Friday, January 18, 2008

Christianity Today: TULIP Blooming in the SBC

In a rather poor article in Christianity Today Ken Walker takes note of the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC. Ten years ago, that might have been news. Today it is, at best, old news.

There are some good quotes by Al Mohler and Timothy George and a not-so-good-one by Frank Page. What is disappointing is the Walker's obvious misunderstanding of the issues involved, as evidenced by this paragraph:
Mohler said a deepening interest in theology is driving younger Southern Baptists to explore Reformed thinking, and he dismisses the fear of some that the budding Calvinist wing will tilt the SBC back toward its 19th-century anti-missionary movement.
Southern Baptists fought against the "anti-missionary" mindset--both the theological and the ecclesiological kind--that pocketed American Baptist life in the 19th century. To suggest otherwise is at best irresponsible journalism.

Timmy Brister has written a very cogent response in which he addresses Page's comment that,
The totality of history shows the vast majority of Baptists have not been [Calvinists], so why go back to the founders?...I think we need to go back to the Bible.


HisbyGrace said...

Comments like those from Ken Walker and Frank Page have become the norm, unfortunately. Phrases and terms such as "return to the Bible" and "biblicist", as well as making brash statements about Baptist, church history without proof, have served as catch-all terms and tactics to keep both Biblical truth and history itself as fluid and "updatable" as possible to suit current trends and agendas. A sad state of affairs.

SF said...

I sometimes wonder if they even know Baptist history. I'm currently reading Southern Baptists and the Doctrine of Election by Robert Selph. I agree. There DOES need to be a return to scripture. Just not so sure its those on the reformed side of things. Our current religious leaders are using the same revisionist methods that the secular world uses to remove what it doesn't like from culture.

B Nettles said...

"I think we need to go back to the Bible." So when is Dr. Page going to do this? And does he intend to throw away all the perspective and commentary of those who have been studying the Bible for an accumulated time of centuries? Surely, that's a straw man that I need not wave a broomstick at, but what does he mean?

Is he saying that those Baptists who hold to the Doctrines of Grace are ignoring the Bible and anyone who agrees with him has been diligently studying it? Or is he saying that the theology of those sitting in the pew is ineffably correct because "Baptists" should be "congregational?"

I'm confused about Dr. Page's intentions.

John O said...

Dr. Page is right! Of course, what he evidently is setting forth as a remedy to Calvinism has been, and will continue to be, the primary reason folks within the SBC (and elsewhere) have embraced the doctrines of grace: they've done what Dr. Page has receommended; they've gone back to their Bibles and are having their theology more informed by biblical exegesis than humanistic philosophy.

So, there is quite an irony here. The strength of Reformation theology has always been its exposition of the text, and as long as that is the case, the more that people "go back to the Bible," the more "Calvinists" there will be.

In Christ,


G. Alford said...

To build upon what "John O" said...

Dr. Page, please read the recent report from Lifeway; Southern Baptist are returning to the Bible!

Grace Always,

Ivan said...

To state is kindly, Dr. Page's comments are uninformed. I dare say he needs to read a little Baptist history along with returning to the Bible.

irreverend fox said...

when is this going to stop? honest to God...this is so outrageously STUPID!

why do Calvinist bother so many people? I sometimes think that "they" can't lay out a decent refutation of our theology (as is evidenced by the way Dr. Caner blew up what would have been a valuable debate) so they resort to name calling and immature hostility. it just smacks of insecurity...and I don't care what anybody says...there is a subtle (most of the time) desire to push us out, at least from any influence.

is it going to stop? ever?

Fred said...

John O, Dr. Page believes he's already gone back to the Bible but the rest of us haven't. Take for instance his analysis of Acts 13:48 which states, "And as the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of God: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

Here's Dr. Page's conclusion: "This text does not teach that God had planned to save just a few of those Gentiles on that occasion. While offering salvation to all Gentiles, some of the Gentiles believed that day what the Jews had rejected. Those Gentiles who were willing to receive salvation and whose minds were open to the truth were ready to believe. This group happened to be a few of the Gentiles who were present and believed and were saved."

Baptists who don't believe in this interpretation of Scripture have not gone back to the Bible. There are many examples of this in Page's book, Trouble with the Tulip.

So that would mean even Spurgeon was Biblically wrong when he stated this about the same verse: "Attempts have been made to prove that these words do not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read: "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed", and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. Is it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not he — in every case — dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for him to give it, is it wrong for him to purpose to give it? Would you have him give it by accident? If it is right for him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for him to purpose it before today — and, since he changes not — from eternity."

Here's what Bill Harrell says of Calvinists interpretation of Scripture, "I have solid Christian friends, some of them pastors who are Calvinists, but I think they are wrong about the tenets of five point Calvinism. In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.”

Guys, the issue is serious. Those in leadership positions within the SBC actually believe we don't go to the Bible for our theology or that if we do, we misinterpret or ignore what the Bible is saying.

Laura said...

Oh, heavens, that Spurgeon quote brought tears to my eyes! I googled it and apparently it's from a sermon he preached on that passage, but I can't find the original source -- Fred, where did you get it?

Golly, you just can't beat Spurgeon for rhetorical fireworks, can you?

Will said...

"Damnant quod non intellegunt."

I stated this response to the eariler post about evangelists lamenting Calvinism.

They condemn what they don't understand. I in no way demean or speakly badly of Dr. Page. But I can only conclude that when he makes comments like this, that he just doesn't understand our history or application of biblical Calvinism.

I wish Spurgeon was here today to comment on this.

Cedar Hill

John O said...


Yeah, I know that Page thinks that. He and most of the anti-Calvinists I've read and heard think that Calvinists begin with their "system" and then impose their "system" onto the text.

Note: yes, I am using the term "anti-Calvinist" on purpose instead of "non-Calvinist." I would call men such as Danny Akin and others who participated in the building bridges conference "non-Calvinists," because they demonstrate at least a working knowledge of the issues involved and spirit of fairness, whereas the anti-Calvinists demonstrate nothing but theological, not to mention historical and biblical ignorance of the issues.

I know that may sound harsh, but I'm not trying to be mean. Honestly, it really grieves me. I honestly have to say that I have been truly shocked to see men with "Dr." in front of their name write and speak as if they've never cracked the cover of even a basic systematic theology or church history text, not to mention making just the most basic of hermeneutical errors. I mean, when I heard the things being said by men such as the Caner bros, Jerry Vines, Johnny Hunt, and Dr. Page, etc., I was truly shocked. But, if you listen to them, you will discover a theme; the things they say sound very much like the things that Dave Hunt has said in his anti-Calvinistic tirades as found in his books on the subject, etc. Evidently, to these men, Dave Hunt has produced the seminal works on all matters "Reformed," and it is to Dave Hunt that these other anti-Calvinists have followed as the authority on Calvinism. Isn’t that sad? How could it be that those otherwise well educated and sound men would turn to someone like Dave Hunt, who by any objective standard does not pass the muster in terms of scholarship, and who even admitted to have never read any of the Reformers just months prior to his first book on the topic. Yet, these trained theologians place all of their marbles into Hunt's basket.

That's not to say that none of those men have nothing good to say. To be fair, they do, and they are brothers in Christ (even if they do not count Calvinists as brothers in Christ). But, it is indeed telling how you can get people like this who might give you an excellent exposition on Romans chapters 1 - 7, but then betray every sound principle of exegesis and hermeneutics that they may had employed earlier in dealing with Romans 8 - 11.

Anyway, I've gone way down the rabbit trail.  As for the concern that Calvinists begin with their system and then impose that onto the text of Scripture, the great irony, in my opinion, is that the exact opposite is true: Calvinism is first and foremost derived from the text of Scripture, whereas it seems to me that it is the non-Calvinist who consistently imposes their humanistic philosophical view of libertarian free will onto the text. This is why there simply is no cogent exegetical response to Reformed theology as a whole and texts such as Acts 13:48 (and that text just scratches the surface of the full textual weight of Calvinism. For someone to overturn the doctrines of grace at the level of the text, they have quite a monumental task in front of them. For starters, I suppose they could just get a copy of Luther's Bondage of the Will, and begin interacting with the over 300 texts that Luther does (of course they would have to side with Erasmus against Luther…rather telling, is it not), or, maybe A.W. Pinks The Sovereignty of God.

Anyway, I certainly don't want to sound harsh. I am just trying to state what I believe are the facts that have been borne out over and over again: in the case of the biblical support for Calvinism, volumes have been written (the 2 I mentioned are good starts), and in the case of comments concerning anti-Calvinists, their writings and sermons speak quite clearly for themselves.

If you're a non-Calvinist and you are reading this, I invite you to just read Dr. Page's remarks concerning as simple a passage as Acts 13:48, and ask yourself the question: is that what it really says?



Fred said...

John O, I think those you mentioned might be shocked to learn that they have come to the same conclusion as liberals. See my article Swimming Against It at

Sparrowhawk said...

As MacArthur (in a recent monthly CD release) finally crystallized in inescapable terms, to distort the doctrine of election is to steal glory from God. To put any aspect of salvation into the syncrenistic (please look that word up, Dr. Page) hands of Man has far more in common with Roman Catholicism than it does Southern Baptist historic doctrine.

It's no wonder why the old saying is true, sadly, since I cherish the SBC: Southern Baptists who learn to finally read too often end up leaving the SBC.

Justified said...

Many SBC Deacons have never read the Baptist Faith and Message. Much less Church History. I was kept in the dark for years. Thank God that He enlightened me and that He is still teaching me. I work with two Churches in Mexico and one of them was a name it claim it Church. I started giving them material on the Doctrines of Grace a little over a year ago and now they are starting classes teaching the LBC 1689. Many times it is ignorance that keep these people from the truth. I know that was the case for me. Never have I been encouraged to read books by Martin Lloyd Jones, Spurgeon, Edwards or much less books by contemporary reformers. We need to educate the people. There are many Christians caught up in the jaws of bad theology or worse. I am committed to the ministry of helping as many as possible for the glory of God and because of the way my family and I have suffered.

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