Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John 3:16 Conference, take 2

Diane Lytle alerted me in a comment that Dr. Steve Lemke has explained the purpose of the announced John 3:16 conference coming up this fall in Woodstock, Georgia. Dr. Lemke writes,
This conference is intended as a majoritarian Southern Baptist response to the "Building Bridges" and "Together for the Gospel" conferences. The announcement of this conference has already provoked considerable buzz and speculation in the blogosphere.
As I wrote in response to Diane, Dr. Lemke's "majoritarian Southern Baptist" descriptor is at best best ill-stated and at worst a joke perpetuated and believed only by those who refuse to deal with the implications of the fact that the majority of Southern Baptists can't be found! If Dr. Lemke's description turns out to be accurate, then about 60-70% of those who sign up for the conference will not even show up!

When will people who know better begin to speak honestly about "the majority of Southern Baptists?" The majority of Southern Baptists don't care enough even to attend worship services in the church to which they belong.

I appreciate Dr. Lemke's candor in letting us know that the conference was provoked by concern over the Building Bridges and T4G conferences (although the latter is not in any way promoted as a "Southern Baptist" event). Based on his words, obviously the planners of the Woodstock conference believe that they will speak for the "majority" of Southern Baptists. It will be very interesting to hear what their understanding of the "majoritarian" mentality is, although it does not take much imagination to speculate on this.

Nevertheless, my hope remains that, regardless of the rationale behind it, the conference will be marked by a Christ-honoring spirit and thoughtful, helpful presentations.


David B. Hewitt said...

Interesting, brother Tom. However, I must admit, I am puzzled why they feel a need to offer a response to the Building Bridges conference. I listened to the audio of the conference, and with very rare exceptions, I was thoroughly delighted with what I heard, and saw it as a productive conversation among Southern Baptists.

The fact that this conference is happening may suggest that (some of) those participating in and hosting it do not share my opinion with regard to the Building Bridges conference.

Indeed, we shall see.


Debbie Kaufman said...

Tom: I am a huge believer in going to God in prayer with my concerns on this conference. My prayer is that this conference be what you have expressed. I know God can do what we cannot do.

irreverend fox said...

given that both sides of the debate where given a voice at the Building Bridges Conference I do assume the same will be the case during the John 3:16 Conference, right?

Todd Pruitt said...

David makes an important observation. Why does "Building Bridges" need a response? The conference presented the response (point/counterpoint). One of the blessings of Building Bridges was the irenic spirit in the midst of clear differences. Thanks again Tom for the wisdom you showed in the structure of Building Bridges. It could not have been more fair.

I find it instructive that the organizers of the Woodstock event have ensured that there will be no voice given to their brothers who are reformed. But I have found the "don't confuse me with exegesis" attitude to be rampant in certain SBC circles.

Strong Tower said...

From Wikipedia- Ochlocracy (Greek: οχλοκρατία or okhlokratía; Latin: ochlocratia) is government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of constitutional authorities. In English, the word mobocracy is sometimes used as a synonym. As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it's akin to the Latin phrase mobile vulgus meaning "the easily moveable crowd."

Of course majoritarianism is itself a perjorative term for the form of democracy known as egalitarianism which results in an anti-intellectual approach to the subject matter, be it governance or doctrine. As a matter of academics, it means to deny the facts so as to control any counter-valency which may tip the balance of power secured by the "loudest" party. That party knows well the proverbs that the first man is believed until the second speaks. To assert authority in this way simply means to control the mob through the use ignorance.

Egalitarianism will always devolve to this as it sets two parties in oppostition to one another each having equal weight. The corrective from within this relationship cannot be found. And one party will win out when it gains ascendency over the other; then majority rules, right or wrong. But, it is the leadership to whom all spoils go.

To counter this, knowing the inherent depravity of man, the founding fathers of the U.S. determined that there would be a balance of powers of diverse authorities. Above all was a constitution to which all other authority was to appeal. Authority then lay outside the human personalities where politcal gainsmanship could not approach. This to the Christian is very familiar. We call it Sola Scriptura- the final court of appeal.

The problems arise when those who are interpreting what constitutes the truth no long let the constitution speak for itself.

Here in also lies the flaw in the SBC. Though it claims in the BFM that Scripture is indeed the court of final appeal, that constitution declares within it in that it is merely the "consensus" of some group: "That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us."

This would be fine if the SBC truly held to: "That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience...The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried."

What the SBC lacks, which the U.S. Constitution balances of powers has, is a Supreme Court. Which, is the best means of governance, eventhough, we have seen how that also can be corrupted.

In the past, there was a different ethic that held sway over against the bare autonomy of the local assembly contained in the SBC consensus clause: "In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers."

This is what I viewed the Building Bridges Conference as reflecting, however unformally. But, it becomes obvious that since the SBC does not have any mechanism convention wide, such as is mentioned in the 1689, which can meet this criteria to give counsel and guidance by submission and not by lording over, the only recourse is to enjoin paritsan factionism. It is unfortunate. As I have said before in my normally cynical way: that peaceful resolution can be achieved is a hope not held by all parties concerned. I believe what we are seeing is what was suspected would happen. That those who hold power are in the hunt for powers sake and not for the sake of the Gospel or the Great Commission as they claim, or they would not be so defensive of their "truth" which they see threatened, but would submit to a full examination of the matter in light of Scripture and history as our mutual confession binds to do.

I realize the heart of Building Bridges was to do that very thing. But, it apprears, that it was received as a gauntlet by many of the very voices that ostensibly are calling for reconcilliation and peace for the sake of Kingdom Growth.

Worship Leader Ron said...

A majoritarian response to "Together for the Gospel?"

You are right Tom, that this isn't even a Southern Baptist conference, but wouldn't it be accurate that above all else, Southern Baptists are together for the gospel? We're not even a denomination in accurate sense, as Al Mohler points out, because we are autonomous churches who come together for theological education and the spread of the Gospel. Our association is for the Gospel!

It seems that pitting oneself against that idea doesn't seem smart, especially if they think calvinism kills evangelism! I know that they would not say they aren't together for a gospel, but what is there to respond to?

stephen said...

When the flaming liberals left the denomination, they were right about one thing: the conservatives will just find reasons to fight with each other.

And here we are.

Strong Tower said...


you're assuming the liberals all left ;)

stephen said...

Just the flaming ones...

And I'm not altogether sure that speaking for / siding with the majority is a good idea. I feel another Baptist convention coming on... Anyone have names for it?

GeneMBridges said...

1. It seems to me the implicit argument is drawing on the CR's history. The conservative theological position was majoritarian. It won the day in the Convention and her agencies. Ergo, these folks are trying to do that again. Look at the list of luminaries.It's the same crew.

2. But herein lies the problem. "Majoritarian" does not mean "true."

I would say the Majority's view of Scripture is correct. The Majoritarian view of soteriology, providence, etc. is false.
You can be true to tradition without tradition being true.

So, the real argument Dr. Lemke has made is not from the Bible, it's in support of "tradition." I'll take that as a tacit admission that the Bible's teaching isn't in view; it's what the Majority believes the Bible says - tradition, modern tradition at that.

It has come to me privately that David is right, there are folks who were unhappy with the BB Conference. I think it was also painfully obvious that Dr. Yarnell was there to be adversarial, so it doesn't surprise me that Dr. Patterson is participating in this at all.

It's also worth noting that we see another clear trend: One side of this debate would,it seems, prefer a monologue, not dialogue. That's sad. I would be very surprised if there was any Q and A there. I hope it's not just another Bailey Smith sort of conference, preaching to the choir. I'd like to be there to ask some pointed questions, particulary the one I understand I'm famous for asking Arminians at Tblog - Where is LFW taught in the Bible? As it goes, so goes their soteriology, but I digress.

That said, I can also now say that we ARE in fact, putting together some means for Calvinists who may be put off by this conference to come to it. I spoke with a Brother in GA today, and he tells me that he and some folks he knows are able to at least provide free housing for folks who come and need help. That can help defray the cost.

The cost to this conference, you know is $115. If I registered, I'd have a five hour drive, ten if you count the drive back. With gas prices now,I'm looking at $80 more. Add food and housing, unless I stay with Nathan or elsewhere. If I could go on a scholarship for at least half, that would help a lot.

I've left a note on Nathan White's blog and received a good response in the combox, and the brother I spoke to today seemed willing to help in working it out:

I propose we, as a group, set up our own "scholarship fund" for folks to attend, particularly the Calvinist bloggers who can live blog the conference and offer analysis from "the front line." I'm sure James White will be doing "Radio Free Geneva" webcasts on this anyway, but this way, folks will have front line exposure as it happens. We can go as a group, but we go with the express intent of reporting and offering analysis, not making trouble.

Others in need (pastors of small churches for example) may also wish to come. Again, all we ask is that everyone comport themselves with dignity. This doesn't mean, however, that we sit silently if given the opportunity to ask questions or interact. If we get shut out, then that will get reported too, and that will tell folks about the true spirit of the meeting and who wants a monologue and who does not.

My proposal to Nathan was that we use Cafe Press to sell mugs, tshirts, etc. with the StrangeBaptist Fire logo. He runs the site, and Frank Turk designed the logo. It would need to be up to them to go along with that. Perhaps, if we go that route, Tom, you can use that snazzy header for your blog too. I wouldn't mind a tshirt with John L. Dagg's picture on it. (Wow, I'm a total geek for saying that, wow, that's worse that saying I want a Captain Kirk shirt). Anyhoo..

Also, folks can make donations. We'll need a way to handle that.

A church/es should administer this. Grace, or Scott Morgan's church, or Nathan White's church, whoever is willing, are my suggestions for that. That way there is proper oversight and a professional contact for applicants.

Also,keep in mind that there are some persons who cannot be seen publicly to be very involved,as they have "enemies" at FBCW. This brother with whom I spoke today said candidly that he probably wouldn't be let in the door. Nathan said in his own combox that it could be difficult for him too. Folks, that sort of hostility ought not be. It's unseemly.

Finally, and,IMO,most importantly, any funds left over should be donated to the Lottie Moon Offering at the end of December - and a point made of what those Calvinists - you know those antievangelistic, antimissions Calvinists - did.

This is probably something we should discuss in email round robin or a conference call with selected parties who can help put it all together. So, I'll leave that to the folks in the combox to sort out.



Jason Vaughn said...

I just wanted to thank you for the laugh I got from the first part of your post.

Rev. said...

As some of you, I see absolutely no need for a "response" to the T4G Conference -- it is not an SBC meeting, but an Evangelical one. Neither do I see a need for a "response" to the Building Bridges Conference - a conference intended to improve understanding and relationships between Reformed and non-Reformed folks in the SBC. A "response" implies outright opposition to "Calvinists" within the Convention, IMO.

In addition to these things, I wonder if it will be pointed out that the earliest Protestant missiologists were Dortian Calvinists or that the Canons of Dort are have an evangelistic bent?

I sent an open e-mail to Dr. Lemke over my concerns.

G. Alford said...

Rev. is correct… if this is in response to the Building Bridges Conference then it is a clear statement that Building Bridges between Calvinist and Non-Calvinist in the SBC is something these folks wish to oppose… Perhaps it should be called “The Burning Bridges Conference”.

Stephen… the “Flaming Liberals” may have left the denomination, but the “Flaming Fundamentalist” certainly have not; and they are busy opposing those misguided Southern Baptist who desire to build bridges and get together for the Gospel.

The Hyper Anti-Calvinist are becoming desperate in their efforts to stop the growing influence of Reformed Theology in the SBC… LOL… do they actually think this conference will do the trick? O yea, I bet this conference will be looked back upon as the one event that saved the convention from this New Generation of Young Reformed SBC Pastors that the guys in Woodstock Georgia are so concerned about… PELEASE! You will be able to count the number of Reformed SBC Pastors at this conference on one hand… perhaps one finger.

Grace Always,

G. Alford said...


Might I recommend you and others start planning “The Building Bridges Conference II” as a response to the John 3:16 Conference?

Grace Always,

Tom said... I have indicated before, I think much good will come out of this conference. Each speaker surely will know that his words will be carefully considered and reported. That kind of accountability should heighten caution and determination to be as accurate as possible. Whatever happens, it will be great to have audio recordings of the announced topics addressed by the scheduled speakers.

DJP said...

irreverend fox given that both sides of the debate where given a voice at the Building Bridges Conference I do assume the same will be the case during the John 3:16 Conference, right?

My very thought.

Darby Livingston said...

I don't understand the entire "majoritarian" argument. Does might make right? Let's not forget that the Catholics are the "majoritarian" religion claiming Christ as their own.

S.J. Walker said...

Thank you for the perspective brothers.

I pray that God will be honored and souls won as a result, either directly or indirectly, by the conference.

A Lion Has Roared!

Strong Tower said...

Majoritarian support for something is not inherently bad.

The quide though should never be that. Our final authority is the Word of God. I might add that our first authority is the Word of God. The really tragic thing is the mushy middle syndrome. We are baaaad sheep. Each one of us charged with study of the Word of God, that each child of God would stand with a clear conscience in its light. We fall prey to our sin nature which is to sleep, slumber and before we know it proverty of understanding comes upon us a thief. We bury the talent for fear that we might mishandle it, when the Lord admonishes us in the Word that we cannot undo it, it is durable; established in heaven forever. It is ours to handle, to become personally familiar with as a bride with her husband, an intimate relationship. How easy it is for us to neglect the spouse of our youth. For some reason we let perseverance slip to complacence and then wonder about a poor man's field and how it did ever come to be in such a state.

As a layperson, I cannot exempt myself from the responsibility that I have to hold the leaders accountable. It is when I begin to consider them as Rabbi, and not the Lord in me by the Spirit, that they then can lay burdens upon the people that cannot be borne. Then we are driven by the winds, unstable, hung between two opinions.

God is gracious to show us, though, that if we have these divisions, it is not a time for brothers to go to war with one another. It is time to seek the Lord.

To the Book! Open it before the people. Let it be the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Let it reveal the heart of the Lord.

Unfortunately, the prevailing tide is to deny the very principles of the conservative resurgency. It is not the Word that we are turning to but factions.

John O said...

I appreciate the optimism voiced by some in here, Dr. Ascol in particular.

However, knowing the "players" involved in this conference, I am not nearly as optimistic. This conference is going to be a Calvinist-bashing monologue filled with the usual misrepresentations and distortions that have been addressed time and time again, but to no avail. No matter how many times one points out to any of these men that much of what they say does not accurately represent Calvinism, they nevertheless continue with their same lines of argumentation (so much for integrity, huh?).

What you are going to here is just a regurgitation of Dave Hunt, with only slight variations, and with the force of "Dr." and SBC "star power" behind it. And its sole purpose is to make Calvinism look so monstrous that no right thinking person would ever dare even think for more than 2 seconds of ever succumbing to what evidently is a Calvinist conspiracy in that so many people are embracing the doctrines of grace.

Don't fool yourselves for one second, there will HAVE to be...there MUST be a response to this conference. Personally, I think the only appropriate response is not to have another Building Bridges conference, or the like. Rather, there should be a series (or conference) of public, moderated debates on this issue involving leading representatives from both camps. This will prove most valuable on so many different levels, but especially in the sense that these men will be no longer be able to hide behind their monologues and distortions, but will be challenged face to face, point by point on these issues in front of everyone.

These are tough days in the SBC, but also exciting days, because of the fact that so many are discovering the glories of the Gospel and the nature of God which the doctrines of grace so clearly articulate.

Sorry to be a pessimist, but, I just think that the conclusions are inescapable. It's not merely that these anti-Calvinists disagree with Calvinism (even though it is clear they haven't even a clue what it actually teaches). No. These anti-Calvinists want to rid Calvinism, and those that teach it, from their midst.



Sean Cole said...

I think we should let it lie and not have a "response" conference. With easy access to some much information about what Calvinists truly believe (via the internet), most people will evaluate what is said and make their own conclusions. This puts the onus on those of the John 3:16 conference to accurately portray the doctrines of grace without mischaracterizations, strawmen, and historical inaccuracies. If they give a fair and exegetical treatment of TULIP in a gracious, and irenic manner, then it was beneficial. If on the other hand, it is done in a mean-spirited, triumphant manner with fallacious information, then it will be seen for what it is. This is healthy for dialogue in the SBC and will cause people to go search the resources for the truth and will in the end, actually expose more people to the doctrines of grace and what we as Calvinists actually believe. I'm praying that the Lord will use this in a positive way to open doors of communication about great theologicial issues.

Jared Moore said...

Tom and everyone else,

I've been considering Reformation Theology for some time now... and I even refer to myself as Reformed; however, I don't know if this camp would call me reformed. First, I don't believe in limited atonement; but, I do believe God is 100% Sovereign and Man is 100% responsible.

My struggle and question with Reformed theology is those who say God wanted the fall of man to happen... or that God wants women to get raped and children to be molested.

My question is this, we chalk up the Trinity to paradox; we chalk up Jesus' dual natures (100% man and 100% God) to paradox, but why don't we chalk up the fall, rape, murder, molestation, etc. to paradox. That God isn't even indirectly responsible for these sins?

Can you guys help me out... explaining this to me; My brother-in-law is a 5 pointer; and he has told me that God wanted these things to happen... My question is: Why can't this be paradox as well... that God is 100% sovereign and yet, not even indirectly responsbile for sin... not wanting it to happen?

(Tom, to jog your memory, we met a few years back when I brought my youth to Panama City. I'm the guy who blew the whistle on the buddhist/transendental meditation prayer at M-fuge a few years back.)

Morris Brooks said...

The same group that is anti-calvinist is also anti-evangelical, which is why it is against T4G. These people do not want the SBC to be connected with the evangelical community as it will contaminate us and make us less SBC.

Strong Tower said...

Paradox- why your medical bills are so high!

Jared- you da man, you also da brudder- not a paradox... a cannibal... or a carbuncle, but a compatibility, both man and brother.

Anyway if we understand paradox to mean an apparent contradiciton which upon further examination is not a contradiction, then the term is useful. But I find it is too easily misunderstood. I prefer compatibility because it best explains a working together as a unified truth- we may not be able to make them work together but God is not the author of confusion, and there is an answer to the things revealed which are given to man to know.

To the central tenet of the five, which to me is the one that holds them all together...

You have to ask the right question:
Has God always known the number of those for whom the Son died? Then it is limited. Other questions such as unconditional election necessarily flow from the L...

Beside that, if it was t double u i p, it would always twip you up.

Fred said...

Spurgeon on majoritarian: "I believe a very large majority of churchgoers are merely unthinking, slumbering worshipers of an unknown God."

Tom said...


I remember you well, and thank the Lord for you! I am out of town for a couple of days, with limited time and access for checking my blog. When I have more time, I will address your question more thoroughly, but let me say quickly that I would not say what you had described your bro-in-law saying. It is misleading simply to state that God "wanted" Adam to sin. God clearly gave a prohibition to Adam, indicating what He "wanted." Adam violated it. That is undeniably true. As we learn in the rest of Scripture, there is more to the story than this, but that "more" does not negate what is obvious. That "more" tells us that God's sovereign decree was fulfilled even in the violation of His clearly revealed will.

Any way, thanks for your comment and questions. I hope you are well and look forward to continuing this dialogue with you.

Press on,

B Nettles said...

worship leader ron said: We're not even a denomination in accurate sense, as Al Mohler points out, because we are autonomous churches who come together for theological education and the spread of the Gospel.

I believe that the Hyper Anti-Calvinists are wanting to make a denomination so that they can control what the churches do. Their main tactic is to spew inaccurate theology to convince churches to not call pastors who hold to the Doctrines of Grace. "Calvinists are anti-evangelism, anti-missions." This is similar to the radical materialists who try to convince schools to avoid hiring those who believe in God as the supernatural, spiritual, creative designer of the universe. "God-believers can't do science."

Tom, I do agree that good things can come out of poor motives. Look at the story of Joseph. Joseph did not overlook the evil intentions, but he pointed out that God is sovereign and redemptive, and that their evil thoughts would not destroy God's plan.

Jared Moore said...

b. nettles,

I'm not necessarily for either side on this issue; but, what you just described sounds like a strawman. "These men want to control what churches do"-paraphrase.

Be consistent; if you think the other side builds up and tears down strawmen. Then don't buld them up and tear them down yourself.

Jared Moore said...


I'm looking forward to dialogue as well. Basically, my Brother-in-law says that God indirectly wanted these evils to happen... that God can't be sovereign if He doesn't want all things to happen, that happen.

Don't get me wrong bout my brother-in-law. He's "sharp". He's an M-Div Student at Southern. I'll probably be reading his books one day.

But, I disagree with God wanting evil to happen; why can't this be paradox? Instead of associating God with sin and evil?

B Nettles said...

A strawman argument usually involves an unfounded hyperbole. I'm willing to entertain an explanation that my belief is just that.

It has been amply demonstrated on this blog and others and in books galore that the "Calvinists are anti-mission" statements are unfounded hyperbole.

Bill Formella said...

Jared, I would love to talk to you sometime. I'm not a theologian but understand your struggles. I hated and fought off Reformed thinking for over 20 years before my heart was settled by God. I struggled with the very issue you are. I've looked on your blog but couldn't find any way of contacting you.

Let me say briefly that John Piper's wide angle lense/narrow angle lense analogy really helped me. If you look at every evil event through the narrow lense you see only the horror of it. But through the wide angle lense you see how God's great compassion, grace and mercy is put on display.

Though God doesn't reveal the purpose of every event to us, we see it clearly in events like the crucifixion and the selling of Joseph into slavery. Horrible events they were through the narrow lense, they are beautiful when you see how God "meant" them for good; pedestals upon which God's glory would be revealed.

The first truly "calvinistic" book I ever ready was Desiring God by John Piper. That's what brought a turning point for me. I would also highly recommend you get on the Desiring God web site and download the following articles:

"Are There Two Wills In God?"
"Is God Less Glorious for Ordaining that Evil Be"

I think you'll find those helpful to. If you race through all of that in an evening, you may want to move on to Piper's "God's Passion for His Glory".

Any guess on who my favorite author is? :-)

Bill Formella said...

Remind me next time to hit preview first instead of publish. I hope none of my old english and spelling teachers are reading this.

GeneMBridges said...


It may be helpful to disambiguate some terms.

If by "wanted" we mean "commanded" that's not at all the case.

If by "wanted" we mean "decreed" this is the case.

"Decrees" deal with certainty. God's decrees are like blueprints. They do nothing on their own. The fact that the future is certain is proof that God has decreed it. If God had not decreed it, nothing would ever happen that has ever or will ever happen.

"Providence" deals with causality. Decrees are brought about by means, eg. Providence. Means may include God's direct actions, for example miracles, or indirect actions, that is the ordering of circumstances or simply leaving us to our own devices.

1. If something happens, it must be desired *in some sense* by God, or else it would not occur, and that *must* include evil, or else this makes mince meat of Scripture, viz. Acts 2:23, Isa. 10, Jude 4, the list could go on and on.

This would only be controversial for an Open Theist.

2.I'd add that Arminians like need to go back and read *their own theologians.* The term "decree" isn't unique to Calvinism.

a. Molinist Arminians agree that God decrees all things. At issue with them is the way in which the world is decreed and the grounding of God's knowledge.

b. Classical Arminianism has it's own order of decrees, the first two of which are identical with Infralapsarianism and Amyraldianism. The difference there is over the term "permission." In Calvinism it is effacious; in Arminianism it is ineffacious, typically expressed as a decree to permit the possibility of evil/sin.

3. The Arminian objection to effacious permission is an ethical objection. They use it to "get God off the hook" for evil.

a. But they affirm Libertarian freedom. That cuts the causal nerve with respect to motives of the heart. If men can (and do) act in ways contrary to their greatest desire, then on what basis are they blamed for their sins? The Bible attributes our choices to our motives.

b. How does God's "permission," even if ineffacious, accomplish what the Arminian/Libertarian has set out to do in this objection? If he's not an Open Theist, our Disputant must admit God knew full well what would happen. He allowed it to happen, yet He could have prevented it. How is that superior to the Calvinist position? God is at least partially to blame, using the Arminian/Libertarian yardstick alone, so his objection doesn't accomplish its objective at all.

If He's a Molinist, He instantiated only this universe out of all possible universes too, so that's just as determinative as Calvinism.

Finally, I'm not a fan of terms like "indirectly responsible." I prefer to use terms with more precision. "Responsibility" and "blame" intersect, but they are not convertible. The former is a necessary albeit insufficient condition of the latter. The latter requires a motive that is evil. Blame speaks to transgression of a ethical command. God is responsible for everything that happens. That goes with the pay grade. Men comply with God's decrees for motives all their own, including evil motives. That's why God can blame them. Men act willfully and impertinently.

Finally, don't take this the wrong way, but I think its presumptuous for us to defend God's honor where He has chosen not to speak Himself. God has said that He predestined the murder of His own Son. He has said that He raised up many a nation to judge His people by rewarding the evil of His people with evil acts perpetrated upon them. The just reward of sin is more sin, which strikes me as poetic justice,for the wicked only compound their evil, all the while complying with God's decree while shaking up their fists at God as if they could defy Him.

He has said, for example:

'Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. (2 Kings 21)

The One forming light and creating darkness,Causing well-being and creating calamity;I am the LORD who does all these. (Isa.45)

"I will also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I will bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them--but they did not listen.(Jer.36)

This is what God has said of Himself. We should bow our heads and accept it.

Jared Moore said...


I appreciate the input and suggestions.

My email address is:

Please feel free to email me.

John Piper is one of my favorite authors as well. I have Desiring God, as well as, most of his other books.

The sermons I listen to are pretty much all from reformed guys. At the very least, these guys love the truth; I listen to John Macarthur, Allistair Begg, Voddie Baucham, the White Horse Inn, etc. I'll listen to anyone who will send me running away from the mirror and running to the suffiency of Christ and His Word.

Before I spend the time to search out these articles, do they explain the reason why God has to ordain evil in order to be sovereign? I mean, my question, foundationally, rises and falls on the belief that God doesn't ordain evil. This repulses me, not because of emotion, but because of the Scriptures; and I'm wonderin if the belief in "God's ordaining of evil" is something that is directly taught in the Scriptures, or if it's the only consistent end of logic.

I believe logic bows down to God; in other words, He alone can make illogical statements, for He is the author and determiner of logic.

As of right now, I believe God is absolutely sovereign while absolutely having nothing to do with sin and evil... not even indirectly.

Do you disagree with me? Please explain.

Jared Moore said...


You said, "If God had not decreed it, nothing would ever happen that has ever or will ever happen."

-Why did God have to decree everything? He is all-knowing, so He has seen eternity past, present, and future as an eye-witness. So, doesn't this mean that He could have left men to their own sinful choices, while knowing these choices, and thus knowing how to glorify Himself through the outcome and divine intervention... knowing exactly what events He would have to ordain in response to man's sin? Such as the crucifying of Christ... laid at the feet of the crucifiers for evil, but the outcome ordained and used by God for His own glory? There were several times that Christ "hid Himself" so they wouldn't crucify Him "early"; for God ordained the specific time for His crucifixion; but, did God also ordain their desire to crucify Him early and His hiding from them, or did He ordain the exact time when Christ would lay down His life alone? Also, what about the fall? Did God ordain the fall; or did God see the future as an eyewitness and ordain the path to the cross alone?"

-Each verse you used as examples aren't speaking of "moral evil", but of God withholding His protection and provision from Israel, thus them receiving His judgment through calamity.

You said, "1. If something happens, it must be desired *in some sense* by God, or else it would not occur, and that *must* include evil, or else this makes mince meat of Scripture, viz. Acts 2:23, Isa. 10, Jude 4, the list could go on and on. This would only be controversial for an Open Theist."

-Why does God have to "disire it in some sense" in order for it to happen? Why can't He simply desire His own glory, and not the necessary path to display this glory? What man means for evil, God works for good so that He is always ultimately glorified... but, the evil in the path, He doesn't want, nor decree.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but does the Bible anywhere make God the author of moral evil?

And lastly,
Does "Decree" mean "Author"? Has everything been "blue-printed" by God; or has God seen all-things and thus, intervened/ordained to where He is ultimately glorified in spite of man and Satan's rebellion? I don't believe God "blue-printed" the fall and crucifixion (I mean putting the desire in their hearts), but I believe He has blueprinted His glory in spite of these things. For if God has seen everything that is to be, He doesn't have to "force" it all to happen, He only must "force" the outcome He wants... and biblically, He has no part in the sin which leads to His glory.

I think anyways... please continue with me Gene.

stephen nobles said...

With so much internal fighting and dissention within the SBC, led by old guard preservers against younger leaders and Calvinistic trends, its easy to understand why so many like me have left the SBC for other denominations and churches. I'm glad to see the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC, but conferences like the John 3:16 one show how strong the conflict and division is within the denomination. Its scary, because a house divided cannot stand. Getting rid of liberals in the 80's is one thing, but constantly fighting different subgroups of Southern Baptists to ensure uniformity to what the old guard considers true Baptist orthodxy will hurt the SBC in the long run. Who are they gonna fight once they've driven everyone else away? Maybe they'll be happy when their diverse denomination of millions is cut to a few thousand who are just like them.

Robert Owen said...

I would actually try to go the conference. I would like to see and hear firsthand what they do and say. I wonder if they will have a Q&A session? It would be nice to challenge them on some points.

kingofbleh said...

It would seem that the Sawdust Trail that allegedly began at Sandy Creek has found it's termination at Woodstock.

Fred said...

Will anyone be live blogging the conference?

Sparrowhawk said...

Why has the term "Woodstock" become so synonymous with irritable displays of behavior from folks with questionable motives, casting aside any regard for their own country's (or denomination's) history?

"By the time we got to Woodstock, we were 16.7 million strong..."

With apologies to CSNY....

GeneMBridges said...

-Why did God have to decree everything?

Why not?

Your only other option here, is Open Theism in that event. Evangelical Arminians don't dispute the idea that God decreed everything.

And really, the question isn't "Why?" The first question we should ask is "Does He?" or rather, "What does the Bible say He has ordained?"

Ephesians 1:11

11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

And especially here in Ephesian 1, talking about predestination and planning, we have not a reference to the precepts and commands of God, like the Law, what we would call the "revealed will" of God, but to His decrees, what Deut. 29:29 calls "the secret things." Also, notice the connection to Isaiah 46 in Ephesians 1, where God predestines us according to the "kind intension" (or "good pleasure) of His will.

And, as Brother Dustin Segers pointed out to us in our church several months ago, this text can be read emphatically such that God is working, literally "all all things" in such a manner.
To say God has "decreed" everything is merely to say that He planned everything. Decrees only make an event certain. Providence speaks to causality, and Providence takes on more than one modality.

If God does not so decree, then there is such a thing as gratuitous evil,because gratituitous evil is evil that is unplanned.

The Bible expressly denies the existence of gratuitous evil and says a great deal about foreordination.

To quote Steve Hays from my own blog (Triablogue):

The Bible grounds divine foreknowledge in God’s knowledge of his own plan for the world (e.g. Isa 46:10-11). Cf. J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

JCT replied:“Not exclusively.”

Steve: To the contrary, Isaiah’s claim moves from the general to the specific. The dependence of foreknowledge on foreordination in this instance is just a special case of a universal principle. Read Oswalt’s exegesis for the supporting argument.

Isaiah's claim moves from the general to the specific. The dependence of foreknowledge on foreordination in this instance is just a special case of a universal principle. Read Oswalt's exegesis for the supporting argument.

[JCT said] “Thanks, I've read the book itself. It supports no such claim.”

It would be more prudent of J.C. not to make such easily falsifiable claims. This is what Oswalt says:

“There follow in these two verses [Isa 46:10-11] a series of three participles that both substantiate the claim to uniqueness and, at the same time, flow from that claim…Here the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prayer)…As several commentators (e.g., Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific. In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in ch. 14 concerning Assyria 9vv24-27). Assyria’s plans for Judah were really of little import. It is the Lord’s plans for Assyria to which that great nation should have paid attention (see also 22:11; 37:26)…The repetition [46:11] serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes,” J. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37.

He is all-knowing, so He has seen eternity past, present, and future as an eye-witness. So, doesn't this mean that He could have left men to their own sinful choices, while knowing these choices, and thus knowing how to glorify Himself through the outcome and divine intervention... knowing exactly what events He would have to ordain in response to man's sin?

Lots here:

How would God know Libertarian choices? Read up on the standard definition of Libertarian Freedom.

A libertarian choice cannot be a determinate object of knowledge in the mind of any being, even God, if it exists only in the mind of the acting agent, and, if the will is free in a Libertarian sense, that choice could potentially change until the agent acts.

So, all God is doing here, if LFW is true and you make this appeal, is making a good guess. That's Open Theism.

Additionally, this attacks the independence of God. You're making God a spectator, dependent on the acts of created beings for aspects of His own knowledge.

In Reformed Theology, God's knowledge is a species of His self-knowledge. God knows all things, because He knows His decree. Appealing to God being "all knowing" does not solve the problem. The issue is the grounding of God's knowledge.

See my blog, Triablogue for many of the answers to your question above. We address this all the time. Feel free to interact with Manata, Steve Hays, Pete Pike, or any of us.

To start:

What of the desires of sinful men? Are they "ordained." Yes, they are "ordained" but this does not mean God puts fresh evil into their hearts. See the LBCF2 on Providence and on Free Will.

The sinner is still guilty for what he did, even if God has a good reason for what happened. He didn't intend to glorify God by his actions. He was sinning because sinning is pleasant,and that's what makes the sinner culpable.

Did God "ordain" the Fall? Yes, for the covenant described in Hebrews is an "eternal" covenant. Let me repeat: The Libertarian/Arminian and the Calvinist/Amyraldian do not differ over the *fact* that the Fall was ordained but the *means* by which it was ordained.

The Arminians say that the fall was "permitted" ineffaciously. We deny this, it was "permitted" effaciously. This was God's plan all along. The only other alternative to the Calvinist view is making Redemptive History "Plan B." Where does the Bible ever state that? What the Bible does state is that God has bound all over for sin in order to show mercy to all. The Bible does state that God has created everything for it's own purpose, even the wicked, for the day of evil.

Paul does, indeed, present a teleological theodicy (Rom 9:17,22-23; 11:32; Gal 3:22). So Paul does, in fact, and quite explicitly, treat the fall, and attendant evils thereof, as a means to a higher end. And he's not the only author of Scripture to do so.

-Each verse you used as examples aren't speaking of "moral evil", but of God withholding His protection and provision from Israel, thus them receiving His judgment through calamity.

These calamities included moral evils perpetrated upon Israel. The punishment inflicted for national apostasy is the treatment of Israel as a pagan nation,for that's justice. If you act like a pagan and harlot yourself before their gods, for example, if you sacrifice your children to Molech, you will lose the blessings of the covenant,and that means falling prey to all manner of moral evil; indeed when that happened in Israel, some of them wound up cannabalizing their own children.

Further: Read Isaiah; God raised up Assyria and Assyria literally raped and pillaged Israel's people. Yet Assyria was also help culpable for these acts with a similar judgment upon them. So God punishes sin with more sin. God is not depicted as merely predicting these events. He's depicted as declaring them from His throne on high.

-Why does God have to "disire it in some sense" in order for it to happen? Why can't He simply desire His own glory, and not the necessary path to display this glory? What man means for evil, God works for good so that He is always ultimately glorified... but, the evil in the path, He doesn't want, nor decree.

1. This is an ethical objection.
2. The Bible never employs the "Free Will Defense." (FWD).
3. The FWD is predicated in LFW. But LFW is not an exegetically derived action theory.
4. LFW is prized for its intuitions.

To quote Walls and Dongell:

(1) “The essence of this view is that a free action is one that does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence…the common experience of deliberation assumes that our choices are undetermined.”

(2) “…It seems intuitively and immediately evident that many of our actions are up to us in the sense that when faced with a decision, both (or more) options are within our power to choose…Libertarians argue that our immediate sense of power to choose between alternative courses of action is more certain and trustworthy than any theory that denies we have power.

(3) “Libertarians take very seriously the widespread judgment that we are morally responsible for our actions and that moral responsibility requires freedom” That is, a person cannot be held morally responsible for an act unless he or she was free to perform that act and free to refrain from it. This is basic moral intuition.”

5. As LFW goes so this objection would go. Any other view of divine providence other than the Reformed view is going to involve LFW. So, before you go there, you need to decide if you believe in LFW and why you do so if you do. So, why does one person act in one way and not another while another acts in a contrary manner, given all other things being equal, if LFW is true? As I've asked many an Arminian, why does one person believe and not another?

6. How does the alternative theodicy fair any better? If God merely allows an evil to occur which he could prevent, how is he not culpable for it?

It doesn't get God off the ethical hook at all,for He's able to stop evil but He doesn't. How does this not make God responsible for evil? And if He's doing it "for His glory" and not stopping these events, then that infers He has a plan that necessitates these events, so this objection if true would be ultimately self-refuting if you accept the first (action for His glory, but deny the latter, eg. the path to it). By the way I avoid the term "necessary" unless it's well, "necessary," because it implies God is constrained. He is under no constraint to do anything, though we can say that once He decided to do x (say, create a people for Himself, who are the beneficiaries of the display of His glory), then y,x,w, etc. follow "necessarily" in terms of the plan to that end, given His wisdom. He chooses the best path given His goal and that makes those things "necessary" but not in a "necessitarian" sense (as if God is being constrained by some outside circumstance).

Does "Decree" mean "Author"? Has everything been "blue-printed" by God; or has God seen all-things and thus, intervened/ordained to where He is ultimately glorified in spite of man and Satan's rebellion? I don't believe God "blue-printed" the fall and crucifixion (I mean putting the desire in their hearts), but I believe He has blueprinted His glory in spite of these things. For if God has seen everything that is to be, He doesn't have to "force" it all to happen, He only must "force" the outcome He wants... and biblically, He has no part in the sin which leads to His glory.

1. "Force" is question-begging word. How is God "forcing" people to do something against their wills if He decrees, let's say, the crucifixion?

Words like "force" and "author" sound good on paper, but really how useful are they? Let's keep in mind that the author of evil is a metaphor.

Again, we've talked about this on our blog:

It is not a self-explanatory metaphor. And a metaphor is not an argument.

It's true that many Calvinists have difficulty articulating a sufficiently nuanced formulation to finesse the problem of evil. But that's because Calvinism is not a philosophy. Calvinism didn't introduce evil into the world. And Calvinism didn't introduce the sovereignty of God into Scripture.

We play the hand that God has dealt us. We didn't make the deck, or shuffle the deck, or deal the deck. We are simply coming to terms with what God has told us about himself in his Word.

Although the Bible gives us the resources to address the problem of evil, it doesn't give us a ready-made verbal formula. For that matter, the "author of sin" is a manmade, extrascriptural phrase.

2. The question isn't over the certainty of the decree,but the way in which a decree (blueprint) is enacted (causality). Don't confuse them.

In Reformed theology, we distinguish between category and act. There are acts in which God directly intervenes: miracles, creation, regeneration, and conversion and acts in which He allows natural processes to work out His will.

The nature of a thing determines the category of its acts, but not each and every act. The Westminster Confession and London Baptist Confession are clear. God’s determination of men’s acts in this regard comes through decreeing they come about through “the efficacy of second causes.” Individuals still have the freedom to act out any number of possible goods or evils as dictated by their natures.

God can choose goods. Satan can choose from any possible number of evils. Each and every act need not be “predestined” by God’s direct action (casuality) or from any number of possible direct actions of God, much of what happens is predestined by virtue of God controlling the boundings and directings of our choices while giving us freedom to act within the constraints of our natures, intervening directly as He pleases, constraining us and permitting us as He so chooses.

Nothing happens apart from the grounding, sovereign decree of God, but certain acts and choices and circumstances come about by God ‘s direct effort (what Charles Hodge calls His “potentia absoluta’) This are: miracles, creation, regeneration, conversion, the events of the eschaton, and specific acts of judgment.
What God decrees for His glory, men do with their own motives. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order to judge Egypt’s gods. Pharaoh’s will was not violated, in that God allowed Pharaoh’s love of evil, which was his natural state, to increase, keeping Israel from leaving. Pharaoh did not keep them from leaving in order to glorify God and worship Him. He did it because he hated God, Moses, Aaron, and the slaves. What God did for a righteous motive, Pharaoh did out of hatred for God. The motive behind an act, therefore, determines whether or not it is truly sinful. In theory, if Pharaoh had done what he did to glorify and worship God, he would not have been condemned, however, a man that does such a thing is, in reality acting in faith and love for God and would have to be regenerate. Such a man would not hold Israel back; he would have released Israel and taken down Egypt’s gods. That was not God’s purpose for Pharaoh. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

God is the author of evil, in the sense that He is first cause of all things. This simply goes with pay grade. His decrees, through either action or inaction render events necessary, but, evil is the result of permission, not His direct causation, or a result of His judicial hardening of sinners, an act of justice Scripture supports repeatedly, as in the above text and in Romans 1. Nothing happens that compels a man or demon to act in a way it does not wish to act or against its nature. He may withhold constraining grace, as in the fall, in order to render a thing certain, but the agent of the evil, in this case Adam simply acts in accordance with his nature as a second cause, for reasons and motives sufficient for himself and arising from his own nature. Men thus do what God decrees, but for motives all their own. In so doing, they may incur judgment. In this way men act as infallibly as if they had no liberty, yet as freely as if there was no decree rendering their acts certain. See, for example, the predestination of Judas betrayal and Jesus crucifixion. These men did, with evil desires, what God desired and planned to happen since before creation, for Jesus is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world itself.

Rather than clutter up this space, Brother, I'd invite you to come by Tblog, as this discussion occurs there frequently. We have over 3000 articles in the archives too, so you may find some of your questions answered already. Contrary to popular opinion, we can and do have rational discussions with nonCalvinists. It's only the incorrigible,frivolous people that we "call out." You're obviously not in that category, and are always welcome.

Strong Tower said...

Very nice, gene.

John O said...

Hi Jared,

You raise important questions, and I know that Dr. Ascol, as well as others will be providing (and have) you with great information in an effort to shed light on these matters. Gene's response above is very good and will undoubtedly get the wheels turning, so to speak :-)

I certainly don't want you to feel overwhelemd by the amount of information and interaction you might receive from us, and initially I thought that I would not offer anything to the discussion.

However, the more I thought about, the more I thought that I should at least share with a link to a response I gave to a guy who is very similar to you in terms of his considering these matters. In that response, he raised many of the issues you did, such as God being the author of sin, etc.

Anyway, I have posted the entire response I made to him, and should you feel so inclined, it is there for you as well as resource:

Blessings to you, brother, in your study of these important matters.

Grace and Peace,


Jared Moore said...

Gene and John,

I appreciate you guys taking the time to answer me.

I'm going to read over what you guys pointed me to.

I am curious though... Gene, what you've described, is this what all Calvinists believe? Or, are there differences?

in Him,


bcorr said...

I find this whole discussion troubling. It seems like the reformed community is truly offended over the idea that some would like to gather and hear the "other side" presented.It seeme like the mindset is that any type of conference dealing with theology is OK as long as calvinism is given its due.
Why is it so wrong for these men to express their theological convictions?
I am also troubled by this mindset that seems to be emerging among the reformed community in the SBC that somehow the gospel has been lost and the calvinist are recovering it. And it seems to be at least implied that if you are not preaching the doctrines of grace that you are not preaching the Gospel. I am sure that it is true in some cases that our "un-reformed brethren" are teaching a watered down gospel. But I am equally sure that many of our reformed brethren are preaching too much calvinism, creeds and confessions and not enough Christ.
Since when are Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson the enemy in the SBC? Here we are speaking of a "new resurgence" and it seems that some have forgotten that these men, and many other non reformed brothers were instrumental in fighting the battles over inerrency and restoring a conservative leadership to the convention.
O how the moderates and liberals are surly loving how this is playing out. The conservatives have run out of people to fight with, so now we fight with one another. I am sure it won't be long before this issue begins to influence elections of SBC leaders and that just opens the doors for the moderates.
The church I pastor was founded in 1793 and has a rich calvinist history. But guess people are not concerned with calvinism. They are concerned with the Bible. I have been listed with founders friends since 2003 but I removed myself today. I am tired of the reformed "us against the world" minset and the constant push to restore calvinism to the convention. Is that really what we have been called to do as pastors? I don't thinks so. Maybe it's time we leave our theological ivory towers behind and get back to shepherding our people.