Southern Baptists rethinking Calvinism vs. Arminianism?

"Olson, a classical Arminian and author of the book Against Calvinism, is unaffiliated with the SBC, but has long asserted that most evangelicals -- not just Southern Baptists -- adhere to a sort of semi-Pelagian "folk religion," whose origins can be traced to the Second Great Awakening and revivalists in the mold of Charles Finney.

He believes the new document proves his thesis. "Traditional Christian doctrine, since Augustine anyway, has always been that people need a special infusion of God's grace to be able to respond to the gospel -- both Calvinists and classical Arminians agree on that," he said." (Christianity Today)

Southern Baptists are finally waking up to a topic I addressed a while back in a BreakPoint feature article:

What many lay evangelicals believe today is not Arminianism. In fact, both Jacob Arminius and John Wesley repudiated it. It is actually a form of Pelagianism popularized by Charles Finney during the second Great Awakening. The statement "Adam's sin does not disable human free will" is NOT an acceptable, orthodox Christian position. It is heresy.

Self-styled Arminians are waking up to what Calvinists have been saying for decades: "No man can come to [Jesus] unless the Father draws him."

Perhaps we can hope for an outcome from this covnersation which orients American Evangelicalism back toward a biblical, "catholic" understanding of God's grace.


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I make up words at times too. All that is needed is to have a handy list of Greek and latin words and juggle around the prefixes and suffixes.
Kevin, You and All the other Closet-Editors Here
. . . (as well as the “uncloseted” ones) were gracious to refrain from pointing out my misspelling of “complementarity”. Bonus points for that; I’ll now need at least a triple-word score containing Z, Q, J, and X just to keep this game from becoming a rout.

While we’re minting new words, I suggest we go ahead and add “complimentarity” to our burgeoning vocabulary. Not only does it seem a good word to have, it strikes me as the very word one might use right now to describe the salutory attribute you and your peers have put on display.
I am very used to people making up words, because I work with molecular biologists. My first introduction was 'transfection,' and since then I have encountered 'antisense' (which somehow is different from 'nonsense'), and lately the influx of '-omics': epigenomics, metabolomics, and now simply 'omics', which to me is the strangest one, apparently making a noun from a suffix. This would seem to be comparable to someone talking about 'ness' or 'ity' as though they had meaning.

I inadvertently coined a word myself in talking with a friend, making up on the spot the word 'vergant' to refer to something tending to verge towards. But my friend thought I was using the word 'virgin,' and so... well... communication kind of suffered there.

Oh wait-- am I supposed to stay on track? Um, yeah-- I agree with what that guy said earlier in this thread!! Boy, was his reasoning tight!
Not in any dictionaries I consulted. Outrageous. It should be.

As evidence, see

(from “Rational Changes in Science: Essays on Scientific Reasoning”, by Joseph C. Pitt and Marcello Pera)

If we were playing Scrabble and you put corroborable on the board, I dare say you would likely have the winning edge. But one can’t be certain, can one?

On the other hand, I believe there is more certitude available to us than many suppose. In fact, I’m certain of it. You already touched on it. It’s called “blessed assurance”.

I think, Rolley, that we are in substantial agreement here-- I am definitely in agreement that Truth will always be in phase with Reality (how can it not?).

I suppose that in a way, what I wrote is a kind of lament that in this life there is no certitude available, due to the Fall. Yes, this can be substantially overcome by a deep and lifelong infusion of the Word of God, coupled with faith and obedience, but when it comes down to the final degree of certitude, I think this too is a casualty of the tragedy unleashed by the Fall.

(Can one have an emotional reaction to a hamstrung and fundamentally crippled epistemology?)
Kevin, I don’t disagree that fallen Reason alone cannot formulate moral truth. But that isn’t what I meant to suggest, nor do I believe that is what Chuck believed, either.

What I meant to suggest (in lamentably abbreviated fashion due to personal constraints) is that Truth will always comport – i.e., be logically and morally consistent – with reality; i.e., ultimately there will be no contradiction between correct theory and the correct practice. They will dovetail perfectly. Thus, per “me and Chuck” (heh, that sounds nice) both are useful tools for measuring the validity of any given worldview.

I believe there is a complimentarity between theory and practice that ought not be too quickly discounted. For example, we know what man is supposed to be like by studying what God is like, in Whose image man is made.

But the converse is also true: i.e., we can look at man, even fallen man, and know to some extent what God is like. In fact, I believe it is for that very reason that Christ, the Perfect Man, resonates so profoundly with every man. There is instant recognition within us that this is man as man was meant to be; not merely because Christ spoke truth, but because He *was* truth, the very incarnation of truth; the Logos, the Word of Truth made flesh.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you regarding the role of faith; for it is faith which apprehends and embraces God’s revealed truth. But I would argue that faith uses rationality as the very mechanism by which it determines its own validity, and that without sufficient rationale which (to bring this full circle), should (if in fact it is true!) be corroborable by experience/practice (and vice versa), then one’s “faith” is at best subjective theory with little basis for credence.
In the contention I was making, I was pointing out that.

1. If the Apostles had made concessions to gentiles while believing Torah binding upon them, they would in fact have been guilty of dishonesty, and dishonesty in religious teaching is worse then in other areas.

2. Likewise, while hypothetically someone might be less motivated if he believes Calvinism to be true, that is irrelevant to whether or not Calvinism is true.

3. Admittedly that is an ambiguity as I earlier pointed out that there is no point in preaching Calvinism as if true it cannot be necessary for salvation in itself. One can say that that is a detail of advanced theological debate rather then one about the redeeming of souls and appeal to Pauls analogy of milk and meat.
I do have a small objection, Rolley, to the quote from Charles Colson. I think there is an inherent problem with Rationality (as distinct from Rationalism), which is that ultimately it cannot be confident of its conclusions, because (so my rationality says) the methodology is necessarily flawed due to the Fall.

In other words, whether or not Reason can arrive at true 'logical conclusions,' our ability as fallen people affects our access to any cold, hard logical conclusions-- we must mis-trust our reasoning ability, and we must also be wary of any conclusions we arrive at, concerning ultimate Reality.

I'm not veering off here into Fideism, but I do think that one reason that Faith is such a virtue-- an essential virtue-- is that in this fallen world, Reason cannot be absolutely trusted. (And yes, of course Faith itself cannot be trusted, since so many can go astray in their sincere beliefs.) Certitude is not available to us, I think, due to the Fall.

It is worth considering the implications of this, that in this Universe, Truth ultimately is a PERSON, not a logical category. I find a certain kind of glory in this, in that Jesus Christ is thereby exalted-- even for us former Philosophy students!
@ Both Jason and Lee
And don’t forget what our beloved Chuck Colson said (a quote I LOVE repeating b/c I do so agree with it):

“For years I’ve taught how important it is that we embrace a worldview that comports to reality; how important it is that we test the validity of any worldview. Push a worldview to its logical conclusions, and if you can live with those conclusions, well, the worldview proves to be rational.” ( )

And as I like to say, the converse is also true. Think about it.
And if they had thought the Torah actually applied to Goyim would they really had made that decision quite that way Lee?

Aside from the fact that the decision was severe enough as it was. Some converts would have been rather fond of their hetairais just to start with. Of course the decision didn't forbid socializing with them but no one would believe it.

And what would "abstaining from blood" have meant to them? Most of us just think it means what it says, which is only relevant to those fond of black puddings. What if they thought it meant "only buying from a kosher butcher". What if, for that matter, that is really what it means?

For the matter of that, it would have been a lot more convenient to let them go on worshiping idols.

Of course every religion has to be severe or it will just assimilate. But no one had any way of knowing that. The only other "real" religion they would had knowledge of besides Judaism was Zoroastrianism and that was to far away. Classical Polytheism barely rose to the level of religion and Mystery Cults were by nature esoteric and not widely known.

Be that as it may, Acts 15 was not taken on the assumption that pragmatism comes before truth. It was taken on the assumption that in this case truth allowed pragmatism.
Where I Stand, For the Record
There are several flavors of evangelical theology which many (if not most) Calvinists would, by dint of its simply being non-Calvinistic, automatically brand ‘Arminianism’. I’m not sure I’d agree in all cases, especially mine; but as it’s not worth arguing (IMHO), and as it is such common practice these days, I’ll let the label stick for the time being.

However, I would like to state that I have almost as many differences with classical Arminianism as I do with Reformed theology; it’s just that most of the differences I have with the former are less fundamental than those I have with the latter. But this should explain, at least in part, Shane, why I may appear “coy” to you at times and in some regards. It’s not darkly intentional; it’s just the path of least resistance for one who has little time to do justice to some of the points on which we differ. Does that make sense?

I said “less fundamental”; that’s probably a bad choice of words, b/c I am in absolute, entire agreement with Calvinists and Arminians and any/all other evangelicals on all the fundamentals of evangelicalism (as articulated, for example, by John Stott in “Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity and Faithfulness” (InterVarsity, 1999)). So banish any suspicions you might have regarding latent semi-Pelagianism in this guy; there is none.

I’d be biting off way more than I have time to chew to begin defending point by point the flavor of evangelicalism to which I adhere (sorry, there just isn’t a convenient one-size-fits-all label to attach to it, at least not that I’m aware of).

But for the sake of the present discussion – chiefly for your sake, Shane, so that you don’t have to guess so much as to where I am in the theological universe -- I will refer you and anyone else interested in my views on election/predestination to the following concise summary found under the heading “Corporate view of Election” here where it states:

“These scholars also maintain that Jesus was the only human ever elected and that individuals must be "in Christ" (Eph 1:3–4) through faith to be part of the elect. This was, in fact, Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth's, understanding of the doctrine of election. Joseph Dongell, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, states "the most conscipuous feature of Ephesians 1:3–2:10 is the phrase 'in Christ', which occurs twelve times in Ephesians 1:3–4 alone...this means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus' special status as chosen of God." Markus Barth illustrates the inter-connectedness: "Election in Christ must be understood as the election of God's people. Only as members of that community do individuals share in the benefits of God's gracious choice.””

So I hope that helps. I just decided it was time for me on this subject to, uh, fish or cut bait.
If you say so, Jason, but I'm not sure how to reconcile that with what the church leaders did in Acts 15. Seems pretty pragmatic to me.
You can't base a doctrinal statement on whether it motivates you properly to preach the gospel, Lee; that would be putting truth at the service of pragmetism.

And honestly, Armenianism has that danger too. I was considerably DEmotivated by the thought "You might be asking a Jew to choose between honor and salvation", which in fact is the effect of Armenianism as taught by many Evangelicals.
I Checked Snopes: Pelagius Never Drove a Semi
Be careful, folks. This is how heresies get started. What say we just stay on topic, okay?

The topic, in case you forgot, is: “Which is worse, Rolley: foie gras, or roast duck?”

I must confess, Lee, that neither having nor wanting any experience in either, it’s difficult for me to say.

However, you will perhaps recall me stating sometime back that my preferred mode of dispatch is “meteor to the back of the head.”

But one seldom gets one’s wishes in these matters does one?

Yet as surely as frogs croak and cow-milkers kick the bucket, so, barring the rapture, one day this duck will rupture. And if I had to lay odds, the thing that will finally put the harp in my hands will be a lusty YOD-blow to the head, producing what you might call a pâté de pate.

Unless, of course, my executioner is a Calvinist. In which case my demise will almost certainly come from my being (ahem; drumroll please, Regis) “grilled”.

Sorry, Brian; I just can’t seem to help it. It’s that predestination thing rearing its ugly head again.

Well, good buddies, I better 10-10. Smokey’s in the hammer lane doing disco lights to give me the bear bite. Time to say “over and . . . .

My wife actually attended BJU for a year, Gina, before transferring to a nursing school (since at the time BJU had no nursing degree). And the University itself was quite proud of rejecting Billy Graham as a student, since it evidenced their stance for doctrinal purity.

This was a bit confusing for my wife, since her dad had been president of his local chapter of Youth For Christ, and had a prized possession of himself shaking hands with Billy.

Almost as bad, when the Billy Graham Crusade came here to Portland in the 1980s my wife sang in the choir, sitting not but a few yards from the man himself. Of her own free will (you could say), no less. Her BJU professors would be so ashamed.

FYI, Billy was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister. Maybe, while they're rooting out semi-Pelagianism, they could clean up some other past mistakes. (mee-YOW!)
I was told that story about Billy Graham and BJU at my high school (which I think I've mentioned before was a feeder school for BJU). I regret to say, they were quite proud of it.
Yeah, well, Shane, I figured the whole "Gregory the First" shtick would, for a dedicated anti-papist, be rubbing you the wrong way. And it's like stroking a cat's fur backward - eventually the claws come out. And, as a fan of Jonathan Edwards, I fully believe I deserve any scratches I get.

I actually listened to D. James Kennedy's tapes on "Evangelism Explosion". In them, he tells the story of going for the first time to a man's home, accompanied by his pastor/mentor, with the intent of leading the man to Christ (based, if I recall, on the man requesting just such a visit). Dr. Kennedy presented the Gospel, but the man wasn't responding, whereupon the Good Doctor thought to himself "Obviously, this man isn't Elect!" (Insert laughter from the Arminian listeners here.) You might say Dr. Kennedy lost the "emotional impetus" to continue. The pastor/mentor, somewhat disgusted, intervened and in a few moments led the man to Christ.

I heard that story in the 1980s. It was shortly after I had made the mistake of quoting a Calvinist doctrine to an adult Sunday School class of Nazarene Wesleyan-Arminians where I was the teacher.

So I've been aware of the distinctions, and the myths, Shane, probably longer than you've been alive.

And having been on both sides, and in the middle (as a Southern Baptist, in fact), I've seen how spreading the Gospel only as a duty, rather than out of concern, can result in some Christians feeling superior to the lost. Not only that, some Christians can even feel superior to other Christians. My own grown children struggle to this day because they were made to feel like losers over issues of supposed doctrinal purity. Two of the three are not walking with the Lord, in part due to being so consistently rejected.

To me, the finer points of semi-Pelagianism may well be an important doctrine, although I read what Rolley has written about it and I think he has a perfectly valid take on the issue, and he has no desire whatsoever to embrace heresy - quite the opposite. But in some sense it has about as much effect on my daily life as whether or not (to reference Sherlock Holmes) the Earth goes around the Sun or vice-versa. In fact, it tends to create exactly the same feelings of superiority as does a knowledge of science, rather than the feeling that we're all sinners, some of whom have accepted God's grace.

I'll confess that when someone wants to discuss "rethinking Calvinism vs. Arminianism", *I* get rubbed the wrong way, and *my* claws come out. (Resisting the temptation to link to a relevant LOLCats picture.) Doctrinal purity can be pursued with a "win at all costs" mentality not unlike the one that got Peter in trouble with Paul. Far too often what should be a reasoned, thoughtful and deep discussion becomes a shouting match, wherein I fully expect to see someone burned at the stake. (Which is worse, Rolley: foie gras, or roast duck?)

I'm trying to find some humor here, and this exchange springs to mind:
"We may disagree, but we both serve God."
"Yes - you in your way, and I in His."

Billy Graham was rejected by Bob Jones University. I've also heard R.C. Sproul take pot-shots at Dr. Graham. Maybe I should be delighted to see my name IN ALL CAPS.

So if the Southern Baptists want to clean up their doctrine such that people no longer think one response to an altar call will get them set for life, great. (An interesting side-study can be had from the history of the altar, and the call, as used in Protestant churches.) But I don't see much good coming from transforming that into a push to get everyone to adopt the Westminster Confession even if they have reasonable questions and/or reservations about some points.

And incidentally, my wife and I have two cats. One, a Maine Coon, is named Calvin. He routinely wakes us up at 3 and 4 in the morning to feed him because I've had to get up at that time in the past to catch flights, so in his mind feeding time should (as a matter of doctrinal purity) always be that early. Needless to say, when I've just gotten to bed at 1 in the morning due to a late flight home, this insistence is not appreciated. And he has many other annoying habits, like getting underfoot, refusing to move, not letting us remove his fur mats, and so on. But he loves us deeply, and has been known to start purring for no apparent reason other than that he lives with us. So we've decided to live with *him*, faults and all, and love him back.

If only Calvin*ists* could be treated the same, with the same response.
"Needless to say, this is a silly distortion of what Calvinists believe. (One that comes up so frequently when discussing the topic with novices, I could set my watch by it). But suffice it to say that if you know anything about the Reformed (orthodox, really) view of man's will, you will understand what nonsense it is to picture poor, eternally reprobate souls sincerely praying the sinner's prayer and attending church but being rejected by God because they are not "among the elect." "

That is a distortion of what anti-calvinists believe. Whether or not they pray the sinners prayer a reprobate is "poor" by nature of being damned for being born. The fact of not being able to say the sinners prayer is irrelevant.

"Really, Lee, I fail to see how "Calvinism makes you shrug obliviously to the plight of sinners" is appreciably different from "Calvinism makes you strangle kittens.""

Than imagine how the above argument of "I don't feel awkward about Reprobation because reprobates are sinners anyway" sounds?
Answering Lee
Since we seem to have reached a tentative agreement on rejecting a tenet of Pelagianism (*angels rejoice*), I can take a moment to answer the more Calvinism-specific objections:

LEE QUOD QUOTH: "The real problem that the New Calvinists have with the Sinner's Prayer is that they believe only certain people can come to faith, and they don't want the hopelessly condemned thinking they are saved or joining churches when they actually have no chance for life in Christ."

I read and enjoyed this article, and have already responded to this little gem of a quote elsewhere. Essentially, allowing this fellow to give the final word on SBC Calvinists was a bit like allowing Barack Obama to give Mitt Romney's closing remarks in a debate.

Needless to say, this is a silly distortion of what Calvinists believe. (One that comes up so frequently when discussing the topic with novices, I could set my watch by it). But suffice it to say that if you know anything about the Reformed (orthodox, really) view of man's will, you will understand what nonsense it is to picture poor, eternally reprobate souls sincerely praying the sinner's prayer and attending church but being rejected by God because they are not "among the elect."

You might as soon worry that corpses will go about acting like they're alive, only to find out that no one has raised them from the dead.

LEE SAID: "I actually have no particular problem with the idea of predestination. I just have a problem with the way it removes the emotional impetus for the lost to get saved, and for the saved to reach out to the lost. From God's perspective, it's all worked out in advance; fine. From our perspective, we can't see that far, so we might as well behave as if it was our personal responsibility."

Wow, this is becoming something of a field guide of myths about Calvinism. I'm calling the Audubon Society right after this.

First of all, Lee, why do you need an "emotional impetus" for reaching the lost? Where I come from "go ye, therefore" is sufficient.

But in what way do you believe this blessed doctrine of predestination discourages evangelism? Have you ever heard of a fellow named John Knox--turned Scotland upside down? How about Jonathan Edwards and that whole "Great Awakening" incident that changed American history more than any other religious movement? What about our dear Charles Spurgeon and his fiercely Calvinist conquest of England? Who was it that pioneered the camp meeting and the "anxious bench?" Who started the modern "Evangelism Explosion?"

Show me a Christian tradition with more passion for reaching the lost for Christ, and I will engage this distortion directly. Until then, we ought to regard the idea that the doctrine of predestination somehow puts a damper on evangelism as a rhetorical Jew's horn.

LEE SAID: "If I accept seriously the proposition that these budding alcoholics have no free will, then apparently I should just shrug as they kill themselves. God must not have given them that special infusion of His grace."

I would strongly discourage you from "accepting seriously the proposition that [they] don't have free will," because no Christian teaches such a thing. The Westminster Confession (which is pretty much the Gold Standard for Calvinist doctrine) states in Chapter IX, "Of Free Will,": "God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil."

But beyond doctrine, let me ask you this: If I implicated your dearly-held theological beliefs with the suggestion that, if such beliefs were true, we "should just shrug as they [alcoholics] kill themselves," would you not be a tad offended? And would you not think that I was playing a little less than fairly?

Really, Lee, I fail to see how "Calvinism makes you shrug obliviously to the plight of sinners" is appreciably different from "Calvinism makes you strangle kittens."

They're both silly exercises in well-poisoning, not to mention completely unfair, since I hear John Calvin had somewhat of a thing for cats.
Yeah, Well, Brian, I’m Not a “Single” Christian
Been married nigh unto 37 years.



You know what they say (“they” being those who have walked this earthly sod so long their shoes have blisters): “levitation is good for the sole”. Or something like that. I’m just trying to be levitical (is that what one is who practices levity, levitical? Works for me).

And so does this joke I overheard Nimrod telling Dorcas (BTW, apologies Brian, if this is your first introduction to me):

Q: Why did the opportunistic leather-working chicken cross the road from skinny cow A to fat cow B?

A: To get to the other’s hide.

You know what all this has to do with the topic at hand?



Yes, I hear those crickets. And they’re right, the crickets are: Absolutely nothing.

Which means what?

Right again, you who said, “watch out for the YOD, Rolley.” (BTW, apologies again Brian, if ‘YOD’ means nothing to you. For the skinny on that and cow A, ask LeeQuod. Or search for it using this bargain-basement utility, specially tailored to scour the dusty BreakPoint archival catecombs - )

But have no fear, folks. Rolley has long since learned how to dodge the YOD. He’s learned that all he has to do, after meandering aimlessly and off-topically for nine-tenths of his banal monologue, is to close with some back-pattingly ingenious device that gives the appearance of getting back on track.

Here, I’ll show you how it works. Rolley getting back on topic:

Step 1 – Act like you “accidentally” got side-tracked, thus: “But I digress. Hmm. Let’s see. What was the topic du jour? Ah yes.”

Step 2 – Grasp for the uttermost straw; i.e. reach for something that only the wildest and most generous stretch could enable anyone to plausibly construe as having ANYTHING to do with the topic. For example, here in this thread you might say:

“Good comments, Brian! Even if you DID get it backwards. I.e., it’s the ‘Arminian-Calvinist’ debate; not ‘Calvinist-Arminian’.” Ba-da-bing!

Or better still, inject some REAL humor. For example Dorcas and Nimrod (they’re my stock in trade):

Dorcas: So how often does Brian Daly comment here at BreakPoint?
Nimrod: What a stupid question.
Dorcas: Why is that a stupid question?
Nimrod: Because you answered it.
Dorcas: Huh?
Nimrod: You answered your own question.
Dorcas: I did?
Nimrod: You know you did.
Dorcas: I do?
Nimrod: Yeah, and now you sound like you’re goofily conjugating verbs.
Dorcas: I have done nothing, Nimrod, to warrant such a contempt-laden remark.
Nimrod: No? Well stop it just the same.
Dorcas: Answering my own question?
Nimrod: No, goofily conjugating verbs.
Dorcas: I did.
Nimrod: Ok. Well promise me you won’t start up again.
Dorcas: I do.
Nimrod: Then why am I getting déjà vu? Are you going back on your word?
Dorcas: I have done that only very rarely in my entire lifetime and you know it, Nimrod. And quit changing the subject. You still haven’t explained to me how I answered my own question.
Nimrod: Oh come on Dorcas, dispense with the act. You asked me, “how often does Brian daily comment here”.
Dorcas: That’s right, I did.
Nimrod: So there’s not really any point in our continuing the bizarre, albeit not infrequent, aspects of our conversation, don’t you agree?
Dorcas: I do agree, most heartily.
Nimrod: Good. Then what do you propose we do about it, starting right now?
Dorcas: Have done with the bizarre aspects of our conversation.
Nimrod: Excellent.
Dorcas: Indeed. So then, Nimrod…
Nimrod: Yes, Dorcas?
Dorcas: How often DOES Brian Daly comment here at BreakPoint?

See? Nothing to it.

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