Jamesonian Snickering and Snoring

Tim Brister —  December 2, 2007 — 38 Comments

Here’s yet another reason why Baptist state conventions are problematic – editorials. On Nov. 30, fresh off the heels of a rather successful Building Bridges Conference supported by men like President Frank Page, seminary presidents Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Danny Akin, Southern Baptist statesmen like Drs. Tom Ascol, Thom Rainer, David Dockery, and Ed Stetzer, and hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors, the editor of The Biblical Recorder (NC state paper), Norman Jameson has come out with an op-ed piece resembling the very type of ranting rhetoric that this conference has sought to overcome.

One of the things I fail to understand is how these types of articles find their way onto state papers month after month, year after year. Why should the Nelson Price’s, Bill Harrell’s, and Norman Jameson’s have such a voice in the SBC? These men express the very divisive rhetoric that has prevented the kind of cooperation and consensus our convention so desperately needs. The Southern Baptist Convention will eventually decide whether its future will be directed by men like Page, Akin, Dockery, Rainer, and Ascol, or the alternative bridge burners.

Jameson writes, “In yet another ‘angels on pinheads’ debate of the kind that makes theologians salivate and laymen snore, several Calvinist positions do bear mention as they grow in influence among Baptists.” Of course, this line of thinking assumes that Baptist laymen are anti-intellectual and consider growing in the knowledge of God a contemptible and fruitless exercise. After having read his understanding of unconditional election and limited atonement, the only accurate conclusion one must make is that Jameson was himself snoring through the messages on the “creeping Calvinism in Baptist life.”

Jameson believes that the issue of Calvinism is a discussion Southern Baptists should not be having since our denomination does not base our doctrines “on Calvin’s understanding of scripture.” I find that really intriguing since James P. Boyce’s most referenced theologian in his masterful systematic theology is Charles Hodge who relied on Frances Turretin and John Calvin. What about John Dagg, Basily Manly Sr. and Jr., John Broadus, Andrew Fuller, and on and on? Should it not be required that an editor who speaks to an entire state convention have a little more familiarity with the history of Southern Baptists? Perhaps then he would not think that we are being “forced into the conversation” because of men like Dr. Mohler and other academicians.

Admittedly being “befuddled” and “not a whit more attracted to it and just as certain it has severe potential to divide,” Jameson is adept to picking up anti-Calvinistic rhetoric by referring to the title “Baptist Calvinists” as an “oxymoron” (a la Nelson Price). Furthermore, he borrows from Dr. Yarnell the idea that Calvinists are trying to “shoehorn every question mark into someone’s systematic theology,” thereby tending to “offer answers to difficult questions based on ruminations about the system, rather than from a simpler scriptural answer” (i.e. the soteriological “baptist” answer). Although these rhetorical sound-bytes are complimentary to an explicitly anti-Calvinistic op-ed piece, such unqualified assertions are utterly baseless, especially in light of the fact that not one example is presented to support such second-handed “ruminations.”

Aside from the doctrines of grace, Jameson seems to question whether or not there are churches who are not comprised largely of an unregenerate membership. Rather than recognizing the facts, he argues that Calvinists are ushering “another conflict” due to what “they” (Calvinists) perceive. Consider what he came away with on this matter:

“Calvinists, at the conference at least, appear to be pretty certain Baptist churches are filled with persons who are not saved, who are just as reprobate and destined for hell as anyone else who, well, as anyone else who God tapped for torment while He was contemplating creation.”

Check the rhetoric: “reprobate,” “destined for hell,” and “tapped for torment.” Here’s another way of looking at it:

“Calvinists at the conference believe that regenerate church membership has been a defining mark of Baptist polity from the start of the Southern Baptist Convention, and they are deeply concerned that there are many who are on our church rolls who bear no evidence of regeneration. These members need the loving confrontation that a gospel-centered, covenant-keeping church brings through restorative and corrective church discipline. They agree with the BF&M that says churches are comprised of ‘baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel’ and want to restore the purity of the church through integrity in church membership.”

But then again, such a viewpoint would not fit well with an author who believes that Calvinists are “brain crutched by the acronym TULIP.”

North Carolina Baptists, Southern Baptists–if you are committed to building bridges and working together for the sake of the gospel and building of His kingdom, let your voices be heard. I happen to believe that Baptist laymen do not fall asleep when the gospel of grace is being discussed and are not afraid of studying the great doctrines of the Bible. Unfortunately, you and I may not have the megaphone of an op-ed column in a baptist state paper, but together our voices can resonate with greater amplification as we commit ourselves both to the truths of the gospel and to the cooperation of Southern Baptists.

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38 responses to Jamesonian Snickering and Snoring

  1. I am scouring the cabinet looking for blood pressure medicine! It frustrates me so deeply to see that there are people of such influence who spin the doctrines of grace in such a negative way. Hopefully someone in North Carolina will kindly help to clarify some things with him as a matter of accountability. I believe he sincerely believes what he writes and does not intend to be hurtful. Unfortunately, he is doing a grave disservice to his readers by misrepresenting this theological doctrine. I only pray that we who call ourselves Calvinists will respond to him with kindness and grace. That is what is needed now more than ever.

  2. Brad,

    First of all, you are blogging in Georgia, and I am going to report you to the police. Second, you are exactly right. We need to be firm in our convictions yet kind in our responses.

    Oh, and blood pressure medicine? I thought you had some of that already . . .

  3. Kummeropolis Cohort,

    Or Mr Brister…

    I would unfortunately liken the Missouri Baptist Convention to North Carolina. As a native of Missouri who also lived in the Carolinas, I have experienced some striking similarities in our “Baptistdom”.

    I shared some brief thoughts over at the group blog.

    I believe there are some troubled waters ahead. And I’m not confident that both sides will demonstrate the grace and listening skills needed to navigate them in a Christlike manner.

    I want to believe so much that it is a generational phenomena, much akin to the 60′s and the WWII crowd, but there are so many complexities and agendas buried deep in this thing that it’s hard to point out an exact cause.

    Either way, inflammatory opining shared with the masses is not going to help in the effort to have meaningful communication and collaboration in the area of our core theology.

    Looking forward to meeting you in April at T4G…

    Keep up the good pajama journalism…

  4. I do like Normans hair.

  5. This whole “Building Bridges” thing has turned more into a “Building Walls” or “Throwing Stones” thing for a lot of people.

    I was more hopeful for the whole thing. :/

  6. Well Timmy, it appears that there may indeed be no end in sight to the updating of one combersome PDF file on your hard drive.

  7. Well, what this tells me is that we need to be giving our full support and backing to men like Drs. Akin, Ascol, and Rainer. There are many good people in NC, especially at SEBTS.

    Andy, I think that what this is shows is an unwillingness on behalf of segment of the SBC becoming increasingly irrelevant in the years to come. While I feel that it is important to address the type of stuff in this post, let us not forget that there is far greater good than we could have imagined. Ascol’s latest post is reflective of that. Here it is:

    http://www.founders.org/blog/2007/12/building-bridges-conference-final.html

  8. Timmy,

    I too am reaching for the blood pressure medicine before I respond…

    How does one get to be the editor of a State Paper and be so “Theologically Illiterate”? And is there no Board of Trustees to hold this man accountable for such intentionally divisive and dishonest rhetoric?

    To speak in such terms about the noble efforts of the Building Bridges Conference is perhaps the most shameful thing I have ever witnessed coming from the editor of a State Paper… These guys are intentionally writing “Inflammatory Articles” designed to create division in the Southern Baptist Convention.

    It is time we all understand that there are some people in the SBC who are not interested in “Building Bridges”… they are only interested in Burning Them… They do not desire peace, their desire is to “Purge the Convention of Calvinism”… And there will never be peace with these men.

    These “Hyper” Anti-Calvinist need to be identified… if Calvinist need to “come clean” and identify themselves to the churches and the convention, then those who hate the doctrines of grace need to “come clean” as well. I for one want to know just how many of these men there are in our convention and who they are.

    Grace Always

  9. Greg,

    The more I talk to folks in the SBC, the more I am realizing that it is those who are Reformed or sympathetic to Reformed doctrine who are trying to build bridges in the SBC. While it is encouraging to know of the support of such a conference, it is also telling who was not there (among notable SBC leaders). I appreciate that fact that Dr. Frank Page who is obviously not a Calvinist could show up and support the event. His fair-mindedness and inclusive leadership has been well-received by many.

  10. Timmy, thanks for the direct to Ascol’s post. I’m reading it now.

  11. See Normans comment at the end of this article.
    http://www.star-telegram.com/news/story/337449.html
    Sure makes me proud to be a Texas Baptist. NOT!

  12. Timmy, one thing a friend of mine and I discussed last night was this:

    Where do you draw the line between the true (whole?) gospel and a different/false (partial?) gospel being preached in regards to Reformed Theology and striving for unity among different viewpoints, especially in the SBC?

    That is, to say, at what point do you say, “we differ on these points, and that’s okay,” versus, “we differ on these points and that means that one of us is preaching a different gospel,”?

    I was unable to come to a conclusion other than God, through the Holy Spirit, granting me discernment in any given situation and trusting Him to direct the outcome.

  13. Well, I would ask about core doctrines of the gospel, such as justification and atonement. In other words, do you believe that sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Do you believe that Jesus Christ died as a substitute for sinners? On what basis do we have right standing and acceptance in the sight of God?

    I would also like to know where an individual stands on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The majority of the major heresies in church history have faltered on Christological issues. In other words, do they believe in the Incarnation/Virgin Birth? Deity of Christ? Bodily Resurrection?

    I know that may sound academic, but to deny any of these truths in Scripture is to deny an essential doctrine regarding salvation and the gospel.

    I also believe you can hold to all these and not be a five-point Calvinist. ;)

  14. Nathan Finn has chimed in on Jameson’s article. Nathan concludes:

    ” . . . here’s one North Carolina Baptist who holds out hope that one day the editorial voice of our state paper will actually sound like the vast majority of Baptists in our state. That day cannot come soon enough.”

    Be sure to read the entire article.

    http://nathanafinn.wordpress.com/2007/12/03/building-bridges-i-think-ive-heard-this-song-before/

    Nathan gave on of the best messages of the conference, dealing specifically with stereotypes and caricatures as represented in Jameson’s article. Here is the audio from his message in case anyone hasn’t listened to it yet:

    http://lifeway.edgeboss.net/download/lifeway/corp/finn_theological_stereotypes_lo.mp3

  15. Timmy and All,

    Don’t other people have to approve of Jameson’s work before it is dispersed? Is he not accountable to anyone? This speaks volumes for more people than him alone, doesn’t it?

    Billy

  16. Billy,

    That’s a good question. Perhaps a little more accountability can prevent this type of literature from ever making it to the press. It would be interesting to know what if any checks and balances there are before articles or columns are approved for print. Bloggers have taken a lot of heat for being “amateur journalists.” I think it is only fair that accountability go both ways.

  17. We need to ad another category to the hyphenated theologian debate: hyper-sensitive! I appreciate the readers, even those who in their comments ignore the several kudos I give to Calvinist positions presented at the Building Bridges conference. While detailed debate, issue by issue, is beyond my interest, please note two essentials relevant to your perspective…even three. 1. Note the headline. I credit the conference with lowering the alarm level of those who concerned for the increase of Calvinist perspective in Baptist life; 2. Note the paragraph that mentions a specific cause for a lowered alarm level is “if the general attitude of presenters is typical of the players in this debate nationwide, there is hope for civil, informed dialog among people who hold different views. That bears celebrating.” 3. Jeff Noblit’s rhetoric and the applause it received is cause for alarm.

    It is ironic to bear the accusations of ranting in a blog entitled as this one is.

  18. Scripture teaches that Truth offends. May it always be as God decreed. Remove the label for it is just a name to clarify but the Truth still remains. I would love for everyone to get along but if we must speak a lesser Truth for the sake of unity then we live a lie and are no better than those who have watered it down to a man centered Gospel. Love the Truth of The Word and let God deal with the rest.

  19. Mr. Jameson,

    With all due respect, but “hyper-sensitive?” Really? I’m at a loss for words.

  20. Mr. Jameson,

    An op-ed piece has been written and, in turn, plenty of opinions are being expressed about said piece. That is to be expected. If that is as unsettling to you as it seems to be, then hyper-sensitivity may be the case, here — though, with the author and not the readers.

    I, for one, can’t take your article seriously, as you seemingly intend it to be taken, given your tongue-in-cheek approach to the topic.

  21. In fairness to Jameson, I think this piece by him comes across as one who has just been exposed to the Doctrines of Grace [which I believe] rather than one who has an axe to grind.

    However, I think that North Carolina is at a huge, mega, major CRITICAL point in its history right now. If NC leadership does not strive to attract conservative NC Baptists of various theological stripes [including young folk], then two years from now there could be a serious lack of participants at the convention [when I predict the moderates will pretty much not show up].

    If NC does not watch it, they might start having the kinds of numbers Georgia is having now.

    In my opinion, there needs to be a sense that a new day has arrived for conservative NC Baptists to cooperate with each other rather than divide.

    Grace

  22. Dear Editor,

    Why are we discussing the doctrines of grace at all? Is it because there are those in academic circles are trying to rewrite Baptist history to convince us that the SBC’s first leaders were all Calvinists? I wonder, what confession did the churches who sent messengers to Augusta in 1845 subscribe? It was the Philadelphia Confession. I also believe if you would familiarize yourself with the archives of your own newspaper you would find comments to the effect that in the early 20th century, the BR was reporting that very few churches did not hold to the doctrines of grace. If you’ll check the footnotes regarding Dr. Paschal’s history, the standard work on the history of us NC Baptists, Brother, I believe you will find that when he denies the Sandy Creek Association was composed of Calvinists or asserts that they had an aversion to it, you’ll not find any citations. These are conclusions of his own that he makes, and he asserts them without argument, on the simple basis that the SCA was evangelistic. There is good reason, then, that the history is being challenged.

    You wrote, “Calvinism shoehorns big issues into small spaces to explain unfathomable ideas. And as Yarnell said, it tends to offer answers to difficult questions based on ruminations about the system, rather than from a simpler scriptural answer.”

    This is, of course, an assertion in lieu of an argument. I would add that if you have an exegetical argument to produce for, let’s say, libertarian free will, you are more than welcome to produce it. I’d further add that if Dr. Yarnell is correct, this would apply not to “Calvinism” (given the number of highly exegetical presentations I read from that side of the aisle) but to, let us say, Dr. Keathley’s component. Dr. William Lane Craig, who is, I’m sure you know, the leading advocate of this position among us Protestants, has stated:

    1. Molinism is not explicitly taught in any biblical text (Divine Foreknowledge, 4 Views, p. 143).

    2. “Since Scripture does not reflect upon this question, no amount of proof-texting can prove that God’s counterfactual knowledge is possessed logically prior to his creative decree. This is a matter for theological-philosophical reflection, not biblical exegesis. Thus, while it is clearly unbiblical to deny that God has simple foreknowledge and even counterfactual knowledge, those who deny middle knowledge cannot be accused of being unbiblical. ” (Ibid., p. 125).

    3. So, can we conclude, Dr. Yarnell, that this theory, one put forth by another representative of the non-Calvinist position in the SBC is “speculative?” Surely it must be, if it is a matter for theological-philosophical reflection” and not biblical exegesis. If so, then what you stated about Calvinist ideas here must equally stand against those of Dr. Keathley on this issue.

    You also wrote: “Why are we talking about Calvinism at all? Why don’t we leave such discussion to denominations who base their doctrines on Calvin’s understanding of scripture?”

    1. Because, of course, there is no such denomination. Calvin is not, nor ever has been, the sole voice of Calvinism.

    2. Because, of course, Calvinism has a long and distinguished history among Baptists as a whole, much less Southern Baptists.

    You also wrote:
    I remain, however, just as befuddled by it, not a whit more attracted to it and just as certain it has severe potential to divide.

    The Reformation was divisive as well. Are you suggesting “unity” is preferable to open discussion of doctrine?

    You continued: A conference speaker even listed one advantage of Calvinism as prompting “better church splits.”

    This, of course, seems to be a calculated attempt to lift a speaker’s words out of their context in order to manipulate the reader. In context, what Dr. Noblit said and wrote was that if you’re going to split, it is better to split because you can’t agree over doctrinal truth- and these are doctrines that can and do often affect persons’ view of the gospel, themselves, the world, and the church – than over the power hungry, fleshly needs. In fact, as I recall, he cited Titus 1:9, not just 2 Cor. 6:17. If you differ, that’s fine, but it would seem that since he cited Scripture, you’ll need to cite Scripture as well. In fact, the gist of your whole point here is ironically Roman Catholic, since it is Catholicism that values institutional unity over all else. In fact, I detect in your entire editorial the atttitude of Erasmus.who told Luther the discussions over the issues arising from justification by grace alone through faith alone were “not for common ears.” Luther replied, “If it is irrelevant,if it is inquisitive, if it is unnecessary, as you say…what then, I ask you, is there that is reverent or serious, or useful to know?” (Luther, Bondage of the Will, 113).

    You wrote: Put simply, before you were born, God ordained your destiny for heaven or hell. While you might think that theology would castrate evangelism, the irony is that every Calvinist speaker testified to the urgent need for evangelism. And, they pointed out, one of the most widely used evangelism “systems” for a decade was Evangelism Explosion, designed and produced by the Calvinist Presbyterian pastor D. James Kennedy, who died Sept. 5.

    I am glad you included the last part, for the first seems to suggest that you either don’t understand or failed to grasp in the discussion the difference between a decree, which makes a thing certain and to which “foreordination” refers and providence, or means, which speaks to causality. There is no irony here at all, unless you beg the question for Libertarian Free Will.

    You wrote: Of course there is no shoe too small into which to horn a tulip interpretation, but a simple reading (simplicity could be my problem) of 1 Timothy, chapters two and four appears to say Jesus wants “all men” to be saved and that Jesus gave himself “as a ransom for all men.”

    1. A desire for all men to be saved does not require general atonement any more than the command to get yourself a new heart (which the text ot Ezekiel then goes on to say only God can do) implies the ability of a man to do it.

    2. Of course, “all” is a universal class quantifier, fixed in intension and variable in extension. “All of what, who, etc.?”

    3. In 1 Timothy, in context, Paul refers to Jewish myths and endless genealogies. We must therefore, understand the content of those myths in order to understand what Paul is saying. These myths were probably from the Midrash and anti-Gentile in tenor and were specifically designed to exclude some from salvation. They would form the basis of Jewish Gnosticism, which was designed to create a special class of persons who possessed the “gnosis.” Thus, to counter this, Paul’s usage focuses on the universal offer of the gospel, not to Jews only, not to a specific class of Jews, but to all classes of men, and all ethnicities. This isn’t even a uniquely Calvinist interpretation, for there are Arminians, I believe I Howard Marshall is one of them, though I am working from memory here and may be wrong as to him being the correct commentator, who agree.

    4. I believe you are conflating what is “simple” with what is “simplistic.” I know for a fact, Brother, you are not a simpleton.

    You wrote: I was taught an individual accepts or rejects by his own free will that salvation paid for by Christ and freely offered to all.

    1. How many times did they have to repeat that the “offer” is to “all.” We draw a distincition between the general and effectual calls.

    2. And why does one man believe and not another? Please define “free will.” Calvinists, if you’d deign to check the standard confessions do not deny it. Rather, they deny libertarian free will.

    You wrote:
    Calvinists say the individual has nothing to do with it -

    That depends on what you mean. Are you conflating a certainty with causality again?

    Continuing: that God chose way before He decided if the Mississippi River would flow north or south that He would create some creatures we call humans for eternal torment and a few lucky ones to spend eternity in His presence.

    1. Of course, “luck” has nothing to do with it. We do not affirm that election is by arbitrary means, for we do not teach God has no purpose. However, if it is “free will” that casts the deciding factor and the future is certain, for I know you are no Open Theist, then, pray tell, sir, why do you affirm real fatalism?

    2. At best this would apply to supralapsarianism. The vast majority of Calvinists are Infra, not supra, and of Supras, there is another variety of Supra today that is very unlike the older one. I will thank you here for listening to Dr.Keathley, even if you are obviously utterly unfamiliar with the subject matter he discussed.

    You wrote:
    Calvinists see no irony in that and their spirit does not recoil at the thought that God would intentionally create tenants for hell.

    But if God has infallible foreknowledge of their rejection and yet creates them so anyway, this objection applies equally to your position too. You have done nothing to obviate the objection. You’ve only pushed the question back one step. That’s the real irony here.

    For the record,the comment about torment was priceless. However, the image of hell as a torture chamber has more of a root in Dante than Scripture, and nobody goes there who would not otherwise not deserve to be there or want to be there. You should know better than to fill your editorials with such tendentious assertions,the same ones leveled by universalists and annhilationists with respect to hell, sir.

    Your predecessor was much more irenic, to his great credit. You could take a lesson from him.

  23. Tim, my friend,

    Know that I love you and deeply respect your proactive efforts to raise accountability within the SBC. Moreover, I am grateful for your concern to build unity among Southern Baptists. Your blog often provides a platform from which to discuss pertinent issues related to baptist life.

    This entry, however, has become a stage upon which the pride and wisdom of man dances freely. Several of the comments seem to land their blows as the fighters strut back to their corners – smiling at the approval of those who agree. Is this the way of unity?

    I do not fault you, Tim. You, rightly, called a man to account for publishing an article that was not fare to both sides and that potentially creates further disunity. For that, I am grateful. Several of the comments that have been left, however, exude sarcasm and arrogance. It is one thing to correct a man with the goal of unity and restoration. It is entirely different to correct a man for the sake of winning arguments. The former is seasoned with grace and humility – stemming from love for a brother. The later is corrupted by the desire to be proven right.

    I fear that individuals on both sides of the tulip row are driven by this desire to be proven right. When we, then, respond to “opponents” the chasm that divides only increases. By all means, let us discuss and hold firm to the great doctrines entrusted to us, but let us do so redemptively.

  24. John,

    Thank you for your cautious words of admonishment. While I cannot speak on behalf of those who comment here, let me simply say that I agree with your concerns and receive your words of loving concern.

    I find no satisfaction in writing these response posts. I honestly wish I didn’t have to. It pains me to see that there is such a consistent barrage of uncharitable and unhelpful articles, sermons, and commentary coming from within the SBC. I personally have no problem for men like Mr. Jameson not being a Calvinist and decidedly (and convictionally) so. I do, however, have a problem with him (and others) not being fair, honest, and irenic.

    What I have done in my article is basically summarize Jameson’s article providing his quotes and a little personal commentary expressing my concern. While I have not included everything he said in his article, I believe I have quoted him accurately and fairly. I also read and reread my draft several times before posting to check for any inflammatory or unnecessary rhetoric. While I realize that emotions can and often run high on these kinds of posts, I really hope that it is the substance of the post, not the emotion, that influences people either for or against it.

    Perhaps it is best that I should refrain from writing or responding to articles like this. On my end, I have come to find that there is often a high price to pay when you stick your neck out. Nevertheless, I believe that God has provided me an opportunity and platform to express publicly what many feel privately (and often do not have the liberty or license to speak out). While I have made many mistakes in the past and poorly expressed my convictions, I do hope to honor the Lord, the gospel, the truths of Scripture, and His church. Where I fail, I take full ownership; where I succeed, it is by God’s grace alone.

    Thank you again for taking the time to express your heart with me (and others). May we all seek to convey our convictions with genuine humility and love for one another, that our words may be seasoned with grace and our attitudes graced with gentleness.

  25. John Patrick,

    As one who is admittedly guilty of “dancing freely” on this blog, as well as others, I want to thank you for your reminder to be gracious with our comments towards our brothers. I am often very blunt in my comments, and yes when punched in the face I usually respond in kind… sometimes it is hard to remember that one is your friend when they are using your face as a punching bag.

    As a Southern Baptist Pastor who has suffered personally, and repeatedly, at the hands of ungracious Anti-Calvinist attacks within the SBC I plead guilty of being sensitive… my wounds still bleed and it does not take much to open them up again.

    Not attempting to excuse any ungracious comments of my own… I do have a couple of question for you:

    1) Who do you consider the aggressor in all this? Who is attacking the faith, doctrines, and opinions of others and who is defending their positions?

    2) Have you, or will you, write to the editors of these state papers and express these same concerns about their conduct that you have expressed here?

    Grace Always,

  26. Greg,

    Thank you for your kind and humble words. I can identify with the opposition you have faced from within the convention. My father is a pastor. For 26 years, I have seen church after church attack my father for unwarranted reasons – usually to maintain their personal power. With deep remorse, I bleed with you.

    You asked, “Who do you consider the aggressor in all this? Who is attacking the faith, doctrines, and opinions of others and who is defending their positions?” I am assuming the antecedent of “all this” is the specific blog published by Tim and subsequent comments. (Please correct me if I am wrong and you are referring more broadly to the conflict between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC.) With the prior assumption stated, allow me to attempt to answer your questions.

    First, Tim is not to blame. I have known him since ’99 when we lived together as UM students (go Rams!). I deeply respect his integrity, humility, and love for Christian unity. I know that he would not intentionally create division. That being said, Tim also boldly calls people (himself included) to give account for divisive actions. That, I believe, is the goal of his Jameson post. For this, I applaud Tim and stand with him.

    Second, I offer for one word of caution regarding the context inside of which this conversation is happening. I agree with Tim that when one group/individual misrepresents the beliefs of another group/individual they should be confronted – always with the goal of restoration and unity. Is blogging the proper context for that discussion? I do not know. It seems that the majority of people who read this blog stand behind Tim’s positions. It follows, then, that when we log on and read posts like this one our mutual disagreement with Jameson only supports our mutual disagreement. Does it, however, result in true accountability, unity, and dialogue? I simply do not know. What I do know is that several of the comments left on this post appear to aim at self-vindication and not godly admonition.

    Third, you asked who do I consider the aggressor in all this? I previously wrote, “I fear that individuals on both sides of the tulip row [i.e. Calvinists and non-Calvinists] are driven by this desire to be proven right.” That was the main point of my previous comment. Forgive me for not being clear. Writing is not my strength. The “aggressor” in all this is individuals on both sides who are driven by a desire to win arguments or who communicate in such a way that that impression is left. Let’s be honest. Jameson is correct when he levels the accusation of sensitivity. Individuals in both camps are sensitive when their beliefs are misrepresented or attacked.

    This fact should drive us to be wise with our words. Note, I did not say we should be sheepish with our words, but wise. If I know my brother is going to be sensitive to my rebuke or correction, and if my goal is unity where possible, my highest aim should be lovingly to point out his error and call him to acknowledge it. This should eliminate underhanded comments and cheap shots. I will give a few examples from the other comments.

    Joe writes: “I do like Normans hair.” I do not know the motivation behind such a comment. Perhaps, it was a tension-breaking joke. Nevertheless, place yourself in Mr. Jameson’s position. You log on to P&P and find an article correcting your recent op-ed. As you scroll through the comments – all of which are against you – you find “I do like Normans hair.” How are you going to take that? Is that comment going to motivate you to unity and put at ease your defensive posture? Is that going to welcome you into a discussion regarding your op-ed.

    Andy writes, “An op-ed piece has been written and, in turn, plenty of opinions are being expressed about said piece. That is to be expected. If that is as unsettling to you as it seems to be, then hyper-sensitivity may be the case, here — though, with the author and not the readers. I, for one, can’t take your article seriously, as you seemingly intend it to be taken, given your tongue-in-cheek approach to the topic.” I agree, in part, with the sentiment behind Andy’s comment. However, is the comment really necessary? Does it accomplish anything other than returning the volley to Mr. Jameson? If our goal is honest engagement over an issue, do comments like this help achieve that goal?
    Gene’s comment is much too long to repeat. I will only say that he rightly identifies what he perceives to be errors in Mr. Jameson’s article. With most of these, I agree. Gene’s comment, however, is filled with unnecessary, underhanded verbiage.
    Again, I am not identifying any one person as the aggressor. Instead, I am calling all of us to repent for writing with wrong attitudes. We easily cloak our words with “I’m just defending the truth and truth offends.” Really? Many of the comments left on this post are not offensive because they are true. They are offensive because they are uncharitable to the other person.
    Finally, you asked, “Have you, or will you, write to the editors of these state papers and express these same concerns about their conduct that you have expressed here?” Greg, thanks for this question. My concern in the previous comment was not Jameson alone, but the way we are all conducting ourselves. That is why I left the comment. If I take issue with a state paper, yes, I will contact them.
    Greg, again, thanks for your comment and questions. My goal is not to join an argument, but to labor for unity with guys like Tim. That requires wisdom in our communication. It also requires removing unnecessary and damaging language so that issues remain the issue and not self-defense. I hope that is helpful.

  27. Mr. Jameson, having read both your article and Mr. Brister’s, I cannot say that his is inaccurate in its representation of yours. Your concluding line in the article says it all. “Maybe I am more alarmed than I thought.” I don’t think anybody here is asking you to believe in the doctrines of grace; all we ask is a fair and balanced representation. Your article, which admittedly is an editorial piece and your opinion to which you are entitled, presents a charicature of our position.

    Take the issue of regenerate church membership. Once upon a time, that was the one doctrine that clearly divided Baptists of every stripe from all others. I do not think you gave a fair treatment of our position in your piece. The problem, is not that our “churches are filled with unregenerate members” but that our church rolls are filled with names of people who have not crossed the threshhold of the church in years, and in some cases died years ago. How can someone claim to love Jesus, be inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and have a personal relationship with Him if he hates Jesus’ bride, the local, visible church? When pastors such as Mark Dever have sought to perform an audit of the rolls and seek either the return of “inactive” members into the fellowship of the local church or the removal of their names from the membership rolls, they have been slandered and derided by fellow conservatives within the denominational structure for their efforts. I think the vast majority of people who attend baptist churches are clearly regenerate. Your statement of our position is not reflective of that.

  28. John Patrick’s words are well-received here. If I am guilty of such, I apologize and repent.

    I had no intention of exhibiting sarcasm or arrogance — and if I did, I am sorry to all — Timmy, Jameson, and anyone else who read my comments.

    Just another example of why we are in so desperate need of grace, I suppose.

  29. Timmy,

    Your post highlight one reason why I, as a GA Baptist Messenger this year, voted “no” on the blogging resolution.

    Why not a resolution for all types of communication including the pulpit national and otherwise?

    Thanks,
    Mark

    p.s. I finally got hosting for my site and it certainly is a different animal.

  30. John,

    I agree with much of what you write. It is clear from your words and the time you have taken to respond to my questions at length, that your heart is in the right place. Thank you for your gentle spirit and desire for unity among Southern Baptist of all strips… it is both refreshing and encouraging to me.

    When I ask the question of who was the aggressor in all this? I was not speaking of Timmy or Jamesonian, but of the Calvinist and the Anti-Calvinist camps within the SBC. Perhaps my perspective of who is the aggressor in this running battle is prejudiced on being in the (often battered and bruised) Calvinist camp, but time and time again I see Calvinist throughout the SBC forced to defend themselves against the attacks of the Anti-Calvinist. Time and time again I see the Anti-Calvinist throwing verbal grenades at the Calvinist of the SBC and “No One” but the bloggers ever say anything about it.

    Who in the SBC is going to rebuke the editor of a State Paper for their ungracious misrepresentation of Calvinism and their attempts to discredit such noble efforts as the Building Bridges Conference? Will the X-Com tell these guys to cut it out? Will the BOT of the IMB or NAMB say this is unacceptable? Will the Baptist Press write a rebuttal? Will our Seminary Presidents go on record saying “Hey guys you have the right not to be a 5 point Calvinist, but you are crossing the line when you attack other Southern Baptist for believing in these Historic Baptist Doctrines. I will be listening… but I will not be holding my breath waiting for these rebukes.

    Also, I really do not see any Calvinist attacking Non-Calvinist within the SBC… there certainly are no Calvinist within the SBC who have a platform like a State Paper from which to launch such attacks. Every single Calvinist I know simply desires peace, unity, and the right to fully participate in the life of our Convention.

    Anyway John, I hear what you are saying… it has not fallen upon deaf ears… I am one blogger who will try and be more gracious in my defense of my faith, even when the other guy is not being gracious. And for this I am thankful for your gentle rebuke.

    Thank you my brother, and rich blessings…

  31. Timmy,
    I find the op-ed piece par for the course for NC Baptists in general (though certainly not all). The Biblical Recorder (or as I like to refer to it as — the Bumbling Distorter) is the main propaganda wing for the CBF in NC. It caters to the liberal agenda of that denomination-thats-not-a-denomination. If something looks like it would harm the CBF agenda then guarantee the BR will come out against it. And since Calvinism in the SBC is distinctly a conservative phenomenon the BR will be against anything positive from the Building Bridges conference. Its interesting to note that the state baptist colleges have decided to decline CP money (though the state has FOUR CP giving plans!) in order to wrest trustee selection away from a convention that is sloooooowly turning conservative.

  32. Scott,

    I remember when the Associated Baptist Press (ABP) was writing about Calvinism last year, speaking of it in similar negative terms. Ironically, while the CBF is against Calvinism, they are also against narrowing the “tent” which means they appear to be (albeit implicitly) for Calvinism in that regards.

    I am learning of the residual influence of the CBF, especially in the state conventions and papers. From what I understand, Mr. Jameson is a newly appointed editor of the Biblical Recorder which is all the more disconcerting given his strong affinity to the CBF.

  33. At the risk of being perceived as the “hit dog that yelps loudest”, I wanted to respond to John Patrick’s post. I appreciate and share your concern over unity.

    However, as I read the phrase you wrote ” a stage upon which the pride and wisdom of man dances freely.” I wondered, “Did penning that creative turn of a phrase fill his chest with pride?” Now you might respond, “How can you judge me so?” ,when that is exactly what you have done to those who have posted before your comment without inquiring as to whether this is the case or not.

    Although a couple of folks have responded that they may have had less than pure motives, or would be more diligent in the future with basing their comments on pure motives, I resent the broad brush you painted the “Several ” who posted before yours. Why not be specific with the “proud and wise dancers” who have cockily strutted back to the corner as you so eloquently perceived? Why not ask, “Mike or ____or_____, did you really mean this ……?”, instead of, in a medium that is limited when it comes to communicating nuances (maybe I’m the one that is limited), you taint everyone who posted before you, intentionally or not.

    Since you have perceived some as “exuding sarcasm and arrogance”, I want to give you the opportunity to see if you were correct in your assessment of my comment, perchance I was included in the “several”. The sole purpose of my post was to confirm (though he really didn’t need it) Tim’s able assessment of Norman Jameson as someone who, by practice has a low view of scripture. The article I cited in my post was about Broadway Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, TX delaying until next year, a decision on whether to allow portraits of gay couples to appear in the church directory. Seems some members were “worried that allowing the photographs would be viewed as an endorsement of homosexuality by the congregation”. Norman, a former member of Broadway, was quoted in the article as referring to homosexuality “is at the top of the list of issues that makes us break out into hives.” Norman’s final comment was “The Baptist dilemma is to love the sinner and hate the sin. We are all sinners. So how do you love him or her without condoning their behavior?” This last statement signifies not only a one dimensional view of God (God is Love), but a low view of the sufficiency of scripture in dealing with members guilty of practicing sexual sin as laid out in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

    When the alleged sheep is put outside the sheep pen, if he is truly a sheep, he will want back in with his own kind. If he is happy outside, chances are he is a goat and not a sheep in the first place. Know you not that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump? What is wrong with showing some Biblical tough love for the ultimate good of the Body of Christ?

    Was my motive to punch Norman in the eye? No, he has ably done that himself. Was my motive to condemn him for loving sinners no matter what the sin? No, we should. It was to affirm my brother Timmy in his correct assessment of Norman and to give testimony to the pattern of low esteem Norman seems to have for scripture, not because I or anyone else who posts here is insecure and needs someone to agree with them.

    My referring to Not being a proud Texas Baptist was a tongue in cheek reference to Texans always being proud about something. However, I’m afraid the BGCT is on the road to becoming, as Spurgeon referred to his own Baptist Union, “not a Christian Union but were confederacies of evil ” with their low view of scripture and tolerance of the ongoing practice of sinful lifestyles in the church which is a cause for shame and not pride.

    Finally, I can’t speak for everyone else, but as for myself, I don’t care about winning arguments as much as I care about my being represented accurately. Most any believer in the doctrines of grace understands the Armenian argument because as Spurgeon stated “We all are by nature Armenian”, while few Armenians can clearly or acurately state the reformed doctrines of grace without going hyper, automatically assuming you have no zeal to evangelize or misstating the classic “positive/negative” schema of election.

    Don’t misrepresent ( I do that very well myself)me and don’t misjudge my motives! Just in case you had me in mind! Ruff LOL

  34. Jameson is not a theologian. This is a “live” issue in my world right now, and articles like this are really unhelpful.

  35. Rob,

    That’s a good point. It is easy to write an editorial in an office and a position altogether removed from the real life experiences of those whose ministries are attacked and character maligned because of the mass mischaracterization ongoing today. That is what prompted the start of Strange BaptistFire. We were regularly hearing first-hand reports of godly men getting fired or forced out of churches with the help of propaganda like BaptistFire (now defunct) and other unhelpful sources (such as Dave Hunt and Fisher Humphreys). I pray that your “live” situation turns out for the good of the church and glory of God.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Civility and Calvinism (Part Six) « 2 Worlds Collide - December 3, 2007

    [...] Jameson may feel that “Calvinists” are a bit hyper-sensitive, and perhaps we are at times, but I want to give him credit in presenting a positive (albeit at [...]

  2. Norman Jameson At It Again « Provocations & Pantings - June 12, 2008

    [...] Not Norman Jameson, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, who took opportunity to misrepresent “creeping” Calvinists.  As an alarmist, Jameson shared his “befuddlement” and overall disdain over what the Building Bridges conference represented.  That was December of last year. [...]

  3. 5SOLAS » Blog Archive » Bold misuse of journalistic standards at The Biblical Recorder - June 12, 2008

    [...] what does strike me as odd is that bold type was missing from Jameson’s own editorial, which created some stir, in the wake of the Building Bridges [...]

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