Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Quick (preliminary) takes on Greensboro

This has been the most unusual SBC I have ever attended. That is not meant as a criticism, but an honest observation. I attended some humdingers during the conservative resurgence, but this is one for the history books. I have very little opportunity even to check my email, much less blog, so while I have a few minutes, I want to give some initial observations.

1. The Pastors Conference had some of the best talks/messages that I have ever heard in that forum (see my earlier post on that).

2. The Pastors' Conference had some typically not-very-good talks/messages (others have commented on some of this--its nothing new: cheap shots, silliness, failure to deal with the text, etc.)

3. I have enjoyed meeting face-to-face some fellow bloggers (Joe Thorn (shorter than I had imagined), Steve McCoy (taller than I had imagined), Tad Thompson, Alan Cross, JBuchanan, PastorLeap and others whose names simply escape me at the moment) and renewing renewing fellowship with others (Marty Duren, Art Rogers, Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, and others). I actually got to sit down with Joe and Steve and chat a bit. That coversation was very encouraging to me. Anyone who dismisses these guys as "emergent" does not understand them.

4. Exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes into the convention blogging was mentioned.

5. Calvinism has been a topic of discussion in formal presentations (Morris Chapman addressed it, not in a mean-spirited way, but in an attempt to be humerous. I was not offended but appreciated what I think he was trying to do. BTW--he also made a negative comment about elders, but again, it wasn't mean. When I saw him later I shook his hand, told him I appreciated much of what he said and looked forward to getting home to discuss it with my elders! We both enjoyed a good laugh. His spirit was great.).

6. Frank Page got elected in a 3-way race on the first ballot. That was incredible. I will try to post more thoughts on that next week when I have had time for reflection, but this is very significant as an indicator of what is going on in this season of SBC life. Remind me to blog about the nomination speeches.

7. Mark Dever was only 70 something votes away from becoming 1st VP. I think logistics and schedule had more to do with the outcome of this vote than anything else. More later.

8. Wiley Drake got elected 2nd VP on the first ballot of a 3 way race. His nomination speech will go down as one of the all-time greatest in the history of the SBC.

Well, I am out of time. The Resolutions Committee is scheduled to make their report in an hour. I have reason to believe that some version of my resolution will make it to the floor of the convention for debate.

25 comments:

Sarah said...

Daddy,

Thanks for the update on the Convention. I've been following your updates and the comments to keep track of what's going on. Can't wait for a full report when you get home. Miss you!!

Love, Sarah

Joshua said...

Tom is on the microphone!!!
Well said Tom!!!

Ben said...

Tom,

Nice job on the mike. You are way to nice to be a blogger. And a Calvinist. And a Baptist.

Needless to say, we're pulling for you. Too bad your resolution isn't as important an issue to churches as alcohol and amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Apparently the committee thought alcohol and homosexual marriage is a greater threat to SBC churches than churches themselves lying about the gospel.

yesie said...

good to see you on my computer pastor ascol :o) yc

Ben said...

Well, the convention just voted, as I understand it, against bringing Tom's resolution before the convention tonight. Sounds like there might have been a majority in favor of considering the resolution, but it needed a 2/3 majority. I'm watching this online, so I may be missing something.

What I do know is that the resolutions committee representative argued against Tom's resolution for two reasons:
1. The committee questions the statistics that churches themselves have reported
2. The committee doesn't want churches to remove non-attending members from church rolls because they would be "throwing away a prospect list" for outreach.

How sad.

Ranger said...

Tom,
Thank you for such a godly resolution and for presenting it at the convention. I do not understand the comments of the resolutions committee saying that former members on our roles are "prospects" and that they are a good resource for evangelism. I'm ashamed that our convention did not see this fit to take to the floor tonight.

justin said...

Since when does removing people from membership mean we remove them from being a "prospect"?

Maybe we should be more clear that removing them from membership means that they are actually put on a "prospect" list. This would actually help us reach them instead of just assuming they are fine because they are a member.

Just my thoughts.

I weep with you at our convention's negative vote on this issue.

Brian Hamrick said...

Update on the Resolution:

Dr. Ascol's resolution was declined by the committee. When he brought it from the floor, the committee's response to it was (paraphrasing here): "non-attenders [who we call members] are good candidates for evangelism."

There you have it folks. You don't have to really be saved to be a member of an SBC church.

A 2/3 vote was required to get the body to consider it. About 40% of folks wanted to hear the motion later and have it considered. When it failed, there was a collective groan in the coliseum. I walked out. It was a grievous moment to be a Southern Baptist.

Dr. Ascol, you have served us so well this week. Please bring the resolution back next year. Do not faint. Wiley Drake got elected this year to 2VP because of persistence. I encourage you my brother and mentor in the faith to persist and not be discouraged by this temporary defeat. Our Lord was glorified by your words.

Ben said...

Mohler is giving the SBTS report right now. He just said that Southern Baptists are the people who believe in regenerate church membership.

Yeah, right.

Brian Hamrick said...

How wise was our God to ordain Dr. Mohler's report follow Dr. Ascol's resolution attempt. I'm watching it downstairs from the exhibit hall. It was a nice second wave to what Tom was trying to make clear: the glory of God!

Cary Loughman said...

Echoing the sentiments here on the nonsensical reasoning for not wanting non-attending members removed from rolls. The response might just well have been "no, just because..."

I am so glad I addressed this issue as a layperson in my own church. We must seek to ensure that we have a regenerate membership who are actively supporting their local church in our SBC churches as much as it depends on us. Keep fighting the good fight, Tom.

Joshua said...

Ben,
I'm watching online as well so I, like you, could have misheard something but it seems like the committee rejected the resolution

#1 because they question the accuracy of the resolution itself, namely that "well over half (of the 16 million) do not attend"
and
#2 because, of course they would be throwing away a prospect list.

I could be interpretting that wrong. Either way, it's sad they do not want to 'resolve' to implement Tom's motion/resolution. Yet, they will cheer and affirm a resolution such as the alchohol or ammendment thing...
I thought Ben Cole was very well spoken... and AT LEAST there has been opportunity for Tom (well Tom almost got cut-off and he was delayed perhaps for the committee to provide a response), Ben, Wade and others to actually speak for at least now the entire convention has heard additional viewpoints and concerns.
Praise the Lord that Tom was able to read the resolution from the floor!!

Joshua said...

So,
If Condi is a Presbyterian and since there's such a high degree of respect for her...perhaps she could help the convention figure out the truth about "this Calvinism stuff"

Ben said...

Joshua,

If I understood correctly, your #1 and my #1 are the same thing. The committee argued that the statistics reported in Tom's resolution (which came from the annual church profiles) are inaccurate, or at least unverifiable and they would need to study the statistics before they affirmed them.

So when I refer to the statistics churches report about themselves, I'm talking about the same stats you're referring to. The "well over half" that don't attend is from the ACP data that Tom included in his resolution. Again, I think I'm representing this accurately. If not, I'll crawl under a rock somewhere when Tom corrects me.

slmayes said...

I watched Tom read the resolution also. Am I wrong that Tom was told that he would be given an opportunity to speak on behalf of the resolution after the committee member spoke against it? I don't know if it would have made any difference or not, but Tom should have been allowed to speak again.

One other thought. Isn't it likely that many pastors would not address the issue of integrity in reporting and exercise church discipline because it would reduce the size of their churches by more than half?

Joshua said...

Ben,
No need for correction and no need to find a rock. There's no problem with your report of what apparently happened. The problem is with the rejection and denial on the part of the committee. Would there have been any way for Tom to cite a more precise number of actual attenders as compared the bloated membership number (16 mil.) instead of stating "well over half"? Perhaps that number is impossible to calculate or are they even reported...? I'm not sure...
Something tells me though Ben, the committee would not care nor will they be investigating further the accusations found in the resolution to verify its accuracy. Most likely they may not care...
Ben, did you see the guy after Tom read the resolution? He sort of sighed and was like,
"Brother Tom... we agree with you BUT... (paraphrased)"

but we ain't passin no resolution that says we repent of nothin'...

because, by the way, Ben, "We ain't Calvinists and we ain't Armeenians; We're Babtists..."

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

Charles:

Thanks for the Scripture reference. Keep reading. Jesus is not talking about the church, but the world!

Your misreading of this passage may help explain the mess we are in.

Matthew 13:36-43
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world , the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Tom said...

Charles:

Somehow this comment of yours got deleted. I will repeat it here for those interested in why I posted my response:

Charles wrote:
Regarding Brother Tom's resolution,

"And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them." (Matthew 13:27-29)

willreformed said...

I am depressed. The man who published "Trouble with the Tulip: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism" is now President.

I really struggle with why I remain in the SBC.

In His Name

willreformed said...

From SBC.net
Patterson, Mohler: Calvinism shouldn’t divide SBC
Jun 13, 2006
By Michael Foust
Baptist Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--Saying they hope to serve as a model for the rest of the Southern Baptist Convention, seminary presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Paige Patterson June 12 discussed their differences over the doctrine of election, stressing that believers can disagree on the topic while remaining friends and unified in the goal of evangelism and missions.

"I do hope … we will provide at least an example on that point, if on no other," Patterson said.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Patterson, president of Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, discussed Calvinism during two one-hour-long breakout sessions of the SBC Pastors' Conference at a convention hotel ballroom. Mohler affirms Calvinism, while Patterson does not. The sessions, titled, “Reaching Today’s World Through Differing Views of Election,” drew standing room only crowds.

"We were expecting eight or 10 of you," Patterson quipped.

Each man spoke for 20 minutes before fielding questions submitted prior to the session. Saying that Patterson is a "friend in the Gospel," Mohler pointed to former great men of faith -- such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody -- who had disagreements over election but nonetheless considered one another Christian brothers and "cooperated together in evangelism."

"This is a conversation among close friends," Mohler said.

Both Mohler and Patterson disagreed in classifying the session as a "debate." But both men made clear that they had honest disagreements.

"Reading the Scripture we have to face squarely that God is a choosing God in the exercise of His sovereignty,” Mohler said. “He chose Israel. He chose Jacob. And as the Apostle Paul makes clear, He chooses sinners."

But Patterson said, “The calling of God is made to all men, and then men must decide whether they will respond to the calling or not."

PATTERSON: PEOPLE ARE ‘TOTALLY FREE’

Patterson began his segment by saying, to laughter, “The real question we are here to discuss today is whether or not you are here on your own free will."

He listed six areas in which he and Calvinists agree –- areas for which he said he has great appreciation. Calvinists, Patterson said: “usually lead very pious lives”; believe theology is important; generally are “very clear about the dangers involved in the charismatic movement; “understand the purpose of everything is to glorify God”; “never question the inerrancy of Scripture or the substitutionary atonement of Christ”; and “are crystal clear about the fact that salvation is by grace alone.”

But Patterson also said there are several areas of concern he has with “some Calvinists”:

-- the notion that if “you are not a Calvinist then you must be an Arminian.” He said he is neither.

-- the argument that “if you are not a Calvinist then you do not accept the doctrines of grace.” Patterson said, “I believe that salvation is by grace alone, and I'm not a Calvinist.”

-- the assertion that those who are not Calvinists don’t believe in the sovereignty of God. “I just happen to believe that God is sovereign enough that He can make a man totally free if He wishes to do so,” Patterson said.

-- “antinomian tendencies” present “in some Calvinists,” particularly on the subject of drinking alcohol. Antinomianism tends to overemphasize grace in relation to law.

-- a failure of Reformed pastors to be “completely forthright” with pulpit committees during interviews. “This is a concern not only about Calvinists,” Patterson said. “It is a concern about people who happen to be dispensationalists, like me. It's a concern about any position which you hold." There should be “full disclosure of what you believe and what you plan to do once you become the pastor of that church."

-- the “compassionlessness” for a lost world seen in “some Calvinists.” Patterson said what he “appreciate[s] so much about Dr. Mohler and many of my other Calvinist friends is that that emphatically is not true of them."

Patterson said he views the doctrine of election through the "foreknowledge of God." He also said he sees no biblical evidence for “irresistible grace” –- one of the tenets of Calvinism.

“If, in fact, men cannot resist the will of the Holy Spirit … then in fact salvation is coercive and a person does not have a choice about what he is going to do,” he said. "… I believe it is God's will that every human being be saved. I don't believe all of them will be saved -- narrow is the way, and straight is the gate.”

Patterson read two quotes he attributed to Presbyterian pastor R.C. Sproul: "God desired man to fall into sin. God created sin"; and "It is [God's] desire to make His wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures."

“It is impossible to find justice in that by any biblical definition of justice," Patterson said. “… This makes God, in some sense, the author of sin.”

He listed several scriptural passages -- 1 Timothy 2:3-6, 2 Peter 3:9, Hebrews 2:9, 1 John 2:2 -- that he said support general atonement instead of the Calvinist tenant of limited (or particular) atonement.

"To me, the references to the universality of the atonement are absolutely overwhelming in the New Testament," Patterson said. “… The Calvinist must fall back on the idea of two wills of God –- a revealed will and a secret will. The problem with the secret will, of course, is that it is secret and we cannot know about [it] at all. Not only that, [but] it pits the secret will in juxtaposition and over against His revealed will.”

Patterson challenged those in attendance, "My fervent prayer is that whatever your beliefs are about the sovereignty of God … you will join me in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”

MOHLER: SOUTHERN BAPTISTS AFFIRM GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY

During his segment Mohler, who affirms the five points of Calvinism, said it was "good and healthy" for Southern Baptists to discuss theology.

"It's a sign of a mature denomination," said Mohler, who was speaking one day after undergoing eye cornea surgery, and obviously was bothered by the bright lights. “… We may be the last people alive who can have an honest disagreement."

"Were it not for the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention," he added, the discussion over election might instead be over the ordination of homosexuals.

"By God's grace we are not there," he said to applause.

Southern Baptists, Mohler said, affirm God’s sovereignty in salvation even if they don’t call themselves Calvinists.

"In your local church, when you send out an evangelism team, you don't say, 'Good luck,'" he said. "You pray that God will open hearts and open minds. When we listen to ourselves pray, we really do hear a strong confidence in the sovereignty of God.

" … The doctrine of election explains why we go with confidence to share the Gospel -- because God does call sinners to Himself, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

"As the parable of the sower of the soil makes clear, we cannot read the human heart. We do not know who is the fertile heart and who is the resistant heart. … We just know there are sinners who need to hear the Gospel, and thus we preach the Gospel to all persons, knowing that God does save."

All Christians, Mohler said, are called to spread the Gospel.

“Why do we go?” he asked. “We go because we honestly believe that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. … God always blesses the preaching of the Gospel. And He does so because He is not a spectator, but He is the God who saves through the means of the Gospel.”

Answering a point posed by Patterson -- that if Calvinism is true then a person could be drawn against his will, Mohler said, "I do not believe that such a person exists.

"Rather, I believe the doctrine of effectual calling, that Scripture says once that work is begun, and that person is drawn unto Christ, then that person will come to faith in Christ and will be authentically saved," he said. "I do not believe in the fictitious person who is drawn to faith in Christ against his will. I do not believe that that is possible.

Human will, Mohler said, is not “contravened by God.”

“The Lord’s will –- as the initiating will -– wills the human will to will what the Father wills,” he said. "… When Dr. Patterson shares the Gospel and when I share the Gospel, we do so honestly and urgently believing that if that person to whom we shared the Gospel of Christ responds in faith, she or he will be saved.”

Mohler further said that all Southern Baptist believe in a form of limited atonement -- otherwise, he said, they would be universalists.

"The question is, how is the atonement limited and by whom?" he said. "… I would prefer to speak of particular redemption. I do believe before the creation of the world God determined to save sinners -- and not just in a general sense, but in an actual sense, persons who would come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

Mohler listed five areas in which all Southern Baptists are “one form of Calvinists or another”:

-- a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. "It is not by accident that there are no great Arminian testimonies to the inerrancy of Scripture," Mohler said. "… We really do believe that God can work in such a way that the human will wills to do what God wills that will to do. And that is exactly why we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. We do not believe that the Apostle Paul was irresistibly against his will drawn to write the Book of Romans.”

-- a belief in the substitutionary atonement. The logic of this doctrine fits only within “the umbrella of a Calvinist scheme.” "The entire worldview in which substitution makes sense is a worldview in which the sovereignty of God and the righteousness of God and the saving purpose of God are vindicated in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ."

-- affirming the "omniscience of God." "At the very least … God created this world knowing exactly who would come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," Mohler said. "Some of us believe more than that, but certainly none of us here believes less than that.... If that be so then … the precise identity of all the persons who would come to faith in Christ was known by the Father before the world was created.”

-- a belief in the eternal security of the believer. "Once this work of salvation is accomplished in the life of a sinner, and that sinner is transformed by the grace and mercy of God, He can never fall away," he said.

Mohler said he preaches "without hesitation the 'whosoevers' and the 'alls'" found in the Bible.

"Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved -- I believe that emphatically," he said.

But Mohler said some preachers intentionally ignore certain passages of the Bible.

"I do believe there is irresistible preaching, because a lot of preachers manage to resist Romans chapter 8," he said to laughter.

Mohler said he wants “to be known” for his commitment “to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ” and not for his belief on the doctrine of election.

"I feel no accountability to John Calvin. I feel an indebtedness to him, but I'm not accountable to him nor would I wish to wear his name, nor, I believe, would he wish anyone to wear his name,” Mohler said. “[Calvinism] is a categorization which I don't deny if you're talking about a strain of theology. But I am accountable to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ.

"… I'm not here in the name of John Calvin. I'm here in name of -- same initials, different name -- Jesus Christ.

TWO STREAMS INTO ONE RIVER

Both Mohler and Patterson said too many people, when debating Calvinism, have a judgmental attitude toward one another. Mohler quipped that some people frame it thusly, "Are you or have you ever been a Calvinist?"

"I would caution my non-Calvinist brethren against the conclusion that the doctrine of Calvin automatically means that a person will not and cannot be evangelistic," Patterson said. "… One of the commands that the Lord gives is to take the Gospel to the ends of earth. No Calvinist worthy of his stripe would thereby disobey a command of God.”

Mohler agreed that there are "hyper-Calvinists" -- those who reject the need to spread the Gospel -- within the SBC. But he said it is by nature a small group.

"If you ever find a vital hyper-Calvinist movement, you will have a living oxymoron," he said.

Five-point Calvinism, Mohler said, "is not hyper-Calvinism."

"However, if one takes an additional logical jump from that point and says, 'Therefore, we should not present the Gospel to all persons,' they are in direct conflict with the Scripture and direct disobedience to the call of God and in direct contradiction to the model of the apostles,” he said.

Said Patterson, "It's very unfair to a Calvinist to refer to him as a hyper-Calvinist. It prejudges him. … I think instead you ought to ask him, 'What do you believe?' If he's wrong about it -- if he goes too far in one direction -- you can correct that. I don’t like name-calling."

Mohler cautioned Calvinists toward not having "a debating personality."

"It is not healthy to have a person who will drive across the state to debate Calvinism but won't even drive across the street to share the Gospel," he said.

The two men said Southern Baptists can learn much from studying the history of the debate over election -- both within the history of Christianity and within the SBC.

"This is an old discussion," Patterson said. "It's a discussion that predates Calvin. It is a discussion that predates Augustine. … God's people have always struggled to try to figure out what is it that God has done on one hand and what is it for which we are responsible on the other.

"It's a good discussion, it’s a healthy discussion, as long as we don't begin to anathematize one another for our various perspectives and as long as the discussion of this theology or any other theology does not become an impediment to the most important thing, which is getting the Gospel of Christ to 6.5 billion people."

Within SBC history, Patterson said, "both sides of this discussion are well-represented." He said there are two "streams" of belief flowing into the same river. One stream was the Charleston, S.C., stream, which was "more Calvinistic," the other was the Sandy Creek, N.C., stream which was “more revivalistic,” Patterson said. Yet the Sandy Creek statement of faith also had a "very Calvinistic strain", he added.

The majority of the founders of the SBC, Mohler said, held to Calvinist beliefs.

"They were themselves representative of a great Baptist movement that itself was a part of the great evangelical movement," he said. "… It is no accident that [British missionary] William Carey held these very beliefs, and thus he went to India to begin the modern missionary movement. It is no accident that those who founded this denomination likewise held those beliefs, and those very beliefs compelled them into world missions."

Calvinism, Mohler said, is "part of the stream that has brought us to this place."

“Dr. Patterson and I have discussed this far more extensively than a one-hour presentation here would allow,” Mohler said. “It’s a part of the vibrancy of our friendship in the Gospel. … We owe it to each other as brothers in Christ, who share an affection for the Gospel … to, as iron sharpens iron, talk about these issues so that we can be evermore faithful in preaching and teaching the Gospel.”

Patterson urged Southern Baptists not to follow the example of the English Baptists who divided over the issue. After the split, those who held to limited atonement (the particular Baptists) became "anti-missionary and anti-evangelistic," while those who held to general atonement (the General Baptists) emphasized doctrine so little that they "became universalists," Patterson said.

“The splitting of the two did them no favors and pushed them in opposite directions that were very unfortunate,” he said. "… If we allow Satan to have his way, we'll divide up over it, as we certainly should not," Patterson said.
--30--
Order forms for CDs and tapes of the Mohler-Patterson discussion and other breakout sessions during the SBC Pastors’ Conference can be downloaded at www.SBCTapes.com. SBC Tapes can be reached at 817-656-1258.

bristopoly said...

If I was as concerned with numbers as Patterson, then I wouldn't want to "divide" over Calvinism either. I wouldn't want to divide over hyper-Calvinism or any other ism. I want my churches packed. I just don't want any of those people to have a voice in the SBC. I think that might be what is truly going on here.

John said...

I'd like more appraisal of the convention too. They rejected "integrity in membership" (a regenerate church, a fundamental tenet of Baptists) but accepted legalism (against alcohol), a provision, if applied, would prohibit the Lord Jesus from having a place in the leadership of the SBC.

I suppose it was, quite literally, a "conservative resurgence" in the 1980s, not necessarily a Biblical one. Still, I think you all should persevere and keep trying to persuade and educate the "conservatives".

www.covenantdubois.com

volfan007 said...

i am absolutely thrilled that the Lord predestined for dr. page to be the new sbc president. the Lord in all of His sovereignty saw that dr. page should be our new leader. glory to God.

John Wootten said...

Actually, I'm pretty sure the SBC messengers managed to thwart God's will on that one. I guess I'm an Arminian now :(