Tagged: neo-traditionalism

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

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 →

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 →

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

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

A Compatibilistic View of Regeneration (Intro)

Regeneration is perhaps the most difficult topic to be debated between the opposing views, due to the intertwining of such topics as spiritual death and life, depravity, rebirth, faith, the role of the Holy Spirit, etc. Call me an optimist, but I still see the potential for fruitful discussion. 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

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 6: Unifying Propositions on Regeneration

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

There are two profound changes that happen to a man as he is converted: first, the man is changed from a man who hates God to a man who is ready to repent and turn to God (this is what the Calvinists focus on—how profound it is that a man who shakes his fist at God becomes a man on his knees at the altar!); and second, God responds to the man who turns from his sin and justifies him, indwelling him with the Holy Spirit and bringing life back to his spirit (this is what Libertarians tend to focus on—the “new creation,” being “born again” and restored to communion with God). Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 5: Unifying Propositions on the Inability of Sinners

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

At every point of doctrinal disagreement between Calvinists and Libertarians (both Traditionalists and Arminians), there are Biblical propositions that can pull the two sides closer together without leaving the moorings of their particular theology. Continue reading

Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 4: Discarding the Faulty Premise that Divides

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

The Southern Baptist Convention is unique in its composition of a wide range of approaches to the doctrines of salvation. As was shown in Part 3, the basic presuppositions of Calvinists and Libertarians (Traditionalists as well as Arminians) are seemingly irreconcilable; and yet, these groups have found enough on which to agree that we as a convention have remained unified for a very long time. Continue reading