Conservative Evangelicals Acting Like Fundamentalists

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During the half century that I have been connected with fundamentalism, crusading anti-Calvinism has been a recurring phenomenon. The first episode that I distinctly remember occurred within the Regular Baptist movement during the 1970s. An evangelist went on a tear against a proposal that would have inserted a mildly Calvinistic statement into the GARBC confession of faith. A few years later an independent Baptist evangelist published a small book about why he disagreed with all five points of Calvinism. Unfortunately, he defined Calvinism so badly that even Calvin would have disagreed with all five points.

Crusading anti-Calvinism still pops up every now and then. About a decade ago a Baptist association in Illinois passed a couple of resolutions that misrepresented Calvinism in terms that can only be called slanderous. Then about five years ago a couple of preachers used platforms provided by the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship to deliver dire warnings against Calvinism. Crusading anti-Calvinism is alive and well within fundamentalism.

To be fair, so is irascible Calvinism. For example, the aforementioned evangelist in the GARBC reacted so shrilly because the proposed addition to the doctrinal statement could have disenfranchised the less Calvinistic churches of the Regular Baptist fellowship. His concerns were underlined by the appearance of a book that questioned the Baptist standing of non-Calvinists. While his responses were certainly excessive, they were not groundless.

Some Calvinists treat the doctrines of grace as if they are the sum and substance of the faith. They seem to believe that a denial of any of the five points constitutes a denial of the gospel itself. They love to throw around epithets like “semi-Pelagianism” and to depict their non-Calvinistic interlocutors as either incompetent or nearly heretical.

The problem is not that one person advocates Calvinism while another person opposes it. All Christians have a duty to believe what they think Scripture teaches. All have a right to explain their point of view and to persuade others to it. They even have a right to structure occasions to dwell upon their unique theologies, encouraging one another in the doctrines that they take to be scriptural.

The problem is that none of the usual sides (there are more than two) in the argument over Calvinism has the right to question the Christian bona fides of those on the other side. None of the standard positions within fundamentalism results in a denial of the gospel. None of the standard positions necessarily truncates zeal for evangelism or missions. None of the standard positions necessarily denies the sovereignty of God or the completeness of grace in salvation. Most fellowships of fundamentalists have framed their confessional statements in rather general terms when it comes to this issue. Fundamentalists have not usually thought that the differences among Calvinists and their opponents were grounds for separation.

The dispute between Calvinists and anti-Calvinists has erupted again. This time, however, fundamentalists are not the ones who are bickering. The spat is taking place among conservative evangelicals, particularly Southern Baptists.

Calvinists have been in the vanguard of the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. They have been among the foremost proponents of the inerrancy of Scripture. They have led the way in cleansing institutions of liberals and so-called moderates.

Of course, they have not done this work alone. They worked in company with other prominent conservatives, and some of those have now begun to object to Calvinism. As the liberals and moderates have been pushed out, these anti-Calvinists have become increasingly concerned about the influence of Calvinism within the convention. Their concerns have finally spilled out in a document entitled “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

The “Statement” is as extreme as anything that fundamentalists have produced. It essentially accuses Calvinists of plotting to take over the Southern Baptist Convention. It reacts against Calvinism, not merely by denying limited atonement, unconditional election, and irresistible grace, but even by denying total depravity and (as it is usually understood) original sin. While the signatories acknowledge that each person inherits a “nature and environment inclined toward sin,” they deny that “Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.” All people who are capable of moral action do indeed sin, but they do not actually become guilty until they personally decide to sin.

Such assertions go much further than traditional Arminianism. They represent a kind of hyper-Arminian approach to anti-Calvinism that can hardly avoid provoking a response. Predictably, some Calvinists have begun to accuse the signatories of semi-Pelagianism. Also predictably, the signatories and their defenders have reacted indignantly. They are not semi-Pelagians, they insist—but even if they were (they ask), is semi-Pelagianism such a bad thing?

Some of the most interesting observations have come from Roger Olson of Baylor University, who is decidedly not in sympathy with convention conservatives. Olson has written extensively in defense of Arminianism. One of his recent books is entitled Against Calvinism, so there is little doubt about Olson’s own views. Yet he has irritated some signatories and their defenders by admitting that some of the assertions in the “Statement” actually are semi-Pelagian.

One of the most irenic evaluations has come from Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Seminary. Mohler is a strong Calvinist who disagrees with the “Statement.” Nevertheless, he points out that the Southern Baptist Convention has been committed to a good bit of latitude on questions about Calvinism. Mohler believes that it is possible to address these questions theologically without making them into a political issue.

Fundamentalism has seen periodic eruptions both of crusading anti-Calvinism and of irascible Calvinism. As the current fracas within the SBC shows, however, these spats are not the sole provenance of fighting fundamentalists. It should be interesting to observe whether conservative evangelicals can avoid turning this dispute into a gutter brawl. Early signs are not promising, but voices like Mohler’s may yet bring sobriety to the discussion.

The Son of God Goes Forth to War
Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save;
Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
Who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame:
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
The lion’s gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour’s throne rejoice,
In robes of light arrayed:
They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n
Through peril, toil and pain:
O God, to us may grace be giv’n
To follow in their train.

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Christian Bona Fides

Dr. Bauder, you state, "None of the standard positions within fundamentalism results in a denial of the gospel." I'd like to know at what point on the Pelagian scale a denial of the gospel has occurred, and why at that point.

In the Reformation teaching of the five solas, the very first sola, "by grace alone," is an explicit reference to the Augustinian doctrine of efficient grace. Those who hold other positions on that issue can certainly claim to be Christian, as in holding to the ecumenical creeds, but they would seem to constitute their own branch of Christianity quite distinct from the Reformational brand.

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@Charlie

Can someone consider themselves a Calvinist w/ being 'reformed'? If not, why not? I have always been intrigued by those who would say that it is not possible, and now I finally have the opportunity and have remembered the question, I can ask it here. Smile I personally hold to all five solas, but do not consider myself to be either Covenant Theologian nor 'Calvinist'.

As for the pelagian question - it's been a while since I read about pelagianism, but my understanding is that pelagians deny both original sin and Federal Headship. I personally see both concepts in Romans 3 & 5.

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Total Depravity: Not the sum but definitely substance!

Re:

Quote:
Some Calvinists treat the doctrines of grace as if they are the sum and substance of the faith

My view is that "Total Depravity" (a.k.a. "total inability") is substantial enough to be essential to the gospel

Galatians 2:20-21 and Romans 3:10-11

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@ Jay

It appears to me that Calvinism refers mainly to the gospel (i.e. the "five points") while being Reformed is a much broader brush that impacts your view of Israel, church polity, infant baptism, when the church began, etc. Generally speaking, you cannot be Reformed without being a Calvinist, but you can be a Calvinist without being Reformed. Many of the Dallas Dispensationalists were/are four point Calvinists.

I don't see a difference between Covenant Theology and Reformed Theology. If there is one, perhaps someone can enlighten me.

John Uit de Flesch

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5 Solas

Jay wrote:
Can someone consider themselves a Calvinist w/ being 'reformed'? If not, why not? I have always been intrigued by those who would say that it is not possible, and now I finally have the opportunity and have remembered the question, I can ask it here. Smile I personally hold to all five solas, but do not consider myself to be either Covenant Theologian nor 'Calvinist'.

As for the pelagian question - it's been a while since I read about pelagianism, but my understanding is that pelagians deny both original sin and Federal Headship. I personally see both concepts in Romans 3 & 5.

Jay, I deliberately avoided the term Calvinist. I spoke of the 5 solas and of Reformational (Lutheran + Reformed) teaching. If the 5 solas are to be any more than empty slogans, one must approach them historically. What did the Protestant churches mean by the phrase "by grace alone"? The soteriology of the Protestant Reformation was a combination of 1) Augustine's late theology of grace contra Pelagius and Julian and 2) Martin Luther's teaching that man is justified (declared righteous) by faith alone apart from any internal ground of merit. There are divergences between Lutheran and Reformed teachings, but not on these foundational points.

So, if one denies original sin resulting in total depravity, monergistic regeneration through faith and/or baptism, and/or the necessity of particular efficient grace, one does not have a Protestant theology. The Lutheran "by faith alone" is built on the foundation of Augustine's "by grace alone." All the major figures of the Reformation - Zwingli, Bullinger, Luther, Calvin, Vermigli, Tyndale, Cranmer - and even their late medieval predecessors (Wyclif, Hus) affirmed this Augustinian theology of grace.

So, that is why I asked Dr. Bauder on what basis he decides whether a doctrine "results in a denial of the gospel." I mean, if we were talking about the Trinity, we could refer to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as a guidepost. For Christology, we could refer to the definition of Chalcedon. For (Protestant) soteriology, what's the reference point?

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One Sided Analysis?

Dr. Kevin Bauder,
Your analysis appears a little one-sided.
You say, “Calvinists have been in the vanguard of the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. They have been among the foremost proponents of the inerrancy of Scripture. They have led the way in cleansing institutions of liberals and so-called moderates.”

Actually, SBC Calvinists were a relatively small group among the SBC Conservatives who took back the SBC in the Conservative Resurgence (CR). Not one of the CR SBC Presidents would be considered a Calvinist, as a matter of fact, several of them signed this Statement on Salvation.
Several years ago, after the CR, a LifeWay survey showed roughly 10% of SBC pastors consider themselves 5-point Calvinist.

In addition, use of insulting terms such as hyper-Arminian and sem-Pelagian do not lend themselves to a balanced view.

If some want to see commentary from those on the Traditionalist (non-Calvinist or Moderate Calvinist) side, check out SBCToday.com
http://sbctoday.com/

“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation” can be found at my blog:
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2012/06/traditional-southern-baptist...
And, of course, at SBCToday.com
David R. Brumbelow

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Extreme Statement?

Extreme Statement?
The following former SBC Presidents have signed “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation”

Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Bobby Welch, Morris Chapman, Bailey Smith.

Of course, Paige Patterson is also president of SWBTS. Dr. Chuck Kelley, president of NOBTS has also signed the Statement, along with a large number of other respected SBC pastors and denominational workers.

Most who know those leaders would not consider them extreme, or the Statement extreme.
David R. Brumbelow

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Mohler et. al.

Quote:
Actually, SBC Calvinists were a relatively small group among the SBC Conservatives who took back the SBC in the Conservative Resurgence (CR). Not one of the CR SBC Presidents would be considered a Calvinist, as a matter of fact, several of them signed this Statement on Salvation.

I think most (all?) of the resurgence happened in seminaries, though the support of SBC Presidents was a huge factor. At the seminary level, the likes of Al Mohler (Calvinist) are impossible to ignore. I'm sure it's these leaders that KBauder is referring to.

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CR Was Grassroots Movement

Aaron Blumer,
I respectfully disagree again.

The Conservative Resurgence (CR) in the SBC probably least of all occurred in the seminaries. At the time the CR began in 1979 most in the SBC seminaries were moderate to liberal, with SBTS, MWBTS, and SEBTS probably being the most liberal. SWBTS and NOBTS probably the most conservative. During the CR Al Mohler was not a seminary president; he is now president of SBTS as a result of the CR.

The CR was a grassroots movement in the SBC. While leaders like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines and others were crucial, they got the votes from mostly pastors of small to medium size churches. The seminaries for the most part opposed the CR. It was a result of the CR that our seminaries are now all led by presidents who believe in inerrancy.

The reason the CR occurred is that pastors and laymen went in large numbers to the annual convention, voted for conservative presidents, who then made conservative appointments that eventually filtered down to having conservative trustees at the SBC seminaries and agencies. By the way, I was there when it happened.

Some may be interested in:
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2009/08/brief-history-of-sbc-conserv...

David R. Brumbelow

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@ David R. Brumbelow

David,

Just so I understand you clearly, could you define "sem-Pelagian"

Also would you be kind enough to explain your view of the state of man as a result of Adam's fall

Thanks

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Questions for David Brumbelow

Pastor Brumbelow,

Thanks for interacting with my latest “Nick of Time” essay. I have recently been reading your book on Ancient Wine and the Bible, and have found it both useful and enjoyable in specific ways.

Now, as for the issues that you raise, perhaps you can help me to sort these out by answering a couple of rather simple questions.

First, you appear to object to my assessment about the role of Calvinists in the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. I actually make three statements.

(1) Calvinists have been in the vanguard of the conservative resurgence.

(2) Calvinists have been among the foremost proponents of the inerrancy of Scripture.

(3) Calvinists have led the way in cleansing institutions of liberals and so-called moderates.

Which of these propositions could be denied? But let’s put a name to this. Rather than talking about Calvinists as a generic, faceless amalgam, let’s deal with a particular Calvinist. For the sake of discussion, let’s choose Al Mohler, whose name is already mentioned in my article.

Here is my question. Which of my three statements would be untrue if applied to Dr. Mohler?

Second, you object that “the use of insulting terms like hyper-Arminian and semi-Pelagian do not lend themselves to a balanced view,” though you do not say a balanced view of what.

Of course, I did not apply the expression “semi-Pelagian” to the “Statement.” That has been done by others. I merely noted that the accusation has been made, that the signatories and their friends have objected to the term, and that at least one noteworthy anti-Calvinist believes that it fits pretty well.

Nevertheless, I did choose the term “hyper-Arminian,” not as a gratuitous jibe, but as an accurate descriptor. By it I mean that the position represented in the “Statement” is even further away from Calvinism than traditional Arminianism is. Perhaps you disagree. So here is my second question. Does the “Statement” not go beyond historic Arminianism in its denial of the effects of Adamic sin upon his posterity?

Your third objection has to do with my observation that the “Statement” is as extreme as Fundamentalist expressions of anti-Calvinism. It is hardly a response to note that some Southern Baptists do not find it extreme—nowhere did I compare it with other statements from the SBC. You may still have a point, however, which leads to my next question. Do you know of any comparable Fundamentalist statements (by comparable I mean formally articulated and signed by numbers of recognizable leaders) that are appreciably more extreme in their anti-Calvinism?

Now, while I have you here and am asking you questions, I would like to add a few that do not grow out of your objections.

Here is the first. You and other anti-Calvinists have tried to coopt the label “traditional” to designate your position. So I want to know from you, are the Calvinist theologians James Petigru Boyce (first president of THE Southern Baptist Seminary) and John L. Dagg (president of Mercer University) a part of the Southern Baptist Tradition or not?

Here is the second. The “Statement” says that the so-called New Calvinism “is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.” It further states that, while “most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view,” the New Calvinists are “pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement,” which can only mean that they ARE demanding the adoption of their view.

My question is, who exactly are the New Calvinists the statement is talking about, and what evidence is there that they are attempting to enforce strict Calvinism within the SBC? A cogent answer will cite names and primary sources.

My understanding (please correct me if I am wrong) is that even the Baptist Faith and Message is a purely descriptive statement. It is not applied as a test of fellowship to determine which churches can send messengers to the convention or which messengers will receive the right of franchise. In short, the Southern Baptist Convention has no particular doctrinal test that would exclude even an egregious apostate from the convention floor. This leads to my final question. How, then, do these New Calvinists plan to accomplish their dastardly takeover? What mechanism will they employ?

Brother Brumbelow, I have other questions that I would just love to ask. I hope that you appreciate my restraint in limiting myself to these few. I would greatly appreciate your taking the time to offer a few straightforward answers.

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SBC politics and history...

For someone like myself who has only a relatively mild interest in SBC history and politics, it would seem that this document will result in almost nothing but confusion. Similar to the old "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," it seems to have missed the mark entirely—in the sense that, rather than shedding new light on the subjects is addresses, it instead raises the issue of how to respond to those who have signed it, in light of its obvious flaws.

I appreciate Dr. Bauder's article, but I think it would be more valuable if Dr. Bauder—or perhaps someone like Dr. Myron Houghton, who is known for very succinct writing—could address the document briefly point-by-point from the perspective of a traditional dispensationalist/balanced Calvinist who speaks with firsthand knowledge of the theological and historical issues involved.

I'm sure that some Reformed Theologians that Charlie favors have already undertaken this effort, but that would not be as helpful to those of us who do not buy wholeheartedly into Reformed Theology. It also may not be as persuasive to those who are inclined to buy into this document.

The views I express are purely my own. However, I am happy to promote the great ministries with which I work: I minister for www.SermonAudio.com/Whitcomb. I do freelance writing for www.RegularBaptistPress.org. I speak through www.IMISOS.org.

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One thing that is overlooked

One thing that is overlooked is that the statement is actually in agreement with the BFM2000.

Malcolm Yarnell, one of the signatories and prof at SWBTS has offered a response of sort here:

http://baptisttheologians.blogspot.com/2012/06/semi-pelagianism-plea-for... Yarnell post

Here is the BFM2000 on man:

Article 3
...Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation...

Now from the Traditional Statement:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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The statement isn't about

The statement isn't about Calvinists in general, but specifically:

Quote:
We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.

Further, I have read many calvinists claim to be misrepresented. There is a rather simple solution. Agree with them that you do not believe that and move on with your life. Do you really believe there are no calvinists who teach some of their denials? None? Be careful. I can provide quotes from some calvinists who would call some of the calvinists on here arminian.

As a premillennialist, misrepresentation is part and parcel. So what. Move on and be about the Lord's business.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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At the risk of...

At the risk of just getting hackles up further, have to say it really is semi-Pelagian to deny the guilt of original sin. But please understand that I don't say this dismissively.
Certainly some others do. But in the long run it's probably not persuasive to say "idea X is false because it's semi-Pelagian." The persuasive power comes from the biblical case for why semi-Pelgianism is wrong on that point. (Even at church, where we happen to be studying hamartiology, I didn't say 'this is wrong because it came from Pelagius.' I said 'Here's why Pelagius was wrong about original sin.')

So can we be against dismissal-by-labeling, but in favor of accurate-history-by-labeling? It would be nice.
(That said, it's true that when you put some ideas in their historical context, they do immediately get sort of tainted. But I'm for testing the ideas on their own and not chucking them because of who championed them... taint or not)

Speaking of persuasive power, this is really what has lead to the stir both in Fundamentalism and in the SBC: of late, Calvinists have simply been very persuasive, especially toward a rising generation of young leaders. The seemingly inexorable progress of the "Calvinist" perspective (speaking of accurate-history-by-labeling, can we acknowledge that Calvin did not formulate the "Calvinist" view of the guilt of original sin?) feels like an agenda to "take over" and "demand" and such.
But KBauder's challenge in the comment above is a tough one to answer.... because "demands" are not what has been happening. What's been happening is steady, clear, cogent articulation of Calvinist ideas. And a generation looking for more internally-consistent and meaty theology has gulped it down hungrily.
The shift has not come by wielding coercive power, and it's not going to be effectively countered by that means either (e.g., signatures on statements).

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Reply, part 1

Dr. Bauder,
I am honored that you are reading my book, Ancient Wine and the Bible. I’d love to know your thoughts on it when you finish it. By the way, I’ve favorably quoted at least a couple of leading Calvinists in it, Spurgeon and MacArthur.

I will attempt to reply to your comments.

You said, “(1) Calvinists have been in the vanguard of the conservative resurgence.”
When the Conservative Resurgence (CR) began, Calvinists were few and far between in the SBC, they are much more numerous today. My point was simply that all the major personalities and the huge majority of grassroots Baptists involved in the CR were not Calvinists. The few that were Calvinists, I’m sure were on the conservative side.

You said, “(2) Calvinists have been among the foremost proponents of the inerrancy of Scripture.”
I don’t disagree much with this statement. I agree Calvinists have been very strong on the fundamental, basic doctrines including inerrancy. I commend them for such.

You said, “(3) Calvinists have led the way in cleansing institutions of liberals and so-called moderates.”
In some respects, I agree. However, again the huge majority of the leaders, grassroots conservatives, and conservative trustees were not Calvinist. This process went on for several years until conservatives had enough seminary trustees to make substantial changes.
For example, as respective seminary presidents, Dr. Louis Drummond and Dr. Paige Patterson (both non-Calvinists) led the way in cleansing SEBTS of moderates and liberals. At the time it was a very liberal school.

Dr. Patterson then became president of SWBTS. It was not nearly as liberal, but there he certainly made sure all professors were solid conservatives.

Also, in many ways, it was the conservative trustees who did the cleansing in our seminaries.

I will agree, however, Dr. Al Mohler certainly had a large part in cleansing SBTS of liberalism.

You ask my thoughts of Al Mohler. He was and is certainly influential in the SBC, and of course he is a 5-point Calvinist. He was not a leader in the early days, but the later days of the CR. Part of that is simply because in the early days of the CR he was young and unknown. But I have no problem saying he is a rock solid conservative. I would just disagree with him on some theology. It was the conservative trustees, elected as a result of some years of the CR, that elected Dr. Mohler as SBTS president. At the time SBTS was still pretty liberal, and Dr. Mohler then cleaned house. In short, I have great respect and admiration for Dr. Mohler. I am, however, disappointed in his allusion to semi-Pelagianism.

You are right about your only referring to other comments about semi-Pelagianism. I should not have brought it up against you and your article.

You may not have intended the term, “hyper-Arminian” as a jibe, but it sure comes across that way to Traditionalists (SBC non-Calvinists, or Moderate Calvinists). One of the most influential books from Traditionalists with a number of contributors (including Paige Patterson) is “Whosoever Will” by Dr. David Allen of SWBTS and Dr. Steve Lemke of NOBTS; B&H. All contributors to this volume deny the descriptor Arminian.

The authors of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation” deny this term and insist they are neither Calvinist or Arminian, and use the term Traditionalist. By the way, no term is perfect, including Calvinism.

Regardless of historical arguments, etc., most today think of Methodists or others who believe you can lose your salvation, when they hear the term Arminian. I have great respect for conservative, evangelistic Methodists, but I’m not one. Add hyper, and to Traditionalists it adds to the insult. Just as the other side would not like to be called hyper-Calvinist.

Southern Baptists have often been shot at from both sides. For example, from those more liberal than us, and those more conservative than us. So now the Traditionalists are being criticized by both Calvinists and Arminians. SBCToday.com contributors have done an excellent job answering objections to the Statement, including the charges of Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism.

I do not look at the Statement as extreme, or extreme in its anti-Calvinism. It says some positive things about Calvinists, and distinguishes “New Calvinists,” and simply presents some non-Calvinist or Traditionalist beliefs. Don’t Traditionalists have a right to speak up for what they believe?

By no means all, but some Calvinists have viciously attacked the Traditionalists in our convention. Traditionalists have a right to be heard and defend their beliefs. I invite any and all Calvinists to draw up their own statements of faith. Though I may disagree with some beliefs, I certainly affirm their right to do so. No, I don not know of any particular Fundamentalist Statement along these lines. Interestingly, as you point out, Fundamentalist Statements have in many respects been pretty inclusive.

This is getting long, so I’ll cut if off for now and probably reply later. It will also probably be shorter. I will conclude by saying the Christian world and Christian history, would be much lonelier without either Calvinists or Traditionalists.
David R. Brumbelow

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Semi-Pelagianism and Heresy

As to the charges of semi-Pelagianism and heresy, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has done a very good job replying:

http://sbctoday.com/2012/06/07/semi-pelagianism-a-plea-for-clarity-and-c...

There are other good articles from the Traditionalist point of view on SBCToday.com and at peterlumpkins.com.
David R. Brumbelow

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David

David -

Can you elaborate a little on what you mean by Calvinist? It seems like there may be differing concepts of what is and is not "Calvinist", so I'd like to make sure I'm understanding you correctly.

"Our task today is to tell people — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells
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Definition of Calvinist

Jay,
You ask a very tough question. As you know, there are 347 different kinds of Calvinists. Many would say if you at least believe in eternal security then you are a Calvinist.

Traditionalists have acknowledged they have sometimes been described, and described themselves, as non-Calvinists and Moderate Calvinists. And, of course, those terms seem to conflict. But both have been used of the same positions.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some Calvinists say if you don’t believe in all five points of the TULIP you are not a Calvinist, and some would argue you must believe in their definitions of each of the points as well. Some have also even said to be a Calvinist you have to believe in all five points and other reformed doctrines, like infant baptism, as well.

In general, when I refer to Calvinists I’m referring to five point Calvinists or those who lean heavily in that direction.

You will notice the Preamble to “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation” even refers to two kinds of Calvinists, including “New Calvinists.”
David R. Brumbelow

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Aaron, I would encourage you

Aaron, I would encourage you to read the article by Yarnell. Semi-pelagian is a historic belief that is actually definable. None of the signatories could fall under the actual definition. In fact, the statement actually directly addresses it and denies the relation. Some overzealous calvinists have tried to lump all kinds of things under the term, but those who know better can spot it.

Some people should maybe consider why they have allowed Augustine (a sure nut in so many ways) to define the boundaries. Look back on what original sin included with Augustine. He was hardly sane.

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David, there are actually 348

David, there are actually 348 kinds of calvinists.

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Apology to James K

James K,
I apologize. In rechecking my records I just found the 348th version of Calvinism. I will try to be more accurate in the future.

By the way, you have made some very good points.
David R. Brumbelow

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Historical accuracy

James K wrote:
Aaron, I would encourage you to read the article by Yarnell. Semi-pelagian is a historic belief that is actually definable. None of the signatories could fall under the actual definition. In fact, the statement actually directly addresses it and denies the relation. Some overzealous calvinists have tried to lump all kinds of things under the term, but those who know better can spot it.

Some people should maybe consider why they have allowed Augustine (a sure nut in so many ways) to define the boundaries. Look back on what original sin included with Augustine. He was hardly sane.

I read the article by Yarnell. It was terribly flawed. Vague definition and equivocation appeared at every turn. The biggest problem though, is a misunderstanding of what "grace" meant in the terms of the Pelagian controversy. The argument concerned what is now called "operative" or "efficient" grace. That is, the grace that God infuses into an individual through the Holy Spirit, resulting in interior movement toward God. The semi-Pelagians were convinced that in the process of coming to faith, the free will, unaided by operative grace, made an overture toward belief that God met with grace and completed. For example, they could pray for faith, and God would answer their prayer. Augustine emphasized that even those seemingly preparatory actions were themselves preceded by operative grace. His theology is reflected, for example, in canon 3 of the 2nd Council of Orange: "CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1)."

That's why it won't do for Yarnell to talk about all the ways he believes God to be taking the initiative. He says, "A careful reading of the document thus indicates that the signatories believe that faith comes to human beings as an act of divine grace, just as the cross and the proclamation of the gospel are acts of divine grace." But this is simply irrelevant to the controversy. No one in the Pelagian or semi-P. controversies questioned God's initiative in sending Jesus or the fact that God's mandate lies behind acts of proclamation. They were talking about efficient grace. Yarnell pleads for accuracy, but he has missed the point of the controversy entirely. This occurs often among evangelicals, because they don't have patristic departments, so they end up reading patristic texts through their own lenses of interpretation.

I work in a research institute devoted to the life, thought, and reception of Saint Augustine. One of my major projects is the reception of Augustine's theology of grace in the 16th and 17th centuries. So, I'm no newcomer to this issue. You are entitled to believe that Augustine was wrong, even that he was crazy. You are free to disregard his work. In fact, you are free to disregard the entire history of the controversy. But please, don't pass off sloppy history as accurate history.

Primary sources:

For Augustine, there are many, but just to make it easy, most of the important ones can be found in English in http://www.amazon.com/Selected-Pelagianism-Augustine-Paperback-Unnumbere... ]Selected Writings on Grace and Pelagianism .

http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reform... Canons of the Second Council of Orange

various other figures: Fulgentius of Ruspe, John Cassian, Prosper of Aquitane, Faustus of Riez

Select secondary sources:

Bonner, Gerald. http://www.worldcat.org/title/augustine-and-modern-research-on-pelagiani... ]Augustine and modern research on pelagianism.

Burns, J. Patout. http://www.worldcat.org/title/development-of-augustines-doctrine-of-oper... ]The development of Augustine's doctrine of operative grace.

Weaver, Rebecca. http://www.worldcat.org/title/divine-grace-and-human-agency-a-study-of-t... ]Divine grace and human agency : a study of the semi-Pelagian controversy

Also, a number of articles in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia, ed. Allan Fitzgerald, would touch upon the subject.

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Reply, part 2

Dr. Bauder,
To continue:

Yes, I believe J. P. Boyce and J. L. Dagg are a big part of Southern Baptists of the 1800s, and even to this day. By the way, just remembered Dagg is also quoted in my new book, also B. H. Carroll. As mentioned earlier, it seems no descriptors are perfect, whether Traditionalist, Calvinist, Arminian, Southern Baptist, or Independent Fundamental Baptist. I don’t think Traditionalists are trying to say theirs is the only SBC view, but to say theirs is the predominant SBC view of Salvation, at least for the last 100 years or so. But both Calvinists and Traditionalists figure large in the SBC since its beginning in 1845.

An example - in my Baptist Association we have 49 churches, only two are Calvinist. Of the one I know well, their pastor is a good friend and a five point Calvinist. I have absolutely no problem with him, though we run each other down, in a friendly way, every chance we get. He is certainly not a “New Calvinist.”

You ask about the New Calvinists. There is a radical group of New Calvinists (not all Calvinists) who are very condescending to others and out to change the SBC. They say non-Calvinists are heretics, or lean that way, and are the reason for most or all the ills in the SBC. They say Traditionalists are not preaching the Gospel. They consider Calvinism / Doctrines of Grace / Reformed Baptist beliefs to be synonymous with the truth and the Gospel. You can see some of these type comments at SBCVoices (although some of the worst have been erased), SBCToday, and elsewhere.

Another good reference to some of this and documentation is at:
http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2012/06/calvinists-recru...

Another example:
http://www.jerryvines.com/blog/it-is-time-to-discuss-all-of-the-elephant...

Another example:
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2012/02/calvinists-are-here-gerald-h...

Many Southern Baptists can tell of a church in their area that has been decimated by New Calvinists. I know of several myself, but no, I don’t want to give names here. By the way, when New Calvinists assume control of a church, they will move Heaven and Earth to make sure their next pastor is a New Calvinist, while condemning a Traditionalist church for trying to ensure their church calls a Traditionalist.

You ask, “How, then, do these New Calvinists plan to accomplish their dastardly takeover? What mechanism will they employ?”

While I would not necessarily term it your way, there are multiple ways of achieving authority and dominance in a denomination or organization. I’m sure Independent Baptists have seen it plenty of times in their fellowships, churches, colleges, seminaries, ministries.

1. You don’t have to get the majority believing like you. You just have to have a coalition that will vote with you, to form the majority.

2. You can pull strings and exercise influence behind the scenes.

3. You can get your people and your allies / sympathizers on committees and key places of influence.

4. You can see your allies are the majority in key places.

5. You can ensure your people get the best speaking, preaching, writing opportunities.

6. You can quietly squeeze out those who oppose you.

For example, I’m convinced the moderates and liberals were a minority in the SBC in the 1970s, but they pretty well controlled the convention. Until the majority of grassroots conservatives rose up and voted them out, a process that took about 15 years. But in many cases these moderates and liberals had been quietly squeezing out those who openly believed in inerrancy.
As a matter of fact, I believe SBTS at first refused to grant Al Mohler his earned doctorate, only because of his conservative beliefs. This was when SBTS was still in moderate and liberal control.

7. A New Calvinist can tell a pulpit committee / pastor search committee that he is not a Calvinist; then after shoring up his support in the church for a year or two, begin to make radical changes. I’ve seen and heard of this happening on multiple occasions. Many pulpit committees know nothing about the finer points of New Calvinism and Pelagianism and don’t have a clue who they’re calling.

Except for #7 I’m mainly speaking in generalities. Just pointing out possibilities in answer to your question. As the Traditional Statement on Salvation points out, they have no problem with many or most Calvinists, but with the new, radical Calvinists.

However, Dr. Bauder, I must correct you on one glaring error you made. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas (swbts.edu) is THE Southern Baptist Seminary :-).

Sorry, this second reply is longer than I planned.
David R. Brumbelow

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Quote: A New Calvinist can

Quote:
A New Calvinist can tell a pulpit committee / pastor search committee that he is not a Calvinist; then after shoring up his support in the church for a year or two, begin to make radical changes. I’ve seen and heard of this happening on multiple occasions. Many pulpit committees know nothing about the finer points of New Calvinism and Pelagianism and don’t have a clue who they’re calling.

Without knowing any speceifics of any of these scenarios, I'd be given to suspect the larger extent of the the reality lies in the latter portion of this paragraph than the earlier. But then again, my sympathies may so incline me.

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Another angle

Would we not consider someone who was very Arminian and Semi-Pelagian, like John Wesley, a fundamentalist of sorts? The big guns that signed the Baptist statement against Calvinism are solid believers who embrace the fundamentals. It seems to me like Calvinists are forcing a rubric on organizations that never had such a rubric to begin with.

Although I embrace 4 of the 5 points of Calvinism, I do not use Calvinism are my template for doctrine; I rather subscribe to the idea of beginning with the fundamentals. When did things change in the fundamental world?

I am not comfortable with someone in our pulpit saying we did not inherit the sin of Adam, and I reject semi-pelagianism; but these are not tests of orthodoxy or even fundamentalism, but our more narrow set of standards.

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Ed, Not to detract from your

Ed,

Not to detract from your main point, but I don't think Wesley was semi-Pelagian. He taught a general (prevenient) grace that was given to all men by God in order to enable them to choose or reject Christ. He believed it was given at the fall as part of the promise. This would move him squarely out of semi-p. ground into historic Arminian territory.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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500 signers now

SBC Today claims that the Statement now has 500 signatures

(Somebody needs to tell them you're not supposed to use quotation marks in URLs)

Quote:
Aaron, I would encourage you to read the article by Yarnell. Semi-pelagian is a historic belief that is actually definable. None of the signatories could fall under the actual definition. In fact, the statement actually directly addresses it and denies the relation.

The idea that nobody is born bearing the guilt of Adam's sin is Pelagian and arguably the central affirmation in his teaching. If a doctrinal statement latches on to the fundamental concept in a system of ideas but rejects other ideas in system, what it is? This is what the term "semi" as a prefix was invented for. The Statement affirms a clearly Pelagian-flavored view of both imputation and free will.
But this is just a historical point... in my view, it doesn't prove the position wrong. But I do find it interesting that some who hold to two of Pelagius' x number of points, are not willing to accept the association with Pelagius (or even semi-Pelagius), even while they insist that all who disagree with them are "Calvinist." Hmm...

But I've been pretty consistent, I think, in saying that ideas aren't effectively defended or combatted by labeling. The current ruckus in the SBC is a great opportunity for both sides to make a persuasive case from Scripture that the will is or is not free and that Adam's guilt is or is not the guilt of us all from birth. Great opportunity because right now everybody's paying attention (though a % are only interested in the conflict, not the substance)

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Thanks,

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Ed,

Not to detract from your main point, but I don't think Wesley was semi-Pelagian. He taught a general (prevenient) grace that was given to all men by God in order to enable them to choose or reject Christ. He believed it was given at the fall as part of the promise. This would move him squarely out of semi-p. ground into historic Arminian territory.

Thanks for straightening me out. I guess technically you would be correct and I stand corrected. Practically, however, man is pretty much in the same position at birth, right?

"The Midrash Detective"

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No. The point is Wesely still

No. The point is Wesely still saw a man as totally depraved and helpless without prevenient grace. The Pelagian sees man as partially able to respond without any help - totally responsible because he totally chose. I have never been entirely clear on the distinction between p and semi-p, so that may be where Wesely falls - in which case you would be right.

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Full vs. Semi- Pelagian

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
No. The point is Wesely still saw a man as totally depraved and helpless without prevenient grace. The Pelagian sees man as partially able to respond without any help - totally responsible because he totally chose. I have never been entirely clear on the distinction between p and semi-p, so that may be where Wesely falls - in which case you would be right.

Full-blown Pelagianism (which may be more Pelagian than Pelagius) is the idea that man can fulfill the moral commandments laid out by God on the basis of his natural powers. "Grace" as in help from God is not the "efficient" or "operative" grace that Augustine taught. It consists merely in God making clear his moral demands and in the moral example (and perhaps also liberating death) of Jesus. I believe Pelagians also accepted that baptism infused a grace that helps people obey the commandments. In other words, God is gracious just to make an offer of eternal life, make the rules clear, and give us a fair chance at obtaining it.

Semi-Pelagians accepted Augustine's teaching that our good works are preceded by God's inward, operative grace, but they believed that the first steps toward faith were made by the unaided human will, which was then met by God's grace to bring it to completion. Perhaps the best text to see Augustine dealing with Semi-Pelagian ideas is "Rebuke and Grace" (De correptione et gratia). Really, Semi-Pelagian is a harsh term when applied to some ancient figures, for they were mostly Augustinian, but confused about some issues.

Wesley taught, unlike the Semi-P., that man needed prevenient grace to come to God. However, he also taught that this prevenient grace was universally given by virtue of the death of Christ. So, Wesley is technically not Semi-P., even though the doctrine, in my opinion, winds up at functionally the same place.

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Thanks Charlie. One point of

Thanks Charlie.

One point of clarification on semi-p. I don't understand how they accept a preceding, inward, operative grace but believed the first steps were humanly originated. Is it that man must make the initial attempt as far as he can, then be met by grace to complete what he could not finish on his own? This would clarify the difference between p and semi-p for me if it accurate.

Totally agree with your analysis and conclusion regarding Wesley.

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Chip Van Emmerik

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Thanks Charlie.

One point of clarification on semi-p. I don't understand how they accept a preceding, inward, operative grace but believed the first steps were humanly originated. Is it that man must make the initial attempt as far as he can, then be met by grace to complete what he could not finish on his own? This would clarify the difference between p and semi-p for me if it accurate.

Totally agree with your analysis and conclusion regarding Wesley.

One way to get an idea of Semi-P. theology is to read the canons of the 2nd council of orange. They are designed explicitly to refute it, along with Pelagianism.

One important thing to remember is that nobody in this conversation - Pel. Semi-P., Aug. - has a modern Protestant idea of "getting saved." They all believed that those who go to heaven are those who die in a state of moral uprightness (faith working by love), and that it was possible for believers to fall away from that uprightness. (The mature) Augustine believed that ALL steps on the road to heaven are preceded by operative grace, so that at no point can man claim to have made an independent contribution. Semi-Pelagians believed that MOST of the steps along the way were paved by operative grace, but that man had the capacity to bring about his own initial movement toward God. (Augustine believed something like this early in his career. He said that unaided human will could desire to do good, but could not fulfill the desire; grace enables men with good wills to carry out the good that they will. Lots of discussion of Romans 7.) So, a person could, for instance, before receiving any operative grace from God, desire to be converted and pray to God for saving faith, and God would respond by granting faith. (The mature Augustine would say that even the prayer and the desire were the fruits of operative grace.) A full-bore Pelagian would assume that his natural capacities were given to him by God, and so must be sufficient to perform whatever God required, thus moving grace to an auxiliary role to help when I slip up rather than a central role that plows the way.

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A simple question

"Would God tell you to do something that it is impossible?" (The following are real answers.)

Dr. A. says, "No. Everyone has the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Dr. B says, "No. Because God has given to everyone the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Are these positions acceptable?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Concern

Ron Bean wrote:
"Would God tell you to do something that it is impossible?" (The following are real answers.)

Dr. A. says, "No. Everyone has the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Dr. B says, "No. Because God has given to everyone the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Are these positions acceptable?


This may seem crazy if you compare it to some of my other posts on SI, but I'd be concerned about Dr. A's statement. Are we saying that everyone has the ability in and of themselves to repent, or is Dr. A. assuming that God has already given the ability with his written answer.

If Dr. A is basing the ability to repent and believe based on what a man does (and aside from some kind of intervening grace), then I would have a problem with it.

"Our task today is to tell people — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells
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Concern

I have concern with both statements. God saves whom He will. He chooses us; we do not choose Him.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Clarification

Ron Bean wrote:
"Would God tell you to do something that it is impossible?" (The following are real answers.)

Dr. A. says, "No. Everyone has the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Dr. B says, "No. Because God has given to everyone the ability to repent, believe and exercise faith."

Are these positions acceptable?


I have heard variations of both statements from pastors and laymen alike.
"A" would include comments like "man just needs to exercise his will" or "all men have enough faith to repent and believe" without any qualifiers.
"B" would hold more to a type of prevenient grace that makes man responsible for "casting his vote" for God.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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For all intents and purposes,

For all intents and purposes, labels are becoming meaningless. Pelagian, semipelagian, arminian, Calvinist, even those who hold to the same belief can't define them all the same. Calvinist on Calvinist crime exists too. It is amusing to watch Calvinists try to out Calvin the other.

Even in this thread it is obvious people don't know what semipelagian really even means. What is the point then? Stick to an explanation of Scripture.

The portion of the statement that has received so much attention about being semipelagian is in perfect harmony with the BFM2000. Felluz, Al Mohler signs off on that.

Notice he didn't get into too much detail with his blog post. I know some calvinist fanboys were wanting it, but don't hold your breath.

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Not at all

James K wrote:
For all intents and purposes, labels are becoming meaningless. Pelagian, semipelagian, arminian, Calvinist, even those who hold to the same belief can't define them all the same. Calvinist on Calvinist crime exists too. It is amusing to watch Calvinists try to out Calvin the other.

Even in this thread it is obvious people don't know what semipelagian really even means. What is the point then? Stick to an explanation of Scripture.

The portion of the statement that has received so much attention about being semipelagian is in perfect harmony with the BFM2000. Felluz, Al Mohler signs off on that.

Notice he didn't get into too much detail with his blog post. I know some calvinist fanboys were wanting it, but don't hold your breath.

Actually, what this thread has shown is that there is abundant literature discussing the Semi-Pelagian controversy available to anyone who cares to peruse it. Also, the issues involved in the Semi-Pelagian controversy are no more complex than those in any major theological controversy, and are generally agreed upon by church historians. If there is any difficulty, it is in assessing to what degree subsequent positions resemble the historical position.

Theology has always been carried out with the help of historical perspective. Even the Protestant Reformation was not preached merely as a return to the Bible, but as a return to the authentic traditions of the ancient church. Protestant soteriology, while ultimately justified by appeal to Scripture, was formulated, expressed, and defended in explicitly Augustinian terms. So, placing a modern formulation in relation to other historic formulations with which interpreters are already familiar is a legitimate and useful task.

If it is true that some people in this thread don't know what Pelagianism, Semipelagianism, and Augustinianism mean, then perhaps the answer is to learn more, not dismiss the labels.

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Complex Terms and Simple Questions

In my life I have met people who don't know (or don't care to know) the terms we use. That's why I'd just ask people like James simple questions.

Can sinners exercise faith and repentance without the grace of God?

If they need God's grace, when is that grace given?

Do all people have this grace?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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I am interested un learning

I am interested un learning what is explicitly in view with the expression "God's gace" in this case.

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Alex Guggenheim wrote: I am

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
I am interested un learning what is explicitly in view with the expression "God's gace" in this case.

Simple answer. God doing for you what you can't do for yourself.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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No one, regardless of their

No one, regardless of their theology woukd disagree with so general a definition so your initial question would not yield the discovery it sought which is why I was asking its explicit meaning. So I will be more orecise and as explicitly what is it in believing the Gospel that God does which I cannot do myself? The elements which make up this divine intervention differ with people. What are you asserting to be the elements which make up God's grace in believing the Gospel.?

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repent

Alex, the answer to your question is very simple. Repentance leading to faith is something that only God can do or give to us. To believe that repentance is something a person does all by themselves is heterodox.

Some Scripture:

John 6:43-51 wrote:
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 12:27-43:

Quote:
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

The Unbelief of the People
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

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Jay wrote: Alex, the answer

Jay wrote:
Alex, the answer to your question is very simple. Repentance leading to faith is something that only God can do or give to us. To believe that repentance is something a person does all by themselves is heterodox.


While I will not assume your response represents Ron Bean's I do have a few questions and comments, meanwhile maybe Mr. Bean can calculate a response to my inquiry and explicate.

1. What is "repentance"? What are its element? It is defined in various ways within orthodoxy.

2. You answered that repentance is something that "only God can do or give". God doing it and God giving it are not the same thing since "give" and "do" are not synonyms. Which is it or can it be either and the distinction does not matter and its implications may be ignored?

3. And if God does, indeed, do it, then how is it that he tells us to do it with the Greek active voice which means we perform the action of the verb and not the passive voice which means another agent (God in this case) performs the action of the verb to us?

4. Am I to understand that it is repentance which God does or gives and then the faith, which this repentance leads to, that isn't given or done by God? Or is it now both repentance and faith God either does or gives?

5. Do you subscribe to the view that the only way to define repentance involving God is him "doing" or "giving" it and that there is no other legitimate way to understand or view God involved in the process of repentance which removes him from "doing" or "giving" it but yet, still involves God?

6. You seem to be saying anything outside your definition is heterodoxy. I find your definition quite narrow with respect to orthodoxy's historical tolerance on the understanding of repentance. That is, you give a definition and then state "To believe that repentance is something a person does all by themselves is heterodox" as if this is an either/or case and any view outside of the one you stated is de facto one which views repentance as something a person does all by themselves. I will encourage you to become familiar with the broad range of nuanced understandings of repentance in Christian orthodoxy which views God participating but simply not identical as you describe.

7. I appreciate the citations but no interpretation and application was given, it appears you assumed a universal view or interpretation and application of the texts.

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For the record

Dear Alex,

My life is too short and my time is too precious to play the "I'll answer your questions if you'll answer mine" game. I asked some questions...you responded by asking questions about my questions. We've both exercised our right of free speech. I will now exercise my right of silence other than to say that Jay response was pretty good.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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Does my perspective on this have merit?

Charlie wrote:

Actually, what this thread has shown is that there is abundant literature discussing the Semi-Pelagian controversy available to anyone who cares to peruse it. Also, the issues involved in the Semi-Pelagian controversy are no more complex than those in any major theological controversy, and are generally agreed upon by church historians. If there is any difficulty, it is in assessing to what degree subsequent positions resemble the historical position.

Theology has always been carried out with the help of historical perspective. Even the Protestant Reformation was not preached merely as a return to the Bible, but as a return to the authentic traditions of the ancient church. Protestant soteriology, while ultimately justified by appeal to Scripture, was formulated, expressed, and defended in explicitly Augustinian terms. So, placing a modern formulation in relation to other historic formulations with which interpreters are already familiar is a legitimate and useful task.

If it is true that some people in this thread don't know what Pelagianism, Semipelagianism, and Augustinianism mean, then perhaps the answer is to learn more, not dismiss the labels.

Here is my thinking, Charlie. You are a great resource to us, so you and others, please affirm or tell me otherwise on these points:

1. Most of the people who would define themselves as "fundamental" have come from an Anabaptist background (which was not so historically concerned) influenced by others, including Calvin and Wesley.

2. Some, although rejecting many of Wesley's unique doctrines, have essentially embraced his emphasis on instant conversion and the idea that "whosoever will," the fruit of the doctrine of prevenient grace (not necessarily directly from semi-pelagianism, but as you and I both pointed out, the effect regarding a natural man's ability to believe is essentially the same).

3. This forms the foundational origin of fundamentalism, and it is perceived by some who hold this view (whether true or not) that now some in the Southern Baptist convention are trying to somehow hold the entire denomination to a Calvinistic rubric, one which has always been tolerated but one which has not defined the Southern Baptists since the era of Particular and Freewill Baptists.

I am off target in my theory?

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Some replies

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Here is my thinking, Charlie. You are a great resource to us, so you and others, please affirm or tell me otherwise on these points:

1. Most of the people who would define themselves as "fundamental" have come from an Anabaptist background (which was not so historically concerned) influenced by others, including Calvin and Wesley.

I'm pretty sure this is largely false. Genetically speaking, Baptists in the English-speaking world have less to do with Anabaptism than with currents in English separatism. For example, some of the earliest Baptist churches in England crafted the London Confessions, one of which was explicitly modeled after the WCF and reflects a thoroughly Calvinist soteriology. There were, of course, Baptists who took an Arminian stance as well. In North America, the earliest Baptist churches had nothing to do with Anabaptism. The truly Anabaptist groups in North America tend to be ethnically and culturally distinct, such as the Amish and Mennonites.

Fundamentalism seems to have been originally a conglomeration of various Protestant groups (Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren) that all shared a common history in 19th-century revivalism. Influences include Reformed orthodoxy, Wesleyanism, and Finneyism. The influence of Charles Finney, a clear Pelagian, cannot be ignored. Although few evangelicals accepted his systematic theology (including a denial of penal substitutionary atonement) wholesale, his writings on revivalism, which contained the practical applications of his theology, were very influential.

So, I don't think there was ever any consensus in early Fundamentalism about soteriology. I imagine everything from 5-point Calvinism to virtual Pelagianism was evident, since the cornerstone of American revivalism is the personal appropriation of Christ's atoning death, not a theory about how grace works.

Ed Vasicek wrote:

2. Some, although rejecting many of Wesley's unique doctrines, have essentially embraced his emphasis on instant conversion and the idea that "whosoever will," the fruit of the doctrine of prevenient grace (not necessarily directly from semi-pelagianism, but as you and I both pointed out, the effect regarding a natural man's ability to believe is essentially the same).

Well, this is tricky. Many Baptists today would claim, with justification, that they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian. As far as I can tell, none of them are outright Pelagians. If they hold that man simply has some kind of "free will" by which they can believe, they are Semi-Pelagian. If they believe that the death of Christ has somehow granted an extra prevenient grace to allow all men to believe, they are not semi-Pelagian but Wesleyan (on this point).

The unique thing about many North American Baptists is this doctrine of "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." That is, they don't believe in individual, unconditional election; but they also don't believe that a true believer can fall away from salvation. Frankly, I don't know where or when this belief originated, but I would be surprised if it were earlier than the late 19th century. Ironically, I believe this is the position that some SBC personalities are denoting "Traditional."

In sum, it's hard to tell whether Wesley, Finney, or some other figure is most responsible for the beliefs of modern non-C and non-A

Ed Vasicek wrote:

3. This forms the foundational origin of fundamentalism, and it is perceived by some who hold this view (whether true or not) that now some in the Southern Baptist convention are trying to somehow hold the entire denomination to a Calvinistic rubric, one which has always been tolerated but one which has not defined the Southern Baptists since the era of Particular and Freewill Baptists.

Well, if you're saying that some people, perhaps principally Calvinists, are applying false dichotomies to soteriology, I would agree. It's obvious that Calvinist and Arminian can't be the only two options, because that doesn't begin to touch Lutherans, Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox Christians. So, it's possible that it can't be used perfectly to describe all Baptist beliefs either.

That's why I've tried to talk in terms of Augustinianism, which is a broader rubric that can apply to any Western Christians. Calling someone a Semi-Pelagian is broader than calling them an Arminian. There are many different ways that one could articulate a Semi-Pelagian belief. In my opinion, many Baptists who are not Arminian are in fact Semi-Pelagian. This is not just my own opinion either. If you look up the book Four Views on Eternal Security, you can read Norman Geisler articulate a view that he calls "moderate Calvinism." I think his view is basically the same as what others are calling "traditional" and represents many Baptists' approach to the issue. The other contributers to the book are Michael Horton (Reformed Orthodoxy), Stephen Ashby (Remonstrant Arminianism), and J. Stephen Harper (Wesleyan Arminianism). The interesting thing is that the 2 ARMINIANS called Geisler a Semi-Pelagian! So, I think there's some serious lack of historical awareness among many Baptist theologians. They're not aware of how controversial some of their statements on human ability and free will actually are.

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Ron Bean wrote: In my life I

Ron Bean wrote:
In my life I have met people who don't know (or don't care to know) the terms we use. That's why I'd just ask people like James simple questions.

Can sinners exercise faith and repentance without the grace of God?

If they need God's grace, when is that grace given?

Do all people have this grace?

The simple questions are asked in such a way as to trap within a certain framework you have built or agreed with. I may or may not agree with your definitions of those words and terms.

My point has been this: the statement in question is in line with the BFM2000. If the New or Old Calvinists can sign the BFM2000, then they can't complain about statement 2 with any seriousness without betraying their own misunderstanding.

Mohler responded probably because he felt he had to to appease other calvinists, but then he uses the term semipelagian in a newer way than is historically accurate. Others on here fell for it as well.

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Traditional is a matter of degree....

Thank you, Charlie, for a thoughtful and complete answer!

I do know that many people in the independent Bible church movement have been influenced by Methodism. For example, Harry Ironside was reached by the Salvation army. Although he rejected sinless perfection, he also rejected election and its source, the inability of man to believe apart from election. Yet he believed in security. I have long considered the Bible church movement and the Baptist church movement as similar, but perhaps I have erred in this.

I do think, though, that to the Southern Baptist, a 19th century belief is a traditional perspective. The Southern Baptist movement competed heavily with Methodism during this time.

As for me, I consider the ancient Jewish perspectives the truly traditional ones, as you might guess!

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A good source on antebellum

A good source on antebellum Baptist (Northern and Southern) beliefs is Francis Wayland's Principles and practices of Baptist Churches.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Kudos to Charlie

Thanks Charlie for your comments in this thread. They were informative, well-written, and grace-filled.

I read the entire City of God a few years ago, and I remember coming away with the idea that 1. Augustine really was a Christian I could relate to but 2. he was in an entirely different context. I also have the sense that everything goes back to Augustine. We seem to repeat controversy throughout history and Augustine happened to be in a formative time that forced him to talk about many different controversies.

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Augustine

Since we're on the subject of Augustine, does anyone have a biography they'd recommend on him? I finished Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer a few days ago (which was an excellent book, even if he didn't get into Bonhoeffer's theology all that much), and am working my way through his work Amazing Grace now. Augustine is someone I'd like to learn a little more about, esp. since his name keeps cropping up lately on this site.

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Augustine biography

Jay wrote:
Since we're on the subject of Augustine, does anyone have a biography they'd recommend on him? I finished Metaxas' book on Bonhoeffer a few days ago (which was an excellent book, even if he didn't get into Bonhoeffer's theology all that much), and am working my way through his work Amazing Grace now. Augustine is someone I'd like to learn a little more about, esp. since his name keeps cropping up lately on this site.

How good of you to ask. Smile

The most celebrated biography of Augustine in the English language is Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown. It's a goodie. There is a 2nd edition, but the only changes are two chapters at the end discussing some reflections and some newly discovered sermons and lectures. So, it's not that important which edition you get.

There are actually several very good quick intros to Augustine, not full biographies. One that comes to mind is Henry Chadwick, Augustine of Hippo: A Life.

For an intro to Augustine's thought, try James Wetzel, Augustine: A Guide for the Perplexed. (Wetzel is also a colleague of mine at Villanova.)

For very well-chosen selected excerpts of Augustine's works arranged topically, see William Harmless, Augustine in His Own Words.

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Heard a quote by Carl Truman

Heard a quote by Carl Truman just now quoting B. B. Warfield: "The Reformation is the triumph of Augustine's view of grace over Augustine's view of the church."

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Charlie - Thanks for the

Charlie -

Thanks for the tips; I looked them up in the library, and all copies are in house use only :(. How about St. Augustine in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern or On Augustine by Sharon Kaye? I've already requested both books.

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Jay wrote: Charlie - Thanks

Jay wrote:
Charlie -

Thanks for the tips; I looked them up in the library, and all copies are in house use only :(. How about St. Augustine in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern or On Augustine by Sharon Kaye? I've already requested both books.

I'm not particularly familiar with either of those authors (and I know most of the important authors), but from my quick skim, I'm a bit skeptical. There is a longstanding tendency to treat Augustine as a philosopher, rather than as a Christian, theologian, and pastor. Some modern scholars really only care about Augustine as the author of Confessions and City of God, and particularly how those books interact with non-Christian philosophy. Both those books seem likely to continue that kind of analysis.

You might try the inter-library loan section at your library. Normally they can get you just about whatever you need in a few days. I find it odd that they would keep them on reserve, it's not as if they're reference books.

I would recommend reading Confessions, too. It's an absolutely classic piece of literature, not only for Christians, but for the whole Western world. I recommend the Oxford World's Classics edition edited by Henry Chadwick, but there are other good ones as well. Get a contemporary translation, though, not a 19th-century one.

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Security On Trial

Charlie wrote:
The unique thing about many North American Baptists is this doctrine of "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." That is, they don't believe in individual, unconditional election; but they also don't believe that a true believer can fall away from salvation. Frankly, I don't know where or when this belief originated, but I would be surprised if it were earlier than the late 19th century. Ironically, I believe this is the position that some SBC personalities are denoting "Traditional."

Would anyone care to discuss that statement for the average listening world? Maybe http://sharperiron.org/users/paul-henebury ]Doctor Henebury could do a http://sharperiron.org/tags/series-affinity ]Rules of Affinity analysis for us. I think that'd be fascinating.

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I'd say OSAS comes out of the

I'd say OSAS comes out of the majority's Peculiar Baptist heritage. TRhat would put mit back to the 17th century.

JNoël wrote:
Charlie wrote:
The unique thing about many North American Baptists is this doctrine of "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." That is, they don't believe in individual, unconditional election; but they also don't believe that a true believer can fall away from salvation. Frankly, I don't know where or when this belief originated, but I would be surprised if it were earlier than the late 19th century. Ironically, I believe this is the position that some SBC personalities are denoting "Traditional."

Would anyone care to discuss that statement for the average listening world? Maybe http://sharperiron.org/users/paul-henebury ]Doctor Henebury could do a http://sharperiron.org/tags/series-affinity ]Rules of Affinity analysis for us. I think that'd be fascinating.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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Rob Fall wrote: I'd say OSAS

Rob Fall wrote:
I'd say OSAS comes out of the majority's Peculiar Baptist heritage. TRhat would put mit back to the 17th century.
JNoël wrote:
Charlie wrote:
The unique thing about many North American Baptists is this doctrine of "eternal security" or "once saved, always saved." That is, they don't believe in individual, unconditional election; but they also don't believe that a true believer can fall away from salvation. Frankly, I don't know where or when this belief originated, but I would be surprised if it were earlier than the late 19th century. Ironically, I believe this is the position that some SBC personalities are denoting "Traditional."

Would anyone care to discuss that statement for the average listening world? Maybe http://sharperiron.org/users/paul-henebury ]Doctor Henebury could do a http://sharperiron.org/tags/series-affinity ]Rules of Affinity analysis for us. I think that'd be fascinating.

I'm not familiar with Peculiar Baptists (ok, I've known a lot of peculiar Baptists!). Maybe you meant Particular Baptists? In any case, Particular Baptists didn't/don't believe in "eternal security" as I defined it. They believed in the perseverance of the saints.

Again, "eternal security" refers to the belief that a Christian cannot lose his or her salvation, but without any reference to an overall predestinarian scheme and sometimes without even a belief that Christians persevere in faith to the end of their lives. For example, Charles Stanley says in his book Eternal Security that a true Christian could stop believing in Christ and still go to heaven, because belief (in salvation) is a one-time act. Similar ideas were expressed by Zane Hodges. These formulations take us far afield from traditional Calvinist notions of the security of the believer.

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Charlie wrote:In my opinion,

Charlie wrote:
In my opinion, many Baptists who are not Arminian are in fact Semi-Pelagian. This is not just my own opinion either. If you look up the book Four Views on Eternal Security, you can read Norman Geisler articulate a view that he calls "moderate Calvinism." I think his view is basically the same as what others are calling "traditional" and represents many Baptists' approach to the issue. The other contributers to the book are Michael Horton (Reformed Orthodoxy), Stephen Ashby (Remonstrant Arminianism), and J. Stephen Harper (Wesleyan Arminianism). The interesting thing is that the 2 ARMINIANS called Geisler a Semi-Pelagian! So, I think there's some serious lack of historical awareness among many Baptist theologians. They're not aware of how controversial some of their statements on human ability and free will actually are.

Having read Geisler's Chosen But Free, I'd heartily agree here. I've read traditional Arminians. I disagree with them but understand them. I can't make heads nor tails of Geisler.

I have found that bare "eternal security" without some kind of monergistic framework does come out looking like "God has to save me because He held out the contract, and I signed it..." instead of "God freely set His love on me and saved me."

And on the flip side is Lutheran theology, which in my understanding wouldn't hold to "eternal security" as we're discussing it here, and yet has a monergistic framework. On the surface, Lutherans look like Arminians because of the "eternal security" question; but deep down, they're more like Calvinists.

Michael Osborne
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Another Perspective

Although I believe in individual election and perseverance (security), I really think the confusion about Baptists who believe in security but not election is failing to understand a simple concept: some people get their theology from interpreting sets of verses. I do not know if that is bad -- the exception, of course, would be when one misinterprets.

There are many verses that teach man is responsible, some semblance of freewill. The many "whosoever will" texts imply this, as do a host of other verses where people are called even to regenerated themselves (Jeremiah 4:4). We would argue that we are responsible for this but cannot really do it.

Then there are many verses that teach those who are saved are "kept by the power of God" (I Peter 1:5) and verses in Romans 8:37-39 and John 10:27-30, among many other verses about the Spirit being a pledge, etc., etc.

So if you put those together, you have non-election and security.

The thing I prefer about this mentality is that such folks often appealed to Scripture as the final authority, not systematics. They may be misinterpreting verses about election, but at least they are appealing to the right source.

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Yeup, I fat fingered the title

You're correct. I meant Particular contra General. I suggest following the doctrine from the two London Confessions through the Philadelphia and thence to New Hampshire and see what if any changes took place in those two hundred years.

Charlie wrote:
Rob Fall wrote:
I'd say OSAS comes out of the majority's Peculiar Baptist heritage. That would put it back to the 17th century.

I'm not familiar with Peculiar Baptists (ok, I've known a lot of peculiar Baptists!). Maybe you meant Particular Baptists? In any case, Particular Baptists didn't/don't believe in "eternal security" as I defined it. They believed in the perseverance of the saints.

Again, "eternal security" refers to the belief that a Christian cannot lose his or her salvation, but without any reference to an overall predestinarian scheme and sometimes without even a belief that Christians persevere in faith to the end of their lives. For example, Charles Stanley says in his book Eternal Security that a true Christian could stop believing in Christ and still go to heaven, because belief (in salvation) is a one-time act. Similar ideas were expressed by Zane Hodges. These formulations take us far afield from traditional Calvinist notions of the security of the believer.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

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