Rounding Up the Reformed Ragamuffins

Tim Brister —  November 29, 2007 — 58 Comments

P&P Public Service Announcement:

For those of you who did not know, both Charles Spurgeon and John Piper have “lost priorities,” do not understand the gospel, and are confusing many people on how to be saved. Not only that, but Piper and Timothy George are leading Southern Baptists away from our Baptist identity by going down the “slippery slope of ecumenism.” Furthermore, Calvinism really does not originate from the Bible as much as it does rationalism and philosophical speculation. And this comes from someone who is a self-assumed spokesperson for all non-Calvinists in the SBC from Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri.

Now what is striking about these statements is that they were issued at a conference called “Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism.” I can’t help but think that such statements reflect a Baptist Barney Fife seeking to round up all the Reformed ragamuffins and prosecute them for breaking “traditional Baptist” law. Having chided Calvinist Baptist historians for poor and skewed scholarship, theologians for ruminating on Augustine and Calvin more than Jesus or Paul, and statesmen for being untrustworthy and anti-missionary, Dr. Yarnell makes these five ultimatums:

1. “Non-Calvinist Baptists call their Baptist Calvinist brethren to reject clearly and permanently speculative doctrines insofar as they detract from experimental faith in and consistent submission to Jesus Christ as Lord.”

2. “Non-Calvinist Baptists would call our Baptist Calvinist brethren to reject clearly and permanently speculative doctrines, extra-biblical distinctions and theological methodologies insofar as they detract from the revelation of the Word of God illumined by the Holy Spirit to the gathered churches. Some forms of Calvinism are simply not biblical enough.”

3. “Non-Calvinist Baptists would call our Baptist Calvinist brethren to reject clearly and permanently speculative doctrines insofar as they detract from a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

4. “Non-Calvinist Baptists would call our Baptist Calvinists brethren to reject clearly and permanently speculative doctrines insofar as they detract from a strictly biblical understanding of local churches.”

5. “It would be helpful for non-Calvinist Baptists if all Baptist Calvinists would intentionally and publicly refute the errors of Classical Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism.”

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  • One small point regarding Dr. Yarnell’s presentation which may be of interest (and is not easily seen) is that when referencing Piper and “the slipperly slope of ecumenism,” he has in mind Piper’s recent position regarding baptism and church membership, and not Calvinism. I doubt this is reflected in the audio, but the baptism/church membership connection is referenced in a footnote on the PDF file. It’s not overly clear, it’s not related to Calvinism, and I’m unsure if “ecumenism” is the right description of it, but a valid critique nonetheless. Anyhoo, I thought you might be interested in that tidbit I noticed.

    By the way, have you heard if the open forum audio is going to be made available?

  • This was supposed to help “build bridges?” The “spiritual snobbery” flows from these statements. It also reeks of historical ignorance or blindness.

  • On another note, after reading Dr. Yarnell’s paper, I am again reminded that Calvinist Baptists and non-Calvinist Baptists (“Arminian” is not an accurate term; I’ve never met a true Arminian in the SBC) have different understandings of both the historical formation of the SBC and also in basic definitions of Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. Until these two issues are resolved, I am skeptical of long-term tranquility. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

  • G F McDowell

    If Dr. Yarnell would care to actually name those dastardly “clearly and permanently speculative doctrines,” we would have something to discuss. As such, This appears to be rhetoric that is not helpful. Godly communication clarifies, it does not cloud.

  • You know, I sincerely hope that no one in the SBC, much less Calvinist Baptists, are dabbling in “experimental” faith. I hope they are dabbling in a “true” faith rather than one you have to “experiment” with. I can see it now, those dang Calvinists in their Mad Scientist labs pouring solutions of Unconditional Election into a beaker of Irresistible Grace and turning on the Bunsen burner of Perseverance.

    Yes, yes, I know, he means “experiental,” a completely different word that actually does convey the meaning he wants, but still… 😉

  • By the way, since we’re talking about Ragamuffins, shouldn’t the official band of this conference surely be The Ragamuffin Band? With or without Rich Mullins?

  • Jerry

    I have been listening with interest to the Podcasts from the Building Bridges conference. I am about 3/4 done. As I listened to Dr. Yarnell yesterday, my first thought was: “And they say that we Calvinists are mean.”

    I really think that he went way over the top, and was more interested in creating chasms than in building bridges. I had the PDF in front of me while I listened, and was further dismayed by some of what he presented. I had a feeling that he thought that SBC Calvinists are receiving marching orders out of Minneapolis. While there is much of John Piper’s ministry that I appreciate, I certainly don’t march in lock-step with him.

  • Scotty Karber

    It seems evident to me that Dr. Yarnell believes the only good Calvinist is a non-Calvinist. I am also wondering when he is going to identify all these extra-biblical and speculative doctrines and ideas which detract from a strictly Biblical understanding int eh churches so we can actually know what in the world he is talking about.

  • While I didn’t agree with everything Bro. Yarnell said, when he said that Piper and Timothy George are leading Southern Baptists away from our Baptist identity by going down the “slippery slope of ecumenism” he hit the nail right on the head. The fact is that Boyce, Broadus, Howell, Carroll, Mell, etc were worlds apart from the ecclesiology of Piper and George,

  • John Fariss

    Speaking as a non-Calvinistic Baptist, I can say unequivocally that Malcolm Yarnell does not speak for me.

    Well, at least a non-five-point-Calvinist Baptist. Where does he draw the line?

  • Building bridges?

    This sounds more like burning bridges to me.


  • Reformed-5

    I’m not judging motives because I do not know them. However, this whole conference smells of the downgrade controversy that Spurgeon went through. I’m sorry for being so blunt but the point is not how do we get along. The point should be, what is the gospel?

    It’s not evangelism that has been lost – it’s the gospel. We tell people lots of things but if it’s not the true, clear gospel than it will not change lives.

    As Gould said above, I don’t know any true Arminians in the SBC.

    Amen brother.

  • All those points by Dr. Yarnell seemed rather pointless. Building bridges indeed.

  • I may be a nobody, but I am a “true Arminian” in the SBC. I attend Southeastern College at Wake Forest (at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I love the Lord, the gospel, the Bible, and the SBC. (No, I do not believe one can lose his salvation–for those who are wondering.)

    I was wondering how long it was going to be before Calvinists, non-Calvinists, and closet Arminians within the SBC would clash. Furthermore, I was wondering if this Building Bridges conference was going to unite us all or further divide us doctrinally. But, if all SBC Calvinists left the SBC and joined the Reformed Baptist Association, and all SBC Arminians left the SBC and joined God-knows-what, I wonder what the SBC would be like? A group of “non-Calvinistic” theological nomads?

    What to do . . . what to do . . .


  • I disagree with Dr. Yarnell on this, but I disagree with Dr. Yarnell on most things. 🙂 That being said, I think in order to build bridges we all must be honest both in what we believe and in what we believe of others. Dr. Yarnell was being honest. This conference is a beginning, it’s not a quick fix. It has begun dialog which I feel is important. Dr. Yarnell simply spoke what he believes to be true, whether true or not. I hope that was the purpose of this conference, for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists to speak honestly then dig out from there.

  • Billy,
    Sorry, but you are not a true Arminian. Hate to burst your bubble. You may be closer to Arminianism on the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean you are an actual Arminian.

    As for many other comments, I will come under hot water, but while many are leaving comments to Bro. Brister’s post criticizing Dr. Yarnell’s polemic, many of you don’t sound very interested in building bridges either.

  • gavin


    You said: “I am again reminded that Calvinist Baptists and non-Calvinist Baptists (”Arminian” is not an accurate term; I’ve never met a true Arminian in the SBC) have different understandings of both the historical formation of the SBC and also in basic definitions of Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism. Until these two issues are resolved, I am skeptical of long-term tranquility. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.”

    The caricatures being painted by non-Calvinist brothers on what constitutes both Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism, IMO, is one of the biggest problems on this issue. Those who feel threatened by Calvinism in the SBC are quite content to communicate to laymen who sit under their preaching and read their Baptist state publications that Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism, believe babies who die go to hell, believe that God is the author of sin, want to do harm to local church autonomy with their blogs, etc. And this is not a strawman argument…many examples can be cited.

    All of the Calvinists I know would heartily condemn that description of Calvinism as being hyper-Calvinism which is wrong and needs to be repented of. Insofar as I can tell, the speakers at the Building Bridges conference were supposed to rise above those silly caricatures (which I’m not saying Dr. Yarnell made those same exact caricatures, his were more subtle and a bit more polished).

    This is what is so frustrating: Calvinism continues to take blows when men who should know better convince the average Joe in the pews that Calvinism is a bad thing that needs to be exterminated.

  • Jerry

    As I continue to listen to the podcasts I wonder if the Molinism that was trumpeted later in the conference would fall into Dr. Yarnell’s definition of “speculative doctrine”, and if it would receive his condemnation.

  • A couple of things:

    1. It is one thing to have open and candid dialog that is fair, accurate, and represents opposing viewpoints with some level of respect. It is another thing to make false equivocations and rash statements without qualification (which Yarnell does throughout his rant).

    2. Disagreeing with Yarnell does not mean we are not interested in Building Bridges. It is saying we are not interested in Building Bridges with those who want turn the SBC into an Anabaptist Island.

    3. To come to a conference with an attitude that you are going to correct those in attendance and call to recant is a display of hubris and serious miscalculation in my estimation.

    4. To say that Baptists are more biblical that Calvinist Baptists is a categorical error. What is the soteriological framework of Baptists? If you listen to the Q&A, you will find that Yarnell was pressed on this point. What is ironic is that he talks from a “traditional Baptist” perspective, a title popularized by Fisher Humphreys, who by the way, does not believe the atonement is necessary for salvation. Is that the kind of Baptist doctrine we are talking about here?

    Just a few points for starters. 🙂

  • Oh, and regarding non-Calvinists in the SBC, my guess that most would be theologically aligned and informed by Herschel Hobbs who was a one-point Calvinist. The elder generation grew up with his books (What Baptists Believe and Fundamentals of Our Faith). He also was instrumental in the ’63 version of the BF&M.

  • Yogi Taylor

    Tim, I enjoy your articles.

    It is sad that even at a conference designed to affirm what we agree on from what we disagree on, there are shots fired (not to protect but to destroy). But it shouldn’t come as a surprise unless one thinks this conference, and many like it, are going to be a quick fix… and that could not be further from the truth.

  • Yogi!

    Great to hear from you man. Regarding the conference, I do not think that those behind it thought it would heal all the wounds or fix all the problems; rather, the goal was to establish common ground to build upon. Southern Baptist leadership has not been willing to do that, and this conference reflects a changing of direction (at least that’s what I am thinking).

    I know that emphasizing Yarnell’s antics could overshadow all the other presentations, many of which were excellent (see especially Akin and Ascol), but the point needs to be made. The mileage on Yarnell’s message will run out as soon as the rhetoric fades; on the other hand, many of the other messages, I believe, will be a mile marker for years to come for those who are on the same journey for consensus and cooperation rather than isolation and independence.

    So with that said, much more is to come. I look forward especially to reading and listening to Nathan Finn’s message, a friend and excellent young scholar. I’d encourage you to listen to his message for an alternative.

    Oh, and please send my love and regards to Kelli!

  • Timmy,

    You wrote, “2. Disagreeing with Yarnell does not mean we are not interested in Building Bridges. It is saying we are not interested in Building Bridges with those who want turn the SBC into an Anabaptist Island. ”

    I could not agree with you more! Amen.

    Joseph Gould,

    You wrote, “Billy, Sorry, but you are not a true Arminian. Hate to burst your bubble. You may be closer to Arminianism on the spectrum, but that doesn’t mean you are an actual Arminian.”

    I’m a bit confused . . . I do not believe in Total Inability which requires Regeneration before faith, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, or Irresistible Grace, just like by Church hero, Arminius. Is the only reason why I am not a “true” Arminian is because I do not believe one can lose his salvation? If that be the case, then Arminius was not a true Arminian either — he merely said that the matter needed further investigation. He NEVER came out and said that anyone could finally fall away from salvation and be lost (Works of Arminius, Vol. II)–I could cite it for you if you want.

    As I see it, many “non-Calvinists” within the SBC at least hold to a form of Unconditional Election much as Calvinists do. One would think that he who holds to Conditional Election and Resistible Grace would by default fall into the Arminian camp–whether or not he wanted that label–and I do.

    In Christ (totally not being harsh here),


  • So I try again, it seems my post got lost Timothy, but if it shows up delete it cause I have more here. I once used the term Arminianist for those who hold to any form of Arminianism since Arminian, doesn’t really define the modified postions of anyone the Remonstrans forward. Any way what follows was my response from this morning, it if ever finds itsway back home.

    Soooo! Yarnell is calling for Calvinists to refute themselves because he respects and loves SBC Calvinists, Keathly is advocating the SBC adopt the heretical middle, and just who were the moderate voices?

    Let’s see on the left, Yarnell and Keathly, vociferously anti-Calvinist, extremists, and on the right, not one extremist hyper-Calvinist in the Group. Hmmm seems a little outta balance. I’ll take this away from listening to all this. There are softer voices among the Arminian left of the SBC, but vitriolically speaking they are a minority. The Calvinistic right, is already a minority, and if this conference is any example, then one must wonder just who are the hyper-Calvinists in the SBC and are there any of note?

    I am listening and will one or two more times, and read these statements. Hopefully they will all become available. If Keathly, (and his Molinism is essentially what I have heard from many who call themselves the “Biblicists,” a position of the Hobbsian/Mullins SBC Theological sect), comprises the majority of the left, our problems have gone far beyond just lackadaisical anti-intellecualism and spiritual apathy and laziness. If the Yarnell faction will out, then the unwritten executive order will be that Cavlinists will have to shut up or adopt an implicit faith to remain in fellowship.

    Shall I lock-em up Andy?

    Why do we call them non-Calvinists. Is that like pro-life versus anti-abortion. I am anti-Arminian, anit-universal atonement, anti-Biblicist, and proud of it. It is the Theology, not the persons that I hate. So, if we are going to start with honesty, then Yarnell should have used the proper terminology, he is anti-Calvinist, so is Keathly and Greear. They should own it and not be mealy mouthed with PC terms like non-Calvinist. Or at least give themselves a label and define it. And, another thing, I could care less if Yarnell speaks at the Rotary Club about what he “thinks,” to be true, that is not honesty. But if he is going to address fellow Elders in the body of Christ, honesty and conscience would dictate that he admit that he doesn’t know what is true and take it from there.

    Sorry. I just get so infuriated when the issue is dumbed down. If this were only about the DoG versus the DoW, that would be one thing and we could go our way pat ourselves on our prideful backs. It goes beyond that to the very heart of the so called primary, or essetial doctrines of the Faith. Greear prefaces his sermon and makes the classic anachonistic falacy when he claims that men have bee arguing about this for 2000 years and have not got it right yet. Really, Jesus did not know what he was talking about, nor Paul, Peter, James, John? Are you kidding me? That is not honesty. That is equivocation. Because Greear doesn’t know, and others don’t, no one can? Posh, if that is the case we have lost the rule of Faith, the very Word of God. Greear goes on to say that the future is shaped by our choices, and in doing so destroys the revelation of predictive prophecy, the most salient evidence within the texts of the Bibles veracity and the basis of our Faith because it was not the choices of the men who crucified the Lord that shaped our salvation but it was that these things fulfilled what was written. If Greear gets away with destroying the revelatory nature of Scripture, woe to the SBC. Greear makes light to be be for darkness, faith before regeneration, a living man before the man is created. He effectively agrees with Nicodemus and denies the words of Jesus that you must be born again before you can see. For Greear, a man must see, before he is born again. There is no mistaking, his is not the Gospel, no matter how passionate he is! Greear ends with dismissing Calvinism as just a trend, and that those who hold it do not hold to the radical love of God just as many trendy movements have abandoned it. He finishes with quoting Carson, but forgets that what Carson meant by the Gospel, what that it was a body of Truth, and not opinions, and that is why Carson said what he did. It was not predicated upon some shadow reality of the Gospel, and it was not merely wishy washy sentiment. The Gospel assumed has a distinct and exacting reference to the diminution of doctrine, and for D.A Carson that would mean the lowering of the bar know as the DoG, or affectionately by us, Calvinism.

    I have had this conversation before. Since when and where do we arrive at the freedom to hold opinions that are not truth? If any man speaks he is to speak as an oracle of God, true? Simple enough. The Word of God is not given for any private interpretation and this conflict is not about how we can hold on to our pet speculative theology, but about the legitimacy of holding to opinion and tradition over against the inerrant, sufficient, truth of the Word of God. You see, this controversy started a while back and it is predicated upon the trustworthiness of Scripture. That is the real issue. Shall we back peddle to the mirky darkness of the late 19th and early 20th Century, to doubt about the sufficiency of Scripture to settle matters of Doctrinal dispute? Or, do we sign an “ecumenical” truce with the left (non-Calvinists) and agree with them that truth doesn’t matter? After all, what is faith worth if it is not the substance of TRUTH?

  • 1. As I’ve commented on Tim Rogers blessed blog (thanks to him for live blogging), one of the problems with Dr. Yarnell’s presentation is that it is often a giant exercise in mirror-reading. He chides Piper for not calling people to be baptized. Dr. Yarnell’s concern for Baptist principles in laudable, but misplaced. Does he really think every gospel tract must call a believer to be baptized?

    2. Using “Baptist principles” the way he does is, consequently, the very epitome of “rationalism.”

    3. He equivocates between “rational” and “rationalism.” If by ‘rational’ you mean “logically interconnected and linked,” what is the objection? If logic is part of God’s essence and character, then will anybody seriously argue that a “biblical” theology (to use his terms) would include surd phenomena (LFW) and /or that the doctrines would either be (a) internally contradictory or inconsistent or (b) not underwrite each other? I disagree with Billy, but I applaud his consistency. His theology DOES rationally fit together. Too often I see this charge floated by men whose theology is a patchwork quilt that tears itself apart. You rip what you sew.

    If by “rationalism” you mean constructing a theology around a central philosophical or ethical plank, then how does this not apply to his use of Baptist principles? Further, this is a matter of historical theology. Richard Muller has tried to address this line of argument, yet when he does:

    4. Dr. Yarnell castigates him for two things: (a) presenting Calvin, not Christ. So, Dr. Yarnell is free to make the charge but Dr. Muller is not free to refute it. Dr. Muller and his group are only trying to answer this charge IN THE WAY MEN LIKE DR. YARNELL FRAME IT, since they look at the theology of those at whose feet the charge is laid (b) Saying the language of “Christocentricity” is problematic. Well, yes, because that’s “rationalism” to construct a theology around a principle of “Christocentricity.” That’s a Lutheran statement about their theology, and one that Calvinists argue about with them. If anybody has ever interacted with a Lutheran, you’ll know that. It’s also the heart of Orthodoxy, for in Orthodoxy, they posit Christology first and then all else around it. So, Dr. Muller is damned no matter what he says. I’d add that he is very amenable to saying Calvinism is “Christocentric,” if by that you mean that Calvin called Christ “the mirror of election,” or that Christ is at the center of Perkins’ charts, etc. He is opposed, however, to the use of “Christocentrism” as a central plank. If Dr. Yarnell differs, then we can lay “rationalism” at the feet of Dr. Yarnell.

    5. He also used a flagrant double standard that nobody seemed to catch. In talking a gentleman published in a British journal, he says of this encounter: This accomplished scholar read an article of mine on Calvinism in SBC Life66 and sent me a contradictory article he wrote for a British journal.
    I queried Professor Ellis for the exegetical clue to distinguish between the hidden and
    revealed wills of God with regard to particular redemption. I await an answer.

    Note carefully, he doesn’t ask for an exegetical ARGUMENT. He says he wants “the exegetical clue.” That would be a request for a rationalistic hermeneutical principle that, presumably, he would say gets imposed on the text. His question is a loaded question. If Dr. Ellis was to answer it, Dr. Yarnell would, presumably, seize upon this as an example of “rationalism.” Surely, this was a poor choice of words on his part. He may have well as asked “How often do you beat your wife.”

    This is all to say that those who most frequently make this charge are the ones guilty of dong it themselves. Sometimes objectors to Christianity have a way of drawing attention to the very texts of Scripture, for example, that point out their own shortcomings. Even Christians do this to each other. Mote meet plank.

    6. Finally, I couldn’t help but think that his emphasis on TX Baptists seems to be rather pretentiously presuming, as we have seen in recent SBC history, that TX Baptist tradition is somehow determinative for the rest of us. Not only can they advise, they get to tell the rest of us what we *should* do, as if TX Baptistery is the standard tradition qua tradition by which to rightly judge the rest. That’s not building bridges. That’s an ultimately adversarial position.

  • Tim Powell

    I am a Baptist. I am a Calvinist. I am in favor of rejecting permanently speculative (can a doctrine be temporarily speculative?) and unbiblical doctrines.

    Now what?

    Does he mean rejecting teaching about pre-Fall accidental death? What ‘bridegroom of blood’ means? Whether or not Paul was married? The length of Jesus’ beard? Exactly what Job’s leviathan is??

  • Thomas,

    I apologize about your first comment not being posted. I don’t know why, but sometimes legitimate (meaning not spam) comments get thrown into the spam folder. I use to check it about once a day, but now I get so much that it is too much to handle. Unless someone notifies me that their comment did not get posted, I usually have no idea that this happened. I scrolled through several pages and retrieved it.

    If this happens in the future, please let me know! (and this goes for anyone else)

  • But Tim (Powell, that is), we can’t possibly have certainty if we don’t know what Job’s leviathan is! If we can’t agree that it most certainly is a dinosaur, not an unusually large crocodile, we can’t show that dinosaurs travelled on Noah’s Ark and then died out in the new world!

  • Matt


    I didn’t get to meet you at this conference but i did attend and was encouraged to what I heard. As a fellow reformed pastor i believe Yarnell did say alot of things that made no sense at all. His misrepresentation of calvinism was obvious. Nevertheless, i came away with hope that as a conference we can openly discuss theological convictions.

  • Matt,

    Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this conference due to three finals and a baby due in any time. I think Tim Rogers thought I was there as well. I guess you could say I was there in spirit. 😉

    Yeah, openness is important. Whether we agree or disagree, we should not disallow anyone from the right of articulating their positions. Perhaps Baptist Calvinists will be given a little more openness in the years to come.

  • I am so pleased with the conference as a whole and the generosity of the speakers as a whole. I am waiting for the conference where the “non-Calvinist” “anti-Calvinist” “Arminian” or whatever one wants to call it get to justify their existence, and apologize for every possible error their theological system can lead to, and qualify their doctrines, and get lumped together with a bunch of non-biblical historical figures through logical fallacies. I mean, we’re listening to professors of accredited seminaries blur the lines between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism as though it’s difficult to know the difference. Intellectual integrity would demand that we’ve had far more problems with syncretism stemming from Arminianism in the SBC than hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is a non-issue, unless one changes the technical meaning of the term to mean “really Calvinist.” I know men like Yarnell know better, and that’s what is disturbing. That’s why I’d never send one of my church members to schools where men like this teach. It’s not so much the difference of opinion, as the deliberate intellectual dishonesty. Yarnell suggested that in order to build bridges, we need to define the different Calvinisms. Bla…Bla…Bla… Really, one just needs to decide if God is allowed to be God, or his Godness needs to be explained away to satisfy human ethical standards because the God of the Bible is quite scary as is.

  • Where was the King of Spain when he was so needed at this conference?

    Yarnell is a foaming at the mouth, HYPER Anti-Calvinist… this man is not interested in building bridges… and as for him and his kind there is absolutely “no common ground” to be found with any Calvinist. These extremist do not want to build bridges they want to burn them… preferably with all the Calvinist of the SBC strapped to poles and piled high on top of them.

    Did anyone expect anything less of Yarnell? If they did then, well, I hope they now understand that you cannot make peace with those who want to exterminate you… just ask Israel. You can be a Southern Christian Gentleman time and time again (as Ascol and Akin have been) and Yarnell will spit it your face time and time again….

    Timmy I am sorry for the strong language… you can delete this post if you wish… but I am so weary of this kind of shameful attitude and conduct by Yarnell and company that if they are the future of the SBC then there is no future in the SBC for me…

    Grace Always,

  • Greg

    I know this is about Dr. Yarnell’s speech specifically, but the tone of the rest of the conference was not nearly so polemic. :argely due to David Nelson of SEBTS who I believe is much more reformed than he appeared (we had Systematic together if I remember). Even Dr. Noblitt who is a very passionate Soveriegn Gracer tried to reach across to the non-Calvinists by mentioning things we should agree on. Ie, regenerate church, the God centeredness of the Gospel and other things that I learned from Dr. Paige Patterson when at SEBTS (oh, I am a Calvinist and the last time I checked Dr. Patterson was not). The mention of Piper in reference to gospel not ecclesiology.
    Dr. Aikens final sermon was tremendous. It is a call to arms to all Bible believing SBCers. Definitely not a downgrade. Remember, Spurgeon did not fight for Calvinism in the Downgrade, but for a common and Biblical meaning of gospel and church. He had non-calvinist allies in the fight. I will add, that Dr. Nettles and JD Greear were both historically correct in saying that Calvinism (where actually held to, reference the largely historical but not practicing PCUSA and UPC of the 20th ca) does seem to be a conserving force for the Fundamentals of the Faith.
    Grace Alone,

  • Greg

    Greg Alford:
    Please listen to the rest. Yarnell was very atypical.
    Greg Bailey

  • grosey

    mmmmm maybe he had indigestion at the time 🙂
    I have really enjoyed all the presentations… excellent material.
    😉 Good to see 2 Ways to Live on the website 🙂

  • Aaron K.

    I call on Dr. Yarnell to please speak in clear English of us common folk. There is a reason I do not use the KJV.

    Clavinist brethren are some of the most Biblically faithful believers I have ever met. In fact, the most committed believer and evangelistic person I have ever met is a calvinist. There is more unfaithful teaching among the Arminian, Free-Will, noncalvinist bunch than among the calvinists.

    As already stated, this was about building bridges not demolishing bridges.

    Stop poking each other in the eye and lovingly attempt to see eye-to-eye.

  • RE: “Joseph Gould Says:

    As for many other comments, I will come under hot water, but while many are leaving comments to Bro. Brister’s post criticizing Dr. Yarnell’s polemic, many of you don’t sound very interested in building bridges either.”

    Some of us do not have to build bridges. We work closely with “non-Calvinists.” I am probably the only Calvinist in my church and I minister there frequently. I have gone out on the mission field with our pastor (I go on missions about once a year- I would go more, but it takes money). Some of us get along very well despite some differences. I would hope that at the local level this tends to be a smaller issue. That certainly is the case from my experience.

  • On a positive note, I would encourage anyone who has not listened to Dr. Akin’s message to do yourself the favor of alloted one hour of unimpeded time to listen to it. Dr. Akin is very clear and direct, yet charitable and gracious. In the broader spectrum of the SBC, I am convinced that he (along with others including Ascol and Dockery) has his finger on the pulse of God’s heartbeat for the SBC. May we all join him in his passion for a gospel resurgence.

  • On a positive note… Timmy,

    It is my prayer also that “Akin (along with others including Ascol and Dockery) are indeed the Future of the SBC…

    Darby Livingston expressed just what disturbs me the most about Yarnell,

    “…we’re listening to professors of accredited seminaries blur the lines between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism as though it’s difficult to know the difference…. I know men like Yarnell know better, and that’s what is disturbing… It’s not so much the difference of opinion, as the deliberate intellectual dishonesty.

    And I give a hearty AMEN to Mr Livingston words

    “That’s why I’d never send one of my church members to schools where men like this teach.”

  • Timmy,

    You of course are over at Southern Seminary land [I’m not]. If you had to guess, what percentage of Calvinistic Baptist students believe in closed communion? Also, what percentage believe that the closed communion standard in the BF&M 2000 should be used to exclude SB’s from SB employment.

    God Bless


  • Benji,

    Honestly, I have no idea. I am not very well connected in the seminary world given that I commute and spend relatively little time on campus (outside library research). Perhaps that would be a good question for Said at Southern ( Sorry that I could not help you any more, but at this point, I would be just conjecturing – and a bad one at that!

  • I was able to attend Building Bridges. It was excellent.

    For all the reasons already mentioned I was disappointed in Dr. Yarnell’s address. I don’t want to repeat what has already been said but I was particularly frustrated by his use of anecdote. He even played the Servetus card. That’s the kind of thing you use to find at “Baptist Fire.”

    When asked what he was he replied, “I’m a Baptist.” Impressively, Dr. Aiken replied to him by saying “I’m a Baptist” is not a clear enough answer. Aiken is right.

    Dr. Yarnell clearly believes that “non-Calvinist Southern Baptist” means “biblical” while Calvinist means “speculative doctrines.”

  • Todd,

    Yeah, the Servetus card should have had a hat tip to Ergun Caner. 😉 Man, that get’s really old.

    The “I am not a Calvinist or an Arminian; I am a Baptist” statement is quite common unfortunately. Man who have sought to avoid theological categories and a clearly defined soteriology find a nice evasive technique in saying that I am a “biblicist” or a “baptist.”

    I listened to the panel discussion, and I wish Dr. Akin would have pressed him on it. Assuming you believe in election, is it conditional or unconditional? Grace–prevenient or irresistible? Atonement–possibility or accomplishment? Salvation–synergistic or monergistic? Unitarian or Trinitarian? Man-centered or God-centered?

    There’s nothing speculative about these doctrines and questions. They are biblically defined and historically grounded. I think one of the problems is that some fear theological precision is a raw commitment to rationalism or logic rather than Scripture or that using these categories is pre-committing them to a man-made system. Of course, these can be easily refuted as language and logic correspond to the mind of God, and he has given us propositional revelation that we might know His Word with certainty; second, to argue against such categories is self-refuting, for being “baptist,” especially “southern baptist” is a man-made category. Third, baptist is a ecclesiological category, not soteriological category. You can be a Baptist and an Arminian or Calvinist. That’s besides the point.

    Also, classifying other Southern Baptists as “non-Calvinist Baptist” says nothing other than they are not Calvinist. Via negativa (by way of negation) simply says what you don’t believe, not what you do believe. Therefore, every reference to non-Calvinist Baptists rings hollow as that term has virtually no substance or referent. It, like “I’m a baptist,” is vague and ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so.

  • Tom Hardy

    I read what Yarnell had to say and to be quite frank, although I suspect much of what he said was erroneous. I do never the less wonder what he was getting at, when he said that Baptist Calvinism (as Spurgeon believes) is different than classical Calvinism.
    Can someone enlighten me to this aspect? It made it sound like Baptist Calvinists, are not 5 point Calvinists, at least in the manner that was described at Dort.

  • Frankly, I think he’s relying on Dr. Garrett’s analysis of historical theologians in the Baptist tradition. As I recall,he has stated that John L. Dagg was not a 5 Point Calvinist. (One truly wonders where that comes from, since Dr. Dagg held the highest view of limited atonement one can have and not be a hyper-Calvinist). Together, IMO, the work of Dr. Yarnell and Dr. Garrett is simply rewriting Baptist theologiical history with respect to soteriology. It’s just that simple.

    They also seem to equate “Calvinist” with “Paedobaptist” or “Presbyterian.” This is a category error. They also misrepresent Dort, for example, as to the “free offer.” Its all an exercise in historical revisionism.

    I’d also point out that every appeal to “Baptiist tradition” is not only an appeal to a “rationalistic principle,” but every appeal to historical Baptist theology is an appeal that negates what they have to say about Calvinists and their appeals to historical theology. There is a great deal in Dr. Yarnell’s work that is simply internally contradictory, or, when taken with, for example, Dr. Keathley’s presentation, would lead one, if one was consistent, to refute Dr. Keathley’s work too, since Dr. Keathley’s theory of foreknowledge and foreordination is talking about “consistent Infralapsarianism” by way of Molinism, both of which, if Dr. Yarnell is to be believed and his admonitions followed, are to be rejected as “permanently speculative.” Dr. Yarnell provided the audience and the readers of the book with some real timesavers in evaluating these issues. If what he says is true, its false, and so are the views of Dr. Keathley.

  • Tom,

    Not only that, but Yarnell repeatedly argues from “a traditional Baptist perspective,” e.g. the perspective of Fisher Humphreys. Humphreys has articulated his position most fully in his book For God So Loved the World, although there are a couple of articles online that might help bring this reference in view:

    “Calvinism and Theology Today”

    “God So Loved the World” book review by J. Terry Young

    A helpful book review I recommend is by Greg Gilbert from IX Marks which you can find here.

    For the past twenty to thirty years, NOBTS has done well to raise up a crop of theologians and pastors who have militated against Reformed doctrine and the historicity of the doctrines of grace in Baptist life. Whether it was Clark Pinnock, Fisher Humphreys, or now Steve Lemke, they have worked hard at this point. Interestingly enough, Pinnock is the leading advocate of Open Theism these days, and Humphreys does not believe the atonement is necessary.

    To say that Baptist Calvinists are not Dortian Calvinists is to make a false distinction and an attempt to revise church history to make room for the theory of “traditional Baptists” which does not have the credibility or warrant so desired. At the end of the day, Yarnell and Humphreys have little to fall back on, except redefinition.

  • Gene,

    It is interesting indeed to see what Humphreys, Estep, Yarnell, Caner brothers, and Garrett are attempting to do. I look forward to seeing what kind of traction, if any, their works get in the younger generation of Southern Baptists. I mean, I don’t know many Southern Baptists who, when looking for a systematic theology, will look to Garrett, or for a baptist historiography, will look to Yarnell or Estep. On the other hand, Nettles’ By His Grace and For His Glory has been out for over 20 years and yet to be refuted by any Baptist scholarship.

  • d

    “…With 1530 total pages, these volumes are an amazingly rich resource for historical, bibliographical and Biblical data on each doctrine treated.” (Wayne Grudem on Leo Garrett’s 2 vol. Systematic Theology. quoted from page 1230 of Grudem’s “Systematic Theology)

    Maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us to at least look at Garrett’s Systematic Theology.

    Just a thought…

  • David,

    Perhaps so, but what systematic theology class is even offering Garrett’s systematic even as an optional textbook. The fact that his book is not even optionally recommended says something. But aside from that, his articles on Dortian Calvinist in the Alabama Baptist did not reflect first-rate scholarship (IMHO).

  • d

    i think the size of Garrett’s work alone makes it a bit inaccessable for systematic theology class. Most of the optionally recommended works for Systematic are on particular subjects for that particular section.

    i certainly did not agree with Dr. Garrett’s assesment in the Alabama Baptist paper. However, I am a little concerned that some people are simply written off out of hand because they are not Calvinists. i know that is not what you were doing and i appreciate the fact that you always try to represent people fairly. I am sure that both of us know people who have the mindset that if you are not a calvinist you have nothing valuable to say.

  • Dave,

    Agreed. There is much to be commended in Garrett’s works. My point (and I think Gene’s) point is how Calvinism is being couched by Garrett et al. in recent years. The issue of his systematic theology is a different matter, although I think his more popular articles in the state paper will not work positively in his favor.

  • d

    Fair enough. On a side note. Are you graduating on Friday? Did you have a baby?

  • No on both questions. I am a lazy student and a patient soon-to-be dad. Okay, so maybe I am not as patient as I would like to be!

  • Reformed-5

    Greg said,

    “Dr. Aikens final sermon was tremendous. It is a call to arms to all Bible believing SBCers. Definitely not a downgrade. Remember, Spurgeon did not fight for Calvinism in the Downgrade, but for a common and Biblical meaning of gospel and church.”

    I agree wholeheartedly that we should be at arms, amen Dr. Aiken. But as far as downgrade, don’t forget that Spurgeon said that calvinism is the gospel. I don’t believe for one second that Dr. Aiken should be on the other side (pardon the terminology) of the point as Ascol.

    It’s not Aiken that’s detrimental to the SBC. It’s the power hungry people who water down the gospel – at best – in order to have large churches and big baptism numbers so they can hold office in the SBC. They’re influencing many young and impressionable SBC pastors with the roles they play in the SBC.

    These men do not and will not uphold church discipline. They do not call for fruit meet for repentance in church membership. They do not have any accountability to church rolls. They’re like the Mormons, once you’re on the roll – you’re always on the roll and they use this to gain prestige in the conference. It’s sad and it’s horrific. It makes the SBC a laughing stock to the world.

    We need men who will build bridges, but we also need men who are willing to stand up and say that is unbiblical and we will have no part in it. We need men who are willing to downsize rather than downgrade. You know what caused the reformation – God using someone like Luther.

    Can you imagine what Luther would have said to Yarnell?

    Where are the Luthers? Forget political correctness and let’s get to the truth and draw lines in the sand.

    Please don’t take this as vitrioloic. I say this with tears. The gospel is at stake! The glory of God is at stake! The preeminence of Christ is at stake!

    These are far greater than the SBC and whether it lasts or not!

    Yes we should try and meet. Yes we should try to agree. But when do we stop and part ways!

    It’s not Aiken and men like him who are not 5-point calvinists that we should be debating (I say this nicely). Where was Jerry Vines during this conference? Is he interested in getting it right? Probably no more than Yarnell.

    We go to learn, be taught, get to the truth! Repent when necessary, recant when necessary – with the goal of getting to the truth for the glory of God.

    But at some time we must shake the dust off our feet!

    That’s what we should be talking to men like Aiken and Patterson about. When do we shake the dust off our feet towards those who do not hold to the true gospel?

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  • Dr. Yarnell actually posted a comment at my blog on the publication of the “Building Bridges” papers. He took offense at my recollection of his presentation:

  • What does spiteful bigotry have to do with Christ? Isn’t it the Arminian arguement that has more to do with reasonings about “God choosing those that choose Him”, and “why Calvinism defames God’s character”? That is not a scripturally based arguement. No one is attacking the Methodists for their belief in infant baptism. No one bothers to discipline the SBC “brother” (in most churches) that denies the 7 days of creation or inerrancy of scripture, and yet teaches Sunday School. I thought Baptist Churches were autonomous? Even the official SBC site takes no stance on Arminianism and Calvinism. But anti-Calvinists are like wild and hungry dogs that smell blood. Why? Weren’t most of our most influential SBC forefathers Calvinist? They love to brag on their accomplishments, and sweep their theology under the rug. After all, they’re dead and can no longer “pollute” the SBC with their Doctrines of Sovereign Grace. The problem is that the flesh rejects the notion of original sin and man’s inability due to his depravity. The temptation is to believe there is still a spark of goodness in man, and that he can be smart enough to make the right choice. Guess only dumb people go to Hell, huh? But God says there are few wise that will be in Heaven. To believe in “open enrollment” salvation, you have to remove Ephesians, Romans, and the Gospel of John from the Bible, and still there is enough to lead you to the conclusion of Sovereign Grace.

  • Oh, yeah… If God is unable to interfere with man’s “free will” in salvation, then quit praying for Him to save the lost and change their hearts, and become a consistant Arminian.