Archive for December, 2011

What is the Greatest Threat Facing the SBC Today? Tom Ascol Answers

The following is a reprint of an article that appeared on SBC Voices written by Jared Moore on December 28, 2011

Here is the link to the original post: HERE
I have placed my comments to the article FIRST… the article in its entirety can be read at the link provided or at the end of this post.

Here are my comments with respect to
Mr. Moore’s recorded interview.

I will begin where Jared began, “I’ve known Tom for several years and have learned much from his ministry. I’ve always found him to be kind, gracious, wise, and unashamed of Christ and His Word.” I have no doubt that Dr. Ascol is all the above and more and I am confident that he is indeed “unashamed of Christ and His Word.” I have a mountain of respect for men who stand up for their convictions.

Jared goes on in a brief introduction to make the following statement,”Tom serves as the Executive Director of Founders Ministries, an organization committed to reformation and revival in local churches.” I am well aware that Dr. Ascol is unashamedly “committed to reformation and revival in local churches.” I believe he has every right to do so and I would defend his right to share his convictions.

1. What do you think is the greatest threat facing the SBC today? Why?

Ascol begins, “I’m sure some would expect me to say that the Calvinist—anti-Calvinist divide is our greatest threat, but as much as some in both of those camps would like to make it our greatest concern, I see something far more significant staring us in the face. I think the SBC is facing an identity crisis that, if not resolved with a humble, biblical understanding of and clarified commitment to the gospel and the church (and the relationship between the two), will cause it’s relevance to diminish with an increasing number of churches.”

Now, this sounds wonderful. Ascol is correct in his assertion that there is indeed an “identity crisis that, if not resolved with a humble, biblical understanding of and clarified commitment to the gospel and the church (and the relationship between the two), will cause it’s relevance to diminish with an increasing number of churches.”

I do not have any problem with WHAT he said, I do have a problem with the underlying definitions that define what he actually means when he speaks of a “clarified commitment to the gospel.” Remember, As Jared pointed out, “Tom serves as the Executive Director of Founders Ministries, an organization committed to reformation and revival in local churches.” When Ascol speaks of “the gospel” it MUST BE UNDERSTOOD that he is speaking of the gospel based on the Doctrines of Grace. It would be so easy for an average individual to read what Ascol has said and come away with a very different interpretation of what Ascol’s words really meant. Is this an unfair statement? I do not think so. Did Ascol say what he meant and mean what he said? Yes. Did he understand that his words might be taken different from the way he understood them to read? I believe he did.

It seems to me that it could be argued that he was a bit disingenuous when he began by saying, “I’m sure some would expect me to say that the Calvinist—anti-Calvinist divide is our greatest threat”. Let me say this, he never denies nor confirms the validity of that statement! He just opens with it and lets the reader draw his or her conclusions. Very astute. He goes into this opening statement “seeming to say” there are bigger issues at hand than the Calvinist debate, which most would like to see go away. However, his statement clearly states his position that the issue of Calvinism is critical and of the utmost importance in the SBC becasue that to him is the definition of what he considers to be a “clarified commitment to the gospel.” The gospel is nothing else but that which is protrayed by the Doctrines of Grace. My problem is this; if that is indeed what he means, why not say it! It does not seem right to say one thing knowing what people will read into it and meaning something else. I believe that is exactly what Dr. Ascol has done in this piece. I also believe, had he spelled out exactly what he meant, he knows people’s reactions in the SBC who read them would not be favorable. He would be misunderstood and misquoted and vilified by people unduly.

Let’s move to the second paragraph. “We can no longer assume that just because a church is Southern Baptist it therefore genuinely understands the gospel and knows how it works to save sinners. Commensurate with this is the preaching of Christ. There is a difference between preaching about Christ and preaching Christ, just as there is a difference in preaching from the Word and preaching the Word. In some respects preaching about Christ from the Word is a more serious error than preaching rank heresy in the same way that being almost right can be worse than being completely wrong. A slight miscalculation is harder to detect but can prevent a space shuttle from reaching the moon just as surely as a blatant mathematical mistake.”

For the record, I stated on this blog that I support every word written in this paragraph, 120%! I do. Now, I can say pretty much without any reservation that my application of what I consider to be a “slight miscalculation” and what Dr. Ascol might considered a “slight miscalculation” would no doubt be very opposite considerations. But nonetheless, I agree 120% with what he said.

As the article continues, I agree with the following statement, “Before anyone is accepted into the membership of our church he or she is asked to give a simple explanation of the gospel. Some of the responses that we have received through the years–even from people who have been deacons and Sunday School teachers–are frightening.” There is a responsibility that we all have to make sure that a person’s conversion experience is real and genuine to the best of our ability. To fail to do so is irresponsible and unprofessional and a disservice to the Lord and to the person looking to us for Scriptural guidance.

I will not comment on his remarks about Church membership and his remark, “A mere theoretical commitment to biblical, ecclesiological practices that Baptists have long held dear evokes disdain from a generation of Southern Baptists that are searching for authentic submission to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.” I think the autonomy of the local church trumps a denominational position here but might add a word of caution: should the SBC move in the direction the Founders Ministry would openly like to see it move, could this change in the not so near future? One would only have to look at church planting entities associated with the FM and other reformed groups and see the confessional statement there to wonder how far those arms should reach in the SBC.

I find Ascol’s next closing quote interesting as well, “If, as John Dagg noted in the 19th century, ‘When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it,’ then the SBC has thousands of Christless churches in our ranks. If that is true, then no danger could possibly be greater than continuing on this deadly path.” Understand again, Ascol understands this “deadly path” to be any path outside that of the Reformed way. Is he ssaying that non-Reformed churches are Christless churches? No that is NOT what he is saying. Can these words be taken as suggestive? He has been suggestive in my opinion earlier.

Now to the next section, 2. What is the answer to this threat?

Ascol comments, “To work for a recovery of the biblical gospel and a renewed commitment to healthy church life. In other words, we need a thorough, biblical reformation in which every area of life–individual, ecclesoilogical and denominational–is evaluated in the light of an unashamed commitment to the authority of God’s Word. If that happens, repentance will inevitably result which will in itself be the harbinger of genuine revival.”

Again it is only fair that the reader understand WHAT is meant by the following words, “a thorough, biblical reformation” is one that is “in the light of an unashamed commitment to the authority of God’s Word.” The only thorough Biblical understanding of the authority of God’s Word is the one presented in the Doctrines of Grace. Remember, Ascol is unashamed of Christ and His Word and he is committed to reformation and revival in local churches, as he understands those to be.

Read the following statement: “To become ruthlessly biblical in our evaluations of who we are, what we believe and how we are living will require a humility that has not often characterized our convention of churches. It will require pastors who are willing to go against the grain when necessary in order to lead churches to do the hard work of reevaluating and re-forming their life and practice in the light of God’s Word. It will also require churches to demand that our cooperatively supported institutions and agencies adopt the same agenda even if that means doing away with certain programs and changing familiar ways of doing things. It will most certainly require Spirit-empowered prayer that is born out of a sense of how far we have drifted from biblical norms in our beliefs and practices.”

This is alarming to me. If you look at WHAT Dr. Ascol actually said, there is cause for alarm even if you do not attempt to read into these words the underlying presuppositions that I believe are clearly intended.

Ascol says, we need to “become ruthlessly biblical in our evaluations of who we are, what we believe and how we are living will require a humility that has not often characterized our convention of churches.” So, in his estimation the majority of our pastors are not doing their jobs and our churches are failing miserably. Isn’t that interesting when I maintain 85% of the people in the pew have no idea what the difference is in a tulip and a rose. The implications are clear here. The vast majority of our churches are not doing “the hard work of reevaluating and re-forming their life and practice in the light of God’s Word.” While I agree in principle that a majority of our people have the majority of their priorities in the wrong places, I am not so sure I would agree with the solutions Dr. Ascol would assert as the cure all for the problems in our churches today.

Here is the other alarming statement in Ascol’s comment: “It will also require churches to demand that our cooperatively supported institutions and agencies adopt the same agenda even if that means doing away with certain programs and changing familiar ways of doing things. It will most certainly require Spirit-empowered prayer that is born out of a sense of how far we have drifted from biblical norms in our beliefs and practices.”

Ok… why should I be alarmed with the rise in the influence of Calvinism today? There you have it, black ink on white paper. Not only are our churches misguided and on the wrong path and if not already certainly headed to being “Christless churches,” Ascol says that our denomination needs changing as well. We need to change the way we are doing things and it appears to me at least, Ascol is all but saying we need a denomination that demands churches shape up as they see the shaping that needs to be done.

Let me say right now, “No Thanks!” I do not want a denomination that is going to tell my church what we will or will not believe and I do not want this travesty to go any farther denominationally. Call me an alarmist if you want to, but I for one simply do not want what I have been served in Dr. Ascol’s vision and prescription for reformation in the SBC.

As for references to help us all out, there is certainly a nice variety or reading to suggest. It is interesting when I see new pastors suggesting good books for their members to read. I will not go any farther down that road except to say, readers beware.

With that I am sadly finished. I will close with Ascol’s concluding statement as I agree again with his words, “In other words, the antidote to what currently threatens us is biblical and spiritual, not programmatic or pragmatic. We need a genuine renewal in our faith and life.”

May God give us that renewal as He would have us have it. That is my sincerest prayer. May God bless the churches of the SBC in these very important days ahead.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Here is the interview…

I recently interviewed Dr. Tom Ascol. I’ve known Tom for several years and have learned much from his ministry. I’ve always found him to be kind, gracious, wise, and unashamed of Christ and His Word. I appreciate his ministry and encourage you to benefit as well. I’m currently using Ascol’s Truth and Grace Memory Books in family worship to teach my children the Scriptures, hymns, and Baptist catechism provided therein. I highly recommend them.

Bio

Tom Ascol has served as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. His major field of study was Baptist Theology. He has been an adjunct professor for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in their SW Florida extension and has also taught systematic theology and pastoral theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and the Midwest Center for Theological Studies, respectively. Tom serves as the Executive Director of Founders Ministries, an organization committed to reformation and revival in local churches. He edits the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written numerous articles for journals and magazines. He is a regular contributor to TableTalk. He has also edited and contributed to several books. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries in addition to authoring the Founders Blog and writing for Examiner.com.

1. What do you think is the greatest threat facing the SBC today? Why?

I’m sure some would expect me to say that the Calvinist—anti-Calvinist divide is our greatest threat, but as much as some in both of those camps would like to make it our greatest concern, I see something far more significant staring us in the face. I think the SBC is facing an identity crisis that, if not resolved with a humble, biblical understanding of and clarified commitment to the gospel and the church (and the relationship between the two), will cause it’s relevance to diminish with an increasing number of churches.

We can no longer assume that just because a church is Southern Baptist it therefore genuinely understands the gospel and knows how it works to save sinners. Commensurate with this is the preaching of Christ. There is a difference between preaching about Christ and preaching Christ, just as there is a difference in preaching from the Word and preaching the Word. In some respects preaching about Christ from the Word is a more serious error than preaching rank heresy in the same way that being almost right can be worse than being completely wrong. A slight miscalculation is harder to detect but can prevent a space shuttle from reaching the moon just as surely as a blatant mathematical mistake.

Before anyone is accepted into the membership of our church he or she is asked to give a simple explanation of the gospel. Some of the responses that we have received through the years–even from people who have been deacons and Sunday School teachers–are frightening. This simple exercise has brought to light many cases of people who thought they were saved but who, in fact, were trusting in something other than Jesus Christ. It has also revealed that many who are trusting Christ are not very gospel literate, despite years of faithful involvement in Baptist churches. I fear that in many ways we are losing the gospel by assuming that everyone in our ranks rightly understands and appreciates it. Such an assumption is deadly.

Even more blatant is the crisis we face in the SBC over the nature and work of a local church. While it is encouraging that regenerate church membership has been reaffirmed in recent years through the passing of a resolution and that there is renewed discussion of this historic Baptist principle, in reality the majority of our churches do not practice it. Quite simply, we have far too many “theoretical Baptists” who nod in agreement at the historic Baptist understanding of a church while sitting in churches whose membership roles are highly inflated and whose loose methods of receiving members perpetuate the problem. When denominational servants who belong to such churches issue dire warnings that Southern Baptists are in danger of losing our Baptist identity due to theological renewal and fellowship beyond denominational boundaries, it rings superficial. A mere theoretical commitment to biblical, ecclesiological practices that Baptists have long held dear evokes disdain from a generation of Southern Baptists that are searching for authentic submission to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.

It is doubtful that even a small percentage of our churches actually practice corrective, biblical church discipline or actively seek to maintain a regenerate membership. To do so is costly and requires courageous leadership. It is easy to talk about and even affirm such markers of Baptist identity. It is much harder to recover and maintain them. If, as John Dagg noted in the 19th century, “When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it,” then the SBC has thousands of Christless churches in our ranks. If that is true, then no danger could possibly be greater than continuing on this deadly path.

2. What is the answer to this threat?

To work for a recovery of the biblical gospel and a renewed commitment to healthy church life. In other words, we need a thorough, biblical reformation in which every area of life–individual, ecclesoilogical and denominational–is evaluated in the light of an unashamed commitment to the authority of God’s Word. If that happens, repentance will inevitably result which will in itself be the harbinger of genuine revival.

This kind of recovery and renewal will not happen without a cost. To become ruthlessly biblical in our evaluations of who we are, what we believe and how we are living will require a humility that has not often characterized our convention of churches. It will require pastors who are willing to go against the grain when necessary in order to lead churches to do the hard work of reevaluating and re-forming their life and practice in the light of God’s Word. It will also require churches to demand that our cooperatively supported institutions and agencies adopt the same agenda even if that means doing away with certain programs and changing familiar ways of doing things. It will most certainly require Spirit-empowered prayer that is born out of a sense of how far we have drifted from biblical norms in our beliefs and practices.

In other words, the antidote to what currently threatens us is biblical and spiritual, not programmatic or pragmatic. We need a genuine renewal in our faith and life.

3. What are some resources you would recommend to help equip Christians and local churches to answer this threat?

The revival writings of Jonathan Edwards, especially A Treatise on Religious Affection, The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God and Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England in 1740. These works, from the greatest theologian of revival in history, not only show us what is possible in post-Pentecost times but they also help provide practical standards by which to evaluate practical church life today.

When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today by Ray Ortlund, Jr. With the same biblical understanding of revival as Edwards, Ortlund shows how Scripture holds the hope of revival before us and calls us to seek and long for it.

Ready for Reformation by Tom Nettles. This small book demonstrates that while the recovery of inerrancy is essential to vital, biblical Christianity, it is not enough. We must also recover justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and learn to live on that glorious revelation.

What is the Gospel by Greg Gilbert. This is another small book that simply sets forth the biblical definition of the gospel.

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. This book, which Crossway is developing into a small group Bible study curriculum, describes characteristics that are essential for a church as well as some that are extremely beneficial.

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline by Jonathan Leeman. Leeman explains the Bible’s teachings about the nature of the church and what constitutes being included in a church (membership) as well as the expectations and requirements that the Lord of the church has placed on every local body that bears His Name.

On Earth as it Is in Heaven: Reclaiming Regenerate Church Membership by Wyman Richardson. This book shows how the Bible teaches that local churches are to be comprised exclusively of those who demonstrate the marks of spiritual birth. It includes helpful insights and examples from our Baptist heritage.

John Hammett’s Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology is a helpful introduction to Baptist church practice and polity.

God is the Gospel by John Piper. The goal of the gospel is to get us to God. Before and beyond everything else that the gospel provides for us is that it brings God to us and us to God. The good news is not simply forgiveness or new life or heaven, but God Himself being reconciled to us in Christ.

Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures by Dennis Johnson. The point of the whole Bible is Christ. Therefore, to rightly preach any part of the Bible is to preach Christ. Failure to preach Christ from any passage of Scripture is failure to be faithful to the text. Johnson shows how this works.

4. Tell us about Founders Ministries.

Founders is a ministry that began 30 years ago with a desire to encourage the recovery of the gospel and the reformation of local churches. It was formed in the early years of the conservative resurgence by men who were very committed to recovery of inerrancy within the SBC. Those who have given leadership to the ministry recognized quite early in that battle that though inerrancy is essential to healthy Christianity, by itself it is insufficient to provide the kind of biblical reformation and revival that we desperately need. Founders began as an annual leadership conference that was called, “The Southern Baptist Conference on the Faith of the Founders” before being mercifully shortened to the “Founders Conference.” After other initiatives were added to our efforts we became known as “Founders Ministries.”

We take our name from the fact that the early leaders of the SBC understood the Bible to teach the same doctrines of grace in salvation that we affirm and were committed to the kind of healthy church life to which we aspire. Over the years we have helped reprint many of the most formative of the founders’ writings and have tried to call attention to the theological consensus that existed in the early decades of the convention–not because we are interested in winning historical arguments, but for the simple reason that if what our forefathers believed about God’s grace and the nature and purpose of the church was true in their day, it is still true today because truth does not change.

Over the years Founders has become involved in hosting conferences, producing a quarterly theological journal (the Founders Journal), publishing books (through Founders Press), providing online theological training (via the Founders Study Center), encouraging fellowship among pastors (through Founders Fraternals), and, most recently, through encouraging church planting in our newly launched church planting network called PLNTD. All of these ministries are accessible from our website (www.founders.org), which also contains a wealth of information including books, articles, blog posts, a ministers’ search section and weekly study notes for the adult Sunday School curricula that is produced by LifeWay.

5. Tell us about current and future resources provided by Founders Ministries.

We are working to provide resources for church planting through PLNTD with a view to encouraging churches, pastors and church planters of various degrees of experience. We are also continuing to add to the courses we offer through our Study Center, building on those that we have already developed that are taught by Tom Nettles, Mark Dever, J.I.Packer, Timothy George, Roger Nicole, A. N. Martin, Don Whitney and others. We are reprinting Curtis Vaughan’s Study Guides on various New Testament books in our Founders Study Guide series and have most recently published a festschrift in honor of Tom Nettles: Ministry By His Grace and for His Glory, edited by Nathan Finn and me. One of the most popular sets we have ever produced is our Truth and Grace Memory Books (1, 2, and 3), which incorporate age-appropriate catechisms with Scripture memory and the memorization of hymns for use in children’s classes and homes. We are currently working on a book that will respond to some of the recent attacks against Calvinism within the SBC and hope to have it off the press in the Spring of 2012.

Free Resources from Tom Ascol:

1. 65 links to articles and mp3′s at Monergism.com.

2. Founders Ministries Blog. Founders Ministry

Books from Tom Ascol:

1. Ministry by His Grace and For His Glory: Essays in Honor of Thomas J. Nettles Edited by Tom Acsol and Nathan Finn

2. At the Pure Fountain of Thy Word: Andrew Fuller as an Apologist (Studies in Baptist History and Thought) by Michael A. G. Haykin and Tom Ascol

3. Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry Edited by Tom Ascol

4. Reclaiming the Gospel and Reforming Churches Edited by Tom Ascol

5. Truth and Grace Memory Books (1-3) by Tom Ascol

Dr. Ascol, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Advertisements

What Is Wrong With Calvinism?

What’s Wrong with Calvinism?

I have been asked the question, “What’s so wrong with Calvinism?” I have a couple of issues. First of all, Calvinism appears to have a very broad definition today. It seems that a lot of people are Calvinistic in some of their thinking. The problem is, Calvinism’s definition is way too broad today. As far as I am concerned, Calvinism can be defined very simply. If an individual believes that God in His sovereign choice decided in eternity past who would be saved and by His divine initiative through the process of regeneration produces saving faith and repentance in a lost person, then that person is a Calvinist. This involves accepting the 5-Points of Calvinism, which are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints. Some people claim to be 4-Point Calvinists, saying that they cannot accept the tenet of Irresistible Grace. Some will say that they are 3-point Calvinists adding to Irresistible Grace Unconditional Election or possibly Limited Atonement. This is evidence that there needs to be some new terminology that better defines the salvific process. It is virtually impossible to be a 3 or 4-Point Calvinist. That is tantamount to saying that “one is almost pregnant.” A woman either is or is not pregnant. There is no in between. A person is either a Calvinist or he or she is not.

One of the big problems with this whole issue is actually a matter of language. It seems that everyone is using the same words but we are all using different dictionaries. It is time to redefine some of these polarizing issues and seek to establish some common ground that a majority can rally around and move on in carrying out the priorities that the Word of God has given to us in the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

I have had pastors say to me, I am not a Calvinist. I have heard that from denominational leaders. Pulpit committees have heard that statement from prospective pastors. It is morally and ethically wrong for anyone to lie about his theological position. If your position is not popular, understand that this is your problem; it should not be the problem of the people who are looking to you for leadership. It is also not your responsibility to correct the incorrect theological position of others without some word of warning in advance of your intentions. There is no way the Holy Spirit will honor nor condone any kind of decision that is intentionally entered into deceptively. This is a problem in our convention today and it is time to address it and do something about it before it is too late.

One of the problems with this whole debate is the fact that the Calvinists are fully armed with their arguments and scriptures and big, superfluous terminology. Most non-Calvinist can care less about why the Doctrines of Grace are not as essential as the Calvinist insist that they are and the Calvinist knows that he will win most every debate or discussion. Sadly, the same thing is true in debating Mormons, Muslims or Atheists for that matter. I am not putting Calvinism in those categories but I am saying that as a non-Calvinist, I have no desire whatsoever to be able to discuss the scriptures that the Calvinist wants to present to prove his position any more than I care to debate the Jehovah’s Witness who thinks there are 144,000 that are going to make it into heaven. However, the criticism is that non-Calvinists do not know what they believe nor why they believe what they believe and that gives the Calvinist a “leg up” in presenting his point. This position of intellectual superiority is also feeding a lot of young intellectual’s minds and fueling the flame to flock to Calvinism. I do believe we ought to know what we believe and why we believe it. We need scriptural authority to back up what we believe. Calvinists are certainly to be commended for doing that. However, this critical attitude of superiority aimed at people who disagree with Calvinism is certainly not called for.

With that being said, since I am accountable to God for what I believe and what I teach, God is the standard that I am most concerned about and I am not concerned about what anyone else thinks about why I believe what I believe or teach what I teach. I have no desire to be an expert in what someone else believes and I am not personally responsible for correcting everyone else’s theological positions. Sometimes I think I believe more in the sovereignty of God than the Calvinist does, because I do not try to put Him in a box that I can explain. I do not really understand why the devil exists. I do not understand why sin exists. I can rationalize the existence of sin better than I can rationalize the existence of Satan. All I know is that the Bible says he exists so that is all I need to know. I do not have to have a theological explanation for his existence to preach that he is real.

In a similar way, I do not have to have a neat theological understanding of why Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for the sin of all men yet not all men are going to heaven. I understand the argument that says if Jesus paid the sins for all men, then one of two things is true; all men will go to heaven or Jesus’ blood was shed in vain. There is the argument that if Jesus died for the sins of those who do not go to heaven then the penalty for those sins is paid twice; once on the cross and finally in hell. The problem with these and other similar arguments is that they assume certain presuppositions that are based on human logic. If I understand anything about the sovereignty of God I am convinced that God is not restricted by my logical limitations. When the Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” then I have no problem believing that this is true. I have heard countless testimonies of individuals who have read that verse and had its words touch their heart and bring them to Christ.

I actually believe Conversionism rests more on the sovereignty of God than Calvinism does. The Calvinist says that man’s depraved will is stronger than God’s will to reveal Himself through revelation and reconciliation and so God has to initiate this process of regeneration to allow man to even respond to Him in the first place. I believe that God is thoroughly capable in His sovereignty to reveal Himself to me and to draw me and reconcile me to Himself, especially when that is what He says He is going to do. If it is indeed God’s will that none perish and that all come to Him in repentance then I would prefer to believe what He said about Himself as opposed to trying to explain why God did not really mean what He said. That in and of itself makes God look suspect in His sovereignty or else He would not need someone explaining why what He said was not really what He meant. This is especially troubling because God is telling us what His will is! If He is having a tough time with that, this whole Christian journey is suspect! I also believe the difference between the Perseverance of the Saints and the Perseverance of the Savior is paramount. It appears to me that the Calvinists have this elaborate system of God reaching down from heaven and snatching people out of the throws of hell, but they have to work to keep their salvation! As I see the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, persevering becomes more important than conversion in the first place as far as glorification is concerned. If one fails to persevere then there is no hope of heaven. The Calvinist cannot even know for sure that he is saved until he reaches the pearly gates and hears the Savior say, enter or depart.

I was in Brazil several years ago and was introduced to a lady who would assist me as a translator while I was there. She shared her testimony with me. I have never forgotten it. She had worked with the Brazilian government as a translator. She had travelled all over the world. While in Washington D.C. one year following a divorce and some very difficult times in her life, she contemplated suicide. In a hotel room, she reached for some pills that she had placed in the bedside table and she saw a Gideon Bible and picked it up to read it. A card had been placed at John 3:16 and that verse had been highlighted. As she read that verse she began to cry because she knew somehow that this God really did love her and she fell to her knees in that hotel room and asked Christ to come into her heart and to forgive her of her sin and He did and God began to put her life back together again.

Here is the thing. This lady had several choices to make. She was about to commit suicide. She had every intention of doing so. The Holy Spirit intervened. Salvation never happens by chance. Salvation is always at God’s initiative. She picked up that Bible and John 3:16 had been clearly marked for her benefit. This was no accident. It was a divine appointment. She read this verse. This lady was depraved. There is no doubt about it. The question is, how depraved was she? The Calvinists say that the only response she could make on her own was to reject God. Without God’s initiative of regeneration, she would have closed that Bible and reached for those pills and committed suicide on that evening. That did not happen and the Calvinist would say, God reached down and plucked her out of the pits of hell and saved her right then and there. Regeneration for the Calvinist proceeds saving faith and repentance. Faith and repentance are the result of regeneration.
That‘s what’s wrong with Calvinism.

I believe the Bible teaches that this lady was depraved but not dead. She may have been dehydrated but she was not dead. She was dead in her trespass and her sin spiritually as far as her ability to right the wrong and to stand before God justified was concerned, and as such she was totally lost. She was thirsty and needed to drink from the well of living water. The Holy Spirit touched this lady’s heart not by regeneration but by revelation and reconciliation. The Scriptures presented the gospel message to her and this gospel message is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. She read that passage and God revealed Himself to her and she had a choice to make; what am I going to do with what I have just read? She was like the officers who refused to arrest Jesus that said, “We have never heard anyone speak like this man has spoken.” Was this lady unconditionally elected? She came to Christ that night so some might conclude that the answer would be “yes”! Did God know before the foundation of the world that this woman would pray to receive Christ in Washington D.C. on that evening in that hotel room at 11:30 PM? I have no problem answering that question, “yes.” However, I also have no problem accepting the fact that God’s knowledge of what she would do had absolutely nothing to do with her decision to do what He knew she was going to do. She made the choice to respond to God’s touch on her heart. That touch was not a response to God’s irresistible Grace. He did not reach down and “change her want to” and because of what He did, she did what she did. This is the logic that the Calvinist employs in their theological system. They have a number of passages of scripture that they use to support their claims. Calvinism is nothing more than a theological system that is based on a couple simple statements of logic that are not even themselves logically grounded.
That‘s what’s wrong with Calvinism.

Calvinists try to contend that non-Calvinists are irresponsible in their salvific application of easy grace. They site examples of preachers and evangelists touting man’s use of emotionalism to get people to make decisions at altars and these people are no more saved than the man on the moon. There may be a lot of truth to that argument but that has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of the claims of Calvinism. There is no doubt that there have been people who have taken a preachers hand and prayed the sinners prayer and got baptized and died and stood before the Lord and heard Him say, “Depart from me you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” I will also argue that there will be Calvinist pastors and deacons and Sunday School teachers and maybe even an elder or two who will stand before Lord and hear Him say the same thing to them as well. The responsibility to teach sanctification as a part of the process of salvation has nothing to do with the issue of how a person’s relationship with Christ is initiated. This is where my primary contention with Calvinism lies. I do not believe that a person is regenerated by God and that process results in saving faith and repentance and spiritual adoption. I do not care how you look at it, that kind of approach to salvation makes God directly responsible for every person who escapes hell and goes to heaven but it also makes Him personally responsible for every person who dies without Christ and does not escape hell. God is not responsible; we are. We choose what we are going to do with the glorious gospel message that Jesus Christ saves and that He has come to seek and to save those that are lost. “How shall we neglect so great a salvation?”

The Calvinist will counter saying, “God is not responsible for anyone who goes to hell.” Every man is responsible for his own sin and the Bible says that the wages of sin is death. Men go to hell because that is God’s decretive will. Here is the point of contention with that argument. If ALL men deserve to die and go to hell and God can save them all but He does not, then He is responsible for those who do not make it to heaven. There is no way to dance around that fact. Calvinists ought to man up and just admit that fact. The answer that I have heard on a number of occasions is, “The question is for me is, not why God saved some but why God saved any.” Well how do you do; that is like asking someone, “would you like to have an orange or an apple” and he answers “I think I would like to go to the movies.”
That‘s what’s wrong with Calvinism.

Did Jesus die to pay the penalty for Judas’ sin? Did He pay the penalty for Adolph Hitler’s sin or Jeffrey Dahmer’s sin? It is unthinkable that He could have done so knowing what kind of life they would live and the horrible things that they would do to so many innocent people. The same can be said of Bob Hadley as well. However, the Bible says that Jesus died for the sins of the world. I do not understand that. My lack of understanding however does not negate the validity of the statement. When I was in college there was a popular statement that said, “If God’s Word says it; that settles it; I believe it.” I remember thinking that sounds great! I wrote it down and began repeating it. James Robison came to the Jackson Civic Center and held revival services there. As a young pastor, I remember being part of the meetings and he made mention of that popular statement and I was so proud that I knew the quote. He went on to say, “If God’s Word says it, that settles it whether you believe it or not!” Whoa! That was really powerful and I wrote that down and have quoted him a number of times over the last 30 plus years.

God’s atonement is indeed limitless in its power to save. God can save anyone at any time and under any circumstances. This atonement is limited in its scope to save as the Calvinists accurately contend. That scope however, is the point of contention. Calvinists contend that Jesus died for those who would come to Him in faith and repentance and be saved. He did not die for those individuals who for whatever reason would reject the offer of God’s salvation and remain lost and under the power and penalty of sin. Jesus did not die for those that God would not offer the gift of regeneration to. Because this is true, God would have to know who would and would not be saved so the Calvinists developed the 2nd and 4th points of Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. They are all like strands of twine all mingled together to make this rope called Calvinism strong enough to hold up. They then add to the three strands this fourth strand called Total Depravity for good measure to make the Calvinistic rope even stronger. The last strand called The Perseverance of the Saints is a slip knot that causes the whole system to completely unravel and the Calvinists fail to even realize it.

The Perseverance of the Saints is really a doctrine of salvation by works. It is a tenet that says the “true saint” is that person who is the elect and he will persevere to the end and find salvation when this life is over. Calvinists will say this is the same thing as the “Eternal Security of the Believer.” These two statements are as far apart as they can possibly be. It is really amazing that the Calvinist can contend that God is sovereign in regeneration which leads the dead person to come alive and chose Christ and live but there is no way for him to know that he will go to heaven until his life comes to an end and he has persevered. When the Calvinistic system is analyzed and all of its points are set out on the table, the truth is perseverance and not conversion is the “tell of the tape” in salvation for the Calvinist. The Calvinist will counter with the fact that perseverance is not even possible without regeneration and conversion. Make no mistake about it, perseverance is the road that gets the Calvinist to heaven.

This is a lengthy quote but it says everything that can be said about the Calvinist’s 5th point, the Perseverance of the Saints.

“This Judgment-Day-orientation is also the basis for threats or alarms addressed to all people, especially to all who profess to be Christians, whether baptized or not. The threat of judgment and of condemnation is universally present in the New Testament. We are repeatedly warned against neglecting to forgive others (Matt 6:15), indulging the flesh (Rom 8:13), being cut off from the covenant of promise (Rom 11:22), putting confidence in the flesh (Gal 5:4), disowning Christ (2 Tim 2:12), neglecting God’s great salvation (Heb 2:3), falling away from Christ (Heb 6:4-6), deliberately sinning (Heb 10:26ff), missing the grace of God through bitterness (Heb 12:15), subtracting from scripture (Rev 22:19), and many other similar warnings.

All these threats of the gospel, frequently expressed by conditional expressions (e.g., “if”), call upon all people indiscriminately, without separating people into the “elect” and “non-elect,” “genuine believers” and “spurious believers,” or “regenerate” and “unregenerate.” The gospel does not make any room for anyone to presume, “I am of the elect” or “I am a genuine believer.” We are all sinfully prone to disconnect God’s election from obedience (contra 1 Pet 1:1-2), as if salvation is ours apart from perseverance. The entire gospel cries out against the exercise of presumptive logic that, though not always verbalized, is nonetheless often thought:

The call of the gospel is always to persevere in faith and not to presume upon God’s grace. The exhortations that call us to endure in good deeds and the warnings that appeal to us lest we fall away from Christ function, not to cause us to doubt our justified standing before God in Christ, but rather to elicit steadfast obedience which is faith’s authentic behavior (cf. Rom 1:5; 6:16-17; 16:25-26). Thus, they establish by the Spirit bold confidence that we who obey the gospel are precisely the ones to whom the promise of justification unto eternal life is given.

The gospel’s threats against failure lest we lose eternal life and its admonitions for us to persevere in order to attain salvation function to emphasize the inseparable connection between perseverance in holiness and attainment of salvation. The gospel inseparably links by obedient and persevering faith the attainment of what we have not yet received with what is already ours. According to the gospel, on the Day of Judgment there will be no admission into God’s kingdom for anyone who has failed to do “the heavenly Father’s will” (Matt 7:21). Furthermore, in this passage Jesus makes it abundantly clear that our election to be God’s children will be demonstrated at the judgment only by doing “the heavenly Father’s will.” For apart from works of obedience, Christ the Judge will disown those who presume that election theirs because of religious activity. He will disown them with the eternally resounding words, “I never knew you!” (Matt 7:23).

We who believe find that our justification and hope of standing justified in the Last Day is exclusively grounded in the obedience of Christ Jesus (Rom 5:19). At the same time, the gospel unequivocally affirms that our obedient faith, which was the condition called for initially by the gospel, is the necessary condition or means by which we shall finally be welcomed into God’s presence as justified and blameless (Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:1-5; Acts 13:43).
Obedience is not only the evidence that God has begun his good work of salvation in us (Phil 1:6) but it is also the means of salvation precisely because, according to the gospel, faith, repentance, obedience, and good works are inextricably bound together though distinguishable. So when the gospel calls upon us to do good deeds which are profitable (Titus 3:8; 1 Tim 6:17-19) or to forgive others (Matt 6:14-15) or to obey God’s commandments (Luke 18:19; 10:25-28), the gospel is commanding the activity of belief, the kind of belief that is required in order for anyone to be saved. What the gospel requires is obedience of faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26). All obedience is the obedience of faith so that only those who obey Christ receive his gift of eternal salvation (Heb 5:9).

The inseparable linkage of faith and obedience and of being declared righteous and being made righteous is spanned by the gospel’s promise and by its incessant calls framed as warnings and exhortations. The gospel that promises salvation to all who obey its urgent call also marks out the pathway that will lead us from where we are already to the place of salvation to which we have not yet arrived. This, then, is the function of the many warnings and exhortations. Warnings function as signs that caution against the multitude of dangers that lie on every hand. Admonitions function as signs that point us to the right path as they exhort us to press forward in order that we may enter into God’s kingdom and inherit the life that has been promised (cf. Heb 6:12).

The gospel that warns and exhorts is the same gospel that promises eternal life and provides the Spirit for us who enables us to obey the call of the gospel with all its appeals (Rom 8:1-12). The eternal life, for which we strive, and the promised Spirit, for whose fullness we eagerly hope, are already ours. Therefore, we are not left helpless to obey the gospel, but rather we obey the gospel only because it is the Spirit of God that already enlivens our mortal bodies with heavenly life; it is the same Spirit who enlivened Christ in his resurrection (Rom 8:11). It is only by this enlivening Spirit that we, then, can understand and heed the paradoxical call of the gospel: “if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13).

It is this same Spirit, who in conjunction with enabling us to obey, also testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children (Rom 8:15-16). The Spirit of sonship does this only for those he leads in the path of righteousness. Spirit-given assurance is not restricted to what we already are (God’s children) but it also encompasses what is not yet ours (our inheritance). Thus, we are assured that we are not only on the right pathway but that we who have already been declared righteous will not be condemned by God at the close of this journey (Rom 8:31ff).

The gospel assures us that we belong to God’s elect only as we adorn our faith with the Christian virtues that God’s Spirit is pleased to work in us (2 Pet 1:5-11). We assure our own hearts that we are God’s elect children only as we exercise obedient faith. Assurance that we are truly God’s children does not come to us by logical deduction; it is ours only as we walk the pathway of obedient faith. Assurance is not the happiness to be found at the end of the course; it is our divinely implanted joy that accompanies us in the journey itself.

God promises that he will finish the good work he started (Phil 1:6). God also promises that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love (Rom 8:35-39), that all whom he calls and justifies will be glorified (Rom 8:30), that God will keep us from apostasy (Jude 24-25), that those who have eternal life will never perish or be snatched from the Father’s hand (John 10:28-30), that all those who are given to the Father by the Son will be raised on the Last Day (John 6:40), that the one who called us will establish us until the end so that we will be blameless in the day of Christ (1 Cor 1:8), and will sanctify us completely on the day of redemption (1 Thess 5:24). All these promises give us believers great assurance because we know that just as we did not initiate our salvation, neither can we sustain it apart from God’s grace. These promises assure us that God will complete what he started. They protect us from a paralyzing fear that looks within and sees no resources to persevere to the end. The gospel promises that God will grant the grace necessary to finish what he began. None of these promises, however, rules out the threats and warnings or exhortations and admonitions in the scriptures. Indeed, the gospel’s threats and warnings and the gospel’s admonitions and exhortations are means that God uses to see to it that the promise of perseverance will be realized in us.

Christian assurance of salvation is not retrospective; it is prospective. It is not introspective; it is Christ-focused. The assurance that the gospel holds out to us does not focus our attention upon the beginning of salvation but upon its consummation. Furthermore, the assurance that the gospel calls us to embrace does not look within ourselves but away to Christ who is the prize to be won (Phil 3:8). Though the gospel does frequently appeal to past perseverance as reason for continued faithfulness to the end (e.g., “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure” [Heb 6:11]), assurance concerning the past is now passed. The kind of assurance the gospel gives is never content either with the past or with what we already are. Rather, the assurance that the gospel provides for us is of the essence of faith, for this assurance is “being sure of what we hope for” (Heb 11:1), namely confidence that we shall be what we are not yet –fully like Jesus Christ (1 John 3:2-3). This assurance is born out of faith that acknowledges that God “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb 11:6)

Caneday, A.B., http://trsbu.blogspot.com/p/forty-theses-on-perseverance.html (accessed July 12, 2011).
That’s What’s Wrong With Calvinism

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Saved to Believe or Believe to be Saved?

Here is something I wrote today that I wanted to share, to get different perspectives on.

Consider the following passage in Ephesians Chapter 1. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” In speaking of the irrefutable gospel, this passage says it all. Paul acknowledged their having trusted Christ AFTER hearing the word of truth, “THE GOSPEL of your salvation,” Paul said, and then notice something very interesting. Paul says, “having believed, you WERE sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

It appears that several things are evident. First of all, hearing the gospel prompted a response. It is the natural progression of revelation to solicit a response. Now, he says, “having believed” indicating their response to this gospel, they were THEN sealed by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration is not possible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the new believer’s heart. That is what gives the old man this new nature. Here it is clear that belief in this word of truth, which is the gospel of salvation, must be believed in order to live. God does not “make us alive so that we can believe.” It appears that this passage of Scripture settles that argument.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Can I Miss God’s Plan?

I read this statement this morning and am wondering how it “squares” with irresistible grace?

“Wondering this morning how many prayed for Messiah’s kingdom to come before Christ was born but missed it b/c they were expecting something different…and how often I pray the same (Luke 11:2) with my own agenda at heart and, thus, set myself up to miss God’s plan b/c I have my heart set on something different.”

Your thoughts?

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

God the Author of Sin?

I have edited the original quote after a couple comments: Some of the original quote had no relevance to my point so I deleted it.

In speaking on the issue of God being the author of sin, Jonathan Edwards was credited as making the following statement: “God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.” (Let me say this, I don’t care if Edwards really said this nor do I care what he or whoever said it may or may not have meant by the statement. I was simply giving credit to Edwards for saying it.) The point from my perspective and the reason for this post, is I really do like this statement.

I do not believe that God is the author of individual sin. Obviously God did create the world. He has allowed and certainly permitted sin. He was not and is not a “positive agent” of individual sin. So, it seems logical and Biblical to say, “God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.”

In the same manner, I like the following statement, “God has willed that people be saved and has established a world whereby conversion WILL take place by His Divine will but not His “positive agency”?

Grateful to be in His Grip,

><>”

The Problem With Calvinism in the SBC

There are a number of issues that the SBC is going to have to deal with concerning the issue of Calvinism in the SBC. The issue is not one of co-existing. It is an issue of control and influence. For years, the liberals and conservatives co-existed in the SBC. However, in the 60’s the liberal faction managed to make their way, under the radar so to speak, into the colleges and seminaries that were supported in part with Cooperative Fund monies. They began turning out preachers and graduates who saw the Bible from a more liberal stance than most traditional Southern Baptists did. This influence rooted in the seminaries was having an impact on the perceived future of the SBC. So, men like Paul Presslar, a Houston judge and Paige Patterson, then President of Criswell College and W.A. Criswell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and Adrian Rogers, Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee put together a plan to elect a President of the convention who could help turn the tide and the threat of liberalism in the convention. The President of the Convention was responsible for appointing people to serve on committees who would be responsible for choosing individuals to serve on various trustee boards and in various positions of leadership within the convention’s organizational entities. In this way, this group would be able to gain control of trustee appointees who in turn would be able to make sure the various entities held to the appropriate theological positions of the conservatively elected leadership. Adrian Rogers was elected President of the SBC and the conservative resurgence was begun and it continued for a number of years.

Today the SBC is facing another challenge posed by Calvinism in much the same way it did with liberalism in the 60’s and 70’s. The Calvinists will scream bloody murder at being cast in the same light as the liberals of the past generation. The point however, is unfortunately the same. The truth is, the Calvinist theological position is decidedly different from the theological position of the person in the pew today and the question must be addressed, “How much of a Calvinist influence in the SBC is enough or too much?” If the people in the pew do not make that determination, the people in power most certainly will and that tide is swiftly turning in favor of the Calvinist camp.

There is another problem that is prevalent in Calvinist pulpits and that is a message that is theologically inconsistent. The following statement that is a part of the chapter titled, “Walking Without Slipping”, which appears on the Founders Website in of all things, a “quiet” file.

“Along with the doctrines of grace, human responsibility to believe is another foundational doctrine, a hill on which to die. We must proclaim to every single person: All are sinners. All are dead in trespasses and sins. They are not sick and simply in need of help. Rather, they are dead and in need of life.

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect, able and willing Savior of sinners, even the worst, yea, even the chief.

The Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior shall be received into favor, and none shall be cast out.

God has made faith and repentance a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel a serious and full casting of the soul upon Christ as an all-sufficient Savior. He is ready, willing and able to save all who come to God by Christ.

To the question the article “Walking Without Slipping” states, “What must I do to be saved?” we must respond to all who ask, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” What does that mean? It means: (a) knowing that you are a sinner, (b) knowing that Christ has died for sinners, (c) abandoning all self-righteousness, self-confidence and self-effort as a means of salvation, (d) casting yourself wholly upon Christ for pardon and peace, (e) exchanging your natural enmity and rebellion against Christ for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of your heart by the Holy Spirit.”

In all fairness, the Calvinist must accept the fact that this answer requires some forethought. While this statement is technically correct from a strict theological position, Calvinist’s must admit “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” is understood to be qualified by the statement, “if that is God’s will.” In fact, to the Calvinist, it is not even possible to be saved if God’s effectual call is not present in the heart of the one asking the question. The Calvinist’s position must be understood that regeneration MUST be the initial step in any move toward God. While it is understood that the since no one knows who is the elect or not, it is fair to make the aforementioned offer and leave it to God to reap the harvest. This out to be true of everyone who extends such an invitation, Calvinist or not. However, from a theological standpoint, the following statement is still true for the Calvinist: “If it is God’s will for someone to be saved, then that person will be saved. If it is not God’s will for an individual to be saved, then that individual will not be saved.”

This introduces the next problem that Calvinism presents and that is the concept of “double-predestination.” If the Calvinist is correct in his assessment of salvation and God’s responsibility in the salvific process, then not only is God singularly and solely responsible for every person that comes to Christ and goes to heaven, He is also singularly and solely responsible for every person who dies without Christ and goes to hell. John Frame in his book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord speaks directly to this issue and its implications related to Calvinism.

“Now the question comes up, if God chooses us eternally for salvation, does He also choose who will be lost? God’s choice of who will be lost is called reprobation. So we know God elected; does he also reprobate? It seems logical to say that if God chooses some to be saved; he automatically chooses the rest not to be saved. This doctrine is sometimes called ‘double predestination’.”

“But this is a hard pill to swallow. It is hard to believe that a loving God could, before the beginning of time, send some to eternal punishment, accusing them before they could do anything about it. Although reprobation is a particularly hard problem, I believe the best answers are the answers I gave earlier: God brings good out of evil even when we can’t imagine how He could possibly do it; and He reserved to Himself the right to do that, to His own honor and glory. Remember, too, that if God does not reprobate, He does not elect to salvation either. So, the alternative to election and reprobation is for us to try to save ourselves by our own resources, I would not want to try to do that. What settles the matter is that the doctrine of reprobation is biblical and not just an implication from the doctrine of election. In other words, He uses His sovereignty negatively rather than positively.”

There is another problem that Calvinism presents. This problem centers on the issue of “invitational evangelism and false converts in the church.” A number of present day Calvinists have written and preached sermons criticizing invitational evangelism and giving lost people a false sense of hope. It is almost as if Calvinists are saying that this makes evangelizing the elect more difficult. This whole argument is an illogical one and completely inconsistent with the tenets of Calvinism. There are two basic problems. First according to Calvinistic doctrine, unregenerate church members are just that, dead in their sin. They are no worse off than the unregenerate person of the world. To the Calvinist, regeneration is a lost person’s only hope, church member or not. If Calvinism is correct, the fact that someone has made a false profession of faith at an altar call should have no consequence at all on the individual who is efficaciously called by God to salvation. There is simply no merit whatsoever to this argument.

The other problem with this theologically as it relates to Calvinism is, just because someone is not regenerate today does not mean that his time will not come tomorrow or next year or any time before he passes from this life. There really is no justification to move this person out of the fellowship of the church if in fact God is sovereign and in complete control and nothing happens by accident. The fact that this person is even at a particular church is in and of itself at least partly because of God’s doing or one could argue, he would not be there in the first place. Again, an unregenerate person whether he is in church or not or whether he is in a church that has unregenerate members is not going to hinder the providential work of God in salvation for the Calvinist. John Frame alludes to this as he notes, “A lot of people in the world are the elect but not yet saved. Before you believed in Jesus you were in that position. You were the elect, chosen of God before the foundation of the world, but you lived as an unbeliever, without any faith in Christ. How did God change you? The first phase, the first event, is effectual calling… it is then that God opens your heart to receive the truth.”

A final issue with the Calvinist position with regard to unregenerate membership can be seen in the Calvinist’s efforts to exercise church discipline as elders so that members who do not agree with the “new reformed way” can be shown the door. Elders in many cases do not have to get congregational authority or permission to see that the church is run “orderly.” Calvinist pastors have been seen by some as promoting the age old philosophy, “It’s my way or the highway. If my way does not suit you, don’t go away mad; just go away.” In the last decade, as churches have started using membership classes to help new members learn what it means to be part of a particular church, many of those churches are now limiting leadership positions to those individuals who have completed “Membership 101, 102 – 105.” There is an argument that these classes are being used to help the church leadership weed out dissenting individuals by disqualifying them for leadership in the church. It is a very effective way to gain control of a congregation.

These issues that Calvinism present are not going to go away. Calvinism can continue to make its way into every facet of Southern Baptist life and can eventually take control of the convention if something is not done to limit its influence. Calvinism today covers a broad scope of individuals and ideas. However, those who are “real Calvinists” will tolerate those who are only Calvinistic until the day comes when they will not have to do so and then there is always the possibility that they will cut ties with the three and four-point Calvinists and people will begin to wonder, “How on earth did all this ever happen?” If there is any doubt as to the reality of that possibility, just take a good look at what has happened in Washington DC over the past few decades. If the SBC does not make a move and soon, this convention will continue to move in the Calvinist direction and this convention will be left suffering with more than an identity crisis being examined by a name change committee.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

><>”

Sin and God’s Presence

Here are some thoughts I wrote down this morning in my devotional time.

In the garden Adam and Eve made a choice; they chose their way over God’s way. Their choice separated them from God. This separation is what God sought to correct on the cross. So, Christ in giving His life on the cross, made it possible for God to reconcile the world unto Himself. How does He do that? By offering man today the same thing He offered Adam; life in His presence.

In choosing Israel, God said, I want to be your God and I want you to me My people. The problem was, the people would not remain faithful to maintain fellowship with His presence. So, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin so that in our coming to Him, God would bring His presence into our hearts, which is the hope of eternal life that begins at regeneration and continues forever.

><>”