Harrell's "Grounding Rule"
Before I break into my post, let me mention a couple of things. It looks like the scarlet “C” t-shirt is in the works. Both Centuri0n and Stephen are making one. You know it might be a good idea to come up with a scarlet “C” t-shirt contest, with each shirt having a caption that follows. You know, “We wear it on our sleeves,” or “Christianity that is more than skin deep” or even have one with a tie painted below the collar. Anyhoo, just a few thoughts. Since my last post, Marty Duren and Tom Ascol have responded to Mr. Harrell’s comments, particularly with his grounding rule. What I didn’t know is that Mr. Harrell has been around for quite some time in the Conservative Resurgence, so it makes sense the charges people are making about “turning back the clock,” narrowing the parameters, and calling for uniformity. Let me go back to his article and provide the quote again about his “grounding rule.” He says:
Harrell further explained, “I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful. “The same thing should be true of a contemporary church,” Harrell added. “Don’t try to transform a raditional church into a contemporary mindset just because it is the popular thing to do.”
Tom Ascol, responding to this quote, asks a very good question:
I wonder what Harrell would say about a church that was established by Calvinists as a confessionally reformed church but was led away from that confession by pastors who came in and preached contrary to it? In other words, does his "one ground rule" go both ways? Should a man who is not Calvinistic go to a church that was established on Calvinistic theology? Should a man who thinks that Calvinism is wrong serve as pastor of a church that was founded by Calvinists with a clearly Calvinistic commitment?
There is a reason why Ascol asks this question, and it is precisely because the church that Harrell pastors was founded in a tradition that was clearly Calvinistic! The article indicates that Abilene Baptist Church was founded in 1774 as the Reed Creek Church whose founding pastor was Abraham Marshall (the son of Daniel Marshall, the founder of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church in NC). While Abraham founded the 3rd oldest Baptist church in Georgia (Reed Creek), his father, Daniel Marshall, founded the oldest continuing church in Georgia at Kiokee in 1772. Abraham later came to pastor Kiokee after his father from 1784-1819, a church whose founding documents says the following:
"According to God's appointment in His Word, we do hereby in His name and strength covenant and promise to keep up and defend all the articles of faith, according to God's Word, such as the great doctrine of election, effectual calling, particular redemption, justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, sanctification by the spirit of God, believers' baptism by immersion, the saints' absolute final perseverance in grace, the resurrection of the dead, future rewards and punishments, etc., all according to Scripture which we take as the rule of our faith and practice, with some other doctrines herein not mentioned, as are commanded and supported by that blessed Book: denying the Arian, Socinian, and Arminian errors, and every other principle contrary to the Word of God. Now yet since we are exhorted to prove all things, orderly ministers of any denomination may when invited, preach in our meeting house" (emphasis added).
Now isn’t this an interesting historical tidbit. Mr. Harrell pastors a church whose founding pastor was a Calvinist, and while the founding documents are not available at this time, if Reed Creek’s founding pastor was a Calvinist and the founding documents verified that indeed the church was Reformed from the beginning, is Harrell not in violation of his own “grounding rule”? At least he says the congregation ‘still sings from the hymnbook.”