from Founders Ministries
In recent years, there has been a recovery of the five points of Calvinism among many evangelicals, but there has not been a concomitant revival of the covenant theology of seventeenth century Puritanism as the rich soil in which Calvinistic soteriology grows. This post will not attempt to thoroughly defend every doctrine mentioned, but to show the connection between Calvinism and the theological covenants of covenant theology. The Synod of Dordt listed the five points of Calvinism, not in their contemporary order of “TULIP,” but in the order of “ULTIP,” which is the order I’ll be using here.
1. Unconditional Election. The eternal decree of unconditional election is the foundation of covenant theology and the doctrine of salvation. God chooses to save sinners not because of any foreseen goodness or conditions in them, but merely because of His good pleasure to redeem a people for Himself to bring Him glory. Speaking of unconditional divine election, Paul writes, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). There are no conditions in God’s choosing individuals for salvation. God’s choice is based entirely upon His sovereign will: “He has mercy on whomever He wills and He hardens whomever He wills” (Romans 9:18).
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“Calvinism kills missions!” many say. After all, if God has already chosen some to save before the foundation of the world, while leaving others to be damned, then why should we bother preaching the gospel to the nations? The elect are going to be saved and none of the rest will be. But when we pause to take a closer look at Calvinism, we find that it does not kill missions—it is actually fuel for missions! Let us consider the well-known five points of Calvinism to see how they relate to missions.
Total Depravity—The Need for Missions
As Calvinists, we believe that “through Adam sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12). So all of humanity is born as sinners; we are all born in rebellion against God. No one is righteous, no one understands, no one seeks after God (Rom. 3:10-11). We are totally depraved by nature, which does not mean that we are as thoroughly wicked as possible, but that our sinfulness affects all areas of life. No aspect of our lives is free from the corruption of sin.
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This is an excerpt of a review by Terry Chrisope, Associate Professor of History and Bible at Missouri College, of the book Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858., by Iain H. Murray, available from Monergism Books
The final third of the book describes the popularization of revivalism in American Christianity. A theology and practice similar to those of Methodism were to flourish in the East under the impetus provided by Charles G. Finney who, though not originating these methods, became instrumental in popularizing and spreading them. The theological underpinning of Finney’s approach was the assumption of complete human ability to respond to the demands of the gospel and the corresponding need to utilize all available means to promote what was called "revival." Division among Christians occurred as adherents of the older theology of revival as a sovereign work of God raised questions about and objections to Finney’s "new measures" and the theology which underlay them. Those who raised such questions were soon castigated as being "anti-revival" and as opposed to evangelism, although this patently was not the case. It seemed to many that a new era in evangelism and revival was being born, and the claim appeared to be supported by the numbers of new converts being produced. The use of the prescribed means of protracted meetings, emotional appeals, and altar calls were supposed to unfailingly produce the desired revival, and if they did not it was due to human fault rather than to any contrary purpose in the divine will. This new approach swept Baptists and virtually all other Protestants before it and became the accepted understanding of revival by the end of the century. Any remembrance of the older concept of revival was all but lost.
Murray’s study is quietly powerful and persuasive. His argument gathers strength as it advances through the book. A brief review can hardly do it justice. But some of the issues that Murray raises are worthy of noting here and should provoke serious discussion, especially among Southern Baptists, who, generally speaking, have assimilated and institutionalized the methods advocated by Finney and his followers.
The first and perhaps most fundamental issue to be raised by this book is that of the theology of conversion. Prior to approximately 1830 a Calvinistic conception of human inability and the necessity for the operation of divine grace prevailed among American Protestants except for the Methodists. A corresponding understanding of revival as a sovereign outpouring of divine power accompanied this view. After 1830 the Methodist theology of conversion (known as Arminianism or semi-pelagianism) became gradually but widely accepted. This view sees conversion as dependent on the response of the autonomous human will rather than being the result of the special work of the Holy Spirit. This theology was associated with a new view of revivals, one which saw them as the product of the human means used to promote them. This revised understanding of conversion and revival had no more energetic proponent than Charles G. Finney, whose views came to prevail among American evangelical Protestants.
From the blog of Founders Ministries comes this post concerning memos circulating among Southern Baptist churches in Western Tennessee on how to expose a pastor who holds to Reformed theology. You have got to read the post and make copies of the memos.
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Dr. Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries offer some perspective on the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, you can Read It Here….
Most notibly though is Dr. Ascol’s notes on comments made by one SBC leader as a jab at Calvinism….
It may be that the anti-Calvinist messenger was emboldened in his opposition by the foolish remarks of the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, Morris H. Chapman which were made earlier in the day during his report. Dr. Chapman’s words have been publicly repudiated by SBC agency heads as well dozens of Southern Baptists who have voiced their concerns on blogs and twitter, and well they should be. He stated,
The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.
Some are given to explain away the â€œwhosoever willâ€ of John 3:16. How can a Christian come to such a place when Ephesians says, â€œFor by grace are you saved through faithâ€ (Eph. 2:8)? I do not rise to become argumentative, or to change minds already convinced of one perspective or the other. But I do rise to state the obvious. Man is often tempted to design a theological theory in light of a biblical antinomy in order to clarify what God is trying to say.I daresay that Dr. Chapman, or any Southern Baptist for that matter, can find any person in the Southern Baptist Convention who holds such horrific views. If such a miscreant could be found I would be the first to renounce his errors and to try to persuade him to submit to the teaching of Scripture that God is absolutely sovereign and people are absolutely responsible in the gracious work of salvation.
Dr. Chapman’s comments were out of place and sounded more like the incendiary rhetoric of years past than the more respectful kinds of exchanges that have tended to characterize the Calvinist debates since the Building Bridges Conference in 2007. Though I was disappointed in him, I was greatly encouraged by the response of the messengers. No one went to a microphone to attack him personally and all of the public comments that I have heard dealt with his words, not with his person or character. That is the way that it should be among brothers.
from Dr. Tom Ascol, Founders Ministries
The Resolution Committee brought before the convention a Resolution (No. 6) “On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration.” While I appreciate the committee’s work on bringing something before the convention, I was disappointed that significant language was excluded from their report. Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell shared my disappointment. There were no clear statements baptism, Lord’s Supper, discipline or repentance. In addition, there was no clear indication as to why such a resolution was necessary and nothing about denominational servants encouraging churches who try to implement changes in practicing regenerate church membership and church discipline.
After giving my written and typed notes to Dr. John Sullivan to take back to the platform, I was allowed to speak to the amendment. Following is the subtance of what I said:
Brothers and sisters, last year the convention passed a resolution affirming the legitimacy of corporate repentance. Surely, if we need to repent over anything in the SBC it is true that we need to repent over how we have failed in maintaining biblical standards in the membership of our churches.
Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, a Southern Baptist Statesman who is second to none, and author of the highly acclaimed Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal–a book endorsed by Danny Akin, Thom Rainer, Timothy George, John Sullivan, Morris Chapman, Frank Page and Jimmy Draper, was interviewed last week about the very subject of this resolution.
I want to read the brief excerpt from his insightful comments. The article said,
[Dr.] Dockery affirms the call for repentance expressed by one of the resolutions proposed for the annual meeting.
“We need to repent of our lack of concern for biblical faithfulness in our concern and care for church members,” he said. “We need to repent of the way the way we often allow people to join local churches without stressing the covenantal aspect of membership. We need to repent of the fact that we have largely neglected any aspect of church discipline that would have helped us begin to address some of these matters.”
Brothers and sisters, surely we can all say, “Amen!” to Dr. Dockery’s call for repentance by affirming the amendment to this resolution.
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from Founders Ministries Blog
Diane Lytle alerted me in a comment that Dr. Steve Lemke has explained the purpose of the announced John 3:16 conference coming up this fall in Woodstock, Georgia. Dr. Lemke writes,
“This conference is intended as a majoritarian Southern Baptist response to the “Building Bridges” and “Together for the Gospel” conferences. The announcement of this conference has already provoked considerable buzz and speculation in the blogosphere.”
As I wrote in response to Diane, Dr. Lemke’s “majoritarian Southern Baptist” descriptor is at best ill-stated and at worst a joke perpetuated and believed only by those who refuse to deal with the implications of the fact that the majority of Southern Baptist can’t be found! If Dr. Lemke’s description turns out to be accurate, then about 60-70% of those who sign up for the conference will not even show up!
When will people who know better begin to speak honestly about “the majority of Southern Baptist?” The majority of Southern Baptists don’t care enough even to attend worship services in the church to which they belong.
I appreciate Dr. Lemke’s candor in letting us know that the conference was provoked by concern over the Building Bridges and T4G conferences (although the latter is not in any way promoted as a “Southern Baptist” event.) Based on his words, obviously the planners of the Woodstock conference believe that they will speak for the “majority” of Southern Baptists. It will be very interesting to hear what their understanding of the “majoritarian” mentality is, although it does not take much imagination to speculate on this.
Nevertheless, my hope remains that, regardless of the rationale behind it, the conference will be marked by a Christ-honoring spirit and thoughtful, helpful presentations.
Read Dr. Ascol’s first article on the John 3:16 conference…