Thursday, July 07, 2005

Jerry Falwell says that I can't be a Baptist anymore

On Monday afternoon, June 20, Jerry Falwell spoke at the 2005 SBC Pastor's Conference in Nashville as part of the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I think you can hear the entire message somewhere but I can't find it. I have found this one link from James White's webcast (The Dividing Line) where he discusses the sermon. If you have Real Player, you can hear a short snippet of the critical part: Falwell begins at the 6 minute, 29 second mark and concludes at 9:52. I tried to type out their remarks and they are below:

Our message, mission and vision. When we define our message, you can say, "I’m a Baptist." That really doesn’t do it. "I’m an evangelical." Even that might not be adequate because there is nothing deader than dead orthodoxy. I know some Baptist churches I wouldn’t allow my children to attend. Orthodoxy on ice is just as damaging as liberalism on fire. The best verse to describe our churches - the ones that are delivering the right message - is I Corinthians 2:2 “For I am determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." We believe five things basically – no debate here!

1) We believe in the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. We believe in all the miracles of the Bible. We believe in the Genesis account of creation. We believe in 24-hour days, a young earth. We reject all theories of evolution – Darwinian and otherwise. We reject theistic and atheistic evolution. We believe in the infallibility of Scripture.

2) We believe in the deity of Christ. We believe that Jesus Christ is co-equal with God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit in all attributes pertaining to deity. We believe He is the only way to heaven. When Phil Donahue asked me that many many years ago - before Oprah knocked him off - he said “You Baptists believe that the Jews and the Muslims and everybody else except you guys are going to hell." I said that I never said that. I believe some Baptists are going to hell. I do believe what Jesus said "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one cometh unto the Father but by me." If a Jew, a Muslim or a Baptist or a TV talk show host dies without Christ, he goes to hell.

3) We believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ for all men. We do not believe in particular love or limited atonement. We do not believe that some are damned to hell before they are born and others destined to heaven before they are born. We believe in “whosoever will, let him come.”

4) We believe in Bodily resurrection of Christ on third day. (recording ends here)

WOW! According to Jerry Falwell, I am not a Baptist. After all, using his own words - "there is no debate." Since I happen to believe in a particular love, a limited atonement, a particular redemption - it would seem that I cannot define myself as "Baptist." There is much to think about here.

1) Falwell seems to think that there is a disconnect between a "substitutionary atonement" and a "limited atonement." I would like to ask him, or anyone for that matter, how is it possible that you can have a TRUE and ACTUAL substitutionary atonement if Jesus Christ truly did die for every single person who has ever lived. That would mean that Jesus died as a sacrifice that truly appeased God's wrath for people who will never accept that sacrifice. That would mean that Jesus offered Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice to the Father and the Father accepted that sacfice and Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father because the work was done - and yet many of those people for whom Jesus acted as a substitute will be in hell when it is all said and done. How can that be?

The Bible says that on the cross, Jesus accomplished much - redemption, propitiation, satisfaction, adoption, reconciliation. It can be argued that a redemption that does not redeem, a propitiation that does not propitiate, a reconciliation that does not reconcile and an atonement that does not atone cannot help anyone. But a redemption that does redeem, a propitiation that does propitiate, a reconciliation that does reconcile and an atonement that does atone reveals a most amazing grace on God’s part.

We all recognize the intimate connection between SUBSTITUTION and FORGIVENESS. If Christ became a curse on our behalf (Gal 3:13) and if he sacrificially bore in His body on the cross our sins (I Peter 2:24), there is only one possible result: the perfect salvation for all those for whom Christ died. We remember that Jesus declared from the cross, “IT IS FINISHED!” Really? Do we dare say that Jesus really meant to say “IT IS NOW POSSIBLE!”

2) It is simply incorrect to say that Baptists do not believe in particular redemption. I can think of James P. Boyce, founder and first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who said, “God, of His own purpose, has from eternity determined to save a definite number of mankind as individuals, not for or because of any merit or works of theirs, nor of any value of them to Him; but of His own good pleasure.” Boyce later wrote the Baptist “Abstract of Systematic Theology" in which he argues for “the Calvinistic theory of personal, unconditional, and eternal Election.” He also stated that resistance to this doctrine “arises from an unwillingness on the part of man to recognize the sovereignty of God, and to ascribe salvation entirely to grace.”

I can mention John A. Broadus, another former president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who said, “From the divine side, we see that the Scriptures teach an eternal election of men to eternal life simply out of God's good pleasure.”

I can toss in the name of B.H. Carroll, founder and first president of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary: “Every one that God chose in Christ is drawn by the Spirit to Christ. Every one predestined is called by the Spirit in time, and justified in time, and will be glorified when the Lord comes.”

What about Andrew Fuller, the great Baptist missionary and evangelist who also held to the Doctrines of Grace? He clearly advocated the doctrine of election in his The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, where he affirms that “none ever did or will believe in Christ but those who are chosen of God from eternity.”

And there are these other pioneer Southern Baptists:

  • W. B. Johnson, first president of the SBC, was a Calvinist.
  • R. B. C. Howell, second president of the SBC, was a Calvinist.
  • Richard Fuller, third president of the SBC, was a Calvinist.
  • Charles Dutton Mallary, first recording secretary of the SBC Foreign Mission Board, was a Calvinist.
  • Patrick Hues Mell, president of the SBC for seventeen years, longer than any other man, was a polemic defender of Calvinism.
  • John Dagg, author of the SBC’s first systematic theology, was a Calvinist.
  • Basil Manly, Jr., Luther Rice, and Richard Furman, to name just a few others, are among those who counted themselves as Reformed theologians.

Of course, you almost have to mention Charles Spurgeon, who was not a Southern Baptist but a Baptist nonetheless, regardless of Falwell’s denial of true Baptist doctrine. Spurgeon said,

I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism.. . . nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; . . . Such a gospel I abhor.

If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins. Once again, if it was Christ's intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption.

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.

I guess it must be said that none of these founding fathers of the Southern Baptist denomination (and Spurgeon) were “true” Baptists. Simply amazing.

3) Falwell says that a Baptist must believe that “whosoever will, let him come.” Amen. But have you ever considered that many of those "whosoever will" passages are sitting right next to predestinarian passages? Consider these:

  • John 1:12 (He gave us the right to be called children of God) is followed by John 1:13 (who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God).
  • John. 3:16 (you know it) is preceded by Jn. 3:5-8 and followed by Jn. 3:19-20.
  • "Come to Me" in Matthew 11:28 is preceded by the Lord Jesus praising God for hiding spiritual truths to the citizens of particular cities (Mt. 11:25-26). He also claims that no one knows the Father "except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Mt. 11:27).

Regardless of this defintion, I AM a Baptist. I worry about these comments though. I think this might be the “first warning shot over the bow” and that this issue will come to be a battle much more fiery among conservatives in the convention than even the earlier battle over the Bible between conservatives and liberals.

Are my days numbered?


Mike Cline said...

Me thinks that you have erred in believing that Falwell has become "Southern Baptist". If you have documentation of this ,I would like to see it.
Although he has been active in various meetings of Southern Baptist leaders, I do believe that his church and University still fall under the "independent" catergory.

Bruce Roberts said...

I'm not a Baptist. I'm not absolutely settled on the Calvinism thing, not becaus I'm wishy washy or unsure of my faith, but because it's a pretty complicated thing that we're trying to put into some type of 3 point doctrinal statement or something. Feel free to blast me for my false theology here, but it actually just occured to me that I actually am a Baptist. I still hold membership in a Baptist Church, though I don't attend there (not necessarily for doctrinal but geographic reasons). So I am a Baptist, technically, but I claim not to be, not as a disrespect to Baptists, but because I believe some things that Baptists don't. That can be discussed later. I have great respect for my Baptist brothers and sisters. It seems to me, however, that being a Christian is more important than being a Baptist, Independent, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or whatever. It is possible to be any one of those and not be a Christian, however, if we concern ourselves with being Christians (faithful followers of Christ), that would be of greater importance.

Jim Pemberton said...

I know I'm a little late on this one, but...

Of course your days are numbered. And the Arminian's days are numbered also, whether they believe it or not: Acts 17:26, Ps. 31:15.