Thursday, February 23, 2006

Whither Southern Baptists?


Whither--not "wither." It is a question, not a prediction. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, so I try to stay out of the prediction business. But I am concerned about the future of the churches that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention. That concern has led me to pray about and ponder the trajectory of SBC life for more than two decades.

Who knows what the SBC will look like in the next twenty years? But as with everything in life, what you plant today will determine the kind of harvest that is reaped tomorrow. Perhaps some--maybe most--of the seeds currently being sewn are being spread inadvertently. But others, particularly those in the hands of denominational leaders and influencers, are being planted deliberately.

From what is being advocated today It is obvious that there are several competing visions of the SBC's future that are currently vying for ascendancy. From my limited vantage point, here are some of the more prominent ones that I see dotting the landscape.


The Fundamentalist vision


This hope is fueled by the spirit that gave us the old "Fightin' Fundamentalist" mentality that characterized many independent, dispensational circles in the last century. I had the, uh, privilege several years ago to be a guest at a small meeting of such brethren who were concerned about the direction of the local school board. The gathering never got past the opening devotional, which was led by one of the more prominent independent pastors in the area. His text, as he announced it, was Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle... " (sorry! I meant to use the original KJV) "For we wrestle not...."

That was all that the brother read. Then he launched into one of the most lively diatribes I have ever heard (I am not making this up) as he scolded his fellow Fundamentalists for going soft, no longer fighting and being guilty of just what Paul says, "wrestling not!" That, he said, was the problem with the school board and every other social ill in the county--the Fundamentalists (or, more accurately, "pseudo-Fundamentalists") had become "sissified" and couldn't be counted on to fight even if the Virgin Birth itself were under attack.

Well, as you can imagine, after about 10 minutes of this kind of relentless haranguing a few of the brethren couldn't take it any more and they stood up to express their disagreement. And they did so in such colorful and personal language so as to dispel the speaker's thesis on the spot. I don't know how hot things eventually got because as quickly as I could I slunk out the back with the friend who had invited me, hoping that, as we drove off, no one would recognize my car.

I do not see a great deal of this spirit within the SBC, but I do see it. And I fear that there is probably more of it around, lying just beneath the surface, than I care to imagine. This vision would be happy to see the SBC become abrasive, bombastic and incurring the ridicule and wrath of society and Christians of varying stripes so that they can feel good about suffering "for righteousness sake."


The Fundamentalist light vision


This vision differs from its older, meaner cousin by recognizing that not everyone who disagrees with them ought to be treated with the same kind of intense disdain. Light fundamentalists parcel out their disdain with a certain sophisticated discrimination. In this way they have more tolerance than the unqualified Fundamentalists.

Like their cousins, however, they are theologically 4.5 point Arminians, although some prefer to think of themselves as modified Calvinists. Others go so far as to claim to be only 1 point Calvinists because they reject every point but a version of the last one. Some critics derisively refer to those who hold this position as "whiskey Baptists" because, despite denying the other 4 points of Calvinism outright, they refuse to be separated from the fifth. Actually, even their adherence to the fifth point is suspect and usually is spoken of in terms of eternal security rather than perseverance of the saints. Though certainly not true of all, among many advocates of Fundamentalism and Fundamentalism light their view of eternal security is simple antinomianism. They teach that once a person "asks Jesus into his heart" or "prays the sinner's prayer" or "walks the aisle" or does some other supposedly sacred act, then, no matter what else he does after that, no matter how devilishly he may live, he is in and there is nothing that he can do about it. In fact, they teach that a man has more free will before he is converted than he does after he is converted.

Nevertheless, this vision of the SBC is willing to tolerate a modicum of theological diversity on these points--provided that those who are more Calvinistic do not get too uppity about it. If the non-fundamentalists are willing to be quiet and keep a low profile and will quit making public the theological underpinnings of the SBC at its founding in 1845, then, in the Fundamentalist light vision of the SBC, they should be tolerated.


The Theonomic vision


This is a rather latecomer to the SBC and seems to have come from an offshoot of the previously mentioned visions. It wants the SBC to be a major player in "taking back America for Christ" because it is convinced that America was founded as a Christian nation. In this vision, the SBC demand respect from Washington DC because of our ability to deliver millions of voters to get the right people elected to get this country back in God's good graces.

This viewpoint is what motivated one very well-known Baptist pastor to write to me and other pastors in 1996, encouraging our support for the Republican presidential candidate, because, as he put it, our nation "stands at a crossroads." He went on to make this pitch: "that is why I am calling on you to help me make a difference by using your church to hold a voter registration drive." The theonomic vision would be happy to see the SBC as a huge voting bloc that is at the beck and call of the most righteous political action committees.


The Theonomic light vision


If Fundamentalism light is more sophisticated than its cousin theonomy light is the less sophisticated cousin in its family. This view has similar concerns about recovering our great Christian nation for Jesus but thinks that this can happen if we can just get prayers back in our public schools and the Ten Commandments posted in our courtrooms and classrooms again. Furthermore, the representatives of this view take retailers' references to evergreens in winter as "holiday trees" as a godless encroachment on our Christian rights. They have also been known to celebrate as a great victory any announcement that next year, such retailers are going to call them "Christmas trees."

By issuing boycotts and economic threats these folks believe that they are heavily involved in cultural engagement and combatting worldliness on major fronts. Neither Disney nor Hollywood should expect to be ignored if this vision carries the future in the SBC.




The Superficial Evangelistic vision


Southern Baptists have always been about evangelism. It is part of our genetic code. Part of the reason that this convention was formed was to cooperate together in the work of evangelism and missions. What Southern Baptists have not always been about is superficial evangelism. That has been a late and deviant mutation of our genetic code. The mutant product goes by the same name but is a far cry from the evangelistic enterprise that marked the first 75 years of the SBC's existence.

Superficial evangelism is satisfied to get as many decisions as possible regardless of how many disciples are made. It is willing to baptize anyone who is old enough to toddle down an aisle, as long as they answer is yes when asked if he or she wants to invite Jesus into their heart, or go to heaven or have a Jesus as a "forever daddy." This type of evangelism is what has wrecked so many of our modern SBC churches, filling them with unregenerate members and has made a sham of our membership rolls.

Those who advocate this vision may acknowledge there are indeed these kinds of problems, but the solution they offer is simply this, "We must do more of the same, but with greater zeal and enthusiasm!" If this vision prevails, Southern Baptists may well evangelize themselves out of existence over the next few decades.




The Serious Evangelistic vision


This is the healthier cousin of the former vision. The proponents of this view are queasy about superficial evangelism. While they would never be willing to give a car away as a prize to the person who won the most souls to Christ in a given amount of time, they would not hesitate to give one away as a door prize to get people to come to church. After all, it is simply a matter of getting enticing people to come hear the Gospel. "Whatever it takes" is the mantra of this vision because it sees evangelism as "the main thing." There will be time enough for worshipping God in heaven, now is the time for evangelizing people.

Everything must be sublimated to witnessing. Nothing else--absolutely nothing else--is more important that this. The danger in this vision is that it is this very mentality that is the seedbed from which superficial evangelism sprouts. When evangelism is the main thing then it becomes unhinged from the glory of God. Once this happens, as we have seen countless times in recent history, an "anything goes" mentality takes root and the ends is used to justify all kinds of methods and means.


The Confessional and Missional vision


As the language suggests, this is the vision of the younger generation. For an excellent summary of it see Joe Thorn's article in the upcoming Founders Journal (#63). At the heart of this vision is the recognition that Christianity is inherently confessional. There is credenda--things that must be believed. Those things should be spelled out, as they have been in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Our confessions should be clear and held with integrity.

But the Christian life also has agenda--things to be done. And what is to be done is to be on mission with the Lord Jesus Christ. Churches should not only be involved in sending missionaries to unreached peoples but should also be self-consciously aware of having been sent by the Lord to reach people, as well.

In this vision the SBC will be filled with churches that are very intentional in their convictions and activities, seeking to know truth and make truth known across a variety of cultural boundaries.


The Rigorously Reformed vision


In this vision of the SBC every church, every institution, every agency, every denominational servant and every pastor would be committed to the Reformed understanding of salvation, or the doctrines of grace. Those who do not share those commitments would be out of sync with denominational identity. The 1689 Confession would be the doctrinal standard for all agency executives and Arminians need not apply.


Lifeway would produce Sunday School literature based on Baptist catechisms. No one would be ashamed to be known as a 5-point Calvinist. Revisionist historiography that suggests the SBC was founded by something other than people of such convictions would once and for all time be exposed as erroneous. Everyone would know and believe the truth both theologically and historically. There would be no more need to describe oneself as a "historic Southern Baptist" in order to identify with the faith of the SBC's founders.


The Balanced, Biblical and God-honoring vision


Finally, there is what I call, for lack of a better description, the "balanced, biblical and God-honoring vision." Or, you could simply call it "Tom's vision" for short (for those still wincing from some of the acid-flinging that took place here earlier, that sentence together with the title for this section is supposed to be a joke). Before giving a summary of of this view, let me say that I am sure other visions could be added and various nuances to the ones I have listed would be appropriate. For example, nowhere in these suggestions have I mentioned the Landmarkist vision, though I think it would be most at home within the first two above.

Furthermore, most of the visions I have mentioned have something commendable to offer (except, of course, the superficial evangelistic one). There are things worth fighting for; we should stand for public righteousness; true evangelism must always be a priority; we should be unashamed of our confession and intentional in our mission; and, the reformed world and life view is wonderfully healthy and helps ground our living in proper relationship to our great God.

But, if I could design the future of the SBC, I would make it Christ exalting and Gospel saturated in every expression of its existence. I know that everyone who would dare to offer an opinion on this kind of speculation would say the same, or least not deny what I have said. I am not suggesting otherwise. Rather, what I am saying is that I believe we desperately need to get back to the centrality of the Gospel in our churches and relationships. The Gospel is not merely for unbelievers. It is for the church, as well. We do not merely enter into the kingdom by the Gospel, we live in that kingdom the same way. Every relationship, every responsibility, every challenge and choice is to be rooted in the Gospel of God's grace.

Local churches would be given to orderly membership and conduct. Both formative and corrective discipline would be practiced. Our message of salvation would be backed up by congregations that are characterized by the grace that we profess and preach. The priority of the local church in the kingdom purposes of God would be recognized and honored.

It may be surprising to some of my friends (and those who would not count themselves as such) that my vision for the SBC is not that it would be exclusively Calvinistic. Do not misunderstand me. I would be delighted if everyone everywhere came to believe as I do. However, I would never want to suggest that only those who believe as I do should be regarded as authentic Southern Baptists.

Personally, I would rather serve with a humble, loving, Christ-exalting, church-loving Arminian (and I know that there are such) than a narrow, harsh, argument-loving Calvinist (I also know that these creatures exist, too, though such characteristics know no theological boundaries).

Obviously, this vision, as it stands, is somewhat utopian. I readily grant that there are all kinds of practical realities that can never be factored out of any association or convention of churches. But where these qualities prevail, those realities would be seasoned with grace and the prospect of real unity as Baptists committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ would be bright.

73 comments:

Kevin P. Larson said...

Amen. I'm a church planter in Columbia, MO. I want what you want! Great post.

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Ascol,

As usual, you speak with God-honoring wisdom. I might have been called a member of the "rigorously Reformed" version until a couple of months ago. I am zealous for the truth of Scripture, but I can sometimes forget that it indeed is the Spirit of God Who will convict us of the truth. There was a time, as a Southern Baptist, that I didn't accept the Doctrines of Grace. Was I any less a Southern Baptist? I'd have to say no. Am I a more consistent one now? I would have to say yes. Am I perfect in my understandings? No, and I will never be this side of Heaven.

I would like to think that I am now part of your final category, and in many ways I am. However, there is no question in my mind that frustrations and irritations can quickly draw me back to the other group for a time -- may God grant me grace and mercy not to fall into such an arrogant trap.

I cannot change people; I must teach the Word of God and watch as He does the changing.

Thank you sir for your kind, gentle, wise, and often convicting words. God uses you mightily from your post there in Cape Coral.

SDG,
David Hewitt

Scripture Searcher said...

Thanks, Editor Ascol, for changing the subject ~ at least the slant ~


This subject may receive 100 or more intelligient comments from the beloved brothers across the nation. I hope so!!


It is well known (or should be) that there is a large number of Southern Baptists who oppose the truth of Biblical Calvinism and work diligently to purge the SBC of all who carefully search the scriptures and base their theology upon the whole counsel of God.


We can stay with the Arminian majority and continue to do what we have done for years or we can quietly leave and make the
majority unhappy.


A closing prediction: If the self-professing "pit bull" of Lynchburg finds the courage to debate James White, he will learn one of the greatest lessons of his
young, arrogant life!


He will (figuratively speaking) put his wagging tail (tongue) between his
legs and run away with a whimper and whine.

Scripture Searcher said...

OOPS! If we leave (which I strongly discourage) it will make the majority very, very, very happy ~ not
unhappy!

K. Morse said...

i enjoyed the post, and recognized many different southern baptists that i have met throughout my short life. your vision of the SBC is certainly a beautifully optimistic one, and one I wish could take place. which leads me to a question. how long would it take to bring all of those different views under one umbrella? it seems rather impossible, especially considering the huge gap between particular theological frameworks within that umbrella. it seems like a battle ground, and no two groups are on the same side!

james said...

Amen. I pray for the spirit of conservative cooperation that I believe should characterize the SBC to manifest itself. Although I am an ardent calvinist I see the best work of the SBC being accomplished when believers can find common ground for cooperation.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

Thank you very much for summing up these different streams of thought in SBC life. Your description of the different groups seems to be right on the money.

I vote for the confessional and missional (is that a word?) vision.

A revival of confessional tradition should characterize the work WITHIN our churches. Our poor people don't know what they are supposed to believe, and it shows in their repeatedly ungodly, destructive life decisions.

A renewed commitment to the SBC as a missions cooperative should characterize the work AMONG the churches. There are obviously problems within the management of both the NAMB and IMB. But we have record numbers of missionaries on the field, with record numbers of volunteers in the pipe, and record numbers of dollars being given for their support. Let's keep it up.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Jeff Jones said...

Thank you for sharing your vision, Dr. Ascol.

Your Biblical model allows room for Christians to grow and mature in their faith while working together for God's glory. It allows room both for those weak and strong in the faith. SBC Arminians (for lack of a better word) and Calvinists alike ought to have no problem embracing such a vision together.

In such a Convention, Calvinists would not have to fear a Johnny Hunt becoming president, for he would disagree with them gently and respectfully while affirming their value to SBC life. In such a convention, Arminians need not fear Calvinists destroying evangelism, for they would take the effort to understand their position and to work beside them without rancor.

I pray for such a reformation, fully aware that "ought to's" are not enough to overcome the sin in our lives without God's grace.

And hopefully your gracious suggestion will cool the temperature of the current debate. Thank you, brother.

Chuck said...

You laid out what most of us want. Thank you.

I'm still a bit skeptical about it actually occurring, though.

RevyRev said...

Tom, I think pinning the "Confessional and Missional vision" on the younger generation is very insightful of you.

If i were to fall off the cross centered gospel-saturated center i certainly would fall into this camp. And so would most serious believers i know in their 20s.

Scripture Searcher said...

I have been contacted by a
number of the devoted fans and ardent supporters of the
self-advertized, so-called
"pit bull of the evangelical church" regarding my candid comments in a previous post.


All of them (and all of you, too) are referred to -


www.aomin.org -


for the lengthy recent correspondence between Drs. White and Caner, the self acclaimed fearless defender of the faith.


Read the exchange and learn how fearless the boastful
"pit bull" of the Fawell University/Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, really
is.Don't die from laughing.


It makes one wonder why the courageous Caner is afraid to accept White's gracious invitation to debate any part of Reformed Theology
anywhere on earth including before Caner's largest cheering section on the Lynchburg campus!

jbuchanan said...

Tom,

Very insightful post. I pray that our convention will learn to work together as we have in the past. I think that the description of your vision for the SBC has been at least partially realized in our past. I see very sharp and arrogant rhetoric being launched on both sides. We all need to cool down just a little bit. The primary arguement being launched against us is that we are not evangelisitic, therefore we must prove that we are. I have been Pastor at Salem Baptist Church in Richmond, VA for two years. While we are working very hard to teach sound doctrine we also are working hard to make the gospel the center of the church and to be highly evangelisitic. We are involved heavily in church planting and reaching our community with the gospel. I do not make Calvinsim the basis for cooperating with other local Pastors, and in fact, some are surprised that I'm a Calvinist because of our emphasis on evangelism. I am not trying to say that we are any kind of model and we make plenty of mistakes, but we have to prove that our critics are wrong by actions rather than just words. Plus we need to remember that a soft word turns away wrath. I am saddened by the Caner brothers hostility and arrogance but I am just as disappointed that I and others on this site have taken up their rhetoric and responded in kind. I think that we are making in roads, and that may be why the critics are getting so upset, but we must pursue the a godly path.

By the way, I did receive a reply to my apology to Dr. Hunt. He was completley gracious and understanding.

Jeff said...

I think that this might be a more helpful typology for breaking down the SBC and the percentage in each category:

Moderate/liberal - 35%
Revivalistic conservative - 35%
Church growth conservative - 27%
Calvinist - 2%
Emerging - 1%

Cultural Warrior conservative could be another category, but it kind of overlaps the others.

Some of you may think that I have set the Calvinist percentage too low, but as Calvinist Southern Baptist in Texas - I can tell you that Texas is one big Arminian wasteland.

AOMin said...

Moderate/liberal - 35%
Revivalistic conservative - 35%
Church growth conservative - 27%
Calvinist - 2%
Emerging - 1%

Wow, this looks more like a political "big tent" rather than a unified church.

Or is it just me?

I don't know if I would even think that way except for the recent focus on Liberty University here. Am I the only one who has noticed that they seem more focused on politics in our land rather than producing well grounded men and women of God?

joethorn.net said...

Tom, this is a fun and (I think) fair post. Your words mirror what I and others have said on the issue of Calvinism and cooperation; we need not be an exclusively Reformed convention, and that is not our push for cooperation, even though we are very Reformed ourselves.

A Christ-centered/gospel saturated future is my hope as well. My call for confesional identity and missional character is more of a "how to" concerning Convention cooperation, and a way of becoming truly Christocentric.

Your vision may be utopian, but in a sense so is God's design for the church. I mean, perfection may be unattainable this side of the resurrection, but we strive for it for God's pleasure and our good. Let's dream big (biblical) and work towards it.

Kevin Bussey said...

There are many of us who share your vision. May it come to pass.

Burt Harper said...

Brother Tom,

From your description I would say that I am from what some critics say a "whisky baptist". If that is what some critics want to call me fine. Though it doesnt have a very positive inplication. However, I am of the mind that whatever they call me, God can put a positive identity on it. Just like when I marched the silent march against abortion earlier this year. The local paper said I am an "anti-abortionist marcher". I would rather be called a "right to lifer", but praise God. Call a spade a spade. I am an anti-abortionist and proud of it. I would say that I am a General Baptist. However "whisky Baptist" will do. Especially if they are calling me to supper.

What do "whisky Baptist" believe about eternal security? Well lets hear it from the whisky's mouth. We do not teach that "once a person "asks Jesus into his heart" or "prays the sinner's prayer" or "walks the aisle" or does some other supposedly sacred act, then, no matter what else he does after that, no matter how devilishly he may live, he is in and there is nothing that he can do about it". And we dont like to quote Al Gore, but I will anyway. "Its just not all that simple". We believe that if a person is sincere about believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be saved. and it may cointwine with one of the acts you mentioned above. However, we also believe that only they and God know their hearts. And we leave that judgement up to God. We may say that we wonder if that person is saved because they dont live a Christian life. We may see some other person that lives a Christian life with the exception that they hate all Calvinist, so we wonder if they are saved. So we pray for that person and thank and honor God, that by his grace we are not as they. However, we give all of that up to the ultimate Judge, our Savior. We believe in church discipline according to the New Testament. It grieves us so to carry the discipline out that does not always get carried out. Does every church? No. I realize you didnt say anything about the "whisky Baptist" and church discipline, but I just felt like mentioning it. I guess all of the different Southern Baptist like to defend their own views.

I also think that my vision has always been intertwined with your vision. I also believe that I like that you our stated our vision in this post. I believe that many of the people who read your blog will honor God and join in this vision. I believe that the more I read your blogs, that I like one Calvinist more than I like most Moslems.:) Please laugh about that.

Also, I think that if more Southern Baptist will be more concerned about being Christians than Southern Baptist, our view will become more prevalent.

Scripture seeker,

Whoever this pitbull of Lynchburg is I believe he may possibly lose in a debate with James White. According to debating techniques. However, I must say that if he stays with the context, grammer, and analogy of Scripture. Then he will win the argument even though he may lose the debate. And many looking on will look at James White, with his head held high, and say, "he debates well, but he is wrong". If you left the SBC, I for one would be unhappy. I am not going to interject my suppositions on the rest of us. However I believe that most like I would be unhappy. If I ask James White for and debate and he declines, will you laugh then?

All,

I have learned more about the Coop program. I truly believe that if the Coop Program was structured more like the Fellowship Program with a vote in the SBC, then many of these thrological tensions would subside. I dont thin anyone would have to wonder about who would become president.

IHS,
Burt

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

It seems that a major block of our SBC leadership has a distinct view of the future in mind, and it is definitely NOT anything having to do with "reformed" or "Calvinistic" ideas.

Dr. Ergun Caner, in his infamous e-mail exchange with Dr. White, let these cats out of the bag:

"Drs. Patterson, Kelley, and Roberts are leading the rest of us in purging our schools of such teachings as the deletion of invitations, the Baptist use of elders as an oligarchy, and in some cases, the advocation of pedobaptism (Piper's attempt in 2005)."

"You do garner followers. However, I state emphatically, they have no place at Liberty Seminary, and never shall."

So, if Dr. Patterson at SWBTS and Dr. Falwell at Regent/Liberty are hiring the Caners, and Dr. Hunt is on deck to be SBC President, does that mean that mischaracterizing our teaching and barring us from the seminaries is all set up and has already begun?

Does everybody here already know this, and I've just been slow on the uptake?

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Garvis Campbell said...

Dr. Ascol:

I think you've roughly outlined the beginnings of an excellent book (I'll even pre-order). You said,

"... I believe we desperately need to get back to the centrality of the Gospel in our churches and relationships. The Gospel is not merely for unbelievers. It is for the church, as well. We do not merely enter into the kingdom by the Gospel, we live in that kingdom the same way."

Amen. This is where the centrality of our unity lies in all its nuanced and direct implications. It may be Utopian, but it's a vision we need to hear, contemplate, wrestle with, share with others (even the most ardent semi-Pelagian), and that often.

SDG,

Garvis Campbell

P.S. Having read the entire exchange, the surface (nearly anti-thought) deflections in Dr. Caner's comments to Dr. White at aomin.org are an embarrassment to all veigns of Christian intellectualism.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

I cried as I read Dr. Caner's exchange with Dr. White. This is the new dean at a Baptist seminary?

I finally wrote an e-mail to Dr. Caner and to Dr. Falwell.

I'd like to either post them here or put them on my blog and point your readers' attention there. Which is the better blog manners?

Love in Christ,

Jeff

sf said...

scripture searcher& others on this thread:
I just want to mention that there are some Calvinists at Liberty University- many of the students are open to the doctrines of grace. I know this as I have loved ones who graduated from Liberty and who are there now. They are making an impact on those around them!

SDG

Nathan White said...

Good thoughts Tom. You said a lot of good things.

However, I'd like to reiterate what Jeff Young said. There is certainly a concerted effort by many prominent leaders to ‘purge’ the SBC of the reformed doctrines. And as Caner so boastfully pointed out to White, ‘look around’, the doctrines of grace are losing –and losing bad. It is deceiving to look at one seminary, and one movement to try and gauge the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC. I say this because we may not demand that the SBC become 100% Calvinistic, but we should certainly pray, strive, hope that it does. Again as White pointed out to Caner, Calvinism is the true nature of the gospel, and if we are OK with compromising on that, what will come in the next generation?

If we compromise on the nature of the gospel by welcoming (and unchallenging) ‘Christ-exalting, church-loving Arminians’, and we stand side by side with them on agreement in all other issues while refusing to hold them accountable to God's word in the area of soteriology, yes we may be extending grace to our brothers in Christ, but we set the convention up again for inevitable failure. Look to the root of all the problems in the SBC right now. We may place a Band-Aid on them if we like, but it wont take long for the root issue to spring forth once again.

“The axe is laid to the root of the tree”…or is it?

SDG

Rod said...

What's wrong with a "theonomic" and a "Tom's View" blend? Can a serious Calvinist who cares about church reform, also care about America's reform?

Stephen A Morse said...

Tom, This is what I want to read. Thank you.
I posted a question on the 'ever-lasting' blog earlier this week that you have gone a long way to answer with this blog today.
God has been so gracious to me over the years.
As I have grown in my understanding of Calvinism I have come to appreciate`the importance of 'knowing the Truth.'
My question has to do with that.
As far as cooperation with those who aren't 'reformed' it seems that some posters here reject the very idea of cooperation because they (those who aren't reformed) don't believe the 'true' gospel.
Do you think that is true? Do you think a)they aren't saved or b) we cannot cooperate with them?
When I was saved I had no idea of Calvinism, Arminianism, credo/paedo-baptist, conservatism, inerrancy, infallibility, or even the regulative principle. I still can't grasp anything about escatology and am struggling to reconcile the differences between covenental and dispensational theology. I don't think one could argue for a complete understanding much less total agreement on these doctrines in order to be saved.
As I read the 2000 BF&M I can see how Calvinists and Arminians have so very much in common.
Would you agree? What then becomes the limits, the boundaries of our cooperation?

Travis Hilton said...

Tom, Excellent post. I believe it is possible to see our churches experience reform. By that I don't necessarily mean "reformed." I think you have made this point perfectly clear. I believe many of us have a burden that goes beyond counting heads or ballots. We are really concerned about peoples' hearts and that God would be glorified in their lives. When our churches see that in how we faithfully preach, live and love them, they will embrace reform. We need true "heart religion."

Another note to some here, as a graduate of Southeastern during Dr. Patterson's tenure, I enjoyed several classes with professors of the reformed persuation. At that time it was no question where they were coming from theologically. They taught freely. As far as I know, that is still the case. Though I am guarded about the future of our convention, it would be hard to see a senario where all of our seminaries complied to some kind of "anti-calvinist" rule (no matter what Ergun Caner says). Again, I could be gullible, but I try not to fear the worst.

Nathan White said...

Stephen,

Just to be clear, I do not mean to convey the opinion that Arminians are not saved or that we cannot cooperate with them as our brothers in Christ.

When I use the term ‘true gospel’, it might be better communicated as ‘pure gospel’. The Arminian has a flawed gospel yes, but most in this convention (IE Hunt and Patterson) certainly do not flaw it enough to warrant a false gospel. We can firmly stand in agreement with them on justification –the hinge of true vs false gospel.

However, I only mean to convey that ‘cooperating’ with them inside our denomination, and yet expecting all these problems to change is just expecting the impossible. We don’t need behavior modification, we need to dig deep and seek reconciliation at the root of the tree.

SDG

Scott said...

Stephen,

Good point at the end" What are the limits". What man out here really knows? I do agree with you that when I was saved I didn't have a clue on Arminianism or Calvinism. Conversion took place within me.
Here is where I'm fearful so to speak: 1. Is there any Calvinist on this site that would hire Dr. Caner to be your minister of Evangelism ? Would you let him have " free reign" to put together a church wide crusade( Advertising,the "Alter call", talking with children about their"decision"? 2.Is there any Calvinist on this site that would hire Dr. Caner to be your minister of education? Would you give him" free reign" to write the SS material for the church ? 3.Would you let him decide on the church confession ?
Websters dictionary defines the word cooperative=adj willing to cooperate;helpful. If Dr.Caner speaks for the current leadrship then he/they have already shown their cards and are not willing to act out this definition. Caner's own words see us as not being helpful.So, how can we work together? They will take our money into the Cooperative program and let their leadership judge how it is used and who will be doing the leading.
Some closing thoughts of my "Own". I can and my church cooperate with any Founders board member and probably you because your doctrine effects your methodology. We have decided to take two offerings a year and call them Boyce( James P Boyce) and Mell offerings( PH Mell) and give the money to Founders for these reasons.We line up with them theologically and practically and they want us around. According to Dr. Caners remarks they don't want us in the seminaries and etc... . I know this is one man talking but He is throwing around some interesting names.
I believe pretending that the problem will go away on it's own is wrong thinking. My vision for the SBC is that it would become a total calvinistic denomination. I'm not saying that we should kick people out or not say they are not christians because they are not a calvinist. The other side has laid their cards on the table. At least they are not saying we will put up with the calvinists. They want us to shut up and "Quit poisioning their churches". They are to be commended for at least being honest about that. This is why they have been so successful over the Liberals. But these brothers have been killing our churches and will continue with false teaching in several areas. Yes, we should strive to see the SBC embrace maybe the 1689 just as much the other side would try and stop it.
If you believe something to be true "Why settle for sloppy seconds"! They(noncalvinist) don't want our help. Why would they when they have so many others. Draw a line guys and don't cross it or walk on it! Again, if you believe something to be right then fight for it. I believe too many have bought into the " don't where your calvinism on your sleeve" mentality. Just blogging is not cutting the mustard. We need a plan that glorifys God. The scripture says " Contend for the faith" not cooperate with what is wrong. Not one of you would cooperate with someone that was hurting your child or another ? Then why do it here ! I'm really in a "Great Mood" today.

Scott said...

Brothers,

My wife just looked at what I wrote. She said I was taking my frustration out on the "very guys" who want to see change as well. Maybe more patientice to see these things work out is what I need.
Please forgive me! Who do I think I am! I'm putting myself on " Blogger Probation" for a while. Again, please forgive my aggressive spirit!

Charles said...

Scott, hello!

You "have decided to take two offerings a year and call them Boyce( James P Boyce) and Mell offerings( PH Mell) and give the money to Founders for these reasons."

Great! What do you tell your people about Boyce and Mell? Do you tell them that they were both two of the leading defenders of slavery in the South, providing theological arguments for slavery? Mell wrote that slavery was not evil in any way. Boyce, I believe, said he was a "ultra pro-slavery man."

Amusing, isn't it, that just when the SBC wants more black churches they let Mohler name a new school after the self-described "ultra pro-slavery man."

Since this blog is about "Whither, Southern Baptists" I move we start by getting rid of all references to Mell, Boyce, and the other Founders who fought so hard to provide a theological foundation for the godless institution of slavery.

Or do you agree with them?

No Name said...

Charles, Your ability to go off base is amazing. Your attempts to incite this conversation in a direction it does not need to go is amusing. Guys do not be fooled by Charles and follow into his tactics.

Jeff said...

>>>And as Caner so boastfully pointed out to White, ‘look around’, the doctrines of grace are losing –and losing bad. It is deceiving to look at one seminary, and one movement to try and gauge the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC<<<

I would not say that the doctrines of grace are losing in the SBC today. Yes, I listed Calvinists as only 2% of the total, but that is pretty good, when we consider that from 1920 to 1980 there were almost no Calvinists in the SBC. I imagine that in 1965, you could have fit all the Calvinists in the SBC in one telephone booth. Calvinism really began to resurge around 1980 with men like Curtis Vaughan, Ernest Reisinger, Tom Nettles, and Timothy George making important contributions from the inside of the SBC and guys like R. C. Sproul, John MacArther, and later John Piper being big influences from the outside. The Founders Conference started around 1983 with pretty small numbers but grew steadily. Tom Aschol and the Founders Journal began to play a big role in the early 90s Still, Calvinism was flying below radar until about 1994 when Al Mohler became president at Southern and announced he was Calvinist. Since then, both moderates and Arminian conservatives have been on the attack. Most of the attacks, however, have been pretty shallow and have had no effect on persuading any of the new converts to Calvinism to renounce their new theology. The numbers of Calvinists in the SBC are small, but growing fast. What is exciting is what this 2% is comprised of - intelligent, well-educated, well-read, articulate, very devoted young men who become seminary professors and pastors and write books and blogs. Most of the inerrantists with Ph.D.s are Calvinists, and that is why guys like Paige Patterson have ended up hiring so many Calvinists at their seminaries.

If anything, I would say that it is the revivalism that is advocated by the Caner brothers that is in most serious decline in the SBC today. Certainly, revivalism represents the biggest block of Southern Baptists, but revivalism's constituency is aging and shrinking - Caner list Tim Lahaye as an example of revivalism's popularity, but LaHaye is eighty years old. Most younger pastors are really not enthusiastic about revivalism at all, and they are into (1) Warren/Hybels church growth, (2) the emerging church, or (3) Piper/Dever/Keller style Calvinism.

Stephen A Morse said...

Nathan, I would agree with the idea of a 'pure' gospel.
Scott, hope the probation goes well (smiling) and appreciate your zeal.
Could someone articulate boundaries for me? Is unconditional election an essential for cooperation in missions? Is limited atonement? Is irresistable grace? Total depravity? perseverance?
As I write these I am wondering if it isn't more the implications of how what is believed. Responses to this question have tended to include ministries that do sloppy, pragmatic evangelism.
Do our boundaries have to be specific tenets of our theology or the outworkings of them? I am not advocating neglecting our doctrines. Please hear my heart.
Can I cooperate with a 'free willer' who is careful with his evangelism and discipleship focusing on conversion and regeneration? What about the 'free willer' who practices church discipline and personal discipline? Please look at the questions and help me establish some boundaries. I am not saying I would agree with their theology and I am not talking about someone who promotes anti-Christian doctrines. What about that Arminian who is regenerated? What ought the boundaries be?

G. Alford said...

Tom,

Great Post Again! I am constantly amazed at your ability to communicate so strongly on what is obviously a subject you are passionate about, yet do so with such generosity to your opponents. This is a skill I have a long way to go in acquiring.

I whole heartedly agree with your vision for the SBC and it is my prayer that at the end of the day cooler heads will prevail. However, if what Caner has said to Dr. White is indeed the truth, let slip out in the heat of an argument, then I am afraid the next great “Battle” within the SBC has been underway for some time and we are just now waking up to this truth.

I think all of us would like to know what Dr. Patterson has to say about all this. I went back and read part of his interview with Dever that is posted on the Founders Web-Site today, and if he has indeed now joined with others in seeking to “Purge” the SBC; then he has changed his mind quite a lot since this interview. Link Here

Is there any chance of getting Dr. Patterson to comment on recent developments?

Scott,

I commend your post! I think the taking of an offering in the name of two of our Southern Baptist GIANTS is very commendable… and personally I think you have nothing to apologize for (I hope your wife will not get angry for me saying that).

Not to sand up for the FAITH of our Forefathers is to say that they were all wrong in what they believed. I for one have NO INTENTION of being silent on this matter or leaving the SBC… now how I direct the missions funding of my church is altogether a different matter. I think it only requires an offering of $250/Year to the C.P. for a church to maintain its voting rights with the convention, and the rest can be sent wherever you as an autonomous church feel led to send them.

Charles,

Does your wife know what you are posting? It is clear that unlike Scott (and my wife checked on my posting last night and warned me about my tone) you are not being held accountable for your “TRASH TALK”.

My last comment to you is… “Grow up and go play somewhere else.”

Nathan White said...

Stephen,

I would view boundaries with who we do ministry with completely different than the boundaries we would cooperate within the denomination itself. Change starts at the top, and we should not compromise there. But down below, there are many who have flawed theology that we can join hands with to do the 'dirty work' of everyday ministry and evangelism.

That is my concern. We can still be gracious to those we run into on an everyday level, while still striving to hold the leaders accountable. But neglecting the leaders themselves will only worsen the problems. Change happens at the top and at the root, otherwise it really isn't real change at all.

SDG

Burt Harper said...

Are you guys familiar with a coop fellowship program? One of the members of my chruch told me that his brothers church got out of the SBC last year, but they still participate in something called the coop fellowship program. He said that they give money to the coop, but they indicate where the funds go. They also have no influence in the SBC anymore. If all the SBC churches particated in this type of program, no one could fuss about the theology of anyone supported in the SBC except the leaders. Wouldn't this be a better solution?

Jason Sampler said...

Stephen,

I just want to make sure I am understanding what you are saying. Are you asking what boundaries should be set in place for you to cooperate with another regenerate, brother/sister in Christ? Are you wondering to what lenghts you should go in partnering with a child of our King? How far off base has this post gotten when people are asking whether it is right to be in missional fellowship with Arminians?

When last I checked, believing in unconditional election is not one of Jesus' prerequisites in the Great Commission ("Now, all of you who believe in unconditional election, go therefore and make disciples . . ."). When last I checked, we are to be unified in our mission to love Christ as his pure bride and to share our hope with others.

I have read many of your posts and have respect for your love for our Lord. However, I cannot duly stand silent as you ask such questions that demean those who don't share your theological beliefs. If you can't partner with them, then how are they your brothers/sisters? Better said, how are you their brother?

I mean no personal attack towards you, but I do wish to quell this concept that there must be guarded (at best) cooperation with 'the Arminians' (as if they are doctrinal lepers). I hope all of us will take great pains to make sure we 'do not think more highly of ourselves than we ought" (Rom. 12.3), especially in apposition towards those of the 'less-pure' Gospel.

Serving Christ TOGETHER,
Jason Sampler

Stephen A Morse said...

Nathan, I totally agree but what boundaries are we going to establish for our leadership then? I am sure we all would agree that accountablity is absolutely imperative but what specific doctrines (and what nuances of those doctrines) are we going to make our shibboleth?
We have been talking about this issue for some time.
What would those boundaries look like? Also how would we implement them and with whom?

G. Alford said...

Steven, Nathan, Jason,

The boundaries are already established… it is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

All,

Does anyone know if Liberty accepts the BFM2000?

Stephen A Morse said...

Alford, I agree with that and yet it is not hard to read article 5 on God's Purpose of Grace either way. In Article 3 on Man the 2000 BF&M states "...In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race..."
Now as I have been teaching my church through this over the past year I have been able to teach my church from our (reformed) perspective but can't you see how easily it would be to skim the surface and still, with good conscience, profess the other side? The BF&M doesn't establish sufficient parameters for a Calvinist/Arminian division at face value, does it?

Scott said...

Charles,

You have been missing! Where did you go! It's like you have been" deleted". I had just put myself on blogger probation while you were probably typing away. I will only answer you because I have to honor what I said about my probation to my wife and myself.
To answer your question I have not shared the info that you provided. Thank you for making me aware of that! Here is what I will do this Lord's Day. I will read your email to my church. Then after I preach we will continue to sell copies of Boyce, Mell, Dagg,Pink, Nettles, Ascol, Malone, Whitney, Nessom, and all others that embrace " True Baptist" view on salvation.I forgot Phil Newton!
Our church loves our African American brothers and sisters. There is an awesome young African American brother " In the Lord" that leads worship at one of our fine Calvinistic Baptist Churches( Riverbend Community Church Ormond Beach, Fla). The young mans name is Heyward and he loves Christ and he is a committed calvinist. Boyce and Mell would have loved to heard this young man talk about the doctrines of grace.
Personally, I can't think of a better place to give these two offerings to than the Founders ministry. I hear that Boyce College is an excellent school. What a great name! I personally don't have any slaves and don't encourage my church to have any either. Do we need to discuss Bailey Smith's ungodly practices ? Soul a month Club.Even majority of the circles you run in question tha tatics of Bailey Smith. If you want to go down this road we can! I will take the overall theology of Boyce over Bailey Smith. That is not a slam on his character rather his theology! Good Day Charles!

Nathan White said...

Stephen,

This might seem like an obvious answer, but in Titus the qualifications for an elder include: "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict."

Obviously we should hold them to the Word of God. And since they are in a leadership position, this must be very strict. The leaders must be held to the perfect standard doctrinally, those beneath we can cooperate with a whole lot more.

Are the 5 points of Calvinism in the Word of God? Is that sound doctrine? Well then, they should be included in this standard.

SDG

G. Alford said...

Stephen,

Of course anyone can read the BFM2000 or any other statement of faith, ignoring what the words, grammar, and sentence structure were intended to communicating and falsely or mistakenly say they believe these things. But that’s where an honest teacher (like you) comes in and says “now class let’s not just skim over these important matters, because words have precise meanings and we need to all understand what the authors of this document were intending to say.”

Words, grammar, and sentence structure all have precise meanings and we are not a liberty to redefine them. And, while the BFM2000 is not as strong on some doctrines as I prefer, it is a solid Calvinistic statement of faith. Remember Stephen when teaching non Calvinist; we are all quite naturally born again with a very limited (if any) understanding of the Gospel and how God saves sinners… and it is only as we are taught by the Holy Spirit through the study of His Word that we come to an understanding of these things.

In other words most (if not all) Christians are Born with an Arminian understanding of salvation… that is looking at it from a man’s prospective; “I Chose Christ”. But as we study God’s Word carefully we mature into a more Calvinistic understanding of salvation… that is looking at it from God’s prospective; “He Chose Us”. Therefore it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be a “Pure” Calvinist and that is why we cannot divide along a Calvinist/Arminian line when it comes to fellowship and cooperating.

Not everyone within my Calvinistic Church is a “Pure” Calvinist… some are just now beginning to understand these things as they carefully study God’s Word on these matters for the very first time in their lives. And even if the Caners of the SBC were to get their way they will never be able to fully “Purge” the SBC of Calvinist, as their will always be men and women who will come to these conclusions as they mature in the faith and study their Bibles.

What I am trying to say is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a “Pure” Arminian or a “Pure” Calvinistic Church or Convention.

By Grace Alone

Stephen A Morse said...

Nathan, Do not read this sarcastically, I am not being contrary, but I am not looking for a 'Sunday School' answer (Please read that for what it is worth). What I would like to have is a list or even an example of boundaries that preclude cooperation.

Alford, I would agree that only in a perfect world (heaven anyone?) will we experience a 'pure' understanding of doctrine. I would argue though that the 2000 BF&M isn't, and I am pretty sure it wasn't intended to be, as Calvinistic as we would like. If it were intended to fence in Calvinism it would look much different than it does.

That being said:

In the 70's and 80's we had boundaries: i.e. inerrancy of Scripture. We could identify those with whom we refused to cooperate by this specific doctrine. Now, in our situation what do you believe is the line in the sand concerning Calvinism/Arminianism?

Stephen A Morse said...

As we heard leaders, professors, and pastors preaching and teaching we would 'judge' their content against the Scriptures. If they made Genesis 1-11 myth or narrative, if they split the OT into JPE and what ever other letter goes with those, if they denied the resurrection, virgin birth, or the supernatural aspects of the Bible then we distanced ourselves, rightly, from their theology and worked to get them removed.
What are we to look for now?

Stephen A Morse said...

D - the other letter is D I believe.

Jason Sampler said...

Stephen,

Please attempt an honest response to my post. Have I understood you correctly or incorrectly? Are you asking what is and is not ok regarding cooperation with a fellow, regenerated disciple of Christ?

The last time I checked Galatians, Paul chastizes them for leaving the gospel. Calvinism? No, the gospel. What is the gospel? According to his teaching in Galatians, it is righteousness through faith. If Arminians have received this same righteousness through faith, then they are your brothers and sisters (has Acts 11.1-18 been forgotten by some of us?).

Thank you for considering my pointed, yet sincere, questions.

Blessings,
Jason Sampler

Nathan White said...

Stephen,

I admitted that I was giving you the Sunday School answer, but I did that so there could be no wiggle room. Obviously the BF2000 is not good enough, as they have found a way around it. Ulitmately, we must go back to the standard when discussing what is 'acceptable'.

Why don't we ask our Reformed Baptist brethren why they don't have issues with Arminians getting around their confession?

SDG

Stephen A Morse said...

Jason, I am sorry for missing your post. How could that be? I don't know, but I did.

You write:
I have read many of your posts and have respect for your love for our Lord. However, I cannot duly stand silent as you ask such questions that demean those who don't share your theological beliefs. If you can't partner with them, then how are they your brothers/sisters? Better said, how are you their brother?

How are my questions demeaning? I am asking my calvinistic brothers what their parameters for ministry are and for those brothers to put them into words (per my post on the conservative resurgence and the boundaries we had there).

Why would you have to begin your post by insinuating that my responses have been less than honest? That seems a little contrary to your own desire for not demeaning your brother doesn't it?

Did I ever say Arminians were some sort of leper? NO! Do they believe something different than I? YES. My father is Arminian. Do I agree with him in these areas? Not at all. Is he saved? As far as I know! Do we (my calvinistic brothers and sister) cooperate? All the time.

Do you need to quell the concept of cooperation? Probably. My post has nothing to do with saying we mustn't cooperate (although I do believe, for example, that those Arminians who profess to believe in open theology, ought to be considered just as any hyper-calvist also). Some on this blog seem to be speaking of refusing to cooperate and I want to know what the boundaries ought to be.

Sorry for over-looking your earlier post. I skip to the end and arrow key up when the comments get this long.

Stephen A Morse said...

Nathan, that is a good question concerning the BF&M.
COncerning my example of the conservative resurgence (inerrancy and the boundaries then). What would your boundaries look in this conversation? Maybe eternal security or libertarian freedom or what other tenet would preclude you from cooperation?
I assume, from regularly reading your blog over these past months that one of the main problems that you have with a certain preacher in Georgia is his attitude against and his aggresive attacks of the doctrines of grace. If he weren't so anti-calivinistic (without becoming reformed) could you cooperate with him (Try and be objective with this answer - if possible forget the personal aspect of your relationship) and why or why not.
Thanks for being patient and pleasant.

Jason Sampler said...

Stephen,

I think you have misunderstood a few of my points (and I take responsibility for that). Let me clarify my intent:

1. I was not insinuating that you are *dishonest*, and that i was seeking an *honest* answer from you. My intent was to ilicit from you an honest, heart-felt response to my questions (sometimes it's hard to express the difference between the two statements on a computer).

2. I did not mean to insinuate that you treat Arminians as lepers (though I can see how one might read that this was my intent; trust me, it was not). My point was that I see this tendency of an us vs. them mentality. Your question in the post I was reacting to was "Can I cooperate . . . with the Arminian who is regenerate? (I know I am skipping most of the paragraph, but I read the "Can I . . ." as controlling the rest of the paragraph. I read it as asking what parameters are there for cooperating with someone who has been baptized with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I interpreted your question as asking what are the boundaries for fellowship/cooperation for those who are regenerate.

3. I apologize for the force of the word 'demean'. I read you (rightly or wrongly on my part) as setting up a dichotomy between Calvinists and Arminians. Even the fact that you were asking for paramaters or boundries seems to call to mind that some fellow brothers/sisters in Christ are not worth cooperating with. If I have mis-read you at this point, then my sincere apologies.

4. You make yourself more clear in your most recent post. You state that you are responding to those who are arguing for total separation. You, then, are asking what constitutes boundries for cooperation. I understood you to be arguing for such boundries with Arminians. I apologize for missing this.

5. I concur with you that those who reject historic major doctrines, such as the depth of God's knowledge, as well as his own freedom, are theologically aberrant. However (and this is me clarifying my point, not correcting you), I do not think there is the same problems between C's and A's. My fear, perceived or actual, is that there is swelling a deep chasm between C's and A's over a battle that isn't necessary. That is what I thought you were heading towards.

6. I respectfully disagree with your point that I should probably 'quell' my desire to cooperate. If I can be proven by Scripture that cooperation among disciples is wrong, then I will do so. Until then, I think cooperation is highly underrated, actually.

Thank you for allowing me to correct my misconceptions of your posts, as well as provide a more fuller explanation of my posts.

Blessings,
Jason Sampler

Stephen A Morse said...

Jason, now it is my turn to restate my intent as to your #6:
I should have added the word 'guarded' to the phrase: 'concept of cooperation.'
I was agreeing with you that your desire to quell guarded cooperation with Arminians as though they were lepers.

In reality I have to cooperate with arminians all the time. I don't have the pleasure of serving at a calvinistic church... yet.
I have only been here 9 months. Most of my members aren't even familiar with the study of doctrine much less the difference between compatiblism and autonomy. I am here for the long haul and intend on diligently indoctrinating them in the doctrines of grace as we work through the Scriptures together. I have seen fruit as I have worked through the first 4.5 articles in the 2000 BF&M.
Can I cooperate with even my church? Yes.

G. Alford said...

Stephen,

You seem to be fishing for a particular answer that has so far not came forth from anyone who has attempted an answer… I am not sure if that is the fault of those of us who attempted to answer your question or if perhaps we just do not really understand what you are looking for.

As a Southern Baptist Pastor the BFM2000 is the “Theological Contract” that is the standard by which I determine if a church, organization, university or professor is to be considered acceptable within the SBC. I do not belong to a “Reformed Baptist Convention” if I did perhaps we would be using the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith. But as it is I belong to the SBC and (while it is not as reformed as the 2ndLBCF) the BFM2000 is our Statement of Faith.

I have found that there is not so much an inadequacy in the BFM2000 as there is in proper teaching of the BFM2000. When I first went to FBC Ponce de Leon I ask my congregation if they had ever studied the BFM2000 and guess what I discovered? Not only had they never studied it not one of them had ever even read it!

Anyway Stephen, why don’t you give us what you think should be the boundaries for fellowship and we will go from there?

By Grace Alone

Stephen A Morse said...

Alford I don't have any in mind. I happen to be off today and have plenty of time to read a bunch of blogs. I am not fishing for some preconceived answer. I did clarify what I was looking for when I compared what we did in the 70's and 80's with the inerrancy issue. We looked at certain things and determined our cooperation based on those kind of things. Are there any in this issue? To say the BIble and BF&M is too vague isn't it? I mentioned as an extreme example open theism and even hyper-calvinism.
Dr. Ascol made the point several days ago when he posted 'more thoughts on the SBC presidency' that he did not mention calvinism/arminianism on purpose and I agree with him. When I started to post here today I just wanted some of you to maybe set up some specifc boundaries instead of saying the Bible says or the BF&M says. What exactly in them makes an arminian disqualified from cooperation? What do we look for in an individual who is a free willer in order to determine if they are qualified to serve with us as president of our convention or seminary professor or what have you?
Earlier in the day someone somewhere, I believe it was scott, asked if we would hire dr caner to serve as our minister of ed etc. After the display earlier this week I would have deep reservations for reasons other than theology and yet it wouldn't just be his arminian that caused me concern. It would be his willingness, his lack of willingness to cooperate, to listen and consider, that would play a big part. As a minister I probably wouldn't hire someone who disagrees with me doctrinally because our theology affects our ministry philosophy.
I am asking for your parameters.
I don't do invitations in a normal traditional sense. I do a short time of meditation follonwing the message because that is where my church is right now. We are looking for a music minister and one boundary for me is to find one who trusts that the Lord will work... period, not depending on my schpiel and manipulation. Thats a boundary.
I am fishing for other indiviidual's boundaries so that I can add them or ignore them in my own situation.
Is it essential that someone be at least a 4 pointer for us to cooperate with them? If not where to you draw the line?
In the IMB issue the trustees have drawn the line with their policies on private prayer and baptism.
What about us?
Just looking for ideas - no alterior motive - like I said I had way too much time on my hands (Dr. Ascol your site is really good for me... I spent all day here!)

Docsalogy said...

We'd better figure it out soon, and we'd better be sure to practice what we preach. I am saddened by the comments of the Caner Bros., Johnny Hunt, and guys like Jack Graham, and even Drs. Patterson, and the late great Dr. Rogers. Why they feel the need to comment negatively about the doctrines of grace, and their apparent fear, and inexplicable misunderstanding of them is beyond me (has anyone read baptistfire.com? esp the great article about "us", called "Crept in Unawares?").
Brethren, these men are speaking out of ignorance and they are being extremely polemic and divisive. We ought to be sure we are not slipping to their level, and keeping the debate about the substance (as Dr. White has done so well).
I speak as one who has just recently narrowly survived a vote to terminate my services, fueled entirely by references to the aforementioned brethren. Jack Graham has a deacon in his church that was ordained under my previous ministry. I wonder how he would respond to the knowledge that he was the "authority" quoted by those who tried to fire me over my "Calvinism." Calvinist friends of mine are now disavowing their long held beliefs and quitting out local Founders' Fellowship out of fear of the witchhunt.
We need to find a way to speak the truth in love, while endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. Let the other guys be divisive, and ignorant. Let us rise to a higher level, showing by our good conduct and our GRACE (anyone remember that word?) that we are under the influence of the blessed Holy Spirit. Remember our Lord left us an example that we should follow in His steps, and be imitators of Him--that when He was reviled, He reviled not in return (1 Pet 2: 21-23). Speak the truth in love!
We have pretty much won the battle for inerrancy. But look, that was all about sovereignty and monergism too. The Scriptures are inerrant because they are the work of God alone, not synergism between God and man. Now, the arena has logically moved to the issue of monergistic soteriology. The "controvery" is not over. It's still the same, only with a new area of emphasis.
I suppose I am rambling, but we must not make this about personalilties or personal preferences or agendas. My brothers, keep the high ground, and challenge these guys with the fact that they, not we, NEVER we, are the ones being divisive.

Nathan White said...

Stephen,

I’m not sure I can give you the answer you’re looking for. Actually, I’m not sure I even know the answer. But to be blunt, maybe I’m just not Baptist enough. Maybe I’m not tolerate enough. Maybe I’m expecting the impossible. But I find the notion of cooperating with a leader who is not faithful to the Word in soteriology hard to swallow.

For example, John MacArthur and his elders hold to majority or nothing in church government. That is, they don’t vote, they don’t all express their own opinions, when a matter comes up they agree 100% or they don’t. And when there are disagreements, they work tirelessly among themselves until a solution is reached and it is unanimous. Why is that? Because even when you have 20 elders agree and 1 disagree you have at least one leader who thinks the church is headed in the wrong direction. And if you move forward with one leader thinking that the church is headed in the wrong direction, you’ve just potentiated a church split right there.

That is what I am thinking here. If we know that the doctrines of grace along with the implications of them are clearly taught in scripture, how can we in good conscience cooperate completely with leadership who believes that the Bible doesn’t teach that? Wont that lead in two different directions? Of course it will, but we let the tolerance in this culture influence our thinking way too much instead of dealing with the facts that taking a stand on anything does nothing to make friends.

So yes, I know, you’re asking for specific boundaries, but I’m in no position to set those. Let me just say that we should strive tirelessly for complete unity in the area of soteriology (since this is the main topic here). Forget the points, forget the system. We must come to a complete agreement in those areas to the point where nothing is disputed if we are to arrive at true unity, and if we are to purge the denomination of its problems –which are undoubtedly the fruit of free-will ideology. Why doesn’t the reformed Baptist denomination run into these issues we have? Because it is crystal clear, you either believe this doctrine or you don’t. There’s no ‘how many points’, or ‘but in this small area I disagree’. It’s all or nothing. And in this doctrine, with its vast implications, that's the way it should be -and that is true unity.

As far as you mentioning the ‘local pastor’ of mine, who, by the way, I consider a friend and a godly man despite our clear disagreements, the contentions I have against that ministry are not solely Calvinistic. I could care less if they adopted the 5 points if there wasn’t serious change in that ministry from the ground up. So it has nothing to do with anti-Calvinism, it has nothing to do with getting them to think exactly like I do. It has everything to do with the the overall, in almost every area, disobedience and ignorance of God’s word. And unfortunately, his church is far better than most others churches in this denomination. But I would cooperate with them on a lot of stuff since he is faithful to the foundational aspects of the gospel: justification by faith alone. But to say that I would sit under his teaching, or attend his church, or nominate him as a leader of this denomination –all when he is in gross error concerning soteriology? That might fly high in mighty in this post-modern and tolerate age, but it’s certainly does not square with scripture. How can we in good conscience put ourselves and our families under leadership that we believe is headed in the wrong direction? And how can we still elect someone to a position of leadership despite these serious disagreements in this all important area of scripture? These aren’t small disagreements over ‘do not taste, do not touch’, this affects everything –all the way down the line.

Can we find an example in scripture where we can see cooperating and placing ourselves under leaders with questionable doctrine? Not on your life.

But I know these things take time. We cannot sit here and demand that everybody believe this right now. Certainly there is patience, graciousness, and ultimately faith that play a role in this reformation. And I commend Tom for his attention in this area. But what I'm trying to say is, we must continue to strive for the root issues here. We must not back down and be satisfied with cooperating with erroneous doctrine. Be graceful, be patient, but be firm about where we stand and about what we want to be reformed. After all of this progress we have only made a small dent, let us not back down now just because a few of them have started screaming. What did we expect? For them to take it lying down? No, let's be clear that we will strive for complete reform in certain areas and nothing less. Cooperating isnt unity, it's false unity, it's a facade, and it's ultimately damaging to the body of Christ.

(sorry for the long rant, I've been talking with my buddy Scott too much)

SDG

Nathan White said...

Excellent thoughts docsalogy. In fact, let me just agree with you that the issue is monergistic vs synergistic. Who cares about Calvin with his name and his 5 points. The scriptures clearly teach monergism. That, Stephen, should be the boundaries.

G. Alford said...

Stephen,

I am glad you had the day off… I have tried to keep up on this conversation during my breaks, at lunch, and now after work at home. Ok… I am convinced you are not just looking for some quotes to post on some Arminian blog to show that us Calvinist are really not willing to fellowship or cooperate with anyone but other Calvinist.

There are three areas in which I will share my boundaries. They are:

1st – My personal friendships: I have many friends, both in the ministry and outside the ministry, that are not Calvinist. I firmly believe that becoming a committed 5-Point Calvinist is a work of maturing in the faith under the leading of the Holy Spirit as one studies the Scriptures and seeks answers to these issues. So I do not make being a 5-Point Calvinist, or even a 1 to 4 pointer a prerequisite to my friendship. With that said, I do not think I could have a close friendship with someone who is involved in an obvious cult.

2nd – My Church: I have a far higher standard when it comes to the ministry of my church. While I do not insist that an associate minister must be a 5-Pointer, I do believe it is vital to the health of the church that all of its ministers share in their core beliefs. So I would be uncomfortable in calling an associate minister that did not believe at least 3 points… I am willing to allow for reservations on the part of a new associate minister in the areas of the extent of the atonement and the ability of man to resist the Grace of God. But, I do not allow for them to be openly hostile to my position on these doctrines… and they must show a willingness to learn and grow in their understanding of them. I do not have any such standards for church membership; however members know up front the doctrinal standards of the church and are required to sign our covenant stating such.

3rd – Fellowship and Cooperation with others: Here is where it really starts to get interesting. I am a Southern Baptist, an Evangelical Christian, and a Committed Calvinist. As a Southern Baptist I am in cooperate relationship with the SBC and my local association. I wish they were all reformed, but they are not, and I will not abandon my Southern Baptist Convention because they are not all reformed. As an Evangelical Christian I find that I can fellowship with, and even cooperate with, many other Evangelical Christian groups outside of the SBC. Even though we may disagree on many of the secondary doctrines of the faith, because we agree on the chief doctrines I consider these groups brothers. As a Committed Calvinist I have a special affinity for my Calvinist brothers of all denominations and I cannot and never will have fellowship with any man who attacks the historic faith of my forefathers (Calvinism).

By Grace Alone

David B. Hewitt said...

Stephen,

I appreciate your statements related to what Dr. Caner said and the questions another (please forgive me, I forget who) asked about whether or not any of us would hire Dr. Caner to be our evangelism director or minister of education at our churches. My response was in the negative too, and my first thought was because he was Arminian in much of his understanding. However, after reading your latest response I thought about my reasons and I would have to agree with you -- it would be more because of his attitude and apparent lack of a teachable spirit (from what I observed) that would disqualify him in my mind.

I really have no problem working with someone who is an Arminian if they do indeed practice and teach what the Bible says related to critical issues such as evangelism and worship. The biggest problem if an Arminian is consistent in his theology, is that by promoting libertarian and total free will in man he therefore must deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

I understand that many people with Arminian leanings do not do this -- and I am thankful! It is a start in the right direction that can indeed come to fruition if the whole counsel of God is used in the instruction of said person, and they remain teachable.

I truly believe that understanding the doctrines of Grace and embracing the absolute freedom and sovereignty of GOD is a matter of discipleship. Someone who believes in the complete inerrancy of the Word of God can and must come to the conclusion that Reformed theology is correct if we believe that the Bible cannot contradict itself.

This kind of discipleship is woefully lacking in most of our churches. I am not speaking only of issues related to soteriology, but in matters of doctrine in general. Someone mentioned that their church, while holding to the BF&M 2000 hasn't even READ it much less studied it. This is the case with the Scriptures as well. We have people in our churches who have not read them, much less have studied them. How many of our people have read through the entire Bible? The entire New Testament? Even all four Gospels? When they come across verses that appear to contradict, do they work to understand them in the light of the whole of Scripture or do they gloss right over them (as I once did)?

In any case, I'm not completely sure where I was going with this. :) May God be glorified through it somehow. (G)

SDG,
Dave Hewitt

Stephen A Morse said...

Alford! That is so funny! I am glad that you responded the way you did. I really am looking for exactly what you posted just now.
Hewitt thank you also. This has been a very productive day of writing for me and the visitation of so many blogs was refreshing.
I don;t know about you all but our conversation was very proper, no names, no accusations, just dialogue.
GOd bless you all.
In Christ, my Rock!
SDG

Charles said...

Scott, Hello!

"I will take the overall theology of Boyce over Bailey Smith. That is not a slam on his character rather his theology!"

Your choice. I could not promote men who were the chief apologists for the theology of slaveowners. But that's me.

David B. Hewitt said...

G'Day, Charles.

I'm confident that no one here is suggesting by ANY stretch of the imagination that we are supporting some sort of "theology of slavery." Again, it appears that you are falling into a logical fallacy -- perhaps I can help; God willing, I shall.

Boyce was a slave owner and he was Reformed, and in fact, was pivitol in founding Southern Seminary. So, by the way you are arguing, we should abandon Southern Seminary because it was started by a slave owner and we should not have anything to do with Reformed theology because a man who was a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention of yesteryear owned slaves.

This is of course not taking into account the fact that non-Reformed, non-Southern Baptists owned slaves as well. There were other Christians who did this -- does it then make it right somehow? Of course not. Does it then mean that the theological persuasions of all the people who were leaders in various churches of various theological persuasions were then having a "theology of slavery" and should no longer be followed in any way?

You have "thrown the baby out with the bathwater" it would seem. Either that, or you are purposefully being inflammatory. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the former.

I hope this has been helpful!

For The Glory of Jesus, for He Alone is Worthy,

David Hewitt

G. Alford said...

Slavery & Southern Christians?

To Everyone except Charles, (who is only interested in throwing fire bombs) if you wish to read a great book on this subject get “A Defense of Virginia and the South” by R.L. Dabney, published by Sprinkle. Link

To Charles, you should have lessened to my earlier advice to “Grow up and go play somewhere else”… Your instance to pursue this issue only shows your ignorance of Theology and Southern History… Most who post on this blog are well versed in both.

Scripture Searcher said...

A constructive suggestion to all the dear, beloved of the Lord, but oh, such terribly "long-winded" (BLOVIATING) brothers who contribute to this helpful needful, stimulating blog --



Write or type your speeches on a separate sheet of paper, edit and condense if
possible, then submit your
personal opinions.



It will make them far more
readable, and I (along with others) want to get your input!!!! REALLY!!



I write this in love for all who love our Lord Jesus
Christ and His cause within
and without the SBC.

David B. Hewitt said...

Scripture Searcher:

I always enjoy erading your comments and appreciate the encouragement and thoughfulness you inject into these conversations. So, for the sake of brevity (grin), I'll just say this:

Thanks!

SDG,
Dave

Charles said...

Alfred, Hello!

if you wish to read a great book on this subject get “A Defense of Virginia and the South” by R.L. Dabney, published by Sprinkle.

I noticed on your link a similar book was "The Mind of the Master Class : History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders' Worldview." Is it also representative of your theological view on slavery?

Your instance to pursue this issue only shows your ignorance of Theology and Southern History… Most who post on this blog are well versed in both.

Are you saying that most on this blog agree with Boyce's and Mell's theological view of salvary? Have you read what Boyce and Mell said about slavery? Would it be possible for Founders.org to post these writings on the website? That way we could openly discuss these men with all the facts in front of us.

The topic was ""Whither Southern Baptists?" It's a good topic. My opinion is that if Southern Baptists really want to reach out to people of color they should keep a healthy distance from their founders and not name their schools after a self-described "ultra pro-slavery man."

But that's me.

David B. Hewitt said...

Charles:
The things you are saying are awfully similar to what I've seen over at BaptistFire. For example, from their "Crept in Unawares" article (which is in many ways a misrepresentation of Reformed Theology):
"The Southern Baptist Convention, however, was not founded over the issue of Calvinism. Rather the founders of the SBC held that whites owning blacks in slavery was an acceptable behavior for Christians. As far as we can tell, Founders Ministries does not advocate a return to slavery. Which makes it a rather odd name for the organization."

The problem with Baptist Fire's statement and your own is that they are stating that Founders Ministries and other Southern Baptists who appeal back to men such as Dagg, Broadus and Boyce, are being foolish to do so. The reason this is stated is because many of the leaders in the SBC's infancy did in fact own slaves. Indeed, the SBC was formed in part OVER the issue of slavery. However, is the fact that they were slave owners the ONLY characteristic of these men?

The answer is clearly no. They were Reformed, and that theological aspect is what Founders highlights. It is why people such as myself are happy to be in the theological tradition of such men -- in respect to their Reformed tradition.

I confess freely that I am ignorant of things that they have said about slavery. That is not my point. If they promoted it wholeheartedly and insisted that Scripture defended it, then I can say I sure do not support such beliefs and will call them errant. However, just because someone is errant in a particular belief doesn't mean that they are errant in all of them; were that the case, then none of us would have any hope! We simply keep the good and highlight the good while rejecting what is not good.

SDG,
Dave Hewitt

P.S. -- Tom, I'd love some resources you could recommend on the SBC founders to further my historical education if any come to mind.

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Garvis Campbell said...

My Dear Charles:

I appreciate your zeal for Bailey Smith's ministry, though I wish you could focus your energies within your own sphere of influence. I'll limit my comments to the issue of slavery since I know little of you and will give you the benefit of the doubt in brotherly kindness. We note, however, that this issue is a red herring, completely meant to distract the attention of those reading from the substantive matters at hand. Above, other brothers have addressed admirably your crimson fish, but allow me a moment to join their chorus.

Your arguments against SBC founders based on the topic of slavery is tantamount to stating one should hate America because its founders also were slave owners or that one ought not read Martin Luther because he drank a pint. On its face, it is a prima fascia absurdity to disdain a person's entire contribution to Christian thought for the mere fact that he lived in a culture supporting a practice we now find objectionable or even repugnant and where he may have adopted that cultural artifact even the biblical record is arguably ambiguous concerning. Paul's address to Philemon calls for a deeper relationship in addition to that of the master-servant bond. Christ came to free us not from the bonds of any human institution, but from the bond of slavery to sin. The employment of His sovereign grace on those held captive in the dark is true freedom! To attempt to distract the readers of this blog away from this central truth is simply sad. We, of course, think slavery is wrong today because we stand on the shoulders of those before us and see better because of it. To judge the brilliant lights of men such as Boyce and Mell (or Calvin in reference to Servetus) by the shadows they also cast would be to, in effect, dismiss all historical references as meaningless, for who is without sin?

Come now, brother, address the weight of reformed, Augustinian, Calvinistic theology to which you object and cease these futile diversions.

Peace in Christ,

Garvis Campbell

David B. Hewitt said...

Garvis Campbell:

Thank you sir for your voice of wisdom! You said what I've been wanting to, and did it better than I could have (obviously).

To God Be the Glory!

Dave Hewitt

Charles said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jbuchanan said...

This is all very interesting stuff and I think that it shows that there is a growing divide in the SBC. But I think it is a division that is not really necessary. I will cooperate with any SBC church that holds to the BF&M or other Baptist Confession such as 2nd London or New Hampshire. I am a 5 point Calvinist but I do not make them the basis of cooperation and do not think that the SBC should become strictly Calvinist. It never has been that way and I don't think it ever will be. My desire is to humbly lead the church that I have been called to Pastor and to preach the word. I believe that the local church is the most important entity in the SBC and that is has the most power. If I lead my church to a proper understanding of the gospel and its mission then I will get the right to be heard in the larger sphere of the SBC. When we begin to see "reformed" SBC churches that are making a serious impact on their community, reaching people with the Gospel, and building strong missionary churches, then we will be treated with respect. Mark Dever has done this marvelously and perhaps some others have to. When we see more of this the leadership in the SBC churches and our Arminian brothers will listen to what we have to say and be less threatened.

We need to come to the table with humility and love. As the teenagers in my church would say, we need to chill out and be kewl. I honestly do not believe that the leaders of the SBC are out to get anyone or are planning any kind of purge, perhaps Dr. Caner being the exception. We should hear their criticisms and honestly ask if there may be some element of truth in them.

J. Dale Weaver, M.Div. said...

Is it common for the administrator to remove comments they simply don't like here? I said nothing unChristian... What gives?

Scott said...

Great post.

Of course you could embrace Biblical baptism and then just join the PCA.

Just Kidding.

Scott