As an interim between Part I and Part II of my response to Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, who recently made an open attack on Dr. David Allen and the John 3:16 Conference platform, implicating them as "Anti-Calvinists," Dr. Malcolm Yarnell III, offers this brief response to Dr. Ascol and Founders Ministries.
Thank you for letting me post my last response to Tom Ascol at your place. I have learned three things from this short interchange on the blog of Dr. Ascol, whom I am glad to see is returning to full health after his recent difficulties. The three things learned from Dr. Ascol are:
1. Dr. Ascol holds to a view of history that must conform to an ideology; in particular, Dr. Ascol apparently believes that Baptist history must conform to Dortian Calvinism as the form of "orthodoxy." Dr. Ascol may be unaware of it, but such an ideologically-driven history demonstrates the entire historiography of the Founders' movement is at a crisis point.
First, because of its primary leader's admitted bias toward an ideology, Founders historiography is simply not acceptable history in the scholarly realm. Second, because of its primary leader's admitted bias toward an ideology rooted in non-Baptist Christianity, Founders historiography is simply not acceptable history in the Baptist scholarly realm, for it recognizes as Baptist only what it defines according to Dortian "orthodoxy."
Dortian orthodoxy must not be confused with Baptist orthodoxy: there may be legitimate confluences between Dortian identity and Baptist identity for many Baptists, but not for all Baptists and certainly not for the majority. The historiography of the Founders movement must be judged as deficient on the basis of its ideological bias.
2. As a result of his repeated unwillingness to answer a specific question regarding his church's communion with a Presbyterian, many will be led to the unfortunate conclusion that Dr. Ascol is not willing to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message in its entirety. Let it be clearly noted that communion with Presbyterians is certainly within the prerogative of Dr. Ascol's local church as a free church. However, communion with Presbyterians is outside Southern Baptist orthodoxy, at least according to the common confession of the Southern Baptist Convention. A reading of articles 6-7, especially the first paragraph of article 7, of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 will demonstrate how communion with Presbyterians is outside the confessional mainstream of Southern Baptist life.
3. In his personal comments, Dr. Ascol has conflated being a servant of the churches with being an employee of his particular church. This indicates either a misinterpretation of his interlocutor's statements or an over-reach in his understanding of Southern Baptist polity. Personally, this minister of the Gospel has always affirmed that he is a servant of the churches in the SBC. That understanding is reflective of both the calling that God has placed on his life and the office with which he is entrusted within the convention.
However, this minister is definitely not an employee of Tom Ascol's church, although he is a servant to her and has engaged in conversation far above and beyond the call of duty with her pastor, in willing fulfillment of that role. Again, Dr. Ascol's church is one of among the over 40,000 churches in the SBC and possesses no less of a voice and, this is the critical point here, no more of a voice than any other Southern Baptist church. If this improper idea of authority is not evident to him, it may be advantageous for Dr. Ascol to consult one of the members of his board regarding Southern Baptist polity.
On the basis of these three issues--deficient historiography, unwillingness to affirm fully the churches' orthodoxy, and an overreaching view of authority--conservative Southern Baptists should be concerned that the Southern Baptist Convention may be facing a similar problem to that which it faced with Liberalism.
We should hope that this is not the case, and that Dr. Ascol's views are not held by other SBC Calvinists, but the recent conversation with Dr. Ascol points to an alien doctrinal system of which the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention may want to become more aware. The Building Bridges Conference and the John 3:16 Conference were both legitimate and timely efforts to increase that awareness and Southern Baptists may want to consult the records of both conferences.
Now, since my calling from God is to be a servant of the churches, especially within the Southern Baptist Convention--and particularly of my own church, which fully affirms and seeks to implement the theology outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message--I have spent enough time responding to Dr. Ascol's comments.
We have not even addressed the Founders soteriology, which the distinguished contributors to the John 3:16 conference did so well, and to which there is yet to be manifested a reasoned response. However, one is hopeful that others will take up that task on behalf of faithful Southern Baptist Calvinists, with whom this professor, a non-Calvinist but more importantly a Baptist and most importantly a biblicist Christian, sincerely desires fellowship and mutual understanding.
Malcolm B. Yarnell III
My sincere thanks to Dr. Yarnell for his reasoned response to a growing concern in our Southern Baptist Convention, as well as the open attack Dr. Ascol has chosen to make on the capable scholars at the John 3:16 Conference.
With that, I am...