Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Amazing Grace DVD project responses

Responses are still trickling in from pastors throughout Florida who received copies of the Amazing Grace DVD in the mail. Overwhelmingly, they have been positive. Several pastors indicated that they plan to show the DVD to their churches as a discipleship tool. Others have mentioned that they plan to use in small group settings.

Here are some comments from the emails and letters that we received.
Thanks so much for the Amazing Grace dvd. I do appreciate all the time, energy and resources that went in to mobilizing and making this available to Florida pastors.
***
After listening to the Jerry Vines cds that were sent out previously, I was very disappointed on a couple of fronts. I certainly disagreed with his weak and inarticulate theology. I was also disappointed in his characterization and association of Reformed Baptists with liberals, drinkers, etc. But I was probably most disappointed with John Sullivan in sending the tapes out under the Florida Baptist Convention letterhead. If it wasn't for the information I read on the Founders blog, I would have presumed, as I am sure many others have, that our CP dollars were spent to underwrite this endeavor.
***
Brother Ascol, please extend my appreciation to all who made it possible for
me to receive the DVD "Amazing Grace." I am not a Calvinist (nor a follower
of Arminius); however, I do welcome this resource into my library. I also
appreciate your gracious and kind spirit in which you are moving to
accomplishing your agenda.
***
If it is of any interest to your research, I am neither of Calvin nor Arminius. I hold to a high view of God's sovereignty - God does what He chooses to do according to His good pleasure and will- not only regarding the plan of salvation, but also every doctrine found within the pages of Scripture. In addition to the high view of God's sovereignty, I hold to the belief that man does not have a free will, but a personal will with which to exercise obedience or disobedience to the Word of God.

There is no doubt in my mind that Calvinism will remain a debated issue long past our years. I choose to fellowship with those who differ with me in their view on this matter, as well, I choose not to spend time with those, who choose not to spend time with those, who do not hold to Calvinism. That is why I say that I appreciate your spirit in what you are trying to achieve.

Please do not misunderstand me to say that Calvinism is not a worthy subject or conversation. I believe that every Bible student, and for that matter, every Christian should wrestle with the issues associated with the "mystery of God's grace."
***

Thank you for the DVD about Calvinism and its history in our convention. I want to take a couple of paragraphs to share an opinion with you on this important matter, from the perspective of one who could care less about the politics of this issue.

I too, was disappointed that anyone would see the need to distribute the CD by Dr. Vines, for whose ministry I thank God. However, I believe that many Calvinists within our convention have become uncomfortable with those who do not share their views choosing to answer back after years of divisive talk on the part of some Calvinists in the SBC. Most of this talk has been behind the scenes, but divisive, none the less.

For my part as a pastor, I have lost church members who were Calvinists simply for paraphrasing verses like Romans 10:14-17. Since I didn't specifically say my words came from scripture, these Calvinist church members assumed that I did not embrace unconditional election and irresistible grace and left the church. I am many times ashamed of my Calvinist brothers and sisters who consistently display a spirit of intellectual superiority over those who do not agree with them. In short, I believe that pastors like Dr. Vines could perhaps be justified in making the observation, "We didn't start the fire."

I have little doubt that you are correct in saying that many Southern Baptists misunderstand the historic doctrine of Calvinism. But for me, I have seen far more trouble caused by Calvinists who misunderstand it than non-Calvinists; my primary concern being a denial of individual responsibility and embracing a belief in the sovereignty of God that requires that God be blamed for sin. As you know, the Bible clearly teaches that God has given us the responsibility to choose between right and wrong; and to choose between salvation and damnation (Romans 1:18-32), as those who are "without excuse." This responsibility must necessarily be reconcilable, although perhaps not fully comprehensible, with predestination and election, since the Bible clearly teaches both. If anyone wishes to make Calvinism or a rejection of Calvinism a divisive matter, we will one day regret it. I know I do already. My advice would be that we refrain from labeling ourselves as Calvinist or non-Calvinist and simply teach what the Bible says about all thing salvation-related, even those things which are difficult, if not impossible to fully understand on this side of heaven. My explicit warning to those who are as proud of being a Calvinist as they are of being a Christian would be to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. An emphasis on Calvinist doctrine has contributed to the death of the Presbyterian Church, and it is likely to kill evangelism in Southern Baptist Churches that emphasize it as well. After all, John Calvin was a mere theologian; not an apostle, and certainly not God. We have no implicit doctrine known primarily as Pauline or Peterin. Why is it so important to name part of what the Bible teaches about salvation after a man who went to his grave defending infant baptism (which, of course, is the ultimate paradoxical belief for Calvin himself)?

Than you for your interest in bringing clarification from the Calvinist position, to Southern Baptists. I pray that your motives are to defend the perfect Word of God, and not to defend and emphasize one part of scripture at the exclusion of another.
***
Sir, I agree with everything Dr. Vines said in his sermon. You Presbyterians wish to believe Calvinist doctrine, fine, but I am a Bible-believing Southern Baptist and I resent your slur of Dr. Sullivan.
***
One brother expressed his appreciation and added this interesting tidbit: "...an unnamed convention bureaucrat told me specifically and directly not to associate with the Founders movement--alluding to the fact that it was akin to being associated with CBF!"

This is a good representation of the kind of feedback that we have received. Many have called, some have spoken to me in person and most have been very favorable.

Thanks to everyone who gave and worked to make this possible. Pray that the Lord will continue to use this information on the DVD to encourage many pastors and churches to examine the Word of God very carefully about the nature of salvation. As some of those who received DVD said, it is high time we get past drawing caricatures of positions with which we disagree and start learning how to treat one another with respect even in our disagreements.

My dream is that the day will soon arrive when the theological lines will not be drawn between "Calvinists" and "non-Calvinists" in the SBC, but rather between those who are willing to have honest and doctrinal dialogue on disputable points and those who continue to demonize brothers and sisters with whom they disagree.

If enough Southern Baptists of any doctrinal stripe are willing to step up and call to account folks from every theological camp who succumb to using caricature and misrepresentation in expressing their disagreements, then maybe, just maybe, that kind of unhelpful language will decrease.

14 comments:

GUNNY said...

That's some encouraging response, even from the "dissenters."

The one chap there at the end seemed to have some edge in his comments, but I certainly don't think he has grounds for his "slur of Dr. Sullivan" accusation.

I'm gonna guess that he probably didn't actually watch the videos, but I hope he at least appreciates the spirit of the operation.

Thanks for sharing the response, it makes the prayers that were prayed that much more sweet.

Tom Bryant said...

"My dream is that the day will soon arrive when the theological lines will not be drawn between "Calvinists" and "non-Calvinists" in the SBC, but rather between those who are willing to have honest and doctrinal dialogue on disputable points and those who continue to demonize brothers and sisters with whom they disagree."

Amen!

Jim from OldTruth.com said...

Pastor Ascol:

This is such a great project. Thank you so much for taking it on. Keep up the valuable work.

Greg Welty said...

Thanks for posting what seems to be a genuinely representative sample of the kinds of responses you've received. I think it's important to take perceptions seriously, whether positive or negative, rather than pretend that they're not there.

I sympathize with the concerns of one of your correspondents about avoiding "labels," but I wonder if this is really doable in practice. As one who endorses both "Calvinistic" distinctives and "Southern Baptist" distinctives, it seems to me that these are equally man-made labels for what many believe the Scriptures to teach on various matters. Since each label arose in a historical context, each can have unfortunate connotations (baby-sprinkler and slave-holder, respectively ;-) . I'm not sure that's sufficient reason to avoid the label altogether.

lordodamanor said...

Thanks Tom for the feedback. Now, is there a chance that this could be done Conventionally? Just a dream.

I especially appreciated this comment:

"Sir, I agree with everything Dr. Vines said in his sermon. You Presbyterians wish to believe Calvinist doctrine, fine, but I am a Bible-believing Southern Baptist and I resent your slur of Dr. Sullivan."

I do not say this facetiously. It is raw honesty, emotional but honest- now, that is line drawn, and the line is the Bible, the territory staked out, let's explore it, together.

But, this is not what is being done, which is why the DVD is a needed corrective. Polarization takes place because of blind accusation and labeling as Greg noted. Why there is not openness instead of unwillingness "to have honest and doctrinal dialogue on disputable points and those who continue to demonize brothers and sisters with whom they disagree," is a question to be asked. Why isn't it acceptable to teach the history and doctrine of the SBC?

May God break down that resistence to truth seeking.

johnMark said...

Tom,

Those are great and not so great, but foreseeable responses. Some who are so against Calvinism still don't seem to look to past evangelists even for to show a practical outworking of Calvinism. I.e. Spurgeon, Edwards, Carey, etc.

Now, can we does this here in Georgia next? :-)

Greg Welty,

What do you mean Southern Baptist is just a label?! Get your bible and turn to page....uh.. it's right...in book.... I'll get back to you. ;-)

Mark

Dennis E. McFadden said...

I'm neither SBC nor from Florida, but "Amazing Grace" is one of the most amazing programs I have ever seen. My wife and I have viewed it repeated times with much profit and satisfaction. What a blessing that you were able to provide it for your fellow pastors. A more attractive "commercial" for the doctrines of grace could hardly be found!

fivesolas said...

"An emphasis on Calvinist doctrine has contributed to the death of the Presbyterian Church..."

I'm not sure I agree with this statement...considering I'm PCA :-)

Brian said...

Could I suggest that Calvinism isn't what destroyed the Presbyterian church but instead that they do not emphasize a regenerate church membership. For Baptists, that would be the first thing to point to, and not just for selfish reasons.

Jason said...

This was one of my favorite statements:
"I have little doubt that you are correct in saying that many Southern Baptists misunderstand the historic doctrine of Calvinism. But for me, I have seen far more trouble caused by Calvinists who misunderstand it than non-Calvinists; my primary concern being a denial of individual responsibility and embracing a belief in the sovereignty of God that requires that God be blamed for sin."

The irony of his statements crack me up. He shows he misunderstands it by his final statement! It is THAT exact misunderstanding and misrepresentation that is dangerous.
But this man was already midway through his diatribe...so he just kept on going.

Funny...or sad...I'm not sure which one.

Oh, and as for his statements about evangelism and the SBC and presbyterians.
If he means PCA, he should reexamine who is growing and who is not. PCA churches are growing fast, and healthy...but I'm sure he put as much thought into that statement as he did the rest of his post.


But, glad to see the overall response has been positive.

Keep up the good work.

juks said...

I am writing from South Africa as a recent convert to "calvinism" or as Spurgeon put it "just a nickname for the gospel" and as a great supporter of these DVD's which we are importing to educate people on the true gospel. As Dr Ascol pointed out in this great presentation called the Amazing Grace DVD there is a great deal of difference between the words may and can. I have re-read Romans 1:18-32. I see man's responsibility towards the truth. Nowhere do i read about ability there as the one person commented. What they continue to fail to understand, as i once did, is that you cannot theologically integrate two different truths. Nowhere does Romans 1 say that man is responsible FOR HIS SALVATION. Romans 1 makes exactly the opposite point, that even though man by virtue of the internal and external witness SHOULD know better he is totally incapable of doing so except it be purely through God's amazing, saving grace, which quickens and raises the sinner from the dead. Two truths, both true at the same time - neglecting one in order to emphasize the other leads to two errors - either hyper-calvinism or arminianism, whether you want to admit to being one or not. Having been brought up a flaming arminian I now know that "calvinism" is the only consistent system of theology because as Dr Talbot states 'it is the true exposition of scripture" - all scripture.

juks said...

Sorry, another point. Last year we were blessed in South Africa with the visit of Philip Ryken, James Montgomery Boyce's successor at 10th Presbyterian, Philadelphia. I was previously oblivious to this denomination and church history in general. I believe that this specific church has maintained its evangelical witness since 1817 or so in spite of its obvious 'calvinistic doctrines'. So much for the statement about calvinism killing churches. But maybe if the evangelism and gospel one is promoting is the 'fast-food' variety of contemporary western culture then I suppose that one would consider these churches and such great men of truth as being 'dead'.

Micah said...

fivesolas is right... "An emphasis on Calvinist doctrine has contributed to the death of the Presbyterian Church...", actually the "death" of the Presbyterian church has yet to occur, however, perhaps the writer was mentioning the PC(USA) whose "death" can be attributed to Liberalism and an abandonment of the truth of Scripture, NOT Calvinism.

It is these kind of off-the-cuff remarks, far removed from historical reality that perhaps cause Calvinists to get ruffled feathers most over their non-Calvinistic brethren. If they would bother to do a little research, address others with humility and accuracy there would be far less rancor in this debate. However, with folks like Vines misrepresenting history as well as our beliefs... I don't hold out much hope.

Sewing said...

Sadly, the same kinds of misrepresentations against Reformers—and misunderstanding of history—occur in other denominations as well. May you folks at Founders keep up your good work for the Word of God.