Monday, October 16, 2006

Vines on Calvinism

Dr. Jerry Vines, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, preached last Sunday night in First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Georgia on "Calvinism: A Baptist and His Election." This is the second in a series of messages his is preaching there on Baptist Battles.

Keep your eye on on the Strange Baptist Fire blog because I understand that a series of careful evaluations of the sermon will be appearing there in the near future. I am not going to offer an extensive evaluation but rather simply give some passing thoughts on some selected quotes and points made by Dr. Vines.

I encourage everyone to listen to the message for several reasons.
  1. It is, I think, representative of what many Southern Baptists think Calvinism actually teaches.
  2. Dr. Vines speaks from a manuscript because he has done a great deal of research and wants to be very precise, so what he says cannot be easily dismissed as a slip of the tongue.
  3. The spirit of Dr. Vines comes across, for the most part, as very helpful in promoting honest discussion among brothers who disagree on the doctrines of grace.
  4. Some of the points he makes are very good and are worth seriously considering.
  5. The caricatures and misrepresentations that he employs are typical and are not likely to die very easily in our day despite the fact that most of them are very easily exposed as fallacious.
In what follows I will give Dr. Vine's points in italics. Where I am confident that I have quoted him accurately, I will use quotation marks around his words. Where I am not confident that I have his words stated with precision, I will leave the quote marks off. If at any point I have misquoted him or misrepresented his meaning, I am willing to be corrected and would appreciate anyone helping me to make such corrections.

I do not know Dr. Vines. From what I know of him he is a wonderful man of God who has served faithfully as a pastor for many years. That is enough for a man to be shown great respect in my book. When I point out his mistakes and correct his errors, I do so not as a critic of the man, but of his message. As he indicated at one point in his message, there is no need to get personal in vigorously discussing these biblical issues. I want to appeal to all who add comments to this post to keep them on a high level and engage only the message, not the messenger.

Speaking of Baptist Confessions: "...the London confessions, Philadelphia confession, New Hampshire Confession...these confessions bear a close resemblance to some of the five points although there is no clear cut evidence that Baptists in their confesssions of faith ever truly subscribed to everything that the five points of Calvinism would teach" (emphasis added).

This is seriously and demonstrably false. Simply read the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689). Or, if you just want the highlights, read only these chapters from that confession:
Ch. 3-God's Decree
Ch. 5-Divine Providence
Ch. 6-The Fall of Man, Sin and the Punishment Thereof
Ch. 8-Christ the Mediator
Ch. 9-Free Will
Ch. 10-Effectual Calling
Ch. 17-The Perseverance of the Saints
It is hard to understand how anyone who is doing a studied presentation on Baptists and Calvinism can make this kind of mistake. Were Dr. Vines not reading from a manuscript, this is one statement that I would have lovingly chalked up to a slip of tongue.

On Southern Baptist life: Southern Baptists through the years have had a series of confessions that have been known as the Baptist Faith and Message. There are elements of Calvinistic doctrine there (BFM 2000) of course, because there are elements of New Testament truth in Calvinistic doctrine.

But it is very very difficult to prove that there has ever been a time in history or today when the majority of Southern Baptists were what we would call five point Calvinists. Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that there have been two tributaries from which the Southern Baptist river flows: the First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina; the Charleston SC Association stream, and Sandy Creek, North Carolina stream. Charleston was more Calvinistic in its emphasis. Sandy Creek was more evangelistic.

The Sandy Creek tradition, as Dr. Patterson admitted in his dialogue on election with Dr. Mohler last summer at the Pastors' Conference before the Southern Baptist Convention, is more Calvinistic than is often claimed. This has been documented in various articles in the Founders Journal (read here and here) as well as in a little booklet I wrote years ago. Also, the upcoming issue of the journal will shed more light on this whole question with articles by Gene Bridges and Tom Nettles.

On the reasons for the resurgence of the doctrines of grace in Southern Baptist life: 1. reaction to weak theology; 2. reaction to dead churches; 3. many have attended conferences and listened to popular and articulate spokesmen for Calvnism; 4. others have been influenced by the schools they attended.

I think all of these are valid reasons but to them I would add these more important reasons:
1. The inerrancy controversy has driven many to reexamine the message of the Bible with a reverence and desire to understand its message, not assuming that we already know what that message is.
2. The controversy has also sparked a real interest in our Baptist heritage and especially in our Southern Baptist heritage, which, despite Dr. Vines' claim to the contrary, had a theological consensus of commitment to the doctrines of grace at its beginning in 1845 (see Tom Nettles' forthcoming 20th anniversary edition--revised and expanded--of By His Grace and For His Glory, from Founders Press).
3. A rising generation has a fresh passion for integrity and authenticity in life and ministry and they have longed for a more substantive faith than that which they inherited. Many are finding such substance in the Bible's teaching on God's sovereignty in salvation.

In the section of his message that he identified as "theological exposition," Dr. Vines speaks of the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility before addressing each of the so-called five points of Calvinism. He states that both are seemingly taught in Scripture.

On divine sovereignty: God is in control of all things. That is very clear in the Bible! But now, it is possible to push this matter of the sovereingty of God, that God is in control of all things to extremes. Philosphers call it determinism; hard determinism and soft determinism.

I could not help but think of this question while listening to Dr. Vines make this point: If all means all and that's all that all means, how can one push God's control of all things to extremes? The danger is not that we will take God's sovereignty too seriously. Rather, the danger is that we will hold it without holding with equal conviction the responsibility of man. To sacrifice any degree of God's sovereignty on the altar of protecting human freedom is to fail to understand what the Bible says about the reality, nature and extent of that freedom. God is absolutely sovereign. People are absolutely responsible.

On total depravity: Man is born with a sinful nature; every facet of our being stained by sin.
Calvinists go a step further than that and say that your will is dead and you are totally unable to respond. Ephesians 2:1, man is spiritually dead, therefore, Calvinists say, how can a dead man repent and have faith, so he has to be regenerated before he can have faith; in the calvinist system regeneration precedes faith.

"That brings up some interesting questions: if you're born again before faith, what does faith accomplish? Which means then that if you are born again before faith that means that, by grace are you saved through faith, that means then, if you're born again then you're born again before you're saved. Did I miss something there? I know I'm just from the country but, did that make sense to you?"

I think what Dr. Vines missed is the fact that regeneration is not equivalent to salvation, but rather, is a subset of salvation, a part of the whole. The better way to think of this is the relationship between the constituent elements of salvation: regeneration, justification, sanctification, conversion, glorification, election, etc. The real question is what causes what? Does faith cause regeneration or does regeneration cause faith? John 3:3, 5, where entering and seeing are used metaphorically for faith answer the question. Unless one is born of God's Spirit, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom.

The calvinistic view pushes the biblical analogy too far. Dead men can't believe. But it is equally true that dead men can't sin.

It is not pushing the analogy too far to assert what the Bible teaches, namely, that spiritually dead people cannot please God, nor obey God, nor come to God (Romans 8:7,8; John 6:44). Simply let the Bible speak and remember that "can" (Greek: dunatai) is a word of ability. Read those verses above by simply substituting "is able" for can and hear what the Bible says about the spiritual ability of lost people.

"It also raises questions about the character of God. Because, listen, in Acts 17 verse 30 it says that God commands all men, all men everywhere to repent. But now wait a minute. If they can't repent until they're born again and yet God is commanding them to do something which they are not able to do, what does that say about the character of God?"

Dr. Vines leaves the implication unstated that it would be unjust of God to require what a person is not able to do. Yet, Jesus clearly commands us to do what we are presently unable to do when He says, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Interestingly, and no doubt unwittingly, Vines' objection is based on the the philosophical foundation that drives both Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism. Both of these errors claim, just as Dr. Vines indicates, that a man's responsibility extends only as far as his ability does. The Arminian sees this and says, "Yes, and we know that sinners are held responsible to repent and believe, therefore they must have the ability to do so." The hyper-Calvinist sees this and says, "Yes, and we know that sinners do not have the ability to repent and believe, therefore they are not responsible to do so."

It is the Calvinist who refuses to accept the rationalistic presupposition. Rather, Calvinism recognizes that the Bible teaches that sinners are both morally unable and yet spiritually responsible to repent and believe.

"Now man has total inability to do anything to save himself but he does have the God-given ability to receive salvation by faith."

Dr. Vines did not explain if that ability is given in nature or through some kind of universal grace. I wish he had.

On unconditional election: Is election unconditional? From the standpoint of God the giver, yes; but from the standpoint of the receiver it is conditioned by faith. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says you believe the truth of the gospel and you are one of the elect.

If Vines means by this that one's faith determines one's election then he is clearly in the Arminian camp at this point.

On limited atonement: After citing many verses that use universal language in relation to the atonement (including 1 John 2:2) Vines addresses this question, If Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and the whole world is not saved, then did his death fail? He answers by giving an analogy. If a man offers to pay for the meals of 20 people and only 15 take him up on the offer, then his provision has not failed, it simply has not been accepted.

So the meal is analogous to full atonement, forgiveness of sins and eternal life--that which Jesus accomplished or paid for by His death. If Jesus fully atoned for the sins of 20 people and only 15 of them accept it, then on what basis are those other 5 condemned and kept out of heaven? Isn't refusing to accept Christ and His salvation a sin? And yet, in Vines' analogy, didn't Jesus pay for that sin along with all the rest? The problem with this understanding is that it inevitably undermines the nature of the atonement--something which the history of theology substantiates. Did Christ propitiate the Father for every person who has ever lived, is now living or ever will live? If the answer is yes, then universalism is the necessary consequence.

I find it very interesting that Dr. Vines goes on to employ the language of Dort by affirming that Jesus' death is sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe. This struck me as very confusing and completely unnecessary in light of his previous statements.

He also deals with irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints, taking exception to the former completely and to what he perceives to be Calvinistic extreme expressions of the latter. I will simply pass over his comments on these points.

In his conclusion Dr. Vines employs a very interesting analogy to explain how God's sovereignty and foreknowledge operate so as to leave man's freedom intact. He says,
"It's like a chess match between a master chessman and a beginner. The beginner is free to make any move he wants to, but the master chessman is going to win every time."

Though my guess is that he has no idea of the origin of this analogy, I find it very disconcerting that a man of his lifelong devotion to the authority of the Word of God would employ the precise argument popularized by the open theist, Greg Boyd. Here is what Boyd writes,
"We might imagine God as something like an infinitely intelligent chess player....Now consider that God's perfect knowledge would allow him to anticipate every possible move and every possible combination of moves, together with every possible response he might make to each of them, for every possible agent throughout history. And he would be able to do this from eternity past.
Isn't a God who is able to know perfectly these possibilities wiser than a God who simply foreknows or predestines one story line that the future will follow?" (God of the Possible, p. 127).
When the "resident theologian" at one of the SBC's most conservative churches starts favorably employing the arguments of an open theist against predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God, we have serious problems.

Here are a few more of his final comments as he concluded his message:

On systematic theology--"That is a man's attempt to systematize that which cannot be systematized. We ought to try to do it but we ought to recognize the fact that man's theology is a system which he himself has devised."

In churches where Calvinist doctrine is taught, there is a tendency to neglect witnessing and evangelism and not win souls.

The fact that Spurgeon, Carey, James Kennedy were/are zealous evangelists while being Calvinists [simply serve to show that] the exception proves the rule. "If a Calvinist is a soul winner it is in spite of Calvinism, not because of it."

Some Calvinists are doing away with a public invitation. "Something had to happen on the day of Pentecost... You can't tell me that three thousand people just stumbled along and fall into the water and got baptized. Somewhere along the way there was an invitation."

"What's the use of preaching fervently, weeping earnestly over souls if God knows they won't repent?"... "Why give the free offer of the Gospel? The nonelect can't receive it. The elect are already sovereingly regenerated without it."

"Calvinism eats the life out of our churches."

There seems to be a tendency when people get into these areas (of doctrine) to have an intellectual pride.

This last comment is worth heeding as an important warning. The doctrines of grace are indeed intellectually satisfying. There is a danger that that is all they are to some. To hold to the doctrines of grace without exhibiting the grace of the doctrines is spiritually deadly. God deliver us from intellectual and spiritual pride.

One final observation: Dr. Vines' message screams for a response from denominational leaders who never hesitate to issue warnings to Southern Baptist Calvinists whom they label "Calvinazis" and charge with being more willing to fly across the country to debate Calvinism than to cross the street to witness to a lost person. Wouldn't it make sense that those who issue such warnings should feel some compulsion to issue them in both directions? Will this kind of complete misrepresentation of the theological heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention and the theological convictions of thousands of Southern Baptist pastors be given a pass by denominational leadership? If recent history is any indicator, that is exactly what we can expect.


C. T. Lillies said...

"The problem with this understanding is that it inevitably undermines the nature of the atonement..."

This is what really bothers me. You don't mess with the Cross. And yet it seems like we've been doing that very thing for a century now.

Thank you, sir, for posting this.


Brian said...

The thing that I find consistent amongst those labeled "Calvinists" is an unwillingness to compromise on what the Bible says. If the Word says it, they take it. They don't use their own logic and self made human wisdom to cut down the point the Bible is making.

Taliesin said...

Tom, good response. I too think we should consider seriously the charges that are being made about pride and about a lack of evangelistic effort. While neither of these is necessarily true of individual calvinists, it has tended to characterize the movement at least in some circles.

But I think your point about those who are faulting us for being more concerned about calvinism than conversion need to realize that many in the anti-calvinist camp are just as focused on defeating calvinism as many calvinists are on defending it.

Personally, I see this as a major theological distinction that needs to be discussed (or I would not be here). I would not say that it is more important than evangelism, but neither is it a topic we can ignore. All of our actions, including evangelism and theological discussions, should be done with this objective in mind: the glory of God's grace (Eph. 1:3-6). God and His grace are glorified in the salvation of sinners, and also glorified when we rightly understand what it means that salvation is God's gift by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone.

cslewisberkhof said...

Dr. Ascol

Thank you for this well articulated response to Dr. Vine's sermon. It was on the one hand intellectually honest and on the other very gracious and kind.


Jeremy Weaver said...

Thanks for this post.
When Dr. Vines sticks to exposition he's one of the great preachers in Baptist history. It saddens me to see that he too misunderstands the finer points of God's grace.
Let's be sure to argue against the misconceptions and not against the man.

Jared Wall said...

Brother Ascol,

Thank you for the response to this sermon. I also watched it online and found myself shaking my head after many of Dr. Vines' comments.

At one point you respond to the following quote:

"Now man has total inability to do anything to save himself but he does have the God-given ability to receive salvation by faith."

You said, "Dr. Vines did not explain if that ability is given in nature or through some kind of universal grace. I wish he had."

Here is my question to you or anyone else who knows. I have a friend who believes that I am wrong for believing the doctrines of grace because, as he puts it, this all comes down to one central tenant: God is sovereign and has sovereignly elected to give man free will in regards to salvation. I cannot figure out where he gets this scripturally and he will not go any further. What is the source of the idea that God gives man free will to choose salvation? What scriptures support this specifically?

Ranger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wandering pilgrim said...

Bro. Wall,
I use the analogy of where does it ever say in the Bible "I chose God"? I have challenged many people to this, and not one has found it yet. Conversely, I ask often for someone to find where it says "God chose...(me, you, etc.)" and will always find someone who will find it quickly enough. So agreeing with "brian" is that the Bible says it, and I accept it as plain language, without reading into it what I wished it said. No logic and no human wisdom to make it more palatable to my "itching ears".

Aaron L. Turner said...

Thank you for posting this fair, balanced, and gracious response.

I watched this sermon, (along with the rest of the service) and witnessed very small children being baptized. It is interesting to me that Dr. Vines referenced calvinists (some) believing that babies go to hell. Yet obviously they believe that these very small children could go to hell, hence they believe they actually got saved, and needed baptism.

I bet if you stood one of these kids up and said, "If he dies right now without being saved they will go to hell." You would get the same response that Dr. Vines got from the crowd when he said that Calvinist believe that babies go to hell.

scripturesearcher said...

Well done, beloved brother and fellow Berean...

My prayer is that many will
listen/read Vines and your brief evaluation of this good man's mistaken (FALSE) statements regarding the scriptural TRUTH.

For many years, I have told
you and others that there is
no balanced and fair treatment of the differences between Calvinism and Arminism to be heard in most of the SBC schools today.

It is foolish to expect it from Vines, Patterson and others.

To my knowledge the nearest thing to fair and balanced teaching can be found only at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Chris said...


Your words and evaluation were indeed very gracious. I've known Dr.Vines since I was a baby. We were at Dauphin Way (Mobile) in the late 70s, then we moved to Jacksonville in the mid 80s. I grew up at FBCJax, (but I didn't write the letter he mentioned). And while I wasn't surprised by what I heard, I am saddened by the misrepresentations and anecdotal strawmen.

I wish I had more time to weigh in, but the bottom line in all this is that I wonder if dedication to theology gets trumped by devotion to a particular methodology.

Thanks again for saying what needed to be said with words seasoned with grace, and reminding us that it is the message that is to be critiqued.

DoGLover said...

My thoughts, for what they're worth:

“Dead men can’t believe. But it is equally true that dead men can’t sin”

He follows the tongue-in-cheek logic of a poster I once saw that read, “When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we go to sleep. When we sleep, we don’t sin. When we don’t sin, we go to heaven. So, let’s get drunk and go to heaven. Conversely, Ephesians 2:1 says, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin.”

“It also raises questions about the character of God. Because, listen, in Acts 17 verse 30 it says that God commands all men, all men everywhere to repent.”

If the unregenerate can repent apart from the energizing work of the Spirit, why did Jesus have to die?

“Now man has total inability to do anything to save himself but he does have the God-given ability to receive salvation by faith.”

Whether he defines man’s “God-given ability to receive salvation by faith” as common or particular grace, he must admit that the faith that give man the ability to receive salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). It does not reside inherently within man to believe or else Romans 3:11, “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God,” is wrong.

“If Jesus died for the sins of the whole world and the whole world is not saved, then did his death fail?”

Jesus didn’t just offer to die for sin, he really died; and when he died, he really atoned for sin. A better analogy would be (which has happened to me more than once): A waiter tells one party in a crowded restaurant, “Someone has paid for your meal.” In that scenario, there is no choice; the patrons can no longer pay for their meals. The most they can do is to leave a hefty tip; but none of it applies to the already-paid-for debt.

“In churches where Calvinist doctrine is taught, there is a tendency to neglect witnessing and evangelism and not win souls.”

Since MOST SBC churches tend to neglect witnessing and evangelism and do not win souls, it’s the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. A proper understanding of the sovereignty of God in election does not produce evangelistic apathy. Sin does that. Our (meaning all Baptists) laziness and loathing of discomfort do more damage to evangelism than our theology does.

Mike said...

From Dr. Ergun Caner's website.

Just some food for thought, from the 1859 sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled JACOB AND ESAU.
“Why does God hate any man? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly — it is the same thing — created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever.”
CITATION: Charles Spurgeon, Sermon: JACOB AND ESAU (January 16, 1859)
I read recently that I “turned Romans 9 upside down.” Well, then I stand in good company … with Spurgeon … against those who embrace reprobation.

Robert said...

I was saved (by God's sovereign grace!) in 1969 at West Rome Baptist Church when Jerry Vines was pastor his first time there. Yes, he was an excellent preacher and Bible teacher! However, the BEST of us have our blind spots, and I'm afraid that on this subject Dr. Vines is sticking to modern Southern Baptist shibboleths and "tradition".

stilldesiringGod said...

Wow, Aaron! That is a tough subject to discuss on a blog. But I would have to disagree from my ministerial experience that ALL people I have ever talked to in the SBC without exception believe in an age of accountability, as far as I remember. Meaning that the children are safe in Christ until some age when they are released into their sin and are no longer under the protection of the innocence of childhood, or are saved, of course. Innocence as defined by man, by the way. I think if anyone can define the nature of man it would be a Calvinist! R.C. Sproul has said man used to be justified by faith alone. Now man is justified by birth alone! I have often struggled with mans complete and thorough depravity dead in sin and hearing Calvinist saying that their children are safe in God's grace before conversion. Are we Presbyterian? Obviously Scripture does lend some support for the belief when it mentions children not knowing their left hand from their right. But we have parents and leaders who want Johnny and Sue covered like Catholics under sacraments! Dedicated at birth, an age of accountability until whatever age they make some profession of faith, 5,6,7,8,9 then trample all over the whole Lordship salvation issue and live like the pagan they always have been and maybe/maybe not ever come at some point in the distant future to an authentic conversion experience. Pastors, you can stop nodding your heads, I know, brothers! The SBC is full of unregenerate church members because we have been consumed by a Romanistic pattern of sacramentalism! We just have our own brand called evangelicalism gone perverse messed up by emotional alter calls and carefully worded follow-the-leader prayers. Perhaps we can learn from Mrs. Spurgeon. I believe I have the story correct, I think it has even been shared here before. Charles Spurgeon had forgotten something on his way to the church one day and turned around and went back home to retrieve it. Upon going upstairs outside of where the wife and children were doing devotions he overheard her saying this. Children, if you do not come to a saving knowledge/relationship with the Lord Jesus on the Day of Judgment I will be a bold and swift witness against you. The Princess of Preachers! She did not cower in fear of God's sovereignty over her children's lives. She knew that the Lord over her was the Lord over them. If He is able to make a righteous decision for your salvation He is rightly able to make it for your child's as well. Obviously, we want them in Heaven with us praising God right there beside us. It would be a sign we were the Devil's child if we didn't. But the choice is neither ours, nor theirs, ultimately. What we can do is encourage them to diligently seek the Lord while He may still yet be found. Raise them in the fear and admonitions of the Lord. Model Christ. Live a life passionately seeking Christ's will in all that we do and get the hypocrisy out of our lives wherever it is. Children pick up on it better than anyone because they see us at our worst!

stilldesiringGod said...

That is interesting that Dr. Caner is now standing with a man in the same sentence who is saying God hates a man! Thanks for the post Mike. Ergun, you are so Reformed!

Tolpel said...

I was confused about Dr. Vines treatment of the relationship between regeneration and faith. He rejects the notion that regeneration logically precedes faith. But isn't this precisely what the BFM teaches in Article IV under the title "Salvation?" -

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

The phrase "to which" seems to teach logical priorty in favor of regeneration. Am I interpreting the Confession wrong? Like Dr. Vines, I'm just a poor country boy myself and tend to read things at face value.

Bill Formella said...

Mike, Here is the link to the entire sermon that Erun references. Why is he so intent on pulling Spurgeon out of context and missing the weightier points of his message?

Bill Formella said...

Uh..I meant Ergun.

Debbie said...

Tom said:"This last comment is worth heeding as an important warning. The doctrines of grace are indeed intellectually satisfying. There is a danger that that is all they are to some. To hold to the doctrines of grace without exhibiting the grace of the doctrines is spiritually deadly. God deliver us from intellectual and spiritual pride."

I say: This is so good and this is my prayer for me personally. Thank you for this point.

Bill Formella said...

Vines says, "In churches where Calvinist doctrine is taught, there is a tendency to neglect witnessing and evangelism and not win souls."

I'm so sick of hearing this message because it is nothing but a smokescreen. We need to stop going on the defensive every time we hear this and start pointing out their own hypocrisy in making these kinds of statements. I've been a member of 3 SBC NQC (not quite calvinist) mega churches in the last 15 years and I can tell you that what passes for evangelism is largely not evangelism. Are the people actually going out into the world to bring the message of Christ to the lost? In my experience, precious few are doing this even in the fastest growing churches. Out of a church of 3,000 to 4,000 people, you may actually have a dozen that witness to the world outside the church. And most of those are actually witnessing to those who've visited the church.

Instead, what they are involved in is a system of "entertaining" the world into the church and then giving them the gospel. I even heard one prayer leader in an Atlanta area SBC mega church say, "The leadership in our church doesn't even expect us to go out and tell our friends the gospel. They just want us to bring them here and they'll (the leadership) preach it." Oh yes, they get a fairly accurate presentation of the gospel, but the means to get them in show a lack of boldness and passion on the part of the rank and file Christian, not to mention a lack of trust in the sufficiency of scripture to build the church.

The bottom line is that most of these churches are simply growing by fishing out other believers from smaller churches or offering new people moving into the area the biggest buffet of programs available. That's the name of the game. Give the people the most exciting children's and youth programs available and the kids, just like at the check-out counter at the grocery store, will beg the parents to stay. The parents, not understanding the sufficiency of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to hold their children in the faith, will rely on these methods to keep their kids "interested" in church.

A while back I was talking a with a Pastor of a small church in the shadow of these three area SBC mega churches. I asked him how things were going. He responded by saying, were doing what is seems God wants us to do. We're a feeder church. Puzzled, I asked him what he meant. He explained that his church had about 90% participation in their evangelistic efforts. In the previous year they had seen four families with teenagers come to Christ. All four of them ended up leaving when their kids found out about all the rock & roll pizza parties at the big mega churches and begged their parents to take them there. Hence, the little church feeds the big ones.

I just found out the reprints of Roy Hargrave's little booklet called "An Idol Called Evangelism" is now available (in spite of what the web-site says) at:

I think it's worth having a handful of these copies around to pass out. They're only $2.

Bill Formella said...

Instead of looking at which churches are growing the fastest to determine who is actually "doing evangelism", let's see what kind of churches are actually producing the most missionaries to unchurched cultures. Are there any churches in free willyville that match what Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis is doing?

Remember I said it's hard to find a dozen people in a church of 3,000 people that actually go out into the community to witness. Well, this church of 3,000 (Bethlehem) has over 100 people per year enrolled in their missions training school and are sending on average 5 family units per year into unchurched people groups, not to mention the 100's of people involved in local full-time outreach and 100's more involved in short term missions. This is what happens when people are given a passion for the Glory of God rather than just moralistic duty filled messages. The NQC (Not Quite Calvinist) mega churches sometimes have trouble finding 30 people to teach Sunday school or run an outreach sports program, etc., etc.

sparrowhawk said...

Tom, well done.

Three somewhat related thoughts:

1. The natural progression of Arminianism is Open Theism and/or Universalism.

2. The exodus from the SBC will continue toward the PCA and Bible Churches.

3. "Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology." —J.I. Packer.

J. Gray said...

Dr. Vines said: "There seems to be a tendency when people get into these areas (of doctrine) to have an intellectual pride."

To me this is a crucial point in this whole thing.

That statement is VERY true. But who are the ones that seem to be making wild statements and accusations about other believers? The non-calvinists.

They are the ones accusing people of:
Not sharing the gospel
Not loving the unchurched
Being worse than muslims
Not being believers
Not concerned with missions
Killing churches
Dividing churches
Lying to search committees
Deceiving believers
Calvinists being equivalent to Nazis

On top of lies about what we actually believe.

Where is the warning of pride to their side?
Where is the warning of being unloving to their side?
Where is the warning of making false charges to their side?
Where is the warning of accusing fellow believers of being non-Christians on their side?

This is unbalanced...but that will not change.
they are not concerned with truth, they are concerned with "being right" or "winning this battle".

It makes me sad to be a Southern Baptist everytime I hear or read the statements by these men.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim said...

Good job, Tom.

Just a bit off topic...Does anyone know whether Dr. White's appearance on the Liberty U. radio station ever happened? I haven't heard anything, so I'm assuming it fell through, but does anyone know for sure?

scripturesearcher said...

Sparrowhawk is a needed prophet who both tells forth and foretells TRUTH!


scripturesearcher said...

Sparrowhawk is a needed prophet who both tells forth and foretells TRUTH!


craig from Georgia said...

"Jared Wall said...
What is the source of the idea that God gives man free will to choose salvation? What scriptures support this specifically?"

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

stilldesiringGod said...

sparrowhawk, Packer's second point is incredibly interesting to me personally. Let me reprint what you quoted.
2. The exodus from the SBC will continue toward the PCA and Bible Churches.
Years ago as a young youth minister I was persecuted for my Reformed beliefs and told I should get out of the SBC because I did not view things like Baptists. That was my Pastor and his C. of the Deacons who said that. I had already been in a church where they brought in a CBF guy and was tired of the other persecution. So for four months I took my family to a PCA church where we were free of persecution for our beliefs in Holy Scriptures and were in like minded fellowship in our views on soteriology and many other Reformed issues. The paedo-baptism issue was stomach turning as they said they did not believe in baptismal regeneration but their words during the ceremony betrayed them. We came back to the SBC at the request of a hurting, dead church, only to face more persecution for the doctrines of grace amongst many more simplistic things. After more journeying we now find ourselves at a Bible church. Packer is a prophet! The theological exodus from the SBC IS the PCA and Bible churches! Wait, that is not exciting, that is sad. :-[

stilldesiringGod said...

Craig from Georgia, please do not misquote Scripture on this blog. That passage says no more about free will than Jesus wept. Do some more studying on whosoever will passages before you enter crass statements like that. The passage specifically speaks of one believing in Christ not seeing damnation but being delivered unto eternal life. It says nothing of free will.

craig from Georgia said...

stilldesiringGod said...
Craig from Georgia, please do not misquote Scripture on this blog. That passage says no more about free will than Jesus wept. Do some more studying on whosoever will passages before you enter crass statements like that. The passage specifically speaks of one believing in Christ not seeing damnation but being delivered unto eternal life. It says nothing of free will.

What the passage actually tells us is God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Scott said...


For God so loved the world that He gave( Gave what ?) He gave His son ! Jesus is God ? You do believe this ? So, who did Jesus claim to be given for by His life according to John 10:11 ? Does He say sheep or goats ? Does He say both ? Also, notice that He doesn't say that I offer my life to the Sheep but that He gives and this speaks of accomplishment in that it actually secures the salvation of the Sheep.
Also, what does Eph 5:25 say about who Christ life was given for ? Does it say the Church( Believers) or does it say goats? How about what Isaiah 53:11 ? Does verse 11 mean that the word( Many ) means All men(Goats included)? So, if Christ beared the iniquities of all men( Including goats) then why are there some men in Hell today? Let's just start here ! How about we also talk about 1 John 2:2 .

Scott said...


Also read John 10:15 ! Who does Jesus actually say that He lays His life down for ? Goats, Sheep,.... ?

Bill Formella said...

Yes Craig, it does say God so loved the world. Now look at who he was speaking to at the time. It was Jews who believed God so loved Israel and the rest were just dogs. This would have been a shock to their hardened hearts.

StilldesiringGod is right. You are assuming that it is saying much more than the text actually says. Does it say "God so loved the world that he gave an equal amount of grace to every single individual so that the difference between one who comes and one that doesn't is found within themselves"?

Much is made of the consequence of calvinistic theology being lack of missionary zeal, but nothing is said of the consequences of the above interpretation of John 3:16 and other passages. Let me give you an example:

In one of the largest SS classes in the last SBC mega church I belonged to, the SS teacher was talking about two friends of his. One was such a nice guy that "seemed so close" to coming the Christ. The other was a guy that the teacher had trouble even approaching with the gospel because he "could never see him coming to Christ". This is the logical conclusion of free will theology and it runs rampant in the modern church. (Shall we call it hyperfreewillism?) When you believe that all men have the same amount of grace bestowed on them to believe, then the difference must be within yourself. You then begin to prejudge who will be saved and who won't rather than seeing the hardest individuals as an opportunity for God's power and glory to shine most brightly.

Though the words would never be spoken, the attititude is "all good guys like me eventually come to Christ".

Bill Formella said...

When we reject the doctrines of grace we turn Eph 2:8&9 on it's head, for then we definitely have reason to brag that I was more soft hearded, spiritually in tune, or reasonable than my unbelieving neighbor. Otherwise why did I come and he didn't?

Don't go claiming "it's a mystery" on me, because you would never allow a Calvinist that response.

kingofbleh said...

"For the most part Southern Baptists do not embrace 5-point Calvinism."

That cannot possibly be a surprise when over the last few decades the traditional doctrines such as doctrines of grace have been drowned out by the church growth and seeker-friendly movements.

You can make this same argument about every other evangelistic denomination. This poll is not so much a rejection of Calvinism as it demonstrates the widespread ignorance of systematic theology among evangelicals.

chris - it is good to hear from another former FBCjax-er among the reformed camp. I grew up in that church as well, hearing the preaching of Drs. Vines and Lindsay 3x a week. In many ways they are still my pastors. Their sermons still echo in my head as I study the scriptures. My current church is going through a pastoral search right now and I find myself often using them as a measuring stick as we consider candidates for the job. It pains me to see Dr. Vines mischaracterize the reformed resurrgence in much the same way that Dr. Caner did.

Matt Privett said...


Thank you for your thoughts. I'd heard about this sermon and planned on watching it. After reading your post I did just that.

It is absolutely right that Calvinists should not view themselves as intellecutally superior, and view their understanding of the doctrines of grace as a source of pride. After all, it is my grace that we are able to understand and discern spiritual things at all (1 Cor. 2:14).

However, it is difficult to listen to Dr. Vines's sermon and not walk away shaking your head. It was just another in the long line of examples of what amounts to anti-Calvinist sermons that use a litany of proof texts to prove that God loves everyone, that He intends to save everyone, and that Calvinism, by and large, is contrary to the Scriptures.

I understand Vines has been a hero of the SBC and inerrantists for many years, and rightfully so. But this sermon lacked the proper exegesis, and proves that while there are many who will shout about the inerrancy of the Scriptures, those who view the Scriptures as sufficient are much fewer.

It seems that many who taught us to take the Scriptures literally are themselves unwilling to take the whole counsel of God at face value when it comes to this issue, and they instead appeal to their own traditions, the emotional debate regarding infants, and tales of church splits.

This last appeal, church splits, in particular, bothers me. It seems that Vines was referring to Steve Lawson and Dauphin Way Baptist Church in the first few minutes of his sermon. Anyone who has listened to Lawson knows that he is a faithful exegete and preacher of the text. I am glad that he did not disparage Lawson by calling him by name, but anyone with knowledge of the situation could easily read between the lines.

Church splits are tragic, but as Paul writes, they are sometimes necessary to show those who are being faithful. The appeal of those who preach these types of sermons to "inform" their hearers of the Calvinism debate seem to always use this scare tactic to enhance their arguments.

It is my prayer that in the following weeks of this series of "Baptist Battles" being preached at First Baptist Woodstock, Vines would show more care with the text and not let anything else get in the way of rightly dividing the word.

In the meantime, all of us pesky Calvinists must remain humble and prayerful in the face of such misrepresentations, and as we are going, proclaim the good news.

For His Glory,

M. Jay Bennett said...

Craig from Georgia (Go Dawgs!),

I just talked about this verse with my dad a week ago. A better translation from the greek is:

"For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him (literally all the one's believing in him) will not perish but have eternal life."

The NET Bible and the CSB Bible (the new Bible of the SBC) translate it this way.

The problem with the older translations is that when we read "For God so loved the world," we think in terms of degree of love rather than kind or way of loving. We imagine God's heart so filled with romantic inclinations toward his creation that he cannot help but send a bouquet of flowers (his Son) to show it. But that's not what the text says. Also, when we read "that whosoever believes," we tend to take whosoever as carrying an indefinite sense with it. We think the Son was given for whosoever (totally indefinite). I'm sure you've heard the old phrase whosoever means whosoever! This is the way Bobby Welch's FAITH Evangelism program takes the verse. The A in FAITH stands for available. Welch says, "Salvation is available to all." Then he quotes John 3:16 as whosoever.

But that is not what the text says. The text is more definite. The Greek phrase translated "whosoever believes" is (pas o pisteuon). It is the adective pas, translated "all," the article o, translated "the ones" (usually not translated), and the participle pisteuon translated "believng." It says literally, "that all the ones believing may not perish but have eternal life." Eternal life is only available to the believing ones.

But proper exegesis of the verse aside, either way you take it, the verse does not speak to human willingness or moral responsibility. It only speaks to the necessity of believing in order to have eternal life. A concept of human willingness has to be brought to the text (eisogesis). It isn't in the text to be exegeted.

Blessings to you Craig,

Jay (also from Georgia, the promised land flowing with sweet tea and grits)

Bill Formella said...

On the issue of church splits, there is another side to many of these situations. In my experience it often happens in the following manner:

A teacher or leader comes to an understanding of the doctrines of grace and begins to share the scriptures, either from the pulpit or through SS or possibly just in discussion with friends. In the process, several come to the same understanding, others are repulsed. The people who are repulsed convince the powers of the church to put a stop to this teaching. The calvinists are then told to either stop talking about this or leave the church. With a desire to be faithful to the Word of God a few commit to leaving. Others decide to follow them. Then those that remain say calvinism "caused" a church split.

So, I guess the way to keep these church "splits" from potentially happening is to present Calvinism as repulsively as possible so the people would never look into the matter to decide for themselves.

Sound familiar? This is a very "Marxist" philosophy of "Christian" education.

kingofbleh said...

When I pastors from enormous churches like FBC Woodstock and Jacksonville (thanking God he has blessed those churches so richly), I am convinced that the we are seeing one of the expected results of the church growth movement: that there are only two types of churches - megachurches and dying churches. This line of thinking leaves no middle ground for churches full of regenerate Christians that faithfully follow ALL of the doctrines of scripture.

farmboy said...

In his gospel John writes: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Yet, three verses later John also writes: "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds wre evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."

The world that God loves, the world that God gave His Son for is comprised of people who will have everlasting life if they only choose to believe. Yet, these same people are lovers of darkness and haters of the Light because their deeds are evil. So, what explains a person who is a committed lover of darkness, a committed enemy of the Light doing something that is entirely contrary to his (fallen) nature: Becoming a believer in, follower of and lover of the Light? One might even conclude that the old nature committed to loving darkness and hating the Light would have to be supernaturally replaced with a new nature committed to hating darkness and loving the Light.

The point of the above: Interpreting John 3:16 in the context of John's gospel might involve more than a surface level reading of that verse removed from its context in John's gospel.

If one is committed to a search for the truth (or Truth based on John 14:6), then one must deal with verses such as John 3:16 in their proper context. The search for the truth, then, is not helped by removing verses such as John 3:16 from their proper context.

craig from Georgia said...

"Bill Formella said...
Yes Craig, it does say God so loved the world. Now look at who he was speaking to at the time. It was Jews who believed God so loved Israel and the rest were just dogs. This would have been a shock to their hardened hearts."

He is speaking to the Jews, but He is talking to them about the world, plus the context is the new birth and the kingdom of God, not the Jewish kingdom..


To M. Jay Bennett

If you're going to base your interpretation on a particular translation then we all need to decide which is the best translation and all stick to that one translation.

Bill Formella said...

Craig, of course Jesus was speaking about the Kingdom of God, but the Jews believed that was one and the same with Israel. The Holy Spirit had to free many of the early believers of some powerful racism. Peter still struggled with it giving in to it a good 15 or so years after the Christ's resurrection.

I think you're also missing the strength behind Jay's point. He is going back to the original language. I think the only reason he mentions those two translations is to show that he's not alone in this interpretation.

By the way, where in Georgia are you both from? I live very close to the Mall of Georgia in Buford. Scott, another regular poster on this board, is also from in the Buford area.

J. Gray said...


That was from the Greek. It is what the text ACTUALLY says.

But nice try to dismiss his statement easily.


Sooner or later, we who know, love and preach the TRUTH of the amazing sovereign, saving, securing, serving, suffering and succumbing grace of our triune God are going to be forced by the Holy Spirit to depart from the SBC.

Doctrinally, it is a sinking ship and arguing with Arminians about the placement of the deck chairs
is futile.

Bill Formella said...

GWG, I'm not sure I can agree with you on that. I certainly understand your frustration but your suggestion, I believe, is premature. Why do you think the current "gate keepers" of the SBC are all waring against this truth so much? Isn't it because they see the growth and are fearful of what's to come?

Look at church history and be encouraged brother. The church faces it's greatest persecution just prior to it's greatest accomplishments. If the Chinese government can't stop the church from growing and the truth from spreading, what are our brothers in Nashville gonna do?

See you in San Antonio in June 2007? Some will be sharing truth, others will be "pimping" propaganda.

M. Jay Bennett said...

Bill Formella,

You are correct about my mentioning the NET and CSB translations. My point was that my reading of the Greek was not novel but held widely enough by contemporary Greek exegetes that some very recent translations read the verse the same way.

BTW, I'm originally from Cochran, GA. It's a small farming community 40 miles south of Macon. I lived in Marietta from 1998-2002 attending Southern Poly. My wife is from Marietta. I've been to the Mall of GA. It's huge!

Craig from Georgia,

Also, I would say that the older translation "whosoever" isn't technically incorrect. It just lends itself to misinterpretation when viewed through an Arminian lens. We have to remember that, in the context of the rest of the verse and passage, the phrase "whosoever" cannot mean the universal availability of salvation. The text simply says that eternal life is given to all who believe. I pray we all agree with that.

I think "everyone who believes," is a better way to translate the Greek. It is faithful to the text and doesn't lend itself to misinterpretation in the way "whosoever" does.

As far as the whole Calvinist debate among Baptist goes, I wonder what we Calvinists are hoping for? I pray the goal is that Calvinism might be viewed as a legitimate theology among Southern Baptists. If that is the goal, we need to counter every argument to the contrary. But if we are shooting for a total reformation of the SBC, I seriously question the sanity of our expectations. It seems to me that church history teaches us that the Gospel of grace has always been a minority view hard pressed from all sides by other "Christians" whose eyes have simply not been opened by God to perceive the truth. So I tend to be pessimistic about the popularity of the Gospel. In the end, I think there will be far fewer people redeemed than we would have expected. The path is narrow and there are few who find it, right?

Nonetheless, I am all for defending the redemptive grace of God effectually extended to sinners through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I love the old Reformed polemics against Arminianism. Owen and Edwards have been priceless teachers to me in that realm. We need teachers like that.

GeneMBridges said...

Before I begin, I'd like to point out that Dr. Vines next sermon on Oct. 22 is supposed to be "A Baptist and His Booze." I wonder what will be said about the situation at SWBTS...

Calvinism eats the life out of our churches."

I believe it is now time to take a look at the ACP for FBCW and FBC Jax. Let's take a look at the truancy rate. Let's take a look at their membership numbers, their baptisms, and their attendance numbers.

Which is doing better, the church that has 9000 members and only 3500 show up on Sunday, or the churches with 200, where 200- 300 show up on Sunday? Most of the RB churches I know, including my own, have attendance that outnumbers the membership on any given Sunday. That's because we take baptism and the concept of a regenerate church membership very seriously, and we practice church discipline.

"It also raises questions about the character of God. Because, listen, in Acts 17 verse 30 it says that God commands all men, all men everywhere to repent. But now wait a minute. If they can't repent until they're born again and yet God is commanding them to do something which they are not able to do, what does that say about the character of God?" If God does not command us to do what we cannot do, then what about this? in Ezekiel 18:31, “Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit.” Can we do this? No. Dr. Vines is overlooking a three things: (a) If it's true that moral responsibility cannot exceed one's ability, then it follows that ignorance is bliss, and the best way to avoid responsibility for our actions is by giving into sin at every turn. Total bondage would mean no moral responsibility. (b) On that assumption, Satan is not morally responsible for his evil and God is not morally responsible for His good. (c) A command can be issued to show us our inability and our need. (d) Why does one person repent and not the other? They cannot repent because they do not want to do so.

He also deals with irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints, taking exception to the former completely and to what he perceives to be Calvinistic extreme expressions of the latter. I will simply pass over his comments on these points.

Somebody should explain to these people that denying irresistible grace is not compatible with believing in inerrancy. The inspiration of inerrant and infallible Scripture and irresistible grace work on the same principle.

On systematic theology--"That is a man's attempt to systematize that which cannot be systematized. We ought to try to do it but we ought to recognize the fact that man's theology is a system which he himself has devised."

This is a tacit admission that Dr. Vines recognizes that his own theology is illogical and his doctrines do not underwrite each other. I'd like to personally thank him for this admission, for it does us a great service.

For starters, if this statement is true, it is self-refuting, because Dr. Vines is trying to systematize doctrine any time he presents a theological argument. It also defeats a number of his own theological affirms. Among them are his belief in the Incarnation. One of the arguments for the Incarnation is that Jesus cannot save that which He did not become. From this comes the theology of the Theandric Person, which is directly related to the doctrines of the Trinity and anthropology. According to Dr. Vines, this is an invalid argument. His soteriology apparently undermines his affirmation of the Trinity. By placing regeneration and election outside a chain effected by grace alone, he has placed Father and Spirit outside the chain of grace. Only the Son is in view. Dr. Vines is a functional Unitarian. As I've already noted, he has no reason to affirm inerrancy. For a "resident theologian" this strikes me as hopelessly ad hoc and inept.

In churches where Calvinist doctrine is taught, there is a tendency to neglect witnessing and evangelism and not win souls. You know, every other weekend, my RB church goes to the abortion clinic in my county and preaches. We've stopped some abortions, and we've evangelized many a person out there, and I know we've talked to some of the people who confess to being part of local SBC congregations and are coming there for abortions. We are the ONLY Protestant church that is there. There are TWO Baptist Associations that serve that county, and they have YET to send anybody to help. We went to a local park over the summer and did evangelism among the New Agers at one of their festivals. Incidentally, one of our elders ran into a young lady who was a member of his former SBC church. She was, how shall we say, not doing evangelism. Over at Triablogue, we're doing apologetics with atheists, and I can say, without giving too much away that has to be kept private, we are are seeing some changes views, with respect to some of the folks that read our work. John Frame and RC Sproul are out there doing evangelistic apologetics all the time too. The same is true for James White.

Notice that he also ignores evangelical Presbyterian history and practice. Its not as if Baptists are the only people around who embrace Calvinism. If Calvinists are not missions oriented, why does the largest PCA church in my city employ missionaries in this area? Why are they traveling all over the world just like the largest SBC church in my area? The PCA grew by over 40 percent last year. I assure you that did not come from infant baptism. I can only conclude that Dr. Vines theological myopia has caused him to overlook the Presbyterian tradition en toto.

God is in control of all things. That is very clear in the Bible! But now, it is possible to push this matter of the sovereingty of God, that God is in control of all things to extremes. Philosphers call it determinism; hard determinism and soft determinism.

This is a case of us noticing what is not stated, not what is stated. If you'll pay attention, he doesn't tell us that his own view is called "indeterminism" and that it is not on epistemic par with determinism. He also doesn't tell us what fatalism is, and he will go on to conflate fatalism and determinism. Fatalism is NOT a species of determinism. In fact, what he doesn't bother to tell us is why determinism is "extreme." In fact, in appealing to hard determinism, he's undermining his indeterminism, because one of hard determinism's very solid arguments is that men are morally responsible even if they act under an illusion of indeterminism. If a libertarian cannot defeat that argument, he can hardly defeat soft determinism, which is what most Calvinists affirm.

Likewise, on the "extremes" in the philosophical realm we find indeterminism and fatalism, not the 2 species of determinism. On a continuum, they are in the middle. This is pretty basic. Had he really bothered to study, he'd know that.

In fact, what 's not stated is that indeterminism and a belief in infallible certain foreknowledge of future events requires some sort of fatalism to work itself out. Dr. Vines, because of his libertarian action theory, is a real fatalist. For a man who claims to have "done research" he doesn't demonstrate that he's done it.

Some Calvinists are doing away with a public invitation.... Once again we find a conflation of the "invitation" with "the invitation system." Yes, many of us are doing away with the invitation system , but we are not doing away with the public invitation These are not convertible propositions. We give them as appropriate, and, when we do not, our sermons are littered with direct calls to believe in Christ and repent. But let's face it, not every sermon lends itself to an invitation to walk an aisle. I'd rather have no invitation that do what Evangelist Junior Hill did in a local church in Greensboro, NC awhile back. He walked to the pulpit, opened his Bible read one short passage and then proceeded to give an hour long invitation. That was it.

Incidentally, those of that I know who are not giving regular invitations at the end of every service are having Q & A sessions from the audience to whoever is teaching, and this is true in both Calvinist and non-Calvinist churches I know. If you preach in our pulpits or teach a lesson to our people, you'd better be able to stand up in cross-examination. Dare I say that Dr. Vines would not fare well in our churches in defending his statements here. What's more anybody can ask a question, including the unbelievers, and anything is fair game. So, we end up doing one on one evangelism right there in front of our people and with our people during and after the services.

"What's the use of preaching fervently, weeping earnestly over souls if God knows they won't repent?"... "Why give the free offer of the Gospel? The nonelect can't receive it. The elect are already sovereingly regenerated without it."

This is a boldfaced lie. The elect are NOT "sovereignly regenerated without" the gospel. What's more this undermines any and all objections he has to the doctrine of limited atonement, viz:

Total depravity subtracts from their ability, but not their duty. To say otherwise is to say that the more wicked I am, the less responsible I am for my sin. By that line of logic, the more evil I am, the more innocent I am. Talk about another gospel--that sounds like how the Devil would rewrite the gospel! :-)

What about faith in Christ? If it is true that Christ is the Savior of the world and the Lord of the universe, then shouldn't everyone believe that and trust in him? Isn't there a standing obligation on the part of everyone to believe in whatever is true? Ah, but if Christ didn't die for the reprobate, then they are not qualified to believe in him, right?

Wrong! It's Dr. Vines who defines the offer of the gospel in those terms. In the examples of Gospel preaching in the NT, you never run across a conversion formula which consists of believing that Christ died for me as a condition of salvation. The *fact* that Christ died for the elect alone is a condition of salvation, but *believing* that Christ died for the elect alone is not a condition of salvation. Since the Scriptural offer of the gospel is never framed in those terms, it is applicable to elect and reprobate alike.

As, as a practical matter, the reprobate will never believe it any way, while only the elect will believe it, so where's the harm?

The elect will believe that Christ died for them as a result of believing in him. Let's not get the cart before the horse. Again, the point is not that the preacher goes self-consciously out of his way to target the reprobate. No, the point is that he shouldn't be inhibited by any self-conscious scruples and anxieties. Leave the sorting out of the sheep and the goats to God on the day of judgment!

Dr. Vines is a functional hyper-Calvinist. He believes very plainly that general atonement is necessary to underwrite the free offer of the gospel in order for the offer to be valid and the unbeliever to have a warrant to believe. That's a hyper-Calvinist error.

In hyper-Calvinism, their ministers in the past would tell folks to search for a warrant to believe. Dr. Vines has found it for them, for he is saying that the objective offer of the gospel is invalid unless certain divine preconditions are acknowledged and respected. It isn't enough to call on everyone to repent and believe: unless you (the preacher) believe that God seconds your call from the pulpit, then the offer is insincere and sub-par.

As to whether we characterize this summons as an "offer" or something else is one-sided. If you run through the various prooftexts for the offer of the gospel, it is various described as an offer, invitation, command, calling, gift, &c. It is a mistake to insist on one of these formulations to the exclusion of the others. That leads to unscriptural reductionism.

centuri0n said...

This conversation is fascinating to me because it is such a ridiculously-transparent political grandstand.

Here's what I mean by that: to my knowledge, there are no credible advocates of the "founders" position in the SBC who want to disenfranchise the "non-Calvinist" SBCers. Someone might want to provide me with a list to enlighten me, and I'll gladly receive such a list -- but remember that my two major qualifiers are "credible" and "SBC". Citing Fred Phelps or some other loose canon merely amplifies the other side of the coin.

The other side of the political grandstand coin is this: there are plenty -- numerous, almost a legion -- of advocates against the "founders" position that unequivocally class the reformed/calvinist baptists in the SBC as clearly defective and contemptible in doctrine. The kinds of mischaracterizations apparent in Dr. Vines' exposition are only the tip of the iceberg. But these claims are made in a way which, in and of itself, is somewhat troubling.

If it were the case, for example, that calvinists were particularly soft on evangelism because they were excessive in their acceptance of the sovereignty of God, you would think that one could demonstrate that Al Mohler or Tom Ascol or Mark Dever (who I would list on the "A-Team" of this cadre of SBC reformed advocates) are soft on evangelism. And from those examples of evangelistically-soft calvinists, one could then say, "AHA! And here's the theological reason why Calvinists are sitters and not seekers of souls!"

But what we get is the hackneyed "calvinists are church killers" -- and no examples of churches killed by the doctrines of Grace.

Why? Why would anyone blindly class some group as "church killers" and soft on seeking souls when there are no examples of such people in the ranks being heckled?

There is only one answer in my view -- and again, if there is another equally-reasonable answer, I'll hear it out if it moves from example and evidence to conclusion. But it seems to me that the question really is who will control the convention in the future -- the geographical heirs of the resurgence (those who have grown up in and now pastor resurgence churches), or the theological/philosophical/spiritual heirs of the resurgence who are still on the path of reforming our convention rather than sitting on their laurels and their hind-quarters.

You know: the "calvinists" are the ones who want us to be honest about our rolls and our attendance; the "calvinists" are the ones who are demanding integrity and life-changing discipleship; the "calvinists" are the ones who think it is better to be open and honest in a dialog and to bring disagreement out in the open.

And we even have ministry in our blogs. Can you imagine such a thing? Rather than class the internet as a "not a mission field", we are blogging for Christ out here and interacting with lost people in a place where there are plenty of lost people. Most of us have the comments open on our blogs and maintain decorum there -- rather than merely using a blog as a really loud megaphone against which no one ought to be allowed to respond.

Let's please not pretend that this confrontation is purely theological: it seems so obviously political in nature and in tactics that it is difficult to believe that those trying to make an issue of it think the rest of us can't see what they're doing.

craig from Georgia said...

I am originally from Eastman, but now live in Warner Robins and yes despite what has happened the last couple of weeks I'm still a Dawg fan.

I submit that the kingdom of God is not the literal, physical, material kingdom promised to Israel. It is the spiritual rule of God. This is why most of Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah because He demanded they receive both kingdoms and they only wanted the material kingdom.

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21)"

"For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)"

Each person must decide what is their final authority. If "the Greek" is the final authority then Baptist preachers need to quit standing in pulpits waving a Bible around and calling it the inerrant Word of God because people out in the congregations believe he is talking about that book in his hands and they think he's saying it's the Word of God without error instead of some Greek text. Just like there are different Bible versions there are different Greek texts (UBS, Nestle/Aland, Farstad's Majority Text, Textus Receptus). Can we not hold a book in our hands and say this the Word of God or are we going to be like Rick Warren and jump around between 15-20 Bible versions searching for one that will back up our beliefs?

BTW I'm not here to speak on behalf of or to defend Jerry Vines. If you have a problem with anything he said go to him, not me.

M. Jay Bennett said...

Craig from Georgia (go Dawgs!),

My Dad worked at Robins AFB all his life, and my brother is currently an electrical engineer there. I guess we were practically neighbors growing up, me in Cochran and you just 10 minutes down the road in Eastman. Small world. Are you pastoring a church in Warner Robins now? I'm not pastoring yet. I'm completing the last semester of a ThM at Dallas Seminary. My focus has been Historical Theology. I hope to enter the pastorate in a few years.

I appreciate your desire to build the faith of Christ's church through the preaching of the Word. I affirm the Reformation tenet Sola Scriptura and pray our triune God will help me be faithful to that ideal.

But no one who is knowledgeable in the issues that accompany textual transmission, textual criticism, exegesis of the Biblical languages, and Biblical translation believes that any particular translation or book that we could hold in our hands today is inerrant. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy affirms that only the autographs, that is the original writings, of Scripture were inerrant.

You are correct that no one has the original writings. In the NT, the best we have is what biblical Greek scholars have pieced together in versions like the Nestle-Aland and the USB. In the OT, the best we have is the reproduction of the Leningrad Codex in BHS.

These versions are tremendous gifts to the church. They help us reach back and get as close as we can to the original texts. However, there are still variant readings all over the place. It is interesting though that none of the variants puts a maor Bible doctrine in question. For the most part the variations are insignificant when it comes to the basic message of Scripture. Our Sovereign God has providentially preserved the integrity of that message.

Surely you understand that your assessment is simplistic. I encourage you to study the issues. Some good starting places are:


The Text of the New Testament, Metzger
Basics of Biblical Greek, Mounce
Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Wallace
Introducing New Testament Interpretation, McKnight


Basics of Biblical Hebrew, Pratico and Van Pelt
A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Arnold and Choi
From Exegesis to Exposition, Chisholm
Old Testament Textual Criticism, Brotzman


How Biblical Languages Work, Silzer and Finley
Exegetical Fallacies, Carson

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that one has to know Hebrew or Greek in order to understand the basic message of Scripture. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is clear, and our gracious God has preserved the integrity of that message even through faulty transmission. And while I think every preacher who has the means to get educated in the languages should do it, I do not think that it is necessary to understand the languages in order to preach with authority.

The authority of Scripture is not dependent on the inerrancy of a book we can hold in our hands. The authority of Scripture lies in its divine source, the inerrancy of the autographs, and the integrity of its basic message: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Preachers should not mislead Christ's flock by telling them that the Bible they hold is inerrant, though they should certainly tell them that they can trust the message of the Bible. Instead, through the Scriptures, they should take them to the One who has been given "all authority in heaven and on earth." He is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. He is their Rock and Refuge. He is their King. He is worthy of trust indeed.

Blessings to you,


willreformed said...

And so it goes. The reason for the increase in Calvinism in SBC is because of the increase in belief that the Bible is inerrant, and it is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice.

I wonder if those of us who remain in the SBC thinking we will reform it, will be called to task one day by the King, who will say "I gave to you the truth of My grace, and you did not use it to my glory."

kingofbleh said...

Gene -

Having been a member of FBC Jax for over 20 years I can give you some of the info you seek:

28,000+ on the roll (as of the last report I received in 2004)

While Dr. Homer Lindsay was still on this earth, SS attendance was 6,000 - 7,000 weekly. Sunday morning worship averaged 7,500. These averages waned somewhat after Dr. Lindsay went home to be with the Lord. (Linsday & Vines co-pastored for 18 years). They waned even more after Dr. Vines announced his retirement as pastor, although I observed in my most recent visits they have picked up significantly under Mac Brunson.

Under Dr. Lindsay, evangelism was a major focus with thriving visitation and outreach minitries that enjoyed wide participation of the "active" membership. These programs seemed to die down slowly in the last 6 years.

Like most churches this large, a huge emphasis is programs, programs and more programs. In fact, the three senior-most staff positions (other than Dr. Brunson) are Worship, Programs and Administration. (NOTE: this is as of 10/17/2006.)

I have to say that every church regardless of size has it's flaws and faults. In 20 years I saw family members and MANY close friends who experienced truly regenerate conversions at FBC Jax. I still visit there every time I visit my family in Jax. Dad is a deacon there, mom teaches Sunday School, my sister sings in the choir and my brother-in-law plays in the orchestra.

Nathan said...

Tom, great review! One of the best I've read on this blog.

I actually grew up at FBC, Jax under Jerry Vines' ministry. I believe he is the best preacher that the conservative resurgence produced. Although he may not be consistant here, he is usually a very consistant expositional preacher.

It does not surprise me that Dr. Vines' presentation was toned down some compared to the Caners. He is a true Christian gentleman when you get to know him and he DOES care about theology (he was the only one that asked me theologically penetrating questions during my ordination).

Sadly though, both "kingofbleh", who has posted on this threadd and who happens to be my brother, and I didn't even know what Calvinism was growing up at FBC Jax. They never taught us about it or even told us that it existed.

When I began to hunger for the Word as an 18 yr old high school grad, I asked some of the pastoral staff there to give me some guidance on how to study God's word and I got none! It was as if that was a weird question to even ask another Christian.

I STRUGGLED to understand scripture and was even distracted for a while with the KJV only movement- mostly because they took the time to show me how to study his word.

I asked another pastoral staffer to explain the trinity to me and what I got in response was, "the trinity is a mystery. Nobody can understand it." That's it. Nothing about how the Triune God relates to each other or how we can show muslims that it's not a self-contradictory doctrine.

FBC was not all bad theology all the time. I actually was encouraged to read some very fine Christian books and like I said Dr. Vines' preaching was very good- in fact, his influence wasn't felt as much at FBC as much as his co-pastor, Dr. Linsdey (who was NOT theologically minded at all). But, my love for the word of God was fully nourished outside of FBC Jax- which is very sad when you think about it.

Nathan said...

by the way, Tom, are the comments that are deleted very infamatory or just comments that disagree with our position?

kingofbleh said...

....and now you all have heard from my SIXTH immediate family member who came up through FBC Jax.


Bill Formella said...

Well, here you go y'all. Here's a a very favorable article from Baptist Press on the cancellation of the debate and the discussion over Calvinism in the SBC:

I'm very encouraged by this, but I wonder how many state newspapers will actually print it.

Taliesin said...

by the way, Tom, are the comments that are deleted very infamatory or just comments that disagree with our position?

Nathan, I'm not Tom (obviously) but the only posts I see deleted here are "deleted by author" which means whoever wrote the post chose to delete it (notice the little trash can at the end of your post that doesn't show up on other peoples posts). If Tom deletes a post, it will show up as "deleted by administrator" (or something similar to that). There may be a way to remove a comment entirely, but if so I've not figured it out.

XB6 said...

Just a quick note that Dr. Emir Caner did in fact address Calvinism (he seemed to refer to it as double predestination more than by Calvinism)in his sermon Sun night at TRBC. You can download it at the TRBC home page under "resources" tab, then media, then media resources i think. He seems to emphasize God actively damning people to Hell and equates that with passing over people. The sermon cuts off a bit at what seems to be a climax but it is very obvious that Drs. White and Ascol could have cleared up some of the confusion over what Calvinists actually believe during the debate. Oh well, maybe next time.

XB6 said...

BTW, my apologies for getting off topic.

C. T. Lillies said...

So is there a good greek grammar out there for someone who wants to learn it? I've got a copy of A.T. Robertson's Grammar of the Greek NT I picked up cheap at a bookstore. Is that a good one? Any suggestions?

I still believe that this strikes at the heart of the gospel, I am just not sure what can be done about it.


Chris said...

Fellow former FBCJaxers, Nathan and KingofBleh,

Please check out my profile and drop me an email.


Bill Formella said...

For you former FBC Jax people, I'm really interested in hearing some specifics on what kind of community outreach they did while you were there. I remember reading that they were big on evangelism through Sunday School, but I would like to hear how they would specifically go out into the community to give the people the gospel where they are at.

My reason for asking is that I've really never seen this kind of thing from the churches that THINK the reason they are growing is from being so "outreach" oriented. Outreach to these churches meant having a circus, wild game dinner, professional baseball player, etc. at the church and hope the world would come to them. The closest thing to actually going out into the world was going to the homes of visitors which, 9 times out 10, generally produced positive answers to the "If you died tonight..." questions. I wouldn't really call this boldly taking the gospel to the streets.

In an article from Baptist Press last week, even Ken Hemphill admitted that the churches that were growing in the SBC were largely growing due to demographic changes and not winning the lost. As I said before, the name of the game is give the people a better buffet in order to pull in the most new residents as well as luring sheep from other churches without all the puppets, pizza and rock & roll.

Scott said...


Dr. Vines mentioned something like " Baptists have never been in the majority of believing Calvinism". I'm prety sure he said this if my memory serves me correct. Please notice the following:

Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association By A. D. Gillette pg 4 under the Preface:

" In every period of its existence the Association has firmly maintained the soundest form of Scripture doctrine; NOR COULD ANY CHURCH HAVE BEEN ADMITTED, AT ANY PERIOD, WHICH DENIED OR CONCEALED ANY OF THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE. The preface was written by H.G. Jones. Remember that the Philadelphia was the first Baptist Association in America!
This is why so many of us feel sorry for the congregation at FBC Woodstock where they hear untruths on a regular basis concerning our Baptist History and the Scriptures on Calvinism. Remember Dr. Vines is a member at FBCW now and preaches on Sunday nights at times. Also, we must understand that that our history is documented and can be seen by people. Let's continue to spread the truth!

Chris said...

Bill asks:

For you former FBC Jax people, I'm really interested in hearing some specifics on what kind of community outreach they did while you were there. I remember reading that they were big on evangelism through Sunday School, but I would like to hear how they would specifically go out into the community to give the people the gospel where they are at.

Well, most of the outreach was done through the Sunday school prospect lists. They had a phone ministry and also the high school students in the fall would go out to various neighborhoods conducting surveys asking if people went to church etc. These surveys were compiled into prospect lists. Those were printed on little pink cards that we would use to go out and visit. We would visit them and invite them to church and attempt to share the gospel. As you can imagine, the Tuesday night visitation was a big deal.

When I was in high school, a group of us would go out every week to the mall and witness to strangers. But, I must admit, the motivation to do so was more about who had the best witnessing testimony to give on Sunday morning in our main assembly.

And in the 2 years before I left, I was an outreach leader for one of the high school boys Sunday school classes. I got very frustrated with the Tuesday night visitation system. While I thought it important to see the gospel being shared, I also saw the need to see these guys in our class be discipled. I tried to meet with them, but we were all so busy with more and more church stuff that it fizzled out.

Anyway, in addition to that, there was always a theme of reaching the lost (i.e. sharing the gospel with everything that moved) that permeated just about everything. Every planned event pretty much had to have an invitation, that sort of thing. Looking back, I wish we had done more to serve the people within our church. For example, I never really knew any of the seniors because we were so segragated agewise. Perhaps if we had been more apt to serve and love one another that would have created a credible platform for our message, rather than simply "if the Bible says it, brother, you should believe it!"

Greg B said...

Dear Tom and other Brothers and Sisters:
I had read parts of your explanation and some posts,but I was just able to read all of your original posting on Dr. Vines talk. You really nailed it on the early mention of inerrancy. Dr. PAtterson and all of the patriarchs of the resurgence taught us (in churches and seminaries) that the Bible was perfect and really meant what it said. A resurgence in Biblical Doctrines must come from this assertion.
And as is my axe I grind, our fathers in the convention for the most part do not know or understand the history of evangelical christianity for the last 250 years (ie Sandy Creek being a Charleston/Philadelphia Confession church while reviving and evangelizing, or the heretical doctrines that flourished because of Finney and other "successful" evangelists). Do you wiser guys out there see any of the SBC patriarchs actually listening to the point where they would hear and seek to understand the "real history" of our denomination and evangelical Christianity as a whole?
Greg B

Chuck Sowers said...

Wow - I live in Jacksonville (Orange Park) and have listed to Jerry Vines for years. God has changed my thinking over the years and am now attending a reformed Bible Church. Our pastor recently preached a sermon titled "What is a true Calvinist Christian" that really gives a challenge that would apply to all Christians. Check it out the 7 Characteristics of a True Calvinistic Christian

1. True Calvinistic Christians Are concerned for the glory of God.
First and primary concern is the Glory of God – Romans 11:36 – 1st Corinthians 10:31
The Calvinist’s truest desire is the Glory of God.

2. True Calvinistic Christians Are Humble

(The Calvinist) above all should be humble. A high-minded Calvinist is an impossibility. (Inconceivable)

1st Corinthians 4:7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

3. True Calvinistic Christians Are controlled by the love of Christ

2nd Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

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 received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

4. True Calvinistic Christians Ought to be more like the Lord who was given to tears because of His compassionate heart.

Luke 19:41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it,
Because he knew the value of souls and severity of God’s wrath

5. True Calvinistic Christians Thrive in prayer and desire peoples salvation

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,

Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

6. True Calvinistic Christians Are willing to endure all things for those who are chosen to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

2nd Timothy 2:10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.

7. True Calvinistic Christians Are evangelistic and not afraid to plead and offer salvation.

Acts 2:14, 22-36, 37-40 – We are to plead for others to be saved. 2nd Corinthians 5:11
2nd Corinthians 5:19-20 - Act 17:30 – Calling people to repentance.
We plead with people to repent and believe. Acts 8:4-5 as we go we need to gossip the word!
Evangelism in its truest sense is the inevitable result of being filled with the Spirit of God.

May the charge of not being evangelistic not be true of us (YOU)!

Greg B said...

Chuck, that is profound and I will lift it and use it myself! Please thank you Pastor. What church are you in?
Greg in VA

hebrewshof said...

It bothers me that Jerry Vines claims to be neutral, but then proceeds to misrepresent and criticize Calvinism.

I had a tough time listening to the whole sermon.


kingofbleh said...

chris - excellent summary.

The SS at FBC was definitely the main venue for outreach. Nearly every SS class had a prospect outreach leader and most had a member outreach leader. The prospect outreach was responsible for coordinating visitation and other evangelistic activites of the calls. The member outreach was responsible primarily for care groups and calling inactive members.

In addition to what Chris mentioned, there were other programs such as the annual "Operation Andrew" where SS classes had established visitor and enrollment goals and there were rewards for classes that met their goals (I was a kid then and sure did enjoy those pizza parties).

There were also occassional one-week revivals with firebrands like Jess Hendley, Junior Hill and Jamie Raegle. These produced seemingly high numbers of conversions (500+ during one Hendley revival in the 80s) but many were repeat conversion attempts in some cases the 3rd or 4th time in their life.

The local television broadcast ministry was always touted by the church as a key outreach, and there were ample testimonies of people who were saved via the TV broadcast. However, when you looked at the actual number of conversions for the $ spent on the ministry, the return was never very good. And if you think it's crass for a Christian to look at a ministry in terms of profit/loss, keep in mind that's how most evangelical leaders think nowadays.

Please don't interpret my remarks as critical in any way of the motives or character of the people leading that church. God used Drs. Lindsay Sr., Lindsay Jr., Vines and others to make an indelible mark on my life and I am thankful to God that he brought me through that ministry. The fact is, when it came to practicing relationship-based personal evangelism there are none better than Linsday and Vines. Even now as I write this post, the testimonies those men gave of sharing the gospel are echoing in my head.

Bill Formella said...

Chris & King, I appreciate your taking the time to respond to me. Let me say first of all that, even in churches that are far from our understanding of what a church should be, God is gracious and even works through means that He has not ordained. I too have some fond memories of the churches that I now find so disappointing.

What you're describing is pretty much SOP at the mega churches I have been a member of, with the exeption of least not yet. The biggest problem I see is that making the SS like a mini church means that mostly untrained men are acting as shepherds. The tragedy of the mega church movement as that there are huge flocks of sheep that are, in reality, without a real shepherd in their lives. They don't know their Pastor, or even an elder, and the Pastor doesn't know them. Furthermore, strict age segregation leaves the sheep without mentors. I can honestly say I did not have much of an opportunity to get to know even one elderly person in these churches.

But my main point originally was that we have to stop going on the defensive whenever Calvinists are accused of not being evangelistic enough. These churches claim to be mission minded but have instead settled for a building centric model of ministry that tries so entertain people into the kingdom, even though the gospel may be preached after the entertainment. Other than organized visitation of those who have already stepped into the building once or twice, people aren't going out to share the gospel.

In addition to going and being a light in your places or work, hospitality is one of the means God has ordained for building His kingdom. Leadership is commanded by God to be hospitable (all of us are as well), but who has time for hospitality when there are so many programs to run at the church? In my last years in the mega church I noticed that rarely was anyone even opening their homes anymore. We always went out to restaurants and the people that couldn't afford it were out of luck.

At the end of the day (age) I think we are going to find that these churches that are boasting of their mission mindedness are going to learn that the majority in their fellowships were false converts; the product of wood, hay and stubble. When one of the most "exciting", up and coming churches struggles to find 30 people out of 3,000 to run an "outreach" program, and the same people are involved in program after program, what does that tell you about the hearts of the other 2,970?

kingofbleh said...

Bill - Another paradigm that has come to dominate modern evangelical thinking on evangelism is that evangelism is always "someone else's job". Sadly, this thinking manifests itself far too easily in megachurches suffering from what I call "program paralysis". What happens here is that any time leaders in these churches want to spur or revitalize evangalism in their congregation, they start a program or designate a group of people to make it happen.

For example, some large churches send their high schoolers out to canvas neighborhoods or local malls. After a period of time this program takes on permanence and the rest of the members (who are not in high school) start to think that canvasing neighborhoods, malls, etc. is "the high school group's job" at the exclusion of their own participation in such evangelistic efforts.

The same goes for missions. Far too many of the members in large churches avoid taking mission trips because they feel that it can/should only be done by professional missionaries. So they give their $10 to Lottie Moon and sit back feeling satisfied they have done all they are supposed to do to fulfill the Great Commission. While this is certainly not true for ALL of the members of such churches, it is true for the vast majority.

So what I am seeing is that the more outreach "programs" a church has, the more deferrential the members become to actively evangelizing in their own lives. It's a vicious cycle that results in the scenario you described - the same 30 people participating in all of the programs towing the line for the other 2,970.

(Sorry. I've been reading JI Packer's "Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" lately and it has really opened my eyes to these problems. An EXCELLENT read, by they way.)

craig from Georgia said...

"But no one who is knowledgeable in the issues that accompany textual transmission, textual criticism, exegesis of the Biblical languages, and Biblical translation believes that any particular translation or book that we could hold in our hands today is inerrant. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy affirms that only the autographs, that is the original writings, of Scripture were inerrant."

If God inspired His Word without error then why couldn’t He preserve them without error?

Greg B said...

My thoughts exactly. People have even been saved reading the JW's New World version.
The Holy Spirit has preserved His word through translations that even intended to spread heresy. Not to mention that nearly all versions agree on the key soveriegn grace passages (even in mistranslating portions that would help).

stilldesiringGod said...

God can do anything He wants to. Even let prideful people come up with hundreds of Bible translations that disagree with one another. Stick with the faithful few that have so much in common that mirror near identically. What will you then argue? That some minor word differences from language translation to another are different? Any interpreter is offered this freedom. Words have many meaning and are broad in scope as well as specific. It is our responsibility to study hard and find out God's revelation to us. What is He trying to tell us? What is His message for us? And I certainly do not mean Message. Do not take a man's opinion of an English text, do your own homework! There have never been more great study tools at your finger tips to make it easier. We have computer programs that will parse the snot out of words for you! Volumes that will have laid out the footwork of translation for you, and then you take it the rest of the way. Syntax is a little harder, but God's Word is worth it. If you learned English you can memorize Greek, no? Hebrew may look like chicken scratch at first, but my handwriting is no work of art either. It all depends on whether you want to count the cost of discipleship. Enroll at a Christian college or seminary if you have never taken the courses before or even if you have and need to refresh yourself. I know how fast you can lose it! Most Pastors ignore this most vital aspect of homiletics. But let me ask you this Pastors, how do you accurately do exegesis if your Biblical language skills are suffering or not at a level where they need to be? I realize this blog is almost at the end of its rotation, but I wish more people would read this. I am back in school now and have a long way to go. But one thing I know is that if I am to serve my people I must labor for the Word. Don't serve and labor go hand and hand? Think back to seminary days, should that labor have ended just because you graduated? No, it should have just begun. And no, I am not a young'un on here. I just happen to be back at school after three lay offs, praise God!

M. Jay Bennett said...

Craig from Georgia,

The question at hand is not why God does what he does or even what could God do? The question is how should we understand the doctrine of Biblical innerancy or, more precisely, why should we trust God's Word?

No serious student of the Bible would ever claim that a contemporary version of Scripture, whether Greek or English, is inerrant. There are clearly discrepancies in the texts we have. That kind of innerancy can easily be rebutted by picking up a Bible with footnotes. The Chicago Statement affirms the inerrancy of the autographs of Scripture not the transmissions. This was an argument deployed by the great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield when he fought for biblical inerrancy against the liberals of his day.

But while we do not have an inerrant Bible today, the basic message of the Bible is still absolutely reliable. God has preserved his Gospel. We should not trust in a wrong and easily falsifiable view of inerrancy, but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again my brother, I encourage you to read back through my previous response and set yourself to studying the issues I mentioned. There is a wealth of scholarly resources out there today for students of the Bible. What a gift God has provided for his Church! Every preacher of the Word should be familiar with current Biblical scholarship. Where else can we turn but the Bible to find specific revelation about our gracious God? What hope could we have apart from his Word?

Blessings to you,


bristopoly said...

Josh, I don't know if you ever got an answer, so here's mine.

Robertson is a great grammar, but it is an advanced grammar, so use Mounce to learn basic Greek instead. Keep Robertson because it is a very good resource, but realize also that it is a bit dated in some respects. Wallace is a good intermediate grammar, but also is confused with respect to the Greek verb and a few other issues. So read Porter, McKay, Carson, etc. on the verb when you get to that level, but just concern yourself with Mounce at first. I think there is a handbook on Biblical Exegesis in that same series that takes you step by step in learning how to diagram and do your own lexicography. If you need anymore help with anything, you can email me at Hope that helps.

To Jay: Don't forget the DSS for the Hebrew OT. That has been a huge help in getting to the original text as well when compared to the MT.

craig from Georgia said...


Thanks for your gracious responses. Anytime a person has to consult “the Greek” to explain a plain straight forward passage like John 3:16, tells me that person is trying to make the Word of God fit their theology rather than let the Bible dictate correct theology to them. You never change up the Word of God to match your theology, but then according to what you say you don’t have the Word of God. As far as you’re concerned it’s lost somewhere in the multiplicity of Greek texts For all practical purposes you’re no different than the Catholic church except while they depend on the priest to tell them what God has said, you’re depending on the scholars to tell you what God has said. You’re more concerned with “The Chicago Statement” than believing that God just might be wise and powerful enough to not only inspire His words, but preserve them for us. Where in the Bible does it say inspiration extends only to the original autographs?

“No serious student of the Bible”

You’re not a student of the Bible; scholarship yes, the Bible, no.

“There are clearly discrepancies in the texts we have”

Yes, I agree there are discrepancies in the texts you have.

“while we do not have an inerrant Bible today, the basic message of the Bible is still absolutely reliable”

How about the very words of God? Are they available?

The words of the LORD are pure words (Psalm 12:6)

Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. (Luke 21:33)

“God has preserved his Gospel“. “We should not trust in a wrong and easily falsifiable view of inerrancy, but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

How do you know for sure what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is if you don’t have an inerrant Bible?

“Where else can we turn but the Bible to find specific revelation about our gracious God?”

But your Bible is not the Word of God, but only contains the Word of God….somewhere.

Please spare me your scholarolotry. I set myself to studying the issues about 15 years ago. I have weighed the modern scholars in them balances and found them wanting.

“Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.”

bristopoly said...

Craig From Georgia,
Then you accept that Paul contradicts himself in the Book of Acts when it says in the KJV that those who were with Paul "heard" the voice and then that those who were with Paul did not "hear" the voice? Or do you have to look at the original Greek to understand that something else is going on there? John 3:16 reads very differently in the Greek than it does in man-made traditional English translations that pretty much follow the poetry of the KJV. How do you know the KJV is more accurate than Luther's Bible in German or the NWT of the JW's? The NT is written in Greek and therefore its inspiration (God's breathing out) is through the Greek. I am not arguing that God does not preserve the message or the authority of the message in a translation, but when men translate that Word and then make false theological claims based on inaccurate translations of individual words (and the nature of language itself dictates that inaccuracies will be made even if there were no blame to lay at the translator's feet), then going to the original Greek (since God in His infinite wisdom has preserved it for the Church) is the most responsible thing to do if one honors the Word of God rather than the Word of Man. Do you check what your pastor says in a sermon against the translation. Is not his quoting the text or even teaching from it a translation of a translation? You always check the source. If the foundation is wrong, the whole building collapses.

I do disagree with Jay if he is saying that we don't know what the original Greek says. I would say that if one works hard enough to know the discipline that you can be sure of 99% of the readings that matter and the other 1% is either of no weight theologically, or if it is, has its probabilities one way or the other. But you have to move past the first few years of TC and start to know the mss individually as well as following the Biblical text through an argument and then seeing how a reading fits or does not fit into that argument, etc.

One last thing, Craig, you are trusting in the translators of your English Bible as much as Jay is trusting in scholars. So you are trusting in scholars and Jay is trusting in scholars. You're both in the same boat unless you become experts in the various fields. Are you Roman Catholic? How do you know your English Bible is true if you don't consult the Greek? You trust that God will bring you into the truth through teachers. Jay does the same. How are you different?

M. Jay Bennett said...

Craig from Georgia,

My gut tells me to respond with unkindness, but the Scriptures tell me otherwise. I love you and pray the best for you.

I leave you with our triune God and pray that your ministry might honor him.

Blessing to you,


stilldesiringGod said...

Jay, I will take it if you don't. We have been working with Craig from Georgia for a while now and then he pops off with this nonsense?! Has he even bothered reading anything that we have posted?! It seems he is just looking for a fight and has found the Founders blog to do it. Jay, you have answered very well in your responses and I hope that I will be able to retrieve these from the archives for future reference for myself. As for Craig, are you a member of a religious cult? Your arguments are the exact same I have encountered ministering to cult members who believe they are Christians. I believe this is also why Bristopoly wrote and asked if you were Roman Catholic. And speaking of Bristopoly, if you are going to address someone on a blog, please try to not do it third person, we can all get into tangents and chasing rabbits. You tried to make a decent point but ended up contradicting yourself when you said Jay doesn't believe we know the Greek (according to Craig, according to you) and then you say we know 99% of it. Well, you just proved, then, 1% we do not know! Perhaps, if Craig was quoting Jay correctly and you were quoting Craig correctly then Jay was right all along. But do you see why it is silly to follow tracks in blogs? It is like our Baptist churches favorite sin, gossip. It catches wildfire and spreads without the ability to contain it. Go back to the source. I am not going off on you. You have been helpful in your counsel to Craig and I am very sorry he has attacked our brother the way he has. Jay, thank you for staying the course and fighting the temptation to go off. I had another guy on here lose it and I was like, okay, I will just stop typing and let his silliness stand for others to read. But with such an outright attack, you showed incredible restraint. So Craig, this studying you did 15 years ago, why do you feel it was so sufficient that it was above error or that it could not be improved upon? You have at least three Christians who have been consistently coming alongside of you encouraging you to study to show yourself approved unto God, not us, but Him. You do not answer to us, but God. But we have been placed in your life for a short season to help you. Are we all wrong? I would say we are all right as we stand with the overwhelming majority of the thousands who frequent this blog. Do you know more than us? Perhaps? But that is what you are gambling on. That 15 years ago an opinion formed about a subject was going to be sufficient for the rest of your life. One quick point and I will be done. There is a woman who is dear to my family. She is a charismaniac. She has told me that she has come to conclusion about the particular issues that divide evangelicals and those on the fringe and has determined her beliefs and that there is no need to study anymore what Scripture has to say on any of those subjects. I told her she has created a god in her own image. When you no longer need the God of Holy Scripture to keep illuminating you to the truth in His Word, you have created a God in your own image you created yourself. You sir, are walking down a dangerously similar path. You have made a god out of translations and condemned another man for falling in love with God's precious Revelation to us and the purity of His Word. What would make you do such a thing? Is this rebuke? Yes, you are rebuked for condemning your brother and rejecting the holiness of God's true Word. I admonish you to do your homework. Life is not over yet. You, sir, have applied your theological presuppositions to John 3:16. You have placed your theological grid onto the text and are afraid of the truth. If you would submit to the truth then you would be required to change your beliefs. As you have already admitted, 15 years of beliefs die hard. Submit to the authority of Scripture, not presuppositions, Sunday School lessons, my daddy's view, or old Pastor so-and-so. Do you due diligence, study, study, study, study, and when you feel like quitting, good, recognize you are human and repent of that in God's strength and go study some more. It is all about Him! His glory! His renown! His fame! What have we to offer? Submission. Keep going! Persevere! Press on for the prize! Okay, this is long enough. Peace.

Amicus said...

I'm not sure how a discussion of historic (Calvinistic) v. modern (Arminian) Baptist soteriology degraded into a debate on King James Onlyism.

The King James Version, translated by Puritan scholars whose faith in the sovereignty of God was not shaken by their awesome scholarship, fully supports Calvinistic soteriology. The great Baptist Calvinistic writers and preachers of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries had only the KJV as their English Bible.

Calvinists have no reason to disagree with Luther in his assessment of John 3:16 as the Gospel in miniature.

Rather, Craig begs the question as to what the verse actually says. It says "whosoever believeth in him." It doesn't say that any whosoever has the power to believe in him. That is the way that it is preached by modern Arminian Baptists but that's not what (the KJV) says.

The problem with a lot of KJV preachers is not that they don't know Greek; it's that they don't know Elizabethan English. "Whosoever believeth" means "whoever believes." It doesn't speak to moral ability. It doesn't tell us who will or who can believe.

Whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. But all will not believe. Sinners cannot believe, not because there is something wrong with their faculties, but because they hate God. They cannot believe unless they are born again.

But God does gloriously save sinners, convincing them of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, through the preaching of the glorious Gospel of His Son. Not all are saved, but "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed". (Acts 13:48b KJV)

That is Calvinistic theology. You can learn it from the KJV, as your Baptist forefathers did, if you will read it with an open mind.

bristopoly said...

Just to clarify: I actually didn't contradict myself as if I said: We can know with absolute certainty 100% of the original Greek text and then said we can only know 99%. I never said such a thing. My point was that we can know what the original said, most with certainty and a small portion with probability. To say that it is a contradiction to write that "we can know the original text says" means "we can know 100% of the original text with absolute certainty" is reading a bit into it. I was simply trying to communicate the point that we are not unaware of what the original said---as many people seem to give off that impression---as though the text is lost.

Secondly, I wasn't quoting Jay or Craig. I was gaining an impression from Jay's comments and not sure if he was saying that we didn't know what the originals looked like. That's why I used an "if" in the protasis. You seem to miss those "ifs" Stilldesiring. That's the second time you called me out on a comment I made while igoring that I said "if this is the case, such and such is true" (my "ifs" are indicating that there is some question as to whether what I am stating is true or not). I am therefore open to the person I am quoting to clarify. So I haven't misrepresented anyone here. Please be more generous when you read what is written if you are going to call someone out on it.

M. Jay Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
M. Jay Bennett said...


Yes, I am thinking of the term inerrancy as 100% by definition. Only the autographs can be regarded as inerrant.

I think you are right to say that the manuscripts we have today in the original languages do indeed deliver a very true representation of the autographs. However reasonable that view is (and I think it is most reasonable), it is still a belief. It is a non-falsifiable truth claim. In other words, I think we just can't prove our faith. But we can certainly demonstrate it and have it strengthened through historical evidences.

If I might speculate a moment, I believe it is certainly likely that our God allowed the originals to be lost and somewhat corrupted in transmission so that we would not worship the text itself. Personally, I think that is what a lot of pastors who harp on inerrancy are doing. I do not doubt the sincerity of their intentions. Most of them probably do so out of a real desire to see God glorified through his Word. I'm sure that most of them are far more powerful preachers than I could ever hope to be. Nonetheless, an undue focus on the perfection of a text, whether actual or supposed, is idolatry.

I admit, the line between appreciation and worship is fine. It's a delicate balance that no depraved man could ever completely secure. But it's the impossibility of reaching the goal that makes it worth striving after. Though we can't become holy this side of heaven, we certainly strive for holiness. But I digress.

I believe that the Word of God is wonderful and beautiful and absolutely reliable. I believe it is the only place we can turn to find specific revelation of our triune God. What a gift God has given his people! I am indebted to my school, Dallas Seminary, for instilling a respect for the authority of the Bible in me. But I've also heard professors at DTS teach that we should be careful where we sit our Bibles and how roughly we handle them, in order to properly reverence it as God's Holy Word. I think that is going to far.

I affirm the Chicago Statement and am very glad that it was formulated. The autographs of the Scriptures have to be considered inerrant in order for us to be consistent in our belief in the integrity of God. But ultimately it is the integrity of God that we should trust. It is God that we should worship. The Bible is a means to that end. We trust it, because it is from a trustworthy God.

Does that make sense? I hope I haven't been confusing. Thanks for taking time to interact. I enjoy talking with fellow brothers in the faith. I pray we might be able to encourage one another towards love and good deeds.

Blessings to you,


stilldesiringGod said...

Jay, nicely put. Your four years at Dallas have served you well.

stilldesiringGod said...


My gut tells me to respond with unkindness, but the Scriptures tell me otherwise. I love you and pray the best for you.

I leave you with our triune God and pray that your ministry might honor him.

Blessing to you,


A seminarian taught me that. ;-|

bristopoly said...

Hi Jay, thanks for the clarification. I understand your concern. I too am tired of hearing how perfect and infallible the Bible is and then have men not preach from it or go off three hours on a story unrelated to Scripture or simply not bothering to exegete it. I however would caution that the Bible is not just "a" means, but "the" means of worshiping God (I wasn't sure if that was a slip or not). The theology taught in Exodus, the Deuteronomistic History and the Gospel of John is that one cannot know God without it, so it becomes THE means to worship Him (hence cultural expressions like images are out). I realize you may be using the term "worship" a little more broadly, so I'll let you clarify that. However, I agree with your concern as one does not necessarily know God with it either. This sermon by Vines is a case in point.

I don't know if this is splitting hairs, but I just wanted to clarify that, with all the variants in papyri, codices, patristic quotes, lectionaries, etc., every Text Critic will admit that the problem we have is not that we don't have the original text, but that we have more than the original text (I think even Metzger that you cited as a source says this as well). We don't have too little, we have too much. So it's not that the text is lost, but that it must contend with other variants (most of which teach the exact same thing, as you say, with few exceptions). I think with all difficulties presented to us with the Scripture is why God supplies us with teachers to wade through it.

Just to defend a little those who may want you to treat the Bible itself better. I realize you may be defining worship more broadly, but... If you have a theology like that of the Sinai theology in Scripture and you take into account that you meet God there, then you would tend to treat it as holy, not as a common book. We have kind of gotten away from calling it the "Holy Bible" (i.e., the "Holy Book") and now call it just the "Bible" (i.e., the "Book"). Our attitudes toward it are a bit reflective of our view of what it is. One could not profane the temple even though the temple was not the Word of God (it merely housed it) or the Ark (once again only containing it, but not the Word of God itself). So I understand why some profs would say that. Their concern is probably more of the attitude toward Scripture however that we often reflect when we smack the Bible down on the floor or put a soft drink on top of it like a cup holder, etc.

thanks for good conversation, Jay. Let me know if I have misunderstood you somewhere. God bless.

bristopoly said...

why would you say that to me when all I did was point out to you your uncharitable readings of me?

You said I contradicted myself.
You were wrong.

You said I misquoted Jay or took his words via Craig.
You were wrong.

That's all i said. Can you not be corrected, brother, without taking it as hostility? In essence, there is absolutely no reason that your gut should tell you to respond unkindly to me as though I was mean to you like Craig was to Jay. I would have expected an apology for misreading me for both this time and last time. Instead, I either got silence or further aggression (in the form of passive dismissal). You wronged me by misreading me and misreprenting me. Please don't act like its the other way around. It's my gut that should feel unkind. :)

bristopoly said...

I just wanted to clarify that I didn't mean Vines doesn't know God, but rather he is a case in point of someone who holds up the Bible as infallible and then fails to really exegete it properly when it comes to something like the Doctrines of Grace.

M. Jay Bennett said...


Great questions!

Help me if I'm wrong, here's my basic understanding of revelation:

I understand that the Bible is the specific revelation of the triune God that culminates in Christ and everything else that exists, except God, is general revelation. I am thinking in terms of anything that reveals God being a means of worship, whether general or specific revelation. All nature reveals knowledge in divinity, and people are condemnable for not worshipping God according to that knowledge (Rom 1).

I do give the Bible priority though, since it is the only way we can come to know Christian divinity. (I agree with Jonathan Edwards's view as outlined in his sermon "Christian Knowledge") But I couldn't say that the Bible is the only means by which Christians worship God. I think we also worship him through general revelation. And we do so necessarily as an aspect of our creatureliness (Cornelius Van Til has a great explanation of the vital relationship between general and specific revelation. I think he must have read Edwards :-)

Also, I think you and Metzger are correct. The manuscripts we have today accord with one another with amazing consistency. That leads me to believe that the original text has not been lost in most cases. My point was not that the original text has been completely lost, just the autographs (The actual original manuscripts as laid out by the original human authors).

Also, I do view the Bible as holy, if you mean set apart from other books. The Bible is special and it should be appreciated as a great gift from God to his church. But it is not holy in the same way God is holy. It is certainly set apart from all other books, but it is not set apart from the creation. If the Bible was holy in the same way God is holy then no sinful creature could be in its presence. God's holiness is not comprehended in the Bible. Only God is divine. Only he should be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

I think part of the religious tendencies of depraved creatures is to worship places, buildings, books, etc. rather than what they represent. Jesus seems to be making this point when he speaks to the Samaritan woman in John 4.

I am a Puritan at heart, and I think the Bible should be front and center in the Church's worship of God. But it should not be worshipped. God should be worshipped through the preaching of his Word.

Again, thanks for the great questions. I don't think you are splitting hairs. These are fundamental issues that we have to be clear about. As I read Ascol's blog, I am encouraged about the future of the SBC. I am encouraged that SBC ministers are actually taking the time to talk over the fine points of doctrine.

Not that you have done this at all, but sometimes I am very disappointed at the senseless bickering and backbiting that goes on between brothers in discussing the doctrines of grace. What a contradiction! It makes me question the legitimacy of their conversion and the authenticity of their faith. I'm not really surprised by it though. The way is narrow and there are few who find it. We should be clear and straight with one another, but we should never be unkind. Amen?

Blessings to you,


bristopoly said...

Hi Jay, thanks again for the great conversation,

Natural revelation must be interpreted through special revelation and therefore it is inadequate to worship God. That's why worshiping God through nature, like trees or such, are out. The word worship itself in the Bible means "to bow down" to something. So since we worship an invisible God, the Sinai Theology teaches us to bow our minds, spirits, emotions down to the revealed Word. By doing so, we are bowing down to God through it (spoken words which are not physical either) rather than through something physical (which is a means of communication of God's attributes, but not His will and therefore it is inadequate to bow down to, i.e., worship). Men are judged for denying the attributes that are due to God by changing His attributes to those of men (thus displaying their inherited rebellion toward Him and their subsequent just condemnation).

Please let me be clear, I am definitely not saying that we should worship the Bible. But the Sinai theology teaches that we cannot worship God, who is "otherworldly" without a means. And the means He has chosen is what He speaks, not what He physically creates. Men used idols to worship their gods who were seen by them as "otherworldly." God replaces idols with His spoken word. So it is the idol of God in that we bow our minds and wills down to it. Not because it is God, but because it is our only sufficient expression of His mind and will that we have in order to know Him. In fact, temples in the ancient Near East are made to house idols, not gods. That is a common misunderstanding. People don't worship idols in the ancient Near East as we understand worship today. They "bow down" to idols, but they are doing so to "worship" the gods through those idols. So idols are a means of worship. The Bible, the Words written to be spoken not the pages, ink and leather, is therefore THE only means through which we can worship God (that's why the High Places in the Deuteronomistic History are considered evil by God and no legitimate worship can be done away from the tabernacle/temple in Jerusalem--hence the primacy of Zion, etc.). John's point concerning the Samaritan woman is actually that of Deut 4---that it is not through something physical (like going to a mountain or temple or later in his Gospel through seeing physical signs or physically even seeing Christ Himself) through which one must worship God, but in an invisible way through the revealed truth of Jesus and His apostles.

Regarding the treatment of the Bible:
No one worshiped the temple or the ark in the OT unless they were in sin, but no one treated them as common either. My point was that I doubt the profs are telling anyone to worship the Bible, since only God can be worshiped; but rather that Christians should treat it as their meeting place with God rather than a floor ornament or drink holder. Moses took off his shoes, not because he worshiped the ground, but because he realized the ground upon which He stood was sacred because of Him with whom he had communion there. The same for the temple or anywhere the revealed Word went (from Sinai to the tabernacle to the temple to the church etc.).

Does that help at all. In what way were you defining worship? If it's just being in awe of God, then that can be through anything (although we still need the Word to interpret the natural revelation). But if defined Biblically, the Bible really is the only means through which we can worship Him.

God bless, Jay.

M. Jay Bennett said...


I am thinking of worship in terms of honoring God and giving thanks to God for who he is. Or, to put it another way, glorifying God in all we do.

I am tracking with you that general revelation is inadequate to be a means of worship. But I don't think that means general revelation cannot be included as a means of worship subordinate to Scripture. In other words, I wouldn't want to totally disregard any aspect of God's revelation as a means of worship when rightly ordered and interpreted.

I agree that general revelation will only be rightly understood when interpreted through the grid of specific revelation. I also agree that general revelation alone is insufficient to be a means of worship. Specific revelation is needed to guide us in that endeavor.

My point is that we should be careful not to separate general from specific revelation. I agree with Van Til's assessment that we would be unable to think at all apart from general revelation. How would I know what the Scripture means when it refers to a tree, a Lamb, a field, a pearl, bread, etc. apart from general revelation? Also, the human mind itself is part of the general revelation.

I think Protestants have tended to react so aversely to the abuses we've seen in Roman Catholicism that we sometimes try to isolate specific revelation from general revelation in an attempt to purify doctrine.

Surely the Bible has priority, but I don't think it should be isolated as the only means of worship. Apart from general revelation the Bible would make no sense at all. The general revelation gives us many of the categories we need to be able to understand specific revelation and vice versa. Of course, in all revelation we are dependent on the illumination of the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth and thus direct us to Christ.

Maybe it would be better to think of revelation as the only means of worship, including both aspects. Priority should certainly be given to specific revelation. Where would we turn without the Scriptures? But we should also recognize the absolute need for general revelation.

Personally, I find the Spirit directing my thoughts to interpret the general revelation according to specific revelation and leading me to worship our trune God often. Of course, my mind does not always remember a particular Scripture, but because of Scripture I know that what I see is declaring the glory of God in Christ. For instance, a thunderstorm can be a very intense means of worship. The sunsets in Texas are spectacular and often lead me to honor God and give thanks to him with my thoughts. I think the Psalmists do the same with regularity. I also think we do it in our hymnody. Take How Great Thou Art for instance. It is very much full of natural imagery and very much a means of worship for my soul.

I wonder if you have had similar experiences?


J. Dale Weaver, M.Div. said...

Tom Ascol wrote:

"Dr. Vines message screams for a response from denominational leaders who never hesitate to issue warnings to Southern Baptist Calvinists whom they label 'Calvinazis'...."

I am not familiar with any "warning" or pronouncement of that nature made to anyone by a Southern Baptist official ACTING AS A DENOMINATIONAL OFFICER.

Calvinist or no, SBC officials can blow smoke and warn all they want, but they have no authority to do so (supposedly), and no teeth with which to enforce any such "warning."

Tom, I am surprised at your call for such a warning against Dr. Vines -- or anyone else. I am quite sure you understand the nature of local church autonomy according to SBC principles.

That being said, Vines is indeed incorrect about SB history with regard to its generally Calvinist origins. MOST (not all) SB's prior to 1900 were indeed "5 point" adherents. That's why you all needed a few Reformation Arminians to join up and set you all straight! (For those Calvinists without a sense of humor -- that's a JOKE).

J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.

bristopoly said...

Hi Jay,
I think we are defining worship differently. When I say "worship" I am talking about the Biblical use of the word "to bow down to" something as a means of submissive communion with God. You seem to be using it in a more general theological sense in which we stand in awe of God's attributes: His glory, His power, etc. (I think of Luther when you mention the thunderstorm). I don't have a problem with anything you said and agree that those are times to really stand in awe of God.

But worship is a little different. As I stated before, if worship means to bow down to something. Then when we are commanded to worship God in the Scripture, we are commanded to bow our minds and wills to His. We don't know God's will apart from special revelation.
I understand your point that we shouldn't act as though Scripture does not have the context of natural revelation, but that wasn't really my issue. Mine was more that one cannot go out and worship God through a thunderstorm by itself, but one can worship God through the Scripture by itself. We all need certain extrabiblical elements to understand Scripture (i.e. natural revelation, logic and a brain with sense perception). But I wouldn't say that one who has a brain can worship God with it just because he has it. I guess my point would be that with all of the extrabiblical elements one can obtain, he is still not capable of worshiping God (if in fact worship is to conform one's mind and will to God's). Scripture really then becomes the ONLY means through which he can do so, since it is the only element that allows him to use all of the other elements in order to know the mind and will of God. Do you see what I mean? or am I being confusing? So I would never argue that one worships God possessing only the element of Scripture and not the element of the mind or context of the world and language, but rather that it is the only element that allows one to worship God as a means to be conformed to His will. He uses all elements to worship, but only one is a means that exists to communicate His mind and will. Make sense?
Let me give an example:

"9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets." Deut 4

Notice that there is a lot of smoke and darkness and clouds, etc. (a lot of natural revelation going on), but God warns them not to concetrate on that, but instead the Ten Commandments that were given. They saw no form, but instead a voice. Their "seeing" God has to do, not with the natural elements surrounding the event (which communicate some of His attributes), but rather with what He speaks, His voice, which communicates His will.

I guess I am concerned with the idea that one can commune with God through nature when the Scripture teaches that it is through the Scripture itself. I don't want to ramble on when you probably get my point. Van Til's thing seems to be just an acknowledgement that we exist in the world and with that includes an already existing presupposition of natural revelation. But if that is true, I don't really need to try to know anything about God through it as it will already be there (thus the disposition of the Gentile in Rom 1). Instead my focus should be on that which clearly reveals His will so that I can worship/bow down to Him through it.

When we let Scripture order and interpret natural revelation, we are really worshiping God through special revelation, never natural. The natural interpreted via another means is always disasterous (Rom 1). But we stand in awe of the entire world around us and in that way give thanks for what God has made and done. So I don't really disagree with anything you've said here. The only disagreement is that Biblically one is worship to think with God's mindset and will and the other is more of a state of awe, or a recognition of certain attributes of God.

The only reason I think it is important to dinstiguish the two is because there is a huge movement in our time to see the means of communion and worship of God more broadly because of certain views of Scripture and certain views of man and his abilities to discern God on his own (I know this is not what you were saying); but I feel this trend is really leading us into idolatry, not of worshiping a different god, but of the golden calf sort, where we are trying to worship Yahweh via the wrong means, which is unacceptable to Him.

Thanks again, Jay. I probably just rambled on even though I was trying to keep it short. take care and God bless.

Rev. Scott Welch said...


Thanks for the fair review of Dr. Vines. Did you notice that he used pre-fall Adam to demonstrate the Arminian concept of free will? When God told Adam, "of all the trees you may freely eat" Vines added, "That sounds like free will to me." Isn't that borderline Pelagianism? I mean, to say that our wills are exactly like Adam's was before the fall, this is what Pelagius taught.

J. Gray said...

I have always respected Dr. Vines and have thought of him as a kind and generous man.

I know that his attempt was to be fair and balanced in his treatment of this issue, but it simply wasn't. He poisoned the well with many comments...but just the fact that this shows up in a series along with liberalism, pentecostalism, and alcoholism/libertinism is a sad misrepresentation.

craig from Georgia said...


One of the editors of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament is Bruce Manning Metzger. Metzger is George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary, and he serves on the board of the American Bible Society. Metzger is the head of the continuing RSV translation committee of the apostate National Council of Churches in the U.S.A. The Revised Standard Version was soundly condemned for its modernism when it first appeared in 1952. Today its chief editor sometimes is invited to speak at Evangelical forums. The RSV hasn’t changed, but Evangelicalism certainly has!

Metzger was the chairman for the Reader’s Digest Condensed Bible and wrote the introductions to each book in this butchered version of the Scriptures. The Preface claims that "Dr. Metzger was actively involved at every stage of the work, from the initial studies on each of the sixty-six books through all the subsequent editorial reviews. The finished condensation has received his full approval." The Condensed Bible removed 40% of the Bible text, including the warning of Revelation 22:18-19! In the introductions to the books of the Reader’s Digest Bible, Metzger questions the authorship, traditional date, and supernatural inspiration of books penned by Moses, Daniel, and Peter, and in many other ways reveals his liberal, unbelieving heart. Consider some examples:

Genesis: "Nearly all modern scholars agree that, like the other books of the Pentateuch, [Genesis] is a composite of several sources, embodying traditions that go back in some cases to Moses."

Exodus: "As with Genesis, several strands of literary tradition, some very ancient, some as late as the sixth century B.C., were combined in the makeup of the books" (Introduction to Exodus).

Deuteronomy: "It’s compilation is generally assigned to the seventh century B.C., though it rests upon much older tradition, some of it from Moses’ time."

Daniel: "Most scholars hold that the book was compiled during the persecutions (168-165 B.C.) of the Jewish people by Antiochus Epiphanes."

John: "Whether the book was written directly by John, or indirectly (his teachings may have been edited by another), the church has accepted it as an authoritative supplement to the story of Jesus’ ministry given by the other evangelists."

1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus: "Judging by differences in style and vocabulary from Paul’s other letters, many modern scholars think that the Pastorals were not written by Paul."

James: "Tradition ascribes the letter to James, the Lord’s brother, writing about A.D. 45, but modern opinion is uncertain, and differs widely on both origin and date."

2 Peter: "Because the author refers to the letters of Paul as ‘scripture,’ a term apparently not applied to them until long after Paul’s death, most modern scholars think that this letter was drawn up in Peter’s name sometime between A.D. 100 and 150."

Metzger’s modernism was also made plain in the notes to the New Oxford Annotated Bible RSV (1973). Metzger co-edited this volume with Herbert May. It first appeared in 1962 as the Oxford Annotated Bible and was the first Protestant annotated edition of the Bible to be approved by a Roman authority. It was given an imprimatur in 1966 by Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts. Metzger wrote many of the rationalistic notes in this volume and put his editorial stamp of approval on the rest. Consider some excerpts from the notes:
INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT: "The Old Testament may be described as the literary expression of the religious life of ancient Israel. ... The Israelites were more history-conscious than any other people in the ancient world. Probably as early as the time of David and Solomon, out of a matrix of myth, legend, and history, there had appeared the earliest written form of the story of the saving acts of God from Creation to the conquest of the Promised Land, an account which later in modified form became a part of Scripture. But it was to be a long time before the idea of Scripture arose and the Old Testament took its present form. ... The process by which the Jews became ‘the people of the Book’ was gradual, and the development is shrouded in the mists of history and tradition. ... The date of the final compilation of the Pentateuch or Law, which was the first corpus or larger body of literature that came to be regarded by the Jews as authoritative Scripture, is uncertain, although some have conservatively dated it at the time of the Exile in the sixth century. ... Before the adoption of the Pentateuch as the Law of Moses, there had been compiled and edited in the spirit and diction of the Deuteronomic ‘school’ the group of books consisting of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, in much their present form. ... Thus the Pentateuch took shape over a long period of time."
NOTES ON GENESIS: "[Genesis] 2.4b-3.24 ... is a different tradition from that in 1.1-2,4a, as evidenced by the flowing style and the different order of events, e.g. man is created before vegetation, animals, and woman. ... 7:16b: The Lord shut him in, a note from the early tradition, which delights in anthropomorphic touches. 7:18-20: The waters covered all the high mountains, thus threatening a confluence of the upper and lower waters (1.6). Archaeological evidence suggests that traditions of a prehistoric flood covering the whole earth are heightened versions of local inundations, e.g. in the Tigris-Euphrates basin."

NOTES ON JOB: "The ancient folktale of a patient Job (1.1-2.13; 42.7-17; Jas. 5.11) circulated orally among oriental sages in the second millennium B.C. and was probably written down in Hebrew at the time of David and Solomon or a century later (about 1000-800 B.C.)."

NOTES ON PSALM 22: "22:12-13: ... the meaning of the third line [they have pierced my hands and feet] is obscure." [Editor: No, it is not obscure; it is a prophecy of Christ’s crucifixion!]

NOTES ON ISAIAH: "Only chs. 1-39 can be assigned to Isaiah’s time; it is generally accepted that chs. 40-66 come from the time of Cyrus of Persia (539 B.C.) and later, as shown by the differences in historical background, literary style, and theological emphases. ... The contents of this section [chs. 56-66] (sometimes called Third Isaiah) suggest a date between 530 and 510 B.C., perhaps contemporary with Haggai and Zechariah (520-518); chapters 60-62 may be later."

NOTES ON JONAH: "The book is didactic narrative which has taken older material from the realm of popular legend and put it to a new, more consequential use."

INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT: "Jesus himself left no literary remains; information regarding his words and works comes from his immediate followers (the apostles) and their disciples. At first this information was circulated orally. As far as we know today, the first attempt to produce a written Gospel was made by John Mark, who according to tradition was a disciple of the Apostle Peter. This Gospel, along with a collection of sayings of Jesus and several other special sources, formed the basis of the Gospels attributed to Matthew and Luke." [Editor: The Gospels, like every part of the New Testament, were written by direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This nonsense of trying to find ‘the original source’ for the Gospels is unbelieving heresy.]

NOTES ON 2 PETER: "The tradition that this letter is the work of the apostle Peter was questioned in early times, and internal indications are almost decisive against it. ... Most scholars therefore regard the letter as the work of one who was deeply indebted to Peter and who published it under his master’s name early in the second century." [Editor: Those who believe this nonsense must think the early Christians were fools and the Holy Spirit was on a vacation.]

NOTES FROM "HOW TO READ THE BIBLE WITH UNDERSTANDING": "The opening chapters of the Old Testament deal with human origins. They are not to be read as history ... These chapters are followed by the stories of the patriarchs, which preserve ancient traditions now known to reflect the conditions of the times of which they tell, though they cannot be treated as strictly historical. ... it is not for history but for religion that they are preserved ... When we come to the books of Samuel and Kings ... Not all in these books is of the same historical value, and especially in the stories of Elijah and Elisha there are legendary elements. ... We should always remember the variety of literary forms found in the Bible, and should read a passage in the light of its own particular literary character. Legend should be read as legend, and poetry as poetry, and not with a dull prosaic and literalistic mind."

This is the same type of rationalistic wickedness that appears in Metzger’s notes in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Bible. This modernistic foolishness, of course, is a lie. The Pentateuch was written by the hand of God and Moses and completed during the 40 years of wilderness wandering hundreds of years before Samuel and the kings. The Old Testament did not arise gradually from a matrix of myth and history, but is inspired revelation delivered to holy men of old by Almighty God. The Jews were a "people of the book" from the beginning. The Jewish nation did not form the Bible; the Bible formed the Jewish nation! In Metzger’s "Introduction to the New Testament" in the New Oxford Annotated Bible, he completely ignores the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and claims that the Gospels are composed of material gathered from oral tradition. The Bible says nothing about this, but Jesus Christ plainly tells us that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles into all truth (John 16:7-15). The Gospels are the product of divine revelation, not some happenstance editing of oral tradition.
Bruce Metzger is a Liberal. He piously claims on one hand that the Bible is the inspired Word of God; but out of the other side of the mouth he claims the Bible is filled with myth and lies. He denies the Bible’s history, its miracles, and its authorship, while, in true liberal style, declaring that this denial does not do injustice to the Word of God, for the Bible is not "written for history but for religion" and is not to be read "with a dull prosaic and literalistic mind"!

Metzger has been called an Evangelical by some who should know better, but upon the authority of the man’s own writings, I declare that Bruce Metzger is an unbeliever. He is a false teacher. He is apostate. He is a heretic. Those are all Bible terms. Having studied many of the man’s works, I am convinced those are the terms which must be applied to him. One Baptist writer partially defended Metzger to me with these words—"he did write a superb pamphlet in 1953 refuting the Jehovah’s Witnesses and defending the full and absolute deity of Christ." Even the Pope of Rome defends the full and absolute deity of Christ. A man can defend the deity of Christ and still be a false teacher. A man who denies the written Word also denies the Living Word. They stand or fall together. If the Bible contains error, Christ was a liar. If Christ is perfect Truth, so is the Bible.

In The New Testament, Its Background, Growth, and Content, which appeared in 1965, Metzger claims that "the discipline of form criticism has enlarged our understanding of the conditions which prevailed during the years when the gospel materials circulated by word of mouth" (p. 86). Not so. Form criticism is that unbelieving discipline which claims that the Gospels were gradually formed out a matrix of tradition and myth. Form critics hold a wide variety of views (reflecting the unsettled and relativistic nature of the rationalism upon which they stand), but all of them deny that the Gospels are the perfect, verbally inspired, divinely-given, absolutely infallible Word of God. Metzger says, "What each evangelist has preserved, therefore, is not a photographic reproduction of the words and deeds of Jesus, but an interpretative portrait delineated in accord with the special needs of the early church" (Ibid.). Metzger is wrong. The Gospel writers have indeed given us, by divine revelation, a photographic reproduction of the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Praise God for it!

bristopoly said...

Craig, I'm assuming this was a cut and paste of someone else's work by the way it is written. BTW, I'm pretty sure Metzger died a few years ago, so the present tense is probably not accurate.

All I have to say is, if you are going to be a man of integrity, by this standard, you have to reject the KJV as well. It's text is a translation from a composite Greek text that stems from Erasmus, a Pelagian Roman Catholic who argued against God's salvation through faith alone in the 16th Cent against Luther. He wasn't just involved like Metzger. He was the sole compiler. He added to the text things that Rome wanted him to add and he perpetuated variants with poor attestation. What Bible do you suggest we read now?

Tom said...


I want to believe that, if pressed, Dr. Vines would admit that the fall affected Adam's will. However, you are correct in your assessment of his comment.

Lloyd on old path said...

Gray said, (Re: Vine) "He poisoned the well with many comments. . ." It actually was a local congregation that drank from it and their clapping gave an indication of their thirst for more. We find in Scripture when the waters have been poisoned, the Lord provided a solution! Preaching the Doctrines of Grace will provide the cure. The elect will hear it. John 6:37 is guaranteed.
In reference to the disparaging remark made in that sermon on Dr John Gill, I would encourage all to read Dr Gill's work. Gill had some tendencies in some areas on hyper-calvinism, but to blast him as such is in error. If the Lord tarries for another hundred years, Dr Gill will still be read, some of "us" won't!! May the Lord help us all to grow in grace,

check this out said...

Read the post, read the comments, have 2 things to say. While it may seem that Vines is just a little off, whenever you hear a theologians rebuttals cater to human rationalle and feel good answers, you have big trouble. Read them again and think about how he speaks, to whom his remarks lend themselves to. Ask yourself where you have heard that before, whos arguments are similar?

Sounds to me like a step away from much of what Brian McLaren and the emergent movement are saying.

Point number 2 is this, I read a lot of peoples comments saying we need to be kind Vines etc. Remember that there are sheep and there are wolves in sheeps clothing. It is black or white, true or false, and however small the difference may seem, it *will* become a chasm when everything is shaken up, as history has proven. Stop and follow his logic, watch where it begins to take you and ask yourself if you want to go there.

If you think, pray, and look closely at what has happened in the past, everything will look much clearer.