Monday, December 1, 2008

Fighting About John 3:16

I had hoped to attend the John 3:16 conference, but the vagaries of court dockets prevented me from being able to schedule any firm out-of-town plans in that date range. As things now stand, the aftermath of the conference, which I've discovered this morning, may have turned out to be as interesting as the event itself. One thing we bloggers have created within SBC life is that our great events are now akin to Presidential debates—immediately after the event itself we all enter the spin room, and the public remembrance of what happened is shaped more by the post-event interpretation than by the event itself. As bloggers, we'll have to decide for ourselves whether we've improved the SBC by that development.

I find that the warmest spot of contention arises between two men whom I know and with whom I have cooperated: Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and Dr. Thomas Ascol. As many of you will recall, Dr. Ascol, Dr. Yarnell, and I cooperated in a last-minute partnership to accomplish a good resolution on Regenerate Church Membership at the 2008 SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN. The last-minute partnership in Indianapolis was the culmination of several weeks of emailing one another to work out some means of cooperation on this matter. I do not offer myself as the best friend or leading expert on the beliefs or temperaments of either of these men. I freely confess that I know Malcolm better and love him more than I do Tom, although I suggest that the latter truth is merely the consequence of the former, and not the result of any disfavor I have toward Tom. So now you know my biases, and now you know the basis of my observations.

And here are my observations:

  1. Dr. Ascol and Dr. Yarnell affirm mutually incompatible ideas. If they offend one another, it is not because they are offensive people. Neither one, it seems to me, is trying to hound the other out of the SBC (some stupid comments from the sidelines to the contrary notwithstanding). But they are passionate thinkers thinking different things. I've watched close-at-hand while the both of them have shown their heart for Christian unity and harmonious fellowship. But although these men have the hearts of ecumenists, they have the minds of theologians. Unfortunately, most contemporary ecumenism boils down to ignoring the vast majority of other things that Christ said in an effort to obey His wishes for the unity of the church. These men want to be obedient to all of what Christ said, and therefore their differences in thought are their whiskers—possibly attractive at a distance, but scratchier the more firmly you hug.

    Their mutually incompatible ideas are more than four hundred years old. These scholars have embraced two different streams that flow into the Baptist river: the English Presbyterians on the one hand and the Continental Anabaptists on the other hand. OK, perhaps it is a bad metaphor to call them streams flowing into our river, because each continued to flow on its own, although each is legitimately a tributary to seventeenth-century Baptist thought.

    What's more, these are important ideas. Although Calvinism is not the gospel, it certainly touches upon the gospel and has implications for the gospel. Surely we'll all have to concede that the question "For whom did Christ die on the cross?" is at least an order of magnitude more important than "Those strange sounds that guy is making over there: Do you think that they are an utterance of the Holy Spirit, or just something that he made up?" The latter is not an unimportant question (especially to the guy who vehemently asserts that his made up something is an utterance of the Holy Spirit), but it is not nearly as important as the former.

    So, I think we dishonor these men and deceive others if we pretend that they just have a personality conflict or a disagreeable spirit or that they are just arguing over trivial, unimportant matters.

  2. Calvinism, in its essence, is offensive to those who are not Calvinists. Arminianism, in its essence, is offensive to those who are not Arminians. Both, in their essence, are offensive to those who are neither. So, should we really be that surprised that Dr. Ascol was offended by the John 3:16 conference or whatever else? If inclined to do so, I could take great offense at Dr. Ascol's most recent post around which so much of this controversy has centered:

    Terminology matters, so let me quickly assert that what I mean by "Calvinism" is exactly what the great Southern Baptist statesman, John Broadus, meant when he wrote,

    The people who sneer at what is called Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc. We are not in the least bound to defend all of Calvin's opinions or actions, but I do not see how any one who really understands the Greek of the Apostle Paul or the Latin of Calvin and Turretin can fail to see that these latter did but interpret and formulate substantially what the former teaches.

    What we are talking about is the sovereignty of God in salvation including unconditional election, total depravity of sinful nature, definite atonement of particular sinners by the death of Christ, the monergistic work of the Spirit in regeneration and the preserving grace of God operating in the life of every believer.

    Taken at its plain meaning, Dr. Ascol has asserted that anyone who is anything less than a five-pointer has rejected what is nothing more than Pauline theology. That's not only Dr. Yarnell, Dr. Vines, Dr. Allen, myself, but it is also, for example, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Dr. Russ Moore (not so sure, last I checked, that Limited Atonement—"definite atonement of particular sinners by the death of Christ" in Calvinist-speak—is the plain and simple theology of the Apostle Paul).

    I do not believe that Dr. Ascol misspoke, because I sincerely believe that Dr. Ascol believes precisely that. He believes that Limited Atonement is biblical. Personally, I don't know how on earth he comes to that conclusion, but I believe that he does. Now, here's my choice: I can take offense that Tom would believe such a thing or would say such a thing, or I can shed all of this twenty-first-century victim mentality, grow up a bit, and reconcile myself to the fact that people just disagree about these things. People aren't trying to offend me; it is just that their ideas offer me the opportunity to take offense any time I so desire.

    But what if I don't so desire? I can give Dr. Ascol the right to articulate his beliefs clearly and accurately. I can acknowledge his right to gather around himself a group of people who agree with him and to enjoy fellowship with them. I can acknowledge his right and the right of his group to seek to promote their beliefs. And I can acknowledge that in doing so Dr. Ascol is not going out of his way to denigrate me. He's trying to promote his ideas. Where our ideas differ, a contest of ideas may well ensue. Ideas matter and are personal, so there will likely be some personal feelings involved. But Dr. Ascol does not advance his ideas in order to attack those who disagree. The attack upon those who disagree is merely a consequence of his passionate advocacy of his ideas.

  3. Consciously to affirm the reception to the Lord's Supper of one not immersed as a believer is to act in disagreement with The Baptist Faith & Message. Long before I was alive and long after I'm in Heaven (if Jesus tarries) people will continue to argue about which position on the extent of the Supper is the biblical position, but the wording of the BF&M is pretty clear. Not everyone has paid close enough attention to realize that fact, but there's little room for debate as to what the BF&M actually says. I think that Dr. Ascol realizes that, and that's why he's understandably keeping his cards pretty close to his vest about the policy of the church that he pastors.

  4. There's no way on earth that Malcolm Yarnell affirms Servetus's lapses from Christian orthodoxy. I think that this little twist is the height of irony, although it probably isn't that funny either to Dr. Ascol or to Dr. Yarnell. The false claim that people hurl willy-nilly against Dr. Yarnell is that he's a Landmarker…that he somehow equates "Baptist" with "Christian." This little terminology brew-ha-ha illustrates that Dr. Yarnell does not hold that point of view. You can be a Baptist and not be a Christian. Servetus, it appears, was one of those (and the category is a large one, my friends).

    So, it just strikes me as funny that Dr. Ascol, and not Dr. Yarnell, is the one equating "Baptist" with "Christian"—asserting that since Dr. Yarnell called Servetus a Baptist he must have been regarding him as an orthodox Christian. Pardon me for putting words into Dr. Yarnell's mouth, but it seems to me that he was saying that Servetus shouldn't have been a Baptist, but nevertheless was one. In other words, he should have been put out of the church for his heresy, but he shouldn't have been burned at the stake.

  5. I think that we all ought to leave room for mystery in our understanding of what happens when we are converted. I remain unconvinced by both Dort and the Remonstrants (because each strays, IMHO, from the plain teaching of the Bible). But each system does remind us of important biblical truths at certain points. As I have said before, I thank God for Calvinists, although I am not one. I love the many Calvinists I listed in that post, in the way that we can historically love someone whom we have never met. But in my love for them I acknowledge that the Bible leaves these many questions in some state of tension, and I choose to strive someday to understand what these great Calvinists-gone-by know now rather than slavishly devoting myself to what they thought that they knew when they were here.


Ron Phillips, Sr. said...


Well said! I keep wondering how disagreement on theological points constitutes a personal attack. Until Christ comes back, there will not be agreement on this. It should not however, preclude us from cooperation in the proclamation of the Gospel.


Ron P.

Bart Barber said...

C'mon, CB. If you can't disagree about this, what CAN you disagree about? Are you too big a weenie to chime in?


Bart Barber said...

Ron P.,

Back at you (the "well said," that is).

Tom said...


Thanks for your effort to bring a conciliatory perspective to this. You have given us not only helpful instruction but also have modeled for us how to speak about contentious issues and those with whom we disagree.


Anonymous said...


You wrote:
"Long before I was alive and long after I'm in Heaven (if Jesus tarries) people will continue to argue about which position on the extent of the Supper is the biblical position, but the wording of the BF&M is pretty clear."

Well said! This is an issue that the Baptist Faith and Message is crystal clear on.

Tim G said...

Once again you have stated this extremely well!

Well done!

bapticus hereticus said...

you raise an interesting, important point, Bart, concerning your relationship with and affirmation of individuals with competing perspectives, even as you are in greater agreement with one more than the other. given mystery seems to be more the rule than the exception and that uncertainty and provisionality are often present in even the most mature faith, one wonders why there was such an upheaval among baptists (who lauded their faith) in the SBC in previous decades and why there is such a growing rift among current SBCers today. we penalize ourselves for failing to learn, but it seems that others that have learned suffer even more for our ignorance.

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Bart,

Traitor. You are siding with Calvinists on this one. Don't ever think I will forget your cowardly post.

With that, I am...


P.S. Where's CB when you need him?!!!

Bart Barber said...


Most of us are cowardly in comparison to you, O great one. But I advise you to be careful in your carefree jests with your friends. Were you to give the impression that siding with civility is siding with the Calvinists, you just might blunt your own axe in pointing out the incivility of the things said about Drs. Yarnell, Lemke, Vines, and Allen.

Anonymous said...


Good post. You and I are in theological agreement on the issue of Calvinism and also on your desire for civility and cooperation.

Here are some questions that I have, though: You admit that Calvinism is a bigger issue than ppl, yet we find ways to work together in the SBC with those who differ with us. All that I ever asked for in the debate of a few years ago was the same grace to be given to those who believe in ppl within certain boundaries. The fact that grace is given on this issue and not that one has always been a source of confusion to me, especially when we consider the implications of both issues.

Regarding communion, how far will we push adherence to the BF&M view on communion among Baptists? As I stated over on Peter Lumpkin's blog, a survey by Lifeway on this issue would be helpful. How many SBC churches allow for Christians who have not been baptized by immersion and are not members of an SBC church to partake of communion with them? The results would be very interesting.

Then, the question must arise: What will we do with those churches who do not follow the BF&M in that area. Here are some possible options:

1. After the poll numbers are released, a resolution could be submitted calling for churches to come in line with the BF&M2000 on this issue, ala the resolution on church membership that you co-authored last year.
2. Any churches that did not affirm the BF&M in this area could not have missionaries appointed to our missions sending agencies. There are likely many other good missions sending agencies available for them, but the SBC is not one of them.
3. No leaders or denominational employees should come from churches that do not affirm the BF&M in this area.
4. No Cooperative Program gifts should be received from churches that do not affirm the BFM in this area. *I recognize that this point would likely not be enforced. When it comes to money, we are apt to receive it from whoever gives it.

How far should we go in enforcing the article on communion that Dr. Yarnell refers to? It seems that the Boards of Trustees of our entities, especially the IMB and NAMB should take this issue up. For the sake of consistency, how can we enforce restrictions regarding PPL (which is not in the BF&M) and baptism (regarding the theology of the baptizer, also not in the BF&M), and ignore communion, another church ordinance, when it is in the BF&M very clearly?

I really am curious about the logic on this. How many SBC churches do you think practice close communion?

Malcolm Yarnell said...


You can read my mind any time you wish. I also concur with Tom's sentiments.

However, I must note one small but important correction: I believe the English Separatist stream actually has the stronger historical claim, even as I do not deny a continental Anabaptist stream.

Now, I would love to hear "bapticus hereticus" unfold his thoughts somewhere and let us know when he does so.

In Christ,

Bart Barber said...


One presumes (perhaps in error!) that the IMB is ALREADY asking missionaries to affirm that they are in agreement with the BF&M, including its statements about the Lord's Supper. So, if they do, then we have long ago already reached the hypothetical that you have posited.

With regard to PPL, you might note that David Rogers affirms the concept of PPL, yet I did not call for his removal as an IMB missionary on those grounds. Neither did I ever call for us to exclude those candidates who might say that they believed that there might be such a thing as a private prayer language. Furthermore, I only favored restriction of those who practiced PPL to the degree that the board of trustees was convinced that the practice was causing problems on the field.

Likewise, if the board of trustees were to discover that IMB RL Smith, let's say, has truly and genuinely embraced such a high Calvinism that his Calvinism has begun to interfere with his missionary calling. As a pragmatic measure, I would not oppose trustee action to remove Smith on those grounds.

On the other hand, let's say that IMB RL Jones has become such an Arminian that he publishes an article for the churches in his field entitled, "Why all of your pastors ought to be Arminians." Again, I would be in favor of his removal. Not because I believe that one cannot be a Southern Baptist and hold those views, but because they have begun to interfere with the performance of his duties.

With regard to your four-point projection:

1. If you'll read carefully the resolution that I proposed last year, you'll see that I have already proposed a resolution dealing with the importance of the Lord's Supper as a part of maintaining regenerate church membership.

2. The test in place already regards not the practice of the church, but the beliefs of the candidate.

3. Same as #2.

4. I'm not in favor of refusing contributions from anyone. It is our job to determine the boundaries of our membership. It is the job of individual Christians and individual churches to decide what they will or will not give and to whom.

Bart Barber said...

Tom and Malcolm,

I am thankful for both of your comments over here. I am convinced that the good things that I have written about both of you are true.

Anonymous said...


The beliefs of the candidate are not in view when it comes to baptism. Why should they be considered when it comes to the Lord's Supper? Both are ordinances of the church. Why does the belief of the church regarding baptism (re: eternal security) carry more weight than the belief of the church regarding communion in relation to closed, close, or open? If it is not up to the belief of the candidate in baptism, why should it be involving communion?

Re: PPL, you said, "Furthermore, I only favored restriction of those who practiced PPL to the degree that the board of trustees was convinced that the practice was causing problems on the field." I would agree with that statement. If it caused problems on the field, they should not be on the field, just like with Calvinism, Arminianism, etc. Why then, have we ever had any disagreement?

I only said that if someone had a PPL that they kept TOTALLY quiet (per the previous guidelines pre-Nov. 2005), they should be allowed to serve. If it became an issue or if they pushed it publicly, they should not be allowed serve.

I really do not want to get back into the PPL debate here, so I'll stop. But, the call for unity in our differences on this issue is a bit ironic considering the fact that I called for that for over two years and you and I had many battles over the subject when it came to PPL (always amicably, however).

Again, your position on Calvinism is one that I favor. Not applying the same approach to communion as we did to the baptism issue regarding church belief is confusing to me. The way we dealt with ppl makes no sense at all, considering the other allowances that we make.

Basically, what I am saying is that I see no consistent application of truth here. Just one based on the bias of whoever is in power. And, if that is so, is that not a bow to postmodern relativism?

Again, your inital point is sound. The limitation of its application is what I take issue with. If you can show me how you are consistent, you will have won me over - to the fact that you are being consistent, at least. Sorry to throw a wrench in things. I'll bow out if you don't want to discuss this further.

peter lumpkins said...


O, great one here. But now you've gone and made C.B. mad because he thinks he's the O great one. Here is my challenge:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I hereby challenge C.B. Scott to a debate before the students of SWBTS on the subject of "Who is the O great one?" This could only bring honor to all who attend.

The truth will be finally known because I'll expose, before every student, his misrepresentations and caricatures of me as the Old Late One. We'll see if he can stand before my abilities as a serious debater. He will mock me no more after the debate!

Truth will win and Southern Baptists will win because I, the O great one, will set the record straight about precisely who is and who is not an Old Late One.

Do I think C.B. Scott will take up my challenge? No! He is a coward. He cannot stand before my abilities as a debater for I have debated the best, 46 debates in all.

I've written 26 books proving beyond a doubt I'm not an Old Late One. Such does not stop C.B. Scott from lying about me though.

I plan in the next few blogs to prove him the coward he is.

With that, I am...


Pastor Tim said...

Thank you for some much needed words in the midst of the noise of this week.

One thing has bothered me, however, for some time...why is the choice Calvinist or Arminianism?

I do not feel comfortable putting my theological chips in either camp. In fact I have deep opposition to elements of both points of view. I don't believe I am alone in that perspective.

Yet the debate consistently assumes that if you deny one position you automatically belong to the other.

Bah humbug to that!

Jeremy Green said...

A fine piece of work, dear friend. I agree wholeheartedly. God bless you and Merry Christmas!!!

In Christ,

CB Scott said...


For over a week I have been asking you to post something we can fight about and you post this?

Let me say the following before I respond to your post.

I think it would be a good thing for all seminary students to have to spend one day a week under the teaching of Tom and one day a week under the teaching of Malcolm for the first two years of their seminary life.

I do not believe they would be able to solve the TULIP argument at the end of that period.

I do think they would be far better pastors and lead far stronger New Testament churches than some of the flakes and nuts running around out here now. There is some really strange fire coming from Baptist pulpits these days.

I think we should start a new seminary called the MalTom Baptist Theological Seminary. The big M would equal MAJOR. The big T would equal THEOLOGY. The MalTom seminary would Major on Theology, especially upon ecclesiology.

It is this area we have some real nuts and flakes running around out here blessing pets in the worship service and such foolishness.

Now, let me respond to your post in particular.

Bart, this is a Tar Baby post. There is no way to fight about this post and not get killed one way or the other.

If I started to fight over this post I would end up as beat up and ugly looking as Peter Lumpkins.

Long ago I was taught to plan all battles with an escape route.

I am not like Peter who goes to fight with a bulls-eye painted on his rear and a sign around his neck that says: "Here I Am. Y'all Kill Me."

No, Bart. You are going to have to post something to fight about that does not call for suicide bombers. Guerilla warfare is more to my liking.

Mr Lumpkins,

If you can persuade the powers that be to stage the debate I will be glad to set the record straight.

You have beaten me in only one raggin' to date. And that was because I was sick, and my right hand was broken from pulling up a stadium seat when Louisiana-Monroe beat Alabama and my glasses had black spray paint on them from painting my wood stove.

Who could not win against a man who was having to type with his left hand and could not see the keyboard to boot?

At least I did come to the scratch line and did not complain. That is the difference between a redneck from Alabama and a hillbilly from Tennessee.

Well, I am all healed up now and I have new glasses. I look forward to being in Fort-Worth whenever you sponsor the ball. I will be there to call the dance or there ain't a cow in Texas or a chicken in Alabama.

BTW, all you boys. Who is number one among all the football nations right now?



Anonymous said...


You have said some good things here. I have treated this debate, though significant, as a debate between theologians. I think that this debate should be taking place.

I am glad for the John 3:16 conference, and the conference last year on "Calvinism". It is a 400 year old debate.

Despite its theological significance, it is my hope that people in the SBC will not begin trying to punish one another over this issue. I know Malcolm personally, and I know many well known people in the SBC who are on the other side of these issues. One cannot meet a finer person than Malcolm. And the same is true of my other friends. So, I hope that we will continue to move forward, debates and all, for the sake of the Gospel. I believe that will happen.

I disagree with those who claim that the BFM mandates closed or close communion.

First, the text of the BFM does not say that. That text has not changed much (if at all) from 1925, 1963 or 2000. If you read it the way some people read the Garner motion (i.e. inserting text that is not there), then you can come away with the position that the BFM supports close or closed communion. But the text itself doesn't say that. The exclusionary part has to be added by extension.

I have practiced law for almost 22 years. If the BFM were a statute, and a lawyer was trying to argue for the position that close or closed communion is mandated by the BFM, I don't believe that any court would read it that way. Restrictive language in statutes (including the Garner motion) has to be specifically set out. Courts give effect to only what is written.

I have no problem with the BFM as written and see it as a document that does not address open or close/closed communion.

In addition, history and practice supports the proposition that the BFM does not address that issue. Since 1925 a significant number of congregations have practice open communion. I don't have the stats, but my esteemed Baptist History professor in college said that open communion was the dominant practice among churches (late 70s at that time). Whether that is true, I don't know. But my personal experiences bear this out. I have visited or been members of SBC churches in Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the last 30 years. All of them practiced open communion. My home congregation, a conservative church with a CR leader was the largest SBC church in town in 1977 with over 4000 members. We had open communion. I can't name a large SBC church in my city that practices closed communion. Our church does not. Most of the agency heads that I know that currently serve the SBC attend churches that practice open communion.

As an example, Morris Chapman, himself, attends Thompson Station Church (not Thompson Station Baptist Church - they changed their name) and I believe that they practice open communion. Thom Rainer attends Brentwood Baptist Church outside of Nashville. They practice open communion.

Finally, not only does the text of the BFM fail to state that others cannot be invited to join communion and not only does the SBC practice over several decades, and currently, show that there are thousands of churches that practice open communion whose members have served the SBC in many capacities as trustees and employees, but also I believe that those advancing that the BFM mandates close or closed communion are aware of their weak position on this issue. So, they will NOT EVER bring this up at a convention for a vote because they know it would be voted down. I think that fear to act really shows how even the proponents feel about this issue. They would like for the BFM to say what they say it says, but it doesn't. So, the best they can do is argue a logical extension from the text, and not ever bring it up as a matter of discipline or in any way at a convention.

This is completely different from the way the inerrantists handled the CR. They passed resolutions in favor of inerrancy even though the BFM was clear (in my opinion - except for the preamble, which was intentionally vague for a reason).

The advocates for close or closed communion will never draft a resolution or advance any action that might call for a vote.

I believe that this failure will result in the perpetuation of a stalemate on this issue, but that is the best the close or closed communion folks can hope for. Because if they had a vote, and lost, it would be an automatic win for open communion.

And that is why they will never take that action. They can't go forward, but they can risk going backward.

Kind of like the supporters of the Garner motion. They will never ask that it be enforced. it doesn't say what the proponents want it to say. It was poorly drafted. So, they have to rely on comments made by some people during the debate on the motion to argue by extension what the motion means. They will never move to see the Garner motion implemented because it doesn't say what they want it to say, and if they did move to have it applied, the SBC would balk, and that would hurt their cause.

Take care.


Bart Barber said...


You have a tendency to assume that whatever you were against, I was for. Yet I criticized the baptism policy as being poorly worded. It is important that Baptist missionaries be folks who have been baptized. The validity of baptism does not turn upon whether a church holds Southern Baptist theology. There are elements of Southern Baptist theology that are relevant to the validity of baptism, but (a) not nearly ALL elements of Southern Baptist theology are necessary to valid baptism, and (b) those that are, are not necessary to valid baptism by virtue of being elements of Southern Baptist theology, but by virtue of biblical warrant.

I do believe that valid baptism can only take place in association with a valid church. Therefore, with regard to baptism, I believe that the status of the individual candidate, although it is a sine qua non for valid baptism, does not exclude the status of the church as another necessary component of valid baptism.

So, to sum up, (a) I was never a big fan of the baptism policy as written, and (b) I would also probably be significantly opposed to a baptism policy authored by David Rogers, taking into account some of our prior discussions on the topic.

Bart Barber said...

Dear Louis,

I'm tempted to say that only a lawyer could read the BF&M and construe it not to say that baptism is prerequisite to the Lord's Supper.

peter lumpkins said...


You remind me sometimes of those little critters Jesus offered a new home in a herd of pigs!

I'll get you back. Not in FT.Worth. That's too far for both of us at our age to travel. We may not live long enough to get back to our Southern comfort.

Tell you what: after Christmas, I'll slide over to Birmingham and we'll settle this man-to-man over coffee. I'm putting a note in my calender to call you the first week of 09 and set a date.

Grace. And I do wish you a great and wonderful Christmas.

With that, I am...


Malcolm Yarnell said...


The BF&M was written according to theologico-ecclesial standards of interpretation, not Byzantine (read "serpentine") American jurisprudential standards. Should we go into the anti-biblical results that the courts have given us, to prove the point even further? Need we mention Roe vs. Wade or O.J. Simpson?

Moreover, if one were to take your standards, could anything in the BF&M stand, or does it become a wax nose, twisting whichever way one wishes to make it go? In other words, the churches led by their preachers and teachers are the court of interpretation. The state and its extrabiblical standards have no say, whatsoever.

Bart, I, too, was tempted, but, alas, succumbed. Good to hear from you, "Louis." Give my greetings to our loved ones.

In Christ,

peter lumpkins said...


My satirical side got the best of me here. For that I do apologize. My clowning around in no way reflected the value I placed on your post.

I think your are essentially correct in your six major headings--albeit a quibble here or a quibble there.

I will choose only one quibble: while you get right the "mutual exclusivity" between Calvinism (Ascol) and non-Calvinism (Yarnell) per se, I think you may have over-stated what could have been, in your mind, a natural deduction from that--"Calvinism, in its essence, is offensive to those who are not Calvinists. Arminianism, in its essence, is offensive to those who are not Arminians. Both, in their essence, are offensive to those who are neither"(emphasis mine).

For me--and I would bet a Starbucks on this--and Dr. Yarnell as well, it is not Calvinism that, as you put it, "in its essence, is offensive" unless that were qualified further with either Professor Allen's definitions of "strict particularism" and/or "Hyper-Calvinism," the latter of which, I gather, is universally "offensive" to all (who fits in it is another Q altogether).

My own gut is, how could I be offended by a theology that sincerely attempts--albeit in my view, in a strange sort of way--to glorify God in the salvation of sinners? From my standpoint, that is not an offensive thrust but a laudable one, even a beautiful one.

Thus, for me, I am not offended in the least by the Calvinism of others. That's not to say, however, there is no offense emanating Calvinism. There is. Allow me.

For example, when I am repeatedly told my theological leanings are ultimately human centered and based on human constructs; that I dishonestly handle the biblical record; that my traditions eclipse the gospel once for all given to the saints; that the only worthies within Christian history happen to be those who theologically disagree with me...I have to tell you, Bart, a thin hole starts to appear on the upper-left corner of my offense-resistor.

Further, when not only I am repeatedly told such, but the churches I've pastored over the past 20 plus years; the churches over-which our Lord saw fit to call and make me, as pitifully undeserving as I am to be considered for such a role, an under-shepherd; the churches where I saw God move in the lives of a heck of a lot of people; the churches I know deep down which had unbelievers on its roll, but deeper down still churches that were NT churches, not perfect NT churches, but true NT churches nonetheless; churches that I love and long to continue biblical fellowship...when those churches are repeatedly told the same rehearsal of deficiencies as listed above, I would be less than honest, Bart, if I did not say, another thin hole is appearing on my offense-resistor.

Now, where only a single such emanation bleeds over from Calvinism, it hardly qualifies as a threat to my offense-resistor. Ah, but when a concentrated dose of such rehearsed deficiencies about both me and the churches I serve flow as white water from a mountain stream; when organized networks envision "recovering the gospel" and the "faith once for all given to the saints"; when these networks make, as a part of their vision, "reforming" the churches by "promoting the doctrines of grace"; when, by every detection one can glean from writings and patterns, one gets the sense that this is not a phase or a fly-by-night temporary network, but a genuine, long-haul vision to "reform" the entire fellowship of churches toward a more credal approach to the doctrines of grace...

I'd say, Bart, my offense-resistor just experienced a meltdown. Not because of Calvinism mind you. I have already conceded that there is an innate beauty about Calvinism proper. Rather because what may be an innate temptation faced by all Calvinists--the undeniable, insatiable need to tell others exactly how things must things will be.

Consider the above just the ramblings of a man getting old.

I received an email this week from a guy I'd not heard from in years. He had stumbled across my blog. He said: "Pete. Do you remember? You are the one who introduced me to Calvin and the Doctrines of Grace." How interesting and mysterious my life's journey has been which our Lord so graciously has guided.

Thank you again, my brother Bart, for a worthy post.

With that, I am...


CB Scott said...


What do you think of my idea of starting a new seminary as mentioned above?


CB Scott said...


I look forward to our fellowship after the New Year has arrived.

Now, if the Lord comes for either of us before then or both of us at the same time; I'll catch up with you just inside the gate....over toward the "right." :-)


Anonymous said...

Bart and Malcolm:

Hey, watch that lawyer talk.

Like I say to my doctor friends - over 200 years ago, when you doctors were drilling holes in people's heads to cure headaches, the lawyers of this country were busy, too, drafting a constitution!

Thanks for deeming my comment worth responding to.

Malcolm, I will pass along your greetings and trust that you will do the same to your family.

Our girls are 15 and 14 now. Wow do they look old, and do they act even older!

My sister in law is dating someone, which is a good thing if for no other reason than to have adult interactions. He is an MK with two kids. Very nice guy.

Her former husband continues to spiral downward. Very sad. I'll fill you in when we see each other.

I am so glad that you are at SWBTS and trust that all is going well there.

Also, "Louis" is my given name, which you may not have realized because we never discussed it. Because I visit blogs under that name, there is some confusion as to who I am. Some of the people on one blog believe that I work in PR for the SBC or SWBTS. Another person told me one time that he thought I was Louis Moore.

Of course, I am really a nobody in SBC life, but given my history and the exposure I had to things long ago, I have a pretty good working knowledge of things and historical reference point.

My most recent insider's peek at history came when through a confluence of circumstances, I ended up putting a luncheon together between someone from the BWA membership credentials committee and someone who was opposed to continued SBC involvement in the BWA. The issue was over CBF membership, so it was some time ago. Even the committee member was appalled that the CBF seemed poised to be admitted to the BWA, even though the CBF did not meet the BWA constitutional requirements for membership. I'll fill you in on the details some day.

So, as you can see, I stay active, but am not a big time SBC player, such as yourself.

I plan on being at the convention this year. Maybe we can hook up.

Take care.


Bill said...

The impression that I've gotten from reading about J3:16 is that it's ok if you are Calvinistic as long as you're not too Calvinistic. In other words, don't be a 5 pointer (which in my opinion is the only way to define a Calvinist). I also find it difficult to reconcile things like Dr. Allen's obvious track record of working with and affirming 5P Calvinists and stating publicly that moving towards 5P Calvinism is moving away from the Gospel. Unlike Spurgeon I would not equate the 5 points with the Gospel but nor do I find them incompatible. I do take issue with Dr. Yarnell's suggestion that Calvin's role in the death of Servetus somehow taints Calvinistic theology. Thanks Bart for a balanced post.

Anonymous said...


You said, "You have a tendency to assume that whatever you were against, I was for." When did I assume that? We have had a long track record of debating the issues that we disagree on and I am always quick to tell you where I agree with you. I did it in this very post.

I agree with you that the baptism policy was poorly worded. Our disagreement over the baptism policy was that you felt that it was within the rights of the IMB BoT to do what they did. Technically you are right. I still think they were wrong to do it. The point of my comment was not that. It was that the grace that you are showing in the Calvinist debate could have been logically extended to the ppl issue and you would have been consistent to do so. It is hard for me to hear calls of cooperation now when they did not exist then over issues that had far less consequence (a missionary with Baptist theology who is totally quiet about a prayer language).

Malcolm Yarnell said...


I do think that we should teach more ecclesiology, something Baptists once knew so intimately.


Thanks for the update. I look forward to renewing our friendship. I will pass your message on to the family, all six of them (seven, if you count the dog)!

In Christ,

Groseys messages said...

Well written and greatly commendable.. but please stop those dogs of war CB and Pete L from playing soldiers in your lot... they make sooo much noise.. it rattles my chickens..

Anonymous said...

Southern Baptists have voted to some extent on the issue of closed/open communion. At least Southern Baptists in Arkansas in 2007 and apparently in the 1970s. See for November 9, 2007.
David R. Brumbelow

Anonymous said...

Praise the Lord! Bart, you have renewed my hope for the SBC.

Tim S.

Anonymous said...

David Brumbelow:

Thank you for a great reference and an honest way to describe it.

From what I can gather, at some point the Arkansas Baptist Convention recognized that the BFM was not clear on alien immersion or open communion. So, the Arkansans amended their state constitution to say what the BFM says. That's really interesting way to go about it.

That's exactly what I said in my post. The BFM articles don't literally speak against open communion. Open communion opponents in one state recognized this and tried to fix the BFM by fixing their own state constitution. I really think that is sort of funny.

But at any rate, a goodly number of Arkansans labored under the state interpretation of the national confession, and decided they wanted to get rid of a silly procedural conundrum. They voted 63% to do that, but needed 67%.

So, even the well connected heavily politicized state convention goers (btw, shoot me if you find me attending my state convention) registered a vote for doing away with a state rule mandating an interpretation of the BFM. If a Presidential candidate ever received 63% of the vote, that would be a massive landslide. So, 63% of State convention attending Arkansans believe in open communion AND apparently want to let the BFM speak for itself (since it doesn't say anything about open communion). My perception of Arkansas Baptists is that they would be more in favor of closed communion than most states. I bet the vote in other states would be in the 70% to 75% range. But I'll leave that to Ed Stetzer and some survey that he should go conduct.

Plus, the vote was kind of mired because it was mixed up with the baptism issue. So, it's hard to sort out the feelings.

What do we learn from this:

1. The only state that I know of that has tried to address this recognized the BFM is silent. So they had to try and fix it.

2. The people attending the convention in Arkansas are at least in the 63% range in favor of open communion (or something like that).

3. It's not clear to me that it makes a difference anyway in Arkansas.

The story cites one guy as asking whether all of the churches who practice open communion and/or accept baptisms of confessional believers in non-baptist congregations are supposed to leave or what? That is a great question.

Of course, I have already told you that this will never come up nationally from the closed communion side for a vote of any kind because it would get swamped, as it did in Arkansas. But even if some sort of resolution attempting to state the will of the SBC is for closed communion, it wouldn't really change anything. There are thousands of SBC churches that practice open communion and they would continue to do so. Their pastors and members would continue to serve as trustees, as SBC employees etc. The same thing would be true if the SBC passed a resolution that tried to impose open communion.

I think if we are honest about language and history, we are best resigning ourselves to the fact that E.Y. Mullins in 1925 did not want to take on the open/closed communion debate in the BFM, that Herschel Hobbs agreed to keep the same posture in 1963, and that the last committee to work on it in 2000 didn't want to address it either.

Thanks, again, for the quick reference and the even handed way in which you described it.

Now, don't take this wrong, but aren't you supposed to be somebody? Are you really active in Baptist politics somewhere? Your name rings a bell, but I don't have time to google you. Seems like you are the boogeyman to some people on other blogs?

Is that you? If so, what's your claim to fame. Did you once give Ben Cole a wedgie or something?


peter lumpkins said...

Bill, et al

You assert: "The impression that I've gotten from reading about J3:16 is that it's ok if you are Calvinistic as long as you're not too Calvinistic (my emphasis). The difficulty I sees lies right in the emphasized words.

Suppose you asked another about a certain book about which you were interested. Upon my overhearing your query, I excitedly jumped in exclaiming, "Oh, Bill, I know about that book, and I can tell you the book is a bad read; Forget it!"

"So, you've read the book?" you respond. "Well, not exactly" says I. "I heard some others talking about it. And they are quite convinced it is a bad book."

"But how do you know it's a bad book if you've not read the book? Have you even seen the book?"

Stuttering, I respond, "Well, no. Neither have I seen the book. But I stand confident that, in this case, the book really is a bad book."

Both of us see clearly the ridiculous practice of taking, at face value, the estimation of those who merely know "about the book." It's similar in construct to Sceva's Seven Sons who adjured demons by the Jesus about whom Paul preached.

The impression others have gotten from reading about J3:16 is frightening. On Les Puryear's present comment thread, it's said (by one who did not attend) "No one has been presented at a Founders Conference as being "saved" from Southern Baptist semi-Pelagianism or Armianism."

On Timmy Brister's, the fabrication is even more explicit (by one who didn't attend):

"So at this conference where they were not going to bash Calvinism, they actually had a guy give his testimony of how he was converted (saved) out of 5-Point Calvinism...and you as a Dortian Calvinist were not offended by this "Spiting in the face"? If I had heard a Calvinist give his testimony of how he was saved out of (insert any of the conference speakers names)’s doctrine I would have rebuked him on the spot.

I was sitting no more than 20 feet from the guy who stood up and spewed. It was Dr. Allen who in fact did rebuke such, affirming that it would not only be dead wrong to insist Calvinism has no place at the table but that our ecclessiology absolutely prohibited it. Pure gossip that either the guy got away with his spew (which, by the way, I don't think he had a clue it was spew) or the vague implication that he was a planned event.

For the record, no one who attended the J316C and who listened to Dr. Allen could walk away ignorant to precisely what Dr. Allen meant by 5P Calvinism, how his chief concern was/is decidedly both strict particularism and Hyper-Calvinism.

Also, one of the chief points Dr. Allen made during his lecture dis-spelled the inadequate notion which is unfortunately but widely embraced: 5P Calvinism is the only way to define a Calvinist.

As for the "issue with Dr. Yarnell's suggestion that Calvin's role in the death of Servetus somehow taints Calvinistic theology" stands, at least for me, as a skewed, over-simplification of his larger point about Calvinist ideology.

With that, I am...


Bill said...

Peter: Dr. Allen wasn't the only speaker. I have read about the conference from both pro and anti perspectives and seen video clips of some of the conference. If reading about the conference doesn't give me the ability to comment on it then why are you writing about it?

I did read Dr. Yarnell's point about Servetus and Calvinist theology in it's entirely and in context. It is biblically and logically insupportable.

If Calvinism doesn't mean 5P Calvinism then the word becomes largely useless and dies the death of a thousand qualifications. (like hyper-Calvinist evidently).

Bottom line, whichever side you think is responsible for "moving" and whatever you think of their reasons for "moving", Dr. Ascol is correct, this conference widened the divide between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC.

r. grannemann said...

A problem in terminology.

What has been so confusing is the way the terms "true church," "New Testament church," and "Christian church" are being used.

The best I can determine (see my catalog of posts below), Dr. Yarnell does not believe Presbyterians, for example, are "true churches" or "New Testament churches." He does believe they are "Christian churches."

To say the least, this is very confusing. I suggest we change our terminology. Let's call assemblies of born again believers meeting in the name of Jesus true churches, New Testament churches, and Christian churches (are they not all Christ's followers with the New Testament faith?). Let's call other churches not like us "unbaptistic churches" which don't keep the Christian ordinances properly.

Below are the posts:

Dr. Yarnell at (Rogers - Yarnell Dialogue #18)

Dr. Yarnell writes:

"If I have addressed the Presbyterians here, it is not out of any special animus towards them, for I actually find the Reformed to be very close, more often than not, to Baptists when I am involved in ecumenical conversations. The Presbyterian churches deserve rebuke no more than any other non-New Testament churches, except insofar as some of our more naïve Baptist ministers have become unduly attracted to their unbiblical ways in recent years. We could turn this critique upon the Methodists for their Arminianism and their infant baptizing, or upon the charismatic free churches for their unbiblical innovations with regard to the charismata."

At Peter's blog:

In post #30 Dr. Yarnell writes:

"A third concept, the idea of a promiscuous communion in the name of ecumenical, evangelical, or Reformed relationships is a recent innovation. Promiscuous communion does not have a New Testament basis, a point which the BF&M in all three of its forms (1925, 1963, and 2000), as well as the older New Hampshire Confession upon which the BF&M is built (1833), concur."

Later in the thread in post #31 downshoredrift responds

I really do not have an axe to grind here. I am just trying to figure out what you believe about these things and am wondering why you will not clearly state your position.
From your reference to the BFM and your statements elsewhere, I guess that you are saying that since Presbyterians are not baptized, then there are no Presbyterians churches that are "true churches." "

Then in post #32 Dr. Yarnell answers:
I have answered these questions for you, before, so I am not sure why I should do so again. However, again, I will repeat myself: I am not a Landmarkist. I do believe that these other churches are Christian, but do not match New Testament standards.
In Christ,

John T. Meche III said...

A word on the term "limited atonement". I don't like it. Most people who don't believe it say it with acid dripping from their tongues. However, unless one is a universalist, no one believes that the atonement is not limited. The question is how or by what. Both Calvinists and Arminians believe that the atonement is limited. Not all will be saved. The term "limited atonement" needs to be done away with for terms that better describe what Calvinists/Arminians mean, like "particular redemption".

peter lumpkins said...


From this brief exchange, it's understandable how we many times cannot seem to get past our polarities. I can only hope it does not deteriorate or worsen.

You wrote, Bill, "Dr. Allen wasn't the only speaker." But, Bill, Dr. Allen is the person about whom you referred in your comment. That is why I limited it to him. You mentioned Dr. Yarnell but not concerning his role at the J316C.

You further query "If reading about the conference doesn't give me the ability to comment on it then why are you writing about it?" about which I have not the slightest clue to what you are referring.

Nor did I question whether you read Dr. Yarnell's point about "Servetus and Calvinist theology in it's entirely and in context." Rather I questioned whether or not you were overly-simplifying his point toward the larger question of Calvinist ideology.

And, Bill, I'd be very careful about taking the hard-line position that an assertion about Historical Theology which was made by an accomplished historical theologian definitively "is biblically and logically insupportable." I think you know better than this.

Nor does that mean that no one is beyond making questionable statements--doubtful and even dead wrong statements--including accomplished theologians.

It is to say, at least from my point of view, it's much safer--and more respectful,if I am gut level honest--raising questions than stating conclusions; and that is especially so regarding the tricky business of historical theology. Getting caught with one's skirt up is terribly embarrassing.

Finally, you once again write "If Calvinism doesn't mean 5P Calvinism then the word becomes largely useless and dies the death of a thousand qualifications." Bill, I cannot say this politely, my brother: that is ignorant. The best in Calvinist scholarship concedes different Calvinisms--at least three schools of Calvinism. If one cannot accept--indeed will not accept--what the best historical theologians of Calvinism are generally agreed upon, all hope is lost for any type of genuine unity.

Dr. Ascol, I must disagree, is incorrect. While the three events he mentions definitively raised the heat in the discussions, none of the three events caused a wider divide.

Instead, the three events were only indicative of our divide, making that divide perhaps more evident to the masses. At least, that's my take right now.

With that, I am...


Tom Bryant said...

Thanks for being a voice of sanity in this insane debate.

Personally, I have an opinion but most of the debate online seems to be at the level of seminary debates over coffee... too much fire and smoke and too little spiritual warmth and light.

Anonymous said...

Hey, all I did was point out a BP article referring to the subject.

You asked, “What’s your claim to fame?” I didn’t know I had one; still working on that (I did go bear hunting in Alaska once). I’m just a small church pastor who’s thrilled to have a small part to play in the advance of the gospel around the world. Every now and then I comment on the blogs. But I try real hard to “play well with others.”

Boogyman? I’m a Baptist. I don’t boogy.

My dad, Joe Brumbelow, was a pastor, as are my brothers Steve and Mark. So one is sometimes mistaken for the other. Of course, I’m the best looking of the family :-).

Have enjoyed your comments from time to time. And I really enjoy this blog.
David R. Brumbelow

Bill said...

If Calvinists feel further alienated in the SBC as a result of J3:16 then I don't think anyone can say the divide hasn't widened. You may disagree but it wasn't your theology put on the chopping block.

John T. Meche III said...

Bill, I don't like to use the word "Calvinist" but if you examine my theology, you would categorize me that way. I'm cool with that. And yes, I feel alienated in the SBC by J316C. Why? Because I'm a student at the university at which Dr Lemke teaches. The president of my seminary gave one of the opening prayers.
I have never preached a sermon blasting Arminian theology. I may at some point say that I don't agree and give my reasons why, but I am willing to work with anyone and everyone for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ as man's sole source of righteousness before God being spread to the world. I feel the conference was a step backward.
A few years ago I attended the Ligonier conference to hear Dr. Piper speak. He preached two passionate sermons, and I loved them. I still reference them today. But I will never go back to the Ligonier conference, because I feel it was divisive and hostile to people who don't agree with a Calvinist soteriology. You have to choose your battles, and J316C was poorly chosen.

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I wasn't fussing at you. Just wanted to make sure I knew with whom I was speaking.

That was really helpful of you to post that article regarding the Arkansas Baptist Convention, and I appreciate it.

Sort of glad to know that you are not famous. Just did not want to pass up the opportunity to congratulate you on your notariety.

Take care.


volfan007 said...

Everytime there is a T4G conference, or a Founders Conference, I feel that they are widening the divide...that they are threatening to leave people like me out of what they want the SBC to be.

Thus, Founders folks are widening the divide as well....are they not?