Friday, June 02, 2006

Twenty years at GBC

This week marks my 20th anniversary as pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida. It is a milestone worth noting because of its testimony to the grace of God working within a local church. Early in my ministry when I heard of a pastor who stayed a long time serving one church I could not help but admire him. Now I admire much more the churches where that kind of longevity is encouraged. Anytime you hear of a long pastorate you can be sure that it is a testimony to a gracious congregation. That is certainly true in my case.

They have given me room to grow, encouraged the development and exercise of my gifts, overlooked my eccentricities and been generous and conscientious in their support. They have loved me and my family (which doubled in size from when I first arrived) and have followed my leadership through some uncertain and difficult times. The name fits the church.

Yesterday I communicated with 5 brothers who have recently been or are in the process of being forced out of their pastoral ministries by the churches they serve. In addition, there are several more men who alluded to their own, similar experiences in the comments on the blog entry about "Dishonest Calvinists (?)." All of this has caused me to think more deeply about what is going on in the advance of reformation within the SBC and beyond. I hope to collect my thoughts and write about it before long, but here is the direction of my thinking. Calvinism is being made the whipping boy for many of the serious problems that are coming to light in denominational entities as well as local churches. If you listen carefully you can hear that case being made not only in the halls of academia but also in every level of the denominational organization. The misrepresentation of the doctrines of grace and the refusal to admit the nature and real source of these problems provide an easy target for godless people as well as misguided godly people to get in their sites as the explanation of all our problems. This is disingenuous, dishonest and will prove to be spiritually disastrous. But, as I said, that is not the point of this article.

It does provide a backdrop, however, for my recent musings about my 20 year tenure at Grace. Many good things have happened in those 2 decades. I have been granted amazing privileges by God over the course of my ministry here. I have had the privilege of baptizing children of those who came to Christ and were baptized here as young adults many years ago. I have witnessed the church's recovery of biblical foundations in the areas of the Gospel, discipline and polity. I have watched us send out 3 of our finest families to serve as missionaries in hard places. I have seen God's grace at work as husbands and wives have buried their life's mate, as brothers and sisters have grieved over broken marriages and wayward children and as good friends and faithful servants have crossed that river that has no bridge at life's end. I have been stunned by watching the workings of God's grace in saving people in all kinds of ways and at various stages of life. I have seen the church struggle financially and respond to financial blessings. I have wept with the church as we watched friends walk away from the Gospel and from us, and have rejoiced with the church as we have seen estranged members restored. I have been challenged and encouraged to study, understand and teach God's Word week-by-week by a people whose appetite for Christ is so voracious that they will not allow me to get away with superficial exposition. Their faithfulness has provoked in me desires to be faithful.

As with life ministry is filled with a mixture of blessings and sorrows. That is true both for pastor and congregation. John Newton captures the experience of every pastor in this poem.
A Minister's Burden

What contradictions meet
In ministers' employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor or disgrace.

Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel,
Constrained to speak in vain,
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt?

The Savior's dying love,
The soul's amazing worth,
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth;
They pray and strive, the rest departs,
Till Christ be formed in sinners' hearts.

If some small hope appears,
They still are not content,
But with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived.
Then how their inmost souls are grieved!

But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The ripening ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest-joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.

On what has now been sown,
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is Thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do Thou the gracious harvest raise,
And Thou alone shalt have the praise.
The church surprised me with a most unusual gift on Wednesday night. For many years I have had back trouble, resulting in a couple of surgeries and some ongoing discomfort. The gracious people whom I serve got together and purchased a "therapeutic spa" for my family and me in honor of our anniversary. "Therapeutic spa" sounds so much more noble than "hot tub" and I admit that I am not very well-versed in this field, but it sure looks like a hot tub! One seat is specially designed with water jets that work on the spinal column. I briefly initiated it yesterday and stayed in long enough to predict that it will be greatly used in the years ahead.

I do need to study up on how to get the most out of it, however. As you can see, I am already hard at work on that.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I am deeply grateful to the Lord for the privilege of serving the wonderful people of Grace Baptist Church for the last 20 years. I could wish that every pastor would have the joy of living with such a people.

24 comments:

joethorn.net said...

Tom, you are an encouragement to so many of us in many ways. With everyone at your church, we praise God for his grace working through you in Cape Coral and Founders.

SavedandSure said...

Grace Baptist Church is a GREAT congregation with a GREAT pastor!
Congratulations to both!

Regarding the hot tub - it will help any OLD man or woman, with or without BACK problems.

Your choice of reading material is to be commended, too.

Everything Jim Packer writes should be read, even though he is not a SB - Southern Baptist!

J.D. Rector said...

Dr. Ascol: Congratulations on your 20th anniversary at Grace Baptist Church! Your church is a testimony to your faithfulness to expound the WHOLE counsel of God, not just pulpit proclamation that pleases the parishioner that is so prevalent in many churches today.

As one who has had 3 back surgeries, I empathize with you brother. Press on!

Praying that God gives you more years of great ministry...

J.D. Rector

K. Elijah Layfield said...

Thank God for His glorious, sustaining graces. Thanks for sharing.

Steve Weaver said...

Thank you for providing a model of faithfulness in the local church! I hope the "spa" extends your ministry!

Mark Fuss said...

Congratulations Tom!
We thank you and your church for how you ministered to us two years ago when we were undergoing trials within our church. We will never forget the time you took out of your busy schedule to encourage us and pray for us. The ministry of Tom Ascol and Grace Baptist Church reaches far beyond the walls of the church. To God Be The Glory!!!

Mark and Kristy

allofgrace said...

Dr. Ascol,
You don't know me..and I only know you through this website..but after reading your post I just wanted to say God bless you, your family, and your ministry at Grace for many years to come. Your thoughts put into print have been a blessing and encouragement to me. And I agree..longevity in a pastorate is something to be admired and thankful for..especially in a time when the average SB pastorate is 2 years or less. God bless you, and keep preaching the Word..."in season, and out of season." And I agree with savedandsure...JI Packer is excellent reading!!

Stephen A Morse said...

I hope that someday my church will give me a spa-batical!

Congrats Tom!

peter lumpkins said...

Dr Ascol,

Greetings from Sweden. I have laid in bed long enough now with my eyes wide open. I thought I would get up and do a little reading before my tour begins. Some fabulous church structures here date to Medeval times. How fantastic...

Congradulations on your tenure at Church. And also, a word of encouragement to your church family for blessing their man of God so well.

I anticipate your thoughts on the future of Calvinists in the SBC. Admittedly, your initial assessment about calvinism being the *whipping boy* in SBC life promises to bring the best--and most--comments in the Founders Blog histroy! Unfortunately, I suspect it may also bring out the worst. Not to mention, a little humor involved.

I am curious how the argumentation you bring will relieve calvinists themselves for any of the woes brought upon the movement. I hurriedly--and sloppily, I might add--wrote in a comment before leaving the states an observation I have about the state of SBC calvinism. In essence, one of my conclusions could be summarized as follows: what in tarnation do calvinists expect non-calvinists to do when non-calvinists´ best pastors, preachers and leaders are subject to perpetual parsing of every single sermon they attempt to preach on doctrinal themes calvinists seem to think they own? And more: given calvinists´disdain for large or mega churches and, at least from some quarters, an almost bragging-like attitude about backdoor revivals and pruning the church back, how are non-calvinist baptists supposed to view calvinists with any semblance of positiveness?

Further, given the continued language of ´reforming the SBC´that calvinists insist on retaining in their vocabulary will almost certainly assure that calvinists´future remains obscure.

Here stands a likely and most frightening thought of the average, non-calvinist southern baptist: given calvinists´narrow parameters when it comes to doctrinal integrity and faithfulness (read 5.O) and couple that with calvinsts´ hardline insistence on confrontational church displine, leaves little room to consider for calvinists´success in the inner-workings on SBC life.

Dr. Ascol, even I--in the face of my friendliness toward theological calvinism--am reluctant to buy this visionary paradigm Founders appears to be marketing. Frankly, it is not the theology that bothers most non-calvinists near as much as the contentious, confrontational, warlike do-or-die attitude of so many grassroots calvinists. Indeed, if a calvinist is not bold, declarative and insistent, he may not even be considered as √≥ne of us´from fellow calvinists. How many times have I read from the commenters on this blog the marching orders of every true calvinist: we ought to stand up for what we believe, citing I might add, Peter´s plea to defend the faith once for all given to the saints. Excuse me? Peter was telling us to defend calvinism? For me, Dr Ascol, that stands as pure poppycock and demonstrates both the confusion in methodology calvinists presently hold as well as remains stark evidence that calvinists themselves need to accept part of the blame for their supposedly becoming the whipping boy. Consider. If the faith once for all given to the saints is calvinism, where does that leave non-calvinism? Where does that leave--at least from grassroots calvinists´perspective--the overwhelming majority of the SBC? Words have meaning as the little cliche goes. Thus reforming the SBC must mean making the SBC calvinistic to reflect the faith once for all given. Calvinists: do the math. How should non-calvinists respond to your reform?


Well, it's daylight here (Interesting, its been daylight ever since 3am!)and I must sign off. Do know I highly respect your views and favorably anticipate your thoughts. With that, I am...

Peter

Caddiechaplain said...

Dude,
Surf is definately UP! Congrads, hombre!

Ron . . . .

Timmy said...

Tom,

I praise God for you for many reasons. As I reflect on my spiritual pilgrimage thus far, I reflect on my earlier days when Piper at Passion conferences was being called the "spiritual father" to many of us in this younger generation of evangelicals. He has shown a passion to invest in us, and the evidence/fruit is obvious. You, likewise, have chosen to make an investment in us as well - to encourage us, chasten us, and help us along the way. Like Piper, I think I can speak for many of us that you are like such a "father." Thank you for this.

Paul did not take lightly his call to be a good steward of the gospel and to entrust it to faithful men called of God and trustworthy to carry the mantle which had been so sacrificially handed down to them. When he spoke as a spiritual father to the Corinthians, he urged them to imitate him and follow his lead (1 Cor. 4:14-16; 11:1). To the Philippians, he urged them to put into practice the things they had seen, heard, and learned from him (Phil. 4:9). To the Thessalonians, he gave not only the gospel but his life as well because of his affection to them (1 Thess. 2:8). I say all this because we live in a day where there are "countless tutors" and very few fathers. It is evident that you have exhibited in your church and ministry the reality that you are "in childbirth" until Christ is formed in your children (Gal. 4:19).

With you graceful words, passion for the truth, love for Christ's Church, occasional humor, and timely encouragement you have proven to be such a father to many of us - a pattern of living as becoming of the gospel with faithful steps leading us to be like Christ. As I hear you speak of the children walking in the truth (3 John 4), I can see that they are your joy and crown and reason for exulting. May this be a reminder to all of us who minister as shepherds (as well as to those who don't).

While many of the leaders of the SBC are vying for political positions or financing the next building program, you, brother, have built an army of Timothy's. Having laid the foundation of Christ, you have built upon these living stones with biblical exposition and a personal demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What will the next generation speak of those who have been entrusted with such a calling as this? May we be found to be as steadfast, faithful, immovable, and abounding in the work of the Lord as the father who modeled for us Christ in us, the hope of glory. Congratulations!

David B. Hewitt said...

I can only echo Timmy's comments. I have learned much from you and Founders and pray that God would grant me continued learning!

...on a different note...

...I can't help but wonder what Marc over at purgatorio would do with that picture.... :)

Dave

JoeTolin said...

Peter,

Thank you for your insightful comments. While it is sometimes true that "grass roots" Calvinists can be misunderstood as arrogant and over-zealous by non-Calvinists I believe that the majority of these "grass-rooters" are simply zealous for the truth and for God's glory. Was the Lord overzealous when He overturned the tables in the Temple? I do not think so. Does election come across as high-brow and often superior? Yes at the surface but when a person understands election they are humbled at the very idea. So would I say that a non-Calvinist misunderstands election and predestination? Of course I would and they would say the same about me I am sure. Does that make one of us arrogant or over-zealous? No. We are both concerned with truth. You said:
"what in tarnation do calvinists expect non-calvinists to do when non-calvinists´ best pastors, preachers and leaders are subject to perpetual parsing of every single sermon they attempt to preach on doctrinal themes calvinists seem to think they own?" When we who are passionate for Biblical exegesis hear or read such sermons what do you expect? Paul told Timothy to rightly divide the Word of Truth. When injustice is done to texts of Scripture in the name of debunking Calvinism or any other theology or even misrepresenting a text of Scripture to prove Calvinism we should all cry foul. After all James 3:1 says that teachers are held to a stricter judgement. When the leaders in the SBC are engaging in dishonest banter and straw men arguments then someone has to stand up. By your words you would probably agree that since the SBC was predominantly liberal before the "takeover" then the conservatives should have not been so bold and agressive. Again a zeal for truth won the day. We Calvinists are thrilled that the takeover happened we just don't think it went far enough. And furthermore none of us should be above having every word of our sermons parsed and put under the spotlight of Scriptural scrutiny. The attitude that "the best" should not be scrutinized is the epitomy of arrogance.

You said: "given calvinists´disdain for large or mega churches and, at least from some quarters, an almost bragging-like attitude about backdoor revivals and pruning the church back, how are non-calvinist baptists supposed to view calvinists with any semblance of positiveness?"

Since when has doctrinal or methodological scrutiny become a bad thing? Since when has having the unregenerate become offended at the Word the fault of any preacher? The Gospel has always been and will always be offensive to the lost. I am sure Paul said that. What's wrong with calling our convention which we all love and support into numerical fidelity? I think we understand the pride involved in false numbers and inflated church membership rolls. And yes we are so prideful to report that our church membership actually declined. Now to answer your question. How are we to be looked upon with any "semblance of positiveness?" Maybe the non-Calvinists can understand that we only want to improve the convention not bring it harm. We only want an army of God's elect people marching into the world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We only want to be part of churches and have our children and grandchildren to be part of churches that are zealous for the glory of God and the Gospel of Christ not concerned with the latest program of "how to make quick Christians."

Let me say that I do appreciate the tone of your post. It is quite refreshing to be asked some honest questions. I normally do not respond to these but read quite a bit of "neck-vein protruding" comments.

You said: "Further, given the continued language of ´reforming the SBC´that calvinists insist on retaining in their vocabulary will almost certainly assure that calvinists´future remains obscure."

May I remind you of a Latin phrase, Semper Reformanda, always reforming. We Calvinists do not mind having our theology and methodology updated in light of Scripture so why would we think that non-Calvinists would mind either? They should not be offended by the statement. I think a book was even written entitled The Baptist Reformation all about the conservative resurgence. So why would anyone be offended at this terminology unless pride was involved and the last time I checked God did not look at pride too fondly.

Should we defend Calvism? Personally I do not defend the system. I will however defend a biblical understanding of the doctrines involved. After all there are no unimportant doctrines. And if our understanding of election and reprobation is indeed true then we are called to defend it just like those who have "every word of their sermons parsed" are attempting to do.

We Calvinists welcome the debate. We welcome the dialogue. We are not afraid to have our theology questioned because if I may speak for my Calvinist brothers and sisters we desire the truth even when it changes our theology. We are not afraid of the scrutiny and defending the truth. And no I did not say truth as we see it. There is only one truth when it comes to doctrine and so that means that someone is wrong.

So my brother, thank you for your post and thank you for your friendliness toward this movement. One last comment. You asked:
How should non-calvinists respond to your reform?

With open Bibles not with traditional Southern Baptist methodology. That is all we ask. Is that too much to ask of our brothers to obey Scripture and quit using worldly methodology to gain "converts" and allowing apostates to stay on the churh roll to ensure that their church and our denomination is the largest?

Joe

Brian Hamrick said...

Tom,

What a wonderful blog you posted. We celebrate with you the work of God in your ministry at Grace and through Founders.

How nice to see how they demonstrated their love for you through this appropriate gift.

Christopher Redman said...

Tom,

Congratulations on 20 years. Being a mere 10 months in my current tenure, I look forward to achieving a 10, 20, and 25 year mark.

Peter Frank -

(Not that I can speak for Tom but...) "Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" is only speaking of one true faith. I think Paul referred to this as well in Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I recieved from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD." (not yelling only emphasis)

To quote Piper, "I think the gospel of John is the most predestinarian, calvinistic book in the Bible." The faith once for all delivered to the saints is comprehensive of the entire NT but explicitly revealed in the gospel of John and Romans. John 1, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 17 are all explicitly calvinistic and predestinarian. Not to mention Romans throughout, especialy chapters 1-11 and Ephesians 1-2. We are not talking about two or three or four verses here and there in the NT but entire chapters, major portions of the Bible dedicated to expounding "the gospel of the grace of God."

As far as reforming the SBC or making the SBC "calvinistic", from my view all baptists that believe in salvation by grace and eternal security are calvinists. They may be ignorant of the fact but eternal security is a calvanistic doctrine.

In addition to this, eternal security does not stand on its own but is built upon the foundation of election, particular redemption (ie: subsititutionary atonement), and effectual calling.

I think what Calvinists in the SBC desire are honest, consistent discussion (debate if need be) on the "whole council of God" that includes calvinism. We simply want consistency not double talk... Do we believe the Abstract of Principles or not? Do we believe the Baptist Faith and Message, Article 5 "Of God's Purpose of Grace" or not? If we do, why is there so much being said to dimish or make inconsequential the foundation of the Christian faith? (ie: salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.) The sovereignty of God is not some insignificant idea, it is the foundation of the attributes of God, the essence of God's person. It is the explainer of history and the comfort and assurance that what God says, that He will do. We know and have absolute confidence in our eternal future because God is sovereign.

One final thought, the obsene desire on behalf of non-calvinist to insist on "free will" as an absolute necessity is not based on exegeting scripture but is in fact merely philosophical in nature. Pelagius believed that what God demanded must be attainable by man. Therefore, if God demands perfect obedience it must be achievable. If God demands all men everywhere to repent and believe on Jesus Christ, they must have the natural/free ability to do so. That is philosophy, not biblical theology.

Case in point, God demands perfect obedience to the law. Sin is transgression of the law. The 10 commandments are the revealed moral law of God. God demands that all men perfectly obey the 10 commandments. If man had the free/natural ability to do so, why hasn't anyone in the history of humanity ever kept the 10 commandments perfectly? No one has except one, the incarnate, sinless Christ. He alone has kept the law perfectly. All others have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

I believe in free will, prior to the fall. I believe Adam and Eve had a free will. But after they freely chose to sin, free will is no longer a current reality. Our body, mind, and will is in bondage to sin (Rom 7:24, 8:7, and John 6:44).

I close with one passage that exemplifies the gospel of the grace of God, the faith once for all delivered the saints, the free and sovereign grace of God in election as well as the total depravity of fallen man.

John 8:34-36 "Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son does remain forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.'" (The biggest word in the text is "if" meaning unmerrited, undeserved, and without obligation. ie: spiritual freedom is all of grace alone.

Yes, I think the the faith once for all delivered to the saints is calvinistic in nature but I don't credit J. Calvin for it. The Bible is the source and authority for "the faith once for all". Frankly, the Bible reveals what we call calvinism.

CR

peter lumpkins said...

My Brother Joe,

I too appreciate the tone of your response. It fully represents how brothers may disagree absent the standard --forgive the mundane--slobber & spit. Thank you.

I fear, however, that the analogy you offered about contending for Scripture as did the Conservative Resurgance and contending for calvinism--whatever the calvinism is called, whether DG, 5P, etc--is much to different to be useful. It is the difference between contending for Authority and contending for a hermeneutical lens through which to interpret Authority. For me, calvinism is more a lens. Surely, Joe, you wouldn´t argue calvinism an authority, would you?

However, the greatest weakness in your otherwise very sober post de4monstrates nicely the reluctance of non-calvinists open embrace of your public concerns. That is, when you do speak of calvinists and non-calvinists understanding of the 5Ps, you, speak--as virtually all calvinists I know, in the Founders community anyway--in terms of truth vs error, Biblical vs unBiblical, God-glorifying doctrine vs non- God-glorifying doctrine, and on we could go. Innate in such language is we vs them. Question: if your methododology inherently possesses a we vs them, how is it that oeace could ever exist with the we and them within the SBC?

And, Joe, even more pointed and much harder for Founders to answer is this: What would you do, if today, Founders, all of a sudden, were in charge--Totally in Charge of the SBC? What if Founders could be in such a place that they could implement calvinistic confessions upon the SBC, even perhaps adopting, should they desire, the old confessions from London & Philly? What would Founders do?

My guess is, Founders would be as strong in their conviction then as they are now. Why not? And, if they were consistent, the SBC necessarily would be a confessiong calvinistic body of believers. And to expect any less would be to expect hyprocrisy from the Founders. Why? For Founders, it really is a matter of truth vs error.

How then, if I am at all correct in assuming calvinists would consistently impose their theological convictions if given the opportunity on all SBC churches, are non-calvinists to roll over and allow such a thorough-going takeover to happen? Mind you, albeit calvinists would make such impositions out of deep conviction and sincere contending for doctrinal faithfulness, nevertheless, to be consistent to your truth vs error categories you ever employ to speak of calvinism vs non-calvinism, calvinistic takeover would necessarily take place.

In short, that is the fear that calvinists themselves have successfully sowed in the SBC. Thus, my point with Dr. Ascol, who, is my view, embodies modern Baptistic calvinism more than anyone else--at least as a pastoral academic--about how it was that all others have made calvinists the whipping boy. For me, I believe calvinists themselves deserve at least part of the credit, stemming from but not necessarily limited to the language of the warrior.

God give us all grace is both mine and your prayer. I am...

Peter

Aaron L. Turner said...

Congratulations my brother! I thank God for your faithfulness, and example!

JoeTolin said...

Dr. Ascol,
My apologies for engaging in this discussion under this post. Congratulations on your 20 year anniversary. That is indeed an example of pastoral longevity that is very rare indeed. The members are to be commended and congratulated as well and honored for their faithfulness.

Peter,

I am one Calvinist who does not wish to be in charge of anything. I simply do not want to be vilified by the likes of Ergun Caner and misrepresented by others. I understand that I have brothers who do not understand predestination and election the same way I do. I simply desire a fair level-headed discussion about the issues at hand. For your graciousness and level-headedness I am thankful.

You said; "It is the difference between contending for Authority and contending for a hermeneutical lens through which to interpret Authority. For me, calvinism is more a lens. Surely, Joe, you wouldn´t argue calvinism an authority, would you?"

I am Baptist. The Bible is the authority. Is Calvinism a lens? Maybe. But if it is so is any other theological system. I think you missed my point with using the resurgence. As you know just about all analogies eventually break down. My point was that if something is true, biblical authority or even Calvinism, it is worth contending for. To the chagrin of many the faith is theological. God has given us His Word so that we will know Him and His ways and that included election, predestination, and reprobation. Again we go back to truth. Someone's understanding of these issues has to be true thus rendering the other side(s) wrong. You can not get around that no matter how you discuss it. If that creates an us vs. them mentality in some then I can not do anything about that.

What do you suggest? Do we just not mention hot topic issues that come up in expositional preaching through books of the Bible? I have always tried to be fair to the other side because I know that I have brothers there that love the Lord Jesus also. They like me want to see the lost saved and God glorified. I have never doubted that. The peace will come when my brothers across the isle stop the ranting about how we Calvinists are hyper-calvinistic and how we are splitting churches when as we all know far more churches have split over petty issues that are not doctrinal in any way. Again we are asking for integrity in the debate.

Here is my theory as to why there is not and may not be peace in the SBC. Because we as Reformed Baptists will not engage in the overt silliness of many in our denomination and we will call them into question when they pursue worldly and unbiblical practices. Many of which smack of much of the religious syncretism found in the Old Testament. We will question why a pastor is elevated to lofty positions by the good ol' boy network when the churches they pastor are examples of much of what is wrong in SBC life. These who would decry Calvinism as a poison (and I am not speaking about you here)are indeed the one's poisoning the water. Do our church members not have the right to understand and wrestle with doctrine or do we have to have some who are well known tell them what to believe? I don't think you would believe that.

So Peter what do we do? You are correct in assuming that I see this argument as a truth vs. error argument but I am not the first nor will I be the last. Martin Luther saw it this way as he answered Erasmus in his book, The Freedom of the Will.

So what do we Calvinist brethren do? Should we part ways? Should we just not mention the "p" word or the "e" word ever? Should we go against our consciences and continue having come forward invitations to receive Jesus at the front? Should we not engage in the Lord's command to practice church discipline? Should we not go and seek out those on the rolls of the churches that are "inactive"? Should we ignore sin in our midst? Should we allow preachers and seminary professors to teach error because we will be going against the majority? And by the way, if Calvinism is a lens, we have just as much right to that lens as any good semi-Pelagian has to theirs.

Joe

PS. if you would like to continue this discussion my email is bro_joe_2000@hotmail.com

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

My Brother Joe made an eye-opening point: the present post may not have been the best thread to enter the discussion of the future of Calvinism in the SBC, given the celebratory aspect of it toward your fruitful ministry at GBC. I take all the blame for moving the discussion into that pool of comment.

I appreciate Joe's offer to move it to private email and perhaps that will not be necessary if I refrain from further comment and wait on what will prove to be a lively stream upon your much awaited post.

Thus, if you will indulge me just a few lines more(I promise only a few), I believe some tidying up is in order:

To Chris: Thank you for the very seasoned response to my comment. As did Joe, you were cordial yet lively, and your words struck me as deep conviction ran thru your post. Furthermore, I do not think there was a single theological assertion--with the acception of perhaps a too simplictic assignment of freewill to the ash heap of philosophy alone--with which I would fail to throughly give the amen. However, the problem for you is the problem of all convinced calvinists: what do you intend to do with non-convinced calvinists in the SBC if you gain a heavy voice? That is should the SBC in toto embrace your understanding of calvinism or is it ok not to?

Joe,

Your post is challenging. Indeed, very challenging. Just one thought and then let's defer the discussion until Dr. Ascol's much anticipated post. I really feel not only that we both can learn from each other but I also believe others may learn as well.

Here is the thought for you: Modern baptistic calvinists, absent all doubt, have been very concerned about reformation doctrines such as Scripture alone and faith alone. And, to their credit we as SBC have been better for it. However, a much neglected and just as significant doctrinal contribution from the reformers--and especially Luther--that comes, it seems to me, under no radar scope of calvinists these days is the historic baptist doctrine--reformation doctrine--of the priesthood of the believer.

It was Roger William who said having bought truth dear we must not sell it cheap. For me, most of the concerns you rightly raise possibly could be answered by buying back what we may have sold much too cheaply--the reformed and very baptistic doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.

Our Sovereign Father give you grace for a good Lord´s Day tomorrow.

With that and from Norrkoping, Sweden, I am...

Peter

Matt said...

Dr. Ascol,

I am certainly not as elegant with words as Timmy above but I too would like to echo his comments.

Since first meeting you at Southwoods in October of 2004 I was impressed by your genuine concern for the people of God and the men He has called to shepherd them.

I have benefited more than I can express, or even know myself, from your ministry. Your advice, both indirectly through your blog and other writings and directly through the few correspondences we have had via e-mail,has deeply effected my ministry.

May God continue to bless you, your family, and your congregation.

SDG,
Matt

Travis Hilton said...

Tom, congratulations. You have been a wonderful example to all of us. Your display of the friut of the Spirit on this blog reflects what so many others have been blessed with in your church. I look forward to seeing you in Greensboro.

Grace In Christ,
Travis Hilton

Celucien joseph said...

Congratulations Tom!

Keep up the good work. It is indeed worth pursuing.

Byroniac said...

Congratulations, Dr. Ascol!

I must admit I was surprised when I first saw the picture. The title "Hot Tub Religion" made me wonder if you were slipping off into heterodoxy. But when I saw the author was J.I. Packer, I breathed a sigh of relief (not that I'm that familiar with his works, really).

scripturesearcher said...

Tom, how much longer are you going to stay in that new hot tub your church gave you (and your family!) on your 20th anniversary?

Do you sleep and eat (etc., etc., etc.) in it, too?

The boy from Beaumont never had so
good!Can we get an AMEN on that?

Are you really that slow of a reader? That is not one of Jim Packer's "deeper" books.

You may need another week or so to reread his KNOWING GOD.

Oh, you are on vacation? I should have known!

And you are an Aggie (a graduate of Texas A & M) - I should have remembered!

Now we understand....


Proverb 17:22