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"... we intend to continue posting contrary historical snippets to definitively demonstrate for Southern Baptists that Calvinism most certainly is not our singular theo-historical heritage."

Peter, Thank you for the biography on Brother Duncan - it should make Missouri Baptists proud! Here's another snippet to add to your collection. It appears that SBC's first president William Bullein Johnson was not of the reformed persuasion ... as evidenced by preaching like the following:

"As a Free Agent, man has life and death set before him, with the liberty of choosing the one, and rejecting the other ... As moral agents, for whom there is hope, I call upon you, then, fellow sinners to turn to the Lord ... Now, Now, O fellow sinners, you have it in your power to place yourselves under influences, that are spiritual and saving; or under influences that are carnal and damning."

Rev. Johnson (1782-1862) certainly made his theo-historical mark in the SBC. In addition to being its first president, he was one of the framers of the constitution of the convention. His resume also included being one of the founders of the South Carolina State Baptist Convention and founder of Furman University, which became Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859, based in Greenville, SC before SBTS was moved to Louisville in 1877. Thus, one of SBTS's pioneers was a non-Calvinist (at least he preached like one!).


Of course the issue of free will relates to the depravity of men and not to the intent of the atonement. Calvinists hold that people are so depraved as not to have a "free" will. The will is bound to the sin nature of the individual and chooses consistent with that nature. It is only when God frees the will from the sin nature that a person can be said to have a "free" will. A person whose will is free will choose salvation. Any person who rejects salvation does so because their will has not been set free. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It is through the declaration of that word that the person comes to know the truth and that truth sets them free whereupon they exercise that freedom to believe.

The conundrum is how a person who hears the gospel preached and is presented with the truth can still reject the gospel. Thus, Paul writes (paraphrased), "The gospel is hidden to those who are perishing."


I don't think the idea of a "general" atonement is an issue with the Calvinist. In the above the person objecting to the general atonement is described as an "anti-mission" Baptist preacher. As such, we should not label him as a Calvinist.

The issue in the atonement is sometimes confused between God's intent for the atonement vs the extent to which God could apply the atonement to forgive sin. I think the term, "general atonement," relates to "extent" while the "limited/unlimited" debate relates to intent.

All Calvinists are mission oriented because the Scriptures command it and because of their confidence that God goes before them to accomplish His purpose - They merely need sow the seed and then wait on God to bring forth growth.


I'm just curious who is out there that claims an exclusively Calvinist SBC origin? Does not nearly everyone on both sides admit a mixed heritage? Is so, who is this article arguing against?


Both Founders and 9Marks lean heavily toward reducing our 'true' theological heritage to Calvinism...

Robert Vaughn


I always enjoy the historical investigations. I'd like to append a few comments. I notice on page 578 that Duncan says of his father, "In doctrinal views he was of the Andrew Fuller school." I take that to mean his views were something of the atonement's sufficiency for all but efficiency only for the elect. This would put his views somewhere between the Calvinists and Traditionalists (or Savabilists, to use Rick Patrick's term) but not equivalent to either one. The son may have been a little more "Calvinistic" (though not necessarily so). In the story of his life, R. S. Duncan wrote, "Personal, unconditional election is shown to be a Bible doctrine, and has been an article of belief among the Baptists in every age of their history...The masses of our people, in my judgment, do not know that the doctrine of election is a Baptist tenet." (Life Story, p. 138) This yields some interesting documentary, not only of what R. S. Duncan believed (which may or may not have been compatible with his father's belief in general atonement), but also what, in his judgment, was the common attitude of Missouri Baptists toward the doctrine of election in 1909. (Not sure exactly when he wrote this, but probably shortly before the end of his life in April 1909.)

Your readers might find the entire bio of Lewis Duncan enjoyable (History, pp. 576-579). (Both the History and R.S.'s Life Story can be read on Google Books.) I was particularly moved by this statement re his decease: "'What a relief it would be to be delivered from this tenement of clay. Young people know but little about the burden of a feeble old age. But I will not say more, lest I should be thought grumbling. I want to be patient and bide my time.' He died like a babe going to sleep--without a struggle or a shudder." (History, p. 579; Note his death is in 1872; 1852 is the year of Harriet's death.)

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