A couple of days ago Tom Ascol shared the news of a conference hosted by Jerry Vines Ministries called a “John 3:16 Conference” which is going to be held at First Baptist Woodstock on November 6-7, 2008. Here are the guest speakers and what they will be addressing:

* John 3:16 – Dr. Jerry Vines
* John 3:16 to the entire world – Dr. Charles Stanley
* Total Depravity – Dr. Paige Patterson
* Unconditional Election – Dr. Richard Land
* Limited Atonement – Dr. David Allen
* Irresistible Grace – Dr. Steve Lemke
* Perseverance of the Saints – Dr. Ken Keathley

As Tom noted, “no explanation or elaboration is given about the rationale for the conference,” so before those of us who have been on the receiving end of caricatures and gross misrepresentation, I think would be prudent to give this conference a chance of being a profitable and perhaps constructive venue to address the doctrines of grace and where we would agree or disagree.

One of the things I have been considering is not only attending this conference but also live-blogging it as well (that is, if they have wi-fi available). If indeed more caricatures and straw men are on the agenda, it is much harder to do so look face to face with those whom you are misrepresenting. After all, a John 3:16 conference is for whosoever wants to come, right? 🙂

That leads me to my second point. I have attended numerous anti-Calvinist conferences in the past (several at FBC Woodstock) where it was presumed that only Arminians bibliclists can really believe and preach that verse (John 3:16). Of course, this could not be farther from the truth. The weeks and months leading up to this conference could provide a good opportunity for dialogue and discussion regarding God’s love and its relation to God’s sovereignty, justice, wrath, and other attributes. Allow me to lay out some reasons why this conference could turn out to be worth attending:

1. This conference could be a turning point where anti-Reformed Southern Baptists approach the issues with substance and exegesis rather than rhetoric and emotional appeals.

2. This conference could be the place where we finally understand the soteriological framework and positions of “biblicists” and non-Calvinists.

3. This conference could be the place where other verses in the gospel of John, such as John 1:12; 3:8; 5:21; 6:37, 44, 66; 8:47; 10:26-27; 11:52; 13:18; 15:16; 17:2, 9, 24 are also considered. Surely they would want to place John 3:16 in context.

4. This conference could be the place where non-Calvinists decide whether they are either semi-Pelagian or Arminian. In recent years, it certainly has sounded more semi-Pelagian than anything else, and that is not a good thing.

5. This conference could be the place where Molinism, prevenient grace, and libertarian free will are considered in light of, and attempted to be reconciled with, Scripture.

6. This conference could be the place where the love of God is handled in a more exegetically faithful and biblically responsible manner, in contrast with Ergun Caner, Dave Hunt, and Fisher Humphreys in the past.

7. This conference could be the place where Southern Baptists handle difficult issues with gracious spirits and truthful lips, honoring Christ in the way we approach issues and love those with whom we have disagreements.

Now I know that is a bunch of could‘s, but a conference like this affords non-Calvinists to clear up a lot of the confusion that has arisen by defining themselves as either a non-___________ or a “biblicist” (or Baptist) which has no referent. In any case, as a Southern Baptist who wholeheartedly believes in John 3:16 (as I do the rest of the Bible), I am encouraged to see a conference like this take place and look forward to making plans to attend. If you are a Southern Baptist and a Calvinist, one who does not care for theological one-upmanship but wants to learn and understand the doctrinal differences of other Southern Baptists, and desires to exhibit the humble Calvinism of a gospel-centered, grace-based life, then I would encourage you to attend as well.

After all, John 3:16 is for everyone.