Friday, August 17, 2007

Rainer's Plea for Civil Discourse (Amen!)

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, has issued a clear, humble plea for civility in the way we publicly address issues within the Christian family. He reveals his own heart and holds out a vision to which all who love Christ should aspire when he writes,
My passionate desire is to be a bridge builder in the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to compromise biblically. Not to be soft in my theology. I desire true collaboration with those of uncompromising biblical certitude to reach a lost world with the gospel of our Savior. My prayer is that the conservative resurgence will now grow into a Great Commission resurgence.
I love that spirit! It is not born of weakness or of any desire to avoid dealing with substantive issues (as he states elsewhere in the article). Rather, it grows out of the recognition that the God who instructs us to buy the truth and never sell it (Proverbs 23:23) also tells us to love one another earnestly from a pure heart and to do nothing from rivalry or conceit (1 Peter 1:22), but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 1:3).

It is impossible to commend our Savior with any authenticity when our words and actions so obviously contradict His spirit and teachings.

Dr. Rainer has issued an appropriate call. Let's work hard to heed it.


GUNNY said...


In such discourses I always remember that "a gentle answer turns away wrath."

Whether it be a theological discussion or one with one's wife, escalation is so easy and then nobody wins.

Also, I've benefited from Roger Nicole's thoughts:
How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us
(HT: Founders Journal)

Oh Please said...

This blog is known for it's Civil Discourse (eye roll)

An example:

"On the contrary, that's a basic rule of linguistics. Pity you're too obtuse to be able to recognize the intention-extension fallacy when it is defined for you explicitly."

Way to go Gene! You sure do know how to build bridges!

johnMark said...


I certainly agree with the spirit of Rainer's post. We all fail at some point or another. However, you knew there was going to be a however, didn't you? (grin)

It certainly seems, and I could be wrong here, that in the past one or two years as blogging as gained momentum that it's usually only the bloggers who are in mind with posts like this one of Rainer's. My however question comes in the form of what about the past press and major conferences when "big name baptists" would take shots at Calvinism or moderate alcohol consumption? Some of the motivations for some blogging was, I believe, fueled by these actions of big named baptists and the silence of someone in a position like Rainer's who has a greater voice.

Well, now there's blogging. Now two wrongs don't make a right, but responsibility is a two way street. Equal ultimacy? We'll see...

oh please,

Right or wrong, I'm sure there is a greater context to Gene's comments. In fact, I'm certain of it. You've certainly not displayed a contrary attitude to what you believe Gene's was in that comment.

For now...

Tom said...


Good words. Thanks.


Dr. Rainer has spoken publicly about this kind of thing in relation to "non-bloggers," as well (at the Baptist Identity Conference, for instance). He also has been very gracious bloggers in the SBC.

I think you are correct, that some of what is coming out in the blogosphere is in reaction to injudicious castigations of views and people by some well-known Southern Baptists. As you said, that is no justification for responding sinfully in the same way, but it does give a context for some of what has happened.

Hopefully, all of us will remember Christ and follow His example in handling what we believe to be unjust accusations and renunciations.


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

Mr. Please:

If you care to come out from behind your anonimity your comments would carry more weight. If you choose to keep hiding, don't expect me to let you keep shooting at others here from the shadows.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...

May Dr. Ranier's tribe increase.

johnMark said...


I was posting rather quickly earlier and I don't want to be misunderstood. I didn't mean to claim Tom Rainer has never stood up to or for the non-bloggers. I just meant to use Rainer's position of influence and importance not him specifically. Sorry if I impugned him or came across that way.

I hope the next time a big name baptist leader is speaking and presents strawmen on certain issues that men like Rainer will speak up. It certainly does seem that more are speaking up over the last year.

If we wrote to each other in the same manner as we would face to face we would probably gain much ground from this practice alone.


refbaptdude said...

On the Spurgeon Baptist Association blog do the posts by Richard Smith where he is attacking Morris Chapman sound like hyper-Calvinism to you?

Morris Chapman wrote:
“Since the Baptist Faith and Message embraces both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, it is reasonable for Southern Baptists to expect professors to teach both elements as necessary for the salvation experience.”

Why would the SBA Blog attack such a position? Embracing both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in salvation is historic evangelical Calvinism. Charles Spurgeon himself believed in the “sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.” Spurgeon wrote:

“The fore-ordination of God in no degree interferes with the responsibility of man. I have often been asked by persons to reconcile the two truths. My only reply is — They need no reconciliation, for they never fell out. Why should I try to reconcile two friends? Prove to me that the two truths do not agree. In that request I have set you a task as difficult as that which you propose to me. These two facts are parallel lines; I cannot make them unite, but you cannot make them cross each other. Permit me also to add that I have long ago given up the idea of making all my beliefs into a system. I believe, but I cannot explain. I fall before the majesty of revelation, and adore the infinite Lord. I do not understand all
that God reveals, but I believe it.” (ON THE CROSS AFTER DEATH. NO. 1956


“The path of truth in doctrine is generally a middle one. There are certain tremendous truths, such as divine, sovereignty, the doctrine of election, covenant transactions, and so forth; and some men cast such a loving eye upon these truths that they desire to be, and are, quite blind to all other truths besides. These great and precious doctrines take up the whole field of their vision, and another and equally valuable part of God’s Word is either left unread, or else twisted round into some supposed reconciliation with the first-named truths. Then, again, there are others who think much of man. They have deep sympathy with the human race. They see man’s sin and ruin, and they are much charmed with the mercy of God and the invitations of the gospel which are given to sinners, and they become so entranced with these truths in connection with the responsibility of man,
and man’s free agency, that they will see nothing else, and declare all other
doctrines, except these, to be delusions. If they admit the doctrines of
grace to be true, they think them valueless, but they generally consider
them to be untrue altogether. It seems to me that the path of truth is to believe them both; to hold firmly that salvation is by grace, and to hold with equal firmness that the ruin of any man is wholly and entirely his own fault; to maintain the sovereignty of God, and to hold the responsibility of man also; to believe in the free agency of both God and man; neither to dishonor God by making Him a lackey to His creatures’ will, nor, on the other hand, to rid man of all responsibility, by making him to be a mere log or a machine. Take all that is in the Bible to be true.”

And he wrote,
I believe some hyper-Calvinists raise an objection to the responsibility of man whilst hearing the gospel, and there are several other things to which they likewise demur; but I hope we shall always accept the testimony of God’s Word without distorting it, whether it be agreeable or distasteful to us. (JERUSALEM THE GUILTY. NO. 3520 PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JULY 13TH, 1916

I am not familiar with all the aspects of Morris Chapman’s theology but Smith denying man’s responsibility sounds like hyper Calvinism. If Smith has a bone to pick with Morris Chapman this is not the one to go to war over. Do you brothers believe an attack of this caliber on Morris Chapman will really further the cause of reformation in the SBC?

What say you?

Steve Clevenger

Darby Livingston said...

As I read and occasionally post on a few blogs I've noticed the self-corrective nature of it all. I've rarely seen anyone get away with unloving comments. Someone usually corrects it rather quickly. However, I think the SBC and Christianity would be served better to dialog about issues, rather than people. If we're out to prove people ignorant, finite and sinful, it won't be hard. We all are. However, I'm reminded of a letter from Whitfield to Wesley (two good friends) in which Whitfield challenges Wesley's wisdom and love in taking a shot at Whitfield's Calvinism. That letter is now public knowledge. I just see the blogs as a further, more immediate form of "counterpoint" publishing. The immediacy is its greatest benefit and greatest danger.

Tom Bryant said...

I've quit talking about sbc stuff and even reading the blogs that deal with the situation in the sbc. It's amazing how much more time I have in my day.

Tom, I appreciate that on here, your comments are almost inevitably about issues rather than personalities.

Tom said...


I disavow what Richard has written. He does not represent me or Founders.


Tom said...


Thanks, brother.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

I thank God for Dr. R's public statement, and hope that it has some corrective effect. The problem that normally surfaces in the face of such rebuke, however, is that those who need it most feel it is intended for someone else!

"Yeah, that no account, no good, good for nothing Arminian, Pelagian, Finny-loving, BFM-changing, atonement-denying, racist bigot sure does need to watch his mouth!"

Perhaps this time all of us can hear and heed the warning.

Love in Christ,


refbaptdude said...


>I disavow what Richard has >written. He does not represent me >or Founders.


Thanks Tom.


johnMark said...

I wonder if Wiley Drake's recent comments qualify as that which Dr. Rainer's article could speak to? If so, this is or may be an example of a well known (big name?) SBCer whose words aren't being taken well without anything being said by others of influence. It may be too soon though.


A.Schroeder said...

I disavow what Richard has written. He does not represent me or Founders.

Dr. Ascol & refbaptdude,

I'm not meaning to be disrepectful, but have you read all of Richard Smith's posts on Mr. Chapman's article and in the context they were written?

In an early post, Richard writes: "Man is dead in his sins and trespasses and has no spiritual ability at all. The Bible does not teach the responsibility of man in that way and it appears that the article written by Morris Chapman goes beyond the Bible in assigning responsibility to man. What man does have is an obligation and accountability, but those things should never be taught apart from a clear understanding of the depravity of man."

It seems clear that Richard is responding to the way Morris Chapman is using the word responsibility in his article. It is clear from the comments on the blog and also his clarification post that he is not denying the Reformed usage of the word but is saying that Mr. Chapman's usage of it is much different.

Am I right to understand that you would agree with Mr. Chapman's statement that "the work of grace and the responsibility of man are necessary elements in the salvation experience"? Are you dis-avowing the content of what Richard Smith has written or just the way in which it was written?

Richard said...

I was quite disappointed that Steve came on here and said things that are simply not true. I do not diavow the responsibility of man as long as that is defined as man's obligation and duty to obey and love God at all times. When the word is used as implying ability apart from grace, then I do disavow that and disavow it strongly. I have repeatedly said that to him in replies and posts on the BLOG he listed.

When the term "responsibility" is used in such a way as to add to the Gospel of the grace of Christ something other than grace, then all Reformed people are responsible to stand up for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to please God and not men when it comes to the defense of the Gospel no matter the language used. The important issue to defend is the grace of God in Jesus Christ regardless of the words we have to define or not use. The fact that I deny the way one Arminian gentleman uses the word to add to the Gospel (at least in word) does not mean that I deny the way the meaning of the word by Spurgeon and others. Surely Reformed people should gather around the Gospel of grace rather than fight over a denial of one aspect of one word.