Monday, November 13, 2006

Thank you, Bill Curtis

Bill Curtis is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, SC and serves as chairman of the trustees for the North American Mission Board. The current Baptist Courier has "An open letter to Southern Baptists" from Curtis, reacting to the article that appeared recently in the Georgia Baptist Christian Index. In his letter, he calls for Southern Baptists to "respect the worship styles of churches that affirm the 2000 [Baptist Faith and Message]" and to "respect the theology of those who affirm the 2000 [Baptist Faith and Message]."

Regarding the latter, Curtis says that "some within our convention cannot be content unless they are waging a theological battle on some front." Then he makes this astute observation:
Today, one of the most popular targets is evangelistic Calvinism. Despite the fact that the 2000 BF&M accommodates evangelistic Calvinism, there are some who are trying to identify it as heresy. Regardless of these claims, made by Bill Harrell and others, evangelistic Calvinism does not fall into this category.
Finally. Thank you, Pastor Curtis, for clarifying this point in such an open and unequivocal way. Your words are a breath of fresh air to many in our convention.

Two other calls that Curtis makes in his letter are to "reject the divisive rhetoric in our convention" and to "refocus on the biggest problem facing Southern Baptists" which is the need to get the Gospel to the growing number of unconverted people all around us.

This is the kind of spirit and thoughtfulness that will promote genuine fellowship and cooperation among churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. May Bill Curtis' words pave the way forward.

30 comments:

stilldesiringGod said...

I think the greatest problem to face Southern Baptists in our convention today is how to get these Calvinist out and shut them up.
THEY ARE EVERYWHERE AND THEY WILL NOT GO AWAY! SOLI DEO GLORIA !
They just keep preaching the name of Jesus. Praising His holy name. Reaching the lost. Winning souls for Christ by the Spirit of the living God. Edifying the Bride. Coming alongside and encouraging one another in their walks with the Lord. Mission senders. Prayer warriors. Expository preachers. Godly housewives/mothers. Bible cover wearer-outers. Get those zealots out of the convention. That’s what we ought to do. Or maybe not. Maybe the Church is just receiving the promised persecution that brands her a true child of the faith. Welcome home Calvinists. You are right where you belong. And look, you never left, despite revisionist history. I am glad you are here.

DOGpreacher said...

This is great to hear, Tom!

Hey...Mr. stilldesiringgod...you & I have something in common. In years past they would have just called zealots like us JESUS FREAKS! Praise God!

stilldesiringGod said...

That's true, but what are we still doing awake? My Berean midnight oil has expired and now so must I. Goodnight!

notanarminian said...

Mr. Ascol,

You applaude Pastor Curtis' promotion of respecting worship styles and theology of those who affirm the BF&M 2000, yet that is exactly the two issues that the reformed theology movement in the SBC complain about.

Does your applause for Pastor Curtis' comments cut both ways?

Andrew said...

notanarminian,

You must first establish that semi-Pelagianism and entertainment-focused worship are consistent with the BF&M 2000.

Then you can ask questions about whether an affirmation of Pastor Curtis' comments "cuts both ways".

Andrew said...

notanarminian said...
"Does your applause for Pastor Curtis' comments cut both ways?"

Pastor Curtis had said...
"Despite the fact that the 2000 BF&M accommodates evangelistic Calvinism, there are some who are trying to identify it as heresy. Regardless of these claims, made by Bill Harrell and others, evangelistic Calvinism does not fall into this category."

NotAnArminian, it is less than gracious to identify SBC Calvinists as people who "complain" about worship styles and theology. However even if that were the whole truth, you are ignoring the fact that "complaining" is not at all the same as accusing heresy!

There's literally an *eternity* of difference between the two.

Greg Welty said...

I truly appreciate the spirit of Bill Curtis' letter, and I can echo 'amen' to quite a bit that is in it.

But where did Bill Harrell say that Calvinism was heresy?

When he said that "we must deal with Calvinism," Harrell was speaking of Calvinistic pastoral candidates who (he thinks) are deceptive about their convictions. Even if he's wrong here, how could one conclude he thought they were heretics?

Would Harrell have heretics as "solid Christian friends"? Would he tell heretics that they are free "to start a Calvinistic church" and are free "to answer a call to a Calvinistic church"?

Let's not be guilty of overreach here. He said what he said, and not something else ;-)

Greg B said...

Greg Welty:
He didn't, and neither did Curtis say he did. I agree, the way it is said "seems that way" but he didn't say that.
When Curtis was at SEBTS as a PHD student and pastored in Durnham, he co-hosted a show on Christian living called "Life and Godliness." I doubt he would call himself a Calvinist, but his teaching was reformed w/o the vocabulary.
Greg Bailey

notanarminian said...

So I take it by your responses, that the answer is 'no'. I'm not suprised.

Andrew said...

notanarminian said...
"Does your applause for Pastor Curtis' comments cut both ways?"

notanarminian said...
So I take it by your responses, that the answer is 'no'. I'm not suprised.

The question was directed at Tom this morning. Isn't it a bit soon to declare "I've got my answer"?

Based on what Tom has said in the past, I'm pretty sure that he would say "yes" - reformed southern baptists ought not and do not identify non-Calvinist baptist churches as heretical.

Notanarminian, when has a SBC leader preached a sermon identifying non-Calvinists as heretics? Can you point to an example please? Or is this just a hypothetical scenario?

notanarminian said...

A favorite ploy is for the reformed advocate to immediately label the one who disagrees with that theology an "Arminian." This is done all the time in sermons, blogs, and blog comments.

Now given that a major tenent of Arminianism is that one's salvation is not secure, which is a heretical position for SBC'ers. Once you unjustly label them as such, then in essence it is calling them heretics.

The first practice y'all should stop is jumping to the Arminian label, because you then begin debating Arminian's beliefs instead of talking to the person you are addressing.

Many people people walk away and tune the reformed crowd out once the Arminian card is played.

Take note that I refer to you as reformed theology, and you refer to yourselves as Calvanist. Just because you want to identify with Calvin doesn't mean all who disagree with reformed theology are Arminians. They're not.

GeneMBridges said...

You applaude Pastor Curtis' promotion of respecting worship styles and theology of those who affirm the BF&M 2000, yet that is exactly the two issues that the reformed theology movement in the SBC complain about.

Bill Curtis is stating not that these aren't issues worth discussing, but that they aren't issues over which the SBC should divide in a fury of rhetoric. Calvinism is not the enemy. Worship styles are not the enemy, unless that is, they are emotionally manipulative and mancentered to the core.

Brother Tom, as is Founders as a whole, has publicly stated that it is not his purpose or that of this ministry to convert the SBC to Calvinism or the Westminster Directory of Worship; rather it is to promote the recovery of the biblical gospel and biblical theology, biblical worship. I'd add that there are plenty of churches that practice the Regulative Principle of Worship without resorting to the Westminster Directory of Worship. The biggest PCA church in my city is a contemporay worship church, as is the largest one in Nashville, TN, at which Michael Card, no less is, or was, an elder.

This sort of thing comes not by way of misrepresentation (so well stated by Dr. Akin in his sermon in SC), but by frank, open discussion and debate, absent the venom. The anti-Calvinists in the Convention want a monologue. Groups like Founders desire a dialogue.

Brother Bill Curtis does not say we should not discuss theology; rather he says we should have a discussion without the rhetoric, in short, healthy discussion. Such discussion would have the attendant byproducts of getting the pastors and people of the SBC away from PDL, The Prayer of Jabez, Christian pop-fads, and the latest Jesus junk at their local retailer and back into the Bible, expository preaching, serious Bible study, theology books, etc. Hearts would be changed, minds would be challenged, and the problems he lists would likely begin being addressed.

J.D. Rector said...

Shazzam! Do you think one could get Bill to get the point across to NAMB since they "disqualify" people, like the IMB, for speaking in tongues?!?

Hmmmm.... nah. I was only "dreaming". Oooops, pardon me. I forgot that dreams, visions, and tongues ceased with the completion of the canon. ;)

A hopeful reformed SBC'er...
J.D.Rector

GeneMBridges said...

Now given that a major tenent of Arminianism is that one's salvation is not secure, which is a heretical position for SBC'ers. Once you unjustly label them as such, then in essence it is calling them here.

A. The use of the term is often used to refer generally to any person's who theologially espouses libertarian action theory. This is common in non-Calvinist circles too, so it is hardly a "ploy" used by Calvinists.

B. In the Remonstrance, the position on eternal security is agnostic.

C. Only in the general flow of Arminian historical theology and the Opinions of the Remonstrants did they accept conditional security as a rule.

D. But there are exceptions to the rule, and Arminianism is a varigated theological tradition, so it is duplicitous for you to point to eternal security as your touchstone and not the others. The "4 Point" Calvinists viz many those in the SBC at present, by far the majority of the rhetoricians in view out there, affirm the first for points of Arminianism but not the last.

E. Apropos D, real 4 Point Calvinism is called Amyraldianism. Amyraldianism's view of general atonement is not that of most who today hold to general atonement. In Amyraldianism, the atonement is general and atones for all men as part of a hypothetical covenant. The full "value" of this is then imputed to each of the elect in the actual covenant, by way of the decree of election/reprobation, so it is not general in any real way. Most of those calling themselves Amyraldian holding this position today seem to eschew Amyralt's actual view on that, and simply mean that Christ atoned for everybody's sins. Functionally, they are the same; conceptually they are different.

F. Apropos E those who make the attempt to hold to "3 Point" or other sorts of "Calvinism" should quit coopting the name and make up their own. Instead of objecting to to the label Arminian, they would do well to obviate it's use by making up something for us to use. We would sorely appreciate that, so don't blame us for their shortcomings.

Just because you want to identify with Calvin doesn't mean all who disagree with reformed theology are Arminians.

To borrow a turn of phrase, a favorite ploy is for the non-Calvinist to immediately label the one with whom he disagrees as wanting to identify with Calvin. This is done all the time in sermons, blogs, and blog comments.

In other words, you asked Tom if what he said cuts both ways. Well, by your own yardstick it shouldn't matter since you employ the same sorts of rhetorical "ploys" of which you accuse others.

The fact is that "Calvinism" is a historical term with a historical meaning, and it is often interchangeable with "Reformed Theology." However, as a whole "Reformed Theology" encompasses much more, so there are Calvinists (the five points and the doctrine of God) who are not, strictly speaking "Reformed" in that they do not hold to a form of Covenant Theology. In addition, there are some Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed who would call anybody that does not baptize infants and worship according to the Westminister Directory of Worship "Reformed." So, it depends on what you mean by "Reformed Theology."

In point of fact, if you really believe this, why do we not find you saying the same things about Lutherans? Wesleyans? There is far more of Luther in the Formula of Concord than there is of Calvin in Calvinism. In fact, Calvin's views are not exactly unique in the history of theology. He is but one of many, and his name is employed because of his role as a Magisterial Reformer. But then, church history has, from the time of the Ante-Nicene period used the names of theologians as shorthand for denoting common sets of theological beliefs. It's just shorthand, nothing more, nothing less. We could just as easily call ourselves "Bucerians, Bullingerians, Amesians, Baptist Covenantalists or another name."

Andrew said...

Gene, you have a tremendous gift in that you cause every dialogue you enter to become more PRECISE. Clarity in conversation is underrated.

I knew that "Calvinism" did not mean strictly adhering to Calvin's theology or being a disciple of Calvin. I suppose that any cursory reading on the subject reveals that much. As I understand Calvin’s soteriology, it is exactly same as Augustine’s.

But I never considered there was any distinction between "Calvinism" and "Reformed theology". I have always used them interchangeably (as seen in my earlier posts) and probably annoyed some people unknowingly. Oops :) Thanks always for clearing things up. Your posts always leave me better informed after reading them.

notanarminian said...

Gene, you miss my point.

Labels of Calvanism and Arminianism bring divisive baggage by nature. If you want to label me..why not just call me a brother in Christ?

Your point "E" also proves my point. I actually don't believe any any of the 5 Calvanist points (listen carefully) as strictly defined by Reformed theologians.

Meaning I believe in God's sovreignty, but not in the box which the reformed theologians want to put him.

I believe in man's total depravity, but not in the sense that he can never cry out to God. Total depravity Biblically is that man can do absolutely nothing on this own to gain salvation it is by God's grace.

I could go on, but I'll stop there.

Let's get back to my point. Call me a brother in Christ, respect that I do TRULY UNDERSTAND God's Grace and Sovereignty, quit calling me Bibilically illiterate and let's work together, as we have in years past, to take the Gospel to the world.

And when a lost soul comes to Christ, you believe he came by predestination, and I'll believe he came through faith and we'll both work to mature him in Christ, so he can go out and declare the Gospel to others.

Greg Welty said...

I asked:

But where did Bill Harrell say that Calvinism was heresy?

And greg b replied:

He didn't, and neither did Curtis say he did. I agree, the way it is said "seems that way" but he didn't say that.

Uh, err, uh, here's what Bill Curtis said:

Despite the fact that the 2000 BF&M accommodates evangelistic Calvinism, there are some who are trying to identify it as heresy. Regardless of these claims, made by Bill Harrell and others, evangelistic Calvinism does not fall into this category.

This was, indeed, the snippet Tom cited in this present blog post.

So in Curtis' view, Bill Harrell claimed that Calvinism is to be identified with heresy.

And so I return to my original question:

But where did Bill Harrell say that Calvinism was heresy?

Not trying to be difficult, just precise :-)

Greg Welty said...

notanarminian wrote:

A favorite ploy is for the reformed advocate to immediately label the one who disagrees with that theology an "Arminian." This is done all the time in sermons, blogs, and blog comments.

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the above -- written by you -- is the first occurrence of "Arminian" in this blog post. Why play this card, when no one has played it here except for you? :-)

Labels of Calvanism and Arminianism bring divisive baggage by nature. If you want to label me..why not just call me a brother in Christ?

Last I checked, someone could be Arminian *and* a brother in Christ. Why think the former excludes the latter?

Again, in the first quote above, you talk about "the reformed advocate". So now I'm confused. It's OK for you to use theological labels, but not others?

Your point "E" also proves my point. I actually don't believe any any of the 5 Calvanist points (listen carefully) as strictly defined by Reformed theologians.

I've reread this several times now, and I sincerely don't see how Gene's point E proves your point. Could you explain? How does the fact that Amyraldianism often gets confused with other views prove that we should never use the label "Arminian"? Wouldn't the theological confusion over Amyraldianism argue all the more for precision in theological labels, including that of "Arminian"?

And when a lost soul comes to Christ, you believe he came by predestination, and I'll believe he came through faith...

These aren't necessarily incompatible, if God is a God who uses means.

farmboy said...

"notanarminian" begins his participation in this thread (comment #4) as follows: "Does your applause for Pastor Curtis' comments cut both ways?"

Several comments later (comment #16) he represents himself as follows: "Let's get back to my point. Call me a brother in Christ, respect that I do TRULY UNDERSTAND God's Grace and Sovereignty, quit calling me Biblically illiterate and let's work together, as we have in years past, to take the Gospel to the world."

I must have missed something in comment #4. No where in that comment did I find a clear statement that "notanarminian" was extending a hand to other brothers in Christ to "work together, as we have in years past, to take the Gospel to the world." Instead, all I found was a clear attempt to antagonize other brothers in Christ.

As for the "Labels of Calvinism and Arminianism" being "divisive baggage by nature," what's wrong with that? "Calvinism" labels one understanding of the process through which God reconciles lost sinners with Himself. "Arminianism" labels a second, different understanding of the process through which God reconciles lost sinners to himself. These are two different understandings of the content of Scripture. In the interest of accurate, efficient communication it is helpful and useful to have labels for these two different understandings.

Based on the content of comment #16, "notanarminian" has an understanding of God's sovereignty that differs from the Reformed and Arminian understandings. Additionally, he has an understanding of man's total depravity that departs from the Reformed and Arminian understandings. Aside from the implication that his understandings are biblical, "notanarminian" offers little additional precision regarding the concepts he labels as "God's sovereignty" and "man's total depravity." However, implying that his understandings are biblical is not really helpful, as those with Reformed and Arminian understandings will also argue that their understandings are biblical.

Real cooperation is possible when there is an accurate understanding both of differences and things held in common. Are some differences such that they will prevent cooperation? Yes, but it is better to find this out at the beginning. Is it necessary that some things be held in common before cooperation is possible? Yes, but again it is better to find this out at the beginning. Is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 an accurate, complete summary of what must be held in common for real cooperation to be possible? I thought the answer to that question was "yes." However, pronouncements by SBC agencies on topics such as the proper mode of baptism and private prayer language leave me uncertain. Additionally, messages delivered by prominent SBC leaders that label Calvinism as something that is destructive to the SBC contribute to my uncertainty.

Tom said...

notanarminian:

I have been attending my state convention meetings today and have not had opportunity to respond to your question, though it does seem to have been more than adequately addressed by others. I would have suggested that you go back and read Pastor Curtis' words again. He is not opposing theological dialogue or even strong disagreement, but rather he is opposing the misrepresentation of views with which we disagree. To that, I say a hearty "Amen." And, yes, that does cut both ways.

notanarminian said...

Thanks Tom, I agree also with that and am glad to hear you do as well.

Just a final brief explanation to my other comments. My insertion of labeling an opposing view as Arminianism and Biblically Illiterate was referring to how those are done quite often in blogs and comment sections. (Note below the headline from the blog Tom referenced concerning Danny Akin's statements)

=====
Danny Akin: Biblically-Illiterate SBC Pastors, NOT CALVINISM, is the Problem with the SBC!
=====

While it didn't specifically happen in this comment string it does in others.

My other point regarding predistinated vs. coming in faith is that BOTH depend on God CHOOSING to DECLARE that sinner righteous. Salvation is totally dependent on God, not of ourselves.

Finally, please take what I've said to heart. I'm a layman and in short I've tried to convey that when in discussion, immediately calling one an Arminian and/or Biblically Illiterate causes many to tune out and/or the discussion becomes about what Calvin or Arminias believed and not a discussion on Scripture. (I think that is a run-on sentence-hah)

Finally remember 1 Cor 1:12-13; 3:4-6

Thank you all for your courteous nature.

Stuart said...

Dr. Welty,

You're obviously correct that Bill Harrell did not state that he considered Calvinism to be "heresy".

He did, however sate,
"In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.”

So while he didn't use the word "heresy" he did level the charge that Calvinists teach something other than (perhaps something in addition to?) the New Testament gospel.

notanarminian said...

Dr. Welty,

I meant to say point "F" instead of "E". ... sorry.

Greg Welty said...

stuart said:

He did, however sate,
"In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.”

So while he didn't use the word "heresy" he did level the charge that Calvinists teach something other than (perhaps something in addition to?) the New Testament gospel.

I don't know. I'm really scratching my head here. He didn't use the term "gospel". He simply stated that, in his opinion, the five points of Calvinism can only be supported by ignoring or radically interpreting an unacceptable amount of the New Testament. Now, I strongly disagree with him here, but he's certainly not saying we deny the gospel. Why attribute to him a claim he didn't make, when there's more than enough there with which to take issue? Why make it worse than it really is?

In fact, isn't it to be *expected* that a man who wants his doctrine to be consistent with the New Testament, but nevertheless ends up rejecting Calvinism, is going to go out on a limb and say that Calvinism is inconsistent with the best interpretation of the New Testament? Why must we construe this claim as *also* a claim that Calvinists deny the gospel, or are heretics?

Let's put the shoe on the other foot. If I say that classic Arminianism ignores or radically interprets too much of the New Testament, have I just said that Arminians deny the gospel, or are heretics? Of course not. I'm simply noting that, "in my opinion" (to use Harrell's words), Arminianism is inconsistent with Scripture.

Why can't people on both sides of this discussion be perfectly free to say such things, without having all sorts of worse claims being attributed to them?

notanarminian said:

I meant to say point "F" instead of "E". ... sorry.

Ah, then, your point makes sense, I guess.

Greg B said...

Dear Greg Welty:
Ooops! Yeah, Curtis did say that didn't he.
Well (tongue in cheek) what Stuart said later. Thanks for pointing out my failure to review what I was talking about.
How is SWBTS doing these days?
Greg Bailey

Greg Welty said...

Greg Bailey wrote:

How is SWBTS doing these days?

Fine. A bit deserted this week, with most faculty away for ETS conferences, etc.

Tom said...

Greg W:

I remember a time when the ETS week came and went without so much as a notice from the faculty at SWBTS. I am grateful that many of our profs are now engaged.

kingofbleh said...

I have heard the sentiment "The SBC has got to DEAL with this issue of Calvinism" (emphasis added) ring throughout the SBC especially since this years' annual meeting.

I have even heard this spoken by leaders of my own church. Interestingly when I heard a staff member in my own church make this statement it was followed by a long but very meaningful dialouge about what exactly the fuss is all about and what the scriptures have to say about the doctrines of grace. I'm not saying I 'converted' this person to a 5-pointer or anything (which wasn't my intention anyways). I'm just saying that when I hear some people say "we have to DEAL with these Calvinists in the SBC", what my heart hears is "we have to UNDERSTAND these Calvinists in the SBC."

I remain faithful that pushing for Biblical literacy will result in greater understanding of the nature of God's grace.

Joseph Botwinick said...

1. The BFM2K "accomodates" Calvinism? I think it teaches it.

2. Calvinism is heresy? I think the exact opposite is true. Free will Arminianism is a direct assault upon essential doctrines of the Christian faith such as total depravity, the sovereignty of God, and the omnipotence of God. That is true heresy.

3. I think we need to spend less time trying to live peacefully with those who want to tear down the doctrines of the Christian faith, and instead, confront their heresy head on and rebuke and correct them with the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

TWLewis said...

R.C. Sproul has written two excellent books on the subject: The Holiness of God, and Chosen by God. We must not deny the fact that God through the Holy Spirit is the one who does the miracle of Salvation. Man cannot save himself.
I do disagree however on the idea that a church can embrace "cultural relevance" and remain apart from the world. This is not a new battle: Charles Spurgeon dealt with the issue in his day. When a church becomes like the world, then it is no longer God's church. Our SBC churches that are embracing these ideas are taking away from the reverence for our Lord. With that being said, why do some of our modern churches believe that we need entertainment to draw crowds? I could never imagine Jesus with a stand-up comedy routine or magic show that is cloaked as a church service. My comments will probably be viewed as legalism by some, but I assure that I loath legalism.