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Scott Shaver

"Probably, it was among the ministers and leaders rather than among the members generally that this difference was most pronounced...there were many minds that revolted at the sterner aspects of Calvinism"

Sounds about right for today as well.

dr. james willingham

It seems appropriate to call attention to the fact that Sandy Creek Baptist Association had a more Sovereign Grace (the preferred term as it is more biblical, being based on Roms. 5:21, "reign," to a name as the Word of God teaches in I Cors. 1:12ff) theology than many might imagine. Remember that Shubal Stearns had been converted by the preaching of Ev. George Whitefield whose views are too well known to deserve comment. Also the writings of the Separate Baptist, Rev. Isaac Backus, set forth the doctrine of unconditional election in no uncertain terms.

We might also add that the Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, organized in 1814 stated in its articles that Christ died for the church and did not say a word about His dying for the whole world, a view that did not move the General Baptists to get involved in the modern missionary movement until much later. From that church came the first Southern Baptist missionary to China, Rev. Matthew T. Yates.

Even more remarkable is that the church had messengers present at the meeting of the Sandy Creek Association in 1816. At that time, Rev. Luther Rice enlisted the Separate Baptists in the Modern Missionary Movement. He would later write in his memoirs that the depravity of man and the sovereignty of God in salvation were in the Bible and that the people who had corresponded with him about the matter had better preach it.

The first named member after the chairman was Elder Hezekiah Harmon and the last member was simply identified by title, the associational clerk, who happened to be Basil Manley (later senior). I will simply refer the reader to the Confession to see form himself or herself that the unconditional election is written therein. Then I would call attention to the fact that Manley would go on to South Carolina where he would serve as successor to Dr. Richard Furman. Both men were Separate Baptist and served the church for about 50 years. During Rev. Furman's service the Charleston Baptist Association recommended the works sof Dr. John Gill to its ministers, and his theology is sovereign grace.

Basil Manley, Sr., would go on to lead the Southern Baptist Convention in three educational conventions which resulted in the founding of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Manley would also suggest that a seminary needed to be founded in New Orleans. This suggestion would later lead to the founding of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, at first known as the Baptist Bible Institute according to my knowledge.

In any case, it should be noted that Dr. Paige Patterson wrote an article in which he set forth eight theses concerning election, an article which definitely contributes to the possibility of a more peaceful relationship between the so-called Calvinists and the Traditionalists.

It should be noted that the Sovereign Grace leaders were responsible for working out the agreement whereby such a relationship could be implemented. I refer to the Articles of Agreement in 1787 in which the Separates and Regulars agreed that the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man should be no bar to communion, an obvious implication that the majority believed Christ died only for the elect.

The doctrines of grace, those of the acrostic TULIP, along with predestination and reprobation, are simply the most evangelistic and invitational truths that God has ever set forth, and they are wrapped up in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who so taught them. Examine Mt.15;21-28 and Lk.4:16-31. I might also add just here that the further proof of the more thoroughly sovereign grace views of Sandy Creek are suggested by the views of Elder Daniel Marshall in his move to Georgia where the George Baptist Association grew out of his labors there. The circular letters of that association are very clear on the issues.


What Scott said. He's right.

peter lumpkins

Dr. Willingham,

I find it remarkable that you appear to habitually ignore whatever evidences I may post on this site which, at least from my understanding, pose a considerable threat to the historical thesis presented by Calvinists such as yourself that strong Calvinism remained the theological warp and woof of Baptist theology up until well into the 20th century and instead post a long list of historical evidences that prove only that strong Calvinism was present in Southern Baptist history but evidences which emphatically do not prove the historical thesis you embrace.

My point since 2006 has never been to deny Calvinism’s theological presence or even theological prominence at certain times in Southern Baptist history. Nowhere on this site will anyone find me making such a claim. On the other hand, the innumerable historical evidences I’ve personally presented here which raise questions about Calvinists’ claims to historical theological superiority coupled with historical essays like Caner’s which is the substance of this post, not only lend positive credibility to my claim—namely, Calvinism amongst Southern Baptists was not only never universally accepted amongst them, its strongest tenets had almost vanished before the end of the 19th century—but also defacto raises serious questions about your claims.

In short, the only point your entire list of illustrations demonstrate is, theological Calvinism existed in Southern Baptist life—schools, churches, theologians, pastors, etc.—in the 19th century, a point I happily concede. Only an historical ignoramus would deny such in the face of the overwhelming evidence. Even so, the evidences I present seem to strongly indicate a lively, energetic non-Calvinistic theological strain which, by the end of the 19th century, had significantly diluted the old Calvinism to which you allude. It’s those historical legos you continue to ignore when you build your construct of Baptist history.

As to what you listed, Sandy Creek surely had a robust Calvinist confession in the beginning; but as Caner pointed out, it dropped its strong Calvinism the same year the SBC was formed in Augusta. Nor is it any more relevant to remember Stearns was converted under the preaching of Whitefield than it is to remember many Calvinists were converted under the preaching of Billy Graham.

Nor does it necessarily matter that Mt. Pisgah church had in its confession Christ died for church. I could see you and raise you Sulphur Lick church in Missouri where Lewis Duncan was ordained to preach, later pastoring at least 5 Missouri churches where he emphatically preached General Atonement.

Nor is Luther Rice a slam dunk. Rice, Carey, and, of course, Fuller all made their mark on the church by moving away from strict, hardened Calvinism.

You mention Manley and Furman. Do you not know Broaddus and Kerfoot, neither of whom bought into strict Calvinism? You never seem to mention men like these guys. Broaddus denied limited atonement and Kerfoot washed out significant portions of Boyce’s Calvinism from his Abstract of Systematic Theology. Nor is Gill relevant to demonstrate Calvinism’s theological superiority. You can have him along with his obvious Hyper-Calvinism. Southern Baptists wisely moved on.

As for your claim that “Sovereign Grace leaders were responsible for working out” the Articles of Agreement in 1787 (I think you mean Terms of Union in 1803), you’ll need to demonstrate that. To deduce that the ones who were responsible for it were obviously strict Calvinists simply because they agreed on General Atonement is absurd. One could just as well conclude that because the Terms of Union confess about the sinful human condition the mere understanding “3. That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures.” the leaders responsible for working out the confession were non-Calvinists. In addition, neither predestination, election, nor effectual call is so much as mentioned in the Terms of Union. I’d say the “Arminians” got the biggest plate of bacon on that food bar.

Finally, to engage Jesus in this theological web is unfounded from my standpoint. Jesus never uttered a word about predestination and reprobation, the latter of which is a distinctly theological word imposed upon the text of Scripture.

Now, Dr. Willingham. I’ve entertained your historical illustrations. How about commenting directly upon the essay Emir Caner wrote. Engage his evidence please.


" ... it was among the ministers and leaders rather than among the members generally that this difference was most pronounced."

During my long Christian journey, I have found that some of the most spiritual folks in church reside in the pew … not the pulpit! The teachings and traditions of men (religion) often influence church leaders to the point that they become closed to the work of the Holy Spirit, who is our teacher. This is sometimes accompanied by church members who remain open to the Spirit’s leading (relationship) and, thus, more discerning of aberration and error in the doctrines they are exposed to.

I once sat in a service where the pastor was definitely off-track in his expository. A young man in the congregation stood up abruptly and shouted "That ain't right!" and exited the church. While this was not the proper way to address the situation at hand, we could surely use a little more of the fellow's zeal for Truth in our ranks.

peter lumpkins

"I have found that some of the most spiritual folks in church reside in the pew … not the pulpit!" Amen Max.

Scott Shaver

Wow and laughing out loud. I expected Dr. Willing ham to come out of the bushes on this one but not everybody else:). How are you James?

Scott Shaver

How are you Max and Peter? Been prayin for u Pete it it does any good coming from one whom many think need conversion ;)

peter lumpkins


Thanks for asking, Scott. I'm doing well. I continue to be perplexed on time. After almost a year and a half at BPC, I'm still not used to the scheduling. I'm hoping my time will be such that I can start posting regularly historical sources into which I love to dig. I guess I missed my calling. I should have been an archaeologist. Or, at the very least, a gravedigger :^).

Lord bless, brother.

With that, I am...

Scott Shaver

Well. If anything, some of these old source materials confirm there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to the fishy smell of strict Calvinism. Thanks.



I'm doing OK - thanks Brother for inquiring. If it wasn't for carrying a tremendous burden about the condition of the American church, I would report that I'm doing great. I fear that I may not see the revival I have been praying for because church folks seem satisfied to live without it. Thanks again for your concern about my well-being. I'll see you here, there or in the air!


Your continued research shows that the situation was more nuanced than the Founders folks would have us believe. People were literally wrestling with Calvinism.

Wrestling with it historically to the point that 40 years ago some felt we had lost that "true SBC Founding Gospel" (Calvinism) and set out to force it back on us covertly.


"I have found that some of the most spiritual folks in church reside in the pew … not the pulpit!"

Max, Here is the real clincher. Often, it is the ones who take our Lord very seriously who are also leaving. I meet them weekly just going about my life. They are fed up. And they are falling under the radar because they are older usually 45+. They don't want trouble but they don't want to fool around with what it has become, either. And they do not believe they "must be under the authority of a local church" to be saved. They find that thinking absurd.


"... it is the ones who take our Lord very seriously who are also leaving."

Lydia, there is a lot of focus on ministry outreach to the "nones" - those with no church affiliation. The group you refer to are the "dones" - solid Christians who have had it up to their neck bone with doing church without God and are leaving "religion" by the droves. If you could corral those good folks in one place, you could really have CHURCH! With all this theo-political wrangling in the SBC, I'm getting close to becoming a done. I'm in the last chapter of my life, the days are short, and I must redeem the time ... in or out of organized religion as the Lord leads.

Scott Shaver


What you've mentioned about the "serious" leaving is startling but true. Have seen it with my own eyes.

Friends and acquaintances I've noticed dropping off the "evangelical" radar seem to be trending to more tranquil, liturgical and service-oriented pastures.

Sick to death of theatre lights, promos, trinkets and pop-theology.

Scott Shaver

Going back to Dr. Willingham's words from earlier in this post while calling to mind the endless sectarian labels being pinned by Baptists on one another..... I ain't doin it no more!

No more traditionalist, conservative, moderate, reform, sovereign grace, distinctions in my understanding. The lines of division are too exhausting to keep up with for the purposes of intelligent conversation.

From now on, I see "Baptists" or "Presbyterians" (even if they immerse and no matter where they went to school).

I'm feeling better already.

peter lumpkins

"No more traditionalist, conservative, moderate, reform, sovereign grace, distinctions in my understanding. The lines of division are too exhausting to keep up with for the purposes of intelligent conversation."

While I disagree in how to handle what you've just fairly well accurately described, Scott, there's little denying the situation is what is and not what either ought to be or meant to be.

It just is.

Lord bless, brother...

Scott Shaver

Concede your point/disagreement Pete. Keep posting ;)

dr, james willingham

Dear Peter: I lost track of the blog, the time, etc., having to spend a night in a hospital and undergo a double catherization after which the doctors decided my problem was my medicine. Sorry, I could not get back to answer, and, in fact, I cannot do so tonight at this time. However, I do want to respond to your comments, if I am able. I also have a problem due to being a care provider for my invalid wife. So, hopefully, I will be able to find the time and the energy to make a reply to your remarks as well as Dr. Caner's evident failure to grasp the facts involved. I know that will sound inflammatory, but it is not so intended; it has to do with years of research and reflection on the issues. Sincerely and with best wishes to every one concerned, because the Third Great Awakening is coming, something greater than any or all of us ever dreamed.God bless,


" ... the Third Great Awakening is coming ..."

Dr. Willingham, I pray that you are right and that great event is just around the corner! It would certainly put an end to theological wrangling. One thing is for sure ... it would take a great awakening to stir the great slumber in the 21st century church.

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