Archive for the ‘John 3:16 Conference’ category

A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 1. “People Resisting God.”

February 12, 2009

[Sources cited: In the following posts offering a response to Dr. Lemke’s presentation, I draw from my own recollection of his presentation found at, from johnMark’s account of this presentation, and from the Baptist Press story on the John 3:16 Conference, but the main source I will be citing is the article, “Lemke addresses Calvinism at John 3:16 Conference,” found in Vision, the magazine of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Winter 2008 issue, Volume 64.4.]

NOBTS Provost Dr. Steve Lemke on November 17, 2008 at the John 3:16 Conference:

“Salvation is tied in some measure to our response,” Lemke said, citing several biblical examples of what he said were people resisting God. For example, in Acts 7:51 the Jewish men who stoned Stephen were said to be “always resisting the Holy Spirit.”

Lemke said that while Calvinists don’t deny people can resist the Holy Spirit in some situations, they believe the effectual call is irresistible.

“It doesn’t seem to me that [the effectual call] helps in this particular situation, because the Jews after all were God’s chosen people, they were under the covenant. If you have a covenant theology, then these people would seem to be among the elect… It is precisely these divinely elected people who are resisting God.”



A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic Question

January 30, 2009

1. The Historical Question

a. In Regards to Martin Luther

b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards

[I had intended to post on Dr. Allen’s charge of hyper-Calvinism against Dr. James White; I think, however, that I have nothing original to add to that discussion beyond what has already been written- I encourage readers interested in that controversy to view Timmy Brister’s timeline of events found HERE. As Dr. Allen’s charge against Dr. White was intended to discredit Founders Ministries through guilt-by-association, I would especially recommend the post at the Founders Ministries blog found HERE.]

2. The Evangelistic Question

In speaking against the doctrine of Limited atonement, Dr. Allen asserted that any teaching that says Jesus did not die for everyone is unbiblical and should be rejected. In the context of this assertion, Dr. Allen gave a quote from Dr. Sam Waldron, in which Dr. Waldron made the point that the free offer of the gospel does not require us to tell people ‘Christ died for you’ (individually).

This brings up a specific question in regards to how the doctrine of Limited atonement effects evangelism; namely, should we, in proclaiming the gospel to individual non-Christians, tell them, ‘Christ died for you’?

From a Calvinistic perspective, the answer to the above question would be, ‘no,’ for the following three reasons:

  1. The fact that the New Testament never calls on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him” [see J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 68].
  2. The fact that the New Testament connects the death of Christ to the benefits secured by His death on behalf of those for whom He died, so that only the group that can actually claim these benefits can claim Christ’s death for their own [see, for example, Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (ESV)].
  3. The fact that non-Christians who are told, ‘Christ died for you,’ may then receive a false assurance of God’s favor toward them based upon mere intellectual assent, apart from repentance and faith.

From Dr. Allen’s point-of-view, telling the individual non-Christian ‘Christ died for you’ is an essential part of our gospel witness. In his presentation at the John 3:16 Conference, Dr. Allen argued against point 1, listed above (it should be noted that if Dr. Allen’s argument against point 1 is valid, then points 2 and 3 are rendered irrelevant, for if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then we must re-interpret other passages that may seem to limit the extent of the atonement; if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then point 3 is an invalid objection to telling non-Christians ‘Christ died for you,’ and non-Christians would have to be warned not to make the seemingly rational conclusion that they need not fear God’s judgment irrespective of repentance and faith). Dr. Allen argued against point 1 through a citation of New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3, in which Paul related what he said to the Corinthians as he proclaimed the gospel to them, including, “Christ died for you,” and in Jesus’ statement of the cup at the Last Supper, “This is my blood,” was given while Judas was at the table.

As Dr. Allen had mentioned Dr. Sam Waldron, I contacted Dr. Waldron for a response concerning the New Testament passages cited by Dr. Allen.

Dr. Waldon wrote [the following is from a personal email, reproduced here by Dr. Waldon’s permission]:

1 Corinthians 15[:3] might imply what Dr. Allen says, but it also might not. The burden of proof is on him to prove that it must imply what he says. I think Dr. Allen’s exegesis stretches the bounds of good and necessary inference. What 1 Corinthians 15[:3] actually says is that Paul taught the Corinthians that Christ died for “our sins.” This is patently different than saying that Christ died for their sins. That Christ died for our sins preached to unbelievers might mean at least couple of things consistent with particular redemption.

First, it might mean that Christ died for our (the church’s–believers’) sins and that if they believed that death would be for them as well.

Second, it might mean that Christ died for our (generally the human race’s) sins and that, if they believed, it would be for them in particular. Particular redemptionists teach that Christ died for all men without distinction, but not all men without exception. It would be appropriate to say this to a group of unbelievers without intending the individualizing application that Christ died for everyone of them in particular.

As to the interesting passage that Allen cites in Luke 22:20-[22, in regards to the Last Supper], here it is in its entirety.
Luke 22:20-22 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” [NASB]

Let me make several comments which I think undermine Dr. Allen’s claims.

First, Jesus says that His blood is the New Covenant. Does Dr. Allen think that Judas had a part in the New Covenant? Only true disciples who know the Lord and whos sins are permanently forgiven have such a part. Only if Judas was such a disciple could he have a part in Christ’s blood.

Second, can we not apply to Jesus’ general statements the comment he makes in the parallel passage in John 13? John 13:17-18 17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ [NASB]

Jesus here makes clear that the things he is saying at this point are for His genuine disciples and not necessarily individually true of all at the table including Judas. So when Jesus says this is my blood shed for you, it is quite possible he meant to exclude Judas and was thinking only of those who genuinely loved Him. Note the qualifying phrase especially, “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.”

Third, those 12 gathered at the table were at the moment the visible church. I think it true to say that Christ died for the church and thus for the visible church. This does not mean that everyone who is ever part of the visible church was died for by Christ any more than that everyone in the visible church is truly Christ’s disciple. (more…)

A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 1b. The Historical Question in Regards to Jonathan Edwards

January 20, 2009


b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards

In the list of theologians that Dr. Allen claimed as Calvinists who rejected Limited atonement, perhaps the most surprising name mentioned was Jonathan Edwards. While most people who hold to a Calvinistic soteriology have not read anything by theologians such as Bullinger or Ursinus, the works of Jonathan Edwards are much more popular, having been recently emphasized by teachers such as John Gerstner and John Piper. John Gerstner’s student R.C. Sproul has written the influential works Chosen by God and Willing to Believe and many readers have been inspired to further studies on topics addressed in these books, and have thus read Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, which Sproul recommends.

In Freedom of the Will Jonathan Edwards argues vigorously against Arminianism. One of the main books Edwards opposes in this work is Dr. Whitby’s Discourse on the Five Points in which the Arminian Dr. Whitby critiqued the five points of Calvinism. If Edwards himself agreed with the Arminian position of unlimited atonement, or if he disagreed with the Calvinist view of Limited atonement, then it would seem that he would make this known at some point in his arguments. Instead, Edwards argues in favor of Limited atonement in the conclusion of Freedom of the Will [most of which can be found on Google Books HERE], writing:

From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only; and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in any thing God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible, that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has: he certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavours for that which is beside his decree. [Emphases added.] (more…)

A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 1a. The Historical Question in Regards to Martin Luther

January 15, 2009

[Read my live-blog account of this presentation HERE.]

1. The Historical Question

At the beginning of his presentation, Dr. Allen mentioned a long list of theologians, including Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, Bunyan, Edwards, Hodge, Strong, etc. Dr. Allen asserted that all of these theologians were Calvinists, and that all of these theologians rejected Limited atonement. To examine each of these theologians’ statements concerning the extent of the atonement would require at least a year, and so I will focus attention on only two historical figures mentioned by Dr. Allen in his presentation; namely, Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards. (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Addendum to the Historical Question

January 13, 2009

In my previous post responding to Dr. Land’s use of history at the John 3:16 Conference, I conceded that, based upon the quotes cited by Dr. Land, it appears that John Leland, an influential Baptist minister in Massachusetts and Virginia in the late 18th and early 19th century, did seem to advocate some form of hybrid system of Calvinism and Arminianism. I made this concession especially in light of a statement from Leland presented by Dr. Land, which said, “the preaching that has been most blessed of God, and profitable to men, is the doctrine of  sovereign in the salvation of souls, mixed with a little of what is called Arminianism.” A commenter on that previous post, Brent Hobbs (who, I believe, is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), questioned the concession I had made and (in effect) challenged me to examine primary sources of John Leland. I have subsequently been searching through The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland (available on Google Books HERE), and have been surprised at the vigor with which Leland defends certain doctrines that most people would certainly describe as “Calvinistic.”

I would like to focus readers’ attention on two works from Leland in particular: The “Appendix” to The First Rise of Sin and a section of his letter to the Elder James Whitsitt. (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 3b. Romans 9 in Dr. Land’s Framework

December 22, 2008

1. The Historical Question

2. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time

a. In Mere Christianity

b. In Miracles

3. Romans 9

a. In Ironside’s Lectures

b. In Dr. Land’s Framework

Building on Ironside’s assertion that Romans 9 has nothing to do with eternal, personal salvation, but is only concerned with national privilege and temporal blessings, Dr. Land argues for two different types of election in the Bible, namely: salvific election and Abrahamic election. Dr. Land outlines three ways to differentiate between these types of election:

i. Abrahamic election is corporate, salvific election is individual;

ii. Abrahamic election is unto “special people” status, salvific election is unto salvation;

iii. Abrahamic election is “not connected to anything,” salvific election is connected with foreknowledge (though not based upon foreknowledge).

In terms of the above framework, Dr. Land believes that Romans 9 is concerned with Abrahamic, and not salvific, election.ef

Before examining each of the three ‘differences’ listed above, it is important a prelimenary question must be answered, namely: Is Dr. Land exegetically justified in his assertion that the argument in Romans 9 switches to a consideration of an entirely different type of election than that found in Romans 8? Dr. Land himself cites Romans 8 in relation to salvific election (specifically, in order to demonstrate that salvific election is connected to foreknowledge). Dr. Land then follows Ironside in viewing Romans 9-11 as parenthetical, so that these chapters do not continue building the soteriological argument established in Romans 1-8. Remembering that the chapter divisions do not exist in the original text, we must insist that grammatical proof be given before accepting such a hard break in the Apostle’s flow of thought. Grammatical proof that the argument in Romans 9 concerns eternal, personal salvation (even while discussing God’s sovereign purpose for national Israel!) is offered by Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in his commentary on Romans:

Some scholars claim that Paul is concerned only about the historical destiny of Israel in 9:6-23, but Paul’s anguish over Israel in 9:3 is rooted in their failure to obtain salvation. In other words, the historical destiny of Israel that concerns Paul relates to the salvation of Israel. The wording used in 9:6b-29 confirms that the issue at the forefront of Paul’s mind in these verses relates to salvation, not merely to historical destiny. In Paul the phrases tekna tou theou (children of God) and tekna tes epangelias (children of promise; 9:8) refer invariably to those who are the saved children of God (Rom. 8:16, 21; Gal. 4:28; Phil. 2:15). That the issue remains salvation– even when he refers to Isaac and Jacob– is corroborated by Rom. 9:11-12, which uses soteriological terms: erga (works), kalein (to call), ekloge (election). The soteriological import of these terms in Paul can hardly be denied. Soteriology continues to be the issue in Rom. 9:22-23, which contrasts “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” with “vessels of mercy that were prepared beforehand for glory.” Paul often uses the word apoleia (destruction) for eschatological destruction, while he frequently uses doxa (glory) to describe the eschatological splendor awaiting believers (Rom. 2:10; 8:18; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; cf. Col. 3:4; cf. E. Johnson 1989: 127). Finally, the argument in Rom. 9:32-11:32 substantiates the idea that eschatological salvation is the matter at hand. What troubles Paul in 9:30-10:21 is that Israel has failed to believe in Christ and therefore is not saved. What gives him hope in chapter 11 is that God has promised to remove ungodliness from Jacob and that ultimately “all Israel shall be saved” (11:26-27). Any attempt, therefore, to sever the historical destiny of Israel from salvation in this context in unpersuasive. Paul’s heart is rent with sorrow because so many of his kindred had rejected the message of the gospel and are therefore destined for judgment.

To address the three points mentioned above: (more…)

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election, Part 3a. Romans 9 in Ironside’s Lectures

December 15, 2008

1. The Historical Question

2. C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time

a. In Mere Christianity

b. In Miracles

3. Romans 9

In discussing the biblical doctrine of election, the Christian must carefully consider Romans 9. This chapter, among other texts in Scripture, is foundational to the Calvinistic understanding that God’s election of sinners to salvation is not conditioned upon anything within those sinners who are chosen for salvation. In responding to the appeal to Romans 9 in order to establish Unconditional election, Dr. Land (both in his presentation and during the Question and Answer session) directed those present at the John 3:16 Conference to H.A. Ironsjde’s comments on this chapter. Dr. Land also responded to Romans 9 through offering a framework to distinguish Abrahamic election from salvific election.

a. In Ironside’s Lectures

Readers of this post are encouraged to view Ironside’s writings on Romans and to determine for yourselves if the comments I make below are accurate. I base my comments on Ironside’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, which was also reprinted in the Kregel Ironside Expository Commentary on Romans and Galatians.

In exploring any commentary on Scripture, I have found the three following questions to be helpful in evaluating what I read: i. What major theological presuppositions does this author bring to the text? ii. Are this author’s comments consistent with Scripture? iii. Are this author’s comments internally consistent?

The following is a consideration of Ironside’s Lectures on Romans structured by the questions above: (more…)