Trying to Live Out the Calvinism Committee Statement

by Bart Barber on June 14, 2013 · 136 comments

“Encouraging” is the best word I can find to describe the aftermath of the SBC Calvinism Study Committee. So encouraging, in fact, that I am emboldened to try something risky. One way to pursue a sort of “unity-lite” is to put aside soteriological discussions as off-limits. I regret that this approach has, for too much of our recent history, been the most reliable one and has probably corresponded pretty closely to the best outcome we could achieve. A more robust unity, however, occurs when we are able to discuss even our differences and to emerge from that completed conversation as friends and brothers still, and with our love and respect for one another undiminished (or enhanced? Is that too much to hope?).

The Study Committee report itself acknowledges that soteriology is important and that our differences should generate dialogue rather than silence among us:

These differences should spur us to search the Scriptures more dutifully, to engage in lively interaction for mutual sharpening and collective Gospel effectiveness, and to give thanks that what we hold in common far surpasses that on which we disagree.…

We affirm the responsibility and privilege of every Southern Baptist to advocate his or her doctrinal convictions. We affirm that theology should be honored and privileged in our conversations and cooperation. We also affirm that theological and doctrinal debate can be a sign of great health within a denomination that is devoted to truth and is characterized by trust.

While encouraging dialogue, however, the report warns us…especially us as users of the Internet and social media…to exercise caution in the content, tone, and spirit of the dialogue that we conduct:

We affirm the responsibility of all Southern Baptists to guard our conversation so that we do not speak untruthfully, irresponsibly, harshly, or unkindly to or about any other Southern Baptist. This negativity is especially prevalent in the use of social media, and we encourage the exercise of much greater care in that context.

We deny that our cooperation can be long sustained if our conversation becomes untruthful, uncharitable, or irresponsible

Are we up to that challenge? Considering this vision of robust soteriological dialogue that does not threaten our cooperative unity, are we the sort of people who dare to attempt to live that way?

We are about to find out.

One of the points of Calvinism that I do not embrace is Particular Redemption (i.e., Limited Atonement, Singular Redemption, etc.). I do not believe that there is any human being for whom Jesus did not offer His propitiatory sacrifice on the cross. I’m about to explain why I believe as I do, such as this forum permits, and then we’re going to engage in dialogue in the comments. I’m nervous about this. Dave is nervous about this, I think. My nervousness regards my peculiar limitations as much as it regards the general limitations that we all share (i.e., the temptations we face in the midst of spirited debate). Those particular limitations include the fact that my degree is in history rather than theology, and therefore I am only a theologian in the sense that all of us in this conversation are. Also, as an historian, I have read enough of the previous exchanges on this topic to know both that I will be able to offer nothing that is new and that all that I say, when it was offered before, was insufficient to put the controversy to rest.

Nevertheless, I am more hopeful than I am fearful. Why? Because the old insult about “Father, Son, and Holy Bible” notwithstanding, I believe in the Holy Spirit—nay, DEPEND upon the Holy Spirit. Believing that there is one Spirit means that I must be optimistic about all of those who share Him. And so, I invite you—both those of you who will agree with my conclusions and especially those of you who will disagree—to join with me in the aspiration that this will be among our finest moments and that all Southern Baptists will look to this comment thread as an example of how brothers seek together a more perfect understanding of the faith.

Why I Favor a General Atonement

Defining the Doctrine:

Calvinism, strictly defined, teaches that there are people for whom Christ did not make atonement in His death on the cross. Together with Calvinists I believe that Jesus died on the cross in the place of sinners, taking the punishment for their sins upon Himself (i.e., we agree about penal-substitution). Together with Calvinists I believe that Christ’s substitutionary death was made for the elect. Together with Calvinists I agree that some, on the basis of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, will receive forgiveness from their sins and will spend eternity in Heaven, free from the punishment due them for their sins. Together with Calvinists I agree that others will be punished for their sins in eternal Hell. But at this point we disagree: Full-fledged Calvinists believe that Jesus did not make substitution for this latter group of people, while I believe that He did.

It is critically important that I represent the doctrine of Particular Redemption accurately in this section. For those of you who are Calvinists, although it is possible that I have not said EVERYTHING here that you might wish to say as an apologetic or explanation of why you believe as you do, if the preceding paragraph in any way mischaracterizes this doctrine as held by Calvinistic Southern Baptists, then you will do me a great favor to point that out right away.

Biblical Data:

Of course, if there were any statement in the New Testament identifying any person or group of people who was not the object of Christ’s work on the cross, then this discussion would be over, at least for those of us who are biblical inerrantists. But there is no such statement in the Bible. There are statements in the New Testament to the effect that Christ died for the elect, but this is a point on which we agree, not a point of difference between us. There are also statements in the New Testament that use precisely the words that I would use to describe a general atonement. Perhaps the most explicit of those is 1 John 2:2.

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2, NASB)

Among all of the passages used to support the idea of general atonement, this one is the most explicit because it uses the word “propitiation,” which can be referring to nothing other than Christ’s death on the cross. Also, this sentence contains a phrase (“not for ours only”) that directly addresses and then denies some potential limitation of the scope of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice that was in the minds of the author and the readers. Finally, instead of this limited universe of objects of Christ’s propitiation (whoever they were), the sentence asserts “the whole world” as the actual recipients of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice.

It would not be fair to suggest that Calvinists have no response even to this, the strongest text for those who affirm a general atonement. My Southern Baptist friends who are Calvinists are all—every last one of them—biblical inerrantists who have struggled honestly with 1 John 2:2 and have advanced explanations of why this verse does not actually mean what everyone takes it to mean upon first reading. And yet, I think it would be fair to say that the persuasive appeal of those explanations is not strong except among those with a prior commitment to the doctrine of Particular Redemption. Also, there are other texts beyond this one. 2 Peter 2:1 is formidable. So is 1 Timothy 4:10. There are others. For each of these passages, Calvinists have offered explanations in defense of Particular Redemption that are, for them, persuasive. And these other passages are, in my opinion, less decisive, since their vocabulary is less explicitly tied to Christ’s atoning sacrifice or less explicitly refutes limitations of the scope of that sacrifice. And yet for myself, I find the absence of a clear statement limiting the scope of the atonement, when combined with what strikes me as the plainest reading of 1 John 2:2 and these other passages, to be persuasive in favor of general atonement.

Theological Considerations:

The stronger case for Particular Redemption, in my opinion, is theological rather than biblical (not that these are in opposition to one another, but they can be differentiated). A number of rhetorical approaches can be identified:

Appeal to the Efficacy of the Atonement:

One popular line of argumentation, especially in recent conversations, deals with the efficacy of the atonement. It goes like this: Everyone either limits the atonement in some way or is a universalist. Yes, Calvinists limit the scope of the atonement by saying that it does not apply to all people, but non-Calvinistic non-Universalists limit the efficacy of the atonement by holding a view of it by which it does not save anyone entirely.

It is the most persuasive of the arguments in favor of Particular Redemption, as much for its emotional significance as for its logical force. After all, in view of the gratitude all believers feel toward Christ for His work on the cross, to put any of us in the position of devaluing what He accomplished there is to make us very uncomfortable. And yet, it is as wrong to say more than what the New Testament says about Christ’s work on the cross as it is to say less than what the New Testament says about it. I think that other theological arguments for Particular Redemption are actually stronger than this one, at least as far as their logical validity goes.

I admit it: I believe that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross did not entirely accomplish the salvation of anyone. I submit that even Calvinists agree with me. You don’t have to abandon monergism to conclude that, even for the elect, Jesus did not entirely accomplish salvation on the cross. After all, even monergists acknowledge an entire suite of events, with the cross indisputably at the center, that together accomplish our salvation entirely. The Father elected. The Son atoned. The Spirit calls and regenerates. The sinner believes and repents. These do not all happen at the same time. In the New Testament, God is even content to list among His saving acts His delay of Christ’s return, giving us time to hear the gospel and be saved. Unless one believes in eternal justification, salvation is not entirely accomplished for anyone until all of this has transpired, and even if you do believe in eternal justification, you have relocated the moment of salvation not back to Christ’s death on the cross but back to eternity past. For the Calvinist, it is true, all of God’s saving events things must inevitably accompany one another, but it is not, I don’t believe, accurate to say that Christ’s atoning work on the cross is, according to Calvinism, the first cause of the whole sequence. Rather, the electing choice of the Father before the beginning of time occupies that position in Calvinist theory. Calvinism tightly couples the atonement with election and regeneration. Belief in a general atonement is, necessarily, a decoupling of the atonement from election and regeneration to some degree.

And so, if I understand Calvinists correctly, salvation is irreversibly determined by God long before Christ was crucified, and salvation is finally accomplished at the moment of conversion, which is, for all of us reading this, something that takes place long after Christ’s crucifixion. What Christ accomplished on the cross was simply this: He provided entirely the basis for the salvation of sinners, whenever it might be that salvation should be fully accomplished. On the cross salvation was fully purchased, albeit not fully delivered yet. On the cross the punishment due for our sin was executed upon Christ. Because of what Christ did on the cross it is not unjust that we might be saved.

Appeal to the Injustice of Double-Punishment:

But if because of Christ’s death it is no longer unjust that we might be saved, does that mean that it is no longer just that we might be condemned? The strongest theoretical argument in favor of Particular Redemption, in my opinion, is the appeal to the injustice of double-punishment for sins. If Christ paid for the sins of the whole world on the cross, how can it be just that any person should pay for those sins in Hell? Would not such a person be paying the second time a punishment that Christ has already paid the first time?

This line of persuasion reveals so many of the things that I admire about Calvinists. Calvinists take seriously the details of the gospel. You guys rightfully ponder the fact that the gospel cannot be arbitrary. God does not just flippantly come to a sinner and declare, “Do over!” He does not regard our sins and say, “Let’s just pretend that never happened. It’s no big deal.” He does not just willy-nilly decide upon and schedule the passion of the Christ. Sin matters. Holiness matters. Justice matters. Punishment matters. Grace matters, and so does the cost of grace. Every detail of the gospel story has transpired just the way it has in the service of divine, eternal reasons that matter. God bless you for reminding us all of that and for teaching us to take it seriously. There is nothing wrong with pondering deeply the details of penal substitution, and if you do so, you cannot help but face this question of double-punishment.

Unless you adopt the Particular Redemption view.

Limiting the scope of the atonement does solve the troublesome question of double-punishment. That is the greatest strength of the view.

How, then, do I deal with the problem of double-punishment? You must be asking that question. “Not satisfactorily” is likely to be the answer from my more Calvinistic friends. Gosh, I don’t know how satisfied even I am with my treatment of this topic. I would nevertheless offer the following thoughts:

  1. The detailed actuarial view of penal substitution that creates the problem of double punishment is not articulated in this form in the New Testament, but is instead inferred theologically from the text of the New Testament.
  2. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, which existed to point us forward to the sacrifice of Christ, there is reason to believe that a person could still be held accountable for sins—even after an acceptable sacrifice had been made on his behalf—if that person was not sincerely contrite and repentant (consider Isaiah 1:10-20 as one example). Yes, these are Old Testament passages and do not fully take the gospel into account; however, regarding the question of how a propitiatory sacrifice works, such passages ought to be able to shed some light, shouldn’t they? I do not suggest that a passage like Isaiah 1 explains the gospel fully; rather, I maintain that it is hard to read Isaiah 1 while characterizing as preposterous the idea that God might still condemn to Hell someone for whom Christ did actually make a propitiatory sacrifice on the cross.
  3. Eternal condemnation in Hell poses problems for a detailed actuarial view of penal substitution regardless of one’s theory of the atonement, since by it a finite set of sins committed by a finite being results in infinite punishment. I believe in Hell and in the fearful teaching that they will suffer for eternity there whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. Obviously, I do not believe that objections to the justice of infinite Hell for finite sin are well founded. However, I do believe that all of us, Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike, solve the problem of the justice of Hell by moving somewhat away from a detailed actuarial view of sin and punishment. If we can do that, I contend, we can move away from the kind of detailed actuarial view of the atonement that poses the problem of double punishment.
  4. The failure to believe in Christ—the neglect of the way of salvation provided on the cross—is presented in the New Testament as a basis for condemnation. Since these grounds for condemnation are necessarily both consequent and subsequent to the atonement, they are available to serve as just grounds for condemnation even if one holds to a doctrine of general atonement and penal substitution.
  5. The objectionable idea of double-punishment is indeed invoked in the New Testament, but not in connection with the extent of the atonement. Rather, the idea of a person’s experiencing multiple occasions of regeneration (Hebrews 6:6) is the occasion that brings forth the objectionable idea of double punishment for sin.

Conclusion

For brevity’s sake, and in view of the hour (I write this at 2:00 am after a day of many hours and miles), I will draw things to a conclusion by speaking of my motivation in this post. Of course, I have partially revealed it in the introduction: I hope that we can model an exemplary way of conversing about soteriology. And yet, perhaps there is more to say.

Am I trying to convert Calvinists away from Calvinism? As is true of any teacher, I cannot deny that I hope both to discover truth and to lead others to discover it. Whatever is the truth, as well as I can see it, I want to proclaim to others. If someone reads this and comes to embrace a general atonement, I will not dissuade him, nor will I be disappointed.

And yet, I honestly declare that my heart is for the conversion of the lost to the gospel of Jesus Christ, not the conversion of Calvinists to my point of view. From brothers in Christ who have already experienced conversion, what I most desire is that, when we talk about the saving work of Christ on the cross, we will be so overcome by gratitude toward Him, undeserving as we are, that little room is left for anger or haughtiness toward one another. After all, the most important, most wonderful, most inspirational word in the phrase is neither “Limited” nor “General,” but “Atonement.” How amazing that there is an atonement at all, whatever its nature! And certainly, how unfathomable is the fact that it was made for me. Oh, let us contemplate the atonement more to worship Him than to contest with one another. May He grant that my little essay (as well as the conversation that may ensue) will lead us there.

If I have failed in this essay to treat my Calvinistic brothers with respect, then my failure reflects a lack of ability rather than a lack of effort. I profess my love for the Calvinists among us as my brothers in Christ. I dare hope that we will indeed understand it better by-and-by. Until that day, may God help us to learn from one another—me as well as you—and may our conversation reveal more clearly that we have experienced salvation than that we have understood it.

1 Dave Miller June 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm

For the record, I am not nervous about Bart’s post. Just hope our discussion will have the same irenic spirit that this post exhibits.

2 Mike Leake June 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Bart,
This is phenomenal. I’m not in a position to fully interact at this point…but I just wanted to drop a quick note and say that I pray that the irenic tone in this post continues throughout. This, brothers and sisters, is how this discussion ought to be had. Great job, Bart!

As a Calvinist I feel that you have fairly represented my position (though granted I’m still not sure if I’m a 4 or 5 point Calvinist–depends on who you ask). And you also have made great points about your position. Thank you!

3 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Thanks, Mike. I’m encouraged by how things have developed so far!

4 Tom Fillinger June 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

For those that may wish to pursue and respond to Bart’s gracious post I suggest that both he and you refer to pp. 89-100 in the title Living For God’s Glory – An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke et. al. Those pages answer with exegetical substance each of the points that Bart raised in his post.

In Grace,
Tom

5 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Thanks, Tom. As I tried to make clear in the original post, I know that I have contributed nothing new, and I know that Calvinists have formulated many replies to each of these points down through the years.

I did not, however, give a source for Calvinists to consult for those answers. Why? Because that’s your job. :-)

God bless.

6 Tom Fillinger June 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Bart,

This is not face to face but it is irenic and civil. I have appealed since the Ridgecest Bridge Builders Conf for this format.

When it gets really challenging is when we apply the principle of Non-Contradiction. One of us may be correct and the other incorrect. Both of us may be incorrect. But what is ABSOLUTELY NOT POSSIBLE is for us to hold differing understanding of a given text and both of us be correct. There is only one (1) correct interpretation of each portion of God’s Word. This is the time when we will prove our humility and grace. AM I most concerned about TRUTH or about ‘winning’ & being right? I truly hope we get to this point in our deliberations and show ourselves both gracious in our tone and tenacious for the TRUTH!

7 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Bart,

Great post. I’m one of those full fledged Calvinists. I heartily believe in particular redemption. I also heartily believe that none of us ever has or ever will know whether the people we encounter and share the glories of Christ with are numbered among the ones for whom Christ died.

Therefore I heartily believe in sharing the gospel with all. I can only pray that I will be more and more faithful in doing so.

And mostly, I heartily affirm the manner and tone of this post. This is how one engages the discussion, with conviction and humility.

Blessings.

8 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Thanks, Les. I appreciate your participation in the thread. This thing only succeeds if Calvinists join the dialogue.

9 Philip June 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I enjoyed the spirit and tone of your post. Would you consider taking John 6:36-40 and explaining what you see Jesus teaching? I read and see Jesus standing before a group that has rejected him. He takes the opportunity to inform them that God’s plan of redemption includes a gift of individuals who will believe in the Son and who will be eternally secured by the actions of the Son AND that these people he is addressing are not those given to him by the Father.
When I read it I see: (1) The Father will give the Son a people (2) The people given by the Father will come to the Son (3) Jesus will secure those given to Him by the Father
What do you see?

Thank you for your response.

10 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 8:01 am

Philip,

Please forgive my delay in responding. Although I thought I knew how I would respond, I wanted to make sure that I had looked again at precisely the verses that you mentioned…as a safeguard against giving a dumb answer. That opportunity just did not present itself until this morning. So, here’s my reply:

With regard to John 6:36-40, I could give a full exegesis of the passage here, but that would be lengthy and would perhaps lead us far afield. Since the topic of this post is the scope of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, perhaps it will suffice for me to say that I do not see Jesus in this passage teaching anything about that. The passage does say quite a bit about election, but I’m guessing that any Amyraldian would exegete John 6:36-40 in an identical way to you, and yet an Amyraldian would agree with me about the extent of the atonement.

11 Ken Hamrick June 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Brother Bart,

Thank you for both the spirit and the thought that you put into this post. As one who is neither Calvinist nor Traditionalist, I would like to offer an unexpected alternative.

The term atonement is an Old Testament term, kaphar, which literally means to cover, as with pitch (or, tar). It is a direct reference to the blood covering the Mercy Seat (and similar, such as the altar, and even the sprinkling of blood on the people). It is a picture of covering the sin (or sinner) with the blood of the sacrificial substitute — the interposition of the penalized substitute between the sinner and God. This interposition is God’s response to both the sinner’s faith and the sacrifice of the victim. Unless the sinner has faith, there is no atonement. Faith is just as integral to atonement as the sacrifice. When a qualified victim is sacrificed in behalf of a believer, God is propitiated and justice is seen as satisfied. Atonement is the satisfaction of justice by means of a substitutionary sacrifice.

There is not one case in the Old Testament where atonement was made for a sinner who did not have faith. Atonement is not synonymous with sacrifice, but it is the satisfaction of justice through a substitutionary sacrifice. However, God does not atone for the sin of a faithless sinner. It was by faith that Abel offered a better sacrifice. Only by faith does God choose to allow the penalized victim to be interposed between God and the sinner. Christ’s death was not an ipso facto atonement. It was a substitutionary sacrifice which can atone for the sins of anyone putting faith in that Savior and that sacrifice.

It is precisely because Christ’s sacrifice is not simultaneous with forgiveness that proves that atonement is not provided until one puts faith in Him. Forgiveness is only withheld where God has not yet been propitiated. Until a man is saved, he remains under the wrath of God. Such wrath is inconsistent with atonement. Until a man is saved, he is not yet reconciled. Such lack of reconciliation is inconsistent with atonement. Until a man is saved, he is not yet redeemed. Such a lack of redemption is inconsistent with atonement. Until a man is saved, the penalty for his sin hangs over his head and he remains under the condemnation of God. Such a state of condemnation is inconsistent with atonement. Does the blood of the sacrifice cover the sins of the rebellious, God-hating sinner? Does the suffering and death of the Sacrifice stand between the God-hating unbeliever and the Holy God? Atonement is not the mere shedding of the blood of the Sacrifice. Atonement is what happens when the blood is applied to the sin(ner).

The Biblical figures of Christ’s death as a payment of debt or the payment of ransom are metaphors, but they are not intended to convey the idea of money. We are not redeemed with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. The debt and ransom require nothing short of His very life, because the debt in actuality is a criminal debt and capital offense. Therefore, the total of what Christ paid on the cross would be required merely to save a single sinner—every individual owes the entirety of Christ’s suffering and death. Since the whole of the cross is applied to each sinner as he believes, then Christ’s death was not parcelled out by assignment, as to whose sins it would be applied to, at the time that He died. Rather, it is a sacrifice fit to save any single sinner who comes to faith, which the Judge in the case requires before He will accept that sacrifice as being in behalf of any sinner.

Thanks for your consideration.

12 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 8:07 am

Ken,

To make a distinction between Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice on the cross on the one hand and the accomplishment of atonement at the moment of regeneration on the other hand strikes me as a theological approach that would work equally well for those who are Calvinists and those who are not. Although we use the term “atonement” in differentiating the general and the limited view, the heart of the question is simply this: The work of Jesus on the cross, to whom did it apply? Whether you would call that word “atonement” or “propitiation” or whatever else, the question still remains.

13 Ken Hamrick June 15, 2013 at 9:14 am

Bart,

God’s wrath remains on the elect sinner until he believes. We are not propitiated AT the cross but only THROUGH the cross. God’s wrath (or justice) is not satisfied in my particular case until God chooses to interpose the cross of Christ between me and Him. Justice in this case cannot be satisfied by the mere fact that a sufficient price has been exacted from a Substitute; justice must also find that the Substitute and I have been joined in reality to become one identity.

14 Ken Hamrick June 15, 2013 at 10:35 am

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:2, NASB)

If our sins were propitiated 2000 years ago, then we would not need propitiation. The verse implies that we need propitiation now because we have sinned now. And where can we now find a propitiation for the sins that we have committed in our lifetime? John points us to Christ for propitiation—not that He propitiated God’s wrath against every person’s sin 2000 years ago, but that His death then can propitiate God in your case now, and in the case of any and every man in the world how might choose to come to Christ in faith.

15 Joe Blackmon June 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Bart writes stuff like this….just off the top of his Jim Neighbors looking head….at 2 am. I’d like to lash at his head 1,000 times with a steaming hot spaghetti noodle. Just makes me sick!!! :-)

16 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

You ought to hear me do Gomer Pyle.

17 Christiane June 14, 2013 at 3:17 pm

“He Himself is the propitiation for our sins;
and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. ”
(1 John 2:22)

and

” . . . “Behold, I am making all things new.” ”
(from St. John’s Book of Revelation 21:5)

St. John’s understanding of Christ IS as the Lord of the Cosmos.
I think this is actually something that both sides can agree upon, although they may differ in how this applies to a theology of salvation.

18 Joe Blackmon June 15, 2013 at 1:52 am

Both sides would agree, however, that for any person to be saved, they must personally, consciously, in this lifetime repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ. They would also agree that God will not save anyone from any other faith (muslim, mormon, etc…) regardless of how sincere they were in that belief. Finally, they would both agree that anyone who disputed the above was preaching a gospel different from the one the Lord Jesus Christ preached.

19 dr. james willingham June 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Christiane: Frank Beck, successor to A.J. Gordon, called attention to the fact that the “whole world” has limitations as witness, I Jn.5:19, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.” The world, lost, lies confortably in his grasp, but obviously John Excepts himself along with those who “are of God.” A study of kosmos, the word translated world, will support the idea of limitations.

20 Dwight McKissic June 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Bart,

I appreciate the deliberate, determinative, declarative, decision by the convention for the calvinists and non-calvinists to coexists in our convention with mutual respect, love toward one another, and civil dialogue.

You have represented non-calvinists quite well. The tone and tenor of your post is in keeping with the letter and spirit of the newly adopted “peace resolution” between the two groups.

If our convention could somehow how manage to adopt similar kinds of peace resolutions on all areas of division within our convention–and the policies and practices reflected the peace resolution–then our convention could be restored to wholeness, and perhaps the Lord would allow us to return to our former glory, for His glory.

21 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 4:02 pm

“deliberate,
determinative,
declarative,
decision by the convention”

Dwight’s preview for his Sunday Sermon.

22 dr. james willingham June 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

R.G. Lee eat your alliterative heart out.

23 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Dwight,

Thank you for your kinds words about the post. It was good to see you in Houston, and I found it most agreeable to be able to greet your wife.

In Christ,
Bart

24 volfan007 June 14, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Dwight,

I did not get to see you in Houston. I did not get a Tex Mex meal payed for….like the others. How disappointing.

David

25 Dave Miller June 14, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I agree.

26 Roger Simpson June 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Dr. Barber

Congrats on now being the 1st VP.

I think there is some “ambiguity” in the term “Calvinism” which is causing at least part of the difficulty when people discuss soteriology vis a vis “Calvinism”.

I have always understood “particular redemption” (meaning that Christ only died for a subset of all people) to be “Hyper-Calvinism” not “Calvinism”. So I think a person could be a “Calvinist” and still not hold to particular redemption.

My layman’s reading of the “Calvinist” statement (i.e. TTTTT statement) is that Hyper-Calvinism is outside the bounds of either Calvinism or Traditionalism in SBC life. I don’t believe that any one of the signatories of the Page document is a “self-described Hyper Calvinist”, but I could be wrong.

Put another way, I think the recent document from Dr. Page et. al. — is not seeking to include Hyper-Calvinism in the SBC tent.

There may be some lack of precision as to what hyper-Calvinism is. Is it the same as what most of us call “Particular Redemption?”.

Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

27 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Roger,

I’m not aware of any reputable sources that characterize those who hold to particular redemption as hyper-Calvinists. Not saying there aren’t any. I just have never seen any.

Spurgeon held to particular redemption and I know of no one who would call him a hyper-Calvinist.

Blessings brother.

28 Tarheel June 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Good point, Les.

I do not know any Southern Baptists who are hyper Calvinists. With so many people saying they exist – they must – but I have yet to meet such a creature. ;-)

Note; WA Criswell held to particular redemption as well.

29 Greg Harvey June 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Yes he did. The pastor friend of mine that was the interim in College Station actually called him and discussed this with him at the time and was surprised at how many of the TULIP points Dr. Criswell acknowledged (if I am accurately representing both my memory and what he told me of the conversation at the time).

WE should reserve the term Hyper Calvinists not for ones that acknowledge God’s sovereignty but for those that claim no evangelism is necessary, by the way, or those that claim they can in advance tell who deserves to be preached to and who does not. And that does NOT necessarily mean someone who simply doesn’t give an altar call (though that is a rather stark rejection of a fairly consistent Southern Baptist tradition and I understand why it causes concern.)

The people that deserve the term “Hyper Calvinist” are the ones that believe–in spite of direct commandments–that we are not to preach the word to every tribe and every nation (and therefore every person) are those who deserve the derision of the label “Hyper Calvinist”. Let’s reserve the use of it for them and unite in condemning that position to the point of dissociating with those that hold to it.

But those that fulfill the Great Commission and serve as evangelists and missionaries? That’s being Southern Baptist through and through.

30 David R. Brumbelow June 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

“I’ve never been able to understand how the Calvinists, some of them, believe in a ‘limited atonement.’ That is, the sacrifice of Christ applied only to those who are the elect, but there is no sacrifice of Christ for the whole world—when John expressly says He is the sacrifice, the atoning, dedicated gift of God in our lives for the whole world [1 John 2:2]. And it is just according to whether we accept it or not as to whether the life of our Lord is efficacious for us in His atoning death.”
-W. A. Criswell, 1 John 2:1-2; wacriswell.com

W. A. Criswell was a Calvinist,
but he was certainly not a strict, five-point Calvinist.

He definitely did not believe in Limited Atonement.

David R. Brumbelow

31 Chris Roberts June 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Which helps to prove that nobody’s perfect.

32 Robert Vaughn June 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

David, do you know which points of Calvinism that Criswell held? It had never crossed my mind that he was a Calvinist.

Thanks.

33 David R. Brumbelow June 15, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Robert Vaughn,
W. A. Criswell would proudly proclaim himself a Calvinist. But there are 347 varieties of Calvinists. And “Calvinist” meant something a little different in the 1970 SBC than it does to some today. Some would call “non-Calvinists” by the term “Moderate Calvinists.

As one who knew him well said,
“W. A. Criswell called himself a Calvinist, but he sure didn’t act like a Calvinist.”

Criswell strongly proclaimed election, predestination, eternal security, and the Sovereignty of God. But he rejected Limited Atonement, and strongly proclaimed that a sinner had the choice of either accepting or rejecting Christ and his choice was the only thing that would send him to Heaven or Hell.

Peter Lumpkins gave some great Criswell quotes along these lines at his site:
http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2012/06/calvinists-recruit-wa-criswell-to-their-cause-by-peter-lumpkins.html

Having said that, I’ve never seen where Criswell said how many points of Calvinism he believed. And the points would vary, depending on who defines them.

So to the question was Criswell a Calvinist?, the answer is, “Yes, and no.” But he definitely did not believe in Limited Atonement, and if he were an unknown preacher now, he would likely be accused of Pelagianism (or semi-Pelagianism) by some today.
David R. Brumbelow

34 Chris Roberts June 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm

David,

If he held to total depravity then he was certainly no semi-Pelagian.

35 Robert Vaughn June 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Thanks, David. I see now this subject was the fodder for some internet discussion awhile back that I apparently missed somehow. Yes, I guess there are gazillion ways to approach defining W. A. Criswell as a Calvinist (or not). It just had not crossed my mind to so define him.

36 cb scott June 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm

David R. Brumbelow,

What you have stated about Dr. Criswell is true, every word.

You also made this true observation of the time:

“And “Calvinist” meant something a little different in the 1970 SBC than it does to some today. Some would call “non-Calvinists” by the term “Moderate Calvinists.”

David R. Brumbelow, that statement is so very true.

37 cb scott June 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm

“If he held to total depravity then he was certainly no semi-Pelagian”

Chris Roberts,

Nor were any of the men who signed the Trad Document Semi-Pelagians. That was an unfair and poor accusation of a lot of theologically sound men.

38 Frank L. June 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm

“””So to the question was Criswell a Calvinist?, the answer is, “Yes, and no.”””

Isn’t that the answer with so many?

39 dr. james willingham June 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Dear David: A friend of mine once had the opportunity for an extended discussion of Calvinism with Dr. Criswell at Ridgecrest, and he said Dr. Criswell said, “James Petrigu Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology sums up my theology.” Boyce is, of course, a limited atonement advocate. Even so I am apt to say, since there is a sufficiency of value for the populations of millions of planets, vide, John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, that the multitude for whom He died is numberless. In fact, every one preaches a limited atonement. The Calvinists limits by the purpose of God, the Arminian and General Atonement limit it by the power of man. Our Lord used particular redemption to a woman of Canaan, saying, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Her response was to worship Him. Then He told her it was not right to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs, and she responded by arguing that even the dogs eat the crumbs, etc., paying His grace the supreme compliment, a crumb of it being enough to meet all her needs. Thus, total depravity and reprobation (the idea of dogs returning to their vomit would be appropriate it would seem) served to stir her to respond to Christ. In short, limited atonement by purpose, along with election and all the other doctrines of Grace are invitations. As Dr. Eusden stated in his Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (first text book in theology used at Harvard), “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimate,…” The same could be said for every point of the TULIP acrostic doctrines along with reprobation. Our Lord said to His fellow Nazarites that Elijah and Elisha were not sent to any widow or leper in Israel, but they did minister to a widow from the same area as the woman of Canaan and a leper named Naaman the Syrian. Ever hear of therapeutic paradoxes, of seemingly opposite truths producing a desire effect? The Bible is the deepest book of all, being inspired by Omniscience and reflecting the depth commensurate with such a source. That Book, Intellectually, is the challenge of the ages. I read some years ago, where a missionary to southeast asia who was dealing with prostitutes found that they were not moved by love, but they were stirred, indeed, by the idea of the Sovereignty of God.

The work which inspired the great Century of Missions, the modern missionary movement, if you please, was the work of the Calvinist, Jonathan Edwards, whose works call for a radically new approach in order to understanding them. Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, was pleading the promises recorded in Edwards’ Humble Attempt, along with others praying over those same promises also, and look at what they accomplished. Think what we might do, if we were to appoint days of prayer for the advancement of the Gospel to win the whole earth and every soul upon it, beginning in this generation, by pleading those same prophecies and promises.

40 Tarheel June 15, 2013 at 9:59 pm

First, Many Calvinists today argue as Criswell did, that the atonement had some value to the entire world….and still do not deny particular redemption (limited atonement). (sufficient for all – efficient for elect)

Second, SP is linked to ones view of depravity – not particular atonement – so I’m doubting that Criswell woud be do labeled today.

41 David R. Brumbelow June 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

C. B. Scott,
Thanks.
Enjoyed visiting with you at the SBC.

Bart Barber,
Very good article. I think Wally Amos would agree.
David R. Brumbelow

42 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Tarhell,

Just for the record, somme here know this already, I am a SB ordained pastor and have been ordained in the PCA since 1992 as well. And not only have I never met a hyper in the SBC, I have never known of one in the PCA, surely a Calvinist denomination if there is one. In fact, a hyper could not get ordained in the PCA.

Blessings brother.

43 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Les Prouty,

I love you, brother, but you are not a Southern Baptist. You are a PCA guy who was mistakenly ordained by some Southern Baptist guys who did not properly question you. Had they, they would not have ordained you as a Southern Baptist.

You are, in fact, a PCA guy who visits a Baptist blog and makes comments. Now, that does not mean I will take you off of my Christmas card list. It does mean that we are not going to plant churches together.

44 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm

CB,

I really hope to meet you someday. Are you still in God’s country (Alabama for the unenlightened)?

They weren’t mistaken. At that time, I affirmed credo immersion only. Can’t blame them.

And I really do love being allowed to participate here. I’ve been banned at a couple other SB sites. :)

Christmas card list? Darn postal service. I didn’t get it last year. And I understand we can’t plant churches together. But each of os can separately advance the Kingdom, amen?

How about orphan care in Haiti together? I’d love to have you come along on one of my trips. My church partner in Haiti isa Baptist church. In fact, I got to help him baptize 27 new converts in the ocean last time I was there in March. It was a glorious experience.

Can we get coffee sometime? Missouri or wherever you are? Of, and War Eagle!

45 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Les Prouty,

I am now in Georgia trying to educate the BULLDOG NATION on the finer points of FOOTBALL and how to lose gracefully to the SABANATION. However, I must say that they are extremely resistant to learning revealed truth.

Yes, I would be most open to an opportunity to work with you in Haiti, as I am convinced you are a hard charger in your efforts there and you love children and are not condescending to those you serve, but are filled with godly compassion.

Also, any time you are in South Georgia, coffee and lunch is on me and I will give you a bag of Vidalia onions to take back to Missouri. Your wife can make you some ham and onion sandwiches. That is what I had for dinner and they are good! Yes, they are! BTW, I still owe you a BAMA cap. Here is my email address: cbscott5512@gmail.com. Send me your proper mailing address and I will get it to you before September so you can wear it and not continue life as a loser AUBURN Fan. :-)

46 Robert Vaughn June 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm

CB, maybe there should be a Georgia-Alabama college football reconciliation committee. You could be the chairman.

Or not…

47 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Robert Vaughn,

It has been stated that FOOTBALL Reconciliation is my strength, as I use such a non-offensive manner of mediation. I treat all parties fairly. . . . and I never lie.

48 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

CB, more to say later. Off to dinner and Superman with my bride.

49 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Les Prouty,

I look forward to it.

I do hope you enjoy dinner with your wife and I especially hope you enjoy the movie based on my personal biography.

50 Les Prouty June 15, 2013 at 12:31 am

CB,

South GA? I lived for 3 years in Forsyth, GA. Had an enjoyable time there, though those Dawgs can be a bit obnoxious.

The Baptist pastor who gave me my first preaching opportunity (brave soul) pastors in south GA. Valdosta. He’s been there a long time.

I’ll email you and we can exchange info. Thanks brother.

Dinner was great with the little woman and the movie about your life was pretty good too.

51 Tarheel June 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Bart Barber and Dave Miller…HELP.

The Presbyterian is already calling names! It’s TarHEEL not TarHell (although…nevermind.)

Les, No I did not know that you were Presbyterian…but thanks for owning up to that…now I will know that everything you say is to be immediately treated as suspect.

52 Tarheel June 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Of course I am kidding, Les. In fact, my friends often call me a “Baptiterian” because of my soteriological Calvinist leanings coupled with otherwise baptist ecclesiology.

I wear it with honor!

53 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Oh Tarheel, sorry. But maybe CB likes it the way I typed it since there are no Tarheels in SEC country.

But Tarhell for Tarheel is not as bad as the pastor who mis typed “things” with an “o” instead of an “i” one time. That was funny.

As far as you treating what I say as suspect, well you’ll be far back in the line behind CB. :)

54 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Tarheel, I knew you were. See how we are all getting along?

55 Les Prouty June 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm

“Baptiterian.” I’m often called that too (among other things) since I will wet a baptismal candidate sometimes more, sometimes less.

56 Tarheel June 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

LOL. That is funny things with an “o”.

I once types a letter to teens and parents to make sure they wear their shirts on the first day of a trip we were taking…however – I left out the “r” so it read –

“Remember to wear your _ _ _ _ on the first day!”

Yea, that is right – complete with the exclamation point.

but we digress from the topic at hand. ;-)

57 Pastor Bill June 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm

This is all so very entertaining… I mean, “I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!”

58 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Roger,

Particular Redemption (we who are not Calvinists usually call it “Limited Atonement,” but I thought it might improve the tone of the article to use what some Calvinists have chosen as a preferred term) is not a marker of hyper-Calvinism. Plain old Calvinism affirms Limited Atonement.

Items that tend to mark the movement from Calvinism to hyper-Calvinism include eternal justification, the rejection of duty-faith, and the rejection of general offers of salvation. Peter Toon’s The Emergence of Hypercalvinism in English Nonconformity is among the definitive works on the subject.

59 Tim Brister June 14, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Bart:

Thanks for historically delineating Calvinism from Hyper-Calvinism. Having a non-Calvinist like yourself correctly define the positions is helpful. I am afraid that a lot of those opposing Calvinism are really opposing Hyper-Calvinism. That is not to say that they don’t oppose things like limited atonement. Rather, it is to say they conflate the two and often say things like “if you hold to all five points, you are an extreme or hyper-Calvinist” when in actuality it is as you said, “plan old Calvinism.” When I hear the term “hyper-Calvinism” tossed out in SBC debates, most often it is a term defined by that person and is not historically understood. That makes it difficult to dialogue when the two (Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism) are conflated.

60 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

Tim,

Agreed. James Leo Garrett (smartest Southern Baptist alive today) once said to me, “Only when you are able to articulate your interlocutor’s point of view so clearly and accurately that he himself says, ‘Yes, that’s what I believe,’ are you ready then to begin to show why you think he is wrong.”

61 Ben Coleman June 17, 2013 at 5:20 pm

This type of thing is part of why I maintain that thorough training in just plain listening to people (in the sense that what you hear actually has a chance of matching what the speaker intended to say) ought to be mandatory in seminary and taught in the church.

62 dr. james willingham June 15, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Roger, my ordaining pastor was a self-professed supralapsarian hyper calvinist. The term as he used it has reference to the order of the decrees, and it did not hinder him one bit from being a soul winner. Two of his sermons which I remember were, “Why Sit Ye Here Till Ye Die?” and the other, “The Great Supper.” He once pleaded with a member of my family until tears ran down the man’s face. Our problem is that we find a group in history who use the term and immediately think of every one who hold that term to be the same, and, as the saying goes, “It ain’t necessarily so.” Dr. Ernest R. Campbell was his name. He died in 2004 after pastoring churches like FBC Hialeah, Fla., etc. Dr. Robert G. Lee thought so much of him that he put it in his will that Ernest R. Campbell was to preach his funeral. Of course, Dr. Lee had a number of preachers, at least five I think, but the only one who was legally required to do the job was Dr. Campbell. He had a Ph.D. from Bob Jones Univ and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject, “Messianic Expectations Among The Nations,” which I once speed read in about an hour or two (not a recommended practice). He had seven years of Greek, four years of Hebrew, two years of Aramaic, two years of German and French, but you could not tell it. A great man of God. His biography is listed on the internet, written from his materials by his son, Calvin, a retired coach from High Schools in Alabama.

63 Frank L. June 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

“””my ordaining pastor was a self-professed supralapsarian hyper calvinist. “””

That explains alot :)

64 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

To all:

It is a cardinal sin of blogging—and one of which I am frequently guilty—to drop a major post on the world just as one is about to become largely unavailable to engage in the ensuing conversation. I have just a few moments right now, and then perhaps, as strength endures, I will be able to comment further tonight.

Those of you whom I can answer quickly I will answer now. If you do not get a reply in this batch, please do not be insulted. It may mean that your questions are so deep and substantive as to require more time on my part than I can give at this moment.

65 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 4:11 pm

“It may mean that your questions are so deep and substantive . . .”

That often happens when I engage Bart Barber in a blog thread. His cognitive abilities are just too shallow to grasp the depth of substantive questions. That is why he is constantly asking Tim Rogers to explain to him what I asking.

Tim’s answer is always the same: “Bart, how would I know? I wear stupid bow-ties to the SBC and look Andy Griffith in Matlock when speaking to resolutions made by Pete Lumpkins. cb is way over my head”

66 Bart Barber June 14, 2013 at 4:15 pm

That’s the big story of the 2013 SBC: Tim Rogers stole Nathan Finn’s bowtie collection.

67 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Bart,

I heard that Nathan Finn is going to write a post about bow-tie theft for photo-ops and post it at Between the Times next week. I also heard that Frank Page is going to ask you to chair a special committee to investigate the problem and report the findings in Baltimore next year. I also heard that Jared Moore is going to write a book entitled: The Bow-Tie Bible Study.

Next year will be interesting and should draw a larger crowd.

68 Bob B. June 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

First let me say that as a young (hopefully coming out of my cage) Calvinist, I was greatly helped by attending the SBC Annual Meeting in Houston. This was actually my first convention to attend though I’ve been a Southern Baptist longer than I’ve been saved (forgive the tongue-in-cheek there). I found myself in tears at some of the most unexpected moments throughout the convention, as I simply marveled at the unity that was displayed in our great Savior and King. As I listened to Dr. Mohler share a story at 9Marks at 9 on Tuesday night about what it took ~30 years ago to recover our seminaries from liberalism I felt a great gratitude to those that have gone before me – as I shared that story with my dad over the phone the next day I found myself in tears – again, when I got home and shared this with my wife I could barely do justice to the story due to the overwhelming emotion I felt. Even now, as I think about it, I’m having trouble typing this without crying. This has made me ponder what exactly I am feeling – and I think the answer is that it is clear that these brothers and sisters who went before us truly loved Jesus. They were willing to do whatever it took to reclaim the SBC for Christ – and I’m so glad they did! And what’s even more moving, is that I suspect that very few of them were card-carrying, tulip-toting, full-fledged five-pointers – but they knew God and they followed after Christ! No theological system can create that kind of unity. Yes, it’s true that I’m thankful for the warm fellowship I have with my Calvinistic brothers – but we should all be even more thankful for the unity we have with the whole body of Christ because that is our true identity – there won’t be four- and five-pointers, Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the new earth – there will just be children of God.

With all that said, I hardly even want to offer a critique to Bart’s words, but I want to engage here to show what I think he and Dave are longing for, that we can have USEFUL discussions about theology.

I will offer some thoughts on each of Barts final points.

1) This is an excellent caution for all sides to hear and has a great deal of application to many subjects. For instance, just because the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, it does not mean we can’t use theological definitions to help us understand and explain the nature of God. And I would suggest that just as we do not deny the deity of Christ or of the Holy Spirit simply because other passages say there is one God, we should not necessarily oppose the limited atonement understanding of 1 John 2:2. However, that does not settle 1 John 2:2 but simply points out how seriously we must take it.

2) Bart, I see where you’re headed here, but I think this is probably the point that gave me the most surprise. The author of Hebrews clearly states that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Right before that in 10:3 he says “in [the Old Testament sacrifices] there is a reminder of sins every year.” But with Christ’s work on the cross, we know that he “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12), and “where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18). I feel quite sure I’m not saying anything new for those reading it, but I feel like your comment has a tendency to set us down a path we may not want to pursue. I think the 4-pointers have some really good arguments, but I don’t think we want to start discussing the nature of propitiatory sacrifices along these lines. But please clarify if I’ve misunderstood your point here.

3) I’m struggling a little bit here as I’m not quite sure what meaning you’re attaching to the word “actuarial” so I’m seeking clarity here more than anything else. I would say there is no problem with finite sins resulting in infinite punishment because it’s not the magnitude of the sin(s) that matters but the magnitude of the One being sinned against. When you sin against an infinite God you receive infinite punishment. This should be simple to explain even in an evangelistic setting, i.e. if you sin against me – no big deal, sin against the President, you might spend life in prison. With that said, I think the 4-pointers and non-Calvinists have a serious issue to wrestle with here because it’s a matter of upholding God’s justice. However, as a research engineer who waded through two years of calculus, I think the 4-pointer still has some flexibility here when you begin to ponder what “infinity” really means – so let me just say that I think some pastors who have never had to wrestle with higher mathematics should be very careful when they begin to explain things about infinity – it’s much bigger than many people realize!

4) I’m not sure what the point is here. This only seems to be an example that fits certain situations where people hear the gospel and reject it. What about those that never hear the gospel? I think this is a good point but I don’t see how it really fits into this discussion. Maybe I’m just missing something though (probably need my afternoon coffee).

5) This could turn into a whole series of discussions in and of itself. I think it’s kind of hard to use Heb. 6:6 in this discussion to win ANY argument due to various interpretations here. That said, I’m curious Bart, how you’re interpreting Heb. 6:6? I’m granting that since we are on a Southern Baptist blog that you’re not saying these people have lost their salvation, but if that is in fact your interpretation then I don’t think I see your point here. Are you speaking hypothetically of double-punishment? Let’s try to unpack this a little more.

In closing Bart, I think you hit the nail on the head in regards to our heart’s desire as teachers. I fully agree that “I hope both to discover truth and to lead others to discover it.” I think this is where it is so easy for us to get off track because we do have a passion for truth. I pray the Lord grants grace in helping us guard our tongues (and typing) as we seek to sharpen one another.

Finally brothers, let us heed Bart’s advice and behold amazing miracle that there is even an atonement at all! On that basis, if anyone commenting here is not gripped with an overwhelming desire to be united with all that Christ has redeemed then I would submit that he/she should seek the Lord in prayer and ask for such a spirit before attempting to engage in such a serious discussion.

May God unite us for the sake of millions that have yet to hear of His glorious grace and for the sake of His glorious name!

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

-Bob B.

69 Bob B. June 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

P.S.

I just realized I may not have made this clear. Each of my numbered points correspond to Bart’s numbered list in the original post.

70 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 8:15 am

Bob B,

Thanks for interaction with those points about double-punishment. I’ll reply to them in my next comment. But I wanted to reserve into a comment of its own my affirmation that you are doing EXACTLY what I had hoped for in this dialogue.

It is OK to hold differing views on such a question as this one. It is OK to articulate them. We can do so without sinning in the way that we do it. So far, I’m very encouraged by how the thread it going. As I read the rest of it to the end, I hope that continues!

71 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:05 am

Perhaps the best thing I can do is to clarify where I was unclear in what I wrote before. At the commencement, I should note for those who are following alone that you chose to respond to the numbered points at the end of the essay by which I sought to delineate some of my thoughts about reconciling general atonement with the problem of double-punishment for sins. To take them point-by-point:

1. Regarding the Trinity, the word does not appear in scripture, but all of the points of the definition do. What prevents me from putting limited atonement in the same category is that, unlike the Trinity, the case is lopsided for the question of limited atonement: We have a statement that propitiation was made for the whole world, and we have no corresponding statement that propitiation was withheld from anyone.

2. I’m not disputing any of what you’ve said in your response. I’m not saying that Old Testament sacrifices were innately efficacious. And yet, the Old Testament sacrifices were established by God at His direct and specific instruction. Why did He do so? What purpose did they serve? To have magical power to remove sin? No. I think we all agree that God instituted these sacrifices in order to prepare people for the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the cross by pointing us forward to him. On the existence and purpose of the ceremonial law I agree with John Calvin. What I have written requires no more than that. Old Testament ceremonies do not accomplish propitiation, but they do teach us about it.

3. By “actuarial” I simply mean the kind of approach that makes one go beyond the idea that Christ died for our sins to instead start detailing the accounts (“This much of Christ’s death went to pay for these sins that this person committed, so that account is paid off…”). I resolve the problem of infinite punishment for finite sins in exactly the same way as you do, but what we are doing there is something other than this actuarial approach to the idea of payment for sins. That’s my point.

4. The point simply has to do with what grounds might remain for eternal condemnation to Hell after Christ has made a propitiatory sacrifice for someone. The biblical answer is simply that those who do not receive that propitiatory sacrifice are those who receive condemnation. The language of the New Testament does not require that they actively reject the gospel. In John 3 the basis for condemnation is simply to have “not believed” and in Hebrews 2 it is no more than passive neglect., so the idea of the unevangelized really does not pose a problem for the wording of these verses.

5. I’m not trying to assert a full interpretation of Hebrews 6:6. Rather, I’m trying to address the idea of whether the New Testament articulates anywhere in its text this problem of double-punishment. It does do so, I am acknowledging, but I am simply pointing out that where this topic appears in the New Testament it has nothing to do with the idea of the extent of the atonement. There may be more implications that we could consider, but my objective was no more than to say what I’ve just explained.

72 Bob B. June 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Bart,

Thanks for your thoughtful responses to each of my questions. I think we’re on the same page with most of this, and where we may differ slightly I am merely encouraged to think more carefully on these points.

I don’t have anything to add right now on the finer points, but I do want to make an observation. It appears that most of this discussion is centered around debating 4-point vs. 5-point Calvinism. Certainly there may be some exceptions and I haven’t read everbody’s post word-for-word, but that seems to be the thrust of this discussion. So while this is a good step, I want to encourage us not to stop here. I know that one of my weak points is that I really don’t have any close friends in the SBC that aren’t at least 4-pointers (note, the keyword there is “close”).

So for future posts, I hope we can begin to look at how we can bridge gaps with brothers that are not just on a different page than us, but are in a whole different book. I know the committee report and the posts I’ve seen Dave put on this site calling us to approach each other with grace and humility has been an encouragement and helpful correction for me in how I view the SBC as a whole so I hope this trend continues. Thanks for your work here to push us in a positive direction.

73 Jess Alford June 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Bart,
Suppose there is peace among all the bloggers, and peace among all the pastors. How will all this relate to the church either accepting or denying
Calvinism or Traditionalism? Is this not placing a blanket over the real problem, because the church rules and has the final say.

We pastors can go to meeting after meeting, and either be for something or against it. Then we return to the church and everything is swept under the rug. We can make the balm but if folks don’t think they need it, it’s back to square one. What are your thoughts?

74 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

Jess,

Here’s how it works out at our church: We don’t have any official position on the extent of the atonement. Individual church members search the scriptures and arrive at their own convictions on the matter (if they know about the question at all). Our fellowship and service together is unhindered by this.

75 Doug Hibbard June 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

Your parenthetical statement really hits the heart of this: if they know about the question at all.

These questions don’t arrive in these theological forms in local churches.

They show up when a teenager calls his grandmother and says “The pastor told us in youth group that God does not love us all the same way,” and then the grandmother calls her pastor and says “What in the world is wrong with that pastor?”

The finer theological point of it all is lost on the teen who is floored by the idea that God might not love him, which just does not fit.

That’s part of what I think is the next step in dealing with the tension over these issues in the SBC: moving the debate ideas and words into the real realm. How does it show up in churches? How does this discussion really impact us?

76 Michael Linton June 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Bart-

Thanks so much for this. Of course, I’m on your side on this issue, but I think you’ve written a warm, congenial piece that does great justice to what I (we) believe, and, does justice to what I understand of the Calvinist position.

Thanks again, congratulations on your new position, it was great to see you in Houston, and tell your lovely wife hello and thanks for all the work in childcare.

77 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:07 am

Thanks, Michael!

78 Alan Cross June 14, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Bart,

Great post. I would agree with you here. What I like about Calvinists is their view upon God’s calling and sovereignty. He is still the one who does the saving and He gets the glory. But, overall, I agree with this perspective on General Atonement, although I would say that the way that we get out of the double-punishment dilemma is that, while Christ’s atonement is for all, it is only applicable to those who respond in faith and repentance and faith comes from hearing the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. While Christ paid for the sins of the whole world, if you do not accept his free gift, then you will be punished for your sins without the interposition of the blood of Jesus. But, it is still the gift of God and is still the work of God. That might have already been said and I missed it – I read fast and am tired.

79 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Alan,

I missed you in Houston. I thought of you when I drove through Montgomery. Hope to see you again soon.

80 Alan Cross June 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm

CB,

You drove through Montgomery and didn’t let me know? Didn’t stop for a cup of coffee or anything? Well, I might not be able to forgive such a slight and probably would not be able too if you and Bob Cleveland had not let me sleep in your room in Jackson, Tennessee all those years ago when Baptists knew how to fight and Blogtown still had outlaws roaming around. Now, everyone just tries to get along and civility has come and we end up with posts like Bart’s here, and, I don’t know, CB. I miss the old days sometimes. Even Bart is playing nice and he and I are agreeing all the time and I know that you remember how Bart and I used to go round and round.

CB, how do we get Ben Cole to drop in from time to time? All of this love and friendliness has me feeling uncomfortable and wanting to reach for my sword and go a round or two like the old days. :)

Seriously, though. I missed seeing you and others as well. I hope to go to Baltimore next year, if God wills it. And, I am VERY happy about the civility breaking out, although I do miss sparring a bit. I still need your help with Alabama Baptists and the immigration resolution I’m bringing in the Fall. Don’t forget me on that one.

81 cb scott June 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm

You fight the fight on that resolution, Alan. You are right as the rain on that one. It is high time for change.

I do wish we had time to stop, but I had a crew with me who had been working the exhibit hall booth and they were tired and wanted to get on home. Maybe, I can get down that way soon and we can catch up.

82 Alan Cross June 14, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Absolutely. Just joshing with you. Would love to see you.

On the resolution, I am going to start making some calls later in the summer and putting a draft together. Thought I’d call the guys at the ERLC and ask for their help/input as well. I am hopeful that we can get something passed and I think it would be significant here in Alabama, what with the power that ALCAP has in SBC life here and their influence with the GOP and how many Baptists we still have here. Plus, that law was struck down anyway and is null and void. Maybe we can lead prophetically on this issue and present a position that is both biblical and compassionate and that also respects the rule of law.

But, I digress and am hijacking Bart’s masterful post/thread here.

83 Ken Hamrick June 14, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Alan,

We need to get away from the idea that what Christ paid was equal to the sum total of what the world owed to God’s justice. How much of Christ’s suffering and death were needed just to pay for your own sin? Would one stripe, one thorn or one nail cover it? How much less would one-millionth of one stripe cover it. I think you will agree that you, like me, owed it all—every bit of His suffering was in my place, including the immeasurable and incomprehensible spiritual suffering that the physical suffering represented. Each single sinner owes the entirety of the cross of Christ, and not some mere fraction.

Therefore, Christ’s sacrificial death is sufficient for all, but only as it is applied on a one-for-one basis. Rather than Christ having paid for the sins of the world, He paid what any sinner owes (and we all owe the same thing—the complete wrath of God). Since His death would save any man in the world who is willing to come (even the hypothetical nonelect believer), then His death is sufficient to save the whole world.

Rather than it being efficient only for the elect, it is efficient only for those who believe.

84 Randall Cofield June 14, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Ken,

Rather than it being efficient only for the elect, it is efficient only for those who believe.

How do you differentiate between the elect and those who believe?

Grace to you, brother.

85 Ken Hamrick June 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Brother Randall,

It is the end result that the atoning death of Christ was efficient only for the elect, but it is not the modus operandi. The fact that it is a certainty that only the elect will believe does nothing to invalidate the full warrant for every man to believe and be saved—neither does it bar the nonelect from believing. Even for the elect, it is not efficient until they believe. And if a nonelect sinner would be willing to come in faith, it would be just as efficient for him.

Grace to you as well!

86 dr. james willingham June 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I have been out of circulation for most of two-two and a half weeks, due to heart stoppage and recover by defibilator and stent, all of such brought on by the stress of moving and a wedding, all on the same day. Bit much. I comment you Bart for your peaceful tone. Is it not interesting that it was the Regular Baptists, along with the Separate Baptist who were also Particular Baptists for the most part with a few exceptions, who began the great missionary movement. While the General Baptists who held to a general atonement mostly sat on their hands. I do not say this to be controversial, but simply to call a fact to the reality that it is not the limited atonement that is au contrare to missions, and perhaps the reason can be found in the issue of therapeutic paradoxes. The Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church of Apex, NC., which sent out the first Southern Baptist Missionary to China (Matthew Yates in the 1840s) was organized in 1814, two years before the Mission assn of 1816 along with the Sandy Creek Confession. The confession of faith stated that Christ died for the church; it had no statement about His dying for the whole world. Could it be the the opposite is an offering, that saying Christ died just for a particular group of people is an invitation in itself? I found, being inspired by Dr. Eusden’s Intro. to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (first theological textbook at Harvard in the 1600s) that predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage, that all of the five points plus the other two, including reprobation could be seen as set forth by our Lord as invitations, for those willing to accept them as such. Cf. Mt.15:21-28; Lk.4:16-31. In the latter case, His neighbors at Nazareth tried to murder Him for teaching such truths. The woman of Canaan in Mt. 15 thought it was like throwing a bone to a dog, something to be eagerly grasped and chewed, received and believed and then pleaded, earning her His commentation, “Great is your faith.”

In any case, I wrote a blog on Dr. Patterson’s Points on Election made on the same blog, SBC Today, pointing out that what he had said opened the way to unity and amity. One can even google the item as I did yesterday. We are nearing the point of that Third Great Awakening. Now if we can just get organized to pray and plead those promises set forth by Jonathan Edwards in his Humble Attempt, that visitation might come sooner than expected.

87 Frank L. June 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Dr. J. Glad you are healing, friend.

Thanks for the history lesson. I think it is notable that Calvinism “in theory” should be “less missionary,” but in practice that has not been the case.

Of course, hyper-Calvinism is another issue altogether, but that is not a significant issue in Baptist life.

88 Donald R. Holmes June 15, 2013 at 12:11 am

“We are nearing the point of that Third Great Awakening.”

DJW,

Why would the Charismatic movement not be the Third Great Awakening? Consider that they have gone from 0 to almost 600,000,000 in about 50 years? Numerically, that is the greatest movement in the history of Christianity. The previous two “Great Awakenings” are uniquely American events, while the Charismatic Movement is worldwide.

According to Wikipedia, there have already been four “Great Awakenings”. How do we know when the real “Third Great Awakening” gets here?

I ask because you do bring this up often, and so I assume you have some perspective here that I do not.

89 dr. james willingham June 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Ever wonder why Evan Roberts would not allow the Welsh Revival to be associated with the Azusa Street meetings? And there were the Charismatic prophets that the Wesleys opposed. While I think there many Charismatics who are Christians, my experience with them has been for the most part uniformly negative, beginning with the first charismatic church in the town near where I grew up. The lady pastor packed them in, rolling in the aisles, etc., until she ran off with one of the deacons who had four sons. I do accept the work on the mission field or even here where someone speaks in another language which leads to a conversion, but speaking in tongues where that is not involved is a matter I oppose. I try to be fair, but, admittedly, I have difficulties due to research and experiential knowledge of those folks.

90 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

I’m thankful for your recovery. May God grant you renewed health and vigor for His work!

I want to note for all of those who are reading that I have not alleged that limited atonement causes laxity in missions. Particular Baptists were among the first and most faithful in the Baptist missionary movement.

91 dr. james willingham June 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Bart, that was COMMEND you…not comment.

92 Roger Simpson June 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Dr. Barber:

I just ordered the book by Toon that you recommended. Everybody is talking about Hyper-Calvinism so I guess I better be informed as to what it is.

I have the “Institutes of Christian Religion” here but my problem is that even though Calvin wrote it (at least the original French / Latin editions) I really can’t correlate much between Calvin and “Calvinism” without outside help. I wonder if Calvin came back today if he would recognize what we now call “Calvinism”.

In any case, reformed theology really strikes a positive chord with me since it stresses “semper reformada” and “sola scriptura”.

If I ever do a PhD you can be my thesis advisor. My subject would be to determine the trajectory between Calvin’s own writings and the “5 points”. My working hypothesis is that the link would be tenuous.

93 Mark June 14, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Roger, I’m going to email you a PhD work on Calvinism for your reading pleasure. :) It’s a book by a Baptist Calvinist.

94 Bob Cleveland June 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm

When you find out what a hyper-calvinist is, please let me know. I was Presbyterian from 1968 to 1981 and never did meet one. Although we did joke about them. Called’em “TR’s”; they seemed .. whoever they were .. to think they were the only ones that were Truly Reformed.

I don’t agree with Bart about particular redemption, but I don’t care. And I did vote for him for First President of Vice.

95 Leslie Puryear June 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Of course you did. You had no other choice. ;>

96 Mark Lamprecht June 14, 2013 at 11:21 pm

Bob, I sent him Curt Daniel’s The History and Theology of Calvinism which should be very helpful.

97 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:10 am

Toon’s book will be very helpful on this topic.

98 Randall Cofield June 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Bart Barber has set the bar exceedingly high in relation to understanding where Calvinists are coming from on Particular Redemption.

99 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

Thanks, Randall!

100 Donald R. Holmes June 14, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Dr. Hammett (SEBTS) argues that the three texts that seem to point most forcefully to the general view are I John 2:2, I Tim. 4:10, and II Pet. 2:1. He settled into 4-point Calvinism because he could not put logical arguments above Biblical arguments. (see link below)

Never having measured my beliefs by the points of Calvinism, I never struggled with the “L” of TULIP. Whether Calvinism, Arminianism or Molinism, all systems of theology are man-made constructs and should never be mistaken for the text of scripture. Must the text pass thru a rigid system in order to be understood? I am always wary of any logical/philosophical construct that steps too far away from the text itself. Our exegesis must be text-driven rather than theologically-driven (think John Sailhammer’s Intro to OT Theology). Of the tree systems mentioned previously, Molinism seems to best of the bunch; but it still must move beyond the text (infinite possible earths, counterfactuals, middle knowledge, etc…) and toward logical/philosophical constructs in order to complete itself as a system.

http://betweenthetimes.com/index.php/2012/04/25/for-the-record-john-hammett-being-biblical-more-than-logical-or-why-i-am-a-four-point-calvinist/

101 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

Consider the Armenians stricken!

102 Doug Hibbard June 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

Man, the Armenians have been through enough, what with their mistreatment by the Turks. Can we leave them out of this?

Arameans, too.

103 Dave Miller June 15, 2013 at 10:59 am

It was so bad they almost lost everything.

104 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:06 pm

This comment fell out of its threading. Someone had accidentally used “Armenian” rather than “Arminian” and then requested that we “strike the word Armenian” from the quote. I did so, and then I gave this comment. Then I deleted the comment making the request, and I THOUGHT I deleted my response as well. Something didn’t work, and now this comment appears here completely out of context.

105 Dave Miller June 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Threading usually breaks down here around a hundred comments – or when I use my phone to make a comment!

106 Doug Hibbard June 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Bart, a comment without a context is just a prooftext…or something like that :)

107 dr. james willingham June 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Doug: I have lost all my email addresses due to the move and change of carriers. Send me an email so I can re establish contact. MY email is jimwillingham@centurylink.net

108 Greg Harvey June 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm
109 dr. james willingham June 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Bloomin’ critters won’t stay stricken.

110 Ryan Abernathy June 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

Bart,

I was out of circulation yesterday when your post dropped. I just want to say thanks for its tone and depth. I agree with quite a bit of it- which may drop me from the ranks of “Calvinist” in some eyes- but more than anything I appreciate the way you went about trying to understand the issue from both sides.

Congrats on your election and may your tribe increase greatly over the next year.

111 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 9:12 am

Thanks, Ryan

112 Philip Miller June 15, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I realize I’m late to the conversation, but I never the less have a question that I believe needs to be added to the conversation about Limited Atonement. Is it not accurate to say that most Calvinists have a high view of Common Grace, and that this favorable disposition of God towards all men, without exception, was indeed purchased in the cross of Christ? If this is true, can any discussion about “limited” atonement really be accurate without including the implications of Common Grace?

113 parsonsmike June 15, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Phillip,
I don’t speak for any Calvinist but myself.
Grace is God’s favor toward whoever He has favor towards.
Sometimes that favor is unto salvation.
He doesn’t punish sinners as soon as they sin.
Thus He graciously allows them to continue to live. He often blesses obedience as well though no person deserves or earns blessing since we are all sinners.

But such ‘common’ grace as that is not usually part of the discussion on atonement by the people I discuss atonement with. But there may be many other perspectives out there. What is yours?

114 Matt Svoboda June 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Bart,

I am appalled by how you misrepresented Calvinism, used straw man arguments, and clearly simply hate Calvinists. May the grace of John Calvin be ever with you.

115 Matt Svoboda June 15, 2013 at 10:28 pm

(I hope everyone very clearly saw the sarcasm in my post above)

116 Bart Barber June 15, 2013 at 10:47 pm

:-)

117 Doug Hibbard June 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

And the threading broke…

It’s toasted.

118 Dave Miller June 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm

with jelly.

119 Tom Fillinger June 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

I write this post with some level of uncertainty. My motivation and purpose is to make our deliberations in the BLOG world fruitful and productive. I trust that this will be the result.

First, several Principles that guide the development of this material:

1. Words and their relationship give meaning to language.

2. Words are symbols and those symbols convey meaning.

3. Unless and until we define what I/we mean by our choice of words/symbols, there can be little if any progress in our understanding of one another.

4. The languages of the OT & NT are ‘dead languages’. As such the meaning of words does not change and we discover the correct meaning of words through the use of credible lexical sources. Cf. the interview with Mr. Joe Aguillard on this matter; listen to the definition he offered of election. There is no credible lexical source to support what he declared.

5. Unity is not something we develop or produce. Rather, it is by the clear expression of the text of Scripture a reality that we are to preserve, guard, protect (Eph. 4:1-3) I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

6. The Principle of Non-Contradiction. Scripture is perspicuous, clear. It does not say one thing in one place and contradict that in another. There is one and only one correct interpretation of each portion of God’s Word. This leaves us with the following options:

A. One is correct and the other incorrect.

B. Both are incorrect.

C. But, we cannot come to opposing interpretations and declare that BOTH are correct.

In recent exchanges in the BLOG world some have said “I am not – a Calvinist; an Arminian; a Semi-Pelagian, etc. Simply saying I am or I am not this or that does not make it true. Exegesis of the text, Systematic Theology and the historical unfolding of the beliefs, practices and doctrines of the church determine whether a particular belief or conviction fits or is properly characterized by a particular definition. Church history has had multiple Councils that deliberated these matters, often for years, and the conclusions they reached shape the theology the church embraces today.

Therefore, if what I express as a conviction or belief is determined by the criteria stated above to be true and accurate, I should not take offense when others correctly apply the label that has been established by accurate exegesis and the history of doctrine.

True unity is a theological issue. We have unity when we align ourselves with the correct understanding of God’s word. God is not schizophrenic and neither is His Word. We cannot embrace diametrically opposed interpretations and say that both are correct. That is not unity as defined by Scripture.

We must be irenic, gracious, humble,civil and theologically accurate in our discourse. We must also not capitulate to a pseudo unity, one that sacrifices accuracy and integrity in dealing with God’s Word for a “Rodney King Theology”, can’t we all just get along?

I do not claim to have all the answers to our differences but I believe what I have stated in this post is consistent with the character and nature of Truth. We can and must strive for an accurate interpretation of God’s Word and simultaneously with passion, prayer and persistence bring this Truth to the world around us.

120 Bob B. June 17, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Amen.

121 parsonsmike June 17, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Tom.
Unity is something we develop and maintain. The Scripture you used tells us quite clearly how to have unity of the Spirit in thebonds of peace:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Our goal of unity includes our being humble and gentle and patient while being tolerant of one another in love. And these things require a diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We have to work at it.

And even as we learn to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, so likewise we learn to walk in unity. For it is the desires of our old man that disrupt unity.
James 4:1:
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?

Unity is found not by strict agreement on the written word but in corporately and individually looking to the Living Word. It is found in the Spirit as we read:
Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. [2 Cor. 3]

122 dr. james willingham June 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm

How about a new apporach. I recommend setting out to win China to Christ with the doctrine that He died for the church with no mention of anyone else. I speak, of course, of Matthew T. Yates and the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. So I think it would be appropriate to seek to win the whole earth and every soul in it with every one of the TULIP doctrines plus predestination and reprobation. And one of the most gung ho soul winners was my Hyper Calvinist Pastor who ordained me to the ministry, Every doctrine is a revelation of the mercy of God and is available to every sinner to be pleaded for deliverance. In deed, all of these doctrines are the most intensely intentional, intensive, insightful, intelligent, inviting truths that are as high pressured for being indirect as any of the so-called more direct teachings claim to be. Even preaching some of the old Hyper stuff of the 16-1700s where no invitation to come forward was ever given brings souls, because just the lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ draws souls to him. Like the lady said to my friend who responded to his little invitation to be saved and that readily, “Oh, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” I believe these truths are incomparably more evangelistic, engaging, enticing, entrancing, exalting, exciting, entertaining, enthusiastic, and enduring than any of the other versions of the faith, and I say that without in any sense condemning those who hold other versions of the Gospel. It is my intention to set in motion prayer meetings to the effect that will end in a Third Great Awakening which wins every soul on earth, beginning in this generation and continuing for a 1000 generations and reaching billions of planets and all the inhabitants of the same.Call it Sovereign Grace, my term as the one closest to biblical expression, indeed, expressed by the Book itself in Roms.5:21, “so might grace reign…unto eternal life,” reigning being an expression of sovereignty, or calvinism, not a term I prefer due to John’s failure on persecution and his continuance of Baby baptism, though he made some great contributions to Western Civilization and I appreciate them, even so it is the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the the launching of the Great Century of Missions and is the theology of all true awakenings, making people balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic, God’s own best advertisements of His Gospel.

123 Andy Miller June 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

“If I have failed in this essay to treat my Calvinistic brothers with respect, then my failure reflects a lack of ability rather than a lack of effort. I profess my love for the Calvinists among us as my brothers in Christ. I dare hope that we will indeed understand it better by-and-by. Until that day, may God help us to learn from one another—me as well as you—and may our conversation reveal more clearly that we have experienced salvation than that we have understood it. ”

Based on what you’ve written, I believe the sincerity of this paragraph. Not every “I love the other side but…”-type caveat seems credible on (from Calvinists or non-Calvinists). But when we do our best to accurate frame the debate for what it truly is and for what the “other side” actually says, as you’ve done, then Christian love is on display. I don’t fully agree with your conclusions, but I am so very thankful for the way in which you arrive at them. It’s encouraging.

124 Dave Miller June 17, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Andy, I think Bart’s comment and yours gets right to the heart of productive theological debate – the genuine effort to accurately represent those with whom you disagree.

So far, I’ve not seen anyone complain that Bart has misrepresented what Calvinists believe, even as he disagreed with it. That is why this has been among the most productive discussions of Calvinism I’ve seen on blogs.

125 dr. james willingham June 17, 2013 at 1:50 pm

It also helps to have relatives on the other side of the fence, relatives that you love and respect for being people of integrity. My Brother-in-law is a Traditionalist as is his son. They are people of devotion to the cause of Christ, and, thus, it is not possible to be so negative about a theological position with which I disagree. Besides, both sides can pitch in help out with problems, and they do. Also both sides can stand up and tell the truth about the successes and failures of their own side as well as see the successes and failures of the other. I would accept my Brother-in-law’s assessment of either a Traditionalist or a Calvinist. I have that much confidence in him (o yes, and his son, too). Besides we both have good opinions of each other’s theological opinions. He thinks I am genius, and I think he is off his rocker. I think he is the “cat’s meow of theology” as well as the cheshire cat’s grin of theology (that is he is as sharp a theological thinker as there is), and he laughs. Now, if I could just get CB Scott and Bob Hadley to think like that we would have a high old time. Do your reckon, David? And by the way you are rising to new heights sublime in your getting these loggerheads to mesh in a peaceful, useful, and helpful way.

126 Jim Pemberton June 18, 2013 at 10:43 am

Bart, great article, fitting of a 1st VP! As one who holds to Particular Atonement, I appreciate your handling of the view. The words differ a little from how I would have explained it, but it is essentially how I believe it, so I’ll own what you said. That kind of accuracy goes a long way to fleshing out the committee’s statement.

Something I’ve been toying with is a re-categorization of the soteriological issue. I think it’s clear by the way you put it that we have more common ground than not, even on the extent of the atonement. What I do know is that the five points of Calvinism were a response to the five points of Arminianism. By nature these draw out the differences rather than commonalities and I think constantly focusing on the five points as a matter of categorizing and delineating our soteriology artificially inflates our theological distinctives and obscures our agreements. For that matter, I’m far from having a new system of categorization nailed down, but if someone of influence felt led to take it on I think would be a better thing for the SBC to dwell on some number of points of soteriological agreement than 5 points of soteriological distinctives.

127 Bart Barber June 18, 2013 at 11:10 am

I like that. It’s a good insight. I’ll be pondering that for a while to come, I think.

128 Dave Miller June 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm

When you are done pondering, I’ll get busy posting!

129 dr. james willingham June 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

Sometimes, I feel so discouraged, that I feel lower than a snake’s belly. Then things pick up. I am reminded that Judson said, when things were at their darkest in his mission to Burma, “that the promises of God were never brighter.” That is what has held me to it all of these nearly 40 years of prayer for a visitation. The change in theology had to go along with it, but I did not ask God to make a bunch of Calvinists, Sovereign Grace believers, maybe. But, in any case, the theology of the Awakenings and the launching of the was that set forward by Whitefield, Edwards, and a host of others. Even Wesley’s Arminianism comes after the first Awakening began. Since I believe we are going to have an Awakening and that that Awakening requires the right theology as one of the causal factors, it follows we will have it. However, that does not mean simply the production of a bunch of Calvinists. One must be able to handle texts honestly without imposing a theological framework on them. Just consider using Romans 9:13 as an evangelistic text, “The Hardest Invitation in The Bible.”(really it is how could He love Jacob not how He could hate Esau). There is something to be said for the dialectical process in understanding Holy Scripture as well as for the diaelectric (sp) field set up by having to deal with two poles of theology that are apparently contradictory, etc. What I like about the Bible is its subtlety, infinite and eternal like its source. Intellectually, Holy Scripture is the supreme challenge of the ages, if, as we postulate, it is the inspired work conveying the communique of God to the peoples of the earth. Back to the diaelectric field concept, we are talking about a mental field for two theological ideas which set up a tension in the human mind, a desirable tension, one that you do not want to reconcile or get rid of or jettison, but one that gives you the sense of being flexible, dealing with an issue from the pole most appropriate to it at that time, and that without feeling you have compromised yourself to death or become so rigid as the snap at the slightest opposition like a brittle reed in a wind storm.

All of the truths of the acrostic are relevant and have their place. Our problem lies in returning to a theology that has, for all practical purposes not been preached very much on a large scale for more than a century. Consequently we have no mentors or exemplars to show us how to do it…except for a few individuals here and there, individuals who are not well received and who are still learning their way, too. Just consider trying to win the whole world with limited atonement/particular redemption or consider election as an invitation or even reprobation or of predestination as the avenue to real freedom of the will.

And remember God did not call us to control the theology of our brothers (or sisters, too) in Christ. I remember my ordaining pastor who left me to catch what he preached rather than overwhelming with arguments. My brother-in-law still holds Traditionalists views. Both of us ordained by that supralapsarian hyper Calvinist who loved Christ and loved souls.

130 Les Prouty June 18, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Brother, I hear you. I often get discouraged as well. Then I remember there is so much to so. I read this quote this morning from David Brainerd: “May I never loiter on my heavenly journey.”

BTW, Desiring God website has several free e books available, including one on Brainerd. Piper is making a lot of good stuff freely available.

131 dr. james willingham June 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Les: It is hard these days not to loiter, having had no church for 16 years, nearly 17, and few opportunities to preach and now the decline of strength brought on by the heart problem though the doctors tell me that I will pick up in about 8 weeks or so.

132 volfan007 June 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm
133 Dave Miller June 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I’d like to officially thank Bart for this entry. It seems (so far at least) that Baptists CAN have a productive discussion of the topic.

134 dr. james willingham June 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

David: You get better as time goes by. Maybe we ought to consider you for President of the SBC someday.

135 Dave Miller June 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Guys, we’ve been doing so well. Let’s not go backward with that tired old exchange.

136 Chris Roberts June 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm

We’re all zen – the way forward is the way back.

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