Archive for the ‘Southern Baptist Convention’ category

Problems with the Founders Ministries’ *By What Standard* Trailer

July 25, 2019

Without Founders Ministries, my life would be quite different. As a college student, I became convinced of the Doctrines of Grace. Though I’d been a member of a Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] affiliated church for years, I felt like a commitment to these doctrines was absent from SBC churches, so I began going to a non-denominational Bible church. It was through discovering Founders Ministries, which was committed to educating SBC churches about the Doctrines of Grace and helping to encourage the biblical reformation of local churches, that I felt comfortable re-joining an SBC-affiliated church. Once I was married, the first church that my wife and I joined was a Founders-friendly SBC-affiliated congregation. About a year after I was married, I became a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moving to Louisville, I was again looking for a Founders-friendly, SBC-affiliated congregation, and the church where I am currently a member (Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY) took place in the Boyce Project (an effort, begun when the seminaries of the SBC had become theologically liberal, to get a copy of J.P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology into the hands of each graduating SBC seminary student), which was a direct precursor to Founders Ministries, and for years our church had a line-item in the church budget to allow for the pastor going to Founders Ministries conferences. So, in a very real sense, I would not be going to the church where I’m a member, I would not be living in the city where I am, and thus I would not be working in the job that I have (and who knows what else would be different for me), if it were not for Founders Ministries.

In recent years, Founders Ministries has been raising concerns that those holding to theological liberalism are using social justice issues as a Trojan horse in order to persuade churches of unbiblical ideologies. Founders Ministries speakers are also concerned that those adopting the language and categories used by secular advocates of social justice are unwittingly making themselves and their congregations susceptible to theological liberalism. It is based on these concerns that Founders Ministries is producing a “Cinedoc” called By What Standard, and they released the trailer for that film earlier this week.

While I share many of the concerns that Founders Ministries is raising concerning “social justice warriors”, and while a few of men from my church gladly attended the 2019 Founders Ministries National Conference on “The Gospel and Justice” here in Louisville, I am deeply concerned with how things are presented in the trailer for By What Standard: the methods that are used and some of the connections that are directly implied. In considering my thoughts concerning this trailer, I came across a Twitter-thread by Chris Bolt (the pastor of Elkton Baptist Church), which expresses exactly what I would want to say (and how I would want to say it). The remainder of this post is Chris’ Twitter-thread, which I’m using after getting his permission. I’ve only edited for formatting, adding numbers and taking away the “@” Twitter-handles.

Assume, for the sake of argument, I agree with everything Founders Ministries believes and is trying to accomplish with their forthcoming video. It does not follow that the trailer for that video is unobjectionable. In fact, the opposite is the case. What are the problems?

1. The trailer features an interview with a gentleman talking about manipulation through guilt leading to destructive behavior, and at the same time he is speaking, shows a clip of SBC messengers holding up, “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused.”

2. The trailer also features an interview with Owen Strachan commenting on the principalities and power of Ephesians 6, which is a reference to demons, while at the same time showing a clip of Rachael Denhollander speaking on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission panel at the SBC.

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3. As you can see, the short clip is heavily edited. Why? To match the clips of other speakers in the video who are in some form or fashion representative of the problems in the SBC. Filters are used to make some clips jittery and blurred.

4. Filters are also used to show Founders representatives in better light and color. This use of filters, music, and narration is quite likely intended to produce a particular type of feeling to be associated with each of the clips. It’s clear who is portrayed as “good” and “bad.”

5. A brief clip of the theologically liberal egalitarian Nadia Bolz-Weber is shown immediately before Denhollander, with Strachan’s voice speaking of the aforementioned demonic powers.

Now, other objections to the trailer have been raised, but I’m not interested in those here.

Here are my questions.

1. What message is sent by the trailer mentioning guilt manipulation with SBC messengers holding up a book on how to care for abuse survivors in the church?

2. What message is sent by showing Denhollander alongside Bolz-Weber and a discussion of demons?

3. Assuming I agree with Founders on all the current issues of the SBC, wouldn’t I also want to say that the problem of abuse is a real problem, and that it’s a real problem in particular for the SBC?

This problem is not a mere matter of worldly perception. Christians see it too.

The implication of the carefully edited movie trailer is that something dark, even demonic, has made its way into the SBC through addressing abuse and through an individual like Denhollander. Now, even if you support everything else Founders believes and is doing, this is bad.

This is bad because, apart from a lack of wisdom in the selection of an editor/producer who would create a provocative video that politicizes and weaponizes the issue of abuse, and apart from the obvious difficulties with the ethics of this situation, including utilitarianism, it’s bad because Founders has significantly fumbled the ball here… If I were Founders, I would fire the video editor, issue an apology to the Denhollanders, and try again, although credibility may be shot. You fumbled the ball.

What I Wish I’d Said Regarding SBC Resolution 9 on the Convention Floor

June 21, 2019

Last week, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution titled “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.” This resolution commendably affirmed “Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills.” However, it also asserted that “Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience.” The resolution implied that these “analytical tools” (as the Resolutions committee termed critical race theory and intersectionality) can be helpful “to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify.”

The day after the resolution was passed, Dr. Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, did well in summarizing the concerns that many have with this resolution, making the following statement on his podcast, The Briefing:

Both critical race theory and intersectionality are a part of the continuing transformative Marxism… I did not want the resolution to say less than it said. I wanted it to say more than it said. I wanted it to acknowledge more clearly the [Marxist] origins of critical race theory and intersectionality.

On the Convention floor, before the resolution passed, Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries tried to amend the resolution with the following language, in line with Dr. Mohler’s concerns:

INSERT AFTER 1st Whereas—>

Whereas, Critical race theory and intersectionality are godless ideologies that are indebted to radical feminism and postmodernism, and neo-Marxism; and

ADD—>

RESOLVED that we remind Southern Baptists that Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality emerged from a secular, worldview and are rooted in ideologies that are incompatible with Christianity; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we repudiate all forms of identity politics and any ideology that establishes human identity in anything other than divine creation in the image of God and, for all redeemed humanity, our common identity, together eternally united to Christ; and be it further…

However, Ascol’s amendment failed, and the resolution passed as it had been presented to the Convention floor.

Now, I had seen that Tom Ascol was going to speak to the resolution, and I hoped the Convention would hear what he had to say. However, I knew it was much more likely that the Convention would simply trust the Resolutions Committee and vote in favor of the resolution regardless of any discussion on the floor. (And this is, indeed, what happened.)

Having 20/20 hindsight, I wish that I had gotten to the microphone to urge messengers to vote against the resolution. (Not that I’m saying I would have been successful, but still, I wish I’d done what I could have.) If I had spoken, this is what I would have liked to have said:

Most everyone in this Convention hall applauded when it was said that there is one human race and that the Bible defines who we are as human beings. These statements, however, run contrary to the assumptions of critical race theory and intersectionality, so I am asking you to vote against this resolution. It’s been less than a year since I’ve gained any knowledge of what the terms ‘critical race theory’ and ‘intersectionality’ mean. I ask each messenger to please ask yourself: without looking at this resolution, can I define the terms ‘critical race theory’ and ‘intersectionality’ in ways that would be helpful to my congregation? If the answer is ‘no,’ then I would urge you to vote ‘no’ to the resolution at this time. Let’s study this issue and re-consider it at next year’s Convention, so that we can give an informed vote.

I do hope that some change in the Convention rules can be made so that in the future, messengers may see the resolutions earlier. (Currently, messengers only see them the morning of the vote.) That way, we could have more time to consider them and give them a more knowledgeable vote.

Responding to a Fellow Baptist Church

June 24, 2012

Recently I sent an email to the leadership of an SBC church in my local area, in regard to statements made in a sermon series a while back. Since these were made available publicly online, I felt it appropriate to respond. I didn’t originally write with the intent of posting my words, but I later thought that perhaps they could be of use to some reader.

Basically, in a couple messages (one in particular), a number of inaccurate historical and doctrinal claims were made regarding Reformed theology, Calvin, the SBC, and Presbyterians. I just attempted to address a few. Also, I felt that an inappropriate “warning” toward the SBC church I had been a part of was made as well.  In responding, I tried to be gracious and accurate, although I regret not having more time to bring out specific scriptures and detailed historical facts. Sadly I had delayed so long in writing that I just felt I needed to finally “get done with it”, and probably rushed a bit.

Perhaps this could serve as an example (certainly not a perfect one, but maybe a helpful one) for any folks who find themselves in similar situations, or at least it may help shed light on a point or two. It certainly is quite possible to respond to such claims graciously yet firmly regarding the truths in question.

I have changed the names of the churches and the pastors referred to below. My intent here is not to attack or criticize a particular man or church. I did receive a very brief but cordial response from the senior pastor to whom I wrote. I don’t know how seriously he considered my words, but I hope that perhaps something I communicated would be meaningful to him in some way at some time.

——————————————————————————————-

Dear Pastor Smith, and your fellow Pastors at East Baptist Church,

Greetings in Christ, and thank you for your service to Him. I know you are busy, and so I’m trying not to write too much in giving feedback about two messages I heard online, though I’m afraid it may go a bit longer than desired. If you are able to read and consider my thoughts here, I would greatly appreciate it.

 Just by way of introduction, we have lived in the area for over 18 years and have been members at West Baptist Church for almost that long.  We have a number of friends at your church and have been there for various events over the years. A year or two ago we also attended the funeral of our friend and fellow Gideon. My son and I played French horn at East Baptist for the local Baptist Association’s anniversary a couple years ago. I have tried to maintain a good relationship with East Baptist and her people over the years.

A while back a friend who has moved to East Baptist recommended a sermon to me, and exploring the sermons available, I discovered your past series on “What Others Believe”.  These messages were given a couple years ago, but are still available on your website.  I do encourage serious consideration of our own beliefs, practices and history, as well as those of other denominations and religions, for measuring all to the truth of God’s Word, and strengthening our reliance on it and our trust in Him, and also to help us interact in a meaningful way with people of other beliefs, so that God might use us to help them see biblical truths as well.

I have a number of convictions in common with Presbyterians, and also know that in past centuries Baptists have been closely akin to Presbyterians in many ways.  I’m also well aware of the “Reformed” issues and divisions within the SBC, so I listened to the message on Presbyterians and am mainly responding to that one. I did also listen to the talk on Methodists and the one by Pastor Jones on Lutherans.

One reason for writing is that at the end of the talk, a caution was given about West Baptist moving in a certain direction, i.e. a Reformed or Calvinist direction.  I’m not a leader at West Baptist and am not writing on behalf of her elders in any way; please just consider me a local Christian who has been a part of that fellowship for a long time.  As such, it is sad for me to see one SBC church publicly presenting a sister Baptist church in a negative light unless it is absolutely certain and necessary. I would also have encouraged dialogue with West Baptist leadership first to be assured if such a statement is accurate, and did not sense that such a relationship was established. Please forgive me if I’m wrong.  I noticed much grace in the talk on Methodists, and that you had discussed issues with Pastor Roberts there, and also Pastor Jones mentioned a Lutheran friend in his gracious message. Likewise, if you don’t already have a relationship with a Presbyterian minister where you can discuss beliefs and clarify your understandings of them, I would really encourage that, especially since historically Baptists and Presbyterians have been so closely linked.

In listening to your message, Pastor Smith, I was concerned to hear a number of areas in which I don’t think Calvin or Presbyterians were accurately represented. I’ll just try to touch on them in the next few paragraphs:

The Servetus issue is one that often is brought as a charge against Calvin, and some good things have been written to help critics understand the times and the situation. Servetus was a blatant heretic who even denied the Trinity, and those like him in Geneva were outspoken and ferocious in their attacks and threats toward Calvin, who worked strenuously to bring faith and morality to the city. Calvin alone did not condemn him, but he was part of the city council which corporately sentenced Servetus to death. In fact it is said that, whereas the penalty for heresy was burning to death, Calvin asked that the sword be used instead, out of compassion for the man. This was rejected, which may show just how much power Calvin had in this case. At any rate, Servetus’ death for heresy is more a sign of those times than a sign of Calvin’s character. This was a regular practice throughout Europe, as I suppose many considered that crimes against God were as serious as crimes against humanity. I don’t advocate what was done, but do acknowledge that certain virtues and sins are esteemed differently from one era to the next.

I was surprised that there was no mention of covenant theology in your entire talk on Presbyterians, as this is such an important part of their faith. Historically Baptists have had an appreciation for God’s continuing covenant with His people as well. More recently many have become more dispensational in their views, and God’s covenants seem rarely mentioned. But the practice you mentioned of Presbyterians baptizing infants is related to this understanding. Historically Baptists (credo-baptists) and Presbyterians (paedo-baptists) have had a relationship of mutual respect, especially since they both embraced the doctrines of grace (ex: TULIP), even though they differed in the area of baptism. And as you know, Methodists, Lutherans, and other Protestants practice infant baptism as well; it certainly is not only the Presbyterians who do. Yet these see it completely differently than do the Roman Catholics; it is not a guarantee of salvation, but a sign of entrance into the visible church as children in a covenant (believing) family, just as was circumcision in the Old Testament.  Presbyterians believe that God’s covenant with Abraham continues to this day, as in Romans 4, though administered in different ways.

You were surprised that Boice, the Presbyterian pastor and author, was evangelistic. Indeed it seems many today think Reformed and evangelism are words don’t fit together. But this is very far from the truth. In fact some of the most notable missionaries of past centuries, including the pioneers of modern missions (such as William Carey), were solid Calvinists, and today Reformed believers are still very evangelism-minded. Many non-Reformed believers have trouble seeing why this would be if we think God has His elect chosen and nothing can change that.  The fact is that we’re commanded to be a witness to the world, and though God knows who His elect  people are, we don’t know.  So we broadcast the gospel, as a sower broadcasts seed, not knowing where God will impart life. While God has ordained who would be saved, He has also ordained the “means” by which they would be saved, and that is primarily the preaching of the gospel!  So we must be faithful in these means, entrusting the outcomes to the Lord.

In regard to “free will”, you mentioned that God told Adam that he could freely eat of the trees of the garden.  But of course this isn’t really relevant to the issue at hand. First of all, Reformed doctrine agrees that Adam indeed had free will before his fall into sin. But afterward, scripture is clear that he and his posterity are all bound in sin, with our will not free but constrained by our sinful nature.  Calvinists believe that there are 4 states of man’s will: In Adam and Eve before the Fall (free to obey but able to fall), in all natural men since the Fall (in bondage to their sinful nature, not seeking God), in redeemed or regenerated men after conversion (able to obey though still choosing sin at times),  and in redeemed men in their glorified state in heaven (in perfect submission to God).  Even natural men do have some free agency in that they make free choices daily, but note that their choices will always be in keeping with their nature. So in regard to spiritual things, their will is not free; it is bound by a nature which only seeks its own desires, not God’s, and can’t even truly understand anything about God. This can only change if and when God grants the person a new nature.  And according to the scripture, He does this according to His good pleasure, that is, merely according to His own free will.  Why He chose us is a mystery to us, but we recognize it as grace alone, which none of us deserve. And therefore those who perish in their sins didn’t deserve that grace either. God is perfectly holy in His justice as well as in His grace. I believe your concern was especially in separating the concepts of free will and God’s sovereignty.  There is really no separation; they both just need to be understood properly, and both generally are not.

You mentioned that there was a “strain” of Reformed people or doctrine throughout Baptist history.  In fact, until about a century ago the majority of Baptists were Calvinists.  Throughout the centuries in both England and America, the Baptist confessions were Reformed, and the leading ones were based fundamentally on the Westminster Confession, the standard still held to by Presbyterians. The London Baptist Confession, for example, is very close to the Westminster except for a couple points, most notably the portion on baptism. The early Baptists wanted to make it clear that, though they differed in that area, they agreed fully with their Reformed brethren in their soteriology (doctrine of salvation), in which they were clearly Calvinistic. There were some more Arminian Baptists around, but these were not nearly as organized or numerous.  The founders of our Southern Baptist seminaries, such as Boyce, Broadus, and Manly, Jr., and the SBC’s early leaders were Reformed in their understanding of salvation.  At the turn of the 20th century, a Southern Baptist theologian and pastor wrote, “Nearly all Baptists believe what are usually termed the ‘doctrines of grace’”, and he went on to describe the Calvinist soteriology.  So I daresay it has been much more than a strain, and still is today, despite much of the SBC’s 21st century attempts to squelch it out.  The convictions of the “Founders” group or the Together for the Gospel (t4g.org) group aren’t really new for the Baptist church at all; they are in keeping with our Baptist heritage. The real change and danger has been that such a large portion of the Baptist church has within the last century moved to a fully Wesleyan soteriology (natural man’s will entirely free, no real power in predestination or election, etc.), which is completely inconsistent with our Baptist biblical foundations, and with the biblical movement (the Reformation) which gave us the name Protestants in the first place.

From Pastor Jones’ talk on Lutherans, I just wanted to mention two things. (I was raised Lutheran, by the way, and began attending a Baptist church in my teen years.)

First, you stated how the Reformation sought to correct many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church at the time. While this is true, the correcting of doctrinal issues was an even greater part of the movement. In Luther’s great treatise, “The Bondage of the Will”, written in response to the Roman Catholic scholar Erasmus (who advocated free will), Luther commended Erasmus on one thing. He said that Erasmus was quite right in getting to the heart of the issue of the time, which was a doctrinal one. Although Luther vehemently disagreed with him on matters of doctrine, he was glad that at least Erasmus wasn’t arguing merely about practices, as many did. So I’m just emphasizing what a crucial role doctrine or theology itself played in the Protestant Reformation.

Secondly, you mentioned how some denominations believe that you were either elected or not elected before you were born, and that this seemed to you a terrible way to face life. But isn’t this scriptural? As in Ephesians 1,  “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world”, and other places.  The Reformed view (to which the Lutheran church historically also held) is that God not only knows who would come to faith in Him, but that He knows why they would, that is, because He would grant them spiritual life. As Romans 5 and other places show us, our whole race died spiritually in Adam’s Fall, and we are all deserving His condemnation for our sin. So if God would be righteous in condemning us, we are told He is also righteous in granting grace to whomever He chooses, as in Romans 9 and other places. Our will does play a part in the process, in the sense that it is bound as natural men by our sin, which we gladly followed, but freed to love and follow Him if and when He grants us life.  I could explain further and give numerous references, but I’ll leave it at that.

In this portion about election, you asked a question, and I think I could address it. You said Lutherans believe that predestination is only to salvation, not damnation. And you determined from this that it should imply that everyone is therefore predestined to salvation.  Your open question was for help in making sense out of this. I hope this is at least a little bit helpful: It has been a common historic Protestant view that God  graciously chose, out of a sinful and lost humanity,  a certain elect people for His own, not because of any foreseen good in them, but only due to the good pleasure of His own sovereign will. In doing so, predestining a certain group of individuals to eternal life, He “passed by” the rest of humanity, leaving them in their sin to the condemnation they justly deserve. (Even the elect deserve it, and would have it too, except for His grace.) So the “active” part of predestination is in working to bring some to salvation; the rest do not require His intervention in order to be condemned: they just follow their natural path. So this is sometimes called “single predestination”, in that He elects those He will save, and the rest are left to have sin run its course and have its consequences. I do have a bit of an issue with this view, in that as God is all-knowing and sees all of time, He is well aware of those who are not elected and even does things in the lives of the wicked, of which scripture gives many examples. Many Reformed people do therefore believe in “double predestination” in that all men are essentially appointed to one end or the other.

Please note that this does not mean that for a certain person considering the gospel or wanting to approach Christ, that one should take the fatalistic view that if they’re not elect, it’s no use. In fact, the signs that they are seeking Him could very well indicate that He is indeed working in their lives to draw them to Himself, as they may indeed be among His elect people! But a key point is that it is He that must first do the work to give them life, eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to understand, and a heart of flesh (not stone). And once given these things, we do see and truly live. His grace, His inward calling, is effective – it always results in the salvation of those He extends it to. Men may and often do reject the outward calling of the gospel, but when God works to raise us to life, as He did to raise Lazarus, we do live indeed.

Brothers, so many of the Reformed views are so easily misunderstood by other Baptists, to the point that there has been much division and attacks within the denomination, both men and women boldly speaking out publicly and disrespectfully against their church elders, Reformed ministers being run off from churches and their families losing their means of income, etc.  It is a very sad situation within the SBC, and I suppose my main purpose in writing to you is to plead with you to consider the history of the denomination and of Protestantism, the unity of the denomination, and above all the truth of the Bible and whether a careful analysis of the whole of scripture lends credence to these doctrines. After years of study and consideration, I am convicted that it does.

There are so many scriptures and references I’d love to give, but I’m sorry to act as one who would profess to teach you, ministers of the gospel, and I know we are all busy men. I think I’ve written better things defending the Reformed faith before, with various scriptures and quotes included, but I’m trying not to take even longer here than I already have. If any of you would ever like to further discuss any of the issues mentioned in this email, please feel free to contact me anytime. I’d be glad to return emails or even to meet in person with you if desired. I live just off Main Street on Oak Lane, and work as an engineer here in town. And if you have taken the time to read through and especially more deeply consider some of the points I’ve brought out, I am deeply grateful to you. Truthfully my only agenda is for our mutual growth in truth for the sake of the Church and the glory of God.

God’s grace to you,

Darrin Lyon

Thoughts on SBC Meeting 2010

April 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two quick notes from events of the meeting itself are:

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

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

Owen on John 3:16 – Introduction

November 30, 2009

Possibly the most well-known and oft-quoted verse in all of scripture, John 3:16 has even been referred to as “the gospel in a nutshell”. Regarding that label, it would be improper to limit ourselves to the contents of one nutshell when we should feast on the entirely of God’s revealed word. Nevertheless, for the truth contained therein, as with all of scripture, this verse is certainly precious, particularly when taken in context with all of John chapter 3, and indeed with the Bible as a whole.

 The third division of The Works of John Owen, delineated the “Controversial” division, begins with Volume 10. Here, following the excellent “A Display of Arminianism”, is found one of his most famous works, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”, a thorough analysis of the intent and accomplishment of Christ’s atonement. The latter part of Book 4, Chapter 2 of “The Death of Death” deals specifically with John 3:16.

 Owen brings out this verse as the first of several which those asserting universal redemption [Christ dying for each and every person] put forth. As he states,

 “This place, I say, the Universalists exceedingly boast in; for which we are persuaded they have so little cause, that we doubt not but, with the Lord’s assistance, to demonstrate that it is destructive to their whole defense.”

 Since this verse is mishandled today as in Owen’s day, and even served as the title of last year’s anti-Calvinist “John 3:16 Conference”, it is appropriate to give a synopsis of this theologian’s analysis of the verse, which for many may prove to be rather different from that which they are used to hearing. Not that Owen teaches here some new and strange thing, but in fact that which is faithful to the text and consistent with the whole of scripture. The reader may come to appreciate that some of what is often professed about John 3:16 in Baptist and other circles is indeed rather that which might be called strange. Of course, this tidbit of Owen’s defense is a minimal representation of the many detailed and solid arguments against universal redemption which he sets out in his works.

 Regarding that conference which shamefully associated itself with this scripture, Timmy Brister had an excellent short post about a year ago HERE , which gives some context within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and also provides helpful background to this blog, SBF. I highly recommend Timmy’s post to any readers who have not yet seen it.

This introduction will conclude with Owen’s overall comparison of the universalist’s interpretation of John 3:16 with his own, via paraphrase. Following posts will specifically address the three key areas from where the difference stems, and that is, the understanding of:

     (1) the love of God, which is the cause of sending Christ,

     (2) the object of this love, called here the world, and

     (3) the intention of God in sending his Son, said here to be that believers might be saved.

 “I will give you, in brief, a double paraphrase of the words, the first containing their sense, the latter ours. Thus, then, our adversaries explain these words:

 “ ‘God so loved,’ – had such a natural inclination, velleity [wish], and propensity [tendency] to the good of

 ‘the world,’ – Adam, with all and every one of his posterity, of all ages, times, and conditions (whereof some were in heaven, some in hell long before),

 ‘that he gave his only-begotten Son,’ – causing him to be incarnate in the fullness of time, to die, not with a purpose and resolution to save any, but

 ‘that whosoever,’ – whatever persons of those which he had propensity unto,

 ‘believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ – should have this fruit and issue, that he should escape death and hell, and live eternally.”

 Owen a little later gives the interpretation which he embraces:

 “Now, look a little, in the second place, at what we conceive to be the mind of God in those words; whose aim we take to be the advancement and setting forth of the free love of God to lost sinners, in sending Christ to procure for them eternal redemption, as may appear in this following paraphrase:

 “ ‘God’ the Father ‘so loved,’ – had such a peculiar, transcendent love, being an unchangeable purpose and act of his will concerning their salvation, towards

 ‘the world,’ – miserable, sinful, lost men of all sorts, not only Jews but Gentiles also, which he peculiarly loved,

 ‘that,’ intending their salvation, as in the last words, for the praise of his glorious grace, ‘he gave,’ he prepared a way to prevent their everlasting destruction, by appointing and sending ‘his only-begotten Son’ to be an all-sufficient Saviour to all that look up unto him,

 ‘that whosoever believeth in him,’ – all believers whatsoever, and only they,

 ‘should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ – and so effectually be brought to the obtaining of those glorious things through him which the Lord in his free love had designed for them.”

“Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, compilation

August 12, 2009

Part 1: “Calvinism” at SBTS and in the SBC at the founding of Southern Seminary

Part 2: “Calvinism” in both Landmark and non-Landmark churches during the early days of the SBC

Part 3: The “Calvinism” of the SBTS founders

a. The “Calvinism” of James P. Boyce

b. The “Calvinism” of John A. Broadus

c. The “Calvinism” of William Williams and Basil Manly Jr.

Part 4: “Calvinism and Denominational Doubt”


“Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, Part 4

August 11, 2009

Part 4: “Calvinism and Denominational Doubt”

[The entire post below is a quote from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009), pages 542-543, with links added.]

Moderates were astonished to discover that Mohler advocated Calvinism and attacked him for it. Most conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the doctrine of predestination but were little troubled by Mohler’s views. Since the 1940s, Calvinism had grown in popularity in evangelicalism generally. London preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones influenced many evangelicals in the United Kingdom to embrace Calvinism through his preaching and his promotion of interest in the Puritans. A number of publishers reprinted Puritan writings to meet the growing demand. The writings of John Stott and James I. Packer popularized these emphases in Great Britain and in the United States. In the United States, such preachers and authors as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur taught an explicitly Calvinistic understanding of the Bible. Francis Schaeffer and Carl Henry, whose writings spurred an intellectual renaissance within American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, also contributed greatly to the spread of Calvinism’s popularity. Mohler had studied appreciatively the writings of many of these.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvinism’s popularity was spreading at the same time, drawing in part on the same influences. But many Southern Baptists were looking to their own past and discovered there a rich stream of Calvinist evangelicalism. They reprinted and read the theological works of nineteenth-century Baptists, especially of such men as James P. Boyce. Some formed the Founders Ministries, an organization that produced a quarterly journal and hosted an annual conference dedicated explicitly to the promotion of “the doctrines of grace,” as Calvinism was also known. Tom Nettles, professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, published in 1986 an extensively documented history of Calvinism among Baptists, which served as an influential introduction to Calvinism for many Southern Baptists. Nettles joined Southern Seminary’s faculty in 1997. (more…)