Saturday, February 18, 2006

Abortion on the Battlestar

The subject of abortion has come up twice on Battlestar Galactica. The first time involved the threatened termination of the human/Cylon hybrid.

There were enough moral ambiguities in this case that it wasn’t especially controversial. Is a hybrid human? Does it have a soul? Is it made in God’s image?

In addition, the hybrid is an unknown quantity, conceived by the hostile Cylons. Is this a mortal threat to the remnants of the human race?

The second time is more typical. An underage girl from a pious family “finds” herself in the family way with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy.

She escapes to a neutral ship. Her host colony stages a protest on the basis of parental rights, colonial rights, and religious rights.

The representative from Gemini is a stereotypical “fundamentalist,” appealing to the sacred scriptures. It comes across an unreasoning appeal to blind, fanatical faith.

Actually, the show itself has laid a foundation for the authority of the scriptures. When Pres. Roslin was taking a hallucinogenic drug for her cancer, she had prophetic visions which corresponded to the ancient oracles. Logically, then, she should defer to the authority of the scriptures.

But she doesn’t. She at first stakes out the knee-jerk feminist position. Until, that is, it comes to her attention that the fleet is not reproducing at a replacement rate. What remains of the human race will become extinct in a few years. So she decides, in the end, to issue an executive decree banning abortion.

This, in turn, causes Vice Pres. Baltar to publicly oppose her in a cynical act of political and personal revenge, in what sounds like a studied allusion to the Patriot Act.

The writers have cast the socially liberal characters in hawkish, reactionary roles, while the standard-bearer for the liberal cause is the seditious and demented Baltar.

What we have here are thinly-veiled political allegories of a post-9/11 world. And the writers are trying to play both sides of the fence. Purple instead of red and blue.

What is striking is that they don’t simply take the party-line approach of The West Wing.

One wonders if this doesn’t reflect the growing power of the religious right. Are some segments of the mainstream media beginning to reach out to the audience which abandoned the networks for the alternative media?

God can damn well damn anyone he damn well pleases

“Steve,” said exbeliever, “You seem to think that I am making some kind of argument here.”

No, I think you’re trying to achieve by backhanded innuendo what you cannot accomplish by honest argument.

“From the beginning, I said that I was "just pointing out a pretty scary 'slippery slope.'" I said that I was worried about the implication that OTHERS could draw from one of your statements.”

I appreciate your anxiety. My influence over world affairs is vast, you know.

“If your god exists, he can elect anyone he damn well pleases. I really don't care and have nothing to say about it.”

Be careful what you ask for!

“Judging by statistics and demographics, it seems that he prefers to elect primarily white Europeans and Americans.”

Judging by the fact that you disregard evidence to the contrary, such as I already presented in my former reply.

“Now, that statement is either true or false. You can prove that statement one way or another.”

I’ll settle for false.

You are tacitly equating the elect with Western church history, which conveniently leaves out of account ANE history, Eastern church history, and future demographic trends.

“You seem to think that I am adding some kind of "identity politics" to my statement and implying, "if the statement is true, then your god is a racist and therefore must not exist." That's never been my point.”

Be sure to tell that to Mary Poppins the next time you see her.

But when you say you “could see how this could easily justify imperialism, colonization, and even racism,” the insinuation of racism is all-too obvious.

“Can you quote examples of my "tacit assumption" of your race?”

Quoting you assumes a measure of candor which is absent from your sophistry. You prefer to trade in innuendo.

No one is taken in by this. You are assuming that I’m white, and trying to put me on the defensive by imputing to me a racist theology. The strategy is less than subtle.

“Tell me, how do you know that your god is going to start electing more non-Caucasians? MUST your god now start electing more non-Caucasians because recent trends show that "the Christian center of gravity is shifting from away from the dwindling population centers of the N. Hemisphere"? Could your god NOT decide to re-center everything again in a "whiter" region of the world tomorrow, or MUST he follow the trend you cite?”

i) To begin with, I don’t have to know. I’m answering you on your own terms. You’re the one who equates election with geography.

If you’re now going to retract your operating assumption, then there’s nothing left for me to respond to.

ii) But beyond demographic projections we also have Biblical promises and prophecies which predict the global reach of the gospel (e.g. Gen 12:2-3; 13:14-16; 15:5; 16:10; 22:17-18; Ps 2; 22; 72; 110; Isa 2; 9; 19; Dan 7; Mt 28:19; Rev 5:9).

“And just so you know, Steve. I blog because I enjoy dialogue.”

And just so you know, exbeliever, I blog because truth has consequences.

I'm not just killing time until time kills me.

“In my worldview, there is nothing "at stake" in these conversations. I'm a collection of atoms that stick together for a short span of time and then disperse.”

“What I am saying is that I just don't care enough to get passionate about any of this stuff.”

What you’re saying is that when you have a worthless creed, nothing is worth getting passionate about.

At Triablogue, we play for keeps. Between your worldview and ours, everything is at stake.

“I don't have an "agenda;"

How could I have soooo misunderstood you? Maybe because you’re a team member of a blog that goes by the name of “Debunking Christianity”? Sounds like a wee bit of an agenda to me.

If you have no agenda, then why not debate both sides of the issue?

“When I feel that someone is trying to "go to war" with me in a debate, I simply lose interest because it is just not worth it to me to get someone all riled up or to get riled up myself. If you also enjoy the process of dialoguing with me, please tone it down a little.”

You either need to get a girlfriend or a pet dog. Better yet a potted plant. Orchids perhaps. Maybe a geranium or two.

Orchids make such great listeners. They have no agenda, never get passionate, never talk back—not to mention the low up-keep.

To the ends of the earth



I take it by the mockery that you feel my statements were out of line.

Do you agree with Jenkins' method of counting Roman Catholics and Mormons as "Christians"? [I do, in case you were wondering.]

The question is important because if you do not include Roman Catholics, then Christianity still remains predominately white.

Also, I'm sure that you would agree that even if my statement is crap in contemporary times, it has not been so historically. Historical Protestant Christianity was extremely white and this would seem that God was electing an inordinate amount of white people.

# posted by exbeliever : 2/17/2006 5:51 PM


1.You are playing the game of identity politics. That’s essential to the Democrat party and its subsidiaries in the media, judiciary, and academia.

As a conservative, I reject the premise of identity politics.

2.Even if, for the sake of argument, election were racially discriminatory, discrimination is only wrong when it denies a party its just claims. When a party has a claim to equal rights. Sinners have no rightful claims on the mercy of God.

Remember, I’m a Calvinist. If there’s a problem here, it’s a problem for theological traditions which introduce human merit and freewill into salvation.

3.Not all racial discrimination is racist. I notice that most black churches hire black pastors. Is that racist?

4.Historical secular humanism was extremely white. Modern secular humanism isn’t much more colorful. Just mouse over to the author index at the Secular Web.

I haven’t seen anything this lily white since Birth of a Nation.

5.Incidentally, why are you tacitly assuming that I’m white? That’s a shockingly prejudicial assumption on your part. It’s possible to be a black Calvinist.

There are beaucoup Korean Calvinists as well.

6.Race is a very fluid category. What race is Tiger Woods?

7.From a Reformed standpoint, the Catholic church is not all of a piece. I wouldn’t lump together the patristic church or medieval church with the Tridentine church or the church of Vatican II.

8.I believe a certain percentage of Catholics are saved. Even a fraction of a large absolute number is still a large number, relatively speaking.

9.The knowledge of salvation is not racially or geographically static. In OT times it was extremely Jewish and this would seem that God was electing an “inordinate” number of Semites.

Before the Muslim conquest, the Mideast was Christian. Then there’s the Abyssinian church.

For a historical overview of the intricate relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and the African subcontinent, cf. Africa & the Bible (Baker 2004) by the very un-white Christian scholar, Edwin Yamauchi.

10. Since more people are living now than the sum total of those living in distant to recent the past, the fact that the Christian center of gravity is shifting from away from the dwindling population centers of the N. Hemisphere to the populous regions of the S. Hemisphere will mean that in aggregate numbers, Christianity is going to be predominately non-Caucasian.

Already, China has a huge underground church. Not to mention Korea. Or large parts of Africa.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tearing Down Strongholds:

A Succinct Critique of R.C. Sproul Jrs. Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics Found Therein, Or, a Polyadic Instantiation of The Universal Relationship: "Like Father Like Son."

There, now that I've paid homage to Puritan-esk titles, let me pay homage, by way of defense, to Presuppositional Apologetics. This entry will consistute a critique of Sproul Jrs. critique of presuppositionalism found in his apologetics book, TEARING DOWN STRONGHOLDS and Defending the Truth. To my knowledge no one has critiqued Sproul Jrs. critique of presuppositionalism found in this book. That may be because the critiques are so awful - constituting major misrepresentations and extreme ignorance of presuppositional apologetics - that no one has bothered to write one. Or, it may be because the book begins (in Sproul Jrs. defense, he says he was writing it to laymen. But as a teacher he still should not misrepresent in the name of simplification!) so philosophically weak and sophomoric (consisting of such basics as: "you have to be skeptical of skepticism;" "are you relativistic about your relativism?;" "can you see the truth that you can only know what you see?" e.g.,) that no one has made it to the latter portions of the book where presuppositional apologetics is critiqued. Maybe it is because people already feel that Sproul-ish ways were defeated by Bahnsen, Frame, et. al., back when Clasical Apologetics came out with its critique of presuppositionalism that they figured there was nothing new under the sun? I don't know the answer for sure. But so that Sproul Jr. does not feel left out I'll give his book its due.

Many people are familiar with the reviews of Classical Apologetics by Frame and Bahnsen, as well as the debate that took place between Bahnsen and Sproul Sr., well; the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. The most succinct explanation of Sproul Jrs. critique against presuppositionalism is: Like father like son. The only difference is that Jr.'s critiques are worse.

Now, in the preface (ix), Sproul writes that he's writing for laypeople to come to an understanding of how to refute unbelieving epistemologies. Fine. But, Sproul also tells us that he realizes he's going outside the reformed dogma of presuppositonal apologetics and that he hopes that when the "avid Reformed apologist" reads his book there might be "rapprochement in the war within our walls." Sproul "would love to see presuppositional and classical apologists getting along like the brothers they are" (p. x). He then contrasts the "avid Reformed apologist" with "you, the reader" (p. x). So, there is a distinction between the "laymen" and the "avid Reformed apologist" who is not a "layman." The critiques in this book, therefore, are leveled at the scholarly wing of presuppositionalism. But, as we will shortly see, Sproul does not interact with "scholarly" presuppositionalists. Indeed, he interacts with nothing I have ever heard a scholarly presuppositionalist apologist say or write. Thus Sproul's attempt to bring rapprochement between the two camps actually could serve as fuel for more contention and hostility (as long as we're using Sproul's wartime language) between the two camps. His peace talks are more like if and Arminian tried to bring unity between Calvinism and Arminianism by "lovingly" critiquing the Calvinist, where the Calvinist is dressed up as affirming Open Theism!

This entry will, as I said above, focus on Sproul's critique of presuppositionalism. His "critiques" are found (mostly) towards the end of the book (he takes small shots at presuppositionalism in pages 137-188, interspersed with his positive case arguments). As I said above, much of Sproul's book would not be of interest to any who want a meaty defense of the faith or a critique of unbelieving epistemologies. But since I don't want to be too fainéant in my dismissal of Sproul's other contributions I should at least make one other remark to compliment the above. In the introduction (pp. 1-11) Sproul distinguishes between negative and positive apologetics. In his explanation of his (the) purpose of positive apologetics he claims that he wants to demonstrate that the Christian faith is true. His "goal is not only to tear down the strongholds of the devil, and not only to repel the assaults of the very gates of hell, but to show that the foundation upon which our faith stands is firm" (p. 11). He does this for the "truth" and "truth's name: Jesus" (p. 11). Amen. The problem, though, is that he nowhere argues for Christianity! Indeed, in the positive apologetics section of the book, Sproul tells us that he "cannot demonstrate" and "has not" demonstrated that the "god" he argued for is the God of the Bible (p.185). He gives a "layman’s" cosmological argument for his positive apologetic, which could prove a number of gods besides the Christian God. He nowhere argues for the resurrection, the inspiration of the Bible, the truth of Christianity. Thus Sproul never accomplishes what he said was one of his purposes for writing the book.

We just read that Sproul said that his argument "cannot demonstrate that the God who is described in the Bible is this Supreme being." But on the very next page Sproul says that his presuppositionalist friends would be disappointed by this. He says that they should not be because his argument is "the same basic argument" Paul makes in Romans 1. Now, I do not think that Paul is making a discursive cosmological argument. (I think the knowledge men have is immediate.) Paul says all men know this God and Sproul says that "all men" know so by "the same basic argument" that Sproul made on pages 177-185. I highly doubt that Sophie the washwomen thinks in terms of "sufficient causes" and that the "power of being" must be in the cause, and that "self-consciousness must come from self-consciousness," and to be able to communicate means that the cause "can communicate" (pp. 184-85) etc. My point, though, is not to critique this aspect of Sproul's argument but to critique what he said next. Sproul tells us that Paul's argument (which was "basically the same argument as Sproul's), demonstrates not that "some other being" (p. 186) can be, or is, God; but that it demonstrates the "God who is" (p. 186). But the "God who is" is the biblical God. Therefore if Paul's argument, which is basically the same as Sproul's argument, demonstrates that the "Supreme being" is the God of the Bible (because it does not show that "some other god" can be this God) then why does Sproul say that "we" "cannot and have not" demonstrated that "the 'God who is' described in the Bible is "the God who is?" If the argument does not allow for some other god to be demonstrated, but it demonstrates a "god" then the "god" (or, "Supreme being) it demonstrates must be the God of the Bible! Thus we can see but an example of the confused argumentation offered by Sproul Jr.

At this point I now turn to Sproul's critique(s) against presuppositionalism. The first thing that must be pointed out is that Sproul no where interacts with any published presuppositionalist. No footnotes, no names, no quoting their work, nothing. He irresponsibly critiques "our friends in the presuppositionalist camp (p. 150)," and mentions "some" who "suggest that our given, our starting point, must be God himself" (p. 137). Sproul confidently argues against "those who argue that God is... the beginning of knowledge" (p. 138). Sproul seeks to show his keen insights by putting his "opponent[s]" in a "dilemma" (p. 138). We are never told who these friends, opponents, and abstract "thoses" are. Is this how one achieves rapprochement? Well, "my friends" in the presuppositionalist camp don't think so, and "some say" Sproul has misrepresented them and their camp!

I find no excuse for this. The problem is that Sproul tells us that part of this book is for non-lay presuppositionalists. So does he expect scholars to take this kind of scholarship seriously? Also, Sproul is teaching people in this book, therefore he is already held to a higher standard. Even if Sproul contends that he wanted to simplify his book for his intended audience by not giving footnotes and supplying names of the people who supposedly have been trampled by Sproul, he still egregiously misrepresents "those" people and those "opponents" (who ever they are!). It is to his critique(s) that we now turn.

Sproul's main and number one critique is on the very idea of "start with" or "begin with" God. First, Sproul is not very clear here, though. For example, on pages 137, 138, 150, and 186 he mentions those who "start with God" but on p. 174 he refers to the same group as those who "start with the Bible." Surely this is a major difference in starting points. It makes all the difference in the world if you just start with "God" instead of if you start with an entire worldview (i.e., start with the Bible).

Second, Sproul takes "start with" in a temporal sense. He makes this clear in many places. Take, for example, what he says on p. 138. He says that although it "is attractive" to say we "start with God" we cannot because the "difficulty with this view" is that we "cannot begin with God." Why?

"The reason why brings us back to Descartes. We all begin our knowing with ourselves, because it is we who are doing the knowing. To those who say, 'I begin with God' or 'I presuppose God,' we ask, 'Who begins with God?' One might try to get around this problem with the semantic trick, and affirm instead, 'God is.' While it is certainly true that God is, and that his being is in no way dependent upon our acknowledgment of it, we nevertheless ask, 'Says who?' We do not start with God but with ourselves."

So we can see that Sproul takes "start with" in a temporal sense because the "I" comes before the God in the sentence "I start with God." But Sproul pays no attention to history and so thus repeats past mistakes. This is the same critique given by Gerstner et al in Classical Apologetics (p. 185, 212). Now this very critique was discussed by John Frame in Van Til and the Ligonier Apologetic Westminster Theological Journal [47, 2 (Fall 1985), 279-99]. This was discussed 17 years before Sproul's book! Sproul shows absolutely no familiarity with the debate. He just hashes out already answered criticisms. Maybe Sproul missed that article. Well in 1987 Frame's Doctrine of The Knowledge of God addressed this topic as well. Maybe Sproul didn't read pgs. 125-26? If so, then we have Frame's 1994 book, Apologetics to The Glory of God (p.13) in which he discusses this critique. Since that was a footnote Sproul might have missed it. If so, then we have Bahnsen's tome, Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis, where he defines "start with" in non-tempral terms (p.2). What is the basic gist of the above answer to the critique? Frame writes,

"They stress the pre in presupposition and thus take it that a presupposition is something someone believes before (temporally) one believes anything else. This is wrong. The pre should be understood mainly as an indicator of eminence (e.g., preeminence), not temporal priority" (AGG. p.12, emphasis original).

Therefore, Sproul's number one critique (indeed, the one he uses in all his critiques!) is based off a major misunderstanding of the idea of "start with." This would not have been so bad if this was 1985, but this has been answered time and time again! Who are these "friends" and "opponents" and "thoses" that R.C. Sproul Jr. has been talking to? They seem like presuppositionalists who have never read any presuppositionalist literature!

Next, Sproul uses his shaky foundation to stand on and launch another criticism. Sproul discusses logic and the presuppositionalist on page 150. He talks about "our friends" in the presuppositionalist camp who "start with God" and the "problem" that they have. What is this problem? Well, to say "I do not start with logic; I start with God" invites this sharp critique by Sproul: "I'm delighted to hear that you do not start with God but with logic." That is to say, since the presuppositionalist dummy is set up as "starting" with God temporally, he can not have logic yet. He must get there next as in, 1 and then 2. So, since he does not have logic yet then he cannot ward of a contradiction and, hence, if he "starts with God" then he "does not start with God." There's no logic yet to stop Sproul's attack. There are many problems here.

First, Sproul says in a parenthesis that God "is, of course, logic." Is Sproul saying that presuppositionalists don't believe this? (Well, it is vague and Sproul would need to tell us what he means by saying "God is logic.") But on page 148 Sproul tells us that presuppositonalist Gordon Clark translates John 1:1 as God being logic. So, maybe Sproul just means that Van Tilian presuppositionalists don't believe that God is logic? If he does not mean this then when the presuppositionalist says "I start with God" he is, by definition, also "starting with logic," since "God is, of course, logic." Sproul seems to not even get this problem.

Second, Van Tilian presuppositionalists "start with" an entire worldview (cf. Bahnsen, Van Til: R & A, pp. 461-67), one which already has logic (and its metaphysical and epistemological justifications) included. Therefore, Sproul is again caught having a severely diminished understanding of Van Tilian apologetics. He seems rather ignorant on the whole thing.

Third, and most devastating, Sproul says that we need to start "with the rules of logic" (p. 151). Well to this I simply respond, "Who starts with the rules of logic?" If Sproul replies, "Logic is" then I simply ask, "Says who?" You see, unless Sproul is equivocating on "start with" then he has the same problem he leveled against the presuppositionalist! Indeed, when Sproul says that he "starts with himself" I can simply say, "I'm delighted to hear that you do not start with yourself." Since Sproul does not have logic yet then I can contradict him! Thus the sword Sproul yields to cut the presuppositionalist actually ends up cutting himself!

Now, maybe Sproul thinks that he can start with an entire worldview (though he doesn't) but the problem is where did he get this worldview? Does he accept it as a package or does he build it up block by block? How can he "start with" himself, logic, and the senses? Should we start here? Or does he also "start with" morality? Whose morality? What is this worldview called? Is it a Christian worldview? If so, then he "starts with" the Christian worldview to prove the Christian worldview. If not, then does he "start with" a non-Christian worldview? The point is not to have Sproul answer all these questions (though that would be nice), the point is to point out that if this is what he is doing then he doing exactly what the presuppositionalist has been doing long before him or his Dad started doing apologetics. Therefore his critiques agaisnt us fail. Not only that, but Sproul's own arguments end up refuting his entire case for theism. His foundation (himself) is not his foundation (because there's no logic yet). The nail in the coffin for Sproul is that on page 153. There Sproul indicates that he does not "start with" logic but he "starts with [himself], ... and then move[s] on to logic..." (emphasis mine). Therefore if Sproul "starts with himself" then he does not "start with himself" because he does not yet "have logic" he has yet to "move on" to it. If Sproul wants to start with them all then the further we get into this would get us involved in Sproul's rather weak form of foundationalism (for critiques against that see Plantinga's Warrant Trilogy) and move us beyond the scope of this entry.

The last thing I wish to comment on is another egregious misunderstanding on the part of Sproul. After his cosmological argument he mentions what "his friends call the transcendental argument for the existence of God." He tells us that he would rather call it "the epistemological argument for the existence of God" but does not tell us why. Certainly there are transcendental and non-transcendental epistemological arguments for the existence of God. Be that as it may, he conflates "transcendental" with "transcendent" (pp. 187-88). He also says that the argument is to show "how those things [i.e.,logic, our senses] came to be." The must have "a source, a source that is transcendent." God's existence, ontologically, "precedes the existence" of logic (p. 187). So, there is a point in time that logic does not exist (I take the "pre" in "precede" as temporal). But on page 150 Sproul tells us that God is logic. If so, does He "precede" Himself!? Therefore, Sproul's idea of what we call the "transcendental argument" is really just another cosmological argument (one that is self-contradictory for Sproul because I can say, "Oh, God's existence precedes logic? Well then it does not precede logic!"). This is not what we call "the transcendental argument." And so we begin where we left off: misrepresentations and misunderstandings on top of misrepresentations and misunderstandings.

In conclusion we can now see that, like father like son, R. C. Sproul Jr. egregiously misreprsents the presuppositionalist camp and thus we are further from rapprochement than when he had written his book. Little kids whish for their two front teeth for Christmas, presuppositionalists whish for someone to represent them properly.




You wrote: "4.Social conditioning is not incompatible with Reformed theology. We believe that, as a matter of divine providence, God often places the elect in a situation favorable to Christian faith, while placing the reprobate in a situation unfavorable to Christian faith."

Wow, that statement has some pretty significant consequences!

I'm not saying that you are implying any of this, but I could see how this could easily justify imperialism, colonization, and even racism.

Again, I'm not accusing YOU of any of these, just pointing out a pretty scary "slippery slope."

If you share the beliefs that most of my past reformed friends had, then I think you probably do not agree with how religion stastics count "Christians." My friends did not believe that most Catholics were Christians, nor would they count Mormons in that number.

I mention that because your statement almost seems to imply that if God wants someone to be elect, he makes that person a white American or European.

Anyway, that statement just shook me. I'm not trying to address your argument, just kind of frightened by that one idea.

# posted by exbeliever : 2/17/2006 1:49 PM


You wrote: "His father was a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits,” C. Darwin, The Descent of Man.

Wow, that statement has some pretty significant consequences!

I'm not saying that you are implying any of this, but I could see how this could easily justify imperialism, colonization, and even racism.

Again, I'm not accusing YOU of any of these, just pointing out a pretty scary "slippery slope."

If you share the beliefs that most of my past social Darwinian friends had, then I think you probably agree with how evolutionary stastics count "human beings." My friends did not believe that most Blacks were human, nor would they count Asians in that number.

I mention that because your statement almost seems to imply that if Natural Selection wants someone to take up the white man’s burden, it makes that person a white Victorian atheist.

Anyway, that statement just shook me. I'm not trying to address your argument, just kind of frightened by that one idea.

# posted by exdarwinist: 2/17/2006 1:50 PM


You wrote: "Christianity is rapidly expanding south into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. By the year 2050, only one in five of the world's three billion Christians will be white,” P. Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity."

Wow, that statement has some pretty significant consequences!

I'm not saying that you are implying any of this, but I could see how this could easily justify imperialism, colonization, and even racism.

Again, I'm not accusing YOU of any of these, just pointing out a pretty scary "slippery slope."

If you share the beliefs that most of my past Christian friends in the Southern Hemisphere had, then I think you probably do not agree with how religion stastics count "Christians." My friends did not believe that most Democrats were Christians, nor would they count skinheads in that number.

I mention that because your statement almost seems to imply that if God wants someone to be elect, he makes that person a Black African, Asian, or Latino.

Anyway, that statement just shook me. I'm not trying to address your argument, just kind of frightened by that one idea.

# posted by davidduke: 2/17/2006 1:51 PM

Social conditioning


Aren't you the first ones to argue that we see things from within a set of presuppositions?

This is not about who's intelligent or smart. It's about different ways of seeing thigs, according to you, yourselves.

So why do you act and write as if this is a matter of intelligence, or my lack of it?

This just seems inconsistent of you.

But does anyone here deny that cultural conditions will likely (but not in every case) determine our beliefs? Mexicans will become Catholics, people in the heartland of China will become Buddhists, and people born into Jewish families in Israel will become Jewish in their theology?

This is the basis of my test. Do you deny this?

# posted by John W. Loftus : 2/17/2006 8:50 AM


1.To say that we always see things from within a particular set of presuppositions doesn’t mean that we can only see things from within that particular set of presuppositions.

A fundamental feature of Van Tilian apologetics is to compare and contrast differing worldviews. The test of a worldview is which set of presuppositions makes sense of the world when we look at the world through one presuppositional lens or another.

2.As to social conditioning, if this appeal were compelling, it would cut both ways. It would undercut atheism as well as theism.

So the appeal either proves too much or too little. Why is Europe so secular these days? You could attribute that to social conditioning as well.

3.If you want a “test-case” of groupthink central, just look at the voting patterns of college profs.

4.Social conditioning is not incompatible with Reformed theology. We believe that, as a matter of divine providence, God often places the elect in a situation favorable to Christian faith, while placing the reprobate in a situation unfavorable to Christian faith.

5.But a further problem with invoking social conditioning is that this sort of appeal will die the death of a thousand qualifications. For there are so many exceptions that it falls far short of a causal pattern or even a statistical trend.

There’s the guy who grows up in one faith and converts to another.
There’s the guy who grows up an unbeliever, and becomes a believer.
There’s the guy who grows up a believer, and becomes an unbeliever.
There’s the guy who grows up in the faith, backslides, and returns to the faith.
There’s the guy who comes to the faith, then commits apostasy.

The variations are almost endless.

6.You continue to confound belief with behavior.

The fact that many men and women act a certain way, especially in closed societies, tells us next nothing about what they actually believe. There is no direct correlation between the two.

And, indeed, when some of these societies crack open, allowing for freedom of dissent, there is often a mass defection from the status quo ante.

In fact, to take your own example, Evangelicals and especially Pentecostals are making deep inroads into Latin America.

Social conditioning is good a producing nominal belief or outward conformity.

7.In addition, Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are not terribly credal to begin with. They are far more into orthopraxy than orthodoxy. It’s about ritual—about doing the right thing, not about believing the right thing.

8.And in America, much of the media, not to mention academia, is controlled by the secular forces. Yet despite all that social conditioning, many Americans are Christians.

Two Questions for Sandemanians

Question 1: In Sandemanianism, is it theologically possible (not is it probable, or is it likely, or has it ever happened, but is it theologically possible) for someone to be saved and yet never produce a single good deed in response to this salvation? In other words, can someone be saved and yet never make a single step towards sanctification, where there is absolutely no change within the heart or life of the person? If your answer is “Yes” then please tell me where the Scriptures allow for this. If your answer is “No,” then please tell me how this is not, in fact, the implication of your theology.

Note: I’m not trying to build up a straw man. I know that you all certainly seek sanctification in your own life and encourage it in the lives of others.

But every time I have made a statement along the lines of “Saving faith necessarily produces genuine works,” I have been accused of crossing the lines of Galatians or Romans 4 (this accusation usually requires the false equating of salvation by faith alone with justification by faith alone). It is the word “necessary” that sparks this accusation. I believe that there is no such thing as someone who is justified but not sanctified and, in turn, glorified. I believe that the nature of justification is one that necessarily produces sanctification by the Spirit. But if good deeds are not a necessary byproduct of justification, and yet you do affirm that they are indeed a byproduct, we must conclude that you affirm them to be an unnecessary byproduct, which opens the door for the possibility of someone being saved and yet never producing a single good work in his entire lifetime. So what is the case?

Question 2: Is apostasy a possibility for a true, regenerate believer? What defines apostasy, and what does apostasy look like? What is the relationship between apostasy and sanctification?

Evan May.

One more for the road


And heck, while you're at it, you might pull out C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea, or follow up on some of my suggestions here:

I'm the last one to suggest that "transcendental" arguments are bad! But if you broaden your definitions enough, then van Tilians start looking a whole lot like Kuyperians, if that.

# posted by Victor Reppert : 2/16/2006 3:55 PM


I guess the point of this statement is that if you broaden the definition sufficiently, presuppositional apologetics becomes indistinguishable from traditional apologetics. If that’s what Reppert is angling at, I’d just say the following:

1.One really can’t compare and contrast Van Tilian apologetics to traditional apologetics since there really is no such thing as traditional apologetics in general.

Any individul apologist or school of apologetics is going to be characterized by a particular package of theology, epistemology, ontology, and methodology.

So the degree to which Van Tilian apologetics is compatible or incompatible with “traditional” apologetics affords no general answer, but can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

2.I’m not arbitrarily expanding the definition. There is, in fact, a broader as well as narrower definition of what constitutes a transcendental argument in the standard literature. Depending on which definition you favor, that will directly affect your version of presuppositional apologetics.

It doesn’t mean that the definition is entirely open-ended. And if something can’t be worked into a transcendental argument, than it cannot be deployed in favor of transcendental theism.

3.More to the point, it’s a mistake to being with what differentiates one school of apologetics from another. Apologetics is a secondary discipline.

The duty of apologetics is not to be distinctive, but to generate sound arguments for the true faith.

Where you logically begin is with the theological tradition you are defending. That prescribes the content of what must be defended as well as proscribing certain methods and assumptions at variance with the belief system.

For example, Reformed theology cannot use the free will defense.

So the theological system you are defending supplies the frame of reference for your apologetic system. Your apologetic strategy is distinctive to the degree that it is keyed to the distinctives of a particular theological tradition.

It is indistinct from other apologetic schools to the degree that its own theology intersects with other theological traditions.

In addition, Scripture is silent on many detailed questions of ontology and epistemology. To that extent, the apologist is free to choose whatever options best commend themselves to his own way of thinking as well as the opponent or audience.

Van Tilian apologetics is specific to Calvinism. The doctrines of Calvinism prime the pump.

Although C. S. Lewis said he was only defending “mere” Christianity, yet the version of the faith he was defending bore a startling resemblance to the via media of the Anglican tradition!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Debunking Loftawful bunk

Thus far, the chief threat which John Loftus poses to the church is that Christian intellectuals will become cage fat from the yummy diet of intellectual junk food he’s been dishing up for our consumption.

We’ve never had it so easy. We no longer need to write original essays. We simply mouse over to his blog once a day, and he supplies us with all the honeyed corn mush we need to do a post of our own.

I’d advise my fellow bloggers not to become overly indolent from living off the fat of the land. Rather, we should squirrel away this bountiful summer’s harvest of warmed over chestnuts for the lean months to come. It’s just too good to last. Rationing is the only prudent policy. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

Okay, now that I’ve set the table, it’s time for the Twinkies:

“Earlier I proposed something I called The Outsider Test for your faith, where I wrote: If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn't so? That is a cold hard fact. Dare you deny it? Since this is so, or at least 99% so, then the proper method to evaluate your religious beliefs is with a healthy measure of skepticism.”

Isn’t this precious? Absolutely precious.

Any thoughtful blogger would first ask himself whether he was comparing the comparable.

Notice how Loftus goes straight from Saudi Arabian Muslims to American Evangelicals as if there were no material difference whatsoever.

Lets see now. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. Islam is the state religion. It’s the creed of the media, academia, and judiciary alike. From TV to K-12.

What’s more, in Saudi Arabia they have a little thing called the law of apostasy. This means that if you openly defect from the faith, the state, free of charge, takes you to a barbershop and administers a rather radical haircut with a straight razor. It shaves everything away from the neck up—hair, skin, muscle, bone, arteries—the works.

So don’t you suppose that these two factors might just possibly account for the statistical correlation to which Loftus draws our attention?

And, needless to say, we have the very same type of religious social conditioning in the US as they have in Saudi Arabia, right?

If that part of Loftus’ comparison were insufficiently inept, there’s more. With Loftus it never rains, but it pours.

Precisely because Saudi Arabia is both a theocracy and a police state, we have not the slightest idea what percentage of the population really believes in this stuff.

But permit me to introduce my own comparison. Kuwait is another strict Muslim country with the useful restrictions. But when Saddam, who’s a secularist, “liberated” Kuwait, it was striking to see how many Kuwaitis were more than happy embrace all those decadent Western vices.

“There are so very many things we believe because of when and where we were born that an argument is made by moral relativists based on it, which is known to ethicists as the "Dependency Thesis (DT)" According to the DT our morals are causally dependent on our cultural context.”

Well, if that’s a good argument for moral relativism, then even if atheism were true, we’d be under no moral obligation to believe it, now would we?

But, once again, that passes right over Loftus’ own head.

“An outsider would be someone who was only interested in which religious or nonreligious view is correct, and assumed from the start that none of them were true--none of them!”

Pause, for just a moment, to consider how cravenly anti-intellectual this is. Loftus is one of those intellectually-challenged individuals who takes refuge in a simple-minded security of a stipulative rule-of-thumb.

Instead of judging things on a case-by-case basis, and bringing what we already to know bear, he would have us feign that we know nothing at all, and treat every religion the same even though every religion is obviously not the same.

Question everything! Doubt everything!

Do you suppose that Loftus takes this same deceptively even-handed approach to the creation/evolution debate?

“To be an outsider would also mean we would have nothing at stake in the outcome of our investigations, and hence no fear of hell while investigating it all. These threats could hinder a clear-headed investigation.”

Now he’s gone from bad to worse. Not only should we pretend to doubt things we have no concrete reason to doubt, but we even should believe a palpable lie.

For we do have a stake, a very personal stake, in the outcome.

Suppose I’ve been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have two treatment options: (i) I can undergo conventional therapy. This will do me no harm, but it will also do me no good. It won’t cure me or kill me.

(ii)I can undergo a very dangerous experimental therapy. It will either kill me or cure me.

Now, in weighing the relative merits of these two treatments, should I pretend that I have nothing at stake in the outcome? Is that the rational course of action?

“The Christian must now try to make sense of this claim, coming as it does from an ancient supertitious people who didn't have trouble believing this could happen (Acts 14:11, 28:6), etc, etc.”

Superstitious? Isn’t that a pretty prejudicial characterization of the Christian option?

You see, underlying the pose of studied neutrality antiseptic scepticism, Loftus has already taken sides.

As a practical matter, it’s impossible to doubt everything, for we only find something doubtful in relation to something we do not doubt. I only doubt something because it comes into conflict with something else I already believe.

“You cannot start out by first believing the Bible.”

Why not? What if I do believe the Bible? What if I find it believable? Should I affect an artificial state of unbelief?

One of the tacit fallacies of Loftus’ position is voluntarism. He acts as if we choose what we believe the way we choose a box of cereal. There’s the aisle with one brand name after another. Make your choice

But, needless to say, that’s not how belief-formation works. We have no direct control over what we believe. Belief is not an act of will.

What we do enjoy is some measure of indirect control over some of what we believe by avoiding or exposing ourselves to the relevant evidence. We are predisposed to believe certain things when presented with sufficient evidence. It’s a pretty automatic and irrepressible process.

“And you'd initially be skeptical of believing in any of the miracles in the Bible just as you would be skeptical of any claims of the miraculous in today's world.”

Notice, once again, how slanted this is. See where he places the burden of proof. The onus is always on the Christian. His show of Cartesian scepticism is suspiciously one-sided, no?

This is not an outsider’s test. This is a test in which an atheist has loaded the dice.

You should only be initially sceptical of miracles if you have some positive reason for your initial scepticism.

What Loftus is really saying, once you scrub away the make-up, is that you come to the Bible assuming that atheism is true.

And observe, once more, the mindless procedure of treating unlike alike.

Why should I be equally sceptical of every modern miracle? Stop and think how deeply irrational it is to treat every reported miracle the same way, even when every reporter and reported event is not at all the same.

Loftus is an atheist because Loftus is a simpleton.

“The presumption of The Outsider Test would be that since there are so very many religions, and with so many people believing in a particular religion because of “when and where they were born,” that when examining any religious belief, skepticism would be warranted, since the odds are good that the one you are investigating is wrong.”

Note this fact-free classification of world religion, as if we were playing the odds with a bag of identical marbles.

Let’s take the world’s top five religions. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are all related. The NT lays claim to the OT while the Koran lays claim to both the OT and the NT.

On that common authority-source, there’s a very direct method for falsifying the contenders. Is Christianity the fulfillment of OT Judaism? Is Islam the fulfillment of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures? It’s an exegetical question.

That’s a natural way of narrowing the search parameters. This does not, of itself, verify the remaining option, but it narrows the field. You falsify as much as you can, then verify what’s left over.

As to Hinduism and Buddhism, these are religious which make very ambitious metaphysical claims. Claims about the afterlife, past and future.

But how are they in any position to speak knowingly and truthfully? These are not revealed religions. They do not invoke the existence of an omniscient and omnipotent God to disclose this information. Their conception of the divine is, at best, impersonal and pantheistic.

So their only fallback would be to the use of reason in order to prove karma, Nirvana, and reincarnation.

And since theist and atheist alike regard the evidence adduced in favor of these dogmas as inadequate at best, and conflicting at worst, the atheist has no cause to hold that against us.

Comments Comments Comments

Apparently, my article on the Protestant Denial of Sola Gratia didn't set well with Antonio and some of his cadre.

One of them Jodie didn't bother to read the article, but she accuses me, Steve, and Evan of inventing straw men. Hmm, but Jodie, you said you didn't read the whole article, and at the end of your comments you said you don't come here often, so we have to wonder if you're actually reading them.


This suggests Triablogue's strategy: a sort of make-believe heresy-invention. You say:

GB: These folks don't want to be Campellites. (God forbid they believe baptismal regeneration), but they want to be sure they have a regenerate church membership, so they turn the sinner's
prayer into a sacramental prayer that functions in the same way.

Actually, I am drawing on pastoral experience here. Charles Stanley does this. Johnny Hunt does this. Herb Reavis does this. Jack Graham does this. Danny O'Guinn does this. Adrian Rogers did this. Almost every IFBx pastor that is not a Calvinist whom I know has done this. So, for all your bluster, Jodie, you haven't addressed a single issue.

I also embarked on a little survey awhile back on the tracts used by local churches in my area that teach this doctrine.

Let's take an excerpt from a popular tract from your side of the aisle:

Seven Steps to the Kingdom (English Version)

1. GREETING: (Get a verbal contract). "Hello, May I have one minute of your time?"

2. STATE: "Did you know that Jesus Christ is Lord ---Well,He is and He loves you and wants to be your Lord and Savior.

3. SAY: Romans 10:9 says: "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved". Do you believe that?

4. ASK: "Can you say Lord Jesus?" (This step bring in the presence of the Holy Spirit).

5. PRAY: (Reach out for the candidate's hand and say)

Let's pray; repeat after me:" Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways.
Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my HEART and I receive you, into my HEART, as my Lord and Personal Savior".

6. QUESTION: (Say to the candidate) " According to the prayer you just prayed, where is the Lord Jesus now?" The response should be "He's in my heart". - If some other statement is given, repeat Steps.

(When the candidate gives the correct answer, share with them) "I John 4:4: Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world." Leave them with a tract and an Order of Service Card. Then ask for their address and telephone number: "May we take your name, address and telephone number so that we can call you to follow-up with you and pray with you?" Thank you, and remember: JESUS

Let's not forget the 4 Spiritual Laws

"Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be."
In my article I mentioned the havoc this theology has wrought in SBC churches. So did Jim Eliff in his article.

Have you looked at the ACP's for these churches that practice this theology in the SBC.?

Let's look at a couple:

2001 2002
27905 members 28325 members
21555 resident members 21686 resident members
982 baptisms 801 baptisms
683 other additions 720 other additions
9035 primary worship attendance 9186 primary worship attendance

2003 2004
28837 members 29349 members
21987 resident members 22189 resident members
774 baptisms 774 baptisms
652 other additions 667 other additions
8828 primary worship attendance 9168 primary worship attendance

In 4 years, according to the ACP, this church baptized 3331 people and had 2720 other additions. This means that 6051 people joined the church from 2001-2004. Yet, the primary worship attendance in 2001 was 9035 and in 2004 was 9168 or a total increase of 133. The resident membership increased from 21555 in 2001 to 22189 in 2004, a total of 634.

Or how about this one from the am SBC pastor who spouts this theology from his pulpit and accuses Calvinists in the Convention of being anti-evangelistic:

2001 2002
3506 members 3812 members
203 baptisms 296 baptisms
253 other additions 190 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance 2100 primary worship attendance

2003 2004
4011 members 4163 members
209 baptisms 237 baptisms
137 other additions 204 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance 1874 primary worship attendance

It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. That is a 15% decline.

Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers.

Johnny Hunt's church gets about 40 percent of the "resident members" to church on Sunday morning. He *also* preaches your theology, yet he wants to be SBC President.

Jeremy Myers warns:

But one thing was confirmed in my own mind. The“sinner’s prayer” is a dangerous witnessing tool. It can leave many people thinking that they are going to heaven because they have “prayed a prayer” yet never understood that eternal life is received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
I'll not quote the rest of the authors but I did some checking, and learned that this was posted as a pastoral response. Why is this such a common problem in Free Grace churches if this is not what is being heard by the congregants? Myers, Wempe, Chimpe, and the rest all are having to do this precisely because the sinner's prayer is used as a sacramental prayer in the churches affirming this theology and this is a common problem they face. What is so unclear about this?
I am not downing the use of the prayer. I am speaking to it's continued use. If this isn't what your theology teaches, then why is it such a problem in your churches? The answer, of course, is "decisional regeneration." The difference between the use of it in a program like Evangelism Explosion and in one of these churches is that EE's authors would say it is a valid way to express what God has already done if you choose to do so. In decisional regeneration, this encapsulates the decision and regeneration comes as an exercise of the faith underwriting the prayer. As such, it is *still* a sacramental prayer.

You deny your sacramentalization of the sinner’s prayer because you and they know that to make the sinner’s prayer the basis of assurance, it would represent an outward expression of faith and would then contradict their theology (that there need not be an outward expression of faith). However, when it plays out on a practical basis, they look upon the salvation of others through the lens of this expression in the Sinner’s Prayer, when they “walked the aisle,” etc. Their theology is hopeful, but their practice betrays them.
All your quotes show is that there is a pastoral concern in the Free Grace community that is shared with mine. It does nothing however to address what I actually wrote which was that the ongoing use of the sinner's prayer has turned it into a de facto sacrament that has contributed to a type of Neo-Campbellite ecclesiology among Baptists. A handful of authors discussing this same issue proves my point for me, for they wouldn't have to say such things if this wasn't happening, which is exactly my thesis.

It is the Free Grace Theology that bloats the membership rolls.

It is the Free Grace Theology that results in churches with 29,000 members but only 9000 or less show up on any given Sunday morning, 1/3 of which are visitors.

It is the Free Grace Theology that gives us Pastor's Conferences that are full of men who pat themselves proudly on the back for their inflated numbers without regard to the church members they actually cultivate and then get snippy when you bring up that issue.

It's Free Grace Theology that gives us an SBC President that spends 2 years touring the nation promoting a baptismal program we affectionately call "The Million Man Dunk."
The real issue here is what "faith" means to you people and what it means in Scripture are not always the same. Your defintion is Sandemanian as we shall see below.

F/G theology doesn't make the sinner's prayer or any other human convention into a sacrament. F/G proclaims that believing in Christ as the sole provider of eternal life results in the bestowal of eternal life, and therefore salvation from eternal damnation at the Great White Throne Judgment:

Oh really? I beg to differ. The very authors you cite are synergists are they not? The affirm regeneration is the result of faith, do they not? Ergo, the decision a person makes is the sacrament, whether its the prayer or their decision or the altar call or the invitation system. It's called "decisional regeneration." When you couple that with Sandemanian "faith" you get Campbellite ecclesiology. Campbell was a Sandemanian. Maybe that's why you like him so much. I remind you that Dr. E. M. Caner self-destructed at the Founders blog earlier today and mentioned the invitation system...yet *another* example of the problem, for *he too* espouses your theology. Why the constant drum-beating over the invitation system if it hasn't come to function as a kind of sacrament?

Now, let's consider this from Bob Wilkin. We see that, by his own admission, what we are saying to you about what F/G theology asserts is true (that it reduces to antinomianism, allows for true apostasy, and makes sanctification optional):

Free Grace #1: Antinomianism
Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is not guaranteed; apostasy is possible for the true believer; and that the believer is not under any set of rules or laws today.

Free Grace #2: Basic Free Grace
Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is not guaranteed (however, many if not most in this view hold that all believers will produce at least some good works sometime somewhere, even though those works may not be evident to others or even themselves); and that apostasy is possible for the true believer. Unlike the above group, the basic Free Grace position holds that believers are under rules and laws today. This group tends to have a strong view of accountability and the believer's future judgment.

Free Grace #3: More Reformed Free Grace
Holds to the four essential Free Grace views. Believes that perseverance is guaranteed (with a strong view of perseverance which excludes the possibility of carnality lasting for a very long time and which asserts that all believers will produce good works which are clearly observable to themselves and others), and that apostasy is not possible for the true believer.

In Baptist ecclesiology, if you hold to number 1 or 2 and you make baptism the door for church membership, all you've done is conflate a credible profession of faith and saving profession of faith, and this becomes your new sacrament. It is *still* Campbellite ecclesiology. It's still decisional regeneration.

If he does believe, a prayer is unnecessary. If he doesn't, a prayer will be confusing since I may direct him to say things he can't yet understand or believe, because God has not yet opened his heart.

Yet Zane Hodges, whom you quoted, denies monergistic regeneration, so all this statement does is highlight his inconsistency. He calls this theology Free Grace, but then conditions the New Birth on an "ACT of punctiliar faith". This is simply another form of legalism, no matter how much they protest otherwise. The "act" is indeed a work rewarded by regeneration.

We don't believe that making a 'commitment ' to Christ is even close being a proper response to the biblical offer of eternal life.
1. The biblical offer is to justification. The new birth in John 3 is not an imperative. Jesus is not commanding Nicodemus to be born again to have eternal life. Jesus is affirming a fact. That fact is monergistic regeneration.

See Zane Hodges' defintion of saving faith. It is "Belief Jesus is the Christ." It excludes repentance from sin by his own admission. It need not result in sanctification, by his own admission. I am saying nothing Hodges has not said already.
You are very correct; "committing" to Christ is not a proper response to confrontation with the gospel in the F/G view. There is no commitment at all. It's believing a set of facts about Christ. This is what he says;
"What we normally mean by faith is that we have a persuasion or a conviction, or we have an assurance about something or about someone... So the word 'faith' ought to be self-defining. Lordship theology redefines faith. Lordship theology imports into the basic and natural idea of faith things which ought not and do not belong in that concept. For example, in Lordship Theology, surrender, commitment, sometimes even repentance, is included within the concept of saving faith. So faith becomes more than simple trust, or more than simple persuasion about the truth of something."
Of course the problem is that it is Hodges who has redefined saving faith and reduced it to assesus. I'll not rehash that with you again, since others have done this for you repeatedly.

And what does "trust in Christ mean?" According to Bob Wilkin :

First, the sole condition of eternal life is trusting in Christ as one's Savior. None of the following are conditions of eternal life: turning from sins, being willing to turn from sins, committing one's life to Christ, baptism, doing good works, or persevering in the faith.

Yet, Scripture says that those who persevere to the end are the ones who will be saved. Repentance is
never seen as optional. Obeying Christ's commands is likewise never seen as optional. A truly regenerate person will desire to believe and obey.

But Jesus said: John 15:16 "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of he Father in My name He may give to you."

Here's what Bob Wilkin says about dealing with false professors:

In attempting to determine whether one is a true or false professor I do not:

1) consider the quality of his works,

2) try and figure out how grieved he is when he sins, or

3) attempt to discern how much he desires to have an intimate relationship with God. Those are three commonly suggested tests (see, for example, Dr. Darrell Bock, Bibliotheca Sacra [Jan-Mar 89]:
pp.31-32). The problem with such tests is threefold. First, some unbelievers may appear to do well on all three counts. Indeed they may be fervently trying to be good and may be living a very moral life. Second, some believers may do poorly on one or more of these tests. King David would have failed the test during the first year after his fall. Many of the believers in Corinth would have failed
these tests (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3; 6:1-20; 11:30). Third and most importantly, the Scriptures do not give such tests.

Rather, I feel there is one test we can utilize. Since belief is an understanding and acceptance of the Gospel, a false professor is one who claims to believe yet who either does not understand
or does not accept the gospel. Therefore, I talk to people about the gospel. I ask them questions. Do they believe in eternal security? Are they sure they have eternal life? Why should God let them into heaven? How would they share the gospel with someone else? If they indicate that they are sinners who are
eternally secure by grace because Jesus died and paid the penalty for all of their sins, I conclude that they are saved. If not, I am unsure as to whether they are a confused believer or whether they never were saved in the first place. In any case I then attempt to make sure that they now understand the
gospel and accept it.

And there we have it, Ladies and Gents. According to Bob Wilkin to determine who is a false professor, we ascertain what believe about a set of facts about Jesus and about giving the right answers on the doctrine test. He agrees they lie, but this just shows they are giving answers and not believing them, so as long as they really, really, really believe these facts they're saved.

Now, there is a grain of truth here. 1 John 5:1 is both an affirmation of monergistic regeneration and a test by which we know we are regenerate. However it is not the only test in 1 John, and that's the problem. Dr. Wilkin's takes one test and amplies it to the exclusion of the others. That is what we deny here. There are very clear ethical tests in Scripture. Indeed the removal of assurance because of backsliding is a salutary method by which God keeps us from apostatizing and disciplines us.

How far this is from Charles Ryrie:
"Having said that, some caveats are in order. One, this does not mean that a believer will always be fruitful ... Two, this does not mean that a certain person's fruit will necessarily be outwardly evident ... Three, my understanding of what fruit is and therefore what I expect others to bear may be faulty and/or incomplete. ... Nevertheless, every Christian will bear fruit; otherwise he or
she is not a true believer"
--And that is why my friends out West who graduated from DTS cannot believe their ears when they hear Bob Wilkin and Zane Hodges make such absurd, anti-biblical statements about their pastoral practices much less their theology.

Zane Hodges...
But then what is it? Many of the contemporary evangelical answers are filled with confusion and permeated by error. When faith ceases to be merely taking God’s Word for things, it becomes something mysterious, imprecise, vague, and numinous. It can then be said to include such unrelated
concepts as repentance, surrender, willingness to obey, devotion, a worshipful spirit, etc.....

The one who believes that Jesus is the Christ possesses divine, unending life.

No one can believe this message without being saved (1 John 5:1). And no one can believe this message without being sure that he is saved! The message, in fact, is God’s true, reliable, and unchanging
"witness" to us.

Having done this, we try hard to turn faith into something "productive" and "effective." Faith, we decide, cannot be merely "receiving the witness of God." It cannot be, we tell ourselves, merely
"standing on the promises" of His Word. Surely it is not, we think, simply "resting" in who Jesus is and in what He guarantees.
This contradicts James 2. Evan has dealt with this repeatedly.

John Calvin dealt with this also. Note what you folks leave out when you bring up Calvin, and as I recall, Antonio was parrotting the F/G apolgetes' objection that seeks to pit John Calvin v. the WCF a few weeks ago :

Calvin is concerned to distinguish the foundation from the evidence of assurance. He writes against Rome that declared that faith alone was false and assurance impossible. Ergo, he writes of the foundation of faith and assurance as a result in due time and with due grounds.

The grounds: the Word, the sacraments, the Spirit's testimony. And what else does Calvin say...the part that those in the Free Grace Movement (or with sympathies) ignore:

No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death...Inst., 3.2.16.

What then is the relationship between faith, its grounds, and this last statement? Quite simply: genuine saving faith grows and matures. If it does not grow and mature, the individual has impetus to doubt, and, I would argue this is precisely the impetus of Scripture in the matter, for, in Scripture assurance comes with growth and maturity.

From The Institutes:
Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection." (p. 476)

"Their whole error lies in this, that while the term faith has a variety of meanings, overlooking this variety, they argue as if its meaning were invariably one and the same." (p. 477)

"The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself. Let those who glory in such semblances of faith know that, in this respect, they are not a whit superior to devils." (p. 478)

"Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith."
(p. 478)

Assurance, therefore, has an objective basis: Christ via faith and faith via the Word and the means of grace and spiritual growth. Remember, Scripture contains instructions for taking the Lord's Supper with a clear conscience, etc. Partaking of the means of grace, therefore, is a mean to maturity, etc. So it all flows together.

It is quite obvious that you really do not understand the theology that you argue against. This has been a post of extreme blather and straw men.

Notice there is nothing here that Antonio actually names as a "straw man."

You mischaracterize, and flat out misrepresent free grace every time your hands type a sentence. It is quite disturbing indeed.
Like you have with Reformed theology each and every time you set yourself to it? Pot meet kettle.

It may indeed be beneficial for yourself and your readers to actually familiarize yourself with the TRUE doctrines of grace (Free Grace Theology)before you again are faulted for such deep and careless caricatures.

Try reading about Free Grace theology from its advocates rather than from its detractors, should be step number one.

You, Steve, and Evan are a couple of peas in a pod. Very little substance in your arguments against that which you do not understand.

A remedial course in research tools and principles may be in order.
Of course, Antonio, you have not engaged Steve or Evan on these issues. Neither is he in a position to know what I have or have not read on the subject. You bowed out of a discussion with Centurion after what 3 questions? You're the one that has stated that those who came to Christ and believing Reformed soteriological constructions are not regenerate. With every passing post you self-destruct further and further.

"Belief that Jesus is the Christ" is saving faith according to Hodges. This is assensus to noticia, not fiducia. This is a REDEFINITION of fiducia. Hodge is saying "trust in assensus" not "trust in Christ."

What is so unclear about that Antonio?
This also answers Rose who writes in response to my statement that this "saving faith" is believing some facts about Christ

: No. That is so sterile. I think you know that this sterility is not at the heart of those soteriologies that fall in the camp outside your own.

Well, there you have it Rose. "Belief that Jesus is the Christ." without repentance from sin. This is not the definition of saving faith. Bob Wilkin is on record as dealing with assurance issues pastorally by asking people what they believe about Jesus. Evan and Steve have written at length on this, so I'll not repeat it for you, again, accept to say that Reformed theology is not an either/or theology. Assurance is grounded both in the promise of God (faith is its own assurance) and a changed life. 2 of the 3 tests for regeneracy in 1 John are ethical. We have said nothing Scripture does not say.

I am not a Gnostic. I don't think we should feed the flesh. What an insult to
call me that.

Rose apparently cannot follow an argument well. Rose, Gnostics were dualists. A "new/good" nature and an "old/evil" nature in one person is dualism. It recycles the mind/body; spirit/flesh dualism of the Gnostics. Gnostics were either antinomian or legalistic, take your pick. The carnal Christian theory results in either as well. The carnal Christian theory recapitulates Gnostic dualism.


More incompetence from Antonio:

The idea that one may believe in Him and live for years totally unaffected by the amazing miracle of regeneration, or by the instruction and/or discipline of God his heavenly Father, is a fantastic notion—even bizarre. We reject it categorically."

Yet the end of the article to which Antonio linked we find this:

It can then be said to include such unrelated concepts as repentance, surrender, willingness to obey, devotion, a worshipful spirit, etc.—the list goes on and on,

and in Bob Wilkin's own writing we find that he says that 2 of the 3 views on this issue in the F/G community include the view that true believers can apostatize. At most, what we have in the Free Grace community is an ongoing discussion about this very thing; and since #3 is rarely if ever communicated, we have to wonder if 1 and 2 are the dominant positions.

Charles Ryrie is famous for his distinctions over repentance:

Second, there is a repentance that is unto eternal salvation. What kind of repentance saves? Not a sorrow for sins or even a sorrow that results in a cleaning up of one's life. People who reform have repented; that is, they have changed their minds about their past lives, but that kind of repentance, albeit genuine, does not of itself save them. The only kind of repentance that saves is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. People can weep; people can resolve to turnfrom their past sins; but those things in themselves cannot save. The only kind of repentance that saves anyone, anywhere, anytime is a change of mind about Jesus Christ. The sense of sin and sorrow because of sin may stir up a person's
mind or conscience so that he or she realizes the need for a Savior, but if there is not change of mind about Jesus Christ there will be no salvation (So Great Salvation p. 94)

We agree, repentance does involve repenting from a wrong idea about Christ, but it is also repenting from sin. Almost every Bible mention of repentance unto salvation is in the context of repentance from sin. Now, Ryrie does says that repentance from sin is important. But to say that it is not essential to salvation is to say that Christ died for nothing more than recognition of his office as Savior. It appears that Hodges and Wilkin and their disciples, Antonio and Jodie did not fall far from the poison tree.

I have a book to write, so I will leave it to the able hands of Steve, Evan, Paul, and perhaps Alan to deal with the comments this will no doubt incur.


Naked faith is no faith.
- Thomas Adams

The course of thy life will speak more for thee than the discourse of thy lips.
- George Swinnock

...God, who 'will render to each one according to his deeds': eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil...
- Romans 2:5b-9a

Faith justifies the person, and works justify his faith.
- Elisha Coles

As the apple is not the cause of the apple tree, but a fruit of it: even so good works are not the cause of our salvation, but a sign and a fruit of the same.
- Daniel Cawdray

Good deeds are such things that no man is saved for them, nor without them.
- Thomas Adams

The saints of God are sealed inwardly with faith, but outwardly with good works.
- John Boys

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
- James 2:17

God loves adverbs better than nouns; not praying only but praying well; not doing good but doing it well.
- Thomas Brooks

The object matter of all religion is reduced to credenda and agenda (Respectively, "things to be believed," and "things to be done." - ed.).
- Thomas Goodwin

Faith is full of good works. It believes as if it did not work, and it works as if it did not believe.
- Thomas Watson

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil...
- 1 John 3:7-8a

We must first be made good before we can do good; we must first be made just before our works can please God.
- Hugh Latimer

We are too apt to rest in a bare profession of faith, and to think that this will save us; it is a cheap and easy religion to say, `We believe the articles of the Christian faith;' but it is a great delusion to imagine that this is enough to bring us to heaven.
- Matthew Henry

Says one, 'Do you find fault with good works?' Not at all. Suppose I see a man building a house, and he were fool enough to lay the foundation with chimney pots. If I should say, 'I do not like these chimney pots to be put into the foundation,' you would not say I found fault with the chimney pots, but with the man for putting them in the wrong place. So with good works and ceremonies. They will not do for a foundation.
- Charles Spurgeon

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not vigor, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ Himself; and wherever Christ is not, there is no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.
- John Calvin

Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in a real change of life. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction.
- Charles Spurgeon

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
- Galatians 5:19-21

When we have thus taught faith in Christ, then do we teach also good works. Because thou hast laid hold upon Christ by faith, through whom thou art made righteous, begin now to work well. Love God and thy neighbor, call upon God, give thanks unto him, praise him, confess him. Do good to thy neighbor and serve him; fulfill thine office. These are good works indeed, which flow out of this faith.
- Martin Luther

We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do any thing out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man.
- The Belgic Confession

And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
- Matthew 7:23

To be ‘born of God’ is to be the subject of an inward change of heart, so complete, that it is like passing into a new existence. It is the introduction into the human soul of a seed from heaven, a new principle, a Divine nature, a new will. Certainly it is no outward bodily alteration; but it is no less certain that it is an entire alteration of the inward man. It adds no new faculties to our minds; but it gives an entirely new bent and bias to our old ones. The tastes and opinions of one ‘born again,’ his views of sin, of the world, of the Bible, of God, and of Christ, are so thoroughly new, that he is to all intents and purposes what St. Paul calls a new creature. In fact, as the Church Catechism truly says, it is ‘a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness (J.C. Ryle, The Upper Room (Edinburgh: Banner, 1977), p. 137).

If You Can't Beat 'em, Tell 'em They're Gona Beat Their Wife

Very amateur atheologian, John W. Loftus, took some shots at me in the comments section of my my introductory post on Triablogue.

Loftus wasted no time in hurling some pretty harsh comments my way. This may be all he has left after I dealt with him here, here, and here. He has not responded to any of them.

Though I do not desire to somehow vindicate myself, as I agree that I am a wretched sinner, I thought I would still objectively analyze his comments. Since he doesn't want to deal with my critiques of his objective arguments, maybe he'll feel more confident to defend his subjective beliefs? With that said, let's look at what he said:

In my introductory post here I had given a link to something I wrote giving some biographical details about my life before I came to Christ. Loftus writes, "I read through Manata's conversion story, have you? I'm surprised there aren't any comments posted after that story, since it was written so long ago." What Loftus didn't know is that there were no comments allowed on my blog at that time, and so that's why there were no comments. You know what they say about assuming, right? Anyway, here's the good stuff.

Loftus comments, "But you were an evil person, Paul, there's no other way to describe it." There's "no other way?" Maybe I was just doing what the laws of biology had determined I do. Maybe I was "born that way." Does Loftus think homosexuals are evil for doing what they were born to do? Or, how about this, Loftus has no "foundation" for morality. Loftus writes, "...morals do not have an ultimate foundation" (SOURCE). So then, how was I "evil?" Was I absolutely, objectively "evil?" Loftus tells us elsewhere that, "It may even be that this whole existence is completely and wholly absurd to its core" (SOURCE). And so, Loftus does not even know if I am "evil," or if it is rational to call me and what I did "evil." What I did was maybe just as absurd as when Loftus eats his Grape Nuts for breakfast. Therefore we see that Loftus cannot make a rational point, even when he's just emoting subjective opinion.

Next, Loftus writes, "And it seems as though you still are glorying in those days, since your story was all about how evil you were, rather than focusing on your initial experiences when you first became a Christian." Above Loftus claims to have "read" what I wrote. Well, at the very beginning, I had explained the purpose for writing what I wrote. I wrote, "A month or so ago someone commented that I should write about my life prior, and then my conversion to, Christianity." So, apparently Loftus thinks that I cannot answer someone's request that I talk about my life PRIOR to Christianity. If I ever do that I must be "glorying in those days." So, what does Loftus propose that I do if someone asks me about my "glory days?" What should I say if someone asks me how "evil" I used to be? Upon analysis I think Loftus would like me to tell them to go fly a kite because that would mean that I'm "glorying" in those days. Maybe Loftus is right, with this kind of reasoning maybe we are living in a mad, mad world. Does Loftus still "glory" in his Christian days? Is he still, a "Christian?" Well, he constantly talks about his former life and his former teacher, William Lane Craig! Therefore Loftus glories in Christianity over against atheism.

Loftus asks, "You wanted us to know how poweful [sic] you were, didn't you?" Well, I wanted you to know how much of a sinner I was, that was kind of the point. I guess in absurd universes stories don't have points anymore.

Next Loftus continues to psychologize me and my motives by asking, "That's why you have tried to pick an argument with me, isn't it? To gain respect and to be "cool" to other Christians." Well, Loftus shows his short term memory problem. I had posted on the Secular Web and Dangerous Idea on the topic of there being no atheists. But before I even talked or argued with Loftus, he "picked an argument" with me! So, apparently Loftus can "pick arguments" with me, but if I respond or try to do the same thing I'm still "living in my evil glory days." This is more evidence of Loftus' hypocrisy. Loftus expects Christians to answer his questions but he continually tells us that he has no answer for anything, maybe they "just came about by chance" he says. He says, "the universe just popped into existence." This is to say, "it just happened, that's the way it is." But if I were to respond to his myriad questions with, "wulp, that's just the way it is," I'd get lambasted by him and his ilk. Yet more evidence that Christians are the tough-minded ones while many atheists continue to be epistemology lazy.

Loftus then goes below the belt. He writes,

"Mark my words, Paul, you will beat your wife when she disagrees with you in the future. If I were her I would be scared to marry you. But I'll never know if what I predict will happen, and I hope it doesn't. But it will, even as a Christian. And when it does, remember who is was who told you (the truth) that you would do it. And then reflect back on the conversion experience you've had and how it changed your life."

I really don't have much to say here. I will not return evil for evil but will just make a few comments:

1) He knows I'll do this yet he also thinks there's no cause or purpose for the universe. Loftus is caught in a rational/irrational dialectic. When it suits him he tries to reason inductively from my past life to what I might do in the future, but when he's pressed he just says, "maybe it's absurd and the universe just popped into existence and I don't have a foundation for morality."

2) Loftus' remarks that I reflect back on my "conversion" seem to imply that he is under the impression that a Christian can't or wouldn't sin. This is more evidence of Loftus' shoddy understanding of Christian theology. Maybe Steve Hays was right. Maybe Loftus is a undercover Christian trying to infiltrate the atheist camp and make them look stupid.

3) Loftus mentions "truth" in an "absurd" universe that has no "purpose" or "meaning."

4) This kind of behavior is strong evidence for the fact that Loftus' meeting with presupposition has rocked him.

Loftus tells us, "I too had a dramatic conversion." Um, no you didn't. Conversion is a consequence of regeneration, and I doubt Loftus was ever regenerate. But, like him, I hope I'm wrong.

Loftus says, "But there is still hate running through your veins." Note that he gives no examples of this hate that is "still" running through my veins. Secondly, "Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you (psi. 139.21)?

Loftus says,

"And I can see very clearly why it is you are the Calvinist you are today, it's because at the earliest stages of your Christian faith Presbyterian pastor Matthew Bohling taught you what you should believe."

No, as my pre and post-conversion story indicated, I already believed the truths of Calvinism, that was my argument against "Christianity" (as I only thought "Christians" were "Arminians")! Apparently Loftus not only fails to read up on presuppositionalism in order to critique it (as I've documented), he can't even read what I write in order to critique me! Also, I'm a Calvinist because it is what the Bible teaches.

Loftus ends by saying,

"This reminds me once again of the outsiders test which I proposed on my blog. What else could you have believed about Christianity? Arminianism didn't work for you because of your upbringing, just like Calvinism and Catholicism doesn't work for others because of their upbringing."

Loftus' outsider test is this: "If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim right now, say it isn't so? That is a cold hard fact." But I was raised a Christian and Arminian! So how is my not being Christian and Arminian evidence of Loftus' outsider test? Loftus is so confused he not only misunderstands Christianity, presuppositionalism, my conversion story, morality, logic, reason, where the universe came from, etc etc etc, he also doesn't even understand his own "Outsider test!"


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.