Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Letter from Malcolm Yarnell

Dr. Yarnell sent me the following letter in response to my critique of his recent article in SBC Life and asked that it be posted on my blog.


Dear Tom:

Your searching critique of what I have written is, as always, enjoyable and beneficial. You are correct in your surmise about editorial changes. However, the spirit of what I wrote, if not each particular word, is substantially contained in the attenuated piece printed in SBC Life. In light of the editor's entirely appropriate concern for space limitations, a popular piece such as this should not be seen as finally definitive of this theologian’s systematic thinking but a very quick sampling indeed.

You may be interested in the fact that although Calvinism has not been a major concern of mine to this point, I do have an interest in the ultimately critical issue of God’s salvation of humanity. Although I am currently committed to a number of other writing projects, in the future, perhaps the Lord will lead me to devote more time to treating biblical soteriology in particular and in depth. At that point, perhaps we could converse some more. Until then, I must concentrate on the eager students enrolled here at Southwestern Seminary.

In the meanwhile, Tom, I hope you will join me in praying that God’s Spirit will compel all Southern Baptists--whatever our particular positions concerning Calvinism--to diligently unite our voices together to go and to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world, baptizing those who respond to God’s gracious offer, teaching them the entire counsel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ,



Sojourner said...

I do not understand this letter. The letter was "enjoyable and beneficial"? How so? Further, Dr. Yarnell states that this "attenuated" piece should not be understood at theologically definitive for him. Okay, what does that mean? Does it mean that he agreed with the critique? Does it mean that he wished he'd have been more thorough?

The next paragraph is odd for me as well. While Dr. Yarnell has had a limited interest in Calvinism up to this point, he does have an abiding interest in God's salvation to humanity. That's great, but it is odd to me that one can have a concern for humanity's salvation and not have an interest in Calvinistic thought. Further, if he is an instructor of things theological to eager students, if this is how the Doctrines of Grace are to be represented to them, what shall we say of those who are educated on his watch? At least, in regard to things related to soteriology. Not one concern raised by Pastor Tom's critique has been answered, we are only to see a small aside that says, "Well, this is not definitive of what I believe, but the critique was enjoyable, thanks."

Hopefully, the proposed dialogue will continue with Pastor Tom on these critical and apparently misunderstood issues. Issues that relate to the very issues of what our Lord accomplished on the cross and what the Holy Spirit does in the heart of the believer. Until then, I am more than happy to pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to compel the hearts of men as He has done from the beginning.

In closing, my comment is not meant to be rude or condescending. I am simply disappointed by this response. I was hoping for more engagement on this very important issue. It feels like a pat on the head that says, "Oh, that's nice dear. Now run along and play while daddy goes back to work." I have tremendous respect for the position that Dr. Yarnell holds as professor and leader at one of our schools. If this comment is deemed unacceptable, I sincerely hope that it will be removed immediately. I felt, however, compelled to express my dissappointment.

Timmy said...

Dr. Yarnell said:

" . . .a popular piece such as this should not be seen as finally definitive of this theologian’s systematic thinking but a very quick sampling indeed."

Fine. But shouldn't a popular piece not only be pithy bur *precise*? I do not think Tom was asking for a sweeping sample of systematic thinking; rather, he was asking for precision in representing the doctrines of grace.

Another question: If Dr. Yarnell does not have an interest or concern in Calvinism, then why is he writing about it? Why would SBC Life have someone who is committed to "other writing projects" and not find someone who could write the article who affirms the tenets and soteriological framework of the doctrines of grace?

Dr. Yarnell does not share anything substantive for his defense nor does he explain how Tom's post was beneficial. While I do believe that Tom's post was enjoyable and beneficial, I am hesitant to say that this one was - at least for me.

fred said...

Add my name to the, "disappointed with his response" list.

After reading Dr. Yarnell's response, It looks as though dialog is still a one way street.


Tony said...

I am fairly sure that Dr. Yarnell would not accept such a non-answer from his students that he needs to get back to.

My concern with what I see from a number of teachers and pastors is their lack of understanding of what others believe. I am not denying their right to disagree but at least he could disagree with what the Doctrines of Grace claim.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg B said...

Disappointed is a good word. Again, if it is not a big point for him then why comment publicly. Why not pass the opportunity to another Prof.
Preaching to the choir here: like the poster prior to me the reach of God's Soveriegnty is huge in knowing what the Gospel truly is. Is it an expression of a week opportunity giving prevenient grace or a full fledged saving grace?

Douglas said...

Dear folks,

I deleted my last comment. I was not happy with it. Please forgive me for the confusion and upset.

Back to my studies.

jbuchanan said...

You guys need to stop nit-picking so much. Dr. Yarnell is being polite and thanking Tom. Everything does not have to be a debate. I rejoice that he is being so gracious and is committed to maintaining both the unity of the convention and theological debate.

-jhp- said...

I think that several of you misunderstand Dr. Yarnell when he says that "Calvinism has not been a major concern" of his to this point. I think that he was simply stating that Calvinism has not been a subject that he has previously been able to devote much writing time towards.

He is certainly not dismissing Calvinism. I'm quite certain from my previous lectures and converstations with him that he is actually well versed in Calvinism.

-jhp- said...

In direct response to sojourner's comment, "what shall we say of those who are educated on his watch?," I would reply that Dr. Yarnell is exceedingly even-handed in his Systematic Theology lectures. As a professor at SWBTS, he is required to teach according to the BF&M. Within that context, his treatment of the Scriptures and of Systematic Theology is gentle and fair towards the various traditions that exist within SBC Life. I should also note that when he does tip his hand, it is usually in the Reformed direction.

In the end, Dr. Yarnell can speak for himself.

GUNNY said...


After reading Tom's critique of Dr. Yarnell's piece, I'm not disappointed by the response lettter, but rather confused.

I've met Dr. Yarnell and have found him to be one the sharper humans I've met, yet it's almost as if someone else wrote that piece and put his name on it.

Surely he knows better than to make some of those mistakes/misrepresentations.

Keep up the good work and Gig' em, Tom!

Tom said...


"Gig 'em!" That is music to this old Ag's ears. Where I live folks only use that phrase for frog hunting are more likely to think of a rock than a school when you mention "Aggie."

-ta, class of '79

GUNNY said...

That ain't right! I guess you're even less likely to get some Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!

Rough, tough, real stuff, Texas A&M.

Incidentally, I've got some stuff I'm faxing you (my amigo, James Galyon, gave me your fax #). I got the propaganda from the SBTC trying to edumacate me about the perils of Calvinism. They sent me three sermons, one in print and two on audio CD.

Is 2006 somehow the SBC year of the anti-Calvinist? Did I not get the memo?

GUNNY said...

Well, that's interesting.

I got a letter from Jim Richards, executive director of SBTC. (Actually, I'm assuming it wasn't sent to just me since it's addressed "Dear SBTC Pastor")

I'll fax you a copy for your edification or education or amusement, but it essentially says, "Recently a mailing was sent out from the Evangelism ministry of the SBTC that was not consistent with our repeatedly stated position on the latitude of interpretation concerning Calvinism within the BFandM. We regret any confusion that it caused. The SBTC will not criticze doctrinal beliefs that are within the parameters of our statement of faith."

This letter gets a "Whoop!" while the first merited some horse laugh.