Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Playing Theological Chess with a Calvinist

There is only one GROUND RULE for this chess match with a Calvinist. The Calvinist must accept all of my Arminian assumptions. Fair enough?

So if I assume that "the world" at John 3:16 literally means the whole world (of the living, of course, because that's the context, since John 3:16 is not talking about those in Hell being able to believe and have eternal life), in which "the world" is understood to be indiscriminate and distributive throughout living humanity.
Moreover, all references to "all" and "all men" must be understood in the same manner, unless the context explicitly indicates that "all" or "all men" incontrovertibly means something less, such as a present audience.
Moreover, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree not to infer any "Secret Wills" in order to suggest that there is an unstated, hidden meaning to any given text.
Moreover, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to assume that God is so sovereign and so powerful that the "Total Depravity" of mankind is of little obstacle for God to overcome, without being "stuck" with having to resort to only using an Irresistible Grace, in order that a totally depraved person may be brought to the point of being divinely enabled to either accept or reject His free hand of grace. It is implicit in this assumption that where God leads, God liberates. So if man cannot do anything pleasing to Him, and is completely fallen, it is nonetheless of no difficulty whatsoever for God to be able to liberate such a person, so that they can freely receive or reject Him.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must be willing to accept the Arminian assumption that both John chapter 6 and Romans chapter 9 each involve a very specific dialogue, which dialogue, is not allowed to be ignored, and that the dialogue which the Calvinist must agree to assume, is that the dialogue is focused squarely upon unbelieving Israel in the spirit of evangelistic conversion.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must accept the assumption that if a New Testament writer makes reference to a passage from the Old Testament, that it be assumed that the writer fully intends that the Old Testament text serve as the contextual foundation and guiding principle for interpreting the New Testament revelation, such as Jeremiah 18:1-13 being referenced with respect to God being "the Potter" at Romans chapter 9.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree not to manufacture text where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as by (1) illegitimately inferring an "eternal decree" where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as at Acts 13:48, and (2) illegitimately inferring a Calvinistic "elect" class into a text where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as at Ephesians 1:4.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to use only proper biblical usage of terms and words, such that terms like "from the foundation of the world" must not be shifted to mean "from [BEFORE] the foundation of the world," such as with reference to Revelation's "Lamb's Book of Life", such that the phrase, "from the foundation of the world" must be understood solely as defined by Scripture itself. (Cross reference Luke 11:49-51.)
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to the principle that just because a biblical text positively affirms that Jesus died for "A", does not automatically mean that He must have died ONLY for "A", such that a positive affirmation of one group, does not automatically carry a contrasting negative implication for any other another group, which I will denote as "B", unless there is an absolutely explicit reference to "B" being excluded.
I understand that some Calvinists may feel that my "ground rule" is completely unfair, that is, to have the prospective contestant Calvinist accept all Arminian assumptions as the ground rule of any discussion. However, isn't it equally unfair for a Calvinist to insist upon me (as a "ground rule" to any discussion on Calvinism), that a person who is totally depraved cannot do anything good or pleasing to God, which thereby absolutely necessitates an effectual, monergistic, unilateral Irresistible Grace? Don't you think that such an assumption automatically sets Calvinism up to win? After all, why can't I assume that God is bigger than Total Depravity? Why can't I assume that where God leads, God liberates, so that a totally depraved person can be divinely enabled to either accept or reject God's hand of grace? After all, isn't divine intervention a Game-Changer? Moreover, compare with Jeremiah 18:1-13, in which Israel, believe it or not, threw Total Depravity in God's face, and God turned to the heathens and asked: "Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel Has done a most appalling thing." (Jeremiah 18:13) The purpose of this post is to show Calvinists that they are being totally unfair by insisting upon a "ground rule" (their words) which automatically sets up an assumption that makes Calvinism the victor by default. So I've created a post to give some "ground rules" to a Calvinist, to see how they like it. (Really, I'm trying to expose hypocrisy, although I loathe using such a strong word, but that's what it seems to be, in my opinion).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is the SBC an Arminian denomination?

SBC stands for "Southern Baptist Convention," and you could make the argument that the SBC is: 1) Arminian, 2) Calvinist, 3) Neither and 4) Both.

I make the argument that the SBC is functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, in which OSAS stands for "Once Saved Always Saved." Realize that the terms "Arminian" and "Calvinist" are very broad. For instance, there are Classical Arminians, Reformed Arminians, OSAS Arminians, Molinist Arminians and Open Theist Arminians. Calvinists have their distinctions as well, such as 4-Point Calvinists, 5-Point Calvinists, Hyper Calvinists, Supralapsarians, Infralapsarians, ect., and that's not even counting the likes of Harold Camping and the infamous Westboro Baptist Calvinists. The labels are so broad that even Calvinists will sometimes refer to other Calvinists as "Arminians" if they feel that other Calvinists are simply not Calvinistic enough. Some in the SBC will privately acknowledge being functionally OSAS Arminian, but avoid the label due to the perceived stigma associated with the Arminian doctrine of Conditional Security. To argue that the SBC is functionally an OSAS Arminian denomination, one could point to the "John 3:16 Conference." One could also point to recent activity within the SBC regarding the traditional Southern Baptist understanding of the doctrine of salvation. One could also point out a few popular apologetics books written by SBC members, such as "Whosoever Will," "Salvation and Sovereignty" and "Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue." The late three time SBC president, Adrian Rogers, was very outspoken in his criticism of Calvinism. Consider his sermon, "Let the Earth Hear His Voice: 2 Corinthians 5:13-20." The late founder of Liberty University referred to the Calvinist doctrine of a Limited Atonement as "heresy."
On the other hand, one could make the argument that the SBC is closer to being Calvinistic, by citing published statements concerning Unconditional Election, Total Depravity and Eternal Security. However, while some in the SBC may espouse such views that are similar to TULIP, often when explaining those beliefs, the caveats diverge from the traditional Calvinist understanding. For instance, while some in the SBC may espouse a belief in Election, they will be just as quick to denounce the Calvinist doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Limited Atonement. With this understanding, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the SBC has a hybrid position, making it neither Calvinist nor Arminian, and yet also in some respects, both Calvinist and Arminian. However, this is not to say that there are no outspoken 5-Point Calvinists within the SBC, such as Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Platt, author of the book, "Radical." So there is certainly a diversity of views within the SBC.

In my estimation, when considering the John 3:16 Conference, apologetics books, recent activity within the SBC and the general consensus of SBC Presidents, it appears that a fair case can be made that the SBC leans most closely towards being functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, even though the label itself is officially rejected. I tend not to get into the history of the Southern Baptist movement, because that is not really relevant to the question of whether the SBC is presently a Calvinist or Arminian denomination. The SBC Church that I presently attend is First Baptist Church Downtown Jacksonville, pastored by Mac Brunson, who espouses a theological perspective very closely resembling that of Jerry Vines, who sponsored the John 3:16 Conference. As a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, I may be biased in my outlook, but this is my perspective, for what it's worth.

Refer to Roger Olson's article as well.