Acting by Necessity- Understanding Sovereignty Distinct from Compulsion with Basil Manly, Sr.

August 7, 2009

One of the loudest criticisms of Calvinist soteriology comes in the realm of understanding the working of the Effectual Call.  Many would declare a God who sovereignly chooses whom he will save and then effectually calls them to salvation as an abomination, as one who is infringing upon the free will of man to choose as he wishes for or against Christ.  They talk about ‘determinism’ and how this is inconsistent with the necessity of faith for salvation.

Now, first of all, I reject these criticisms.  However, in saying that I do not plan on giving an extended explanation of why I believe such at this time.  Sufficed to say, if you really must know, I follow the same argumentation used by Edwards in The Freedom of the Will and contemporary Calvinists such as Bruce Ware, where they argue that the fundamental place of God’s working is not in our actions but at the level of man’s desires, out of which flow all of man’s actions.

No, I do not plan on going into much further detail.  Instead what I want to do is share a succinct accounting I found on this issue in the wonderful little book, Soldiers of Christ: Selections from the Writings of Basil Manly, Sr. & Basil Manly, Jr. The argument comes from the pen of Basil Manly, Sr., key member in organizing the Southern Baptist Convention and father of Southern Seminary co-founder Basil Manly, Jr.  Here is what he has to say:

Necessity in human action is not the same as compulsion.  If God works in us to will and to do, there is a necessity that we should will and do; but we are not compelled either to will or do.  The act is obliged to be; but the man, in acting, is free. . . .  In regard to salvation, so far from compelling a man, against his will, the very thing which God does is to make him willing to act right. . . .  The Christian is willing, and chooses to do right; because a divine operation has made him so.  He feels free; he is conscious that he is as heartily free in now trying to serve God, as when he went after the vanities and follies of his unconverted state. (p.124)

This is probably not as clear as it can be on first reading; but take some time, read over it again, and then meditate on what he says.  The argument is subtle but makes an important distinction, and few of the men I have read on this subject say effectively as much in as little as Pastor Manly manages to do here.  Enjoy!


Does “Love” Excuse Us from Right Doctrine?- Quick Thoughts on Derek Webb’s Song “What Matters More”

July 9, 2009

[Warning: for those of you who are offended by swearing, the linked music contains some vulgar language.]

For those of you who think it is not important to keep up with the emergent church movement (ECM) then let this be a warning: this is what’s going on in the broader world of American Christianity while we sit and fight stupid denominational battles about things like if we can accept Calvinists or not.

I hate this.

If you think that we have a problem with people moving towards the doctrines of grace . . . OPEN YOUR EYES!  We have a problem with the church moving away from the Bible.

Brian McLaren calls this song “important and courageous.”  He compares it with a post where he said that “many if not most Christians in the US remain focused on the ‘religious arguments’ list [versus a list of global crises]” (read more here).  And you know what?  He’s right.  Many if not most of us are so focused on our ridiculous arguments against Calvinists ruining families or trying to get Mark Driscoll banned from LifeWay bookstores or keeping Southern Baptists from working in places that sell booze that we totally neglect the whole world in need of a God who is mighty to save.

However, just because we are neglecting this does not mean that everyone is.  No.  In fact, there are plenty of “Christians” like McLaren who are very focused upon these problems.  And guess what?  They don’t care at all about theology.  I don’t mean they don’t care about if you are Calvinist/non-Calvinist/Arminian or Abstentionist/Moderationist, I mean they don’t care if you believe in hell or justification by faith or that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  They don’t care if God exists as three persons in one or if the Bible is truly God’s infallible, inerrant revealed word for us today.  They don’t care one bit.  All they care about is “love.”  And because of this, they are getting an audience with the world.  Never mind if it is grace without truth since there is no one there to bring grace AND truth at the same time anyways.

Is there a need for a Great Commission Resurgence?  I believe there is.  And for those of you who say, “Well golly gee, our church is already focused on the Great Commission,” I present this song, and the rising popularity of man-centered, antinomian, pelagian Emergent “Christianity” as Exhibit A in my defense.


What We Believe- Summary of Posts on BF&M2K

July 8, 2009

Finally after taking the better half of a year we have managed to work our way through the full of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  I think that this is a very important document for anyone who takes pride in being a Southern Baptist to go through, at least on the surface level.  I’ll admit, there are parts that even I read for the first time in preparing this series.

Nonetheless, I have really enjoyed doing this analysis and in particular looking at how the BF&M has evolved over its three incarnations (see a side-by-side comparison here).  To close everything out I have created a tab in the header that lists all of the What We Believe posts along with the texts of the BF&M and various other Baptist confessions for your viewing and/or educational pleasure.  Enjoy and please feel free to raise any further questions as they may come.

BF&M Resources tab


What We Believe- Article XVIII, The Family, part 2

July 7, 2009

Today we will finish up our analysis of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 by looking at the final two paragraphs of Article XVIII speaking on the practical theology of the family.

3.   The Practice of Marriage

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

I love this paragraph.  For all of the flack that Southern Baptists receive as being sexist or chauvanist, I think that this paragraph accurately reflects a biblical theology of marital roles.  I know that this will not satisfy everybody, but I believe the way in which this paragraph has been set out makes it so that any issue someone has with the statement is an issue they have with the Bible.

We must never forget the first line.  Men and women, husband and wife, are both equally endowed with the image of God and thus of equal worth to each other and to God.  This is the key behind the biblical roles described in the remainder that is there to prevent the abuses that might come if left out.  From here, the rest is basically a solid reiteration of Ephesians 5.22-33.  I totally agree with all that is said here.  And since I am only a man, I must say that I believe my wife would agree with it too (and she isn’t the type that would let any abuse slip by).

4.   The Practice of Child-rearing

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Finally, after defining family, marriage, and the practice of marriage, we come to child-rearing (which is the proper order, even though I myself failed to follow this route).  The paragraph begins with a strong pro-life statement.  This then flows into what appears to be a veiled admonition against divorce.  Next, we have an explication of Proverbs 22.6 (“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it“).  And then we round it out with a word to the children coming from the Ten Commandments.

This is certainly a necessary look into child-rearing, and to my tastes a sufficient one as well for a document such as the BF&M.  We don’t get any rules on what music our kids should listen to, if they can date, whether or not to home school.  All of the things which should be left to the conviction of parents with God have been, and I appreciate that.

So, that does it.  We have walked all the way through the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as I have provided my own personal commentary on it.  Hopefully now we all have a better idea of the core, minimal beliefs that we as Southern Baptists should hold to.  Some parts of it I like, some I don’t, but all things considered, I find it to be a satisfactory document for facilitating cooperation among Southern Baptist churches across the country and around the world.  Thanks for reading along with me.


What We Believe- Article XVIII, The Family, part 1

July 6, 2009

After leaving off for awhile (accidentally actually) we are finally coming to the end of our analysis of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  The last article that we will be looking at is Article XVIII concerning the family:

XVIII. The Family

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.

This last article, which actually did not appear in the BF&M until 1998 (so, 35 years after the second version of the document was published).  It is basically ordered into four distinct parts corresponding to the four different paragraphs.  The parts are (1) the definition of family, (2) the definition marriage, (3) the practice of marriage, and (4) the practice of child-rearing.  In this post we will handle parts 1 and 2 and tomorrow we will cover parts 3 and 4.

  1. The Definition of Family:

“God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.”

From the outset this is a very logically flowing article.  Clearly this article was necessitated by specific societal changes, particularly in regards to the increasing acceptance of  pre- and extra-marital activity and the advance of the “alternative lifestyle” movement in America.  But nonetheless, for what has its impetus as a political response, this article comes across, at least in my eyes, as the most well-reasoned and biblically justified article in the practical living portion of the BF&M (starting from Article XI).

As for the definition itself, it seems airtight biblically.  God did certainly ordain the family within the first two chapters of Genesis, and the reference to “marriage, blood, or adoption” leaps straight from the text of Scripture, where entrance into a family by adoption has such great significance.  This definition, of course, now begs the question which is addressed in the next paragraph, namely, How does one define marriage?

2.   The Definition of Marriage

“Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”

Wow!  That first sentence carries some serious weight!  We can all agree that marriage is the uniting of two individuals as one (cf. Genesis 2.24), and as long as we are being honest and not just pushing some agenda we can read fairly clearly that this uniting is to take place between one woman and one man.  Yet even after that we get a statement which is likely controversial to many Southern Baptists: ” . . . in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems to me to be saying that divorce for any reason is not God’s design for his creation, especially since this topic is not spoken to anywhere else in the article.  Many people believe loopholes and exceptions exist for divorce, but if my reading of the BF&M2000 is correct then our organizing document takes a much stricter stance than the norm.

In the next, extended sentence, we find the writers adding detail and explanation to the truth found in Ephesians 5.23-24 as well as addressing several practical concerns.  They take a stance that marriage is intended for biblically appropriate sexual expression (try getting clarification on that one beyond the obvious disallowal of homosexual activity) and that marriage is the appropriate context for producing children (instead of pre- or extra-marital relationships).  All of this I think we can be on-board with without much hesitation.

Now, in the next paragraph we jump into a pot of boiling water by trying to address gender roles in marriage, which we will struggle through in tomorrow’s post.


Fully Fixed on the City to Come- Watch David Platt Bring It at the SBCPC

July 2, 2009

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” -Hebrews 13:13-14

Going into last week’s SBC Pastor’s Conference I had heard a lot about David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brooks Hills in Brimingham, AL, but had never actually heard him preach, and so for me he was definitely the main attraction (much more than, say, Mike Huckabee).  Then, when he announced his sermon text was Hebrews 13 I was practically giddy (both that he was in Hebrews 13 and that he actually had a sermon text, a disappointing rarity among the conference’s speakers).  And then he preached.  Wow!

I say this all to let you know that I just found a blogger who has posted his conference message and I think it would do everyone reading this good to take 36 minutes and set them aside for praising God through the words that Pastor Platt delivered.  Though you may get beat up a little, you certainly won’t be disappointed.  Check it out here.


Choosing to Hate?- Blog Post on Reactions against Calvinism in the SBC

June 30, 2009

Despite great encouragement, great ignorance was also shown at the SBC Annual Meeting (and in the most inappropriate of places may I add).  Though I do not have the actual statement, here is a clip of the prepared manuscript of what I’m talking about, which in reality is even less offensive than what was actually said:

The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.

Some are given to explain away the “whosoever will” of John 3:16. How can a Christian come to such a place when Ephesians says, “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8)? I do not rise to become argumentative, or to change minds already convinced of one perspective or the other. But I do rise to state the obvious. Man is often tempted to design a theological theory in light of a biblical antinomy in order to clarify what God is trying to say.

Man’s system will be inferior to God’s system now and forever. Why is it so difficult to accept from God what we cannot fully explain? After all, He didn’t begin to tell us everything He knows, but what we need to know to be redeemed and live righteously. The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN to be reconciled to God – then it is no doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Morris Chapman, EC Report)

This unfortuante rambling during what was supposed to be a simply (and boring) report made me wonder.  Even though there is much good and fair play coming across the aisles between SBC Calvinists and non-Calvinists, there still remains a sizeable and vocal number of people who don’t know the Doctrines of Grace from a bottle of Jack Daniels and yet want to rant about how dangerous it is to evangelism, churches, and even families.  Therefore, I posted an article over at SBC Voices asking the question: why are there still seeds of animosity towards Calvinism in many corners of the SBC?

If you have any insight or just want to see what people are saying in response to this, please click on over and check it out.  the post is entitled, “Calvinism: The New Racism in the SBC?


A Different Kind of Rock Star- Mike Huckabee and SBC Hypocrisy

June 29, 2009

Around here we like John Piper and Mark Driscoll, Acts 29 and T4G, Matt Chandler and JD Greear, the Gospel Coalition and 9Marks.  Many are on-board with this.  But others would criticize it, saying all that these things represent are the new rock star breed of Christianity.  That’s their prerogative to say, but as for me, I know that what I witnessed one week ago at the SBC Pastor’s Conference (SBCPC) when Mike Huckabee took the stage (I shiver to say pulpit) was nothing more than their own breed of rock star worship.

Huckabee rose to prowess during his failed attempt at the Republican Presidential nod last year, and from the word “Go” he wore his Southern Baptist credentials high.  For many people this was enough to garner their vote, but I never really bought in.  Aside from standing more firmly on his religious beliefs than other former governors of Arkansas and a ludicrous tax plan, Huckabee showed little political difference from his slick predecessor from across the aisle.  Still, watching him as a speaker at the SBCPC I was willing to forget my political concerns and listen simply as a fellow brother in Christ.  Unfortunately, by the end of his speech, a flat tax was the least of my worries.

People swarmed the room to watch Huckabee’s half-hour amalgamation of theology, morality, and politics.  I’ve seen Driscoll speak several times, and never has he his appearance created such a buzz.  To be fair, Huckabee made several good theological insights, but honestly, this made the whole thing that much more disappointing.  For someone who apparently knows the Bible well, he  demonstrated a horrific ability to connect it with the reality of Christian living.

His main message was, “We need to recognize that real leadership does not bring power to ourselves but brings power to those we serve.”  Uh, okay.  Now, move to application.  How do we do this?  Among the apparent answers offered by the Huckster were “to live by the Golden Rule,” “to have higher personal morality and personal responsibility,” to end abortion, and to comprehend that “our relationship with [political] Israel is organic and not just organizational.”  Whoop-dee-doo!  I mean, really?  If “the role of leadership is to empower people to stand before God as righteous, responsible people” (which I do not agree that it is), how does throwing a bunch of moralism and pep-rally jazz at an audience accomplish this?

But you know what?  People ate it up.  Standing ovations.  An amen corner.  If Jesus had come back at that moment, I honestly believe a lot of people in the room would have been disappointed.  And for what?  A bunch of non-biblical moralistic therapeutic deism?

Maybe Piper and Driscoll and Keller and Mahaney are rock stars.  Maybe people like myself focus on them too much.  Regardless, at the end of the day, I can fall back on the fact that these men, as over-hyped as they might sometimes be, are at least pouring out a true, deep biblical theology to the screaming masses, which is plenty more than I can say about the “acceptable” rock star worship I witnessed that afternoon in Louisville!


Resource Saturday- SBC Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

June 27, 2009

Here is a wrap of several messages and communications from this weeks SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville.

Twitter stuff

Personal Audio Recordings


Reflections on #SBC2009- Personal and Others

June 24, 2009

This year, for the first time in my 8 years as a Southern Baptist, I attended the SBC Annual Meeting.  It was convenient enough seeing as how the meeting was held in Louisville, KY and I just happened to be in the area making plans for our move  there in a month, but regardless I think I would have wanted to be there.  And boy was I not disappointed.  I really had a great time. From rubbing shoulders with Baptist icons to witnessing lowly pew-sitters become the object of collective scorn and/or praise upon making a motion to reconnecting with old friends from college ministry, it was certainly an unforgettable experience.

However, if you missed it, you’re in luck, because more than ever you can relive the events of the event through the eyes of those of us arrogant enough to blog about it.  I captured my own thoughts on the first business day of the convention in an article entitled “Celebration from Chaos.”  Other viewpoints can be found collected together at SBC Voices, for your viewing pleasure.

After you read these and get all depressed about what you missed, just think about this: in roughly 350 days you can be a part of it yourself in sunny Orlando, FL.  Heck, maybe Mark Driscoll will even be there!