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Jul 15, 2015

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Mary

Hello, Peter, hope you and your wife are settling peacefully in Arkansas.

I think this will bring some confusion to a few people who's knee jerk impression/reaction to those of us who reject the Calvinization of the SBC is to label us as "anti" Calvinists.

Some people are unable to grasp that there are many points to these Calvinism discussions which I will try to articulate briefly here.

1) Calvinists like Founder's have played this game of declaring that their brand of Calvinism is the Calvinism that was embraced by "Founder's" of the SBC and thus the SBC must return to it's foundation. No one argues that Calvinism wasn't present at the founding of the SBC. The debate is about whether it was the only foundation of the SBC and if the current strand of neoCalvinism was actually what was a major part of the SBC back in history.

2) Then we have what is the current political shenagins within the SBC today. What is the litmus test being used to determine who is qualifed for positions of authority within the SBC. There have been no appointments in recent years at the national level of anyone who denies the U and T in Tulip as Calvinist define those terms. Another way to say it is that no one who rejects Unconditional Election and Total INABILITY (not depravity) is seen as qualifed now for any kind of position of significance in the SBC.

So Calvinists want to claim people like Criswell historically but will turn around and say people like Ezell, Akin, Allen, Moore today are NOT Calvinists trying to say "there is no agenda to Calvinize the SBC."

The big elephant in the room which no one wants to address is this current environment where everyone is claiming that the SBC needs to "diversfy" "ethinically" How much diversity do you think can happen when black churches are not Calvinist. So how to diversfy but keep the Calvinization going in the SBC. Is there a shortage of qualified "ethnic" candidates for leadership positions OR is it there is a shortage of ETHNIC CALVINIST leadership candidates.

Max

Brother Criswell was obviously not feeling well when he preached that sermon in 1955. I'm sure glad he got over it! He preached over 4,000 sermons at FBC-Dallas. I wonder if the Founders' found any more slips of the tongue in his messages?

Max

"... the current strand of neoCalvinism ..."

Mary,

If alive today, Dr. Criswell might stand up at a national SBC meeting as he did in 1991 and declare to the New Calvinists "Go shovel gravel. Sell popcorn. Work in a dime store. Don't contaminate the word of God." The intended audience for that charge were SBC's liberals/moderates, but it would fit the creative twisting of the Word to fit New Calvinist presuppositions, like elder rule church polity, "moderate" alcohol consumption, etc.

Andrew Barker

Max, I don't think Criswell was feeling off colour at all. In fact his stance reminds me very much of the type of Calvinism which I was brought up with, although it was never referred to in those terms. It was typified by the analogy of heaven's gate. On the outside was written (so it is said) whosoever will may come. On the inside when the person gets through they turn round to see foreordained before the foundation of the world. I don't buy into that analogy and as far as I can see, the only place it is found is in the pages of Reformed theology and Calvinism. But it is a softer approach and carries none of the hard rhetoric which is present in much of the current neo-Calvinists' ranks. Certainly nobody from my early formative years ever suggested that God selected only a few 'elect' or that the invitation was not an unqualified whosoever will may come, but some certainly did hold that God somehow did choose people and predestine them to salvation. They just never managed to explain it fully, or indeed convince me! :)

Mary

Andrew, your experience is similar to mine growing up SBC. Today my husband and I refer to it as "Criswell Calvinism" - I'm not an expert on Crisiwell by a long shot but I knew many people who were all over the map and seemed to contradict themselves - we choose but God really chose and we just don't know really. One thing that was not present in the SBC of my youth was this idea that you HAD to be a Calvinist to hold any position of authority. Sure there were Calvinists but they got along with everybody and didn't insist that everybody agree with them or this idea that those who weren't Calvinists had "lost the Gospel"

peter lumpkins

I'm afraid there are other times Criswell affirmed his Calvinism. Below appear to be the majority of times he affirmed his own bend toward Calvinism. At least, those are the ones I could find amongst his sermons available on line. 

No conclusions, however, may be credibly inferred from the above that he held theological affinity with Founders-type reformers. We're dealing with two very different understandings as to what Calvinism actually is. By no stretch did Criswell maintain Limited Atonement, Total Depravity (i.e. inability), or Irresistible Grace. And he flat denied faith as a fruit of regeneration rather than a condition for regeneration. No amount of clucking on Founders-type Calvinists' part can woo him into their theological nest. Indeed given their theological rhetoric, one would have to conclude Criswell was a raving, semi-pelagian, theological maniac, more confused than anything else.

peter lumpkins

Thank you for your warm words, Mary. Yes we are settling nicely. Still have to sell our beloved Georgia home, but all that is given to the Lord in prayer.

Thanks for the contribution. I don't know where the SBC is headed with this thing. As you indicate, every high-profile leader is affiliated with Southern's reform movement in some way. I had a chance to briefly converse with Al Mohler at the SBC but no opportunity to quiz him a bit.

For my part, it's so far gone and grassroots people are so ignorant about both what's happened and the implications of what's happening thus far, it's virtually a no-turning-back-now situation. I predict the BFM will be revised within the next few years the substance of which will make it more amenable to Calvinistic underpinnings. We'll see...

Max

"In fact his stance reminds me very much of the type of Calvinism which I was brought up with, although it was never referred to in those terms."

Agreed Andrew. I've been a Southern Baptist for 60+ years. A remnant of "Old" Calvinism dating back to the Civil War has always been a part of the SBC family. Non-Calvinist belief and practice emerged as the denominational default in the last century. However, if it wasn't for the militancy of this new breed of "New" Calvinist young, restless and reformed, the Founders' type Calvinists would still be plotting their "quiet revolution." The old guard, for the most part, have been much more dignified cousins than the neo-brethren ... I don't recall them ever declaring to the SBC non-Calvinist majority "You have lost the true gospel and we're here to restore it ... so get out of the way!" Criswell Calvinism found a way to peacefully co-exist.

Mary

Peter, it makes me smile imagining what new landscaping tasks you'll be working on to please your wife. I'll look forward to pictures.

Well there are bigger things going on the worls than the SBC today. I'm not so sure the Calvinization is such a done deal. I think there could be a great falling away as these young Calvinists have to navigate the real world and realize they all aren't going to be leading megas like Chandler's Village. Then there's the messy church governance they think will solve all the church's problems but will actually have serious nasty repercussions. Planting all these churches based on these controlling cultic type ideas is not going to end well for the SBC.

Max, we did all peacefully co-exist until Calvinists decided the Conservative Resurgence was not enough and that what the SBC really needed was a Calvinist Resurgence/Takeover. Founders' and their ilk blamed the nonCalvinists in the SBC for the liberalism of the 70's and it wasn't enough to just co-exist anymore - Founders decided all the nonCalvinists had to "reform" or leave. They were very clear and open about what needed to be done. No one believed them and there are still those who deny what the purpose of the Founders' ministry was/is and what effect they have had in the SBC.

Max

"I predict the BFM will be revised within the next few years the substance of which will make it more amenable to Calvinistic underpinnings."

Why would that be necessary?! The BFM2000 revision diminished core doctrines of soul competency and priesthood of the believer (singular) ... long-held Baptist doctrines that identified us. During my 60+ year tenure in the SBC, the overriding distinctive belief of Southern Baptists has been competency of the soul under God. Indeed, this has been the guiding principle for a once-great denomination, rooted in the nature of both God and man. It is a principle stitched in red throughout the Old and New Testaments, implying that individual faith is a personal matter between one's soul and God. This doctrine reminds us that God is sovereign with , but that every soul has a free will to stand before him as a person, not a puppet. The BFM2000 revision did its best to downplay individual Christian experience and distance us from our distinctive doctrines. Why is it that Calvinists mistrust testimonies of personal relationships with the living Christ?! Oh well, I guess the New Calvinists are right ... the "next chapter" is Acts 29.

dr, james willingham

As usual the whole discussion lacks clarity, objectivity, and, above all else, real research with understanding. Peter, you gave away the store, when you noted that Criswell held the U (Unconditional Election). That simply means there was not reason in the individual, in any of us who proess faith in Christ, as to why God should have chosen us for salvation while He passed by others. Yes, Calvinsts vary in their understanding, and why not? After all, they are wrestling with some of the most difficult subjects in biblical theology.

As to Max's assertion about Calvinism going back to the Civil War, the truth is that it goes all the way back to the beginning of Baptists in the South. Take a look at the First Baptist Church of Charleston, founded circa 1683 in Maine and move to Charleston shortly after. From the beginning that church affirmed the London Confession of 1689 which William Screven their pastor from the beginning into the 1700s called the "Century Confession." He sought to hold the church's affection for the doctrines of grace which are designed to awaken the desire to love god more, to serve him more fervently, to love Him more greatly.

As to variances try Dr. John Owen whom some have tried to make the father of Limited Atonement (which He does teach just like the Arminian does (Dr. Owen limits the atonement by God's purpose, while the Arminian limits the atonement by man's will. Note also, the universalist limits the atonement by a lack of power on God's part to save the lost in this world and so he waits until after they die?)

It was the Calvinists who sought to make it possible for those who held to a doctrine in which Christ tasted death for every man (could be from the context, every son, Hebs.2), dates 1787-1800. The chairman of the committee in the Kentucky meeting (this part might be in error as it could have been the Virginia meeting (cf History of Virginia Baptists)) was Ambrose Dudley, later , a Primitive Baptist, whose theological views were the same through out his life (I have materials in my library which so indicate.) In any case, the doctrines of grace in their most extreme forms are intended to be preached evangelistically. In short every one of the doctrines is an invitation to be saved, to take God on His own terms, to embrace the truths that God predestinates, that man is total depraved and disabled, that God chooses, that Christ died for the elect, the many, the all, the world of His chosen, the invitation of irresistible grace (as one lady said to Spurgeon, a southern Baptist, "O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." And then there is perseverance and preservation followed by reprobation, these likewise are invitations. Every hear of therapeutic paradoxes or shock therapy. Consider the shocking therapy of an unconditional prophecy which did not come to pass, a prophecy that did not say, "If you repent, I will forgive you," declared by a minister who did not want the people saved to whom he declared the message, a preacher who got made at God, because He did spare the people. I refer to Jonah. And I might add that the our Lord used opposites with the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:21-28, etc. There is more, but God can and God uses crooked sticks, fallen and redeemed sinners who might or might not understand all that is really involved to win the lost to a commitment.

The theology, Peter, is designed to make the believer balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic, responding to the situation in a manner appropriate to it. Some times the appeal must be in the no uncertain terms of God's Sovereignty and some times the appeal must be made in a manner that will call the sinner to accept the truths of scripture that seem so opposite to what one would expect.

Scott Shaver

Dr. Willingham:

I would argue as counterpoint that Criswell suffered from the same malady most human preachers have suffered....contradictory theological statements at different times from the pulpit across years of ministry.

Nothing more, nothing less.

"The Founders" movement of Ascol et al has always been more religio-political than either "spiritual" or "academic".

peter lumpkins

Dr. Willingham,

I’m supposing you illustrated my lack of “above all else, real research with understanding” because I conceded Criswell held the U in TULIP. You corrected my proposed ignorance by defining what the U means: “That simply means there was not reason in the individual, in any of us who possess faith in Christ, as to why God should have chosen us for salvation while He passed by others.”

Unfortunately, your definition of Unconditional Election is not Criswell’s. He doesn’t define U in that way in any of the passages I considered. Criswell emphatically says “We all have a part in our salvation and in our service and destiny. God has a part, but I also have a part.” And again, “…I must have a part in this being saved by the grace of God.” Why? Criswell answers “if I don't have a choice, I am a robot, I am a pawn, and I am not accountable. If it is all of God and I have no choice in it, then I cannot be held accountable for what I do…”

Now, where in what Criswell says is there any indication that U means “there was not reason in the individual…as to why God should have chosen us for salvation while He passed by others” as you indicate? Please correct my obvious lack of reason, research, and objectivity, Dr. Willingham.

What is more, Criswell flat out contradicts your definition of Unconditional Election. Consider: “It's that [faith] response [to the gospel] that God looks for, and takes, and uses as the basis of His regeneration…The Lord takes our obedience, our reception, our response, God takes it and He makes it the occasion for the great regenerating power of His saving hand.” This statement outright rejects your definition of U, my brother. God takes something I do [i.e. make a faith response] as a means to save me. That sounds fairly "Arminian" to me. What it does not sound like is your brand of Calvinism.

Hence, if I am correct, either, a) Criswell did not hold to Unconditional Election in the same sense as do you; or b) Criswell held to the U in the strongest Calvinistic sense but he paradoxically rejected regeneration precedes faith, total depravity (i.e. total inability), limited atonement, and irresistible grace, the very conclusion of which, I might add, is the conclusion of the post above. But either way, I most certainly did not “give the store away” as you put it, by conceding Criswell believed U. Moreover, neither a) nor b) fits your interpretation of Criswell's Calvinism.

I'm wondering now, Dr. Willingham, where clarity and objectivity you assert lacks in my understanding of Criswell remain in your own conclusions.

Now, there’s more in your comment to which I’d like to respond. However, before we go further, I want you to demonstrate what you call is my lack of “above all else, real research with understanding.” We will continue on with your comment once you’ve shown your point.

With that, I am…

Peter

Max

Peter wrote "For my part, it's so far gone and grassroots people are so ignorant about both what's happened and the implications of what's happening thus far, it's virtually a no-turning-back-now situation."

A wise man once said there are three types of people in the world: (1) those who plan to make things happen, (2) those who make things happen, and (3) those who wonder "What happened?!" The non-Calvinist majority in Southern Baptist ranks fall in the latter category. It's more than just being uninformed or misinformed, there has been a massive outbreak of the willingly ignorant among SBC grassroots. Easy pickins' for New Calvinism.

Scott Shaver

Willingham is long on diatribe and and short on substance/rebuttal as ususal.

Ron F. Hale

Peter,

I am so glad that I got to hear Dr. Criswell preach on several occasions. At the close of his messages--he would plead for sinners to come to Jesus--there was a "cry" in his voice that moved the hearts of men. How he loved the Lord and honored the Word of God.

Blessings!

Lydia

I am trying to figure out why it matters now if Criswell was Calvinistic or not? What is it with the SBC and gurus? They will always disappoint. But Jesus never fails, right?

Lydia

"In short every one of the doctrines is an invitation to be saved, to take God on His own terms, to embrace the truths that God predestinates, that man is total depraved and disabled, that God chooses, that Christ died for the elect, the many, the all, the world of His chosen, the invitation of irresistible grace (as one lady said to Spurgeon, a southern Baptist, "O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." And then there is perseverance and preservation followed by reprobation, these likewise are invitations. Every hear of therapeutic paradoxes or shock therapy. Consider the shocking therapy of an unconditional prophecy which did not come to pass, a prophecy that did not say, "If you repent, I will forgive you," declared by a minister who did not want the people saved to whom he declared the message, a preacher who got made at God, because He did spare the people. I refer to Jonah. "

Did Spurgeon know he was a "southern" Baptist? :o) And I will say that many years after this resurgence has waned there will be a need for quite a bit of shock therapy as people cannot live in such total cognitive dissonance unless they are paid to or there is a bigger problem.

dr, james willingham

Dear Peter: Of course, I checked the available resources on Dr. Criswell, and you are right he does speak so regarding man's response, even to the point some Calvinists would find uncomfortable as they did and some still do concerning Andrew Fuller who said something to the effect ath he would turn over in his grave, if any ever thought he was not a five point Calvinist. Personally, I do not like the term as it smacks of a party spirit. Even Paul did not want any party named after him though there was one some centuries later, the Paulicians. Now here is a sermon title by a five point, self declared Calvinist, "Ten Things a Sinner Can do to be Saved." How do you like that title. I heard him preach it many years ago. What is the point of all of this? The issue is we are dealing with an asymmetrical issue in theology, in doctrine, and in such cases one must give full faith and credit to both sides of the coin or be caught in being consistent with one's self which is folly. Imagine being consistent with Arminius, whom Dr. R.G. Lee point out intended the end of all religion by reason. Where lee got that info at I do not know, but knowing Lee, I have no doubt that he got it from a source that he could quote from memory, seeing as he could quote the whsole dictionary from memory, having memorized it while sitting under a tree at Furman University.

Dr. Criswell, not only claimed to be a Calvinist, he also preached on Total Depravity, and on the fact that only God could make a dead person to live. What we have to do is recognize that we as well as our famous leaders are dealing with what cannot be reconciled and was not meant to be as Spurgeon indicated when he said I cannot make them meet and you cannot make them cross (Criswell's quote). God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, man's free agency are the truths that cannot be explained, and the latter does snot mean free will which Spurgeon called a slave, and he used the term free agency to show that man's will was subject to his human nature and that was free agency. As a free agent one can embrace contrary beliefs, finding that they create a tension to be desired which makes on balanced, flexible, creative, constant and magnetic, enable the believer to respond to a given situation appropriately. I wish I had the strength and the energy to go into this in detail with references and all, but being a heart patient and caring for my wife who is an invalid and a heart patient, too, I find that I cannot. God bless and grant you the grace to recognize that we are all at different stages in our efforts to understand what God has revealed. This was what led the Calvinists in the 1700s to allow for variations, and, as Baptists desired, allow for persuasion to work. A man convinced againsts his will is unconvinced still. Whitefield and Wesley worked out their differences, and they set the pattern which Baptists were learning to follow. Must take a rest. God bless, and help you to see we are dealing with a mystery which none of us can explain in the long run. I have had a bit more time on it than most folks writing these days, having been introduced to the subject in '58 and having heard it before then clear back to the 40s by my old country preacher in Arkansas, a faithful man of God whom I can remember kneeling with a deacon to pray for my grandfather's salvation.

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