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To me it has always come down to trusting in the sovereignty of God to save people. This is such a complex doctrine, I'm not sure we'll ever get to the bottom of it.
Welty's point, in my opinion, is not that non-Calvinists consciously believe in a works-oriented salvation, but that ultimately that is what it amounts to. To sing, "I have decided to follow Jesus" gives all the credit to the one who makes the decision. Walking the aisle, praying the prayer, the act of repentence, etc., all amount to an act of the will that when seen from a purely human perspective, would amount to works that generate salvation.
From the Calvinist perspective, if it is all up to God, then nothing gets in the way of His receiving all the credit for the act of salvation. He did it all, every single part.
The problem with Calvinism as I see it is the issue of double predestination. If God elects some and not all, He is by virtue of that electing the rest to damnation. Although most Calvinists I know deny this, it is true from a logical standpoint. I have a problem with a doctrine that predestines people to hell.
The other issue I have with Calvinism is that it ultimately leads to universalism. If you can't stand the thought of God predestining people to hell, then you go back to the verses that say that God so loved the whole world, that He gave His only begotten son, etc, and you decide that the whole world must be getting in. Combine that with the passage that says that at the Name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, and boom! You've got a universalist on your hands. Clark Pinnock may be the most famous example.
I haven't sorted it all out, and to be honest, I gave up trying. I trust in the Lord and His wisdom. I like what one of my Methodist friends said--he is a "Calminian." I also appreciated the words of Dr. Lavonn Brown on the golf course one day. He said that when the door of salvation opened for him, it said, "whosoever will." When he walked through the door and looked at the other side, it said, "Lavonn Brown." Its hard to argue with that.


We need to be aware of the separation we place on salvation as applied to the author(s) of the Pauline corpus and those of the OT.

It was certainly not reprehensible to consider salvation from our conduct/works prior to the NT nor after.

In fact, the OT and the NT has more than enough examples of God judging us based on how we conduct ourselves.

To suggest that we disregard this simply because the redactors of the NT bring faith into the picture is simply showing to others that we are either in denial or that we don't really know the bible.

James 2:2 "...so also faith without works is dead."

The fact that people accept some verse of Scripture and deny, ignor, or relagate as unimportant contradictory or opposing verse is one of the challenges I see for people of different movements.

In fact this is one of the knocks against Calvinists is that they not only cherry pick the bible but that they rely so very heavily upon the works of men from Augustine of Hippo, through Luther/Calvin, through the crop-earred Puritans, down to Spurgeon and a handful of modern day writers. The tenets they cling to today evolved more from these men than anything else.

Scott A Gordon


Sounds like Dr. Welty is my kind of Calvinist!



Greg Welty


Thanks for your thoughts.

Re: your first point, I define the "unconditional" part of "unconditional election" in terms of a claim that is both negative and conjunctive: "God's choice is not on the basis of foreseen faith or good works" (217). You are quite right that the controversy over this claim, among Southern Baptists, is *not* over the second conjunct. Indeed, as yourself note, my later argument in the chapter (225-226) presupposes that my readers, Calvinist or non-Calvinist, *agree* that election is not on the basis of good works. The controversy is over the first conjunct, whether election is on the basis of foreseen faith.

Why then did I state the "unconditional" part of "unconditional election" in terms of a conjunctive claim? Why not just say that the controversy is in terms of a simple claim: whether or not election is on the basis of foreseen faith? The reason is because (i) Calvinists have classically defined unconditional election in terms which preclude *both* foreseen faith and good works, and (ii) I judged that it would give my presentation persuasive power. I'm *banking* on you thinking that (in your words): "it's reprehensible to even suggest that God elected me for salvation based upon my works." Great! We agree! And given our strong agreement on this point, you're halfway there when it comes to unconditional election :-) For I will subsequently argue that if you reject election based on good works, then you should also reject election based on foreseen faith, for the latter is tantamount to the former. Now, I might be wrong in that subsequent argument, or I might be right, but given that argument it's quite strategic (not to mention historically honest) to define unconditional election in the way I did.

In general, I think a fundamental basis of Christian dialogue should be the judgment of charity. Never interpret an author to say something that he clearly denies elsewhere, unless that is the most plausible rendering of his words in context. Nowhere in the context do I say that non-Calvinists hold to salvation by works. Indeed, my later argument assumes that my readers agree with me that election on the basis of good works is anathema. So it's not clear your "first contention" with my paper is grounded in anything I actually said.

You claim that I "convolute faith and works into the initial, working definition of Unconditional Election." I find this hard to believe, since that "initial, working definition" is a conjunction: "God's choice is not on the basis of foreseen faith or good works." The relation between those nouns is not appositive or epexegetical. I didn't say "faith, that is, good works." That *would* be to convolute faith and works. Rather, I said, "faith or good works." In context, that is a simple conjunction. Nothing is being confused here. If anything, they're being clearly distinguished.

You say that I am "proceeding on the basis that NonCalvinists contend that God chooses us to salvation based on foreseen good works." Not so. I don't proceed on this basis, as if it were some sort of a priori assumption I make about non-Calvinists. Rather, I *argue* for this implication of their position, on pp. 225-226. (Did you read my footnote 18? I specifically worded that in order to communicate maximum respect for those who reject my position.)

You say: "Unless he can show why NonCalvinists should concede his definition, dark night awaits our passing ships." You don't have to concede any definitions. You're free to define words however you want. However, I'm the one giving the argument in that chapter, and so the argument will proceed according to my definitions. If someone who rejects the view that election is based on good works *also* rejects the view that election is on the basis of foreseen faith, then they accept unconditional election, on my definition. But it doesn't really matter *what* you call yourself, that is, what label you give it. What matters is the views you accept or reject. Since, I imagine, you *do* hold views on both of those topics, it's hard to see how my argument passes your position like a ship in the night.

Re: my material on Ephesians 1, you speak of "the obvious absence of any engagement with the corporate configuration of election that clearly rules in Paul's thought pattern in Ephesians." I'm not sure what you're getting at here, so perhaps you could explain. Perhaps you mean that because Paul's pronouns are in the plural ("he chose *us*"; "he predestined *us*"; "*we* have been predestined"), that phenomenon all by itself somehow blunts the unconditional nature of election, or somehow argues that election *is* on the basis of foreseen faith. If that's your meaning, I'd like to see the argument for that. How would the mere fact that election is of a group of individuals somehow diminish the unconditionality of that election?

But perhaps you mean that Paul's plural pronouns in Ephesians 1 indicate that personal election to salvation is not in view here. Rather, what God is choosing is abstract categories, or hypothetical conditionals, such that there is no thought here of *personal* election. However, I directly addressed that view, in the "Election is personal" paragraph on p. 218. If you think something is lacking there, I'd like to know.

In general, I don't think your brand of argument from silence at this juncture is helpful. The argument I presented on behalf of unconditional election *might* be undermined by the scholarship of those who stress 'corporate' election in Ephesians 1. But that's your argument to make, not mine. Possibilities are not probabilities. If you think there is something out there that undermines the argument I *did* give, by all means present it. But the fact that I didn't make your argument for you surely doesn't justify your complaint that I engage in "sheer polemics which is the least useful venue to foster genuine dialogue." Your dismissing of an argument on the basis of material you can't even be bothered to present is probably the quickest way to end dialogue! No one on either side of this issue is benefited by hand-waving towards uncited sources.

(BTW, your criticism is unfair because I *did* explicitly deal with the typical way that advocates of 'corporate' election make their case: God chooses that a certain abstract category shall exist, or God chooses that a hypothetical conditional will be true. So it would be interesting to see what *other* possible feature of corporate language you think I've neglected in my defense of unconditional election.)

You say that my arguments on behalf of unconditional election are "intimidating to those who do not like their position pushed and pressed, squeezed and mashed until the proverbial "Uncle!" is uttered. I would have renamed this section 'Who's ya daddy, now!' were I Lifeway's editors." But this is both invidious, and begs the question. It is invidious, because you assume my motive is to make people cry "Uncle!", and to give myself a place for vain boasting. Why impute to me unChristian motives? Reread my introduction and my conclusion, if you want a clear statement of my motives in writing. They are nothing of what you have imputed to me. (Indeed, you seem to admire my conclusion, judging by the end of your post. So why the gratuitous mind-reading here?)

You also beg the question, since you assume -- without argument -- that I have pushed, pressed, squeezed, and mashed the non-Calvinist position. Your reply would be more effective if you actually argued for your points. Perhaps, in your next post, you can give examples.

Still, I'll take what I can get :-) So thanks again for your reply.


Dr. Welty,

From my perspective, I did not read the section, ""intimidating to those who do not like their position pushed and pressed, squeezed and mashed until the proverbial "Uncle!" is uttered. I would have renamed this section 'Who's ya daddy, now!' were I Lifeway's editors." as you boasting or motivated by pride. I actually took it as a great challenge to think, which, too often doesn't happen. I look forward to reading your section as a resultof this post.


Dr. Welty,

Thanks for logging on. Just a couple of quick notes and I'll get back to some of the other responses as time permits.

First, Dr. Welty, if you could, please keep your responses to a minimum. When the response is longer than the original post itself--and yours is longer--I feel certain any fruitful dialogue will vanish quickly, at least on my end for I simply cannot keep up. Good or bad, this is only a one man show (on my end anyway). Hopefully, smaller bites--even if more numerous--will be more productive for all involved.

Secondly, Dr. Welty, I'm unsure how what I wrote came across as offensive in any way or shape and am baffled why you would write:

"But this is both invidious, and begs the question. It is invidious, because you assume my motive is to make people cry "Uncle!", and to give myself a place for vain boasting. Why impute to me unChristian motives? Reread my introduction and my conclusion, if you want a clear statement of my motives in writing"

Invidious? You really think I calculated that paragraph to create ill will, resentment and/or offense in some hateful sort of way? You honestly believe I meant to "impute to [you] unChristian motives"?

Dr. Welty, I have to say, I'm a bit confused about such a conclusion and half-way ticked, just to be honest. In my wildest imagination, nothing of the sort was in my mind as I penned those words.

Those words were meant as a light moment--thus the "Uncle" and "Who's ya Daddy, now?" images, on the one hand and definitively as a dig toward NonCalvinists who do not like a series of tough questions put to their position on the other. The words "[Dr. Welty's questions] can be intimidating to those who do not like their position pushed and pressed, squeezed and mashed..." was not about you in particular and certainly not attempting to read your motives as "unChristian" or "vain boasting."

What I did say about you personally, I thought was clear: "an admirable scholar...great wisdom from a young scholar."

How then, Dr. Welty, you could so miserably misread the section I wrote toward NonCalvinsts--which, in my own mind as I was writing it, was an indirect commendation of your quick, keen mind--unfortunately impugning my own motives in the process, is something I do not understand.

I do know this: if I must spend my time in this series making defense against charges of "invidious" creations that question another's motives--especially when those charges are so woefully misguided--I'd rather shut the comments down and just write. I simply do not have time for this.

In addition, just to be frank, Dr. Welty, your wrong presumption about my words prematurely expressed as a foregone conclusion before you were reasonably certain I possessed "invidious" intentions is precisely indicative of what's wrong in Southern Baptist dialogue presently. I still am suffering utter confusion about your response as I write.

I trust your evening well and hope soon to post again on your paper. Also, I'll consider the remainder of your response to part 1.

With that, I am...


Malcolm Yarnell

Well, now, I have a dilemma. I have two good friends who seem to be, not only at theological odds, but alas also at personal odds over the Calvinist/Non-Calvinist dialogue. May I say a word that may prove a palliative?

Peter, I have known Dr. Welty even before he was a Doctor. He is a very godly man who is not likely to misrepresent, at least not intentionally, another's position, even as he represents his own with candor and kindness.

Dr. Welty, I have known Peter for a couple of years now. He, too, is a very godly man who is not likely to misrepresent, at least not intentionally, another's position, even as he represents his own with candor and kindness, and sometimes a bit of flair (sorry, Peter, but "flair" is probably more than fair).

I will not respond too deeply to the theology of the discussion for fear of detracting from my own thesis in response to this interesting exchange. This is my thesis: I do hope that my two friends, whom I respect so greatly and love so much, will find reason to become friends with one another. After all, in Christ, who is no abstraction (sorry, Greg, but I had just had to make one dig), we find that we have a friend who is closer than a brother. With that type of friendship in Christ, surely we can assume the best of the other, even across the chasm of secondary theological disagreement (no, this is not an affirmation of the whole lowest common denominator ecumenical movement!)

Oh, no, now I probably have alienated both of my Baptist/regenerate church friends and all of the SBC ecumenists, too! If only I was wise enough to speak with candor but without ever resorting to those problematic parenthetical asides.


In Christ,

Malcolm Yarnell

By the way, both of you seem to know what this statement could mean, but I haven't a clue as to any possible meaning whatsoever:

"Who's ya daddy, now!"

Perhaps I have simply spent too much of my life reading 14th-16th century manuscripts and missed an important part of 21st century culture.


Dr. Yarnell,

I do appreciate your kind words and your more than fair, to be sure, estimation of my sparky style.

Our Lord bless.

With that, I am...




The mature, Christian contrast between Dr. Yarnell's compassionate attempt to mend a breach between two brothers and your wasteful, smart-alek remark is striking.

If you'd like to contribute something positive at SBCTomorrow, I welcome it. I've read your posts. You have a great mind. But here, it's unfortunately never used. Just a one-line insult is strangely your standard on this site.

Like I say, if you'd like to contribute positively--and positively includes vigorously contending with my posts--you are welcome. No longer, however, are your insults welcome--and that especially when another is attempting to minister reconciliation.

With that, I am...


Richard Coords

Dr. Welty,

You wrote: “For I will subsequently argue that if you reject election based on good works, then you should also reject election based on foreseen faith, for the latter is tantamount to the former.”

First, for what reason would someone even mention works ahead of faith, if for no other reason but to poison the well?

Second, why must the non-Calvinist position be pigeon-holed into the oversimplified category of “foreseen faith”? Why not spend some time addressing whether this fully addresses the depth of the non-Calvinist perspective on Election.

The historical Arminian challenge against Calvinism has focused intently on the meaning of being chosen “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4), and a rejection of the notion that God has a secret body that He “puts into Christ.” It is argued that Calvinists often lop off “in Christ” at Eph 1:4 in frequent quotations, as if such was extraneous and redundant.

Walls and Dongell explain: “It is in him that we have chosen and predestined (Eph 1:4-5), just as it is in him that we have been seated in heavenly places (Eph 2:6-7). This means that Jesus Christ himself is the chosen one, the predestined one. Whenever one is incorporated into him by grace through faith, one comes to share in Jesus’ special status as chosen of God.” (Why I am Not a Calvinist, p.76, emphasis mine)

Adrian Rogers explains: “How do you get into the family of God? You are spiritually born into the family of God. You are legally adopted into the family of God. Now when you are born in to God’s family, that’s the new birth. That deals with your position in Christ. When you are adopted, that deals with your privilege in Christ, and in Christ, we have both birth and adoption and we are predestined to this adoption. Therefore, we are fully accepted.” (What We Have in the Lord Jesus, Ephesians 1:1-12, Love Worth Finding Ministries, 1/18/95W)

Becoming in Christ occurs upon conversion as the new creature, with the old creature having passed away. (2nd Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, the Father’s legal adoption of us in Christ before we were in Christ, namely before the foundation of the world, according to Ephesians 1:4, had to be on the basis of us being foreknown in Christ just as Romans 8:28-29 teaches, which therefore served as the basis upon which God the Father beforehand planned to equip and gift Christians for various callings for service within the Body of Christ.

I believe that we have an election with God the Father on account of our identification WITH and position IN Christ, through the blood covenant of Calvary. I have argued for an analogy with Mephibosheth.


Debbie Kaufman

I would ask this question of any or all: When you pray for someone have any of you ever asked God to change that person's heart or direction?

Debbie Kaufman

Dr. Yarnell: I agree with Peter in that it was a joy to hear and see you, Bart, and Tom Ascol work together on this resolution, that although changed by the executive committee, still sent a message loud and clear. I do believe that most if not all Baptists knew or heard the original wording of the resolution.

Thank you Dr. Yarnell, Bart, and Tom for a resolution desperately needed.

David (not Adrian's son) Rogers

Dr. Welty,

I did not get to attend the Conference due to distance, time, etc. but I did listen to all the podcasts of the lectures. At least twice. I enjoyed them, but overall I was a little disappointed. (Now, I am assuming that the podcasts represent all of the formal presentations.)

We have rampant academic-theological illiteracy in our convention (I can say this after ten years of ministry in Texas and Arkansas where I have discovered that many pastors, much less church members, have less than a clue about what Calvinism or Arminianism is or is not.)

This Calvinism conference was one of the rare theologically oriented conferences that Southern Baptists offer (most are practical/utilitarian heavy). Most of the presentations were of a mid-range to high-range academic level. In my experience, if my pastoral peers had attended, much of the conference would have been over their heads and thus "unhelpful" in advancing understanding of Calvinism or even non-Calvinist responses. I have doctoral level education experience and was able to readily absorb the material and evaluate it accordingly. I sincerely doubt that many other pastors would have been able to respond in kind.

The conference certainly would not have needed to be Kindergarten level, but unfortunately, in my opinion, some of the professional academics did not give enough thought to the pedagogical aspects of the presentation and how it may need to be related to a potential audience who were attending in order to understand it for the first time. Or, maybe only "pinheads" attended. (I consider myself to be a "pinhead".)

One more point, I am finding Calvinist rhetoric at best to be "naively condescending" or at worst "arrogant condescension". When Calvinist speak at conferences like this (which seem to be intended to introduce and explain) they sometimes embed their Calvinism into their rhetorical presentation using terminology that has a high liklihood of having a different understanding by some in the audience. E.g. using the terminology "the doctrines of grace" or "the sovereignty of God" as if they were invented by Calvinists, trademarked and copyrighted. Calvinists who so easily flip this language off are being either naive in their rhetoric, sloppy in their pedagogy, Clintonesque in their communication, or arrogantly condescending. I look forward to reading Calvinists who are willing to engage in dialogue with awareness of how their assumed rhetoric does not settle the issue but only Scriptural argumentation does. I want the same for non-Calvinists.


David Rogers
Pastor FBC Biscoe, AR

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