Anti-Calvinist No More: I Repented

Anti-Calvinist No More

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

I grew up attending a Church of God of Prophecy in Sparta, TN with my parents and three sisters. My parents still attend Shiloh Church of God of Prophecy today. My dad is a deacon, and my mom has taught Sunday school and Children’s Church. It’s a small family church, made up of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other believers. I first heard God’s word and understood His grace and love for me in Christ at this church. Members of this small church loved me. Some of my fondest memories of observing the genuine constant repentance and faith in Christ of Christians originated here.

When I was fifteen years of age, I started attending another church, a Southern Baptist church with a friend. I publicly repented of my sin and trusted in Christ at a youth lock-in when I was 17 years of age. I had heard the gospel for years, but I had never grasped the concept of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. My good works could not save me. I needed God to save me. I surrendered to preach a year later when I was 18 years of age. This church put me through an internship, and they ordained me once another church was willing to call me into pastoral ministry in an official capacity.

When I was 20 years of age, I started my first paid pastoral ministry position. I was a part-time youth pastor. Unfortunately, I had not read a book to completion that can I remember, other than the Bible. I was against using commentaries in sermon preparation, for the Spirit would tell me what the text meant and I would give this truth to God’s people. These arrogant presuppositions were not helpful, but left me largely unteachable. Nevertheless, I was enamored with other preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. My only understanding of Calvinism came from the negative sermons of Southern Baptist preachers. The result was not good. I understood a caricature of Calvinism instead of the doctrines of Grace as espoused by Calvinists. The result was tumultuous. At a low-point in my ministry, when I was 21 years of age and in my first full time youth pastor position in a Southern Baptist Church, with the pastor out of town I held an altar-call during morning worship to pray for the SBC because there was a heresy sweeping the convention. This heresy was called “Calvinism.” The altar was full of people praying. My diatribe against Calvinism continued as I wrote often on Baptist Fire, blasting Calvinists for their heresy. I was an Anti-Calvinist. Calvinists were anti-evangelism, fatalistic, deniers of free-will, blasphemers of God’s holiness, etc. Boy, was I wrong…

To make a long story short, there were several factors that made me repent of my Anti-Calvinism:

1) A friend was converted from a life of drugs and other forms of immorality to Christ when he was around 17 years of age. At the prodding of his non-Calvinist grandpa, he began reading and listening to John Macarthur. He adopted the five points of Calvinism, and we had many theological conversations discussing Reformed theology over several years. He pointed me to several verses that demanded contextual interpretation. At the very least, he showed me why Calvinists believed what they believed. Scripture was the reason. Thus, I had to rethink my caricature of Calvinism as heresy.

2) Around the same time, I was working on a B. A. in Biblical Studies at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary out of Newburgh, IN. There were several Calvinists that taught here, even though their President and Staff Evangelist were not Calvinists. We used the textbooks of Calvinists, and I heard the lectures of Calvinists. They taught me that God was 100% sovereign and man was 100% responsible. They explained why Calvinists believed their doctrines and why Arminians did as well. I learned, at least, that both groups were trying to understand and explain Scripture. Calvinists were not heretical, but historically orthodox and textual.

3) Around the same time, I was studying the Bible every day through devotion books. Since I was preparing sermons often and teaching Sunday school, I needed something short and refreshing for daily study relationship with the Lord. I was tired of the shallow devotions. I wanted something “deeper” that would make me think. I searched on Amazon, and John Piper’s devotions came up–A Godward Life and Pierced by the Word. I read some of the reviews, and I decided to buy some. I found Piper’s devotions very comforting and enjoyable. They helped to answer my own wrong-headed separation of the secular and the sacred in my daily life. He helped me to understand that savoring God is the reason humanity exists. Once again, I heard Calvinists in their own words, which made me repent of the heretical caricature I had placed in their mouths.

4) Around the same time, I was starting to minister as a youth pastor. Before I entered the ministry, I had the naive idea that all Christians would be happy to be involved in the Lord’s work. I was wrong. I found that many Christians often needed something more than God and Christ and the truth of Scripture to motivate them–like fun, games, food, excitement, and clicks. I found this reality discouraging, but eye-opening. Pragmatism was not only propagated in the church, but it was expected by the church. Yet, I found myself disagreeing with the methodology of those who shared my non-Calvinist soteriology. The Calvinists that I was reading and listening to at the time, however, agreed with me concerning methodology. Macarthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel was earth-shattering for me. He was arguing contextually what I believed and helping me to clarify my views on biblical methodology. How could a Calvinist–a fatalist–argue so strongly for the church’s responsibility? Yet again, I found the methodology of Calvinists to be more biblical than other non-Calvinists near me in the SBC (This largely isn’t the case today; Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike are pragmatic in the SBC today; and to be fair, many Calvinists and non-Calvinists are not pragmatic as well.).

5) Also at Trinity, I had a class on hermeneutics that changed my method for interpreting Scripture. Previously, I asked, “What does this text mean to me?” And, whatever the “Holy Spirit” gave me, was what I preached. My hermeneutics class helped me to rightly divide the word of truth. I needed to do much work before I jumped to my own thoughts about the text–like understanding the author’s meaning, his recipient’s understanding, the historical and literary contexts, and how to apply these truths to the lives of Christians today. The Holy Spirit was active in this process from beginning to end, but I must be in under the text, not forcing my opinions upon it. In reading Calvinists, they tried to understand and say what the text said. I also listened to John Macarthur’s sermons, Alistair Begg’s sermons, and the White Horse Inn many times in my early years of ministry. These three programs helped me to see historical-grammatical hermeneutics applied and appropriated in a manner that was faithful to Scripture. Yet, these men were all Calvinists. How could heretics be so textually sound?

To summarize, once I understood that Calvinists were merely arguing that salvation belongs to the Lord from beginning to end, I repented of my anti-Calvinism. I am no longer an anti-Calvinist. God is 100% sovereign and man is 100% responsible. Southern Baptists need to listen to Calvinists explain their positions before they place a “heretical caricature” in the mouths of Calvinists like I did. I am still against Hyper-Calvinism today, but so is every other Southern Baptist Calvinist I know. Hyper-Calvinism is not the Calvinism that primarily exists within the SBC. Calvinists in the SBC affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, after all.

I wonder if there are any Southern Baptists out there who are anti-Calvinists like I was. If you are a Southern Baptist anti-Calvinist, please listen to Calvinists in their own words before you condemn them for something they don’t believe. All Calvinists in the SBC affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and many of the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention were 5-point Calvinists. Let’s not put words in their mouths. Instead, let us seek to understand their position before we condemn them. Let’s converse and debate back and forth while realizing that this is a debate between brothers, not a debate between Southern Baptists and heretics. Praise the Lord!

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

Comments

  1. William Thornton says

    Jared, I always appreciate an honest recounting of one’s theological journey. It helps to understand people.

    A few gentle observations:

    1. Your title might have been “How I Converted to Calvinism” as well as the one you used. I use the term “converted” in a non-soterological sense. Most serious Calvinists I know have a “How I came to Calvinism” testimony.

    2. At the age of 20 or so, most of us were clueless about many things; however, the folks who might qualify as “anti-calvinist” that we read here are far from the age of 20 and have decades of experience and have expended considerable thought and study of the matter. I guess you are writing to those who are yet among the young, immature, unlearned anti-calvinists. Perhaps some lurk hereabouts.

    3. Can you see that your statement, “To summarize, once I understood that Calvinists were merely arguing that salvation belongs to the Lord from beginning to end, I repented of my anti-Calvinism.” might be called both simplistic and tendentious?

    4. You said that when you “…understood a caricature of Calvinism instead of the doctrines of Grace as espoused by Calvinists” I cannot argue with your state of mind and depth of understanding. You do recognize that this is a standard, incessant, claim of Calvinists that they are misunderstood and mischaracterized. One has to reject any broad application of the conclusion that we have difficulty in the SBC with Calvinism as a result of ignorant and uninformed critics.

    I like many things about my Calvinist friends, some of whom I highly respect and in whose churches I would be comfortable. One thing seems certain: we are moving closer to the place where everyone choses sides. I hate to see it.

    Hope the rest of your holidays are peachy.

    • says

      William, thanks for the comment.

      1) Anyone who has any beliefs has a story of how he or she came to those beliefs. I’ve presented above how I left my anti-Calvinism behind, but there’s more to the story concerning how I came to affirm 4 points of Calvinism.

      2) I’m writing to all anti-Calvinists regardless of their age. I don’t think anti-Calvinism is ever justified, if they affirm the BF&M2K. Also, if we affirm Article 14 of the BF&M2K on “Cooperation,” how can we be anti-Calvinists toward our fellow Southern Baptists and to those outside the convention as well?

      3) Calvinists believe that all God requires for salvation, He provides. That’s a summary of Calvinism.

      4) I’m sure some of the problems with Calvinism in the SBC are due to ignorant and uninformed critics, but there are probably equal problems with Calvinism in the SBC due to ignorant and uninformed Calvinists.

      5) I hope we never have to choose sides in the SBC. Knowing the history of the SBC and the conservative resurgence, I can’t believe people would seek to choose sides. People may not like Calvinism, but it’s still orthodox and Calvinists affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It’s nothing like the liberalism Southern Baptists fought in the CR. Furthermore, with Calvinists being heavily involved in the founding of the SBC and the Conservative Resurgence, I think we need to see the value of those who came before and those who are currently serving. Do we really have to choose sides here? Do we really have to reject our Calvinist Baptist founders and Calvinists in the SBC that affirm the BF&M2K?

  2. says

    Its interesting that most Calvinistic Baptists were once of a more Arminian leaning. They tend to express their differences with Arminian thought based on their previous experiences. Non-Calvinists however, don’t have the same kind of history usually, of changing from one group to another. I think that’s partly why many caricaturize the beliefs of reformed Baptists. Not all of them do of course. Many have reasoned biblical arguments to help them believe the way they do. And engage in honest communication.
    What I don’t get, and I don’t think I participated in, as you seem to have to some small degree, is the kind of venomous, accusatory, or malicious vitriol that comes from some corners of Baptist life. I don’t think they will listen to your reasoned pleas for mutual respect and decency. I hope they will.

  3. dr. james willingham says

    I attended a Southern Baptist Church as a child (from around age6-13, give or take a few years) in Arkansas. All I remembered from those years was the old farmer pastor saying with a quavery voice, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Later, I would learn that he preached the doctrines of grace. He told me so, when I returned to preach a revival and used some of the terms in my sermons. Anyway, I became an Atheist somewhere around age 13-14, moved to St. Louis and really began to practice my Atheism, making converts. My conversion involved a sort of literal fulfillment of Rev.3:20, since I saw Christ standing before me, facing me, with His hand raised like He was knocking at a door. My response was to run the other way, but I still wound up being converted that night (later, I would recall that something or, rather, someone changed my mind about two blocks from my home. The only explanation that fit was Acts 16:14, after I came to the doctrines of grace). That was Dec.7,1957.

    In the Spring of ’58 I was called to preached, licensed in Sept. of that year and went off to college (East Texas Baptist), where I was introduced to the doctrines of grace by fellow Southern Baptists and rejected the same with the supposed help of John R. Rice’s Predewtined for Hell? No! Then I returned to St. Louis to attend St. Louis Baptist (the second of the 10 colleges, universities, and upper level schools I would attend, besides teaching in three). My home church, Calvary called a new pastor after the pastor before was called into Evangelism full time. The new pastor was a self-proclaimed supralapsarian hyper-Calvinist (his words from the pulpit and person to person), a Ph.D. from Bob Jones, former Associate Pastor to Dr. Robert G. Lee, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell.

    Three years later (1962) I was ordained to the ministry, being called by a church as pastor. Dr. Campbell asked me during the ordination council (no less than the St. Louis Association) what I believed about original sin. I knew where he was coming from, and I replied, “Which answer do you want? There are six of them!”(I was thinking primarily of A.H. Strong’s Systematic Theology, one of six volumes that I had outlined in preparation for the ordination). I had also studied W.T. Conner’s Christian Doctrine in a course on Christian Doctrine at St. Louis Baptist under, Dr. W.L. Muncey, Jr. Dr. Campbell replied, “Don’t be a smart alec Jim.” Anyway, they ordained me, and I went off to pastor my first church (which had fired a very popular preacher for an unmentionable sin), a church ready, as one preacher put it, to take out their frustrations on the next pastor (they tried to fire me twice the first year – I was 21, turned 22 at the end of ’62). I had purchased some works by Puritans at a used book shop in St. Louis, discards from Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., where Churchill made his Iron Curtain Speech. During that first year in the pastorate, I was nearly out of my mind with anxieties, worries, fears, trouble at church and at home. One day while reading David Clarkson’s sermon on Original Sin in which as the editor of Nichol’s Standard Divines said, he had all the Hebrew words wrong, I began to realize the weight of scripture in those that I did not need Hebrew to understand. Like the meaning of the word “Can” which refers to ability. Jesus said, “No man can come to me,” meaning no one is able to come to me, except…” Add to that slavery to sin, kinship to Satan, spiritual dead, vipers in nature, madness in the heart, feet swift to shed blood, etc., etc., etc. The sheer weight of those plain language references came down upon my heart, convincing and convicting me that man was in such bas state from the Fall that only a Sovereign Supernatural Act of God’s Grace could save and deliver him. Let us take a break for now.

  4. dr. james willingham says

    My first sermon on the subject was titled, Amazing Grace, involving my own translation of Ephesians 1:3-14, especially verse 8, grace abounding (I had had 12 hrs. of Greek by that time (though 2 were audited classical Greek). I preached three points (no poem!) Immeasurable, irresistible, and irreversible. I preached that sermon before the Dixon Baptist Assn. (It has another name now), and the preachers said to me, “Jim, we know what you were preaching.” And they kind of laughed in an embarrassed fashion. It would take three more years to get most of the other points, though I had some questions about Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption for sometime even up until I attended seminary.

    Interestingly enough, my ordaining pastor, Dr. Campbell, contrary to what most people think and say about hyper-Calvinists, was a soul winner, par excellence. He once pleaded with a relative of mine to be saved until tears ran down the man’s cheeks. I should have learned from that that one needs to be very careful about blanket judgments and statements about others and their theological systems. But we were running into the problems of the higher critical approaches to the scripture which sounded a like my old atheistic skepticism, and I was not buying it. It was in the Spring of ’63 that I began doing research in Baptist Church History (the eye-opener of eye-openers) and would continue it for 6 years, followed by years on other subjects. To make a long story short and one that got me kicked off of another blog (and that without any mean spirited thing to say…in fact, I was going to say something complimentary about Eric Hankins visit to SBTS), the idea was that God had blessed a theology of the Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions, the theology of Sovereigns Grace or Calvinism, a term I really do not think is deserved as people were dying for these truths way before John Calvin was ever born.

    The one thing I found out is that all of the TULIP Acrostic Truths along with Predestination and Reprobation are really invitations or free offers or presentations of the lifting up of Christ to dead sinners, presented for their acceptance, embrace, etc. They are sort of like the therapeutic paradoxes about which Counselors, etc., write and use in therapy for clients…which have been found to work. In fact, I believe these truths are coming back in order to prepare us for a Third Great Awakening, the one in which every soul on earth gets converted beginning, hopefully, in this generation and continues for a 1000 generations and trillion planets (anywhere from 20,000-900,000 years, all so God can make humorous remark that is also the truth in Rev. 7:9, a number no one can number (one a number of times that statement is made in the Bible, beginning in Genesis), just to cheer His despairing disciples.

    I will close by referencing the great statement by George W. Truett at the Spurgeon Centennial in London in 1934, when he was introduced as the main speaker at that celebration, “Calvinism presses down upon the brow of man the crown of responsibility.” The quote is from my head as the book in which it is found, The Inspiration of Ideals, is in some box and my heart is no able to lift the boxes of books to find it. Strange, is it not, that Truett should speak of Calvinism and Responsibility in the same breath. Our first missionary to India, the Father of modern missions, as Timothy George, has pointed out, along with Dr. Danny Akin, William Carey, was a Five Point Calvinist. Talk about responsibility, but then there are folks who do use such teachings as an excuse to live and do as they please, just as they do every one of the five Arminian points, too.

  5. Tarheel says

    I have a friend who could certainly be labeled as anti Calvinist….he has even told me that “they” are destroying the SBC and Baptist orthodoxy.

    The funny thing is that he will tell me of reading online sermons and commentaries of Spurgeon, Edwards, etc….he speaks of enjoying the “biblical richness” of thier writings. He loves Luther. I just smile and say, “me too.”. Lol. . But then he contends Calvin was an heretic. He refuses to read anything written by Piper, Sproul, or Keller, or Carson because they are “Calvinists”. In fact, I don’t think he’s read any book written by anyone that would be labeled a Calvinist. Except ones that contain sermons and only then if he is not aware they were/are Calvinists.

    My point is that many anticalvinists are not anticalvinists at all when you get down to the theology of the matter….Most often, at least in my experience, the “anti” is because they they think they’re supposed to be…because Among other reasons of methodology – “that’s Presbyterian” and no faithful SBCer worth thier salt could affirm anything like that!

    IMO, again based on my experience, those SBCers who are staunch anti calvinists comes large part, from a bit of baptist snobbery….that “we got the truth, the complete truth, and everyone else is inferior”. In fact I hear “that’s not baptist” as much or more than I hear, “that’s not biblical”. It’s almost like they are saying that it can’t possibly be biblical if it’s not baptist.
    Although they conveniently ignore that there’s a very rich Calvinist tradition in the SBC….to say the least.

    • Volfan007 says

      Tarheel, I think what most Anti Calvinists in the SBC, today, are actually fighting against is militant, arrogant, new Calvinists. Thus, they appreciate the Calvinists of old like Spurgeon and some others.

      David

      • Tyler says

        Volf, I think I’ve only met one militant Calvinist in my entire life. They are few. Don’t mistake passionate and excited for militant

      • Tarheel says

        Volfan.

        “militant, arrogant, new Calvinists”

        Please define those terms…

        because by those monikers you mean those who hold to 4 or 5 point Calvinism very passionately and espouse great disagreement with those who hold to other soteriological positions….it is difficult to see how one can read Spurgeon or Edwards and not label them so…in fact, I bet that many of the anticalvinists I know, and dare say some on this board… might even call them ‘militant’, possibly “arrogant” and certainly “Calvinists” if they were alive and preaching today.

        • Volfan007 says

          They have been defined many times before…then, people claim there’s not any. So, I’m not sure what good it’s gonna do to have this discussion. But, here goes….they believe that if someone is not a Calvinist, then they are not preaching a true Gospel….they are more concerned about converting others to Calvinism than they are about winning lost people to Christ…they believe that they’re more intellectual and spiritual than Non-Calvinist…..they tend to worship Piper, Platt, and Sproul…..to name a few things.

          • Tarheel says

            So Spurgeon, Edwards, and “Calvinsts of old” did not contend that those who preached a non Calvinstic we’re missing something, or in error with regard to soteriology?

          • Tarheel says

            VOL,

            You’re contending that it’s a “new” thing to be passionate about soteriology?

            “Worship” Piper, Platt, Sproul??? That’s a rather big accusation, perhaps?

            Respecting and cherishing the teaching of is not exactly akin to “worship”, or is it?

            Woud you say that anticalvinists worship Vines, Patterson, Lemke, Hankins, Page, etc….

        • cb scott says

          Place your real name in the blank ……………………… Doing so will be a sufficient definition.

  6. John K says

    Up here in North Dakota a SBC pastor always inserts the word Hyper when referring to a Calvinist if the subject is brought up. Never misses a beat always Hyper. For the Bible Study program this year he is implementing the use of the Gospel Project that he knows it is a great program for expanding missional minds of the congregation. Good thing he does not read national SBC blogs. After the first quarter I’ll get his feedback and maybe I will get him to stop using the word Hyper when speaking of Calvinism. I would hate to think of him as a Hyper Calvinist :-).

      • cb scott says

        And using the Gospel Project to do it? I did not think that was the intent of the curriculum. Oh well, who would have ever thought such would have been the intent of the Gospel Project? Surely not LifeWay.

        • Tarheel says

          It’s a shame that quire possibly the best material that Lifeway has distributed in years is so often dismissed by some because of some sort of conspiratorial fantasy they seem captivated by.

          TGP is rich, its biblical, and its theologically challenging to the student….who would have ever thought that pastors of all soteriological ‘threads’ would be desirous of such for their discipleship classes and Lifeway would actually publish it?

          Heaven forbid such!

          • cb scott says

            Having been the guy that made the motions over and over in the curriculum committee back in the days when liberals ran the Board at LifeWay that a biblically sound material be produced, I certainly hope TGP is biblical.

          • Volfan007 says

            Tarheel, why don’t you deal with the New Calvinist overtones of
            John K.? Because, he sure sounded like he was hoping that his Pastor friend would be converted to Calvinism by the Gospel Project?

            David

          • Tarheel says

            Vol, I agree with Ben…I think you’ve perhaps misread/misinterpreted the coments of John K…

            However, he can speak/clarify for himself should he desire to do so.

        • John K says

          David and CB,
          Still hunting for a bone where none exists I see.

          This Pastor will embrace Calvinism the same day you two embrace Calvinism. And I’ll have as much influence in that process on him as I do on you.

          Some just see TGP as Missional teaching. Good for the congregation. Good for the SBC.

  7. dr. james willingham says

    If, and when, the Sovereign Grace believers in the new generations begin to really understand their theology, the biblically subtle and intellectual nature of it, then we will be ready for the Third Great Awakening, the one for which I have been praying for these 40 years (ever since the Fall of 1973). More than 50 years have been invested in study and reflection on the actual teachings of Holy Scripture, and, lest anyone think I am thinking only in terms of the educated, etc., please remember that the man whom I consider to be the wisest man I ever met, was a body shop mechanic (he repaired Buick auto bodies). He had done ten years of research in Baptist Church Records (very little in Baptist History Books although he did read a lot of autobiographies, I think). It was one carefully thoughtful question that he asked which seven years later destroyed my system of eschatology. Just one question. Have you thought about the fact that at any one time every last soul on the earth could be the elect of God? My answer was, no. How could I? My eschatology prevented such a thought although my soteriology should have allowed it.

    And then there is the knowledge that came from a study of the Baptists in the period from 1740-1820. Undoubtedly, one of the most creative periods in the history of the world, other than the incarnation and redemptive work of our Lord. The discovery was that doctrines are two-sided and apparently contradictory, paradoxical in nature, if you please, and it is these two-poled truths which enable and empower a believer to become balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic. In short, God’s best subliminal advertisement for the Gospel of His Son, a mature believer, who can inspire and touch the heart of a dead sinner just be being faithful as one scotch brother was in going to church. He missed one Sunday, and the Blacksmith by whose shop he passed became so concerned about it, he left his smithy and went to check on the believer. The moral of the story was the conversion of the Blacksmith.

    Even the writing of a Methodist historian could weave such a reflection of truth about ministers that one could imagine the impossible, practically speaking. When I read William Warren Sweet’s The Story of Religion in America and his description of the Farmer Preachers of the Baptists, I thought I was reading a description of the pastor of our local church in Arkansas, the pastor of my childhood. Sweet’s description along with his description of the Methodist Circuit Riders constitute a legacy that reminds us of the value of our past, a past being daily stolen from us by folks who want us to believe something else. Control the education, etc., and you control the results in the present and in the future. Independent researchers and scholars are the way to the future, providing for cross-checking, independent verification, etc. How much do we really know about our Baptist past?

    • says

      The discovery was that doctrines are two-sided and apparently contradictory, paradoxical in nature, if you please, and it is these two-poled truths which enable and empower a believer to become balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic.

      This sounds an awful lot like G. K. Chesterton’s conception of Christian balance as “The collision of two passions apparently opposite” (See his “Orthodoxy”, chapter 6 “The Paradoxes of Christianity”), which has helped me a lot.

  8. dr. james willingham says

    Ben: I have a copy of Chesterton’s Orthodoxy in my library (In some box, so I might never see it again as strength is wanting to move boxes) and I think it is marked up (upsets my son to no end, but I use books and peruse books for knowledge, not collectors’ items). I got a copy of Chesterton years after I did my research and wrote my master’s thesis in American Social & Intellectual History on the subject, “The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850,” followed by a series of papers in graduate school and seminary on the doctrines, like the immutability of God and Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, etc., papers exploring other two-sided doctrines. What I found was that the poles of apparent opposites is what produces a desirable tension in the mind of the believer, enabling him or her to respond to a situation without being too rigid or too limp. Cf. Paul Halmos’ The Faith of Counsellors on the theory of creative dissonance. His writings confirm what I had found in my research in church history, and it dovetailed with what a chairman of the psychology dept. of North Carolina State Univ. was investigating in 1974, when I told him about what I had found. He wanted me to do an M.A.;Ph.D. under him, but I chose the D.Min. as all I wanted to do was to preach. My wife told me I would be sorry, and I found she was right on that matter. Life is like that.

  9. volfan007 says

    I got the answers I figured I’d get. I’m outta of this conversation. Yall have a good night!

    David

  10. says

    Thank you for the great post to read. I would encourage other to read and listen to the Calvinist. I grew up not knowing about Calvinist and love every bit of knowing more about Calvinist. Thankful for Five points. Thankful for Sam Storms book: Chosen for Life which help me understand Calvinist view clearly.

    Hungry for His Word,
    Marguerite (‘Guerite ~ BoldLion)

  11. says

    I was raised in a Southern Baptist church that was decidedly non-Calvinist, though not “anti-Calvinist.” I attended a Southern Baptist, state-convention related university, and though I majored in history, and minored in English and Biblical studies, I had enough hours in the latter for a major. I also attended an SBC seminary, and I was thoroughly taught the same hermeneutical methods that you were taught, historical and literary contexts, word studies in original languages, and the practical application of scriptural principles, all from what I would consider a balanced perspective, since several professors there were Calvinists. At no time in my thoroughly Baptist higher education did I ever hear anyone indicate that Calvinists were heretics.

    Over the course of my 56 years of life, almost all of it spent in vocational Christian discipleship ministry of some kind, I’ve made some observations. Doctrinal controversy is most often the result of insecurity, whether it is related to vocation (fear of losing one’s job because of a perceived “shift” in doctrinal position over time), control of a church or denominational group or the denomination itself, or the personal insecurity that comes from thinking that God’s forgiveness of sin and the sacrifice of Jesus somehow doesn’t cover his demand that we “get it right” when it comes to interpreting his word.

    I don’t think we’ve “got it right” until loving the rest of the brethren becomes a priority, and our favored interpretations of scripture are set aside so that can occur.

    • Chris Roberts says

      “I don’t think we’ve ‘got it right’ until loving the rest of the brethren becomes a priority, and our favored interpretations of scripture are set aside so that can occur.”

      Loving man is of greater value than knowing God as he has revealed himself in Scripture?

      • Dave Miller says

        If your doctrine does not lead you to love one another, it is seriously flawed. Sound theology is no excuse for behaving badly.

        you twisted and misrepresented his words. I think that kind of thing might be what he had in mind.

        • Chris Roberts says

          Dave,

          Sure, good theology is not the enemy of loving a brother, but I’m pretty sure my summary cut to the chase of what he was saying: don’t be so hung up on theology that you will be divided from someone else claiming Christ. But sometimes theological division is necessary, which is why we are Baptists and not Presbyterian.

          We’ve run this circle before. I’m not willing to put biblical theology behind me in order to hold hands and sing kumbaya with people with warped views of God or Scripture. Degrees of disagreement are acceptable (theological triage) but this doesn’t mean “setting aside” our “favored interpretations of scripture” (a phrase which, intended or not, is heavily loaded with postmodern jargon – no longer are we talking about the absolute truth of authoritative Scripture; it is reduced to our personal, preferential interpretations which are no more or less reliable than anyone else’s; in that scenario, Scripture loses almost all meaning).

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Chris: Most times division is not necessary. If you can’t treat a human being with dignity and truly love them, and not with the I am going to hit you in the head with the hammer of truth because I love you garbage, but true love which doesn’t hurt, then your theology means nothing.

          • Christiane says

            Dear CHRIS

            your very name means ‘Christ-bearer’ . . .
            think about where all of us would be if Our Lord Christ felt towards us the same way that you feel towards the people you do not wish to ‘friend’ . . . I suppose we would be in a world of trouble, wouldn’t we?

            don’t judge others
            . . . love them and serve them instead.
            He did.

          • Chris Roberts says

            Debbie,

            I can love someone while being separated due to theology. So, for instance, I have great love for my brothers and sisters in the Methodist church but I cannot be denominationally united with them. There is a necessary division due to theology but this does not hinder love.

            And who says true love doesn’t hurt? My son’s rear end would occasionally disagree with you.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Chris: Spanking would be another issue. But on that we would disagree. We are either people of the Bible or we just say we are and don’t bother to read what it really says. Some people love a battle. Therefore there will always be a battle as far as some are concerned. But the Bible says:

            13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

            4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

            8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

            13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Love sheds more tears and forgives more than it does yell, insult, bully, argue, fight. That is not love as the Bible teaches. 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5 would contradict what you are saying Chris.

            22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10.

            Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

            And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

            We are no longer under the Old Covenant Chris. We are under a new Covenant which began when Christ died on the cross, and rose again. He ushered in a new Covenant. Too many Baptists on both sides of the debate live in the Old Covenant and like living in it. They love to battle as seen above in the comments. They are good at it and it’s dirty fighting. Biblical love is different.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18.

            Are we people who believe and live the Bible, or do we just say we do without really knowing what it says?

          • Chris Roberts says

            Jesus in love tells believers to take up their cross. He calls them to pain. God brings suffering on people to test them and refine them. He refines us with fire. He tells us to hold one another accountable, a process that is often painful but is done for the good of the person in the wrong. In all that Scripture says about love, there is room (and necessity) for the recognition that love can often be painful, both for the person doing the loving and for the person being loved. It reminds me of what George MacDonald wrote (I forget the book and the specific character) in a phrase later echoed by C. S. Lewis. It was a cat woman or some such and it was said of her that she was good and she gave painful scratches but only when they were needed.

            But we’re getting off track. There is nothing painful in theological disagreement. I cannot, for instance, unite in the same church under a woman pastor, but it does neither of us harm for me to belong to one church and her to another – though I will say it does her harm to act contrary to Scripture but that is beside the point in this case.

      • says

        Jesus himself emphasized the supremacy of two commandments. One, love God unconditionally. Two, love your neighbor as yourself. He indicated that the second command was like the first. You figure that one out yourself.

        It is arrogant to think that your own interpretation of scripture is equal to knowing God as he has revealed himself in it. I used the term “favored interpretation of scripture.” Neither Calvinism, anti-Calvinism, non-Calvinism or Arminianism is an accurate representation of God’s revelation of himself in scripture, nor is your view or my view equal to that. If you love your own interpretation of scripture to the point where it leads you to judge and dismiss other Christians because of theirs, you’ve missed the point, and you’ve demonstrated that your interpretation of scripture is flawed, imperfect, and not worth defending.

          • Nate says

            However Chris, remember that other people, through the centuries, have used the same bible to promote heresies. So, no God has not failed, but we sinners don’t always listen to the Spirit in forming our interpretations. If we all did, there wouldn’t be so many denominations.

          • Chris Roberts says

            Nate,

            Agreed. We need to recognize that our limitations means none of us has everything exactly right, but this is a far cry from minimizing what the Bible says just because someone disagrees. When it comes to the Bible, there are some things about which I am absolutely, 100% confident of the meaning. There are some things where I have no clue. And there are a number of things in the middle. Calvinism is one of those 100% matters. I have no doubt of what Scripture says regarding Calvinism. It’s quite clear. I don’t mind if people disagree, that’s their right, and the finer points of biblical theology regarding Calvinism are not significant enough to warrant division.

            On the other hand, I am also 100% confident of what the Bible teaches regarding women in ministry or biblical sexuality or marriage and family or the exclusivity of salvation in Christ or a number of other issues, and these are areas that are significant enough to warrant division. Some of them just mean I won’t join your church (a woman pastor), other disagreements mean I don’t think you are a Christian (universalism, unitarianism, Pelagianism, etc).

            I daresay most people here would agree with this: most people see the necessity for different denominations and for pointing out claims about Christianity that truly are heretical. Yet for some reason when we speak in general terms we all begin to get wishy washy and postmodern about it. There’s a difference between theological humility and theological jellyfish. Theological humility does not mean saying, “Well, this is what I think, but who knows. You might be right and me wrong. At the end of the day it’s all just our individual interpretations anyway.” That’s a dangerous line to take.

          • cb scott says

            Chris Roberts,

            Your comments here are correct. Stand your ground. However, many of your theological conclusions are wrong. I know this to be true because they differ so greatly from my own . . . which are right.

        • Dave Miller says

          Lee, in general, I agree with you, and I think your view is a necessary corrective to Chris’ extreme self-assurance on pretty much all doctrine. But there is a point at which we have say like Martin Luther, “Here I stand.”

          There is doctrine about which we must be as rigid as Chris is on all doctrine. There are other doctrines about which we must be less rigid – as you advocate.

          That is the theological triage principle.

          • cb scott says

            Well said, Dave Miller.

            BTW, I would like to taake this moment to recognize the fact that all the SEC NATIONS are winning their Bowl Games.

            But hey, what else would you expect, right Sports Fans?

          • Chris Roberts says

            “There is doctrine about which we must be as rigid as Chris is on all doctrine.”

            Dave, how kind of you to be so gracious in your attempt to represent me accurately. I’m sure a jewel will be added to your crown for this display of Christian charity that you seem to advocate so highly.

            I also see you haven’t read my comments.

  12. K Gray says

    Just to add a story: We moved to Texas – and to a so-called ‘moderate’ Baptist church – in the late ’90’s. My husband and I knew nothing whatever of Baptist politics or doctrinal controversies. I was newly baptized with a genuine hunger for the word. One day at church, hearing a Baptist doctrine which did not sound much like the passage we were actually studying (but which everyone seemed to readily accept and understand) I asked the Sunday School teacher (a man about my age) a question after class. Instead of answering the question he exclaimed only “You’re a Calvinist!!” I said “What’s a Calvinist?” Within a short period of time, someone at church had handed me a book with a note from an older church member: a book on the perils of Calvinism and how it ruins churches. All with no conversation, instruction, or even getting to know what I actually thought.

    As a newly baptized adult church member, what I perceived from all this was fear: fear of questions, discussion, direct response, and Calvinism I guess. It’s probably the same thing that commenter Lee calls insecurity. Ironically, the book (I wish I could remember the name) made Calvinism – even in obvious caricature – sound more Biblical, vigorous and hope-filled than the preferred doctrines. The whole thing just made me cautious of “isms.” And it also made me know that whatever I wanted to know, I pretty much had to find out for myself. That’s not so bad.

  13. dr. james willingham says

    It was that failure to love, when faced with disagreement that led to the Union of Separate and Regular Baptists. Sadly, some in both camps today, Calvinists and Traditionalists, forget that orthopraxy goes with orthodoxy, and our predecessors and ancestors were able to work it out that folks could cooperate, while believing and preaching on these issues as they felt led. Such approach also allowed for one to change his or her view point on the issues involved. In fact, the issue is inherent in scripture due to our inability to perceive depth in perspicuity/clarity. However, the attempt to deal with the issue is what stretches our minds, giving them a flexibility while avoid the cul-de-sac of rigidity.

  14. Richard says

    When does our love for God’s Word cross the line into our interpretation of God’s Word? And, when that line is crossed, do we not descend into love of self rather than love for God? This is dangerous stuff, and none of us knows the mind of God in all of this. The marker we are given was set by Christ very plainly, i.e., the greatest commandment is to love…..Love one another…. Do not judge others.
    We can worship the triune God, or we can worship the Bible, which is always subject to our own interpretation. I prefer to weigh my
    understanding of scripture according to the life of God’s Son. He is my hero and Lord.

    interpretations and my pilgrimage Ccording to how Christ lived

    • Chris Roberts says

      Do not judge others: one of the verses postmodernists most love to abuse and misuse and misquote.

  15. Richard says

    Sorry about the leftover phrase…thought I had lost it so I rewrote. Have a blessed New Year all, lived thankfully in God’s grace.