Friday, January 11, 2008

Southern Baptist Evangelists lament the recovery of Calvinism

Baptist Press reports the gathering of 15 "prominent" evangelists in Jackson. The meeting was initiated by Jerrry Drace to discuss issues that they judge vital to their ministries. Unfortunately but not unexpectedly, the growing recovery of our denomination's doctrinal heritage is one of their great concerns. The other is the seeker-sensitive approach to ministry.

I have classified some of the reported comments of participants into 4 categories.

1. Concerns that every Southern Baptist Calvinist I know would share, assuming the scenario that is described is accurate (Calvinists in the SBC have been so long and are so often caricatured that this caveat is understandably necessary).
Drace told the group he currently is working with some young pastors who are "so leaning in this morphed Calvinism that they almost laugh at evangelism. It's almost to the extent that they believe they don't have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism."
Anyone professing Christian who laughs--or "almost laughs"--at evangelism should be sharply rebuked. I hope brother Drake will do exacdly that.
Sammy Tippit of San Antonio, Texas, asked if some of the seeker-friendly approach could be attributed to a backlash against the type of manipulation people see in televangelists.
I think he is partially correct. More and more serious pastors and churches are growing weary of seeing people emotionally jerked around by well-intentioned but biblically shallow preachers. Such manipulation is not limited to televangelists.

2. Concerns that leave me wondering exactly how Calvinism got implicated.
Wayne Bristow of Edmond, Okla. added that he's distressed about having to "tiptoe" around terminology for fear someone will misunderstand or take his comments another direction. For example, he said he has always told people who have asked that he can preach and give an invitation with authority and confidence because he believes in the sovereignty of God.

"When I preach I know the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of people in that congregation -– arresting them, convicting them, convincing them and drawing them to Christ," Bristow said. "If I didn't believe that, I have no authority; I have no confidence. All I did would be in my own strength, and I would be forced immediately into a ministry of manipulation. But we live in a time now where [Calvinism] has come so much to the forefront that when you say something like that then … you've got to be labeled."
I am not certain where the Bible teaches that one's authority is based on being certain that when he preaches the Spirit is arresting, convicting, convincing and drawing the hearers to Christ, but that is beside the point (to say nothing of a "ministry of manipulation"). Is the concern that Calvinists will question that kind of thinking or label it? I just don't understand the concern.

3. Concerns that sound like the greatest problem with the seeker-sensitive "system" is that it prevents vocational evangelists like those at the meeting from being invited to preach in churches that employ it.
"When the pastor preaches on Sunday morning in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, do you think he's going to bring in this fire-breathing evangelist who wears a tie and black suit and have him stand up there and tell people that they are going to hell?" Michael Gott of Keller, Texas, asked rhetorically.

"Do you think he's going to change that whole user-friendly approach to have somebody like you or me tell people that they must recognize there's something wrong, and what's wrong must be changed, and the only one to change it is Jesus Christ.
...
We're not even within the system," Gott said. "It's not like [leaders] are rejecting evangelists, but the system has eliminated the role of the vocational evangelist. That is going to have to be changed by seminaries, by denominational leaders who challenge churches to use an evangelist.
These comments speak for themselves.

4. Concerns that puzzle me in the way that they are expressed:
"Southern Baptists neglected serious Christian education from the early 1960s, and that's when all the trouble started. From discipleship training we went to the amorphous youth groups, whose only real good was to keep kids happy until they graduated from high school and graduated from church. Now, you have a generation [of college students] who have come along and want something deeper and they have latched onto Calvinism" [emphasis added].

Poe said the "greatest missionary" for Calvinism in the local church is John Piper, a Reformed Baptist theologian, preacher and author who currently serves as pastor for preaching and vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Two of his most popular books are "Desiring God" and "Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions."

"He's effective because he's so passionate," Poe said. "He holds huge, stadium-type events that are rip-roaring. There's nobody else doing anything like that so he becomes [Calvinism's] expositor. But John Piper's version of Calvinism is not something John Calvin would espouse, or even that Charles Spurgeon [British reformed Baptist preacher] would espouse.

"Calvinism has an appeal because it tends to have an answer for everything -– you can explain everything [by saying] that God predestined it."
Is the rise of Calvinism really "trouble?" No one questions John Piper's passion. But to attribute his effectiveness to that one quality is naive at best. There are lots of passionate arminian preachers. I dare say that most if not all of those gathered for this meeting would be classified such. Could it be that Piper's effectiveness stems from his Christ-centeredness and biblical fidelity? To declare that Calvin and Spurgeon would not espouse what Piper teaches (on the doctrines of grace) is debatable, though not really that important.

To claim that Calvinism's appeal is its tendency to "have an answer for everything" borders on hubris. I don't know what type of "Calvinism" Poe has been observing but whatever it is, it is foreign to me. Furthermore, and more troublesome, if his assessment is accurate, then it is an indictment on the thousands and thousands of young leaders who are coming to embrace the doctrines of grace, suggesting that their motivation stems from wanting "to have an answer for everything" rather than wanting to know and believe whatever God has revealed in His Word.

44 comments:

Will Shin said...

Concerning Jerry Drace's lament about the Calvinistic young pastors who laughed at evangelism, I think what is needed is for Drace to first explain his definition of evangelism. Maybe, what the Calvinistic young pastors were laughing at was not biblical evangelism at all (e.g. Gospel sharing) but Southern Baptist evangelism (aka pragmatism) (e.g. block parties, bounce houses, free giveaways, etc.).

Double O Balloon said...

Tom,

Concerning #3 what exactly is the biblical model for vocational evangelists anyway? I see bi-vocational church planters and deacons that evangelize, but not vocational evangelist. I've been wondering about this recently and thought I would use this opportunity to ask.

GUNNY said...

I've always found it odd that the vocational evangelist prefers the congregation of the saints for his audience.

Shouldn't he desire to address non-believers instead?

Wouldn't he be better suited overseas supported by the IMB as the spreads the seeds of the gospel far & wide?

Timmy Brister said...

Tom,

I didn't come up with this astute observation (I think Kevin Hash said it), but I think this represents a clash between the revivalist and Reformed traditions in the SBC.

These itinerant evangelists need churches that believe in "revivalism" (which is different from revival). If churches are continuing to be reformed and return to regenerate church membership, then they will have less church invitations. In other words, there is more at stake than lamenting Calvinism. It could mean lamenting over an unfilled calendar schedule.

The revivalism in the SBC, especially from 1950's on, brought about an increase in SBC membership from 7 million in 1950 to 16 million in 2005. Yet, during this time we have also seen the SBC increasingly become an unregenerate denomination with over half of our membership never attending church or bearing any marks of true conversion.

If we are going to talk about lamenting, should we not lament over the evangelism we have espoused that reduces the gospel to praying a prayer or signing a card? Should we not lament over losing the gospel while gaining church members?

Talk about hubris, it is not troubling that, while we are in our woeful current state of affairs, we are holding conferences to criticize the evangelism and theology of someone outside the SBC? Who in the SBC has done more to ignite a fire around missions and evangelism than John Piper? Methinks that if we are going to gather together to express concerns over evangelism, then we should start by looking in the mirror, at the 10,500 churches who does not baptize one single person in any given year, at the practice of evangelism that "works", even without the evangel.

I, too, am interested in hearing more of the kind of Calvinism Poe has been witnessing. As far as "explaining everything," I think it can be said that those who come to embrace Calvinism are generally more theologically minded than the non-Calvinists. That is not to say they have all the answers, but that is to say they are looking for the answers and desiring to know what Scripture has said regarding salvation. While I think it is a caricature to label young Calvinists as "know it all's," I also think the alternative of avoiding theological and doctrinal development is just as dangerous.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Timmy,

You said; "I think it can be said that those who come to embrace Calvinism are generally more theologically minded than the non-Calvinists." Can you explain to me what you, and others on both sides of the debate, render a Calvinist, and a Non-Calvinist? I was at the Building Bridges conference and this is one item that never was defined.

I am trying to determine if a person that can defend 4-points in his/her theology would be considered a Calvinist.

Blessings,
Tim

Will said...

"Damnant quod non intellegunt."

They condemn what they do not understand.

Will
Cedar Hill Texas

Kevin said...

Timmy Brister has said something quite profound, something the evangelists at this meeting would do well to think through carefully: "If we are going to talk about lamenting, should we not lament over the evangelism we have espoused that reduces the gospel to praying a prayer or signing a card? Should we not lament over losing the gospel while gaining church members?" Southern Baptists have typically been more determined and passionate about evangelism than discipleship. I weep at the current state of moral ungodliness (e.g., not practicing Mt 18:15-20) and theological ignorance in the average SBC church. I suppose this ungodliness and ignorance has much to do with our approach to evangelism and discipleship. If we're going to remain a people of the Book, whether Calvinists or non-Calvinists, we've got some serious work to do on our approach to evangelism and discipleship, especially at the local church level. Anyway, well said Mr. Brister.

Kevin L. Howard, NeedNotFret.com

SF said...

"Now, you have a generation [of college students] who have come along and want something deeper and they have latched onto Calvinism"

What they want is Truth. They read Romans. They read Ephesians. They read the first 2 verses of Titus. They ask themselves "why isn't this being preached from the pulpit? Why in 18 years have I never heard these passages on 'predestination' preached".

It isn't that young generation is "Searching for something to latch on" per se. And that generation isn't just college aged. The college kids that I know who meet this description started asking questions in high school.

We had a little maverick band of young Christians (16-18) who meet to discuss the doctrines of grace every other week. They were each studying a different passage and would get together to share what they had learned.

Now, out of all of the students I've had in the last 3 years. Those that have adopted a Reformed theology, based upon their study of scripture, are evangelistic, genuine. By their fruit you shall know them.

GUNNY said...

Amen, Will.

"We mock what we don't understand."
-Austin Millbarge (Dan Aykroyd) in "Spies Like Us"

Lots of love to you from the DFW Metroplex in Texas.

ForHisSake said...

Happen to be reading Flavel this morning and wantefd to share some of his "Observations on Error"

“Observations on Error”

“Truth is a rock that the waves of error dash against, and ever return in froth and foam: Yea they foam out their own shame.” John Flavel – A Blow at the Root; or the Causes and Cure of Mental Error”

1) There are many sorts and kinds of knowledge. Some is human and some divine; some speculative, and some practical; some ingrafted as the notions of morality, and some acquired by painful search and study: but of all knowledge, there is none like that Divine and supernatural knowledge of saving truths revealed by Christ in the scriptures. Hence arise the different degrees both of the sinfulness and dangers or errors, those errors being always the worst, which are committed against the most important truths revealed in the gospel.

2) Error is binding upon the conscience as well as truth; and altogether as much, and sometimes more influential upon the affections and passions than truth is.

3) It is exceedingly difficult to get out of error, when once it is imbibed, and hath rooted itself by an open profession.

4) It deserves a remark, that men are not so circumspect and jealous of the corruption of their minds by errors, as they are of their bodies in times of disease; or their lives with respect to gross immoralities.

5) It is a great judgment of God to be given over to an erroneous mind.

6) Error being conscious to itself of its own weakness, and the strong assaults that will be made upon it, evermore labors to defend and secure itself under the wings of reason and scripture.

7) God, in all ages, in His tender care for His church and truth, hath still qualified and raised up His servants for the defense of His precious truths, against the errors and heresies that have successively assaulted them.

8) There is a remarkable connection between errors, on linking in and drawing another after it.

9) Nothing gives more countenance and increase to error than a weak or feeble defense of the truth against it.

10) Errors of judgment are not cured by compulsion and external force, but by rational conviction, and proper spiritual remedies.

11) Erroneous doctrines producing divisions and fierce contentions amongst Christians, prove fatal stumbling-blocks to the world, fix their prejudices, and obstruct their conversion to Christ.

Grace and Peace to You
D.L. Kane

stephen nobles said...

timmy brister said it right. the 9 million or so members the SBC has acquired since 1950 are questionable because our evangelism became "conversions" without discipleship, aka revivalism. which never works. also, brister hit the nail on the head by suggesting that many itinerant evangelists are worried not because of flawed theological movements in the SBC, but rather a shrinking calendar of dates to make money, aka job security.

Adam Winters said...

Bro. Ascol,
I believe you have misread Dr. Poe's point. My former professor was not, I believe, suggesting that Calvinism is part of "the trouble" that started when Baptists abandoned an intellectual approach to Christianity in favor of a programmatic emphasis.

I believe his intent was clear, though because of the way the article was worded, I can see how you might have missed it. The "trouble" was that Baptists abandoned discipleship training and robust theological reflection in favor of sentimental seeker-sensitivity that could only sustained youth up till high school graduation. Poe sees Calvinism as a popular solution (not the bane) for a generation of Baptists hungry for deep and satisfying theology. We may not like the expression "Calvinism has an answer for everything," but it is absolutely true that everything can be answered in the Calvinistic system with an appeal to God's providence.

Dr. Poe is no enemy of Calvinism, even if he might not call himself a 5-pointer. He is a friend of Baptist revival and higher thinking about faith. He did his Ph.D. on the English Puritans at Southern (where he later became professor). Having had many a time of godly fellowship with Dr. Poe, I can atest that he is nonetheless conerned over the growing acceptance of Calvinism. He is concerned that Baptists may try to make their theology one-note or reductionistic, yet he is no Arminian. He is the kind of man who embodies the spirit of bridge building which Dr. Dockery has been trying to create at Union for over a decade.

chadwick said...

Dr. Ascol,

I think the issue worth "lamenting" is Bobby Welch promoting Baptism BEFORE discipleship. This theological mentality (reflected from the BP article) trickles down from Welch's "Baptize a Million" Bus Tour and puts the cart before the horse! Our Lord Jesus, Himself, said to MAKE DISCIPLES and THEN BAPTIZE!

May we all seek to put the horse before the cart!

chadwick

Pastor Jim said...

Dr. Ascol,
Writing from the perspective of a non-5 point Calvinist, once again I see the problem facing those who wish to build bridges in the SBC. The problem lies not with the Calvinists (at least any that I know). Although I know many non-Calvinists, I have yet to meet a true Arminian in the SBC, so they (wherever they are) can't be the problem.

The problem lies with a small group of very vocal and vitriolic Anti-Calvinists. The Anti-Calvinists seem to share many characteristics with the worst type of Fundementalist, including mischaracterization, bunker building and the prolific use flame-throwing rhetoric. It is these people I see as the true hindrance to the Lord using the SBC for His glory and purposes.

Jim Drake

Tom said...

Pastor Jim:

Very good point. I think you are correct. Also, I should not have characterized those participants as passionate Arminians. What I truly was thinking when I wrote that they could be "classified as such" was that they were undoubtedly passionate (but obviously not Calvinistic). It is not fair to classify them as Arminian. Thought it was late and I was tired...mea culpa!

Double o,

Carey Kimbrell wrote a good article on this in the Founders Journal years ago. I don't have the exact reference and am unable to look it up at the moment, but it is availalble at www.founders.org

Adam:

I may have misready Dr. Poe at that point. From all I know of him, he is a very good guy. I would not want me observations to suggest that I think otherwise.

Thanks!

Chadwick and Timmy:

Good words!

Admin said...

How ironic that John Piper is singled out for criticism... his father and leading inspiration in his life was a Southern Baptist evangelist!

I'm not sure how they have decided Piper's theology would be rejected by either Spurgeon or Calvin since it's doubtful they've read much of either.

Certainly it's even more doubtful whether Calvin or Spurgeon would countenance their pulpit growlings as theologically sound either!

Piper is one of the leading voices for missions in this nation precisely thanks to his biblicism and zeal for the sovereign God of scripture!

How can evangelists bemoan their lack of opportunities to call sinners to repentance when they can't waste time learning the truth or speaking it about John Piper?

Chuck

ForHisSake said...

Chuck,

Sad, but not unpredictable. Let us not forget how the Baptist Union maligned Spurgeon--yet look how God used him in spite of it. I wouldnt lose any sleep over it. I doubt if Piper will either.

Blessing to You,
ForHisSake

Chris Jordan said...

Is it Calvinism they fear OR their own lack of influence over the past decade?

I appreciate vocational evangelists who come to spur on the congregation and present the true gospel to those who need to hear it. But I see nothing in Scripture that mandates the use of them in the local church.

Furthermore, the average vocational evangelist that I have encountered (though they are generally nice men with a good heart) has 5 "sugar-stick" sermons. These messages are full of emotion-filled illustrations and hope-giving “prosperity” not much different than listening to Tony Robbins or some other hype-driven secular speaker. You might as well have the Power Team instead. At least they are entertaining.

What I think the younger generation desires is a God who is BIGGER than they are. That is the ONE TRUE GOD, not some cosmic feel-good santa claus!

Instead of listening to vocational evangelists determine what they think the local church ought to believe and practice, I would rather pray that God be the ONE we would all listen! Let’s look to HIM to be the focus of every ministry!

ForHisSake said...

Great article by Piper: "Spurgeon - Preaching through adversity" 1995

http://www.founders.org/FJ23/article1.html

ForHisSake

Timmy Brister said...

Brother Tim,

To answer your question, I think there are ways of describing Calvinist and Calvinism, some which are not helpful, and others which are clarifying.

For instance, I think someone who is a four-point Calvinist is "Calvinistic" but probably would not consider himself a Calvinist. I do not see how a person who is less than four-points would, soteriologically speaking, be considered a Calvinist. Unconditional election and irresistible grace (effectual calling) go hand-in-hand (and total depravity and perseverance of the saints is assumed already to be affirmed).

The unhelpful labels come when people continually assert "five-point Calvinist" or "extreme" Calvinist for some who really (sincerely) believes in the doctrines of grace. A five-point Calvinist is a consistent Calvinist, but being consistent apparently for some qualifies you as being a "hyper-Calvinist."

R.C. Sproul tends to think that you are not a Calvinist if you do not believe in limited atonement (see his latest book The Truth of the Cross, pp.141-42. I am not ready to make that strong of a claim, though I think I understand his (and Luther's) reasoning. Obviously, limited atonement is the doctrine most people who are not a Calvinist have a problem with.

So, I think that you could call a four-point Calvinist "calvinistic" and a five-point Calvinist just a "Calvinist." If those terms were generally understood with consensus, then I think there would be less misunderstanding and more profitable discussion. Currently, the term Calvinist can have 12 different definitions for 10 Southern Baptists. :)

I think the greater definitional problem is with the non-Calvinist, because they are defining themselves by what they are not, thereby not positively making and soteriological affirmations. Typically, it is said, "I'm not a Calvinist or an Arminian. I'm a Baptist (or biblicist)." But that is not helpful either as Baptist is a different category altogether. So I would be interested in knowing where the "non-Calvinists" are in their soteriology, that is, with their affirmations and doctrinal beliefs. Up to this point, most of what we have heard is what they are against, or, what they do not believe.

I really believe that, as one has already stated, there are not that many Arminians in the SBC. There are, rather, many semi-Pelagians who don't realize it.

I don't know if that answers your question, but I do think it is an important one, given, that we will always be using terms and labels to identify beliefs, parties, etc. So if we are going to use them, then we need to use them accurately, historically, and faithfully, not trying to misrepresent anyone, whether they are a Calvinist, Arminian, or something else.

J.D. Rector said...

Tom and others:
There is the appearance that these "evangelists" feel their authority is being threatened by the Calvinists.

For the glory of God, can we as ministers, evangelists, missionaries, denominational workers, etc. get over our authority being threatened? Perhaps there is just an astronomical amount of pride in the body of Christ among the afore mentioned classification of people that hinders our effectiveness as a church and denomination. I am sharing as one who is in that classification. Why do we think we can manipulate the "hand of God"?
In reality some have tried to do so for a very long time, and those of us in the Reformed tradition are distressed at the results.

God give us strong, deep doctrine and faith in the supremacy of Holy God, not in our "well-tuned" altar-call manipulations!

J.D. Rector

Hal Poe said...

Tom,

Thank you for the opportunity to add to the conversation. A few days before their meeting, I was invited to provide some perspective for the vocational evangelists who met in Jackson at the invitation of Jerry Drace. I was honored to be invited. They were concerned to think through the present state of mass evangelism and to consider its future. They spent the first hour of their meeting reflecting upon abuses of the pulpit and the congregation by some evangelists that have brought dishonor to the ministry of vocational evangelism. In the last few days, I have seen some comments that question "vocational evangelism" as a biblical concept. One might just as well question the validity of "vocational pastors" and "vocational seminary professor." [I'm sure no one would question "vocational Christian college professors" :)] I am always deeply touched when Christians begin their exploration of God's will by a self-examination of their own flaws.

Some have also asked if the days of mass evangelism are gone. Definitely not. The public proclamation of the gospel always "works", because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. For two thousand years the public proclamation of the gospel has resulted in a harvest. It looks different in every place, time, and culture, but God has always used it from Peter on the Day of Pentecost to Francis preaching to the birds on the plazas of Italy and drawing a crowd to the Puritans "lecturing" in the town halls to Whitfield preaching in the open fields to Moody in the great urban halls to Billy Graham in stadiums. The public proclamation of the gospel always works. But so does the proclamation of the gospel in small groups and one-on-one. The task for ministry in our changing culture is to understand what it needs to look like now.

I did not know ahead of time who would be at the meeting. There are some evangelists I do not enjoy being with, but I can say the same thing about pastors and professors. I was delighted to see the people in the room. They were people who have been following their calling in evangelism for twenty-five years or more. Evangelism has a high attrition rate for the un-called in the Bible Belt. Frequently when people fail at one ministry, they decide to "try" evangelism for awhile. Too many of us have seen the results. Pastors are less aware, however, of the huge number of seminary graduates who leave the ministry after wrecking a church. My hazy memory seems to recollect a statistic that three years out of seminary, nearly half the people had left the ministry. It's a common problem, especially in a denomination in which it has not been uncommon for churches to send people to seminary in hopes that the seminary would "straighten them out."

This long ramble brings me to your concern about "when all the trouble started." The "trouble" is the abandonment of serious Christian education by the churches in the mid-1960s. It is the reason so few Christian college professors understand how to integrate their discipline with their faith. They simply do not have the understanding of their faith to do it. It's why I spend so much of my time working with professors across the disciplines who want to teach from a faith perspective.

At the meeting of the evangelists, I was asked why Calvinism had made such significant inroads in Southern Baptist life in recent years. I think it is impossible to understand the success of the movement without understanding the theological vacuum of the SBC. A generation has now come along that does not know the "glory days" or "the controversy." In the face of a difficult world, they want the tools to grapple with the difficult questions of life, and Reformed Theology offers an intellectual approach to faith.

You suggested that I am naive for thinking that John Piper's success as an advocate for Calvinism can be put down to his passion. I wish I were naive, but I am a crusty old survivor of politics and prison ministry before I ever experienced SBC politics. John's passion sets him apart. Like it or not, he is the old revival tradition in erudite garb. I knew John pleasantly, though he would have no reason to remember me, when I taught evangelism in Minnesota. I have heard him preach many times, and I have never heard him deliver a poor sermon (by any serious criteria). He is both creative and intelligent, but he is no more intelligent than Timothy George, Al Mohler, or Tom Ascol. It isn't that passion alone makes him attractive. The passion is the little bit extra that sets him apart and appeals to young people who want an intellectual approach, but with lots of heart.

As to John's brand of Calvinism being different from John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon, it's a truism. Calvin lived 500 years ago. Most of us do not recognize the extent to which we have imbibed of the revolution in worldview since Calvin's time. We don't recognize the shift in assumptions and context. I once led a preaching workshop for some pastors in Minnesota during which I remarked on the awesome and fearful responsibility of interpreting the Bible. One of the pastors perked up and said, "Oh, I never interpret the Bible. I just preach the truth." We do well to recall that Calvin was not a Calvinist. He was an Augustinian. Like Luther. Only the followers of Calvin and Luther made war against each other. Let us learn from their mistake lest Daddy step in and jerk a knot upside our heads.

Timmy Brister said...

Dr. Poe,

Thanks for taking the time to clarify and expound on the issue of evangelism and your thoughts on Piper's ministry. While I do not come to the same conclusions as you do, I appreciate your opinion on the matter.

Regarding evangelism, especially mass evangelism, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the "harvest" evangelism versus the missional model. In other words, do you believe that mass evangelism could be less fruitful or practiced since we are living in a post-Christian and increasingly secular world where the divide between church and culture is ever widening? Many in the younger generation are embracing a missional model over the attractional model, recognizing that evangelistic call of all believers to be Great Commission Christians and engage the lost through meaningful relationships and loving their neighbor.

Regarding Piper, I agree with you about the theological vacuum in the SBC, but I think it goes further. My generation have few heroes or men whose ministries they want to model in the SBC. In previous generations, younger generations of SBCers could look to W.A. Criswell, Homer Lindsey, or Adrian Rogers. Today we are looking to men like John Piper, John MacArthur, Alister Begg, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, and others (not in the SBC).

While Piper's intelligence and passion carry a gravitas that attract a generation looking for sincere, serious preaching, I think many would say that Piper is discipling a generation in God's truth by teaching and preaching God's Word in a breadth and depth not found in the SBC. I remember first hearing him in 2000 where he told a conference of 4,000 college students that he wanted to be considered as a spiritual father to us, and the love and appreciation for the man was quite tangible (and still is). Whether it is the IMB missionary in East Asia ignited for the glory of God among the peoples of the world, or the pastor in the pulpit wanting to practice "expository exultation", or the lay person finding greater satisfaction in knowing God, I think what you will hear is that Piper the single greatest influence (apart from God and Scripture) upon their lives.

In any case, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Tom said...

Hal:

Thanks clarifying your thoughts. I can appreciate vocational evangelists evaluating the concerns that were addressed in their meeting, as reported. And I also appreciate your contribution to the process.

I disagree with you on Piper. No doubt he is passionate but, as I indicated, there are other passionate preachers who simply do not have the impact that John Piper is having. Furthermore, if you take a survey of the most influential evangelical expositors of the last 20 years I would venture to guess that the great majority of them would be Calvnists, or at least strongly Calvinistic.

I also have a different take on when the trouble began in the SBC. By the 1960s we were already reaping the fruit of a shift from theological consensus to programmatic consensus. This shift began in the 20's and 30's and came to full flower in the 1950's. Pragmatism took root and opened the door for the kind of doctrinal deviancy that provoked the conservative resurgence. Once Southern Baptists started taking the Bible seriously again (I admit to great oversimplification here) it naturally follows that long-neglected doctrinal teachings, especially those that are part of our denominational heritage--would be rediscovered. In the providence of God, this rediscovery is taking place at the same time that other sectors of the evangelical world are seeing and proclaiming these same doctrines.

It may be that historians will look back on this time and describe it as a period of doctrinal reformation. Many of us are praying that it is also a precursor to revival--not the kind that is planned and promoted with special meetings, but the kind that is heaven-sent and transforms churches, communities and whole regions, sweeping large numbers of people into the kingdom.

Blessings,
tom

irreverend fox said...

the vocational evangelists in north America are now known as "church planters".

it is my understanding that in the NT there is no real distinction between the concept of "missionary" and "evangelist"...is that correct?

GeneMBridges said...

I am trying to determine if a person that can defend 4-points in his/her theology would be considered a Calvinist.
Tim,

"Calvinist" is a historical moniker. Traditionally, the only sort of "Calvinist" is a "five point" Calvinist. There are variations on the "L" and the order of decrees, but the moniker "Calvinist" applies to all those.

A "four-point" Calvinist is properly included under the name "Amyraldian." Amyraldianism can refer, in the broadest sense,to the specific Amyraldian version of atonement and the order of decrees that goes with it, or it can refer more generally to all those who hold to a position that does not affirm one of the historic variations on the "L," including those who hold to penal substitution but on a theory more closely resembling "general atonement." Amyraldians and Calvinists agree with each other over the other 4 points.

"3 pointers" and others should just plain stop trying to coopt the term "Calvinist" and invent their own. There is nothing to be ashamed of in doing so. It would greatly help.

Tom,

As to your "3" Concerns that sound like the greatest problem with the seeker-sensitive "system" is that it prevents vocational evangelists like those at the meeting from being invited to preach in churches that employ it.

Frankly, that may be true in OK, but I know of a church in Greensboro, NC that had no problem inviting Junior Hill there. He walked to the podium, opened his Bible, and literally gave an hour long invitation. That was the last straw for at least one family I know that hailed from that church. They are now in a Sovereign Grace / Reformed Baptist church, and others have followed them. In short, I should think the opposite is the case. The "Seeker Model" churches tend to be just as shallow on sound preaching and teaching in the pulpits as many SBC professional evangelists. That strikes
me as a good match.

I'd add here some more things. The now deceased pastor of my home church, Mark Corts, was before he passed away, asked by a gentleman who is now doing missions work in our area, about his beliefs. Mark said that he didn't like to use the particular words, but, he said, he would say he was "a five point Calvinist." Many folks don't know that. I figured it out without having to ask. Mark ran with some of the people now pastoring these large "seeker friendly" churches. Many of them had no clue what he believed. Many in his church did not either, and today that church has moved in the "Seeker friendly" direction. In fact, just tonight I spoke at length with a man @ my gym who lamented that fact. Yet this same church hosts the state evangelism conference annually, and two years ago, John Piper preached there! This is all to say that I'm not so sure some of these evangelists really know much about Calvinism or the "Seeker-sensitive" system - much less people in the pews. Mark was a faithful expositor of God's Word - a progressive dispy, but he's with the Lord now and has had that corrected. ;)

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

As to John's brand of Calvinism being different from John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon, it's a truism.

I would point out that the Reformed tradition is rather wide, so, certainly there were variations within it from the beginning. Calvin was a second generation Reformer. Zwingli was the first. Bullinger, Zanchius, Witsius, Knox, F. Turretin and many others followed.

The Continental tradition varied from the English and Scottish traditions as well, and each made its own contributions. The French tradition was somewhat unique, eventually resulting in theology at Samur, which has in turn changed in the modern period, with respect to the views of the French Reformed Churches on that period.

Spurgeon, of course, hailed from the English tradition, which, with respect to Baptistery traces itself to the early 17th century. Piper's theology, as I understand it, generally varies with Spurgeon's over two issues only: his stance on adult church membership and baptism, and he is amenable to New Covenant Theology, whereas Spurgeon was a standard Covenantalist. So, on that model, John MacArthur, whom you seem to have ignored, as he is certainly a very outspoken Calvinist, is at variance with them both, because Dr. MacArthur is a progressive dispensationalist like Dr. Corts was. However, "Calvinism" takes its reference from the doctrines of grace, not one's stance on the Mosaic Law's use in the New Covenant, eschatology, etc. Indeed, Paedobaptism is not even a "Reformed" distinctive, since Catholics and others practice it, but that's another story.

Perhaps Dr. Piper is so popular among Baptists is not due to his "passion," as much as the fact that Baptists in the last century drifted from their historical theological roots in the Particular Baptist tradition. Evangelical Presby's, because of their commitment to the WCF, did not. Ergo, of course Piper is popular among Baptists - because there are so few at this time. However, I know of some coming down the pipeline that I think are likely to change that in the future.

But "Calvin" has never been the spokesman for "Calvinism." Further, historical theologians freely divide the period of the Reformation from the period Middle and High Protestant Orthodoxy. We recognize that "Calvinism" has been refined. That's the nature of historical theology. So what.

We do well to recall that Calvin was not a Calvinist.

That depends on what one means. There are at least 4 perspectives on Calvin's Calvinism according to men like Richard Muller, Carl Trueman, and R.Scott Clark. Personally, I prefer Bucer to Calvin, and Bucer was a first generation Reformer.

Only the followers of Calvin and Luther made war against each other.

To a certain extent this is a product of Magisterial Europe and the age in which they lived.

Yes, let's learn from their mistake. The Lutheran mistake was in calling on doctrines fundamental, while those in the Reformed churches did not. Rather, our forefathers chose to follow a middling path, differentiating between kinds and types of error. The Reformed tradition did try to make reproachment with respect to the key issues surrounding the differences, matters of sacramentology and Christology. They were refused. I think we can learn from their mistakes by imitating the way the Reformed churches kept peace between the difference regional strands and theologies. I think that now that the BFM2K is in place, the SBC can,indeed learn from that.

I also think we should learn from the history of Arminianism. It did not take long for it to ally itself with Socinianism. Socinianism nearly killed the General Baptists.

I also think we should acknowledge the danger hyper-Calvinism presents. However, we should also recognize that hyperism and Arminianism (and all theologies that include Libertarian Freedom within it) turn on the same principles. Further, it is via the road of Arminianism that declension and eventually liberalism will creep into a church, association, or meta-association. This is the lesson of history, going back to the days of Jacob Vernet in Geneva.

Jason said...

Chadwick,

You said, "I think the issue worth "lamenting" is Bobby Welch promoting Baptism BEFORE discipleship. This theological mentality (reflected from the BP article) trickles down from Welch's "Baptize a Million" Bus Tour and puts the cart before the horse! Our Lord Jesus, Himself, said to MAKE DISCIPLES and THEN BAPTIZE!"

Thank you for your thoughts and comments. I think we need to be careful to examine the issue of discipleship before lamenting that Bobby Welch and others are putting "the cart before the horse." A close examination of the Great Commission text found in Matt 28:16-20 reveals one imperative in the original Greek text: "Make disciples." Jesus does not lay out the process to make disciples and THEN baptize them. The process of making disciples involves: (1)going (evangelism), (2)baptizing (conversion), and (3)teaching (this is usually the only part of the process that is referred to as "discipleship" today).

This process laid out by our Lord is the pattern of discipleship that is evident all throughout the book of Acts.

Acts 2:41ff - After Peter's sermon at Pentecost, the Bible says that "those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." THEN, in verse 42: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers..."

Acts 8:12ff: As Philip preached to Simon the Magician and those who were with him: "But WHEN THEY BELIEVED Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, THEY WERE BAPTIZED, both men and women."

Acts 8:36-38: Philip shares the good news about Jesus and then baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch.

Acts 9:18ff: Saul regained his sight and was baptized, and then he stayed with the disciples at Damascus for "some days", most likely being strengthened, encouraged, and taught by them.

Acts 10:44-48: Peter preaches the gospel to Cornelius and his household and they are baptized. They then ask him to remain for some days. Again, a time of teaching most likely took place during those days.

Acts 16:15: Paul shared the gospel with Lydia and her household. They believed and were baptized and they urged Paul to stay with them.

Acts 16:32-33: Paul and Silas preached to the Philippian jailer. Verse 33 says that "he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized AT ONCE, he and all his family."

I hope this is sufficient to show that the New Testament process for making disciples is to (1)Go, (2)Baptize, and (3)Teach. Discipleship involves all three components. If we are lacking in any area, then we are not promoting biblical discipleship.

Therefore, I don't think that we should assert that Bobby Welch and others promote "baptism before discipleship." Baptism, in fact, is a part of discipleship. However, as I said earlier, we cannot focus on one of these areas of discipleship to the detriment of the others. We must strike a balance.

May we all, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists, unite under the banner of Christ and work together to fulfill the Great Commission task of making disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching.

God bless you all as you fulfill the Great Commission!

Jason said...

Thank you so much for clearing the air on this. It is just upsetting that columns containing such misinformation and ignorance make it on the denominational news website. The comments were clearly polemical, which is fine, but only if the BP is interested in presenting opposing viewpoints. Let us pray that our brothers will begin to realize that we ultimately desire the same end - the salvation of souls through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Rhett said...

Great post Tom. Thanks for pointing out this BP article.

Do you know why this Calvinistic SBC preacher won't be inviting some of these "evangelists" to preach (when I'm a pastor)?

Please see:

http://rhett-the-baptist.blogspot.com/2007/12/evangelists-fools-for-christ.html

Called Out One 2 said...

I know that I am risk exposing my biblical ignorance right now, but I do not find the office of “Vocational Evangelist” in scripture not even the pattern of such “office”. I’m sure we can all agree “Church Planter” is there in pattern, but not a “Staff Evangelist” as I have also heard it referred to. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim 4:1-5 to preach the Word and do the work of an evangelist. Evangelism is to be an everyday, every believer process, not the “I’ll come preach at your church for a week etc..”. There is nothing more disheartening and I not can say this is the case of all “Vocational Evangelist” to see watered down crossless, and many times a so diluted gospel, that in reality the gospel is no longer there in the presentation given by “the evangelist”. Only believe they say and more times than not neglect the call of “repentance and believe” as given by our Lord. That is the problem that I as a Baptist Laymen who also is a Calvinist and others whom I know have with what may be called evangelism. No, I don’t laugh at such, but lament heavily. I do not see Calvinism as a threat to biblical evangelism, but it is a threat to “pragmatic evangelism” which is false evangelism.

chadwick said...

Jason,

Thank you for the thorough lesson on the Great Commission. You stated the first step in the Great Commission is GOING (Evangelism). Jason, you need to explain your definition of “going” (evangelism). What does Biblical evangelism consist of?

Since you seek to split hairs, let me attempt to split a few. :)

Discipleship IS Evangelism! What consists of the “going?”

Have you ever witnessed the prominent SBC vocational evangelists’ method in evangelism? They are truly putting the “cart before the horse.” Let me show you via the Holy Scriptures . . .

Notice that Peter’s “going” consisted of expounding the Holy Scriptures, in which he was teaching his hearers doctrine.

In my opinion, you did not go back far enough in Acts to begin your hairsplitting. If we back up a few verses, notice what Peter said to those who were under conviction:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.(Acts 2:38)

Peter did not give an “altar call” as we know it; he didn’t tell the people to close their eyes, raise their hands, and repeat the “sinner’s prayer” after him . . . NO! The Holy Spirit convicted some of the people and they went to Peter and the apostles after Peter’s sermon. The convicted sinners didn’t know what to do.
According to the Holy Writ, Peter taught the people the doctrine. What was Peter’s discipleship truth to those seeking sinners? Firstly, he told them to repent of their sins.

This, Jason, is where the contemporary SBC vocational evangelists “put the cart before the horse.” These “cheap-jack” evangelists (Arthur Pink’s description) tell people to say the “sinner’s prayer" (They leave out the grand doctrine of repentance from sin). According to the majority of evangelistic efforts I have witnessed by “ vocational evangelists,” they tell those who have said the “sinner’s prayer” that they have been saved . . . and then tell all who have said the “sinner’s prayer” that they need to be baptized.

With that said, Jason, these men are, indeed, “putting the cart before the horse” by not telling the people to repent of their sins. When a person repents of his/her sins (not say the sinner's prayer), then he/she should be baptized.

chadwick

refbaptdude said...

Quote: Steve Rice, director of discipleship and assimilation at the KBC, “One of the startling things we found is that 24 percent of Kentucky Southern Baptists believe we may be able to earn our salvation,”

“Another doctrinal surprise was that 38 percent believe Jesus may have committed sins during his time on earth,” he said. “Sixty-four percent of Kentucky Southern Baptists believe that we may need to continually work toward our salvation or risk losing it. We’ve just not done a great job in teaching that key doctrine of our faith, eternal security.”

This is the result you get when you do the kind of evangelism that has taken place in SBC life for the past 50 years.

Read more: http://reformedbaptistfellowship.wordpress.com

Steve

Jason said...

Chadwick,

Thank you for your reply. I apologize if you felt that I was splitting hairs. I only meant to encourage us all that we should not rush to judgments of our co-laborers for Christ.

I too see many problems with the unregenerate membership of the majority of our SBC churches. In fact, I preached a sermon two weeks ago in which I spent quite a bit of time showing that the focus of the Great Commission is not to make "decisions", but to make disciples. I also adamantly agree that we should not convey the message that just because someone walks the aisle, prays the "sinner's prayer", and is baptized, they are then saved. I also firmly believe that biblical evangelism involves proclaiming the whole gospel, including repentance. Those who know me well know that this is one of my strongest personal convictions.

With all of that being said, that is not necessarily the point I was trying to make in my original comment. My point was not so much regarding the vocational evangelists, but the fact that we should not be so quick to rush to judgment of our denominational leaders such as Bobby Welch. I don't see a problem with setting lofty goals in order to motivate our churches to proclaim the whole gospel. If we aim for nothing, that's most likely what we'll reach. I have no doubt that there have been many unsaved people who have been baptized in SBC churches as a result of the baptism emphasis. We cannot judge the heart. (Even Judas was one of Christ's twelve disciples, yet Christ declared him as being a devil.) But, I also have no doubt that many folks have been truly saved as a result of the baptism emphasis, and for that, I praise God! Ultimately, what was the purpose of the baptism emphasis? Baptism is an outward display of an inward change of the heart, so the goal in seeing 1 million baptized is that we wanted to see 1 million saved. I don't believe either of us would have a problem with that.

In the end, we must all take some of the blame for the unregenerate membership in our churches. But, we must all move past pointing fingers and work to reverse this trend. We do that by going and proclaiming the biblical gospel of faith and repentance, baptizing those who repent, and teaching them to observe all that our Lord has commanded us.

Thank you again for your response, and I pray that we'll both be encouraged and edified as a result of this discussion.

In Christ,
Jason

John O said...

Something related to this I'd like to see comments on is the SBC standard "eavangelism" program called FAITH.

I have only looked at it briefly, but it struck me as seriously (and dangerously) truncated, and it seems tailor made to get a person to say a sinners prayer. It extremely short on grace, and long on what the sinner must do.

Anyway, given the current discussion of Calvninism within the SBC, and unregenerate membership, etc., I'm wondering if you all think that programs like FAITH, and even these vocational evangelists, though well intentioned, actually facilitate unregenerate membership. And, if SBC Calvinists critique such methods, what are they offering as alternatives? It is the second point of alternatives that I think the non-Calvinists are not hearing (either due to blatantly disregarding anything that Calvinists say, or because some Calvinists are long on criticism and short on solutions). Anyway, comments/thoughts appreciated.

In Christ,

John
http://www.geocities.com/johnandursula

Strong Tower said...

I find it curious that Paul never once mentions baptism in his Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus, and that his sole emphasis is on doctrine followed by practice and baptism is practice. Could it be that it is because Paul said: "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Do you think that maybe its because the Great commission assumes evangelism in the context of teaching (preaching); that the doing, which includes baptism flows from that. Perhaps baptism does not symbolize conversion, but Christ and him crucified and resurrected.

The assumption is made that those baptized did not have sufficient understanding to receive baptism, and that is a leap. Many of these, as with Paul, were schooled in Scripture before ever hearing its clarification. Setting right the revelation was not as great a task as it is with many today who have no understanding of the Text. Nonetheless, the conclusion of Scripture is that they had understanding first, then were baptized.

It is interesting too, that Jesus himself never baptized, isn't it? And, I would challenge the Baptist understanding of baptism as in anyway having anything to do with the candidate, but rather to do with the finished work of Christ, and that alone. To most SBC'ers baptism is their effort, what they have done, and what they will do, rather than of Christ's passive and active submission to the Father's will on our behalf. We miss the sense in which baptism refers not to the dunking of an individual, but to his submersion by another, and his remaining submerged. The paradigm of man's effort over against the paradigm of Christ's monergistic work on man's behalf is really the dividing line between those who believe that man has a part in his own salvation and those who truly believe that it is by grace, fully the work of One outside ourselves.

My suggestion is that if one who attended the conference referenced in the BP article doesn't like the way the BP nuanced the coverage to make it appear as an anti-Calvinist gathering, that he would move, as suggested by another, to counter that perception, by insisting that the BP allow for point counter point that fairly addresses the issues. There is no mistaking that the article made it appear that Calvinism is a disease to be gotten rid of, and if that is not the case, then a "friendly" non-Calvinist openness would go far in correcting the propaganda. An effective propaganda at that: "Poe sees Calvinism as a popular solution (not the bane) for a generation of Baptists hungry for deep and satisfying theology." It is only a "popular solution"? Just another fad like the seeker friendly model? What is it about that side that seems to take Calvinistic thought to be a populist movement without serious Biblical merit and thinks of itself as having the right answer? Do they forget, or have they ever known the roots of the SBC?

Tom is quite right. The declension of the SBC goes much further back than the 60's. And I would push it before the turn of the century. And thank you Gene for your, as always, erudite explanations.

I hold that the L is the structural beam of the whole, for it speaks of God's immutability. And changing it or discounting it, destroys his image and brings the whole crashing down. This limiting of the foreknowledge of God was well reflected by the Molinist at the BB conference. If there ever was an enemy of the orthodox faith in the SBC, it is this demolition of the nature of God by the non-Calvinist side.

Thanks Timothy, because you nailed it. The anti-Calvinists are hiding behind labels and will not put their doctrine on the table for fair examination. And even when they are obvious, they equivocate. Hurling labels filled with all manners of misdefinition, caricatures, and enuendo seems to be the modus operandi of the Calvinist opposition. But, it is not fair, they say, to be labeled by any name and so be pigeon-holed. Doctrinal unclearness is their stronghold, so they believe.

"Having had many a time of godly fellowship with Dr. Poe, I can atest that he is nonetheless concerned over the growing acceptance of Calvinism."

Why concern, if it is truth, if it is not a threat to the establishment, if it is not a disease? And even if it is the truth, or a truth, does this mean that the prevailing doctrine of the SBC is not durable, and able to stand against error? Is it fear of being moved as if the SBC house were built on sand, and an acknowledgement that it does not stand upon the sure foundation?

In reading the article there is no mistaking the caricature painted of Calvinism is as disease, and if a man is being a fair man, having allowed himself to be portrayed as an enemy of Calvinists, does not that man have an obligation to set the record straight with the readers?

This is akin to Page saying that he is not an enemy of Calvinists, yet he has not retracted his statements in his book, nor has he apologized, nor returned the profits he realized from it as ill-gotten. If indeed they were gotten by the conveyance of lies even out of ignorance and now realizing his error, would it not be righteous to do so? Likewise, shouldn't a man who has been made by association an enemy of Calvinists clarify?

Traditionalism and establishmentarianism are formidable foes. While it may be true that the numbers of the "defenders of true SBCism" are small, we need to keep in mind that the typical person in the pew has been created by these personages over the past few generations. The make up a ready majority. "So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!" The SBC is dry timber, diseased like the forests of the West, long left unattended, ready for the season of flame.

Calvinists have been called the radical within, when in reality, they are the survivors of healthy faith. Put in its proper perspective, the resurgence of Calvinistm in the SBC is a return to its roots, and as was characterized, like the result of the scratching of the dry earth and sprinkling of conservative rain of the "controversy" which has caused it to spring to life again.

"R.C. Sproul tends to think that you are not a Calvinist if you do not believe in limited atonement (see his latest book The Truth of the Cross, pp.141-42. I am not ready to make that strong of a claim, though I think I understand his (and Luther's) reasoning. Obviously, limited atonement is the doctrine most people who are not a Calvinist have a problem with."

God love you Tim. Though I have gone too long already, let me repeat. Discounting the foreknowledge of God leads to only one conclusion: that God is not God. That God does not know the limits of his own grace is the central feature of all those who oppose the Calvinistic resurgence. Why? To make God to be the unknowing one is beyond imagination, Isaiah calls it idolatry. Does he, or does he not know those who will believe? Or is he deaf, dumb and blind like idols made in the image of man? Pivotal, because, this divides us from the world who believes they can hide what they will do from the God who sees all according to the council of his own will and not theirs.

I had a deacon of thirty years say that predestination was not taught in Scripture. In the SBC for fifty years, a Deacon for thirty, he did not know such a primary fundamental.

It was mentioned that: "believe Jesus may have committed sins during his time on earth," and why should that surprise us. The Spring 2006 Lifeway teen study guide taught Jesus could have. Is this too far removed from the subject at hand? Generations have not just been dumbed down, but actually have been taught according to one strain of theology and they do not even know it. They as "Biblicists" have been taught not to label themselves. Lifeway offers itself as doctrinally neutral, though it is not in the least. When asked to characterize their beliefs, those I know will not do so, because to do so makes them take a stand. But, little do they know that by refusing to stand for anything they fall for just about anything. When asked to give their testimony, not one out of dozens gave testimony to Christ. It was universally, what they had done to be saved. And, I am talking women and men 70 years of age supposedly saved at seven. How do you begin to tell some one who thinks they were saved at seven of the God of the Bible when they have been taught for most of their lives what is not true? That is the true shame; that this deacon who is approaching death, has never come to know the God of Scripture according to Truth and responds with the offense of a cultist when confronted with Truth!

It is the cavalier attitude that I find most disgusting; that it is a surface problem, just polity and doctrinal disagreement, and not the very heart of our Faith, to KNOW HIM in whom we have believed; to treat this great calamity as slight with personal offense and not to treat it as if it were our very life to know Truth.

Some have said it is a terrible thing for the watching world to see. To the contrary, that we should fight for what is Truth is the very good witness that the world waits and needs to see. For why should they follow the mere opinions of men, of evangelists who say they know the Way, when it is just one of many.

Tom said...

When I listen to John Piper the thing I notice about him, is that his sermons are centered on God. I believe this is the cause of his great passion and it is also the reason for his success. Others see his genuineness and are attracted to it.
He doesn't do this at the expence of compromising the Gospel either. He can be convicting, at times.
I don't always agree with him, but I have a lot of respect for him.
I can also say that if I lived with in 30 miles of his Church he would be my pastor.

leslie said...

i hope you've passed this onto the BP

m b redmond said...

I don't laugh at evangelism...although bring a friend day is pretty darn funny. What I do laugh at is 15 sbc evangelists getting this much press.

pastorleap said...

Tom,

Thanks for your bold coverage of this issue. I have posted about my personal experience over at my blog and I think it would resonate with many pastors. I wonder if many Calvinistic pastors (or non-calvinistic for that matter) have more of a problem with various aspects of revivalistic methodologies than they do a resistance to evangelism or (genuine) revival?

pastorleap said...

BTW...
For anyone interested in reading my personal take, it can be found at pastorleap.wordpress.com.

It was lengthy and I didn't think it fair to take up so much of Tom's blog space with it.

TL

jabodaddy said...

Referring to young peoples' desires toward Calvinism is a touchy subject for me. I experienced it fourteen years ago. Let me share with you, and you tell me why I was drawn.

I grew up in the SBC. I was saved at age 9 by the grace of God through faith in Christ as my saviour. I grew up in a dysfunctional family, which my father was my main discipler and my Granny (his mom) was my example. I thought I knew the scriptures pretty well when I went away to college. I joined Campus Crusade for Christ and had revival in my heart for desiring the Lord and the Kingdom. I attended an SBC church regularly while at school. Then in 1994 I went on an engineering co-op assignment for a year in eastern Mississippi. I attended a SBC there, and here's where the story gets interesting.

The church was quite large, and the College & Singles class was more than 50 with about 30-35 regular attenders. Although things at church were good, that's not where the desire to learn really showed up. A Bible Study with many of the SS members and local college students and singles met in one of the homes with a weekly attendance of more than 30. People were packed in everywhere! The topic of study for the year I was there -- Romans! Talk about some tough conversations! The major thing that sticks out in my mind, you ask? The consensus of the group was, "Why haven't we ever heard our pastors teach us this stuff?" That's when I saw that I wasn't alone. There was a hunger to learn about the true living God and ALL his ways -- not just the fact that God loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life, now here's the catch kind of thing.

When I returned to college, I was interested to attend a weekly Bible Study my best friend had been attending by the pastor of the local PCA church plant. WOW! I was floored by the level of teaching. I was amazed by the love, grace, and humbleness exhibited by the pastor and the fmaily who hosted the study in their house. I started attending his church, and I found out that I had been missing out on really hearing the depth of God's Word taught for the majority of my life. Although the church was small, college kids flocked to the church on Sunday -- many times outnumbering the local body membership -- and to the Bible Study through the week. It was the precursor to Reformed University Fellowship on that campus. Joey Stewart and that fellowship of believers in Cookeville, TN was a HUGE blessing to me and my wife.

God really changed my heart. My worldview was radically changed, and his grace in my life so transformed my thoughts that I was able to escape the bondage of moral legalism I had been inundated with for so long. My roommate and I would stay awake for hours at night talking across the hall, pouring over the doctrines of grace. We were radically changed.

Over the past few years, I've been introduced to the writings of John Piper by my last pastor in SC. I'm awed by the passion he has for God's glory, building the kingdom through missions, for the believer fully experiencing the joy of his/her salvation, and for mortification of sin in the body of believers. I think his passion for God's glory is what drives those things. That's what attracts young people. That's what Jesus modeled for us in the Lord's prayer, "...Father...hallowed be your name" God's glory is put above all else. Anything less is sin.

On a small side note regarding Calvin and Calvinism, isn't it interesting that in his institutes, Calvin put predestination under theology instead of soteriology? I wonder what he would say to those of us today using his name as a moniker? Didn't Paul say something about that to the churches at Corinth regarding baptism and essentially claiming the Pauline moniker?

Soli Deo Gloria

Centers of Faith Hope and Love said...

I am a Southern Baptist Evangelist. God called me to be an Evangelist. The Bible says that Evangelists were given as a blessing to the church and I can tell you that any church that does not use the Evangelist is missing a blessing.
On the issue of money and calendar filling. The evangelist in Southern Baptist life is the only full time position that does not have a salary tied to it. We preach on streets, in foreign countries, anywhere that we are given the opportunity to help the local church because we understand that it is the local churches function to disciple new christians. Yes, every evangelist is worried about keeping a full schedule, just like everyone of you think about how you will feed your family, cloth your family, pay for school, medical bills, etc. I was called to be a full time evangelist but the churches today have decided to stop using evangelists. What if the church decided to stop using God called Pastors? What if they just wanted to have social directors instead?

I believe that the Evangelist is the most misunderstood, misused and abused gift that God has given to the church. It breaks my heart that pastors today in all of their intellgence to protect the church have broken God's plan to win souls. Sure the Evangelist is gifted to get people down the isle, make a decision and fill out a card, but that card is filled out for a reason and that reason is for discipleship. If anything has broken the Southern Baptist Church it is the absuridity that we are calling discipleship today. If you want strong church members start discipling them. That's what we do here in Central America.
Yes, I am an evangelist, a full time evangelist, whose was called of God and whose callendar has been empty on an almost constant basis since 1994. Since the uprising of pastors against the use of Evangelist in the United States, I found a place where people, pastors and churches still listened to the gospel message. I learned a new language, and I moved to Honduras and because of our work here over 10,000 people have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. We preach on the streets, in the Barrio's and the Getto's, in churches and in parks, we go to places where the U.S. Embassy warns American Citizens not to go. I like many evangelists I know have gone without many material possessions, driven cars that are 20 years old and it was not because they were priceless antiques. Our children have gone without food, and the education that we would like to give them, but I do believe this... there will be a day of Judgement and I will be able to stand and testify that even in the rejection by the local church and her pastors, I stood firm in the call that God called me to and somehow somewhere God will judge those who refused his word and His gift to the local church, who refused to use the evangelist, who starved him out, who cursed and belittled his ministry. On that day, I will stand with some of the dearest men that I know as witnesses that we were willing, ready and able to help the local church but we were stopped at the door by pastors and committees, who were convinced that God could not possibly know what he was doing in calling these guys to the ministry.
I know this started out about calvanism and all I've to say is this, when any man, preacher or layman is more interested in winning men to calvanism rather than to a saving faith in Jesus Christ then he is wrong.
Also history has seemed to prove that when we go off on these tangents either to Arminian or Calvanism we end up somewhere where we don't want to go. With Arminianism it usually ends in Universalism, and with Calvanism it is with legalism.
I am coming to believe that most of our church members are universalists and many will disagree, but go to any funeral home, where someone who has died, who lived a questionable life, who never came to church, he wasn't as bad as he could have been but... Let people find out you are a preacher and people will come up to you and say, "preacher, I just can't believe ole bubba is gone, you know bubba never came to church, he didn't read his Bible, but Bubba was as gooda ole boy as you would ever wana meet, preacher don't you think everything's gonna be alright with Bubba." That is univeralism talking.. and that is when I want to scream to the top of my lungs, NO, everything is not ok with Bubba, Bubba is in hell now because he refused to accept Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of his life.

I said more than I needed to, and probably stayed longer than my welcome and most are probably wondering "What kinda idiot are you anyway?" To that respond... a God called evangelist, saved by faith in Jesus Christ kinda idiot! To which some will reply... "Amen"