Scripture. To the contrary, as a deep analyzer, you know that it has been and will remain the reformed side that was in the forefront of intellectual pursuit, establishing the first colleges in the U.S. and many of the early Universities of Europe, leading the way, really, in textual criticism, right?

  18. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    As a follow-up:

    It is interesting to note that Hort spend only three sections on intrinsic probability, but devotes ten (§28-37) to transcriptional probability. After all, he notes (§28) “If one various reading appears to ourselves to give much better sense or in some way to excel another, the same apparent superiority may have led to the introduction of the reading in the first instance. Mere blunders apart, no motive can be thought of which could lead a scribe to introduce a consciously worse reading in place of a better.” This leads Hort to the at-first unlikely conclusion, “We might thus seem to be landed in the paradoxical result that intrinsic inferiority is evidence of originality.”

    But this is not what Hort means. He explains, (§28) “Transcriptional probability is not directly or properly concerned with the relative excellence of rival readings, but merely with the relative fitness of each for explaining the existence of the others. Each rival reading contributes an element to the problem which has to be solved; for every rival reading is a fact which has to be accounted for, and no acceptance of any one reading as original can be satisfactory which leaves any other variant incapable of being traced to some known cause or variation.”

    Hort’s suggested method, then, is to take each of the various readings, assume it is original, and see what happens — almost a mathematical proposition

    This is found here:


    in one of the many resources found at that site. This one in particular addresses the issue of internal probabilities in transcription and translation. For anyone really concerned that we have a somewhat unreliable text, or, that for reasons unexplained there is any internal inconsistency of content that would bring doubt to the table of inerrancy, more than sufficient work has been done to allay any fears. Still, we presume upon the texts own claims to inerrancy. This is not a blind acceptance, as if faith were a shot in the dark. Faith is knowing those things the Faith contains to be true, not as suppositions which might be true or false, but propositions which are either true or false. Without such presumption, we would all remain agnostic. God does not leave us there, but he has given us the Holy Spirit, that when he comes, leads us into all truth.

  19. Andrew Says:

    Thanks for your comments, which I think make many good points. Re: Frank Page- I think that you are certainly correct to critique “The Trouble With TULIP,” a book that certainly deserves thorough refutation such as that previously offered by Reformed Baptist apologist James White. I would, however, like to make a distinction between Page’s writings in that book- which I think are both inaccurate and belligerent- and his activities as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. From everything I’ve heard so far, Page has done nothing as president to disenfranchise Southern Baptists holding to Reformed soteriology.

    Your last comment contained many assertions, but displayed no grounds for those assertions. If you seek conversation on the issues you raised you must (if I read the comment correctly) offer proof of “deliberate distortions and outright lies” contained in God’s written Word.

    To my knowledge (and I have looked into this some) Dr. Ware has published nothing (at least in book format) on his view concerning the extent of the atonement. I have briefly (and probably inadequately) given one response to Dr. Ware’s view HERE. I believe that Dr. Ware’s presentation falls short of the Scriptural view on at least two counts:
    1. Scripture presents Christ’s work in itself as sufficient to secure glorifcation of the elect (see Rom 8:29-29, esp. Rom. 8:32). The statement, “Christ died for our sins, therefore we will be glorified”- a statement directly derived from the passage just cited- limits the intention of the atonement in a way that goes beyond Dr. Ware’s “four-point Calvinist” position.
    2. Scripture presents the atonement as being made on behalf of God’s covenant people. Under the Old Covenant this term (“covenant people”) applied, for the most part, to members of ethnic Israel. Israelites had their sins forgiven when the high priest placed sacrificial blood on the mercy seat. People from other races outside of the Old Covenant did not benefit from the Day of Atonement because the atonement was not made for them. Under the New Covenant, God’s covenant people come from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Members of the New Covenant have their sins forgiven by the blood of Christ. His blood actually secures benefits promised but never realized under the Old Covenant, such as continual forgiveness of sins, progressive sanctification, and eventual glorification (see Heb. 9-10). These benefits will certainly be applied to God’s New Covenant people, who have been sanctified into this covenant by the blood of Christ (see Heb. 10:12). Those who remain outside of the New Covenant do not partake in the benefits of Christ because the atonement was not made for them. This final statement is in direct contradiction to Dr. Ware’s position.

  20. REMAR ALA Says:

    Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
    The Problem what we now is not the Bible it is our intellectual arrogance ,makes us cheaper and become losers to the divine call. I read so much about baptist doctrinal stand points but results gives us the testimony of the so called saints. Still Never reach what is to be converted Ps 51:13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
    Isa 60:5 Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. Mt 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Ro 9:11- 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) God’s blessing does not belong to all the descendants of Abraham, appears not only by this instance, but by that of Esau and Jacob, who was chosen to inherit the blessing, before either of them had done good or evil. The apostle mentions this to show that neither were their ancestors accepted through any merit of their own.

    That the purpose of God according to election might stand-Whose purpose was, to elect or choose the promised seed.

    Not of works-Not for any preceding merit in him he chose.

    But of him that called-Of his own good pleasure who called to that privilege whom he saw good. 2Th 1:11 ¶ Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power remember TULIP without S means soulwinning Jer 13:10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. Mt 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    Mr 2:17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    Lu 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
    A dead dog never Sleep nor resurected : Elected ones they just sleep waiting for a change.

  21. Barry Says:

    The evidence for errancy exists, and it has for some time.

    The real question, I think, is who wants to accept it and who doesn’t.

    One really needs to look no further than Genesis for an array of erroneous statements from a serpent eating dirt to the life-span of some of the patriarchs to considerations that the earth was flat.

    I suppose there is a fear, for some, that if one accepts errors by authors that it removes the importance and value of the bible. I don’t think it does.

    What is ironic is that I know people who don’t even read or know any of the bible and are ready to accept it as inerrant. That is what I call trust.

    It is some topic.

  22. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    As Andrew said, demonstrate the errors.

    You said-

    One really needs to look no further than Genesis for an array of erroneous statements from a serpent eating dirt to the life-span of some of the patriarchs to considerations that the earth was flat.

    Ahem- Are you sure there are not serpents that imbibe dirt? But, wait. Is it not written that “from dust you came and to dust you shall return.” And isn’t it true that the Satan comes but to kill, steal and destroy? And isn’t it true that we are considered sheep lead to slaughter? Isn’t it the lamb of God that we are to eat? It is wrong then to assume that the narrative is wrong when it includes symbolic meaning? That really is a “literalistic” view and is one that is not the common property of Christians.

    And, how do you know that the life-spans were not longer? It is an anachonism to take what is now and to apply it to conditions and times that cannot be repeated. It is an error in logic.

    Who taught the earth was flat? Flat earth theology was the product of the Academics, not the Bible. In fact Isaiah describes the Earth as a sphere suspended in the heavens. The word can mean circle for those who are skeptical, however, the only object that appears to be a circle when looked at from all angles in space is a sphere. That means, that 2000 years before Columbus and nearly that long before the controversies, the “errant” Bible proclaimed the scientific fact.

    There is no fear that errors by authors might be found. If they are, it is human error, and correctable. The dilemma that you are seeking to resolve though, is what truth value Scripture has. If it is error, then it can be shown to be so. In that case, it is by definition not “inspired” and has no place in Scripture. The consensus then would be to amend it, not allow its continuance despite its untruthfulness.

  23. Barry Says:

    Well, Thomas, in Job 38:13 we have: “For taking ahold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface?”

    Would you describe this as symbolic and not really indicative that perhaps the author thought the earth was flat?

    Could you delineate the “literalist’s” view as compared to a 5-pointer’s?

    Can you amend scripture? I was aware that translators took some liberties regarding verse and words but I wasn’t aware that if someone today discovered incongruities in text that they could amend it.

  24. Barry:

    Job 38:13 does seem to be in poetic language. Do you think that the author imagined the wicked literally being shaken from the surface of the earth- to fly out into outer space? Or do you think that “shaken from its surface” might rather refer to their destruction? It is hard to believe that you would demand such wooden literalism from other writings in order to find them true and without error.

    I believe that there is a double standard in place here. If the weatherman says, “The sun will rise tomorrow at 6:55 AM,” people simply accept it and plan their day accordingly. We would only credit the weatherman with error if the sun rose at a different time. But when the Bible talks of a “sun rise,” critics respond, ‘See the Bible contains errors- the author obviously thought the earth was stationary and that the sun moved, ascending from below the horizon!’

  25. Barry Says:

    You’re right. If we can allow the weatherman, or each other, to consider the “rising and setting sun” then why point to someone using the same delineation 2,500 years ago and call it erroneous. That’s a good point.

    There are spots I do get hung up on, for example in nearly the same passage when the author uses the Lord addressing Job to convey how the earth was made: Job 38:6-7 “Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

    I do agree that the language and symbolism needn’t be an obstacle, but at the same time I do think that one might arrive at the conclusion that the author believed (as obviously many people did right up to the Renaissance) that the earth was flat. The author of Job alludes to it again at the beginning of chapter 37.

    It is interesting that the Catholic church didn’t want to accept the concept of a round earth.

  26. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    Andrew is right, this piece of wisdom literature is bathed in poetic language. It is not made “wet” by being bathed in it. One of the most remarkable things about Scripture is the beauty of its many faceted literary forms. Do you really think that the author, and in this passage he is quoting God, means to say that God has a womb out of which he births ice? This is God speaking, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Do you suppose the Lord thinks the earth has a foundation? Or do you think that God by saying, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail…” really thinks he has such things? When he says, “Shall a fault finder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it,” do you think that God was laying claim to being the author of all these things, and therefore the foremost authority concerning the conditions of a man’s life, through symbolism and hyperbolic statements? Yes, he was.

    Do you think that Jesus really has a sharp sword proceeding from his mouth; Revelation 1:16; 2:16; 19:15; 19:21? Or, is it speaking of the Word of God which is shaper than any two edged sword; Hebrews 4:12?

    You stand on the surface of the earth, correct? You do not say you stand on the ball, globe, orb, or sphere to avoid being taken as incorrect, do you? It is proper to call the external area of a balloon a surface, but no one considers a balloon flat, or hard! We call the surface of the ocean such, when in reality there is no surface of water, except when it is frozen. The reason that walking on the surface of water is such a miracle is that there is no surface to walk on. Normally, when the word surface is used, we rarely mean a solid flat area. Go ahead, try and touch the surface of water. It cannot be done. Your finger will immediately penetrate and be partially submerged. And, it won’t “merge,” which means: to combine or unite with something to form a single entity, or make two or more things do this; to blend, or make two or more things blend, gradually.

    I am sure you appreciate the sunrise and sunset. You do not say, “What a beautiful earth rotation!” And, when you say the sunrises, you do not think that you are in error. Descriptive language is utilized all the time. And by its use we do not invalidate the intended knowledge contained in it.

    I do not know what you mean by,

    Could you delineate the “literalist’s” view as compared to a 5-pointer’s?

    There are two senses in which we use literal. One sense is the literary sense. The other is usually meant derogatorily, or used to describe how the literary sense is being applied. The narrowest sense of literal would be what Andrew said, “wooden.” Or, the sense in which I implied bathed, by some, means only to make wet. The literary meaning, however, could be a literal forensic sense. I could say, “That switch kills the condemned,” or, “That switch kills the light.” Conversely, I could say, “That switch lights the light,” or, “That switch lights up the condemned.” In each case we understand what is meant. So, If you are asking how a “5-pointer” uses the word literal, we use it in the literary sense, which can include the forensic, legal, meaning, but includes all literary types. This is the classical meaning of literal. The modern usage, as I said, has been corrupted by its constant derogatory application.

    Finally, yes. Scripture has been under constant scrutiny. We no longer have the Apocrypha included in the Protestant Canon. With archeological finds and linguistics we do find alternative readings. What I said was in reference to error, however. And this subject of revisions can entail corrections of both kinds. I am not aware, though, that there has ever been a correction made concerning science and/or factual matters of nature. I would refer you to http://www.monergism.com or F.F. Bruce, and Josh McDowell for an overview of the Canon, transmission, correction, revisions, and matters related to Textual Criticism. At Monergism you can search for articles on the Canon and the subjects of inerrancy and reliability. I am a layman, without a degree in Biblical studies. While others make pots, I make messy mud-pies. I hope from this short (he-he) discussion that I have not confused you. My apologies if I have.

    Your servant in Christ


  27. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Barry, just saw your comment.

    Yeah, one might conclude from reading Scripture that it is making certain claims which are not correct. Some jump to impossible conclusions. Take for instance certain Pentecostal’s that drink poinson and play with snakes. Or, Jehovah’s Witness and their rejection of transfusions.

    We never want to deny, however, that the Scripture is a ‘spiritual’ book, interpreting itself. Prudence would teach us not to build until we have counted the cost. One way to look at this is to add to it Proverbs caution to search out a matter as a king and not to be like the fool who opens his mouth before he has heard the end of the matter, as I just did with my last comment. The Word is a lamp and lights our feet upon the path and with that we ‘should’ be able to navigate safely through the nuances of meaning withing Scripture.

  28. johnMark Says:

    Andrew and whoever else,

    Andrew replied to Thomas’ comments on Frank Page with I would, however, like to make a distinction between Page’s writings in that book- which I think are both inaccurate and belligerent- and his activities as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. From everything I’ve heard so far, Page has done nothing as president to disenfranchise Southern Baptists holding to Reformed soteriology.

    This is one of those instances where it seems like Page has gotten a free pass because of his status. There are others who’ve written about SBC issues who don’t get free passes. Whatever they say seems to haunt them and sometimes even gets brought up in national SBC online papers.

    Maybe this has happened and I don’t know about it so I will ask. Why hasn’t someone questioned Frank Page about cooperation within the SBC given his stance on Calvinism via his published book? Same thing with Paige Patterson’s past comments which seemed all but forgotten when he discussed theology with Al Mohler.

    I guess you’re only evil if you have a blog and aren’t a visible big-name SBCer?

    Who knows…


  29. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    It was my word, disenfranchise, which I used in inferring that Page’s actions cannot be disassociated from his role, nor his influence, as a leader in the SBC. I mean, to our shame we put up a statue to B. Graham after all he has said and done. What more needs to be said about fraternalism?

    I do not trust the men who in one venue say one thing and in another, another. Andrew is correct. Page has not done any overt thing to disenfrancise Calvinists as the President of the SBC. And, he has shown restraint in interfering with the on-going dialogue.

    There does seem to be a double standard as is pointed to in the next post

    IS this not what some anti-Calvinists are doing! They are firing Calvinists for preaching TULIP!! How much more aggressive can one get?

    Granted, it not within the SBC that this is being directed, but the import is still there. The anti-Calvinists seem to get a pass, for sure, while Calvinists are accused of being divisive. Other than people like me, laymen without authority and balding hot heads, those who are working with authority in the SBC to bring reconciliation are not by that very action divisive.

  30. wasn’t trying to give anyone a “free pass,” just seeking to qualify the word “disenfranchise” in relation to President Page. I admit, however, that my qualification may be somewhat contradicted by Timmy Brister’s next post, which I hope will appear on the blog today.

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