Monday, November 24, 2008

SBC and Calvinism: Three events that widened the divide

Three events over the last few weeks have called fresh attention to one of the serious doctrinal issues currently brewing in the SBC. There are others, and they are not unimportant, but the one that looms large on the horizon is the debate over Calvinism or reformed theology. Terminology matters, so let me quickly assert that what I mean by "Calvinism" is exactly what the great Southern Baptist statesman, John Broadus, meant when he wrote,
The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not in the least bound to defend all of Calvin's opinions or actions, but I do not see how any one who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul or the Latin of Calvin and Turretin can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teaches.
What we are talking about is the sovereignty of God in salvation including unconditional election, total depravity of sinful nature, definite atonement of particular sinners by the death of Christ, the monergistic work of the Spirit in regeneration and the preserving grace of God operating in the life of every believer. We are not talking about sprinkling babies.

The three events that have put the spotlight on this issue recently have come from those who are not merely non-Calvinists, but are more accurately described as anti-Calvinists. They profess to have no axe to grind against Calvinism but their tone and treatment are unhelpful to the kind of fraternal dialogue that Southern Baptists desperately need to be cultivating at this point in our history.

1. Steve Lemke's article
Entitled, "What is a Baptist? Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians," in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (vol. 5, no. 2, Fall 2008), the good points that Lemke makes are marred by his numerous mistakes and misrepresentations of Calvinism in general and Southern Baptist Calvinists and Calvinism in particular. I will cite only two examples.

First, Dr. Lemke makes the following tired charge about Founders:
Founder's [sic] Movement Calvinists tend to look backward nostalgically to Calvinists of prior generations, to make their Calvinism the focal point of their ministries, to be rather assertive and defensive about their Calvinism, and to be less evangelistic than the average Southern Baptist church.
Dr. Lemke footnotes this by citing a "study" (which is actually his own methodologically flawed survey that has been clearly debunked since he published it) that leads him to his conclusion. Several months ago I applied Steve's methodology to churches that he himself pastored. The results are...well, let me just say that were I to publish them he would be hoisted with his own petard.

Second, Dr. Lemke completely misunderstands Timothy George's ROSES acronym, displaying a failure to understand both Dr. George's theological views and the so-called five points of Calvinism (he was previously corrected on this, also). By the way, Dr. George has been on the advisory board of the Founders Journal for over 15 years. I will not take space here to provide the documentation of Lemke's unfortunate failure to grasp what George has written, but simply refer you to Justin Taylor's and Tim Brister's demonstrations of this point.

2. David Allen's review

Dr. Allen published on the Baptist Theology website a 34 page review of Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue (B and H Academic, 2008), which is a collection of the papers presented at the Building Bridges Conference sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministries last year. Dr. Allen uses over 500 words in an attempt to debunk research conducted by the the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Research, both of which indicate that Calvinism is on the rise in the SBC.

Tellingly, he defend's Lemke's previously cited "study" of Founders churches. Allen writes, "The fact is, some brands of Calvinism (hyper-Calvinism and other extreme forms of five-point Calvinism) are in fact less than evangelistic." So are some brands of fundamentalism and Arminiansim, as is evidenced by the general state of churches across the SBC, most of which are not Calvinistic.

I find Dr. Allen's defense of Dr. Lemke's "study" interesting, in light of the fact that, as I have done with churches that Lemke has pastored, I have applied Lemke's methodology to churches that Dr. Allen has pastored, as well. Suffice it say that, if I had a mind to, I could publish those results and, with no less authority than that which Lemke and Allen claim, conclude that "Southwestern and New Orleans seminary administrators" are a threat to evangelism and healthy church life.

Allen repeatedly writes with a condescending tone (examples: "I have been a bit tough on young Finn;" he accuses Tom Nettles of writing with "characteristic brusqueness;") that demonstrates his bias and detracts from his evaluations. Furthermore, his treatment of Malcolm Yarnell's chapter borders on hagiography. While high praise for his colleague at SWBTS could be expected, the detailed criticisms that mark his treatment of other chapters are absent in his evaulations of Dr. Yarnell's contribution. I find it particularly odd that he did not even quibble with Dr. Yarnell's identifying a heretical anti-trinitarian as part of the Baptist family. Any vision of Baptist identity that consciously welcomes heresy into the DNA is dangerous and I would think that other Baptists, regardless of their views on the doctrines of grace, would as well.

Additionally, when Allen finds mistakes in Yarnell's article that he simply cannot ignore, he chalks them up to "technicalities" or "generalities." He completely misses Dr. Yarnell's misunderstanding of a cited article by Mark Dever. Yarnell accuses Dever of using the New Hampshire Confession for the membership of his church but the 1689 Confession for leadership, a position that Dr. Dever has publicly repudiated and which the article Dr. Yarnell read simply does not affirm.

Dr. Allen writes his review with admitted suspicions that there is an agenda afoot in the SBC by Calvinists that everyone should come to hold to a reformed understanding of salvation. He calls attention to a throw-away comment, intended to be humorous, in my chapter. After noting that I was not suggesting that "everyone must or should become a convinced Calvinist," I added, almost parenthetically, "though you would hear no complaints from me were that to happen!" When presented orally, that line got some laughs. Unfortunately, when Allen read it, it caused alarm bells to go off in his head confirming his already suspicious thoughts of the existence of a nefarious Calvinist plot to "Calvinize" the SBC.

Moving beyond the book under review, Allen raises deep concerns about an article published in the Founders Journal, written by Tom Nettles and entitled, "Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist." He writes:
I cannot imagine using such a title, much less arguing it in print. A church's next pastor should be the man God leads that church to call, be he Calvinist or no. Imagine the outcry if some group of non-Calvinists should publish an article entitled "Why Your Next Pastor Should not be a Calvinist." Please understand. Ascol is well within his rights to direct the Founders Ministries and to publish such an article in his journal. This is not in question. What is in question is whether such constitutes a problem for the SBC and for Ascol's involvement in a bipartisan conference such as "Building Bridges." Since one cannot distinguish between Ascol the Calvinist pastor and Ascol the director of the Founders Ministries, his presence on the program of the "Building Bridges Conference," given the stated goals of the Founders Ministries, is problematic in my view. Furthermore, what is the precedent for two Southern Baptist entities (LifeWay and Southeastern Seminary) partnering with a non-Southern Baptist entity (Founders Ministries) for this kind of conference? I have already stated I think the conference is a great idea. We need to have more. My concern is with the involvement of the Founders Ministries. For them to be a co-sponsor legitimizes their agenda within the convention, an agenda which is counter productive in my judgment. For SBC entities to partner with any non-SBC group that is polarizing and that represents a small fragment of the convention is problematic.
I would like to know why Dr. Allen has never raised an outcry over the dozens if not hundreds of attempts by denominational employees and others to tell churches that "your next pastor should not be a Calvinist." It is ironic that Allen thinks my presence on the program of Building Bridges was problematic. I am the one who originally suggested the conference.

Allen's concern about the "precedent" for Southern Baptist entities partnering with a "non-Southern Baptist entity" is eerily similar to the response I got from the pre-conservative-resurgence-faculty of Southern Seminary to the sesquicentennial issue of the Founders Journal. They professed shock and dismay that I would publish a picture of "their" library (Boyce) on the cover of the journal. Perhaps Dr. Allen needs to be reminded of Baptist polity in the same way that those liberal professors needed it.

The "entities" and those who serve in them are answerable to all Southern Baptists, including those of us whose theology they may despise. The suggestion that an entity is not "Southern Baptist" because it does not receive Cooperative Program dollars is terribly provincial and betrays a bureaucratic mindset that is no different from that which prevailed before conservatives came to control the SBC.

Furthermore, if this is a matter of conscientious concern for Dr. Allen, then I wonder why he has not raised his voice in protest over the partnering of his own seminary with "non-Southern Baptist entities, such as the Grace Evangelical Fellowship, a non-lordship salvation entity that denies the necessity of repentance for salvation (their "Affirmation of Belief" states, that "no sorrow for sin" or "turning from one's sin" is necessary)? According to the Southwestern website, the seminary is hosting this antinomian Fellowship on campus March 30-April 2, 2009.

The same question arises over the joint sponsorship of 3 of our Cooperative Program-supported-seminaries with Jerry Vines Ministries in the John 3:16 conference. Given the anti-Calvinistic propaganda spread by Dr. Vines, Allen's participation in this conference makes the stated substance of his protest about the sponsorship of Building Bridges ring hollow. One is left to wonder what is really behind his complaint, since his own participation in the John 3:16 Conference betrays his professed reasons for concern.

3. The John 3:16 Conference
The recent John 3:16 Conference was sponsored by Jerry Vines Ministries, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Luther Rice Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. From what I can tell, this conference is the brainchild of Dr. Vines. Critiques from those who were there have been expressed on various blogs (see Lindsey, Mark and Burleson) and don't need to be rehashed here. Although I must say that any conference that accuses James White of being a hyper-Calvinist loses credibility with thinking people.

The most devastating critique I have read has come from David Miller, who has long been welcomed among the "movement conservative" leaders within the SBC as a stalwart defender of the inerrancy of Scripture and of the need to see conservative theology restored to the convention. Anyone who knows him will testify to his godliness and deep love for God's Word. David is an effective evangelist and his pivotal role in the SBC battle for the Bible is unquestionable, as he was a leader among trustees at Southern Seminary when that institution was in the throes of being rescued from liberalism.

David attended the John 3:16 conference and recently told me of his experience there. He also shared with me some of his evaluations that he passed on to a couple of the sponsors of the conference. The conference, he said, almost inspired him to write a book, the title of which would be, How Many Inconsistencies and Contradictions Can One Hear in Only Five Sermons. "The brethren (presenters)," he said, "not only contradicted each other but themselves as well" while building "straw men" and "knock[ing] them down with Scripture verses taken out of context...with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance."

Do not misinterpret my critique of these events as suggesting that we should not be talking plainly about theological differences in the SBC. Pretending that we all agree, or suggesting that our differences are completely irrelevant would be no more helpful than the kind of dismissive misrepresentations of views that I have pointed out above. Nor am I suggesting that Drs. Lemke, Allen and Vines don't have the right to hold to and argue for their own views.

What I am suggesting is that the approaches exhibited in these three events undermine true understanding and therefore any serious effort to maintain unity. By God's grace there is a growing number of Southern Baptists who genuinely want to bridge our doctrinal divides where we can and who want to live together in true unity and love with those with whom we disagree on some points. Such efforts hold great promise for the future, if they can avoid being sabatoged by those who seem threatened by such a movement.

The John 3:16 conference, along with Allen's review and Lemke's article, do not represent a healthy way forward for Southern Baptists. In fact, if the mischaracterizations, inaccuracies and false accusations that permeate these three events are allowed to become the modus operandi of the non-Calvinists in the SBC, then I fear that those who have predicted the inevitability of a major battle over the doctrines of grace will be proven correct. In fact, some have suggested that this is precisely what certain anti-Calvinists want because they believe that a major fight that erupts soon is their best hope for running Calvinists out of the SBC.

Regardless of the purpose of these kinds of attacks, I pray that all Gospel loving Southern Baptists, whether Calvinists or not, will not be provoked into responding in kind. I learned long ago that another person's sin never justifies my responding sinfully.

Now is the time for Southern Baptists of all stripes to stand up and hold those who misrepresent brethren with whom they disagree accountable for their words and actions. Speak the truth in love and leave the consequences to God. The anti-Calvinists (as opposed to non-Calvinists) are becoming, as one seminary student put it recently, "increasingly irrelevant," especially to younger SBC leaders. While they are writing and preaching to themselves, more and more Gospel-centered Calvinists and non-Calvinsts alike are showing a genuine willingness to link arms in order to move forward to make disciples of the Lord Jesus.

The future belongs to the bridge-builders, not party-builders.


Brent Hobbs said...

Tom, I would list Mark Dever being invited to give the convention sermon at the North Carolina State Convention as a positive sign to go with the three negative signs you mention.

I think you're right that the future belongs to bridge-builders. I think most of the men you discuss here are quickly marginalizing themselves to all but those who share their anti-Calvinistic views. The scholarship leaves much to be desired, but their tone and actions toward fellow Christians is what more deeply disheartening.

I only expect the rhetoric to climb higher in years to come as some Southern Baptists who are also Reformed begin to take more prominent roles in the convention.

Bob Cleveland said...


Not being no theologian, I don't know what all the fuss is about. Those speaking against Calvinism seem to be upset that they think they can get their minds around everything .. can comprehend what's incomprehensible about God .. whereas I was trained in Calvinism from the starting line of man's inability to do that. Like, we can only comprehend what's revealed.

When we formed Covenant Presbyterian Church here, at the first meeting of the proposed Elders, one of the guys said he preferred reformed theology as it seemed, to him, to acknowledge the greatest sovereignty on the part of God. I liked that.

Still do.

Joe Blackmon said...

I have no idea how anyone, Calvinist or Arminian (sp), could make belief in their particular theological view a prerequisit for salvation as I have heard people from both sides do. There are going to be people from both sides in heaven and in hell, for that matter. Those in heaven are going to realize that neither side understood everything about God perfectly. I'm a Calvinist and I believe that the doctrines of grace are all affirmed in scripture but there are some things that I'm not going to understand until I reach heaven. When we get there, we'll be so busy praising God that we won't have time to argue about who was right.

What a day that will be....

Andrew J. Nicewander said...

Tom, I'm tracking with the statement about the SBC leaders becoming "increasingly irrelevant". It's somewhat discouraging to read the things said at the John 3:16 (and in the mentioned articles) and see that those things are said by guys from my seminary (SWBTS).

As for the "evangelism" charge, give me the evangelism done at Mars Hill or The Village over "100 Days of Evangelism" any day.

Terrell Academy Chapel said...


A compelling and disturbing piece, and I thank you for it.

After the Greensboro Convention (the Patterson/Mohler discussion) and Building Bridges, it seemed that the rift was being healed a bit. Not so much now.

Oh, and "hoisted with his own petard"? Man, I thought I knew a lot of arcane sayings, but I've never heard of that one! :-)

God bless you brother. You've obviously shared your concern in a very frank but honest way here, and I do appreciate it.

Wyman Richardson

Baptist Theology said...

Well, Tom, you will have to explain how I introduced a heretic into the Baptist family rather than just asserting such a bald-faced claim. By the way, please make sure that you cite me in context, for the point was not that Servetus is acceptable, which I explicitly deny, but that Calvin sought his death, which is inexcusable.

On the second issue for which you criticize me, a plain reading of the article by Mark Dever certainly does generate the response I gave. If he has elsewhere recanted this position, please provide me with that citation, for I would like to know that and congratulate Mark on that.

Finally, the tone of your blog and your staff member's blog, especially in their misrepresentations of Drs. Allen and Lemke as well as of such fine pastors as Jerry Vines and Johnny Hunt, are certainly not helping heal any "divide." The movement towards calling non-Calvinists "anti-Calvinists" is not only a gross mischaracterization but a casus belli that may, sadly, only exacerbate the "divide."

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Tom:

One way to "stop the mouths" of the gainsayers of historic Calvinism is to GET OUT AND WIN SOULS TO CHRIST.

If those who are Calvinists would become as boisterous in their addresses to the lost as they do to non Calvinists, then there would be less ammunition for the anti Calvinists to use.

Why don't the Calvinists in the SBC not spend some time and money, conference money for instance, on campaigns to reach the lost, as did Billy Graham and the great evangelists? Why mail out Calvinistic literature to Baptists in Florida? Would that money not been better spent in distributing gospel tracts to the lost and downtrodden in our ghettos?

We need Calvinists like Spurgeon. This would do more to "shut the mouths" of the gainsayers of historic Calvinism than anything else.

God bless,


Bob Cleveland said...

Maybe I'm 'way out of any loop, but I don't recall any calvinists throwing rocks at non-c's, claiming they were a danger to the Baptist faith. Seems to me it's the other way around.

I'll say it again, we've got some reformed folks in our church, me included, and it's absolutely no problem; solely because the "non'c's" haven't made it one.

I just don't understand.

Well, yes I do, I think.

pregador27 said...

These things are somewhat disturbing, but I am beginning to think that it is all political for those who would be players in the SBC hierarchy.

Two cases in point personally: 1. my pastor is not a Calvinist, yet he has me preach and teach and we have been evangelizing together and he joined me on a mission trip to Brazil. We work together without issue. 2. Our Director of Missions seeks to work with all associational churches- whether they are reformed, fundamental, evangelical, etc.- Calvinism is a side issue for him.

Finally, I go evangelizing with an Independent Baptist brother who is definitely not Reformed- it does not cause us any conflicts. I think Dr. Allen, Dr. Lemke, Ergun and Emir Caner, Dr. Vines, are hindering evangelism with their rhetoric. Maybe they should stop with their destructive comments and go share Christ with people in their cities (with or without a Calvinist).

Les Puryear said...


Excellent post about a disturbing trend in the SBC. I have two comments and one question for you:

1st Comment: The fact that this conference was held at the SBC President's church is extremely disturbing. For our President to allow his pulpit to be used to denigrate any part of the constituency which he represents is beneath the dignity of his office.

2nd Comment: I wonder whether this was more of a money maker for Dr. Vines than anything else. Take a controversial topic, add in some high profile speakers, charge $100 a head, pay four speakers $1000 a piece and one has a tidy profit of more than $90K for 1,000 attendees. Not to mention the sale of CDs and DVDs. No freebies from these guys.

Question: Do you think the attacks on Calvinists will escalate or settle down to a dull roar?


Brent Hobbs said...

I agree with Terrell. I had to look it up to find out what the heck a petard is.

Tom said...


On page 77 of Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, you make a point ("admittedly") to note that Servetus is "a heretic" and then go on and call him a "Baptist." Nothing in the context changes the fact that you identify a heretic as a Baptist. Fortunately, this comment of your conference presentation was not edited out for the book, so anyone who wants to read what you wrote can find on p. 4 of the pdf file here.

Now, brother Malcolm, you are perfectly within your rights to develop any style of Baptist Identity that you wish and to argue for it. If your method of identifying Baptists allows for unitarian modalists, who have not been baptized by immersion, who reject the eternal Sonship of Christ and who deny original sin, with all due respect, you can have it. That is not the way that I read Baptist history nor is it how I recognize Baptist Identity. Perhaps your view will win the day. I hope not, but I certainly respect your right to advocate for it.

On Mark Dever's article, fortunately, it is available online so people can read it for themselves to see if you have accurately represented him or, if I have asserted, you have failed to do so. On at least two occasions that I know of Mark has stated publicly that he does not hold to the view that you ascribe to him. Once was at a gathering at Southern Seminary and another was in a conference in Lynchburg, VA. The article, however, stands on its own. Had you read it carefully you would not have made the accusation that you did.

Finally, I am glad that you have entered the dialogue here but please refrain from dragging other people or extraneous issues into the discussion. If I have misrepresented Drs. Lemke or Allen, I would be grateful to know how and where so that I can correct any mistakes I have made.

Tom said...

What a great testimony of your church and association! That is the kind of spirit we need to cultivate in the SBC. Those who want to undermine it will, I hope, not be allowed to carry out their agenda, so that we can continue to cooperate to advance the gospel.

Joe Blackmon said...

Stephen Garret

You wrote:
Why mail out Calvinistic literature to Baptists in Florida? Would that money not been better spent in distributing gospel tracts to the lost and downtrodden in our ghettos?

Um, wouldn't the same question be applicable for the president of the Florida SBC who mailed out the anti-calvinist literature using convention money to do so?

I'm just sayin'...

Joshua Owen said...

Tom, Brent voiced my sentiments about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina exactly. I was greatly encouraged, not only that Mark Dever delivered the convention sermon, but that we sang songs that were theologically rich and Christ-centered. Milton Hollifield, the Executive Director-Treasurer of the BSCNC articulated the gospel at least three times in his brief address, and the whole address was saturated with Scripture and the great themes of redemption.

Regarding Malcolm's reference to Servetus as a Baptist, I do think the statement "Calvin only weakly apologized regarding the condemned Baptist" (p. 77), is unfortunate. I am, however, confident that Malcolm would not embrace him as a true forerunner of Baptists. I don't know Malcolm well, but I did take a course he taught adjunctively at SEBTS several years ago on the Theology of the Reformers. I am Reformed, and I did not feel that he misrepresented or attacked the Reformers on that occasion. Actually, Malcolm is one of the professors that encouraged me to pursue Ph.D. studies, which I did, at Southern. So, Malcolm, if you're reading this, thanks for the encouragement!

Tom said...


Thanks for joining the conversation. Let me respond to your comments:

1. Dr. Hunt was not the pres of the SBC when this conference was planned. Dr. Vines is a member there and the conference was clearly his idea. I don't mind any local church doing what it thinks will please and honor God. Obviously, I am disappointed in some of what was said at the conference.

2. I don't believe that the reason behind the conference was financial and I encourage you not to make speculations like that. Plus, there are many more expenses that go into hosting a conference than what you mentioned.

Let's assume that the intentions and motives were nothing other than what they were stated to be. Where actions and comments seem to be at cross purposes with stated intentions, it is appropriate to raise questions and issue challenges.

Regarding your question: I don't have a strong opinion on that, other than to say that those who insist on continuing to make unjust attacks on the doctrines of grace will continue to marginalize themselves with Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike in the SBC. I hope that they will realize this and will begin to be more judicious in their criticisms.

Corey Reynolds said...

Malcolm said, "The movement towards calling non-Calvinists "anti-Calvinists" is not only a gross mischaracterization but a casus belli that may, sadly, only exacerbate the "divide.""

I might have agreed with that statement a few weeks ago, but I have recently run across at least two graduates of Luther Rice Seminary (I myself have a BA in religion from LRS) who can be described as nothing but 'anti-calvinist'. I was shocked at the pure vitriol being flung about by these men. One even accused me of being a hyper-calvinist because I said that sin was a heart issue! We weren't even discussing a topic that had anything to do with the Doctrines of Grace!

Apparently, there are folks out there (Caner and the 3:16 conference come to mind) who are stirring up these guys to attack even on the suspicion of the 'C-word'. 'Anti-calvinist' is the only term that fits this new trend, and the recent conference is proof that the sentiment is at-large.

Tom said...

Joshua (and Brent):
I agree wholeheartedly that the NC convention is a good example of how brothers who disagree on these matters can do so as *brothers* and cooperate on making Christ known.

I also agree that Malcolm's calling Servetus a Baptist is unfortunate. I don't know if Malcolm thinks it was unfortunate but from his comment here, I would assume not. It would have been less fortunate if he had only called him a "forerunner" of Baptists, but he welcomed him fully into the family.

I have never had a class from Dr. Yarnell but your testimony is consistent with what I have heard from others who have. I have no reason to doubt that he is a wonderful professor.

Thanks for your comment!

johnMark said...

Is there another issue that's more pressing than Calvinism in the SBC?

As I've mentioned before.

So what could be a major issue in our Convention made up of allegedly 16 million members, of which, only 6 - 7 million are present on any given Sunday? Maybe a perspective from a true Arminian will give us a path down which to look. Dr. Roger Olson in his book Arminian Theology on pages 30-31 discusses theology and American evangelical churches. He says that “most” of these churches are semi-Pelagian or Pelagian which are heretical positions.

Tom, thanks for this analysis.


Sean Post said...


This has become very tiresome. No way, no how should this be the issue that it now is in the SBC. (What would Boyce and Broadus think?)

From my experience in the local church, I don't believe that it is much of an issue for most of the membership of the SBC. The majority of believers instinctively desire a God who is sovereign. When the D's of grace are taught from the Scriptures in a straighforward way the vast majority of the people I have been around are in solid agreement with them.

It is my opinion that we should continue to preach the Word and if some want to cast stones, let them. There will be a day when the war-horse generation will no longer lead the SBC. Then, Lord willing, the SBC can be about the Word of God preached and obeyed instead of power plays and convention politics.

Baptist Theology said...

Well, Tom, I entered a comment, but it seems you are filtering them. Perhaps you have misplaced my previous comments accidentally. Please post these.

First, I assumed I had removed the "Baptist" statement and used "antipaedobaptist" or "antipaedobaptism" instead, for I was not sure that Servetus had been baptized into a church, but had simply opposed infant baptism. Apparently, that did not happen in the entire paper, which just proves that although Scripture is inerrant, scholars are not. Moreover, and more importantly, the point of the passage was not to identify Baptists but to identify concerns about classical Calvinists, one of the tasks that both you and Dr. Akin asked me to address. If "Baptist" was used here, it was not an intention to make a statement about Baptist identity, as you now imply, but to declaim the errors of classical Calvinism, especially the demonstrated activity of one of its leaders’ inhumanity towards human beings. To jump from my original context of classical Calvinism to a supposed advocacy of Baptist identity is a huge leap. Moreover, please recognize that only a Baptist church can make a person a Baptist, or in your colorful language, make "part of the Baptist family" and bring "into the Baptist DNA." And with regard to Servetus’s heresy, please note that I directly and explicitly refute his anti-Trinitarianism in the subject passage, something I am not sure you were careful to note.

Second, as for the statements of Mark Dever, the context of his article is a consideration of both the New Hampshire Confession (NHC) and the Second London Confession (2LC). In the article, he expresses disappointment at the NHC, especially with regard to the doctrine of general atonement, which the NHC allows. He also praises the 2LC rather lavishly and talks about how he uses it. Later, in the context of discussing general atonement, he states that he will not allow that doctrine to be proclaimed in his pulpit or be made an issue by his elders, even though it is allowed by the NHC. This means that he holds to the NHC, except where it disagrees, at least in this one instance, with the 2LC. The context of the article is explicit that the 2LC is his preferred confession, especially for those that are more mature. Now, in my opinion, the problem is that our mutual friend holds to a different standard for the elders and the pulpit (let us call it, “NHC plus”). And the assumption is, with no other confession in sight, that the 2LC is what he has preferred for the pulpit and elders. Now, he may not use the 2LC for his elders and the pulpit as a standard, but neither does he hold to the NHC alone. There are two different standards: the NHC and the NHC plus, the latter which I assumed was the 2LC, since it was the only confession other than the NHC under discussion! If I assumed that the 2LC was in use for the elders and the pulpit, it was from the context of his article. Ultimately, that is not germane, however, for the difficulty that I had is not that the 2LC is used, so much as there seems to be two standards, one for members (NHC) and one for pulpit and elders (whether NHC plus, or the 2LC). That is the issue and an issue that I would love to hear that Mark has erased.

In Christ,

Baptist Theology said...

By the way, Tom, one thing that I have found disturbing is that those of us who are non-Calvinists, but are trying to hold a conversation with Calvinists, have been classified now as "anti-Calvinists" by you and have been rebuked by some who are truly anti-Calvinists for not trying to exclude Calvinists. Generally, divides come when people are not willing to hold conversation and maintain collegiality. I and others want to try to avoid such divides while discussing the issue fully. Being called "anti-Calvinist," a label simply untrue, is not helpful, if you truly wish to avoid a divide.

James Hunt said...

Sean Post - Amen!

But...I do very much appreciate Tom and others who've been willing to keep the gospel charge clear with grace.

Tom said...


As I mentioned to you in response to your email, I have no evidence that you attempted to enter a second comment. I have double checked and still can't find a record of that anywhere on blogger.

I deeply regret that your assumption proved to be untrue, though I find your rationale to be less than comforting. You wrote, "First, I assumed I had removed the "Baptist" statement and used "antipaedobaptist" or "antipaedobaptism" instead, for I was not sure that Servetus had been baptized into a church, but had simply opposed infant baptism." So, if Servetus, with all of his heresies, had been baptized into a "church" then you would gladly own him as Baptist? This raises further questions in my mind about the differences we must have regarding ecclesiology. I would have serious doubts about any institution that would get a heretic like Servetus wet and call it baptism into a "church." The fact that they call it such doesn't necessarily make it so.

You further write, "If 'Baptist' was used here, it was not an intention to make a statement about Baptist identity, as you now imply, but to declaim the errors of classical Calvinism, especially the demonstrated activity of one of its leaders’ inhumanity towards human beings."

First, there is no need for "if." "Baptist" was used in both your presentation and in the manuscript you turned in for the book. If you used it without regard to what it means to actually be a Baptist, but only as a device to declaim "classical Calvinism," then I would suggest that you have misused that precious designation for which our legitimate forefathers were harassed and persecuted.

Second, if you regret calling Servetus a Baptist, I (and I am sure, others) would be glad to hear it. We all make mistakes--and not simply in the realm of editing.

As I mentioned earlier, fortunately Mark Dever's article is available online. No one has to take your word for it, nor my word for it. Everyone can read it for himself or herself. Those who do will, I suspect, realize that the intent of the article, as Mark states, is exactly the opposite of what you accuse him of advocating. Perhaps if you would read Dr. Nettles editorial introduction to the journal issue that contains Mark's article, you would have been helped to avoid your mistake. Dr. Nettles explains the context of Mark's article:

"'What confession most clearly, fully and accurately expresses the whole of this divine revelation?' We also are dealing with a subsidiary question of a more pragmatic nature: 'What confession serves the church in achieving the goals of spiritual unity and growth in the truth?'

"This discussion was prompted by an article by Shawn Wright on the 9Marks website in which he advocated the NHC and argued that the SLC did not serve these purposes as well. Mark Dever, along with Wright a firm believer in the SLC, defends the position that Wright has taken."

Not only have you misread Mark, you have accused him of something which he is arguing against! Please reread the article. It is a narrative, explaining how his mind changed from original disappointment to gratitude that Capitol Hill Baptist Church has the NHC rather than the 2LC.

Hence, Mark has no need to "erase" an issue. He simply needs to be read and understood accurately by those who try to represent his views.

Tom said...


I am glad to see you admitting that there are "anti-Calvinists" in the SBC. I wish that you and others would distance yourselves from them in a decisive way, if you don't want to be indentified with them. I would much rather see you in the camp of the growing number of non-Calvinists who are unwilling to write off their fellow Southern Baptists who happen to be reformed in soteriology.

Baptist Theology said...

By the way, Tom, I never said my assumption, an assumption garnered from historians and not directly, about Servetus was untrue. I said I had not verified it on my own as yet. He still, indeed, might be classifiable as a Taufer (Baptist) if he were baptized into one of their churches. I can verify that he was an antipaedobaptist, which is to his credit, but the only way to verify if he was a member of a Taufer church is through some statement in that regard from the extant historical sources.

n6okj said...

Like Calvary Chapel's George Bryson, the John3:16 gang rightly "get it" that Calvinism is antithetical to their "gospel." From the opposite end of the spectrum, they see that Spurgeon's abhorrence of their false gospel means a real rift between themselves and Founders folk. Do you see the writing on the wall, or will you continue to "dialogue," seek "a place at the table," and remain yolked with those who preach another Christ, another gospel, another way of salvation? Lastly, in the Amazing Grace dvd by Holmberg, Tom and Tom extol the Synod of Dort which rejected 300 or so Arminian ministers. Could the John3:16 gang be fearing such a move? Shouldn't they?!

Darby Livingston said...

First, is it not true that Calvinists want to advance Calvinism because they think it is the most God-glorifying position? So it would be expected that they want more Calvinist pastors in the SBC. But the same could be said about non-Calvinists (what do you want to be called?). They think some form of semi-Arminianism is the most God-glorifying position. So naturally they'd want to see that position spread and opposing positions die off. The problem isn't having convictions based upon Scripture. The problem is pretending that both sides want unity at the expense of those convictions. No one really wants a mushy unity. We want victory for the side we think most glorifies God. That's true on both sides.

Second, it seems to me the only way through this is to affirm that the gospel of Jesus Christ is big enough to save us from our pride and finite intellectual capacity. I wouldn't baptize an infant, but I wouldn't say the ones who do aren't Christian - that the gospel is too weak to save them - from sin, and error. I also wouldn't dare attribute salvation to anything other than the doctrines of grace, but I wouldn't say the semi-Arminian isn't a Christian - that the gospel is too weak to save him - from what I believe is more intellectual error than sin.

I would hope that the Presby's and semi-Armi's would grant the same grace with any error they would find with Calvinism. I don't hear many Calvinists crying out, "What do we about the Arminian problem in the SBC?" All they typically do is try to give their exposition of Scripture. Whenever Calvinism is addressed in the SBC, it's usually on the defensive. "What do we do with the Calvinists?" It's ironic that the ones who continually throw up Servetus in our faces are the ones continually trying to kill off the Calvinist voice in the SBC. Could it be that the Calvinist understanding of the gospel puts them in a better position to bear with others who disagree with them?

Stephen Newell said...

Firstly, I am a "non-Calvinist."

Secondly, I have been for most of the past two years in person and on various internet discussions been calling the type of rhetoric characteristic of the John 3:16 Conference "anti-Calvinism." I have also been calling such adherents to this rhetoric "anti-Calvinists."

Thirdly, I'm glad many are finally realizing what I've been saying all along and what Pastor Tom here acknowledges: that there are non-Calvinists who are unwilling to write off their fellow Southern Baptists who happen to be reformed in soteriology.

Fourthly, I'm getting real tired of constantly having to qualify my non-Calvinism due to the rhetoric of anti-Calvinists.

Finally, I'm sick that men I ought to be able to respect and admire continually put their feet in their mouths, obfuscate, and outright lie about Calvinism, Calvinists, and their own "anti-Calvinism."

For "non-Calvinists" like me, the future of the Southern Baptist Convention does not lay with these misguided and theologically miserable men, but in those who actually speak the truth in love and seek unity in Christ. The leadership of Calvinists such as Pastor Tom and non-Calvinists such as Danny Akin is much more desirable than the detestable rhetoric coming from the recognizable "old guard."

Please pray with me that our leaders will be driven more by love for the brothers according to 1 John instead of what we've witnessed thus far.

mike fox said...


you said, "By God's grace there is a growing number of Southern Baptists who genuinely want to bridge our doctrinal divides where we can and who want to live together in true unity and love with those with whom we disagree on some points."

if this is how you feel, i support your position. i would just say that "bridging a divide" doesn't have to mean a compromise or "meeting in the middle." there ought to be a place for 5-pointers, softer calvinists (i'm a 3 or 4 pointer, but not 5), and even full-fledged arminians.

i think the seminaries will have to set the tone. it seems a couple are moving towards only having calvinist teachers, while a couple others don't seem to have any 5-point calvinists. in my opinion, seminaries need to have the full spectrum. this will set the tone for students to accept and work with other conservatives who have a different viewpoint on the order of salvation (which is NOT the gospel, amen?).

like i said, if you're for mutual acceptance, without some awkward "meeting in the middle" or something, i agree with your perspective on this & will pray for more unity in SBC life.

Tom said...


Dr. Yarnell is having some difficulty getting his comments to post. I received this one from him via email and post it here at his request.


You and I, as much as we despise heresy, cannot determine who should be classified as a Baptist. That really is a decision for the local church. Now, I have no doubt that your church and my church would never be guilty of such, for we would do our best to lead our churches to act responsibly. Moreover, I have no doubt that we would seek to disassociate our churches from a church that would admit a heretic. Nevertheless, there have been Baptist heretics. A quick example to come to mind is Matthew Caffyn, whose Arian tendencies prompted the writing of the Orthodox Creed by the General Baptists around Thomas Monck. Was Matthew Caffyn a heretic? History has judged him so? Was he a Baptist? The church of which he was a pastor let him remain so. Was his church disassociated? Unfortunately, no, and the General Baptists suffered much because of it in the long run. Was this a mistake? Absolutely.

Is Baptist a “precious designation” from our forefathers? Yes. Is it a perfect name? No. Is being Baptist the best thing we currently have with regard to reflecting biblical theology? Yes. Are we infallible? No. Is speaking the truth about our past wrong? No, it is right.

As for Mark’s use of the NHC, I am glad to see him using it. I am not convinced by Mark’s article, or Tom Nettle’s introduction, or your defense that he should receive a pass for requiring a different confessional standard than the NHC for his church leaders, which he explicitly admits, in the place cited.

As for whether Southern Baptists should have room for Calvinists, I have stated this in the same article you have misread. But, if it will help you, I will say it again, “We non-Calvinists treasure Calvinist Baptists. Like the Union Baptist Association, we believe it decorous to grant one another ‘the appellation of brother,’ and not only in the created sense, or ending with the redeemed sense, but also in the ecclesiastical sense.” That distances me quite willingly from “anti-Calvinists.”

Now, will you and like-minded Calvinist Baptists distance yourself from the infant baptizing Presbyterians? For instance, would you assure us that you would never allow a Presbyterian to participate in your church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper?

In Christ,

Tom said...


Thanks for bringing up the demise of the General Baptists. It is a great tragedy that they devolved into Arianism and Unitarianism. That historical fact demonstrates the danger of allowing damning heresy to be a part of one's understanding of Baptist identity, which is why I took such exception to your including Servetus in the Baptist family. Don't you think it strange that, with the detailed analysis that Dr. Allen gave to every other chapter that he would find such a designation acceptable?

You and I will simply have to disagree on the origins of modern Baptists. I do not think that we can include of the sectarians or evangelical anabaptists of the 16th century into the category of "Baptist."

Regarding Mark Dever: Here is what you wrote: "Indeed, one admitted that after discovering his church's confession was 'less than Calvinist,' he decided to use that standard for church membership, but dusted off a different standard, the Second London Confession, for the church's leadership."

You are simply wrong here. Anyone who knows the whole history behind that issue of the journal knows this. Anyone who reads Mark's article and then your assertion that he uses the 2LC for leadership can readily see this. I don't know why resist admitting your mistake. You have already admitted that scholars aren't inerrant (not that anyone outside the academy ever doubted that). This is simply another case where you are in error.

You accuse me of misreading your article. Which one? Where?

Further, why would you try to dictate the practice of my local church? Don't you believe in local church autonomy? Whether you do or not, I do, as does our church. And we are not at all impressed by one of our employees trying to play "gotcha" with us.

Tom said...


So you think that all groups that were identified as Taufer in the 16th century were Baptists?

Baptist Theology said...


We should use the definition of Baptist that the history of the churches has bequeathed us, not what we consider to be the ideal. History is messy but it is true and the historian should report it accurately. Too much Baptist history has been written by ideologues, both liberal and Calvinist, who have imported their ideals into the history of our churches.

My critique of Mark's article stands as it is. You can disagree with his clear words if you like, but he is the one who said he uses two different standards, one for leaders and one for the laity. The context is granted, but the meaning of the event of his twofold standard does not change.

In response to your question, I find a kinship of theology rather than history between the baptizing groups before and after 1609. This is no secret.

By the way, are you admitting that you hold communion with Presbyterians? That certainly is your church's autonomous decision, but it will also say something profound, if you affirm such.

Good night.

In Christ,

Baptist Theology said...


You brought in two other people into this conversation, in spite of your previous wish not to include others. So, please let me address them:

(1) David Allen did not misinterpret my article as you have, so why should he critique what I said? Need I repeat again your taking me out of context?

(2) Don't worry. One of your church's employees is not telling me about your communion practices. So, please don't look for a ghost in the closet. However, if you indeed are offering Presbyterians communion, this is certainly not in line with the Baptist Faith and Message, and should be admitted publicly.

In Christ,

R. Scott Clark said...


Your account here of Calvin's grossly oversimplifies a complicated situation.

Servetus' death was a civil matter. Calvin warned Servetus not to come to Geneva. He warned that, if he did come to Geneva he would be arrested by the civil authorities.

Virtually European cities (and British) were functionally theocratic in the period. If memory serves, Servetus escaped from a jail in a Roman city, and certain death, before coming to Geneva.

Calvin did spot him in the congregation and he did report him. Advocating heresy against the Trinity was a civil crime in Geneva. I don't think it should have been but it was.

Servetus was tried by and punished by civil authorities. This fact is often inconveniently ignored by Socinian, Unitarian, and sadly, anti-Calvinist Baptist critics.

In saying this, I'm not exonerating Calvin. He was a theocrat. So was Luther. So was Bucer. So was Melanchthon. It was the sixteenth century. Religious tolerance was a long way off in the mid-16th century.

Surely you're not implying that all Calvinists are theocratic or that somehow Calvin's role in Servetus' death discredits the doctrines of grace?

Finally, it's not as if those holding to believer's baptism were immune from theocratic tendencies and even bloodshed in the period. You haven't forgotten Muenster have you?

R. Scott Clark
Westminster Seminary California

Tom said...


So are you admitting that you are a Landmarker? (If this sounds strange, I was merely taking my cue of your own method of deduction).

I still find your willingness to embrace 16th century heretics who happen to have been sprinkled into some communion as "Baptist" disturbing. As I said earlier, you can keep that vision of Baptist identity. I want nothing of it.

As I have repeatedly noted, Mark's article is online, so people can decide for themselves whether your accusation against him is justified, or if his own, Tom Nettle's, and my statement of his practice is correct. I don't get your unwillingness to admit your error here, but, you seem pretty well dug in on this. That is certainly your right.

Tom said...


I don't have a clue what your last comment means. Maybe its the lateness of the hour.

Baptist Theology said...


You obviously did not read my comments. I have clearly stated that I am willing to call Servetus a Baptist if he joined a Taufer church. The only mistake I made was repeating the Calvinist historians' assertion that he was a Taufer rather than an Antipaedobaptist, which is the only historical proof we have. Saying that the Taufern are Baptist is not Landmarkist, at least according to any acceptable scholarly definition.

As for Dever, how many times do I have to cite his exact words to you? If he denies it now, that is fine, and I accept it, but it would be helpful to see it in writing.

Now, if I were to take and analyze the rest of your arguments against Lemke, Allen, and Vines, I would no doubt be able to demonstrate that you have taken them out of context and misrepresented them, too. However, this whole exercise with you may have simply become unproductive.

In Christ,

Tom said...


Trust me. I have read your comments--all 8 of them.

You write, "I have clearly stated that I am willing to call Servetus a Baptist if he joined a Taufer church."

This is why I do not share your vision of Baptist Identity and hope that your view does not prevail in Baptist life.

Another difference we have is that I do not equate anabaptists with Baptists. My understanding of Baptist identity has too high a view of orthodoxy as well as baptism to allow for that.

Terry T said...

Here is what I think is the real issue, arguments about Servetus aside.

If you are a Calvinist in the SBC today you are in reality not welcome. Oh, no those "conservative leaders" who happen to not be calvinist wont be so bold as to say that but their actions are in fact sending that message.

I don't find the "calvinist camp" suggesting that non-calvinists are anti or non evangelistic (though I could point out that in my congregation very few evangelize - ours is a non-calvinist body), I dont' find calvinists suggesting that non-calvinists in the convention are a danger, or implying that the tepid growth or more precisely lack of growth is because they are non-calvinists (as Mr. Allen did in a publication false titled "Building Bridges").

No it boils down to the fact that we who are Calvinists, we who want to see Christ crucified preached from our pulpits, we who desire for repentance and faith to be proclaimed, for our youth to learn their theology from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul rather than from Toby Mac or Third Day; we who desire for our fellow believers to grow in the knowledge of Christ rather than to learn their "Purpose" over then next 40 days - we just are not wanted and soon I fear will not be tolerated in the SBC.

Maybe it is time that we leave, I don't want to but maybe it is just time while it can be done with charity and grace and done in a way that there is no public scandal/controversy which brings a reproach on our Savior.

Just some thoughts from a 12th Grade Sunday School teacher who wants to see his students know Christ, know his Word and walk in it (even though the convention literature is more likely to take us down the path of "Why not to have tatoos" for a lessons).
Thank you for your consideration

Tom said...


Thanks for your comment. You represent a growing number of Southern Baptists who are getting very weary of the kind of antics described in the post. Not all of the denominational leaders are as you describe them, just some of the most vocal. There are others who are not of that spirit and see the problems that the anti-Calvinists are creating by their unjust, vitriolic castigations.

Hang in there. I believe better days are coming. Keep teaching those students the truth of God's Word. That is a vital ministry and no amount of unjust criticism from denominational employees should detract you from it.

Press on.

Tom said...

Dr. Clark:

Thanks for your comments. I hope that Dr. Yarnell will respond to you. You have, in my estimation, put your finger on one of the greatest problems with the view of Baptist origins and identity that he espouses: what about the Muensterites? I have never seen that question adequately answered by anyone with Dr. Yarnell's view. I look forward to his explanation.

(ShiVeR)Curtis said...

I assure you there is no "divide" in the bride of Christ, the only divide is between the true and the false.

PaPaMarc said...

I don't have the eloquence and theological knowledge of the folks commenting on this blog but I thought I would comment anyway.
I was in an SBC church for 48 years and then God opened my eyes to the fact that He is actually the one that does the saving not me by anything I do or can do (like walking to the front).
I was so excited and felt such a burden lifted that I wanted to tell everyone in the world! Leadership at the church was not nearly that excited and after a while sort of encouraged me to find another church.
My wife and I are now involved in the membership process of a non denominational church (a lot of former SBC folks) that understands that God saves but is the most Christ saturated, Gospel proclaiming, evangelistic church I have ever been in.
We really understand the foundational truth that God saves and don't really even talk about it.
We mainly talk about Jesus, the hero of the Bible.

I check in on some blogs occasionally to see what's going on and I pray for the SBC.

Ron Suarez said...

I recently attended the Bapt. Gen. Con. of Oklahoma were the Arbuckle Association attempted to bring a recommendation that the Doctrines of Grace be declared outside of Baptist Polity. No debate on the merits of the Doctrines, just an up or down vote. The Resolutions Committee rejected the measure citing it did not reflect Baptist polity or history. They stated that the State convention would not interfere in an Associational matter and would not demand anything more narrow then the BFM outlined. They also warned of the dangers of Associations making this a Shibboleth.
I for one began attending MBTS, while it still retained many of its Reformed Profs. I was Reformed in my theology before Seminary so these Profs were icing on the cake. I now have one Prof who openly mocks Calvinist and then complains on my papers that I use ad hominem attacks in pointing out the similarities between JW tenets and SBC Armenian tendencies; the JW founder openly praised Arminius. So much for declaring the king has no clothes.

mingo said...

So do I have to consider Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Mormons, and whomever decides to dunk a person under water as a Baptist?

Baptist Theology said...


Calvinists have been trying to whitewash Calvin’s involvement in the judicial murder of Servetus ever since Castellio put his finger on Calvin’s duplicity. One way to do it is to say it was a civil matter, but as you correctly note, this doesn’t wash either, for Calvin was a theocrat. None of the Magisterial Reformers should be exonerated for their religious intolerance, which was not confined to the mid-16th Century, but stretched well into the 17th Century and was not successfully suppressed until the triumph of the free churches in American political theory. You can also count the Synod of Dort among the intolerant, which should give pause to anybody endorsing their theology, for theology and ethics are intimately tied together.

Granted, those holding to believers’ baptism are not immune to theocratic tendencies, and Muenster is only one example. However, such tendencies are not central to the baptizing movement, while such tendencies are demonstrably central to the Reformed movement. Muenster came well after the beginning of the movement and was repented of subsequently, while the Reformed were theocratic from the beginning and it has been argued that they often retain an intolerant mindset.


So, do you commune with Presbyterians or not? Be honest. Put the cards on the table for all to see. And if so, please post your reasons for disagreeing with the Baptist Faith and Message.

In Christ,

ajlin said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I don't understand how a comment about Servetus has any bearing on concerns about "classical Calvinists" anyway, as Dr. Allen and others at the John 3:16 Conference proved that Calvin was not a "classical Calvinist."

If Calvin was a good guy (theologically) and the later "Calvinists" who distorted his teachings were the bad guys, then how does the fact that Calvin played some role in the execution of Servetus demonstrate any need for concern about the soteriology of Calvinism?

mingo said...

"You can also count the Synod of Dort among the intolerant, which should give pause to anybody endorsing their theology, for theology and ethics are intimately tied together." --Yarnell

That says a lot from someone who belongs to a denomination that endorsed slavery of an entire race of people

Matt Privett said...


Your point about those speakers at the John 3:16 Conference marginalizing themselves with Calvinists is dead on. When Dr. Vines recently preached on John 3:16 in SBTS chapel students were respectful and attended but were left shaking their heads on the way out? It's not just attacks on Calvinists that discourage us, but faulty exegesis that arrives from imposing one's own theological presuppositions on the text. Calvinists are accused of this all the time, but when "Whosoever!" is shouted from the pulpit as if it's the end all, be all answer to Calvinists, what are we to think? The same people who boldly fought for inerrancy in the SBC told us to read and study our Bibles. They just don't like what we found when we followed their advice.

Tom said...


Perhaps you did not get the point of my previous response to you. Our local, autonomous church (GBC of Cape Coral, Florida) does not take well to one of our employees (Malcolm Yarnell) trying to play "gotcha" with us or trying to direct our doctrine or practice.

Since you seem intent on playing this little game, how about this: You answer my question, then I will answer yours;

You have positioned yourself as a champion of regenerate church membership. Does your church practice what you preach? Since you show no hesitancy on trying to influence what other churches do, what have you done to influence your own covenant community to apply regenerate church membership?

Those who pay your salary will be interested to know your answer.

David Milton said...

Magnificent. Finally - A blunt, civil (read: No Caners involved) honest gloves-off discussion between Baptist Theology, Westminster, and the Aggie Floridian. Finally.

Well written article Tom. I stand with you.

As I wrote on Challies, so many white elephants in the room that went ignored in Jacksonville. John 6:44, Romans 9, Ephesians 1 and 2 for starters.

Let the divide occur. Nashville, Fort Worth, and large portions of the South have become Rome. They add to Justification by Faith Alone. And they never refer to themselves as Arminians or Pelagians, which they are.

Stephen Newell said...

Your point about those speakers at the John 3:16 Conference marginalizing themselves with Calvinists is dead on.

They are also marginalizing themselves with non-Calvinists, Matt. It's hard to give proper respect to people who won't listen, refuse to be corrected, misrepresent, obfuscate, and in some cases flat-out lie about their fellow believers.

Jeff said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I am curious as to who your church communes with. Do you commune with all that have been immersed? Cambellites? Pentecostal? Free Will Baptists who believe that salvation can be lost? Those baptized into non-Lordship salvation congregations? I ask because there are those who take the BFM to be so narrow that it does not accept immersion by most of these groups to be valid baptism. Are you in that group? If so, I suppose that you do not allow them at your table.

God Bless,

johnMark said...

Why is there a call to drop the theology of Calvinism because of Calvin's involvement in the Geneva gov't? Especially, in light of David Allen's comment that Calvin wasn't a Calvinist as Andrew already pointed out. Was Calvin's actions a direct attribute of his theology or was it that he was upholding and obeying the law? Maybe Calvin was just acting as a man in the process of sanctification. His personal actions don't necessarily prove nor disprove his theology. If they disprove it then Ghandi was right and had reason not to be a Christian.

Besides, it is baptist Calvinists under the microscope here so why not focus on the SBC Founders, people like Spurgeon or the Calvinistic baptist confessions?

Also, is not some theological nuance allowed? And by what standard? Instead of using the Baptist Faith and Message the standard defaults to Calvin and Dordt.

There was a charge that it's hard to tell who is or who is not a paedo-baptist. This was because of some baptists did a conference(s) with Presbyterians. Yet, Dr. Land at the conference answered the position of individual election by referring to Harry Ironside to refute the Calvinist position.

Funny thing is, Ironside saw no problem communing with paedo-baptists.

Scripture never intimates that like views of baptism are required to fit saints for communion at the Lord's table...Membership in the body of Christ is the only church membership known in the New Testament. This is the basis of communion...but there is no Scriptural warrant for insisting that only those who see and practice the immersion of professed believers are to be received at the Lord's table. This would be to make a new communion of baptism..(Source)

So who gets to partner theologically with whom? And when?


tburus said...

Dr. Yarnell,
I am curious why, even though as you say, "theology and ethics are intimately tied together," seemingly the main argument most non-Calvinists make against Calvinism is one of appealing to history? Do we no longer subscribe to the maxim that narrative does not make normative?

I think Dr. Land's comments at J316C should be heeded by all on your side of the debate. As you may recall, he said that, though he disagrees with the Calvinist view of Unconditional Election, if it's true it does not steal from God's glory. Instead of treating SBC Calvinists like heretics and false teachers, the "anti-Calvinists" could try and give honest arguments for why they think Calvinists are robbing God (i.e. the opposite of the arrogant appeals of people like David Allen), and if they can't find a reason then maybe they could calm down a bit and try working together with their soteriological counterparts (think Danny Akin here). Just a thought.

-Todd Burus

Tom said...

Matt and Stephen:

You guys illustrate the point that you are making. I wish that the strident anti-Calvinist leaders in the SBC would recognize it. Thankfully, more and more SBs of all stripes do recognize it and are unwilling to go down the road of caricature, character assassination and misrepresentation. As that number continues to swell, before long the anti-Calvinist old guard will look behind them and realize that the only ones who are following them are their wanna-be-heir-apparent-proteges.

You two men represent what is best and most hopeful for the future of the SBC. You know what you believe. You are not angry with those who disagree, and you are willing to talk respectfully of and learn from others. May your numbers continue to increase!

peter lumpkins said...

Dr. Ascol wrote:

"Thankfully, more and more SBs of all stripes...are unwilling to go down the road of caricature, character assassination and misrepresentation."

I could not agree more, brother Tom and trust that surely is the standard practiced here in the future.

With that, I am...


Todd Pruitt said...


Thanks for the post.

I recently departed a Southern Baptist Church in Wichita, KS after nine years of service. During that time the church grew from just over 100 to around 700. We became the top giving church in our association and were in the top five missions giving churches in the Kansas/Nebraska convention.

Nevertheless, I was treated by some as the proverbial red-headed stepchild because I am Reformed. Sadly there were some within my own congregation who actively sought to discredit me. The director of our assocation (recently retired) even sought to do me harm.

For these reasons it was not difficult to leave the Southern Baptist Convention after being in it my entire life.

I am now the Teaching Pastor at Church of the Saviour outside Philadelphia. It is a church with a Reformed heritage but includes many members who are not. What is refreshing is that it is not at all controversial at Church of the Saviour.

The anti-Calvinism in many SBC circles is venemous.

The three sources of division you cite stand in such aweful contrast to the Building Bridges Conference which, in my mind, was a model in fair and respectful dialogue.

As I commented in the days following Building Bridges, Dr. Yarnell was the only presenter who seemed combative (an observation made by many attendees). His raising of the Servetus issue to discredit the doctrines of grace is mystifying. His response to Dr. Clark is wholly unsatisfying. If Servetus discredits Calvinism then certainly the SBC should be discredited because of slavery and racism.

Given Dr. Yarnell's pressing of your church's position about sharing communion with Presbyterians (Is this some sort of outrageous sin?) I find Jeff's question very appropriate. There are a lot of people who have been put under the water with whom Southern Baptists have far less theological affinity than Presbyterians.

Would Dr. Yarnell truly not commune with Lloyd Jones, J.I. Packer, or Sinclair Ferguson?

Blessings Tom. I appreciate your ministry!

Tom said...


I am glad that you are settled in a new ministry. The kingdom of God is certainly much bigger than the SBC and I hope that you will have a long and prosperous ministry in the Philly area.

The kind of disrespect and mistreatment that you experienced from denominational employees is shameful, and that kind of thing is fueled by the unjust castigations like I have cited in this post. I pray that SBC leaders will soon realize that the anti-Calvinist party is contributing to the loss of some of our finest pastors and church leaders like you--both Calvinist and non-Calvinist.

Thanks for the encouragement, Todd. Stay in touch.

GeneMBridges said...

Calvinists have been trying to whitewash Calvin’s involvement in the judicial murder of Servetus ever since Castellio put his finger on Calvin’s duplicity. One way to do it is to say it was a civil matter, but as you correctly note, this doesn’t wash either, for Calvin was a theocrat.

Wrong, it does wash, for the issue isn't Calvin's theology, it's the timing of the incident. Rather, he was out of favor in Geneva.

On a slightly wider note, so what, Reformed theology is hardly encapsulated in John Calvin. Bucer antedates Calvin. The Reformed Churches and our confessions are remarkably diverse. You and your side keep bringing up Calvin's name as if he's the beginning and end of Calvinism - he is not. That's a caricature that you all keeping feeding the people in the pews, playing on their ignorance. It's well past time that stops.

None of the Magisterial Reformers should be exonerated for their religious intolerance,

Why not? You're now imposing a 21st century standard upon the 16th. Where's the supporting argument? Is it your position that anti-Trinitarianism should have been tolerated in 16th century Europe?

which was not confined to the mid-16th Century, but stretched well into the 17th Century and was not successfully suppressed until the triumph of the free churches in American political theory.

Thank you, Malcolm for associating yourself with Anabaptism. Since there are many sorts of Anabaptist, which strains do you find acceptable and not acceptable? Should Baptists now sequester themselves in Amish communities? I know you don't believe that, but since you think theology and ethics are so inextricably bound, your analogy (minus - as usual - any semblance of an argument) proves too much or too little.

You can also count the Synod of Dort among the intolerant, which should give pause to anybody endorsing their theology, for theology and ethics are intimately tied together.

This is, of course, a mighty fine example of the illicit totality transfer fallacy. A seminary professor should know better. Indeed, this little argument is reversable. If theology and ethics are intertwined, in siding with Servetus, by your own "logic," you've sided with anti-Trinitarianism. So, we can work in reverse...unmitigated tolerance ---> antitrinitarianism. Theology and ethics are intertwined. Ergo, anybody who endorses your theology, Malcom, should take pause.

Oh, and indeed, that has proven so very true, has it not? We Calvinists spend a lot of time defending the truth simply because it's true. History has repeatedly shown that the introduction of libertarian free will into theology leads toward apostasy in the Church, even antitrinitarianism. I would refer you to Geneva after Amyraldism became popular following the death of Francis Turretin. Within a century, Geneva was apostate. Amyraldianism became Arminianism became anti-Trinitarianism became sacred and secular apostasy. Before you start casting stones at Calvin, you may want to take a long look at Jacob Vernet.

GeneMBridges said...

With respect to communing with Presbyterians...

Speaking for myself,

1. I've staked out my reasons, briefly, exegetically, for doing so here:

2. In a summary fashion, "Because in my experience, at present, Presbyterians are doing a better job with regenerate church membership than most SBC churches. This is evidenced by the fact that I can go to just about any PCA church and find that the majority of members can give me a clear, forceful, unproblematic summary of the Gospel, but when I go into an SBC church, by far most of them have no clue what I mean. Which of these is giving me evidence of a credible profession of faith?

3. Which gets me to this:

Is it impermissible to "commune" with regenerate, but, from our Baptist perspective, "unbaptized" persons? Or does this just generally to all Paedobaptized persons?

If either, so what's being said - and let's be clear here, is that baptism qua baptism is the line of demarkation - not a credible profession of faith. Frankly, I think that's shameful.

And for those who like to bring up "Baptist tradition" on this:

a. As has already been pointed out, Baptists are hardly monolithic on this position.

b. The problem which our forefathers were addressing wasn't baptism - it was the lining of the pews of the then majority Paedobaptist churches with unregenerate people. One simply cannot read Baptist writings of the 17th century without that in mind - that's why they made baptism such a high test of fellowship. Today, the problem strikes me as largely reversed. Baptists of all stripes, not just Southern Baptists, need to own up to that.

Yet SBC churches are lined with unregenerate, but baptized persons. Yet these persons are allowed to "commune" all the time.

Log meet splinter...

I'll quote from my linked article:

One can so fence the table that it results in little more than control freakery. I have in my library a history of the Charleston Presbytery of the Southern Presbyterians detailing the giving of communion tokens in the Antebellum period in lurid detail. This flies in the face of Scripture that, while I would agree licenses the elders of the church to fence the table by warning, does not license them to give out "communion tokens" of any kind. The Table, when we gather, is self-selecting. Scripture says "let each man..." It does not say, "You shall keep those making a credible profession but not baptized by immersion" away. That said, I believe that each local church should have its own say; it should not, in this matter, force its opinion on another. I'll also add here that the best way to fence the Table is to know your members and visitors and practice church discipline. No one should be cut off from the means of grace who is not under discipline, unless they are an unbeliever and have no way to say, "I know Christ died for me and I have appropriated His benefits by faith in Him alone." The job of the elder is to warn the people and equip the people, not hand out passes to the meal like tickets or, worse, put them under house arrest. Such actions make the eldership a paternalistic institution that varies little from that of Roman Catholic priests who hand out the wafer and keep the host, literally, under lock and key. As Steve said in August,and I second,

Since communion is a covenant sign, the only communicants should (ideally) be members of the covenant community. It would therefore be wrong for a pastor to knowingly administer communion to an open unbeliever.

However, one can easily get carried away with policing the communion rail. Various denominations begin to practice closed communion, as if each denomination held the patent to the Lord’s Supper.

And some of them become so petrified at the prospect of administering communion to the wrong person that they rarely perform communion, and put members through a screening process every time communion is scheduled. The pastor has to interview every member and issue a communion token to show that this member is preapproved to partake of communion.

All of this is well-intentioned, but it’s also an exercise in control-freakery. An otherwise valid principle as been overrefined to the point of absurdity, under the assumption that it’s better if no one rightly takes communion for fear one person will slip through the barricade and wrongly take communion.

It also assumes a very paternalistic polity, in which the elders are the official grown-ups while the laity is reduced to the rank of perpetual minors, in a state of diminished responsibility. The laity is no longer answerable for its actions. Rather, laymen are kept under curfew. They can only go outside with an ecclesiastical chaperon to escort them and keep them out of trouble.

Yet the true job of pastors is to equip the laity, and not to keep them under house arrest. Not only does this attitude keep the laity in a state of arrested spiritual and intellectual development, but it also has a corrupting influence on the clergy, for the clergy are by no means impeccable or infallible. Accountability is a two-way street.

Greg Alford said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I am concerned about your pressing Tom Ascol about if his church would allow a Presbyterian to take communion in his Baptist Church.

Are you telling us that it is not proper for a Baptist Church to allow a fellow Christian, who having been baptized by immersion after a credible confession of faith in Jesus Christ, to take communion?

Are you telling us that you would allow a 5 year old child that is baptized in a Baptist church to take communion, but you would refuse Dr D. James Kennedy?

If so “Wow!”

Grace Always,

Jay Youngblood said...

Dr. Yarnell:

I am troubled by your insistence on ascribing a position to Mark Dever that he does not take. I took Bro. Tom up on his invitation to read Mark's article, and it appears to me that it is disingenuous to say that Bro. Mark requires "a different confessional standard than the NHC for his church leaders, which he explicitly admits." (Your words verbatim.) Bro. Mark neither explicitly nor implicitly says anything of the sort.

In the last paragraph of the section “My Discovery” in Bro. Mark’s article, he writes:

“Over the next few weeks and months, I came to appreciate our statement of faith (NHC) even more; but I also used the 1689 for various purposes. I ordered copies of the 1689, and I used it, with both young Christians to disciple, and with older Christians to teach. I even remember sitting on my church’s front steps talking with a non-Christian about the gospel, using the 1689’s statements on justification to explain the gospel. It was and continues to remain a gloriously useful part of the ministry.”

It is clear that Bro. Mark uses the SLC as a discipleship, teaching, and evangelism tool. But nowhere in this paragraph or elsewhere in the article does Bro. Mark ever state that he requires that his “church leaders” give affirmation to the SLC. In fact, Bro. Mark makes it a point to state that he requires affirmation of the NHC for membership. I would assume that goes for elders as well as church laity.

Bro. Mark does indicate in his article that he requires the elders of the church to affirm the biblical view of definite atonement and that he will not allow general atonement to be preached from his pulpit. You read that to mean that Bro. Mark must be requiring his elders to affirm the SLC. That is not what he wrote and, with all due respect, you are missing the point.

What Bro. Mark was emphasizing is that whether you hold to a definite atonement view or a general atonement view, you should be able to affirm the following portion of the NHC as being true:

“IV. Of The Way Of Salvation

We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace; through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God; who by the appointment of the Father, freely took upon him our nature, yet without sin; honored the divine law by his personal obedience, and by his death made a full atonement for our sins; that having risen from the dead he is now enthroned in heaven; and uniting in his wonderful person the tenderest sympathies with divine perfections, he is every way qualified to be a suitable, a compassionate, and an all-sufficient Saviour.”

No matter which view you hold, each statement in this part of the NHC, as drafted, is true.

In going further to say that he will not allow general atonement to be preached from his pulpit, Bro. Mark is simply stating that he is acting as a “gatekeeper” should and is making sure that the things being taught at CHBC are consistent and not contradictory. I assume that you would agree with this position. I can think of little else that would have more of a divisive effect on a congregation than for an associate pastor to be teaching doctrine that contradicts the teaching of the senior pastor.

In the context of the article, it appears that Bro. Mark is implying that he explores more closely and more deeply how a candidate for a staff teaching position understands the meaning of the above-quoted passage of the NHC than he would for a lay person seeking membership. Surely you would agree that it is important to do so in order to ensure that what is being taught to the flock is what you, as the senior pastor, understand to be in accordance with Scripture? To interpret Bro. Mark’s words as meaning anything else is not fair or accurate.

Not in any place in the article do you find Bro. Mark saying that he requires SLC affirmation for one group in the church and NHC affirmation for another. With all due respect again, you can only reach your conclusion by engaging in eisegesis.

Your brother in Christ,


pregador27 said...

"However, if you indeed are offering Presbyterians communion, this is certainly not in line with the Baptist Faith and Message, and should be admitted publicly."

Mr. Yarnell, I never noticed that the BFM says, "Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper" in reference to baptism by immersion. I always thought it was membership in the body of Christ vs. unbelievers.

I am in a non-(not anti-)Calvinistic Southern Baptist church and our pastor, like the pastors of every other Conservative Southern Baptist church I have been a member of (none of which were Calvinistic- though I am), has the Lord's Supper open to any believer. I guess I do take issue with the BFM on that point. It smacks of Romanism. I think this is more wide-spread than you may think. And I have no problem sharing communion with fellow believers. Start the excommunication procedures.

Baptist Theology said...


Since I am not one of your church's employees, your statement is, to be frank, laughably ridiculous. I am an employee of an institution in which you have a voice, but not the voice, for your church is not the only church in this convention. My friend, if you have the same attitude towards the Florida Baptist State Convention and its employees as you have displayed here in your post and in your comments, one can commiserate as to why they might consider you contentious.

Now, as a Southern Baptist, who belongs to a church that affirms the Baptist Faith and Message without reservation, I am asking you if your church is faithful to the same confession. Asking you this question is not a violation of your local church autonomy, but a call for you to voice your beliefs and practices with integrity toward those you have claimed to be in fellowship.

Do you disagree with the common confession of our convention? Does your church have in its belief and/or practice the offering of communion to a Presbyterian?

Your answer will say much about the full extent of the agenda you have with regard to the Synod of Dort.

In Christ,

PS Yes, my church is a covenantal community that seeks regenerate church membership. We do so, inter alia, through requiring believers baptism for communion, which is the position of the Baptist Faith and Message.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear pregador27:

Where is your scripture that says unbaptized people can partake of communion?

Do you also let the newly saved, but yet unbaptized, also take communion?

Yes, any regularly and scripturally baptized person may partake of communion, but no unbaptized person.

To my knowledge, this has been the predominant view among Baptists.



Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Gene:

You said:

"The Table, when we gather, is self-selecting. Scripture says "let each man..." It does not say, "You shall keep those making a credible profession but not baptized by immersion" away."

But does the apostle not also say to the church "with such an one do not eat"? And, does this not place responsibility upon each local church to deny communion to those who are not proper subjects?

The decision does not solely rest with the individual but rests also with the local church.

Yours for the truth,


Tom said...


So you don't see yourself as a servant of SBC churches? Well, that explains a lot. And, by the way, it is exactly the same response I got from liberal professors at SBTS back in 1995. Timothy George's warning from 20+ years ago is sounding more and more prophetic: "The exchange of one set of bureaucrats for another doth not a reformation make."

Further, your reference to your church's practice is very evasive. You know as well as I do that you have not answered my question. Let me simplify it: Is your affirmation of regenerate church membership merely theoretical or do you actually practice it? Do all of your members even do the minimum of what regenerate people should do, such as show up at the gathering of the covenant community with regularity, unless providentially hindered? Do the majority? If not, what have you done to help your church correct this problem in all of your years of being a member?

I think the people who pay your salary (sorry if this reminder offends you) would be interested in knowing how deep your commitment to regenerate church membership really is. Such things are easy to talk about, but harder to implement. Or, as we used to say back when I lived in Texas, "talk is cheap."

Personally, I am weary of hearing folks boldly professing commitment to Baptist principles only to discover that their practice doesn't come close to their words.

Such empty profession undermines our credibility to a watching world. Those whose profession of regenerate church membership is only theoretical and who yet set themselves up as defenders of Baptist distinctives have forsaken any moral authority to be taken seriously.

Terrell Academy Chapel said...

Dr. Yarnell,

This is a bit of a side point to the greater discussion, so please ignore this if you'd like.

I'm just curious. You said that your church requires believer's baptism before they can partake of the Lord's Supper.

Is this believer's baptism as done in any Baptist church? Do you accept alien immersion if the understanding of that baptism is in line with our Baptist understanding? And, if they have partaken of believer's baptism but are not members of your local congregation, can they still come?

I'm not fishing for anything here, just wondering.

I will not hesitate to say that I reject close communion. I always have, ever since pastoring a church in Oklahoma that was steeped in Landmarkist excesses and seeing a dear brother (who was baptized by immersion in another denomination by who had the exact same understanding of that baptism as we do) denied the Lord's Supper. I will not hesitate to say that I found it obscene and rejoiced when the church agreed to let this brother come to the table.

I do see the logic of it and how it fits within the overall framework of regenerate church membership, but I disagree that it is a necessary component.

B.H. Carroll would want me fired from my church for this stand, but I am happy to proclaim the truth of the supper, the strident requirements voiced by Paul in 1 Corinthians, and appeal to the consciences of those in our assembly who I do not know personally, who may be just visiting.

Those who I do know, and who have reason to be under table discipline, are in a different situation.

I gladly stand with (I believe) Bunyan on this particular issue, as well as with others in the Baptist tradition.

I know you will think me in error on this, and that's ok. I just wanted to share my own thoughts here.


Jeff said...

Malcom, Local churches are not required to adhere to the BMF only employees of the SBC. I find it troubling that you still will not answer questions pose to you by Pastor Tom. You accused him of being divisive but you and your baptist distinctive pals are the ones creating division by your legalistic laws concern what makes one a good baptist.

DoGLover said...

Tom, it seems that Jesus' prayer for his people to be one (Jn 17:22-23) won't be fully realized this side of eternity. Still, we have much for which to be thankful. The Spirit works in spite of our frailties. I'm grateful for your conciliatory manner even while addressing the divisions among us.

I pray that wisdom will win out over zeal.

God bless,

Jeff said...

Malcom, The last line of Pastor Tom's post, "The future belongs to the bridge-builders, not party-builders."

What are you?

n6okj said...

On 11/25 I meant of course "yoked" (a la 2 Co 6:14), but maybe the Arminians egg you on to stay with 'em!

With all due respect, far too much strange “love” is shown the anti-gospel bunch by the SBC Calvinists. Paul did not so with HIS Judaizers, nor our Lord with the Pharisees.

If Spurgeon was right, if the synodists at Dort were prudent, and if Rom. 16:17-19; 2 Thes. 3:6 & 14f; & Titus 3:10f apply, why should we READ the likes of Yarnell, Lemke, ad nauseam, and not rather, reprove these men, and, barring their repentance, be done with them?

Strong Tower said...

SWBTS has its own statement of faith, and it is not the BFM, so what's the carp? I am wondering, does SWBTS require its professors to adhere to its expanded definitions?

Now, as a Southern Baptist, who belongs to a church that affirms the Baptist Faith and Message without reservation,

Sorry, what was that? Without reservation? Then one wonders why the expansion and refined definiton in the SWBTS statement of beliefs? Certainly, the above statement must have been in jest? There is nothing in the BFM with which one can disagree, even slightly so that they find need to clarify? Well let's see:

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.... Note that there is no call for exclusion based in the BFM's position from embracing into fellowship, those of other communions, as the Baptist Identity folks would have it. It seems that they will have to throw of the yoke of the BFM to have their day. To wit the BFM says:

(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
So there is liberty for any SBC church to welcome those evil Presbys to the table if they so choose.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.
And if that is the case, then to sight the BFM so as to make it an implicit faith statement and a bludgeon to police the structure and freedom of local autonomic rule, is simply hypocrisy gone wild.

One of the things that is noted about the J316C crowd is their obvious gross inability to read and comprehend. Since the BFM is amenable to open communion, how again is that an instrumentalist is not offended by the openness of it?

The contruct of the BFM makes it so fluid that to use it as any standard, even of that which it claims for itself, to be a joke. The fluidity allows for local discrimination, true, but allows also for those churches who care to open their communion to all according to their own convictions and evaluation of biblical texts.

Contrary to the assertion that one must hold the BFM in clear conscience and abiding unquestioning fialty, there is no such animal in the BFM. That is an eisogetical imposition of bigots. The introductory section clearly makes the BFM optional. As a concensus, through personal interpretation, soul competency is exalted over any concrete meaning in the text and left to the congregational rule to settle upon policy. Liberty of conscience also, makes any claim to prescriptive or proscriptive ordinances invalid. The implicit faith that is demanded by BFM idolators is, as rightly pointed out, viewing the saw dust through log-jammed vision.

It is time for those religious zealots who falsly take salaries from the gifts given by the membership in the SBC, to pack it in or repent and admit their fraud. This goes for seminary professors and pastors alike who through neglect of truth have stolen the belongings of the laity, cheated them of even the educational requirements of the missional statement of the BFM, and in short endangered their spiritual health as believers and prevented those who would come in by making them twice the servants of hell as themselves. It is they who have made the SBC a mockery of Christ in the eyes of the world, not others.

Cavorting cohorts with admitted heretics, it is the J316C Magisters, who need to bow out of the fight for revival among the SBC as the struggle goes on for the authority of Scripture, something, these men, seemingly know little about.

The BFM is a hollow document, authoritatively, that a store front mannequin could hold it in clear conscience. To use it as an inquisitional tool, is ludicrous, but lets us know just how far the bureaucracy has back-slid to the apostacy of Rome.

pregador27 said...

Stephen, (Forgive me Tom for responding directly within this section if it is inappropriate) as I survey: Matthew 26.26-28; Mark 14.22-25; Luke 22.7-20; 1 Corinthians 11.17-33 and even John 6, where Jesus identifies Himself as the bread of life, I see nothing commanding baptism as a prerequisite for communion, or the Lord's Supper. I see that we have to be a believer.

Unless you are suggesting that baptism is necessary for regeneration, I cannot say I would prevent a fellow believer from joining in the Lord's Supper, as many churches (SBC) agree in practice.

As for a brother who holds to a baptism other than believer's baptism, I have to honor Romans 14.4 "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." I know the subject is different, but I believe the application would still fit. I would also consider close fellowship with such a believer as well.

I also would not turn a non-Calvinist away despite the differences I have in many areas with such a brother or sister either.

chadwick said...

Dr. Yarnell,

The SBC’s Founding Fathers differed on the Landmark issue. They considered “alien emersion” to be a local church issue rather than a denominational issue.

Here is an interesting quote from an SBC history book:

“An attack was made on the Southern Seminary because one of its first professors, Dr. William Williams, was in favor of the acceptance of alien immersions. Dr. [James] Boyce was against such acceptance, but he was unwilling to make the question a test of fellowship. From the beginning of the Seminary, he was unwilling to have the institutions committed to either side of the question.”
(Page 108; The Southern Baptist Convention 1845-1953: The First History of a Great Denomination by: W.W. Barnes; Broadman Press; 1954 )

Questions (based upon the cited quote) that must be asked:

1)According to James Boyce, who should handle the Landmark issue?
2)Was Boyce willing to force his Landmark beliefs upon SBTS?
3)Should Southern Baptists make the Landmark issue a test of fellowship?

Dr. Yarnell, what would you answers be to these questions?


GeneMBridges said...

Are you telling us that it is not proper for a Baptist Church to allow a fellow Christian, who having been baptized by immersion after a credible confession of faith in Jesus Christ, to take communion?

By the way, here's the problem here...

Dr. Yarnell, if we follow the implications of his own argument, is now forced to assert that Presby churches are not "true churches." However, even on Baptist principles, is this true? No, for we know,:

1. Today's Presby churches include in their memberships credobaptized persons. Indeed, Presbyterians today will immerse believers upon request as a matter of conscience, accept credobaptized persons into membership, etc. It's also a "running gag" in the PCA that much of their growth is due to the influx of dissatisfied Southern Baptists, including some RB's who have no RB church nearby.

a. What of those who are not immersed? I answer: Should a person baptized by effusion not be admitted to the Table? If so, then you've placed the accent not on professor's baptism or a credible profession of faith, but on immersion qua immersion. There's a difference between baptism by immersion qua immersion and baptism by immersion qua baptism. I opt for the latter, not the former...meaning over mode.

2. None other than Dagg argued that Presbyterian TE's were true elders, for calling is a product of regeneration,not baptism. So much for any argument from "Baptist tradition."

3. In the old days, our churches recognized 2 layers in a gathering:

a. The covenanted Members.
b. The Congregation.
c. A and B are not convertible, yet elements of each can intersect. For example, a visitor from a sister church is (b) not (a).

4. So, on Baptist principles, a Presbyterian gathering is no longer a mere "ecclesiastical body," rather it is a true church with real members, for as members of that body, they have embraced a covenant. It has at least one TE and a body of baptized believers, around whom sits a congregation - and they are free to include or exclude, I might add, anybody from the Table they see fit, and, as noted below, in my experience, they do it much better than most Baptists (of any stripe) do.

5. Ergo, Dr. Yarnell must argue the BFM supports not closed communion but close communion, restriction of the Table to the members qua members of the local church. Where's the supporting argument? As yet- nowhere.

But does the apostle not also say to the church "with such an one do not eat"? And, does this not place responsibility upon each local church to deny communion to those who are not proper subjects?

Then those persons should be under discipline in the local church, for the whole text reads: But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one.

I am also, here, of the opinion that the reference to discerning "the body" is a matter of discerning the church -eg. "body" is a metaphor for the church. So, when we ask people to take stock of themselves, it's not in some meritorious fashion, as if they are "worthy" of the elements - for nobody is, except in Christ. None of us can be that worthy. Rather, it is a call for the people to discern whether they are part of the church - the church universal. If some secret sin is found, they can either embrace Christ's mercy then and there or they can refuse to take the meal.

I'd also point out that a local church's discipline does not extend to those outside of its membership or congregation. If they aren't under local church discipline in their own covenant community, then you have no right to place them under discipline at your Table.

Is it your position that baptism qua baptism is the NT line of demarkation, that not being baptized as a believer is a matter of local church discipline? If so, then I answered this objection in my article at Triablogue and above.

That said: Now, every one of us has secret sins - and we thank Christ for His mercy. Indeed, did not Jesus offer the elements even to Judas? Jesus knew what was in Judas' heart, yet how did Jesus discipline Judas?

If they want to embrace Christ, unless you are privy to their thoughts, are you going to be the one to turn them away? Not me. I'll judge them in charity. Indeed, the moment you do that, you're verging on hyper-Calvinism, for it would amount to no more than preaching to the elect as if you know who they are. There is some truth, I think, to the Lutheran idea that the Lord's Supper is the preaching of the Word in a tanglible form - not in a weird, mystical sense, but in a concrete, visual sense.

Illustration (no good Baptist can fail to do that):

I have and do, quite regularly, visit Presbyterian churches on Sunday nights, and I take communion with them. Here's how they do it where I go: while a group of musicians (who are usually the last to take the elements before the elder and deacon who serve them), play "Just As I Am" (how Baptist) or another of our standard (Baptist) invitation hymns, the people rise from the pews and take a from a common loaf and common cup. The TE that night is very clear that no unbeliever should come, for that is hypocrisy, that Christ offers us believers mercy for our sins - but if we don't feel we should come forward, we will not be condemned. Guess what? There are people there who I know are believers who won't come forward. There are unbelievers there who don't go forward. It works. The Lord's Table isn't meant to be an exerise in control freakery, as if every member or congregant must undergo an interview process on a weekly basis (and they serve communion weekly there at that service) - and that, by the way, is what communion tokens involve - weekly interviews with the elders who sit like some ecclesiatical board over the people. I'm all for knowing your people - but that's bit much.

Indeed, as we rise and walk the aisle, I might add, the standard Baptist "altar call" is reversed. The Table is turned not only into a place of edification and memorial for the faith of the people, but a place of testimony to those who do not come - particularly for the unbeliever. They are not only urged to repent and embrace the love and mercy of God in Christ through the preaching of God's Holy Word, they witness the Lord's people take the meal - by walking an aisle publicly. Dare I say this is more of a public profession of faith than going through the standard sacramental motions in most Baptist pews on any given Sunday? Our people rise and sit when told, they sing, they pray. It's almost as if they engage in a standard set of movements, like crossing themselves, praying a rosary, etc., every Sunday. How many of our churches take questions from the people after a sermon? Where's the testimony of the people?

Gentlemen, might I respectfully suggest you consider, from time to time, asking your people to rise and walk the aisle, to ask questions after the message, etc. - and do so in front of the unbelievers. Turn your altar call, to take one example, away from its sacramental usage and make it a true testimony. We accuse Presbyterians of sacramentalism at the Table - yet who is really the sacramentalist these days? As I said above, for all the acrimony some express toward them, "those people" seem to be doing a lot better on this sort of thing these days. We could learn a thing or two from them.

Malcom, Local churches are not required to adhere to the BMF only employees of the SBC.

Well said. Sorry, but Tom isn't a denominational employee. He and his church are not obligated to the BFM. They are obligated to the confession their church - and only their church - hold. Personally, I find it absurd, indeed frankly ridiculous, that Brother Malcolm should try to use the BFM vs. Brother Tom and his people (That's some really, really wooly thinking), when it is well known the LBCF2 is a far less forgiving confession.

This is all they are bound to in regard to this issue:

1. From the LBCF2 30: 7._____ Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.
( 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 )

8._____ All ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Christ, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table, and cannot, without great sin against him, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto; yea, whosoever shall receive unworthily, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, eating and drinking judgment to themselves.
( 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15; 1 Corinthians 11:29; Matthew 7:6 )

2. They are free to interpret that as they see fit.

3. They are allowed, if this be construed by others as referring only to Baptists (closed) or Baptist membership of their church only (close) communion, to scruple. Even the Presbyterians allow scrupling with the WCF within their own Assemblies, how much more Baptists with their ideas on local church autonomy!

Additionally, I can't help but note that the discussions about communion with Presbyterianism are 100 percent irrelevant to the truth or falsity of the doctrines of grace, as is the practices of Brothers Tom and Timmy's church. It's a convenient (and it seems all too common) part of the narrative coming from the other side to run down that rabbit trail.

1. It is an attempt to drive a wedge between Calvinist/ic Baptists.

2. It is an attempt to deflect the issue from the truth or falsity of the doctrines of grace.

3. Notice carefully what happened here. Brother Tom answered Brother Malcolm on his own terms, a perfectly acceptable method of argumentation, and the result was a discussion of Presbyterians and Presbyterianism in reply.

4. Indeed look carefully, after Tom's answer, Brother Malcolm wrote:

Now, will you and like-minded Calvinist Baptists distance yourself from the infant baptizing Presbyterians? For instance, would you assure us that you would never allow a Presbyterian to participate in your church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper?

The implication of this question is only valid if other Southern Baptists - namely "the rest of us" (whoever this amorphous group might be) is some sort of ecclesiastical committee that is in possession of:

a. A right to this answer, as if Tom and others here are answerable to "the rest of us."
b. Can sit in judgment over those who allow this.
c. Sit in judgment over Calvinists and Calvinism.

Does that look at all familiar? It should. This is exactly like Rome at the time of the Reformation. "The rest of us" appears to be a Magisterium. We at Tblog, Beggars All Reformation, and the other apologetics' blogs see this all the time.

Don't play that game, Brethren. "The rest of us" don't have these rights. Dr. Yarnell has already been answered on his own terms. He's trying to change the subject. The inclusion or exclusion of Presbyterians is a separate issue altogether. This isn't a problem, it's a pseudoproblem generated by the implicit (and sometimes explicit) ecclesialater.

By the way, I have, it seems been far to absent from this blog for awhile. Times are hard, and, even at Triablogue, I've not had much to say in articles, tho the comboxes have been my home there of late. May I say it is good to "see" some of y'all again.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear pregador27:

You said:

"Stephen, as I survey: Matthew 26.26-28; Mark 14.22-25; Luke 22.7-20; 1 Corinthians 11.17-33 and even John 6, where Jesus identifies Himself as the bread of life, I see nothing commanding baptism as a prerequisite for communion, or the Lord's Supper. I see that we have to be a believer."

Certainly a person is saved or born again before water baptism. Certainly one partakes of the bread of life actually by faith before they do so symbolically in the Communion Supper. When we say that a Catholic, or Presbyterian, or any other professing believer, who has only been sprinkled with water, or who was baptized as an infant, and therefore apart from faith, cannot partake of the Communion Supper, it is not to imply that they are not saved nor have partaken of the bread of life when they were made believers.

Does one have to partake of the bread of life in regeneration? I think we would both say yes. But, how has an infant who has been sprinkled done this? How has he eaten of Christ? How can we admit to the Supper someone who was baptized as a baby and without the prerequisite of faith and repentance?

Baptism is necessary for partaking of the ritual, not of regeneration (actually eating Christ by faith when the gospel is received and spiritually digested). The verses you cite do not say that one can partake of the ordinance of the Supper before being baptized. In fact, other scriptures clearly teach against this view. So did our Baptist forefathers, for the most part. It is also what is in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

You said:

"Unless you are suggesting that baptism is necessary for regeneration, I cannot say I would prevent a fellow believer from joining in the Lord's Supper, as many churches (SBC) agree in practice."

Baptism is not necessary for regeneration (where a person receives Christ as one receives food into themselves), but it is necessary for entrance into the visible church and to participation in the visible ordinance. Can you give one example in the New Testament where an unbaptized person partook of the memorial Supper?

You said:

"As for a brother who holds to a baptism other than believer's baptism, I have to honor Romans 14.4 "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." I know the subject is different, but I believe the application would still fit. I would also consider close fellowship with such a believer as well."

Yes, the subject is different and I would argue that you are misreading the passage. It is the weak brother who is here being condemned, someone who is not even a Christian, but a Pagan, not the strong. The weak brother is exhorted here not to condemn the strong brother. So, you turn it around. I can pass judgment, as a church member, on who can partake of the Supper in our church. Could not the Corinthians pass judgment on it? Did not Paul say - "with such an one know not to eat"? Did he say this to the whole church? Does it not imply that the church has say over who partakes and who does not?

One can have fellowship with unbaptized believers, but the church cannot have unlimited fellowship.

You said:

"I also would not turn a non-Calvinist away despite the differences I have in many areas with such a brother or sister either."

I would not either. My view is that any believer who has been immersed, upon profession of their faith, and is good standing with their home church, may be admitted. I just do not believe that an infant who has been baptized, or even an adult who has believed, but who was not immersed, are qualified to partake of the Lord's Supper.

Besides this, I believe in a regenerate church membership. To allow those to partake of communion who claim to have been regenerated as infants is to countenance an unregenerated church membership.

Here is what the BBF&M of 2000 said:

"Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper." (The Baptist Faith & Message -2000)

Dagg wrote:

"We have seen that the Lord's Supper has been committed to the local churches, if organized according to the Scriptures, contain none but baptized persons. It follows hence, that baptism is a pre-requisite to communion at the Lord's Table." (Page 214)

Strong states that the command of Christ fixes the place of baptism as first in order after discipleship. (Matt.28:19-20)

"Here the first duty is to make disciples, the second to baptize, the third to instruct in right Christian living.

Is it said that there is no formal command to admit only baptized persons to the Lord's Supper? We reply that there is no formal command to admit any but regenerate persons to baptism. In both cases, the practice of apostles and the general connections of Christian doctrine are sufficient to determine our duty." (P.971)

Hiscox says: "Who ought, and who have a lawful right to come to the Lord's Table will be seen by a careful study of the Scripture narratives. From these it is manifest that baptized believers, walking orderly in the faith of the Gospel, and in the fellowship of the Church, constitute the proper subjects for this privilege. And no others." (P. 134)

The first London Confession of Faith (1646) states the following.

"BAPTISM is an ordinance of the New Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed upon Persons professing faith, or that are made disciples; who upon profession of faith, ought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord's Supper." (Article XXXIX page 14)

This is what we see in Acts 2. They believed and repented, then were immersed, and then broke bread.

The Commission says to first make disciples, baptizing them, and then teaching them to observe the ordinances.

Only immersed believers partook of the first communion supper.

The symbolism requires baptism first. Baptism symbolizes our incorporation into Christ and the Supper his incorporation into us. We enter him figuratively in immersion and he enters us figuratively in the Supper.

One must first be "raised with Christ" in baptism before eating; just as Lazarus was first resurrected and then given something to eat.

God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.


Baptist Theology said...


I said I wasn't an "employee" of your church. But I am indeed a servant of the churches of the SBC, which is the calling that God placed on my life, and which is why I even converse with you. There is a great difference between being a "servant of the churches" and an employee of your church. If you need a lesson in SBC policy, ask one of your Founders board members for a refresher course.

And yes, sir, my church seeks to maintain a regenerate church membership. The question you have yet to answer is whether yours is flawed in its understanding of regenerate church membership by allowing unorthodox Christians to commune with you.

Now, let me sum up what I have learned from this little conversation.

1. Dr. Ascol believes history should be interpreted according to his own ideology of Dortian "orthodoxy" rather than letting history speak for itself. You may not realize it, but your admission of an ideologically-driven history casts into doubt the Founders' group's entire historiography and puts a black mark on any of your compatriots that really want to be known as scholars.

2. Dr. Ascol is not willing to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message in its entirety, but is evasive when asked a direct question.

3. Dr. Ascol thinks that employees of Southern Baptist institutions are employees of his church, and if they do not agree with such a claim, then he thinks they are not a servant of the churches. This is overreach.

Tom, years ago, I became disgusted with the bad historiography, the lack of doctrinal integrity and the overreach of liberal claims with regard to the churches. You have made me wonder: If you are representative of SBC Calvinists, then should we see all Calvinists as flawed historians, unwilling to affirm Baptist orthodoxy, and holding unorthodox views of SBC polity?

Now, I have served your church for far too long, Tom, so please forgive me if I turn my energies toward helping those other churches who are interested in promoting the cause of Christ.

In Christ,

johnMark said...

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I did and I got to ask a question about Mark Dever and the 1689.

I had dinner with someone who used to be on staff at Capital Hill. He told me that elders were not required to hold to the 1689. He should know since he was an elder at Capital Hill.



Darby Livingston said...

One can barely give a NT example where anyone partook of the memorial supper. The texts on the subject are sparse. We pack a lot of presuppositions into a couple vague texts. However, I find it strange that we baptists are such sticklers for certain parts of the ordinances and totally butcher other parts with ease. It seems that we care more about baptism than the Lord's supper. For example, look at how we're so concerned for the purity of the ordinance of the Lord's supper that we bicker over who the rightful partakers are based on baptism, (and turn away true brothers and sisters in Christ without remorse); without pondering the fact that we've taken a real dinner with real food and real wine eaten together (maybe daily)that requires real love, community, humility and long-suffering and turned it into a little square crumb and a thimble-full of Welch's taken in a large group on Sunday morning whenever a couple people in the church think it's convenient. We don't have to worry about Paul's concerns about half the church getting stuffed and drunk while the other is hungry and left out. We don't have to worry because we've bypassed the community aspect of communion altogether. This is a ritualistic tragedy that Catholics would be proud of. I realize I've generalized some, and not all our churches do things this way. But most that I know of do it this way. We should be ashamed of ourselves for straining at gnats while swallowing camels.

Tom said...


I really hoped this time would be different. When you took it upon yourself to engage me and others here this time, I hoped that when your views started getting pressed hard and the necessary implications of your words started being exposed that you wouldn't revert to your condescending, dismissive tone and quit. I hoped that this time you would stay and own your positions. Unfortunately, I was wrong. You are correct that I am not a very good historian. Good historians learn from history. I allowed my brotherly love to engender hope that, this time, you would act differently.

Sadly, but beneficially, your comments here serve to illustrate the very point of my post. Rather than respond to your patronizing parting shots (very unbecoming of a servant, I might add), I will simply acknowledge that, given your unwillingness to abide by common rules of logic, your repeated unkindness to those with whom you disagree, and your unwillingness to be corrected, it really is fruitless to try to dialogue with you.

Again, history should have taught me this. Our previous email exchanges as well as your previous interlocutions here provide more than enough data to document your pattern of engage, inflame, get called to account for your words, then rather than deal honestly with the challenges, retreat under the guise of some noble cause. As you go to serve "other churches" you should be comforted to know that if my email and phone calls are any measure, you have served many, many churches in your words here. Your comments are helping many see things much more clearly than they previously had and are helping them make decisions about the future.

I encourage everyone reading here not to be distracted by Malcolm or those like him who refuse to engage in honest dialogue. We should try to avoid engaging in "dialogs" with those who are politically rather than exegetically driven and who refuse to be guided by Christlike respect for the other person.

There is a growing number of Southern Baptists--Calvinists and non-Calvinists--who are weary of the condescending, patronizing attitudes too often displayed by those who see themselves as the champions of the Baptist cause while only theoretically holding to key Baptist principles. The former should let the latter continue to talk to themselves as they build their party while the rest of us move forward in our efforts to build bridges that will enable us to unite more effectively in fulfilling our Lord's Great Commission.

Tom said...


Thanks for yet more evidence that exposes Malcolm's mistake. Since earlier facts have not deterred him, don't expect this additional one to make any impact on his thinking. But it is helpful to have this confirmation.


pregador27 said...

Stephen, (Tom I will close my comments on the inclusion of believers even if they are not immmersed and ask Stephen to direct any follow-up to my blog comments if he so wishes, I do not want to take away from your dialogue with Dr. Yarnell's monologue)

I like what the 1689 Baptist Confession says (while not excluding believers from the Lord's Supper in Chapter 30): The supper of the Lord Jesus is a "bond and pledge of their communion with Him and with each other" (speaking of the participants. I fellowship with believers who are in error with regard to baptism. I would share communion with them.

The Scripture you use may be crafted in such a way as to support your claim, but you seem to rely on Dagg, Hiscox, etc. and the BFM 2000 more than Scripture, as Scripture does not directly say whether non-immersed believers are eligible for the Lord's Supper- the qualification is always that they be believers. You and I might rightly expect believers to be baptized by immersion shortly after conversion, but it does not say that it is a requirement.

The BFM is not Scripture, nor is the 1646 or 1689 confessions. I do support the BFM 2000 in almost all areas, but not on this point. I will not exclude fellow believers from communion and close fellowship unless Scripture clearly directs me to do so.

Out of respect for Tom's blog, please continue this conversation over at my weblog if you wish. You can get there by clicking on my screen name. I intend to do a post on this in the next few days. I would do it now, but I have only a short time to read and post on blogs.

an undeserving servant of Christ,

Pete (a.k.a. pregador27)

Todd Pruitt said...

Dr. Yarnell's last (and I trust final) post here demonstrates all too clearly the attitude that seemed to ooze out a little bit at the Building Bridges Conference.

I am saddened but not surprised by his parting shot.

Also, I find it very unfortunate that he would call our evangelical Presbyterian brothers and sisters "unorthodox."

denmay said...

I would like to give my 2 cents as the "average joe" pastor. I used to classify myself as a 5 pointer. I no longer do because I have come to see things a little differently now. That being said, I have no problem with calvinists or non-calvinists. I think there is more than enough room for both in the SBC. I do think the issue has become a problem because both sides have folks who seem to only want to talk about calvinism...whether they agree with it or not. I pastor a small church (around 90 in attendance). Over the last 2 weeks I have dealt with issues of death, suicide, homosexuality, drug abuse, broken marriages, rebellious teenagers, financial crisis...along with the normal day to day rigors of church life. I do read the blogs from time to time, but it seems there are more pressing issues in the life of my people than whether Calvin did something wrong at Geneva, or what confession Mark Dever prefers, or when the next conference on Calvinism will take place. When the shepherds spend all their time fighting with other shepherds it seems like the sheep lose. Just my thoughts. God Bless.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Pete:

You may, together with your church, do as you please. That is part of the priesthood of the believer, soul liberty, and church autonomy.

I agree that the scriptures take precedence over any creed. But, do not SBC churches agree to the BF&M? And, if they do, or do not, should they not openly say so?

I am supposing that you agree that the tradition with Baptists has been to exclude from the Supper those who were baptized as babies, and who affirm their regeneration in it, and who were not immersed upon the evidence of the fruits of repentance and faith?

You say - "The Scripture you use may be crafted in such a way as to support your claim."

Yes, and you too can the scriptures you use be crafted in such a way as to support your claim of unbaptized persons partaking of the Supper.

You say - "Scripture does not directly say whether non-immersed believers are eligible for the Lord's Supper- the qualification is always that they be believers."

And again - "You and I might rightly expect believers to be baptized by immersion shortly after conversion, but it does not say that it is a requirement."

I say it is a requirement and so do the scriptures and our Baptist confessions.

You said:

"I like what the 1689 Baptist Confession says (while not excluding believers from the Lord's Supper in Chapter 30): The supper of the Lord Jesus is a "bond and pledge of their communion with Him and with each other" (speaking of the participants. I fellowship with believers who are in error with regard to baptism. I would share communion with them."

You also said - "I do support the BFM 2000 in almost all areas, but not on this point."

You seem to think that the writers of the old confession contradicted themselves, or were being inconsistent or hypocritical. I do not but believe they had sound scriptural basis for their stand on this issue.

My Rebuttal Points

1. Your view is not scriptural. All examples of believers partaking of the Lord's Supper are both regenerated and baptized believers.

2. Your view is not a Baptist distinctive, one thing I thought today's Reformed and Restorationist Bapists, such as the Founder's organization represents, promoted.

3. Your view does not promote a regenerated church membership for it makes baptism unessential for the Communion Supper and countenances the PedoBaptist system by admitting them to the fullest of church fellowship.

4. Your view does not view PedoBaptists as "disorderly" and those who "walk contrary to apostolic tradition." Your view would allow any Christian group, no matter how erroneous in doctrine, to full fellowship in a Baptist church and would thereby condone it. Your view would allow Catholics and Gnostics to be one with the Baptist church in fellowship and communion.

5. Your view does not promote the importance of scriptural baptism, but rather makes it all but a tertiary issue.

6. Your view is against the clear order given in the Great Commission. First faith and repentance, then water immersion in the name of the Trinity, and then full participation in the blessings and ordinances of the church, including the Supper.

In the OT it was the common practice to first wash (immerse or dip) the hands in water, for cleansing, before partaking of meals. So too do we insist on baptismal cleansing by immersion before eating the festive Supper.

In the OT the Israelites were first "baptized unto Moses" (by immersion, being "in the cloud" and "in the sea") before they ate the manna or bread of life that came down from the heavens.

Christ did not institute the Supper in the midst of all believers, baptized and unbaptized, but in private with the orderly baptized.

In Acts 2, as I said, the order is the same as the Great Commission. So is every other example in the book of Acts.

Paul too was first baptized and then given something to eat, probably including the Lord's Supper.

Paul told the Thessalonians to "withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not after the traditions of the apostles," (II Thess. 3:6;) but, to bring in those who error gravely in essential doctrine, is to do the opposite.

Paul told the church at Corinth not to eat with a disorderly brother. Would this not include those who promote regeneration apart from faith and conversion? Those who change the ordinance so drastically?

You seem to think that a person cannot have a little bit of Christian fellowship with another professing Christian, that it must be an all or nothing affair.

When Paul said to the church at Corinth - "let a man examine himself and then let him eat" (I Cor. 11:28), does this exclude the church giving each the directions for this self examination? Could the church not say to those present during a communion supper - "examine yourselves, and if you can say that you are a genuine believer, who has been immersed in the name of the Trinity following your conversion, and are in good standing with your church, a church which believes these things, then you may by these rules see if you pass the examination"? Do you think a man is to do this examining without any methods or instructions for doing so from the church? Surely you do not think that this examination is all subjective and done apart from any instructions from the church, do you?

If a doctor told patients (would be communicants) to examine themselves, by saying to them, - "if you have these evidences or signs, then you can do this," does this eliminate the doctor (church)?

You said - "Out of respect for Tom's blog, please continue this conversation over at my weblog if you wish."

I thought Tom allowed comments on his blog, especially when the comments are germane to the topic brought up? Also, cannot Tom speak for himself? If he thinks it is out of line or detracting from his discussion with others who comment, cannot he say so himself? Besides, Dr. Yarnell has left this forum of discussion and gone elsewhere with it.

But, I am willing to end it here. In fact, you can respond and I most likely will not respond, and allow you to have the last word here. I have given pretty much the major points to be made, anyway.

Yours for the truth,


GeneMBridges said...

4. Your view does not view PedoBaptists as "disorderly" and those who "walk contrary to apostolic tradition.

This is, of course, a fine example of semantic anachronism. It reads "disorderly" as "credobaptized," without a supporting argument. What was Paul discussing in 2 Thessalonians - baptism? No. Was the teaching that Paul had in mind here credobaptism? No.

You may want to try interacting with Catholicism on this. This is one of their prooftexts for apostolic tradition. In context, Paul is referencing: (a) people who are generally idle (b) people who deny apostolic teaching with respect to the 2nd coming.

Your view would allow any Christian group, no matter how erroneous in doctrine, to full fellowship in a Baptist church and would thereby condone it.

No, it would only allow those who can give a credible profession of faith.

Your view would allow Catholics and Gnostics to be one with the Baptist church in fellowship and communion.

No, because neither one can give us a credible profession of faith.

Come now, Stephen, you can do better than that.

Can you give one example in the New Testament where an unbaptized person partook of the memorial Supper?

Of course, there are plenty of commentaries that argue that baptism qua baptism in the NT IS their profession of faith, so even if the answer is "No," and it is "No," that still doesn't make the case for you, Stephen. Ergo, the accent is not on baptism qua baptism, rather it is on baptism qua profession of faith.

As pointed out earlier, the older confessions rule out Paedobaptists because they are timebound confessions . Their historical situation differs. In that day, Paedobaptists could give no credible profession of faith. Today, the situation is palpably reversed. So appeals to them do you no good.

---and let it go into the record here that Mr. Garrett is one of Bob L. Ross little group. Personally, I don't think that bodes well, for he's one that thinks that when we say "regeneration precedes faith" we're hyperCalvinists. When he gets that wrong, and indeed persists in that error to the point of proving himself impervious to correction, well, that just speaks for itself.

Strong Tower said...


Can you demonstrate for us at what point in the Gospel narratives that the disciples were regenerated?

And maybe explain: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit Is faith a good work done in righteousness, or one done in unrighteousness? Is an unregenerate person righteous? Then which comes first, the giving of a new nature created in righteousness so that good works procede from it, i.e. the acceptable faithing into Christ, or does faith procede from an evil heart and being acceptable to God, God then grants regeneration? Or, do they happen simultaneously, and therefore your point is moot?

As to derailing this thread, that happened long ago. Still, your rabbit trail is not in reality germane. But, it is one of those misrepresentations and/or obfuscations that is typical of detractors. So, role on. Your strange, and some say heretical position, which should exclude you from communion, just adds fuel. Which hey, is what Tony Bryne has done in teaming up with the enemies of Calvinism.

The real topic here was the "agenda" that is being carried by misrepresentation, caricature, and flat out lies. All of which is meant to undermine even the demolition and excavation that needs to precede building bridges.

The point is, that if the SBC is to advance intact, then honesty, and freedom to do what the BFM says is allowable -set local policy and doctrine- which by definition is the freedom to criticize and the manhood to be criticized, must prevail.

Jeff said...

The problem is that one must not only accept the BFM, but Malcom's view of it.

downshoredrift said...

Regarding Dr. Yarnell's use of the BFM, I find it interesting that those who opposed the Garner Motion and it's attempts to keep our entities tied to the BFM, alternately use it as a measuring stick of who is a good Baptist and who is not. They want it both ways, it appears. One must ascribe to it in its entirety, but they may go beyond it as a means of cooperation if they choose.

Strange logic.

Tom said...

Jeff, Downshoredrift, et al,

The conduct displayed here does raise the question if some who shout the loudest about standing on Baptist principles, or the BF&M, are more interested in political posturing than doctrinal integrity. I learned a long time ago that, with politicians, it's not what they *say* that is so important, it is what they *do.* Even a cursory examination of the actions and church-life of some of the loudest, self-styled defenders of Baptist identity show that their bold affirmations are merely theoretical. Imagine if our spiritual forefathers held their convictions only theoretically--"baptist" would only be a subset of Rome.

God save us from theoreticians and give us men and women who don't merely talk but *do.* (Matthew 7:21-23).

David B. Hewitt said...

"I learned long ago that another person's sin never justifies my responding sinfully."

My brother, it has been a while since I've written anything on you excellent blog, though I keep up with most of your posts.

Your comment I have quoted above caught my eye to be sure, and immediately made me consider some of my attitudes regarding responding to people's sins.

Your post, as always, was a pleasure to read, and I thank you again for exhorting your fellow believers to Christlikeness.

Persevere and proclaim, my brother Dr. Tom.


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear StrongTower:

You asked me:

"Can you demonstrate for us at what point in the Gospel narratives that the disciples were regenerated?"

What has that got to do with about the Baptism and Lord's Supper issue?

You then wrote:

"And maybe explain: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit Is faith a good work done in righteousness, or one done in unrighteousness?"

Again, same answer. Off topic. But, since I can give a short answer, for your delight, I will say, as Paul, that faith is not works (Rom. 4). Also, faith and righteousness go together, for he who has one has the other. Also, Paul does affirm, in Rom. 10, that a man "believes UNTO righteousness."

You asked:

"Is an unregenerate person righteous? Then which comes first, the giving of a new nature created in righteousness so that good works procede from it, i.e. the acceptable faithing into Christ, or does faith procede from an evil heart and being acceptable to God, God then grants regeneration? Or, do they happen simultaneously, and therefore your point is moot?"

Brother, when I was a Hardshell Baptist pastor, I used to argue this stuff all the time! You make me think I am still among them hearing such things. Yes, I know this is no argument, just an observation. In Eph. 2: 8-10 faith comes before salvation and good works come after it. There can be no good heart without faith, so to say that one must have a good heart before faith, says that a heart can be good that is still in unbelief. So, your question is like asking - does an evil heart proceed from an evil heart. I equate "evil heart" with "unbelieving heart" and a "good heart" with a "believing heart," but you apparently do not.

You said:

"As to derailing this thread, that happened long ago. Still, your rabbit trail is not in reality germane."

My "rabbit trail"? Did not the professor bring up alien baptism as regards the church where brother Ascol is the pastor? How did I derail it? It seems as it is others who have tried to derail this discussion, not I. Are you not derailing it now by bringing up new issues about regeneration and faith and the ordo salutis?

You said:

"But, it is one of those misrepresentations and/or obfuscations that is typical of detractors. So, role on."

How am I now a "detractor"? How can you say such things in public without any basis in fact?

You say:

"Your strange, and some say heretical position, which should exclude you from communion, just adds fuel."

Who is the "some say"? Again, why do you accuse like this, withour provocation and reason? Why are you wanting to pick a fight here in Tom's blog?

You said:

"Which hey, is what Tony Bryne has done in teaming up with the enemies of Calvinism."

So, now I am an enemy of Calvinism"? On what basis can you possibly say this? My Campbellite friends, with whom I have debated, will truly laugh at this!

You said:

"The real topic here was the "agenda" that is being carried by misrepresentation, caricature, and flat out lies. All of which is meant to undermine even the demolition and excavation that needs to precede building bridges."

Okay, it that is the "real topic," then why are you bringing up stuff about me and topics not germane to the topic? Also, I don't believe, as a professing Baptist, in building a "bridge" with PedoBaptists, if that bridge means open fellowship and sharing of communion and pulpits.

Yours for the truth,


Rob Mart said...


Words from your beloved Spurgeon:

"The day will come when those who think they can repair a house which has no foundations will see the wisdom in quitting it altogether. All along we have said that to come out from association with questionable doctrines is the only possible solution of a difficulty which, however it may be denied, is not to be trifled with by those who are conscious of its terrible reality." -- C.H.S., The Sword and the Trowel, July 1889.

"Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it ... Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin ... As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate, but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been 'Come out from among them.' I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil ... That I might not stultify my testimony I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them." -- C.H.S., The Sword and the Trowel.

"Ah, my dear brethren, there are many that are deceived by this method of reasoning. They remain where their conscience tells them they ought not to be, because, they say, they are more useful than they would be if they went 'without the camp.' This doing evil that good may come, can never be tolerated by an enlightened conscience. If an act of sin would increase my usefulness tenfold, I have no right to do it; and if an act of righteousness would appear likely to destroy all my apparent usefulness, I am yet to do it. It is yours and mine to do the right though the heavens fall, and follow the command of Christ whatever the consequences may be. 'That is strong meat,' do you say? Be strong men, then, and feed thereon." -- C.H.S., Sermons, 37, p. 426.

"Constantly we hear of proposals for union, and truly these are welcome where mere technical matters divide true Christians; but what is the use of pretending to create union where there can be none? There is another matter which needs to be thought of as well as union, and that is TRUTH. To part with truth to show charity is to betray our Lord with a kiss. Between those who believe in the eternal verities and those who constantly cast doubt on them there can be no union. One cried of old, 'Is it peace?' And the answer was a sharp and true one. We render it thus -- 'What hast thou to do with peace while departures from the truth of God are so many?' The first question is, 'Are we one in Christ?' And are we obedient to the truth revealed in the Scriptures? If so, union will necessarily follow: but if not, it is vain to clamour for a confederacy which would only be an agreement to aid and abet each other's errors." -- C.H.S., The Sword and the Trowel, February 1887.

Rev. T. R. Holland said...

In all that I have read here, it appears that we have somewhat gotten off track. Growing up in an SBC church and listening to the J316 conference Q&A, it was a flashback to the days of my youth when the SBC was the only rule of law and faith in Christianity. It was obvious to me that the SBC still holds to that delusional position, at least with those who chaired the conference. I have since left the SBC, went to school(and seminary) and discovered that there are more flaws in the theology of Dr. Allen and his co hearts than I care to mention. I do find it interesting that the only place that we hear the true side of those like Dr. Allen is in a forum where he would not be challenged in his less than supportable position. I'm curious as to why, if he is correct in his view of "Calvinism", why he does not take up his position in public debate? If he and his associates are so throughly convinced that their position is the correct one, it would seem obvious to me and I'm certain many others, that one would pursue and even welcome a challenge of that sort. I do know that Dr. James White has issued a challenge, I sure that there are others as well.
If those in academia of the SBC are so sure of there position then I'm certain that we can expect a scheduled debate. One that I look forward to hearing. My only hope is that it will not go the way of the debate between Dr. Caner and Dr. White. It seems the powers of the SBC didn't like that match up and so had that one canceled.

Blessings to you all,

Bart Barber said...


I posted something about this.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Tom:

Did my entry get the boot? The one you posted is now gone. Are you not going to post my reply to Gene? Why not? Or, perhaps, my postings are getting lost as did the Allen's?

If I have made a mistake, forgive. Just curious why the one posting is gone and why the other to Gene is unposted.

Yours in the meekness and gentleness of Christ.


Bart Barber said...

Bright spot in all of this:

Thank you, Lord, that Tom Ascol is feeling well enough again to scrap.

Tom said...


I don't know which comment you mean that I posted and now is gone. I did not post your one to Gene because your remarks about him crossed the boundaries of what is appropriate.


Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Tom:

Unbelievable! You allow Gene to say all kinds of wrongful remarks about me, off topic, and do not allow me to say anything? How is that fair?

I saved my comments to Gene and will post them in my blog and let any and all judge for themselves if I crossed the line as you falsely charge.

You posted, because I got notified of it in my email, the reply to StrongTower. But, now I do not see it in the combox.

Now, honestly Tom, go back and look at all my comments and see if they were of a theological nature and non-personal. Then, go look at what you published from Gene and his personal attacks on me! You can let him say those things and not allow me a defense?

No wonder Dr. Allen left.

Yours in Christ,


Tom said...


Your response to Strong Tower shows up in my comment stream. Maybe its a browser issue.


Strong Tower said...


I was roling on because you were...

"faith comes before salvation and good works come after it."

Is faith, that is trust, a good work? Or is it an evil one, preceding from a heart, unregenerated and still evil?

Don't change terms. This is what the boys did at J316C, obfuscate.

The context was regeneration, not salvation.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear StrongTower:

Does the passage in Eph. 2: 8-10 not distinguish between "good works" and "faith"? Why then do you want to make "faith" a "good work"? Clearly, in the passage, faith is set apart from good works, for one precedes and the other follows salvation.

Obfuscate? I equate being regenerated and born again with being saved. I cannot imagine one being born again but not saved.



Russell Taylor said...

Dear Tom,
From the length of these comments, it is clear that this controversy is far from over. I was starting to think, up until the last couple of months, that there was some progress and hope for unity within the SBC concerning the place of calvinists in the convention. On the one hand I'm inclined to agree with those who believe we should depart and focus on other things like church planting and missions, but on the other, I know that new calvinists would arise after our departure. This would be a normal progression in a convention that at least still believes and studies the Bible. The rise of Calvinism is directly related to the conservative resurgence. The return to a conservative position on bibliology was destined, or should I say predestined:), to lead to a return to a conservative position on soteriology by many. You cannot have a movement that encourages conservative Bible study methods, theological training and expository preaching without producing some calvinists. Our battle is larger than 5 points and I'm greatly encouraged by your determination over the years. Founders has been faithful to a very difficult mission. Thank you and all the Founders friends.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Tom:

If you will check Phil Johnson's definition of Hyper Calvinism, he included what I said about those who deny means in regeneration.

He said:

"Hyper-Calvinism is sometimes defined as the view that God will save the elect apart from any means. Some, but very few, modern hyper-Calvinists hold such an extreme view. Those who do hold this view oppose all forms of evangelism and preaching to the unsaved, because they believe God will save whomever He chooses, apart from human means...Another common but incorrect definition equates hyper-Calvinism with fatalism."

see here

So, he did include those who deny means in regeneration. The Hardshells are not the only ones who fit this description. John Hendryx says there are no means in regeneration. So did Shedd. Are these then not Hypers?

Also, note how Johnson says this is a correct definition of Hyper Calvinism.



biblebased said...

Wow, well as an observer (to quote Dr. Yarnell) "let me sum up what I have learned from this little conversation"

1) The PCA, in which I am a pastor, is not a true church.
2) I am not an orthodox Christian
3) I am not a Christian minister
4) I have dangerous theocratic tendencies
4) No true Baptist should ever commune with me

And last but not least...

5)Dr. Ascol and his fellow Founders Conference members are the prejudiced, divisive, and sectarian ones in this dispute (???!)

Well brothers, you may dismiss my opinion as the ravings of a "heretic", but to my eyes, its not the Founders who are stirring the pot.

Personally I think God for the sweet followship and edifying times of prayer and teaching I have had with my Reformed SBC brethren at the Banner of Truth conferences and I am thankful that when I was praying for a like-minded local minister to fellowship with in this city the Lord sent an SBC brother to be a friend and encourager.

I am grateful indeed that not all Baptists appear to share in Dr. Yarnell's "5 Points" regarding Presbyterians.

Your Servant in Christ,

Andy Webb

Patrick Durkee said...

I find it somewhat ironic that Dr. Lemke, Dr. Allen and their crowd convene a conference to question/criticize the theology of some, yet when their theology is called into question, they circle the wagons and suggest that it is off-limits and unchristian to question them.

Tom said...


You are exactly right that as long as SBs (or anyone else) takes the Bible seriously there will be those who become "Calvinistic" because "Calvinism" is exegetically derived.

We must not let the anti-Calvinists discourage us. It is becoming more and more evident to more and more people that their spirit, theology and practice are not worth emulating. I am content to let them keep sniping and attacking. The Lord is doing something significant to unite Gospel-driven Southern Baptists in our day as we press forward as Great Commission Christians. I hope the anti-Calvinists will recognize this, lay down their guns and join the effort. But if they insist on continuing their attacks, so be it. If what I am seeing is of God, then they will not be able to stop it.

Press on!


Tom said...


Be assured that not all Southern Baptists share Malcolm Yarnell's attitude toward those who are not "one of us." Most modern SBs have left the sectarianism that marked too much of the convention's previous history in the 20th century. Some (as you have noted) obviously have not.

Though you and I obviously do not agree on biblical issues that necessarily keep us ecclesiastically separated, I gladly call you brother and would never relegate you to the realm of the "unorthodox" because of those differences. This attitude, I feel certain, is far more pervasive among Southern Baptists than Malcolm's.


Greg Alford said...

Andy Webb,

I apologize to you my Brother in Christ for the “Arrogant and Ignorant” conduct of my Southern Baptist colleagues.

Trust, me when I say that many of us are quite “Shame Faced” by all this…

Grace Always,

Bart Barber said...


I think it quite possible that the PCA is not a true church, yet I am quite willing to regard a member of the PCA as a brother in Christ. Also, while I do not regard you as a "heretic" nor would I label you "unorthodox" in an unqualified sense, I would correctly describe you as being outside the bounds of Southern Baptist confessional orthodoxy. In other words, as a Southern Baptist, you would be quite unorthodox.

I, furthermore, would be entirely outside the bounds of Presbyterian confessional orthodoxy. I freely admit it. And that fact, fact that it is, will not put my panties in a knot the least little bit. Nor will the fact that I would not gain approval as a PCA pastor.

Others here may feel free to appreciate your appeal to victimhood all that they like. Color me unimpressed.

RazorsKiss said...

I posted a little somethingabout the ongoing controversy. Watch your step :D

Greg Alford said...


My first impression upon reading you comment is “Are you Serious?”

“I think it quite possible that the PCA is not a true church,”

Your ARROGANCE is just astounding Bart! God help us all if this is the kind of “Baptist Identity” that will define the SBC in the future.

And then your parting shot to this Brother in Christ is:

“Others here may feel free to appreciate your appeal to victimhood all that they like. Color me unimpressed.”

Bart, I do not color you “unimpressed”, I color you “Offensive, Obnoxious, Callous, and Un-Christ-like”.

Good Grief!

Strong Tower said...

outside the bounds of Southern Baptist confessional orthodoxy

And which orthodoxy would that be? (Paedo/credo issues asside)

would be entirely outside the bounds of Presbyterian confessional orthodoxy

Is SBC orthodoxy Barber orthodoxy?

I am SBC in a PCA church with three other SBC families after having been forced out of the SBC over a period of twenty years because of our Baptist orthodoxy and find ourselves quite at home in the PCA and are considered orthodox even with our deviations from the WCF. I hold to the 1689 for the most part and find the BFMs to be vacuous empty shells that do not stand the scrutiny of what constitutes the true church of Jesus Christ.

So when you say you are entirely outside PCA orthodoxy, are you saying that you reject the orthodoxy of the founders of the SBC entirely and are in reality the neo-ortodoxy of the SBC? They didn't hold to the BFMs, they held themselves to a much higher standard of orthodoxy. Do you find the founders of the SBC to be too PCA for your taste?

Answer this: Does the BFM allow for each autonomous local church to draw up its own confession of faith? Then what orthodoxy is SBC? Isn't the local church free to set its own guidelines and statements of faith concerning who is duely baptized?

Darby Livingston said...

"Isn't the local church free to set its own guidelines and statements of faith concerning who is duely baptized?"

Of course. But that doesn't mean the bureaucrats collecting and dispersing all the money have to accept it. It's not the job of the local churches to question those who've made it to the denominational promised land. Just increase your cp offering and keep quiet.

biblebased said...

Hi Tom,

I'm sure that's the case, and it's been my experience. Because we are one of two Reformed Congregations in a large military city (Fayetteville, home of Ft. Bragg) we've had some wonderful RB families fellowship with us while they were stationed here and two have subsequently gone on to join Mark Dever's church in Washington D.C. Needless to say, while they could not join our church, we had no problem admitting them to the table and when we did have doctrinal disagreements, they were handled frankly and openly and with a fraternal spirit and I'm sure we were all better servants of the Lord for having gone through that "iron sharpening iron" process.

While I have your ear though, can I get your answer to a question that has frankly baffled me?

1) While I have substantial and irreconcilable differences with the theology of Luther on matters like the sacraments (or ordinances) and Ecclesiology and am not a fan of many of his more acerbic and even racist comments , I have read Luther's sermons, books, and commentaries with profit and would willingly call him a giant of the faith. More to the point, I am sincerely grateful for the way the Lord used him as the catalyst for the Reformation that freed the church from it's second Babylonian Captivity and brought biblical revival to Europe.

With that in mind, I cannot understand the attitude of Baptists like Yarnell, the Caners, and Hunt who seem to view Calvin as far worse than the Popes he was struggling against. They not only refuse to acknowledge his huge contributions to the Reformation that they themselves have profited from, but they also appear to place the Solas he was struggling for in at best a second order position while making his magisterial and anti-anabaptist views things that qualify him to be spoken of in the same kind of way one might mention Stalin or Pol Pot. From their comments you would think that baptism is the sine qua non of the Christian faith, to the point where they seem to almost mimic the importance the RCC attaches to the rite.

I read John Wesley more sympathetically and with greater appreciation than these guys treat the Reformers, and I just can't understand the failure to see our historical indebtedness to these men.

Also, just out of interest, how do these guys explain away Carey, Boyce, Bunyan, Spurgeon, Broadus, Dagg, etc.? Obviously they were all Calvinists, all Baptists, and all strongly evangelistic. How do men like Caner and Yarnell reconcile the FRUITS of the ministry of these men with their view that Calvinism is toxic to the gospel?

Sorry to be asking what must seem like naive questions, but I just don't understand what seem like obvious historical errors.

Thanks and blessings to you and your work for the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Andy Webb

Bart Barber said...


Southern Baptist confessional orthodoxy...

Southern Baptist: related to the Southern Baptist Convention.

confessional: having to do with written confessions of faith.

orthodoxy: the accepted or traditional and established faith.

See, the word "Barber" just isn't in there at all. The Southern Baptist convention has, over the course of its history, adopted confessions of faith, as have its various entities. Andy, being a paedobaptist, could not in good conscience affirm any of them. Thus, he is outside Southern Baptist confessional orthodoxy.

I should think that, being a PCA by choice, and doubtless being convinced of paedobaptism, that Andy is quite proud to be outside Southern Baptist confessional orthodoxy.

Bart Barber said...

Tom et. al.,

The position that I have staked out here this afternoon is solely and simply this: anti-paedobaptism. With regard to the error of paedobaptism and the effects upon that error upon those groups of Christians who practice it, I stand in the line of Smythe ("The Character of the Beast"), Gill ("Infant Baptism: A Part and Pillar of Popery"), Spurgeon ("Baptism"), and the echoing chorus of Baptist voices from the past.

I do not claim infallibility for our Baptist forbears, although I believe them to be right on this point. I do not expect that my agreement with them would go unchallenged in this world.

I just find it ironic as all get out that their ideas would receive such a breathless and negative reaction from a blog forum with their vignettes in the masthead and named after the Baptist "founders"!

Greg Alford said...


I have asked a part of this question to Dr. Yarnell and am yet to get any answer so I will try with you.

Are you saying that NO member of any Presbyterian Church (even those who have been baptized by immersion) should under any circumstances be allowed to take Communion in a Southern Baptist Church?

And are you saying that NO Southern Baptist should under any circumstances take Communion at a Presbyterian Church (as they are not a true church)?

In fact Bart, aren’t you saying “If your not a Southern Baptist Church” your not a true Church?

Bart, this is “Unadulterated Landmarkism” is it not?

O, one last thing Bart: Who decides what is “Orthodox” doctrine, and what is not Orthodox doctrine for Southern Baptist? (Boy, I sure hope you say the BFM2000)

Grace Always

Tom said...


I don't understand your sense of irony. Founders is clear on our view of baptism. We have published what has been called one of the most important books on baptism to have appeared in the last 200 years. We just don't think we need to resort to unChristlike characterizations of our paedobaptist brothers with whom we disagree. Furthermore, we want to distance ourselves from those who want to be known as champions of the Baptist cause who act as if they have more affinity with anti-trinitarian arians than evangelical, orthodox Presbyterians. Don't mistake our antipathy toward the modern Baptist Identity crowd with any lack of commitment to historic Baptist distinctives.


Bart Barber said...


You're in luck (presuming that you cared about my answer). I posted an answer to your questions in several (maybe seven?) parts some time ago. If I recall correctly what I wrote, I believe it still represents where I stand:

When Is a Church Not a Church?

The Biblical Basis for Church Invalidity Oops! I observe that after my blog crashed, I accidentally restored the first post twice—once to the first title and once to this title. I'll see if I can locate an old copy of the post that really belongs here.

Recognizing a Real Church: Historical Attempts (Part 1)

Recognizing a Real Church: Historical Attempts (Part 2)

Recognizing a Real Church: Historical Attempts (Part 3)

Recognizing a Real Church: Historical Attempts (Part 4)

Recognizing a Real Church: Landmarkism; The Twentieth Century

True Churches & False Churches: A Systematic Attempt

Feel free to disagree. Feel free to ignore it entirely. But there you'll find my answers to your questions.

All of them, that is, except your question about who defines SBC orthodoxy. The answer to that question is, quite simply, the Southern Baptist Convention does.

Bart Barber said...


Good to hear. Heaven forbid that I should treat anyone in an unChristlike way. Of course, Christ got a bit stern with Peter a time or two, and seemed not to flinch at calling error by its name. With regard to Andy, for example, it was not my intention at all to insult him; only to describe him.

As you well know, I'm not unwilling to be politic about saying something. I'm just unwilling to sacrifice it being said. Paedobaptism is grave error. Show me the better way to say so without losing the meaning, and I will gladly adopt it.

Tom said...


I did not suggest that you had been unChristlike. And I agree that our Lord got stern with Peter at points. He also reserved his harshest criticism for the self-righteous Pharisees who were quick to look down on others and take pride in what they considered themselves to be.

I agree with you that paedobaptism is error. That will not surprise any of my paedobaptist friends. I think you could have made your point better with Andy if you had not come across so condescending ("appeal to victimhood").

Further, my approach to all this is to be stricter on my own family than I am on the family of others. If the church I serve were not practically committed to believer's baptism, church discipline and regenerate church membership, then I would not be quick to throw stones at the error of the paedobaptists. I am not suggesting that you and your church are not practicing these things, but you and I both know of outspoken critics of non-Baptists whose churches are not. Their criticisms, quite frankly, ring hollow.

Greg Alford said...

Thanks for all the information Bart,

I will assume that you have an answer in there some where, but quite frankly I have no intention to read all that when a simple Yes or No to each of the questions would have done.

You and I both know why you don’t want to answer my question, but I have observed that dodging straight forward questions and redefining the terms is the standard mode of operation for the BI guys.

One has a better chance of pinning Jell-o to the wall than getting a straight forward answer out of you guys.

Grace Always,

Bart Barber said...

Greg Alford,

Your refusal to read my answer does not equal my refusal to answer.

johnMark said...


Will you answer whether or not the Roman Catholic church has a gospel that saves?



Strong Tower said...

orthodoxy: the accepted or traditional and established faith

I take it then you will be reverting to the 1689.

The BFMs are self-negating documents and no confessions of faith 'tal. Perhaps you should read them some time.

Brad said...

Speaking of Jerry Vines and the like you should have been at the recent Real Evangelism conference at Southeastern Seminary. It was discouraging when Alvin Reid called for contextualization while Jerry Vines seemed to preach against it. Reid gave a much needed call for the church to venture outside the box and reach the new unchurched peoples. Vines reminded the audience senior adults are the ones who show up on Sunday night and pay the bills. Jerry Vines and Bailey Smith were the weak point of the conference. Vines preached a 1960’s dispensational view of heaven with gold streets and pearly gates. Bailey Smith leveled a rash of insults on liberal non-Christians in attempt to turn the stage into comedy hour. He urged young preachers not to be smart-alecks and rude after he was a smart-aleck and rude. If I had invited one of my lost friends to the conference who happens to be of a liberal persuasion, they would have surely tuned the gospel out after being so offended.

Chris said...

Would any of the SBC founders have admitted Presbyterians to the Lord's Supper?

Joe said...

Dr. Yarnell

I wasn't able to read all of the comments so maybe somebody has already brought this up. If the BF&M were the test of faith in the SBC I doubt that anyone would still be in the convention. How do non-calvinists hold to article IV & V when it twice places regeneration before Justification and prior to faith and repentance. Someone tell me if I have misunderstood the BF&M but IT seems that everyone of our non-Calvinist brothers don't agree with it on this point.
If you could clarify this I would be greatly appreciative.

in Christ

a guy said...

The comments on unity...

It is odd reading the comments here about trying to bridge difference where possible to make disciples. One of the suboordinate clauses of "make disciples" is "teaching them everything I have commanded you"; another important passage of Scripture is that Jesus prayed for those who'd believe Him through His apostles' word (John 17).

I've seen it in many other groups, and I've seen it in the violent evil done in a group I had to leave: unity cannot be built upon common action, but rather unity is the Spirit's work, evidenced in "speaking the same thing", "having the same mind", and adorning that doctrine, the unity proceeds forth from it into works. Scriptural unity just can't be wrought from the fabric of truth mixed with error. I do not by this suggest that it will be perfect: the Church is being washed, sanctified, and edified to become perfect (mature), but nevertheless pelagianism in any form (that's all arminianism is, though barely moderated) isn't something that can be compromised using those labels can be a real trip for someone who's unaware of what's going on: it's dealing with a lot of history foreign to so many; I only use them to save space for the moment.

There can be a unity with those who wish to come together to be edified by the word, and be conformed to the image of the Son, washed of their opinions and errors by the Word, so that even those with a chasm of disagreement may become truly unified, and agree; but those who reject this, and mutilate Scripture for their purposes, and who wish it all to be utter simplicity of recognizing words rather than digging into how they are used, and letting the Scripture speak (the warning that men who wrest scripture do so to their own destruction in 2 Peter is appropriate here), and who wish to have zeal and works, "powers", rather than being lawful, and having zeal according to knowledge...the ARE the factious men (heretics), even when they pretend humility and feign gentleness (Satan's ministers...angels of light, sheep's clothing...). There are some might be washed by our Father (and His Son) and in His Word, and repent, and etc..., but it just may be that many are those who'll say "Lord, Lord...", and that many are those appointed to destruction as wolves and false teachers, just as it says.

You guys have a real problem if you're trying to dialogue with those who are not upright; or trying to bridge unity where there can be none, on premises that Scripture does not give for unity.

We must refuse to partake in such evils done in Christ's name. We must not be divisive ourselves by having fellowship with those who walk unrepentant in error over fellowship with those who walk in truth, just because of denominational or organizational affiliation.

It looks like you guys are trying to engage the same mistakes that the evangelicals have fully imbibed, unity without doctrinal foundations; who themselves did much the same as those in England were attempting to do: maintain Anglican affiliations with men who aren't interested in brotherly love, though they speak the language.

Books I like on the subject of unity: The Bible (especially), and "The Basics of Christian Unity" by Martin Lloyd Jones (an exposition on John 17 and Ephesians 4). Also, some of the writing that's upright by orthodox "discernment ministries", as in Churches that have specifically begun engaging in the kind of warfare that Scripture actually intends ("church militant" (on its guard against the one that makes war on it) vs. "conquer the world for Christ" rubbis; especially as they're having to deal a lot with hurt, questioning, people who have been mentally abused, or used, by the errors parading around as if Christ's will in the "churches" of our times), can also be quite helpful in observing applications of Scripture, as the need arises, that are valid and that you may/not have seen.

Anyway, I got out of an abusive and doctrinally poor group, with men like the ones you're dealing with (not upright and perpetrating grievous sins because of it, and calumniating people falsely, while spreading error and the errors that grow from its seed); the real evil is that it's not just "learning theology from Toby Mac", but rather that the false teachings actually obscure Christ, or distort Him, or present another. Keep the gentleness...but to deal with men who are not upright will take more than "I don't understand, I love you brother, we're just trying to...", but takes confrontation as well, "you are in error, those who scatter God's sheep Scripture says only "woe". As I saw one pastor put it, "Jesus said 'feed my sheep, not poison my sheep'". As you guys try to unify over works with those who divide by opposing doctrine that is form, and accords with, Scripture, you grant them a legitimacy by your participation that otherwise they could not gain: just as the RCC gains legitimacy by people uniting with it in the "moral majority" secondary social evils that have nothing to do with opposing its perversion of Christ and the gospel.

Tom said...

a guy:
Sorry to hear about the difficulties you experienced and am glad the Lord took you through them. Granted, there can be no real unity without a common confession of truth. That is the point of my hope for bridge-building. I believe that those who are serious about the Gospel and committed to its simplicity, purity and power can be unified in various and substantive ways. Arminianism is not Pelagianism. The latter is heresy and the former is error. Arminianistic and Calvinistic brothers can unite in the Gospel. Whitefiled and Wesley did; Lloyd-Jones and Morgan did; Spurgeon and Moody did. My desire is not that anyone jettison conviction, but that we work hard to see and stand on what does indeed unite us and learn to live as "iron-sharpening-iron-brothers" as we seek to preach Christ to the world.


Strong Tower said...

Whitefield and Wesley did

Iain Murray would disagree:

"Some evangelical writers have sought to minimize the division between Whitefield and Wesley by referring to their "minor differences." An impression is given that Whitefield abandoned the strong conviction he had about Arminianism in 1741; in proof of this we are referred to the fact that in 1742 their personal friendship was in measure resumed and that ultimately Wesley even preached Whitefield's funeral sermon. But all this is misleading. The truth is that Whitefield rightly made a distinction between a difference in judgement and a difference in affection; it was in the former sense that he differed from the Wesleys, and that difference was such that, as Tyerman writes, it "led them to build separate chapels, form separate societies, and pursue, to the end of life, separate lines of action . . . the gulf between Wesley and Whitefield was immense." But while their public cooperation was thus seriously disturbed, his personal affection for the Wesleys as Christians was preserved to the last. In this respect Whitefield teaches us a needful lesson. Doctrinal differences between believers should never lead to personal antagonism. Error must be opposed even when held by fellow members of Christ, but if that opposition cannot co-exist with a true love for all saints and a longing for their spiritual prosperity then it does not glorify God nor promote the edification of the Church" -IAIN MURRAY

Cooperative effort was never resumed between the two. While Whitefeild honored his friend, and repected him as a brother in Christ, he never reconciled over the distinctions of doctrine, and never working together again for the Gospel.

Arminianism is not Pelagianism

R.C. Sproul would disagree.

Spoul correctly analyzes Arminianisms as having at their core a synergistic motif that results is what he calls "Pelgius' Island." In the area where man is confronted with doing what God cannot do, that place is and can only be neutrality. Virtue becomes by man's effort: "It is no wonder then that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being, in principle, both a return to Rome because, in effect, it turned faith into a meritorious work, and a betrayal of the Reformation because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the reformers' thought. Arminianism was indeed, in Reformed eyes, a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism. For to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle than to rely on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other. In the light of what Luther says to Erasmus there is no doubt that he would have endorsed this judgment.

And yet this view is the overwhelming majority report today in professing evangelical circles. And as long as semi-Pelagianism-which is simply a thinly veiled version of real Pelagianism..."

While we can and will continue to work with error, it is a greater error to be less than forthcoming about the logical end of the doctrine that those we work with hold. We work with error all the time, anyway. It is part of iron sharpening iron. There is no church that is not in some way imperfect, filled with imperfect people. That we ourselves were often not Calvinistic in our beginnings, we still engaged in the work of the Gospel in ernest desire while in error. It made us no less born-again believers. We did not hesitate to defend the errors we held, either. The greater error is to stifle debate by disallowing the heartfelt reality of the truth we find in Scripture. A healthy family airs its complaints, it does not deny they exist by fearful silence or negation.

That is what Whitefield did, that was the great struggle of Edwards, despite the cost. And, as we see with R.C. Sproul, not mincing words about the depravity of the fatal errors of Arminianism must be the mode of our evangelism within and without with the same freedom that we allow and wish to receive from others. We can cooperate, but never to the tabling of the differences as compatible and co-equal. Rightly dividing doctrinal differences from personality was a hallmark of Whitefield, and if cooperation can be found on that basis, only then can bridges be built.

Tom said...

Strong Tower:

I would never suggest that we should deny our convictions ("jettison conviction") or pretend that we agree with everything that our less Calvinistic brothers believe. Nor do I think such is necessary for true unity. In fact, I would--and have--argue(d) just the opposite. The spirit that you have articulated, as evidenced by Whitefield's love toward Wesley, is what I want to have and to encourage. It is also what I see growing among many (though not all) Calvinists and non-Calvinists within the SBC.

Strong Tower said...

I hesitated in posting what I did for the very reason that it might seem to be read that you were advocating capitulation. I know that is not true of your desire. I have read much of what you have written and understand that our best interests are found in being a healthy family with the kind of freedom that is expressed in the ethic of local church autonomy. I believe that should be the ethic within them, also. Freedom and competency of the believer should be held a necessity to fellowship.

Despite the troubles that I encountered in advancing openness, I still believe that cooperation is possible. The real key is our willingness to drop the personal ego investments. Neither winning at all costs, nor peace at all costs are options. The world is far better served in seeing us as peace pursuing combatants for unity in truth, rather than leading society astray by compromise.

Sorry if it sounded acusatory. Didn't mean to be.

Tom said...

You and I are in agreement. I appreciate your comments. They have helped bring clarity to the issues.

Press on,

beowulf2k8 said...

"The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc."

I sneer at anyone who makes a comment that stupid. But as for Calvinism, I condemn it as putrid Satanism.

Russell Taylor said...

On Unity.
I would add a different dynamic to our consideration of how to maintain unity. Much of what has been said would be relative to denominational life, but the most specific application of the scriptures would be in the local church. I have little hope that the universal church will experience biblical unity on these issues prior to the second coming. Then, of course, everyone would become calvinistic:) I do, however, believe that unity can be maintained in local churches. In a few ways.
1. Recognize a distinction between maturity and immaturity. We live in a culture that tends to give everyone equal authority. Biblically we should recognize those who are "able to teach" and "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."ESV We must resist the cultural premise that all views are equally valid and recognize the difference between teacher and student.
2. Distinguish between membership requirements and leadership requirements. Evangelistic churches will always have people coming to faith and progressing along the line of doctrinal maturity at different paces. Therefore, everyone who savingly embraces the gospel and submits to the authority in the church should be able to become a welcome part of a loving and gifted church where they can be discipled to maturity. However, not all are called to teach and lead. There should be a different level of expectation among the leadership. If the leadership is unified in it's doctrine and is committed to teaching uniformly from that unity, then they can be constantly maintaining the unity of the faith by welcoming the immature and equipping them for maturity. I would suggest a "What We Believe" statement that expresses what every member is required to believe and a "What We Teach" statement that is a more mature expression of doctrine that qualifies leadership and defines what the leaderships position is on more developed doctrinal issues. As a pastor, I'm a little bothered when someone asks me "Do I have to be a Calvinist to join the church?" I want anyone who loves Christ to be drawn to our church and welcomed, but I want my leadership to be able to handle the whole counsel of God's Word.
3. Work to establish a culture of love and patience in our church. We must teach our people to be humble and loving as we patiently teach everyone, regardless of where they are in their walk, esteeming others as better than ourselves.


Boogman said...

Read through just about everything, and want to chime in (occasional lurker).

I describe myself as an "unconvinced Calvinist," and am pretty much a reformed Baptist by theology, though I am not quite a cessationist and a bit more ecuminical than some. I attend a Presbyterian - PCA church.

Anyway, that being said, I would like to point out a handful of things.

1. MOST Baptists operate from a VERY poor understanding of Presbyterian paedobaptism theology. I'm not going to get into it here, and I personally don't agree with it, but there is some good, solid, Biblical reasoning behind it that was well-researched and studied and reasoned. Baptists don't realize the Presbyterian baptism theology is actually pretty sound. I don't personally hold to it, but it comes very close to the, "hey, I could be wrong about this" department.
Also, Baptists sometimes pretend that good theology started somewhere in the 1900s. It didn't. Christians were baptizing infants for 1500-1600 years and were still Christians - adult baptism is VERY relatively new theology in the grand scheme of things outside of Biblical times.

The church I grew up attending - an SBC church - always preached that any born-again believer was welcome to take the Lord's Supper. The PCA church I attend allows anyone professing Christianity as well.

It is true that the instances where Christians took bread was after baptism, but was it EXPLICITLY COMMANDED in scripture? If not, it's a theological position I take matters with. It's the type of thing that SHOULDN'T be "deduced," but should be explicit if we are to hold to such an outward practice - a "work," if you will.

That being said, I thank Tom for posting what he does and this discussion. I think that there are many in the SBC who are doing the unity of the body of Christ a massive disservice, when they should be hanging most theological differences with people who still consider the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the core tenet of their belief and reaching the lost instead.

Chris said...

Like a moth drawn to the flame I feel the need to respond to this last comment. But first, I want to know why it is that Brent Hobbs always seems to be the first commenter on so many of these blogs? :)

I'm going to respond to the post by "Boogman"

You wrote:

1. MOST Baptists operate from a VERY poor understanding of Presbyterian paedobaptism theology. I'm not going to get into it here, and I personally don't agree with it, but there is some good, solid, Biblical reasoning behind it that was well-researched and studied and reasoned. Baptists don't realize the Presbyterian baptism theology is actually pretty sound. I don't personally hold to it, but it comes very close to the, "hey, I could be wrong about this" department.

My reply:

I agree that many Baptists have no clue about the views of conservative confessional Presbyterians like those in the PCA, OPC, etc. and just assume they do it out of tradition or because they believe in baptismal regeneration and that they don't have what they believe to be Biblical reasons for their practice. I'm sure this is especially true among those who have always been in Baptist churches and only think PCUSA when they hear Presbyterian. However I'm not one of them, as I attended an OPC church for over 2 years and Presby churches overall for over 3 before finally coming to baptistic convictions earlier this year. Their argument makes a lot of sense if you accept their presuppositions, but it fails when examined in the light of scripture.

You wrote:

"Also, Baptists sometimes pretend that good theology started somewhere in the 1900s. It didn't. Christians were baptizing infants for 1500-1600 years and were still Christians - adult baptism is VERY relatively new theology in the grand scheme of things outside of Biblical times."

My reply:

Those who give weight to arguments from history like this often end up eventually going "home" to Rome when the Roman apologists ask where were the teachings of sola fide and sola scriptura prior to the Reformation.

What is our infallible rule of faith and practice? Is it the Bible, or the Bible plus church history?

You wrote:

The church I grew up attending - an SBC church - always preached that any born-again believer was welcome to take the Lord's Supper. The PCA church I attend allows anyone professing Christianity as well.

My reply:

This is the common practice in many Southern Baptist churches. But right or wrong it is not representative of historic Baptist practice, either on the part of Southern Baptists or the English Particular Baptists, although there have been some notable exceptions. Given your earlier historical argument, one historic argument that you may want to consider is that the vast majority of professing Christendom, be it Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, etc. has always considered baptism to be the prerequisite to partaking in the Lord's Supper. Many Presbyterians that I know do indeed consider Baptists (especially those who practice close communion) to be sectarian, but they also often think that the practice of many open communion Baptist churches of inviting them to the Lord's Supper without them being immersed is ridiculous.

If the PCA church you attend allows people to come to the table without regard as to whether they have been baptized in the PCA's view, then they are as out of accord with the Westminster Standards as the Baptist churches who practice open communion are with basically every Baptist confession that has addressed the issue.

You wrote:

It is true that the instances where Christians took bread was after baptism, but was it EXPLICITLY COMMANDED in scripture? If not, it's a theological position I take matters with. It's the type of thing that SHOULDN'T be "deduced," but should be explicit if we are to hold to such an outward practice - a "work," if you will."

My reply

Yet you seem to be seriously considering the Presbyterian argument for infant baptism, a practice which they freely admit isn't explicitly commanded and is based on what they consider to be "good and necessary consequence." Again, the Presbyterians also believe that one must be baptized before coming to the Table. It's just that their definition of baptism is different.

You wrote:

That being said, I thank Tom for posting what he does and this discussion. I think that there are many in the SBC who are doing the unity of the body of Christ a massive disservice, when they should be hanging most theological differences with people who still consider the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the core tenet of their belief and reaching the lost instead.

My reply

This is an admirable sentiment, but we mustn't sacrifice truth for the sake of unity.

Would that also include those who equate Five Point Calvinism with the gospel and who seem more preoccupied ? Aren't there genuine believers who believe otherwise? I write this as someone who is myself Calvinistic.

Boogman said...

I am calvinistic, as I stated earlier, though I'm farther from "infant baptism" than I'm thinking you think I am. I see the rationale and heard the arguments, I just don't quite buy into them (mostly because of the lack of explicitness in scripture). However, I don't consider it a "nonbiblical" position. The WCM, even the parts I disagree with, I cannot really argue that they have a Biblical reasoning.

I'll pay attention tonight at communion and see who we invite to the table. I may have glossed over the "baptized" part and just heard the "member in good standing of a church" part.

That being said, I'm going to stick with the stance that the scriptures don't explicitly demand taking the bread only after baptism and leave that there. It may be a bit too simplistic for some, but that's the way I roll at times.

On the matter of history, I think that you may have picked out the wrong point I was trying to make. It wasn't the matter that infants were baptized, it was the matter that the Christians who have been baptizing infants that long ago were STILL Christians.

On those who equate Calvinism with the gospel and seem more preoccupied, or those who fight against it, or whoever, all I have is the God's covenant with Abraham about his children numbering more than the stars and sand. I'm not an open theist or anything, but there are going to be plenty of people from plenty of theological persuasions together in the end, with our common bond not being Calvinism or Armenianism or any other -ism we derive from scripture, nothing but Christ crucified for our sins as our bond.

THAT is why, though we must strive for truth, and seek it wholeheartedly - we must continually ask ourselves as to what truths are worth not breaking bread over when we will eventually anyway?

Russell Taylor said...

On baptism and communion.
I agree that the scripture does not explicitly limit communion to baptized believers, it does limit it to believers. In the covenantal paedobaptist system, baptism (of infants) is not connected to belief in Christ. Therefore, even if someone has been "baptized", it doesn't mean that they are believers. Their infant baptism is irrelevant to communion. Biblical baptism is the baptism of professing believers, therefore infant (non believer) baptism is not a true baptism. Only credobaptist can have a relevant dialogue as to the relationship of their baptism to communion. Even in the paedobaptist tradition, adults are baptized after belief. Those adults are credobaptist, making the issue relevant. Infant baptism is irrelevant to the dialogue.
In summary, in the paedobaptist churches there are two reasons for baptism. One is covenantal baptism of infants (paedobaptism) and the other is baptism of believers (credobaptism). In the credobaptist church there is only one reason for baptism. In either tradition, only the credobaptism is relevant to the dialog over the relationship to communion. Paedobaptism needs to be dismissed as a baptism at all.

Boogman said...

Honestly, I have to ask a question here, and I don't want to completely seem like a smart aleck, or worse, someone in line with the emergents...and I mean no disrespect, honestly...

But so what? What does it mean to the Gospel? Does the debate over method and means and modes of Baptism add one more soul to the kingdom? Or does it actually detract and put us more toward the petty in-fighting that occurred with the religious men of Jesus' time?

Also, you are dealing with a misconception - almost all paedobaptists don't do adult baptism unless the person wasn't baptized as an infant (and there may be some re-baptisms due to conflicting theological traditions or whatever). That being said, PLEASE do a study on covenant Baptism and its reasoning. I'm not arguing for it, but to declare it as invalid out-of-hand is to declare generations of Christians as disobedient before there was even a cursory acceptance of adult baptism following Biblical times.

Strong Tower said...

Boog- "That being said, I'm going to stick with the stance that the scriptures don't explicitly demand taking the bread only after baptism and leave that there. It may be a bit too simplistic for some, but that's the way I roll at times."

It is not too simplistic, the Scripture simply doesn't command it as requisite to communion. Groups have derived it as a matter of church order from implicit references. At SBC Today the tact taken is "since we say its there, its there," but when challenged to produce to evidence, they simply demean the challenger. It in many ways has become the policing of circumcision and the desire to invade the privacy of others' faith.

At SBC Today, they quoted the Didache which allowed for alternative forms of baptism and used it as a proof that baptism is by immersion only! The blind bigotry is all to evident.

And that really is not the issue. Whether a local SBC church wants to allow for freedom of conscience in communicants is. And the BI sect wants to force all SBC churches and entities to toe their line. At the same time they do not want anyone telling them that if they are going to go down that road and assert that their interpretation of Scripture is the only allowable one and couch it in historic precedent, then they need to consider the soteriology of the historic figures that they quote as being the "founding" fathers of baptist identity. For the most part the BI sect doesn't have a sound soteriology which undermines their claim to baptismal authority. Yet, they do not want to discuss their deficent view of Christ's work.

The reality is, that they are a political faction with power as their agenda. BI has become the ruse to distract from a discussion of weightier matters such as why their formulistic salvation package produces such poor results; a largely absent membership and a far reaching questionably regenerate attendance. It is a blame game to make paedobaptism the scapegoat when the fact is that orthodox Calvinistic paedoists produce far more mature believers and long term congregants than the typical non-Calvinist SBC, even though their baptisms of adult believers are a tenth of the SBC.

Based on baptism per anum percentages from the SBC, 1950-2007, the convention has lost 75% of them. A death rate that dwarfs the national mortality rates. Currently 2/3 of members cannot be accounted for, and only 1/10 attend any service other than Sunday morning. The relevance of the typical SBC church to the baptized is abysmal. Many I know attend alternatives to the SBC in those times when the local SBC churches offer extra fellowship activities. What good then is it to argue for the right baptismal formula for communion when the candidates being baptized apparently have little or no understanding of the meaning of it, or at least do not honor the commitments represented by it?

The SBC's problems are far deeper than who approaches the communion table. The BI controversy arose out of the discussion of Calvinism's effect on evangelism and communion/baptism has become the great deflector. To avoid talking about the historic stream of the founders, the BI's bring out the smoke and mirrors. Having lost all credibility exegetically and polemically in their poor defense of their Arminianisms they have resorted to furthering their agenda by division along a revisioned historic identity.

As TA here, and all the Calvinistic Baptists I know, I do not accept the paedo-position. That is not really the question, however. The BI have made form and mode and their rather stilted appreciation for the meaning of baptism, a primary doctrine of discrimination while at the same time making soteriology secondary or tertiary. What a bizarre inversion.

While I appreciate the appeal to the historic fathers and their emotional defense of the table, the only reasoned fear of open communion, now, is because those who are in the pew are not taught doctrine and so are not sufficiently prepared to defend or stand in baptistic convictions. This is the real problem: the SBC for generations has been so poor at teaching those in the pew history and doctrine that the threat of slipping into "baptismal regeneration" is real. As it stands now, confessional regeneraion or decisional regeneration, is typical among the SBC. It is not because of open communion, it is because of the soteriology of the majoritarians which places faith before regeneration. It is a small step then to baptismal regeneration and it is not the fault of Calvinism's association with Presbyterians.

As I have experienced, Baptists who have joined the RCC, have done so, not because of the Table, but because of the legalism that is implicit in the way Baptists approach their relationship to the Lord in terms of both how one is saved and how one is sanctified unto assurance. They find the system of Catholicism far more consistent in its claims and practices.

As I have insisted, if the BI faction wants to have their day and draft resolutions on the Lord's Table, then they need to be honest when making their appeal to the SBC fathers; they should also bring forth the doctrine upon which the bapismal doctrines were founded. But they loathe Calvinism, so that is not going to happen.

Also, they cannot handle the fact that the BFM, to which they appeal, does not allow for their Papal approach to convention life. By its construction they cannot insist that local churches adhere to their vision. Nor can they insist that entities like the IBM force their opinions on individuals who come from the several local churches because the very same BFM allows for the autonomy of the individual as representative of the churches from which they come. Because an individual does not adhere to BI precepts gives them no right to regulate the beliefs of individuals that the cooperative programs are meant to assist, not regulate. The entities can govern their own employees, but missionaries are not their employees. They are individual members of the church from which the come. But that does not desssuade the BI. As it has been done here, they will continue to do; issue a definition of Baptist that only reflects their own theology, smear all others as false-believers and wash their hands of any wrong doing. It is why I call it Barberism. If you do not agree with them, they horde, leaving a swath of destruction where they go.

Because I attend a PCA I know that the insistence is not on regeneration in baptism. The convenantal arrangement is expostited and there is no doubt as to the orthodoxy of the fundamental doctrines of the DoG. I know these people and our Pastor, and if it were my place to offer them the Table, I would not hesitate. As they offer it to me, it is upon the basis that I have been accepted into a church of like faith through baptism. What they do not do, and what I would not do, is to deny those who have already eaten of the Lord in their regeneration no matter the form of baptism. Funny thing then, that the Baptist Identity folk place such emphasis upon modal baptism being done just so, that they are far more likely to be viewed as holding to a sacramentalist position than Presbyterians.

Russell Taylor said...

There seems to be a condescending attitude by Paedobaptists that assumes anyone who disagrees with their position or calls it error, must be ignorant of the position. If paedobaptism is biblical, then it is disobedient not to baptize our babies. If paedobaptism is unbiblical, then it is disobedient to do it. Either way, a large group of people are in error, however sincere they may be. It is logically impossible to put both camps in the camp of truth. Furthermore, I would encourage Paedobaptists to consider the possibility that there are people who are extremely well read and informed about Covenant Theology and Baptism who disagree with the position, while acknowledging that there are many paedobaptist who have no understanding as to why they are sprinkling their unbelieving and unaware infant and calling it baptism.

Hughuenot said...

And now comes event #4 - the Traditionalists (Modernists?) assert a form of sub-Arminianism.

Chapters are added daily to the war between the (southern) Baptists.