Tagged: Calvinism

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

Awakening To The Theology

by Dr. James Willingham

The ground work or foundation for awakening prayer as well as for the visitation that we call an awakening is to be found in the theology we find linked to the First and Second Great Awakenings and the Launching of the Great Century of Missions as the late historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette called it or the Modern Missionary Movement as it is called today.  That theology with few exceptions must be described as Sovereign Grace or Calvinism.  The latter term actually diverts attention from the reality that Sovereign Grace is taught in Holy Scripture, and the very term is predicated on the use of the word, “reign,” used in Romans 5:21: “That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Reign or rule, of course, suggests the very idea of sovereignty, the authority and power to demand that things be done with a certainty.  Sin abounds.  Grace superabounds.  The enemy comes in like a flood, and God raises up a standard against him, a counter flood, a greater flood.  Like Noah’s flood of old which covered the whole earth, the deluge of grace shall fill the whole earth with His knowledge and glory.  The stone becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth.

Interestingly enough, all of this is to be accomplished not by force but by persuasion  Which brings us to the statement from a work which began my journey toward this understanding of God’s design.  In his Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (the first textbook in theology used at Harvard, so I understand), Dr. John Eusden stated; “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….”  That statement was like a light turned on in my mind and heart. Continue reading

Saving Grace Conference | SBC Today

SBC TodayFor whose sins did Jesus die? Who are the elect? Is the sinner’s prayer biblical? What exactly is T.U.L.I.P.? Ever had questions like these? Come to Oakland Baptist Church in Corinth, MS for the “Saving Grace Conference.” This conference is free of charge! The conference will take place on January 9th and 10th.

The list of speakers includes:
Dr. Steve Gaines–discussing Limited Atonement
Dr. Steve Lemke–discussing Irresistible Grace
Dr. Eric Hankins–discussing Unconditional Election
Dr. Jim Futral–discussing The Sovereignty of God
Dr. Kenny Digby–discussing Total Depravity
Bro. James Lewis–discussing Perserverance of the Saints

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

Have You Heard of Connect 316? | SBC Today

SBC TodayWho We Are
We are a ministry fellowship celebrating the Hobbs-Rogers tradition in Southern Baptist life. That’s a fancy way of saying that we believe in the kind of salvation doctrine one might hear at a Billy Graham Crusade. God loves you. He has a wonderful plan for your life. He sincerely wants you to be saved. Jesus died for your sins and the sins of the whole wide world. If you are willing, then you are certainly able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel. Jesus has already said, “yes” to you. You can say “yes” or “no” to Him.

Connect 316 strives to strike the proper tone as we distinguish ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ who hold opposing views. Although we disagree on certain issues with our Calvinist friends on the one hand, and our Arminian friends on the other, we truly love, respect and appreciate them as part of God’s family. Our situation can be compared to the arrangement of churches in the small town where I serve. The Baptist Church is located midway between the Methodists and the Presbyterians. Theologically, this is where we find ourselves as well—and we are committed to maintaining this stance, especially as the pressures of New Calvinism inch us ever closer to the Presbyterians. 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 →

Does Faith Precede Or Result From the New Birth? A response to Ronnie Rogers [part 1]

 by Michael White

Ronnie Rogers’ paper was published on Friday, 07 November 2014 04:30 at SBC Today.

To be a consistent Calvinist, a person must believe that the Bible teaches God limits His redemptive love toward His creation and that limited love is more reflective of God being the sum of perfect love than God extending His salvational love to all of His creation.

That statement is Brother Rogers’ opening remark. Of course it is just as true that to be a consistent Arminian or a consistent Traditionalist or basically a consistent anything evangelical Christian, one affirms that God does not save everyone.

But herein lies the difference: I, as one who holds to all 5 point of Calvinism, believes that it is the love of God that saves. God’s love is not just an inefficient force that makes it possible for men to save themselves, but is what draws people to God and delivers people from their sinfulness. 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

Heart Faith and Deep Change | Founders | The Blog

Tom-Nettles-Formal-98x98Both in preparing to write these blogs and in preparing to teach a course on American revival, I have spent some time with the sermons, theology, and revival lectures of Charles Finney. He is a fascinating read. I find some things well said and edifying—truly and clearly put in the defense of truth. He had no low views of the necessity of repentance and of a heart-felt submission to God and faith in Christ. Belief unaccompanied by zeal for God and mourning for sin was not saving belief. His arguments against atheism, infidelity on the issue of biblical inspiration, and his assault on Unitarianism and Universalism can find, with exceptions to some arguments, resonance among all evangelical Christians. His synthesizing of the indications of general revelation with the facts of special revelation provides an instructive method of doing theology. On other issues, however, such as regeneration, atonement, election, the entire system of imputation, the persevering nature of true saving faith, the human will, and the relation of holiness to salvation, I find him a puzzle and positively dangerous. Continue reading →

Calvinism’s New Birth Analogy is Unconvincing! | SBC Today

SBC TodayRonnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

This article seeks to address the question: does physical birth demonstrate the Calvinist idea that faith precedes spiritual birth? Calvinists argue that the new birth (regeneration) precedes and provisions faith,[1] whereas I contend that faith precedes and provisions the new birth. Calvinists frequently seek to demonstrate their belief by employing an argument based on the analogy between physical and spiritual birth. They thusly claim that just as man did not contribute to his physical birth, he does not contribute to his new birth; hence, regeneration precedes faith. I find the Calvinist analogy to be both unnecessary with regard to the creation of life and dis-analogous to the relationship of faith to the new birth, which is the point of the analogy.

I find it to be unnecessary with regard to the creation of life, new or otherwise. Here I gladly agree with my Calvinist brothers and sisters that man did not contribute to his human birth (creation), and therefore, analogically, he does not contribute to the new birth, the creation of his new spiritual life. Continue reading →

Jesus Doesn’t Fail: An Interview on Definite Atonement | Desiring God

David Mathis

David Mathis

It is, by far, the most contested of the Five Points. And confusion over the term makes it all the trickier.

“Limited Atonement” is the middle letter in TULIP, but as author and pastor Douglas Wilson explains, that name might give the wrong impression.

“The problem with ‘limited atonement’ is that it makes everybody think ‘tiny atonement.’” And, of course, no good Christian wants to cast the cross-work of Christ as diminutive.

The better term, says Wilson, with a growing number of voices, is “Definite Atonement.” Same doctrine, better name. This way of putting it emphasizes the extent of Jesus’s accomplishment, rather than its restriction.

Jesus Doesn’t Fail: An Interview on Definite Atonement | Desiring God.

John Piper and Definite Atonement | Part Two | SBC Today

SBC TodayDr. David L. Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Definite Atonement & the Free Offer of the Gospel.
Piper asserts his belief that the free offer of the gospel to all people is one of the “benefits” or “intentions” of God in the atonement (657-664). Scripture teaches the “free offer” of the gospel to all. But this is not something that the atonement itself “accomplished,” especially on Piper’s view of things. In fact, this is one of the key problems with definite atonement and is one of two main reasons why so many in the Reformed tradition like Bruce Ware (see Part 1) reject it (the other being the exegetical evidence is clearly against limited atonement).

Piper correctly states that Shultz argues one cannot preach the gospel sincerely to all people on the platform of definite atonement: “If Christ did not pay for the sins of the non-elect, then it is impossible to genuinely offer salvation to the non-elect, since there is no salvation available to offer them” (658). Piper takes strong umbrage at this claim. We need to note that this claim articulated by Shultz has been made by many in the Reformed tradition since the days of the ascendency of limited atonement in the late 16th century.

Piper, quoting Roger Nicole, totally misses the point of Shultz’s argument: “if the terms of the offer be observed, that which is offered be actually granted” (658-59). Continue reading →

John Piper and Definite Atonement | Part One | SBC Today

SBC TodayDr. David L. Allen | Dean of the School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The final chapter in From Heaven He Came and Sought Her covers the subject of preaching and definite atonement. John Piper does the honors. This chapter is a fitting conclusion to the book as Piper attempts to show that preaching definite atonement redounds to the glory of God.

Introduction (633-637).
Piper asserts three things as foundational for his chapter:

  1. The glory of God is the heart of the gospel and the end for which God created the world.
  2. The central task of ministry and preaching is the magnifying of the glory of God. Every sermon should be expository according to Piper, to which I utter a hearty “Amen!”
  3. The cross is the climax of the glory of God’s grace.

No qualms here.

Definite Atonement is a Significant Part of the Glory of God’s Grace (637-639).
Piper thinks that the wording of Ephesians1:4-6 and Revelation 5:9 point to definite atonement. Continue reading →

SAVING FAITH: WHERE IT COMES FROM, PART 3 of 3

Part 1 can be found here: https://sbcopenforum.com/2014/08/23/against-fuller-and-the-idea-of-moral-inability-why-israel-missed-the-messiah-and-why-many-cant-believe/

Part 2 can be found here: https://sbcopenforum.com/2014/08/23/part-2-against-fuller-and-moral-inability-why-many-can-not-believe/

Part 1 is about how the Jewish people missed the Messiah and did not recognize Jesus as God in the flesh because their sin[s] blinded them to spiritual truth through the hardening of their hearts.  Part 2 is about how people now a days, since Pentecost, who fail to grasp the Gospel truth for the very same reason: their willful sin blinds them to spiritual truth.

Part 3 is about faith. Faith is God’s remedy to the blindness caused by sin and to the damnation that results from sin. It is the way God spreads His love to those he shares His life with, both in this world and in the one to come. Faith is the way God raises up a people for Himself. Faith is God’s instrument to do His will. True saving God honoring faith does not begin or originate in the will of a man or woman, but by the Holy Spirit in His demonstrating of The Father’s love through the sacrifice and resurrection of the Son.

The short question is: Why do we believe? 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