Now, to be fair, I know one or two faculty members there. I would think this doesn't apply to them. One of them graduated from Westminister and is quite well grounded.
I received an email earlier today to comment on this: http://loveeachstone.blogspot.com/2006/03/important-dialogue-with-dr-malcom.html
Now, there is an admixture of good and bad here. This is by no means a complete commentary. In fact, I happen to know that some far better than I are now working on responding to this material both openly and behind the scenes. I suspect this will probably hit the SBC blogs in the near future if it hasn't already.
David Rogers, is, I understand, the son of Dr. Adrian Rogers who just passed away. David opposes the new IMB policies, which, if you have read any of my material here in recent weeks, I also oppose. The professor at SWBTS whose work he has presented here is, I understand, one of the ideologues behind the new policies.
To be fair he says nothing new. He makes several statements that make me think, however, that a man of his stature would know better than to make. In fact, he blatantly violates the 9th commandment in the process, and he even takes a swipe at Calvinism. What makes this noteworthy is that this is coming from SWBTS. SWBTS is now headed by Dr. Paige Patterson. Emir Caner is also on faculty there. If you followed the thread at Founders at all, you will recognize some of what was said there in Dr. Yarnell's statements. We are left to wonder if this is the new party line in the SBC. Note here the mis-steps he makes, and his position's at the end of this presentation. If this is the state of "the Center For Theological Research" it is in inept hands.
The Heart of a Baptist
Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell,
IIIThe Center for Theological ResearchDecember 2005
A White PaperPublished by the Center for Theological Research
© 2005 Malcolm B. Yarnell
An earlier version of this sermon was preached for the leadership of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and subsequently for the faculty and students of Criswell College. It has been prepared for publication at the encouragement of Jim Richards and Jerry Johnson. Thanks to Jason Lee, John Mark Yeats, Jason Duesing, Madison Grace, Thomas Winborn, and Karen Yarnell for their helpful editorial comments. Special thanks to President Paige Patterson for allowing it to be shared with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on Founders Day, 9 March 2006The Center for Theological ResearchMalcolm B. Yarnell, III, Directorhttp://www.baptisttheology.org“The Heart of a Baptist”This sermon comes from a heart breaking for Baptists, for we have begun to lose our way.
Throughout its twenty centuries of history, the Baptist movement has been under attack from numerous directions, from the outside by individuals, both non-Christian and Christian, and by hostile public authorities; and from the inside by those who would compromise the integrity of the Baptist faith. These attacks have varied as to time and place, as to ferocity and duration, as to their systemic or ad hoc nature, and as to the degree of their success or failure. However, they all have one thing in common: they seek to bring trauma, even permanent arrest, to the heart of the Baptist movement. Unfortunately, some who have conducted such attacks, especially those who themselves claim to be Baptists, are not always aware of the trauma they are causing.
Today, we must examine Scripture for the heart of the Baptist and clearly and carefully identify those internal agents which would cause it harm. There are three things to be considered: the biblical center of the Baptist movement; the heart of a Baptist; and, the traumas which threaten the integrity of that heart.
I. The Biblical Center of the Baptist Movement
In my historical theology classes, especially those that deal with the Reformation, the students are introduced to the phenomenon that various movements have read Scripture through various scriptural lenses, through certain biblical centers. Inevitably, Roman Catholics will point to the exchange between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16 as the basis for their grant of ordinary and juridical authority to the Pope, the bishop of Rome. By an incredible display of hermeneutical gymnastics, they believe he is the heir of Peter and the vicar of Christ. Inevitably, Lutherans will point to those foundational Pauline passages in Romans 1-8 and Galatians which teach the pristine Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Inevitably, the Reformed or Calvinists will point to the critical Pauline passages in Romans 9-11 and Ephesians 1 which teach the doctrine of election. Inevitably, the Anabaptists will point others to those wonderful discipleship-oriented passages of the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount. Preachers and teachers from these traditions have learned to propagate their respective denominational faiths by reference to these passages. They then read the remainder of Scripture by reference to their particular foundational passage or biblical center.
Baptists wish to understand and affirm Scripture in its entirety, and yet they too know that certain passages are central to Baptist hermeneutics. Of the four Reformation era traditions just mentioned, Baptists come closest to the Anabaptists, for we are their theological heirs, even if we may or may not claim to be their direct historical heirs. Like the Anabaptists, we read Scripture simply, literally, and with a focus upon Jesus Christ.1 However, Baptists have some unique central passages which influence their understanding of the Christian faith. As with the Anabaptists, these passages derive from the sayings of Jesus Christ. One foundational text for Baptists, especially for Southern Baptists, is found in Matthew 28:16-20, otherwise known as “the Great Commission.” These words of Jesus, subsequent to his resurrection and prior to his ascension, establish the purpose, platform, and program of the church.
Prior to and during the Reformation period, the Great Commission was considered to be primarily for the apostles. The comments of John Calvin are typical: “when Christ appeared to the disciples, he likewise commissioned them to be apostles, to convey into every part of the world the message of eternal life.” The import of Calvin’s entire discussion is that the commission was for the apostles alone. In his zeal to deny the Roman claim to apostolic succession, the Genevan Reformer never got around to applying the passage to the modern church, except to say that, “in the present day, the operations of Christ are carried on wonderfully in a secret manner.”2 Calvin did not consider the apostolic commission as extending to the visible church!
However, another Reformer, a Radical Reformer by the name of Balthasar Hubmaier, and one of the earliest and brightest of the Anabaptists, had a different understanding. In the most significant book written on baptism in the sixteenth century, Hubmaier treated the Great Commission as if it were normative for all Christians. He repeatedly cited Matthew 28:18-20 and its parallels. According to Hubmaier, the Great Commission must be obeyed by all Christians, “For a serious command demands serious obedience and fulfillment.” Those who will not follow the commission in its entirety and in an orderly manner are disorderly and disobedient to Jesus Christ.3 Unfortunately, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Baptists tended to emulate Calvin rather than Hubmaier regarding contemporary application of the Great Commission.
But in 1785, the Particular Baptist minister, William Carey, burdened by the Spirit of God for the salvation of all the nations, questioned the Calvinistic truism. He was promptly accused of compromising the sovereignty of God. John Collett Ryland, a hyper-Calvinist Baptist minister, retorted, “Sit down, young man; when God wants to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or mine.”4 Carey, out of respect for the old minister, may have sat down, but the fate of the lost continued to eat at his heart. After years of study, both of the Bible and of the needs of the world, Carey issued his famous booklet, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, in which he examined whether the Commission should be restricted to the apostles. His reply was threefold: if the command to make disciples of all nations is restricted to the apostles, then so is the command to baptize; if the commission is restricted to the apostles, then subsequent evangelists have been disobedient; and, if the commission is restricted to the apostles, then Christ’s statement with regard to his continuing presence is nonsensical, for the apostles are already dead.5 For Carey, the Father of the Modern Missions Movement, the Great Commission was absolutely central to Baptist faith and practice.
In 1814, when American Baptists first began to organize themselves into a convention, a southern minister was asked to preach. Richard Furman, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, and the first president of the Triennial Convention, chose as his text the Great Commission. The convention was so impressed that they asked Furman’s permission to publish his sermon with their proceedings.6 In 1845, when the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, the address of the convention noted that, “Our objects, then, are the extension of the Messiah’s kingdom, and the glory of our God.”7 The founders of the Southern Baptist Convention believed in the Great Commission as the best way to glorify God. B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, believed this commission has “the greatest of all authority” for Southern Baptists, whom he called, “Missionary Baptists.”8
When the leading executives in this denomination gather today to coordinate their strategy, they refer to themselves as “The Great Commission Council.” In the International Mission Board of the SBC, missionaries often speak of “Great Commission Christians” and their magazine is entitled, Commission. In most Southern Baptist churches today, you will find the Great Commission is central in their ethos and often in their documents. And for the 160th year of this great convention, to support his laudable goal of reminding Southern Baptists about their responsibility to be baptizers, Bobby Welch chose the Great Commission as the convention’s central text.9 Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, have been and are a Great Commission people!
There are five Greek terms which are critical for understanding the text of the Great Commission and therefore, the heart of a Baptist: Iesous, poreuthentes, matheteusate, baptizontes, and didaskontes. The one noun in the group of terms, Iesous, dominates, directly or pronominally, every verse in the passage. The one full verb is an aorist active imperative, matheteusate, and is the central command of the commission. The three participles or verbal nouns–poreuthentes, baptizontes, and didaskontes–also function in an imperatival sense, but are grammatically dependent upon matheteusate.10 Let us read the Great Commission, humbly and reverently seeking the Spirit’s illumination:
But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus [Iesous] had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go [poreuthentes] therefore and make disciples [matheteusate] of all the nations, baptizing [baptizontes] them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching [didaskontes] them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
II. The Heart of a Baptist
The heart of a Baptist has a source of life and four chambers, each of which is quite evident in this central text. The source of life for the Baptist heart is Jesus Christ. The four chambers are: a compelling desire to engage in the mission of evangelism, a call for personal conversion, the regenerate church, and an authoritative Bible.
A. Iesous: “Jesus.” The Baptist heart gains its life through Jesus. Baptists believe in the centrality of Jesus Christ, both in His divine-human person and in His atoning work.
Christ is central to this text and to our faith. The disciples came to Galilee and “when they saw Him, they worshiped Him.” Why worship this man? We worship Jesus Christ because He is God; because He is our salvation; because He is our way, our truth, our life. In His person, Christ bridges the divide between God and man. In His atoning work, Christ bridges the divide between a righteous, wrathful God and sinful humanity by the propitiatory shedding of His blood. Christ, our redemption, is applied to our heart, through regeneration by the Holy Spirit, all for the glory of God. Indeed, we might even be bold enough to say that it is the life-giving blood of Jesus that courses through the Baptist heart.
Yes, Baptists worship a Triune God, for we are baptized in the one name of the threefold God. Yet, unlike some evangelicals, we recognize that the Trinity is focused primarily on the glorification of the Son. The Spirit Himself glorifies Christ, and therefore, we glorify Christ. The Father Himself glorifies Christ, and therefore, we glorify Christ. Yes, we also glorify the Father because Christ glorifies the Father. Yes, we also glorify the Spirit because He, too, is God.11 But the Trinity is primarily focused on glorifying the Son; therefore, we simple Biblicists primarily glorify the Son, too. Baptists are a Christocentric people. Ask a Baptist child what she believes and she will invariably begin her answer with the precious name of “Jesus.”
A Prayer: “Oh, Jesus, you promised to remain with us ‘even to the end of the age.’ In you is our hope. In you is our joy. In you is our way, our truth, and ourlife. We know that you became a man for our sake. We know that you died on the cross for our sake. We know that you rose from the dead for our sake. We know that, even now, you are with us. We trust that you will keep us from all harm. You, you are the norm by which everything else is judged. You, you fulfill the Old Testament. You, you are revealed in the New Testament. Oh, Jesus, come again, show us those wounds that bled and that body that died for our sin. Oh, Jesus, come again, we desire to worship you in the flesh which rose again for our redemption. Oh, Jesus, we thank you for being with us, even now, by your Spirit. Oh, Jesus, we worship you. Our life is in you, Second Person of the Trinity, fully God and fully man.”
To be a Baptist is to be Christ-centered.
B. Poreunthentes: “Going.” The first chamber of the Baptist heart is the chamber through which the Baptist blood must spill itself and thereby grow the number of Baptist hearts glorifying God in the church: a mission of evangelism.
Tertullian, the early church father who questioned the novel practice of infant baptism, knew that the best ground for the growth of the Christian faith is that ground which has soaked the blood of the martyrs. The blood of the martyrs – martus means “witness” – is the seed of the church.12 “Martyrs” are those Christians who are willing to publicly and privately confess Christ in all situations, no matter what the danger. When Baptists truly understand the commission of Jesus Christ to make disciples by going, teaching, baptizing, they know they must go. Jesus said, “Go.” Go? Go!
Baptists “go” when they proclaim the message of Jesus Christ in every place across all borders and every other barrier, to every people in every language with the color of every skin, at all times in every situation without exception. Jesus said, “Go.” If the government says, “Stay,” and Jesus says, “Go,” Baptists go. If your comfort level says, “Stay,” and Jesus says, “Go,” a Baptist will go. If your culture cries, “Stay,” and Jesus says, “Go,” Baptists must go. Wherever the obstacle, it must be crossed. Whoever the opponent, he must be lovingly defeated. Whatever the problem, it must be solved. Our task is to go. Go! Go! Go! Baptists are a people who will not be stopped by anything in their attempt to glorify God by making disciples in every situation. The Baptist who claims not to be an evangelist is simply not a Baptist. Baptists are always on mission, the mission of evangelism. To be a Baptist is to be an evangelist.
Matheteusate: “Make disciples.” The second chamber of the Baptist heart is the chamber through which the life that is available by the blood of Jesus Christ becomes ours personally: the salvation that begins with the free gift of justification and proceeds to full discipleship.
Jesus has commanded his disciples to “make disciples.” The Baptist business is the business of preaching the free gift of justification, of preaching the conversion of sinners, and of preaching the need to carry the cross.
Baptists affirm the Reformation doctrines of sola fide, sola gratia, and solus Christus. Justification is by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone. We are not saved by our own efforts, but by simply believing in the efforts of Christ on our behalf. Before the divine throne, in the highest court of creation, the righteousness of Christ is declared to be our righteousness as a gift. By reason of our union with Christ, the Father declares the sinner righteous. He looks at me, a sinner, and sees Christ, the righteous One. It is Christ’s righteousness, a righteousness alien to us, which saves us.
However, justification is only one aspect of salvation. Inter alia, salvation includes conversion and discipleship. By conversion, we affirm two things: faith and repentance. We tell people that they must be born again. Your mother cannot help you, your father cannot heal you, your preacher cannot preserve you, your doctor cannot protect you, and you cannot save yourself. Only Christ can save you: you must trust in Him and turn from your sins. “Repent and believe” is the message of Jesus (Mark 1:15). Therefore, “repent and believe” is the message of Baptists. To believe that Jesus died and rose again is not enough until you believe that Jesus died and rose again for you. The Baptist faith is a personal faith, a faith for disciples of Jesus.
The Baptist faith is also about discipleship. The person who claims to be a Christian, but is unwilling to take up the cross, should be considered a hypocrite. The Christian faith issues forth in an obedient life to the commands of Jesus Christ. We measure our soteriological assurance by the measures of 1 John: confession of the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ, love of the brethren, and obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. Salvation does not begin in good works, but it sure does end up there! To be a Baptist is to be a disciple of Jesus.
D. Baptizontes: “Baptizing.” The third chamber of the Baptist heart is the chamber through which the Baptist heart begins to join itself with the beat of other Baptist hearts: regenerate church membership evidenced by baptism for believers only.
Jesus called his people to not only make disciples by going and teaching, but also by baptizing. Apart from baptism into the local church in the name of the Triune God, the Great Commission is unfulfilled. Jesus said, “Baptize.” Baptize? Baptize! Baptists are baptizers. It is absolutely incredible the secondary and tertiary concerns which have been brought forward to define the heart of the Baptist movement. E.Y. Mullins has done some good, but his attempt to define Baptists according to a solipsistic “soul competency” has unfortunately encouraged theological liberalism in our denomination. What, then, is the beginning Baptist distinctive? It is baptism! Baptism, I say! Baptism is the Baptist distinctive which leads all other Baptist distinctives!
Stop looking elsewhere for who you are. If you are a Baptist, your beginning distinctive is baptism: baptism for believers only; baptism by immersion alone; baptism based upon one’s profession of faith; baptism as a meaningful symbolic representation of personal conversion; baptism as a faith commitment; baptism as an ethical commitment; baptism into a local congregation; baptism as participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; baptism as identification with the one God who is yet three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; baptism as a public testimony to regeneration. Baptism! Baptism! Baptism!
As Hubmaier, the Anabaptist martyr, discovered, after examining the numerous references to baptism in the New Testament, the order of the commandments in the Great Commission only supports believers-only baptism. According to Hubmaier, the proper sequence or order in the New Testament is: Wort, Glaub, Tauff, Werck; word, faith, baptism, work.13 This order is evident in the Great Commission, too. Did you notice the order of the verbs: going, make disciples, baptizing, teaching? The proclamation of the Word and the making of a disciple always precede baptism. Without the Word, active by the Spirit in the human through faith, there is no baptism. It may be a bath, but it is not baptism. Unless the Word and faith precede baptism, there is no baptism. Southern Baptists must rediscover their heritage as a believers-only Free Church people. Without baptism based upon public profession of faith, we are disorderly and disobedient! My friends, give a Christian an open Bible and you will get a Baptist every time. Baptism is the beginning Baptist distinctive.
Baptism reserved for believers only is the beginning of Baptist ecclesiology. Such baptism guarantees the visible church will only be joined by those who visibly, courageously, and convincingly profess the Christian faith. Two other necessary parts of the Baptist ecclesiological harmony are: second, the continuing sign of personal fellowship with the body of Christ, the Lord’s Supper; and third, the practice of church discipline. When church membership is restricted to believers baptized upon their profession of faith; when the Lord’s Supper is understood in a memorial or spiritual sense and restricted to the regenerate membership (1 Cor. 5); when Christ’s command to discipline the church is practiced regularly, rightly, and for the purpose of redemption (Matt. 18:15-20); then the integrity of the local church is preserved. The regenerate church that retains its integrity in these areas will ultimately manifest those other important Baptist distinctives: the autonomy – better yet, Christonomy – of the localchurch, the cooperation of local churches for the purpose of advancing the kingdom of God, religious liberty, and the separation of church and state. Baptism is the beginning Baptist distinctive.14
E. Didaskontes: “Teaching.” The final chamber of the Baptist heart is the chamber which defines our authority: Baptists base all of their teachings upon the authoritative text which we call the Bible, the very Word of God.
Christ commands us to “teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” How do we know what He has commanded us? We know the commandments of Jesus by no other means than through the Bible as illuminated by the Spirit who inspired it. Baptists, especially Southern Baptists, are notoriously identified, from within and from without, as a “people of the book.” We are committed to the biblical doctrine that Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit and is thus inerrant, infallible, and sufficient for our faith and practice. A perfect Person, the Spirit of God, inspired the prophets and the apostles to write the perfect book, the Bible. The writers in their writings are, as a result, without error. This inerrancy extends not only to the most important matter of salvation, but also to matters of history and science.
The sufficiency of Scripture states that our “doctrines”–that is, our teachings–need to be drawn from the Bible, and that we may never go beyond the Bible for our authority. Scripture, in other words, is sufficient for the message and practice of Baptist churches and their people. Requiring anything more than that which the Bible requires is, by basic Baptist definition, a legalistic heresy. Requiring anything less than that which the Bible requires is, by basic Baptist definition, a liberal heresy. We find our authority in the Bible alone, no more and no less. On the one hand, Baptists teach all things contained in God’s Word. On the other hand, all that Baptists teach is contained in God’s Word. To be a Baptist is to teach the Bible entirely and the Bible alone.
This is the Baptist heart. It has its source of life in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it has four chambers: a mission of evangelism, personal salvation, the regenerate church, and an authoritative Bible.
III. The Traumas Which Endanger the Baptist Heart
A surgeon must be a precisionist. When he takes the scalpel to the precious tissues of the human heart, it behooves him to make no mistakes: to move neither too fast nor too slow, too deep nor too shallow, too far to the right nor too far to the left. A surgeon must be extremely careful. Likewise, the Baptist theologian must be careful when excising those dangerous tissues which threaten to traumatize the Baptist heart.
However, surgery nevertheless is sometimes required. There comes a time when the danger of inaction is greater than the possible dangers of action. Now is a time for surgery. Please allow me to identify five critical issues or calcified tissues which threaten the Baptist heart.
A. The First Calcified Tissue is the Loss of Biblical Fidelity.
We know well the danger of liberal theology. The acidic results of higher criticism have been felt by our denomination, and beginning in 1979, the Southern Baptist Convention engaged in a major act of self-surgery. This was necessary and at least within our seminaries, may now be proclaimed to be largely successful. In our apparent victory, however, we must not lose vigilance. Liberalism can so easily return to those with keen minds, who may be tempted to consider their thoughts to be greater than God’s thoughts.There is another danger with reference to the Bible, however. This danger is biblical ignorance in the pulpit and the pew. The preacher who refuses to let the Bible preach itself in an expository manner threatens his people with the state of spiritual and moral anemia. The Sunday School teacher who asks what his students feel about the text rather than how the text feels about the student threatens his people with the state of selfinduced hypnosis. The father who neglects to open the Word of God in his home and lead his family in prayer and devotional worship condemns his children and grandchildren to ignorance and possible spiritual death. The individual who leaves the pages of his Bible unturned on a daily basis is out of communion with His God. How do you expect to hear God if you don’t open your ears to His Word?
Whatever happened to our emphasis for children to engage in Scripture memorization? Where has our foundational biblical literacy gone? Why do many Baptists no longer bring a Bible to church? The calcified tissues of biblical infidelity and illiteracy are threatening to arrest the Baptist heart.
B. The Second Critical Issue is the Calvinist-Arminian Debate.
This debate has been with Baptists at least since their later beginnings in England’s “Long Reformation.”15 The Particular Baptists of the seventeenth century advocated all five points of the Synod of Dort. The General Baptists denied at least the conception that Christ died simply for the elect. Today, the debate continues. There should be little concern with a low-key debate which can be and is quite healthy.
However, the debate can become quite unhealthy when some Baptists demand that others advocate their particular position. I am not a five-point Calvinist myself. Neither am I, by any stretch of the Reformed imagination, anywhere near being a rank Arminian. My Reformed students cheer when they hear me quote Calvin favorably. They grouse when they hear me decry the dangers of Reformed theology. My less-Reformed students cheer when they hear me advocate human responsibility. They grouse when they hear me advocate our absolute dependence upon divine grace. And they all grouse when I discover what their personal positions are and then make them publicly debate on behalf of the opposing position.
Hyper-Calvinism is becoming a real problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. When a Calvinist allows his own reason to draw lines where Scripture does not draw them, he becomes a hyper-Calvinist. According to Timothy George, hyper-Calvinism is defined doctrinally as the advocacy of eternal justification, ethically as the surrender to antinomianism, and evangelistically as the refusal to give an invitation.16 It is the antiinvitation expression of hyper-Calvinism that currently challenges Southern Baptists. Now, it matters not exactly how you conduct the invitation, but we must treasure the divine command to be instruments in the calling of sinners to repentance and faith. The invitation is not to replace baptism, but an invitation to Christ is nonetheless necessary. (Please notice that five-point Calvinism is not necessarily hyper-Calvinism. Moreover, Kevin Kennedy has conclusively shown that not even Calvin was a five-pointer.17)
Similarly, hyper-Arminianism can be a real problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. When an Arminian allows her own reason to draw lines where Scripture does not draw them, she becomes a hyper-Arminian. We might define hyper-Arminianism, or Pelagianism, doctrinally as the denial of divine election, ethically as serial binges of personal wickedness when loss of salvation is followed by an unbiblical regaining of salvation, and evangelistically as the refusal to witness due to an explicit or implicit universalism. Pelagianism is most evident when people assume they save themselves rather than trusting entirely in the gracious work of God.
There is room in this convention for people who are five-point Calvinists and for people who are not. Consider some recent heroes in Southern Baptist life. Herschel Hobbs was a one-point Calvinist; W.T. Conner was a two-point Calvinist; the Baptist Faith & Message apparently teaches a modest three-point Calvinism; W.A. Criswell was a four-point Calvinist; and, it is rumored that some of my conservative colleagues at another seminary may be five-point Calvinists.18 There is room for all of the above in the Southern Baptist Convention, but a modest Calvinism is preferable. Problems come when someone forces upon others their own non-biblical opinions concerning the details of the mysterious relationship between the twin biblical truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Problems also occur when theology becomes an excuse for not evangelizing. The calcified tissues of hyper-Calvinism and hyper-Arminianism must be excised from the Baptist heart.
C. The Third Critical Issue concerns the Presbyterian and Quaker Threats to Baptist Ecclesiology.
Some Baptists have been toying with Presbyterian structures in their churches, arguing for multiple elders, or for a forced distinction between teaching and ruling elders. These are minor concerns, but a problem really occurs when they allow eldership to limit congregational oversight. Recently, the most prominent Reformed Baptist, John Piper, has begun to move his church toward open membership. In other words, you won’t have to be baptized to join his church. Of course, Piper’s movement away from Baptist ecclesiology did not begin with open membership. There were earlier signs of a relentless move towards Presbyterianism, including the adoption of multiple elders and open communion. Piper fails to understand that regenerate church membership is best served by fidelity to the commands of Jesus Christ. Christ commanded baptism for believers only, the Lord’s Supper as the continuing sign of fellowship with the church, and intentional church discipline.19
In 1934, Baptist historian W.W. Barnes warned against the specter of “presbygationalism,” a relentless move away from religious voluntaryism and missions.20 Barnes did not, however, warn against the equally dangerous specter of “quakerism,” and Southern Baptists in the twentieth century moved toward individualism, religious selfsufficiency, and theological liberalism. Today, the pendulum swings again, now away from Quakerism and towards Presbyterianism. Baptists would do well to avoid equally the dangers of Presbyterianism on the right and of Quakerism on the left. We must retain our foundational congregationalism, which results from a regenerate church evidenced by believers-only baptism.
D. The Fourth Critical Issue is the Lack of Intentionally Orthodox Preaching.
A fourth calcified tissue is the apparent weakness of Christological and Trinitarian orthodoxy in many Baptist pulpits. For many years, it was unusual to hear a sermon about Trinitarian orthodoxy or the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ.21 The disdain of some Baptists for “creedalism” allowed flirtation with old heresies.22 Without the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople and the formula of Chalcedon, many are left without a ready defense against heresy. Mormons, who have a twisted Christology and a perverse theism, thus drew numbers of Southern Baptists into their dens of damnation. Many Southern Baptists simply did not understand that Mormons are not Christians. Indeed, were it not for the first hymn in the Baptist Hymnal, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” one wonders whether some Southern Baptists were ever exposed to basic Christian orthodoxy. Thank God for the musicians who preserved our orthodoxy. We preachers must start proclaiming the sublime scriptural truths of the Trinity and of the God-man, or face divine judgment. Perhaps you could start with this very passage, by helping your people discover the mystery of a singular “name” for the threefold God.
E. The Final Critical Issue is the Loss of Missiological Clarity.
A final calcified tissue is the rise of missionary methods that call for a Nicodemite secrecy rather than a bold witness to the lost. Some propose a “Camel method” of witness in Islamic and Hindu cultures. New Christians are encouraged to hide their faith, continue attending mosque or temple, and otherwise act like Muslims or Hindus. Ralph Winter and his U.S. Center for World Mission apparently consider baptism a Western rather than a biblical activity.23 They forget that inward conversion to Christ must be followed by an external believers’ baptism, and that one cannot separate Christ from His church. Christians who do not practice baptism are simply not Great Commission Christians. Southern Baptist missionaries should firmly rebuke other missionaries who do not completely fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus said to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Without baptism the Great Commission remains unfulfilled! The rise of unbiblical missiological methods is unfortunate but not without precedent. In medieval Catholicism, people sought to build the Kingdom of God by following certain methods or having a pleasant liturgy. The focus was on humanly-devised methods rather than upon the free offering of divine grace through bold proclamation of the divine Word. The Reformers rebuked the sacramental methodologies of the Middle Ages. Baptists, the complete Reformers, should rebuke unbiblical methodologies, whether we find them among Roman Catholics or among other evangelicals. Baptists, through their “Bold Mission Thrust,” must boldly proclaim the Word of God!
Oh! This Baptist heart is breaking for the loss of Baptist fidelity! Baptists, of whom Southern Baptists comprise the healthiest part, are besieged. Our faith is under assault. In the culture, in the ivory tower, and in the churches, we face huge and potentially debilitating challenges. To be quite honest, Baptists could be frightened for their future. Did Baptists not have a sovereign God Who providentially cares for His people, despair would arise. Fortunately, God is in control and true Baptists will ultimately survive and gain the victory by His grace. That said, we face greater challenges today than we have ever faced before. The Controversy or Conservative Resurgence of the late 20th Century is a mere precursor to the battles for theological integrity which face us, some of which will make that episode look like child’s play. Will you seek to propagate and preserve the Baptist heart?
1 Stuart Murray, Biblical Interpretation in the Anabaptist Tradition (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press,2003), 70-93.
2 John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, transl. WilliamPringle (Reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 3: 380-81, 391.
3 Balthaser Hubmaier, On the Christian Baptism of Believers (1525), in Balthaser Hubmaier: Theologian of Anabaptism, transl. and ed. H. Wayne Pipkin and John H. Yoder (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press,1989), 95-149.
4 Ernest A. Payne, “Introduction,” to William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, To UseMeans for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792; Introduction, 1961; Reprint, Didcot: Baptist Missionary Society, 1991), 11.
5 Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, 35-37.6 James A. Rogers, Richard Furman: Life and Legacy (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2001), 153-54.
7 William B. Johnson, “The Southern Baptist Convention, To the Brethren in the United States; to the congregations connected with the respective Churches; and to all candid men,” in Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention (Richmond, Virginia: Ellyson, 1845), 19.
8 B.H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible: The Four Gospels, ed. J.B. Cranfill (Grand Rapids: Broadman, 1948), I: 434.
9 Annual of the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention (Nashville: Executive Committee, Southern BaptistConvention, 2005), 38.
10 David Allen, Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, hasincorporated a number of changes in the preaching program for our students, including the use of the Greektext in sermon preparation. The current preacher/professor has long advocated expository preaching and iselated to see Dr. Allen lead Southwestern’s proclamation courses in this direction.11 Cf.. Malcolm Yarnell, “The Glory of God,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel, 30October 2003 [Video-recording] (Fort Worth, Texas: Roberts Library, 2003).
12 Tertullian, Apology, 50, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3: 55.
13 Hubmaier, On the Christian Baptism of Believers, in Balthasar Hubmaier, 128.
14 Unfortunately, there has been little written within the last half-century explicating the biblical and Baptistic understanding of believers-only baptism by immersion. James Leo Garrett, Jr., “BaptistsConcerning Baptism: Review and Preview,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 43 (2001): 52-67. Baptist pastors and scholars must once again delineate a view of baptism which avoids both ecumenism and sacramentalism on the left (cf. Anthony R. Cross and Philip E. Thompson, Baptist Sacramentalism [Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster, 2003]) and a close identification with scholastic Calvinism on the right (cf. Fred Malone, The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism [Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2003]).
15 Nicholas Tyacke, ed., England's Long Reformation 1500-1800 (London: UCL Press, 1998).
16 Timothy George, “John Gill,” in George and David S. Dockery, eds., Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 26-28.
17 Kevin Kennedy, Union with Christ and the Extent of the Atonement in Calvin (Peter Lang, 2002).
18 Cf. James Leo Garrett, Jr., “Walter Thomas Conner,” David S. Dockery, “Herschel H. Hobbs,” and PaigePatterson, “W.A. Criswell,” in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition, 212, 226-27, 247; The Baptist Faith and Message: A Statement Adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention June 14, 2000 (Nashville: Lifeway,2000), arts. 3, 5.
19 John Piper, “More Clarifications on the Baptism and Membership Issue: How Important Is ChurchMembership?” Accessed 24 October 2005; available from http://www.desiringgod.org/library/fresh_words/2005/101205.html; Internet.
20 William Wright Barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention: A Study in the Development of Ecclesiology (Fort Worth: Taylor-Lowe, 1934), 78.21 In a collection of 49 exemplary Southern Baptist sermons, only one (by J. Alfred Smith) dealt with Christology proper, while the Trinity does not seem to have been a major concern whatsoever. R. Earl Allen and Joel Gregory, eds., Southern Baptist Preaching Today (Nashville: Broadman, 1987).
22 Cf. Robert Setzer, Encounters with the Living Christ: Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John (Valley Forge,PA: Judson, 1999), critiqued in Yarnell, “Whose Jesus? Which Revelation?,” Midwestern Journal ofTheology 1 (2003): 46-52.
23 Ralph D. Winter, “Editiorial Comment,” Mission Frontiers 27 (September-October 2005): 4-5. Elsewhere in this magazine issue devoted to “Insider Movements,” Frank Decker encourages missionaries to separate Christ from Christianity (8), Charles Kraft rejects fears about syncretism in favor of an extreme form of contextualization (9-11), and John and Anna Travis believe that God is “doing a new thing” to reach the remaining nations, effectively severing the connection between discipleship and baptism (12-15). Some Southern Baptist proponents of the Camel method appear to have embraced the Insider Movement,encouraging evangelists to misrepresent their Christianity. The Camel method relies more upon the Koran than the Word of God, which biblically and historically has been considered the only sufficient means of conversion. Cf. Kevin Greeson, Camel Training Manual: The secret of the camel is out…Muslims arecoming to faith in ‘Isa (Bangalore: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 45ff. Greeson’s book is sold by theInternational Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Accessed 11 November 2005; available from http://imbresources.org/index.cfm/fa/store.prodlist/CatID/23/DeptID/1.cfm; Internet.
© Malcolm B. Yarnell, IIICenter for Theological ResearchAssistant Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for Theological Research, Director of the Oxford Study Program, and Associate Professor of Systematic TheologySouthwestern Baptist Theological SeminaryDr. Malcolm B. Yarnell, III
Rather than put all that in quotes I'll show it "as is." However, there are several portions to address here.
Throughout its twenty centuries of history, the Baptist movement has been under attack from numerous directions, from the outside by individuals, both non-Christian and Christian, and by hostile public authorities; and from the inside by those who would compromise the integrity of the Baptist faith.Like Landmarkists? This is proof positive that Landmarkism is alive and well at SWBTS. Notice 20 centuries of history...as if Baptists have been around for 2000 years. This is pure Baptist successionism.
Of the four Reformation era traditions just mentioned, Baptists come closest to the Anabaptists, for we are their theological heirs, even if we may or may not claim to be their direct historical heirs. Like the Anabaptists, we read Scripture simply, literally, and with a focus upon Jesus Christ.
a. Dr. Yarnell agrees with Paul Owen. Two peas in a pod?
b. This Convention comes from the Particular Baptists, not the Anabaptists. This is ironic, in that the General Baptists derived their baptism from the Anabaptists. The Particulars that tried this were told they were in error by their peers.
c, Some Baptists do not read the Bible like Anabaptists. We do not affirm that Christ only seemed human. Apparently, this man is willing to sacrifice orthodox Christology for his own predilections. Yes, not all were Hoffmanites, but let's not forget that this was the precise issue for which Helwys chastised Smith, and for which Spilsbury looked on the Blunt group with concern, so the Anabaptists with whom we would be associated would be Hoffmanites, not Hubemaier's sect. Notice the inference that those who disagree do not read the text "literally." What he's really saying here is that he believes Baptists interpret the Bible "plainly." The problem with such a hermeneutic is that it reads the Bible as if it was written today, not in the ANE and the First Century. This is why we have a rule based hermeneutic in the Reformed tradition. I agree many in the Convention do read the Bible like Anabpatists..and this is why they are functional Unitarians.
Incidentally, if Anabaptists are so focused on the Great Commission for everybody (see below), why are the Amish and Mennonites strict separationists? Where are the Great Commission churches they have planted? Why aren't there tons of them all over the world?
The import of Calvin’s entire discussion is that the commission was for the apostles alone. In his zeal to deny the Roman claim to apostolic succession, the Genevan Reformer never got around to applying the passage to the modern church, except to say that, “in the present day, the operations of Christ
are carried on wonderfully in a secret manner.”2 Calvin did not consider the apostolic commission as extending to the visible church!
Really? Then why did Geneva send out missionaries to Italy, France, Holland, and Scotland? This is simply a lie. This man is either ignorant, incompetent, or both. His conclusion is a non-sequitar. It means Calvin addressed what he said to the issues most important to him. This is nothing new in history. According to this logic, since the pre-Nicene Fathers didn't articulate a fully orbed Christology, they didn't believe in an orthodox Christology.
I noticed he had to cite a commentary. Why not the Institutes? In the Institutes, IV,iii he wrote at length on this, and he identifies apostles and those who laid the foundation of the church itself. He does say the Great Commission was for the Apostles, because it was for the laying of the foundation of the church, not because it's duties are not to be discharged in this day as well. He makes this quite clear. Calvin discusses Apostles as a unique office in the church. Since the commission was given to them, Calvin discusses it as such.
Those who preside over the government of the Church, according to the institution of Christ,are named by Paul, first, Apostles; secondly, Prophets; thirdly, Evangelists; fourthly, Pastors; and, lastly, Teachers (Eph. 4:11). Of these, only the two last have an ordinary office in the Church. The Lord raised up the other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires. The nature of the apostolic function is clear from the command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). No fixed limits are given them, but the whole world is assigned to be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the Gospel as widely as they could, they might everywhere erect his kingdom. Accordingly, Paul, when he would approve his apostleship, does not say that he had acquired some one city for Christ, but had propagated the Gospel far and wide—had not built on another man’s foundation, but planted churches where the name of his Lord was unheard. The apostles, therefore, were sent forth to bring back the world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and everywhere establish his kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel; or, if you choose, they were like the first architects of the Church, to lay its foundations throughout the world.
By Prophets, he means not all interpreters of the divine will, but those who excelled by special revelation; none such now exist, or they are less manifest. By Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps, also, the seventy disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the second place to the apostles (Luke 10:1). According to this interpretation, which appears to me consonant both to the words and the meaning of Paul, those three functions were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it has no place in churches duly constituted. Next come Pastors and Teachers, with whom the Church never can dispense, and between whom, I think, there is this difference, that teachers preside not over discipline, or the administration of the sacraments, or admonitions, or exhortations, but the interpretation of Scripture only, in order that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers. But all these are embraced in the pastoral office.
5. This largly summarizes what came before. There's nothing much there.
6. When our Lord sent forth the apostles, he gave them a commission (as has been lately said) to preach the Gospel, and baptise those who believed for the remission of sins. He had previously commanded that they should distribute the sacred symbols of his body and blood after his example(Mt. 28:19; Luke 22:19). Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on those who succeed to the place of the apostles,—they receive a commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend to the office of apostles. But what shall we say of pastors? Paul speaks not of himself only but of all pastors, when he says, “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor. 4:1). Again, in another passage, he describes a bishop as one “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers” (Tit. 1:9). From these and similar passages which everywhere occur, we may infer that the two principal parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. But the method of teaching consists not merely in public addresses, it extends also to private admonitions. Thus Paul takes the Ephesians to witness, “I kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” A little after he says, “Remember, that, for the space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:20, 31). Our present purpose, however, is not to enumerate the separate qualities of a good pastor, but only to indicate what those profess who call themselves pastors—viz. that in presiding over the Church they have not an indolent dignity, but must train the people to true piety by the doctrine of Christ, administer the sacred mysteries, preserve and exercise right discipline. To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord declares, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:18). What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:16). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed.
The reason Calvin discusses this here is that he sees apostleship as tied to a specific, non-repeatable office. However, pastors are to carry out the same duties as the Apostles, but they do not hold the office. The reason, he doesn't apply the Great Commission to "the modern church" is because he sees apostleship as a first century office. This is just a backhanded way of saying "Calvin didn't believe in the extension of the GC to the laity."
a. Calvin lived at the turn of the 16th century. There was no pressing need for foreign missions outside of Europe at that time, because Europe was just discovering the Far East and West, and the Near East was under Muslim control, so why would Calvin see the GC in a missional manner? Ditto for any other Reformer. Why would expect them to jump fully into a missional emphasis that is global at this stage of European history?
b. At that time, Europe was undergoing a reformation. Why on earth would you put assign the GC to the whole church in your theology when all of them would be, by our own standards, either unregenerate or, alternatively, biblically illiterate? This was the age of catechisms and public reading of Scripture. The printing press was new. People looked to their educated ministers for guidance, because they were concerned with survival. Calvin is focusing on pastors and teachers precisely because that's where the greatest change could be affected in his day.
Oh, and by the way, he references Proverbs 22:28 in this same text, a key Landmarkist text in reference to Romanism. So, I'm not surprised this man would not draw attention to it.
It is not without cause (remark our opponents) we are thus warned by Solomon, “Remove notthe ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). But the same rule applies not to the measuring of fields and the obedience of faith. The rule applicable to the latter is, “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house” (Ps. 45:10). But if they are so fond of allegory, why do they not understand the apostles, rather than any other class of Fathers, to be meant by those whose landmarks it is unlawful to remove? This is the interpretation of Jerome, whose words they have quoted in their canons. But as regards those to whom they apply the passage, if they wish the landmarks to be fixed, why do they, whenever it suits their purpose, so freely overleap them?
But in 1785, the Particular Baptist minister, William Carey, burdened by the Spirit of God for the salvation of all the nations, questioned the Calvinistic truism.
This is an a-historical comment if ever there was. Elias Keach went to America and was converted preaching his father's sermons. So did Hanserd Knollys. John Gill preached that the gospel must be preached to all men indiscriminately. William Carey did face hyper-Calvinists. Andrew Fuller and others supported him. Whitefield had been preaching. The Charleston and Phiadephia Associations and the Separates were planting confessionally Calvinismt churches that used to Philadelphia Confession. Notice, however, that this professor has equivocated between "Calvinism" and "hyper-Calvinism" in his assertions. This is just another attack on Calvinism that assumes, without argument, that the natural result of Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism.
Yes, Baptists worship a Triune God, for we are baptized in the one name of the threefold God. Yet, unlike some evangelicals, we recognize that the Trinity is focused primarily on the glorification of the Son. The Spirit Himself glorifies Christ, and therefore, we glorify Christ. The Father Himself glorifies Christ, and therefore, we glorify Christ. Yes, we also glorify the Father because Christ glorifies the Father. Yes, we also glorify the Spirit because He, too, is God.11 But the Trinity is primarily focused on glorifying the Son; therefore, we simple Biblicists primarily glorify the Son, too. Baptists are a Christocentric people. Ask a Baptist child what she believes and she will invariably begin her answer with the precious name of “Jesus.”
So other evangelicals are not Christocentric. Hmm, well, let's see if Yarnell's peers fare any better. If he's like most Baptists at his seminary, he puts election and regeneration outside a chain effected by grace. I know for a fact Emir Caner does, since he agrees with Ergun. The grace of God via the cross alone is in view. This is Christocentric, but it's also functionally Unitarian. Ergo, Baptists of his stripe sacrifice their trinitarianism for Christocentrism. All well, those Anabaptists weren't much better, being all Arminian and anti-Lutheran. Yes, that's right. In addition to their unorthodox beliefs about the humanity of Christ, they also repudiated justification by faith alone. Arminian Baptists have always flirted with Unitarianism and Socinianism and this is why. These "moderate Calvinists" in the Convention have so redefined the meanings of terms that they have lost sight of these connections.
Contrast this with Calvinism. Points 2,3,4 (even on an Amyraldian view) each answer to a Person of the Trinity. The Father elects. The Son redeems. The Spirit applies the work of the Son to believers and binds them into the Holy Conversation of the Eternal Trinity. This is both Christocentric and Trinitarian. We Particular Baptists don't sacrifice our trinitarianism on the altar of Christocentrism.
Baptists affirm the Reformation doctrines of sola fide, sola gratia, and solus Christus.
No, you deny Sola Gracia when you preach synergistic / decisional regeneration.
However, justification is only one aspect of salvation. Inter alia, salvation includes conversion and discipleship. By conversion, we affirm two things: faith and repentance. We tell people that they must be born again. Your mother cannot help you, your father cannot heal you, your preacher cannot preserve you, your doctor cannot protect you, and you cannot save yourself. Only Christ can savea. Believing Christ died for you is not part of any evangelistic appeal in Scripture. This is where those who affirm General Atonement implicitly affirm you have to believe a particular doctrine of the atonement to be saved. The presentation Scripture makes is to repent and believe and that Christ died for sinners. Believing Christ died for you is a matter of personal assurance that comes as a result of conversion, not prior to it.
you: you must trust in Him and turn from your sins. “Repent and believe” is the message of Jesus (Mark 1:15). Therefore, “repent and believe” is the message of Baptists. To believe that Jesus died and rose again is not enough until you believe that Jesus died and rose again for you. The Baptist faith is a personal faith, a faith for disciples of Jesus.
b. Apropos a, one does not believe and repent in order to be born again. One believes because one is born again (I John 5:1). "You must be born again" is an indicative, not an imperative statement.
c. Ergo, to preach this, they deny Sola Gracia. Why? Because men are left to respond not from a state of grace effected by effectual grace (or by some sort of prevenient grace as in real Arminianism) but from a state of nature.
Actually, he has good reason to be called unregenerate. He goes on to discuss assurance, and I largely agree on this point, but I think this statement isn't strong enough.
The person who claims to be a Christian, but is unwilling to
take up the cross, should be considered a hypocrite.
E.Y. Mullins has done some good, but his attempt to define Baptists according to a solipsistic “soul competency” has unfortunately encouraged theological liberalism in our denomination.
J.R. Graves and J.M. Carroll did that prior to Mullins. Landmarkism that says there are 2000 years of Baptist history is very ready to sacrifice orthodoxy in the name of believers baptism in order to trace a lineage through Paulicans, Bogomils, and others with impugnity. This is the heart of liberalism, and it antedates Mullins considerably. This was also a key argumentin the writing against Baptist successionism, so it isn't as if this hasn't been pointed out in the past. Since Dr. Yarnell began with a statement that Baptists have been around since the first century, one wonders if he exercises the same level of criticism for himself as he does for Mullins?
Baptism is the Baptist distinctive which leads all other Baptist distinctives!This is exactly reversed. Baptism depends on a regenerate church membership. Logically, this man should be a Campbellite for saying this, as the only way this could be true is via a doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
Hyper-Calvinism is becoming a real problem in the Southern Baptist Convention. When a Calvinist allows his own reason to draw lines where Scripture does not draw them, he becomes a hyper-Calvinist.
Really? Who are they? Where are they located? What are they teaching? If exegesis is not logical and rational what is it? How is Scripture intelligible without these faculties? Is Dr. Yarnell following Cheung's Scripturalism?
Please notice that five-point Calvinism is not necessarily hyper-Calvinism. Moreover, Kevin Kennedy has conclusively shown that not even Calvin was a five-pointer.From a doctoral dissertation? I don't think so. Also, have you ever noticed that non-Calvinists always act as if pointing to what Calvin believed is a definitive historical argument against Calvinism? The underlying assumption is that Calvin's teaching was somehow perverted. Let's just play with that for a moment.
First, these men always like to bring up supralapsarianism. Hmmm, well, infra's and supras believe the same things for the same reason. They differ over the order to decrees. All the confessions are infra anyway. So, the supra / infra debate is irrelevant.
Most of these critics are Arminians. Why is Calvinism charged with "scholasticism" when Arminius drew directly from the scholastics?
What serious, well grounded Calvinist argues that Calvinism is the theology of Calvin? Semper Reformanda! There are several was to view Covenant Theology, much less the historical development of Calvinism. Calvin is not the end all and be all of Calvinism.
At any rate, see here: http://www.the-highway.com/articleJuly02.html and here:
There seem to be several doctoral dissertations on this from those who affirm general atonement. Why not put them all in place so we can all take a look. Quoting a doctoral dissertation that is at a seminary other than your own as if it is the definitive work is simply incompetent argumentation for a person in this position. Don't make the argument unless you wish to develop it...but that might defeat the agenda, which is to raise the ogre of Calvinism in the SBC as a threat to missions.
Herschel Hobbs was a one-point Calvinist; W.T. Conner was a two-point Calvinist; the Baptist Faith & Message apparently teaches a modest three-point Calvinism; W.A. Criswell was a four-point Calvinist
a. Hobbs was a 4 Point Arminian. Conner was a 3 Point Arminian. Why don't these people own up to their labels? They are quite willing to name Calvinism, but not willing to name Arminianism. This is disingenuous. What is wrong with saying 4 Point Arminian? You see, they are perfectly willing to use one term in a manner beneficial to them, and avoid the other, because the label "Arminian" conjures up a negative connotation in the minds of many. Yet, when it suits them, they they use "hyper-Calvinist" as a term of derision for those with whom they disagree, even against traditional Calvinists, as we have seen with the Caners.
b. Criswell redefined Calvinism. In his sermon on Romans 9, he taught God chose Jacob because he had something in him that Esau did not have. Criswell's Calvinism is just that, his own.
Some Baptists have been toying with Presbyterian structures in their churches, arguing for multiple elders, or for a forced distinction between teaching and ruling elders. These are minor concerns, but a problem really occurs when they allow eldership to limit congregational oversight.Actually, a number of early Baptists did this too. This is nothing new. In fact, the first president of the SBC believed and taught this. Yarnell is now making 20th century Baptist polity the standard of what is historically Baptist.
So did John Gill:
These pastors, teachers, bishops, and elders, are called rulers, guides, and governors. A pastor, or shepherd, is the governor and guide of his flock; a teacher, and a ruling elder are the same (1 Tim. 5:17). One qualification of a bishop is, that he know how to rule his own house; or how shall he take care of the church of God, to rule that well, which is a considerable branch of his office? (1 Tim. 3:1, 4, 5) these, indeed, are not to lord it over God’s heritage, or rule according to their own wills, in an arbitrary manner; but according to the laws of Christ, as King of saints; and then they are to be respected and obeyed; "Remember them that have the rule over you, and obey them;" for they are over the churches in the Lord, and under him as the great Lawgiver in his house; and though they are described as such who have the rule over churches, and are guides to them (Heb. 13:7, 17) yet they are the churches servants, for Jesus’s sake (2 Cor. 4:5).
Benjamin Griffith also affirmed a plural eldership including ruling elders.
See here: http://www.9marks.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526CHID598016CIID1744980,00.html#past
It’s not Baptist” said the older lady, objecting to my advocating the adoption of elders in Baptist churches. She wasn’t strictly correct. I understand what she meant—in the churches she had been used to in the second half of the twentieth century, she hadn’t seen or even heard of such a thing. But other Baptists had.
We’ve already mentioned the use of the word “elder” in Baptist statements of faith from the past. But was that simply a word which was synonymous with our modern pastor, or even senior pastor? Did Baptists in the past understand that the New Testament recognized a plurality of leaders called “elders” in one local congregation? Let me present a sampling for you.
Throughout the 17th century in England, Baptists had affirmed the office of elder. In 1697, Benjamin Keach wrote of “Bishops, Overseers, or Elders” clearly implying that these New Testament offices were one. Keach presents it as essential that a church has one or more pastors, but not that it have a plurality of them. He rejects the Presbyterian practice of having a separate group of ruling elders who do not teach, saying that if that practice was in the Apostolic church, it was only temporary, because we have neither their qualifications nor their duties laid out in the New Testament.
In the 18th century, Benjamin Griffith wrote in favor of ruling elders distinct from the pastors or teaching elders. He cited Exodus 18, Deut. 1, I Tim. 5:17, I Cor. 12:28 and Rom. 12:8 as his basis for this. The ruling elder’s distinction from the teaching elder’s position is shown by the fact that he would have to be ordained should he shift to becoming a teaching elder. Griffith’s practice of having such ruling elders was common in the Philadelphia Baptist Association in the eighteenth century. In this practice, however, Griffith and his contemporaries were disagreeing with their English counterparts of the previous decades. The Charleston Association’s 1774 Summary of Church Discipline ignores any idea of a separate group of ruling elders, but affirms the fact that in the New Testament, ministers of the gospel are “frequently called elders, bishops, pastors and teachers.” The Summary also implies that there is sometimes within one local congregation a “presbytery.”
In the 19th century, Samuel Jones of the Philadelphia Association wrote that “Concerning the divine right of the office of ruling elders there has been considerable doubt and much disputation.” Jones then goes on to summarize the arguments for and against, essentially conceding that Benjamin Griffith’s defense of ruling elders was weak, but arguing that the office is beneficial and not forbidden, and therefore that congregations are free to keep it if they find it a useful office to assist the pastor.
Turning to the South, W. B. Johnson of South Carolina, and the first president of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote of the New Testament churches that “each church had a plurality of elders.” “A plurality in the bishopric is of great importance for mutual counsel and aid, that the government and edification of the flock may be promoted in the best manner.” For several pages of his book, The Gospel Developed, Johnson goes on delineating the duties and benefits of a plurality of elders in a local congregation.
J. L. Reynolds, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, wrote in 1849 that “the apostolic churches seem, in general, to have had a plurality of elders as well as deacons.” Nevertheless, he maintained that “the number of officers, whether elders or deacons, necessary to the completeness of a church, is not determined in Scripture. This must be decided by the circumstances of the case, of which the party interested is the most competent judge.” Reynolds competently and carefully dissected the arguments in favor of a distinct class of ruling elders. And Reynolds has a whole chapter defending the interchangeability of the terms “bishop” and “elder”.
William Williams, one of the founding faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote in 1874 that “In most, if not all the apostolic churches, there was a plurality of elders.” Williams went on to speculate that this was perhaps the case because Christians could only meet in small groups and therefore each smaller group needed an elder to instruct them. He suggests that such a plurality of elders was only due to the circumstances of the time, and need not be a continuing requirement for churches. Williams also disagrees with any idea of a separate office of ruling elder. He places the plurality of elders in the same category as deaconesses, the holy kiss, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper—all now to be left up to the “pious discretion of the churches.”
I could go on. C. H. Spurgeon had a plurality of elders at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. J. L. Burrows, (pastor of FBC Richmond for 20 years, and chairman of the Foreign Mission Board for 6 years) in his book What Baptists Believe  (p. 12, 16) wrote that “Elders and deacons are the only officers [Christ] has instituted,” (p. 14). It is indisputable that by the beginning of the twentieth century, Baptists had either had or at least advocated elders—and often even a plurality of elders—in local churches, and that they had done so for centuries.
A. H. Strong, president of Rochester Theological Seminary, and author of his influential 1907 Systematic Theology perhaps summarizes the positions most Baptists in America seemed to hold at the beginning of the twentieth century: “In certain of the N.T. churches there appears to have been a plurality of elders . . . . There is, however, no evidence that the number of elders was uniform, or that the plurality which frequently existed was due to any other cause than the size of the churches for which these elders cared. The N. T. example, while it permits the multiplication of assistant pastors according to need, does not require a plural eldership in every case. . . . There are indications, moreover, that, at least in certain churches, the pastor was one, while the deacons were more than one, in number.”
If Yarnell wants to really speak on church government this way, he needs to discuss churches that adopt a corporate model, where the Deacons are a board of directors, the Senior Pastor is the President; he has 2 or three Associate pastors under him; and these oversee a range of Assistant Pastors who have a specialized ministry. This is unbiblical church government and far more of a danger than a plurality of elders.
In other words, you won’t have to be baptized to join his church. Of course, Piper’s movement away from Baptist ecclesiology did not begin with open membership. There were earlier signs of a relentless move towards Presbyterianism, including the adoption of multiple elders and open communion.
Piper fails to understand that regenerate church membership is best served by fidelity to the commands of Jesus Christ. Christ commanded baptism for believers only, the Lord’s Supper as the continuing sign of fellowship with the church, and intentional church discipline.
This is simply a lie. It slanders Dr. Piper and his church, and is a scare tactic. I personally, confronted the Caners on this on the Founders blog on this.
I have in my possession an 80 page document that outlines this position. It is dated from a time after the October document that Yarnell cites. Why could he not contact the church to get this? It continues to amaze me how these people can continue to misrepresent a church and its pastor so blatantly. It's not as if they can't get extensive documentation on this issue from them. Instead, they trade in innuendo, just as they do with the above commments about hyper-Calvinism.
a. They practice open communion...and many Baptists do this. There are seveal reasons. First, they fence the Table. One of the drawbacks to closed communion to non-Baptists like Presyberians is that unless you are going to interview every person gathered about the sins in their lives as you would for the "disobedient" Prebyterian (for not being baptized as a believer), you have no way of ensuring everybody is taking the elements validly anyway. Another agument proceeds from the institution of the supper. It was instituted prior to the Great Commission. Ergo, it appars to be a place of unity in the body of Christ not exclusion. If a person is regenerate and walking with the Lord, they may partake of the Supper. The irony here is that I know some closed communion churches that allow converts who have not yet been baptized to take of the meal but disallow non-Baptists. Let's not forget the number of false professors in Baptist churches who are not fenced from the table. Lastly, an argument preocces from the qualifications on this in 1 Corinthians. Baptism is not in view. Drukenness, gluttony, and moral sins are in view here. If a man is convinced in his conscience that his baptism is valid, then let him take the elements, as the sins Paul has in mind here are in view, not baptism.
b. This is not a violation of the concept of a regenerate church membership. The members of BBC have to hold to a particular covenant. They are interviewed and screened heavily before joining. Yarnell is playing on the idea that a person can just ask to be a member and join. False, they must show evidence of regeneration. They recognize that baptism is a control on a regenerate church membership, but that baptism is not a guarantee of it.
c. Apropos b, they cannot hold any teaching position in the church, nor can they administer the elements of the Lord's Table. About the only thing they can do if they join is help mentor folks coming through a personal evangelism class.
d. Apropos b and c, this applies to adults only, not their children. If their children are converted, they are to be rebaptized upon profession of faith if they were baptized as infants.
e. They would also have to submit to the teaching of the elders on this issue. They are not free to propagate paedobaptist views.
f. If they desire the office of an elder or deacon, etc., they would have to be baptized accordingly and agree to the elders covenant (which is highly restrictive in this matter), and only teach credo-baptism.
From my comments on this @ Founders:
Since the Drs. Caner have insisted on making negative comments about John Piper, while at the same time disaffirming negative speech about Johnny Hunt, it is altogether fitting to address their problems with the situation at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Apparently, there are two things that underlie their objections. (1) Calvinism is somehow a recipe for infant baptism, ergo the statement that Dr. Piper is "being consistent." and (2) an predilection with what appears to be a form of high church ecclesiology derivative of Landmarkism, given one of their statements about "unbaptized ministers," which, I would add, would be in direct contradiction to what John L. Dagg had to say about that particular matter.
The first is simply a category error. It conflates a *Reformed* distinctive or a distinctive of *Covenant* theology with *Presbyterian* distinctives. Simply put, there is a long literature on this material that one has to ignore in order to make such an elementary blunder. Baptists are already drawing their views on the Lord's Supper from Bullinger and Zwingli, so it's not as if even *that* is a *Baptist* distinctive. It would actually be a *Reformed* distinctive. *Covenant theology* does *not* lead to infant baptism.
With respect to the *second* I believe it was Dr. Dagg that reminded us that (a) there is no record of John the Baptist's baptism; (b) Paul was called to preach *prior* to baptism and (c) the discharge of the work of ministry and the preaching of the word does not devolve from *baptism* but *regeneration*. The affirmation of the former, not the latter is a recipe for allowing unregenerates into the pulpit not to mention popery, according to Dr. Dagg, so "unbaptized ministers" are to be respected as valid ministers as long as they can produce a credible profession of faith.
Now to Dr. Piper....
These are the exact changes that would have been made effective at BBC:
One looks in vain for:
(a) *Anything* affirming that infant baptism is a *valid* mode of baptism within Baptist ecclesiology of the local church.
(b) *Any* affirmation that the church would have baptized infants at any point in time or accepted the baptism of infants.
What one does find is that for *adults* coming from paedobaptist, viz *paedobaptizing ecclesial bodies* who agreed with the terms of the church covenant, they would have been allowed membership into the church. Notice the conditions under which this would have taken place.
1. The teaching and practice of baptism at Bethlehem Baptist Church is defined in Section 12 of the Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith. The keyparagraph states:
We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death andresurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the true Israel, and an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin.
2. Thus the official position of Bethlehem Baptist Church is that only baptism by immersion of believers will be taught and practiced by the church. Customarily,therefore, all members of the church will have been baptized by immersion as believers.
3. However, we believe it is fitting that membership in the local church (distinct from leadership in the local church) should have prerequisites similar to the prerequisites formembership in the universal church. In other words, we believe it is unfitting to deny membership to a person who, by faith in Christ, gives evidence of regeneration...
4. Therefore, our aim is not to elevate beliefs and practices that are non-essential to the level of prerequisites for church membership. This implies that Christians who have not been baptized by immersion as believers, but, as they believe, by some other method or before they believed, may under some circumstances be members of this church.
5. Since we believe that the New Testament teaches and demonstrates that the mode of baptism is only the immersion of a believer in water, we therefore regard all other practices of baptism as misguided, defective, and illegitimate. Yet, while not taking these differences lightly, we would not elevate them to the level of what is essential. Thus, we will welcome into membership candidates who, after a time of study, discussion, and prayer, prescribed by the Elders, retain a conviction that it would be a violation of their conscience to be baptized by immersion as believers. This conviction of conscience must be based on a plausible, intelligible, Scripturally-based argument rather than on mere adherence to a tradition or family expectations. The elders will make all such judgments in presenting candidates for membership to the congregation. All candidates for membership, even when holding firmly to views different from the official position of the elders, must demonstrate a humble and teachable disposition with respect to the church leadership, as expressed in the Church Covenant.
6. We will not admit into membership persons who refuse to practice any form of baptism at all, or who believe that their water baptism caused their regeneration. The former is a serious rejection of the Lordâ€™s commandment, and the latter is a serious misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. Our MEMBERSHIP AFFIRMATION OF FAITH states, “We believe that [the Holy Spirit’s work in regeneration is not the result of water baptism or any outward ritual.”
7. In the words of our CHURCH COVENANT, the members shall all be committed to “welcome, and test biblically, instruction from the Scriptures by the elders of the church which accords with the Elder Affirmation of Faith, seeking to grow toward Biblical unity in the truth”
In a church organized after the manner of BBC, these individuals could *not* serve as elders or leaders in the church, and anybody preaching or administering the ordinances would have to pass doctrinal muster. This would mean they would have to be baptized by immersion and affirm 12.3 of that portion of the covenant. Essentially, BBC would have adopted the policy similar to the PCA's policy on church membership that allows Reformed Baptists, indeed Arminian Baptists to join as *members* but not as *deacons or elders*. In short, the membership requirement for admission to BBC would have mirrored the membership requirements for entrance into the Body of Christ universal, a doctrine, I might add, Landmarks have historically *denied*.
In order for a member to become an elder (a lay elder or vocational) they have to affirm the Elder portion of the church confession as well as the member portion. Others (deacons and lay workers) are appointed through the board of elders and its committees and those involved in any teaching would also have to affirm that same portion of their confession, since the duty of the Council of Elders at BBC is to maintain the doctrinal integrity of the church and its confession above all else.
On baptism that portion of their statement of faith is abundantly clear:
12.3 We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a sign of belonging to the new people of God, the true Israel, and an emblem of burial and cleansing, signifying death to the old life of unbelief, and purification from the pollution of sin.
On this matter of the way BBC structures and executes its government, I can't help but notice, their Church Constitution and Bylaws reads almost exactly like the church constitution of my home church, a 5000 + member SBC church that was pastored by a very distinguished Baptist and leader in the Conservative Resurgence until his health failed and he was forced to retire, a church on which I was once on staff. So, I am left wondering exactly what the Caners' problem with the elder model is, if we used BBC's bylaws as a model, since they are nearly identical in practice, if not structure, to that of the large SBC churches some of which I have served.
Now this isn't to say that even I agree with what BBC would have done, but the documentation in my possession is extensive, and it is far from what the Drs. Caner (and now Dr. Yarnell) have portrayed of Dr. Piper and his church and his position on baptism. One can't help but notice their original assertion was that it had been approved, when it had not been approved, and it is readily apparent they had to go hunting for information *after* that was pointed out to them. One wonders if they have *ever* read or examined the documentation.As for the insinuation of a "halfway covenant" this isn't even close. In that situation, the grandchildren of those members did not have to submit to the strict positions of those churches. In this model, only the adults who fall under this very stringently caveated conditions are allowed to become members, their children are to be baptized by immersion if they present themselves as such, and these adults must submit themselves to the instruction of the church, including its teaching on baptism.
They would be denied ministry in oral or ordinal settings, unless, knowing Dr. Piper, they were needed to help train others to do things like personal evangelism, for example. Yes, as much as it may shock the Caners, RB'a and SGB's practice personal evangelism as much as they do. In fact, I would argue from where I am in the nation, we do it with *greater* fervency than our counterparts.
Today, the pendulum swings again, now away from Quakerism and towards Presbyterianism.
Okay, if you really believe that, then please explain this in the rationale for the policies at the IMB:
After all, these special leaders will be representing Southern Baptists while they are starting churches in the field that are also distinctively Baptist. They will be financially supported by Southern Baptists. Therefore, we are right to expect their ministries to be more in line with our heritage and doctrinal
core than those of other denominations or belief systems. We are not an ecumenical movement, determined to send anyone who wants to go to the field. We are Baptists, and therefore we are only sending Baptists.
1. Notice the equivocations in this one paragraph between Baptist and Southern Baptist. We are planting Baptist churches...but we are only sending Baptists. Well "Duh." (as if those who disagree with the policies are not Baptists).
2. The line abt. financial support is just a clever way of saying, "We are establishing SBC churches abroad." Where in the IMB mission is this ever stated?
3. Apropos 2. These letters included a definition of "church." This called local churches autonomous. Ergo, those churches are autonomous bodies. They are supported by the SBC, but this does not give the SBC control over those churches. No, that would be a violation of local church autonomy per Hatley's own definition. So, which is it? Are these churches connected or autonomous?
4. Therefore, we are right to expect their ministries to be more in line with our heritage and doctrinal core than those of other denominations or belief systems.
This is a non-sequitar. This would only be true if financial support = ownership. It does not. This is what happens when you treat church planting like running Coca Cola Corporation. "SBC" is now a brand name being propagated abroad. That's what's really going on here. If that church wants to become a bunch of 5 Point Calvnists and the IMB doesn't like that, they can sever support for the church. Ditto if they become amill or post-mill or Arminian or whatever.
So, which is it? Are these autonomous, congregational churches or not? This rationale reads like they are connected and the denomination has oversight of them. This is Presbyterianism masquerading as a missions policy; so it seems
On preaching...I agree. There is a loss in orthodoxy...but when you have functional Unitarians preaching in the pulpits, you shouldn't expect more of a trinitarian emphasis. Notice also that this point in his work tugs in the opposite direction from his points about being Christocentric. Only a Calvinist or Lutheran can honestly hold to both of these propositions without becomeing functionally Unitarian.
Christians who do not practice baptism are simply not Great Commission Christians.
Yarnell has no idea that Presbyterians baptize new converts as believers on the mission field.
This is hopeless jejune. For Yarnell Baptist = Christian; non-Baptist = non-Christian or nominal Christian.
Baptists, of whom Southern Baptists comprise the healthiest part, are besieged.
They are not the healthiest part by any stretch, not when they are questioning whether or not they are a regenerate denomination at home, much less abroad.
See here: http://www.ccwonline.org/sbc.html
The focus was on humanly-devised methods rather than upon the free offering of divine grace through bold proclamation of the divine Word.
There is no free offering of divine grace...there is divine grace bestowed powerfully from above through a perfect Savior.. The "offer" is not an invitation, it is a universal command to be preached far and wide. This is the very thinking that makes "humanly-devised methods" a problem. I'd also add that in another time, Sunday Schools, missions boards, etc. were all viewed as "humanly devised methods."