Friday, December 5, 2008

Grading the John 3:16 Conference

If you have either attended or listened to the Conference, please grade the presenters.

T - Total Depravity - Paige Patterson: D

U - Unconditional Election - Richard Land: C-

L - Limited Atonement - David Allen: A+

I - Irresistible Grace - Steve Lemke: C

P - Perseverance of Saints - Ken Keathley: A+

David Allen and Ken Keathley absolutely hit home runs. Buy the DVD and see for yourself. However, take notes. They move fast.

Richard Land gave an enjoyable presentation on Unconditional Election (which I wish that he had gone on longer), arguing for a "congruent election" (that is, congruent with Scripture), from the "eternal now" perspective of C.S. Lewis, but his argument for how his view successfully bridged the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, was mostly left undeveloped. Land disputed that one is saved by faith, but instead by a "God-completed faith." Land cited God's foreknowledge, and his eternal relationship with the "elect" vs. "non-elect." In those terms, Land raises the dichotomy between "will be saved" vs. "must be saved," but again, did not develop that point as much as I would have preferred. Land contrasted the Abrahamic Election of the Old Testament with the Salvific Election of the New Testament, in relation to Romans chapters 9-11, citing Harry Ironside for support, but his presentation was very light on Scriptural analysis. There probably should have been two speakers to address this topic. Neverthess, Land gave a fine historical presentation of Baptist history, including the impact of Sandy Creek. Land gets a negative mark for stating that a person cannot believe in Eternal Security and simultaneously be an Arminian (especially in light of the articles of the Remonstrance).

Ken Keathley really hammered home on the impact of "Perseverance of the Saints," in terms of the "temporary faith" taught by Beza (his predacessor, John Calvin, similarly taught "temporal grace") and it's historical impact upon the Puritans. Keathley pointed out that assurance comes from the revealed word of God, rather than the presumption of election, and thus with Calvinistic election, the Calvinist is logically denied assurance. Keathley uses an excellent example of Job, in terms that Job did not rely upon his experiences for assurance, but upon the revealed word of God. I also found his summarization of the Universalist, Karl Barth, and his connection to supralasarian Calvinism, to be quite fascinating.

David Allen entirely quoted Calvinists in his presentation, and revealed that 5-Point Calvinism was actually rejected by the founders of Calvinism. He really did a good job in analyzing John Owen, though I was disappointed that he ran out of time before getting into Own's "double jeopardy" argument. Neverthless, Allen provided follow-up research material via web links. However, what I found most interesting was his discussion on the Westminster minutes, concerning the internal debate over Limited Atonement. Allen moved at such a brisk pace that even the microphone couldn't keep up, and required emergency replacement. This presentation was a homerun for the John 3:16 Conference. I particularly liked his argument on 1st Corinthians 15:3, which is absolutely crippling to 5-Point Calvinism.

Steve Lemke tackled "Irresistibe Grace" by highlighting Scriptural references to the grace of the Holy Spirit being resisted. He did a good job of pointing out that the Calvinist belief on Irresistible Grace constitutes preemptive regeneration and preemptive new birth, though he did not get into what I feel is the real heart of the matter, namely, that Calvinists believe that they must be "in Christ" preemptively, in order to irresistibly "believe in Christ." Nevertheless, credit Lemke for digging into Scripture, though he did wander off topic a bit, such as raising the issue of 1 John 2:1.

Paige Patterson did not cite Church history, no quotes from Calvinists or non-Calvinists, did not get into the logical implications of Calvinists (in terms of Total Depravity extending to Total Inability), did not discuss the controversy of Total Depravity between non-Calvinists and Calvinists, was relatively light in Scriptural analysis (despite reading Romans chapters 1-3), and his illustrations primarily were never developed, and some were more embarrassing than others (i.e. illustration of Abraham and Sarah, and nakedness in the Garden of Eden). It seemed that very little research was put into this presentation, and was by far the most disappointing. I hope that he gets a chance at redemption with a do-over in a future conference.

Jerry Vines was a terrific Bible Teacher in really digging into the meat of John 3:16, and addressed the Calvinist interpretations of the famous passage. He was so excited to speak on the matter, that he ran way over time, but his passion on the matter was a joy to witness.

Charles Stanley is Charles Stanley. His presentation on the love of God was terrific.

Johnny Hunt spoke on evangelism and obedience to God.

The Q&A session turned into a testimonial session, and which had to be cut short. There was too much griping and venting, and not enough Q&A. Perhaps next time, a moderator will need to be utilized. In that event, questions from the audience can be written on index cards, and then be presented by the Moderator to the Speakers.


Jacob Hall said...

Actually David Allen only proved that he was able to build up a straw man and tear it down in an hour. Allen argued that Limited Atonement in no way effects the non-elect. That is absolutely false and is a doctrine of Hyper-Calvinism, not Calvinism. However, Allen never made that distinction, and argued that men who believed in Limited Atonement did not, because he twisted the meaning to fit what he believed, not what it historically means or the men he quoted.

Buy the DVD? I have a better idea, find someone selling Snake Oil, they are about the same in quality.

Kevin Jackson said...

Thanks for the report Richard. The DVD is on my wish list.

sixfigures said...

Yes, all the good ol' boys were present and accounted for. Jerry Vines proved that he lacked a basic understanding of Greek, Richard Land used little exegesis, Lemke was standing firm on his traditions, Allen showed he did not understand the doctrine in question, and Patterson proved that he is no scholar . This was an intellectually dishonest conference. Had this all been done in the name of doctrine, opposing views would have been presented. Unfortunately, this conference was not about doctrine, or scholarship for that matter.

Richard Coords said...

I'm not sure that calling them "good ol' boys" is fair. Remember, these guys have dedicated their lives to advancing the kingdom of God.

The one comment that I had to agree with is regarding Richard Land. I enjoyed hearing his presentation, but there needed to be an add'l two or three days dedicated to this, as well as a follow-up debate at the conclusion. I'm not sure that James White would have been the right person, because he seems to lack the temperment to handle Christian discourse. Piper and Lutzer would have been fine. Luzter spoke at the annual SBC pastor's conference one year, and was one of the best speakers.

I have to say that the charge against Allen is an overstatement, but I have to agree that Patterson seemed to have just winged it. Keathley I felt was very insightful. He was also at the Building Bridges Conference, and I highly recommend the follow-up book: Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue.

DonaldH said...

I appreciate the post and reviews.