**Dr. Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, has finally offered his evaluation of the recent John 3:16 Conference. J316C, according to Ascol, is one of "three events that have put the spotlight on [Calvinism in the SBC] recently have come from those who are not merely non-Calvinists, but are more accurately described as anti-Calvinists." I have a full response to Dr. Ascol in Part II forthcoming.
Presently, I want to shed light only on one, single aspect of Ascol's evaluation referenced in composing his thoughts. In the latter part of Ascol's post, he writes: "The most devastating critique [of J316C] I have read has come from David Miller..."
Brother Miller was an attendee at the J316C and, according to Ascol, "recently told [him] of his experience there. He also shared with [Ascol] some of his evaluations that he passed on to a couple of the sponsors of the conference." Ascol then quoted from the first few lines of David Miller's evaluation, the evaluation about which Ascol insists is "the most devastating critique I have read" (emphasis mine):
"The brethren (presenters)," [Miller] said, "not only contradicted each other but themselves as well" while building "straw men" and "knock[ing] them down with Scripture verses taken out of context...with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance."
Nonetheless, while I was not familiar with David Miller per se, nor personally knew him as Dr. Ascol described him, the words Ascol quoted hardly gave justice to the document David Miller actually composed. In fact, were one to take Ascol's single comment lifted from the source, the only conclusion to accept is, David Miller's critique of the J316C is a credible, unbiased source to consider. Such is so far from the truth, however, it pains me to correct it.
In my view, Tom Ascol has so distorted the intent of the document that David Miller penned--the document which he dubs as the most devastating critique he has read--it remains all but impossible to accept it as not an intentional twisting of sources. From my view, this may be the worst case of the proverbial "cherry-picking" a quote in order to make a point I have ever encountered anywhere.
Following is the entire document David Miller penned. Indeed it was sent to not only some of the conference sponsors, it got around to lots of people, including Tom Ascol and, of course, its intended recipient, Jerry Vines.
Let me be clear: Tom Ascol was not at fault for citing the document and that will become clear from Miller's title. Tom Ascol is at fault because, from every indication I can glean from Miller's "evaluation," no serious reader could view it as a devastating critique of The John 3:16 Conference. And, as it will soon be demonstrated, Ascol completely contorted the source, apparently to give the impression Miller's "evaluation" should be taken seriously by every Southern Baptist.
One final note before I post the most devastating critique of The John 3:16 Conference Tom Ascol ever read. The document David Miller composed is entitled an "Open Letter from David Miller to Jerry Vines concerning the recent John 3:16 Conference at FBC Woodstock." Upon inquiry, I discovered that Dr. Vines had offered a response to David Miller and, upon request, I received a copy of Dr. Vines' response to Miller. It too will be posted after the Miller "Open Letter."
The reader should keep this in mind: the issue here is definitively not David Miller. He has his right not only to his opinion about the J316C, but also to send an "Open Letter" to whomever he wishes. Nor is the issue Dr. Jerry Vines, who responded to the "Open Letter."
The issue is whether Tom Ascol fairly represented Miller's document when he quoted from it. My view is, he definitively did not. Nor can any contorting make Miller's "evaluation" into a serious critique, much less the "most devastating critique" available.
Both letters follow unedited. Let the reader be the judge:
Open Letter from David Miller to Jerry Vines concerning the recent John 3:16 Conference at FBC Woodstock
Yet only one of your presenters proceeded to follow this advice, namely, Page Patterson.. The other 4 presenters who addressed the TULIP, proceeded to build straw men and knock them down with Scripture verses taken out of context, and they did so with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance.
This was evidenced in that 3 out of the 5 were so full of themselves that they could not conclude their sermon within the allotted time of 50 minutes. This did however, provide a high level of entertainment as I watched Richard Land fall asleep on at least 3 occasions during Dr. Lemke's sermon in which he departed from his assigned subject and drudged on and on as the congregation got quieter and quieter.
I did at this point feel some compassion for yourself as I saw your rear-end at least 3 inches off the pew giving Lemke physical signs of your discontent. I know it, you know it, and the Lord knows it! You were sitting there wishing that he would sit down and hush. Tell the truth!
Regarding your own sermon on John 3:16: you had a wonderful text and a wonderful opportunity to preach a gospel sermon to the choir. Instead you chose to give a Greek grammar lesson which was as boring as a 5 hour long WMU meeting! Why was this?
By the way, you said nothing in your sermon that I could not say amen to, as a 5 point Calvinist. Your sermon did inspire me to write new lyrics to an old song.
For whatever its worth I personally believe a public invitation can be extended and practice such in my own preaching. This however, is an accommodation not a biblical principle.
Your conference has inspired me further. I shall no longer keep silent. Men like yourself, denigrate the doctrines of grace which I treasure. I am now prepared to take you on. I will no longer be silent as you, Johnny Hunt, Junior Hill and others whom I have loved and respected, proceed to blame Calvinists for the decline of evangelism in the SBC.
While your speakers correctly rebuke the Presbyterians for infant baptism I might remind you that the only area where southern Baptists have had an increase in baptisms is among 4 and 5 year olds! This is happening in "your kind" of churches.
It is not the Calvinists who have built a convention of 16 million members, 4 million of which could not be found if your life depended on it. You have done this! This has happened on your watch! It is your fault! You have been in charge! "Your kind" of evangelism and methodology has produced this colossal number of unregenerate church members.
In your church in Jacksonville and Johnny's church in Woodstock, less than half of your members come to church on Sundays. Why don't you stop blaming the Calvinists and take responsibility for your own actions! Your church is doing no better than the average church in the convention in this area. My guess is, your church has spent more money on interest on debt service in the past 15 years than it has on foreign missions.
Don't blame the Calvinists for your lack of compassion for the lost and your unwillingness to sacrifice to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. I for one am sick of your duplicity and hypocrisy.
Furthermore, don't blame the Calvinists for all the church splits. Was it the Calvinists that split Bellevue after Adrian died? Hardly! Is there any empirical evidence that there is a higher percentage of church splits caused by Calvinists than the other brethren? Not on your life! There is enough stupidity to go around. Calvinists do not have a monopoly on pastoral stupidity.
Why do you brethren seem hell bent on dividing the Convention over this? Is your rear-end gaulded to such an extent because Southern Seminary, led by a Calvinist, has now become the largest seminary in the convention. Do you brethren fear Al Mohler this much? Are your insecurities so pronounced that every time you get up to speak at a conference you feel morally obligated to take a jab at the Calvinists?
Look at you, you had Southwestern, New Orleans, Mid-Western, Liberty and Luther Rice Seminaries along with Woodstock church and Jerry Vine ministries jointly sponsoring your conference and you could not muster more than 600-800 people in attendance, and many of those were Calvinists who came out of curiosity. I find it passing strange, that when I was a trustee at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of your presenters was on the short list to be considered President of the Seminary.
When I called him to find out his views regarding article 5 of the Abstract of Principles (on election), he assured me in unequivocal terms that he believed in unconditional election in the same manner in which James P. Boyce, Basil Manly, and John Broadus believed in unconditional election. Would this be referred to as chameleon theology, expediency, or just a lack of integrity?
Furthermore, Paige signed the abstract of principles while serving as president of Southeastern. Evidently during his tenure at Southeastern he believed both in total depravity and unconditional election or else he was guilty of doing the same things that we castigated the liberals for i.e. signing a confessional document while not subscribing to the theology expressed in the document! Are you sure you brethren want to pursue this further?
I regret very much that this breach in fellowship has occurred among conservatives within the convention. I stand willing and ready to do my part in trying to resolve the matter.
I would love nothing more than to have an opportunity to sit down with you and a small group of 12-15 other brothers from both sides in a non-threatening venue. Perhaps at my deer camp in Duck Hill, MS, at my expense, sitting around a campfire eating venison bacon wraps and sipping ice tea, we could discuss this matter before we have gone past the point of no return.
I did not receive your email directly. It was passed on to me by David Allen. I have sent my reply to you at this email address. I hope it is sent to the correct place.
First, let me thank you for coming to the conference. It was a real joy for me to see you again after a number of years. I’m sure we could have a really good time discussing what has transpired in our life and ministry through these years. As I said to you Thursday night, you preached the greatest sermon I have ever heard on the inerrancy of Scripture.
I won’t attempt to reply to everything in your letter. You certainly have a right to your evaluations and opinions. I guess those who were not in attendance will have to get the CDs and judge for themselves.
I’m sorry my message was so boring. To be perfectly frank with you, I have bored myself by my own sermons too often through the years! One thing which you and I certainly agree: Richard Land’s nap was the humorous highlight of the conference!
I feel no breach in fellowship with you. I love you, thank God for you and am not at all disturbed that you take a different view from me. I would ask you to love me, pray for me and count me a brother who dearly loves you.
If Founders Ministries in general and Dr. Tom Ascol in particular desire to be taken seriously, a more balanced regard for handling sources should be practiced.
**Tom Ascol's associate, Timmy Brister, has put up a post praising Ascol's reference to Miller: "David Miller, a conservative statesman and evangelist in the SBC, attended the John 3:16 Conference and shared his disappointment to Jerry Vines in a letter, part of which was summarized in Ascol’s article." Brister piggy-backs the identical quote from Ascol's blog, perpetuating the contortion further. The letter referenced is penned by a "statesman"? The quote Ascol referenced--and now doubly referenced by Brister--constitutes a summary of Miller's letter? From my view, truth is violently being trampled here and needs to end now!
With that, I am...