The John 3:16 Conference- Audio Files Posted

November 12, 2008
UPDATE: Since the question of legality has been raised I want to once more confer with people who know better than I on the subject of distribution in order to make sure that what I post here is in perfect alignment with American laws (and thus the Word of God).  Therefore, I will temporarily be suspending access to the audio recordings of The John 3:16 Conference.  Please check back to see the future status of these messages.  Thank you.
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As some of you may have realized by now, this past weekend I was able to attend the highly anticipated, highly controversial John 3.16 Conference at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA, sponsored by Jerry Vines Ministries. What you may not know is that I also obtained recordings of all the messages and the Q&A session on my personal recording device.

I had initially remarked on various sites about making these available by email, but after finding the file size was too large to transfer I decided that I would make them available here on my blog instead. So, if you are interested in hearing what exactly was said at the conference you will find all sessions ready for download located under the ‘Resources’ tab on the header. Granted, these are not the greatest quality mp3 you will ever encounter, but I would say that most of you will find them perfectly sufficient.

For those of you who may be concerned, the conference made no comments about prohibitions on recording media of any sort, nor were there signs posted, and after conferring with the tech guy at my church we determined that it is perfectly legal to distribute these recordings under standard copyright laws. So please, take a listen and help us to keep the leadership of the SBC accountable for what is being said while this hotly contested issue continues to boil. Enjoy!

PS- If you tried to download these earlier and found Dr. Keathley’s message unavailable, please know that I have fixed the problem and you should now be download it at your convenience.

The John 3:16 Conference- Ken Keathley on Perseverance of the Saints

November 12, 2008

The fifth scholarly presentation of the conference belonged to Dr. Ken Keathley, Dean of Graduate Students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and was concerning the Perseverance of the Saints.  This talk took on a different light than the others since it is a part of the Baptist Faith & Message that “All true believers endure to the end,” and thus (hopefully) everyone at the conference, whether Calvinist or non, was in agreement on this.  In fact, this is what many at the conference used as the dividing line between being a non-Calvinist and being an Arminian (though I would likely contest that man’s role in salvation is a better place).  Nevertheless, Dr. Keathley’s presentation was not without fireworks.

Dr. Keathley began his message by referencing 2 Timothy 1.12.  He then stated that there are two components to assurance of salvation: being certain that you are saved and being certain that you will stay saved.  Dr. Keathley then asked the question, What is the basis of assurance?  It must be one of three views.  Either it is not possible to know (traditional Catholicism), it is the essence of faith (which Keathley says is hampered by the doctrines of unconditional election, limited atonement, and temporary faith of the non-elect), or it is logically deduced (a standard Puritan position, deriving assurance from sanctification).  Keathley spent some time arguing against the view of logical deduction, including a reference to The Golden Chain by William Perkins and a look at the problem with logical syllogisms.

The question was then asked, How secure is my salvation?  Again, we have three views.  There is the view that apostasy is possible, which comes out of Augustinianism and Arminianism.  Or one may hold that apostasy is not possible, which is the view of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Barthian implicit universalism.  In this view the verses that appear to speak on apostasy are actually on a loss of rewards in heaven.  Then there is the view that apostasy is genuinely threatened but not ultimately possible.  This third view arise from places such as Tom Schreiner and A.B. Canneday’s work The Race Set Before Us and says that the verses read for apostasy are not about rewards but are actually threatening hell.  However, the warnings here are only of conceivable, but not actual consequences.

Keathley railed against this third view for several minutes, asking just how conceivable apostasy could really be if it is not ultimately possible?  Then, after sharing a quote from Schreiner and Canneday’s book, states that their view is not just close to the view of the Council of Trent, it is the view of the Council of Trent (!).

To close, Keathley gave what he stated was a “modest proposal.”  He stated that we should take that the only basis for assurance is the objective work of Christ; that assurance is the essence of saving faith; that saving faith remains until the day it gives way to sight; that there are awards to gain or lose subsequent to the receiving of eternal life; and that assurance comes from Christ alone.

In responding to Keathley I want to first address a general comment on his method and then address specifically what he had to say about the Schreiner/Canneday view both in his message and in conversation that we had later that day.

In regards to method, I feel that it was a bit disingenuous of Keathley to use William Perkins Golden Chain as an illustration of Puritan teaching on assurance, seeing as how to anyone who knows what they are looking at it is clear that Perkins advocated a supralapsarian, hyper-Calvinist viewpoint, a much less common variant of Calvinism as it is believed in today.  For the sake of making a point, this illustration is certain to rattle some anti-Calvinist cages, but for the sake of honesty it would have been nice for Dr. Keathley to admit that this view is not the prevailing perspective among Calvinist teachings.

Now, turning to his comments against Schreiner and Canneday, or against a logic/works based assurance in general, I found it interesting that when I approached Keathley about this, his own explanation of what constitutes belief was simply to volitionally place trust in Christ, yet when talking about it he constantly referred back to recalling a moment in time or recalling an action that spoke to/demonstrated that trust.  An illustration he used was that he demonstrated his faith in the chair to support him by sitting on it.

I know this is hairy, but there truly is a distinction.  If Christ is the basis of our assurance, then why do I need to recall a moment when I volitionally put my trust in God to have assurance of my salvation?  To what extent I can imagine it, to say that the basis of your assurance is the objective work of Jesus Christ is simply saying too little unless you believe in a sort of universalism, since otherwise there must be some action on your part to let you know that his objective work has been applied to you.

That is where the rub is.  For Keathley, a non-Calvinist, or more precisely, a Molinist, salvation is a mental exercise of “looking to Christ.”  Yet for myself and Schreiner-Canneday (and I would argue, the Bible), salvation is a process of regeneration leading to justification with the only sure evidence of your salvation coming from the evidences provided in your sanctification.  It is only in this sense that Peter’s words to “make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1.10) and Paul’s admonition to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2.12) make any sense.  What fear and trembling comes from recalling a time that you looked to Jesus?  You either did or you didn’t.  And, observing the full context of 2 Peter 1, we see a list of qualities that should appear in the believer, that without which Peter says “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (v.9).  Yet, what kind of blindness keeps you from remembering a volitional act?  Inebriation?  This is pure non-sense in Keathley’s view.

Finally, the charge that the Schreiner-Canneday view IS the view of the Council of Trent is a step too far.  To equate modern Calvinist understanding of spiritual evidences, a belief that is very firmly grounded in biblical study, with the traditional Catholic teaching of perseverance by works is the type of ignorant anti-Calvinism which is fueling this whole unnecessary dispute.