Interesting post by Tim Brister about the central thesis of Calvinistic Soteriology -
Posted July 1, 2012
J.I. Packer, in his introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, makes the following argument about the “one point of Calvinistic soteriology” – namely the conviction that God saves sinners.
For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.
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I agree with much of what Ed says in this article. Southern Baptist are typically known more for what they are against or for what they disagree with than for WHOM they should be proclaiming to the world.
The have been many new church plants in the upstate of South Carolina by friends who have a Baptist background but wanted to distance themselves from the bondage of this type of SBC heritage. Interesting, most of these plants have been lead by men who hold to the doctrines of grace and they have proven to be more effective in evangelism and disciple making than the big box traditional SBC churches are.
It is my opinion that the SBC needs more than a name change. That is superficial fix to a much deeper problem. There needs to be a paradigm shift away from a self-focus on the establishment towards the Kingdom.
Enjoy – Kevin
I’ve always been fascinated by the Baptist bogeyman. Bogeymen are not real dangers, but ones we use to scare one another, often distracting us from real danger. There are real challenges in our churches and the convention—theological and otherwise—but bogeymen distract us from the real issues.
Purpose Driven was the first bogeyman I remember in Southern Baptist life. Instead of focusing on real dangers facing our denomination, some Southern Baptists started preaching against wearing Hawaiian shirts and sitting on stools (from the annual meeting and Pastors’ Conference, no less).
But now, Rick Warren has just spoken at the Anabaptist Conference at Southwestern Seminary. And, I think that’s great. I just wish we had not spent over a decade making Purpose Driven the bogeyman and a generation of Purpose Driven churches feel unwelcome in and disconnected with the SBC. (If you don’t think that is the case, look around and see how many contemporary churches are actively involved in Convention life.)
These contemporary church bogeymen were not denying the Bible—the SBC ones believed in the Conservative Resurgence and wanted to live it out in their contemporary churches. But, after hearing that they were the new bogeymen, they are not around that much today.
Five years ago, the bogeyman was “emerging.” Ironically, there was never much that “emerged” in the SBC, though you would not know that by some of the loudest voices. Turns out, I found out, I was emergent—yep, Brian McLaren and me, according to one critic. Yet, the Emergent wing of the emerging church was about three pastors in SBC life. As I explained in Baptist Press, most SBC pastors just wanted to preach the gospel in emerging culture. Those SBC pastors soon distanced themselves from those moving out of orthodoxy. Yet, some in the Convention started swinging a big bat at a little gnat and drove out another generation of people who simply wanted to reach what was called, at that time, a postmodern culture.
Now, the new bogeyman is Calvinism. Critics are labeling people as Calvinists and Calvinist “sympathizers” (yes, they are using that scare word). Yet, most SBC Calvinists (about 10 percent of pastors and 30 percent of recent seminary graduates) affirm the current Baptist Faith and Message, want to reach people for Christ, and desire to cooperate together in SBC life.
So, in a decade, the bogeyman has gone from Purpose Driven, to emerging, to Calvinism. And, although it is much bigger than me, I’ve been labeled a bogeyman in each era. First, they said I was Purpose Driven, then I was emerging, and now I am a Calvinist. Ironically, I haven’t changed much.
My mother used to instruct me not to go out after dark because the bogeyman would get me. In truth, there were serious dangers outside after dark, but the bogeyman was not one of them. Bogeymen are exaggerated dangers to scare people—and that is what some are doing in SBC life, just as they have in the past.
In the same way, there are real issues here to address. The Conservative Resurgence was over matters that were crucial. And even in the aforementioned bogeymen, there have been very real challenges at every turn. Ten years ago (and in every decade), some churches that called themselves “Purpose Driven” pursued relevance more than they pursued righteousness. Five years ago, some bad theology “emerged” (and because of such, many quit using that term). And, today, there are some militant Calvinists so driven by Calvinism, they can’t cooperate and don’t need to be in the Convention. I call them “nostalgic Calvinists,” pining away for the past more than engaging and cooperating in the present.
I described such Calvinists five years ago in an interview with the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Seminary:
I do see many self-identified Calvinists who are constantly discussing the 18th century as the golden age of theology and praxis in Baptist life. So, I don’t want them to get over Calvinism, but it would be nice if they got into the Third Millennium. At times, I am convinced some “nostalgic Calvinists” have forgotten our mandate is to see men and women brought into the kingdom, not into Geneva.
I am concerned about some of the trends in SBC Calvinism and think we need more conversation (and less insinuation) about the topic. It’s easier to talk about bogeymen.
Some want to divide us—yet I believe that most SBC pastors want us to be united and on mission. They want to build on the Conservative Resurgence to see a Great Commission focus.
I am a Baptist—a Southern Baptist at that. I’ve written or contributed to over a dozen books that point churches to be more effectively engaged in missions and evangelism—the focus of my ministry for over two decades. And, I hoped and prayed that Baptists would be more concerned about reaching the lost than labeling one another.
The Southern Baptist Convention can and must include Purpose Driven pastors, pastors who used to call themselves emerging, and Calvinist pastors, when they choose to affirm our BFM confession and engage in mission cooperation. But the drums of war are sounding again, and Calvinists are the newest bogeymen.
We don’t need another SBC purge—we’ve already preached out a big part of a generation of contemporary churches. Now, we have to decide if we want to do the same to the Calvinist ones who want to cooperate.
As I said at this blog a few years ago:
The Baptist Faith and Message is our confessional consensus. Formulated and approved by the convention, it should fix the boundary for churches and entities that call themselves Southern Baptist. Those who would want to impose their own more narrow parameters of cooperation place others in the unenviable position, to use a football metaphor, of having the goalposts moved while the field goal attempt is in flight. If indeed we have a consensus, and we do, let that be the center point of our working together.
Preaching against bogeymen gets the big amen at some meetings and in some publications, but we should take notice– those meetings are getting older and smaller every year.
Ed Stetzer, VP of LifeWay Christian Resources
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This post is a follow-up to my earlier, “What to Look for in a Church,” and it’s meant to help you discover a church like the one described there.
1. Use trusted resources for narrowing the field. I would recommend two very highly. The first is available through 9Marks, Mark Dever’s ministry based on the title of his book. Nine Marks has a tool that allows you to search for churches who have affirmed both the 9Marks mission statement and the T4G (Together for the Gospel) Affirmations and Denials. I also recommend the list of churches available at The Gospel Coalition. The churches who are included on the list must affirm TGC’s foundation documents.
2. Visit the church’s website to glean as much information as you can about its doctrine and practice. Many, if not most, churches these days make lots of information available via the web, not least the audio or video of their sermons. Take time to listen to a few messages and to read the relevant pages of their website to get a sense of what the church is all about.
3. Visit the church’s public worship service when both the main preacher and main worship leader are there. You certainly don’t want to make a judgment about the quality of the public ministry of a church on the basis of substitutes, especially in a small church setting and if the substitutes rarely take leadership. So give the church a call or send an email to find out the schedule for public worship.
4. Be a part of the church’s life for six straight weeks. This is what I call “the Six Week Test.” It is virtually impossible for you to get a real sense of the church’s life through even two or three visits to their Sunday morning worship. Instead, you need to be part of the church’s body life for a significant period of time in order to catch the congregation’s ethos. I recommend that for six weeks you attend anything and everything – from church work days to the social at the ballpark.
5. Pray, pray, pray for wisdom. You should take very seriously your decision to join a local church. After all, your membership communicates a willingness not only to serve the church family in a given locale, but it also commits you to submit to that church’s leadership. Prayerfully consider your calling to a particular local church.
6. Pull the trigger. This is the counterweight to #5. Too many Christians put off their decision to join a local church far too long. In this life, you will never find a perfect church – ever. Even the Westminster Confession says that “the purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error.” Every church has its flaws, just like every family. And just like every family, you know a healthy church when you see it. So when you do, don’t wait. Join its membership and enjoy the privileges and responsibilities of life in the local church.
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1. Clarity on the gospel of grace. There are many counterfeits, not least the distortions of the gospel that make sin something you need to work off or blow off. Listen carefully for the comfort and the call of the gospel. First and foremost, listen for Jesus saying, “I do not condemn you.” But keep listening for “Go and sin no more.” The order is very important. The removal of condemnation comes before the call to obedience. But both need to be there for the church to preach the gospel.
2. Christ-centered preaching. You might have expected me to have said “expository preaching,” but it is very possible to give an exposition of a text of Scripture without ever getting to Jesus Christ. This is especially true of preaching from the Old Testament. I don’t remember who said this, but if the exposition of the Old Testament you’re hearing wouldn’t be thrown out of a synagogue, then the preacher isn’t preaching Christ. Exposition of Scripture is the means by which we get to Jesus. But it is the means, not the end of preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified.
3. Theologically informed public worship. Are the basic elements of worship present: public reading of Scripture, exhortation and teaching from Scripture, songs, prayers, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper? In addition to these basic elements, look for songs with lyrics that exalt Jesus Christ and deepen your appreciation for and understanding of the gospel of grace. I’m not saying that short songs like “I Love You, Lord,” have no place in public worship, but what I am saying is that if the content of the songs for public worship as a whole are shallow, it should give you pause.
4. Hospitable people. If the gospel is really doing its work in a community of Christians, they will love strangers, and not in that smarmy, fake, “I’m-glad-you’re-here-because-I’m-supposed-to-be-glad-you’re-here” kind of way. I mean that you feel genuinely welcomed and loved by the people as you meet them and spend time worshipping with them.
5. Church discipline. Church discipline has gotten a bad wrap. The discipline of the church cannot be reduced to the final, punitive kind, but must include the formative type as well. Church discipline happens when the members of the church are willing to turn one another back to Jesus in loving calls to repentance, through encouragement in suffering, and exhortations to grow in grace.
6. Mercy for the poor. First John 3:17 says that if we who have the world’s goods and behold our brother in need and close our hearts against him, we don’t have the love of God in us. Thus it is a test of bona fide Christianity that the church cares for its poor. More than that, our care for the poor, though it should prioritize the believing community, should move beyond the church to the broader community: “Let us do good to all people, especially those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:10).
7. Concern for the lost, evidenced by a church committed to personal evangelism. And by “committed to personal evangelism” I don’t mean a church that has evangelistic programs, but that the people love their neighbors enough to tell them about Jesus. So look for a sincere interest in reaching the lost with the gospel of grace on the part of the pastors and the people in the pew, not as a notch in their belts, but because they are truly lovers of people as people, not as evangelistic prospects.
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From my study of the concept of Molinsim as a solution to the tension between God’s sovereignty or providence and human freedom I have come to this conclusion – Molinism is a philosophy and not a theology!
It genesis is in the mind of man and not the Word of God.
I think that Molinism creates a false dichotomy between God’s omniscience and human free choice or will. It constrains God’s knowledge and human choice into a false relationship. Molinism attempts to answer a theological tension with a philosophical argument.
God is God therefore he can be and is sovereign in all things. If God is not sovereign then he is not God. God’s sovereignty transcends human freedom. If man had complete freedom then he would be autonomous which he is not. Man is accountable to God and man is controlled by his corrupted flesh. Humans have the freedom to make free choices in accord with their will. The problem is there will has been corrupted by the sin of the fall. Man’s will is not really free because the natural man is a slave to sin. Only the regenerating work of God brings about true freedom of the human will.
Molinism is not reached through exegesis of scripture but through philosophy. Again, it is a philosophical answer to a theological question that I believe is one of tension and mystery.
Here are some sources on Molinism:
Dividing Line Question on Molinism #1 (starts at 19:00)
Dividing Line Question on Molinism#2 (starts at 39:12)
Dr. James White on Biblical Providence
Dr. James White on Middle Knowledge
Middle Knowledge part 1
Middle Knowledge part 2
Middle Knowledge part 3
Middle Knowledge part 4
Middle Knowledge part 5
Middle Knowledge part 6
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Question: Does the NT affirm a rapture of the church?
The New Testament does not affirm a rapture of the church. The rapture is a teaching that God will remove believers, i.e. the church, before the tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus (McGrath, 461). This view is primarily associated with pretribulation premillennial dispensationalists (McGrath, 461).
Those who teach a “rapture” base this on an understanding that 1 Thessalonians 4:15-7 teaches that believers will be “caught up in the clouds” with Christ (McGrath, 455). Dispensationalists teach that the rapture is different than the Second Coming and they are separated by the Great Tribulation (Horton, 951). Some have described the rapture as a “secret rapture” or a “secret coming” since it could occur at any moment (Erickson, 1197). The rapture is when Christ “comes for” the church and the Second Coming is when Christ “comes with” the church after the Great Tribulation (Erickson, 1197). This teaching could be said to really present a second and third coming or a second coming that occurs in two phases (Erickson, 1225).
This theory of the rapture is not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament. First, Paul is attempting to encourage and correct the Thessalonians who were confused about Christ return (1 Thess. 4.13, 18). They were confused about what would happen to those who believers who had already died when Christ returns (Schriener, 818). Second, the “coming of the Lord” will not be a secret event. There will be a “cry of command” from the archangel and the “sound of the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4.16). Jesus teaches that his return will be as “lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west” (Matt. 24.27). Jesus will come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and send out his angels with a loud trumpet call” to gather his elect (Matt. 24.30-31). Third, Jesus said that “all the tribes of the earth” will see his return not just those who believe (Matt. 4.30). Fourth, Jesus teaches in Matthew 24 that some of the elect will be present during the tribulation which contradicts the teaching that the rapture keeps the church out of the tribulation (Erickson, 1225).
The “secret rapture” of the church was first formulated by John Nelson Darby in the nineteenth century (Horton, 954). Therefore this view has only been around for the last two hundred years. The reason that pretribulation premillennial dispensationalism and its teaching of the rapture has achieved a significant foothold in the United State is primarily due to Cyrus I. Scofield’s notes in the Scofield Reference Bible (McGrath, 455).
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.
Horton, Michael Scott. The Christian Faith: a Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.
McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: an Introduction. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Schreiner, Thomas R. New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
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