Monday, April 21, 2008

Steve Gaines revives the caricatures of Calvinism

I hope I live long enough to see the day when the common caricatures of the doctrines of sovereign grace have been so widely exposed that any self-respecting preacher will be ashamed to keep serving them up as if they were irrefutable critiques of what John Broadus called "that exalted system of Pauline truth which is technically called Calvinism." Honestly, I don't know what keeps some men from being ashamed of doing so in this present day, given the numerous refutations of those caricatures over the last twenty years. Some doctrinal misrepresentations seem to have a shelf life that is longer than most urban legends.

Steve Gaines illustrated this point again last week in his chapel message delivered at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. Here are a couple of the straw men that burned to the ground with much ado. After warning his hearers not to "get caught up in [that] theology that says that God just wants to save some" and citing Scriptures that he believes disallow particular redemption, Gaines says (at the 20:20 mark),
It would emaciate my evangelism if I couldn't walk up to a total stranger and say, "Jesus died for you." There's some people who can't do that. They can't do that. They say, "Jesus died for the elect, I hope you're one of them."
I would hate to think that my evangelism would be emaciated by the elimination of something that the New Testament knows nothing of! Nowhere in God's Holy, inerrant Word do we find an evangelistic appeal based on the idea that Jesus died for the particular person being appealed to. Where is there any record of any apostle going up to a person, stranger or not and saying, "Jesus died for you"? Jesus died for sinners as sinners. The promise of salvation is for all who will, through faith, receive Him as Lord. "Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31), not "Believe that Jesus died particularly for you."

What does it say about one's understanding of evangelism when it would be "emaciated" unless a statement that the Bible nowhere makes nor instructs us to make can be said? I mean no disrespect, but this highlights much that has gone wrong with the conservative resurgence in the SBC. Too many are willing to thump their Bibles and boldly declare its inerrancy while denying its sufficiency in for matters of faith and practice. If the Bible is inerrant (and I am fully convinced that it is), then shouldn't it be treated with more respect than is shown by those who blatantly neglect (church discipline) or add to (evangelism) its clear teachings?

Gaines' caricature of how those who believe in particular redemption evangelize needs no comment. It is dishonest on its face and I challenge him one example of a Christian who would make such a statement. If such a miscreant were to be found, I would be the first resist him and his God-dishonoring engagement of lost men and women.

Next, Dr. Gaines repeats a canard that should have been put to rest long ago. It was a key point of Jerry Vines' diatribe against Calvinism in 2006. It stems from equating regeneration with the whole work of salvation. Regeneration is sine qua non to salvation, but it is not the full content of salvation. Failure to make that distinction leads to the following fallacious critique (beginning at 24:00):
You cannot be saved until you repent. The same theology that says that Jesus only died for some says, no, no, no, no, no, you repent after you are saved. Number one, that's not even logical. But, number two, it is not biblical. You say, "Oh no, no if you believe you have to repent to be saved then that's works!" You know what that's like" [It's like] saying, go downtown to Dallas, find a guy on the street; he's a beggar, he's sitting there and you go up to him and you say, "You know, I want to give you some money. But, now, don't you reach out your hand because that would be works. Don't you reach out your hand! In fact, when I hand it to you, don't even open your hand because that would be works. I'm just gonna throw it on you and somehow you need to get hold of it. I don't know how. I'm just gonna zap you with some money. Don't you say anything! That'll be works, too." How ridiculous have we gotten. "Oh but that's my system." Get rid of your system and go back to the Bible. Quit reading the Bible through your theology and start getting your theology from the Bible."
Now, I applaud Gaines' insistence that repentance must be preached in the preaching of the Gospel. That is no small thing in this day and age of minimalist preaching. The confusion that his words reflect, however, between reformed theology and dispensational theology is astounding. It is the Reformed understanding of the Gospel that has insisted on the preaching of repentance in the face of those who have attempted to separate repentance from faith.

The recognition of the priority of regeneration in relation to faith and repentance cannot legitimately be construed as teaching that repentance comes only after salvation. It is a misrepresentation that no honest theologian--Reformed or otherwise--would ever make.

Teachers like Zane Hodges have asserted that repentance is not part of Gospel and should not be insisted on in evangelism. But he does so as an advocate of "non-lordship salvation." Gaines would have done much better to take that teaching--that does exist--and critique it rather than building a straw man out of his ill-informed understanding of reformed soteriology and destroying it.

Some will regard my review of Dr. Gaines' remarks as unkind or perhaps even harsh. Such is not my intent. I look forward to the day when this kind of review will be unnecessary because the caricatures that call them forth will have died away. Until that time, those who unabashedly misrepresent the theology and teaching of a growing percentage of Southern Baptist pastors and churches should be held accountable for their words. If doing so causes embarassment, let the cause be rightly traced to the those who perpetuate the caricatures and not to the ones who simply call attention to their misrepresentations.


Bob Cleveland said...

Per Rev. Gaines:

"The same theology that says that Jesus only died for some says, no, no, no, no, no, you repent after you are saved."

From the pastor they called to fill the pulpit of Adrian Rogers?

Wow. How can that statement be viewed as NOT being a lie? Well, maybe, if it's really really ignorant, instead.

johnMark said...

I would like for Gaines to give the name of a Calvinist that said

"Jesus died for the elect, I hope you're one of them."

He claims that "they" (we) say that in our evangelism and I say proof it. If he cannot give an account that this is the normal means of evangelism, as he implied, then this is a blatant falsehood.


Stan McCullars said...

Dr. Gaines? Dr.???
A PhD is no guarantee of intellectual honesty. I thought research skills were part of what a PhD was all about.

I'll offer the same advice to him as I do to college students: Do your homework or keep your mouth shut. That's simple enough.

Does he not realize that ranting against something that doesn't exist gives us a black eye?

Todd Pruitt said...

Christians should have the integrity to not misrepresent the beliefs of others. How can an ordained man get the theology that was so precious to Whitfield, Edwards, and Spurgeon so wrong? For whatever reason Gaines, Vines, Graham, etc believe that the doctrines of grace are a threat.

Kudos Tom for not ignoring Pastor Gaines' remarks. Those of us who are pastors are accountable for what we say. Those who have been given a large platform ought to be especially careful to be well informed and truthful.

John Mark said...

Acts gives us the picture of what evangelism looked like in the early church. Scholars have often noted that Luke underplays the theology of the cross. (not that he doesn't believe it)

According to scholars Luke 22:19-20 and Acts 20:38 are the only places where Luke links the death of Christ with forgiveness of sins.

Greg Herrick summarizes Darrel Bock's position on Luke's atonement theology. "Bock affirms with Marshall and others that Luke does indeed have a positive theology of the atonement, but has chosen to place greater emphases on other aspects of Christ’s work."

Luke's presentation "stresses certain aspects".

Should Luke's stress on other elements of Jesus as savior disallow us from presenting an explicit fully-developed theology of atonement when presenting the gospel to unbeleivers?

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.

Why should we limit ourselves to Luke's emphasis and not include the whole NT emphasis and be ok with saying Jesus died for you?

Tom said...

John Mark:

I am not sure which scholars you are reading, but it doesn't take a PhD to see the connection between the atoning work of Christ and forgiveness of sins in Peter's sermons at Pentecost (recorded by Luke in Acts 2:22-39 and Solomon's Porch (recorded by Luke in Acts 3:12-26). See also Acts 5:30-31 and Paul's message at Pisidian Antioch that Luke recorded in Acts 13:17-41 (NB: v. 38). I could go on, but the point is made.

Despite all this, where in the NT do you find the formula that Gaines says he must have in order to evangelize, namely, saying to an unbeliever, "Jesus Christ died for you"? If Luke's (or Peter's or James' or John's or Jesus') evangelism is judged "defective" by modern standards, so be it. I will take my stand with their message and methods over all the PhDs in the world.

M. Jay Bennett said...

The fundamental problem is that this is not really a theological debate within the SBC. It is culture. It is politics.

Doug said...

The best lines of this great post:

"...this highlights much that has gone wrong with the conservative resurgence in the SBC. Too many are willing to thump their Bibles and boldly declare its inerrancy while denying its sufficiency for matters of faith and practice."

Amen and Amen. As a church planter I am constantly amazed at the junk that SBC planters are encouraged to do and the philosophies on church growth that they are taught to hold. And these come by men who have giant Bibles on their podium from which they quote often and yet they seem unable to recognize that what they are teaching us to practice and believe has nothing to do with the Scriptures they have just quoted.

And, not to resurrect this topic, but recently I had a student apply to be a semester missionary and NAMB sent a covenant for her to sign that started with this sentence: "I am under the conviction that the consumption of alcohol as a beverage is a detriment to my Christian life and witness." My student said that she will happily sign a commitment to not touch alcohol but could not with a clear conscience sign something that said that she believed that the Scriptures taught that, for example, it would be detrimental to her own spiritual walk if she were to have a glass of wine with dinner. I contacted them and told them as much and asked why they would not be satisfied with her commitment to not touch alcohol but, instead, insist that she hold a particular doctrinal position on it. They replied that they, in fact, are not concerned with an individual's doctrinal stance on drinking but they did have serious concerns that it is not her heart's conviction that to have a glass of wine with dinner would be detrimental to her walk and witness. Huh?

Anyhow, enough venting from me. Thanks Tom- your blog continues to be a great encouragement and challenge.

Strong Tower said...

Jay- I think in some ways you are quite correct. However, at the bottom of the political and cultural milieu (I suppose you mean within the SBC) is a wrong concept of ecclesiology. And, that leads us right back to doctrine.

It may not be the specific issue, i.e. Calvinism vs Arminianism, but when it comes down to it, the mistreatment of Scripture by the CR majoritarian faction goes right back to what TA says about regenerate membership. It doesn't take much imagination to figure that the pastor's in the pulpits of many of the SBC churches came right out of the SBC culture in which they were raised. That culture has been mostly non-Calvinistic and antagonistic towards it. What has been characterisitic of Reformed churches over against the "fundamentalist" non-reformed churches is the emphasis on academics and biblical/doctrinal literacy as opposed to an anti-intellectual/pragmatic emphasis. It then stands to reason that they do not want it to come out that they are guilty of dumbing down the Gospel (and I mean here not just the evangel, but the entire message of the Great Commission).

So, yes, I think also that there is more "gravy than of grave" in the mix. But they (politics and culture) are fruit and not the root of the problem. I also think that the attack on Calvinism has more to do with deflection from the problems and not just a power play. As Nathan White is saying at his blog, it is a form of "liberalism". One that posits a spectre, a boogie, that is, an incubus in the SBC house which needs to be exorcised, by which some are redirecting attention away from the failures of pragmatics over Gospel. Calvinism is a convenience.

Matt said...


I am discouraged that within the SBC
the work of God in salvation has been so dumbed down. What drew me to the doctrines of grace was not calvin, spurgeon, edwards, and the puritans but the God who saved these men. The very same work of regeneration within their lives the triune God has done within my life. Glory to God we get to boast of such a complete Lord and Savior. Let those who misrepresent the doctrines of grace preach on for truth will stand no matter how you attack it.

In Christ,

For Sale By Owner said...

What I find interesting is that despite Gaines's strong views, he absolutely adores Voddie Baucham, who has preached at Bellevue and who he, as President of the 2005 Pastor's Conference, asked to speak in the opening session (just prior to Ergun Caner). I guess he hasn't viewed the links under "Theology/BIBLE Study" on this page on Voddie's website. The first five are as follows:

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
Reformed Blacks of America

Tom said...

Strong Tower:

I think you make a very valid point. The doctrines of grace are an easy target and convenient whipping boy for those who desperately do not want to address fundamental concerns within the SBC. I believe that is a failed strategy that will ultimately advance the cause of God and truth far more than it will undermine it, primarily by exposing the illegitimacy of the attacks (where they are, in fact, illegitimate). That is why I remain hopeful in the face of these kinds of misrepresentations. God will use them for the good of His people.


I understand your discouragement, but look at the need as a call to stand firm and boldly proclaim and live out the glorious Gospel of God's grace! We need to "ride to the sound of the guns!"


There is a growing number of Southern Baptists who share your concerns. The response you got suggests that even those who are obligated to enforce the rules think that this kind of extra biblical requirement is at best dubious. May the Lord grant us grace not to waver on the authority and sufficiency of His Word.

My Daily Bread said...

That is correct! There is no example of an evangelist, in the bible, going to a person and telling them that Christ died specifically for him. The Old Baptists of the 17th century were called to state this point quite often to men like Gaines.

The best way to prove men like Gaines are wrong is to go out and win souls like Spurgeon. Gaines thinks that believing in particular redemption hinders evangelism. How can he be proven wrong? Of course, pointing him to Spurgeon's success is one way. But, to get out today and win souls without preaching universal redemption seems to be a better way.


Lance said...

Thanks for bringing this to us, Bro. Tom.

I am often astounded when I read through the book of Acts and observe what the apostles said and did not say in their evangelism.

First, they never told unbelievers that God loved them (whether true or not).

Second, they never used the term "heaven" in their evangelism.

Instead, they often focused on the fact that "you killed Christ," rather than He died for them. And that they must repent, lest they incur the judgment they deserved.

I wonder how we got to where we are in our evangelistic methods and cliches. I wonder how we got to, "Christ died for you;" and, "ask Jesus into your heart."

Would it not be better to cling more closely to apostolic methods and phrases?

Todd Pruitt said...

Excellent points.

What is at stake here is the sufficiency of God's Word and the glory of God. A generation of theologically careful and biblically committed pastors are exposing the errors of the pragmatic evangelism and church growth on which most of us were raised.

I am convinced that feels like a very threatening thing to many within our denomination who have built their ministries on pragmatism. I do not for one moment question their motives or love for the Lord. But it is scary and disorienting to begin doubting your entire methodology not to mention most of your theology. I know that feeling personally.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Calvinist site; please visit/comment;

SS&SG said...

Jay Bennett good point. There is allot of truth to what you say

My daily Bread good point also! We need to evangelize. I think the new Lifeway statistic about Calvinist evangelizing more than non-calvinist ought to say something.

As long as they paint a wrong picture of calvinism they will never be able to effect the growth in the intrest of calvinism. This is becuase people will begin to do research on their own. When they do they will see the truth of the exhaulted system of Pauline truth.

JamesL said...

It seems to me all the bashing of calvinism/election seems to be a smokescreen hiding ignorance of the Gospel as this tirade demonstrates. I grew up in an SBC church but it wasn't until I read the last chapter of Piper's "Counted Righteous in Christ" and Luther on Galatians that I really grasped/found awesome/was willing to be burned for the Gospel and Christ. I said then and I say now I didn't hear all this growing up in an SBC church. I blame it on most preachers such a having such a warped or diminished view of the Gospel as Dr Gaines demonstrated. Both Whitefield and MLJ said that early on they preached the need for the new birth and repentance. Rightfully so! However what was missing was the great truth of justification and imputation they both acknowledged!! Enough John 3:16 already ( I say with great love for that mighty scripture) explain 2Cor 5:21 to me as well! Enough aisle trotting more proclamation of the promises of god that are yeas and amen in Jesus Christ!
I recently heard Henry Crabbendam preach a masterful sermon on regeneration, justification, and sanctification. The message, he said burns in his heart. Amen! It needs to be preached in ever SBC, PCA and whatever church in America.
Blessed be the Lord for His great mercy to me!


Todd Pruitt said...

One of the things you will notice about Steve Gaines' address is that he holds a flawed view of unregenerate man. Is this not one of the primary reasons why the doctrines of grace are rejected? We are not dead in our sins, they reason. We are hampered by our sins and therefore need help.

reformedlawless said...

The doctrines of grace are the motivation to witness. Thaks for the post.


GeneMBridges said...

I dealt last night with the statement that we can only do evangelism if we can say "Jesus died for you" here:

A few observations from that post are good for here:

To all sinners who hear the call:

God does not say, "Believe because Jesus died for everybody."

God does not say, "Believe because you are elect."

God does not say, "Comply because you are all able."

He says, "Do this, and you will live."

It's very simple, and I think He does this to draw attention to the fact that if we start asking those questions, we are, at some level asking for personal, subjective assurances when we are still "children of wrath." God's children have every right to know these things - for they belong to our assurance, but assurance is given as a gift to us after we are converted, not before, for "children of wrath" have no such right. They have no "right" except condemnation. God gives this command, makes this "offer" indiscriminately, and He makes it equal for us all thereby. There are no special qualifications or rules for the elect vs. the reprobate. They are all, when confronted by the preaching of the Gospel, given the same command, presented with the same offer. It's man who tries to add these assurances, and that panders to the self-interest of sinners. This offer will call the elect; it will reveal the reprobate by inculpating them.

Speaking personally, I think saying this has done a lot of harm in Baptist churches in particular, for their pews are lined with unregenerate "members," yet they say they affirm regenerate, not mixed, membership. Presbyterians believe in mixed membership, yet in my personal experience these days, they do better with regenerate membership than us Baptists have in many years.

And it's perfectly logical. If we ask, "How can I know...?" We're asking an epistemological question. I can know, because God made a promise in His Word - Jesus said that He will not cast out the ones who come to Him, not because I have a subjective sense of assurance before I convert that tells me that Christ died for me or I am one of the elect or that I have the ability to do this (eg. Libertarian Freedom). I can know if I do what God says I should do,because that's the means that God has licensed. So, we are driven not to subjective assurances and feelings or attempts to divine God's secret decrees or figure out if we are truly able, but to God's Word itself, and thus to His promises, and to the centrality of Christ Himself.

I have frequently asked General Redemptionists and others to find me a single text of Scripture that says that we are appeal on the basis of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you," or "Jesus died for you." To date, nobody has been able to demonstrate the offer. One Roman Catholic at Beggars All tried recently but found not a one. For all the farrago of words, he finally said, that it was the general drift of the New Testament. If that's true,then where's the actual argument? Where's the text that teaches it? It's merely an assertion.

We can simply say that God has made a single once for all time atonement for sin in Christ, and that the way to know if our sins are covered is to turn to Him and Him only. He will not turn such an one away, not ever.

God thus focuses the sinner on His promises and His command to repent, believe,and be saved, not on subjective assurances and revelations to which no child of wrath is entitled to answer or even impertinently (and impudently) ask.

I'd also add to that this:

People ask questions about Jesus dying for them, moral ability, and their election before they decide to convert because they would, if they could, weasel out of their responsibility to comply. "Jesus did not die for me?" I am not responsible to believe.

"I am not elect." I am not responsible to believe.

"I am not able." I am not responsible.

So, Gaines and his kind try to say "Jesus died for you," so you should believe. "Election is based on foreseen faith," so you must believe. "You are able" so you are responsible. So,in principle, Mr. Gaines and his friends are in agreement with the motive lying behind these questions - that's why they try to provide the answers that they provide. They agree that ability limits responsibility. They agree that election limits responsibility. They agree the scope of the atonement limits responsibility to believe. They are revealing either their ignorance or their impudence or both.

But the Bible never does this. The
Bible says we are responsible - period, end of discussion. So, I must conclude that Steve Gaines, Jerry Vines, and the rest of these people are inerrantists but they don't really believe the Bible is sufficient. They don't believe the command is sufficient to impel the Gospel.

Hmmm, how is this any different than Rome? Conservative Romanism affirms inerrancy, but the Bible is not a sufficient rule of faith. The Church must second the Gospel in order to impel the Gospel. Think hard on that one. This is why it is important for us Baptists to defend the Protestant rule of faith alongside the doctrines of grace and our own ecclesiology. This is why flying the banner of inerrancy but not the sufficiency of Scripture is NOT sufficient to guard the Gospel. You can affirm inerrancy and believe all sorts of things that ultimately show you don't believe Scripture alone is sufficient as the infallible rule of faith. You start adding qualifications, implicitly or explicitly, that you place on a par with Scripture - like "ability limits responsibility," (Libertarian Free Will) which is not taken from Scripture.

Steve Gaines believes in Libertarian Freedom, right? Well, if we have LFW then our desires are NOT sufficient causes motivating our actions. So, why would telling somebody "Jesus died for you" be useful at all? It's meant to assure somebody of something,and that assurance should motivate their conversion. But if our desires are not sufficient causes motivating our actions, then telling somebody this does what,exactly, other than make the appeal to LFW on Brother Steve's part schizophrenic? Do these people think about what they say before they open their mouths, or are their lips and higher cortical functions independent of each other?

First, they never told unbelievers that God loved them (whether true or not).

Lance, well said. The gist of Peter's sermon is "You murdered your King, and He now sits in judgment over you. Repent or you will face Him as judge." Peter doesn't say, "Jesus loves you, died for you, and has a wonderful plan for you." That first sermon is as far from modern day evangelism as it gets.

My Daily Bread said...

Amen Gene!

Very good!


John Mark said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond.
The article above discusses atonement in Luke.

I mentioned Bock and Marshall in my original commment.

The passages you mention refer to Jesus' death, but they don't really highlight the atonement, or it's substitutionary nature.

Substitution was of first importance for Paul in preaching the gospel (1 Cor 15:3).

I don't think "Jesus died for you" is a "must" phrase for evangelism. But I don't think that those who use it are somehow not following the example of the apostles.

Luke believed in substitution but it wasn't the emphasis he wanted to bring out at every point. It was of first priority for Paul.

I don't think it's fair to criticize those who use "Jesus died for you" just because the author who gives us the history of evangelism in the early church doesn't choose to emphasize substitution.

John O said...

Yeah, and that whole thing of the exhaustive omniscience of God, which Gaines and the other Calvinist haters supposedly believe, doesn't kill evangelism??? (of course, it doesn't, but if they were consistent in their thinking, it MUST!). The contradictions within the anti-Calvinists system are voluminous; this just being one tip of the iceberg. They say God already knows who will and who won't be saved, yet fail to take that into consideration when making their fallacious rants against the Calvinistic position. Their views are far more consistent with Open Theism, and they don't even realize it. Once they do realize it, I wonder if they will finally just be honest and go the whole way and embrace Open Theism...their already there for all intents and purposes.



Todd Pruitt said...


This is a point I frequently raise in conversation with Arminians. By denying sovereign election and yet affirming exhaustive forknowlege they have not solved their "fairness" problem. In this sense Boyd, Sanders, Pinnock, etc are at least intellectually consistent in their open theism.

GeneMBridges said...

Why should we limit ourselves to Luke's emphasis and not include the whole NT emphasis and be ok with saying Jesus died for you?

Two reasons:

1. Because given the trajectory of the whole NT emphasis, it is not altogether clear that passages using universalistic language are making that reference. In fact, such passages would not differentiate between universal atoenement and universal salvation.

2. As I wrote above, the Gospel call itself takes the form of a command in both Acts and 1 John. So, it's not merely Lukan theology, it's the drift of the wider NT that's in view. The substitutionary nature of the atonement does not supply a warrant for the sinner to believe; the command to do so supplies the warrant.

So, it's not merely the usage of an example or rather the lack of an example that I think Tom has in mind; rather it's the underwriting theology of the NT itself.

When you start saying "Jesus died for you" you are using the atonement as a warrant to believe. By "warrant" here, I'm referring to the epistemological usage, that is, that which warrants our beliefs or our responsibility to comply. At T-blog we've talked about epistemological warrants before. For example, Hyper-Calvinists of old would use the subjective sense of one's personal election as a Gospel Warrant. General Redemptionists and Amyraldians use the atonement. Arminians of all stripes use LFW. So, in each case, the Gospel warrant is placed some place other than the command/offer itself.

Sin generates its own necessity to repent - not the sacrifice for sin. A sacrifice for sin is a provision of God's grace, but it is not the basis of our need to repent. God's command is the basis for that, for, from the beginning, man has manifestly demonstrated he understands the need to repent of sin - period. We did it before the first sacrifices foreshadowing Christ were ever made, for our parents hid themselves from God. They knew what they had done,and they knew they were guilty. Adam wanted to try to undo what he had done by eating from the Tree of Life,demonstrating that he knew then he must do something to undo what he had done. The reason God provides a sacrifice isn't to get to repent or provide a basis for it, but to demonstrate that nothing we can do ourselves can atone for our sins, a means so that, for those who do, they will have their sins covered. God makes the sacrifice, not us - that's the point. Yet it is on our very conscience to repent. The Gospel call merely makes it plain and explicit.

ABClay said...


If you really want non-reformed pastors to stop the madness, we should pray for this. It is my prayer that this would stop.

If you like, you can even share your request with a friend:

Grace and Peace....


Strong Tower said...

"man has manifestly demonstrated he understands the need to repent of sin - period." -gene

That exactly right and man does so in rejecting it. He will not come in to the light so that his sin might be exposed because mans works are evil. All men begin in darkness and know it. But if called out, it is clear that his works have been worked by God.

Gene you are cogently sublime in your erudition, whether exaustive or succinct. Nobody can make up that stuff. You must have read it in a Book. Your'e not one dem Biblicists is you? ;)

Rusty said...

As a young believer in the faith I once transported Dr. Graines from an airport to a church were he had a speaking enagagment. I asked him on the way what he thought of the doctrines of grace? He told me not to get caught up in that stuff and then proceeded to inform me, that based on Luke 13:34, that God doesn't even always get what He wants.

Roy Hargrave said...

Though it is intended for evil, God intends it for good. The burgeoning obsession with Calvinism and the blatant misrepresentations of it among the semi-pelagians is a walking, talking advertisement for further examination. And when that happens the Truth begins to seep through the cracks until the old ship sinks and that is exactly what these desperate men are feeling.

ABClay said...

Brother Roy,

I can agree with you to an extent. But my father is in a church (where I used to go) and he is continuously "poisoned" with the rhetoric that Dr. Craig was spewing.

Vines preached there a couple of weeks ago and he said that John 3:16 deals with Calvinism. Now my father is asking me why I don't believe John 3:16. Sure it is an opening for me to share the glorious doctrines of God's sovereignty to him, but boy, the hurdles that I must overcome. It's really hard to bite my tongue when he brings up things that the "good doctor" has said about us. All things work together for good...

As a side note, I sort of Hijacked his "Baptist Battles" set from his mailbox and I make him listen to the "Calvinism" CD every time he gets in the car with me to go anywhere. It's a blast.

Grace and Peace to y'all...


Tom said...

John Mark:

Gene has put it well. I simply add that I am not criticizing Dr. Gaines for using "Jesus died for you" in his evangelism. I am criticizing his words at two points: 1) his declaration that if he could not say that, then he could not evangelize; 2) his caricature of anyone who cannot/does not say that in evangelism.

I had a wonderful time last night persuading a friend to be reconciled to God by trusting Christ. At no time did I feel my message was emaciated because I did not use language that is not in the Bible. And, neither did I say, "Jesus died for the elect. I hope you are one of them."

Will said...

Tom, are you fighting the wrong fight?

Your reformed brother in Cedar Hill Texas

Tom said...


I am not sure what you mean. Can you help me understand?


Will said...

Brother Tom

I have great respect for you and your fight for inerrancy and sufficiency. That is a fight worth fighting. But I struggle in wondering whether the effort to reform the SBC is Biblical given the abiblical nature of denominationalism, and whether the fight for inerrancy and sufficiency should be at the local church and in the mission field. If the efforts (hours) that were placed in atempting to reform the SBC were instead placed in direct work of the great commandment and commission, would not the cause of Christ be furthered much more?

I for one wonder if the age of denominationalism has passed.

Appreciate you brother. If you are ever in Dallas please stop by and see us

Tom said...


I am not trying to reform the SBC. My desire is to see the Gospel recovered and local churches biblically reformed. I think you and I probably agree on the nature of denominations.

My concern with Gaines' comments has little if anything to do with the SBC as a denomination. It has everything to do with encouraging honesty and integrity in dealing with those with whom we disagree.

Thanks for the invitation. If I ever make it back to my old stomping grounds I will look you up.


Martin said...

Sometimes I wonder if people like Gaines and Caner even listen to what they are saying. Sadly I am amazed over and over again by their perversion of the doctrines of grace.


Luke said...

It would not take much searching to find out that I am not a 5-pointer. My goal here is not to attempt to persuade anyone of my beliefs. But I can take you to an individual who made such a statement that he did not know if his daughter could be saved because he did not know if she was one of the elect. Miscreant or not, one example is enough to raise the eyebrows of some and the ire of others. Should you ever come by SW Louisiana, I would consider it an honor to meet with you and would be glad to introduce this gentleman to you for I am sure that he would believe it an honor as well.

Tom said...


Thanks for your comment. I would not make the statement that your friend made. We should not try to judge the "savability" of anyone based on the knowability of their election. To do so would put us in the horrible, unbiblical position of trying to pry into unrevealed realities. Anyone who repents and believes in Christ will be saved. Anyone and everyone who hears the Gospel is a candidate for salvation. Because of the power of God's grace, anyone can be saved.

One final point, your friend's comment is nowhere near Gaines' caricature. It is the latter that referred to as "micreant."

I travel through SW LA on occasion and would consider it a privilege to meet you, if the opportunity ever afforded itself. Thanks,

Sparrowhawk said...

He is a warm-up act before the main FBC Woodstock stage.

He has thrown out of his inerrant Bible John 6:44, Romans 9, Ephesians 1 and 2, and 2 Tim 2:24-26.

His angular disposition is among the reasons why younger SBC men are leaving, being expert sniff detectors of the "SBC Salesman", can smell it a mile away; Conversely, they know real scholarship when they see it, and thus we have Young, Restless, and Reformed. Bless God for that.

And Ed Stetzer may still wonder why the denom's in decline.

Will said...

Brother Tom
Forgive me if I sounded attacking. The written word does not convey connotation and context. I appreciate your comments, and I agree 100%. Our Biblical mission is to see the local NT church reformed to the truth of the Gospel. And the truth of the Gospel is that we are to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all who will hear, but when they do hear, and they do believe, it is only because God has regenerated them, changed their hearts, and enabled them to hear first. At best, we are just the broken vessel He used to communicate the truth.

Cher and I have plenty of room if you are ever down this way.

Will Shores

Tom said...


Amen. And I did not take your words as an attack at all. I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks again for your gracious offer.


ABClay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Been Redeemed said...

Regarding Steve Gaines: Having been a long time former member of the church where Adrian Rogers was the Senior Pastor, I surely recognize the difference between a true man of God and one that is not. Steve Gaines has consistently preached inaccuracies and those that recognize his error have left the church. He states that scripture is "guidelines" and that Matthew 18 does not apply to him. If this gives you any clue about the man, I pray you will understand where he is coming from.

DJP said...

I'm sorry I'm so late to this discussion, to the point where this response may be pointless. Nonetheless:

The confusion that his words reflect, however, between reformed theology and dispensational theology is astounding. It is the Reformed understanding of the Gospel that has insisted on the preaching of repentance in the face of those who have attempted to separate repentance from faith.

Denial of the call to repentance is no more essential to dispensationalism than Arminianism is to being a Southern Baptist.

I've been fundamentally dispensational for some 35 years, and remember to this day how absurd both denial of repentance and the notion of two-tier Christianity (accepting Jesus as Savior / accepting Jesus as Lord) seemed to me the first time I heard them.

The same reason that I affirm the Sola's and the 5 points is the same reason I affirm dispensationalism — and the same reason I reject the positions you rightly pillory, dear brother.

Dr. Richard Trader said...

Steve Gaines raises some good
questions from a Pelagian point
of view. I would like to respond
with three points.

First, Scripture makes it clear
that God initiates our salvation.
He begins and continues the work
in us until the day of our Lord
Jesus [Philippians 1:6;2:13].

Second, the Parable of the Sower
makes it clear that the seed of
the Word only produces fruit in
the good soil. If God does not change our hearts, we will never receive the Word of Christ. Only God can change our hearts, that we may walk in newness of life [Ezekiel 36:26-27].

Third, our command from Christ is
to preach the gospel to everyone.
We don't know who the elect are,
but God does. The revealed will of
God is the command that everyone,
everywhere repent [Acts 17:30]. Not all will. We understand that God must grant repentance as His gift [Acts 5:31].

Let's tell everyone the good news
of Christ and leave the results to

Tom said...


Point well taken, brother. I wish I had said, "classic dispensationalism." Thanks for making this important clarification.

Stephen Garrett said...

To brother Trader:

You said:

"The Parable of the Sower
makes it clear that the seed of
the Word only produces fruit in
the good soil. If God does not change our hearts, we will never receive the Word of Christ. Only God can change our hearts, that we may walk in newness of life [Ezekiel 36:26-27]."

To me it is Hyper Calvinism to believe that the "good soil" in the parable was already changed into a regenerate heart before the gospel was planted in it. The only ones I know who promote this view are the Hardshells and Hypers.

If your view is correct, then the preaching of the word, or sowing the seed, has nothing to do with regeneration.

The "good soil" does not denote regeneration. If it does, then we need to all become Hardshells (I am not going back myself). Good soil however denotes that the sinner has had some preparation for regeneration, that is all. I think all the leading Particular Baptists of the 17th century did not make this regeneration.

Later, Gill seem to intimate this "good soil = regeneration" but he only gave it as a speculation and in a way in which he said he was only giving the theological defninition of "regeneration" and NOT the biblical one.

I have written chapters in my ongoing book on "The Hardshell Baptist Cult" (Baptist Gadfly) on the Parable of the Sower and invite you to read that chapter.

Is the soil spiritually alive without the seed?

God bless


Dr. Richard Trader said...

Brother Garrett,

Thanks for your response. Let me assure you that I am not a Primitive Baptist. The question is
this, Which comes first, regeneration or faith?

It's interesting to note that B.H.
Carroll, founder of Southwestern
Seminary, taught that regeneration
is the action that precedes faith.

James P. Boyce, founder of Southern
Seminary, wrote, "Christians are, therefore, said to be 'brought forth [James 1:18] by the word of truth' because that is the seed sown in the good ground [Abstract of Theology, p. 376].

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Taylor:

It is incorrect that Carroll and Boyce taught the pre-faith view of regeneration or the new birth.

Brother Bob Ross has cited Boyce and Carroll on this and shown that they did not believe that regeneration or the new birth was completed until one had believed the gospel.

I have cited these too in my writings on the Hardshell cult. I cited Boyce in chapter 40.

Both Carroll and Boyce repudiated the idea that one could be a regenerated unbeliever.

Let me ask you these questions that I put in my chapter on the Parable of the Sower.

1. "Is there "life" in the soil without seed or water?"

2. "Is there any "fruit" from or in soil that is without "seed" or "water"?

3. "If there can be no "fruit" nor "life" in soil that is without "seed" and "water," then how can such soils (hearts) be said to be "alive"?

4. "Why would God prepare hearts for seed and yet have no one sent to sow seed in them?" How can he make the heart change from a desert wilderness to a delightful garden without both cultivating and seeding the soil?

5. "Since faith and repentance are immediate "fruits" of regeneration, how can "fruit" come from soil that is without water and without seed?"

Yours in Christ,


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Taylor:

Here is Carroll's syllogism.

(1) Every one born of God has the right be called a child of God.

(2) But no one has the right until he believes in Jesus.

(3) Therefore the new birth is not completed without faith."

Wrote Brother Ross:

"Here is also what Spurgeon said about the matter:

C. H. SPURGEON presents the view of Baptists and of the Confessions of Faith.

He says, "Where there is no faith, there has been no quickening of the Holy Spirit , for faith is of the very essence of spiritual life."

And whereas there is some pre-faith workings of the Holy Spirit, Spurgeon says one is "not saved" at this stage of the Spirit's operations. Notice --

MTP, Sermon #656 on PREVENIENT GRACE -

"Now let me show you how God’s grace does come to work on the human heart so as to make it good soil before the living seed is cast into it, so that before quickening grace really visits it the heart may be called a good heart, because it is prepared to receive that grace.

I think this takes place thus: first of all, before quickening grace comes, God often gives an attentive ear, and makes a man willing to listen to the Word. Not only does he like to listen to it, but he wants to know the meaning of it; there is a little excitement in his mind to know what the gospel tidings really are. He is not saved as yet, but it is always a hopeful sign when a man is willing to listen to the truth, and is anxious to understand it. This is one thing which prevenient grace does in making the soul good.

In Ezekiel’s vision, as you will recollect, before the breath came from the four winds the bones began to stir, and they came together bone to his bone. So, before the Spirit of God comes to a man in effectual calling, God’s grace often comes to make a stir in the man’s mind, so that he is no longer indifferent to the truth, but is anxious to understand what it means." (Ibid)

And here is some of what Boyce said (cited in chpt. 40 of my book and taken from Ross's writings in the Calvinistflyswatter blog.

J. P. Boyce, in writing upon "Regeneration" and "Conversion," says:

"At the outset of a discussion of these two subjects we are met by the question, whether they are not one and the same thing. They are unquestionably so intimately associated that it is difficult to separate them and point out the distinctions between them. The Scriptures connect the two under the one idea of the new birth, and teach that not only is regeneration an absolute essential in each conversion, but that in every intelligent responsible soul conversion invariably accompanies regeneration. It is not strange, therefore, that they are often confounded. Yet, after all, the Scriptures also teach that regeneration is the work of God, changing the heart of man by his sovereign will, while conversion is the act of man turning towards God with the new inclination thus given to his heart."

"From the Scriptural teaching we see that the whole work of Regeneration and Conversion is included under the one term regeneration."

"It is true that but few of the passages refer to anything save the work of God; yet these few sufficiently teach the use of the word in regeneration to lead us not to reject, as a part of it, that result of God's act which, in connection with the word, leads to the full union of its subject with Christ through repentance and faith."

"The whole work is thus spoken of, however, because God is operative from the beginning to the end, but this does not prove that he does not operate differently in one part from what he does in the other."

Sincerely and in Christ,

God bless


Dr. Richard Trader said...

Brother Stephen,

I appreciate your comments and the
opportunity to discuss it with you.

Let me call your attention to Boyce's statement on pages 375-376.
"The Scripture attributes the birth
to the will of God exclusively thus
showing that in some aspect it is
not to be regarded as due to the
reception of the truth, John 1:13.
Also, Boyce categorically states,
"The heart is made good soil by regeneration," page 381.

I have looked at your blog. You have many good artcles. I look forward to reading more.

May God continue to bless you my brother in Christ.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Brother Trader:

I have been at the computer doing my writing and have gotten emails of updates here. So, this is part of the recent for these quick replies. We must both be on at almost the same time, hey?

Again, I think if you will check further, Boyce, like Gill, sometimes would make statements where they were using a "theological definition" for "regeneration" and not a biblical one. He even stated this. So did Gill. It was the theologians from the Presbyterians who first began to give a definition to "regeneration" that is not scriptural.

It is also a fact that the first Particular Baptists did not define regeneration in the narrow way that you and the Hypers do. They saw regeneration as the same as the new birth and gospel conversion. They did not disect up the thing into a neat sequence.

So, Gill, Boyce, and others, sometimes would, for the sake of argument, discuss the subject with the neo theological definitions. But, as I said, they each cautioned the reader to understand that the scriptures did not distinguish the matter as do today's Hyperists hair splitting theologians.

But, really, my questions regarding the parable of the sower and the seed deserve attention. Was Spurgeon wrong? Was he following or not following his predecessers in his views? Was he out of sync with the Puritans or not?

Boyce equated regeneration with the new birth. Regeneration does precede faith if we define it as "the initial move of God" upon the soul in calling. But, if we do that we are not scriptural and we create all kinds of paradigm problems.

I recently posted this little ditty on the subject.

Born Again Before Faith?

"There is no question that the bible teaches that sinners are spiritually born TO faith and TO repentance. But, believing this gives no credance to saying that men are born again BEFORE faith. To say men are born again BEFORE faith is also the same as saying birth is COMPLETED BEFORE faith, and if BEFORE faith, then it is also WITHOUT faith. To say that one is born TO faith, however, does not imply that the birth is a completed act BEFORE faith has been created.

It would be scriptural and proper to say that sinners are born TO LIFE, but this does not imply that the birth exists without the life, or that a birth can exists where there is no immediate LIFE. So too is there no birth where there is no faith and no repentance.

Faith and repentance are essential properties of the spiritual "life" and therefore one cannot be said to be born when he has no faith or repentance, no more than he can be said to be born when he has no life."

If we define "regeneration" as "first move of the Spirit upon the heart" or to the drawing alone, then we have a man regenerated before he comes! A man is drawn. Okay, that is God's work. But, is it regenerated at that point or at the point when he has come?

I have also pointed out how the Hyper Calvinist must rephrase John 5: 40 to read "and you will not have life that you might come unto me."

Yes, I too look forward to future chats with you, if the Lord wills.

I appreciate your warm comments. I also appreciate the same from all my brothers, so long as we can refrain from arrogancy and any non Christian ways.

God bless


Dr. Richard Trader said...

Brother Stephen,

I don't believe anyone can be saved
without hearing the gospel of Jesus
Christ, repenting and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. However,
unless God changes the heart with
the effectual call, they will not
receive Christ.

Regeneration changes the heart to
respond to the gospel through
repentance and faith in Christ.

I concur with the excellent article
by Tom Ascol in The Founders Journal, Fall 1998. He states,"The
new birth, or regeneration, is the
initiatory event that ushers a person into the experience of
salvation." He goes on to state that, "Regeneration must be the very first work in our salvation
because of mankind's sinful depravity," From reading your blog,
I know that you agree.

I am reluctant to use the term
"prevenient grace" because of its
connection with Wesleyan Arminianism. We believe that God
works in the heart to make us receptive to the gospel that the
call to Christ may be effectual.

I think that we are in agreement,
with the exception, I need to clarify concerning the "good soil."
I understand that new life in Christ does not come forth until
the seed of the gospel is planted
in the heart. However, we believe
that the gospel will not be received until God changes the heart as taught in Ezekiel 36:26-27
and many other Scripture verses.

Thanks for your email and reading
my blog. I enjoyed our discussion,
and I appreciate the opportunity to
clarify my position. I look forward
to reading your blog in the days
ahead and have bookmarked it.

Anonymous said...

You fellers sure know how to complicate the issue. It is both! It is "whosoever will" and God already knows "whosoever will" and "whosoever will not".
Your speculation can sure weigh a lost person down if they are reading this thread...

Dr. Richard Trader said...

Dear Anonymous,

"So then it is not of him
who wills, nor of him
who runs, but of God
who shows mercy."

Romans 9:16

That's revelation,
not speculation.

Strong Tower said...

Anonymous- Whosoever will is not in the passage if you are referring to 3:16 and in that combination with believe does not exist anywhere else. Nor does whosoever belong in that passage. The word is pas which can mean all, except in this case it is exclusivistic, rendering it "only those believing". More fully, "God has ever been loving the world in this way: That he gave his only begotten Son so (only) those believing (present tense, not future) in him..." It could also with a little more effort read, "God loves the world this way so that not to destroy all, the believing ones shall have eternal life..." There is no will of man involved, in any case. Only Gods eternal purpose in election is shown in this passage.

So it should not confuse if it is quoted properly. God calls his by name, they are not anonymous. He knows them from all eternity and they know his voice. He came to save no others.

John 3:16 is not an evangel so for those reading who may not be believing, indeed (kai) be (metanoite) believing (pisteuete). For so God commands you. If you do not believe that Christ was put to death for your sin and was raised to life from the deead, and is your savior you will die eternally. Therefore repent and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead and you will be saved. If you are not believing you are condemned already because you refuse to believe in the only Son of God who the Father has sent forth to be the savior of those in the world who believe.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess you fellers are so set in your ways, that you won't see the forest for the trees. Ya'll are complicating the most precious gift of all. (And confusing the lost as you go) but I reckon my simple words don't matter a hill of beans to you educated fellers.
Shame on you all for the souls that you are condeming without cause.

Stan McCullars said...

I didn't realize we were condemning souls without cause.

If you don't mind, would you reference where anyone specifically condemned anyone.

That would be such a big help.

Anonymous said...

Good article. I wonder, though, as I read many articles in this blog, how would Christ Jesus respond to such a professional preacher who denies the doctrine of grace? Would he be so kind or so gentle in his words? (The Bible - His Words - is not so gentle.) Are we supposing that we can show more mercy than God?

stephen nobles said...

no disrespect, but Dr. Gaines is not known as the best preacher in the world, trust me, I heard him a few years ago at SEBTS in Wake Forest NC. he is clearly not the greatest thinker either...

lijialefw said...

To a nail, lost a war.(wow gold) In a particular press to see(wow power leveling) such a foreign Minyan: In order to (wow gold)receive a nail, we have lost a Mati Tie In order to(wow power leveling) get a piece of Mati Tie, we have lost a Pi Junma In order to get(wow gold) a Pijun Ma, we (wow power leveling)have lost a(wow gold) jockey; To be a jockey, we lost a war victory. This is the first (Rolex)under general Minyan At(World of Warcraft gold) first glance, but careful consideration, you(wow power leveling) will find that it contains a layer of the important essence of life: learn to give up, have a maturity. To a Mati Tie and eventually lead to (wow gold)lose a war, this is not know how early to give up the consequences.
Wise said: two disadvantages of the value comes light, the right to( World of Warcraft gold)
choose the two-phase benefit. A folder to be the tail of the gecko already know how to give up the tail, the preservation of(wow power leveling) life, let alone we are full of (power leveling)the wisdom of mankind? » ! In everyone's life, always (powerleveling)have in the face of choice, a choice, there is bound to give up, we have to learn is to( power leveling)pay a painful price, to give up local interests and preserve the overall interests. In chess, there are not "abandoning single-car" this trick? » As the saying goes: not old, not new. Sometimes, even (power leveling)the most precious things to know in good time to give up. When you( powerleveling)graduated from junior high school, in the face of a sincere friendship, you(powerleveling )will Yiyibushe. But think back, and only bid farewell to middle school, high school usher in a(rs gold )new life, can meet new friends. The recent shift is not on this? » Finally, a celebrity's life motto In( gold wow)conclusion:
Life is like theater, everyone is their own lives in the only director. Only Institute of choice, people will know how to give up the Chewu life, Xiaokan life, the life Habitat has Seasky.

misaas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. James Willingham said...

Interestingly enough, Dr. R.G. Lee was a five point, TULIP, believer, though he did not go around advertising. Instead he just preached it. My pastor was his associate, and he is the one Dr. Lee specified as the person to preach his (Dr. Lee's) funeral. Funny, how the folks followed Dr. Lee did not know they were preaching contrary to his theological views in their diatribes against calvinism.