Johnny Hunt, Calvinism, and the Past Ten Years of My Life

Tim Brister —  October 19, 2010 — 54 Comments

Before you read any further, please watch this short video clip where Dustin Neeley interviewed Johnny Hunt at the Advance the Church conference earlier this year.

This video clip is moving to me for reasons most of you are unaware I presume.  Although some of my life story is recorded in Collin Hansen’s Young, Restless, Reformed, there are many details that I have not heretofore mentioned in public (at least not to my recollection).

Due to the circumstances unfolding in my life as a college student, God did not allow me to enter a “cage stage” as a young Calvinist.  I came to the doctrines of grace because the sovereignty of God is what kept my sanity and spirituality from sinking into despair and disillusionment.  Shortly after leaving college, I came to serve as a student pastor of a small but growing church in North Alabama.  Being a revivalistic church, doctrine was not heavily emphasized, so my Calvinistic credentials were never an issue.  In fact, my pastor had never heard of the term.

Phase One (2001-2004)

But around the time I came in 2001, my pastor began to be mentored by Johnny Hunt.  I knew very little of Hunt except for the few times I heard him preach at our state evangelism conferences.  For the next three years, I would come into the world of SBC revivalism-soon-to-be-anti-Calvinism headquarters.  Year after year I attended the Bailey Smith Real Evangelism Conferences, the FBC Jax Pastors’ Conference, the Timothy-Barnabas Conference, and even the “one-day shepherding conference” held at Woodstock (I can still roll of the names of speakers like it was yesterday).  Our staff retreats were held at Johnny Hunt’s personal cabin in the mountains of north Georgia, and on more than one occasion had dinner with Hunt and his staff at Woodstock.

My closest student pastor friend was the student pastor at FBC Woodstock.  When we attended retreats, it was the FBC Woodstock youth conference in Gatlinburg (Xtreme Conferences).  When we planned our first youth mission trips, it was engineered through the FBC Woodstock missions department.  Even years later in seminary, one of my closest friends as I began was the son of Hunt’s executive pastor and former intern.  I guess you could say I was fully immersed into the massive influence of Johnny Hunt and FBC Woodstock.

During those three years,  I came to know and appreciate Johnny Hunt’s passion for Jesus, for “others”, and for the nations.  You could not help want to be a “faithfully devoted follower” of Jesus after being around him.  His energy, passion, and drive to the nations resonated with me, and God used his example and influence in many ways to help me love Jesus more.  There was very little of my ministry during that time that was not in some way influenced (directly or indirectly) by Johnny Hunt.

However, during those three years I also came to experience the anti-Calvinism agenda that had become militant in this revivalistic movement.  The conference circuit had the same 10-12 evangelists, revivalists, and pastors, and almost every one of them took shots at Calvinism to fire up the crowd.  It became as predictable as the “offertory prayer” by the veteran usher who would say “bless the gift and giver.”  As perhaps one of the only Calvinists in these conference, it was very uncomfortable.  In addition to that discomfort was the realization that many of whom I ministered with did not have an understanding of Calvinism to boot.

As I mentioned, my pastor was being personally mentored by Johnny Hunt, and as a good disciple he emulated Johnny Hunt in almost everything from style of preaching to the books he was reading. He structured our church the way Woodstock was structured to the point that it became clear that we had become a mini-Woodstock, even hosting our own “bible conference” with the same 10-12 revivalists speaking.  During this time, my pastor came to take the same aggressive, passionate anti-Calvinist stance as Johnny Hunt.  No one in our church had a clue what he was talking about, and it became apparent that those remarks in the pulpit were reserved for me.

The fourth and final year of serving in that church was incredibly difficult.  While experiencing considerable fruit in student ministry, I felt that the agenda had become to make ministry as painful and unenjoyable as possible so that I would simply leave.  But I was stubborn and didn’t want to leave as a fair-weather minister with no roots. Yet in ways that can only be described as God uprooting me, I took my newly married bride and packed our bags for Louisville, KY.  Seminary was not in my sights, but honestly I really did not know where else to go.  This was the conclusion of the first phase of my life influenced by Johnny Hunt (2001-2004) who, under the providence and purpose of God, played a pivotal role in my first tenure in local ministry and my departure from it.

The Second Phase (2004-2008)

I began seminary as a 24 year old young minister with lots of questions and even more wounds needing to be bound up.  In my first chapel service, I heard Dr. Mohler talk about being a “confessional” institution.  I had no idea what he meant.  I knew nothing of the Abstract of Principles or any other confession for that matter, including the Baptist Faith and Message.  This began my pilgrimage into Baptist History and eventually into the rich heritage of doctrinal fidelity expressed in the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Around this time, the anti-Calvinism movement was full-steam.  There seemed little if anything that could be done to hold these preachers accountable for their misrepresentations and caricatures of Calvinism.  Then came this little thing called blogging that hit big around fall 2004-spring 2005.  I began blogging in March 2005 simply to update family and friends on what God was doing in our lives and share things God was teaching me. That was until the summer wherein the SBC convention Nashville, Johnny Hunt flipped the switch which turned the heads of many young Calvinists to respond through the blogosphere.

What blogging did at that time is provide an alternative medium through which Calvinists could respond to the rhetoric and charges made by the anti-Calvinist movement.  Those who came to the defense of the doctrines of grace came to unite around our common commitment to hold these brothers accountable for their divisive charges and unbiblical claims, the most influential among these brothers being Tom Ascol, director of Founders Ministries.

While in seminary, anti-Calvinists who publicly slammed our “confessional institution” were allowed to speak in chapel.  This made no sense to me.  I had the anti-Calvinism culture figured out.  What I did not know about was the political culture of the SBC.  As I came under criticism and disrepute, I looked to someone who could counsel me and help me know how to respond and navigate through these tumultuous times in seminary.  That person was Tom Ascol who, during those times, became like a spiritual father to me.  The following three years would be a full-time job in responding to the attacks against what we believed to be orthodox to the Christian faith and foundational to our roots as Southern Baptists.

It was in this hotly debated period that I responded to several of Johnny Hunt’s “darts”.   Regrettably, I did not respond in ways that were honorable or mature.  When the Lord dealt with me about my attitude and approach in my blogposts, I removed all that I felt where ad-hominem and disgraceful.  I mourn over my arrogance and disrespectful attitude and publicly ask forgiveness from Johnny Hunt and others who deserved far more than I had delivered through my ill-conceived comments.

In the the first four years, God providentially used Johnny Hunt in painful ways to get me to seminary.  In the second four years, God providentially used Johnny Hunt to connect me with Tom Ascol, with whom I would come to co-labor with as fellow pastors of Grace Baptist Church.  In the final phase, things would come full circle.

The Third Phase (2008-2010)

In 2008, Johnny Hunt became the president of the SBC.  I became a pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  Tom Ascol was struck by lighting less than two months of me being there.  Things were changing quickly.  We were transitioning to become a church planting church and working locally for a “great commission resurgence.”  I began to see a change in Johnny Hunt from a distance and was encouraged by his balanced and gracious leadership as president of our convention.  Friends began to take notice as well, and we were hopeful that indeed a new narrative would shape the story of Southern Baptists.

Around October 2008, it seemed to me that one of the surprising changes was Johnny Hunt’s attitude and approach to Calvinism.  It was about this time that Tom and shared with me that believed this to be true and had already sought for an opportunity to meet with him.  That meeting took place in a matter of a couple of months, and as Johnny explains in the video, they have become “great buddies” praying for one another and encouraging one another with mutual passion for the gospel and reaching the lost.

The 2009 Founders Breakfast at SBC Louisville had Danny Akin as guest speaker, who shared with packed out room how God had been growing and changing Johnny Hunt.  Inasmuch as I would argue that the Reformed resurgence has been a sovereign work of God, I believe the resurgence of gospel partnerships with those whom we may not agree is equally a sweet providence.  The influence of non-Calvinists like Danny Akin and Johnny Hunt are helping to forge a new kind of culture in the SBC where we can link arms for the Great Commission that replaces caricatures with charity and divisiveness with graciousness.

I never thought I’d see the day where Johnny Hunt was sharing the stage with a bunch of young, restless, and Reformed dudes talking about church planting and the gospel, but I could not be more encouraged.  That video at the top of this post may one be a few minutes long, but in it is packed a story that includes the last 10 years of my life.

As I look back over those 10 years, I am mindful of the many lessons, often painful lessons, God has taught me. Yet, God has been merciful to take what could be considered a bitter past and show the sweetness of His grace.  I know that there will be those on both sides who continue to think it is impossible for there to be genuine cooperation for the gospel and the Great Commission, but the example of Johnny Hunt is a great encouragement to me that it can and will happen.  It is my hope and prayer that as Johnny and Tom pass the baton on to my generation, we will not be looking for hills on which to fight but sinners for whom Christ died.

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  • http://micahfries.com Micah Fries

    Timmy-

    I know writing this must have been painful, but while it is painful, it is such a powerful statement of hope & Gospel unity. Southern Baptists need to hear this story, and many others like it.

    May God receive the glory for this Gospel work he is doing among Southern Baptists.

    Thanks for the transparency friend.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thank you Micah. I feel uncomfortable talking about all this as I don’t care to speak much about myself. I share this out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for his patience and providence with me and for the ways he has worked to turn hearts away pride and toward humility. Thanks again for your encouragement bro.

  • Erin

    Bro. Timmy,

    Wow! What a powerful testimony! I think back to those first years and remember some very sweet times, and very difficult times. Drew & I were just talking the other day about some of the issues we dealt with. Now that we’re older & more mature, we see some of the mistakes we made, and how we were blindly following leadership that had been in our lives for a long time. Rather than praying and deciding for ourselves, we did what others thought ‘best’. And we were saying the other night how much we regret that. We didn’t realize at the time how it would affect you and eventually affect us. We love you & Dusti dearly!!!! You had a major impact on Drew’s life. I always wished I’d had a youth pastor like you! But with all that said, we are deeply sorry for any part we had in your wounds. God has grown us, moved us and is now teaching us so many things we never imagined! We love you and Dusti and I’m so thankful for your journey & where the Lord has you! He is using y’all to reach the nations! To Him be the glory!!
    -Erin D.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Erin,

      It is great to hear from you. God has been so good to us, hasn’t he? I’m excited to see how God has grown you too and blessed your family. We love you too and appreciate your friendship. Your kind words blessed me today.

  • KJ

    Tim,

    Thanks for writing this and opening up your life. May the days of dart throwing pass for all of us.

    Love you, brother.
    KJ

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Love you too bro. Thanks for your friendship and encouragement and for walking with me these past ten years.

      And yes, may the dart throwing days indeed pass for all of us.

  • http://www.adamkingmusic.com Adam King

    Timmy–

    I am moved to tears right now. I’ve known you since you were in the 5th grade and there just simply aren’t enough words to describe the love that I have for the Brister/BetSayad family.

    After I left for college in 1992, I prayed for you and Brian all the time. I knew that God would use you mightily in His Kingdom work. I had no idea how mighty that would be!

    You and Brian have always been like my little-brothers, but I must admit that you have been like the big-brother at times. Your passion for Christ and your zeal for knowing truth has made me yearn to know more of my Savior’s love and the high calling that He’s placed on my life.

    I’m so glad that I met you in Gulf Shores those years ago so that I could be encouraged to STUDY THE WORD for myself — and hold strong to His every word.

    I love you and Dusti more than you can know — and it is my honor to call you my friends.

    Growing and learning,
    -A

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thank you Adam. 1992 was 18 years ago. Promise me you will not show any pictures of me from the 6th grade, okay? Thank you for your love and support man. It means a lot.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark

    Tim,

    Thank you for this post. What a wonderful testimony of God’s grace through the gospel. You are making me think again about some of my old posts on similar issues which I think about off and on.

    Blessings, brother.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks Mark. Where would we be without the gospel? Christ is all. Blessings to you bro.

  • http://friendshipinfredericksburg.org Brent Martin

    You say Danny Akin is a “non-Calvinist”. I’m thinking he is Calvinist, though not well-known for that. In light of the fact he was invited to speak at the 2009 Founder’s Breakfast, I’m hesitant to think otherwise.

    I appreciate your effort to speak well of someone who has hurt you. I struggle with the balance between such attempts and the equally real need of making proper evaluations of those on the other side of the issue. This issue does matter because it affects our view of God, ourselves, and our mission. I too attended this year’s Advance the Church conference. I was curious to hear Johnny’s message seeing that he may have been the only Arminian speaking; also, he did host the John 3:16 conference which was an attack on Calvinism. In addition, I’ve had relatives in his congregation, as well as an old friend on his staff.

    Anyway, following his message, I asked a friend who was attending with me (an elder candidate in our church) what he thought of Johnny’s message in light of the others we heard at the conference. He commented simply that Johnny talked a lot about himself and the success of his church, which was not true of the other speakers. Good observation.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Brent,

      If I may, let me clarify a few things in your comments.

      1. Founders has had non-Calvinists speak at their venues on more than one occasion (including the Building Bridges conference which they co-hosted). In other words, you do not have to be a five-point Calvinist to be asked to speak at a breakfast. Having said that, I think Danny Akin would argue that he is Amyraldian.

      2. Regarding my life, the thing that sticks out to me the most is not the hurt but God’s providence and sovereignty (often in spite of me). When it comes to evaluating who is the greater sinner, there’s no question I am a far greater debtor to mercy than anyone I know.

      3. I would not consider Johnny Hunt an Arminian. He may have been one at one point, but he certainly is not now (and wasn’t at the time of speaking at the Advance the Church Conference). I cannot say with certainty, but I would venture to say that Hunt is very close to where Akin is regarding the doctrines of grace.

      4. FBC Woodstock did host the John 3:16 Conference, and it was an attack on Calvinism. However, Johnny Hunt was not on board with it nor was he encouraged by how it went down. John 3:16 was entirely Jerry Vines’ deal, and I would not lump Hunt into it, though the conference was held at Woodstock. Also, there have been conferences such as the Way of the Master who have had Reformed brothers like Paul Washer at Woodstock as well.

      5. I actually was not at the Advance conference and did not hear his message, so I cannot speak to it.

      Hope that helps clarify a few things.

      • http://friendshipinfredericksburg.org Brent Martin

        Thanks Timmy. That is helpful. God bless.

        Brent

      • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

        Timmy,

        This post resonated with me, and I left a comment today over at Tom Ascol’s blog after watching this. I was surprised by the video, and I was greatly encouraged. It was short but genuine. I felt refreshed by it in a way that surprised me. I have always loved Johnny Hunt, and I have admired him as a lover of the gospel and a bold preacher. His “darts” aimed at ‘Calvinism’ struck me and hurt me as an intern at Woodstock, though neither he nor anyone else would have known that.

        So thanks for your thoughts, I appreciated your perspective. I am amazed at how joyful this little video made me feel.

        P.S. Isn’t Moises Amyraut considered a Calvinist? Or at least a back-slidden one? :)

  • http://www.trenthunter.net Trent Hunter

    Thanks, Timmy. Glad to have shared some of those years on campus with you.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Great to hear from you Trent. 9th and O was such a great blessing to us.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com kschaub

    Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this. Your story, especially where it ends up, is one of the biggest reasons why I love SEBTS. I’m a Calvinist, and I go to school with Calvinists and non-Calvinists. But we love each other there, and we desire to labor together toward a real Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC.

    Glad you wrote this,

    Kevin

    • KJ

      Excellent comment. I hope there is a wave of coming together in this generation around the GCR….”And the union of the two towers (SBTS & SEBTS)” Sorry for the LOTR’s reference, but they flow out if I am left unchecked.

      Blessings,
      KJ

      • http://electexiles.wordpress.com kschaub

        Thanks KJ. Blessings to you also!

  • willeymac

    Let me say first of all that I am sorry that you have had to deal with the animosity of Christians of any group; it was certainly not a display of love on anyone’s part.

    Let me also say, as someone who is not Reformed, that I have had similar encounters with militant Reformed brothers. Comments likes, “You cannot have the kind of relationship with God that I unless you believe in the doctrines of grace,” have been either overtly spoken or dogmatically implied. I am not quite to seminary level yet, but having a theology degree from the University of Mobile and having read many, many books; I cannot help but be dismayed by this attitude. There are days that listening to some SBC Calvinists I feel just as threatened as you have felt in past at the hands of the Revivalists.

    I have studied the doctrines extensively; I know there is more to Calvinism than election and I also know that Calvinism has done a lot of beneficial things for the glory of God. I do not agree with certain aspects of the doctrines of grace, but I do not consider them a threat to evangelism or Christianity.

    I regret that you had to go through all of this; it is truly heartbreaking. But remember this when your group comes to power and there are those who disagree with you.

    Grace and Peace

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      wileymac,

      When were you at UM? I was there from 97-01.

      I agree that there are militant dudes on both sides, and the kind of gracious partnership will be frowned upon by both anti-Calvinists and ungracious Calvinists. As I said on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, the worst kind of hypocrite is a graceless Calvinist.

      FWIW, I would argue that there is also a strand of Calvinism that has been strongly influenced by the fundamentalist movement. Many of them would be found among the “discernment blogger” online. I would say they are more fundamentalists than they are reformed.

      I hope that regardless of who’s “in power” we will focus on leveraging our lives and influence in what we are FOR more than what we are AGAINST (and hopefully that’s the gospel).

  • Brandon Smith

    Tim,

    Great words, bro. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and beginning to labor for the Kingdom together. Just from the few times you’ve talked about this, I truly believe you have one of the greatest stories to tell in the SBC. Praying for you as always.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks for your prayer bro. Glad we can partner together in encouraging church planters and labor with and for great commission churches.

  • http://keithsewell.net Keith Sewell

    Timmy,
    Your post is incredibly encouraging and convicting. I’m grateful that you are willing to be transparent with the world about your journey, both the good and the bad. I live in Southeast Alabama and the political climate toward Calvinists here is nothing short of all out war. My prayer is that they will hear Johnny’s words and stories like yours with an open mind and heart. I know that you are a gifted writer and have written some incredible posts and articles, but I believe they all pale in comparison to this. This is refreshing.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Keith,

      Thanks for your comment man. I have heard first hand of what is going on down there in SE Alabama, and it should grieve anyone is seeking gospel consensus and a great commission resurgence in our denomination. My hope is that Johnny Hunt’s example today will have twice the impact for gospel partnership as it did in the years of discord and division.

  • http://shepherdtheflock.com Nathan White

    Hey Timmy-

    Great post; great story. I rejoice to hear what the Lord has and is doing in your life and in Pastor Hunt’s.

    We were kind of tag-team brothers on this back in the day, weren’t we? I believe we met each other and became friends through Pastor Hunt’s words echoing through the blog world back in 2005. I, like you, regret so much of what I said back then, and am thankful that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.

    Likewise, I am thankful to hear Pastor Hunt’s kindness and grace over the last few years. I am still in his area, and have heard testimonies from many friends on how kind and loving he has been towards those who were once sworn enemies.

    Where I would probably differ, however, is in saying that there is still a lot about Pastor Johnny’s ministry that I’d disagree with. Arminianism and Calvinism are of course far apart in some areas, and it is in ministerial practice and fruit where the differences are most evident. But this is not an excuse to be rude, harsh, unloving, or even disgruntled at others. We should be able to speak candidly on areas we disagree, and yet do so with grace, intending the edification of our hearer. And despite our differences, there is too much common ground to refuse to work together for the cause of the gospel. So I certainly count Pastor Hunt as a brother and fellow laborer, and hope that the Lord blesses his work for the cause of Christ.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Nathan,

      I remember that it was you who was called out on Don’s blogpost. It’s hard to believe that was over five years ago. It is crazy to see how much has happened and changed over the years. It honestly feels like twice that long. In blog time, we should be around the age of retirement.

      Thanks for chiming in. Like you, I hope where there are times of disagreement, we can display grace and charity to our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.

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  • http://www.dennyburk.com Denny Burk

    Loved reading your story. Thanks for the good word, Timmy.

  • http://mikeperrigoue.blogspot.com/ Mike Perrigoue

    Great post. This is pretty crazy. I remember these “blog wars” back in 2005 as that was when I first came upon Reformed Theology and turned to the blogosphere to learn more as my home church (at the time) was not Calvinist friendly. Back in 2007 or so I killed my blog to devote more time to my growing family…and thus became very distant to all of those great discussions. I’ve recently decided to start blogging again…for family and friends to be introduced to men that actually have a better way of putting the things I’d like them to hear. Anyway, I come upon this post and I get a bit of an update. My how times have changed. It’s even more interesting to see Nathan White’s comments above as I very much remember his interaction in this discussion. In fact, Nathan and I had an opportunity to meet up at The Shepherds Conference during this time. Tom Ascol recently spoke at the NW Regional Conference for F.I.R.E (of which my church is a member). It’s too bad I didn’t know about this then as I would have taken the opportunity to try and speak to him about it. It does feel good to see movement toward respect…

  • JF

    Thanks for this post. It is very encouraging to me. The Doctrine of grace is nesr and dear to my heart and at times it is difficult to serve at my church that does not embrace this view. Kinda walking on “egg shells”. But it is all in his sovereignty hands. :)

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  • Brad Hughes

    Having walked thru half of these years with you, I know how hard it has been at times. I am grateful to God for you, your life, your ministry and your friendship. I am also grateful for Johnny Hunt’s leadership and kindness to those of us who may not have always agreed with him. God’s gracious work in all of us is evident. What wonderful examples we have before us!

    Thank you for this article and for your transparency. It is convicting, inspiring and a reminder of God’s kind providence in all things.

    • david

      Timmy,

      I can not help but echo many of the above comments. It has been a joy to profit from you over these last 10. I look to you as one of the most upfront ones to carry the baton and lead us!

      • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

        David (Epaphras),

        As I said Friday, God has used you in tremendous ways to sharpen me and shape me, especially in the deep valleys experienced in college. You have wept with me and through your prayers lifted me in very critical times over the past ten years. I am a better man because of your love for Jesus spilled over into my life. I appreciate you as a godly pacesetter for me man.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks Brad. I am so glad the Lord brought you in my life during those times when I needed the prayerful support of godly friends. Thanks for keeping me laughing bro.

  • http://michaeldebusk.com michael debusk

    Timmy,

    This is such an encouraging testimony. It really has been a blessing to witness the fresh winds that have blown in all around. Thanks for sharing it.

    Michael

  • http://blogergism.blogspot.com/ Doc B

    It’s been three years since your last update on the chronological survey linked in this post. I downloaded and read it…fascinating and very helpful document.

    What are the odds you’ll be able to bring it up to date? I’d pay a fee to have it.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Doc B,

      I had thought about it. The hit pieces on Calvinism are non-stop, even as just a couple of weeks ago Baptist press pulled out a string of 4-5 in a row. I don’t know if it is possible to recollect 3 years worth of articles, sermons, blogposts, etc.

      I agree with you. It would be nice to have this updated for historical purposes, but I don’t have the time or interest in doing so at this time. Perhaps there is a seminary student somewhere with extra time on his hands to take on such a research project?

  • http://www.gracewakeforest.com Aaron

    Timmy,

    Thanks for the article. It has been great to see Johnny Hunt transform into a bridge builder over the last few years.

    By the way, Dr. Akin describes himself as a 4-point modified Amyraldian Calvinist, for what it’s worth.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Aaron,

      I agree with you on both points (Hunt and Akin). And I hope that the Hunt/Akin influence of non-Calvinists wins the day against those who are still seeking to instigate division and controversy.

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  • Ron Harvey

    Timmy,
    I too was at the same breakfast in Louisville when Dr. Akins spoke. I almost choked on my sausage when he shared that Johnny Hunt had never read a systematic theology book while in seminary. I caught my breath when he stated that he had recommended that Johnny read Grudem and Erickson. Hunt in his own words has confessed his change in attitude towards those in SBC live who do hold to the doctrines of Grace. God is graciously using the likes of You, Tom Nettles, Tom Aschol, and others to lovingly broach the subject that for years produced an “elephant in the room.”

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  • http://jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com Jared Moore

    Timmy,

    I appreciate your story; it resonates with me in many ways. I posted the video at my blog as well. As a result of another article I’ve written recently, Peter Lumpkin has replied. He mentions you and Ascol in his article as well. I hate feeling ostracized based on caricatures of things that I don’t even believe. Here’s the article by Lumpkin: http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2010/10/quiet-revolution-or-open-celebration-calvinizing-the-southern-baptist-convention-by-peter-lumpkins.html. It’d be cool to hear your thoughts brother… I find it frustrating; and hope that one day I’m able to show the kindness that you have to Johnny, to men such as this.

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Hey Jared,

      Thanks for the comment and heads up. I have stopped paying attention to what Peter says shortly after he started blogging. There has been little during the span of his public presence on the internet to commend him as a brother. How one misconstrues a blogpost celebrating the work of God’s grace, mutual repentance, gospel reconciliation, and a new friendship based on the Great Commission as somehow a denominational takeover by “out of control, aggressive Calvinists” should baffle anyone with Christian virtue. I fear that sometimes people create an alternative reality in their minds and try to force it into the lives of others. The more you let them speak, the more they would seek to press you into their mold.

      Lumpkins is the public voice of the small number of people in the SBC who are more committed to divisiveness than gospel consensus. As their influence continues to wane, they will continue to stir up controversy for the sake of grasping for relevance where the only consolation is listening to themselves speak. The best thing you, I, or anyone else can do for those in this camp is to ignore their increasingly blatant attempts to foster an agenda that is cancerous to the future of the SBC and more importantly embarrassing to the cause of Christ.

      The easiest and fastest way to waste your life on the internet is to answer a fool according to his folly. The easiest and fastest way to pursue God’s redemptive purposes is to focus on the gospel, encourage others in the Great Commission, and extend grace to others–especially to those who you may not agree with on various points.

      Those are my thoughts. I hope you find them helpful and/or instructive man.

  • kevinbglenn

    Thanks for sharing you heart and your past in this post. I have been a reader of your blog since you were in school at SBTS. I have appreciated your writings and have enjoyed watching you grow in His service. I thought of you when I saw this video on the resurgence.com site. Thanks again.

    Kevin

    • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

      Thanks Kevin for your words of encouragement. I pray that God will continue to help me grow in the grace and knowledge of Him as I endeavor to glory in His gospel. I appreciate you hanging around P&P for all these years. You should get an award or something like that. ;)

  • Craig Lee

    I found this video over at the Resurgence blog and all i can say is WOW. Johnny Hunt was a distant mentor in my life and I too was hurt by many of his comments and “darts”. Your story sound very much like mine, not as close, but I finally just moved on 5 years ago.
    I am so thankful for Pastor Johnny’s spirit in this video and can only hope that he follows it up with action. Great blog

  • http://thirdgreatawakeningcom.blogspot.com Dr. James Willingham

    Your comments regarding an alteration in Johnhy Hunt are well-received. What most Southrn Baptists don’t seem to realize is that one must allow for ministers to grow and develop. Getting a grip on the theological truths of God’s written word is no easy matter. Indeed, sometimes the process is painful, even severely painful. When I was first introduced to Sovereign Grace (in Texas at East Texas Bap. Coll. in 58-59 by fellow students – though I had heard it preached as a child in Arkansas but with no understanding), I rejected it. Then in ’62-64, while pastoring in Mo., I began to accept it and preach it (no easy matter due to a lack of models – with a few exceptions – to follow). Then I got very strict and even harsh, but the process also involved some softening agents. Research helped. Then in 72-73 came the intro. to William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (the first text in theology used at Harvard back in the 1600s). The Translator, Dr. Eusden, pointed out that: “Predestination was an invitation to began one’s spiritual pilgrimage.” Then looking at the Bible at all of the doctrines of grace as invitations brought about a radical shift in my approach. Likewise, a growing understanding of paradoxical interventions in counseling brought a greater, broader, more perceptive insight and understanding of the way God’s teaching in theology actually work vis-a-vis fallen man. With the knowledge gained from history, one can imagine my surprise to find that calvinism (I prefer the term Sovereign Grace) was more of a source of liberalism than most people imagine. Grace is, of course, an expression of the generous, liberal, overflowing goodness and kindness of the Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ. More could be said about how the doctrines all seem to be two-sided and make by the tension such two-sided concepts produce, make or enable, I say, the believer to become balanced, flexible, creative, and magnetic. In short, they turn the true believer into a live wire for truth and love in relationship with the Triune God. Let me pose the issue for you in a new way: Think of winning the whole earth and every soul on it to the Lord Jesus Christ with the message that He died only for the Church, the Elect. Some have wanted to make Sandy Creek Assn into the source of Arminian type theology among Southern Baptists, but that idea merely muddies the water. The real truth is that like Mt. Pisgah Church, organized in 1814 and out of which came Matthew T.Yates, the first Southern Baptist Missionary to China, the churches of this association were strongly calvinistic. The articles of Faith of Mt. Pisgah in 1814, two years before Sandy Creek Assn adopted the Confession of Faith of 1816 under the leadership of Luther Rice (who aso introduced them into launching the Great Century of Missions), spelled out the fact that Christ died for the church. Not a word was said about Him dying for all the world without exception. Think of the teaching as a paradox, an opposite even, designed to intensely invite, enourage, and empower man to once more regain his free will and responsibility in a most thorough-going process of humbling, the one virtue severely lacking in today’s church and ministry. The fact that Hunt shows signs of change suggests that God is not done with Southern Baptists yet. Our best days might well be before us. God grant it to be so is my prayer. Google dr. james willingham, theology and paradoxical intervention and click on Commentsbythirdgreatawakeningcom.blogspot.com -BACK TYPE for 12 pages of materials someone gathered of my comments on this matter.

  • Chris Wells

    I think you have got it exactly backwards….lol. I don’t see an anti Calvinist movement at all! I see the opposite. The gospel is Repent and believe. This is brought through the Holy Spirit. It is a work of God. Calvin himself was a man who killed anyone who opposed him. The extending of people to Repent and believe is Biblical Invitation to man. I am an Evangelist, and when a seeking heart meets a willing witness, a divine opportunity is created by God.

    • Bill

      very good point Chris, I don’t believe most Calvinist know alot about their founder and if they do and still believe he showed the love of Christ, then all we can do is pray that their eyes be opened.

  • Robert Thomas

    SORRY!!

    I had not done a spell check above – it was early and in the dark … please reread corrected version! Thanks and blessings!!

    Timmy,
    Only by God’s providential Hand did I end up on your site as I did not know it even existed, However as I was looking up Johnny Hunt on a Google search, I have just attended his 20th annual Men’s conference, which was my 4th.
    I found this link about him and Calvinism as a topic, so I opened it to see what was said. I read your whole blog comments, but the video never opened, so I was unable to see it and the conversation you must have had with Dr. Hunt.
    I can tell you I am not a pastor, student, or seminary trained person; only a sinner saved by God’s grace of Christ’s obedience to the cross and His blood for my sins and that of the world. I’m just the everyday Joe Layman that loves the Lord, my wife and children and tries my best to be faithful to Him and His church
    This side of heaven, I’ve learned to not be argumentative or dogmatic in my opinion, but remove myself and pray that God opens my heart and eyes to the things He wants me to understand and defend, then incorporate them into my belief system through His word, which is the ONLY truth we can depend on, not my opinion, your opinion, Dr. Hunt’s opinion or anyone else’s. I’ve arrived at a place where I truly do believe that there’s a reason for every word of scripture or God would not have allowed it to exist. Sometimes I may not understand it all, but I know in time (unless he raptures His church and it won’t matter anymore as we’ll be with Him if we’ve called on His name and believe in the atonement He alone offers) He’ll reveal it to me.
    So this brings me to an opportunity to ask if you’re open to a 4th Phase of your journey. But it can only be predicated on whether you’ve become a daddy/father yourself? You see this revelation can only be understood when your own children who you love more than yourself and would choose to be in Hell in their place if they had no choice and one or all of them were predestined to not be one of the chosen.
    If so, please know it’s just what the Lord revealed to me on this topic of Calvinism and the tenets of the Southern Baptist Church and its Convention, which is based on the 15 Articles of Faith. Let me predicate too that I have never been to the convention and have no connection to any of the politics that happen there.
    As you know and have researched the biggest issue and divide between the Calvinist belief TULIP and the Southern Baptist faith are the “U” unconditional election and the “L” for limited atonement. These thoughts to the Southern Baptist are a direct conflict to John 3:16-18 and Romans 10:9-13.
    As I had mediated and labored over these 2 schools of thought during a very dark time in the life of the church that I was a member of; that God through His word revealed to me “As a daddy to 3 little children, do you think I (the Lord) would exclude any off them from coming to know me as Lord and Savior?” He also revealed to me that if that were the case, what would be the use in evangelizing at all; if by chance He had already pre-chosen/predestined who would come to know Him in the free pardon of sin. What He was revealing to me was the fact that He is all INCLUSIVE and exclusive to no one. He has predestined to put in a mankind’s heart to need Him, however He has allowed us to choose to receive Him or not. That’s the one thing that is so sad, if only He would mandate that ALL would know Him in the free pardon of sin, but that’s not the case and we’ve been created to choose right from wrong.
    There has been a whole lot of confusion that the Calvinistic movement has brought into the Church; it’s diluted/distracted the whole premise of evangelism and John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-13 as people in the pews are throwing in the towels and just quitting church all together.
    We may never meet this side of heaven, but when we get to be with Jesus these discussions will be a moot point, but before we get there, please be very cautious on this in your ministry!
    Jesus IS for and available to ALL.
    In Him,
    Robert