Calvinism: A Systematic and Symptomatic Problem

There are a couple of the reasons I believe Calvinism is growing in the SBC today. One is systematic and the other is symptomatic. Let me explain.

First of all, we have a systematic problem where theology is concerned. Theology is different from all other academic disciplines. History for example is a discipline where the accurate presentation of dates and facts is vital and where commentary on how and why particular events occur and how they relate to the risks of them being repeated. Medicine is a discipline that presents the human body and its empirical response to antidotes to maladies that affect both the quality and quality of life. The object of these disciples is usually well defined and easily maintained. Theology is not so easily defined.

When one begins to study the Scripture serious problems can arise. Because the Bible was written with the expressed purpose of revealing God to man, problems quickly develop when theology begins. The Bible is a collection of writings that reveals who God is and declares what His promises are. When God is the object of one’s study the Bible is in its element so to speak and it has great power. However, when one makes the Bible itself the object of his study, it is no longer in its element and its purpose is supplanted and that opens the door to potential problems.

This was the basic problem with the liberal movement that had taken control of the seminaries in the 70’s. For centuries historical criticism, source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism, canonical criticism and a host of other sources of critical analysis were employed to evaluate the Scriptures themselves. The object of study was the Scripture itself and not the God the Scriptures seek to portray and this created a host of problems. As issues were identified related to the writing and various textual nuances noted, conclusions made their way into the theological tenets that began challenging the Scripture’s portrayal of God Himself.

The same problem exists when the focus of one’s study shifts from textual criticism to theological criticism. For once again, when the focus of one’s study is the theological implications presented in the text as opposed to discovering the truths presented by the text, there is the continued potential for problems. While it can be argued that the two are one and the same, that is not necessarily the case. Theology is a philosophical approach to the truths presented by the Scriptures. While it is easier to see the problems that can arise with making textual criticism the object of one’s study, it is not as easy to see the potential problems that can arise when one makes theology the object of his study. Theology is not the objective of the Bible. Understanding theology is one thing; it may help in understanding the Bible but that does not mean that theology necessarily helps with understanding God, which is the sole purpose of the Scriptures. There is a difference.

Unfortunately, academia presents its own challenges and problems where understanding the Scripture is concerned. Once again, while the Scriptures are absolutely vital, the focus moves from what the Scriptures themselves say to a discipline of relating what others say about the Scriptures. Theology is really a study of what men say about the Scriptures as opposed to a study of what the Scriptures themselves actually say. While it is true that there is no need to “try to reinvent the wheel” where theological discussion is concerned, there is also the difficult danger of knowing what theological discussions are beneficial and relevant as opposed to those that are ever so slightly off, which combined with others can lead theologies to illogical and incorrect conclusions.

This revival of Calvinism in the SBC is systematic in that Calvinism itself is a product of an academic process that fails to keep the purpose of the Scriptures primary which is in and of itself problematic. Academia by necessity takes the text itself out of its own context and makes the message the object of study as opposed to making God Himself the object of its study.

This revival of Calvinism is also Symptomatic in that people are responding to Calvinism today not because of what it postulates but because of what Calvinism seeks to correct. Calvinism makes God solely responsible for salvation as opposed to systems that make man at least partially responsible for his own salvation. Calvinism centers itself on the sovereignty of God as opposed to those systems that seem to make man sovereign over his own decisions and where free-will seems to trumps God’s will. It is as if there are two diametrically opposing theologies and nothing in between. One is trumped as having all the answers as compared to the other which causes all the problems; after all, God is the One with all the answers and man is the one that cases all the problems. Therefore, Calvinism must be the correct answer.

What is increasingly interesting is the fact that this revival of Calvinism in the SBC is centered on those who understand the real implications of the issues the least and are looking for answers to questions they don’t understand the most. Those who are leading this revival understand the importance of forming a mindset as opposed to the difficult task of transforming one. It is easier to shape a tender mind than it is to reshape a hardened one. This revival of Calvinism in the SBC is highly symptomatic because this theology is being presented by a highly educated group to a highly impressionable group and its popularity is being boosted by a status quo that has obvious problems that men have created and only God can correct.

Unfortunately, Calvinism is not the answer so many sincerely want it to be.

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37 Responses to Calvinism: A Systematic and Symptomatic Problem

  1. Tom Shelton says:

    I don’t quite understand the distinction being made in the article between studying theology and getting to know the God of the Bible. As stated in the article, they can be viewed as one and the same.

    For example, one statement in the article reads: “Theology is not the objective of the Bible. Understanding theology is one thing; it may help in understanding the Bible but that does not mean that theology necessarily helps with understanding God, which is the sole purpose of the Scriptures. There is a difference.” If we substitute the phrase “the study of God” for the word theology in the statement (because that is what theology means) the statement does not really make sense any longer.

    The study of God is not the objective of the Bible. Understanding the study of God is one thing; it may help in understanding the Bible but that does not mean that the study of God necessarily helps with understanding God, which is the sole purpose of the Scriptures. There is a difference.

    So, am I missing something or is this a distinction without a difference?

  2. sbcissues says:

    Tom,

    I understand the difficulty you voice. My point is when we take the Bible out of its context, then we CAN miss the purpose for which it was given. Studying the Bible itself can be problematic WHEN the Scriptures themselves are the focus of our study and I believe that is a MAJOR systematic problem academia faces. That is the point that I am making and so to me, it is everything BUT a “distinction without a difference.”

    I believe it is possible to know the Scriptures and not know the God of the Scriptures. This to me presents a very difficult line that academians MUST walk or else they may find themselves being tripped up by the very life giving source they are evaluating. I guess the next question then becomes, who is the one being tripped up! Thanks for the comment.

    ><>”

  3. Tom SheltonT says:

    I also believe it is possible to know the Scriptures and not know the God of the Scriptures but I don’t see how the revival of Calvinism in the SBC has anything to do with this. This problem has existed even while Calvinism was rare in the SBC. It will remain so long as our churches continue to practice a form of easy believism and don’t focus on discipling all those in attendance.

  4. sbcissues says:

    Tom,

    I do not believe Calvinism presents a correct picture of God nor His salvific work on the hearts of men. My point is when individuals make theology their primary focus then they CAN miss the mark in their conclusions and this is the problem that academia has to guard itself against. I believe it is a systemic problem that has given rise to this revival of Calvinism in the SBC today.

    I agree that easy believism is a problem in the church today but that has absolutely nothing to do with the validity of Calvinism.

    ><>”

  5. Tom Shelton says:

    Okay, I think i see now. I think you are saying that some people in the SBC are elevating their study of theology above knowing God. I am not saying that doesn’t happen sometimes but I reject it as the reason Calvinism has come back to the SBC. I suggest that people were looking for a deeper more fulfilling relationship with the God of the Bible. To get this they have returned to the in depth study of His word and as they have done so Calvinism has seen a remarkable revival. The study of God, or theology if you prefer, should lead us into a the proper relationship with Him because the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to his people. We are to dig deep and learn all we can about him and how he relates to us. This is a good thing because it allows us to approach him on his terms and when we do we are assured that he will receive us and protect us. If our studies lead us anywhere else then we have missed the mark just as you have said. As such, I think the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC is a great thing because it has driven people back to His word.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments.

    • sbcissues says:

      At least we are on the same plain! Here is my personal problem with your suggestion that Calvinism’s revival is because “people were looking for a deeper more fulfilling relationship with the God of the Bible.” The reason I believe Calvinism is enjoying the revival in the SBC that it is enjoying is because of the increased level of influence in colleges and seminaries over the last 15 years or so. Ironically that time frame corresponds with the resurgence of Calvinism… a coincidence? I do not think so.

      The theological system has been presented and that is why I have titled my article the way I did… Calvinism is growing systematically as it is being taught and promoted in the entities as well as para-convention groups that are finding reception in the entities and symptomatically… the people who know the least are taking Calvinism in hook line and sinker. These are facts.

      I understand that there are exceptions to the statement above but by the numbers, my analysis is spot on. Calvinism’s revival has NOT been propagated by the students but taken hold of by students.

      I appreciate your input.

      ><>”

  6. Matt says:

    “Textual criticism” is a technical term that you misuse. You say, “While it is easier to see the problems that can arise with making textual criticism the object of one’s study…” No one “makes textual criticism.” I can read the textual apparatus in the NA 27/28, but that’s neither “making textual criticism” or doing theology. Your term here is confusing.

    Also, I’m not sure I understand what you mean when you state, “Academia by necessity takes the text itself out of its own context and makes the message the object of study as opposed to making God Himself the object of its study.” Are you saying that all / some / several scholars by necessity take the biblical text out of its context? Since you have a PhD, I’m sure your readers would love to know what Calvinist academia you’re reading who – by necessity – take texts out of their context.

    The point of your article is to state that you believe academically minded Calvinists (though you don’t name them) are trying to convince the uneducated SBC pew-sitter that they are right. Your argument to get there – that theologians can misread the Bible – is no argument that any Calvinist would disagree with! What theologian (Calvinist, Arminian, whatever semi-brand you are) would disagree with your premise? The Calvinist William Ames said, “Theology is the doctrine or teaching of living to God.” So, I respectfully ask you, do you actually read Calvinists (historic and modern), or are you just expressing concerns you have?

  7. sbcissues says:

    Matt,

    I am sorry but your criticism of my statement is terribly ill-fated. If you will read the exchange with Tom, perhaps you will better understand what it is that I am saying. There is a BIG difference in the following two statements: (1)”While it is easier to see the problems that can arise with making textual criticism the object of one’s study…” (2) No one “makes textual criticism.” I am sure you can figure that one out. Textual criticism is a discipline and when one is engaged in the academic exercise of textual criticism, it is very easy to miss the real purpose of the Scripture and that is to point the reader to God. This problem has NOTHING to do with Calvinism. However, when we make Calvinism an academic exercise THEN we run the risk of inaccurate conclusions. That is the basis for the systematic problem that academians have period where the study of the Scripture is concerned.

    I am not speaking in this article of taking SPECIFIC TEXTS out of context… I am speaking of taking the Scriptures out of their designed context… there is a BIG difference in the two arguments.

    My article has absolutely NOTHING to do with the premise you present with respect to any Calvinists trying to convince the poor unsuspecting pew sitting non-calvinists of anything. I am saying that the influence of Calvinism in the colleges and seminaries has set the stage for the younger guys coming up to embrace Calvinism in the SBC in growing numbers because it is being presented as the most plausible option to the “easy believism” that Tom has referred to.

    Thanks for the response.

    ><>”

    • Matt says:

      I shouldn’t have to read comments from others to get the point of your blog. So, I’m not reading Tom, Tim, Harry, or whoever else you ask me to read in the comments.

      Seriously, I misread your article? In your article you said, “This revival of Calvinism in the SBC is highly symptomatic because this theology is being presented by a highly educated group to a highly impressionable group and its popularity is being boosted by a status quo that has obvious problems that men have created and only God can correct.” Then in your response to me you said, “My article has absolutely NOTHING to do with the premise you present with respect to any Calvinists trying to convince the poor unsuspecting pew sitting non-calvinists of anything.” Huh? I give up.

      I know I read your article correctly. It’s a lame argument – misreading the Bible can be problematic for theologians – because no one disagrees with you!

      Well, I’ll try it one more time – Since you have a Doctorate of Philosophy, I’m sure your readers would love to know what Calvinist academia you’re reading who – by necessity – takes the Bible out of its context (whatever that means). I respectfully ask you, do you actually read Calvinists (historic and modern), or are you just expressing concerns you have? I’m not asking you to list arguments you disagree with, but just what Calvinist authors are sitting on your bookshelves. No cheating allowed – can’t list that you’ve read snippets from Calvin on CCEL. Seriously, what Calvinist commentators are you reading? Have your hands turned the pages of a copy of the Institutes? Do you seriously think Wayne Grudem loses the glimpse of God’s glory in his systematic text? It has hymns to sing at the end of each chapter for crying out loud!

      For the sake of us all, please be intellectually honest.

      • sbcissues says:

        You wrote, I shouldn’t have to read comments from others to get the point of your blog. For the record, I agree. Since you DIDN”T get the point of what I wrote, I simply suggested further reading. No big deal on my end.

        The highly impressionable group I am referring to are college and seminary students, non-unsuspecting pew sitters. Sorry for the miscommunication there.

        ><>”

  8. Bob Wheeler says:

    Since I am not a Southern Baptist I cannot speak authoritatively about what is going on in the SBC, but it looks to me like you’re seriously misunderstanding Calvinism. It is hardly true that Calvinism is “a product of an academic process that fails to keep the purpose of the Scriptures primary.” First of all, the most famous Calvinists, including Calvin himself, were not academics — most of them were preachers — Bunyan, Flavel, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones. A.W. Pink’s academic background consisted of 6 weeks at Moody Bible Institute!
    Speaking as someone with a Reformed Baptist background, I think I can say that what attracted me to Calvinism was the urgent need of the modern church for revival — its need to get back to God. During the 19th century there arose a type of theology that can be traced back to Nathaniel W. Taylor and Charles G. Finney (and Taylor was an academic) that denied the doctrines of total depravity and irresistible grace. Strictly speaking it wasn’t really Arminianism — Wesley would have been appalled at it — it most more of a modern take on Pelagianism, and it reduced the new birth to simply a sinner deciding to change his mind. This, along with the growing institutionalism of the American church, the materialism of secular society, and certain aspects of Dispensationalism, all had the combined effect of bleeding the spiritual life out of our churches. Most “Christians” today cannot see their way to make it out to prayer meeting. And how many people on the membership roll of a typical Southern Baptist church even attend services regularly? Do you really believe that they are saved? If not, why are they still on the membership roll? Isn’t a Baptist church supposed to be a believers’ church, with a regenerate church membership? Do we even know what the new birth is anymore?
    It is in this context that some of us rediscovered the Puritans, and it was like stepping into a whole different world. It was, in fact, like stepping into the presence of God.
    No, we don’t need more seminary professors. What we need are more preachers and saints on their knees in prayer. Perhaps then we will rediscover the power of the Holy Spirit on our ministries. The Puritans called it “irresistible grace.”

    • Matt says:

      Bob, you didn’t deserve the answer he gave you to your remarks. You see, though Bob frowns upon the academic guild which he will never enter into (though he does have a PhD), it’s easier for him to make blanket statements based on his feelings and assessments than actually offer any historical data or modern day evaluations offered by fact. He can squelch the good points you make while side-stepping your observations because you are just a lay person and he is not. Quite interesting though is the fact he runs a non-SBC on-line seminary but feels free to critique the SBC seminary and colleges that have historical roots in Calvinism. At the end of the day, this blog isn’t about SBC “issues”, well, any issue outside of Calvinism in the SBC. He simply can’t stand Calvinism. He doesn’t understand that Calvinists actually do evangelize, do study their Bibles to know God more, and do pray for God to act powerfully in their lives, and pray for God to saved lost loved ones. No, you can’t expect him to make a response to the Calvinism of Bunyan, Flavel, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and Pink. He knows nothing about them, probably – probably has never read any of them outside of Spurgeon – and he has yet to understand that Calvinists (and even some strands of Arminianism) understand secondary causation. Explain what you believe, Dr. Hadley, if you reject secondary causation? Bob Hadley rejects the 5 points of Calvinism but feels slandered when he’s called an Arminian or semi-Pelagian. So, you can’t expect him to think and interact with historical theology. No, his “beef” with SBC Calvinism is emotion based. If he interacted with historical sources, he’d have more humility in his lambastes and tirades against Calvinism, however “well-versed” he believes himself to be.

      • sbcissues says:

        Matt,

        You have your perspectives and I have mine. If you can tell me where the “Calvinism of Bunyan, Flavel, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and Pink” are in the Bible I will take your criticism more seriously. Otherwise, I will reserve my perspective for what it is and welcome you to do the same.

        ><>”

  9. sbcissues says:

    Bob from Bob,

    Any theological system is the product of academia or it would not exist. My point is that it is easy to get out of step with the real purpose of the Scripture when our goal is to firm up our theology as opposed to growing closer to God. It is a problem.

    Your following comment is interesting. “I think I can say that what attracted me to Calvinism was the urgent need of the modern church for revival — its need to get back to God.” I see that statement itself as contradictory to the tenets of Calvinism for according to Calvinism, God and God alone determines who is and is not revived and so by definition there is no real need for the modern church to be revived for that is God’s sole choice and what we have as a church is what He intended for it to be or it would not be the way it is.

    I agree with your statements regarding the need for prayer in our ministries and for the power of the Holy Spirit to be turned loose in our services! AMEN and AMEN. My question is, what does prayer and revival have to do with regeneration bringing about repentance and saving faith? What do these have to do with a theology that posits a God who chooses who does and does not go to heaven?

    I am very well versed in the tenets of Calvinism and am not even a 1 point Calvinist.

    ><>”

    • Bob Wheeler says:

      What is a revival but a demonstration of irresistible grace?
      I think you might be getting hung up on the theological terminology. If I use phrases like “total depravity” or “irresistible grace,” it sound like I’m giving a theological lecture in a classroom — they are theological propositions to be argued and defended.
      But if we ask the question, what do they really mean in real life, in practical terms, it looks a lot different. I have always like the way Charles Wesley (of all people!) put it in his hymn: “Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” And that was the actual experience of countless sinners who found Christ and were saved.
      That being the case, how do we promote revival? The answer is, we must pray for it. Yes we most go and preach the word far and near. But in the final analysis only God can change hearts and enable the blind to see. What we need, what we desperately need, is a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, and that’s not likely to happen unless we get on our knees and pour out our hearts before the throne of grace.
      The modern church, unfortunately, has forgotten nearly all of this. How many times have we heard pastors sleepwalk their way through poorly organized sermons filled with banal trivialities? And then when you go to midweek prayer meeting you see why — hardly anyone is there, and they rarely pray about lost relatives, or the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our assemblies. We have not because we ask not!
      I think that unfortunately non-Calvinists often only know Calvinism as a dogmatic system of theology about predestination. But for most of the great preachers of the past it was about knowing God. Most of them did not spend their time harping about predestination. Most of Calvin’s Institutes is not about predestination. (He was mainly interested in refuting Roman Catholicism, and he probably spent more time talking about justification by faith).
      What the Arminian/Calvinist controversy did was focus attention on how a person is brought to salvation, and this was good. The Synod of Dort was led to consider the condition of the natural man, and what exactly God does to save him. This was the beginning of what became known as “experimental divinity,” an account of how God works in the individual soul. It is reflected in such great classics as John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Now you cannot tell me that that is “dead Calvinism”!

      • Bob Wheeler says:

        I should probably add a couple of other comment — I hope you will forgive me for taking up so much space on your blog!
        First, there is something of a paradox involved in prayer. An Arminian could argue (if he were pernicious enough to do so) that prayer makes no sense because man has a free will, and therefore God has no control over what he does. Likewise a Calvinist (maybe I should say a Hypercalvinist here) could argue that prayer makes no sense, because God has already predetermined what will happen and prayer won’t change His mind. But the fact remains that we are commanded to pray. I think that God has ordained that the blessing follow prayer so that we will consciously learn to depend on God, and that it will become readily apparent that the blessing came from Him.
        Secondly, I would probably want to make a distinction between conversion and regeneration proper. The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner, and then grants him repentance and faith. The permanent indwelling of the Spirit then happens as a result. Strictly speaking, we receive the Holy Spirit through faith,but it is the Holy Spirit that grants the faith. Some of this is a mere matter of terminology — the real question is who does what? But now we are getting academic and splitting hairs!
        I would also want to emphasize the free offer of the gospel — the death of Christ is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world and all are freely invited to come. And we are responsible to go out into the world and invite all to come. But in the final analysis the success of the ministry depends on the action of the Holy Spirit.

    • Matt says:

      You state, “I am very well versed in the tenets of Calvinism …” And what would make us believe what you say?

      Then you say, “… and am not even a 1 point Calvinist.” Do you then deny perseverance or once-saved-always-saved on top of denying depravity of any sort?

      • sbcissues says:

        Sorry I missed this question. I am VERY well versed in the tenets of calvinism. And once again, since I do understand the tenets of calvinism, I can say with absolute assurance that I am not even a 1 point calvinist.

        I do not believe in total depravity/inability. I fully understand man is depraved but I do not believe regeneration is required for a man to be able to repent and exercise faith. I believe regeneration is the result of repentance and saving faith. I do not believe in unconditional election or limited atonement. Jesus did not die for the elect and the elect only. The elect are not those effectually called by God and the rest of mankind simply destined to hell… all because of God’s sole choosing. I do not believe the Bible affirms irresistible grace. I do not believe in the perseverance of the saints… to me that tenet says man does not know if he is saved until his life comes to an end because perseverance is not established until one’s life has come to an end.

        I do believe in preservation of the saints or perseverance of the Savior. There is a difference. I believe in the eternal security of the believer. Now, before you even type a word, there is no use in debating POS… save yourself the time because I am not interested in engaging you on the issue. I simply ask you to accept my brief comment on the differential aspects of POS…

        Hope that is sufficient… if not, it is what it is.

        ><>”

  10. Matt says:

    No one said Calvinists were in the Bible anymore so than Arminians (or other varied SBC brands). The comment Bob made was that these Calvinists weren’t sitting in ivory towers doing academia but doing pastoral work. Even if they were, men such as Luther, Ames, the Puritans, and Calvin himself were pastors, weekly preaching through books of the Bible. Have you read Calvin’s commentaries? Do you preach through books of the Bible from the original languages? Regular exposition of Scripture was their practice and that drove their theology. You have your own theology – is it derived from expositional preaching through the original languages?

    The comment from Bob pointed out that Calvinists have supported evangelism and revival. His comment is actually quite theologically informed and accurate whether or not you like it or not. Of course, you deflect historical theology questions on this blog, so I didn’t expect anything less from your response.

    • sbcissues says:

      Matt,

      You made the following statement: No, you can’t expect him to make a response to the Calvinism of Bunyan, Flavel, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and Pink. He knows nothing about them, probably – probably has never read any of them outside of Spurgeon – and he has yet to understand that Calvinists (and even some strands of Arminianism) understand secondary causation.

      I am not really interested in the “Calvinism of Bunyan, Flavel, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and Pink”. Sorry. I have read them but not to any great detail. I do not agree with their positions so I am not inclined to spend much time trying to understand why they believe what they do.

      I am an avid reader of the Bible and associated commentary notes on particular passages of Scripture which do include some of the people you reference.

      Is my preaching ” derived from expositional preaching through the original languages?” Now that is in deed an interesting question. Are you saying the Holy Spirit is limited to original languages as opposed to printed translations available today? For the record I did quite a bit of Greek work and have translated several NT books and could read the Greek NT fairly fluently but did not find that it helped me understand the Scripture any better than reading the KJV or NKJV. I mean seeing particular nuances in tenses made for good preaching but that was the extent of things for me personally. Since it is the Holy Spirit that writes these words in our hearts and helps us understand and then apply God’s Word in our lives, then I am fine with the Word that I have when I read it.

      ><>”

      • Matt says:

        Oh yes, the Spirit speaks to you but doesn’t speak to others who’ve read the Bible and probably studied it more in depth than you have. Such hubris! Well done, sir, well done.

        But please, quit pontificating on things which you don’t understand, as you just confessed that you don’t read Calvinists because you don’t agree with them. Understanding comes through dialogue and argumentation, apparently none of which you have achieved. Didn’t you just earlier say you were “well-versed in Calvinism”? How could you be if you don’t read Calvinists? I’ve read enough of your theological fits on here to realize there are subtleties of theological thought that you don’t understand. You probably get your understanding of Calvinism from cranky bloggers (or commentors like myself!). What a pity for a man who writes open letters to presidents of SBC institutions, while holding a PhD of his own and being intellectually dishonest and deficient in the process. There we have it! Time to move on from SBC “issues” …

      • sbcissues says:

        Matt,

        Let me ask you a question.

        Have I ever demeaned you in any way? Have I ever treated your comments with disdain or disrespect?

        As I read what you have written perhaps I have and if I did, I would like to apologize in ADVANCE for doing so. TO my knowledge we have NEVER met so I would say that you do not know ANYTHING about me and while it is true that I have not sat down and read these individuals you mentioned, I have read what they have written on specific subjects.

        As for MY degree, I am NOT the one touting it. May I ask what your academic qualifications are, since I do not know.

        I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed… but I really find your following statement somewhat puzzling: “Understanding comes through dialogue and argumentation, apparently none of which you have achieved.” Should I remind you that this is my blog and there are 522 comments here alone. I also own http://www.transformedtheology.com and comment frequently on SBCToday, SBCVoices and some others. This blog is a little over a year old and has had over 30K views.

        It is nice to simply throw out generalized statements like the following… I’ve read enough of your theological fits on here to realize there are subtleties of theological thought that you don’t understand. for the record, I have done everything possible to NOT be subtle with anything that I write but as plain and clear as I can possibly be… since there are obviously people who only half read what I write and make accusations that have no basis, whatsoever.

        May God bless you in whatever endeavor He leads you in! I pray that He gives you an extra dose of grace in the process.

        ><>”

  11. Bob Wheeler says:

    Dr. Hadley, have you read any of these authors besides Spurgeon?

  12. Matt says:

    No, you’ve never demeaned me (so no need to ask for forgiveness) – but have you done so to others? It’s the ethos of your blog, Mr. Hadley, that’s reprehensible. You simply can’t stop thinking about Calvinism in the SBC, but you never read Calvinists. You publish people’s nasty comments (and they were nasty!) but you yourself are intellectually dishonest. How can you devote a blog to making Calvinism in the SBC the only “issue” in SBC life when you just confessed you actually don’t read Calvinists? Don’t you think that’s intellectually dishonest? It’s for this reason men such as Roger Olsen are at least respected intellectually by Calvinists even if they disagree with him. Yet you put up on your church’s website in big letters – Non-Calvinist: Non-Reformed – yet by your own admission have confessed that you are not as “well-versed” in reading Calvinists as you claim. You run a theological institution and write open letters to SBC presidents calling them to give an account, yet no one holds you accountable. It’s simply mind-blowing the hubris that exists. Am I happy to write this? No, don’t get that idea. I’m just bewildered.

  13. sbcissues says:

    Matt,

    This will most likely be my last comment in this thread. Since you did not answer my question about your academic credentials, let me share with you what I have learned in my experience of debating the issue of Calvinism. Most who write in the vein that you have written today, are under the age of 23. How much did I miss that?

    Now, since you have failed to understand what I have written, let me say it ONE MORE TIME. I have read quite a bit of what Calvinists have said concerning specific topics. I have 1000’s of pages of research. Be honest, you do not like my theological position any more than I like yours, Assuming of course you are a calvinist… my point is that I did not get my theological position by reading outside sources; I read the other sources to try to understand their position but the fact that I am NOT calvinist does not in my opinion make my position reprehensible as you suggest.

    What does what I have written on our church’s web site have to do with anything? I see churches that are Reformed in their names all the time; I see no difference nor do I care what you think about that being on our web site. You cannot accuse me of being dishonest… and it is not that calvinists are not welcome… it is that I will not preach nor lead from a reformed perspective. If I were calvinist, I would appreciate that kind of honesty up front. Let me say this, my position is much more noble than the calvinist prospective preachers who say to pulpit committees of non-calvinist churches… no I am not a Calvinist… (not the kind of calvinist you think I am)

    You stated, “yet no one holds you accountable.” I am accountable to a number of people. I am accountable first of all to the God who saved me and called me into the ministry. I am accountable to the church that I serve as pastor. I am not accountable to you. I am a Southern Baptist so what I think with respect to the entities of the SBC and the direction that I see them moving in is my business and I do have a right to express my views and concerns. I see you seem comfortable expressing your views and you are not doing so on a blog that you write. You are a guest here and it would seem to me, that you would have the maturity to at least recognize that and write accordingly. I was saved 45 years ago. God called me to preach 35 years ago. I have been an avid student of the Bible since that time. I have been accused of being a lot of things in my life but being ignorant and/or dishonest have not been among them.

    Once again, may God bless you with His grace for His glory!

    ><>”

  14. Bob Wheeler says:

    For the record I am 62 years old and a graduate of Westminster Seminary, but I never made it into the ministry. No church will have me — I don’t believe in either infant baptism or a pre-trib rapture. I am currently fellowshipping with an informal house church group and thoroughly enjoying it.
    I have read through a number of Dr. Hadley’s blog posts, and while I detect a note of paranoia over Calvinism in them, I think that most of them are reasonably fair and balanced. I would probably agree with David Platt on the nature of conversion, and thought that the “Statement on the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding” was theological mush. In many paragraphs it concedes one thing and then immediately denies it, leaving it unclear what exactly it is that the Holy Spirit does in salvation. And if I were a Wesleyan or a Mennonite, I would want to know how it can be that a believer can be “eternally secure” if he has a free will and his actions are not predetermined through God’s sovereignty. What is to keep him from falling away? (This is not a hypothetical question, either — we are seeing our own young people, raised in the church, falling away in droves. Are they still saved, even though they are now professed atheists or pagans?)
    I would want to caution Matt about his intemperate language. “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient . . .” (II Tim. 2:24). We must be very careful about reading things into other people’s motives or misrepresenting their positions.
    Having said that, it may be best for all concerned if the Calvinists simply left the Southern Baptist Convention. If the primary purpose of the convention is cooperation in missions and evangelism, and the two parties cannot agree with each other as to what constitutes a genuine conversion (and again, I would probably agree with David Platt on this point, and would be gravely concerned that many “traditional” Southern Baptists are giving people a false assurance about their salvation), then there is no point in being a part of the same convention. I say this reluctantly — we have a responsibility to maintain the unity of the church. But the Convention needs to determine what exactly it is trying to accomplish. And if its goal is simply to assure everyone of their salvation on the basis of a bare profession of faith, I know I certainly could not support it. Sometimes it is necessary for Paul and Barnabas to agree to disagree, and go their separate ways – – hopefully while still respecting each other.

    • Matt says:

      Mr. Hadley fails to realize that Calvin and the Puritans wrote extensively on perseverance (or whatever Mr. Hadley wants to call it, aka, once-saved-always-saved). They wrote extensively on it, so to say that the 5th point of Calvinism means you don’t know you’re saved until the end of your life is a gross misrepresentation. It’s simply asinine. He should know better. The Cannons of Dort, at least, are pretty easy to locate online.

      Concerning the SBC, Commentor Bob, the founders of the SBC were Reformed in their soteriology. I’ve not read Platt, so I can’t comment on him. Men such as Page Patterson understand the issues. He gets along with Al Mohler, apparently. As a lay person, that’s good enough for me. The Gospel is bigger than doctrinal formulations, but until the Traditionalists like Mr. Hadley actually start being intellectually honest, this discussion is going no where. He only adds fuel to the fire.

      The “best” to you all.

    • sbcissues says:

      Bro. Bob

      My comment regarding age had NOTHING to do with your comments. Your comments have been exemplary and continue to be welcome. I also appreciate the compliment regarding the fairness of most of my posts; I do not harbor ANY paranoia where Calvinism is concerned… I understand its implications and believe that EVERYONE has the right to make that decision for themselves. I really do. Personally, I do not understand how ANYONE can accept the tenets of Calvinism but I believe they have the right to do so.

      My complaints are exclusively founded in the level of influence calvinism has commanded where the entities of the SBC are concerned. I believe in the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church; unfortunately that autonomy does not extend to the entities. The entities ought to answer to the people in the pew that send the money to pay the bills for the entities. The entities do answer to a board of trustees that I maintain has been compromised by the undue influence of key individuals in the SBC that have a definite plan and purpose to bring the SBC back to its reformed roots…. which is itself a questionable statement. Calvinists are and always have been part of the SBC… that is true in its founding and it is true today. I maintain the popularity of Calvinism is greater today than any time in the history of the convention.

      Since Matt has been quite critical of my statements, I can only assume my questions regarding his age and academic accolades is accurate. I do understand the ramifications of making an assumption. Ignoring my comments in two posts surely means SOMETHING.

      Thanks for your participation, Bob. I really do appreciate it. My heart is in the right place and my words are based on what I believe to be the case as I have diligently observed what is taking place in the entities of the SBC. I do not want a Reformed SBC. Plain and simple, that is the case and that is why I am writing what I write so that people can read for themselves what I see happening and make up their own minds.

      ><>”

  15. Matt says:

    Done told you I was a lay man, if you’d read my comment carefully! Simply B.A., good logic and analytic skills can get the average man a long way when he reads a good bit from both sides – Arminian & Calvinist. Thanks for the jab.

  16. Bob Wheeler says:

    It might be worth mentioning here that I have Geoffrey Thomas’ biography of Ernest Reisinger, one of the figures instrumental in the beginning of the Founders’ Movement, and it might be worth sharing a few observations about his personal experiences.
    He was originally a businessman, and eventually became ordained as a Reformed Baptist preacher in Pennsylvania. When the business ran into financial difficulties he decided to sell it and move to Florida. When I went there i don’t think he had any intention “reforming” the SBC. Eventually, however, he was asked to become the pastor of the North Pompano Baptist Church, and what he found when he got there was a disaster. The church was in serious financial trouble, and had even worse spiritual problems. It had over 900 people on the membership roll, but over 500 of these had never been seen in years. Only about 12 to 15 people would come out to prayer meeting, and half of the deacons gave no evidences of conversion. The rest were doctrinally illiterate. Several church members were living in open sin. Reisinger was tempted to leave, as several had done before him, but felt that he couldn’t do that in good conscience.
    So what is a pastor supposed to do in a situation like this: Announce his intention to turn it into a Reformed church and start preaching on predestination and limited atonement? Obviously not. His first concern had to be with the spiritual welfare and condition of the flock, and so he began by teaching basic Bible doctrine, and made it his goal to ‘reform” the church (small “r”) to make it conform to the model seen in the New Testament. And for the most part he was successful
    He did run into a problem, however, and it partially involved the church’s relationship with the SBC. He had a copastor whose name is not mentioned in the book, but I am pretty sure it was a personal friend of mine from Bible school days, who was a convinced thorough-going Reformed Baptist, who felt that Pastor Reisinger’s goal should be to pull the church out of the SBC, since the SBC isn’t really committed ot biblical standards (by our way I thinking, at least). It of course raises the question of whether or not a church with a Calvinistic understanding of salvation can really support the Conventions Cooperative Program. The copastor resigned, and the church split.
    In the meantime Ernie Reisinger began republishing James Pettigru Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology, and at that point he really was trying to change the direction of the SBC. In his own defense he could probably argue that 1) he was simply trying to return the convention to its roots, and 2) if Christ is the Lord of the church the only thing that should matter is what He wants.
    I can see why non-Calvinists could be alarmed in defensive — it probably comes across as a hostile takeover of the Convention, but it is also see how one could simple let some of the obvious abuses of the “traditional” methodology continue. One would think that some kind of reformation would be in order. Perhaps it will rest with men like you to find away to return the SBC to a genuine spirituality without invoking the name of Calvin!
    I can appreciate why you wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time reading Calvinist literature, but if you aim is to refute Calvinism, you should probably interact with at least some authors. I would suggest that you concentrate on Boyce himself, since he is a central figure in the controversy. Read his book, and then try to show where exactly he got it wrong. My guess is that his theology is fairly representative of Calvinism at its best, and the book is fairly readable, so it should lend itself well to discussion.

  17. Bob Wheeler says:

    Sorry about some of the typos — I was typing as I was thinking!

  18. isabel says:

    does the calvinist believe in the movement of the holy ghost and the the speaking in tongues

    • sbcissues says:

      Isabel,

      As a whole I would say the answer to your question is basically no, as I interpret your question. Obviously we all believe in the movement of the Holy Ghost or Spirit in the hearts and lives of believers but not evidenced by speaking in tongues or a second filling as some teach. Now, because Calvinists and Baptists in general come in all shapes and sizes 🙂 there will be some who will believe in the extra work of the Holy Spirit but in general, my experience is that they do not as a whole.

      ><>”

  19. CRYING WOLF
    Is God just “crying wolf” when He warns Christians of falling away or mentions those who have departed from the faith?

    The doctrine “Perseverance of the Saints” states that God grants eternal security for all those He has unconditionally selected and saved. IS THAT FACT OR FICTION?

    Acts 20:28-30 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

    Was God using the apostle Paul to “cry wolf” even though there was no danger to the church?

    Galatians 5:4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

    Was the declaration by Paul, to those Christians who were trying to be justified by the law, just an other example of God “crying wolf” through the apostle Paul?

    1 Corinthians 9:27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

    If “once saved always saved” is God’s doctrine; then how could Paul be disqualified? Was Paul just “crying wolf” as some might proclaim?

    Hebrews 6:4-6 For in the case of those who have once been enlighten and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the power of the age to come, 6 and when then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

    Why would God warn of the possibility of apostasy if all Christians were guaranteed eternal security? Was God just “crying wolf” one more time?

    Revelation 3:1-5 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write……4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life….

    Jesus sent this message to the church. Note: Jesus said only a few had not soiled their garments. Jesus makes it clear that church members can have their names erased from the book of life. Was Jesus just “crying wolf?”

    GOD CANNOT LIE!
    Titus 1:2 in the hope of eternal life , which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,

    IS “CRYING WOLF” A LIE?

    God promised eternal life, He did not promise Christians; that they could never fall from grace.

    “CRYING WOLF” IS NOT AN ACT OF GOD!

    • sbcissues says:

      Steve,

      Your comment is certainly an important discussion to have. Acts 20 I believe is dealing with God’s called to be vigilant as shepherds because there will be those who will come in as shepherds to tear the flock apart instead of building it up. I do not believe it is contextually accurate to draw the interpretation you suggest from it.

      As for Galatians 5… you have “fallen from grace.” Does Paul mean what you are suggesting? Maybe he does and maybe he does not. He is addressing the issue of Christians being circumcised. Judiazers were going in behind Paul and teaching that Christians needed to become good Jews and keep the law. Men are gullible and a lot like sheep… they follow too many voices instead of the ones they ought to follow. Interesting is the continued theme expressed in verse 16: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

      What I believe Paul is saying is that walking by faith is what brings the Christian victory in his life and trying to follow the law brings bondage… it is not that they are falling from grace in the sense that they lose their salvation or justification in Christ but rather the benefits of an ongoing relationship with Him by faith…

      I Corinthians 9 is dealing with Paul’s responsibility in preaching the gospel; that he might not abuse his authority (v18) In the verse you quote, he is using an analogy of a race where everyone runs and is speaking about the importance of everyone doing their best or giving their all that they might “win the prize.” What is the prize he is talking about? I find the following statement interesting: “Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” Why is this so interesting? It describes a lot of preaching today; self-exalting instead of Savior exalting. So when Paul says, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” perhaps he is speaking of his influence as a proclaimer of the gospel and not being disqualified for heaven.

      I will leave the Revelation quote alone… having ones name erased from the Book of Life has a number of implications and interpretations none of which are very well developed Scripturally.

      Now for the Hebrews passage. I agree that this text certainly seems to speak of the possibility of apostasy however it is a conditional question… “if one does fall away” is key here… Paul does not say When one falls away. Here is what I believe the thrust of this text does say… If one does fall away, it is IMPOSSIBLE to renew him again to faith. So if you are going to argue that apostasy is possible then I am going to say once that happens that person is eternally damned at that point and there is no in the club today and out tomorrow and back in. That is what the text says so I will not deny the possibility of apostasy but I will adamantly say if it does occur then there is no hope of salvation past that point.

      Here is why I believe not in perseverance of the saints but preservation of the saints or the perseverance of the Savior. I believe repentance and believing faith brings conversion as one is justified and given right standing before God and that person is adopted into the family of God. At conversion we become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in a person’s heart and becomes God’s guarantee of the promised possession, which is eternal life with Him in glory. Once a person is born, he can never be unborn.

      Since God and God alone is the One who forgives and saves, I do not see how it is possible to become “unsaved.”

      The problem with this concept is not really with the concept as I see it but the ramifications of the concept that a person can “get saved” and live like the devil and still go to heaven. That is not at all what the concept says but is a perceived application or interpretation. When a person gets saved, God through the indwelling Holy Spirit begins to transform the unregenerate to have the mind of Christ. Some do better than others in responding to that process. Why is that the case? I do not have an answer. What I do know is this; when God forgave me of my sins and saved me, I because His child and I will forever be His child.

      Thanks for the comment.

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