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I think it's not illogical at all....it's just a "mystery".





Whew! Now that assessment would cause a Methodist to shout! Call me illogical, but SBC's theological debate gets weirder by the day. Speaking of "logic", this reminds me of a position R.C. Sproul maintains on 4-point Calvinists. Sproul suggests there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches. While he considers it possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, he claims that a person who really understands the other four points must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a "resistless logic". So the resistless logic is that you are a 5-pont Calvinist or not a Calvinist at all. However, Dr. Quarles does have one thing correct - Southern Baptists are in a really awkward position today.

Jeff Moore

"Once saved, always saved" doesn't rest on theology. It rests on the direct, clear statements of scripture.

peter lumpkins

The best in SBC Calvinism recognized the tension (or perhaps "mystery" per Michelle) in biblical revelation on election. Note the following in an essay entitled "Predestination" by the Rev. Richard Fuller of Baltimore, MD in 1885:

"I am going to offer you some thoughts upon this difficult subject, treating it first doctrinally, and then practically...

The problem to which I refer is that of God's decrees and man's moral agency, to solve which two systems have been advocated, two parties have been formed...Libertarians and the Necessarians.

Even if the theory of the Libertarians were not a plain evasion, it would be impossible for us to accept such a solution; for it dethrones Jehovah; it surrenders the entire government of the world to mere chance, to wild and caprice and disorder. According to this system, nature, providence, grace are only departments of atheism; God has no control over the earth and its affairs; or--if that be too monstrous and revolting,--he exercises authority over matter, but none over the minds and hearts of men...

This heresy is condemned on every page of the Bible..."

Every Founders Calvinist is by now jumping up and down in sheer glee and joy. Especially ought Dr. Quarles! But let us watch the right Rev. Fuller--a traditional Calvinist in the Charleston Tradition--sling his ax yet again:

"The system of the Necessarians is condemned by the Scriptures as unequivocally as that of their opponents. The cases which I have just now cited to establish the doctrine of predestination, are equally as convincing as to man's free moral agency. For you remember that the inspired writers expressly charge the crimes upon their authors, without the slightest intimation that God's decrees have anything to do with man's guilt...Indeed, it is manifest that every call, every threat, every expostulation, every exhortation in the Bible supposes that man is a free agent. If he be not free, if he be the passive victim of inexorable, irresistible destiny, the Sacred Volume is a compilation of glaring inconsistencies--of sheer downright falsehood and mockery...

Where is the arbiter to be found, who perfectly comprehends these deep things of God, and to whom we may with perfect confidence refer the difficulty?...It is God Himself. He understands fully His decrees; he also comprehends man's free agency; and he declares as we have seen, that all our speculations are wrong; that both these doctrines are true; and of course, there is no discrepancy between them.

I have shown that it is impossible for us to reject either of these great truths and it is equally impossible for our minds to reconcile them...If we attempt to explain and reconcile the doctrines of predestination and free agency, we find impassable barriers hemming us in, and sharp adamant striking us back. Their harmony we must leave with God."(1; emphasis added)

That's a long quote, but worth the read, especially by Dortian Calvinists like Quarles who, more times than not, insist on uniform language in explaining election, consequently declaring the dissenter to be denying the doctrine of election because he or she does not surrender to the official Calvinistic interpretation of election. In the words of Fuller, Quarles would be considered condemned by the Scriptures as unequivocally as that of his opponents.

With that, I am...

(1) Rev. Richard Fuller, "Predestination", Baptist Doctrines: Being an Exposition in a Series of Essays by Representative Baptist Ministers of the Distinctive Points of Baptist Faith and Practise; Rev. Charles A. Jenkins, Editor; St. Louis: Chancy R. Barns, 1885; pages 479-516

Randle Beechwood

If Dr. Quarles did indeed say these things in Oct 2009 why are you, Peter, just now making a fuss about it nearly 5 years later? Did you have to dig around until you found something you could complain about? Honestly.

Thomas S.


Who says Peter is complaining? Seems like an eisegetical interpretation of his post. :-) Must be reformed....


Well, logically, all Calvinists should really be HyperCalvinists. If God is completely "sovereign in salvation" then He wouldn't be very sovereign if He needed any man's "help" or "work" to see sinners saved would he? Yeah this could be really fun if we wanted to make ridiculous statements about those who believe differently than us. Surely Quarles isn't that clueless as to the beliefs of a large majority of the SBC.

James M. Leonard

As if there were no such thing as Arminian Baptists....


I know Dr. Quarles personally, but will not defend him here. He is perfectly capable of defending himself. I will say, however, that I don't believe he has any connection to the Founders. Also, I don't understand why he has been introduced on this blog. There are plenty of Southern Baptist Calvinsts more widely known than him who've made much more controversial statements. Does this have something to do with his whistle blowing at Louisiana College?

Carl Peterson

I think it would be better to invite Dr. Quarrels to explain his position than just this quote that really does not explain anything. Maybe you could do that. I think it could be edifying for all. I have heard many Calvinists state that one must logically believe all 5 points or none. This is not a strange position. Many think they are all true or they all fall together. I do not hold to that position even though I am Reformed. I think if you do not hold to all 5 points then your reasons for believing in the preservance of the saints will change. Also I think once one believe in unconditional election then logically one must believe them all. But that is getting off the point.

As far as the quotes in Peter's post. I thought most Calvinist believe in some sort of compatibilism which stresses the responsibility of man (with free choice according to one's desires) and predestination and election. I guess I do not see the problem with the quotes for the Calvinist.

Randle Beechwood

Jack - I would like to know the same thing. Then again, if you have even a hint of Reformed odor you've painted a target on your back for ol' Lumpkins to fire a shot at you. Going further, no one has still answered the question as to why Dr. Quarles statements are being made an issue years later.

Rick Patrick

In my town, the Baptist church is physically located almost exactly between a very large Methodist Church and a very small Presbyterian one.

If Dr. Quarles were right (which he's not) and I had to reject my traditional Herschel Hobbs-Adrian Rogers-Billy Graham Southern Baptist view on God's election conditioned upon man's free response combined with a firm belief in the perseverance of the saints, and I thus had to choose between the Methodists and the Presbyterians, I would throw my lot in with the Methodists every time.

peter lumpkins

It seems odd to me some of the "Reformed" guys appear so interested as to why I post quotes. I've practiced this particular habit since I started my blog in 2006. Nor have I ever been reluctant in attaching names to the quotes when I post publicly. It's only fair to the one I'm quoting not to mention the ones reading that all know to whom I'm attributing a particular proposition. At times it's been impossible for me to do so (i.e. adequately attribute). But those occasions are rare.

Nor is there any devious motive that I'm "just now" posting it. So far as I know, Dr. Quarles isn't running for an SBC office or being considered for a high level position as an entity head, etc. So politics had nothing to do with the quote I assure.

Truth be told, I've actually been intending to post some of the sermon for upwards toward a year now but never got a round tuit. I received my round tuit (!!!) yesterday in the form of a couple hours to fiddle with my blog. Quarles' sermon was sitting in plain view on a shelf. I picked it up and typed the quote. After all the "anti-Calvinist" many Calvinists know me to be (wink wink) was getting the best of me since I haven't posted anything "anti-Reformed" in quite a spell.

Ya'll bear with me please. Another Quarles quote is scheduled to post at 7am or so.

With that, I am...

peter lumpkins


From my own observations, you're absolutely correct about most Calvinists today opting for some sort of compatibilism. However, compatibilism is a philosophical position, based on philosophical categories not biblical ones. I'd say the same thing about Molinism even though I hold profound respect for Dr. Quarles' theological colleague at SEBTS, Dr. Keathley, who tenaciously embraces and persuasively argues for a form of evangelical Molinism.

Nonetheless, as I showed with the Fuller quote above--and know I could add to the Fuller quote other similar quotes from historic Baptist Calvinists in the south--many, if not most, historic SBC Calvinists appear to have held, in one way or another, to what Michelle above noted as "mystery" when it comes to sovereignty vs free will. That is, they neither denied God's absolute sovereignty nor human free will but accepted both as truthful and biblical regardless of whether they could solve the "mystery" or "apparent" contradiction. In Fuller's words, "Their harmony we must leave with God." Contrarily, as you rightly suggested, today's Calvinists--both inside and outside the SBC--opt for philosophy to come to the rescue of the "mystery" because they frankly do not see it as "mystery"; rather they see it as logical contradiction.

Hence, compatiblism posits there's no logical contradiction because free will means not that alternate choices can actually be made but that choices are free if the one choosing chooses what he or she desires to choose vis-à-vis Jonathan Edwards. Edwards essentially destroyed "mystery" as a viable option to explain sovereignty vs. free will by redefining what freedom of the will means. Thus, philosophy trumps biblical theology for many of today's Calvinists. Older Calvinists like Fuller were content to embrace what they believed the Bible teaches--absolute sovereignty AND human free will in its classic [libertarian?] sense.

With that, I am...

Andrew Barker

"If we're going to be logically consistent and deny the doctrine of election we can't say "once and saved" any longer; we ought to at least become Methodists."

I appreciate that this is a short quote and does not contain any of the thought processes which have been gone through to reach a conclusion about the nature of election. But even so, it is rather condescending in its tone. It reminds me somewhat of Al Mohler suggesting " no convictional, thinking evangelical who wants to embrace the apostolic faith will come to any other conclusion than 'The Reformed'."

But just to put the record straight, there are those of us who share a brain cell, or two, who don't see election in those terms. Those who resort to 'mystery' to explain the apparent contradiction between election and freewill might do well to rethink their approach with the understanding that possibly, just possibly, they have got something a wee bit wrong!

Scott Shaver


Why at the mention of Quarles do these reformed guys come flocking in to question "whether or not this has anything to do with LC?"

touchy point or something?

peter lumpkins


That's a very good Q bro. Had I mentioned Quarles' comments a year ago, many undoubtedly would have connected the dots as you indicate. Had I mentioned the comments 2 years ago, same or similar--"You don't like Quarles because he's a Calvinist at LC" Now, after Quarles has been off the radar so to speak for quite sometime, "why are you doing this now?" Sheesh.

One begins to think that as long as neither quotes nor public posting of a Calvinist's notions are considered, then we're all getting along and are at peace

Paul Owen

It may be worthy of note that it was commonplace among pre-20th century Calvinists to reject compatibilism (at least in the way J. Edwards expressed it) in favor of some form of libertarian freedom. Most Calvinists today don't realize this fact, due to their ignorance of their own tradition.


peter lumpkins

Dr. Owen,

I think it surely worthy of note, and such substantiates at least partially the point I was making concerning many Calvinists in the Baptist tradition.

Thanks, Dr. O

With that, I am...

Don Speedy

Could Paul please substantiate his claims by giving historical examples and particular names?


I appreciate and identify with the Fuller quotes. I'm not sure, however, how to reconcile them with Dr. (Eric) Hankins' recent post elsewhere, in which he rejects the validity of the antinomist (and I would argue Molinist as well) position.

I also fail to see how the Fuller quotes refute the Quarles quote, as I do don't see how the Quarles quote rejects an antinomist position. It's one thing to argue that election shouldn't be disregarded or even that election and preservation are inseparable. But it's quite a different matter to argue that election and free agency are mutually exclusive. He may argue such elsewhere, I don't know. But he doesn't argue such in that quote.

Paul Owen

Ann, for compatibilists there is no "mystery" involved, given the way they define free will. Only a person who wants to maintain a strong sense of determination via predestination alongside something like libertarian freedom would appeal to the mystery of how the two are reconciled.

Don, William Cunningham's essay in The Reformers and the Reformation is a good place to start.

Jim G.

I'm late to the game as usual, but my contention with Dr. Quarles in the quote in the OP is who among SBs denies the doctrine of election? We certainly disagree on how to properly interpret the doctrine of election, but I know of no SB (or orthodox Christian for that matter) who denies the doctrine of election.

Now, if we are talking about the denial of unconditional, individual election, then, yes, there are SBs who deny that (I'm one of them). But I wholeheartedly affirm election as a biblical doctrine. I realize this was a sermon, and often times sermons don't tell the full story, but no one that I know of denies election.

Moreover, conditional election does not run counter to the doctrine of preservation. They are compatible with one another, as are unconditional election and preservation. Without ANY doctrine of election, one cannot have preservation, but again, no one denies election.

Unconditional individual election wormed its way into the faith a few hundred years after the NT was written, but that tends to be an inconvenient truth.

Jim G.

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