Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cooperation in the SBC

Last month Wade Burleson caused a little hub bub at South Western Baptist Theological Seminary about potential layoffs of Calvinistic professors. To be honest and although I have taken some classes with SWBTS, I just don't worry about these things. However, I do find interesting some of the statements in a recent article by Christianity Today. Tom Ascol of Founders, a Calvinistic group within the SBC, is interviewed in part:
"It's not going away," said Ascol. "The question is whose vision of the future will prevail?" In other words, can Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the denomination work together?
Now for churches that use the New Hampshire Confession, working together certainly may be possible. That is why the Confession was written. According to Dr. James Renihan in a personal letter by e-mail,
J. Newton Brown, who was a pastor in Southern New Hampshire, sought a way to bring together churches from these divergent groups, and produced the New Hampshire Confession as a compromise document. You will notice, as you read the 'Declaration' that it words things very carefully, and in a way that can be accepted by both sides. It never addresses matters like the extent of the atonement nor effectual calling, and even the statement on perseverance can be palatable to a careful thinking Arminian.
I find it odd that Calvinists in the past were able to work together with non-Calvinists. Yet now the trend has gone in the other direction. Arminian Baptists are not able to work with Calvinists while claiming their position is Biblical and while borrowing and redefining Reformational language such as the term Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement. Notice this portion of CT's article,
"We're hopeful that we don't have to cut any professors," Patterson said in the taped interview, posted on Kenney's sbc Today website. The president said he would not hide behind a screen of economic problems if he thought a professor needed to be removed because of certain Calvinist beliefs. "I will say," Patterson continued, "that Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, 'Christ died for your sins.'"
Again, please notice this last sentence.
I will say," Patterson continued, "that Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, 'Christ died for your sins.'"
Could anyone please show me where this is taught in the Bible? Ironically, I was thinking about this issue earlier today. Why do so many Christians feel the desire to be able to say to a perfect stranger, "Jesus died for you"?

There are plenty of texts that speak of the Christian's ability to say "Jesus died for me". This however, is a logical extension of the Biblical teaching of passages such as Romans 8. The New Testament says that Jesus died for us. The "us" is the church. Therefore, we are able to apply that teaching to the individual.

However, where does the New Testament teach us that we must take this to the illogical conclusion that Christ died for those who do not believe and receive Christ's forgiveness of sins? It is simply an emotional ploy and an emotional desire. There is no passage that teaches that unbelievers have the benefits of Christ's death applied to them in a salvific way.

To put this another way. The Scriptures teach that all who believe may say that Jesus died for them. The Scriptures teach no where that unbelievers may say, "Jesus died for me."

Now, I also realize there is a way in which the preacher may preach the Gospel as to allow the Spirit to create faith in the unbeliever. That may in some qualified sense cause the preacher to speak in such a way as to bring the Gospel to a person in a very personal way. Again, this must be done Biblically and with all of the Biblical warnings as well (ie: Hebrews 6).

So in conclusion, I find it odd that the Calvinistic professors at SWBTS could be fired because they may not profess a statement taught no where in Scripture nor in their baptist confessions.

I also find it interesting that over the years, Calvinists have been accused of reading their theology into the text of Scripture. Over the last few years, it should be patently clear who is going to the text of Scripture, who is willing to publicly debate the issues fairly, who is willing to interact with the actual positions and beliefs of the other side, who is willing to not set up straw-men for execution. Not only do I see this on a daily basis to Calvinist scholars and pastors, it has also happened to me. If you are still not certain that this occurs, then you must be a non-Calvinist, or you have your eyes wide shut.

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