Jack Graham on "The Truth about Grace," Pt. 1


I tried to resist commenting on this sermon by Jack Graham but it is further evidence of how desperately we need biblical reformation in our churches throughout the SBC and beyond that I feel compelled to at least give some quotes from it so that others can see my point. Very often–more times than I can ever hope to remember–I have simply let such uncharitable misrepresentations pass without comment and even without calling attention to them. Several reasons have motivated me to pursue this course of action.

1. Love hopes all things. I want to believe that brothers who misrepresent my beliefs are not doing so intentionally but out of ignorance or fear. When such attacks have been personal they have been easier to simply overlook. But when they are principled or are specifically directed to the truth of God’s Word, they have been more difficult to ignore.

2. I find myself in agreement with such critics on many important issues and I do not want to detract from the good that they are doing by calling attention to the bad that they are doing.

3. The misrepresentations have been so frequent and so similarly unthoughtful that to respond to them all would be a full time job–and a repetive one at that! The same old straw men have been passed around by the detractors of the doctrines of grace for centuries. They are so familiar that I can easily express the false accusations as eloquently as those who really believe them.

But, the time has come, I believe to start switching on lights and simply calling attention to the slanderous, Bible twisting caricatures that prominent leaders spew forth about the Gospel of God’s grace. I take absolutely no pleasure in doing so. But we need reformation. Desperately. Others are not so sure. Some sort of think that we do but do not think that the need is really that desperate. Maybe by turning on the lights to expose what is being said and practiced in some of the most respected places and churches within the SBC and beyond more people will be convinced that our need is desperately great and will pray and labor more intensely to see the Gospel recovered and local churches reformed according to the Word of God.

So…here is Part 1 of some selected quotes. I will resist the temptation to make extensive comments. What comments I do make will be in bold.

“Some people believe that God’s love is selective. And their definition of his love is seen as almost capricious.”

“[They believe] that God has chosen only to choose whom He chooses and that doesn’t include everyone.”

Now this is an unusual way to say it, and perhaps he simply got a little tongue twisted (what preacher has not experienced this!), but who would argue with this statement? Has God not chosen to choose whom He chooses?

“There is a brand of elitist theology that is being taught aggressively today in some seminaries, and Christian universities, some churches and well-known Christian ministries. A brand of arrogant theology that claims that God only loves the elect and that the rest of the world is without a prayer, without a hope without a chance to know this grace of God. And this perverted form and theology, this hyper view of the grace of God is an abuse of Scripture. It is a perversion of the promises of God and it is slanderous to the very nature and character of God. God’s sovereignty, God’s grace does not diminish his love for all people.”

What seminaries? What universities? What churches? What ministries?

“Limited Atonement–the effect of what Christ did on the cross is limited only to the chosen and everyone else is predestined to hell and to judgment.”

“I can stand up here and say to you: GOd loves you. every person.”

“This past week I led a decision service for our 3rd-6th graders in our Bible school.”

“I was able to look at those children and tell them that, ‘God loves you. Jesus died for you,’ that ‘Jesus loves all the little children of the world.’ Yet, according to this theological system that is so aggressively taught in some sectors of Christianity today, I would honestly have to look at many of those little boys and girls with their bright eyes and beautiful faces and warm hearts, I would have to look at them and say, ‘No! God has chosen you but God may not have chosen you, God loves you but I can’t tell you that God loves you. God loves this one but He doesn’t love that one. God has chosen and predestined that one to be saved and God has predestined that one to be lost….'”

Who in the world believes that this monstrous picture is a proper way to deal with anyone, especially children? This is simply an emotional ploy that makes no effort to promote understanding at all. It is sad to see men of Dr. Graham’s stature construct such straw men, then with great flourish destroy them and pretend he has dealt with something real and significant. It is like watching a little boy break a light bulb and then go around telling people he has extinguished the sun.

“That slanders the character of God. It is an arrogance that verges on blasphemy. The Bible says in the simplest of terms, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

“It [John 3:16] doesn’t say that God so loved the elect or God so loved his chosen ones, or God so loved part of the world. But God so loved the world. And you know, we better be careful about adding [to] and subtracting from the Bible and playing little theological games with truth.”

“Why don’t we just believe the Bible and take God’s Word as it is? God loves every person. That’s what the Bible teaches.” (applause)

“Some teach that God’s grace is irresistible. In other words, that you have no choice in the matter of whether you receive Christ or reject Christ. That once the grace of God appears to you it attacks you, and forces you and coerces you to believe. You couldn’t say, ‘No,’ if you wanted to. Because God’s grace is irresistible.'”

See my straw men comment above.

“God does not impose His will upon us. Lest God would be a despot a dictator. God has given us in Christ the opportunity and the awesome responsibility to either reject the gospel or receive the gospel.”

Folks, it gets worse. I will post some other excerpts in the near future (assuming I have email access while traveling).

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34 Responses to “Jack Graham on "The Truth about Grace," Pt. 1”

  1. Tom,

    I agree with your assessment. I listened to Dr. Graham’s sermon in its entirety and I couldn’t believe how weak his arguments were. Every conceivable logical fallacy seemed to be present. Then to top it off at the end of the sermon, he appeals to the sovereignty of God by saying that “no one is here by accident.” What was that all about? What about those peoples free wills? Why did they have to be at Prestonwood that day?

    I have appreciated Dr. Graham’s preaching over the past few years, watching him every Sunday morning before going to church. However, many statements made in this message were just plain foolish and irresponsible. I couldn’t believe how low he stooped.

  2. To say this was full of logical fallacy is indeed true, perhaps even an understatement. It truly makes me sad; it really does. I came over here to Founders blogs after hearing from a ministerial associate of mine that Welch had published an article in his church’s newsletter concerning Steve Lemke’s comments; another thread dealt with that and that I think is what Google found for me.

    I continue to read and see how sad indeed things have become. Surely the things said are misrepresentations, and surely they are done in error, truly out of a love for God and His Word, actually believing what they say….right? I have to wonder, how many times have people been shown these things though — and still persist in their errors?

    Dr. Ascol, you know this better than anyone. I have not been Reformed that long really; I’m only 27 years old. I encountered the doctrines of grace through a man named Dr. Gordon Dutile in a New Testament class at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO back in the late 90’s. Not a lot sank in at that point; I had this funny thought that anything labelled “Calvinism” was anti-evangelistic (go figure!) though I certainly couldn’t have been classified as much of a soul winner then. When I went to Midwestern Seminary then in May of 2000 and met wonderful men such as Dr. Ron Rogers, Dr. Don Whitney, and Dr. Tom Johnston, and saw clearly that I was so WRONG about my beliefs, God changed me. I then knew it was ok not to understand everything; I just needed to accept what the Bible taught.

    That’s a little bit about me.

    Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I agree with you; Dr. Graham put together a few things it would seem just to get his congregation to agree with him, crashing the hated arguments to pieces, for they really were straw men. Yet, most of what he said was of course anything but what the Bible teaches.

    Does God love all men? Yes. (he sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous; even though he hated Esau with regard to Election he still blessed him with many things)You’ll not hear a Calvinist deny that. NOW, does God love them all in the SAME WAY? The answer is no of course, because even though He expresses His love to all men through various blessings, ONLY the Elect get the full measure of it with salvation in Christ.

    That truth pretty much destroys most of what Dr. Graham has said.

    Now the issue about irresistable grace….he ignores the doctrines of Concurrance and Governance (part of Providence — see Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem). Who would deny that we make choices? Who would deny that yes, we do choose to follow Christ when we choose to repent (Luke 13:3) and choose to confess Him as Lord (Rom 10:9) and choose to receive Him (John 1:12)? However, each of these is a gift of God; long before we chose such things (or anything for that matter) He chose that we would choose them. To those who say this removes free choice, I challenge you on your definition of “free.” Your definition is one of your own creation, and not a biblical one. I truly believe that for the most part the concept of a completely free choice is a Western invention, and the US is partly guilty in propogating it.

    OK, I think I’m done. Dr. Ascol and others, may God’s grace flow to you and us all as we respond to such things as Dr. Graham’s sermon. May we all have the wisdom of God (James 1:5) that we all desperately need, and may be wear out our carpets in prayer for reformation in our beloved SBC.

    A slave of Jesus the Christ,
    David Benjamin Hewitt

  3. Thank you, Tom for turning on the lights before I go to bed!

    Steve, David, Amen and Amen.

    I was stunned when I listened to this sermon. I sat and took notes on my pc while I listened. Thank goodness I type fast, because Graham moved so quickly it was hard to keep up. This is one of those that, had I heard it in the church I would have either walked out the door during the sermon or sat there was my mouth, literally wide open in disbelief. I have not heard such vitriol in a long, long time.

    Most of these sermons have been pretty long, but this one wasn’t nearly as long, but he surely did a good job of hitting every straw man and every biblical objection that the other side of the aisle raises.

    However, all he ever really did, aside from slander us, the Bible, and God, was tell a few emotional stories and then quote Scriptures and proclaim Calvinism heresy.

    A. If he was teaching Christology from his pulpit, would he provide no exposition of the text he quoted? I hope not, and I don’t think Dr. Jack would approve of a man that did such a thing.

    B. Does he not realize that using his own yardstick and method, anybody can quote Scriptures that directly contradict him. Using his standard, compare Romans 12:3, which he uses to say every man (extensively) has a measure of faith with 2 Thess 3:2, which says “all men have not faith.” Using his sermon style, I would have to conclude the Bible is not inerrant, since it includes contradictions! Would he dispute with me if I raised that objection? Certainly. Then why did he not provide an actual interpretation of the meaning of these Scriptures for his people? I have a sneaking suspicion it may have something to do with anger, but I also wonder if, deep down inside, he realizes that exegesis would not prove fruitful for his theology.

    C. Did anybody else notice the utter absence of any clear articulation of his own theology? He believes in substitutionary atonement, so why isn’t he a universalist? After all, it sounds like everybody is elect. Surely, he’s not suggesting that believers add value to the atonement or the grace of God and God is a respecter of persons.

    D. Will somebody explain how he gets an affirmation of libertarian free willism out of John 3:18-20? He was pretty incoherent on that one.

    E. Here’s a list of the perjoratives I caught in my notes:

    elitist, arrogant, perverted, abusive, slanderous, prideful, blasphemous, aberrant

    Did I miss anything? The triumphalism in his tone reminded me of Roman Catholic lay apologists (Dave Armstrong, Art Sippo). Add “anathema” and you’d have the Council of Trent. This one sermon was an all time low and unbecoming of a pastor of any church in any communion, much less one that God has gifted like Brother Jack.

    F. Regeneration…He even went there. Perhaps he needs to reexamine Article 4 of the BFM 2000. It directly contradicts him. Is regeneration a product of faith, Dr. Graham? What does your confessional document that you voted for at the SBC in 1999 say?

    It says:
    Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
    We dismiss or discipline seminary professors that contradict the BFM and their seminaries’ confessional documents do we not? We require our missionaries to sign the BFM…

    G. Whew, finally at an end of this. Steve and David are 100 percent correct about the use of logical fallacies. Wow, just, just Wow. He even used mirror-reading! That takes real work to do that, because projection is usually easy to spot. When I heard him talk about how unbalanced Calvinism is, all I could think to myself was,
    “Pot…kettle.” Mirror-reading: The disputant maps his own standards on his opponent then accuses them of failing to measure up. Ugh.

    This is one of those rare occasions where, while I realize all our churches are autonomous, he needs to called to apologize, not for his views, but for being dishonest about the theology of those with whom he disagrees from the pulpit in a worship service with the Word of God in front of him before the people of God. Paul called out Peter in public. It may be time to call some of these folks out if this continues this particular way. As I said in my letter to the Biblical Recorder, they are free to take a stand in their churches either way, but they are not free to violate the 9th commandment repeatedly, particularly as teaching elders. How far we Baptists are from our forebears who would resolve disputes through prayer and Scripture and not leave until they had charitably, carefully, prayfully dealt with dissentions.

    I’ll lay odds that when James White comes back from the Conference/Cruise, he’ll be broadcasting Radio Free Geneva. I’m nominating Dr. Graham for the Arminian of the month at the Calvinist Gadfly’s blog for this one.

  4. Unfortunately, Dr. Graham exhibits not only a wanton disregard for presenting others’ views accurately, he exhibits by extension a disdain for our Baptist heritage from British Particular Baptists and colonial American Baptists to the early leaders of the SBC. Surely a man of his intellect (he is not ignorant) knows of Baptist such as Benjamin and Nehemiah Cox, Benjamin Keach, Hanserd Knollys, Jesse Mercer, P. H. Mell, James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, and perhaps a somewhat minor preacher named Spurgeon, whom God used a bit in the conversion of a few folks in London. Does Graham cast aspersion upon the ministries of John MacArthur, John Piper, and Alistair Begg? Would he really want to debate R. C. Sproul over the tenets of Calvinistic soteriology? Does he secretly desire to have Al Mohler removed at SBTS? Perhaps Dr. Graham would be so kind to Dr. Mohler’s response to Estep’s attack on the “Calvinizing” of the SBC (see http://www.sbts.edu/mohler/FidelitasRead.php?article=fidel021).

    Of course, Dr. Graham’s comments remind me of statements I used to make until about 15 years ago. A sovereign God can change a mega-church preacher’s heart, too. May God be pleased to return the SBC to a concern for truth and biblical integrity.


  5. What do you all expect from a guy who is not preaching the word? What is Graham doing in this “message”? He’s giving a topical message as usual. He’s preaching his own mind, and not systematically going through the text of scripture in an expositional way.

    If he were an expositional/contextual preacher, his own theological distortions would be challenged, and the big crowds would depart from him, i.e. he would have to leave the shopping mall of a church he is presently in. Graham’s problems are much larger than his occassional slanders of historic Calvinism. He’s failing to preach the word. He stands up, in the name of Christ, and delivers topical discourses on what he thinks is best for the people, rather than letting scripture determine what the people need to hear. This sermon is just an example of his own rationalistic autonomy that is on display in the pulpit regularly. Even when he’s being “biblical”, he’s still not preaching the word. Although he may utter things that are in harmony with scripture at times, it has not in messages that are following the flow of a given passage, i.e. it’s not contextually sensitive. His topical approach undermines genuine biblical authority. The people are looking at the topical preacher as the authority, and not the scriptures.

    Graham is able to get away with these topical rants against caricatured Calvinism because he’s not expected to preach the word by the people. Are you all suprised that this mega church leader lacks intellectual integrity when he’s not willing to get into the pulpit and preach the word? He’s a proclaimer of topics and mottos, not an expositor of holy scripture. I am not surprised at the remaining noetic effects of sin in Graham (i.e. his mind is warping historic truth in this instance due to rationalism) when he’s not consistently preaching God’s word. If I went to his church, I wouldn’t bother bringing a bible. It’s not necessary when verses will just be used as proof texts.

  6. There is so much I could say about Graham’s “sermon” but time simply doesn’t permit.

    Graham’s “sermon” is, to say the least, exasperating. One wonders if Graham has ever taken the time to read one responsible work that explains the doctrines of grace? I wonder if he is even aware (let alone read) the Abstract of Principles (1859) which was originally drawn up for the SBC and its schools? I doubt it because as Gene Bridges points out in his comments Article 4 of the BFM 2000 directly contradicts Graham, which he voted for in 1999 at the SBC!

    In all sincerity, I ask, what are we to make of great Baptist preachers and evangelists like Charles Spurgeon? What about other great evangelists and preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards (I do recall that they were intricately involved in a fairly large move of God!)? What about Martyn Lloyd Jones? And what about the founder of the modern missionary movement, William Carey? What about John Patton? The fact is some of the greatest preachers and missionaries were Calvinists. John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrims progress was a Calvinist. John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace was a Calvinist. Should SBC churches stop singing one of the most popular hymns in the whole world since it came from a Calvinist?

    Furthermore what are we to think of faithful Bible expositors and responsible theologians such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Tom Ascol, Wayne Grudem, Alistair Begg, D. James Kennedy (no one can say Kennedy isn’t committed to evangelism, ever heard of EE?), Mark Dever, J.I. Packer, Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, Sinclar Ferguson, Iain Murray and many others? Are we to think of these men and their teaching as elitist, arrogant, perverted, abusive, slanderous, prideful, blasphemous and aberrant? One need not even answer the question because such a question doesn’t even need to be asked!

    Personally, I would like to see Graham and another responsible pastor/theologian debate these issues. If certain SBC pastors, churches or schools are teaching blasphemous and aberrant doctrines, then we should certainly seek to expose all false teaching and remove it.

    I do think it would be very helpful if someone would take the time to document every objection (both past and present) to the doctrines of grace and then write a helpful and thoughtful book to reply to them. Why? Even though Graham’s charges are totally ignorant and absurd, the typical churchgoer today will believe them as fact. Thus, it would be very helpful to respond to such charges just to clarify the issues at hand. John Owen in the Death of Death is great. But, the sad fact is that the overwhelming majority of churchgoers would never open it let alone take the time to read it (we live in a Joel Osteen culture). Moreover, most probably would not be able to understand it!

    I close with this quote from John Wesley. I think Jack Graham would do well to follow Wesley’s advice:

    11. Away, then, with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out, and not play with hard words which they do not understand. And how can any man know what Arminius held, who has never read one page of his writings? Let no man bawl against Arminians, till he knows what the term means; and then he will know that Arminians and Calvinists are just upon a level. And Arminians have as much right to be angry at Calvinists, as Calvinists have to be angry at Arminians. John Calvin was a pious, learned, sensible man; and so was James Harmens. Many Calvinists are pious, learned, sensible men; and so are many Arminians. Only the former hold absolute predestination; the latter, conditional.

    12. One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? — a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

  7. This is simply more evidence that the battle over “inerrancy” was nothing more than a word game. It does precious little good to defend the inerrancy of a Bible that we are so willing to thereafter treat so sloppily.

    I often wonder if we aren’t as bad off or worse than we were 26 years ago in that regard.

  8. WOW! I am joyfully weary after reading all the insightful statements from the YOUNG Bereans (Acts 17:10-12). Some of their comments (above) are classics!

    Tom, your growth in divine grace, knowledge, and courage blesses and greatly encourages many of us OLDER scripture searchers. Press on,dear brother.PERSEVERE!

    You are correct: If the UNTRUTHS (“straw men”) were removed from the arguments (and caustic comments) of Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Lemke, Vines and others against the TRUTHS of God’s sovereign, saving and sustaining grace ~ the dividing issues would soon be settled.

    But it requires genuine humility to acknowledge our ignorance (errors) and so many lack this spiritual virtue. It would require a public confession of their
    misunderstandings and few (leaders especially) are interested in performing such a Christian action. (James 4:17)

    Ignorance and arrogance are keeping the people of God apart and, apart from His supernatural intervention, it will continue! How sad!
    How tragic!

  9. What is a decision service?
    I hope it’s not what it sounds like. Surely a responsible Pastor would not try to manipulate emotions in hopes of overcoming the wills of young people in order to win them to Christ!
    How come Graham gets to do this, but won’t allow God to work sovereignly in the hearts of hell-bound sinners??

  10. It seems that “calvinism” has become as the Gadarene Demoniac to the SBC leadership. Are they trying to consign us to the fringe out of a sense of duty, or fear?

    It is as if they think that we all just need Jesus to cast out of us our “legion” so that we can be clean.

    Is this really the type of preaching that honors God? If I am ever tempted to spew similar venom about my free-will brothers, would someone please remind me how they have treated us – and turn the other cheek.

    It seems that way is being overlooked by men who should know better…


  11. Pastor Mike said:

    “Are they trying to consign us to the fringe out of a sense of duty, or fear?”

    I don’t think that the non-Calvinist leaders are deliberately being dishonest. From their perspective, they cannot see a significant difference between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. In all of their descriptions of “Calvinism,” one can see that they are really describing hyper-Calvinism. It’s right and good to fear and reject hyper-Calvinism. It’s a blasphemous theology. However, they fail to make important distinctions, both historically and theologically. The same thing could happen if we broad brushed and smeared Arminians as Open View Theists. It would be unfair and dishonest, whether we realize it or not.

    I am inclined to think that Graham and others fear hyper-Calvinism. The “Calvinism” of today is really Owenic High Calvinism, and many of the High Calvinists haven’t done a thorough job in refuting hyper-Calvinism. Sometimes they even misrepresent hyper-Calvinism as if it should only be associated with those who were against missions or evangelism. Many of the High Calvinistic descriptions about hyper-Calvinism are just as dishonest as some of the Arminian caricatures of historic Calvinism.

    I understand that some won’t agree with what I said about High Calvinists failing to adequately differ themselves from hyper-Calvinism, but where are the books refuting hyperism? Murray’s book about Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism is about all there is, and it’s woefully inadequate. Millions of anti-Arminian books exist, and virtually no anti-Hyper books exist or are in print. There is even a concerted effort to defend John Gill against the charge of hyper-Calvinism. Spurgeon, even though he had high praise for John Gill, nevertheless called him the “Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism” (see page 16 in Commenting and Commentaries, Kregel edition). Don’t bother bringing up Nettle’s thesis about Gill. Nettle’s own footnotes to Gill’s The Cause of God and Truth refute his thesis that Gill was not hyper. Gill clearly rejected free offers and duty-faith.

    Anyway, I am saying that we Calvinists should do a much better job in making a difference between ourselves and hyper-Calvinists, then perhaps the confused Arminians would understand. They are without excuse anyway since the Synod of Dort was NOT hyper. To equate 5 point Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism is folly, and people like Graham will answer to God for his slander. He is charged with watching for the souls under his pastoral care and he is failing, not merely because of his inaccurate blunders concerning Calvinism, but for not preaching the word carefully and/or contextually. A Reformation is truly needed!

  12. On the home page of the Founders site Paige Patterson is quoted as saying, “Dr. Curtis Vaughan is one of the most profoundly loved New Testament scholar s Southern Baptists have ever had.” Now, while Patterson knows and believes that, do you think that he would hire Curtis Vaughan to teach at SWBTS right now? There is no way he would! Think Jack Graham ever sat under Dr. Vaughan? Possibly. But, it doesn’t matter. The Fundamentalist leadership is devoted to waging “war” against “Calvinists” in the SBC who don’t tow the party line. They aren’t concerned about biblical reformation. They are concerned about maintaining their power and the perception that they have “reclaimed” the convention and returned it to its’ “roots”. They hate the fact that the roots of the SBC are so clearly Reformational. The rallying cry is no longer “inerrancy.” It is now, “God loves everbody” with John 3:16 as THE proof-text. It will be very, very difficult (if not impossible) for ‘Calvinists’ to win this PR war with the rank and file Southern Baptist.

  13. With all due respect, I don’t quite agree with ynottony’s perspective, though it may only be a difference in nuance. The “non-Calvinist leaders” may not be “deliberately” dishonest, but they are being dishonest nonetheless. Tony writes, “From their perspective, they cannot see a significant difference between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. In all of their descriptions of ‘Calvinism,’ one can see that they are really describing hyper-Calvinism. It’s right and good to fear and reject hyper-Calvinism. It’s a blasphemous theology. However, they fail to make important distinctions, both historically and theologically. . . . I am inclined to think that Graham and others fear hyper-Calvinism.”

    Yes, they do confuse Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism, but I think they actually fear Calvinism. Their caricature of what we teach and practice make it sound as though it’s hyper-Calvinism, but their statements reveal that they are definitely opposed to God’s absolute sovereignty in matters of salvation and the absolute freedom of all humans to make a choice for or against believing on Christ.

    I think we can preach and write till we are without strength attempting to differentiate our position from hyper-Calvinism and most of the anti-Calvinistic leaders would continue to make the same attacks.


  14. The “non-Calvinist leaders” may not be “deliberately” dishonest, but they are being dishonest nonetheless.

    I agree. Nothing I said is contrary to the above proposition. Notice how my comments were qualified. They are being historically dishonest, whether they are doing so intentionally or not.

    I think they actually fear Calvinism.

    Of course they do, even as the Calvinists fear the finite godism of Open Theism, which is viewed as the logical entailment of Arminianism. Once again, nothing I said above argues the contrary. However, when they come to describe or define Calvinism, they are showing a serious confusion as to what it is. They blur the distinctions, hence a lot of the fears point to a fear of hyperism. I do not deny that they would also reject and fear authentic/historic Calvinism if carefully defined. I would only argue that the degree of distortion would not be as great etc.

    I think we can preach and write till we are without strength attempting to differentiate our position from hyper-Calvinism and most of the anti-Calvinistic leaders would continue to make the same attacks.

    I disagree, somewhat. I grant that some of them would just say that Calvinism logically entails hyperism, but I think that some of them would acknowledge the difference. I think Paige Patterson is an honest scholar who would grant the difference (Incidently, Greg Welty was hired at SWBTS while Patterson was president. John Pretlove was also hired at Criswell College under Patterson. Both of these men are 5 pointers.), but still reject Dort’s teaching. As for Graham, I don’t know. If he’s stupid enough to say the things he said in the pulpit of his very large church, perhaps he would continue the folly even if he was presented with loads of evidence and distinctions. It’s as if he didn’t bother to study it at all, but felt he needed to echo the blunders of Adrian Rogers. Some would continue the attacks, but others would prove to be teachable.

    Also, your statement is largely theoretical. I don’t see many “Calvinists” today preaching and teaching against hyper-Calvinism. One can hardly find books on it. This is partly understandable because free will theology is so rampant, and it poses a larger numerical threat.

  15. Tom,
    Is there any dialogue going on between Mohler and Patterson and other SBC leaders about ethically representing the other side? Does founders ministries formally and personally send a letter communicating disappointment when a leader is the SBC misrepresents reformed theology?

    Just curious if you knew of anything going on behind the scenes.

    I wish someone could come up with a “statement on ethics in theological dialogue” that would address straw men and ascribing the worst motives to other peoples positions.

    God Bless!

  16. Dr. Ascol,

    Thank you very much for addressing these things. Sermons and articles of like nature of Jack Graham’s have caused me heartache in my pastorate.

    I did not come to the Church to push any agenda except one: to preach the Word of God. That’s it. That’s my agenda.

    Yes, I am Reformed, but I suffered to be so. If you have struggled with the truth of man’s depravity, and the conquering grace of our Lord, then you know what I mean. It has given me patience and humility (or so I hope) in dealing with my brothers and sisters who have never heard these things before.

    Nevertheless, I am convinced that if you actually preach through the Scripture (I spent a year and a half in Genesis, all sermons on the internet for free in MP3) and these the doctrines of grace come up, and I address them.

    Some of my Church members heard what the Bible said, and began to do research. I believe it was an article on the “Baptist Fire” website that gave/gives me the most grief. It said that Young Calvinists were infiltrating the SBC to subvert Churches into error. Now, that’s laughable to us, but to someone struggling with theology and wanting to be faithful, that’s not so funny. I’m a 30 year old Calvinist in my first pastorate.

    Please continue to put out good information against such slander, even if it is a person whom you respect. Sermons like this are an affront to grace.

  17. Graham’s sermon and the Baptist Fire site caused me considerable heartache and headaches in my pastorate (just resigned). My agenda: to preach and teach God’s Word to make members stronger disciples / better Christians, and to reach the lost. I was much more concerned about individuals understanding justification and sanctification than predestination and election. What was accused: that I was trying to “pull the church out of the SBC” and make it a “Founders / Reformed church.” The accusations hurled at me in person were nearly identical to those found on the Baptist Fire site. Graham’s remarks and those of other high profile SBC leaders added a great deal of flame to the Baptist Fire. Although I actually worked to make the church’s ties with the SBC and the state convention stronger, and although I sought to have our people engaged actively in Great Commission endeavors, the reputation of Graham, Rogers, et al, are esteemed to the point by many rank and file SBCers that one must be a “Liberal” or a “false teacher” to go against what they say.

  18. Tony,

    I think we’re substantially in agreement, but I do not think that exposing the errors of hyper-Calvinism is the most productive use of our time. We’ll just have to agree to disagree. As you note, the greater problem is with free will theology. I don’t know of any Southern Baptists who endorse hyper-Calvinism.

    As I have contended elsewhere, the greatest problem we have is with pragmatism, doing whatever it takes to get decisions and grow the church. Theology formally set forth really enters little into the ecclesiology of 21st-century Southern Baptists. Practice is all that matters, and stressing the sovereignty of God in all areas, particularly in soteriology, scares pragmatists. After all, if God is truly sovereign (and not just a “lip-service” acknowledgement of a theoretical sovereignty), we are no longer in charge and the size of our churches is no longer an evidence of our innate intelligence, charm, and leadership skills. Anyone who upsets the apple cart of pragmatism has to be confronted and mischaracterized as being opposed to evangelism and personal responsibility.


  19. Sorry, I just had to pipe up here for a second.

    Tony wrote:

    > (Incidently, Greg Welty was hired at SWBTS while
    > Patterson was president.

    Actually, this isn’t true. I was hired when Ken Hemphill was still president. He interviewed me, as did Dr. Blaising, Dr. Blount, and one of the trustees. Ken Hemphill’s resignation was then announced at the trustee meeting several months later, just after the new faculty hires were announced. I don’t think there is any relation between these last two events, however 😉 So, I was already a faculty member by the time SWBTS was searching for a new President.

    I was completely honest about all of my theological distinctives, BTW. It was an extremely interesting interview. What I can say (and this comes straight from the interview) is that Calvinist professors are free to teach and even defend their distinctive views in class, as long as they (i) are collegial towards their fellow faculty and (ii) don’t give the impression that others have to be a Calvinist in order to be a good Southern Baptist.

    I have the greatest respect for Dr. Patterson, BTW, and believe myself privileged to serve under his leadership. Sure, there’s bound to be some theological disagreements here and there, but that’s par for the course, I think. We’re all adults, and we all treat each other respectfully, as we should. Dr. Patterson has made it clear that SWBTS is not a Calvinist institution, in the sense of only allowing Calvinist distinctives to be taught or promoted. However, I have come to see SWBTS as a great place where non-Calvinists and Calvinists can work together without rancor or ill will. The unity here is truly amazing, and some days I even fantasize that SWBTS can provide a model for the broader Convention of how that kind of unity can and ought to work. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I hope not :-)

    Several concerns have been shared recently on this blog about the poverty of so much preaching in the SBC. Can I mention that commitment to training in genuine expository preaching is a fundamental and enthusiastic goal of SWBTS at present, and that that is largely due to the example and priorities that Dr. Patterson has brought to the job these past two years? I’m not sure about the past, but I can tell you that I’m excited about where things are at present. Whole programs have been restructured so that exposition from the Hebrew and Greek text is front and center. If ever there is going to be a greater appreciation for sound doctrine in the SBC, it’s going to come from a long-term commitment in the churches to proclaim the whole counsel of God to the people of God faithfully week by week.

    Well, I’m actually at home resting up from an appendectomy, so perhaps I should get back to that!

  20. but I do not think that exposing the errors of hyper-Calvinism is the most productive use of our time.

    Is refuting free will theology a productive use of our time? Then so is refuting hyper-Calvinism. They both stem from rationalistic categories that cause system driven interpretations to take place.

    As you cross swords with Arminians in defending the boat of truth, don’t forget to look over your shoulder to see the hyper-Calvinistic pirates coming over on the other side. Though they be few, they are dangerous as hell! They will fight with you against the Arminians and appear to be your ally, but they want to take the boat as well into a dry and barren place.

    “I don’t know of any Southern Baptists who endorse hyper-Calvinism.”

    No one will come out and admit they are hyper. To do so is to admit theological imbalance, hence the prefix huper. How many “Calvinists” do you know are fond of John Gill’s writings? How about Arthur Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God? Would they look at you suspiciously and think you are way off for considering that book by Pink to be hyper-Calvinistic? It is, even though Pink was fence sitting in other writings. Gill was definitely hyper. George Ella is another Hyper. This does not mean that we should not read what they had to say, but only recognize hyper-Calvinism when it is right in front of our faces. John Gerstner (not a Southern Baptist of course) was also hyper of a similar sort as Gordon Clark, Herman Hoeksema, David Engelsma, Vincent Cheung. The theological categories of these men are pervasive on the internet.

    “I think we’re substantially in agreement”

    Yes, I think so. I find the rest of your comments right on target and a fair description of what is going on in Baptist churches.

    Dr. Welty:

    Sorry about the mistake about the time of your hiring. I stand corrected.

  21. Tony wrote:

    > Sorry about the mistake about the
    > time of your hiring. I stand
    > corrected.

    Ah, it wasn’t really a ‘correction’. Just a triviality that provided the opportunity to talk about other things :-)

    BTW, I realize that you’re mainly targeting systems of thought, rather than people, but the discussion leads me to ask a question: Does anyone here know of any contemporary Southern Baptist preachers of any influence or recognition who are hyper-Calvinistic? I think several non-Calvinists in the SBC have been discussed on this blog recently, but are there any comparable hyper-Calvinists? I’m probably not in a position to answer this question (seeing as I didn’t grow up as a Southern Baptist), but maybe others are.

  22. “Does anyone here know of any contemporary Southern Baptist preachers of any influence or recognition who are hyper-Calvinistic?”

    I am not aware of any who would qualify. You are probably aware of the Presbyterians who are, i.e. the Protestant Reformed Church. I can’t think of any in the SBC who are hyper. There are plenty who are High Calvinists, but they are not hyper.

    When I read what Arminians say about hyper-Calvinism, I expect a total misunderstanding of what it is. For example, the people at Baptist Fire are completely ignorant. They should get no more credibility than someone who downloaded a diploma off the internet. One buffoon over there actually said, “Southern Seminary is about gone in my opinion.” How ridiculous! Al Mohler is very sharp and biblically balanced, and so are the people he welcomes to teach.

  23. Greg Welty,

    I am a recent graduate of Southeastern, and I would have to say that my experience matches what you have said.

    Dr. Patterson made it clear that he is no Calvinist. Yet, while he was there we had John Piper come to town and preach, and he was given time after chapel for a question/answer session. Further, many of the Professors hired at the school were Calvinistic. I am deeply in debt to SEBTS for teaching me and molding my ministry.

  24. “Does anyone here know of any contemporary Southern Baptist preachers of any influence or recognition who are hyper-Calvinistic?”

    “I am not aware of any who would qualify.”

    I think this is exactly why the majority of discussion is about non-Calvinists rather than hypers. I don’t know any hypers, nor do I know anyone who knows any hypers.

    But, your point is well taken and I do think it is wise for Calvinists to begin to critique that side as well, though, just to be fair.

    Plus, it is only natural to defend your position against those who are intensely attacking you. Since allt he attacks come from non-Calvinists, that is where the discussion (books, sermons, etc.) lies.

  25. I am not in agreement that John Gill or Pink were hyper-calvinists. I’m not sure how you arrived at that assesment. I have seen credible defenses may on their behalf.

    Just exactly how do you define a hyper-calvinist?


  26. These discussions are all well and good, but let’s face it – we’re preaching to the choir. Everything that’s posted here is correct, but it accomplishes nothing. Since the SBC considers the Founders and its members a “fringe movement,” all the blogging done here doesn’t expose or shed light for the people who need to know this information. The people who need to know are sitting in the pews or standing behind pulpits oblivious to what was said and the errors of doctrine. If the SBC vilifies the Founders, you can be sure that your target audience is not listening in this blog or the Calvinist/Founder-friendly blogs. Take the word to the street and the places where they work. Do a letter writing campaign to individual churches and to the SBC leadership. Organize a public dialog or forum. If they refuse, use the forum to expose their lack of participation. The possibilities are endless. If the SBC accuses the Founders and other Calvinists of apathy, prove them wrong with at least this issue. As it stands now, we’re purely academic.

  27. John,

    While you’re right that more needs to be done, these discussions serve at least two vital needs (I’m sure there are others):

    1. It helps ministers in particular who are unable to have fellowship with like-minded pastors to realize that there are others facing the same issues elsewhere.

    2. Believers who are questioning the prevalent culture of pragmatism are providentially led to these discussions, discussions which serve to reinforce their own recognition that something is badly amiss in our Baptist world and also serve as a catalyst to acquire a more biblical understanding of soteriology and ecclesiology in particular and theology in general.


  28. I think that we are being overly pessimistic. Founder’s Ministries, and like-minded folks, are not a “fringe movement”. Two of our Seminary Presidents are Calvinits, and many of our professors hold similar convictions.

    I think the hostility that is coming from certain people is an indication that they realize we are growing. We aren’t a “fringe movement”, but they are trying to make us seem to be.

    So, don’t despair. The “SBC” is not marginalizing us, we are a part of the SBC. And while our voice may not be the loudest, it is certainly being heard.

  29. As webmaster for Founders, I keep tabs on visits to various parts of the site. This blog gets more hits than I would expect from just SBC Calvinists. Besides, the site also attracts several hundred people a week to study the outlines we provide for Lifeway SS curricula, and I suspect many of those folks wander over to the blog. Plus, we have a little-known secret weapon. See http://www.southernbaptistconvention.org :-)

  30. The discussions are helpful and there is a need to be actively involved in evangelism. The benefit of the blog is that it demonstrates that Founders is becoming popular at the grass roots level among pastors and some seminary professors. But in response to Hashman, we should not look to Dr. Mohler to expose these issues. As much as I admire the president in all his efforts and abilities in fighting against so many social ills, Calvinism within the SBC is very controversial and Dr. Mohler is committed to fighting post-modernism in its various manifestations, within and outside the churches. Founders is not welcome around Louisville because of the stigma that has been given to it by people that equate Founders with hyper-calvinism. Let’s face it, leaders of the SBC are leaders because they know which fights to fight, i.e. political apptitude. For true reformation to occur within the SBC, it must happen within the churches by faithful pastors, which is exactly what Founders is designed to promote.

  31. I am very saddened to hear the responses to Dr. Graham’s message on the “Truth about Grace”. It is obvious that most of you have not made your own conclusions regarding God’s grace and that most of you have adopted your parents doctrines and philosophies.


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