Posted tagged ‘Calvinism’

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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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.

Funnies for Friday

December 10, 2010

Here are three videos that I enjoyed watching this week.  The C.J. Mahaney impersonation is amazing. The Calvinist pick-up lines are cheesy yet fun. The Michael Bird interview is a great reminder that scholars can have a great sense of humor (HT Trevin Wax).  Enjoy!

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

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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Morris Chapman, Calvinism, and Saving Faith (Part 2)

July 20, 2009

In Part 1, I sought address specific comments by Morris Chapman from his convention “report,” nothing also a few areas of duplicity.  In Part 2, I want to interact with his “Clarification of Intent,” especially as it concerns the doctrine of saving faith.

Chapman’s Charges

Quote #1

“I have heard and read with increasing frequency of the belief that . . . the response of faith is given by God and is not the free response of the human heart to the saving initiative of God.”

Notice what Chapman is doing here.  He is saying that either if (A) faith is a gift from God, then (B) a person is not a free, responsible human agent.  In other words, Chapman seems to be saying that for a person to be morally responsible, faith must be self-engendered (not given by God).  If God supplies the faith, then a person’s freedom is violated.  Chapman expounds on this idea in the second quote.

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Morris Chapman, Calvinism, and Saving Faith (Part 1)

July 16, 2009

Morris Chapman, president and CEO of the Executive Committee, has up until this time chosen not to address the pressing issue of the forced resignation of Clark Logan; however, he has taken up another topic stemming from his convention “report”—Calvinism.  His strange and categorically inaccurate views of those who hold to the doctrines of grace have been slightly edited in his most recent article entitled “Clarification of Intent.”  What I would like to do is revisit what he originally said, interact with his “clarification”, and offer the correct view of Calvinists using exclusively Baptist sources from both historical and contemporary advocates to make my case (in three separate posts).

Chapman states,

I have been accused of creating a caricature or a “straw-man” of Calvinism with the phrase, “without a faith response on the part of man.”  It has been said that no Calvinist in the Southern Baptist Convention would affirm the idea as I stated it.  The background of my comments comes from a lifetime of ministry among Southern Baptists.

In almost breathtaking manner, Chapman defends his caricature of Calvinism with a postmodern epistemological construct (“my lifetime of ministry among Southern Baptists”).  Not facts, not objective truths, not biblical warrant, but personal or existential testimony.  The veracity of his assertions extends no further than his commentary of Southern Baptists in general–quite a slippery slope no doubt.  The concluding remarks in my third post, I believe, will show that biblical exegesis and historical attestation expose Chapman’s personal analysis as severely lacking in substance and tainted with incredulity.

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Interacting with Alvin and Nathan Regarding SBC and Calvinism

February 27, 2009

Drs. Alvin Reid and Nathan Finn have begun to write (together) the case for consensus for Calvinism in the SBC.  Contrary to what some believe, I believe this is the desire of most (if not all) Calvinists I know in the SBC.  The series at Between the Times has been encouraging to read, I however would like to interact with their articles and offer a few suggestions.

They write:

Though we disagree with each other concerning Calvinism, we are convinced that this issue does not have to be a source of division in the SBC. We know folks get tired of hearing this, but it is true: there has always been room in the SBC for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

Amen. I’ve got only one problem with this. The discussion from the beginning has been slanted against Calvinists by means of terminology.  Calvinism is a historical term with numerous references in Southern Baptist life; non-Calvinism, on the other hand, is a nondescript term.  What is a non-Calvinist? Does it say anything positive about what that person believes? A non-Calvinist could be a four-point Calvinist and a Pelagian in the SBC.  Surely Nathan and Alvin don’t mean to include Pelagians in the SBC, but that is precisely the problem.  The non-Calvinists have refused to positively affirm their position or have any labels attached to it other than those lacking historical reference or substance (e.g.,”I’m not a Calvinist; I’m a biblicist.”).  To have a consensus, we have to know exactly who we are talking about here.  While the non-Calvinists have not been able to positively affirm their soteriological positions, they have termed historical Calvinism in numerous ways that are not helpful or accurate, including calling “five-point” Calvinism “hyper-Calvinism” or anyone who holds to all five points as “extreme.”  The bottom line to this is that non-Calvinists are going to have to be more titular than simply saying what they are not, and until that happens, I believe Calvinists will not feel comfortable working for consensus with those, for example, do not believe in original sin.  Is that not a fair thing to ask?

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