Friday, April 25, 2008

Baptist Standard on the Calvinist Resurgence

The Baptist Standard has published a package of articles on the resurgence of Calvinism. Ken Camp, the managing editor of the Standard, has done a very credible job on the stories. One of them highlights a talk by Leo Garrett on "Baby Boomer Baptist Theologians" in which he contends that at least half of the most influential Baptist theologians in that category are rather Calvinistic.

A second story is about definitions and is better than many that I have seen on the same subject. Once again Dr. Garrett is cited to define "hyper-Calvinism." I still disagree with the inclusion of the first 2 (supralapsarianism and belief in a covenant of redemption) of his 5 points of hyper-Calvinism, but appreciate the alterations he has made in his views from last year. Dr. Garrett is a humble, gracious scholar and it was very wise for the Standard to seek his insights on these issues.

A third story identifies factors that have led to the resurgence of the doctrines of grace over the last two decades. Attention is appropriately focused on John Piper as perhaps the leading human catalyst. Roger Olsen is cited as an appropriate critic of the Piper and the movement. I like Olsen but, not surprisingly, disagree with his assessments.

It doesn't take much insight to know that the Baptist Standard would not celebrate the resurgence on which they report. But they reported on it honestly and are to be commended.


GUNNY said...

Baby Steps ... Baby Steps ...

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Tom:

I don't like associating supralapsarianism with the term "Hyper Calvinism." This is confusing.

I wrote this in my second chapter in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult" (still in progress):

"In my studies in theology and its history, including systems commonly and traditionally known as Calvinism and Arminianism, I accept these definitions regarding variants of Calvinism.

High Calvinism - the belief in absolute predestination of all things, the belief that everything that exists or comes to pass does so due to the will and decree of God. High Calvinists are often known as supralapsarians, and some supralapsarians are Hyper Calvinists, but not all. I am a supralapsarian Calvinist, like other great Baptists theologians, as John Gill and A.W. Pink, and I believe in the proclamation of the gospel to all men and that Christ invites, yea, commands all men to receive him and to acknowledge him and his salvation.

Low Calvinism - the belief in either conditional or limited predestination or the absolute predestination of some things only, certainly not of all things. Low Calvinists are always infralapsarians.

Hyper (or Hybrid) Calvinism - The belief that God works independently of human means in the saving of sinners, the belief that regeneration precedes faith in Christ, that faith in Christ or conversion to the Christian religion are not necessary for regeneration.

Hardshells have a sect that are High Calvinists (Absoluters) and a sect that are Low Calvinists. But, they all are Hyper Calvinists."

I think we must be careful to distinguish between "Hyper" and "High" Calvinism.

In Christ,


Bob Cleveland said...

I agree it was wise to seek Dr. Garrett's insights, unless they wanted him to incite something. We've had quite enough of that in the SBC lately, thank you very much.


And, if that supralapsarian thing is what it sounds like, they need a new category for me. Superlapsarian. I've been having a lot of lapses lately.

Brian Hamrick said...

“My experience is that many young Christians swept up by this wave know little about the details of this kind of Calvinism,” Olson said. “Many of them are simply shocked to find out that it entails belief in limited atonement. However, after awhile, many of them gradually accept it lock, stock and barrel because they don’t know any alternative."

Wow, the world sure has changed, then. I have never met a single person who has experienced what Olson describes. I thought this "hidden" alternative grew on trees most places in Baptist life.

Tom said...

Thanks, Bob. There are enough "inciteful" people around...I don't need to lump Dr. Garrett into their number! (I corrected my mistake).


I agree with you. My experience is the same.

Bob Cleveland said...


If the points or the concepts of Calvinism are biblical, based on scripture itself,then it will ALWAYS resurge, at least until the second coming. I find it amazing that this seems to surprise people, or even be noteworthy.

It's also interesting that most of the arguments against Calvinism are not based on scripture but on reason or logic; it's almost as if we acknowledge God is infinite, but things can't be valid unless we can understand, can comprehend, them.

Tom said...


As usual, you have succinctly summarized the issue. I tried to make the same point to brothers this morning in our Edward's reading group, but (unfortunately) with many, many more words. I wish you had posted earlier! :-) Thanks.

ABClay said...


I understand your point and I think it is a valid point too.

The converse of this (I guess it is a converse) is that the same is true of heresies. Not that heresies are biblical, just that they keep resurfacing.

I think it was Phil Johnson who said (or Phil was the one I heard say it) that there are no new heresies, only old heresies with a new twist.

Grace and Peace...


Adam Winters said...

Hmm, looks like I have Dr. Garrett to thank for a new word, "Calminian." I don't know if I like it entirely, but if Dr. Dockery is a Calminian, then he stands for the sort of Calminian I want to be!

Sparrowhawk said...

Dr. Olson: "...However, after awhile, many of them gradually accept it lock, stock and barrel because they don’t know any alternative."

The same could be said for the myriad pastors who, while perpertuating characatures of the Doctrines of Grace, swallow whole nearly every brand of modern church-growth and evangelism methodology.

The 'alternative', in that same analogy, is careful exposition and exegesis of both OT and NT that clearly teach that God alone is the author of salvation.

Any other conclusion places a work of man as having merit toward justification.

Fred said...

Tom, I hope this is alright to post here. These doctrines so freely spoken of here have cost me my pastorate. I desperately need all of you to pray for me and my family. I am quite devastated.

Bill Formella said...

Fred, I'm sorry to hear of this but also excited to hear of what God does through this situation. Not just for you, but also for all those who are watching. I would encourage you to commit to honor God in how you handle these times. I will pray for you.

I think you are the third pastor I have heard referenced in the last month that is being persecuted for preaching the truth, and I'm not at all connected in the SBC. Be encouraged. I'm convinced that all of the troubles grace believing Pastors are going through, the John 3:16 conference, etc., are nothing more than a "kicking at the goads". It's as though they are trying to sweep up dandelion seeds, but with every angry, impassioned stroke of the broom they end up causing the truth they hate to spread even faster. In spite of what it may look like to many, especially you today, these are good days. God will be with you.

GeneMBridges said...

Once again Dr. Garrett is cited to define "hyper-Calvinism." I still disagree with the inclusion of the first 2 (supralapsarianism and belief in a covenant of redemption) of his 5 points of hyper-Calvinism, but appreciate the alterations he has made in his views from last year.

Steve Garrett's comment is excellent.

I might add...

1. Supralapsarianism seems to be part of the latest version of the script coming out of TX/SWBTS. But how many people actually understand it? For that matter, how many people actually understand Infralapsarianism?

I can actually think of a few practical uses for the orders of decrees - but that's because I actually spend time thinking through stuff like that. Chalk it up to "working" at Triablogue with Steve Hays.

For example, they are useful in talking about the "warrant to believe." Here's another reason why I take issue with telling folks "Jesus died for you," referring to the scope of the atonement as an evangelistic assurance and therefore a warrant to believe. Consider that Supras and Infras are united in affirming that the decree of election precedes the decree to atone for sin and then the decree of application of the atonement to the elect follows.

To say to a person "Jesus died for you" as an evangelistic warrant is, obviously a tacit appeal to the decree of election given either order.

And this is equally true on an Amyraldian order, where the decree of election follows the decree to atone - for if the atonement does not actually save anybody (even if it satisfies a "covenant hypotheticum), then the assurance must be found in some place other than the atonement. Rather it is to be found in something like the intercession of Christ or the decree of election itself. Indeed moving the question to the intercession is still an appeal to the decree of application,which is only valid on the decree of election. So it only moves the question back a step.

Old Hyper-Calvinism was notorious, as Dr. Nettles has repeatedly reminded his students and readers, for telling people that they needed to find a warrant to believe in the knowledge of their election. Then, so it was said, they could believe and be held responsible for it.

What this all means is that the Arminian, the Amyraldian, and the Hyper-Calvinist are all ultimately operating with the same thinking. The Hyper-Calvinst is just saying it outright. It takes some thinking to identify it in Amyraldianism. Arminianism is more consistent in moving the question to LFW,since election is grounded in the person's exercise of faith itself. But Amyraldianism and HyperCalvinism suffer here greatly when getting into these warrant statements, and rightly so. The orders of decrees make it easy to see - and that, dear ones, is why you should take the time to get to understand them. They actually do have practical application.

2. Supralapsarianism has undergone a reworking due to the work of Robert Reymond. I'm a Supra too - but of the Reymond variety. I am no hyper-Calvinist.

3. Supralapsarianism seems to be suffering some misrepresentation too. Dr. Keithley's presentation, to take an example, says some things about Supralapsarianism that just plain aren't so. I read his paper, and I've commented on it elsewhere. My point is that he cites sources, sources in my own possession, that don't actually say what he says they say. He cites them very selectively to make his point. That's unfair, as unfair as calling all Supras Hyper-Calvinists.

Finally, Bob Cleveland is, as always, logical. Must be the Presbyterian in him. ;)

Luke said...

I was reading within the last article you cited in your main post and have a question in regards to a quote that was attributed to you. I will not copy the whole quote but it is in the paragraph next to the pic of Timothy George.

My question stems not from the issue of divisiveness but from this particular piece of your quote,"I know of more cases where the real issue behind a controversy is biblical Christianity—what is a Christian and how does a person become one—not Calvinism."

What is "Calvinism" if it is not "Biblical Christianity"? Are you using the term "Calvinism" in a non-typical way? I was under the impression that "Calvinism" was defining who a Christian is an how that person becomes/became one.

Thank you for your time.

Elnwood said...

Tom, as I read the article, I believe that Garrett is not saying that any one of those 5 points makes one a Hyper-Calvinist, but that these are 5 points that all hyper-calvinists hold. I think he is right; every Hyper-Calvinist would be superlapsarian.

Superlapsarian would not be a point of Calvinism, though, because Calvinists can be superlapsarian or infralapsarian.

My Daily Bread said...

Dear Elnwood:

You said:

"Every Hyper-Calvinist would be superlapsarian."

That is simply not the case. Nearly every Hardshell or Strict Baptist is a "Hyper" but only few of them are "Supras."



jprapp said...

A little help here!

A very practical question coming. in a moment.

A little context.

First, I’m very thankful for the article. A nice job by the Standard.

Second, I’m not an in-house Baptist. Nor am I de-campe Reformed. I’m probably more like David Dockery (whatever he is): only weirder. Neither Calvinist nor Arminian. But, way too weird to be a Baptist. More like theist--–>Christian-—>quasi-Reformed-—>Quaker-charismatic/Vineyardite-—> Calvary Chapelite on matters of basic polity. Yeah, I know these don’t mix. But, I’m talking about family that I love. So don’t mess with me. Besides, I’m already too confused. So really don’t mess with me. In truth - I pay extremely heavy credits to Calvin and company. And to Jacobus too. For many reasons. In my daily work, I must work with clients from all these and more. And I need to know how to navigate.

Third, I know a little history. Enough of the history of Calvinism-Arminianism to see the workshop floor of theology littered with nearly innumerable names of careers that have bitten the dust in the Finnegan's Wake of fractured theological disputes. A mess. So, my question isn’t historical.

Fourth - my question: is that little ditty bitty of tiny prescriptive advice at the end of the article, really, I mean really the best advice the Baptists have, namely, forget theology and just preach the scripture? Huh? I had all my neurons all twitching in Great Expectations for some really awesome prescriptive advice, all because of the good balance, fairness, and the patient equanimity of this article in The Standard, salivating! – for some meat! – and, that’s it? – say what?

Is there anyone in Baptist-land who can post some pith? -- a little more meat? – a little Rx for how to mend the world? – a little more “how to” bring the camps together a little more than preach the scripture? – even a sketch of a skinny covenant to disagree? – something? – anything?

Hello? - is anyone alive out there in Baptist-land?



GeneMBridges said...

"Every Hyper-Calvinist would be superlapsarian."

That is simply not the case. Nearly every Hardshell or Strict Baptist is a "Hyper" but only few of them are "Supras."

Yes and No, Stephen.

In the Reformed Churches proper, they would be Supras, but as to the Hardshells in particular and Baptists in general, neither group really gets into orders of decrees.They aren't all Supras in Baptist circles, but then neither are they properly classed as Infra insofar as they don't understand these orders or discuss them. Baptists are considered the poor cousins to Presbyterians. The orders are generally discussed in Presbyterian/Dutch Reformed churches. Historically, the Hypers arose from the conflation of decrees into a single decree, and that was among the High Calvinists.

Tom said...


What I mean is this: biblical Christianity is much bigger than reformed doctrine. It includes church discipline and commitment to holy living, for example. Arminians and Calvinists agree on this. I have seen more guys dismissed from pastorates because of their insistence that Christians should not be allowed to continue in open, blatant sin than for their belief in election.

AceVentura/Pedaldetective said...

Charles Finney's methods and the SBC's heritage of liturgy around this (seeing is believing, right?)...enter "humble theology" that instantly crumbles all boasting of man and gives God his due. Hmmm, am I credible if I cant't tell you how many people "I" have led to Christ? Sometimes the SBC's schtick makes me wonder...oh well, Hope in God!!

Scott Oakland said...

I have finally gotten to posting on this blog. I Pastor a currently non-Reformed church in New England, but I am a Reformed Baptist. Please pray for me as I slowly proclaim Biblical truth. I avoid all labels and strictly preach expository messages. Our web site is Thank you all for your faithfulness in the SBC to the truths of God's Word. Perhaps some of you can post at my blog

Blessings, Scott