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Steve G

I think that is a fair statement Peter.
I think that time in a church and some wider experiences with people will allow one to see that there are many and various types of people in a congregation, all believers, some having an ability to understand theology, some not. Some find a rigorous intellectualism spiritually stimulating, while still others find it spiritually sterile. As there are different levels of ability to interact with the various theological positions, it is inconsiderate to impose upon these folk "rigorous reforms" even though the "reformers" may have found them personally invigorating. They may find that it leads others to spiritual sterility!
Blessings Peter,
and may you be reformed once again!


I stand with you on this. Great post and great insight, once again. One question, how can Dr. Nettles and the Founder's crowd deny the historical evidence that you and others bring up often? How can they make such strong statements that the SBC was "founded" on strong, Dortian, five point Calvinism?


peter lumpkins


Thanks again. And know I appreciate your incredibly amicable spirit as we touch a subject that I know is dear to your own heart. I do not tire of saying, my brother and friend, if the Calvinist brothers who represent the largest network of Southern Baptist Calvinists would walk in your shoes, as it were, there would be little, if any, controversy concerning Calvinism in the SBC. Period.

Grace to you and upon your ministry downunder.

With that, I am...

peter lumpkins


Honestly, that's a very good question. Recall one of our Founders brothers came over on the last post and rather than deal with the empirical evidence, simply made a joke. That's one way it's handled.

Another is to not necessarily deny as you indicated but to ignore. I recall a couple of years ago when I posted Z.T. Cody's full essay entitled "Are Baptists Calvinists?" on this blog, one Founders brother left here and went to Founders Ministries blog and queried the director what to make of Cody's essay which I posted. And, while the director may have answered him via email, so far as I know, the director never published any response to the inquirer on his blog.

Even so, I am not so dense as to think an astute historian as capable as Dr. Nettles has no answer to many things I place here.

One way, I'm confident, many proceed, is to focus, for the most part, on southern church confessions, so many of which are decidedly strict Calvinist. Hence, they conclude, Calvinism rules.

Another way is to place a significant amount of weight on the writing theologians-e.g. Boyce, Dagg, Manly, etc--and conclude because the leading theologians were strict Calvinists, hence Calvinism rules.

While both church confessions and writing theologians must surely be included in a thorough understanding of a faith community, is it reasonable to conclude that the possible presence of other significant factors cannot affect the conclusion based on confessions and theologians alone? I do not think it is reasonable. In fact I think it could lead to an entirely skewed understanding of the ways things really are.

If I may, let me try out an experiment on you, David.

Let's suppose the year is 2078 AD and you are interested in knowing what Southern Baptists believed exactly 100 years earlier--no more, no less. In other words, your job is to sift through the writings of Southern Baptist theologians in the year 1978.

Given that assignment, what would you conclude about what all Southern Baptists believed? What would the theologians in 1978 tell you about all Southern Baptists' belief? I can anticipate your answer: All Southern Baptists in 1978 were Liberals.

I hope this shows the difficulty if one places too much weight--or, a disproportionate weight--on writing theologians. And, I think it's entirely more pronounced in the 19th C when writing was so scarce.

The same exercise could show the caution we should take when dealing with church confessions. For again, if we improperly assign too much weight to church confessions as determinative of actual belief, we will inevitably shoot ourselves in the historical foot.

Indeed we commonly chide Southern Baptists today by saying "most church members have never read their confessions or covenants." Or, we suggest, a church believes something against its confession.

My question is, if we do not take our confessions as seriously as we should today, how is it that we conclude earlier Baptists took every jot and tittle of their confessions with perfect seriousness? Perhaps they did and we do not. But that is a premise which screams for empirical proof, not raw assertion.

I do not desire to overlook our Calvinistic heritage as Southern Baptists. I realize it may look that way when people read here. But it's not at all. Calvinism is a major thrust in our heritage and not even a novice like me can overlook such a blatant historical fact.

My question is, why do Southern Baptist Calvinists insist on overlooking the significant, undeniable contribution non-Calvinism has made to our heritage, or, when non-Calvinism is not ignored, it is treated in less than positive fashion"? For example, as "apostatizing" from the historic faith?

In a letter to the editor of the Christian Index, Dr. Nettles accused Georgia Baptists of doing that very thing, "apostatizing" from Georgia's historic position.

Hence, while it may look like I am "one-sided" in my history, again, I am not--at least it surely is not my purpose (nor is this assuming you ever have implied such, David). Instead I am consciously, deliberately, with full-knowledge of what I am doing recording the evidence you will never, ever read at Founders Ministries.

While I fully believe the Nettles' school projects a reductionist historical theory of Baptist roots by overlooking a significant part of our heritage, I'm proposing no historical theory per se.

Rather, I am but filling in the blanks they curiously and, in my view, wrongly leave open.

Sorry, my brother for the tome. It's cold outside and I had a few minutes.

Grace, David. Always good to chat.

With that, I am...

Dr. James Willingham

Dear Sir: I take issue with both you and Tom Nettles. He is right in one sense that most of the original Baptists of the South were strong Calvinists, perhaps even Dortians, if they understood the term, but they were the same people who came up with a liberal approach to the whole issue in allowing for the union of Separates and Regulars in 1787 in Va and that the teaching That Christ tasted death for every man shall be no bar to communion. You are right to the extent that both calvinists and those less so were to be able to set down together and work together. I do not want any one to be calvinist by compulsion. I want them fully persuaded by the evidence under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Any thing else in the way of force and manipulation is unChristian. But you fail to discern that this is the theology of the Baptists in the First and Second Great Awakenings and the origins of the Great Century of Missions. Three factors are evidently (this from many years of research in the area) required for an awakening, namely, the right theology which is Sovereign Grace, the Heavenly presence (which can be so power that it is utterly overwhelming for individuals and for churches and for societies, and then the spirit of humility, all of which are pretty well summed up in John Newton's Amazing grace. The theology of TULIP, that is each of the doctrines along with predestination and, yes, even reprobation, are invitations to be saved and to take the Lord upon His terms. They are truths of the nature of paradoxical interventions which call for the individual to do the impossible but which somehow empower the individual to begin to take responsibility for his condition with the full sense of his inability in and of himself to do anything about it except cry to God which is what the ultimate aim is (that is, of bringing him as a beggar to the feet of Christ). These truths are so constructed as to empower the individual believer to become balanced, flexible, creative, and magnetic. Most people do not realize the nature of this theology; they see it through the lens of prejudice that makes it look offensive and forbidding, when it is, to the contrary, intensely and winsomely inviting. As the lady said to my friend, Dr. Gene Spurgeon (according to a genealogist he is related to CH Spurgeon) when he won her to Christ before he ever believed like his more famous relative, "O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." He said her remark mde him think of what I had said abut grace being irresistible. That was in '65-'66. Forty years later (after 2003) he finally came to the persuasion that it was so. Believers in unconditional election and particular redemption are the people who launched the great century of missons as Dr. Latourette called the 19th century. Daniel Marshall (Abraham's father) was surely as calvinistic as any five pointer. He and Stearns, I understand, were both converted under George Whitefield who was noted for his Sovereign Grace views.Peter Peterson Van Horn and Benjamin Miller, ministes fromthe Philadelphia Assn., came to NC and persuaded om General Baptists to become Particular Baptists. The Generals then were neither very evangelistic nor missionary; The particulars were both. Indeed, William Carey and Dr. John Thomas and Andrew Fuller along with Luter Rice were all five point calvinists and were the leaders in advancing the cause of missions, inspired by the strict calvinist, Jonathan Edwards' tract Humble Attempt which provides the list of biblical promises that were pleaded in prayer and led to he origin of Missions and the Second Great Awakening in America as well. Mr. Nettles seems unaware of how liberal the Soveeign Grace leaders of the GreatAwakenings were. Edwards took Whitefield to task for berating the unconverted ministry. I have often wondered, if that did not lead to Whitefield's push for a reconciling with Wesley. Certainly, Wesley's letter in his journal is suggestive. Also, Manly, and others were the leaders with Boyce and Broadus in continuing the same kind of open Sovereign Grace leadership which the Reformed party does not seem to grasp to well, altho I rather think they will when the Third Great Awakening really gets to rolling like the Tsunami waves it will apparently involve. O yes, Mr. Spurgeon whose commitment to particular redemption is beyond question prayed for the conversion of the whole earth (see his Evening by Evening for August 6 and December 24)(I have been praying for such since 1973). Like the old layman asked me back in the hills of Ky (I quoted him in my M.A. thesis in American Social & Intellectual History on the subject, The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850"): "Have you ever thought about the fact that at any one time every last soul on the face of the earth could be the elect of God?" By the way, Matthew T. Yates, the first Southern Baptist Missionary to China came from a church just a mile and a half down the road from where I now live and their confession adopted in 1814 (two years before Rice, Basil Manly, Sr., Hezekian Harmon, and others adopted the Sovereign Grace Confession of Sandy Creek in 1816) which only spoke of Christ dying for the church. Amazing aim, going to China to win the church of the elect for whom Christ died. I repeat these doctrines are absolutely the freest, most passionate and intensely inviting truths ever set forth from the Heart of Heaven as they were preached by our Lord Jesus. Like he said to the woman of Canaan, "It is not meet to to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs." She thought that reference to reprobation was an invitation to really trust Jesus as she said, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." The people who believed these things are the fathers of the
SBC. How will you respond to that? How will Dr. Nettles respond to the idea of such invitations and such freedom that thinks truth will freely win all Arminians? I think we are in for a wonderfully happy time for a 1001 generations which is what I am askin Go fo in order to fulfill the promises of a seed for Abraham that is as nuerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand by the seashor and as numerous as the redeemed in Heaven which no man can number. God blessings, dear brothers, on all of us for this glorious time that is coming upon us as fast as the Lord is pleased to move.


Dear James,

Thanks for the long note. I do not see, however, how one assertion you made is supposed to negate anything I've written here. Claiming I "fail to discern that this [5P Calvinism] is the theology of the Baptists in the First and Second Great Awakenings and the origins of the Great Century of Missions" is a claim, James, which fundamentally dodges my full confession to the contrary. I wrote in the thread above, "I do not desire to overlook our Calvinistic heritage as Southern Baptists... Calvinism is a major thrust in our heritage and not even a novice like me can overlook such a blatant historical fact."

The problem is, you seem to claiming the very thing Founders claims. They overlook the rich heritage of non-Calvinism, an overlook you repeated by the numerous references to many names. You then conclude: "The theology of TULIP, that is each of the doctrines along with predestination and, yes, even reprobation, are invitations to be saved and to take the Lord upon His terms." That is, apparently the only legitimate (Baptist) heritage is 5P Calvinism. Incidentally, I'd like you to document. James, if you could, one sermon from the Baptists of the south on the subject of reprobation. Just one will do.

Interestingly, the single document I quoted you failed to engage. At this juncture, we're not dealing with Edwards, Whitefield, Stearns or Marshall (Daniel). Nor Spurgeon. Only Mercer. Hence, I'd invite you to engage Mercer's reference to upper SC Baptists who preached "General Atonement."

With that, I am...

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