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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Why I Am Not Surprised

A couple of days ago I received an email from Jimmy Sizemore about an article from the Alabama Baptist. I am pasting it here for convenience sake with comments following. Madison Association church, pastor part ways By Sarah E. Pavlik May 29, 2003 On May 18 Pastor Jess Smith preached his last sermon at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Monrovia, near Huntsville in Madison Association. On May 25 Smith preached his first sermon a few miles away at what will become Providence Baptist Church. The core of his new congregation comes from Mount Zion. While several issues contributed to Smith's departure from Mount Zion, George Faust, chairman of the deacons at Mount Zion, noted Smith's stance on predestination was an important factor. Dale Huff, director of the office of LeaderCare and church administration at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, says that when predestination is taught from the perspective of a "pure Calvinist," it causes problems, because it is contrary to what most Southern Baptists have always believed. "Pure Calvinism says that God has chosen some for salvation and some for damnation (the tenet of election) and that Jesus died only for the elect (the tenet of limited atonement)," explained Huff. "Southern Baptists believe in God's sovereignty, but they also believe that man is given the free will to choose salvation or resist it, and that Jesus died for everyone." As a result of Smith's leaving Mount Zion, the church adopted a resolution calling for spiritual healing and emotional reconciliation within the church. Faust also noted that plans to form a search committee were currently delayed until he knows how many of the 1,236 members plan to remain at Mount Zion. Smith, who could not be reached for comment after numerous attempts, was pastor of Mount Zion for 39 months. Let me comment on some of the highlighted (red) parts of this article: First, it is clear that the Alabama Baptist have an agenda here - one which is embedded in the fundamentalist playbook to demonize anyone who is Calvinist. In this brief article, it is not addressed that predestination has substantial biblical support, and the preacher is supposed to preach "the whole counsel of the Word of God." Rather, it is not defined nor are the charges supported with anything other than hearsay. Is this news or the gossip column? Second, it is clear that there is an inadequate understanding of predestination with the description/definition given by Dale Huff. By the way, what is this "pure Calvinist" stuff? Ah, another example of empty rhetoric meant to inflame the situation. Was the issue over predestination really? Infralapsarianism or supralapsarianism? Double predestination? Symmetrical or assymetrical predestination? Third, free-will theism, as opposed to the doctrines of grace, is not what most Southern Baptists believe and is not what Southern Baptists have believed in generations past. Let me refer you to Dr. Tom Nettles' book By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Furthermore, you can find the great theologians of the baptist tradition such as John Gill, Andrew Fuller, John L. Dagg, James Pedigru Boyce, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Carl F. H. Henry, and others who clearly show the antithesis to what Mr. Huff is attempting to gloss over. Fourth, let's look at the bias and tinting of the article by the reporter with reference to some of the comments. Exhibit (a) The core of his new congregation comes from Mount Zion. Clearly, this is to emphasize the fact that the Calvinist preacher is stealing the congregation away to another church, leaving the previous church to suffer and reminding the community that the only reason why the church is the size it is, is because he "caused" the division to take place. Exhibit (b) the church adopted a resolution calling for spiritual healing and emotional reconciliation within the church. While it is totally disheartening that a church is divided and split, this little line attempts to show the Mount Zion as the victims and casualties and the minister as the evil culprit causing all the hurt. Once again, it is the evil Calvinist that is totally at fault for being the bad guy here. Demons, I mean deacons and other leaders of church are righteous and pure in all of their ways. Exhibit (c) Smith, who could not be reached for comment after numerous attempts, was pastor of Mount Zion for 39 months. Could not be reached for comment? Everyone knows that there are two sides to every story, except for the case of Calvinist preachers, because they don't have the right to be heard. 39 months? Let's see how incrementally small we can make it to highlight the length of his tenure. Wait a minute. I just did the math. Maybe they should have stated that he was there for 1,576,800 minutes. Does that make him look bad enough? Is that all the minutes he gave? Bad pastor he must have been. Fifth, it doesn't surprise me to find this bias reporting of religious news to be found on the Baptist Fire web-site. These guys really crack me up. First, they refuse to identify who they are and choose to remain nameless and faceless, thereby forfeiting any credibility in anything they say. Who wants to read something the writer is embarrassed to sign his name to? From the sound of it, it is easier to uncover the secret identity of a CIA operative than to reveal the identity of those flickering out over there at Baptist Fire. At least the writer of this previous article had the authenticity to put their name to it. Nonetheless, this is a unsubstantial article pasted on an illegitimate source (Baptist Fire). Second, there is no way of actually corresponding with these guys as to what they are putting out on their web-site. Doctrinal accountability doesn't seem to be very high on their list of virtues. Finally, I don't know Jess Smith, Dale Huff, or anyone else in this matter, but what I do know is that there is a systematic assault in the Southern Baptist Convention to demonize anyone who believes in the doctrines of grace. Their comments go unchecked both by Scripture and history and deemed valid simply because of sentimentality or sincereness. I find this very disgraceful. You would think that you would only find such bias reporting only in the New York Times; unfortunately, it is here in our own Baptist papers. So they go on crucifying those who hold to the doctrines of grace while sticking their tongue out in immaturity to history and blind eye of ignorance to the truth explicitly found in Scripture. I think the common folk are waking up to this agenda. It only takes an objective, honest examination of the issues to see the unfair and unbalanced assault that this SBC system is perpetrating from the pulpit to the press machines. So I am not surprised. Those who have believed in the Scriptures and the doctrines it teaches haven't "accumulated for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" (2 Timothy 2:3) in order to pacify itching ears which have turned aside to myths like free-will theism. And there will be those who listen to the truth, and that truth will set them free.


Blogger Nathan Ross Newman said...

I was revisiting this article which I think is very well written. I attend Providence Baptist Church which Jess Smith is currently the pastor. It is only fitting that our name is Providence Baptist as we hold to the original tenets of the Abstract of Principles. Thank you for writing this.

10/09/2007 01:25:00 PM

Blogger spwrites said...

I am the biased reporter who wrote the article you featured here on your blog. It's been several years since I wrote that particular piece, so I was surpised to find it on a fairly recent post.

A few things. This was by no means an attempt on my part to "gossip", nor do I believe that was the inention of The Alabama Baptist. If you follow the newspaper, reports of church controversies and splits are certainly the minority.

As for the whole predestination issue. I readily admit, I had a shamefully limited understanding of election/predestination when I wrote that piece and did rely heavily on the explanation provided by the church elder quoted in the piece. I have since gained a much fuller understanding of the issue and have come to see that there are many verses in the Bible that support it. I think that most people hold to the idea that predestination means God chose some for heaven and some for hell. That, is double predestination, and eroneous. We, of course, being fallen were all on our way to hell and God in his abundant mercy chose to save some. Weather that atonement was limited or not, the Scripture is not completly clear.

With that said, I still see a danger in Calvanism. Remember, I hold to most of its tenets. But, so often Calvinist or others such as Primitive Baptists negate the roll of free will in God's plan. It too is prominent in the Scriptures.

So we have a choice here. Cling to the one and abandon the other, as so many do. Or, accept there is a mystery only God in His infinate widsom can comprehend, working here. God calls and man must accept.

As for my reporting on the issue, I certainly could have done better. But, I think my lack of understanding actually proves I wasn't trying to be biased. I didn't know enough about it one way or another to even have an opinion!

And to be fair to Pastor Smith I was working on a very tight deadline and only had two days in which to to contact him. I did, however, attempt to "give his side of the story."

I find it funny that you thought that when I pointed out that he served Mt. Zion for 39 months, I was somehow trying to minimize the value or duration of his ministry. I can say, with all honesty, that wasn't my intention at all. It didn't even cross my mind. It was just easier to write than three years, three months.

There is not a snake under every rock, as the saying goes.

Finally, I'd like to end on a positive note. Providence is a thriving, Biblically sound (probably one of the most solid ones we have in Madison County) church that I have been priveleged to attend on occassion. Mt. Zion, I am told, is thriving spiritually as well. Members from both congregations have shared with me that there has been a good deal of reconciliation between the two.

4/27/2008 09:25:00 PM


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