Archives For Tom Ascol

Last night, I had the privilege of joining my church family in honoring Tom Ascol on his 25th anniversary as pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  The evening was spent with members sharing stories and testimonies of how God has impacted their lives through Pastor Tom, and I began it with a few words about the call of a shepherd, explaining how he has led our church through the years.  I provide them below because I know many of my readers know Tom from his blog, articles, books, or role as director of Founders Ministries.  I’m fortunate to know him as a fellow pastor, father in the faith, and personal friend.  

Honoring a Faithful Shepherd:
Reflections on the Ministry of Tom Ascol
on His 25th Anniversary as Pastor of Grace Baptist Church

If you were alive in during biblical times, there is one vocation that every person in the community would be familiar with. That would be the work of a shepherd. It is widely understood that shepherds were in many ways considered to be heroic men, known for their independence, resourcefulness, adaptability in severe circumstances, courage amidst all kinds of opposition, and vigilance to their calling. Their work required of them an intense capacity for attentiveness, self-sacrifice, and compassion. As a result, shepherds were looked upon in Scripture as an icon of leadership, and no doubt one of the reasons why Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd and of whom Peter called the Chief Shepherd.

There are many ways to describe the work of a pastor, but none are more comprehensive and clear than that of a shepherd. When a pastor is faithful to the people he is called to lead, he images forth the shepherding ways of God. Indeed, God Himself said, “I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34:15). In the popular Shepherd Psalm, King David begins by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). So in a very significant way, God communicates his heart and ways with His people as a shepherd. That alone should alert us to the significance of the work, given to those who are called to lead by “shepherding the flock of God” whom Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

But what is it that encompasses the work of a faithful shepherd? Tonight, I want to briefly give you three aspects of a faithful shepherd in light of what this evening is all about. For 25 years, God has given us a pastor who has served this church as a faithful shepherd to the flock entrusted to his care, and tonight, I want to honor the man who has honored Christ and discharged his calling as a dedicated pastor, committed churchman, and stubborn herald of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of our beloved pastor, Tom Ascol, and though it pains him for us to draw any attention to him, we are going to do it anyway. It is fitting for us to honor and recognize what God has done in and through him.

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On Tuesday, June 23, 2009 Founders Ministries held their annual breakfast at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.  Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, was guest speaker and addressed the 200+ in attendance with a message from 3 John entitled “Creeds, Deeds, and the Great Commission.”  Akin concludes his excellent exposition with words of appreciation and caution for future partnership in a Great Commission Resurgence which I encourage all my Calvinist brothers to hear.  The breakfast concluded with by Akin answering a few questions, including one from Tom Ascol about working with non-Calvinists for the cause of gospel consensus and reaching the nations.

The audio and video was produced from my hip pocket – literally.  I ripped the audio from my Livescribe Pulse pen and the video is from my Kodak Zi6 handheld HD Camcorder.  This breakfast was a warm and rewarding time of fellowship, encouragement, instruction, and godly exhortation, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

Here’s the MP3: Founders Breakfast with Danny Akin

Here’s the video:

Note: It is best to play and pause the video until the entire message is buffered for better viewing.

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Last week, Tom Ascol expressed his concerns about the vision of Baptist Identity and in particular, their rejection of theological triage using a chapel message delivered by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell on October 30, 2008 at SWBTS chapel.  The message Dr. Yarnell preached was entitled “The Essentials of Christianity” (MP3) wherein he argued that a commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ renders theological triage untenable because every doctrine pertaining to the Lordship of Jesus is inherently essential.

Within hours of the publishing of Ascol’s post, the Baptist Identity bloggers were in an uproar, calling Ascol names and demanding a retraction and apology.  Additionally, within 24 hours after his post, Dr. Yarnell teamed up with Robin Foster of SBCToday to write a six-page response (PDF) spinning the same language of “theological maturity” and verses Ascol used in his post (Philippians 3)–a paper Foster claims to have started “earlier this week.”  With both the serious and sophomoric responses received, it is important to consider the substance of what is at hand in this matter.

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Last week, I shared my take on Baptist Press throwing Mark Driscoll under the bus, including the underlying factors that come into play.  One of the main factors was the competing visions of the SBC.  On point five, I wrote the following:

There are two competing visions for the SBC going on right now: the Great Commission Resurgence under the direction of Danny Akin and David Dockery headquartered at SEBTS, and the Baptist Identity Movement under the direction of Paige Patterson and Malcolm Yarnell headquartered at Southwestern Seminary.  Prior to the Annual Meeting in Indy last year, the Baptist Identity boys were blazing the Internet with series of blogposts talking about Baptist distinctives and in particular “ecumenical compromise.”  From the Annual Meeting forward, however, the Great Commission Resurgence has won the day, leaving the Baptist Identity crowd in the wake full of a separatistic, landmarkist agenda.   Having Driscoll (and Mahaney) who do not share the same ecclesiology and distinctives lead Patterson and his camp to consider the actions of Akin and SEBTS as Baptist compromisers.   The BP article on Driscoll is an indication, in my mind, of an attempt to discredit the leadership of Akin and undermine the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC.  Fortunately, most Southern Baptists are not buying it.

Last night, Tom Ascol wrote a very important article about the future of the SBC in relation to these two competing visions.  In it, Ascol explains the DNA and direction of each group and why he has firmly place both feet with the Great Commission Resurgence (as have I).  Towards the conclusion of his article, Ascol writes:

As a reformed, Southern Baptist pastor, my feet are firmly planted in the GCR camp. I believe that it is time for Southern Baptists to come together on the basis of our commitment to the gospel. I believe that where this solid, authentic commitment exists, we can find ground for cooperation and fellowship that will enable us to serve the purposes of God better than if we hold each other at arm’s length because of suspicion, fear or disdain.

I invite both my Calvinist and non-Calvinist brothers and sisters to join me in encouraging and working for this kind of future in the SBC. Let’s work together to come to deeper understandings and applications of the gospel. We may disagree at points, but such disagreements, if handled with gospel grace, can work to strengthen our grasp of divine truth rather than to further divide us. That is my hope, and that is my prayer.

Whether you are a Calvinist or not, we can and should all heartily say “Amen” or “right on” or “Boom” (depending on whatever generation you are in).  Let us get on with the glory of the Gospel–living it out in our lives, our churches, and in our world.

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Timelines and an organized list of events can be helpful to see how things evolve (or devolve), so I thought I would provide a play-by-play run down of the events that have transpired (and will continue to transpire) since the John 3:16 conference, and more particularly the revival of the charge of hyper-Calvinism by Dr. David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Here’s the rundown thus far (I will be updating this regularly in the future).

1.  [11.07.08] David Allen gives his message against limited atonement at the John 3:16 Conference wherein he charges James White (among others) as a hyper-Calvinist.

2.  [11.07.08] James White offers and immediate response while in the UK evangelizing Muslims.

3.  [11.07.08] Phil Johnson, author of the “Primer on Hyper-Calvinism“, comes to the defense of James White and refutes the charges made by David Allen.

4.  [11.08.08] Tony Byrne (YnottonY) storms the blogosphere as Dr. Allen’s apologist.  Eventually it was revealed that Byrne drafted the chart distributed at the conference and was influential in both the 34-page response by Allen to the Building Bridges Conference as well as the presentation on limited atonement.  The extent to which Allen’s presentation and thinking has been influenced remains uncertain.

5.  [11.09.08] Timmy Brister provides a compilation post of live-blogging entries along with some noteworthy items from the John 3:16 conference.

6.  [11.17.08] Gene Cook interviews Tony Byrne about his chart and understanding of hyper-Calvinism on the Narrow Mind.

7.  [11.24.08] David Allen responds with his reasoning behind the charge of hyper-Calvinism and James White (very similar to what Byrne had already been arguing).

8.  [11.24.08] James White responds to Allen’s “false accusation” on the AOMIN blog.

9.  [11.24.08] Tom Ascol addresses the widening of the divide in the SBC as a result of (1) Lemke’s article, (2) Allen’s PDF review, and (3) the John 3:16 Conference.

10. [11.26.08] Phil Johnson addresses (again) the issue of hyper-Calvinism, refuting point-by-point the argumentation by David Allen.

11. [11.26.08] James White responds to Phil Johnson’s refutation of Allen.

12. [11.26.08] James White addresses Allen’s historical sources for his presentation.

13. [11.26.08] The “open letter” by David Miller was published along with Jerry Vines’ response.

14. [11.28.08] R. Scott Clark, a non Southern Baptist and professor of Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary, chimes in on the shared rationalism of both hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism.

15. [11.28.08] Justin Taylor provides information to answer the question, “What Is Hyper-Calvinism?”

16. [11.28.08] James White plays the testimony of Thomas Dickerson who was “saved out of Calvinism” (to the applause of the crowd) and responds both to Dickerson’s mysticism and the panel’s reaction (YouTube video).

17. [11.28.08] Malcolm Yarnell, after having left nearly a dozen comments on Ascol’s post, takes his partying agenda elsewhere.

18. [11.29.08] James White addresses Allen’s treatment of the “double payment argument” and John Owen (YouTube video).

19. [12.01.08] David Allen writes a “rejoiner to Tom Ascol” regarding his recent blogpost.

20. [12.01.08] Bart Barber attempts to explain what this “fighting about John 3:16″ is all about.

21. [12.01.08] Wade Burleson explains that the antagonism against Calvinism is further evidence of the narrowing of parameters in SBC life.

22. [12.01.08] James White interacts with Jerry Vines on John 3:16, especially “whosoever will” (YouTube video).

23. [12.01.08] Tony Byrne lists the six arguments Allen uses for calling James White a hyper-Calvinist.

24. [12.02.08] James White addresses specifically the charge of hyper-Calvinism and universal saving will according to David Allen and Tony Byrne on The Dividing Line (YouTube video).

25. [12.02.08] Steve Camp responds to the charge of David Allen that he is a hyper-Calvinist.

26. [12.02.08] Quincy Jones shares the news that there will be an open forum at SWBTS with Dr. Allen to discuss his recent involvement with Calvinism on Thursday, December 4, 2008.

27. [12.03.08] James White addresses Tony Byrne’s comment on Brister’s blog where he argues seven points for clarification.

28. [12.03.08] Tom Ascol offers a response to David Allen and his previous rejoiner, revealing Allen’s logic, and addressing the example Founders Ministries has of standing against hyper-Calvinism.

29. [12.04.08] Ed Stetzer responds to David Allen’s critique regarding NAMB/LifeWay Research on Calvinism

30. [12.05.08] Timmy Brister writes about the charge of hyper-Calvinism by anti-Calvinists and how they are ultimately after Founders Ministries and Tom Ascol.

>> Last updated 12.06.08 <<

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