Archive for the ‘Calvinism’ category

Dr. Nettles on the Chiastic Structure of SBC History

June 24, 2012

Dr. Tom Nettles was the speaker last week at the 2012 Founders Breakfast (at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the SBC). The title of his message is “The Southern Baptist Convention: Retrospect and Prospect” and I highly recommend it, especially in light of the current discussions about “traditional” theology in the SBC. The first half of Nettles’ provides numerous facts, figures, and direct references to pastors, churches, and institutions who held Reformed doctrine prior to the new traditionalists, while the second half focuses on the chiastic structure of SBC history. It is a fascinating look at the ebb and flow of theological trajectories, and the last nine minutes of the talk gives you Nettles’ direct interaction with the current attempt to marginalize Calvinists in the SBC.

To listen or download the audio, click here.
Also, be sure to check out the new book, Whomever He Wills, edited by Dr. Nettles and Matthew Barrett.

Three Positive Points Regarding SBC 2012

June 21, 2012

I used to blog about the Southern Baptist Convention quite a bit. In recent years, I have tried to focus on practical issues of church life from a theologically driven focus. Nevertheless, given the significance of this past week, I’d like to jump into the SBC blog world again and attempt to contribute a few reflections and anticipations.

NEW LEADERSHIP

I am very glad that the election of Fred Luter as the first African American President of the SBC was not overshadowed by the theological controversies swirling around on the internet. The moment when we all stood in affirmation and celebration of his election was a powerful moment. I don’t know how anyone could have not been emotional gripped by providence and the present recognition of history being made. As I type this in my NOLA hotel room, my wife and I just returned from a tour of the city.  One of the significant and recurring points the guide made was the slave quarters and how they lived in this city. Learning how prominent slavery was in the history of this city (and our country) makes me all the more appreciative of God’s work of repentance in the SBC.

Along with Luter as President, I am very encouraged by the election of Nathan Lino as First VP and Dave Miller as Second VP. Over the past four years, I have been a part of a “young leaders” meeting where, in 2008, I first met Nathan. He is an experienced church planter, whose church just celebrated their 10th anniversary. Nathan has a wonderful, gracious spirit and evangelical commitment to work together with Southern Baptists who may not agree with him on various theological issues but nevertheless are unified in the gospel and the Great Commission. Nathan and I have discussed this week how we can work together to forward a new narrative of healthy, robust discussion as brothers who see differently on various issues but have a transcendent love and determination to not allow the differences keep us from linking arms and hearts for reaching the lost, whether they are across the street or across the world. Hopefully, you will hear more about that in the future.

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A Word to My Reformed Brothers in the SBC

June 15, 2012

When the current controversy erupted over Calvinism in the SBC erupted a couple weeks ago, I debated whether or not to enter the fray. Things have changed quite considerably since the hay day of 2005-2008 when Calvinism seemed to be the death-defying whipping boy of folks with more fight in their hands than love in their hearts. But alas, perhaps the change was merely an intermission thanks largely in part to the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) which, for a time, seemed to unite Southern Baptists on the front lines of the Great Commission.

But the SBC, since the affirmation of the GCR, have gone back to the barricks and once again are turning against one another as if the willingness to fight is a temptation of which one too many are unwilling to walk away. Needless to say, I have my thoughts on the “traditionalist” March to New Orleans, and undoubtedly sparks are going to fly about Calvinism and whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient confessional guide to afford meaningful and substantive cooperation for Southern Baptists. Several of my friends have taken up this discussion on the Internet, including Tom Ascol (whose series I high recommend) and Nathan Finn (whose aspirations I wholeheartedly embrace). I don’t think I have much to contribute other than what they (and others) have been able to say in ways far more reasonable and eloquent.

BUT, if I have one contribution to make to the discussion leading up to next week’s Annual Meeting of the SBC in New Orleans, it would not be critiquing a very poorly written traditionalist document, nor would it be explaining the postmodern power play of subject-defining labels like “New Calvinism” and “traditionalist”, nor would it be showing how the “majoritarian” party has failed to influence the direction of the SBC since 2006 (2006-07 Joshua Convergence; 2008-09 Baptist Identity Movement; 2010-2011 Anti-GCR Movement; 2012 Traditionalist Movement). Rather, I’d like to issue a statement to my fellow Reformed brothers in the SBC. With all that is going on next week, there’s some fundamental things that I’m preaching to myself and think it helpful to share with my Reformed brethren.  To put some order to my thoughts, here are five “Do’s” and “Don’ts” as it related to next week’s Annual Meeting.

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Triune Praise | Shai Linne

June 2, 2012

When it comes to the doctrine of salvation, central to what I understand in Scripture is that “salvation is of the Lord.” God is the author of salvation, and He has determined the answer to all questions of who, what, when, where, and why. The salvation God brings is essentially and necessarily Trinitarian, and anyone who undermines or deviates from the biblical explanation of how God the Father purposes, God the Son purchases, and God the Spirit pursues sinners is misrepresenting the gospel and misleading sinners in the process.

In light of that, I would like to commend the following hip hop song by Shai Linne called “Triune Praise” wherein he eloquently explains the trinitarian nature of salvation with poetic clarity.

Triune Praise

Verse 1
Praise God the Father, the Immortal Creator
For Your glory you made us, You’re the Sovereign Orchestrator
All that You decree will most surely come to happen
You’re awesome as can be and Your glory none can fathom
Nothing could ever stain You, the heavens can’t contain You
We thank You for sending Your Son to explain You
Otherwise we would have remained in the dark
but You sent Your Holy Spirit to spark a change in our hearts
According to Your eternal purpose and will
You determined to reveal Yourself to those who deserve to be killed
Those of us whom You foreknew adore You
We praise You that You predestined us to be conformed to
The image of Your Son who’s the radiance of Your glory
When I meditate on it, the weightiness of it floors me
So Father, we’ll praise you over and over again
Because You sent Your only Son to atone for our sins

Chorus
Glory to the Father, Glory to the Son,
Glory to The Spirit- Three and Yet One
One in Your essence, Three in Your Person
The same in Your nature, distinct in Your working
Oh my soul- behold the wonder of the Trinity
Blessed be the Trinity, Oh, what a mystery!
I’ll stand amazed for the rest of my days
Pouring out my heart in Triune praise

Verse 2
Praise God the Son, Second Person of the Trinity
You’re distinct from the Father, yet you share in His divinity
Fulfilling an eternal covenant- You came through
To planet earth to save who? All the Father gave You
You became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief
For the glory of Your Father You extinguished the beef
That stood between us at the cross- the Father’s anger released
The Shepherd slain for the sheep, the situation is deep
I can’t find the right language to speak, in fact it’s making me weep-
Just the thought of You saving this creep
You’re risen from the dead, I still can’t get this in my head,
How the Judge could leave the bench and go to prison instead
Lord Jesus, you’re amazing, Your bleeding is what saved men
It’s the reason why we’re praising, can’t wait to see Your face
In the meantime, please help us to see You as colossal
And by the Spirit live lives worthy of the gospel

Verse 3
Praise God the Holy Spirit, 3rd person of the Trinity
Distinct from Father and Son, yet share in Their divinity
Holy Spirit we praise You, You don’t like the spotlight
You’d rather point away from yourself and give props to Christ
But yet because You’re God, You deserve veneration
And You’re the One responsible for our regeneration
You apply the finished work of Christ to all the elect
Your call is effectual- You haven’t lost one yet
You comfort us when sin, Satan and the world got us bothered
And it’s only by You that we cry out “Abba Father”
You’re the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of Truth,
You graciously provide Your people with the gifts and the fruit
You help us kill sin and dis-attach us from our idols
If it wasn’t for You, we’d never understand the Bible
Because You wrote it- For our life it will surely suffice
Amazingly, You do it all for the glory of Christ!

The Call of Our This Generation

April 16, 2012

It has already been said that the sermon below by David Platt is perhaps the greatest missions message ever preached. I was a freshman in college when the buzz about John Piper’s sermon “Doing Missions When Dying Is Gain” filled the campus of University of Mobile. Not long after that, I embarked on my first cross-cultural mission trip and have not been the same.

I was privileged to hear this with 8,000 other folks at T4G last week. But more than that, I eagerly long to be in the company of those who heed the message as what I anticipate will be the call of this generation.

You can download the audio or read the live-blogging notes of Justin Taylor, or watch the video below.  If you have not listened or watched this message, please carve out an hour of your life and have the Spirit ruin you for the nations.

Christian Hedonist Calvinism

January 4, 2012

I thought this post from John Piper was quite compelling and affection-stirring:

What would the doctrines of grace sound like if every limb in that tree were coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight. (that is, Christian Hedonism)?

Total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to God’s beauty and deadness to the deepest joy.

Unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed as the overflow of God’s joy in the fellowship of the Trinity.

Limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant.

Irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights.

Perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God not to let us fall into the final bondage of inferior pleasures, but to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of fullness of joy in his presence and pleasures at his right hand forevermore.

John Piper, Rick Warren, and the Purpose Driven Life

May 27, 2011

Let’s just pretend for a moment you did not read the title of this blogpost.  Let’s pretend that there was an anonymous Christian minister who explicitly affirmed the following:

I am passionate about the glory of God above all things.
I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God in all things, including sin and tragedy.
I believe in exhaustive, meticulous divine providence.
I believe in the doctrines of grace, including total depravity, unconditional election, and particular redemption.
I affirm the five solas of the reformation and consider myself a monergist both in justification and sanctification of the believer.
I believe in the eternal, conscious torment in a literal hell.
I believe that substitutionary atonement is at the heart of the gospel.
I believe in that the imputed righteousness of Christ is essential to the nature of the gospel.
I believe that God saves us from Himself by sending us His Son as the wrath-bearing propitiation in my place.
I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
I believe that those who die never hearing the name of Christ will not go to heaven.  They need to hear the gospel, and the church must go to them and make Christ known in order for them to be saved.
Everything I do in life and ministry has an overarching missionary focus.

Having considered these personal beliefs and affirmations, what well-known evangelical preacher might we be talking about?  John MacArthur? Sounds a lot like him. Albert Mohler? Possibly. D.A. Carson? Perhaps.

Who is it that made these personal affirmations?

Rick Warren.

If you don’t believe me, watch and listen for yourself.

Like just about every other evangelical leader I respect, I don’t agree with everything Rick Warren says and does, but I found this interview very clarifying and confirming.  I cannot imagine the controversy and criticism both John Piper and Rick Warren will receive from this interview, but I’m grateful they made this agreement, having demonstrated a substantive, constructive, engagement on important issues from two very different perspectives.

I don’t know of two pastors in our country who have more influence on my generation than John Piper and Rick Warren.  They have asked that we pray for them, especially in regards to pursuing humility, fighting pride, and stewarding their influence for generations to come.  God has given these men incredible platforms to display the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Let’s pray for them and their continued usefulness in such enormous proportions for the advancement of the gospel both in breadth and depth for many years to come.

Amen.

Burk Parsons on Truly Reformed

December 5, 2010

Burk Parsons:

At its core, Christian theology is a theology of grace. One of the primary distinctions of Christian theology is the doctrine of grace, which pervades every area of our faith and life. Throughout the centuries of history, Christians have testified to this truth. When Paul, in the first century, and the Reformers, in the sixteenth century, contended earnestly for the faith, they contended not only to preserve the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone but to preserve the all-encompassing gospel religion of God’s grace. This gospel informs everything we are and, thus, everything we do as we show forth our faith in word and deed, with God’s gospel and God’s glory at the forefront of our mission, not our own socialized gospel or our own societal glory.

Read the rest here.

Johnny Hunt, Calvinism, and the Past Ten Years of My Life

October 19, 2010

Before you read any further, please watch this short video clip where Dustin Neeley interviewed Johnny Hunt at the Advance the Church conference earlier this year.

This video clip is moving to me for reasons most of you are unaware I presume.  Although some of my life story is recorded in Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, Reformed, there are many details that I have not heretofore mentioned in public (at least not to my recollection).

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Nathan Finn on Reformed Baptists

July 19, 2010

Nathan Finn has written a helpful four-part series on being Reformed and Baptist that I would like to commend to you.  While those with a historical consciousness and theological acumen understand the symbiotic nature of being Reformed and Baptist, there will always be those within the SBC who will attempt to present the two as mutually exclusive alternatives.  To that end, Finn has given us some great commentary:

* Part 1
* Part 2
* Part 3
* Covenantal Credobaptism

Tom Nettles on Experiential Theology

July 5, 2010

Joe Thorn has started an excellent new series on pastor-theologians, and this week, he has interviewed Dr. Tom Nettles.  The journey Joe describes in his love of God and truth is one that I can imagine many have traveled down, and to see him doing a series on combining head, heart, and hands is going to be really helpful.

Nettles says experiential theology, or experimental Calvinism “pursues the purposeful application of every doctrine to some area of life that needs further conformity to Christ’s perfect humanity.”  Nettles commentary is exemplary of light and heat, and here are some excerpts I pulled from the interview:

Without a justification-driven, christocentric foundation all examination results either in self-righteousness or despair, legalism or antinomianism.

A clear and forceful integration of the biblical doctrines of the Trinitarian existence of God, the intrinsic glory of the Godhead, Christ’s infinite condescension, humanity’s fall and consequent just condemnation and punitive corruption, divine sovereignty in election, reconciliation and redemption, calling, resurrection, and eternal occupation—all of these and others constitute the pastoral task from the very beginning of establishing a worshipping congregation.

The biblical responsibility of the pastor consistently to place the believers in the context of this picture is at once both experimental and theological, practical and doctrinal. What we do and how we feel and how we respond to life’s details flows out of who we believe we are in God’s relentless push toward subduing all things to Christ, that in all things he might have the preeminence.

I will be chewing on these words by Nettles this week, and I encourage you to do the same.  Great stuff!

Ray Ortlund on “Truly Reformed”

June 5, 2010

If you are not reading (or have not subscribed to) Ray Ortlund’s blog, you are missing some of the best devotional commentary on the Internet.  Most recently, he has taken up the issue of being “truly Reformed.” Generally, this title is attributed to fundamentalists in the Reformed camp who have a hard time with Christians who are not five-point Calvinists.  Here’s an excerpt of Ortlund’s post:

What unifies the church is the gospel.  What defines the gospel is the Bible.  What interprets the Bible correctly is a hermeneutic centered on Jesus Christ crucified, the all-sufficient Savior of sinners, who gives himself away on terms of radical grace to all alike.  What proves that that gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love (Galatians 5:13).

My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them?  Do you admire them?  Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them?  What is the emotional tilt of your heart – toward them or away from them?  If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology.   The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper level.  Let it reduce you to Jesus only.   Let it humble you.  Let this gracious doctrine make you a fun person to be around.  The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are not Reformed.   Amazing people.   Heroic people.  Blood-bought people.   People with whom we are eternally one – in Christ alone.

These are excellent words, and for those of us who are Reformed and Southern Baptist, they are timely words as well.

Dysfunctional Calvinism

February 4, 2010

I hope that my writings in support of Calvinism gives me the credibility to offer a few words concerning dysfunctional Calvinism.  If not, I am going to say it anyway. 🙂

Most of the Calvinists I have met are robustly evangelical and passionate about the gospel.  They love the church and have found their soteriological understanding as empowering to their Christian life, causing them to function with greater confidence and courage under the sovereign purposes of God.  However, there is a Calvinist here and a Calvinist there, few to be sure, who have provided sufficient provocation to address dysfunctional Calvinism.

What am I taking about, you might ask?

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Charles Finney, Cooperation, and the GCR

November 17, 2009

Over at Between the Times, Drs. Danny Akin and Bruce Ashford have continued their excellent series on “Seven Crucial Aspects of Our Mission” (which is broken down in true Puritan style of multiple sub-points and cases) with an article focusing on cooperation between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.  As you know, this issue has been with us for a very long time, and during the more heated moments in recent SBC life, I was documenting all the events, articles, and commentary that was taking place.

Having been involved in Southern Baptist discourse for the past 6-7 years (I know, I’m young), I would argue that the relations between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is the best that it has been.  The rhetoric and caricatures are rare, and the conversation between those with soteriological differences has increased, especially with the advent of Twitter.  I know it’s crazy, but Twitter as a social-networking platform has interconnected Southern Baptists in a form of internet community that would otherwise not exist in real life.  I’m not sure as to why or how this has happened, but perhaps “following” each other has allowed us to see that those with whom we disagree are not as bad as we think they are.  They love Jesus, desire to honor Him in faithfully preaching His Word, and are genuinely seeking to make a difference for the glory of God.  Having the opportunity to see glimpses into the lives of people who otherwise would be a faceless name or distant interlocutor makes you think twice before lobbing bombs at one another.  We are not enemies.  We are brothers in the trenches seeking to advance the kingdom against our common enemy, the devil.

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Morris Chapman, Calvinism, and Saving Faith (Part 3)

July 21, 2009

In my third and final post (see Part 1 and Part 2) on Morris Chapman’s recent comments on Calvinism, I want to focus on what Baptists have historically said on the issue of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation and more specifically saving faith.  Before I do, however, I want to comment briefly on how Chapman used (1) Packer’s antinomy and (2) Spurgeon on saving faith—both of which do not stand in his corner.

Packer v. Chapman on Antinomy

Personally, I am not a fan of the idea of antinomy.  Like Paul Helm, I am inclined to believe that antinomy is too permissible and “could be a license for accepting nonsense” (Paul Helm, The Providence of God, 66).  It is along these lines that I believe Chapman has brought the employment of antinomy in question.  Assuming Chapman is referring to J.I. Packer’s explanation of antinomy, one should note that Packer and Chapman have very little in common when it comes to understanding God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.  For instance, Packer writes,

“God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text.  Both are thus guaranteed to us by the same divine authority; both, therefore, are true.  It follows that they must be held together, and not played off against each other.  Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent” (J.I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, 22-23).

Chapman indeed plays God’s sovereignty (“sovereignty alone”) against human responsibility and uses antinomy to justify doing so.  However, the principle proponent of antinomy says it is incorrect to do so.  Furthermore, Packer agues that “it is God who saves” and “God’s prerogative to give results” because “only God can give faith” (Ibid., 27).  While Packer holds that man is divinely controlled and yet morally responsible; Chapman does not.  Packer believes that God is sovereign in salvation and that faith is a gift from God; Chapman does not.  Therefore, I find it curious that Chapman would employing the idea of antinomy when the very ones who argued for it have done so on completely different grounds and in completely different ways.

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