Thursday, February 16, 2006

Founders Ministry Has Been Caned! News at 11!

From the comments here: Founders Blog


Well...after reading your comments about Dr Johnny Hunt- I am beside
myself. Completely.At one point, Dr. Ascol asks if you could perhaps change the
conversation...You should have listened. Classic case of the second generation
destroying the work of their fathers.

Uh-huh, like the generation that’s indexing baptism to eternal security at the IMB? Like the generation that hasn’t had a free election in years?

Knowing Dr Ascol and his reputation, I am certain he would be embarrassed by
your ruminations concerning Dr. Hunt.Have any of your grown a soul-winning
church like Woodstock?Do you send out missionaries every two weeks?

My home church is Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, formerly pastored by Dr. C. Mark Corts and pastored now by Al Gilbert, former assistant to Dr. Jerry Rankin. CBC is the second largest SBC church in NC. I served as a pastoral staff intern there for 3 years myself. Dr. Caner does not want to play "top the testimony" with me, nor does he want to examine the missionary record with me.

I would think this might be a good time to post the ACP for FBC Woodstock, assuming they have reported it in recent years. I wonder what the membership to attendance ratio looks like. I also wonder what retention and recidivism rates are. Has Dr. Caner not checked this?

Have any of you done ANYTHING accept kill your churches with sermons expounding
the Westminster Confession?Probably not.

As a matter of fact, we're preaching on Titus Chapter 1 at the moment, not the latest political fads, which I believe are quite the hot topic in Jerry Falwell's pulpit on an ongoing basis if going by his television ministry is an accurate assessment.

In our churches nearly all the members come to worship. In fact, when a member isn’t there, we usually know where they are. Compare this with Dr. Hunt’s church, Dr. Caner. About 40% come on any given Sunday morning. Of those, the SBC generally counts 1/3 as visitors. So, I wonder, where is the other 60 percent of FBC Woodstock’s membership on Sunday morning? Who then is lazy here, Dr. Caner?

I would guess that, unlike William Carey, most guys who are hyper about
Calvinism use it to justify your laziness.

What laziness? Does Dr. Caner have an insight into the ACP’s for the Founders Churches? No. I’d add that each of these churches has retained its members in worship.

What is FBC Woodstock’s retention rate? What is the attendance to membership ratio? How many members does it take to baptize one new member and how many baptisms does it take to increase attendance by one member.

Since when did the LCBF 1 or 2 or the Philadelphia Confession become known as a hyper-Calvinistic confession?

Oh, and let’s not forget your functionally Unitarian and Pelagian version of Christianity (the “Free Grace Theology”) I grew up listening to from Dr. Falwell’s pulpit, the one where he extolled Charles Finney as a great evangelist. Dr. Caner, if your methods and your soteriology has truly been effective, why are we still fighting the “culture war?”

You remind me of the Latter Rain folks who constantly pray that Satan be bound. Well, if they really believed that he is bound when they pray, why do they constantly pray he be bound, shouldn’t he be bound? I know churches that brag about their professions of faith and baptismal numbers, but when you “do the math,” Dr. Caner, you realize that, if what they were doing was valid work, then everybody in the city would be a member of those churches by now.

Ah, but this is where your antinominian version of “eternal security” kicks in I bet. This must be where it becomes a “get out of jail free card” for you and your kind. Since sanctification is a second blessing and you believe true believers can apostatize and still be counted among the elect. I do believe that's how the Herb Reavis, Johnny Hunt, Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin, Dave Hunt, Jack Graham set preaches.

Also, Dr. Caner supports indexing eternal security to baptism in the new IMB policies, which requires, ultimately that you declare Arminian churches are not true churches. That is one of the central tenets of hyper-Calvinism. Who then is the hyper-Calvinist?

I BEG of you- PLEASE bring another name to the floor of the SBC. I would be thrilled to watch that person go down in flames, as we enjoy another conservative who has not adopted semi-Presbyterianism. On the positive side, you can always just "punt" and say it was predestined for you to lose.

Readers should know that Dr. Caner is a professor at the seminary run by Jerry Falwell. Is this the example of one who is give an answer with gentleness? Perhaps Dr. Caner needs to take a look at the requirements for eldership in Titus.

On the other hand, perhaps we can forgive him of his ignorance. Liberty Baptist Church is not historically an SBC church. Dr. Caner should refrain from acting as if he has some kind of corner on Southern Baptist theology, history, or politics since the university he serves and the church that sponsors it was brought into the Convention after the Conservative Resurgence had begun.

And I DOUBT if Dr Akin would like too be joined in with the others listed. He wouldn't fit anyway. He still gives invitations, and attends a church with Baptist polity, instead of an oligarchy.
Dr. Caner appears to be misinformed about Baptist polity. A plurality of elders is a classic Baptist formulation. Modern Reformed Baptist churches often use a plurality of elders that are ruling. Others blend a plurality of elders with congregational polity. Still others have retained the more traditional system of the past century. Instead of actually dealing with truth, Dr. Caner simply builds a man of straw to attack and proudly declares he has defeated the Jolly Green Giant.

Notice that none of these men has ever attempted to justify the invitation system from Scripture. Don't hold your breath.

Note this is also an attack piece from a guest on the Founders blog. This ranks up there with the "Neenerneenerneener!" Defense.

Johnny Hunt is not "anti-Calvinistic." He is a soul-winner. You do the math.

Certainly. Johnny Hunt has told staff members at his church to leave because they are Calvinists. Woodstock, Georgia is littered with the results of his “soul-winning,” either through apostasy or through those who have left the church complaining that Dr. Hunt never gets out of “Jesus Loves Me” mode long enough to teach an expository sermon on doctrine. Many a member has been asked to leave because he comes to affirm the doctrines of grace, so many in fact that one of the complaints I get from Calvinists in that part of Georgia is that they come out of FBC Woodstock so bitter that they stay in the "Closet Stage" (You know, the mean Calvinist stage) longer than many others, because Hunt and his followers go out of their way to attack them. It's rather interesting isn't it. Folks complain about mean-spirited Calvinists down there, and, in my experience at least, many of them come from this church and are "mean" because they've been treated the way they have. They sometimes train attack dogs that way.

And just because you cannot answer the questions concerning your views of predetermined fatalism does not make his arguments "straw men."

Pardon me? This is from a man who has declined debate Calvinism when asked and behaves slightly better than Dave Hunt on his better days. He is on record, if I recall hearing James White correctly awhile back, as having called Calvinism a cult, and each and every one of the questions that he and Hunt and their kind have ever asked as been answered by either one of us or by Reformed theologians. There is a vast literature on the subject. Does he ever bother to read it?

As for fatalism. Dr. Caner teaches theology. Apparently, he is unaware of what “fatalism” is. “Fatalism” means something will happen no matter what we do. I'd add that "predetermined fatalism" requires libertarian free will to be fatalism. John Frame once said in regard to the difference between Determinism & Fatalism: Determinism means that all events are rendered unavoidable by the causes, which include our choices. Fatalism says all events will happen, regardless of our choices.

Does this apply to Calvinism? No. It applies to Dr. Caner's theology.

Calvinism denies libertarian freedom. . Since God is not actively foreknowing and predestinating people, in the Arminian system, which is the system Dr. Caner believes, we see real impersonal determinism working itself out by way of real fatalism. Thus the free will position that seeks to preserve man’s freedom of choice is, in reality, impersonal and fixed, thus being both deterministic and fatalistic. The only way to make it less fixed is the way of Open Theism, which denies the omniscience and omnipotence of God! The Calvinist position is personal, and God is active in the lives of people who make real choices with real moral boundaries. Calvinism is thus inherently personal for both God and man! We agree with Arminians that real, impersonal determinism and fatalism are repugnant to God and man and perversion of the gospel.

Since this is event of believing or rejecting fixed, how is this any less a fixed event than what the Calvinist believes? After all, from God’s perspective, it is unchangeable; since the argument is that election is based on who He knows ahead of time will believe in Christ or reject Him. The Arminian tries to put forth this objection on the basis that we Calvinists are limiting human freedom. However, clearly, this objection is vain, since the Arminian position is just as fixed, if not more so, than ours. It also amounts to little more than salvation by chance, since nobody is effectively drawn, and all believe for different reasons, including random chance.

Ergo, it is Dr. Caner who believes in "predetermined fatalism” since he affirms that election results from “foreseen faith" and repudiates Open Theism.

I’d add that if monergistic regeneration and its corollary doctrines are “fatalism” then so is the inspiration of Scripture as inerrant and infallible. If Dr. Caner was consistent, he would deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

Like Beza, this next generation will ruin what men such as Dr Ascol built.
Drawing our attention to the Charleston stream of the SBC is a good thing.

Yes, I agree, but not because, as you are assuming wrongly that the Charleston Stream was anti-missions or evangelism.

Would that be the Charleston stream that approached Sandy Creek for union? Would that be the Charleston stream that supported missions? Would that be the Sandy Creek stream who planted churches and associations that each adopted the Philadelphia Confession?

For a theology professor, Dr. Caner surely is an ignorant man. He needs a history lesson. He is referencing the "Two Stream Theory" of SBC history. At one time, SBC historians attempted to assert that the SBC was formed from "Two streams" of Baptists, one in Charleston and the other, the Sandy Creek Stream, which was missionary oriented and "moderately Calvinistic." This has since been coopted by Dr. Caner and some of his colleagues, including Paige Patterson, who use it to attack Reformed theology and insist the revivalistic Sandy Creekers were somehow not as theologically stringent as their more confessional brethren in Charleston.

Let's look at the actual history. I live not far from Sandy Creek myself, so I happen to be in a position to know more than the average bear about that history.

On November 7, 2005, Sandy Creek Baptist Church celebrated its 250th Anniversary. The church was founded in 1755 by Shubal Stearns and his brother-in-law Daniel Marshall. Within 17 years, the church had a membership of 600. It spawned 42 other churches. Many Southern Baptist historians look to Sandy Creek Church as one of two tributaries that eventually formed the Southern Baptist Convention in the 19th century. These historians follow a popularized theory from Walter Shurden and Fisher Humphreys--men that no SBC "inerrancy leader" would ever confuse with being conservative-and they further use this theory to allege that the “high church” Charlestonians were confessional Calvinists, while those in the Sandy Creek Association were either opposed to Calvinism or believed in a “softer” Calvinism, which most read as the “moderate” Calvinism that is prevalent in the Southern Baptist Convention today. Moreover, they imply that the Charlestonians were less evangelistic than the Sandy Creek Association. (See: Fisher Humphreys, The Way We Were: How Southern Baptist Theology Has Changed and What it Means to Us All (New York: McCracken Press, 1994), 85. Humphreys follows the view of Walter Shurden as set forth in "The 1980-81 Carver-Barnes Lectures" (Wake Forest: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1980).

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has, in multiple forums repeated this same thesis. According to a recent Baptist Press report (Gregory Tomlin, Sandy Creek: Tributary of Baptist life celebrates 250 Years, Nov. 7, 2005) “Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson preached at the church during its anniversary celebration. “Of all the honors and kindnesses extended to me over the years, none is so great as being asked by your pastor to come here on this anniversary of Sandy Creek Baptist Church,” Patterson said. He said Baptists usually describe the “Southern Baptist river as flowing from two tributaries, one having its beginning in Charleston, S.C., the more Reformed tradition of Baptist life, and the other at Sandy Creek.” “I am a Sandy Creeker. If I could manage to have honorary church membership in any church in the Southern Baptist Convention, it would be Sandy Creek,” Patterson said, adding that he fully appreciated what the church has carried on throughout the years. “We Sandy Creekers still believe we are in the era of evangelism, missions and great revival.”

This thesis is false. Not only did the Charleston Association support the missionary efforts of the Regular Baptists of that day, Sandy Creek Association was thoroughly Calvinistic.

Cultural and Social Factors Affecting Sandy Creek Church

NC is a state divided between East and West. In the East, all the rivers run North to South. In the West (Sandy Creek being in the Eastern Piedmont in present day Randolph County), our rivers run in an East/West fashion. Consequently, the Eastern part of NC is culturally very like Charleston and Eastern SC. Here, in the Piedmont and parts west of here, we tend to have a different culture. We are more conservative politically and, usually, theologically. The East was, until the middle of the last century, the center of politics, commerce, and education in NC. Sandy Creek in present day Liberty was NC's frontier in those days.

The "missionary zeal" of Sandy Creek Association is not a function of its theology. This can be seen in its confessional documents. The "bookishness" of Charleston was not a function of its theology either. Others have written at length in the articles at Founders. What then accounts for the differences between the two strands, if their differences are not theological? I have a theory based on the cultural history of our state.

The Eastern counties were, during the Antebellum period, very much the cradle of civilization in both Carolinas. In NC, nearly our entire political history is the history of struggle between the East and the West. The Charlestonians were more prone to "writing books," because they were in a very stable geographical area, in a port city, and a city, by those standards, metropolitan by comparison to the middle of NC. Life was simply easier for them than it was for their brothers to the northwest. Consequently, they simply had more resources and more time in comparison to those living on the frontier.

Group migrations to the Piedmont of NC were made by German Lutherans and Moravians and Reformed settlers from Pennsylvania beginning in the late 1740s; Scots-Irish Presbyterians from the Pennsylvania-Maryland border area in the 1750s; Quakers from many locations in the 1750s; scattered Virginia Baptists organized meetings in the 1750s; and Methodists from the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1770s and 1780s.

Sandy Creek was on the NC frontier in those days. In many ways, it's still the same. Today "thar ain't nuttin' but the NC Zoo" in Randolph County, NC. Salem, the Moravian settlement, had been established to the West in present day Forsyth County. Guilford County was much larger, and Greensboro itself was not established until 1808. In 1829, Greensboro itself had a population of 470 people. Sandy Creek Church alone had a membership of 600!

Churches were often established by circuit riders. Most any denomination would do in those days. When a pastor from-insert denomination here-came to lead a new church, the circuit rider left, and the churches took on the character of the theology of the pastors that came, unless there was a large variance between what the people believed and what the new pastor taught. That's why, down East, you see lots of Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, and, the further East you move, the more Baptists and Methodists appear in NC. Presbyterian churches, with the exception of Mecklenburg, which was largely settled by Presbyterians, are few and far between in the Piedmont by comparison to Baptists and, later, Methodists, because the Presbyterians would either establish their own churches and only occasionally would a Presbyterian pick up a church planted by a circuit rider, because the Presbyterians spent (as they continue to do today) lots of time educating their teaching elders before sending them out. More Baptists were self-taught men coming from the established Baptist churches in those days and many were men prone to hear a call for a pastor from a circuit rider and come to them directly from other frontier churches that had been established. Stearns came when he heard of the need for a preacher in that part of NC. Essentially, Stearns was a circuit riding preacher that established the church and never left it.

This is all to say that the differences in the two strands are, in point of fact, cultural, not theological. Take for example, the practices of love feasts, dedication of children, and the selection of moderators mentioned in Josh Powell's article at Founders. As a North Carolinian, I have to smile, because I can see how these practices would seem odd to a PA Baptist in that day.

It's rather well understood here that many of our practices in this part of NC were borrowed from each other. Love feasts are a tradition in this part of NC, primarily in the Moravian churches, and, in the present day, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians practice them at Christmas time, precisely because of the Moravian influence. The Moravians were well established during this period, and, compared to Charleston, were more readily accessible for trade to Sandy Creek Church's members than the Charelstonians. In fact, Moravians composed the majority of the next large community, Salem, (now Winston-Salem, NC, where I grew up). No doubt, the Sandy Creek folks saw this practice, for the Moravians were a people known for their hospitality, and, like we do today, thought it was good for their fellowship.

The practice of devoting children would seem odd to a Philadelphia Baptist, but not to a NC Baptist in Sandy Creek. Why? Answer: No doubt, they likely were influenced by Mecklenburg Presbyterians and Salem Moravians who were just west of the area, the Cumberland Presbyterians who were to the immediate east, and the Raleigh Episcopalians who were to the northeast. All of these were within trading distance of the association at that time and accessible. Cumberland / Hanover County Presbyterians and Mecklenburg Presbyterians in particular frequently migrated through the corridor that includes Randolph County (then Guilford County) to the north, often stopping to form new settlements or being absorbed into existing ones.

Some of the leadership practices and the freedom of speech for women (for instance, the choosing of moderators) should come as no great surprise for an association of Baptists in Guilford County. No doubt, they were influenced in some measure by interaction with Quakers, who settled just north of Sandy Creek in present day Greensboro, NC in the New Garden area and Cane Creek in present day Orange County. Quakers also settled in Alamance. All of these border present day Randolph County. To this very day, Guilford County, NC, Randolph County's immediate neighbor, is known for the number of churches established by the Society of Friends and boasts of it in its historical markers. By orderly Baptist standards in Philadelphia (or Charleston) it would be odd, but not to Baptists in Guilford, particularly with their Friends to their immediate north acting very like them.

No doubt, Charleston was "bookish" and more orderly, but then so was everybody else in the Coastal Carolinas in those days. They were anchored in a city. Sandy Creek was missionary oriented because they were on the frontier, and, on the frontier Shubal Stearns New Light heart for establishing new churches was greatly needed and could come to full bloom. The church and the association adopted the frontier spirit of Western North Carolinians in those days. It was the spirit of the times. They were never as dour and orderly as their metropolitan cousins. Not many people on the frontier in the Piedmont were like the people Down East. In fact, the folks Down East thought of them as ruffians.

Even the Mecklenburg Presbyterians shared in this spirit. Remember, in 1775, those same Presbyterians issued the Mecklenburg Declaration, which said, by unanimous resolution, the people free and independent and all laws and commissions from the king were henceforth null and void, but their Scots-Irish brothers in Cumberland and Hanover Down East in NC remained largely loyal to the crown! This was the culture and spirit of the NC frontier!. This is why God was pleased, "through the establishment of the nature of second causes" (in this case a prevailing "frontier spirit" in the dominant culture of the people), to make Sandy Creek more noticeably revivalist and evangelistic, and not as static and bookish as their Philadelphia and Charleston brethren.

If a historian speaks of the more studied character of Charlestonian Baptists, I will agree. It seems to be true that they tended to look before they leaped when planting churches and doing missions, but that is a cultural idiom, not the product of a theological paradigm. Virtually all of the denominations Down East did the same thing. Why? It is merely the temperament of the culture and geography at work, not the result of theology. They were settled in more cosmopolitan areas. They produced more orderly congregations. They tended to be well-educated people who approached life more thoughtfully, perhaps even thinking the frontiersmen comported themselves in a more cavalier manner. In NC, the Westerners believed the Easterners constantly "looked down their noses" at them, and more than one dispute arose between the West and East in the General Assembly itself because of this divide. If the Westerners in the Carolinas were the soul of their colonies, the Easterners were the thinkers, the minds of those colonies. The two geographical areas were disjointed due to the course of the rivers. No wonder they developed different characters; no wonder the two streams differed in many respects!

The Sandy Creek Confession

Others have undertaken fuller explanations of the Sandy Creek tradition. I refer to the reader to an article by Josh Powell, "Shubal Stearns and the Separate Baptist Tradition," Founders Journal, Spring 2001, pp. 16 -31. For our discussion here, this will do:

Principles of Faith of The Sandy Creek Association - 1816
We believe that there is only one true and living God; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. equal in essence, power and glory; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.
2. That Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and only rule of faith and practice.
3. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.
4. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit, and justification in his sight only by imputation of Christ righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.
5. We believe that there will be a resurrection from the dead, and a general judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
6. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other, and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another; having agreed to keep up a godly discipline, according to the rules of the Gospel.
7. That Jesus Christ is the great head of the church and that the government thereof is with the body.
8. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming.
9. That true believers are the only fit subjects of baptism; and that immersion is the only mode.
10. That the church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to communion at the Lord’s Table.

Compare this with Dr. Patterson's understanding of the Sandy Creek Association and his soteriology. Dr. Patterson asserts that the Sandy Creek folks were not Reformed. Folks, this is the same argument that "moderates" in the Convention make against Calvinism in the SBC when they appeal to "historic Baptist principles," leaving out pertinent material. In plain language, this is called "historical revisionism."

Dr. Patterson (and Dr. Caner) is either ignorant of the primary source material or putting forth a false antithesis and then anachronistically reading his own preconceptions and theology back into Baptist history and concluding that, because the Sandy Creek Association was highly evangelistic, they must have been non-Reformed. Obviously, "that dog won't hunt." There were differences between Sandy Creek and Charleston, but not along Calvinist and Arminian lines.

Objections to Portraying the Sandy Creek Association as Staunch Calvinists

When I first began writing about this issue at, the blog for Founders Ministries, a professor from Southwestern Seminary contacted me. At the conclusion of our discussion, he asked that I publish our discussion, feeling that I had made a very strong case, but remove his name. I agreed. What follows is our email dialogue:

His original email stated:
Although I think the whole 'two streams' business is dubious, I want to make sure that every plank in that case against it is solid. And it's just not clear to me that appeal to the Principles of Faith of The Sandy Creek Association - 1816 does the trick. First, it's at least 65 years after the founding of the
church, correct? But second, and more importantly, I don't see where "4 of the 5 points of Calvinism" (as Ascol claims in his article) are really in the document.

Paragraph 3 does say "that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed." But compare this to 1689 LBCF VI.2-4. The Principles restrict depravity to an inability "to regain the state in which he was primarily placed," rather than offer it as a reason why, for example, "we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil" (LBCF VI.4). And whereas the LBCF says that *Adam's* corrupted nature was inherited by us, the
Principles simply say that "human nature is corrupt," while remaining silent as to the source of that corruption (is it our own choices, or the choice of Adam?). Portraying this as a toning down or moderating of the doctrine is not anachronistic; the Charleston and Philadelphia Confessions (verbatim copies of the LBCF) were widely available and in use at the time, correct?

Re: election, paragraph 4 simply says "we believe in election from eternity." But this is compatible with believing that election is not unconditional, but is rather based on foreseen faith, right? Again, compare this with the much more specific statement in the LBCF III.5. Why leave this out if you really believe
in unconditional election?

Re: limited atonement, I don't see anything here on that topic, but no one claims this anyway.

Re: irresistible grace, yes, there is the use of the phrase "effectual calling," but it is left wholly undefined.

I agree, however, that there is a clear statement of the perseverance of the saints.

So it looks to me like maybe 1 1/2 points are there, but that's about it. (Perhaps more charitably, I should say that one point is there, and then three half points :-) As far as I can tell, even Patterson would agree that man is unable to save himself by his own free will. Patterson would agree with election from eternity (based on foreknowledge, of course). And of course he'd agree with perseverance. Perhaps the sticking point is effectual calling, though.

I realize that appeal can and has been made to Basil Manly Sr., who chaired the group that wrote the Principles? But the fact remains that the content fails to affirm what most Calvinists affirm on these topics, so some explanation is needed. I could be totally wrong about this (parsing these documents is not my area of expertise), but it *looks* to me like it's a moderate Calvinism at best, and in fact compatible with some things that Calvinists would definitely deny.

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? I'm essentially trying to come up with ways a detractor could poke holes in this appeal to the Sandy Creek Principles. It's an attractive argument, but I want to make sure it works before I use it :-)

Let's look at these objections:

Paragraph 3 does say "that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed." But compare this to 1689 LBCF VI.2-4. The Principles restrict depravity to an inability "to regain the state in which he was primarily placed," rather than offer it as a reason why,
for example, "we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil" (LBCF VI.4). And whereas the LBCF says that *Adam's* corrupted nature was inherited by us, the Principles simply say that "human nature is corrupt," while remaining silent as to the source of that corruption (is it our own choices, or the choice of Adam?).
The full text reads:
That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily place.

I realize I have to read this through Calvinist eyes. However, the first statement is abundantly clear: The result of the fall is the imputation of Adam's sin to Adam's posterity. Following this, in the same sentence, we see that human nature is corrupt. I interpret that is being a result of the choice of Adam and the imputation of his sin to us. As I read the Abstract, and remembering that genuine Arminianism includes a doctrine of prevenient grace (something a lot of non-Reformed Baptists, I think you will agree, don't discuss when they articulate soteriology from the pulpit these days), I notice that this is absent in the Abstract in favor of referring to "effectual calling," I have to agree with Tom and Josh.
If those two points were moderated, I would also expect something that could be construed as a reference to prevenient grace or a statement about calling being co-extensive with the atonement, being equally possible for all men, or a declaration about the freedom of the will. None of these are present in this document, yet one or more of these are usually found in Arminian Baptist confessions of the time.

In his response, this professor replied,
“That’s a good point. The burden would be on the two-streams advocate to explain why typical Arminian statements are not present when they could have been present, and *are* present in documents the Arminian status of which is uncontroversial.”

Re: limited atonement, I don't see anything here on that topic, but no one claims this anyway.

This is probably because of the controversy of 1775 within the Virginia Separate Baptists. Robert Semple wrote unapprovingly of those who fell away into Arminianism. In 1775, he wrote of a controversy over general atonement within the VA Separates. Upon a vote, it was defeated, but they also decided to tolerate the presence of the minority and, in a letter by John Williams, their moderator, prayed that the minority would be convinced of the truth of particular atonement and extended them the hand of fellowship. IMO, they could have been aware of this and therefore chose to omit a reference to particular atonement at the time they drafted their Abstract in 1816.

election, paragraph 4 simply says "we believe in election from eternity." But this is compatible with believing that election is not unconditional, but is rather based on foreseen faith, right? Again, compare this with the much more specific statement in the LBCF III.5. Why leave this out if you really believe
in unconditional election?
Perhaps, but consider:

They could leave it out, because NC churches in that part of NC that were "general" Baptists usually called themselves Free Will Baptists and everybody knew who they were already. By virtue of not being identified with them, the Sandy Creek Association can be identified with the Reformed side of the aisle on this doctrine.

Free Will churches populate the central and eastern part of the state, with a few in the mountains. I had never heard of them until I attended Wingate in the late 80's and passed by them on mission trips with the BSU through the central part of the state. They began calling General Baptist churches in NC Free Will Baptists ca. 1793. By 1803, it was in common usage. The Free Will churches in NC have no history of looking to or claiming the Sandy Creek Abstract as being at all in agreement with their doctrines.

Prior to the adoption of this Abstract, Sandy Creek Association split into 3 associations; the Virginia Association was one of them. It rejected the Philadelphia Confession when uniting with the Regulars in 1787, because
"After considerable debate as to the propriety of having any confession of faith at all, the report of the committee was received with the following explanation: To prevent the confession of faith from usurping a tyrannical power &over the conscience of any, we do not mean that every person is bound to the strict observance of everything therein contained; yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the Gospel, and that the doctrine of salvation by Christ and free, and unmerited grace alone ought to be believed by every minister of the Gospel. Upon these terms we are united; and desire hereafter that the names Regular and Separate be buried in oblivion, and that from henceforth, we shall be known by the name of the United Baptists Churches of Christ in Virginia."
Notice: they didn't reject it because of doctrine. They rejected it because of the way they thought of confessions.

Prior to Sandy Creek adopting more formal Articles of Faith, the Georgia Association was constituted in 1784. It was composed, in part, by several churches which Daniel Marshall, Stearns' brother-in-law helped constitute, including Kiohee Church where he served as pastor until his death in 1784. Also, Elder Silas Mercer, formerly a member of Kehukee Church, in the Kehukee Association, was involved with the constitution of the Georgia Association.

Article 4 of the Georgia Association Articles of Faith reads;
"We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal
election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory: And that
there was a covenant of Grace or redemption made between the Father and the Son,
before the world began, in which salvation is secure, and that they in
particular are redeemed."
Article six further demonstrates Daniel Marshall believed in sovereign grace.
"We believe that all those who were chosen in Christ, will be effectually
called, regenerated, converted, sanctified, and supported by the spirit and
power of God, so that they shall persevere in grace and not one of them be
finally lost."

Between the writing of the 1816 Abstract and the founding of Sandy Creek Church itself, controversy erupted in VA in the Kekukee Association. That Association began as an association of Arminian churches, until 1765. Calvinism's introduction is attributed to Stearns before coming to NC after stopping in that Association. When they reformed, they adopted the Philadelphia Confession and then later developed their own confession. In 1777, the wrote their own confession. On this issue, it said:

3. We believe that God, before the foundation of the world, for a purpose of His own glory, did elect a certain number of men and angels to eternal life and that His election is particular, eternal and unconditional on the creature's part.

4. We believe that, when God made man first, he was perfect, holy and upright, able to keep the law, but liable to fall, and that he stood as a federal head, or representative, of all his natural offspring and that they were partakers of the benefits of his obedience or exposed to the misery which sprang
from his disobedience.

5. We believe that Adam fell from his state of moral rectitude, and that he involved himself and all his natural offspring in a state of death; and, for that original transgression, we are both guilty and
filthy in the sight of our holy God.

6. We believe that it is utterly out of the power of men, as fallen creatures, to keep the law of God perfectly, repent of their sins truly, or believe in Jesus Christ, except they be drawn by
the Holy Ghost.

7. We believe in God's appointed time and way (by means which He has obtained) the elect shall be called, justified and sanctified, and that it is impossible they can utterly refuse the call, but shall be made willing by divine grace to receive the offers of mercy. (emphasis mine)

Note the point in parenthesis points to hyper-Calvinism, in fact Primitive Baptist historians, I believe, point to this document in order to document a confession of their doctrines on this point. (See A Welsh Succession of Primitive Baptist Faith and Practice by Elder Michael N. Ivey @

Here is where Article 4 of the 1816 Sandy Creek Association strongly differs:
We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit of God, and justification in his sight only by the imputation of Christ's righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will persevere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.

Note the absence of the parenthetical statement. I think they are affirming the traditional Reformed understandings of election, calling, justification, and perseverance and, at the same time, denying equal ultimacy and affirming the free offer of the gospel, in contrast to their daughter association in Article 7 of their confession. I don't think it is a stretch to think that this would very likely have been on their minds when they wrote the Abstract. One of their daughters had fallen toward hyper-Calvinism.

I think this is important to remember, because it gives us insight into the mind of Separate Baptists of Virginia who had at one time withheld fellowship from Kehukee Association because they viewed them as disorderly in the conduct of the ordinance of baptism. This is also important, because Stearns introduced Calvinism to the Kehukee Association before coming to NC. So, we have here what amounts to a sister association spelling out what the neighboring confession omits, while simultaneously raising an issue the parent association will later seek to rectify in its own confession Is this proof the Sandy Creek folks believed this? No, but given certain other events in their history at this time, I think it is a bigger stretch to read foreseen faith or more moderating Calvinism into the document than it is to do otherwise, considering the parent document (the parent church's covenant) and the histories of their daughter churches.

Circa 1780, Sandy Creek Association established some churches in TN near Boon's Creek. That church is there now, Buffaloe Ridge. If my information is correct, Johnathan Mulky is pastor there now and can inform you further on their original documents.

In 1781, Sandy Creek Association supervised a group of TN churches, which became Holston Association (in E. TN) in 1786. Until they organized formally they submitted to the inspection and direction of Sandy Creek Association. The distance involved made this relationship difficult to maintain, so, with the approval of the parent Association, they formally organized. It was composed of 7 churches. Kendrick’s Creek, Bent Creek, Beaver Creek, Greasy Cove, Cherokee, North Fork of Holston, and Lower French Broad. These churches were composed of Separate and Regular Baptists, but the two groups are known to have agreed in matters of theology. Holston Association adopted the Philadelphia Confession.

What about the parent document of the 1816 Abstract? We do know that the original church covenant read:
"Holding believers baptism; the laying on of hands; particular election of grace by the predestination of God in Christ; effectual calling by the Holy Ghost; free justification through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ; progressive sanctification through God's grace and truth; and final perseverance, or continuance of the saints in grace; the resurrection of these bodies after death, at the day which God has appointed to judge the quick and dead by Jesus Christ, by the power of God and by the resurrection of Christ; and life everlasting. Amen."

This is the most likely basis of their Abstract, so, in my opinion, it should be used to frame our understanding of what they meant. Given the history of Sandy Creek Church until then (and later, note below), I can't imagine they would read it in a different manner than the church covenant, and the writing from the elders, churches, and associations she produced supports a solidly Reformed understanding of these doctrines. As you can see, it too is very brief, but I don't think it follows that Stearns was at variance with the traditional Reformed understanding of these items.

The problem with this Abstract is that it's just that: an abstract, not a detailed confession. As such, it's an outline. However, how would Separate Baptists of that time understood election, particularly those in the mother church, given what we know about the fruit they produced in their daughter churches and elders and the beliefs of her founders? You'd have to believe that they wrote their Abstract 50 years after being established, were examined by Separate Baptists who extended fellowship to them, and yet they disagreed over theology as well as practice and spawned no less than three associations that very certainly did not moderate their views/move toward Arminian doctrine. Additionally, one would expect to find somebody writing about dissent over these issues. That's not there (though this may be due to the church fire of 1810).

Finally, the church that split from the mother church was, in fact, a Primitive Baptist Church. In fact, no church which they formed includes Arminian statements of beliefs in their constitution.

It's also important to remember that the Sandy River Church itself split in 1830, some 15 years after the date of the Abstract, 70 years after the founding of the mother church, according to the current pastor, over the issue of Sunday School! (See Bob Burchette, "Mother Church of Southern Baptists Marks Anniversary," Greensboro News and Record, Nov.5, 2005). I say that with some humor considering some of the controversies Baptists face today. The parent church wanted to start a Sunday School. The group that did not wish to start the Sunday School remained on the church property for a time and built a new church.

That church was named “Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church.” That name alone speaks to the theological beliefs that they must have held. Remember, this was 1830, 14 years after the Abstract was adopted. There is no record, to my knowledge, of the two churches disagreeing over theology at that time or of the departing church disagreeing with the Abstract of the parent association, and the church fire that destroyed records was 20 years prior, so such records should exist. I have never read the original church covenant for this church. I would think it would provide some insight into the beliefs of those who formed SCPBC, particularly if they adopted wording similar to the 1816 Abstract and were welcomed as Primitive Baptists. However, for me, personally, this is the "clincher." A person reading the Abstract in a looser manner would have to account for the daughter churches and associations' histories, particularly this one, since it was organized after the Abstract was adopted and sprung from the mother church itself, without record of a dispute over these doctrines, during a time in which men in this region wrote to each other prayerfully when there was substantial disagreement over doctrine.

Portraying this as a toning down or moderating of the doctrine is not anachronistic; the Charleston and Philadelphia Confessions (verbatim copies of the LBCF) were widely available and in use at the time, correct?

True, but consider: The brevity of the confessions and lack of borrowing from the LCBF or the Philadelphia Confession can be attributed to the general reticence to the use of creeds and confession by the Separate Baptists in this region as a whole. These were folks who wrote letters praying for their Arminian cousins to embrace the doctrines of grace. One would expect, if there was a softening due to a moderating in theology itself, that we would have some record of it. To my knowledge the opposite is true, particularly if you consider the daughter churches and associations this association mothered. I think "toning down" of the confessions in NC at this time can be accounted for as a general trend, not a result of soteriological differences, and for this reason I would think it is more likely anachronistic reading that says otherwise, since this particular phenomenon can be accounted for by other means that, at least to me, makes more sense. In 1815, Francis Oliver said of creeds and confessions, as Moderator of Neuse Association, the neighbor association wrote:

“They cast contempt upon the Scriptures, and their authors, assuming the prerogative of Christ, they presuppose that the Scriptures are imperfect, and short of being in themselves a sufficient rule for a Church; forasmuch as they add traditions that are not to be found in the word of God and bind them upon their adherents by which they are led to read and consider those writings more than the Scriptures, thereby lay a greater stress upon them, and so to be like those that seem somewhat in the Church and less regard Christ and his word. This is contempt indeed.”
Let's recap. Looking at this, I think, in order to read election via foreseen faith or any other non-Reformed doctrine into the Abstract, one would have to conclude that a Primitive Baptist Church split from the parent church and all the Calvinists went there, but that would also mean that there was a group of dyed in the wool Calvinists in the church that sat there for 70 years before splitting from the church 15 odd years after the Abstract, with no record of a dispute over theology within the church or between the 2 churches or the association before or after the split...during an age where there was much less disparity between what persons believed and what they did not believe with respect to adhering to confessions, abstracts, and creeds, if they were used at all; in addition to the church covenant reading in a Reformed manner and nobody raising concerns that Free Will doctrine was being believed and taught within the parent church, whose covenant likely formed the basis of the Abstract, in a region in which Arminian/General Baptist churches intentionally self-identified (to this very day) as "Free Will Baptists," specifically to distinguish themselves from their Particular (Separate and Regular) Baptist brothers, and with no Free Will Baptist historian (to my knowledge) claiming that the 1816 Confession could be read in any way other than a traditionally Reformed manner.

Additionally, one would have to believe that, in their union with the Charleston Association later on, that Sandy Creek did the opposite of the Kehukee Association (who had begun Arminian) by moderating its doctrine but then later they reformed like Kehukee. It would be, to my knowledge, the only association to have begun as Reformed, moderated itself, then tightened its reforms, while, at the same time, supervising associations during the gap in which the "moderation" would have occurred that, when they (those daughters) organized adopted the Philadelphia Confession, and that also helped spawn Georgia Association through the parent church's own brother-in-law who is known to have held to the beliefs of the parent pastor, and this daughter association also very clearly affirmed the doctrines of grace, while the parent association moderated its stance.

I don't know about you, but that requires some hefty mental gymnastics that border on the gymnastics on higher biblical critical theories. What would those words have meant to those individuals in that time and place? This is the same question we ask of the Biblical text. We should do that here. I think the simplest conclusion based on the available evidence points toward Sandy Creek's abstract being quite solidly in the Reformed tradition, supporting the traditional understanding of the doctrines of grace. A non-Reformed reading of the Sandy Creek documents and their work requires too many ad hoc explanations. The simplest, most straightforward reading of their history points to them being Reformed and simply not feeling the need to spell out their beliefs in a detailed confession for reasons that can be attributed to their own life situation at that time and place.

After I published that lesson, I received a response from one of Dr. Caner’s ilk, so I did some further research that further confirmed my conclusions.

That objection read:

By the end of the 18th century, the Regulars and the Separate Baptists began to form unions because of their common interest in religious liberty. I believe their moderate Calvinism had a significant influence.

Actually, the opposite is true. By their own words, the Regulars and Separates were already in fullagreement on their doctrines, some Separates even using the more stringentconfessions.

1. By their own words, the Regulars and Separates were already in full agreement on their doctrines, some Separates even using the more stringent confessions.
2. They first made overtures because of the Revolution, "matters of national concern."
3. The Separates came to see that they needed confessional Baptists because they were having regular problems with ordination. The laying on of hands was an issue of contention between them and Regulars for some time. The Regulars felt the ordination standards of Separates were too lax; Separates found the Regulars too rigorous. Some Separate elders began moderating their views, some toyed with Arminianism. The Separates found this unacceptable, and began uniting with Regulars to stop this. Robert Semple noted of the Separates at first, that,
"They did not entirely approve of the practice of religious societies binding themselves too strictly by confessions of faith, seeing there was danger of their finally usurping too high a place."
4. They united because the Separates, as they grew in number, saw the need for more formality and a confessional approach in ordering their churches and preventing a moderation in doctrine, and the Regulars found in the Separates an outlet for their theological convictions and desire to have more ready access to the frontier, which was the mission field of the day.
5. The term "moderate Calvinism" simply shorthand to insinuate the Regulars were not evangelistic. This is false as well. Robert Semple wrote of the Separates,
"A large majority believed "as much in their confession of faith [the Philadelphia Confession] as they [the Regulars]did themselves."
Oliver Hart of FBC Charleston called a meeting of the Charleston Assoc. to secure missionary labors to the interior of neighboring states, before Sandy Creek was founded. Later Richard Furman helped organize the General Missionary Convention. One of the stated priorities of the Charleston Association was home missions. There is simply no evidence Charleston Association was not evangelistic.

You can see this in that the New Hampshire confession of Faith was so quickly adopted and the old Philadelphia/ Second London Confession of faith was dropped.

Because those documents are 95 % from the WCF and are highly restrictive for doing church! This is the same reason many Reformed Baptist churches today use that Confession. There is simply no record that "moderate Calvinism" played a role in this shift. Churches and associations had been moving away from those confessions since the 1770's, because they are unwieldy. When they wrote their own, they agreed with the LCBF and Philadelphia Confessions.
So, the “Charleston Stream” that Dr. Caner repudiates, is, in point of fact the stream that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession. I wonder, Dr. Caner, of the 263 churches that formed the SBC, how many affirmed the Philadelphia Confession?

I’d add also, Dr. Caner, that you are very clearly drawing on a thesis by Dr. Walter Shurden. I’m sure the trustees of your seminary would be interested in knowing why you are repeating a thesis by a man who is no inerrantist.
I am proud to say that Johnny Hunt is a Trustee here at Liberty University, and
more specifically, a trustee for the Seminary.

By the way- I too found it ironic that Johnny is going to be "elected."Of course, just like true Baptist polity- ANYONE can be elected- all they have to do is ask

-For Amyraut:

Dr. Caner must be the most uneducated theology professor on the planet. Moses Amyraut rejected limited atonement but affirmed the traditional articulations of 4 of the 5 articles of Calvinist soteriology. Dr. Caner does not do this. Remember, Dr. Caner endorsed Dave Hunt's work, so it's doubtful we're dealing with a genuine Amyraldian here. If we were, he wouldn't find the other 4 points of Calvinism distasteful.

He is functionally Pelagian and functionally Unitarian. Dr. Caner is a Neo-Campbellite who substitutes the sinners prayer in place of baptismal regeneration who serves under a man that says Charles Finney is a model evangelist.


  1. Okay, raise your hand if you actually read this whole post! Wow, great points Gene.

  2. It sort of leaves a person to wonder, exactly what are the requirements for becoming a theology professor now days ? Are they required to take any theology courses themselves, not to mention church history. Anyway, great refutation Gene. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

  3. Great arguments! Thanks for doing the research.

  4. I totally lost interest right between the personal slams on the Caners and the long-winded, rather boring, and not very clearly defined history lesson. If we really want to discuss this, we ought to be doing what Joe Thorn did. Let's all calm down and think this through with a spirit of charity and fellowship.