Thursday, June 13, 2013

Truth, Trust, and Testimony In A Time Of Tension

A Statement from the Calvinism Advisory Committee

 Southern Baptists are Great Commission people. We are also a doctrinal people, and those doctrinal convictions undergird our Great Commission vision and passion. We are a confessional people, who stand together upon the doctrines most vital to us all, confessed together in The Baptist Faith and Message.

Within this common confession, we sometimes disagree over certain theological issues that should not threaten our Great Commission cooperation. We recognize that significant theological disagreement on such issues has occurred with respect to Calvinism. It is, therefore, our responsibility to come together with open hearts and minds in order to speak truthfully, honestly, and respectfully about these theological and doctrinal issues that concern us, threaten to divide us, and compel us into conversation. Such engagement is appropriate at every level of Southern Baptist life including local congregations, associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

This spirit of conversation has been the hallmark of the meetings of the Calvinism Advisory Committee. We have spent hours together in fruitful, respectful, and candid conversation. We entered these conversations as brothers and sisters in Christ and as faithful and thankful Southern Baptists. Our purpose was neither to resolve centuries of doctrinal disagreement nor to consume ourselves with doctrinal debate. Our purpose was to suggest a course for moving forward together while taking seriously and representing fairly the theological diversity that exists in and has been the strength of Southern Baptist life.

Four central issues have become clear to us as we have met together. We affirm together that Southern Baptists must stand without apology upon truth; that we do indeed have some challenging but not insurmountable points of tension; that we must work together with trust; and that we must encourage one another to testimony.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quote of the Day: Hebrews 6:11

"Now, by these words the Apostle shows that there are two parts in Christianity which correspond with the two tables of the Law. Therefore, he who separates the one from the other, has nothing but what is mutilated and mangled. And hence it appears what sort of teachers they are who make no mention of faith, and enjoin only the duty of honesty and uprightness towards men; nay, it is a profane philosophy, that dwells only on the outward mask of righteousness, if indeed it deserves to be called philosophy; for it so unreasonably performs its own duties, that it robs God, to whom the preeminence belongs, of his own rights. Let us then remember, that the life of a Christian is not complete in all its parts, unless we attend to faith as well as to love."

—Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews 6:11

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Federal Vision

I found this article written a few years back by RC jr. on the subject of the Federal Vision.  Let me know your thoughts on it.

Not long ago two Southern Baptist scholars met to debate the sovereignty of God in election. Al Mohler fought on the side of the angels, and won. Paige Patterson fought on the side of, well, the Remonstrants, and lost. Along the way Patterson sought to score some points by pointing out the deadly trajectory of Calvinism, by quoting from my book Almighty Over All on God’s sovereignty and the fall. Trouble is, he thought he was quoting my father. While I am most certainly a Calvinist, I am not the Calvinist. Pinning something on me isn’t pinning something on the entire school of thought.

Because we share a name, someone confused my father and I. Because Doug Wilson and I share a friendship, and an ecclesiastical affiliation, and perhaps a conviction or two, some have confused the two of us. Some have assumed because Doug and I are friends, a reality I trust will continue after the publication of this brief essay, that I believe in what has come to be known as federal vision theology. I do not now believe in it, nor have I ever. I do believe in paedocommunion, as did most of the church for the first millennium. I do believe, recognizing that we cannot read hearts, that we ought to treat our covenant children as believers unless or until they show otherwise, as has the great bulk of the Dutch Reformed tradition. I do not believe that this, nor being in the CREC (which welcomes Baptists into its midst), nor publishing men in Tabletalk who later came to be identified with federal vision, makes me federal vision.

I do not pretend to know exactly what defines federal vision. I certainly don’t know all the different convictions of all the different men associated with this movement, who sit at different places along the spectrum. I do not pretend to know everything the Westminster Standards have to say on the issues, far less all that Calvin had to say. I do know this. I believe that all those who have been given new hearts by the Holy Spirit, who trust in the finished work of Christ alone, will always so trust, and enter into eternal life. I believe that all such people will bear fruit in their lives, though that fruit is in no way the ground of their justification. I believe God justifies the ungodly, though the ungodly who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and respond in living faith. I believe that those who believe that some come to real trusting faith and then fall away into apostasy, even if they affirm that God ordained all this and brought it all to pass, have denied perseverance of the saints. I believe non-elect covenant members, whatever grace they receive along the way, are not given new hearts that trust in the finished work of Christ alone, and are never actually at peace with God. I believe I can’t say for sure what the men involved in this controversy actually believe about all this.

I believe that no one who has not been given a new heart, who has not trusted the finished work of Christ alone, will enter into eternal life. That’s almost universally true. It allows for no exceptions for unborn children, little babies who die or the feeble-minded. The only exception is Jesus. I believe this makes me more committed to the scope and purity of justification by faith alone than many federal vision critics. I am to their right on this issue. I believe that the death of Christ is why my sins are forgiven, and the life of Christ is why I receive a gracious reward, as our Father has promised. Or, to put it more theologically, I believe in double imputation and in the active obedience of Christ. And always have.

I take a southern Presbyterian view on Romish baptism, believing Rome to be apostate since the adoption of the sixth session of the Council of Trent. Just as I do not require others to submit to my views on paedocommunion (that is, no one at Saint Peter, where I serve, is required to practice it) so I do not require others to submit on this issue. My view on Rome is by no means the majority report. But once again, it is to the right of many federal vision critics. I am troubled by the relative sanguinity of federal vision toward Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy. But I’m a cranky TR.

I have, since this controversy first came to the public eye, sought to be, as much as is possible, at peace with all men. I have had many conversations with men on both sides of the fence. I spoke against federal vision at Auburn Avenue II in 2003. I have also written, I pray graciously, about some of my concerns about this movement from time to time. You can find those brief essays at our website: (Oct 30, Dec 30 2003, Jan 5, March 8, June 28, 2004). I have also, from the beginning, been decrying the rhetoric surrounding this controversy. This is the first great theological controversy to be played out in the age of the internet. The internet has been about as useful in encouraging thoughtful theological discourse, or even appropriate ecclesiastical judgments, as it has been in encouraging sexual fidelity. I have seen shameful rhetoric from both sides, and precious little effort by the more reasonable on both sides to silence the bomb-throwers.

I take the old perspective on Paul. I have not read N.T. Wright, nor Norman Shepherd. I believe that the animus behind all this animosity is not the defense of theological purity, nor a recovery of biblical language. I believe that behind it all is pride. I believe that the devil has his hooks in both sides, and that both sides could do much more for the kingdom of God if they would spend their time and energy heeding the wisdom of Luther who said, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”


Calvin: Hebrews 6:4

"But here arises a new question, how can it be that he who has once made such a progress should afterwards fall away? For God, it may be said, calls none effectually but the elect, and Paul testifies that they are really his sons who are led by his Spirit, (Romans 8:14) and he teaches us, that it is a sure pledge of adoption when Christ makes us partakers of his Spirit. The elect are also beyond the danger of finally falling away; for the Father who gave them to be preserved by Christ his Son is greater than all, and Christ promises to watch over them all so that none may perish. To all this I answer, That God indeed favors none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by Mark 4:17? There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate, which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up."

—John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews 6:4

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We Remember

D-Day June 6 1944

June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.