Monday, March 03, 2008

John 3:16 Conference

Jerry Vines Ministries is hosting a "John 3:16 Conference" at First Baptist Church, Woodstock on November 6-7, 2008. While the final schedule of the meetings will be posted later, according to the website, the following lineup is listed.
  • John 3:16 - Dr. Jerry Vines
  • John 3:16 to the entire world - Dr. Charles Stanley
  • Total Depravity - Dr. Paige Patterson
  • Unconditional Election - Dr. Richard Land
  • Limited Atonement - Dr. David Allen
  • Irresistible Grace - Dr. Steve Lemke
  • Perseverance of the Saints - Dr. Ken Keathley
No explanation or elaboration is given about the rationale for the conference. All of the speakers are gifted, competent ministers. Hopefully the messages will be made available online. This has the potential to be one of the best contemporary engagements of the so-called five points of Calvinism by those who, generally, disagree with them (or at least most of them).

While, given what I know about the preachers, I do not expect to agree with many of their conclusions, I welcome this kind of theological dialogue. Isn't it great that Southern Baptists are talking about important matters of biblical theology rather than whether or not to ordain homosexual men to the gospel ministry?


Jacob said...

It's probably hoping too much to expect that this will settle the question of whether or not John 3:16 is a repudiation of Calvinism. One of my pet peeves is when people throw that verse out as a silver bullet against Reformed theology. They emphasize whosoever and I emphasize believes.

Brian R. Giaquinto said...


Your optimism is refreshing . . . although I am having a hard time sharing it.

Jason said...

I imagine they will be focusing on the "whosoever" part of the translation of John 3:16.

Do you think anyone will EVER address the fact that "whosoever" isn't actually in the text?

GUNNY said...

I'm a bit curious and nervous.

I wonder if it would come off like a John 6:37 Conference:

Moral Ability - Dr. Tom Ascol
Conditional Election - Dr. Al Mohler
Universal Atonement - Dr. Mark Dever
Inefficacious Grace - Dr. Tom Nettles
Eternal Security - Dr. James White

Tom said...


My optimism is rooted in the immortality of God's truth. Plus, I am grateful that this conference does not have certain speakers in the lineup!

Jacob and Jason:

Good points. Maybe we could offer some exegetical considerations on key texts before the conference. I don't know about you but I have found that exegesis and logic have ruined a lot of would-be sermons.


Now that's funny!

DoGLover said...

I recently heard Paige criticize "certain individuals" (aka: Calvinists) who wanted to draw the SBC circle too small. The John 3:16 Conference, together with the Foundation Camp (see:, sound more like concerted efforts to build walls than a desire to build bridges. I hope I'm wrong.

GeneMBridges said...

Wow, and I was planning on writing on John 3:16 over at Tblog this week. I wonder if I should put it off until November?

So, Dr. Keithley is discussing Perseverance of the Saints. Does this mean we persevere because God instantiates a universe in which we persevere, based upon His foreknowledge of our libertarian free will choices?

While I share you optimism that this is good this is being discussed, methinks this will also demonstrate the incoherence of the other side. I've heard presentations on these issues from enough of these to know that, unless they have vastly improved, much of what they say will be question-begging and won't make much sense exegetically. It should make for a nice one stop shop for their traditional prooftexts though.

kingofbleh said...

Tom -

Don't be shocked to see a last minute addition of certain ex-Muslim or one of several Atl. area pastors to the list.

I'd would looove to attend this conference, but it is looking like my (Lord willing) second mission trip of the year may conflict. Drats!!

In Christ,
Lucas Defalco

pregador27 said...

"Isn't it great that Southern Baptists are talking about important matters of biblical theology rather than whether or not to ordain homosexual men to the gospel ministry?"

You must be the king of "the glass is half-full" crowd! I saw a cloud, you saw a silver lining!

Brad Williams said...

I don't find Gunny's proposition funny. I think it sounds great. Let's get Capitol Hill Baptist to hot it.

Micah said...

I wonder if John 3:16 will be contextually exegeted even once during the conference.

Randy Williams said...

Hope it is not a Calvinist bashing conference. How many times though do you have to tell people that Calvinists believe John 3:16 and Revelation 22:17?

G. Alford said...


I applaud your optimism… I do not share it, but it is refreshing.

With the reputation of First Baptist Church Woodstock for being the epicenter of so much Anti-Calvinists activities within the SBC I am having a hard time being optimistic about this conference…

Grace Always,

GeneMBridges said...

Gunny, I second your motion. However, I'd call it the I John 2:2 Conference. Personally, I'd like to turn the tables on them by using a text we know would, as we say in the South, really stick their craws.

Steve Dumas said...

g. alford is right.

When these esteemed SBC voices speak, what they say--right or wrong--will be repeated far and wide. Those who attend will not hear point/counterpoint exchanges or discussion between brothers from both sides.

My guess is these guys are sincerely concerned about the Mohler/Dever wing of the SBC. And they aim to do something about it.

Fred said...

Tom, you forgot to announce the Pre-Conference Rally: The Burning of Servetus

chadwick said...

Don't be surprised if they take the bash . . . uh, I mean conference to a cruise ship! ;)


Jimmy said...

I agree with your optimism about the SBC dealing with important matters. However, what these men say will be taken at face value by many who feel no need to dig a little deeper.

GUNNY said...

Even-handed serious theological discussion in the SBC?

As I look out my window, it's snowing ... in Texas.

What's that saying about a cold day in Texas ... or something to that effect?

Perhaps the impossible is upon us.


Rhett said...

This is going to be mighty interesting...

Let's hope there's a shortage of straw men and matches at this event!

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred said...

Tom, someone has said, "Optimists live longer but pessimists are usually right." I know you'll outlive me but I hope you are right.

Chris said...

"Isn't it great that Southern Baptists are talking about important matters of biblical theology rather than whether or not to ordain homosexual men to the gospel ministry?" Amen to that! I too would like to be optimistic especially after the building bridges conference, but I have a hard time believing that some of these speakers will NOT misrepresent or caricature calvinism. We'll see.

jack said...

Remember Elias Keach!!!

Tom said...

You know, I am not an optimist by nature. In fact, one of my favorite characters in the Chronicles of Narnia is Puddleglum. I think he is a realist!

I just see this conference and other such efforts as being beneficial for the cause of Christ and His Gospel. I hope that the topics and Scriptures will be handled properly without caricature. But even if that does not happen, or does not happen with consistency, I believe that the truth will triumph. I know that all of us believe that because of the inherent nature of the truth (as well we should). But I also see how God has made so many resources so readily available in our day that anyone who wants to check out what an authority figure says about the doctrines of grace can do so easily.

This is good news for those who teach accurately and bad news for those who are careless or inaccurate. This kind of "democratization of resources" is bothersome to the gatekeepers but it ought to be encouraging to all who want the truth to spread openly and freely. Truth thrives in the light...and light is rapidly spreading through the expanding access to resources.

We are in a day much like that experienced in 16th century Europe. The printing press made resources available to common people that had up to that point been available only to the experts (including copies of Scripture itself).

Attacks against the rediscovered Gospel of God's grace were strident and our forefathers suffered greatly at the hands of those who opposed them. But the truth won the day. The more it was opposed, the more it spread.

I in no way mean to equate those who disagree with us to those who opposed the Protestant Reformation, I am simply saying that it is today as it was then--when truth is opposed, it will spread. That is the case no matter who opposes it--"our" side or "their" side or any "side."

That is why I am hopeful and welcome this John 3:16 conference and any other attempt to look at the doctrines of grace whether by proponents or opponents. Let's hope for the best from our brothers who will be speaking on the topics announced, and trust the Lord to honor His Word and vindicate His truth.

David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom:

Once again, I appreciate your gracious spirit in analysis, and reminder that indeed, God's truth will triumph!


SS&SG said...

I agree with your optimism. I like the way you said it, "Truth thrives in the light...and light is rapidly spreading through the expanding access to resources."

Another point is that we need to be careful how we complain about those type of conference's and with those who disagree with us, because we do not want to come off as we will not listen to what they have to say. If we do then we will be helping to create or encourage a vicious cycle where no body listens to each other.

GeneMBridges said...

The last big conference at FBCW about which I read included registration for a lease on a Hummer (I think it was a Hummer). You know, the Hummer is, of course, a model of fuel efficiency. Kudos for the model of biblical stewardship of our resources! So, my question is: Will they raffle off a lease to a Toyota Prius? If so, I'm there! Totally! :D

I'd also add that we at least know everybody who attends will certainly be there of their own free will...

Tom said...


Excellent point. We must guard against any kind of arrogance that would lead us or others to believe that we have nothing more to learn, even on matters of which we are thoroughly convinced.

Kris said...

I appreciate the optimism as well.

I'm curious though,

Tom: Did you get an invitation to attend, and if so, will you be attending?

Tom said...


No, I did not get an invitation to attend. A friend informed about it. I think it would be great to be there for the presentations. Who knows...if my schedule allows, maybe I will register. Maybe we could get Tim Brister to liveblog it!

Kris said...

A live blog would be GREAT! We need a perspective from the other side of the theological isle.

I plan to get at least the audio of the speakers and examine them. Having heard misrespresentations of the Doctrines of Grace before, this will be interesting.

I hope there's more exegetical work rather than opinions offered.

Rev. said...

"Hope it is not a Calvinist bashing conference."

Get used to disappointment.


S.J. Walker said...

In my Best Puddleglum voice:

"oh, that's bad. That's very bad".

I'm the guys that lookst the glass with not enough water in it and says "if it sits there long enough--it'll evaporate and we can quick wasting time arguing about it"

Good day all

In Christ
A Lion Has Roared!

GeneMBridges said...

You know, Atlanta is only five hours away for me, and I used to live there. I'd be easy for me to find cheap housing with friends for the weekend. Maybe this would be a good time for the cast who brought you Strange Baptist Fire to meet. Nathan White is a former FBCW member, and he's already in the area. Timmy and I could meet down there, and we could present the conference for everybody here.

Tom said...

James and SJ:

"I shouldn't wonder..." :-)


I like it. You could bill it as the SBF Reunion Tour! Maybe even sell T-shirts!

Strong Tower said...

I'd buy one dem T-shirts!

Jerry said...

I am afraid that the glass has a hole in the bottom.

I imagine that this conference will rate about 3 weeks coverage in the Baptist Press. "Nasty, evil, Bible-denying Calvinists who don't believe in John 3:16. Burn them, burn them..."

Todd Pruitt said...


What a contrast this gathering already seems to be with Building Bridges. My experience is that anti-Calvinists (as opposed to non-Calvinists) are not open to dialogue or debate.

I have a feeling the John 3:16 gathering will be notably "older" than Building Bridges or Together for the Gospel.


FBCW said...

As a servant of the First Baptist Church of Woodstock I will tell you with unfortunate certainty that this will be very adversarial to grace and clear doctrinal letters such as Romans and Ephesians . I personally have sat and heard the straw men miss-caricatures levied by Pastor Hunt, Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, Ergun Caner and yes, even Nelson Price.

Please hear a servant, member and leader in this church’s heart. I am so very hurt. I have literally cried at the horrible and misleading things said of Calvinists. There have been so many misnomers and incorrect statements said about what a Calvinist is. I have heard it all from my own pulpit like a Calvinist doesn’t believe in witnessing as strongly as a non Calvinist, Sandy Creek’ers were not Calvinist, to the accusation that the Calvinist worships a God that hates babies. Please do not bend what I am saying…. I AM NOT saying these men are lying, I am saying their caricatures are foreign to what I believe a Calvinist to be. Case and point, the accusations do not line up with a Spurgeon, or a Dever (who is in talks with J Hunt), or MacArthur, or Boice etc….. I am sure there are some horrible Calvinist out there, I just don’t know them. If I understand “mark ye them that cause strife and division”, I would like to see some of these men called out by name so I can “amen” what is being said from the pulpit because the Calvinist they describe doesn’t seem to exist in the SBC.

Also, it is hurtful that these sermons are propagated from the pulpit as CD “sets for sale” under names like “Theology 101” and “Baptist Battles” (all sold under It’s a New Day Ministries) – With these CD sets out there as a matter of record, can these men recant? Can they be teachable? I certainly am growing and learning every day and AT THIS TIME I line up with the Systematic Theology that Paul laid out in Romans. To be against these faithful old paths of doctrine, to me, seems to look at all of scripture with “man centered” lenses on.

Where are the people on the conservative side? Why do they not condemn these attacks? Why fight against your blood bought brothers? Why? Why?

dlytle said...

I see Steve Lemke has stated "This conference is intended as a majoritarian Southern Baptist response to the “Building Bridges” and “Together for the Gospel” conferences." (posted today on Ed Stetzer's Blog).

I attended the Building Bridges Conference and both Calvinist and Non-Calvinist veiwpoints were presented on each of the 5 points. The John 3:16 Conference, however is limited presentation.

Tom said...


Thanks for letting me know about Steve Lemke's description of the conference. His "majoritarian Southern Baptist" descriptor is a joke, perpetuated and believed only by those who refuse to admit that the majority of Southern Baptists can't be found! If his description turns out to be accurate, then only about 30% of those who sign up will show up!

dlytle said...

Maybe they'll give away HOT PRIZES like they're doing at the Bonfire Conference at FBC Woodstock...oh this is way beyond sad.

Sam Hughey said...


I truly mean no disrespect toward you by asking this question but with regards to your statements, I have literally cried at the horrible and misleading things said of Calvinists. There have been so many misnomers and incorrect statements said about what a Calvinist is. I have heard it all from my own pulpit like a Calvinist doesn’t believe in witnessing as strongly as a non Calvinist, and I AM NOT saying these men are lying, what is the difference between a lie and a misleading of the truth?

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


I can't speak for fbcw, but I can only take it to mean they don't know any better.

I also don't believe that they haven't been told. It's a case of being blinded by tradition.

Stephen Morse said...

Having spent time in the classroom with Dr. Land...

we had better duck and cover because Calvinists have been predestined to be terribly maligned in his upcoming presentation!

Romans9 said...

FBCW? No need to attend that. I have seen Johnny Hunt in person 4 times. He is one of the most calvinistic doctrine hating men I have ever seen. The pride that I observed flow from him was over the top. It totally overshaddowed anything else he had to say.

I listen almost daily to Richard Land and being hostile to calvinism is the least of his problems. He has down played Islam, encouraged pragmatism, and shared the platform with many false teachers.

I was apprehensive about the building bridges conference, but after listening to most of the messages my fears relieved. I have no hope for this conference at all.

May God have mercy on me where I have shown no charity or did not maintian a teachable spirit.

I have and will continue to pray for myself and these men. Thank God He uses broken vessals such as us.

Stephen said...

Is it ironic that they are waiting until November to have the conference? Such an important piece of theology should not be put on hold for its own sake. How many folks that would have attended this conference will die between now and then without ever knowing about eternal insecurity.

Sam Hughey said...


That they don't know any better is clearly revealed though not justified. I know how that sounds and I don't mean for it to sound rude but I do mean for it to sound critically important to a Christian. Not knowing better, in my book, is no excuse for stating something that is not true. I have seen far too many Christians hide behind this in order to say anything they want, not even caring if it is true or not.

It's a case of being blinded by tradition. How can anyone with 'free-will' be blinded by 'anything'?

Craig P said...

Kris said... I'm curious though, Tom: Did you get an invitation to attend, and if so, will you be attending?

Was an invitation needed? I just assumed (since I didn't anybody else pick up on it) that whosoever will may come!

Majoritarian? Did we vote? I guess that will be in the talk on unconditional election!

This is full of such fodder. If only it weren't so sad, such jokes could actually be funny.

Craig P said...

I meant to say "since I didn't see anybody else..."

Craig Bennett said...

Hmmm It seems to me that the main difference between what Arminians and Calvinists believe regarding John 3:16 is not in "who so ever" or "believes", rather it is in regards to the meaning of the word "World"

Reformed theology teaches that the meaning of World here means to represent some from every tribe and nation. other words limited atonement.

Arminian theology teaches that the word "World" means that Christ died for all who lived, lives and will live.
Interestingly though Don Carson in his book the "Difficult Doctrine of Gods love" expounds that Calvinists have it wrong when they say that them meaning of John 3:16 refers to only some from every tribe and nation. That indeed it does mean that Christ died for all even for those whom don't accept him...this is distinct from the subject of universalism

cananeoy said...


Canan eoy

Geoff said...

I'm sorry, but I am a pessimist on this. I think they will bash Calvinists. I hope not. I may attend just to see for myself. That church is about 40min from my house.

Pablito said...


John-Michael LaRue said...

As a seminary student at SBTS, I came here to Founders to see your comments on the conference.

Thank you for your consistent graciousness as well as your gospel confidence! It is true that the gospel will spread under trials.

You're response to the announcement of the conference is a breathe of fresh air from the constant chatter of many of my contemporaries who disdained this conference.

Grace and Peace,
John Michael LaRue