Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dr. Yarnell's gracious response

After Dr. Malcolm Yarnell preached the Founders Day address at Southwestern Seminary March 9, I received several emails alerting me to his comments and pointing me to the written form of it that was posted on the web. Once I read it, I emailed him and let him know I planned to write a review of it on my blog. I count Dr. Yarnell a friend. We have not had the opportunity to get to know one another very well, but all of my dealings with him have left me with the impression that he is a gracious servant of our Lord who desires to see Christ honored in His church and world. I agreed to let him know when the posts appeared so that he could read my comments for himself.

He has done that, and sent me the following email in response. As you can read, he granted permission to post it in its entirety. Dr. Yarnell's email is a fine example of how brothers ought to handle disagreements. What I have written has not changed his mind, or convinced him to restate his views differently. He thinks I am wrong at points. I think he is wrong at points. On many other points, we agree. You can tell by his gracious tone that he is not inclined to write me out of the kingdom, nor am I inclined to do so to him.

One of the great dangers of engaging in vigorous discussion on controversial, yet important, subjects is the ease of shifting away from analyzing issues and into judging motives. But, motives belong to God. He alone knows a person's heart. We may wonder at times what makes a man say or do what he does, but love hopes all things and demands that we give the benefit of the doubt where we can as long as we can. That does not mean that we give a man a pass on his words or actions simply because he meant well. But it does mean that we limit our critique to that which can be known and observed and leave that which cannot be known or observed to the only Omniscient Knower and Observer that there is.

Thanks, Dr. Yarnell, for your kind email. I have prayed for you and will continue to do so. And I encourage others to join me in taking your name and labors before the Lord. Oh...on catching the misspelled word, you can thank the homeschooling mom to whom I am married for that. I hope you are not unduly beseiged by your students! ;-) [EDIT: Dr. Yarnell did not misspell "besieged" in his paper. I misspelled it in my quoting of his paper; perhaps my wife will give me a remedial spelling course.]

Dr. Yarnell's email:

Dear Tom,

I haven't figured out how to blog successfully and regularly, so please forgive my using email yet once again. Perhaps I also have a hidden preference for dusty books and ancient manuscripts as I do for ancient pulpits and baptistries. Sadly, I just am not technologically savvy enough yet to remember all of the rules one must follow in this new and obviously exciting practice.

Your searching critique of my sermon on the Heart of a Baptist is especially appreciated. I am especially honored that you would devote three separate critiques to do it! (Did I really misspell "besiege"? Alas, my students will have no end of fun with that one. You have made my job more difficult, my friend!)

It is perceptible that there is much on which you and I agree: the importance of biblical and doctrinal proclamation, the necessity of regenerate church membership, etc. And there are some things which we would cast differently. One of our points of disagreement seems to be historical in nature: the roots of the SBC in both separate and regular Baptists, the lack of a widespread use of multiple and differentiated elders in our history, etc. This point of disagreement will be clarified and hopefully overcome with time.

Another point of disagreement may concern the use of invitations and altar calls. I have shared my response on this last issue with a colleague and mutual friend of ours whom I have given permission to disseminate my response. I hope we will overcome this disagreement, too. Indeed, I hope you will one day invite me to proclaim the Gospel in your pulpit and then allow me the grand privilege of extending an altar call.

After your critique, would I have changed anything in the sermon? No.

Do I covet your friendship and believe we should link hands together as faithful Southern Baptists for the furtherance of the Gospel? Yes.

Are some of the blogs I have read funny? Absolutely hilarious.

You are welcome to post this email in its entirety. Please pray for me as I have some major writing assignments and administrative duties on my desk to attend to now.

Your Brother In Christ,



Mike Miller said...

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35

God be praised for the grace shown in this dialogue. If this were the norm, I dare say the church would be much more effective in our proclamation of the Gospel.

Chris Bonts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

True confession time. Dr. Yarnell attempted to correct the spelling of "besieged" that I had cited as misspelled in part 3 of my critique. Alas, the misspelling was mine, not his! I thought I had simply copied and pasted his words, but evidently I tried my hand at retyping that particular line with that word in it, and misspelled "besieged" in the process. So, to Dr. Yarnell, I sincerely apologize. To all of his students who were hoping to have something to chide him about, keep looking! The ammunition I provided you has turned out to be a dud.

Benji Ramsaur said...


invitations "and" altar calls?

Did I read that right?

Sojourner said...

Pastor Tom,

I certainly hope that "Founder's Friendly" or Calvinistic Baptists will not get the reputation of being completely anti-altar call. There are certainly forms of appeal that are unacceptable, and we are all too famaliar with those. But I firmly believe that an invitation can be handled responisbly and in a Christ-honoring fashion. I give three seperate invitations every Sunday:

1. If they feel that they need to talk to or pray with someone, we have people availible for counsel, including myself.

2. If they are interested in what it means to be a member of this Church, they may talk to someone about that as well.

3. If they are not disciples of Christ and are convicted of their need for the Savior, they may speak with someone about what becoming a follower of Jesus Christ means.

We do not coerce people, sing fifty verses, and we do not manipulate. But an invitation is extended, and it is a sincere offer to anyone who desires to come and talk about these things. Isn't this type of appeal a good thing?

Pastor Kevin said...

"'I' before 'e' except after 'c.'"

Tom said...


Yes, you read that right. Dr. Yarnell would acknowledge a differnce, yet he does speak in ways that seem to equate the two. I do not think in terms of "using" an invitation. I see inviting or persuading or pleading with people to come to Christ as inherent in the Gospel message itself.


I don't think you need to be overly concerned about this. I personally do not use an altar call for many reasons, but in the hands of responsible men, in the way that you have described, it is not something that I would insist should never be used. I think my attitude is pretty typical among guys that hang out around here.

Cameron Cloud said...

We certainly need more of this civil discourse among disagreeing believers.

David B. Hewitt said...


This was an excellent letter to read, and the correspondence and attitude in it was truly wonderful.

Thanks be to God for it!

Dave Hewitt

jbuchanan said...


Thank you for clearing up the issue about invitations and altar calls. I am a 5 point Calvinist and I use an altar call every time I preach the Gospel. I do not see it as a problem either with the RPW or as an essential of Calvinism. I would not reguire it of every church and think that it must be used responsibly. You have reasons why you do not employ this method in your church but others may have just as valid reasons for using it.

Dusty Deevers said...

Per my response to Dr. Welty on the first review of Dr. Yarnell’s paper I would like to follow up. This was my response to Dr. Welty:

“Thanks for your response and rebukes. I accept them and will take the proper means in keeping with repentance. I was prodded by another and did not use spiritual discernment in my post.

I appreciate your rebuke.”

I intended to meet with Dr. Yarnell and apologize in person, then post an apology. However, I’ll reverse the order for the sake of addressing the issue while the wounds are fresh.

Dr. Yarnell,

Please forgive me! I was out of line and not humble under submission to my authorities in what I posted. I spoke out of arrogance and impure motive. I am sorry for the hurt it has caused and plead for your mercy toward this wicked sinner. I have been under conviction by the Holy Spirit and beg to be reconciled with you.

I consider you a treasure from God to the students of our school. I personally have learned much from you and have enjoyed our friendship and am very ashamed of my conduct.

In Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul tells us, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

My actions at numerous levels are incongruent with Paul’s urgings. Ultimately, I was not “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. By God’s grace we will be reconciled and enjoy the bond of peace in the unity of the Spirit.

Your repentant friend and student,

Dusty Deevers

Garvis Campbell said...


Dr. Yarnell's kind and gracious response is of course encouraging, and we do rejoice in that. I look forward to the fulfilling of Dr. Yarnell's desire that several of the points of disagreement will be remedied in time. Amen. Any broad, sweeping reforming of the SBC (and evangelicalism as well) will occur only as we honestly engage the issues in the spirit of brotherly love and affection, not as enemies, but as co-laborers standing together for the sake of our Mighty Christ and His glorious gospel of grace.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est,


Dusty Deevers said...

The follow-up interchange per my apology to Dr. Yarnell:

Dr. Yarnell: All is forgiven, Dusty. “Go and sin no more,” or was that, “go and do likewise,” or perhaps best of all, “seventy times seven”?

Dusty: Thank you for your kindness. I feel awful.

Dr. Yarnell: Why feel awful? We have a God of grace, don’t we?! Oops, did I just affirm the doctrine of grace!?

Dusty: You’re right we do have a God of grace whose grace we should imitate as you have done, and whose grace we must rely on in reconciliation. Praise God!

Dusty: Yes, you have affirmed the heart of the doctrines of Grace.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Ascol,

Your gracious discussion with Dr. Yarnell was very Christian. I have been angry at some Christian leaders who have debated on the blogs by simply slinging insults in the general direction of their opponents. None of that here, though, on either man's part. Bravo!

Love in Christ,


Larry said...

What a contrast to the responses by Ergun Caner!

Scripture Searcher said...

My kind request which I have made several times here and elsewhere prior to today remains:

Will someone - anyone - anywhere(professor, pastor, denominational leader, friend or foe of the SBC, deacon, student, etc.)

PLEASE supply the names
of any HYPER CALVINIST teaching in any SBC church seminary, college, etc. in this or the previous millennium. PLEASE!

Pretty PLEASE, with sugar on it!

I trust that it is agreed
by all readers of this BLOG
that HYPERCALVINISM (when properly defined and understood) is a theological
CANCER that will eventually
kill scriptural evangelism and missions -

And it will do so in the name of orthodox Christian

That is why it is so terribly dangerous and deadly (as certain leaders in our SBC have correctly stated in their sermons, speeches, and white, pink, yellow, red and/or green papers.

But who (and where) are these FALSE TEACHERS in our
SBC?? Please! Will a genuine hypercalvinist please stand up so we can see who you are and where you are serving?

This is but another kind and sincere and loving request for information.

Please "put up or shut up"
and stop erecting straw men
to shoot.

We have more than enough real "foes of the faith" without playing games in the public marketplace of
truthful ideas.

Baptist Superman said...

Brothers, I am ready to name names! Hyper Calvimism is a real threat. Insivisble though it may be, silent and odorless as well, Hyper Calvimism is a real threat.

You want names? Today I will only give you two. John C. Calhoon and Tobias Bubler of Second Baptist Brushwater Creak in South Brushwater Mississippi. They must be stopped.


Scripture Searcher said...

WOW! WOW! The threat of HYPER CALVINISM is two hundred (200) percent
greater than most (probably all of us) previously knew.

It took the efforts of the
Baptist Superman to locate
and identify these TWO very dangerous FOES OF THE FAITH
in the SBC.

Now I can stop some of my
worrying, preaching, writing
and teaching about those
misguided enemies of missions and evangelism.

I thank this brave Baptist
detective and hope all will
express sincere gratitude for his courageous work on
behalf of all Baptists!

Seeker Sexual said...

Hyper-Calvinism could be irradicated if they would just survey their community. On the survey-tract-mailer insert a blurb about finding your purpose in life. You kill two birds with one stone...determining felt needs and sharing the gospel.

Rick Warren for SBC pres!

JoeTolin said...


JoeTolin said...

I have been a reader on this site and have restrained myself from commenting for a while but I can not be silent any longer. I knew Dr. Yarnell while he was at Midwestern Seminary. As gracious as his response was and it was gracious, he obviously refused to answer the charges. I know that answering is his prerogative. But I for one would like to know where these dangerous hyper-Calvinists are.

May I be so bold to tell you where they are? They sit in the pews week after week in our SBC churches and although they would never admit theologically to being hyper-Calvinists nor would they ever affirm unconditional election their actions show them to be just that, hyper-Calvinists. They NEVER proclaim the Gospel to anyone including their own children!

What we have in Dr. Yarnell's response is nothing more than dodging the issues that plague our convention. There is no dialogue and there is no debate. He did not address the continual statistical misrepresentation ( I am trying to be nice here) or the hyper-Arminian evangelistic methodology that breeds unregenerate voting church members or a plethora of other problems.

If we continue to tolerate the lack of Biblical orthodoxy in our convention and in the name of love and brotherhood do not rebuke sharply these who would deceive the masses as the Apostle Paul told Titus to do, then we can expect nothing more than what we now have. Please do not misconstrue what I am saying. This is not an attack on Dr. Yarnell nor do I for one minute accuse him of being a false teacher. But what we have in our convention on a weekly basis in most churches is an attempt to worship at the feet of the pagan god, Numbers, and not a simple, plain, urgent call to sinners to repent and believe the Gospel.

Preach the Word my brothers,


Scott said...

Seeker Sexual,

Should I dare and ask where does this name come from or would it be better that we not know?

Seeker Sexual said...

It comes from the conglomeration of Metro Sexual (urban, well dressed heterosexual man who some confuse to be homosexual) with Seeker Sensitive. I grew up in a rural environment moved off to college in an urban environment and went to a seeker sensitive church. I have sense moved back to the rural community in which I grew up and find myself not fitting in becuase I am Seeker Sexual.

I hope to redeem this dying rural church.

This story is yet to be told on my newly formed blog.

Geary Burch said...

Sexual Seeker,

Maybe that's the redeeming the church 8-)

Seeker Sexual said...

Geary Burch,

No need to succumb to your fleshly nature and become degratory. The name is Seeker Sexual. This does not mean seeking extramarital relationship(s). The self-labeled title is a combination of Metro Sexual (a well dressed heterosexual man who is often confussed to be homosexual based solely on attire) and Seeker Sensitive.

Geary, I'm sure you often have much to say which is of high value, however, because the mold proceeds the gold many never see the bling.