Saturday, April 14, 2007

Jerry Falwell's Friday the 13th declaration: Limited atonement is heresy

Last Friday at the "College for a Weekend" emphasis at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry Falwell preached a chapel message to 1828 prospective new students along with current students, faculty and staff. Under the title of "Our Message, Mission and Vision," Dr. Falwell delcared his purpose to be to communicate who Liberty University is in order to persuade prospective students to matriculate there.

Much of what he said regarding the "message" of Liberty is praiseworthy and ought to be applauded by all Bible believing Christians. When he came to articulating their belief in the "substitutionary atonemement of Jesus Christ for all men," however, he added a statement that I find tragic. Here it is (about 10 minutes or so into the video):
"We are not into partcular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact we consider it heresy."
Don't misunderstand me, I do not regard it as unfortunate that he articulated his and Liberty University's honest beliefs, no matter how offensive they may be to me or to others. In fact, I applaud his willingness to state clearly not only what they believe but also what they do not believe. We need more such plain speaking in our day.

What I regret is that he finds particular atonement to be "heresy." This must mean that he and Liberty believe that those who hold to particular atonement to be heretics. Among the countless numbers of people whom he would brand with the H-word are many who would make any evangelical Who's who list (including Bunyan, Owen, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Carey, Boyce, Mell, Dagg and Lloyd-Jones, to name but a few of the dead ones). I find this sad.

Does Jerry Falwell and Liberty University really judge John Piper to be a heretic? If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy.

That certainly is his and Liberty's right to believe. I simply regret that they believe it. I do not regard my universal redemptionist brothers to be heretics because of their views of general atonement. I think they are wrong and they think the same of me. But that does not mean that we have to accuse each other of being heretics.

Dr. Falwell's comments shed some light on the atrocious comment made last year by the president of his Liberty Seminary. Those of you who have read this blog in February of 2006 probably recall when Dr. Ergun Caner declared that "Calvinists are worse than Muslims." I am sorry that he believes that but certainly applaud his willingness to state it clearly, since he does indeed believe it. I am all for people and institutions nailing their colors to the mast for all to see. I just wish that the flag under which he and Liberty have chosen to fly did not condemn so many faithful servants of Christ as heretics.

Perhaps I am naive, but I have a hunch that these kinds of vitriolic, dismissive and historically invalid castigations are more and more being seen not only as inaccurate but offensive to Christian brothers on both sides of the extent of the atonement question. Such inflammatory rhertoric can still incite an audience, and perhaps it will continue to draw students and revenues to institutions, but it is not helpful to the cause of Christ in either fellowship or evangelism.

It is time for this generation of believers to learn how to disagree over substantive issues without falling into the sins of slander and bearing false witness. When the Word of God that we love gets trampled underfoot by those who profess to defend it in the very process of their defense, it is more than ironic. It is tragic.


Jesse said...

Various dictionaries define heresy as opinions, teachings/doctrines differing from “orthodox” or accepted doctrines. Dr. Ascol’s list of well-known Christians who held to limited atonement shows that limited atonement is an established, orthodox doctrine within the Christian faith. It seems that brother Falwell is demonstrating the negative spirit of Christian fundamentalism, a spirit which is similar to, if not the same as, the legalistic spirit of the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned.

Brother Falwell would do well to not categorize Biblical doctrine as heresy. That’s terribly thin ice upon which to walk.

Charles said...

So Jerry Falwell is declaring that fellow SBCV (Sothern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia) churches or pastors that subscribe to particular atonement are heretics.

Jerry’s church is a member of the SBCV and if he considers 5-point Calvinism heresy than he has a biblical and moral obligation to request that such churches be removed from the convention.

Am I wrong about this?


Jim Shaver said...

Hypocrite - a person who says one thing and does another.

If Falwell is a Southern Baptist like he claims then he is guilty of hypocrisy because his church supports the CP which pays Al Mohler's Salary.

Aaron L. Turner said...

I find it very sad that Dr. Falwell finds it neccessary to make such statements.

It is interesting that of course the word "heresy" in it's orginal context carried with it the idea of "division"

Such statements as the one Dr. Falwell made is "heritical" in that it causes division in the body of Christ.

However I seriously doubt that he has made the connection in his mind of calling limited atonments heresy, with calling those who believe it heretics. But logic would dicate that one is connected with the other.

I for one am thankful for the contributions that the "hertics" listed have made to my own life and ministry.

Thanks Tom for the insightful, and gracioius post.

Matthew R. said...

Thank you for this entry, Dr. Ascol. I have commented on this in my blog as well (click here) and find it unfortunate and irresponsible.

Timmy Brister said...

Man oh man. So now we know where Ergun Caner has been taking his cues.

For all the talk about the Great Commission, why call the father of modern missions, William Carey, a heretic?

For all the talk about preaching and the Church, why call the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, a heretic?

For all the talk about being salt and light, preserving culture and all, why call men like D. James Kennedy and Al Mohler heretics?

For all this talk about being baptist, why call Baptist theologians like Boyce, Mell,Dagg, and Nettles, Baptist pastors like Bunyan, Dever, and Malone heretics?

This fightin'fundamentalism is precisely what Charles Fuller, the man who Falwell mentioned in his message which influenced him in his conversion, was lead to reform when they started Fuller Theological Seminary. It was a move away from Bob Jones, John Rice, Carl McIntire and those of that ilk. Thanks to Henry, Ockenga, and Carnell, we don't have the legacy of Jones, Rice, and McIntire.

Heresy is a real issue today, not the least of which is open theism, the rejection of a literal hell, process theology, etc. But I would dare say that equally as threatening to orthodoxy is the kind of fundamentalism Falwell touts as "a badge of honor." Just a quick glance from the life and battles of Paul in the early church will show that the threats against the gospel came from those within the camp as much as those without.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

I wholeheartedly agree. I find such rhetoric usually unhelpful when attempting to engage those with whom I differ. And I can only hope my personal conversations display, at least in some way, this conviction.

I nevertheless wonder how the following words penned sometime back fit into the outrage I sense here:

"When we talk about God, there are indeed some wrong answers...And where they contradict the clear teaching of Scripture on points of salvific importance, they need to be renounced in the strongest of terms--even to the point of using the dreaded "h" word. Otherwise, truth really does not matter at all." (FJ, Winter, 1997).

The question, then, is whether Dr. Falwell's statement about universal atonement qualifies for "salvific importance." It seems to me it does. What do you think?

I trust you will preach with power tomorrow. With that, I am...


Nathan White said...

As others here have pointed out, if Fallwell really believes this, then he certainly has some explaining to do.

Personally, I see this as a little 'off the cuff' and emotional, a statement meant to shock. This is what becomes necessary when biblical arguments just won't do. Unfortunately, it has become somewhat of a patter among some SBC heavy-weights, as the archives of this blog attest to.


Perry McCall said...


Aaron L. Turner said...

Dear Peter:

I am curios. Do you believe that particular redemption is heresy? If so, do you believe that those who believe it are heritics?

What constitutes a heretical teaching? Can one believe and teach something heritical and still not be a heritic?

Your quote from the FJ, was an intersting one. However could one believe in Universal Redemption and still be saved? Can one believe in Particular Redemption and still be saved?

It seems to me that the writer of that article was saying that doctrines that are soul damning, need to be strongly condemned as heresy like the denial of the deity of Christ, or the humanity of Christ.

Just some thoughts.


Tom said...

I agree with the comments about implications. Some implications necessarily follow. When this is so, then they must be owned.


I am not suggesting that there is no such thing as heresy or that it should not be pointed out and rejected. I am saying that I do not think the extent of the atonement is a place to pull out that accusation. Timmy expressed it very well. I agree with him.


You are probably right. But if he doesn't believe it, he should renounce it. Given what I have experienced from Liberty Mountain the last year, I am not holding my breath.

Tom Bryant said...

We use "heresy" so freely that it loses its meaning when we talk about real heresy.

Still getting there, Tom :)

May we all preach with God's anointing tomorrow.

Jason E. Robertson said...

As one who attended LU for several years, I would love to know what the student body, especially in the religious department, feel about Dr. Falwell's statement. When I went to LU there were Calvinists there.

Tony Kummer said...

Not to spoil the fun -
but he was not using heresy in a its historic sense. Have professors from Liberty ever been know for the careful use of words?

I think we owe this fellow pastor some latitude or at least patience to further explain himself.

OR maybe he will repent.

Rhett said...

Why doesn't this surprise me??

SelahV said...

Dr. Ascol: can heresy to one person mean something different to another? I looked this up in the dictionary and it defined heresy as: "1 a : adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma b : denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church c : an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma
2 a : dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice b : an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards"

I'm not disagreeing with your post, just wondering if Dr.Falwell's understanding of his doctrine regarding attonement could simply be dominant to his view of others view of limited attonement.

Wouldn't any person's view of another's be considered heretical then? Wasn't Luther considered a heretic? I'm not sure. It seems I read that somewhere. I've been witnessing to a Mormon of late and I know for a fact he thinks I'm a heretic. Does that make me one? Of course it does. To HIM. But I don't think I'm one. And I'm still gonna talk to him and be nice to him.

I disagree with people all the time, but I wouldn't call them heretics. I called a guy who pulled out in front of me the other day an idiot and my nine-year-old granddaughter reprimanded me posthaste. "Grama, you shouldn't call people names. Maybe he didn't see you." Whoa! Be still my tongue.

I don't know. Is Falwell's statement regarding heresy the same as calling a person a heretic?

Arthur Sido said...


I can think of few charges more serious for one Christian to level against another than the charge of heresy. I have little latitude to spare for a man who proclaims me, also a fellow pastor, to hold to heretical teachings. In doing so he insinuates that I, and all others who hold to the doctrines of Grace, are false teachers.

I doubt the logic and facts presented by Br. Ascol would have any impact on Dr. Falwell. Having spent a few years in the distance program at Liberty, and having watched Ergun Caner's lecture series on The History of Baptists, it seems clear to me that rather than agreeing that Spurgeon et al were heretics, it is more likely that Falwell and Caner would simply argue that they were not Calvinists at all, and thus did not believe in limited atonement. I know this about Caner for certain, as I watched him look into a camera and boldly claim that Spurgeon did NOT hold to limited atonement, and that he wasn't a real Calvinist at all.

YnottonY said...
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YnottonY said...

Dr. Ascol said:
"What I regret is that he finds particular atonement to be "heresy." This must mean that he and Liberty believe that those who hold to particular atonement to be heretics."

As others have pointed out, I don't think that Falwell is being careful in his language. He's probably just using the term "heresy" for anything he considers to be false doctrine, rather than a false doctrine that constitutes an attack on essentials. I suspect that most of us reading this post reserve the use of the term for some view that is antithetical to essential Christian doctrine. Falwell, obviously, is not being so careful, which seems to be indicative of leaders at Liberty these days. What Ergun Caner has said in the past is downright foolish, especially since he was in dialogue with other professors on the subject of Calvinism while he taught at Criswell College. He's without excuse.

Tom Bryant said...
"We use "heresy" so freely that it loses its meaning when we talk about real heresy."

Tom is correct. Falwell is not using the term carefully, which will only result in damaging the lives of those who hear him. He could have just said that he strongly opposes the doctrine or that he thinks it's false, but he chose not to do so.

Tony Kummer said...
"Not to spoil the fun - but he was not using heresy in a its historic sense."

Since Dr. Falwell and Dr. Caner seem so poorly trained in historical theology, one wonders if they could use any term in its historic sense. I even say that as one who also rejects the Owenic conception of "limited atonement" so popular among Calvinists today. Anyone who has made even an elementary study of the issues should be able to know that the term "heresy" is not appropriate to the debate, especially since the higher Calvinists in the past were some of the strongest defenders/guardians of Christian and Baptistic orthodoxy.

SelahV gave one definition of "heresy" as:
"2 a : dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice b : an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards"

I suspect that he meant the term in that sense. If so, it's just equivalent to saying that he thinks it is false, not that it undermines essential Christian doctrine. It is certainly true that Owenic limited atonement has NOT been the dominant theory within the church. In fact, the earliest known proponent of the view is Beza. Gottschalk might have held it, but I haven't seen definite information to confirm that he held a strictly limited viewpoint.

YnottonY said...

Actually, Bucer (1491-1551) might be the earliest advocate of the strictly limited view, but his dates overlap with Beza’s (1519-1605), so it’s hard to tell. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Ursinus, Bullinger, Musculus, Vermigli and the other early reformers did NOT hold to the strictly limited view popularized these days by the Banner of Truth reprinting (1959, 1963, 1983, 1985, 1989) of Owen's Death of Death.

YnottonY said...

The comment in the video actually occurs within the minutes of 4:49 and 5:37. Falwell says this (I put the controversial sections in bold):

"We believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ for all men. We believe that Jesus Christ was the perfect GodMan, who died upon the cross of calvary, to take my sins, your sins, the sins of all humanity upon himself, and that anyone who trusts him, who believes in His death, burial and resurrection is born again. We don't believe that Jesus Christ died for a select few, sometimes called "the elect." We believe that whosoever will may come, and that no one is left out. We are not in the...into particular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact, we consider it heresy. And so we are believing that all men everywhere, in every age, can be saved, if they come to the living Christ who died for them."

YnottonY said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YnottonY said...


"We believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ for all men."

Good. So did Calvin. If you reject the penal substitutionary aspect for a mere governmental view as did some Arminians, then you would be in error. While the atonement is more than a penal substitution, it is not less than penal and substitutionary.

"We believe that Jesus Christ was the perfect GodMan, who died upon the cross of calvary, to take my sins, your sins, the sins of all humanity upon himself,"

Good. So did Calvin. The early reformers did not limit the imputation of sin to Christ, as if he only represented the elect in his death as the last Adam. However, they did see a distinction in His intention in dying for all, since scripture plainly testifies to the fact that some (the elect) have been appointed to eternal life by the good pleasure of God. So, while there is no limitation in the expiatory nature of Christ's sacrifice, there is a limitation as to his special intent and the special application resulting therefrom.

"and that anyone who trusts him, who believes in His death, burial and resurrection is born again."

Good. Calvin believed the same thing. However, Falwell leaves the impression by his words that he believes one is reborn as a result of believing, rather than seeing the faith response as a result of the initial quickening work of the Spirit in the heart. As with Lydia in the book of Acts chapter 16, the Lord first opens the heart before one rightly discerns the beauty and worth of Christ unto a true faith in Him. The initial regenerating work of the Spirit is causally prior to faith.

"We don't believe that Jesus Christ died for a select few, sometimes called "the elect."

Falwell might have said that he doesn't believe that Christ died for some who are select, but he added the term "few", which is a straw man. Even those who believe in a strictly limited atonement do not think the elect are a "few". They will cite Revelation 7:9 where John says the saved are, "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." So, saying "a select few" is misleading.

Secondly, Falwell's comment above is NOT ONLY a denial of a limited expiation or imputation of sin to Christ (which Calvin himself did not teach), but it's a virtual denial of a special intent in Christ to die for his elect (which is contrary to Augustinianism or Calvinism, as well as scripture). It's a denial of any unmerited election before the foundation of the world, to which scripture plainly testifies. While it is true that Christ bore the penalty due to all those under the curse or guilt of Adam's sin (what some call the penalty for breaking the Covenant of Works), he did so with both a universal and a special intent. To deny the special intentionality is to negate the efficacious decree or election of God.

There are three positions one can take:

1) Christ died exclusively to save the elect alone.
2) Christ died to save all mankind, but especially to save the elect.
3) Christ died to equally save all men alike.

In rejecting position #1 (the strictly limited view), Falwell has erroneously rejected postion #2 as well (the classical Calvinist view).

"We believe that whosoever will may come, and that no one is left out."

If he's speaking of the universal invitation or call of the gospel to all who hear it, then Calvin would agree. No one is left out. The well-meant gospel offer is indescriminate. However, it's manifestly the case that the offer of the gospel does not reach all mankind, so some are left out. What will Falwell say about those who ultimately never hear the gospel call? Was that ordained by God or not? Why would the Spirit not sovereignly permit Paul and his companions to go into Bithynia in Acts 16:7?

Also, while Calvinists agree that man is free in the compatibilist sense, they do not think that man is free in the libertarian sense. No doubt Falwell thinks "whosoever wills" means they have libertarian freedom, or the power of contrary choice. If Falwell thinks that the concept of freedom or responsibility presupposes that one has the power of contrary choice, will he predicate libertarian freedom of God, i.e. one who is the ultimate paradigm for what it means to be "free"? If so, can God lie or deny himself? If not, is it because such things are antithetical to his nature? What about the nature or affections of unregenerate men? Does not their nature also determine their wills unto a continual slavery to sin? Scripture says so. Will Falwell posit some speculated prevenient grace in order to give all men libertarian freedom? Prevenient grace is not in scripture. It's an ad hoc systematic move to sustain a non-Calvinistic notion of freedom or human responsibility. An appeal to Romans 12:3 is futile, since, according to the context, Paul is talking to those who have already believed and are within the church, not of unbelievers.

"We are not in the...into particular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact, we consider it heresy."

There are three positions regarding God's love:

1) God only loves the elect.
2) God loves all mankind, but especially the elect.
3) God loves all mankind equally.

The first position is hyper-Calvinism. There are a few on the internet who maintain that asinine position, but it's rare in most churches. So, it seems that Falwell is primarily rejecting position #2. In doing so, he is reasoning like a hyper-Calvinist himself. If God loves someone, Falwell thinks, then He will exert all the powers of omnipotence to save that person. If he does not determine to save someone, then it follows that he does not love that person. That's what hypers think. Since God loves all mankind and seeks their salvation (which Calvin and scripture would agree with), Falwell then concludes, erroneously, that God must love all mankind EQUALLY. That's patently unbiblical. Falwell seems to want to posit a false dilemma between positions #1 and #3. However, even the OT points out a special sort of love for Israel. Will Falwell, as a dispensationalist pre-trib/premill advocate, maintain that God loves the dogs (the gentiles) as much as or equally with Israel? Scripture, as he sees it, testifies to a divine priority with Israel. His own philosophy of history and eschatology are antithetical to his above statement that rejects the distinguishing love of God.

"And so we are believing that all men everywhere, in every age, can be saved, if they come to the living Christ who died for them."

Good. Calvin also agreed with this. However, it should be noted that all men of all ages do not hear the gospel, and that by the ordination of God. Among those that hear the gospel call, they are not naturally hindered from obeying it (they have a constitutional ability to believe since they have a will), but morally hindered (they are stubbornly determined in their sin to disobey it). The problem is not so much of will power (natural or constitutional ability) but of won't power (moral inability). Christ suffered sufficiently for all mankind, and so all can be saved. In that sense, he redeemed all men sufficiently, even as Calvin and Vermigli maintain. However, with respect to his intention in dying, he did not die EQUALLY for all mankind, which is why scripture underlines his special intent in dying for His sheep, His church, etc.

One does wonder, however, how those who think there is a limited imputation of sin to Christ (that only the sin of the elect is imputed to him in his sacrificial death) can consistently maintain a well-meant gospel offer for all those that hear the call. If the expiation is itself limited, then how can the gospel offer to the non-elect in any way be well-meant? I leave that to them (the strict view advocates) to defend, since I reject a limited imputation, as did Calvin.

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Aaron,

Thanks for the questions. Frankly, I do not employ the term heresy often. But no, I surely do not consider those who who embrace Limited Atonement as heretics. Unless, of course, one is using heretic in a softer sense, as in heresy = false teaching.

Given that, I suppose both you and I consider each other embracing "heresy." But, if that's the case, Dr. Falwell's 7 word sentence he uttered becomes no big deal.

Dr. Ascol,

Greetings. I did not know I even remotely suggested that you were denying heresy's existence, nor that you were implying it should not be pointed out.

Rather I asked a question which I do not think you answered nor did Timmmy. So, I'll ask it another way:

You wrote elsewhere that "...where [wrong answers] contradict the clear teaching of Scripture on points of salvific importance, they need to be renounced in the strongest of terms--even to the point of using the dreaded "h" word."

If a) Limited Atonement is as Scripturally clear as this community continually suggests and with which you presumably agree
and b) the matter of Atonement qualifies as a matter of "salvific importance" (which I assume it does), how is it that Dr. Falwell should not be renounced as a heretic himself?

Peace. With that, I am...


Alan Kurschner said...

These statements by Falwell, Caner, et. al. are encouraging signs, in my view, that Calvinism is making inroads at Liberty and other Southern Baptist churches and schools.

It is simply a reaction to the popularity of Calvinism among SB youth, and so rather than Caner and Falwell and others actually engaging in Scripture they are hoping that students listen to their rhetoric than have any meaningful Biblical discussion.

The more they do it, the more they ostracize themselves from SB Biblical thinkers.


Nick Hill said...

Great post! Wow! I totally agree with your article. Most of the Christians I respect the most hold to limited atonement: J.I. Packer, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, etc.

YnottonY said...


Why do you include Calvin in your list of men, particularly in light of this, this, this, this, and this? Have you studied Calvin's view? Or are you just assuming that he's in agreement with the first 6 men you listed? Even Dr. Greg Welty thinks that Calvin did not teach an Owenic view, and the same can be said of Augustine, Prosper, Musculus, Zwingli, Bullinger, Ursinus, and Vermigli. If we, as Calvinists, are going to complain about the Falwell/Caner historical inaccuracies, then we ought to make sure we're speaking accurately to the facts. I know that you would agree with this, but I think it's important to keep it constantly in view so that we're watchful and diligent.

Grace to you,

pduggie said...

"He's probably just using the term "heresy" for anything he considers to be false doctrine, rather than a false doctrine that constitutes an attack on essentials."

Maybe he is using the term "heresy" to refer to something which will cause pointless disputes and divisions in a particular institution, and should therefore be guarded against. He doesn't want to run a school where half the student body will fight and argue with the other half about whose doctrines are better and more biblical.

If so, he probably has a point :)

Tom said...


You ask:
"If a) Limited Atonement is as Scripturally clear as this community continually suggests and with which you presumably agree
and b) the matter of Atonement qualifies as a matter of "salvific importance" (which I assume it does), how is it that Dr. Falwell should not be renounced as a heretic himself?"

I cannot give a simple answer to the question because it confuses categories which, though closely related, are not identical. Obviously, I find particular redemption to be taught with sufficient clarity to believe. So I affirm part a) of your question. I also affirm part b) of your question. What I do not affirm and what you fail to differentiate is that what one believes about the *extent* of the atonement is of salvific importance. In other words, I believe a person can be wrong on the extent of the atonement and still be saved by it. Therefore, I would not accuse Dr. Falwell, or you, of heresy for teaching universal atonement.

I hope this explains not only my point of view but also why I cannot give you a simple yes or no answer to your question.

YnottonY said...

Hi pduggie,

In the video, he doesn't mention disputes and divisions. He just says that he thinks the belief the Christ suffered for the sins of the elect alone is heresy. While he may think that such a belief can be used to cause unnecessary divisions or schism, that's not what he says in the video. One can only conclude, as Dr. Ascol did, that Falwell thinks one heretical if they merely hold the belief that Christ suffered for the sins of the elect alone. That's what is conveyed in the video. Is that something you think is good and true?

There are two distinct issues:

1) Whether or not Christ suffered to save more than the elect.

2) Whether or not the differing beliefs on the matter constitutes "heresy".

I don't think it's appropriate or commendable to call anyone a heretic for disagreeing with me about the first issue, since the debate involves non-essentials. However, if you think about it, calling someone who disagrees with you over a non-essential doctrine a "heretic" can itself be heretical. In other words, Falwell is acting like a schismatic for elevating the point to the level of essential Christian doctrine. If he's not elevating it so, then the term "heresy" seems entirely inappropriate. If he is elevating his own unlimited view to the level of an essential, then that itself may constitute heresy as some define it. He's behaving no differently than a schismatic hyper-Calvinist who wants to condemn non-five pointers as heretics.

Another question for pduggie:

Do you think that the other points of the TULIP are also issues which cause pointless disputes and divisions? I'm not asking you if there are jerks out there who can use the doctrines to do that since that's obviously the case, as with any other doctrine. What I am asking you is if the church should discuss the other four points and allow disagreements to exist? Or is the whole theological debate a waste of time? Do you only reserve the "pointless disputes" and "divisions" thing to be applied to the atonement debate? Or do you also think the same thing regarding the T, U, I and P? Do you think it's a pointless debate to discuss the nature and intent of Christ's death in light of John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 2 Pet. 2:1 and related passages?

I think the church ought to discuss and debate these things contained in scripture, but in a civil and non-condemning way. When the differing parties start calling each other "heretics," then that breaks up Christian unity to the grief of the Spirit. One can only conclude that Falwell grieved the Holy Spirit when he called strict 5 pointers "heretics".

Tom said...


Wow, you have been busy! Thanks for your contributions.

pduggie said...

I was limiting my understanding of how Falwell might view arguments about limited atonement to being pointless for a Christian university founded by people who did not consider Limited Atonement biblical.

Its pointless to argue about it at Liberty. Its not "pointless" in every case (such as in a reformed church, or in a debate)

lordodamanor said...
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Ranger said...

Thank you for your insights, for they are greatly appreciated.

I do not think it is your intention, but your comments do come across as somewhat belittling toward those Calvin scholars who contend that Calvin did hold to a definite atonement. In fact, this may still be the predominant view among Calvin scholars today.

As someone who has studied Calvin's view of the atonement for years, I think we must admit that Calvin had an unfinished and developing view of the atonement. The doctrine would not be formally outlined until Beza, but there are clear hints in Calvin that he at least considered an Owenic view. One need only to look at his famous quote concerning the Lord's supper to see this:

"I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins."

Furthermore, his very closed terminology in his comments on Acts 20:28, Matthew 1:21, et. al. (the traditional limited atonement verses) seem to imply that he at least had a somewhat limited view of the extent of Christ's atoning work.

Still, in various other places (as you have quoted on your blog) he does imply a more universal extent. I believe both Dr. Roger Nicole and Dr. Paul Helm have responded adequately in showing that these quotes do not mean that Calvin did not believe in a definite atonement, but I do believe that they at least show that Calvin had a more universal view than Beza and eventually Owen.

In conclusion, I think it is neither justified to lump Calvin in with those who came later in his tradition as holding to a strict view of the atonement, but I likewise do not think we can adequately say that he did not hold their views. As I stated earlier, we must in the end say that he had a developing view on a doctrine that did not receive adequate treatment until later in the Reformed tradition.

Larry said...

"I don't think that Falwell is being careful in his language."

I think that goes without saying since he's obviously not terribly careful about his theology either!

YnottonY said...

lordodamanor asks:
Are you sure you really understand Calvin?

On the subject of the intent and nature of Christ's death, yes.

lordodamanor asserts:
Your credentials are long, but from the quotes you give, it appears that you misunderstood him even in those.

The quotes seem plain enough to me. I trust that is the case with other readers who have clicked the links and read them. If you want to assert that I have misunderstood him, then cite one of the quotes I provide and show me where I have misunderstood.

lordodamanor asks:
The question that I have for you is do you believe Calvin, or the Scripture?

I believe Calvin in so far as he agrees with Scripture. I test all uninspired humans by the word of God, as we all should. So, it's not an either/or case of whether I believe Calvin or the scriptures. It's possible to believe both when there is a correspondence between the two.

lordodamanor states:
Frankly, we are not Calvinists because we follow Calvin. We are of Christ.

In so far as Calvin faithfully echoes Christ's teachings, I follow him. One can be "of Christ" and yet follow Calvin as well. I follow whoever speaks what I find in scripture, as we all should.

lordodamanor inquires:
So declare to us, was the substitutionary attonement, truly substituionary, one thing for another, or not?

Of course I believe Christ's death was a penal substitution. I clearly stated that above. However, one should not say that it's "one thing for another." It's a case of one PERSON standing in the place of other PERSONS, and suffering the penalty that all of them are due, i.e. death. It's therefore a PENAL substitution, not something commercial.

lordodamanor asks:
Did the blood of Christ effectually do for the elect what it was intended to do from the beginning of the world or not? Or, were there those whom Christ "was knowing" from all eternity would believe?

I will just deal with your first question here because I don't understand the second question. Let me start off by saying that our salvation is made certain, not merely possible, by the combined work of Father, Son "and" Holy Spirit (ie, not by the cross alone, taken in isolation). So, Christ's blood was one of the necessary means by which our Trinitarian God purposed to save his people. However, none of the elect are saved merely by Christ shedding his blood. Even the elect must be brought to trust in his death, burial and resurrection by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

lordodamanor asks:
I did not catch whether you really believed any of what you wrote.

Why assume the worst about me, as if I am a complete hypocrit and don't even believe what I am typing? I believe that every other Calvinst on this blog who read my words thought that I believed all that I wrote. and rightly so.

lordodamanor asks:
So, what is the Truth, to you?

God is Truth in the sense of being the very epitome of faithfulness. Also, what He thinks is eternally true. If you're asking about truth in the ontological sense, then God is truth. If you're asking me what truth is in the epistemological sense, then what God thinks is truth. We possess the truth when what we think corresponds with God's thoughts. Some of what God thinks is revealed in Scripture, so we look to that to understand what Christ did on the cross and why He did it.

YnottonY said...

Larry quoted me as saying:
"I don't think that Falwell is being careful in his language."

Then said:
"I think that goes without saying since he's obviously not terribly careful about his theology either!"

Me now:
The more I think about it, Larry, the worse Falwell's comments seem to me. Look at the statement again:

"We are not in the...into particular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact, we consider it heresy."

As I look at it, the first portion of what he said above is just saying that he thinks it's false. However, he adds the "as a matter of fact" comment in order to elevate it beyond something he merely thinks is false. So, it seems that he isn't using "heresy" merely as something that he deems false. It's worse. Dr. Ascol's reply to it is right on target.

What's interesting is that Falwell and Caner have more in common with hyper-Calvinism than they realize. They have just adopted the theological flipside of the same rationalistic coin.

YnottonY said...

Hi Ranger,

I would like to reply to what you have said, but it may take some time. In response to your quotation of Calvin's reply to Heshusius on the Lord's Supper, click the following link and print it out. I think you might find it helpful:

Heshusius (.pdf version) (.doc version).

DJP said...

Spied in Falwell's notes:

"Logic weak; make wildeyed, insane assertion here."

YnottonY said...

Dr. Ascol said:
"Wow, you have been busy!"

hahaha. Some of us single guys with no kids have plenty of time to write virtual dissetations, even on other people's blogs :-)

"Thanks for your contributions."

You're welcome :-) I just hope that what I have said helps your readers to sort out particular theological issues clearly so that the church is edified and Christ is glorified.

There are, no doubt, some out there thinking, "Ok. There's Tony again. The one-string banjo!" For those thinking that, here's a picture for you :-)


Tom said...


May I suggest that you go puke on someone else's blog? And take your arrogant rant with you.

YnottonY said...

Hi again, Ranger,

I just saw that a friend of mine has begun to deal with the Heshusius quote on his blog. Click HERE to check that out as well. There will be more on it as he continues his series.

Hope that helps,

Ranger said...

I e-mailed you twice...because of my location I was unable to download the document on Heshusius quote, but fortunately a friend of mine back in the states got it for me and e-mailed it to me.

Thanks for the reference to your friend's blog. It looks like it will have some good information.

chadwick said...

I have a book from Jerry, himself, published by, "The Old-Time Gospel Hour" Publications . . . the book is "Lectures to My Students," by Particular Atonement Advocate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

G. Alford said...


I just said this over on Wades blog... but felt I needed to make the same comment over here... hope you don't mind me repeating myself .

With the “attitude” of Ergun Caner, and the open hostility and contempt for the Historic Doctrines of the Southern Baptist Convention expressed by Ergun in the past and now Falwell I “Strongly” question the wisdom of the SBC uniting with these Hyper-Fundamentalist…

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3)

It is one thing to disagree with your brother… it is quite another to express “contempt” for what your brother believes and to actually go as far as to say he is a Heretic!

Personally I would have a very hard time recommending Liberty graduates (who must set through this anti-Calvinism indoctrination at Liberty) to any Southern Baptist Church…

Grace to all,

YnottonY said...

Hi Ranger,

Thanks for the reply. I will try to check my email and get back to you asap.

Hi Chadwick,

It's amazing that Ergun Caner, a man with three masters degrees (at least one in history from Criswell College) and at least one doctoral degree, cannot see that Spurgeon was a staunch Calvinist. Spurgeon not only believed in "Limited Atonement," "Definite Atonement," or "Particular Redemption," he believed in the Owenic version of it, and even employs the Trilemma and Double Payment arguments. Spurgeon, therefore, held to a strictly limited atonement view. Now, he was not so strict as to deny that certain benefits (common grace) come to the non-elect as a result of Christ's cross-work, as Phil Johnson has easily shown, but he did believe that Christ suffered to save the elect alone, since their sins were alone imputed to him.

Are you saying that these words are Falwell's, or are included on the book?

" Particular Atonement Advocate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon."

If so, then even Falwell knows what Spurgeon taught, contrary to Caner.

J.D. Rector said...

Wow... now I am labeled a "heretic" by Dr. Falwell. Blessedly, I will not loose any sleep over this statement. I do think his statements are divisive in the body of Christ, especially among Southern Baptists.

Just more of that undercurrent tide billowing in the sea of doctrinal discourses.

I will not stoop to his level of rhetoric by calling him a heretic for believing in universal, general redemption.

humbledbygrace said...

I am excited to hear about men being men and standing up for the Truth of the Gospel. We need more men like that. I am glad that when people speak non truths against the Word of God that it upsets people. I pray that there will be men who will speak the Truth and will preach it faithfully and without fear. We (the local churches and the SBC) need to be told the Truth. I long earnestly for the day that Christ is glorified in the Church and his people.

Larry said...

"I have a book from Jerry, himself, published by, "The Old-Time Gospel Hour" Publications . . . the book is "Lectures to My Students," by Particular Atonement Advocate, Charles Haddon Spurgeon."

Very interesting observation Chadwick. I too have an "Old Time Gospel Hour" edition of a book with an introduction and glowing recommendation from Dr. Falwell.

My book is "Pilgrim's Progress" by another well known "heretic", John Bunyan.

Do you think Falwell is now out of the business of re-publishing books by 'heretics'? :-)

Greg Welty said...

ynottony said:

Even Dr. Greg Welty thinks that Calvin did not teach an Owenic view

Err, I'm not sure where I've ever said that. I think what I might have said, at some point in the past, is, for all I know, Calvin didn't teach what has come to be known as the Owenic view. That's quite different from saying Calvin didn't teach it. So, for all I know, you're completely correct in your take on Calvin. What that means is that I don't know of anything that would rule your view out.

But I'm still not willing to endorse your reading of Calvin, and the reason is simple: in this area, I'm a mere dilettante, not an expert :-) I tend to bypass this whole question of "what Calvin really believed," because I find it fairly irrelevant in determining what I should believe, theologically speaking.

I don't mean that as a cheap shot against historical theologians. I just can't find myself getting too excited about this particular question, since there's not much at stake (for me) in answering it.

BTW, you seemed to imply in earlier comments here that you thought the Owenic view undermined the free offer of the gospel. I wonder: do you believe that unconditional election undermines the free offer, and if not, why not? After all, if unconditional election is true, then certain matters have been settled salvifically by the time the gospel ever gets preached to anyone. Matters of eternal consequence, you might say. So why wouldn't that undermine the free offer just as much as Owenic limited atonement?

Perhaps this has come up in earlier correspondence, and if so I apologize. I'm pretty busy at present!

GUNNY said...

This is an unfortunate statement, though I have to imagine Dr. Falwell doesn't think these people to be heretics, though that is the necessary conclusion of their espousing that which he deems heresy.

However, the word "heresy" has been so hijacked to be used merely as a rhetorical stick to whack those with whom one disagrees.

I've heard it from the uninitiated in our circles as a label for the Arminian-minded, which is also unfortunate.

It's frustrating that such hostile verbiage is flying around in the SBC world ... again.

I'm feeling like the Rodney King of theologians today ... Why can't we all just get along?

Sojourner said...

George Whitefield suffered worse treatment at through the actions and words of the Wesleys, and each time he chose to bless and not to curse. We would do well to heed his example.

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

I am not sure I was confused, but if you think I was, I concede. I will, however, remember the next time the Founders community makes a big to-do about the extent of our Lord's Atonement to remind them that, at least in Dr. Ascol's understanding, the limitedness of Limited Atonement possesses no salvific importance. Thus, to argue about it is of little benefit.

I must admit though that I am now confused about something else. If we are to believe Mr. Reisinger, perhaps Founders owes Dr. Falwell and Liberty School, a decidedly Dispensational seedbed, an apology first. He writes:

"Let me say at the outset that this dispensational system of theology...opposes all historic Reformed Theology, such as that which is taught in the Westminster Confession, the Old Baptist Confession of 1689, and the Heidelberg Catechism. Dispensationalism would have been declared heresy by the Synod of Dort as was her husband, Arminianism. Arminianism, Dispensationalism and Antinomianism all live in the same theological house...I say, without fear of contradiction, Dispensationalism is nothing less than a frontal attack on Covenant and Reformed Theology." (FJ, Spring 1992)

It's pretty clear, from my glasses at least, how Mr. Reisinger views Arminians in general and Dispensatioalists in particular. What do you think?

With that, I am...


Tom said...


I did not suggest that you are confused, though you may well be. If you will go back and read my response to your question carefully you will see that I simply noted that you confused two categories related to the atonement (namely, extent and nature) in the framing of your question thereby rendering it impossible to give the kind of simple yes or no answer that it seemed to request.

Let me repeat, for the sake of clarity, what I do and do not believe on this issue. I believe what one believes about the extent of the atonement is important but not of saving importance. That is, one may believe in general atonement and be a Christian. I believe that what one believes about the nature of the atonement is of much greater importance. If one does not believe that the death of Jesus on the cross actually paid for sin or, if one specifically denies that the atoning work of Jesus is substitutionary in nature then such convictions have implications are indeed salvific.

You feel free to remind people all you want to about what I have said on this matter, I simply ask that you make sure you do not misrepresent my words by giving them a spin so that they suggest that which I deny.

Regarding your citation of Ernie Reisinger, I agree with you: you are confused. How do you conclude that his assertion of what the Synod of Dort would have declared about old line Dispensationalism merits an apology to Dr. Falwell and the Liberty School? Perhaps what you meant is that the participants at that Synod owe the apology, in which case, be my guest trying to extract it from them.

Peter, I am glad to see that you are spending so much time on the Founders website reading about Dispensationalism, Arminianism and who knows what else. That is why we have made so much material available--so that people like you can have ready and open access to it. I hope that you find some of what you read beneficial and profitable to your soul.

Some people simply scour our site looking for snippets to use against us in various ways, or to pull out of context in order to misrepresent our actual meaning. Now, I am not at all suggesting that you would do this. In fact, I am confident that anyone who would conclude that discussing the extent of the atonement is "of little use" would never give even a minute of his time to such an exercise. But, as you and I both know, not everyone shares your values.

Have a blessed night of sleep and a productive week of serving our gracious Lord!

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol,

Whoa, boy! Talk about a quick return. You must have been sitting in front of the screen.

Know, my brother, I very much appreciate the request to honor your words and "make sure [I] do not misrepresent [your] words by giving them a spin so that they suggest that which [you] deny." However, I do not, to my knowledge, possess a track record of doing so.

You wrote, Dr. Ascol: "What I do not that what one believes about the *extent* of the atonement is of salvific importance." And I wrote: " Dr. Ascol's understanding, the limitedness of Limited Atonement possesses no salvific importance."
You're right, Dr. Ascol. I botched it. You wrote "extent" and I wrote "limitedness." Forgive me.

And, think as you wish about my confusion about Mr. Reisinger. The words speak for themselves as anyone may check.

Peace to you, Dr. Ascol. With that, I am...


Ranger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ranger said...

Are you admitting that you botched it or being sarcastic? On these forums it's hard to tell these types of difference unless it is extreme.

Anyways, I clearly do think that in your previous comment you seem to have misunderstood what Dr. Ascol is saying. What Dr. Ascol was very obviously saying was that two people can have different views on the extent of the atonement and both be saved. It is an extreme and irrational stretch on your part to say that this means that discussing these things is of "little benefit."

Furthermore, after reading your "Sandy Creek Revisited: A Critique," and these comments, I will challenge that you may be reading your biases into Founders Ministry writings in order to support your views. It seems as though you are searching for quotes to use out of context in order to attack views you disagree with.

In your article, you do things such as quibble over Dr. Ascol's use of "fresh" in describing Dr. Nettles analysis of Sandy Creek, and do so on the basis of the materials he mentioned in the bibliography. As you know, there are very few resources available for the student of Baptist history. For someone to, through their intense study, find a fresh conclusion that was not obvious to them before is not out of the ordinary. You never even dealt with Dr. Nettles article, but simply wasted paragraphs dealing with Dr. Ascol's use of "fresh."

Furthermore, if anyone questions whether you take statements out of context to support your stance, they need simply to read your analysis of Dr. Morris Chapman's recent statements on Calvinism at NOBTS. You say "And, given that Dr. Chapman does not hesitate to dub Open Theism a "heresy" on one end, I assume that he would not hesitate to dub its opposite extreme a heresy as well." Do you honestly believe that Dr. Chapman would believe Calvinism a heresy, and then call it "evangelical" and talk of working together "for the missionary, educational, and benevolent needs of the Convention and the world"? Do you think that Dr. Chapman would willingly join in mission and educational efforts with people he considered heretics? Come now, even suggesting such a thing is ludicrous.

Even more so, in the same critique you write that his quote "The resurgence of Calvinism is largely a reaction against the shallowness of Baptist doctrinal instruction during the era of moderate-led seminaries..." is in the context of him speaking on Baptist roots. Did you read the article before cutting out and responding to this quotes? He is arguing that the growth of Calvinism is a resurgence of a theology in response to moderate theology. He never mentions or even implies that Calvinism does not have a place in Southern Baptist origins. He calls it a "resurgence," obviously harkening back to the early 20th century (and of course the 19th century) when Calvinists made up the majority of the SBC's leadership.

I'm glad that you are reading these articles, and glad that you are posting on these boards, but instead of searching for quotes to use against people, why not read the articles in order to better understand viewpoints that you disagree with, and thus better solidify your own views. I think it would bring about a much more profitable online experience!

SL1M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peter lumpkins said...

Dear Ranger,

Thanks for the response. I note your post and receive it. However, if the worst criticism that can be levelled against the review I offered toward Sandy Creek Revisited is that I quibbled over precisely what constitutes "fresh" well... thank you for the compliment.

As for the recent post on Dr. Chapman, yes, some of it was meant as a bit of fecetiousness as the comment thread bore out. It stands curious to me you did not get that.

As for taking things out of context, I'll simply allow the reading public--Founders & others--judge for themselves. My personal view is, no real good comes from such an approach, my Brother ranger.

Lastly, as far as searching for quotes to "use against" others, please. Either the words I quoted by Dr. Ascol and Mr. Reisinger are relevant or they are not. I think the former. And I fully accept that most of the community here thinks the latter.

I trust your day well filled with Grace. With that, I am...


dull_iron said...

Thanks Tom. Lots of good comments and Wade has a good string going also. He referenced your post in his post as I am sure you know.

I don't have anything substantive to add, but I did want to interject a thought that has just come over me.

Reformed thinkers have always (it seems) had a reputation of being aggressive with their beliefs about these matters and perhaps rightly so. I try to be more like the man who said I am reformed, I'm just not mad about it. Whoever that was?

Anyway, my point is this. It seems like Peter (and others, not just you Petey) are sincerely "angry" (perhaps too strong of a word?) that we would believe such a thing as this. It's kind of like "they" (non-reformed) are now like "us" (reformed) from even just two years ago. (Notice the quotes please. I mean "they" and "us" simply in the context of this comment as it relates to this theological discussion...not a "we" against "them" idea in total Christian thought).

I'm praying that this may be a characteristic of a growing influence that these wonderful doctrines are having on all of us (i.e. SBC; Christianity in general). I think many folks are either being prompted to question their traditions, study deeper, and consequently discover these truths...or they are getting angry and lashing out at reformed folks. Goodness, just look at the catalyst for the anger this time. Because we are upset that our beliefs are called a "heresy" by a well known pastor of great influence? How dare us!!!

I sincerely don't think reformed thinkers would be silent if Falwell had said...if you aren't reformed, then you are heretical. You, Tom, would no doubt be one of the first to post on that expressing your disagreement with that line of thinking.

I want to pray for a calm, humble reception of these truths for all those willing to control their anger because their traditions are being violated. That they can be open to listening, studying, reading, and learning...which I think is a good thing.

Tradition is a powerful thing. I don't think people know how powerful it is until they have broken through it. It looks nice when you are looking through it, but you can really see the damage it caused when you look back at it over your shoulder. Trust me...I'm there.

Thank you Lord for being not only gracious but completely successful when You placed Your life on top of these old dirty rags.

Dull Iron

Ranger said...

Thank you for a very honest and humble response. I have not read the comments to your post on Chapman, but will do so when I get a chance.


peter lumpkins said...

Dear Brother Dull Iron,

I am not angry. Did you not read the comment thread? I am confused. Of course, I already knew this. My wife informs me every day of this truth :^)

Grace always. With that, I am...


Puritan Lad said...


I know many of his former students who won't be to pleased with this.

I guess the souls of those currently burning in Hell will be glad to know that Jesus atoned for their sins...

Gordan said...

I've been called a believer in heresy by the same guy who thinks the purple Tella-Tubby is a gay activist. I'm not losing any sleep.

volfan007 said...

while i dont agree with dr. falwell using the word heresy to define five you all know, i dont agree with five points and think it's an extreme of theology.

but, i see a lot of the founders crowd and other five pointers getting so mad at dr. falwell, when i have heard the same language, and even more harsh than that, used by five pointers when describing anyone who's not a five pointer. i have heard it often. in fact, that's why i got such a bad taste in my mouth about five pointers to begin with. i grew tired, and upset, from hearing a lot of the founders crowd and other five pointers putting down non-five pointers. and, the language they used was just as harsh as calling someone a heretic. in fact, i have heard not just a few five pointers say that anyone who is not a five pointer is preaching a works salvation, and they are probably not saved.

so, before we go off on falwell and johnny hunt and some others...who i dont completely agree with btw....then, maybe the founders crowd and other five pointers need to take a long, hard look at themselves first.


humbledbygrace said...

hello everyone, I have learned alot about the big picture of God's workings (SBC) and also of the more smaller workings at individual churches with pastors with well known names. I am someone who is a believer of the Truth. I want to not be ashamed of the gospel (as we are told to do in Scripture - our authoritative). I have parents who do not believe in the Truth. They are Christians.. but do not believe that we are saved by grace through faith. They believe strongly in john 3:16 when it says 'the world' - they think it means all. They think that calvinism is heresy. I can not go to the church I have gone to for years and worship with my family.. because of the preaching that is being spoken. Our interim is leading people away from the Truth purposely. He has an agenda. I know that there must be other people dealing with this same thing. I know that God is doing a mighty good work.. He has done one in me. It is nice to be encouraged by the things talked about here. God will never leave us.. even in our darkest times.

jigawatt said...

Spurgeon refered to Arminianism as heresy in "A Defense of Calvinsim".

"And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?"

But of course, Spurgeon considered Arminians as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Timotheos said...

Dr. Falwell is a skilled practitioner of the fine art of "disjunctive dilogos," (see I Timothy 3:8) a necessary skill for anyone who wants to be able both to praise and condemn in nearly the same breath.

So the likes of Piper and MacArthur can be condemned as heretics very discreetly, and fellow Presbyterian pastors, for example, here in Lynchburg can be personally tolerated while publically rebuffed in front of thousands of students. Quite expedient, all things considered.


YnottonY said...

Hi Dr. Welty,

Since I was busy last night at work and also busy this morning, this is the earliest I could get back to reply to your comments/questions. In retrospect, I probably should not have brought up your view about Calvin since I was referring to something said in a private email. Since it wasn't something that seemed very personal or inappropriate, I went ahead and made the comment. However, before I do something like that again, I would like to ask your permission if I may quote from that same email about Calvin and your opinion. It may help to clarify why I said what I said above. Or, if you would prefer, I could drop that subject and move on to address the other issues that you raised, i.e. the issue of the sincere offer with the fact of unconditional election.

Would it be alright with you if I briefly quoted from that email about Calvin?


Thomas said...

I assume by limited atonement you mean that Jesus did not die for everyone; he only died for the elect. That is how my father always taught us.

But as I have begun to study the Scriptures more seriously on my own, I have a question: If God sent Jesus to die only for the elect, why are there so many verses that seem to say the opposite?

For example, Heb. 2:9 says that Jesus tasted death for every man. I John 2:2 says that Jesus was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. John 3:17 says that God sent Jesus so that the world through him might be saved. John 1:29 says that Jesus is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. And 2 Cor. 5:15 says that Jesus died for all.

I ask this because I have friends who point to verses like these and say "If God wanted us to know that Jesus died for all mankind he could not have made it any more clear."

I don't disagree with you, because I was raised on reformed theology. But I am increasingly being called on to defend it.

Could you help me me with some explanation of those verses? Thank you.


Greg Welty said...


I was referring to something said in a private email.

Ah, OK, I just tracked it down. Yes, this was the email I wrote on 1/13/2007 to a mutual friend, because I didn't have your email address.

I would like to ask your permission if I may quote from that same email about Calvin and your opinion.

Well, having just reviewed it, I see I expressed my thoughts somewhat incautiously there. (One reason why it was a private email ;-) If I had to do it again, I'd probably revise that email in the direction of my comment above. Rather than saying, "As far as I'm concerned, they personally believed exactly what you have represented them to believe," I would probably say instead, "I don't know of anything that would rule out your interpretation."

BTW, why do I get the feeling that this present exchange is so pedantic that it should be taken off-blog? :-)

Anyway, keep the email to yourself. It's so lengthy, it probably wouldn't do it justice to just cite snippets here. Besides, you don't need my endorsement to continue doing good historical theology :-) The fact that "even Greg Welty" believes something is not exactly stellar support for a view ;-)

Yeah, I would be interested in your take on the unconditional election/free offer issue. But we can take that off-blog if you'd like. I am genuinely interested in your thoughts.

SJ Camp said...


Good post brother. Unfortunate to hear of Dr. Falwell's comment though. IMHO, I doubt he would consider the men listed in this post as heretics. His statement, though completely irresponsible, sounded a bit popinjay for shock value and not to be taken as a theological treaty. I could be wrong...

One thing I know all would agree on: the cross of Christ and HIs atoning work is of utmost eternal importance. And in light of yesterday's tragic shooting and mass deaths at Virginia Tech, we must have an urgency for the proclamation and clarity of the gospel. Some of those students and faculty woke up in glory; others woke up in perdition and torment. It is always good and sobering to keep eternity in view...

As Paul said in 2 Tim. 2:10 "Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."

Every Christian believes in limited atonement. The only debate is over "who limits it?" We as reformed believers believe that God limits it; Dr. Falwell and others outside of reformed convictions believe that they limit it by their own free will. IMHO, biblically, the evidence seems incontrovertible as to the former and vacant as to the later.

In the past, I have enjoyed some genuine fellowship with Dr. Falwell and have even ministered in song and word at his church. He has been only gracious and warm to me; wonderfully absent of any Caner-esque acerbic demeanor we have all regrettably seen.

I would hope that he would prayerfully reconsider his choice of words concerning particular redemption.

Thank you for your continued ministry on this blog... it comforts and challenges me to further Christlikeness. I am looking forward to ministering with you next week in Ohio.

Until then, I remain...
Yours for the Master's use,
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Rod said...

The good Chancellor is not known for his doctrinal accuracy. If Liberty is "not into" some form or fashion of limited atonement, I think they'd qualify as universalists (talk about heresy).

Dr. Falwell, while brilliant in other matters, might quality as a modern "Wild-Head" from Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress. The Ergunization continues.

Aaron L. Turner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron L. Turner said...

Brother Tom:

I have read every comment on this post. This has been very interessting. I don't think there are any of your posts that I haven't read since you started blogging. It is very interesting to me that the ones which get the most comments are the ones that have to do with the Doctrines of Grace. Truly many people are thinking about these things and that is a good thing.

Thank you for providing such insight, and a place to discuss these things.


R. L. Vaughn said...

I think Aaron is correct that many people are thinking about the Doctrines of Grace and "that is a good thing."

Joseph Fromm said...

No Holy Father, no pope, no church, no unity.

Scrip said...

I believe it is possible for a Christian to believe heresy. Some Christians believe there is no eternal Hell, simply extinction. Should we never mention their error (heresy, deveation from scriptural truth) because they are brothers in Christ? I seem to remember a certain Christian leader calling one of His dearest friends\followers "Satan" when he refused truth from Jesus. This right after Peter had confessed Christ as Lord by the revelation of the Spirit of God.

Don't be so touchy, Calvinists, check the scriptures and see if Jerry is correct. David said, "Let the righteous SMITE me, it shall be a kindness, an excellent oil that shall not break my head."
David did not refuse correction even when it was crudely given.

Also, the web abounds in verbal abuse from staunch Calvanists (both past and present) directed toward those of us who see your beloved TULIP as somewhat frayed. I suggest you read Toplady's vitrolic letter to John Wesley for a little historical perspective.

Dennis Clough

volfan007 said...

if my memory serves me correctly, i remember jerry falwell giving his testimony one time on his radio program. this is when i was a boy. and, i remember him saying that he was a five point calvinist when he was a young man, but he noticed that the more he witnessed, then the more the Lord seemed to elect. and, he eventually grew out of five pointism.


Aaron L. Turner said...

Joseph Fromm,

The implication of your post is that you catholics do not have such a thing as debate, and disagreement among yourselvs? If that's the case then why have such sites as:

Scrip said:
"Don't be so touchy, Calvinists, check the scriptures and see if Jerry is correct. David said, "Let the righteous SMITE me, it shall be a kindness, an excellent oil that shall not break my head."
David did not refuse correction even when it was crudely given."

Your implication is that we haven't checked the scriptures. This seems to me to be very arrogant accusation.

But it does bring up a very interesting point. Why isn't there a place in the blogosphere, where the pertinant scriptures are debated and discussed?

"Also, the web abounds in verbal abuse from staunch Calvanists (both past and present) directed toward those of us who see your beloved TULIP as somewhat frayed."

Where is all the verbal abuse on the part of Calvinists? I read about it over and over again, but frankly have not seen it. It certainly is not on this blog. Is taking issue with something someone has said or written "verbal abuse?"

lgfarlow said...

"No Holy Father, no pope..."

Certainly a true statement if one is referring to the scriptures. No Holy Father or Pope there for sure!

Arthur Sido said...


To echo what Aaron said, you can hardly accuse Calvinists of not searching the Scriptures regarding the doctrines of Grace. I hated the idea of Reformed theology when I first heard about it. It was only through reading God’s Word, all of it, that I became convinced that Calvinism is the most Biblical representation of soteriology. Man by nature stubbornly wants to believe that we are partners with God in our salvation and it is only under the overwhelming weight of the Scriptural evidence that we see ourselves helpless and totally dependent on God for our salvation.

humbledbygrace said...

Hello everyone. I have a question to ask anyone who would want to answer it.

I am wondering what are people to do who want to see the Truth of the Gospel preached and for our churches and convention to turn back to God as their Lord? How long must we wait on the Lord to redeem His true worshipers. I know people who are fed up with things the way that they are and want those who know what to do and can preach the Truth to stand up and be real men of God. When is the right time to go against the false teachings of the church or to wait on God to work? Is sitting back and watching people being misled a sin? or at least a wrong thing to do? When revival has come in the past.. did it come quickly or over a longer period of time? Above all I want the Glory of God to be displayed.

YnottonY said...

Hi Dr. Welty,

I decided to reply over at my blog since it will be too lengthy to put here, I think. I've already received snide remarks in another forum for my one long post above, so why do that again? :-) Now that I've decided to reply to you on my blog and link to that here, I will be criticized as merely wanting blog traffic by my theological opposition. There's no escape either way :-) Someone might say, "well, you could carry on these exchanges in a private email." But then how would the church benefit from this important topic being discussed? They wouldn't.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading the first part of my reply, here it is:

The Sincerity of the Gospel Offer: Consistent with an Unconditional Election?

Please forgive my pathetic attempt at the beginining to do philosophical theology ;-)

inWitnessProtection said...

Many of you may not be aware of this, but the leaders of the Liberty Theological Seminary (the ministry side of theology) are attempting to squelch the voices of dissent within Liberty's own School of Religion (the academic side of theology) by absorbing the entire school into the seminary and then requiring a specific doctrinal statement to be signed by the faculty. (not allowed by the accrediting bodies for a SOR but allowed for a seminary)

Currently most (perhaps all) of the faculty of the SOR is responsible with the Word of God in avoiding the fundamentalist error (Defined by this writer as a kind of Pharisaism, i.e., the turning of one's own moral and doctrinal stance into a litmus test for orthodoxy in negligent ignorance of the variety of orthodox traditions extant and making one's interpretation of scripture equal with scripture). It seems many of the faculty fear a witch hunt may occur soon and see the moves of the administration at Liberty as a deliberate strategy to oust them.

Everyone appreciates the need to retain the label of heresy for cases which threaten the efficacy of the Gospel itself. Unfortunately, it is far too easy and natural to categorize people without understanding why they hold their views. The absence of a decent education is a significant factor in making an unwarranted designation of "heretic." Because of their stance on this issue and the power they hold to influence thousands, it is important for the church community not to be too "kind" with Drs. Falwell and Caner. Jesus was rough with the Pharisees and so we should feel obligated to criticize those who mislead the church.

Falwell should get an actual degree in theology (rather than an honorary degree) and Dr. Caner should look into getting a degree from a respectable school in Europe or the U.S. I believe this would give them enough scope to see that their attack within the Christian church is unwise.

charles said...

I appreciate Fawell stating his personal views regarding
the atonement.

Personally I disagree with Jerry and believe in the total unity and complete harmony of the Triune God or Persons of the Holy Trinity.

Personally I believe that ALL selected (elected) by God the Father, are saved (redeemed) by God the Son, and sealed (secured) by God the Spirit.

This is clearly taught in Ephesians, Romans and elsewhere in the Bible.

ALL selected are saved and sealed and go to heaven when they experience physical death.

NONE selected, saved and sealed will suffer in eternal hell because of the
free, full and forever gift of eternal life by our triune God.

Charles Whisnant said...


Having not read this post until this morning, I was not able to ask Jerry Falwell his view point about this post. Last Sunday morning I was in Thomas Road Baptist Church. Jerry and his wife ask us out to O'Charlie's to have dinner with them.

I was in the services at TRBC Sunday Morning and Night. I have known Jerry Fallwell for some fifty years. I believe the Lord saves more people at THBC in one Sunday than most churches have in a year.

I am personally a five point Calvinist. I follow John MacArthur's point of view for the last thirty years.

But with that said, I know what Jerry Fallwell preaches, I know what Bible he preaches out of, I know his heart. I know those who work at Library and at TRBC, and one who sings in the choir.

I have known his wife since I was born, she is the most lovely person I know. They love the Lord, they love young people, they love to see people come to Christ.

Jerry has no limited in his desire to see people come to Christ.

Jerry does not to me demonstrate the negative spirit of Christian fundamentalism. He does not have a legalistic spirit of the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned.

I was in three services on Sunday, and I heard him preached, I saw the singing on Sunday Night. Its far from been a legalistsic spirit.

Too often what he says, is taking out of context.


charles said...

More than one CHARLES has opined or commented to Dr. Ascol's article and I thought it best to state that this CHARLES was not in
Jerry's service and did not get a free lunch at O'Charlie's!!!

Proverb 17:22

Charles Rosson
PO Box 2000
Lowell, AR 72745

Deb Jones said...

It's a good thing I didn't go to Convocation that day. They would have called the fire department after the smoke pouring out of my ears filled the room. Actually, whenever I know Jerry is speaking in convocation I usually tune him out, because he tends to tell the same stories over and over, but maybe I should start watching him more closely! ;)


Greg said...

Thank you for allowing us to discuss this topic on the blog.

I have read this blog with great interest and have been encouraged by the comments. While I do not know Dr. Falwell, it would seem that he has a different understanding of the word 'atonement' than those who hold to the Biblical view of salvation. Is Christ's substitutionary atonement a real atonement or not? If it is, then real forgiveness exists, does it not? If it is not a real atonement then real forgiveness does not exist. If it is not a real atonement then how does it become so for real sinners who need real forgiveness? The same question could be asked of the word 'propitiation.' If Christ made a real propitiation then real wrath is appeased, is it not? If it is not a real propitiation, then real wrath is not appeased. If it is not a real propitiation, then when does it become so for real sinners who need a real propitiation? No atonement- no forgiveness. No propitiation- wrath still remains.

It seems to me that Dr. Falwell's denial of the doctrine of particular redemption undermines the very heart of the crosswork of our Lord. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is glorious because it is a real atonement made for real sinners turning away the real wrath of God.

Obviously one can have a limited understanding of these doctrines and still be a Christian, otherwise we would not have been instructed to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."(2Peter 3:18) But it is quite a different matter when teachers and professors deny key doctrines of the faith. We must always strongly oppose any teaching that is unscriptural whether espoused by novice or seminary president and we must always pray for continued growth in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. This should be our prayer, for ourselves and for Dr. Falwell.

Thanks again for allowing me to comment.



jigawatt said...

Dr. Ascol,

A couple of days ago, I remarked that Spurgeon referred to Arminianism as heresy. If you have the time, could you please comment on this?

When I first read about Dr. Falwell's remarks, what went through my mind was not "Dr. Falwell considers me to be a heretic," but rather, "Dr. Falwell is being a bit loose with that word."

Since Spurgeon clearly used the word "heresy" in this loose way, shouldn't we give Falwell the same benefit of the doubt that we give to our beloved Spurgeon? Otherwise, wouldn't you need to apply your comments about Dr. Falwell (like, e.g. those comments in the next to last paragraph) to Spurgeon also?

It is worth noting that in the same reference as his "heresy of Arminianism" remark, Spurgeon refers to John Wesley as both "the modern prince of Arminians," and "one of whom the world was not worthy."

For the record, I myself would not use the word "heresy" to describe any errant belief except those which contradict some essential doctrine (i.e. if you believe heresy, you are not a Christian).

Verne said...

Well said! Thank you for fantastic post. AMEN!

Tom said...


Spurgeon was commenting on a complete system of theology. Falwell was commenting on a specific doctrine. Given that, I would be hesitant to Amen Spurgeon's language here. I think Arminianism is terribly flawed. Heresy? It tends toward it (Open theism) but its best proponents (Tom Oden) work diligently to avoid it. Again, I applaud Falwell's honesty and forthrightness in declaring his and Liberty's views on this matter. I just find it very sad.

Thomas said...

Dr. Ascol,

On Tue. 4/17 I asked a question about verses that seem to indicate that Jesus died for everyone. I know you are busy, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could provide me some guidance as to those verses.

Thank you.

Josh said...

thomas, you may want to check out this link:

It might answer some of your questions about limited atonement.

Dull Iron said...


I would also suggest getting the Amazing Grace DVD. Tom and many other widely respected theologians do a great job in explaining many parts of the Doctrines of Grace and it's history. This is a very well produced and informative DVD. Even if you ultimately disagree with the conclusions, I think you will appreaciate the information.

Take care,

Dull Iron

revben said...

Let's get behind the real issue here which I believe is not really Calvinism. Calvinism represents a threat, a real threat to the power, and prestige Dr. Falwell has accumulated over recent years, especially since he joined the SBC.Let's remember this is a man who has used the pulpit to bash many persons and groups with whom he doesn't agree. Remember, this the same man who was a leader to the independent Baptists, who dispised the cooperative program, and attacked the SBC. Therefore, with this and more recent attacks made against Calvinism, it is rather clear, that Brother Falwell fears the rise and reception Calvinism is enjoying over recent years.
therefore, instead of decrying his typical bashing approach, rather I rejoice at his words. For what it really means is that Calvinism is gaining in acceptance and is winning many persons to it's precepts.
So congratulations, Dr. Falwell, we reformed persons salute you for exposing your true feelings and anxiety over a Christian view as old as the church. It is by his words and veracity that he reveals what he truely wishes to subdue.


Byroniac said...


I can agree with much of what you say concerning the rise of Calvinism in the SBC and the threat it represents to long-established traditions in our denomination. But I cannot help but think, if only our brothers and sisters who disagree with us properly understood the Scriptures concerning the sovereignty and grace of God, they would be rejoicing along with us, and most importantly, praising God's glory and mercy that any of us should have ever been saved. Though I strongly disagree with Jerry Falwell over this issue, I can consider him a brother for whom Christ died, one who is erring in theology and needs prayer. He may even consider us Calvinists the enemy, but we do not have to return the favor so to speak. I continue to rejoice because God's Truth will still prevail!

1 Peter 4:7-8 (ESV)
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. said...

Charles Spurgeon writes: “And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?” (A Defense of Calvinism, emphasis mine)

It is "sad" that Calvinists have made hypocrites of themselves,
who commit the "sin" of slander against their Christian brothers. Would the "Pharisee" Spurgeon condemn as heretics, John and Charles Wesley, Finney, Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, ect?

What I've just stated were bits and pieces of comments that I've pulled from Calvinists on this discussion, and turned them around. I do not for one minute consider Spurgeon a Pharisee, a hypocrite, guilty of the sin of slander, or such like. I just wanted the Calvinists to hear what they sound like, which is a bunch of insufferable, bed-wetting, thumb-sucking cry babies.

revben said...

Dear examingcalvinism,
At first I thought this was a defense of Reformed thought but at your close you exposed your true attitudes.
First please get your history straight, for Spurgeon often did not have kind words for Armenians. So if you are attempting to make a point that Calvinistic leadership has not been harsh against Armenians, then they would confess their “sin”.
Second, you gave the appearance of chastising Calvinists for use harsh language, when Brother Jerry has obviously used such and you close with some extremely harsh words. So you are just as guilty as the persons you criticize.
Again, I rejoice at your lashing out at the truth. For who attacked Jesus but those who feared his authority, lordship, wisdom, and truth. They viewed him as a heretic yet what they really feared was his power and what it would mean to them. This continued when the Jews continued to attack the Peter and the disciples. Then the Romans got into the attack, murdering the martyrs. The catholic church continued this ploy by the inquisition and excommunication.
So my question to you is this. Do you wish to follow in these illustrious footsteps or do you wish to indulge reformed persons with Christian debate rather than slander.
Whichever road you choose, the truth cannot be stopped. It has never been so. The more you attempt to stomp it out the more it rises stronger. The choice is left for you. As my reformed brothers have so eloquently stated, the Bible speaks loud and clear on every portion of reformed thinking. That is why it is flourishing, not because we scream louder, or slander more harshly, or threaten, or lower ourselves to childish name calling. It is simply because our final authority is the scriptures and they proclaim the truth of limited atonement. I challenge you to seek out the scriptures that support this and let the Holy Spirit speak to you.


jammystarfish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

You said, "...if one specifically denies that the atoning work of Jesus is substitutionary in nature then such convictions have implications are indeed salvific".

Would this not be true for Arminianism? I was saved in a conservative Wesleyan church where they taught prevenient grace and less-than-substitutionary atonement.

Is the word "heresy" supposed to designate a doctrine that is in opposition to the "clear teaching of Scripture"? Or does it necessarily have salvific importance.

For example - the teaching that born again believers can fall away from Christ is absolutely heretical. But it is not damnable.

Is that accurate or am I being careless?

If we aren't precise with our language then emergents will eat us for lunch!


Justin said...

I am a former Liberty student (class of '06) and I find Dr. Falwell's comments degrading to both his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and to Liberty University as an institution.

As well, it is kind of ironic for Dr. Falwell to call limited atonement heresy when on the Monday of that same week Dr. Al Mohler taught at convocation!

Michael said...

One of the most unfortunate problems of Arminianism is where it leaves a poor soul; either insecure or proud. The great comfort of knowing that ‘He shall complete what He began,’ that He is able, ‘that having done the greater He shall complete the lesser’ removes all boasting and all fear. Should my salvation depend on my ability to maintain it I would be crushed by the weight and in continual in despair. How am I able to have joy, confidence and courage if the end of my salvation depends on my own wretched self?

All theology has a practical application that effects the life of the believer, if it doesn’t it is just theory-ology.

Those who are graced with believing such glorious and assuring truth need to ensure their lives reflect it or it is nothing more than intellectual ascent. Standing-up for what you believe because it is deep rooted in your conscience is nothing more than what the world does, look at gay rights.

Fighting for the truth because doing otherwise detracts from the glory of God and because of a deep concern for the saints of God is altogether different. We are sinful and the devil is always waiting for an occasion to bring us down and set us against one another. All of us Calvinist and otherwise must tread carefully.


YnottonY said...

For Dr. Welty and the rest interested, the second part of my argument is now complete:

The Sincerity of the Gospel Offer: Consistent with Limited Imputation?

Don Sivyer said...

Ynotton Y, Thank you for your effort in a thoughtful disposition of the argument. One thought, its appears there is a preoccupation with reformation, rather than transformation with the bulk of those engaging this topic, yours excluded.

Dull Iron said...

Ummmm, Don,

Preoccupation? Your interaction here, sir, has been but 15 seconds at most. As for me, I spend maybe 4 hours a week interacting with blogs of which half of that may...MAY...take place in the "reformed" arena.

Please don't stir the waters at a reformed site by coming to it and insinuating silly things like everyone here is "preoccupied" with reforming instead of transforming. Your motive is suspect.

If you followed my personal life as an international missionary as well as viewed all of my blog perusing on my computer's history, the word "preoccupied" would only come to mind as it pertains to the study of His Word and how better to serve Him.

However, since you brought it up, you happen to be somewhat correct. I, for one, am "always reforming"!

Make me more like You Father.

Dull Iron

SavedbyGrace said...

"Personally I would have a very hard time recommending Liberty graduates (who must set through this anti-Calvinism indoctrination at Liberty) to any Southern Baptist Church…" ~ G. Alford

As a Liberty graduate I am slightly taken aback by this comment. It is important to know that not all Liberty students are in agreement with Falwell or Caner's proclomations. I remember hearing a message while I was a student by Dr. Falwell in which he called calvinists stupid. Half the audience applauded and the other half booed. Tho it has been a few years since I've attended Liberty I would venture a guess to say there is still a remnant that believes the doctrines of grace. I would hope that before you recommended anyone to SB churches you would first find out what they believe, whether they graduated from Liberty or not.

I must add that it was because of a theology professor at Liberty that I am a calvinist today. Well, God's leading which came through that professor.

I also must add that Liberty Seminary has offered me a full tuition scholarship that I must turn down because of the hostile anti-Calvinism of its leaders. Tho I wonder if they would still offer it to me if they knew I was a Calvinist?