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Monday, July 27, 2009

Battle for the Baptist Faith and Message

With the momentous resurgence of Passionate Missionary Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention over the last few years, I guess it was just a matter of time before those who oppose this resurgence of Calvinism within the SBC began to question the strongly Calvinistic Statement of Faith of the SBC; the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Peter Lumpkin’s, an often vocal and aggressive critic of Calvinism on the blogs has recently posted an article titled
Calvinists Critique Morris Chapman's Clarification: Part II in which he mostly criticizes Timmy Brister for his critique of Morris Chapman’s (somewhat infamous) comments to the convention this year in Louisville, KY where Chapman felt obligated to (once again) take a broad swipe at Calvinism in the SBC.

Now Peter, who is fast becoming known as an aggressive Anti-Calvinist and Anti-Alcohol “watch-dog” in the SBC, wasted no time in this article in going after Timmy Brister with both barrels blazing. Ironically, or should I say in typical fashion, in this article Peter is guilty of exhibiting toward Brister the exact attitudes he has accused Timmy of having toward Chapman. It appears that Peter is willing to allow himself the freedom to be critical of others in the SBC but would very much like to muzzle all other voices, especially those who speak out against those who abuse their positions in the SBC to advance their personal Anti-Calvinist or Anti-Alcohol agendas.

However, if Peter (who repeatedly refers to Brister as a “strict/stern/hyper Calvinist” and his Calvinism as “skewed”) wishes to engage in this tactic of “attacking” those who disagree with him, instead of debating the issues… well then he should not be shocked when others go after him in like fashion.

But more to the point of this post is something very disturbing that Peter says about the Southern Baptist statement of faith; The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Now, Peter is notorious for (how shall I say this…) displaying “Extreme Gymnastic” skills in twisting the meaning of the English language, and playing “Fast and Loose” with his reinterpreting the meaning of words, grammar, and sentence structure as seen in his comment below.



“ And, so far as the BF&M is concerned, Timmy wants it to definitively teach regeneration precedes faith. I’ll bet that would be a new one on Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, and all the other non-Calvinists who worked on the revision committee.

Personally, I think the BF&M is rubbery enough to include strict Calvinists, modified Calvinists, and non-Calvinists among its supporters. For Brister, however, non-Calvinists and even modified Calvinists like Akin find no support there. It definitively teaches the theological tomfoolery that there exists an animal others have called a born-again unbeliever. ”



Here is what the Baptist Faith and Message actually says:



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


Peter appears to be reading this portion of the BFM2000 with blinders on, so I will put the part he appears to have a hard time reading in bold print.

"It (Regeneration) is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ"

That any man, with any degree of integrity, would attempt to tell Southern Baptist that our statement of faith does not in fact teach that regeneration precedes repentance is either a display of intellectual dishonesty, or crude arrogance… or both.

Peter’s strict/stern/hyper bias against Calvinism and all Calvinist is on full display in this article. And this salvo from the pen of Peter Lumpkin is a clear indication that the long war on Calvinism in the SBC is far from over, and in fact a new chapter in this war has just began; “The Battle for the Baptist Faith and Message”.

Grace Always,




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21 comments:

Marvin Merriweather said...

Here's what I have learned from reading your blog, the SBC Voices blog, and several other blogs (Galyon, Lumpkins, etc.): I don't wanna be in your company.

I used to think the church as a whole had good-hearted people who desired to unite in love. I was wrong.

I regret that you took my comments from Friday as death threats, although after reading them I can see that if you wanted to interpret them as such, you can make that connection. My intent wasn't to threaten your life.

Still, my emotions run wild when I see the great body of God, the church, the bride for whom Christ died, acting in such a divisive way. I get angry, bitter, confused, frustrated, and horrified at the bitterness displayed. It rubs off on me, and it shames me to no end to be influenced by this circus.

I no longer see the point of continuing in service unto the LORD. I can have greater joy and peace hanging out with secular humanists than by trying to communicate with dogmatic Pharisees on both sides of the fence.

Thanks for opening my eyes to the reality of ministry in the 21st century SBC. I'm glad I didn't waste 10-20 years of ministry before finding out my brothers were more interested in my theological weakness than in my heart for the nations.

Greg Alford said...

Melvin,

I wish I knew how to respond to you… but, honestly I do not. I regret that our exchange has been so misunderstood on both sides. Many who post and comment on these blogs, from both side of the debate, do so from a passionate desire to find and defend Biblical truth. That in no way should be taken as something that takes away from their passion for lost souls, but something that flows out of their passion for lost souls.

I must admit that many of the things we often argue about are not essential to the Christian faith. By that I mean that I am absolutely confident that there shall be both Arminian and Calvinistic brother in heaven; one is not saved by the mastery of systematic theology. However, neither is one saved who is ignorant of the fundamentals of our faith; of sin, heaven, hell, repentance, salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. These are necessary things that must be defended in every age. And yet, our exchange has shaken me to reexamine my motives and conduct in doing so.

I am not sure if you will ever read these words, but if you do; for my part I hold no animosity toward you. I have been deeply saddened by our encounter and I pray that you will indeed find peace and purpose in your journey through this life. If I may speak only one thing into your life it would be to always place you confidence in a gracious God and not in us fallen and deeply marred men of clay who often must disappoint the very one we are called to serve.

May the God of all Grace keep you both now and forever more,

Greg Alford

Brent Hobbs said...

Greg, you're absolutely right. Lumpkins and Chapman have rightly been rebuffed by the convention. We do not want division over these issues... (Calvinism, alcohol, private prayer languages, etc...)

Fundamentalism is waning while biblical fidelity is growing.

Greg Alford said...

Brent,

"Fundamentalism is waning while biblical fidelity is growing."

Amen!

Marvin Merriweather said...

Greg,

Thanks for your honesty in your comments. Just a thought about your blog post: it seems possible, from the wording of the text, that one could interpret faith preceding regeneration.

How? Read it again:

"It [regeneration] is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

When it reads "to which the sinner responds," it is possible to interpret this to refer back to the "conviction of sin" instead of to "it [regeneration]."

Are you following my logic here? Perhaps that what Lumpkins means when he says the statement is rubbery enough to include several theological persuasions.

If the sinner is responding to conviction instead of regeneration, then we have a statement broad enough to include both groups: the ones who believe that faith precedes regeneration, and those who believe that regeneration precedes faith.

Greg Alford said...

Marvin,

Thanks for continuing our conversation… when your comment popped up on my screen it brought a warm smile to my face… 

You will discover that in spite of my strong convictions that I am actually a “Big Tent Baptist”. I am for broad cooperation among many different groups of conservative Baptist in the SBC, and that would include both Arminian and Calvinistic Baptist alike. I think that there is much more that we have in common that should unite us than there are things that should divide us.

It is my conviction that there are many things that should be left to the convictions of the local and autonomous Baptist Church or Individual.

Now I understand that there are real differences between us… But, it is also my conviction that much of what we argue over is for the most part misunderstandings of what the other side actually believes. We are far to quick to think the worse of one another, and I am guilty of this more than most.

For example, we both agree that there is a necessary work of the Holy Spirit that must precede faith; that is a “major” point on which we agree. You go as far as to say that it is “Conviction”, and I am willing to bet that you would say that without this “Conviction” of the Holy Spirit that salvation is imposable? And furthermore, I am willing to bet that you would agree that this “Conviction” only comes by the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without which salvation is also imposable?

These are no small points of agreement… as they are things which make us both Evangelicals… and brothers in the common faith.

Now on to your question… Yes, I do understand you argument. However, I do believe that, due to the way the statement is written, that the “conviction of sin” is the means “through” (or by) which the Holy Spirit brings about a “change of heart” (regeneration) and that because of this the will of man is truly set free from the power of sin, and in his absolute freedom, which man does not have without the work of the Holy Spirit, “the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”.

We are very close in what we are both saying… only I go a little further in what I ascribe that God is doing during this encounter with the lost sinner… And again I know that both of us would agree that unless God initiates this encounter by the “convicting” power of the Holy Spirit there is no chance of salvation for the sinner.

You say “Conviction”, I say “Regeneration”, and we both say “Glory to God Alone!” I can most defiantly allow for that in our shared statement of faith. What I have a hard time allowing for is such statements from Lumpkins as “ It definitively teaches the theological tomfoolery that there exists an animal others have called a born-again unbeliever. “

But we have come to expect such inflammatory rhetoric form Lumpkins…
Grace and Peace Always,

Marvin Merriweather said...

Excellent comments, excellent insight, and excellent understanding of both sides. THAT is the type of respect and understanding that brings joy to cooperating believers and, if I may be so bold, I believe also glorifies the LORD.

Thanks for your recognition of the validity of and your respect for the "other side's" argument. Blessings to you, brother.

Cap Pooser said...

Greg, Vines holds to the "conviction" motif. Since the BFM was based on the NHCF, I interpret BFM 4a in light of the following.

Of Grace in Regeneration
We believe that, in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again (37); that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind (38); that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth (39), so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel (40); and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, and faith, and newness of life (41).
Seems clear to me that the fruit doesn't produce the root, but vice versa. Regards, CAp

Greg Alford said...

Cap,

Good to hear from you my friend.

“Seems clear to me that the fruit doesn't produce the root”

Very Insightful, as always… I shall have to remember that line.

In case you are interested; five local “Reformed” Baptist Churches of the SBC are now meeting for an evening of Reformed Worship and Fellowship each quarter at New Zion Baptist Church off highway 2. Don’t know if you can come to our next meeting but it is sometime in August (I’ll have to check). If you are interested send me an email at: alfordg@paec.org and I will let you know the date and time. If anyone else is interested you can send me an email also, I am sure you all would be welcomed.

Grace Always,

Rev. said...

It's probably a bit too late to get a word, but I'll ask nonetheless...

Marvin, may I ask what I (Galyon) stated which makes you not want to be in my company? I'd really like to know.

Gordan said...

When Marvin takes down his fake "blog" then I'll believe that honest dialog is what he's after.

Marvin Merriweather said...

Hey Gordan, good luck writing your new novel. I wish you the best and am praying that the book has been predestinated to sell tens of thousands of copies.

Dr. James Willingham said...

Greg: I wonder if Timmy Brister knows what he is about? The word, antinomy was used by Dr. J. I. Packer in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God to defend the calvinistic or sovereign grace viewpoint. Our biggest problem is with people who do not do research; they are not well-acquainted with the works of authors advocating their own position. Consequently, they see a bear, when there is not one. A little bitty God can't stand the strain of having some one act freely. A really big God can decree eveything that comes to pass and do His will with man being as free as a breeze to do as he pleases. Jesus was pleased to use particular redemption to reach a woman (I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel) and Reprobation (It is not right to cast the children's bread to dogs) to elicit the saving faith with which the Father had gifted her. Augustine said, Give what you command, and command what you will. Paradoxical intervention, a development in counseling by psychotherapists, probably comes as close as anything in human terms to helping us grasp the nature of the seemingly forbidding aspects of the Gospel message. Google - dr. james willingham, theology, and paradoxical interventions - and you will find a number of things I have written on the issue. Someone apparently got interested in what I was doing and put a bot to crawl the net (if that is what does it) and gather what I have blogged. One of the items, usually on page 1, is -commentsbythirdgreatawakeningcom.blogspot...-Back Take -where four pages of my comments are listed..sometimes with as many as 16 comments page.
As to the matter of how these apparently contradictory truths work, my take on it is not antinomy or paradoxes so to speak but crisonantological (based upon the idea of the theory of creative dissonance (set forth by Dr. Paul Halmos in his work, The Faith of Counsellors), that is Christ and dissonance, hence, crisonant). Two apparently contradictory ideas fit the two-sided nature of our brains (objective/subjective, scientific/loving, etc.) which sets up a tension in our minds. Now normally we do not like tensions and try to get rid of them, but some experience the tension as desirable. It enables one to be balanced, flexible, creative, and magnetic. This, to my mind, explains that great creative period in world history which saw the birth of religious liberty, the great century of missions, the two great awakenings, the transforming of protestantism from a gospel recovery, violent-prone, etc. into a winsome, outgoing presentable representation of the Gospel. Baptists who were as fussy as could be were the leaders, the catalysts, in changing the whole landscape of worship, evangelism, and missions. I rather suspect that the hyper-calvinists, the supralapsarians, especially in America were the real agents provocateurs in this seething mass of fermentation which so enraged certain parties who flattered themselves that they were running the show that they had to do something to blunt the effect. They are now trembling again as we draw nearer to the time of the Third Great Awakening which will take the whole earth for the glory of Christ, perhaps for a 1001 generations. After all, such a thing might be the answer to the prayers of Spurgeon (cf. Evening by Evening Devotions for Aug.6 & Dec.12) as well as the saints burned at stake during the long night of the Dark Ages. Praise God from whom all blessings flow...

Greg Alford said...

Dr. Willingham,

I am not sure what you mean by the following comment:

”Greg: I wonder if Timmy Brister knows what he is about?”

If you meant to say “I wonder if Timmy Brister knows what he is (talking) about?”… I can assure you that (while yet being quite young as a theologian, and by no means above making a mistake or misspeaking) I have found Timmy Brister to be one of the brightest, theologically sound, and articulate, voices in the SBC today.

Hope I misunderstood what you were trying to say?

Grace Always,
Greg

Mission: said...

Hmm, Wait till a Mohlerite takes over at your local congregation and absolutely destroys it from within, and then perhaps you will sing a different tune.

Greg Alford said...

Mission,

I can tell you are in pain, and I am so very sorry the hurt you and your church have experienced. However, casting the actions (even sins) of other men upon Dr. Mohler is hardly appropriate.

If theological differences within your congregation has led to division there is no sin on your part by saying so. However, to create (or use) a label such as Mohlerite in a demeaning way is a slander or Dr. Mohler.

I suspect that you are a much better man than this?

I will be praying for the healing of all involved!

Grace for the Journey,
Greg

Mission: said...

Greg,
I have investigated this matter for well over a year. Despite the seemingly benign picture Mr. Mohler attempts to paint, he is in fact front and center, and Southern is ground zero when it comes to this epidemic. The SBC has its head in the sand at what damage is being done in many local congregations by "New Calvinism." Autonomy has its benefits, but this is not one of them. Of course during his tenure, New Calvinism has found a strong voice and is gaining traction at the conference level. All the while we here more responses like you own, "Nothing to see here." I assure all Southern Baptists that this is simply not the case. This is not a debate about the merits of Calvinism. This is a group that comes in under false pretenses to unsuspecting congregations. Southern is producing young, restlest and reformed graduates, zealous to go out and save the SBC from apostacy. The carnage they leave is shameful.

Greg Alford said...

Mission,

What is up with all these new labels?

Can you give me a definition of "New Calvinism"? It is not a term that I find in the Dictionary of Theology http://carm.org/dictionary-theology-intro

Just who came up with this "New Term"? And what separates "Old Calvinism" from "New Calvinism"?

Brother, you are using some pretty inflammatory language: "seemingly benign picture Mr. Mohler attempts to paint", "ground zero", "epidemic", "head in the sand".

Please do not be offended by this but you have not given your real name, or the name of the unsuspecting congregation that was destroyed by one of these "New Calvinist"... And to be honest I have been hearing these sort of vague accusations against Calvinist both old and new for many years now, but rarely does anyone want to let us know who they really are or what church they are referring to.

It would really add validity to your comments of you let us know who you are... but regardless, I am still very sorry for your hurt and I will still be praying for you.

Mission: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mission: said...

There is ample information on "New Calvinism", which really hasn't been 'new for quite a while.
If you are genuinely not aware, then I feel you are hardly qualified to admonish me regarding Mohler and what he has done at Southern.
If you are genuinely interested in applying a Bearan eye to this situation, I'd recommend starting with these.

http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37939
http://raincitypastor.blogspot.com/2009/03/measured-response-to-neo-calvinism.html
-This one is eerily similar to what is happening at my congregation http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/02/a-report-on-some-recent-conversations-about-calvinism/


http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/01/neo-fundamentalism-excellent-but-somewhat-lengthy-essay/
http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2011/04/southern-baptist-theological-seminary-ground-zero-for-young-restless-reformed-by-peter-lumpkins.html

Greg Alford said...

Mission, if you are looking for a fight you shall not find it here... You are wounded and you need time to heal... I have been right where you are!

I have been a Calvinist Southern Baptist Pastor for almost 20 years now, so I know a few things about being wounded... I have been slandered, lied about, miss represented, falsely accused, attacked, betrayed, and even run out of one church and all because I felt our rapidly growing church needed a new education/fellowship building.

That's right... It had nothing really to do with Calvinism, but that's what they said it was about before the end. Baptist have been fighting over buildings, carpet, paint, who is in leadership, the music, you name it, for as long as there have been Baptist! And yes, every once in a while we fight over doctrine... Like the time the conservatives took over control of the convention from the liberals some 20+ years ago now.

Why do I tell you all this? Because, this has all happened before... And sadly, it will all happen again. Why is this true? Because all God has to work with is us sinners.... I wish it was different, Oh how I wish it was different! To be honest, I,m tired of fighting... I'm tired of seeing people get hurt... I'm tired of trying to pick up the peices once again.

So you see, I know what New Calvinism is, what Mohlerism is, and what Traditionalist is.... It's another fight. And when this one is over there will soon be another, and another, and another.... To which I say with great humility... "No thanks!"

Again, I am praying for you and your church!

Grace for the Journey,
Greg