My Thoughts on the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston

I had given a lot of thought to recommending associational meeting places to help boost attendance and interest in the annual meeting that takes place in various cities around the country. However, after attending the meeting in Houston, I realized something; I believe the reason that so many are now staying away from the meeting may have more to do with what happens or maybe more accurately stated, what does not take place at the annual meeting, than anything else. Let me explain.

A number of motions were brought to the floor of the annual meeting last year. Those motions were either ruled out of order or they were all referred to a committee. I looked at the report for this year’s meeting and noticed that all of those motions referred to committees last year were not brought back up this year. Several motions were brought up on the floor of the meeting this year and guess what? Those motions that were not ruled out of order were referred to some committee and not even debated on the floor of the convention. Ronnie Floyd made a motion and managed to get an audience with those in charge of hearing motions, but that is all I heard of that.

The SBC has a resolutions committee that receives resolutions submitted to them before the convention convenes. This committee has the right to revise any resolution submitted to it as it sees fit before presenting the resolution to the convention for approval, if it chooses to do so. If the resolutions committee does not believe the resolution is in the best interest of the convention, it may not present the resolution at all. Once a resolution is presented, discussion ensues and the chair entertains motions to amend the resolution. Once those issues are settled, the motion with any approved amendments are then voted on. There is only one real problem with this; resolutions are nothing more than strong suggestions because those resolutions have no authority where the entities of the SBC are concerned nor do they have any authority over the church, because churches are autonomous bodies. The entities are not autonomous, but are governed by a board of trustees and as such, are not required to follow any vote taken by the convention messengers. This was clearly seen when in Phoenix the messengers voted to have Lifeway take the NIV 2011 off its shelves and when the board of trustees met in 2012, they voted to keep it. The BOT was under no mandate to act on the vote of the messengers in annual session. This is true of all the entities of the SBC.

It might also be noted, that motions made on the floor of the convention would be no more binding than resolutions. Citing an exaggerated scenario, a motion could be made on the floor of the convention to fire one of the entity heads. That motion could pass unanimously but it would still be up to the trustee board as to what they decided to do with reference to such a motion, no matter what the nature of that motion might have been.

The only real significance that can be seen in the business of the meeting would be related to voting for the president of the SBC. Since this year was considered an “off-year” for any presidential election noting Dr. Luter’s unopposed re-election bid, some have said they would save their money for Baltimore where a new president will be elected in 2014. This could explain the lower than expected number of messengers in Houston. I have even heard that reason given for folks not attending New Orleans knowing that Dr. Luter would be nominated unopposed as well. The Convention then elects a First Vice President and then a Second Vice President. Bart Barber was elected to the first position unopposed and Jared Moore was elected to the second receiving 422 votes over Don Cass with 252 or so votes. There were 674 votes cast in total. William Thornton has raised a good question regarding a quorum necessary to conduct business. You can read his article by clicking here. With the number of messengers registered, 1250 would have had to be in the convention hall to even vote for the 2 VP and since 674 votes were cast, there is some wonder if that vote were not cast prematurely. It was 20 minutes or so before the scheduled time on the printed program.

There is a second problem with the nomination process of officers. Someone got up and nominated Jared Moore and basically said Jared is a personal friend; his church gives 16% to the CP and he is not a mega church pastor but just an ordinary guy pastoring a rural church of folks that love Jesus and their community. A second individual got up and nominated Don Cass and spoke to his credentials and why he ought to be the next 2 VP. Neither of these two guys even so much as waved to the crowd, as small as it was. No one had much of a clue who these two guys were other than what they were told by the individual nominating them. This process is producing some serious potential problems. Jared Moore is two heartbeats away from the presidency of the SBC. I find that problematic for a number of reasons.

The first is highlighted by an article Jared himself wrote on his own blog. For those who do not know Jared, he is an avid blogger. In an article he wrote that was published at SBC Voices on September 24, 2012 titled “An Open Letter to “Failing” Churches and Foolish Southern Baptists”, he wrote the following statement:

The church I pastor, New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY, didn’t record a single baptism last year (2011). I realize some folks in Southern Baptist churches and in Southern Baptist State and National entities lament our efforts as “failing,” but I want to publicly rebuke them, and encourage those who have labored faithfully without much tangible fruit.

It is bad enough that Jared’s church did not baptize a single person in a year but he sees it as his duty to rebuke those who find that problematic. Jared goes on to say,

“At least one baptism per year” is an unbiblical quota. Where is such a quota at in Scripture? You won’t find it. So, why do some judge the ministries of others based on this quota? Furthermore, why is their quota so low? Why isn’t their quota “at least one baptism per week”? Or, better yet, “100 baptisms per week”? I suppose then they would have to admit that they’re failures as well?

I do understand there are a lot of circumstances surrounding people being saved and baptized in our churches. However, one of the biggest reasons people are not saved centers around our not witnessing and sharing the gospel with folks outside the pulpit. It is absolutely inconceivable that ANYONE who is saved could not win 1 person to Jesus in a year. I agree with Moore that there are no such goals spelled out in the Scriptures but I would also argue that the thought that a born again Christian would not lead one person to Christ in a year would be highly unusual as well. Moore’s article can be read by clicking here. He does make some good comments but there really is no excuse for anyone to go a year without leading someone to Christ. If the 422 messengers who voted for Jared knew this fact, I wonder how many would have still voted for him?

Perhaps there ought to be some kind of opportunity to ask, “If anyone knows of any reason that this person should not be nominated to this position, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” It works for weddings; maybe it ought to be used in nominations for office in SBC elections of the future. A brief question and answer session ought to be incorporated into the election process, seeing that these are the most significant opportunities for messengers to engage in.

There was a pronounced effort made to set a tone for co-operation in the SBC. The repeated cry was for all of us to “look at all the things we agree on” and not focus on the few things that we disagree on. Personally I find that a little condescending. If there were not significant differences, we would not be having these debates in the first place. Here is a fact. The cry to get along is almost always the cry of the underdog until they become the big dog and then there is no longer any toleration for differing positions. From all indications, the same can be said of the New Calvinist movement. The new church planting organizations that are Reformed, are planting reformed church plants that are committed to reformed theology up front. More recently, the trustees of a couple state supported Baptist colleges have voted not to renew contracts on professors and the New Calvinist contingency has made their calvinism a major issue in their contracts not being renewed. Sharp criticism has been leveled against the institutions and in one case the executive director of the state. It is as if the day is fast changing and the New Calvinists are already flexing their muscles proving their desire to have one theological position in the SBC; Reformed Theology.

Call it what you want; it is what it is. We can call for unity and I believe everyone would love to see real unity. However, the unity we are seeking is a one-sided effort allowing the other side to continue doing what it needs to do to move the SBC closer to the Reformed way which I believe is set to be solidified when the SBC moves to Baltimore. The foundation has been laid and barring a significant move of God, the guys leading this calvinist charge will prevail in Baltimore and the SBC will be turned to a more reformed position.

This convention in Baltimore may well prove to be one of the most significant conventions in the history of the SBC. I believe every Southern Baptist ought to begin to make plans to go to Baltimore because win, lose of draw, this will be the convention you will not want to miss.

May God bless the SBC in these very interesting days!

Bob Hadley,
Pastor
Westside Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, FL

TRUTH, TRUST, and TESTIMONY in a TIME of TENSION

A Statement from the Calvinism Advisory Committee

This report can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

I am as concerned with the current state of affairs of the SBC as anyone and have been more vocal than most. I have waited eagerly for this report’s completion and will say that it is much more than I expected. As I read the report, I was impressed with everything that was said. It should have been obvious that this committee report would not solve the theological issues that face our denomination but I applaud their effort “to suggest a course for moving forward together while taking seriously and representing fairly the theological diversity that exists in and has been the strength of Southern Baptist life.” I wholeheartedly agree with the following statement: “We affirm together that Southern Baptists must stand without apology upon truth; that we do indeed have some challenging but not insurmountable points of tension; that we must work together with trust; and that we must encourage one another to testimony.”

I fully support the statements dealing with Truth and will pledge to stand shoulder to shoulder with any Southern Baptist in support of their convictions based on the truth found in the Word of God. I will stand in support of those I disagree with and pledge to work wholeheartedly with them for the proclamation of the gospel and the sake of seeing the lost come to Christ and His church strengthened. I do understand there is a world of lost people who are dying every day that need Jesus and we must make sure we make the main thing the main thing and that is letting those lost individuals know that Jesus has come to seek and to save those who are lost.

Now to the discourse on Trust. Under the section on Cooperation, the following statement is made:

“We deny that the issues now discussed among us should in any way undermine or hamper our work together if we grant one another liberty and extend to one another charity in these differences.” I agree a need for more charity is most certainly warranted and charity begins at home. I will seek to be more charitable and make that more of a priority than I have in the past. It is easy to let the flesh overshadow the Spirit in discussions dealing with theology and its place in denominational life.

“Neither those insisting that Calvinism should dominate Southern Baptist identity nor those who call for its elimination, should set the course for our life together.” This statement is perhaps the most pertinent to me personally. I can wholeheartedly support this statement understanding that it is a two-faceted statement. If it can be demonstrated that NEITHER group seeks to “set the course of our life together” then I am 100% on board and will gladly become the most ardent supporter of our denominational leaders.

I will say this: making a statement is the easy part; stepping up to the plate and accomplishing this is going to prove to be the critical part of this whole statement. My position has been very clear; those leading the Calvinist revival have been actively involved in doing what this statement says they should not be doing going forward. I applaud the statement; my sincerest prayer is that there is a determined demonstration of integrity in accepting the responsibility to follow through on this commitment.

Moving Forward.

I do believe we can celebrate unity if we can “clarify the parameters of our cooperation where necessary.” Obviously those parameters for me will be determined by the ability of those who have taken control of the entities of the SBC and the response they will take going forward in reducing even the appearance of a Calvinist agenda. This must be demonstrated in a number of the entities of the SBC. To acknowledge the need for clarification but to fail to achieve that clarification will prove to be fatal and the outstanding efforts of this committee futile. Eyes will be focused on what will take place in the coming months and years. The day of unnoticed changes is over. If cooperation is the goal, it can be achieved. If it is business as usual and nothing changes cooperation will not take place and without cooperation, unity will not be possible.

I agree and wholeheartedly applaud the statement on respecting and representing all Southern Baptists. I would support the leadership in the entities if they can demonstrate the following: “No entity should be promoting Calvinism or non-Calvinism to the exclusion of the other.” This would indeed be a strong step forward. I believe it is absolutely essential that we do all that we can to “avoid the development of partisan divisions among Southern Baptists.” It is absolutely clear that these partisan divisions are among us. There really is no danger of them developing; we do need to figure out a way to lessen those divisions. A concerted effort to adhere to the suggestions in this statement would indeed go a long way in accomplishing that goal.

I will challenge myself with the following admonition: “If we stand together in truth, we can trust one another in truth, even as we experience tension. We can talk like brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can work urgently and eagerly together.” Tension can be overcome and it can make us stronger if it is dealt with properly and the suggestions in this statement do adequately address the stresses and the solutions.

I will commit myself to accomplishing the closing statement; “let us not neglect the task we are assigned. The world desperately needs to hear the promise of the Gospel.” I wholeheartedly support the statement produced by the Calvinism Advisory Committee and pledge to support it with all my heart, my soul and my strength.

May God continue to bless the SBC for His glory and our benefit.

Dr. Bob Hadley
Pastor Westside Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fl.

SBC and Calvinism: The Point of No Return

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pe 3:9 NKJV)

This post is going to be very simple and relatively short. God is either “lonsuffering toward us” or He is not. He is either “not willing that ANY should perish” or He is not. Here is something that really troubles me in my spirit. I really do hate the issue of the divide that calvinism is causing in the SBC. I have been accused of “hating my brothers in Christ” because I disagree with the implications and ramifications of this issue and its relevance in our convention. Nothing could be further from the truth. This has no personal aspects to it whatsoever. I do not “hate anyone” because of their position with respect to calvinism or any other issue that I am aware of.

Here is question that I would love for someone to answer. Either God is the One who solely determines who is or is not saved or His decision on my eternity is based on my decision with respect to Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. Either God decides who spends eternity in heaven or His decision is based on my decision. The latter in no way diminishes God’s sovereignty because that is an impossibility! God is ALWAYS sovereign because He says He is. This fact does not mean that God cannot base His decision on my decision and that does not elevate free-will to some position over God as has been argued on several occasions.

My question is this: At best, one of these two positions is true and the other false. It is entirely possible that BOTH could be wrong but one thing is absolutely true: both of these positions cannot be correct. Given that premise, how can a calvinist be so critical of my position that theirs does not fit 2 Peter 3:9 when they are in effect saying at least indirectly that their theological position is to correct the inerrant theology of the majority of Southern Baptists and it is clear that they are doing just that?

The calvinist does not like my position any more than I like his but there is this cry for unity when it is obvious to anyone that has eyes to see or ears to hear that neither group wants the other group dictating and directing the theological tenets that will help determine the future direction of the SBC. If one of us is wrong in our portrayal of the character of God, how can either plead for unity when deep down, the divide that separates us is as important to one group as it is to the other?

I believe the SBC is going to have to determine which side it wants to stand on, where the issue of calvinism in the SBC is concerned. The issue has escalated, like it or not, to a winner take all position and it is time for that decision to be made. If the SBC continues to sit on the sidelines and let the current direction continue, the decision will be made for the SBC and the people will one day very soon sit asking, “How on earth did this happen!”

We cannot co-exist as a denomination at this point. Those leading the resurgence of calvinism have taken this issue to a no-return position and one side will ultimately emerge as the predominate theological position and that is now inevitable and irreversible.

May God bless the SBC and its future.

Bob Hadley, Pastor Westside Baptist Church Daytona Beach, Fl.

The BF&M 2000 and Calvinism Revisited!

The relevance of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is garnering a lot of attention today. Its popularity has soared in the last few years as the revival of Calvinism has found fertile ground in the entities of the SBC. A lot of attention has been focused on the diversity that is contained in the BF&M 2000 and the relevance of Calvinist leanings in the document. In fact, depending on who one talks to today, there are a growing number of references to the BF&M 2000 as being a Reformed document simply because Al Mohler was one of the fifteen members of a committee charged with the mission of re-writing the newer document. Someone recently made a comment to me personally that the committee relied heavily on Dr. Mohler “to work out the specific wording of the revisions from the BF&M 1963.” His take was basically Dr. Mohler’s presence on the committee completely overshadowed the other members and his obvious qualifications and expertise were relied on for the re-write. This individual concluded that this ought not to come as a shock to anyone.

At question is the reference to regeneration in Section 4 on Salvation. Calvinists begin with what they call total depravity or total inability which says that man is dead in his sin and he is enslaved to a sin nature that he has inherited from Adam. Not only does man inherit a sin nature which the BF&M 2000 acknowledges, Calvinists maintain that man inherits Adam’s guilt and is therefore guilty of Adam’s sin as well as his own and in order for him to even respond to the gospel, he must be given a new nature, a new heart or he must be born again so that he can then repent and exercise believing or saving faith. Consider the following quotes:

“A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved.” (Lorainne Boetner) “We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again that we may believe.” (John Piper) “Faith is the evidence of the new birth, not the cause of it.” (RC Sproul) “the revived [regenerated] heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.” (ESV Study Bible, 2531.) [for a complete reference to the quotes above, see Dr. David Allen’s comments from his presentation at the John 3:16 Conference in Atlanta by clicking here. http://sbctoday.com/2013/05/15/dr-david-l-allen-2013-john-316-presentation-part-13/

As seen in the statements referenced above, Calvinists for the most part see faith as the evidence of the new birth; we are born again to believe and the most egregious statement, A man is not saved because he believes in Christ, he believes in Christ because he is saved! For most Calvinists, regeneration takes place and is initiated by God and by Him alone giving a lost man his salvation, period. It is God and God alone that decides who will and will not be saved; it is God and God alone who decides who will go to heaven and by default is solely responsible for determining who will die and spend eternity in hell. Here is the most amazing part of this discussion. These Calvinists are saying that this theology is consistent with the BF&M 2000 and because that is the adopted position of the SBC these guys deserve to teach in the seminaries of the SBC and serve in the entities of the SBC and they are actively seeking to grab hold of every ounce of influence their positions will allow and then some.

How does the BF&M 2000 justify being called a Reformed document? Where in the BF&M 2000 is this notion that men do not believe to be save but are saved to believe?

Section IV of the BF&M 2000 says the following about Salvation:

“Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.”

Consider the first sentence, “Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” Salvation is “offered freely to all who accept Christ as Lord and Savior.” When an average person reads this statement, he sees God offering salvation to all and while one can read this sentence correctly that way, it can also be read with the emphasis on “all who believe.” Calvinists believe that those who believe are those who have been regenerated or effectually called to salvation and once that takes place, repentance and believing or saving faith automatically follow. So it is fair to say that this statement can “swing both ways.”

Look at the next phrase: “who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” This statement is Calvinist leaning but in a way that someone not familiar with the nuances of the specific issues would not notice. Basically Calvinists will point to this statement saying “Jesus’ death on the cross obtained eternal redemption for the elect, who are those who believe.” The BF&M 2000 does definitely allow for that interpretation. Look at the next statement: “In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.” The 1963 statement leaves out “justification.” It read, “In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.” In the 63 statement, regeneration and justification were seen as basically the same thing; regeneration being “born-again” which is what justification accomplishes. So by adding justification, a distinction was made in the 2000 document and the Calvinists point to this distinction to say that regeneration precedes justification in the BF&M 2000, which is perhaps the most distinguishing mark of Calvinism.

Move on down to Section A: Regeneration. The wording of this section is unchanged with the exception of the final statement in the 63 version dealing with justification is now a separate Section B of its own, with no change in the language.

“Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus.” No problem right? Well maybe and maybe not. A work of God’s grace sounds so sweet to the Baptist ear that loves Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound. I have heard this hymn affectionately referred to as the National Anthem of Baptists. So being born again is a work of God’s grace. Amen. Calvinists and their Doctrines of Grace love it as well. Regeneration is a work of God’s grace where believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. This has tremendous implications where Calvinism is concerned. Through regeneration the lost person becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. It is a work of God’s grace and not of man’s doing at all. It is amazing how words can be written that seem to say one thing to someone who is not familiar with the unique nuances of a particular theology and then as the theology is explained those nuances jump out in full view.

Here is perhaps the most detrimental statement in the confession. “It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Calvinists read this verse and say, “regeneration is a change of heart brought about by the Holy Spirit to which the sinner THEN responds in repentance and faith in Jesus and is justified or converted.” The non-Calvinist will read the statement in this way: “regeneration or being born again is a change of heart brought about by the Holy Spirit through the conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus and is saved.” The non-Calvinist sees “to which the sinner responds in repentance” referring to the work of the Holy Spirit that convicts men of sin while the Calvinist sees “to which the sinner responds in repentance” referring directly to regeneration that is a “change of heart” and they gloss over the convicting of sins because regeneration will automatically cause one to see his sin as God see it and he will naturally as a new creature repent.

At this point, the Calvinists have more than a leg to stand on in this debate that the BF&M 2000 leaves room for both the Calvinist and the non-Calvinist to both work together and to vie for leadership positions in the entities of the convention and to seek to influence the theological tenets for the future of the SBC.

There is a statement in the BF&M 2000 dealing with this issue of regeneration the Calvinists are overlooking. It is found in Section 2 C “God the Holy Spirit.”

Here is what this statement says:

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the
Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ.”

Note the following statement: “He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration.” Ok this is an interesting statement. Since there seems to be a good deal of confusion about just what regeneration means in the later section, perhaps this earlier statement will clear up the ambiguity in the later statement.

Here is the most damaging statement for the Calvinist position in the whole of the BF&M 2000: “At the moment of regeneration He (The Holy Spirit) baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.” There is no ambiguity in this statement. Here regeneration is clearly identified as conversion and justification. Regeneration is not the cause and effect of repentance and believing and saving faith; regeneration is the result of repentance and saving faith because at regeneration the Holy Spirit baptizes first of all, “every believer” and then “every believer into the Body of Christ.” This statement is as clear as one can be. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit takes place at regeneration and the unregenerate becomes a “believer.” Repentance and believing faith have already taken place because they are essential to becoming a believer, which is what this statement says. Second, the indwelling Spirit baptizes the believer into the body of Christ.

Here is the final keg in the coffin for the SBC Calvinist . This sentence, “At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ” was added to the BF&M 2000 statement! It is not part of the 63 statement. So while Calvinists attempt to argue that the BF&M 2000 is a move back to historic Calvinism, this addition by itself negates the more ambiguous statements dealing with the timing of regeneration in the salvific process as presented in section IV on Salvation.

Perhaps it is time for trustees of the various entities to revisit the adherence to the BF&M 2000 that has been trumpeted as the fix all for the Calvinist revival in the SBC and see how they stand on “At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.” Perhaps this is the statement that may hold the most hope for a renewed perspective on the BF&M 2000 and its relevance for the 21st century.

The following is an excerpt of Dr. Mohler’s inaugural address for Dr. Jason Allen who is the new president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.

How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.”

I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s statement because it confirms what I have been saying all along with respect to the influence that not only the seminaries hold in affecting the future of the SBC but the other entities of the SBC as well. Many have dismissed this argument saying that I have been exaggerating the importance of their influence. Many have attempted to dismiss the obvious connection between the theological underpinning of these entities and the potential influence they hold that will as Mohler admits, “be inflicted upon congregations where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.” I am glad that Dr. Mohler has himself set the record straight admitting that he fully understands the value of making sure the theological position of the various entities is essential to determining the future direction of the SBC.

My question is still the same; do we as Southern Baptists want the direction of the entities to be determined by Calvinist theology, that says God and God alone determines who will and will not be saved or do we want those entities to continue to be identified by a “whosoever will come” theology? Understand the future of the SBC is clearly at hand for the entities as well as the seminaries “are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.”

I believe our world is better served by a SBC that presents the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to ALL WHO BELIEVE: not all that God gives the ability to believe. May God continue to bless the SBC for His glory and the world’s benefit!

Dr. Mohler’s comments can be read in their entirety by clicking here.

The following is an excerpt of Dr. Mohler’s inaugural address for Dr. Jason Allen who is the new president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.

How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.”

I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s statement because it confirms what I have been saying all along with respect to the influence that not only the seminaries hold in affecting the future of the SBC but the other entities of the SBC as well. Many have dismissed this argument saying that I have been exaggerating the importance of their influence. Many have attempted to dismiss the obvious connection between the theological underpinning of these entities and the potential influence they hold that will as Mohler admits, “be inflicted upon congregations where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.” I am glad that Dr. Mohler has himself set the record straight admitting that he fully understands the value of making sure the theological position of the various entities is essential to determining the future direction of the SBC.

My question is still the same; do we as Southern Baptists want the direction of the entities to be determined by Calvinist theology, that says God and God alone determines who will and will not be saved or do we want those entities to continue to be identified by a “whosoever will come” theology? Understand the future of the SBC is clearly at hand for the entities as well as the seminaries “are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.”

I believe our world is better served by a SBC that presents the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to ALL WHO BELIEVE: not all that God gives the ability to believe. May God continue to bless the SBC for His glory and the world’s benefit!

Dr. Mohler’s comments can be read in their entirety by clicking here.

Calvinism in the SBC and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000

Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary takes a look at the BF&M 2000 and attempt to makes the case that it affirms what is known in theological circles as “original sin.” When the average person hears the phrase “original sin” most think of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. Nettles’ use of “original sin” is far more reaching than that. In Nettles’ treatment of “original sin”, he sees Adam’s guilt being passed on to every generation, which lays claim to much more than man’s “inclination to sin” as stated in the BF&M 2000. The Bible does clearly establish the fact that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Ro. 3:23) and it goes on the further say, “the wages of sin is death.” (Ro. 6:23) However, Nettles’ contention that the Bible clearly states that men are “born condemned for their sin and are therefore dead” is another matter. This tenet is absolutely essential to the Reformed Theology position. Nettles’ article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Nettles quotes the Abstract Principles, which he notes was the founding theological confession of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. According to Nettles, The Abstract speaks to “original sin” as it says, “his [Adam’s] posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.” He then goes on to quote the BF&M 2000 which obviously reflects some similarity to the Abstract as it says, “his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” Nettles proceeds to note the similarities but fails to note the differences that are significant, especially where the respective documents differ on the issue of “original sin.”

Nettles writes, “The phrase ‘nature and environment inclined toward sin’ [the environment is, not trees and mountains, but people, rational moral beings, already involved in the course of sinfulness before God] views men as already sinful and transgressing. The fact that, according to the Bible, there never has been and never will be an individual born from Adam’s vine who does not sin, argues for an explanation of universal depravity, that is, a propensity that necessarily produces sin. Does such a moral propensity not involve real guilt?”

Nettles accurately points out that the Bible clearly establishes the fact that all men are sinners. Nettles however goes on to equate this fact with his supposition that all me are “already (born) sinful and transgressing.” He then takes another unwarranted step as he incorrectly associates all men being sinners as being “an explanation for universal depravity,” which he says is a “propensity that necessarily produces sin.” Here Nettles attempts to turn things around a bit. He uses the Scriptural fact that all men are sinners to say that all men are dead spiritually and that this is the “propensity that necessarily produces sin.” So men sin because they are spiritually dead and as dead men they cannot not sin. There is a serious problem with that supposition; it is not borne out by the text. This concept has to be read into the text.

Note Nettles’ next assertion, “Does such a moral depravity not involve real guilt?” Basically Nettles is saying A equals B and b equals C and because those are true D equals E and F equals G. It is fine to attempt to connect the dots as Nettles has done and draw the conclusions he has drawn, but that is not the case presented by the Scriptures themselves nor is it the position proffered by the BF&M 2000.

While Nettles points to the joint language in the two confessions related to man’s “inheriting an inclination toward sin” he fails to note the significant differences. The Abstract says, “his [Adam’s] posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.” The BF&M 2000 states, “his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” Note the differences. The BF&M 2000 says that men “inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” The Abstract says men “inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation.” While it is certainly true that a nature “corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law” would accurately describe a nature “inclined to sin” it is not automatically true that the reverse of that is likewise accurate: a nature “inclined to sin” is not necessarily a nature “wholly opposed to God and His Law.” The two phrases CAN BE interpreted in the same way but the two statements are not necessarily mutually interchangeable. The problem is not really the phraseology but rather the interpretations that go with the phrase that become problematic.

Now to another significant difference. The BF&M 2000 makes no reference to the phrase in the Abstract, “are under condemnation.” Nettles attempts to say that both confessions necessarily point to an “original sin” position. He intentionally overlooks the absence of this very important phrase in the BF&M 2000. While it is true that the Abstract does necessarily point to a firm position on “original sin” it is equally clear that the BF&M 2000 does not or the phrase “are under condemnation” would still be part of the confession. The correct theological position of a majority of Southern Baptists today is that men are not born guilty of Adam’s sin as Nettles suggests. The BF&M 2000 is clear: “as soon as they (men) are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” This is a very important distinction between the Abstract Principles and the BF&M 2000 where the issue of the inherited nature of man’s sin is concerned. The BF&M 2000 does not demand an “original sin” interpretation as Nettles proposes.

Now, while confessions can be useful, no solid Southern Baptist would place any confession above the Scripture. Nettles moves his presentation from the confessions to the Scripture. He does so with the following comment, “These confessions embody Jesus’ teaching when he incriminated the so-inclined heart as the evil fountain from which evil actions arose. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:23). An inclination to evil has no moment of innocence but already is weighted with guilt.” It is true Jesus says that which defiles a person comes from within but His statement in Mark 7 is not a commentary on inherited Adamic guilt. That is something that is being added to the text and the intent of Jesus’ statement.

Consider the other Scriptural references Nettles notes. He writes, “From whence is such a heart? Under divine inspiration, David lamented, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” (Psalm 58:3)” Take a look at the context David is speaking in: “1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity? 2 No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth. 3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.” David closes the Psalm with the following statement: “10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.” It is clear that David is speaking about rulers that rule unjustly and use violence to accomplish their selfish interests. These selfish motives come from the heart that is deceptively wicked from the time they are born. All men are sinners and their sin effects everything they do. This is not a proof text on original sin and Adamic guilt.

Even Nettles’ reference to Psalm 51 does not provide the convincing conclusion to the issue as he suggests. Here Nettles writes, “David confessed, ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’.” (Psalm 51:5). David’s statement simply means that his conception and birth took place in a sinful world. David is coming to God acknowledging his sin and asking God for His forgiveness. He confesses before God and acknowledges the justification of God’s verdict and His judgment. He then says I was brought forth in iniquity etc. David is saying that there has never been a time in his life when he did not need the Lord and His salvation. He goes on to ask God to create in him a pure heart and to restore in him the joy of His great salvation. It is one thing to read theology out of a text but it is a dangerous thing to take theology looking for texts to justify one’s position. That is sadly the case here.

Consider Nettles’ next statement: “Transgression abides first of all in heart—disposition and inclination of soul to disregard God’s law.” This is an accurate statement. Man’s inclination and disposition is indeed to disregard God’s Law. It is a heart problem. Men want to do what seems right in their own eyes and do not naturally accept or conform to God’s Law. It can also be said that this is an “inherited problem.” All men since Adam have this problem and the problem stems from Adam’s sin. However, this statement does not demand an “original sin” position as Nettles suggests. He continues, “The environment-inclined-toward-sin is the sum total of all the natures-inclined-toward-sin since the fall of Adam. An inclination toward sin in the status of no condemnation is a contradiction.” This statement is a conclusion Nettles draws with no Scriptural foundation. It is simply a statement he makes as if it jumps off the page of the sacred text. It may have an authoritative ring to it but that is about all it has.

Consider the statement itself. “An inclination toward sin in the status of no condemnation is a contradiction.” This statement itself is justifiably acceptable. The implication is what is not acceptable. Nettles is attempting to tie condemnation of sin to Adamic guilt. Men are without question condemned because of their sin; that was the basis of David’s prayer in Psalm 51. Nettles continues, “The “nature inclined toward sin” followed Adam’s transgression and constituted the punishment of spiritual death that immediately came upon him and, as the BFM affirms [“whereby”], passed on all men by inheritance (Romans 5:12).” The BF&M 2000 states the following: “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence “whereby” his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” Nettles attempts to add condemnation to a phrase where there is no justification to do so. In fact, the next statement in the BF&M 2000 clarifies the actualization of condemnation as it clearly states, “Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” Like it or not, the BF&M 2000 is not a proof text for original sin as presented by those who tout the Reformed way in theological discussions. There is no reasonable reference to Adamic guilt or “original sin” in the Bible nor in the BF&M 2000 as is suggested by Nettles’ article.

In conclusion, one must understand the importance of this concept of Original sin and imputed Adamic guilt to support the tenet of total depravity and inability, which are foundational to the veracity of the tenets of Reformed Theology. Nettles is a lifelong proponent of Reformed Theology and a founding member of the Founder’s Ministry where his referenced article appears. The Founder’s Ministry is the oldest and largest organization that has Southern Baptist ties that has as a stated purpose of turning our local churches and pastors toward the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace (i.e.) Reformed doctrine or better known as Calvinism. In an article that appears at the “Southern Baptist Traditionalist” site, a long time personal friend has written an article highlighting the involvement of men like Tom Nettles in its 30 year history this year. Nettles, along with Tom Ascol, Fred Malone and C. Ben Mitchell who is a professor at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee which is my alma mater and a couple other gentlemen met with the Founder’s founder, Earnest Reisinger and they decided “that the purpose of the Founders Conference would be to promote instruction in both doctrine and devotion, as expressed in the doctrines of grace, and the experimental application of those doctrines to the local church, particularly in the areas of worship and witness.”

Congratulations to the Founder’s Ministries 30 years of continued influence in their promotion of doctrine and devotion to the Doctrines of Grace and the experimental applications of those doctrines to the local church, especially Southern Baptist churches. You can read this very well written article by clicking here.

Campbellsville, Chitwood and Calvinism

Earlier this month, Campbellsville University in Kentucky informed one of the professors in its theology department that his contract would not be renewed going forward. This notification would in effect make any application for tenure needless. While this decision was made by the trustees of the university, it no doubt reflected the input of the administration of the school. The professor, Dr. Jarvis Williams is a 5 point Calvinist. He was a key note speaker at the Desiring God National Conference in 2012, a movement spearheaded by John Piper. While the school and its officials are not at liberty to disclose pertinent information with respect to the reasons behind their decision, it is apparent that those on the outside can and have. Criticism has been leveled and public statements made revealing the disappointment of some over this trustee decision pointing to Dr. Williams’ theological position as the reason for his dismissal.

Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has a long history of support from the KBC. Last week, Dr. Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention announced his intention to lead a delegation from the KBC to visit with the leadership at Campbellsville to have an “open and honest dialogue. The purpose of this undertaking is to better understand the theological convictions that chart CU’s course and whether or not those convictions are still compatible with the mission our Lord has given the churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.” Dr. Chitwood acknowledges the KBC’s financial contribution indicating that one million dollars is given in support of the university annually. What Dr. Chitwood does not say is that while the money is given to the school, most of the money is given to students in the form of scholarships and discounts who are associated with KBC churches enrolled at CU. The scholarship and discount total that CU provides Kentucky Baptist students exceeds the KBC contribution by several million dollars.

Dr. Chitwood acknowledges the tenuous relationship that exists between all Southern Baptist conventions and their liberal arts schools. He writes, “Higher education, by its very nature, requires the kind of academic freedom and exploration that is sometimes difficult to envision being funded by mission’s offerings. But if academic freedom is no longer afforded to those who hold to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) and teach a high view of Scripture (2Tim 3:16), the time for church support has clearly passed.

Is this the case for Kentucky Baptists and another of their historic educational institutions? I certainly hope not and appreciate the wisdom of God’s word where it says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Given the claims being made by CU’s detractors, open and honest dialogue is necessary to reveal the answer to this question.” Dr. Chitwood makes the following statement highlighting his concern with the school: “Claims, however, that CU retains other professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and professors in other disciplines who affirm evolution, are difficult for many Kentucky Baptists to swallow. This is especially true when well over $1 million of their missions offerings are helping pay the salaries of those professors every year.”

Campbellsville is a liberal arts university with courses in mathematics, sciences, languages, nursing, criminal justice, accounting, computer sciences, the arts, education, sports management, journalism and theater to highlight some of the courses offered in addition to those in its theology department. CU is ranked #74 in the 2013 US News’s ranking of Universities in the South. The university has 144 professors serving 3071 students apparently very well. Are there professors among this group that do not believe in the infallibity of the Bible; probably. Are there professors in this group that believe in evolution; probably. Is Campbellsville University an institution that the KBC can be proud of; absolutely. Dr. Chitwood does caution rushing to judgment and rash decisions and emphasizes the continued importance of supporting the Cooperative Program. Dr. Chitwood’s statement can be read in its entirety at http://www.paulchitwood.com/2013/04/20/campbellsville-university-and-the-churches-of-the-kentucky-baptist-convention/.

In an article posted at SBC Voices, Dave Miller who is currently serving as Second Vice-President of the SBC chimed in on the discussion. In his article, he made the following comment: “There have been some disturbing stories from colleges related to Southern Baptists at one level or another. The fiasco at Louisiana College has been pretty well documented. Some confusing things have happened at Cedarville University. In the last week or so, there have been some disturbing reports about the goings-on at another SBC-related school, one supported by the missions gifts of Kentucky Baptists.” While Miller does not state any direct association with the CU situation, his comment with respect to the Louisiana College’s “fiasco” had everything to do with the contracts of Calvinist professors not being renewed. Miller’s associating that situation with the CU situation seems at least to be a subtle hint that the same problem exists at CU. Miller’s makes the following comment on the importance of Dr. Chitwood’s visit that is indeed unfortunate; Miller writes, “He (Chitwood) recognizes both the problem and the seriousness of the problem. No polishing the rotten apple! He is meeting the issue head on.”

While Miller states the purpose of his article is not to question the decision of the university directly, Dr. Williams he notes is “by all accounts a bright young scholar, one who teaches (and believes) in line with the BF&M 2000. Disturbing reports indicate that the reason he is being released is that he is considered too conservative by other professors at Campbellsville. Miller goes on the state, “he (Dr. Williams) has received the highest endorsements from some of our best scholars.” While Mr. Miller says he has no intention of speculating as to CU’s decision, it does appear obvious that Miller can see no reason for their decision to dismiss such an accomplished professor. Miller in the comment section of his article acknowledges that the reason the KBC needs to meet with CU is the money. Miller says, “What is at stake is the money the KBC gives to the college.” Miller’s article and the interesting comments to it can be read in their entirety here: http://sbcvoices.com/when-a-leader-leads-dr-paul-chitwoods-response-to-campbellsville-university/

This week, Dr. Jason Allen, President of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri decided to weigh in on the situation as well. He too praises the KBC for its proactive, innovative work with the churches and speaks highly of its leadership, stating that he believes “the KBC has proven to be a model state convention in their collective witness for Christ and collaborative ministry efforts.” Allen acknowledges and applauds Chitwood’s announcement to meet with the university in an effort to “assess the ongoing compatibility of the two entities.” Obviously the only “ongoing compatibility” between the two entities is related to the continued financial support the convention gives to the university.

Allen acknowledges a couple reasons that contracts with teachers are not renewed. He admits that he is not privy to the trustee’s decision in this particular case. He also fails to acknowledge there are many other reasons a contract may not be renewed. It is clear that Allen does not see this issue as being an insignificant one, especially where Kentucky Baptists are concerned. He goes on to list what he identifies as five considerations must be kept in mind not by the KBC delegation but by the university representatives.

Notice Allen’s first consideration: “First, when representatives of the KBC meet with representatives of Campbellsville University, they do not come to the table as negotiating equals. The former has funded, governs, and holds accountable the latter by approving their trustees. The posture of both should be one of openness and respect, but the KBC is not the supplicant.” In layman’s terms, what Allen has said is this: of the two groups meeting, the KBC is the one that has all the clout. The KBC is “not the supplicant;” they are not the ones coming to this meeting as a petitioner or humbly seeking an explanation. Allen says, the KBC does not come to the table as “negotiating equals.” Allen’s position in this article is clear; it is not the representatives of Campbellsville University that need to explain where they stand; it is the KBC that needs to explain where they stand and CU needs to listen and take note. This is an interesting perspective indeed. If this position were to be adopted and employed by other state conventions and the SBC with respect to the various entities that are charged with the task of serving the churches of those various conventions as Allen suggests here, there would no doubt be serious cries from the leadership of several of the entities.

Note Allen’s fifth consideration: “every institution in one way or another serves or is accountable to the church, be it a seminary or a state college, should assume a posture of deference and welcomed accountability. Kentucky Baptists are not morally obligated to investigate and demonstrate the doctrinal faithfulness of Campbellsville University. Rather, Campbellsville, and any other church-governed entity, bears the moral responsibility to demonstrate, prima facie, they are operating in good faith with those churches. If cleavage has occurred between Campbellsville and the KBC, it is Campbellsville’s moral responsibility to adjust accordingly.” Allen concludes with the following statement: “In a very real sense, we all are Kentucky Baptists now. – See more at: http://jasonkallen.com/2013/04/campbellsville-university-the-kbc/

Dr. Allen makes a very critical mistake in his reference to Campbellsville University; He suggests that CU is a “church governed entity.” That statement is simply not even close to being true. The entities of the SBC as well as those in the various the state convention, are controlled by their trustees and not the conventions, much less the churches that send messengers to the various conventions. Consider the following example. In 2011 the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention voted in favor of a resolution instructing Lifeway to remove the 2011 New International Version of the Bible from its shelves. In February of 2012 the trustees of Lifeway later reviewed the issues and voted unanimously to keep it. That is what Lifeway did. That move sent a clear message to the convention and to the churches for that matter, that the entities are trustee governed and not convention governed nor are they church governed and as such the trustees can and continue to do what they believe to be in the best interest of the institutions they are charged to serve. The same is true of CU.

Allen’s initial statement in his fifth consideration should be one to remember. He states “every institution in one way or another serves or is accountable to the church, be it a seminary or a state college, should assume a posture of deference and welcomed accountability.” This is the way things ought to be but sadly that is not the case today, either. Take this issue at CU. The outrage and the criticism that has been voiced publically in response to CU’s decision with respect to Williams’ contract has been focused solely on his espousal of Calvinism. This has been publically suggested as the sole reason for William’s contract not being renewed. It must be noted that the school has made no such suggestion. Here is what has happened. A vocal segment of the KBC and beyond has made this an issue because of Williams’ position on Calvinism. This is an effort of a vocal minority to send a message to colleges and universities that are associated with SBC and its affiliated state conventions that such dismissals are not going to be taken lightly. The accountability issue here has very little to do with the churches but rather everything to do with the vocal proponents of Calvinism and its revival of popularity in the educational system in Southern Baptist schools. It is time for the SBC to deal with the issue of Calvinism and the ramifications of its continued revival of influence in the entities of the SBC. It is clear that those espousing and promoting Calvinism in the SBC are intent on protecting their hard earned positions of influence at all costs.

It is time to move this discussion into the open arena and come to some conclusions with respect to the future of the SBC and the state conventions as well the churches they serve. Go back to Miller’s comment with respect to Dr. Williams’ credentials, Miller says that Williams is “by all accounts a bright young scholar, one who teaches (and believes) in line with the BF&M 2000.” There is one group in the SBC that continually makes reference to being in agreement with the BF&M2000; it has become the battle cry of Calvinist Baptists, especially the New Calvinists almost exclusively. It is time for Southern Baptists to clarify themselves on this issue. Calvinists believe that it is God and God alone who decides who gets saved and who does not. They believe God and God alone decides who will spend eternity in heaven and who will not. They believe a person is born again just like a person is born physically; the individual has nothing to do with the process. When you were born, the doctor popped your rear end and you took your first breath and you were born alive. When you were born again, God did it all once again; you automatically became a child of His and because He chose you, you chose Him. Welcome to the family of God. It does seem to be a stretch to associate this kind of theology with the BF&M2000 but that is now the case for the New Calvinists.

If Southern Baptists want this kind of theology being taught in its schools and being foremost in its new church starts and being the theological flavor of the hour in the literature at Lifeway, then so be it. As Dr. Allen has suggested, “every institution in one way or another serves or is accountable to the church, be it a seminary or a state college, should assume a posture of deference and welcomed accountability.” The time has come for the church to stand up and ask the tough questions to the entities of the SBC and the various state conventions concerning the continued influence of Calvinism in its entities and in the respective conventions. As Allen suggests, we have a responsibility to past generations and to our future generations that will be influenced and impacted by the ministries of the entities that have been given the trust to lead our convention’s effectiveness to the generations to come.

Two final comments. With respect to the issue of the KBC’s interest and involvement with Campbellsville University, should it choose to withdraw the money they give to support what seems to be an excellent institution, it is certain that there will be someone in the state who will welcome that money. Dave Miller is indeed correct, “What is at stake is the money the KBC gives to the college.”

A second observation. One should not miss the praise being given to Dr. Chitwood and his involvement in this situation in contrast to Dr. David Hankins’ involvement in what Miller calls the Louisiana College “fiasco.” Hankins is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Both seem to be equally involved as each seeks to serve the church’s interests in helping to bring some kind of resolution to the various situations. Both situations share a common issue; both are being criticized by the same group for the same reason. One state director is being praised for his involvement while the other is being heavily criticized for his by the same group. One is more sympathetic to and supportive of the Calvinist position than the other.

It is time for resolution. This battle is not going to go away. All indications point to a heightened intensity as Calvinists continue to voice their disapproval for anyone that dares make a move against one of their own.

May God help the SBC though these very troubling days that definitely lay ahead.

David Platt’s Message at the 2012 Pastor’s Conference of the SBC

Dr. David Platt’s name was on the program to address the 2012 Pastor’s Conference. I have Dr. Platt’s book, Radical and found it to be very inspiring and especially challenging as he talks about the importance of being radical for Jesus in our part of the world that is dying and headed for a devil’s hell. I do need to transform the way I live so that the world will see the Good News that Jesus came to bring to us all! I have also listened to the video clip of his message at the Verge Conference where he talked about the misuse and irresponsible use of “the sinner’s prayer.” I understand that it is very easy to be overly critical of things people say because of comments they may have made in the past and because of comments made by other people or groups they may be closely associated with. It is easy to read too much into some statements. I am very much aware of that tendency.

However, when I listened to Dr. Platt blast “inviting Jesus into your heart” I was certainly taken back. To assert that this practice is unbiblical was in fact, incorrect. To suggest that it is a superstitious practice is insulting and that it is in fact damning was simply inexcusable. While much of Dr. Platt’s message may have had merit, it is interesting that this 3 minute clip was what was chosen to encourage people to order the digital version of his message in its entirety. Needless to say, I did not do so. Had Dr. Platt’s comments been made apart from the theological implications surrounding this new emphasis on “The Gospel” and getting the gospel right, and this revival of Calvinism in the SBC and its effort to correct decades of incorrect theological foundations being taught in the church today, Dr. Platt’s words might have gone unnoticed. However, when you factor in the controversy over Calvinism that is growing by the minute in the SBC and the reluctance of some to the theological differences posited in the varying soteriological positions now being promoted, his statement was especially significant and I believe deliberately stated.

With that in mind, I reluctantly decided to go and sit down to listen to David Platt’s message to the 2012 Pastor’s Conference. His second paragraph referenced his comments in the popular 3 minute internet video clip and his effort to be more deliberate. I thought, ok; let’s see what he has to say and as he goes to a very familiar text, John 3, prefaced by the last 3 verses of John 2.

After reading the text, Dr. Platt said,

Let us beware the danger of spiritual deception. Verse 23 – “Many trusted in his name.” Verse 24 – “Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them.” Many trusted.  Many people in John 2 believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe them. Many people in John 2 accepted Jesus, but Jesus did not accept them. Clearly, from the beginning of the gospel of John—this gospel that revolves around the necessity and centrality of belief in Christ—John makes clear to us that there is a kind of belief, a kind of faith, that does not save.

It was at this point that I decided to get up and leave the conference center. This is all I heard of Dr. Platt’s message to the pastors that afternoon. “Many people in John 2 accepted Jesus, but Jesus did not accept them.” This reverberated in my mind and given the reluctance to even bother sitting down in the first place, I admit, I simply decided to exit instead of sitting through the remainder of his message. I have since coming home, read Dr. Platt’s message in its entirety and my comments will come from the manuscript provided of that message. You may read his message in its entirety by CLICKING HERE.

Platt indicates that John employed the 3 verses of chapter 2 to intentionally set the stage for Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus. It is true that Nicodemus’ statement is similar to the statement in chapter 2 in that there is a common reference to the signs that Jesus had done; but understand something; everyone, those who were on the street as well as those in the Sanhedrin were talking about Jesus. So, while there are similarities in the two statements, the former does not necessarily set the stage for the latter as Platt attempts to assert in the opening part of his message.

Let’s look at the second chapter in John.

Jesus has not fed the 5000. There is no Biblical record that He has healed anyone. The record of His first miracle is recorded for us by John beginning in verse 1. John is the only writer to record this event. Jesus is at a wedding with His mother. She comes to Him and says, “They have no wine.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:3-4) This is an interesting statement and one that has perplexed me for years. What was Jesus saying to Mary? Perhaps He knew that the moment He performed a miracle publically, His ministry would be set into motion and His date with destiny at Calvary would be set. I believe that is exactly what Jesus was saying to His mother. Note verse 11: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

Apparently the wedding feast at Cana was just before the Passover celebration in Jerusalem and Jesus went. His popularity had begun to spread. There was excitement in the air. People knew about Jesus even though they may have never actually seen Him or heard Him speak. Rumors began to spread that He could be the long awaited Messiah. He went into the Temple and ran the money changers out. “So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” (John 2:18) Everyone heard what had happened!

Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem was a lot like Dr. Platt’s statement on the sinner’s prayer; everyone was talking about it. “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.” (John 2:23) John does not tell us what signs Jesus did that caused people to “believe in His Name.” I do not believe it is an accident that John deliberately used the phrase, “believed in His Name.” The Bible tells us Jesus taught the people and I believe they no doubt “believed in His Name” and I unlike Dr. Platt believe they were saved. Listen to John’s next statement: “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

John does not say Jesus rejected their faith.

We can debate the interpretation of John’s statement here concerning Jesus’ response to those who believed in His Name but one thing is crystal clear to me; John does not say Jesus rejected their faith. John says, Jesus did not commit Himself to them. I believe John is simply noting Jesus’ reluctance to let this outbreak become an influential event at the Passover celebration which could lead to a public promotion of Him as the Messiah! John simply says Jesus knew their thoughts; He knew once again, His hour had still not yet come. I see this reluctance on Jesus’ part as being similar to His telling people on a number of occasions, to go and tell no one about the miracles He had just performed.

So what about Nicodemus’ coming to Jesus and the dialogue that ensued in chapter 3? Nic did acknowledge the signs that Jesus had performed, although I believe the signs he was referring to may have been very different from those the people on the street saw. I believe Nicodemus probably was explicitly referring to Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, although that is not specifically mentioned in the text. Nicodemus complimented Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus responds immediately to Nic’s compliment and says to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He repeats Himself in verse, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’.”

I believe Dr. Platt takes a very liberal stab at this early dialogue as he says,

So Jesus looks back at Nicodemus and says, “Your belief, your trust is insufficient for salvation. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is shocking. Here is a devout, passionate, respected, law-following, God-fearing man. He has devoted his entire life to entering the kingdom of heaven. He prays to God. He studies God’s Word—he teaches it and he lives it. And he does all of this in an effort to honor God. Yet Jesus says he has no spiritual life in him whatsoever. This man of faith who believed in Jesus was dead in sin, and at that moment he was destined for condemnation. That is frightening. It is frightening in John 2-3 to see people who would have thought that they believed in Jesus and said that they believed in Jesus, people who would have thought that they were entering the kingdom of heaven, but they had no spiritual life in them, and they would not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now, there is a serious hermeneutical problem with the following statement that Platt makes; “This man of faith who believed in Jesus was dead in sin and at that moment he was destined for condemnation.” Nicodemus was not saved. He was not a believer in Jesus.Platt is correct in saying that he is dead in his trespass and sin but he in serious error when he suggests that Jesus is rejecting Nicodemus as a believer in His Name. Platt completely steps out of bounds in this statement to try to justify the theme and thrust of his message.

Now, Platt changes direction and asks,

“Is this possible? Is it possible for people to say they believe in Jesus, to say they have accepted Jesus, to say that they have received Jesus, but they are not saved and will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Is that possible? Absolutely, it’s possible. It’s not just possible; it is probable.”

Here Platt gets on track and he is absolutely correct. He accurately quotes Matthew 7:22-12. However, he immediately gets off-track in his next statement.

“Jesus is not talking, in Matthew 7 or in John 3, about irreligious pagans, atheists, or agnostics. He’s talking about deeply, devoutly religious people who are deluded into thinking that they are saved when they are not. He’s talking about men and women who will be shocked one day to find that though they thought they were on the narrow road that leads to heaven, they were actually on the broad road that leads to hell – people who believed, but were not born again. Beware the danger of spiritual deception.”

John 3 is not speaking of people who are deluded into thinking they are saved when they are not. Matthew 7 does, but not John 3. Dr. Platt has simply erred in his effort to flesh out the text.

Dr. Platt changes direction in his message to speak of the beliefs and lifestyles of those who consider themselves to be “born-again Christians.” His message here is on track and dead on. I will point out that he is speaking of people in general and not those in the SBC specifically. That distinction being made, the condition of those confessing to be “born again in the SBC” will not fare much better. The distinction however, must still be noted. Here is what is especially interesting. Dr. Platt moves from the wayward “born-again” condition to the use of a “sinner’s prayer” that he was so critical of just a short time ago. Dr. Platt has meticulously set the stage to justify his position on the misuse of “inviting Jesus into ones heart.” Dr. Platt offers the testimonies of two of his church members who as youngsters prayed a sinner’s prayer only to come to the realization later in life that they in fact had not really been saved and following a more accurate presentation of the gospel they were truly saved and now were on fire for the Lord and doing great things for Him.

Listen to Platt’s preconceived conclusion to all this:

“I don’t think Tom and Jordan’s stories are unique. They represent a pandemic problem across contemporary Christianity, and some of you have the same story. You made a decision, prayed a prayer, signed a card, got baptized. You were told that you were a Christian, and you know now that you were not. You were deceived.”

Well, I am sorry but the fact that these individuals were still in the race may well indicate that they were actually saved in the beginning; they have simply persevered as the 5th tenet of Calvinism contends. Who is Dr. Platt to determine who was or was not saved at an early age, simply because someone later in life came to question their original decision to trust Christ; especially when the preaching they are sitting under questions the validity of those earlier decisions in the first place.

Platt goes on to state, “The question that John 2-3 begs us all to ask is, “What kind of faith are we talking about?” What kind of faith are we calling people to? Are we calling people to biblical faith?”

No one would disagree with this statement however, it would be prudent to remember conversion is the beginning point; not the final destination. No one becomes a Christian understanding the full ramifications of a relationship with Christ that is to grow and mature. So this criticism of what is and what is not “Biblical faith” has a lot of implications. There is no question that there is an attitude of “easy believism” that creates casual or cultural Christians or what Paul calls carnal Christians. Platt concludes that these are not “true Christians.” He says these folks are “Christians who do not know Christ, who have never counted the cost of following Christ; we must be biblically clear about saving faith, lest any of us lead people down a very dangerous and potentially damning road of spiritual deception.” Platt demonstrates his determination to continue his original position that the sinner’s prayer is dangerous and damning.

Platt then goes back to his original thesis of trying to tie John 2 to John 3. He says, ““What is the difference, then, between spurious faith that marked the crowds in John 2, and saving faith according to Christ in John 3?” What is the difference between false, superficial faith, and true, saving faith?” As I have already pointed out, I am not sold on the correlation that Platt has attempted to build between the references to “believing” in these two chapters and I am confident Platt’s insinuation of Jesus’ rejection of the two types of believing is completely baseless. Platt is correct that we need in our preaching and sharing of the gospel to point out man’s problem with sin and his inability to do anything about it. This is absolutely essential in the presentation of the gospel message.

I might also point out, the sinner’s prayer itself is always a response to a message and is virtually never the message itself and that is a point that is skimmed over in most of these discussions related to its use or misuse.

In giving credit where credit is due, Dr. Platt nails it as he says,

“This is man’s problem, and we must make it clear. Our problem is not that we’ve messed up a few times. Our problem is not that that we’ve made some bad decisions. Our problem is that we are dead in sin.

So what can save us from this state – raise your hand, say these words, sign this card, walk this aisle? We all know that none of these things can save us. What we don’t need is superficial religion; we need supernatural regeneration. We are dead in sin, and we need to be born again.

So how can a man be born again? Scripture resounds with a clear answer to that question. Two primary words: repent and believe.” Repent and believe.

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” – Acts 16:31. The Gentiles in Cornelius’ home “believed” in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 11:17). And that’s the word that’s used all over John 3 and this entire Gospel. Seven times from verses 11-21: “believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe.” Repent and believe.”

We tell men and women, boys and girls everywhere: repent and believe in Christ. Whether we say, “Pray this prayer after me,” is not the issue. The issue is that together we say, “By the grace of God in the cross of Christ, turn from yourself and trust in Jesus. Come from darkness to light. Come from death to life.” We urge people, “Believe in Christ. Follow Christ.”

We tell them, in a day of rampant easy-believism, “Following Jesus will cost you everything you have, but He is worth it!” Repent and believe in Him. Receive new life, eternal life. Look to Him and live.”

Amen and Amen!

This section is as solid a message as anyone could preach. It is indeed the gospel message. Repent and believe. “We tell men and women and boys and girls everywhere to repent and believe in Christ! Turn from yourself and trust in Jesus. Believe in Christ; follow Christ. Receive new life, eternal life. Look to Him and live.”

If this is the appeal at the end of a gospel filled message, then whether or not one calls it a sinner’s prayer or invitational evangelism, I am all for it and I will continue to employ it until the Holy Spirit tells me different! I will continue to till the ground, plant the seed, water and weed the ground and leave the results up to the Father!

To God be the glory, AMEN.

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