Sunday, June 3, 2012

Calvinism Conference Questions, Part 6

This is the sixth post in this series.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention will host a Calvinism Conference in August. Speakers include David Dockery, Steve Lemke, Frank Page, and Hershael York. It looks FASCINATING to me. Color me intrigued.

Paul Chitwood, KBC's Executive Director, is the mastermind behind this conference. He has agreed to participate in a Q&A session here on my blog regarding this conference. His answers will post sometime next week, probably. In the meantime, before you see his answers, I've decided (with his permission) to post some of the more pertinent and vexing questions and let my readers have at them in advance of Chitwood's reply. I'll stretch this process out among multiple posts.

6. Perhaps the most influential Kentucky Southern Baptist of all times, Edgar Young Mullins, once wrote, "We are learning to discard both [the labels "Calvinism" and "Arminianism"] and to adhere more closely than either to the Scriptures, while retaining the truth in both systems." What is the historical significance of Mullins's position on Calvinism and his dissemination of statements like this one? Can the "Biblicist" perspective be regarded as a contribution that Kentucky made to the broader Southern Baptist Convention in the twentieth century, and is it a peacemaking strategy for today? How do conferences like this one contribute?


Jerry Corbaley said...

Okay, I am ready to comment on this question. Here is my concern; and I have yet to hear an acceptable answer.

How is calling oneself a "Calvinist" not in conflict with 1 Corinthians 1:10-12?

Since the current national discussion approaches "division", should this not be a concern?

I agree that it is virtuous to discuss the doctrines of our Lord. It is virtuous to discuss the applications of those doctrines. But if the camp divides, then 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 would be applicable, would it not?

What I would like to hear is a suitable reason for using the term "Calvinist". I myself believe the doctrines of TULIP. I may apply them differently than one may expect.

Frankly, explanations of why "Calvinist" is usable should come from those who identify with that point of view.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Jerry: I think RL Dabney has the best answer to this question, which is not a new question obviously. You can substitute Southern Baptist for Presbyterian or not. Dabney wrote:

We Presbyterians(Southern Baptists DK) care very little about the name Calvinism. We are not ashamed of it; but we are not bound to it. Some opponents seem to harbor the ridiculous notion that this set of doctrines was the new invention of the Frenchman John Calvin. They would represent us as in this thing followers of him instead of followers of the Bible. This is a stupid historical error. John Calvin no more invented these doctrines than he invented this world which God had created six thousand years before. We believe that he was a very gifted, learned, and, in the main, godly man, who still had his faults. He found substantially this system of doctrines just where we find them, in the faithful study of the Bible, Where we see them taught by all the prophets, apostles, and the Messiah himself, from Genesis to Revelation.
Calvin also found the same doctrines handed down by the best, most learned, most godly, uninspired church fathers, as Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, still running through the errors of popery. He wielded a wide influence over the Protestant churches; but the Westminster Assembly and the Presbyterian churches by no means adopted all Calvin's opinions. Like the Synod of Dort, we draw our doctrines, not from any mortal man or human philosophy, but from the Holy Ghost speaking in the Bible. Yet, we do find some inferior comfort in discovering these same doctrines of grace in the most learned and pious of all churches and ages; of the great fathers of Romanism, of Martin Luther, of Blaise Paschal, of the original Protestant churches, German, Swiss, French, Holland, English, and Scotch—and far the largest part of the real scriptural churches of our own day. The object of this tractate is simply to enable all honest inquirers after truth to understand just what those doctrines really are which people style the peculiar "doctrines of Presbyterians," and thus to enable honest minds to answer all objections and perversions. I do not write because of any lack in our church of existing treatises well adapted to our purpose; nor because I think anyone can now add anything really new to the argument. But our pastors and missionaries think that some additional good may come from another short discussion suitable for unprofessional readers. To such I would earnestly recommend two little books, Dr. Mathews's on the Divine Purpose, and Dr. Nathan Rice's God Sovereign and Man Free. For those who wish to investigate these doctrines more extensively there are, in addition to their Bible, the standard works in the English language on doctrinal divinity, such as Calvin's Institutes (translated), Witsius on the Covenants, Dr. William Cunningham's, of Edinburgh, Hill's and Dicks's Theologies, and in the United States those of Hodge, Dabney, and Shedd.

B Nettles said...

Jerry Corbaley,
How is your initial question different from this:
How is calling oneself a "Baptist" not in conflict with 1 Corinthians 1:10-12?

Ben said...

E.Y. Mullins' influence was far greater in the wider SBC than in the state of Kentucky. Mullins was a true moderate on such doctrinal issues as evolution, alien immersion, and ecumenicism. He was heavily criticized by conservative Baptists in Kentucky such as H. Boyce Taylor, J.W. Porter, George Ragland, W.E. Ragland, and many others. These men had far much influence on the rank and file Southern Baptists in Kentucky than Mullins.

Jerry Corbaley said...

Again, I am in great sympathy with the doctrines of “tulip”. I am sympathetic to looking at church polity from the perspective of “elders”, provided it does not demote other Christians to followers without authority. If possible, the “movement” would be better served with a name that does not call to mind a man whose words are not equal to Holy Scripture.

Further, I doubt very much that those who call themselves “Calvinists” are intent on following everything that John Calvin taught. But circumstances are bunching them together under that name and misunderstanding will surely follow. I think they (for the most part) want to be understood.

And yet there are sure to be some who will fall into the divisive category that is sinfully similar to the case found in Corinth. Their passion will run afoul of 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 (ESV; partial).

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ….. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

Whether John Calvin is alive and local or not; he has produced a huge body of work. If people link themselves to his name they link themselves to his work. Further, I think the Corinthian passages above do apply, though they are not a perfect fit. I think they apply enough that it should cause introspection. I think they apply enough that I will not link my name to any such movement. Those who may label me a “Calvinist” will do me wrong.

B. Nettles – “Baptist” is a description, not a man. And I am a Christian before I am a Baptist. Do you think Baptists are spiritual babes in the flesh behaving as mere humans?

Debbie – Thank you for the quote; I appreciate the time you took to respond. Does RL Dabney speak for those who are within the current Calvinist movement?

Anyone - Can anyone actually speak for the movement? It is a curious thing for a movement without an official voice to cause such consternation. Can anyone define this movement? Can the members of the movement define the movement?

One thing is for sure: Creating documents and enlisting signatories will form a “side”.