Sunday, March 05, 2006

Danny Akin on Southern Baptists and Calvinism


Joe Thorn has reported that the April issue of SBC Life will feature an article by Dr. Daniel Akin on Calvinism in the SBC. The article can be downloaded here (provided you wait for the countdown at the bottom of the screen). Joe's interaction with the article is well worth reading.

Akin, who is President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a fairly balanced treatment of the issues at stake as the concern Calvinism proper. He does not mention that the founders of the SBC all came from churches and associations that affirmed the so-called "five points," but he does acknowledge that "many wonderful and significant Baptists in the past" were of this persuasion. He lists "William Carey, Andrew Fuller, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, John L. Dagg, Basil Manly Jr. and James Boyce as examples."

He also gives a summary of the five points. I have seen such summaries so often caricatured beyond recognition that it is very encouraging to find them treated responsibly and with historical sensitivity. Akin acknowledges that he is unconvinced of "limited atonement" as it is understood to affirm the particular redemptive work of Christ. However, in a wonderfully refreshing admission that "all Bible believers limit the atonement in some way," Akin warns that a failure to have some kind of limitation necessarily leads to universalism.

He prefers to locate the limitation "in its application, not its provision." Classical reformed teaching locates in the intention and not merely in the application. He offers his observation in hopes that it may "foster some rapprochement" among those who views these matters differently. It is a helpful approach. One wonders if Akin would be comfortable with the language that describes the atonement as being sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect. Another way to speak of the inevitability of limiting the atonement in some sense is to see it as being limited either in its scope or in its power. This fits with James Boyce's teaching as well as with John Owen's.

Akin's primary purpose in writing is to encourage healthy, humble dialogue on what tends to be a divisive and incendiary topic. He cites examples of what he considers unbalanced language that does not help this kind of approach. Without attaching names to various quotes he suggests that comments like, "Jesus was a Calvinist," "Calvinism is the gospel" and "election works like this: God voted for yo. The devil voted against you. And you cast the deciding vote" should be resisted. Of course, at least in those three examples, real names can be placed with the quotes. For your convenience, I will do so. These statements were made by John MacArthur, Charles Spurgeon and Hershel Hobbs, respectively.

One final comment on Akin's article: he writes, "Recognize that our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a well constructed canopy under which varying perspectives on this issue can peacefully and helpfully co-exist. Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family" (emphasis added). This last sentence is a wonderful statement and begs for further definition. These three theological views need to be explained. Once they are, I fear that we will find more of their proponents within our borders than we dare to imagine. Where they do exist, or where such teachings even inadvertently appear, they should be exposed and renounced, REGARDLESS OF WHO IT IS THAT ESPOUSES THEM.

Pray that this article will point the way forward for helpful theological reflection and dialog among Southern Baptists.

34 comments:

Ranger said...

I'm surprised that Akin said that last line about Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists. Not that I disagree, but I am surprised that he chose to call them Arminians instead of Semi-Pelagians since so many SBC leaders openly profess to be Arminian. Interesting indeed.

Pastor Kevin said...

This article is refreshing. Though I wonder if or when a pastor's preaching reflects that of either arminian, open theism, or pelagian will the convention, either state or national, swiftly seek to remove this individual from the association of Southern Baptists churches as the convention has done in the past over churches allowing homosexuals to be members and or deacons/elders.
I do appreciate Aiken's openess in discussing "calvinism," which I believe will cause more Southern Baptists to discuss these issues.
Does anyone know if this "forum" that is sceduled to take place b/t Drs. Mohler and Patterson will allow QandA from the audience? I do hope so. I believe the intent of this forum is to be edifying to the Convention. What better way than to allow the audience to ask key questions that will allow both camps to better understand others' theology?

Thank you Dr. Ascol for the heads-up, and it was an honor to have met you at Shepherds' last week!

Kevin

Puritan Fan said...

I love MacArthur, but I do wish he had not made that particular quote; it was at Johnny Hunt's 2005 conference if memory serves me correctly. I simply haven't found it helpful in my ministry.

It is refreshing to see position statements like Akin's. Though differfing somewhat from most "5pointers" his statement does not employ straw men or emotional rhetoric.

Ben said...

Dr. Ascol,

It was likewise a privilege to meet you briefly this past week.

Thanks for posting this link. I was recently e-mailed a copy of this article and was thrilled to see Dr. Akin's courage and clarity. It should be interesting to see if this generates much buzz around campus. I can't imagine it will be universally well-received.

YnottonY said...

Akin is an honest man. I had him for a systematic theology class back in 1992 at Criswell College. He's forthright and fair. I recall one instance when Akin told us about a conversation that Paige Patterson was having with others wherein he (Patterson) professed to only be a 2 pointer. Akin said he corrected him and said, "no, you're a three pointer." The class I took with Akin was Systematic Theology III (mainly ecclesiology and eschatology), so we didn't cover soteriological issues much. Akin seems like the kind of person who would be open to fair and accurate dialogue on Calvinism, as well as on other controversial subjects. He's a competent teacher and theologian in my opinion. One could only wish that more in Southern Baptist circles were like him in his desire to accurately represent the various theological positions, as well as in his overall competence level in leadership.

joethorn.net said...

I believe Dr. Akin is the prof who, when at Southern, told his students they are free to disagree with his teaching and offer alternative ideas, but had better have Scripture to back up their dotrine. No naked assertions. I respect that attitude and invitation/challenge to the students.

G. Alford said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
G. Alford said...

Dr. Danny Akin for President!!!

Now here is a man of honest integrity and moral courage… that is not afraid to dive into the “Shark Infested Waters” of theological debate within the SBC.

I personally do not agree with his position on the limitation of the atonement (I am a classical 5-Pointer) but Dr. Akin is not afraid to tell everyone where he stands and he (unlike some other Seminary leaders) is capable of explaining and defending his positions from Scripture.

I would vote for Dr. Akin for President in a heart beat!

Mike Miller said...

Danny Akin was my doctoral advisor. I am not at all suprised by his gracious and scholarly approach to the issue. Anyone who knows him would expect nothing else. He is a brilliant biblical scholar and a gentleman. I pray that he will help move the discussions/debates toward an atmosphere of Christ-like love and commitment to biblical authority.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

I am very encouraged to read such fair-minded commentary from Dr. Akin, after reading nothing but inflammatory, devisive rhetoric from others lately. With people like him around, there should be hope for continued cooperation among Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Thanks for pointing our attention to that article.

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Garvis Campbell said...

"Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family."

Welcome words indeed. It would be good to have scholars on both sides not merely debate in public but also pen their arguments for publication in, for example, the mold of Zondervan's Counterpoints series but from a strictly SBC perspective. This would be a wonderful tool for use in our churches.

Semper reformanda,

Garvis

P. Chase Sears said...

I really appreciate Dr. Akin. I agree with his understanding of the atonement (if understood correctly (limited in application only, but unlimited in capability.) If that is the case, that is the predominate view taught at the Master's Seminary and by John MacArthur. However, I do see strong arguments for it being limited in sufficiency also. That's besides the point. I really appreciate Dr. Akin's balance and integrity in handling these issues. I hope many other Southern Baptists will follow suit.

Scott said...

I have now read this article five times. The reason is for me to really understand what it says and to see if there are any hidden messages in it.I believe there are. Let me say right up front that this article will only help more people do research and for that I'm thankful.Before I share my concerns with it I thank Dr. Akin is to be thanked for at least talking about this though I don't agree with him on all things and I believe he is speaking to Calvinist about toning down and not the other side as much. Danny is great guy and loves to help people.He has helped me in the past and I have great respect for him but I want to raise some issues about what the article dosn't say strong enough and wondering if He will publicly speak strongly to the men who blast Calvinism at Real Evangelism Conference, Jack Graham, Johnny Hunt, Steve Gaines and etc... .
I believe his illustration about Eschatology and comparing to Salvation is not playing fair. He knows Eschatalogy and Salvation are viewed quite differently as far as their acceptance in the SBC.There is not one Pastor I know that has made Eschataology an issue with staff members( Non Calvinist church). Danny knows about the statements at Real Evangelism and Jack Graham and etc. Why have we not seen an article from him or any other SBC seminary president that goes out to the general SBC public blasting their misrepresentations on what they say.
Some will say that the article he just wrote has done that. If so, I disagree. I think the article has an interesting timing to it before the discussion between Mohler/Patterson. I believe they feel that Calvinist are the ones causing this trouble in the SBC. Most of the Calvinist are responding to the public comments of these men and I feel we are singled out alot more.
So, I ask will Danny and maybe Al speak strongly in writing an article against the SBC misrepresentation of Calvinism and even tell SBC churches that five point Calvinism is not going against the BFM 2000? Also, that these men embrace what a great many of our Founders believed ? If they will do so then will I believe that this article is really balanced. Again, I love and appreciate Dr.Akin but will he do this?

Scripture Searcher said...

My sincere admiration and appreciation of the
Biblical convictions of the
former Beaumont (TEXAS) boy
..and now administrator of this important blog,and the integrity and courage he displays in all his public ministry grows greater and stronger with each day!


Thank you, Dr. Tom (thorny) Ascol... may your knowledge and courage increase and may
you live long to serve many others who need your wisdom.


Brothers and sisters in the
Christian faith - let us not
fail to PRAY daily for Tom!


Now how about that discount
on another ten or twenty year subscription renewal to the FOUNDERS JOURNAL??

Scott said...

I just read the article for the sixth time. It's important that I be fair since I'm calling Dr.Akin to be. Let me share what I like about his article besides that it will motivate people to look into calvinistic theology which I believe the Scripture clearly teaches.
First, I like how he ended with Spurgeon and was honest that Spurgeon was a five point Calvinist.Many Pastors( Non Calvinistic) hold spurgeon high. Thanks for being clear.
Second, for his challenge in Evangelism. I agree that any theology that dampens or kills a desire to preach the gospel needs to be investigated. As we know Calvinism teaches us that the lost will not be looking for Christ so we need to go to them.
Third,that theology/Sound doctrine is important. I have heard Danny say that our churches need more doctrine conferences rather than others.He was not saying that we don't need Evangelism conferences anymore but lets get a correct understanding of the gospel and Biblical methodology.
Last, men are looked up to in not what we just say in private but in public. So, can we see from Dr.Akin or any SBC seminary president or president an article welcoming 5 Point calvinist to the SBC or any church in the SBC ? Yes, each church is local and they make their own decesions but an article from these men would speak loudly that Calvinism is Biblical and should be welcomed in our convention.So, if this article really means what has been said then this should be done and then I will throughly believe it !

The Knights Notes said...

I agree with many of the prior comments regarding the spirit in which Dr. Akin dealt with this issue in this article. I feel a need to speak up on behalf of Mr. Spurgeon though, since Dr. Akin used an extensive quote from a Spurgeon sermon at the conclusion of his paper. In spite of his warnings against any doctrine of salvation that starts with man not God, I was struck with Dr. Akin’s tendency to equate “freewill” and human responsibility. I have read many Spurgeon sermons in their entirety and portions of his sermons where he considers and deals with man’s “freewill.” I have yet to find one instance from my reading and understanding of Spurgeon’s ministry where he ever linked or equated the two concepts. Rather, Spurgeon very forcefully denounced “freewill” teaching in all its forms in sermons too numerous to refer to here. Some specimen sermons: “A Jealous God” MTP Vol. 9, Page 238; “Free Will - A Slave” MTP Vol 1, Page 695; “Self-Sufficiency Slain”, MTP Vol. 6, Page 849; “Christ’s Crowning Glory”, MTP Vol 50, Page 191; “A Testimony To Free and Sovereign Grace,” MTP Vol 33, Page 204.

In short, I don’t think anything is gained in our day by using the term man's “freewill” when referring to how God saves His people or when dealing with the subject of our responsibility to repent and believe.

I was also struck with some of the terms - some new to me - raised by the article. “Man is born with a nature and ‘bent’ toward sin.” Scripture teaches that man is a slave to sin by nature, and sets forth clearly what that means, and it is certainly much more than a natural “bent” toward sin. I’ve always considered that to be a starting point in understanding God’s sovereignty in salvation. Neither do I understand the need to talk about some “tension” and a “balance” when referring to the issue. Spurgeon never spoke of or alluded to a “tension” between God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility to repent and believe. They are two truths that run parallel to one another and converge, I think he said, “at the throne of Christ.” In the sermon Dr. Akin quoted a portion from, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility,” MTP Vol 4, Page 591, I think that fact is made abundantly clear. In the context of the quote, Spurgeon stated: “Never be frightened at a doctrine; and above all, never be frightened at a name. Some one said to me the other day, that he thought the truth lay somewhere between the two extremes. He meant right, but I think he was wrong. I do not think the truth lies between the two extremes, but in them both. I believe the higher a man goes the better, when he is preaching the matter of salvation. The reason why a man is saved is grace, grace, grace; and you may go as high as you like there. But when you come to the question as to why men are damned, then the Arminian is far more right than the Antinomies. I care not for any denomination or party, I am as high as Hunting don upon the matter of salvation, but question me about damnation, and you will get a very different answer. By the grace of God I ask no man’s applause, I preach the Bible as I find it. Where we get wrong is where the Calvinist begins to meddle with the question of damnation, and interferes with the justice of God; or when the Arminian denies the doctrine of grace.” Spurgeon closed the sermon with these words: “Now, with regard to myself; you may some of you go away and say, that I was Antinomian in the first part of the sermon and Arminian at the end. I care not. I beg of you to search the Bible for yourselves. To the law and to the testimony; if I speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in me. I am willing to come to that test. Have nothing to do with me where I have nothing to do with Christ. Where I separate from the truth, cast my words away. But if what I say be God’s teaching, I charge you, by him that sent me, give these things your thoughts, and turn unto the Lord with all your hearts.”

Point four in the “Finding Biblical Balance” section dealt with a pastoral candidate clearly “labeling” himself. I’m not sure that I would feel as constrained to “label” myself as Dr. Akin sets forth in his fourth point. I think that a comment to the effect that you are committed to an expository ministry and to preaching the whole counsel of God and explain what that means would certainly suffice. Where Scripture teaches the sovereignty of God, election, calling and choosing in a passage, my desire would be to fully and faithfully deal with the passage. Where Scripture sets forth human responsibly and the free offer of the gospel, man’s duty to come to Christ, repent and believe, I would seek to fully deal with that passage. I see no deception or dishonesty in a person who believes firmly in historical Biblical truth in the crucial area of salvation not wanting to label himself a “5 point, committed Calvinist” and then try to explain to our generation of church folks what that means as a system of theology out of Scriptural context. Our culture is so man centered in and out of the church that those who believe in the doctrines of grace would not be “a ministry assignment that is a good fit” in most churches today. God’s people need to be taught from the Gospels, Ephesians 1, Romans 7, 8, and yes, Romans 9, and brought along in just how God sovereignty works in salvation for His honor and glory alone.

A big part of the problem I think is that some within the ranks have this twisted, distorted view of what Scripture teaches on how the Lord saves His people, and an unholy fear that to believe such teaching would kill, not enhance missionary fervor. As you know, nothing could be further from the truth. If evangelism was accomplished God’s way in our generation with the glory of God as the chief end, much of what passes for evangelism would have to go. That, I think, is a big part of the concern, probably not with Dr. Akin, but broadly within the SBC today.

Scott said...

I have now read the article for the seventh time. Dr. Akin is to be commended for his comments on the following: We need to stop this type of teaching( My words) Dr.Akin's comments" God voted for you.The devil has voted against you. And you cast the deciding vote". Dr. Akin calls this ghetto theology. Personally I have heard the late Dr.Adrian Rogers and Johnny Hunt say these very things.
Again, though I think Dr.Akin needs to speak out against some of these men privately( Maybe he has?) but also write publicly and denounce some of their public statements downgrading calvinism and be clear with them that we(Calvinist)are to be throughly welcomed.
My wife encouraged me to read things more so I can get a better understanding on things like this.I'm glad I did because each time I have seen more from Dr.Akins article in a more balanced way.I still feel like he sees Calvinist as more of a problem in the SBC than he does the others( I could be wrong).
Danny, you are faithful servant of the Lord. Thanks for all the theological helps you have given me in the past. Also, after reading your article seven times, I'm done!

Docsalogy said...

I also had Dr. Akin for lectures while a d. min candidate at SBTS. My only recollection of his discussion of the issues of Calvinism in class was that he affirmed, "I'm about a four-and-a-half pointer." I would second his nomination for president. He is a godly man and an intellectual, and intellectually honest.

GeneMBridges said...

I still feel like he sees Calvinist as more of a problem in the SBC than he does the others( I could be wrong).

My understanding from the sermons I've heard him preach in NC from time to time is that he appears to have gotten some flack for the interaction that SBTS had with a prominent Arminian church in Louisville. I believe you alumni from SBTS may know what I'm alluding to, as he didn't go into detail.

I think, if he's thinking of Calvinists as a problem, that we need to consider those kinds of things. People don't, as a rule, come to such conclusions without reason.

Most of us perceive certain indiviuals as attacking Calvinism, and I believe we agree there is good reason for this.

On the other hand, there are those who are just as shrill on our side of the aisle. Anybody denying this is simply living a fog.

In am vaguely aware that there is some connection to the IMB policies here too. Apparently, there were folks on the IMB board who claimed the Council of Seminary presidents had been consulted about the policies and was supportive. When contacted, Dr. Akin replied that nobody had ever contacted him, and he was not amused. This is all to say that he is quite aware that there are those in this Convention who act with less that pure motives on many different issues. Sometimes he simply doesn't speak to them unless asked.

J.D. Rector said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you... for your comments and and reference to this excellent artticle by Dr. Akin.

Scott Slayton said...

In 2004, Dr. Akin preached at the Pastors' Conference in Alabama. He did a very good exposition of 1 Thessalonians 1. He offered a "balanced" view of election like he did in this article. He then launched into a very strong defense of Dr. Mohler. He particularly corrected people who claim that Mohler minimizes evangelism because he is a Calvinist. His tone was very forceful on this point. I really believe that Dr. Akin provides a good model of how to dialogue about this subject.

Charles said...

"Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family" (emphasis added). This last sentence is a wonderful statement and begs for further definition. These three theological views need to be explained. Once they are, I fear that we will find more of their proponents within our borders than we dare to imagine.

Tom, you can't be serious. Do you really believe that there are men in the SBC who hold to these beliefs? Can you name a pastor who would identify with either one of the three?

Charles

Scott said...

Charles,

Great question to Tom!The problem is that most Pastors in the SBC don't know what these positions are.Probably not even define the points correctly.Not trying to be ugly but I believe it to be true.I have asked several over the years and most can't do it.However, I was in the same boat at one time.
This is why we(Calvinist) have been arguing that men have bad metodology because a lack of good doctrine. Most of the SBC pastors that I have been around( Senior and staff) could only talk about SS growth and how many baptisms do we have so far. In the three mega churches where I served I was never given once or any other staff member (that I know) a theological book to ever read.The books that we did get were ( How to grow your SS 10% each year),( All your SS and church growth books),( Marketing your Church), (How to get lost people interested in church).So, this has just been a "Domino" effect for some time now. One was considered "Odd" if you were caught reading a theological book instead of a church growth book.This is how bad things have gotten today.Didn't Paul have alot to say about the importance of "Sound doctrine" and yes, he said a whole lot about preaching the gospel as well!

Dan Paden said...

Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family"

Well, one would hope not. But I ain't bettin' the ranch on it.

jbuchanan said...

"Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family."

I would only add to that "and those who use theater style seating in there churches."

centuri0n said...

"REGARDLESS OF WHO IT IS THAT ESPOUSES THEM"?

Pastor, them's fightin' words -- not against me, but that's a line in the sand if ever one was drawn.

And I'm with you.

centuri0n said...

Charles: Anyone who would openly preach the statement that Pastor Ascol attributes to Hershel Hobbs (God cast one vote, the devil another, and you get the tie-breaker) is either pelagian or open theist -- inadvertantly perhaps, but it cannot be escaped.

You tell me if you've never heard a sermon like that from an SBC pulpit. I am certain that I have -- and it may have been on TV.

Travis Hilton said...

Tom, I have to say that after reading some of Dr. Akin's comments again, I have begun to appreciate them more. You are right, it is refreshing after all the vitriol. I still wish someone would call the flame throwers on the carpet.

Centurion, I've enjoyed reading your humor in the blogosphere. Are you a professional blogger? I've never seen so many Christian blogs consistently maintained by one person. Where do you get the time and still keep your wife happy?

Castusfumus said...

Let's be real, the Baptist churches that I have grown up in, the last 50 years, have been woefully deviod of teaching doctrine. This is a direct contributor for what we see today in our milktoast church circles that run to the next program.
I am not a pastor, deacon, or elder just merely a SS teacher in a Baptist church. I am teaching a harmony of the gospels, no not a quarterly! In my own time I see 8 books that I am consuming, some Greek exegetical commentaries that I cherish the time within. This is not for my achedemia but that I may come to a closer walk with my Lord. I wish that I had mentors growing up that had these same intrests.
Listen!
You guys are the pastors, I am a your student, don't waste my time or those whose eternity rests in your hands!

Deusvult said...

I read Akin's article and I too must give him credit for giving a clear, concise, and fair view of Calvinism. I too agree with the five points and I seem to hold his view on limited atonement. The last comment about Pelagians, Arminians, and Open Theists was well needed! Indeed, too many of our leaders and pastors don't know about them anyway. Fortunately, I really have never known of any Pelagians or Open Theists in our pulpits, but sadly many are Arminian, at least outside of eternal security, which I hope is Baptist dogma by now. But the Arminian influence on the SBC over the last century has created a dominant membership of mostly Arminian baptists. It's pretty clear upon investigation that most people in SBC congregations lean towards Arminianism. A good deal of our pastors are too. However, there seems to be a revival of Calvinism in our seminaries and in our youth in the SBC, I certainly hope this trend continues. Maybe the younger generation of pastors, teachers, and leaders will begin to steer our great convention, the largest Protestant body on Earth, towards the five points. Perhaps one day the Arminians, Pelagians, and Open Theists will not even exist under the Baptist label.

Rich Robletto said...

Eternal Security of the Believer is vital to Southern Baptist. Francis Schaeffer spoke of how those who would seek power over others would oppose this Scriptural Doctrine because it takes away from their authority. This includes individuals, churches, or denominations throughout the history of Christianity. Why would anyone prefer to trust one's own weakness than to trust the strength of God's promise?

Sam Hughey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sam Hughey said...

If Dr. Akin is both serious and correct (I pray he is) in saying I believe it is becoming clear that there is a place for a healthy and evangelistically vibrant Reformed Theology in our Convention, does that also mean there is NOT a place for those who oppose a healthy and evangelistically vibrant Reformed Theology in our Convention and will Dr. Akin (among others) continue to think of Calvinism as a healthy and evangelistically vibrant Reformed Theology as the Calvinistic opposition to 'free-will' theism, unlimited atonement (universalism) and conditional (general) election continue?

Will Dr. Akin (and others) oppose those who oppose Calvinism?

Sam Hughey

Cindy Smith said...

Tom, just a note to say thank you for your ministry. I have grown up in a Southern Baptist Church and have seen the Pelagians, Arminians and Open Theists. I have been attacked and ridiculed by other church members. My church is predominantly Arminian and very aggressive so it is a very difficult situation. I came to a knowledge of the doctrines of Grace about 20 years ago and am 5 point calvinist. The subject is being discussed and considered more than I have ever seen it. I am at least allowed to share my thoughts without being thrown out as a heritic and people are listening. Thanks again!