Friday, February 22, 2008

Prime Time America interview, and what all the attention on Calvinism indicates

Moody Radio's Prime Time America is scheduled to broadcast a story today for which I was interviewed. I don't know when the segment will air but the show starts at 5PM Eastern time. It is about (what else?) the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC. Phil Fleischman did a great job with the interview and indicated that he also interviewed Paige Patterson for the story. In addition to being heard on Moody stations it will be available on their website and will be archived after the broadcast.

All of the interest in this subject is good for a variety of reasons. First, it is evidence that a doctrinal renewal is taking place within the SBC. That has been obvious to some of us for years, but it has been harder to convince others. Some simply haven't been too observant, but others, I think, just don't want to face up to the reality of what it taking place, largely out of fear that is based on misunderstanding or at least incomplete understanding. If I believed some of the popular caricatures about Calvinism and Calvinists then I, too, would be afraid of a so-called "Calvinistic resurgence." I should also add that if some of the worst examples of those who call themselves Calvinists are representative of the resurgence, then I would also be fearful of it. But the caricatures are simply that and the radical extremists may make a lot of noise but are very small in number and do not represent the movement.

A second reason this attention is a good thing is that it is provoking some serious investigation into what is going on. Collin Hansen, who wrote the famous, "Young, Reformed, Restless" cover story for Christianity Today last year, has a full length book on the resurgence coming out in early April. I have read the manuscript and found it very helpful in putting human faces on the resurgence. Also, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary's journal, Theology for Ministry, plans to have an article on this in the upcoming May issue. The more this movement is investigated, the more the caricatures will be exposed and the truth will be brought to light. That is not to suggest that there are no negative realities within the movement. There are, and where they exist, they will be brought to light as well. Anyone who is familiar with the history of reformation and revival knows well that the devil always keeps pace with what the Lord does in seasons of renewal. What is happening today is no exception and those of us who count ourselves a part of this movement should not resist the kind of honest critique that others might make of us. In fact, we need it so that we can be helped to see what we otherwise might overlook or ignore.

A third reason that I believe this kind of attention is a good thing is that it will cause some people to take a fresh look at things the Bible teaches. This is always a valuable exercise. Too often we become perfunctory in our Bible reading. Anything that awakens us to reexamine Scripture with greater care will serve us well.

I have to confess some aversion to being asked about Calvinism in the SBC. By trying to answer some of the questions that come my way I find that some people think that this is all that I care about, or what I am most passionate about. That is simply not true. As I stated to some friends recently, my fear is not the the SBC is not Calvinistic enough, but that it is not Christian enough. My understanding of what is happening is this: the revival of biblical Christianity within the SBC is provoking a resurgence of the doctrines of grace. There are many who are genuinely concerned about the former who are not "five-point-Calvinists," and that doesn't bother me at all. What I have discovered is that brothers and sisters in that camp are not fearful about the "resurgence of Calvinism," either. That kind of mutual respect and common commitment provides the groundwork for genuine unity and healthy cooperation. I am greatly encouraged to see it happening on an ever-increasing scale.


Fred said...

I wish I could be as optimistic as you Tom. But when I read what Nelson Price has written
I can't help but think that the misrepresentations of Calvinism will continue to grow louder.

mike rucker said...
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DoGLover said...

Tom, I appreciate your buoyancy but I wonder: How many success stories do you know of in which a pastor was able to revive or reform a church that showed no desire for it? What did they do that God blessed? Thanks.

Gordan Runyan said...

Dr. Ascol,

Blasphemy remains blasphemy even if you put a smiley face after it.

Begging you please to remove the second comment here.

Rhett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
G. Alford said...


I have read and re-read your comment several times and I am having a hard understanding just what it is that you are trying to say...

So by your statements “did God intentionally make finding ultimate answers akin to nailing jello to a wall?”...and “calvinism is no better - and no worse - than arminianism. and vice versa. God is no more sovereign than the free will man exercises. and vice versa.” are you saying that “Truth Cannot be known”? or perhaps “Truth does not even matter?” .

If Truth cannot be known... and there are no absolutes, then why bother with this whole religion thing? If this is true, and truth cannot be known, then the Bible is just a collection of various men's opinions and of no more value than the “Dear Ann” column of local paper.

If truth does not matter... and all opinions are of equal value, including the opinions of those men who wrote the Bible, then again why bother with this whole religion thing? If this is true, and truth does not matter, then the Bible does not matter and of no more value than the Book of Mormon.

Perhaps I have drunk to deeply from the well of western logic, which is founded upon the (ether/or) argument, and therefore I cannot begin to understand the eastern philosophy you speak of, which is founded upon the (both/and) argument. Alas, I am blinded by light.

Grace Always,

SS&SG said...

Be optimistic. The reason why is this: the more the misrepresentations flow, the more calvinism is talked about. The more it is talked about the more people will check the facts and at least some will see the truthfulness of calvinism.
I am having a little difficult time following what you are trying to say.It seems that you want to say that both arminianism and calvinism are both wrong. If that is what you believe, fair enough. But notice that this is merely an assertion. I find no reason to agree with this. I don't think you do either.
At some point in your writing you seem to claim that the truth is that there is no True Vs False. Now I might have misinterpreted you. I am sorry if I did. But if that is what you meant then you must recognize that that is a contradiction. Thus your viewpoint really has no meaning whatsoever. You might as well try to convince me that there are round squares.

Tom said...


I have been out and just now checked the comments to find the irrational rant by Mike. I concur with you, and have deleted it.


I understand your frustration--I really do. My hope is not an optimism based on naivete. The kinds of articles like you cite are being exposed more and more for what they are--half truths at best or outright distortions at worst. Anyone with a real interest in understanding and an internet access can debunk those kinds of things very easily today. There will still be misrepresentations. Some of them will be made very prominently. But God's truth is immortal and will win out.


There are many such churches--not as many as we would like, but many. I am not talking about taking a church that was not Calvinistic and making it so. I am talking about leading a church that is spiritually anemic or nearly dead into spiritual life and vitality through a renewal of biblical theology. I actually am in the middle of posting on that very issue (got interrupted for a few weeks) and hope to complete that series in a couple of weeks. I will be able to more fully address your question in when I post the rest of that series.

GeneMBridges said...

i'm not a fan of calvinism. it leads to what i determined were untenable conclusions. and, taken down to similarly ultimate terminii, so does arminianism

So, what you're saying, I take it, Mike, is that you have determined what is acceptable and unacceptable on the basis of what exactly? When I read statements like this, be it from Calvinists or nonCalvinists, I read the same thing I hear from High Church Roman Catholics who argue against Protestantism. They have an aprioristic idea of what is acceptable and unacceptable, so they say "Protestantism can't be true because if it is then..." We get this from the Orthodox too. In Orthodoxy, Christology controls everything. An exegetical conclusion is ruled out of bounds, even if it comes by way of sound exegetical thinking, on the basis that if true x is the result and x is unacceptable due to Orthodox tradition.

the lesson that we seem incapable of learning is that the answers are along a continuum, and do not reside at opposite ends.

So, I take it that binary logic escapes you?

did God intentionally make finding ultimate answers akin to nailing jello to a wall?

That's cute, but the question I have for you, Mike is this: Can you substantiate your position exegetically?

calvinism is no better - and no worse - than arminianism. and vice versa.

These are assertions in lieu of arguments.

God is no more sovereign than the free will man exercises. and vice versa.

Another assertion in lieu of an argument. We can figure this out easily. Where does the Bible define "free will" in libertarian terms? Please posit a theory of agent action and causality that you have derived from Scripture.

we want it to fit in a nice orderly outline here in the west - because that's how we do things.

Notice that on the one hand you're denying binary logic in your post and yet on the other, you are positing a binary difference between Eastern and Western thinking.

It's also fallacious. Christianity arose not from the West, but from the East. The "literal" method of the School of Antioch, from which the Grammatical Historical Method arose later comes not from "the West" but from the East. If you know of another way of interpreting the Bible, what's your alternative? Allegory?

All human beings employ logical thinking. We recognize truth and falsity, contradiction, etc. We are created in God's image, so we do this because we reflect God's mind in these ways. It's a basic presupposition, one you are taking for granted every time you form a sentence. Since logic is one of God's attributes, then we should certainly think that His revelation would be intelligible and that the propositions in the Bible can be linked together in a systematic, logical fashion.

Anthony said...

Jesus is the only way...
Buddha is the only way...

No...Jesus and Buddha are the only ways?
Should we just find some middle ground on this?

Ivan said...

Tom, I heard the interview on WMBI out of Chicago. It was good to hear your voice.

mike rucker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom said...


You obviously have not read the "Policies for comments." I will not allow the kind of comments you have posted here.

Coty said...

The segment on Calvinism begins 1 hour, 20 minutes into the show.

By the way, the 8 minute segment on Zimbabwe beginning 20 minutes into the show is excellent . . .

Aaron Turner said...


I have been enjoying a lazy Saturday morning, after a hard week of work.

I have been listening to this broadcast via the internet. I was thinking about how good it is that you were able to articulate on such popular medium.

The thing that brought the most enjoyment to me, was not, however what you said, but what Paige Patterson said about listening to the cats in the neighborhood at night.

What an amazing illustration (and humorous I might add) from nature to illustrate what is going on in the Convention. What appears to be discord is many times very productive.

Thanks for what you are doing, not just for reformation, but ultimately for the furtherance of our great Gospel!

Fred said...

Thanks ss, sg, and Tom for understanding my frustrations and for the encouragement.

Morris Brooks said...

Personally, I think the resurgence of Reformed theology/soteriology in the SBC is a shining light in the convention. It is good to see true theological renewal, and it would not be renewal if there were not controversy around it. One of these days we might be able to call it the RR for Reformed Resurgence.


Rhett said...

Listened to the segment just now. It was good. Lots of people now know about our existence!

I also apologize for the comment I left that you decided to delete.

Thanks for keeping me straight. :)