Southeastern will be a Calvinist seminary over Danny Akin’s dead body (by William Thornton)

by Guest Blogger on October 19, 2012 · 40 comments

The SBC Plodder usually cuts through the fog and does so here. I am reticent about Calvinism-related topics, but this one seemed newsworthy and worthwhile. Thank you, William.

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached a chapel message on October 16th to address what he called a “faulty and jaundiced view of who we [SEBTS] are.”

SEBTS: What will be our reputation? 

The message was on the wonderful little book tucked away towards the end of the New Testament, 3 John.

Akin said that “in recent days there are those who either ignorantly or maliciously misrepresent this school” as one of Southern Baptists two Calvinist seminaries.

“Let me be crystal, crystal, crystal, crystal clear,” he said. “I have no intention of building a Calvinist seminary. That will take place over my dead body.”

And…

“There is a form of Calvinism that I find very distasteful, the kind that is arrogant and smug and condescending… 

“J. C. will always stand for ‘Jesus Christ’ at Southeastern Seminary and not John Calvin…”

Akin must have some discretionary fund because he said that when he hears of someone who asserts that SEBTS is a Calvinist seminary he tries to track them down if he can and offer to pay their way to visit the school, meet the students, and learn what the seminary is really about.

SEBTS is the one seminary among our six of which I have some degree of personal knowledge, not because I attended there (I am a graduate of the very splendid SBC, non-Cooperative Program seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary) but because have had and do have family who attend.

I have asked over the last few years more than once, “What’s all this about Southeastern being a Calvinist seminary?”

The answer was generally, and consistently, that there are Calvinists present but not to the exclusion or disparagement of non-Calvinists.

Oh, one more thing. Akin said that Adrian Rogers was the greatest man he ever knew. I have heard Adrian say things that would curl the hair of any SBC Calvinist, even those with little hair like Akin. I hardly think that a president of a Calvinist seminary would put an outspoken non-calvinist at the top of his list.

Danny Akin is one of the more, perhaps the most, forthright of our SBC leaders. I like the way he confronts the most pressing issue in our convention and those among us who describe SEBTS as a “Calvinist seminary,”  might pick up the phone, call Danny Akin, tell him what you think and see if you can wrangle an expense-paid trip to Wake Forest and be persuaded otherwise.

1 Alan Cross October 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Hmmm. Sounds like more sneaky, Calvinist subterfuge to me. Say you won’t become Calvinist just to get everyone all relaxed and looking the other way, and then . . . BAM!!! Make everything Calvinist. That sneaky Danny Akin. He started the GCR as a vehicle for Calvinist Takeover. Now, he tells us that he won’t let SEBTS become Calvinist. Weird.

Something seems fishy. The Calvinist Takeover is so subtle now that even the proponents of it don’t claim to know anything about it!

2 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Are you angling to get an invite to SEBTS from Dr. Akin?

3 Alan Cross October 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I never thought of that. That would be really sneaky.

4 Mark October 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Sounds like the butler in Mr. Deeds.

5 Donald October 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Having taken Dr. Akins Hermeneutics class, I can testify that he is nowise a Calvinist. When we covered Election, he handed out Dr. Patterson’s notes from the Baptist Study Bible. Can a Calvinist be a pre-trib, pre-millennial Progressive Dispensationalist?

6 Mike Leake October 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Though I am not one of them, there are several Calvinist that are pre-trib, pre-mill, progressive dispensationalist.

7 Kyle Thomas October 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

John MacArthur comes to mind!

8 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Another name for them is biblically correct theologians.

9 dean October 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Dave, they are oh so close to being a Biblically correct theologian.

10 dr. james willingham October 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Well, yes. Much as I hate to admit it. My ordaining pastor, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, was pre-trib, pre-mil. As to progressive, I don’t think so. And Dr. R.G. Lee was likewise, and you have never heard preaching on the subject until you have heard Dr. Lee’s sermon on the Millenium which he preached at the Kansas City Convention in ’63 ( it might have been the preachers’ conference at that convention…I can’t remember but it was at the time of the convention in ’63). Dr. Campbell just shook his head and laughed, when I told him I had become a post-millenialist.

11 Donald October 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Thanks all. My bad. I had picked up somewhere that there was some incongruence’s between the dispensational view of Israel and the Reformed view, especially concerning the millennial kingdom. I’ll have to do some more reading.

12 Bob Cleveland October 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I have news for Dr. Akin. Even Presbyterians find “arrogant and smug and condescending” Calvinists distasteful.

13 Jim Pemberton October 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I find people who are arrogant, smug and condescending to be distasteful whether they are Calvinist, Arminian, Traditionalist, or whatever…

…if it doesn’t make me arrogant, smug or condescending to say so.

14 dr. james willingham October 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Sovereign Grace is supposed to make one humble, and it will evenutally if a person really believes that truth. Other wise our old man just simply continues to rule in his arrogant conceits.

15 Frank L. October 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Dr. J,

I agree 100 percent.

I’m so humble I deserve an award.

16 dr. james willingham October 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Sigh! Frank L, I just wish I was!

17 dr. james willingham October 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm

All Dr. Akin appears to be trying to do is to continue the working relationship between the so-called Traditionalists and the so-called Calvinists (really should read Sovereign Grace believers) begun back in 1787 in the Union of Separate and Regular Baptists. In that Union they agreed that preaching that Christ tasted death for every man (Hebs.2:9) would be no bar to communion. The reason for this was that there were a few of the Separate Baptists who believed that way (and I mean very few as most the Separate Baptists were just as firm in their commitment to Sovereign Grace as were the Regulars), and they had proved their commitment to Christ by going to prison as had other Baptists. As to the issue, Dr. Akin has himself signed the Abstract of Principles which was drawn up by a committee headed by Basil Manly, Jr., the son of the man who had led the Southern Baptist Convention in three educational conventions (1857,1858, and 1859 in organizing and establishing Southern Seminary which he had originally suggested to Baptists at the South back in 1835. The two very Sovereign Grace doctrines of so-called Calvinism (and I say so-called due to the tendency of some to identify a doctrine that they despise with someone’s name so that they can affirm it as a human teaching and not a biblical one which would put them contrary to God), Unconditional Election and Efficacious or Irresistible Grace are stated or implied in the Abstract and have their source in the very missionary and evangelistic minded Sandy Creek Confession of 1816 which Luther Rice the Father of Missions among Southern Baptists had led the Sandy Creek Baptist Association to adopt. He was chairman of the committee that drew up that Confession, and the last named member of the Committee was the clerk of the Association. And that was Basil Manly, (later Sr.).

Dr. Akin is honest and forthright. He does not ignore the facts. He clearly stated the truth, often overlooked by the Traditionalists today, that William Carey was a five point Calvinist. The fact that he made that statement impresses me, a lover of history and of Baptist history in particular, second only to my love for the word of God.

We have a massive task before us, the mission of evangelizing the whole earth. One does not have to understand all of the points of theology in order to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. Even a child can point some one to Jesus, and many a child has done so. There must also be allowance for folks to develop and grow in their understanding of biblical teachings. Some have thought that the doctrines of grace are meat to be reserved for senior believers. During the long decline of this theology in the 20th century (aided and abetted by some who were determined to drive that theology out of the organization that believers in that theology had originally founded) a lot of the knowledge and know-how about preaching it was lost. Speaking out about one’s beliefs in such doctrines could get one in trouble for it. Having been taught and having learned the fear of God as the way to cope with the fear of man, I have sought to follow and preach what I believe the Bible teaches and what I believe is the original theology of Southern Baptists. I had one DOM who sought to get me fired. He also told me one day that I should stop preaching it, and I pointed to a book in his book case, Memoirs of Luther Rice, and said, “He says it in the Bible and you had better preach it.” Later on, after he retired, he gave me that book, a rare treasure and a collector’s item.

In any case, There are only two five point calvinists that I know of teaching at SEBTS. There could be more, but I only know of two, and they have said so in their writings and preaching. One is Dr. Nathan Finn and the other is, in my opinion, the A.T. Robertson of our day, Dr. Maurice Robinson. I pray for the latter to be able to get his volumes published on the first century authenticity of the pericope on the woman taken in adultery. Only a person with the meticulous care to check out the thousands of Greek MSS like A.T. Robertson would check out all of the 5000 Greek MSS, the early lectionaries, and the early church fathers Dr. Robinson has done that very thing. A hurricane, Katrina, no less, could have interrupted the slow process of checking out every reference which the community of scholars do and were doing on Dr. Robinson’s work. Hopefully, one of these days we will see that work.

In the meanwhile we have a task at hand, and it behooves all of us to maintain the bond of unity in order to accomplish that work. I do not propose that any one change his preaching until he is persuaded otherwise. God can strike a straight blow with a crooked stick, and all us, Sovereign Grace believers or calvinists as some would have it and Traditionalists as well, are to some degree or other crooked sticks or as Paul said it, “I am the chief of sinners.” The term Separates and Regulars adopted in that union in 1787 was “United Baptists.” Fifty years later a church was founded in Missouri, the old Sardis United Baptist Church, which term indicated the result of that union and the articles of faith were calvinistic without being overdone. I served as Interim for a church in Western North Carolina for 3 months, and it bore the title in its founding, Mt. Zion United Missionary Baptist Church. We are United Baptists, united in our mission to take the Gospel to the world, intending as, in my opinion, believers in grace to win the whole world (you should read Spurgeon’s Evening Devotions for August 6th and December 24th where he prays for the whole world to be converted in order to see a five point calvinist bent on winning the whole world. I have nothing less as my aim and that for a thousand generations. Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

18 Ed Stetzer October 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

And this is one of the reasons I am glad to be on faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Ed

19 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Is there any aspect of SBC life that you are NOT part of?

20 svmuschany October 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Wow…you know…that makes a lot of sense. Everyone is all worried about a Calvinist Takeover led by the disciples of Dr. Mohler when we REALLY should be concerned with the bid for galactic SBC domination by Mr Stetzer here. I mean, he is involved in practically everything SBC related right. He certainly fits better as the “evil genius” too with that goatee of his. It all makes sense now!

21 Ed Stetzer October 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

-insert evil maniacal laugh!

22 Ed Stetzer October 19, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I assure you, there are some places in SBC life were I am not welcome. ;-)

23 David Rogers October 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I think Dr. Akin did a great job of correctly and faithfully representing my dad’s heart and vision for the SBC.

I am also very thankful and blessed to be a student at SEBTS under Dr. Akin’s godly leadership.

24 William Thornton October 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

One of the things that almost always surprises me in these discussions is how folks become defensive when Calvinists are criticized for being arrogant and condescending. You will have to listen to Akin’s entire, 45 minute sermon but he is well aware that these attitudes are a problem in the context of Calvinism and Calvinists. I am not trying to goad any of my reformed colleagues here but less protesting and more reflection would probably serve them well.

I thought Akin did a good job confronting what his institution faces from some sectors of the SBC.

25 volfan007 October 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm

It’s also amazing to me how quickly the conversation turns to ridicule and mockery of fellow, SB Pastors.

#notgoodforunity

David

26 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

I have seen none of that here, David.

27 volfan007 October 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm

wow. ooookaay.

David

28 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Show me one comment on this post that would qualify as ridicule or mockery? There has been some joking, but the comments have been pretty collegial here.

Now if you are talking about Calvinism discussions in general, then I understand – which is why I don’t permit them much anymore.

29 volfan007 October 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm

I think a lot of us are getting really, really tired of all the conspiracy nuts are seeing New Calvinist boogeymen trying to take over the SBC stuff. A lot of us, out here, do see aggressive, New Calvinists as wanting to take over the SBC. We’re not against all Calvinists. But, New Calvinists….well, that’s another story.

So, yall go ahead and laugh it up. Mock the one’s, who do think there’s a problem…which are more than just a few, BTW….and it’ll just keep upsetting a lot of us, out here.

David

30 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 10:32 pm

David, so far, we have had a productive discussion here on this issue. Let’s not haul out all our grievances and turn this into another brouhaha, okay?

31 volfan007 October 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Dave,

That’s fine with me….but, it cuts both ways, Brother.

David

32 Dave Miller October 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

I am just failing to see where anyone here has been offensive on this comment stream. If you have taken offense at a particular comment, feel free to challenge it.

33 dr. james willingham October 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Volfan or David: What in the world are you talking about? I agree with Dave that there is nothing of the sort in all of the comments that I have read. No one seems upset except you, and you ought to spell out specifically who and what they said that ticked you off. As a descendant of a Volfan way back in the 1800s, I expect the best from you. God bless.

34 Louis October 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

Great post.

Hearing a statement like that from Dr. Akin helps clear the air, I think.

35 dr. james willingham October 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Just here I would like to say as a believer in Sovereign Grace or Calvinism as some who lack perspective and understanding of the history of this theology call it (just like they called it Augustinianism or Paulinism before Calvin was born), that I would like to see every student and teacher a believer of the theology that I hold. In fact, I believe that shall happen some day. In any case, I want to make it very clear about the ground on which I want this. Not one the grounds of forced submission, of high pressure demands by the advocates of those who hold this position. Not at all. I want it one the ground that the believer and practitioner has come to the persuasion through study, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, through reason with God and what He has revealed about His truth in the words of Holy Scripture. That is how I came to it. No one forced me. No one intimidated me. That is how I have always tried to persuade others to the truth of what I hold. I despise coercion in practically any form except that required to force criminals to cease and desist.

Another reason why I want the theology of Sovereign Grace to win the day is not only that I believe it is truly biblical, but also because I want to see a Third Great Awakening. There is no doubt of the place of Sovereign Grace in the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions or of the development of missions and education, etc., among Southern Baptists in particular. Just think about the fact that the fellow who was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention the most number of times, P.H. Mell. He was noted for writing a work on Predestination which I have in my library. That speaks volumes!!!!

However, the real issue for me is another awakening and the transformation of our contemporary culture of madness and murder. The only theology that deals with the reality of how bad man is is Sovereign Grace. Man’s situation is that of total depravity, of madness, mayhem and murder. Only the Gospel of the Sovereign Grace of God can deal with a mess like we encounter in the human angst and anguish of today. Like one writer said, “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….” The same could be said for the rest of the doctrines of grace. Each one is a consistently pressing and persuasive invitation to receive Christ as He truly for man’s situation as it really is.

Somehow or other this theology moves people to start praying for a visitation of God, a coming down of Heaven to earth, a spiritual advent of Christ (who said He is coming to us everyday, spiritually), and when the Awakening occurs society is transformed. It has happened in the past twice, and it will occur again, if we believe what God says in His word.

36 Jim Pemberton October 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm

“I want to make it very clear about the ground on which I want this. Not one the grounds of forced submission, of high pressure demands by the advocates of those who hold this position. Not at all. I want it one the ground that the believer and practitioner has come to the persuasion through study, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, through reason with God and what He has revealed about His truth in the words of Holy Scripture.”

Excellent point, Dr. Willingham. Those fearful of any kind of “theological takeover” are suspicious of some sort of deceit or codified denial of their position to force people to accept a theology they really don’t want to hold. So they believe proponents of that theology are guilty of some evil intent for it.

37 dr. james willingham October 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Funny, Jim, how religious liberty, and the union of Separates and Regulars with freedom for the folks who held that Christ tasted death for every man came out of the Sovereign Grace, so-called Calvinistic folks. Look at Z.T. Cody, taught by Boyce, going forward to fight for his more lax views. Where else could that happen. But they were more liberal than we expect, consider the eldresses of Sandy Creek. Even our Moderates were not the liberals they seemed. When I delivered my address at the Jersey Church celebration in 1985 on the subject, “The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses,” the Moderates simply listed the title of the address without comment or every any response. One Conservative friend read it, sent it back, and said, “I don’t agree,” but would not discuss the issues. Real Sovereign Grace is far more flexible and liberal (and I mean liberal in the best sense of the term though I know most folks think of it in terms that really fit the Skeptics more than anyone or even the Modernists) (in other words no supernaturalism or biblical reliability at all).

And then you have the reality that Southern under the Sovereign Grace folks like Boyce and Manly, Broadus, and others was more of an open society that a closed one…The Toy incident merely confirms that they were willing to maintain the validity and reliability of Holy Scripture, something that the Moderates failed to do.

38 Leslie Puryear October 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm

After I wrote an op-ed piece on Calvinism in our state paper, Dr. Akin tracked me down and offered to bring me to the campus for a look at what is going on there. He’s serious about that. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to coordinate our schedules for my visit, but I have no doubt we will do so in the future.

39 dr. james willingham October 22, 2012 at 10:00 pm

He will show you the result of the 1787 union of Separate and Regular Baptists which allows for differences to exist in order to promote the unity that comes from evidence that persuades to the truth. In other words, you must let people exercise that which is their right to work out things for themselves. They have a few Sovereign Grace/Calvinist faculty members on the faculty, not near the near 100% of the original seminary when it was founded, but then the Sovereign Grace view has waned for the past century, a waning well-summed up in Dr. R.T. Kendall’s Master thesis on “The Rise and Demise of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention” at the Univ. of Louisville, with some qualifications that I would insist upon though not germane at this point.

40 Christian Colson October 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

It frustrates me when people point out the arrogance of many Calvinists, but do so with their noses in the air as if they are above “those people.” I will admit that I stand in the more reformed camp. But I am in no way a Calvinist. I am a Christian.

It’s the reversed arrogance that I just can’t stand. “You think you’re better than me but I’m really better than you, so I’m going to point out your faults and failures before you point out mine. And then I’m going to scoff and anything you say.” Do we really think Akin is trying to be deceitful? Do we really think he is saying one think while plotting another? Come on people. This isn’t a presidential campaign. He’s not a politician. He’s the leader of one of our great seminaries.

I will agree that many Calvinists can be militant about things. But the close-mindedness and finger pointing of the other side is just as harmful to the Gospel. We all have the same purpose–to spread the Good News around the world. It is good news, isn’t it? If it is, then stop looking like you just bit into a rotten apple, stop bickering like a bunch of 4 year-olds, and get to work.

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