Archives For Steve Lemke

Update 12.05.08 :: 11:30 p.m. Having been away most of the day with family outing and then church planting meeting, I have not been able to follow the comments of this post. Upon reading them, I have become discouraged by the direction of the commentary and chose to dump all existing comments, including my own, into the moderation pool.  I will follow up with my thoughts soon, Lord willing.

Whenever controversy arises in the SBC, it is always helpful to understand the agenda on both sides.  Regarding the current controversy over Calvinism, it is important to note that the agenda has often changed.  Earlier in the debate, the goal was to (1) discredit and debunk the doctrines of Calvinism (take William Estep’s 1997 article Doctrines Lead to Dunghill for example). The most devastating blow to Calvinism would be, of course, to show that it is unbiblical.  However, non-Calvinists have not dealt with the biblical texts, and as the John 3:16 Conference reveals, very little exegesis was offered for their rejection of the doctrines of grace.

When it became apparent that Calvinism could not be stopped by proving the doctrines were unbiblical, the next step (2) was to argue from pragmatism.  Calvinism, they say, is contrary to the Great Commission and would result in less baptisms and fewer people being saved.  LifeWay Research last year proved that this claim to be false much to the behest of Steve Lemke and some SWBTS professors.  Ed Stetzer has just posted a response to those challenging and questioning the research methods and approach regarding the Calvinism study by LifeWay/NAMB Research.

Furthermore, when pragmatism couldn’t snuff it out, the next thing on the agenda (3) was to police Calvinism.  In other words, if you can’t beat it, try to control it and marginalize it.  This was seen in the denominational talking point of the pastor search committee and Calvinists putting all their cards on the table.  Calvinists who are (and should be) up front with Calvinism have to plow through the caricatures and misunderstandings that have been perpetuated over the years.  With transparency and integrity as guiding principles, they are told that they should not be wearing Calvinism on their sleeve, that their willing admission therefore constitutes one who is “aggressive and militant.”  On the other hand, Calvinists who are perhaps “softer” and less outspoken about their soteriology simply preach the Bible and love the people, but should it be known at a later time they are Calvnists, they are deemed “deceptive, dishonest, and disruptive to our churches.”  In some state conventions (Florida, Texas, and Missouri to be specific), non-Calvinist literature was purchased and sent to every pastor in their states in an attempt to sway ministers against Calvinism.  Denominational platforms from convention speeches to Baptist state papers to academic “white papers”, the policing effort was rather comprehensive.

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Last week, I directed you to read the words of Voddie Baucham on the anti-Calvinism in the SBC. This week I want to turn your attention to the response of Tom Ascol who addresses three recent happenings: Steve Lemke’s article in NOBTS journal (which I have addressed), David Allen’s 34-page review of Building Bridges book, and the John 3:16 Conference. Ascol has not, to this point, responded to the escalating rhetoric and tactics of the anti-Calvinist movement in the SBC, predominantly located within SWBTS, NOBTS, and Jerry Vines and Co.  Some of the notable points by Ascol include:

1.  The “study” which Lemke again quotes to argue that Founders-friendly churches was not only methodologically flawed, but, should the same standard applied to the churches Lemke himself pastored, they would be in worse shape than the Founders churches.  The same goes for David Allen.  Perhaps a “study” should be done on the churches pastored by “seminary administrators.”

2.  Allen criticizes Building Bridges for partnering with Founders Ministries because it was a non SBC entity, while, within weeks after publishing this article, partners (and participates) with a conference that is a non SBC entity (Jerry Vines Ministries).  The ability of Allen to discredit himself is no less alarming than his hypocrisy on this point.

3.  Allen is deeply concerned about Dr. Nettles article “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist” while apparently not concerned by the dozens of denominational “servants” telling churches why your next pastor should NOT be a Calvinist. Different standards for different people.

4. David Miller, a conservative statesman and evangelist in the SBC, attended the John 3:16 Conference and shared his disappointment to Jerry Vines in a letter, part of which was summarized in Ascol’s article.  Miller writes,

“The brethren (presenters), not only contradicted each other but themselves as well” while building “straw men” and “knock[ing] them down with Scripture verses taken out of context…with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance.”

Ascol concludes with a personal appeal for gospel-centered consensus by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike while distancing from the agendas that seek to divide and create factions in the SBC.  He concludes,

Now is the time for Southern Baptists of all stripes to stand up and hold those who misrepresent brethren with whom they disagree accountable for their words and actions. Speak the truth in love and leave the consequences to God. The anti-Calvinists (as opposed to non-Calvinists) are becoming, as one seminary student put it recently, “increasingly irrelevant,” especially to younger SBC leaders. While they are writing and preaching to themselves, more and more Gospel-centered Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike are showing a genuine willingness to link arms in order to move forward to make disciples of the Lord Jesus.

In the comments of his article, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell has responded (eight times) to Tom Ascol, mostly pertaining to his admission that Servetus was a Baptist (when he was not).  The conversation is worth reading.  More later.

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Steve Lemke Compilation

Tim Brister —  November 3, 2008 — 17 Comments

I know most of you are totally uninterested in the upcoming John 3:16 Conference or addressing Dr. Steve Lemke’s egregious errors, but I felt that it was important to make the previous posts readily accessible to anyone who would like to read my interaction and responses to Lemke’s article, “What Is a Baptist? Nine Marks That Separate Baptists from Presbyterians” (in the Fall edition of The Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry). Therefore, I have listed the articles for you below with the dates which they were written.

1. Steve Lemke and Christian Scholarship (September 30, 2008)
2. Steve Lemke on Collin Hansen and Provocation (October 2, 2008)
3. Steve Lemke on “Four Streams” of Calvinism, Part 1 (October 3, 2008)
4. Steve Lemke on “Four Streams” of Calvinism, Part 2 (October 6, 2008)
5. Steve Lemke on Total Depravity (October 7, 2008)
6. Steve Lemke on TULIP (October 10, 2008)
7. Steve Lemke on Timothy George and ROSES (October 13, 2008)
8. Steve Lemke on Bethlehem Baptist Church, Baptism, and Church Membership (October 14, 2008)
9. Lemke’s Remarks and My Response Regarding Bethlehem Baptist Church (October 16, 2008)

There are still several points yet to address (such as his take on libertarian free will, decisional regeneration, and failure to understand the difference between infant salvation and infant baptism in Presbyterianism), but I felt that I have sufficiently shown in the nine previous articles the failure of Lemke to deal honestly and accurately with the subject matter at hand (Calvinism). I will likely create a button on the side bar linking to this page for future retrieval. If you would like to have all my responses in one downloadable document (27-page PDF), click here.

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In the comments of my previous post, Dr. Steve Lemke has responded to my comments regarding the factual errors in his journal article.  I was going to leave my response in the comments but at the conclusion felt that it was better to write a follow-up post here.  I will not reproduce Lemke’s comment here, although I will post some quotes from his comment.  My response is as follows:


Dr. Lemke,

I assume that, despite all the qualifications, you are offering a retraction on what you have written about Bethlehem Baptist Church.  If my assumption is right, then your bearing false witness against Piper and BBC has secondary implications–your charge of theological compromise.  The only right thing to do in a retraction is not only to correct the factual errors but also retract your falsely derived conclusion as well.

You said,

By the way, I do think you misunderstood what I was saying, although my statement could have been clearer. I was not saying that the CHURCH approved the motion, but that the ELDERS had adopted it.

Elder approval of a motion an a policy enacted by the congregation is not the same thing, at least in Baptist polity.  To say that “an amended policy was finally enacted in 2005 is simply not true, even with your argumentation (in the same paragraph you call it “the new policy“).  BBC holds to Baptist polity with congregational rule while being led by plurality of elders.  Simply because the elders approved a motion does not mean it was a policy in the church, as Piper and the documents clearly explain.  Having done a paper on the differences of Baptists and Presbyterians, you should know this.

The fact is that there were numerous ways which you could have contacted BBC, not the least of which is actually calling them (Sam Crabtree is the staff person you would want to talk to).  The information is clear as day on their church website, and any search engine would get you in the information within 30 minutes of searching.   The other site I referenced indeed was a blog–one that happens to be the most informative and reliable source of information on the internet.  Because it is a blog, it is any less credible?   “Not an internet site but a blog . . .” – what’s your point Steve?

Because the issue is not resolved does not mean that the church or elders are in active deliberation about this matter.  You argue that this paper was presented in February of 2007.  That was over a year after the motion was withdrawn and a year and a half before it was published in the journal article.  As an editor, is it not your responsibility to make sure that the information you present is up to date and accurate?

You argue,

Piper’s continued advocacy of allowing people into their church fellowship without having practiced believer’s baptism is the point, whether or not he temporarily backed away from it for pragmatic reasons.

Piper personally holds to a different position, but his advocacy of that position does not mean he allows people to be members apart from believer’s baptism.  There is a difference from a personally held belief and the policy of a church.  He said in the interview that BBC indeed does NOT allow people to join apart from believer’s baptism.  He did not back away because of “pragmatic” reasons but because of a right understanding of Baptist ecclesiology–precisely what you charge him of compromising on!  He was not going to force this issue but respectfully considered the disagreements among the plurality of elders and concerns of the congregation.

Your circumlocution does not strengthen your argument nor change the error you have made.  You have not presented the facts or accurately represented BBC and John Piper.  You owe them an apology and should not be defending your rationale with such justifications.

Finally, you are correct to say that your paper does not contain “inflammatory language,” but Dr. Lemke, you have wrongly presented a whole host of people.  I have shown that you were not fair in the journalism of Collin Hansen, you falsely labeled “streams” of Calvinism, you wrongfully explained TULIP, you misrepresented Timothy George on ROSES, you bore false witness regarding BBC and John Piper, you missed the point of theological triage by Al Mohler, and you wrongly presented by the Presbyterian beliefs of infant baptism.  So yes, no inflammatory language, but don’t you think that being wrong on all these points will not be considered a real provocation?

I, too, am willing to have good dialogue about these matters.  I never questioned your salvation, although I said your scholarship did not represent Christian virtue.  You are not telling the truth and representing the positions of those with whom you disagree accurately and fairly.  Until you are able to do so, I do not see how anyone will be able to enjoy a productive and engaging discussion with you on these matters.  Thanks for your comment, and I do hope that the future holds promise for charitable dialogue for the benefit of all people interested in the gospel, the church, and unity of faith in the fellowship of the saints.

Timmy Brister

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Steve Lemke is not a fan of Together for the Gospel.  The second half of his article is entitled, “Baptists and Presbyterians Not Together: Nine Marks Which Separate Baptists from Presbyterians,” where Lemke lays out his argument for Baptist separation (or, as I would argue, isolation).  Interestingly enough, his first two marks are “soul competency” and “age of accountability”–not exactly bedrock doctrines of the Baptist tradition.  In any case, he proceeds from there to believer’s baptism (mark 3) and baptism by immersion (mark 4).  In the fourth mark, we find yet another major error in Lemke’s presentation–this time it is Bethlehem Baptist Church‘s position on baptism and church membership.

In the pertinent portion of Lemke’s commentary, he writes:

“Piper’s proposed statement did not find general agreement among the church’s elders, and the issue was discussed for several years.  An amended policy was finally enacted in August 2005.  Although expressing preference for baptism by immersion, the amended membership statement expressed the desire ‘not to elevate beliefs and practices that are nonessential to the level of prerequisites for church membership.’  Thus, according to the new policy, ‘Christians who have not been baptized by immersion as believers, but, as they believe, by some other method or before they believed, may under some circumstances be members of this church.'”

Now, for those of you who can remember back in 2005, the debate over baptism and church membership was no private matter.  Documents were made public, and the discussion was one of the most heated in the blogosphere.  I recall in particular one church’s elder body, Clifton Baptist Church, writing a letter to the elders of BBC encouraging them to reconsider the proposed amendment by the elders.

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