Tagged: Baptist Centrism

Edwards, Necessity & Certainty: Part 1

by Ken Hamrick

This will be a series of informal posts chronicling my quest to understand and engage Jonathan Edwards on the ideas of necessity and certainty, and to establish where Andrew Fuller departed from Edwards’ view. In this, I’m seeking to expand the argument made in the paper, “Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles.”

Edwards defines necessity in the following way:

Philosophical Necessity is really nothing else than the FULL AND FIXED CONNECTION BETWEEN THE THINGS SIGNIFIED BY THE SUBJECT AND PREDICATE OF A PROPOSITION, which affirms something to be true. When there is such a connection, then the thing affirmed in the proposition is necessary, in a philosophical sense; whether any opposition or contrary effort be supposed, or no. When the subject and predicate of the proposition, which affirms the existence of any thing, either substance, quality, act, or circumstance, have a full and CERTAIN CONNECTION, then the existence or being of that thing is said to be necessary in a metaphysical sense. [1]

He treats necessity and certainty as the same thing Continue reading

It’s Not Calvinism But Rationalism That Divides Us

by Ken Hamrick

Having debated Calvinism for many years, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of leaving to mystery that which can never really be figured out—a view espoused by many others before me. Such a position is disdained by both sides as something of a weak and anti-intellectual compromise. But arriving at this Antinomist position after thoroughly studying the issues is to arrive in strength, not in weakness. I’ve always argued from the middle anyway, previously confident in the power of reason to explain truth.  But unless the intellect is tempered by faith, it is a hindrance to real understanding; and only by faith can reason be humble enough to see its limits. Reason is just not equipped to take us beyond our finite, temporal thinking so that we can grasp the ways of the infinite, timeless God who transcends creation—that is faith’s role. Seeing that there is more to the equations involved in reality than the merely finite and temporal is also faith’s role. Accepting this, I find that I now have little interest in arguing with either side (which may be why the middle is so rarely heard from). As such, this article is intended to appeal to those who are not yet “sold out” to one side or the other, rather than to debate with those who are. The latter may strongly disagree, but I no longer feel the need to answer them beyond what is offered below. Continue reading

Unwillingness & Inability: A Summary of Andrew Fuller’s Solution

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

by Ken Hamrick

The theology of Andrew Fuller, as set out in his greatest work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, is centrally located between those Calvinists who see sinners as walking corpses—no more able to believe than a dead body is able to raise itself from the dead—and those of the other side who see sinners as fully enabled by God’s grace to choose (their will being the determining factor). To Fuller, men are able to believe, but will nonetheless remain unwilling until God does a supernatural work of grace to reverse their unwillingness. Regeneration only causes a man to do what he otherwise could have and should have done but refused. This puts the feet of the universal gospel offer on much more Biblical ground, and removes much of the repugnance of the Calvinist doctrine. The gospel is to be preached to all men because all men do have the ability—and the warrant—to embrace it; and that gospel would save any who do—even the unelect if they would but be willing. Continue reading

The Traditional Statement | SBC Today

SBC TodayClick HERE to sign!

Preamble

Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement 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.

While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism. Even the minority of Southern Baptists who have identified themselves as Calvinists generally modify its teachings in order to mitigate certain unacceptable conclusions (e.g., anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc.). The very fact that there is a plurality of views on Calvinism designed to deal with these weaknesses (variously described as “3-point,” “4-point,” “moderate,” etc.) would seem to call for circumspection and humility with respect to the system and to those who disagree with it. Continue reading →

Fuller & Inability: A Rejoinder to Tom Nettles

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 2;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

Recently, I published a Centrist response[1] to Dr. Tom Nettles’ series of articles on Andrew Fuller.[2] He has replied to that critique, but only in brief comments (one initial[3] and one final[4]). I had hoped he would step up to the task of a substantive engagement. Be that as it may, I will in this rejoinder address his comments and show the continuing inadequacies of his defense.

Dr. Nettles states:

I agree […] that human sin in the fallen state is certain. I also agree that Fuller resisted capitulating to any concept of mechanical, or natural, necessity or impossibility in the issue of sin or, on the other hand, of faith and repentance. I disagree with [Hamrick’s] argument that certainty in the area of moral choice is substantially different from moral necessity. He states, “The philosophical lens of Centrism is that of a determinative certainty. In other words, God determines all things by making all things certain, but not necessary.” Given the entire fabric as to how humans make decisions in light of the inflow of motivations to the understanding, and that it is impossible to demonstrate that any decision ever goes contrary to the prevailing motivation, then how to separate certainty from necessity in this moral realm I must leave to Mr. Hamrick for I cannot do it. He must argue for contra-causal choice, which I don’t suppose he will want to do; or he must say that one’s choice has no cause at all, which will immediately contradict, in both of these cases, our Lord’s description of the human heart as the fountain of all moral choice.

Contrary to Dr. Nettles, in this moral realm, necessity can be distinguished from certainty as surely as sovereignty can be distinguished from justice—as surely as might from right. Continue reading

PART 2: AGAINST FULLER AND MORAL INABILITY, Why Many Can Not Believe

THIS IS PART 2 OF 3. WHY MANY TODAY CAN NOT BELIEVE.

Part 1 [https://sbcopenforum.com/2014/08/23/against-fuller-and-the-idea-of-moral-inability-why-israel-missed-the-messiah-and-why-many-cant-believe/] was about how the Jewish people missed the Messiah.

Now of course they all did not miss the Messiah, and not all people today will reject the Gospel. But the reason most  of the Jews missed out on the Messiah was because they sinned against God and that caused their spiritual thinking to become futile and their foolish hearts to be darkened. Hard hearts toward God and blinded minds toward spiritual truth are the inevitable and certain consequences of sin. This is not just true of the Jewish people, it is also true of people today and everywhere.

Sin destroys. It ruins. It makes one unholy and unfit for fellowship with God. The answer for sin is in part 3. For now, let us look at the state of the Gentiles and why they are blind to the Gospel truth. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles (Whole Paper)

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

An Addendum, incorporating the Rejoinder, was added, 11-25-2014.

by Ken Hamrick

[13,200 words…] The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.

Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,”[1] Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists.[2] As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding. Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 3 of 3

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 2;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

In his second installment, “Fullerite: Doctrine of Inability,” Dr. Nettles’ fundamental misunderstanding of Fuller is seen in how he has taken some of Andrew Fuller’s sentences out of context, and turned them around to imply what Fuller actually was teaching against:

In answering both the hyper-Calvinists and the Arminians in The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation, Fuller pointed out that both believed that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what it is beyond his power to perform.” In their ardent desire to steer clear of each other, they finally concur in their attitude toward duty and grace—where there is not grace, there is no duty. “The one [hyper-Calvinists] pleads for graceless sinners being free from obligation, the other admits of obligation, but founds it on the notion of universal grace.” Fuller carefully distinguished, as he did in his earlier confession, between natural inability and moral inability, and asserted that the “inability of sinners is not such as to induce the Judge of all the earth . . . to abate in his demands. It is a fact that he does require them, and that without paying any regard to their inability, to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always.” Both hyper-Calvinists and non-Calvinist-partial-Arminians find this assertion to imply some kind of contradiction, or at [least] impose on any normal sense of fairness. In spite of all the rantings and reasonings against him and his view, however, Fuller continued to affirm both the absolute moral inability of man and the remaining duty of perfect obedience and cordial love to God and consequently a belief in the gospel.[29]

This axiom, that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what it is beyond his power to perform,” is not what Fuller argues against (as if only the hyper-Calvinists and Arminians held to such a thing) Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 2

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

 Other Posts in This Series:      Part 1;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

It will be helpful, prior to addressing further differences with Dr. Nettles, to establish what Andrew Fuller means by his distinction between natural and moral inability. Speaking of himself in the third person, in the preface of Gospel Worthy, Fuller explains that he was introduced to the difference between natural and moral inability by studying Jonathan Edwards:

He had also read and considered, as well as he was able, President Edwards’s Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, with some other performances on the difference between natural and moral inability. He found much satisfaction in this distinction; as it appeared to him to carry with it its own evidence—to be clearly and fully contained in the Scriptures—and calculated to disburden the Calvinistic system of a number of calumnies with which its enemies have loaded it, as well as to afford clear and honourable conceptions of the Divine government.[10]

Fuller’s adoption of this distinction does not establish that he adopted the theology (and philosophical baggage) of Edwards in toto. It would beg the question if one were to argue, that because the meaning of Edwards carries a certain nuance and philosophical bent, then Fuller’s meaning must carry the same. To understand Fuller, we must look to Fuller and how he understood this distinction.

The main difference between moral inability and natural inability, to Fuller, was that in natural inability, one is unable no matter how much one might be willing; whereas, moral inability consists only in one’s unwillingness due to “an evil bias of heart.” Natural inability is “the want of natural powers and advantages,” while moral inability is merely “the want of a heart to make a right use of them.”[11] Continue reading

Fuller & Inability: A Centrist Response to Tom Nettles, Part 1

Andrew Fuller

Andrew Fuller

 

 Other Posts in This Series:      Part 2;       Part 3;       Whole Paper.

by Ken Hamrick

The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.

Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,”[1] Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists.[2] As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding. Continue reading

Interesting Series on Andrew Fuller by Tom Nettles

What Do Southern Baptists Believe about Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Salvation?

by Charles L. Quarles
Former Vice President for the Integration of Faith and Learning
Former Dean of the Caskey School of Divinity
Former Carter Research Professor of New Testament and Greek
Louisiana Baptist College

Over the last several years, discussions about divine sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation have intensified in our Southern Baptist context. Labels like “Calvinist,” “Arminian,” and “semi-Pelagian” have been tossed around, often too freely, and this has brought more confusion than clarity to important doctrinal discussions in which we cannot afford to leave room for misunderstanding. I have always resisted these labels. My experience is that people define them in very different ways. My refusal to accept any of the above labels is not prompted by any desire to deceive others or to hide my views. I refuse to accept the labels simply because the issues are too important to leave room for being misunderstood by someone who is using a different “dictionary.” Continue reading

Beyond Traditionalism: Reclaiming Southern Baptist Soteriology

In light of the SBC Today article by Eric Hankins, posted yesterday, “Savability: Southern Baptists’ Core Soteriological Conviction and Contribution,” I thought it would be a good time to repost this paper.

SBC Open Forum

View original post 15,647 more words

Toward Theological Reconciliation: Atonement

by Ken Hamrick

What you will find below is neither an argument for the Calvinist view nor one for the Traditionalist view of atonement. Both ends of the spectrum have been asking the wrong questions, and the best perspective transcends that old debate. By emphasizing that Christ stood in our place, the debate has perpetually turned on the question of whose place Christ stood in—all or only some? But what has been missed by such an emphasis is that Christ stands in us—and until He stands within a sinner through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, nothing that He did is considered to have been in that sinner’s place. Christ’s death was not an immediate transaction of atonement regarding the sins of those for whom His death was intended to atone, but is instead a universally suitable, one-for-one substitution that must be applied through spiritual union with Him by faith. Continue reading

Compatibilism: A More Immanent Grace

by Ken Hamrick

Immanence is mostly forgotten as an attribute of God and a method by which He works in the world. Calvinists and Traditionalists argue over the limits of God’s transcendent acts of grace and the limits of men without such transcendent grace. Both sides, it seems, have a presupposed agreement to frame the debate around a transcendent grace, while the solution sits dust-covered in the theological closet. Continue reading

Who is Guilty of Adam’s Sin? A Centrist Response to Adam Harwood, Part 3 of 3

Part 2 can be found here.

by Ken Hamrick

Dr. Harwood rightly advises,

We don’t want to build a theological system on a single text. Also, we want to avoid eisegesis (reading our theological pre-commitments into the text). So, we’ll broaden the investigation by examining the inherited sinful nature view through the lenses of biblical theology, systematic theology, and historical theology.

I would caution that neither do we want to build a theological system on a single, narrow question, such as whether or not God holds each man guilty for Adam’s sin. Unfortunately, this seems to be what he is doing. Continue reading

Who is Guilty of Adam’s Sin? A Centrist Response to Adam Harwood, Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

by Ken Hamrick

By dismissing as insignificant the Augustinian principle of a spiritual participation of all men in Adam’s sin, Dr. Harwood (with agreement of both Calvinists and Traditionalists) discards that which offers the most hope for bringing Southern Baptists closer together (and closer to the Biblical truth) on this issue. Continue reading

Who is Guilty of Adam’s Sin? A Centrist Response to Adam Harwood, Part 1

by Ken Hamrick

Adam Harwood spoke at the 2013 John 3:16 Conference, and the paper he presented there is available on the conference e-book at SBC Today. Like Dr. Harwood, I deny that anyone is born condemned for Adam’s sin; but unlike Dr. Harwood, I find in Scripture such a real union of mankind in Adam as to justify the inheriting of all the temporal penalties for Adam’s sin, including the spiritual death and depravity that all are born into Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 8 (Final): Unifying Propositions on Determinism

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

The area in which Calvinists and Libertarians are farthest apart is that of determinism. Yet, as we have seen in other such areas, the root of this disagreement can be found in a single faulty premise upon which both sides agree. In this case, it is the premise that if God meticulously controls the events and actions of men, then such divine determinism eliminates all alternative possibilities (and thus “freedom to do otherwise”) for men. This premise is false; and once it is eliminated, there is much room for agreement, by which the two sides can be brought closer together. Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 7: Unifying Propositions on Atonement

See all the posts in the series, Toward Southern Baptist Unity»

There is much room for agreement on atonement… and misunderstandings to avoid on all sides. Libertarians (both Traditionalists and Arminians) can find unexpected common ground even with a Reformed theologian, such as Charles Hodge Continue reading