Thursday, February 23, 2006

P.H. Mell and John L. Dagg Vs. Ergun Caner -Paige Patterson-HyperCalvinistic Baptizer-The Rise of Romanism in the SBC?

The anti-Calvinist rhetoric of Ergun and Emir Caner at the Founders blog has generated the stuff of which legends are made this past week. Ergun Caner's refusal to discuss the issues like a sane man is generating even more dialogue. Add to that Michael Spencer's excellent series on this, Joe Thorn's blog entries, those entries by dogs at Fide-O, and our own Calvinist Gadfly, myself and Evan. I'm sure the Caners are quite pleased with themselves.

Perhaps we shouldn't expect so much of Ergun Caner in particular. He claims to be an Amyraldian. However, since Amyraldianism really does subscribe to all but limited atonement, we have to wonder how firm a grasp he has on Amyraldianism. In Amyraldianism the decree to elect is after the decree of the atonement, but the decrees are themselves executed before creation, so the atonement is ultimately never intended/effectual for all people anyway. This is basic theology of which he seems quite ignorant. An Amyraldian would have no logical reason to object to Calvinism. Apparently, Caner believes general atonement sets him apart and he can redefine the other 4 doctrines into things they have never meant until folks like Norm Geisler and Dave Hunt have redefined them and still claim the moniker.

One of the Caner's needs to debate these issues. As it stands now, they interact with their opponents exactly Islamic apologists interact with Christians. Their behavior only damages their testimonies.

(1) Theologically, Reformed theology has a highly developed theology of the concept of the “covenant” which the decrees underwrite. I find it disturbing that two Christian men from Muslim backgrounds are arguing against this fundamental concept. Reformed theology is, conceptually, the most Jewish of the Protestant theologies. It smacks of simmering background issues in these two mens’ lives. For the sake of their growth in Christ, they must confront these issues.

(2) They repeat the charge of “fatalism” v. Reformed theology. IMO, this comes from their background as well, as Islam teaches fatalism. Ergo, when they see Reformed theology’s doctrine of providence, they conflate with Islamic fatalism. Ergo, the charge. Again, they need to confront these issues for the sake of their walk with the Lord. It is a sin to equate biblical theology with paganism, even if that is your own background.

(3) The charge has been made that Beza influenced Calvinism with scholasticism. They need to be confronted with the fact that the Arminianism which they espouses was *also* articultated through scholastic categories, in fact moreso. Moreover, the confessions are all infralapsarian, not supralapsarian, so it is difficult to see how Beza’s supralapsarianism overly influenced Dort or later groups, when Dort was infralapsarian. Moreover, Dort is not the sum and substance of Reformed theology. By far the majority of Reformed theology, esp. in the modern age, is exegetical, not merely confessional, particularly in Reformed Baptist circles.

If we really want to discuss historical theology, then let it be known that the doctrines to which Ergun Caner has subscribed have historically led to Socinianism and liberalism among Baptists. If monergistic regeneration makes a man a robot and is impossible, then those who wrote Scripture were all "robots" and Caner has no logical reason to affirm inerrancy. If Caner traces his history through heterodox groups like certain Anabaptists whose Christology was, how shall we say, inventive or worse yet through Paulicans, Bogomils and others, then we have a theory of church history quite willing to set aside orthodoxy for the sake of tracing a lineage through rebaptism. This logically leads to a-historical theological views and theological liberalism. After all, if we can set aside Christology for example, why not the gospel, epistemology, and the rest?

(4) Apropos 3, they have made particular claims about Baptist history and Southern Baptist history in particular which are demonstrably false. They have publicly charged Founders Ministries with "rewriting Baptist history." On this, I would like to see Tom Nettles and Emir Caner debate. Emir apparently thinks he and his brother’s book of biographical essays and their companion volume on their presidential addresses qualifies them as authorities on Baptist history in the Convention. From a publication standpoint, they are publishing out of their field, since most of their work has been vs. Muslim apologetics. It's also rather ironic that they would affirm a view of Baptist history more in common with Bill Leonard and Walter Shurden, men who they wouldn't let near their respective academic institutiions with a ten foot pole vs. Tom Nettles for example.

(5) Apropos 4, their behavior here undermines their credibility as apologists v. the Muslim community. In fact, I would say their behavior here is exactly like that of many Muslim apologists in both tenor and content. When an apologist like Dave Hunt misrepresents Reformed theology ad infinitum, it undermines his credibility as an apologist vs. the RCC or any other group. The same can be said of the Caners with respect to Muslims if they continue down this path.

(6) These issues are fundamental to the understanding of the gospel and they way we do evangelism and grow churches. Remember, Ergun has explicitly appealed to baptism numbers of these large SBC churches…the very ones that can’t get half of their members into church on Sunday and have large member to baptism ratios that are embarrassing to the denomination.

From John L. Dagg’s Manual of Theology:

“While men regard the call of the gospel as an invitation which they may receive or reject at pleasure, it accords with their state of mind to institute the inquiry, whether God is sincere in offering this invitation: but when they regard it as a solemn requirement of duty, for which God will certainly hold them accountable, they will find no occasion for calling His sincerity in question.”

The objection to the latter, if thoroughly analyzed, will be found to contain in it some lurking idea that it is safer to trust in something else than in God’s absolute mercy.. As such lurking trust is dangerous to the soul, the doctrine of election has a salutary tendency to deliver us from it. IT tends to produce precisely that trust in God, that complete surrender of ouserselves to him, to whihc alone the promise of eternal life is made; and if we reject the doctrine, we ought to consider whether we do not, at the same time, reject our only hope of life everlasting.

The gospel brings every sinner prostrate at the feet of the Great Sovereign, hoping for mercy at His will, and in His way: and the gospel is perverted when any terms fall short of this are of this are offered to the offender. With this universal call to absolute and unconditional surrender to God’s sovereignty, the doctrine of particular redemption exactly harmonizes.

(7) I fear if they continue on this path, P.H. Mell’s words about one of his anti-Calvinist opponents will come true.
He made it v. Russell Reneau, who made it his business to exterminate Calvinism from the earth. He was the perennial anti-Calvinist. It could easily apply to either Caner, since to be honest, most Calvinists on the internet at least had no idea who I either of them are apart from their recent behavior.

Referring to Reneau (and I would say to every anti-Calvinist I heard in recent history), Mell wrote in Predestination and the Saints’ Perseverance,

“Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity.”

Nobody reads Reneau today. P.H. Mell is extolled by Southern Baptists of all stripes to this day.

This whole thing just spirials out of control every other day.

On top of this, I’ve been doing some research into the IMB policies and the possible reasons for indexing eternal security to a valid baptism. The new policies would state that a missionary candidate would have to be rebaptized in a church that affirms the doctrine of eternal security if he was originally baptized in a church that disaffirmed the doctrine. Keep in mind that *any* candidates going before the IMB to serve as a missionary would already be stating they affirm this doctrine by affirming the BFM 2000. Moreover, they would have to have been members in good standing at their recommending churches for no less than 3 years.

Why mention this? Well, two funny things happened to me yesterday.

First, I ran across an indepth paper by a Landmark Baptist from 1994 no less that argued this very thing. In short, it argues that baptism must be underwritten by the true gospel. Since Arminians do not have the true gospel, which the paper defines as the 5 points of Calvinism, they cannot baptize properly; and, of course, this would also infer that they aren’t regenerate, since they don’t believe the true gospel.

Second, I got a note from a friend at NOBTS last night saying he had met Paige Patterson and discussed the new policy with him. Dr. Patterson stated that he believes anyone coming from an Arminian Baptist church should be rebaptized, because “their soteriology is deficient.”

Now, the irony here is rich. Patterson is no Calvinist. He explicitly denies the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pointsof Calvinism. I would argue he redefines the first and the fifth. So, he has, conceptually, no logical reason to affirm the fifth or its cousin “eternal security.” Yet, he says he would rebaptize those coming from FWB churches because they have “deficient soteriology.” Nowthink on that, because the man who wrote that paper I found would rebaptize Patterson for the same reason!

On top of that, let’s not forget that these folks are the ones who call “Five Point” Calvinism “hyper-Calvinism” ad infinitum. Yet it is a hyper-Calvinist practice to deny a valid baptism to those coming into our churches from General Baptist Churches. The Philadelphia Association accepted the baptisms of General Baptists who became Particular Baptists without requiring they be rebapitzed. So, what we have here is at least one prominent non-Calvinist who has seemingly become at least indirectly associated with this anti-Calvinist faction in the SBC who is himself practicing hyper-Calvinist baptism with nary a word from the anti-Calvinists. What, pray tell, does this tell us about their integrity?

Then I received an email asking if I have heard about a possible resolution at the upcoming Convention in June. If this is true, then the SBC may be presented with a resolution to investigate Calvinism in the SBC and SBTS's role in promoting it.

It would be quite astounding. It would garner replies like "Shall we subject John Broadus, John L. Dagg, and James Boyce to the new Inquistion?"

All this talk of high church ecclesiology in the IMB baptism policy, the de facto appointment of SBC Presidents, the growing anti-Calvinism, the virtual agreement with Rome on the doctrine of man's ability to contribute to his salvation, conditional election, and a cooperative grace of calling (that is actually just the general call in the case of the SBC and not "grace" per se as in Rome's view) and now this resolution all smack of Rome. Those doing these things aren't too far afield. What's next? The Canons of the Council of Nashville?


  1. Gene:

    I really admire your knowledge of this subject. You pretty much lost me right at the start, after the "P.H." part!

    But, I wanted to ask--since you mentioned the words "eternal security" in your post--this: don't we believe in the eternal security of the believer because of the perfect-passive tense/mode of Bible verses such as 1 Peter 1:23? I mean, a systematic theology--of any kind--is great for its handholds, but any of them are derived (supposedly, anyway) from the Scriptures. I always say, "A guy can't tell all that the Bible means until he can tell all that the Bible says".

    Please advise.

    Keep blogging, brother. The rest of us are trying to catch up!

  2. I agree, we affirm eternal security or any doctrine on the basis of exegetical conclusions.

    However, it is massively inconsistent to affirm a doctrine like the security of the believer while exegeting *other* Scriptures assuming LFW. This is what makes the affirmation of the security of the believer illogical for the one who affirms LFW while denying monergisitic regeneration and irresistible grace.

    On the one hand, they "take God at His word" for the security of the believer. On the other, they insert disjunctions in the text of Scripture on the very Scriptures that they need to underwrite the other set.

    In so doing, the confound a necessary and a sufficient condition. The texts stating the security of the believer are necessary, just a decree establishes the certainty of an event...but without the ones on the underwriting concepts, they are insufficient to establish their case, just as a decreed means is a sufficient condition for x.

  3. Gene:

    Thanks for the reply--I think I agree with you, except this time you lost me after the "massively inconsistent" part! Reading your posts is a refreshing refresher in the college logic course I took 20 years ago! In other words, it's good to dialog with you.

    I didn't understand all the systematic theology my seminary professors tried to teach me more than a decade ago--I think my mind works more pragmatically than analytically (and I may even have worded this incorrectly!). In one of the classrooms, the professor used a Buhl brand overhead projector for his lectures; at the time, I thought that projector wasn't the only /bull/ in the room--if you know what I mean!

    I just stay by the historical grammatical exegesis of the Bible (I serve as a MOE, but my degree is an MDivBL). Certainly, putting 2 and 2 together--and coming up with 4, not 7--is necessary, even at this; the rest of it, I'll leave to smarter guys like you--acknowledging that your skills definitely are needed in the body. And, this seems OK with the saved and lost people I interact with daily; all of it's Greek to them, they say, anyway.

    Hey, what're you going to do with Ex and John?--they think you don't love them.

  4. Good post, but when will you take up the serious issue of pewism. i hope that you will do a special post entirely dedicated to the subject.

  5. Most Baptists say they are calminianists--like 4 points calvinists, including Paige Patterson.