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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.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dr. Akin Is a Brave Man

Since I started blogging some 20 months ago, there have been more attacks against Reformed doctrine than I could possibly begin to recount on this blogpost. Most recently, the inflammatory articles have come with increasing force and greater frequency from key politicians in the SBC. The argument made by many that Calvinism has become the “whipping boy” of the SBC has proved to be unfortunately true. During this period I have oft wondered where all the Baptist theologians and historians have been in the midst of such gross inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. One can surely understand why they would want to stay out of some issues which are considered controversial or even petty, but the issue of Reformed theology in our Convention is a big deal, and the vitriolic responses against it have been boiling over. It is in that context I am most grateful to read the words of Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in his recent letter to his students and faculty. Dr. Akin has stood in where many SBC leaders I suspect have feared to tread. Himself not a five-point Calvinist, Dr. Akin has greater concern for theological integrity and faithfulness to the exposition of Scriptures (something which many anti-Calvinists are seriously neglecting). Furthermore, Dr. Akin directly addresses the words of recent irresponsible comments from Dr. Bill Harrell, chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC, Ergun Caner, dean of Liberty Theological Seminary, and Dr. Nelson Price, a leading influential figure in Georgia Baptist life. As I stated in my response to Dr. Price, the center of my contention is not that Southern Baptists are not Calvinists but that they are not being biblical. Furthermore, they have misrepresented Calvinism with reckless and inexcusable comments which should be abandoned no matter what theological stripe you bear. Finally, most if not every attempt to refute Calvinism has been without exegesis but rather stories, illustrations, and proof texts taken out of context. With that said, I want to express my appreciation to Dr. Akin by calling for fair treatment of one another as well as a renewed commitment to developing pastors and ministers as theologians and sound physicians of souls. Below is the public letter sent out to the Southeastern family. I hope it finds wide readership and is received by all those who are feeling tempted to write yet another “ill informed and sloppy” article.

A Plea For Theological Responsibility And Integrity
In recent days it has become painfully evident that many Southern Baptists do not "do theology" very well. Some are apparently ill informed and sloppy. Others trying to be cute, are bombastic and irresponsible. Despite our rhetoric to be "people of the Book, we do not know the Book very well. We do not grasp its rich theology. We are failing, and failing miserably, to obey 2 Timothy 2:15-16: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness." I want our students to do better. I want you to do theology well. I want you to be clear and careful thinkers, gracious and competent teachers. I want you to be able to articulate a biblically balanced theology with conviction as well as charity. I want our Lord to give you the wisdom of knowing which theological hills are worth dying on, and which ones brothers and sisters in Christ can agreeably disagree, and yet love each other and work with each other in building the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and reaching the nations with the gospel. If you are wondering what are some of the careless theological statements I have in mind that has moved me to put this challenge before you, let me note just a few that I have heard coming from a number of different directions. 1) You cannot attract a crowd and build a church on expository preaching. It is true you can build a crowd without biblical exposition, but you will never build a Christ-honoring New Testament Church without faithful exposition of the whole counsel of God's inerrant Word. Further, a number of churches in our Convention have built both a growing church in terms of breadth and depth. It does not have to be an either/or scenario. 2) Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron. Anyone who knows church and Baptist history knows how irresponsible this statement is. William Carey, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon, James Boyce, Basil Manly Jr., and John Broadus are just a few of the great missionaries, pastors, and theologians who embraced a Reformed Theology. You may be convinced that Calvinism is wrong. However, do not make yourself look foolish by saying there are no passionate, evangelical Calvinists. 3) Five-point Calvinism is the same as Hyper-Calvinism. This statement again demonstrates historical ignorance. Hyper-Calvinism is a particular movement that appeared in the mid 1700's that rejects the mandate to share the gospel, denies man's responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, and in some instances runs perilously close to making God the author of sin. The overwhelming majority of five-point Calvinists would reject each of these positions. Spurgeon, himself a five-point Calvinist denounced in the strongest measure these errors in Spurgeon and "hyper-Calvinism."
Now, those of you who know my theology know I am not a five-point Calvinist. I believe Unconditional Election is not incompatible with "the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures" (Abstract of Principles, art. IV), I affirm a Universal Provision with a Limited Application as it pertains to the Atonement, and I believe Effectual Calling to be a much better way to describe a significant aspect of the salvation process than Irresistible Grace. Further, anything that weakens the missionary passion of the church and the evangelistic favor of an individual is both dangerous and useless to the Church. Perhaps what some mean by "hyper-Calvinism" is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.
4) Calvinists are worse than Muslims. The irresponsibility of this statement is tragic. It is one thing to disagree with your brothers and sisters in Christ on a point of theology. It is incredible that you would place them in the category of unbelieving militants who murder innocent victims in the name of Allah. 5) Jesus was a Calvinist. Theological foolishness is not limited to one theological perspective. In a Pastor's Conference a few years ago one of my pulpit heroes made this statement. Recently a friend of mine wrote a book with one of the chapters entitled, "Christ, The Calvinist." Such statements are wrongheaded, and yes, again irresponsible, at several points. First, the statement is historically anachronistic. Second, it is Christologically disrespectful. Jesus is the Lord. He is the King. He is God. Our Savior is the grand subject of Christian theology. So whether it is Whitefield, Boice (men I greatly love and admire), or whomever, to call Jesus a Calvinist is theologically misguided and pastorally dangerous. Yes, Jesus believes God is sovereign but He also taught man is responsible. Yes, Jesus taught, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44), but He also gave us the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20). 6) You cannot teach your young people theology. I have a simple and direct challenge: try it. Try it and see what happens. I suspect you will be wonderfully surprised. I suspect some of you will be significantly put to the test! Though I could say much more let me conclude with a simple but helpful beatitude: "Blessed are the balanced, for they will avoid unhealthy extremes." This is true in doing theology. This is true in our speech. This is true for all aspects of the Christian life. I love you and thank God for you. May you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Daniel L. Akin
(HT :: Founders)

4 Comments:

Blogger Steve Weaver said...

I appreciate Dr. Akin for both this letter and his sermon to the SC Pastor's Conference. Thanks for post this, it deserves a wide circulation.

12/04/2006 05:42:00 AM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

Amen to his point on Jesus being a Calvinist! Well put.

12/05/2006 12:26:00 PM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Daniel,

But what about the rest of the article? Do you agree?

12/05/2006 01:02:00 PM

 
Blogger Daniel said...

I'm not really that connected with the SBC, so I watched as a curious bystander. "Baptist" is almost a dirty word in my part of the country. Most of the "Baptist" churches that I know are either KJV only or crazy legalistic. I did hear Jack Graham (isn't he a SBC guy?) slaughter a text at Moody's Founder's Week a couple of years back.

I do think that Ergun Caner is overreacted with the Calvinism and Muslim bit. Caner is more of a dispensational sub-calvinist. He likes eternal security, but the rest doesn't suit him. Anyone that would even consider debating James White probably has a few bolts loose (just a joke).

I have several friends in my church that are reformed and I know that they love to share the gospel so the evangelical Calvinist oxymoron deal is rather silly.

The argument for me is more about the problem of evil and the glory of God. The warnings in Scripture also play a big in my rejection of Calvinism.

12/05/2006 01:16:00 PM

 

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