I would recommend everyone listen to Jeff Noblit’s response to Malcolm Yarnell. Offered in a very different style (Noblit is a preacher), it is a good corrective to Dr. Yarnell’s address. There was a panel discussion this morning in which Dr. Yarnell helpfully affirmed that Baptist Calvinists and non-Calvinists can and should fully cooperate with one another. I am thankful that he made that clear. I am still concerned that he seems a bit too parochial for my liking.
One of the issues addressed at Building Bridges is the nature and extent of the atonement. Dr. David Nelson of Southeastern Seminary approached the subject from one who fully affirms sovereign election but holds to a general view of the atonement. He did an excellent job of offering support for his view. He also was a model of irenic discussion. The response came from Sam Waldron who advanced the idea of particular redemption. Dr. Waldron gave compelling support from the Scriptures for particular redemption and like Dr. Nelson was very generous in his style. Both addresses are well worth the hearing.
I can say the same about all the sessions. Nathan Finn of Southeastern Seminary gave a very helpful address on common misconceptions about Baptist Calvinists. He offered five myths that are often held about Baptist Calvinists:
Myth 1 – Calvinism is a threat to evangelism.
Of course this is nonsense. Less than two hundred years ago most Protestants were Calvinists. The founders of the modern missions movement as well as the Southern Baptist Convention were Calvinists. Calvinists see no contradiction between sovereign election and the call to world evangelization. This is so because not only ordains the ends but He ordains the means to those ends. God promises to win for Himself a people from every nation, tribe, language, and people. He also means to use His people as the means toward that end.
Myth 2 – Calvinists are opposed to invitations.
Wrong. The proclamation of the Gospel is an invitation. What many Calvinists are uncomfortable with is the modern practice of altar calls. An invitation and an altar call are two entirely different things. Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield pleaded passionately for their hearers to repent and believe in Christ. Under their ministries untold thousands were converted, yet without altar calls. Many Calvinists are bothered by their memories of manipulative altar calls and incomplete presentations of the Gospel. Also, Calvinists do not like being told they have to do something that is not commanded or modeled in Scripture.
Myth 3 – Calvinism is the same thing as hyper-Calvinism.
The typical non-Calvinist evangelical has rejected Calvinism because hyper-Calvinism is the only Calvinism of which they have ever heard. Hyper-Calvinism is an aberration that is no more representative of Calvinism than Pelagianism is representative of Arminianism. Hyper-Calvinism rejects both the necessity of evangelism and the call for all men everywhere to repent and believe. The fact is, there are not very many genuine hyper-Calvinists around anymore. Groups that do not reproduce tend not to last very long.
Myth 4 – Calvinists deny human free will.
First of all, there is no single Calvinist or non-Calvinist view of human free will. The fact is, while many non-Calvinists claim to believe in free will they actually believe that man’s will is limited. Every decision we make is conditioned by countless factors. Also, we pray regularly that God will overcome people’s stubborn will. “God change my son’s heart.” “Lord bring my friend to repentance.” Calvinists affirm just as strongly as non-Calvinist evangelicals that repentance from sin and faith in Christ are absolutely necessary for salvation. All who repent and believe will be saved without exception. Furthermore, no one is saved against their will. The Calvinist, however, is careful to affirm that it is God who makes the convert willing. The Calvinist credits his willingness to repent and believe to God alone.
Myth 5 – Authentic Baptists are not Calvinists.
Baptist history is strongly rooted in Calvinism. Take time some day to read the London Baptist Confession of 1689 or the Abstract of Principles of the Southern Baptist Convention. The examples of prominent Baptists and Southern Baptists who were/are Calvinists are legion. From John Bunyan, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon, and Adonirum Judson to Andrew Fuller, J.P. Boyce, W.A. Criswell (that’s right), and many others in our own day Calvinists have always been a part of Baptist life.
Dr. Finn’s address is well worth the hearing. If you are a Calvinist then Charles Lawless’ address on misconceptions that Calvinists often hold about non-Calvinists was excellent and gracious.