President Bobby Welch, Dr. Steve Lemke, Southern Baptists and Calvinism, Pt. 3


More on Dr. Lemke’s article:

Wise voices such as Adrian Rogers, Danny Akin, and Paige Patterson have warned about the dangers of unchecked hyper-Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Granted, the three men mentioned are indeed wise and Southern Baptists owe a debt of gratitude to each of them. Their courage, boldness, commitment to the Word of God and labors to see such commitment restored and spread throughout the SBC are worthy of honor and emulation. The same cannot be said, however, about many of their comments about Calvinism. Once again, Dr. Lemke’s imprecise and even careless use of “hyper-Calvinism” is disturbing. Just where does he see “unchecked hyper-Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention”? Is he talking about Founders Ministries? Based on previous comments in his article, one can only assume that he is.

I do not want to belabor the point but it is crucial, especially in any kind of meaningful dialog on this subject, to be careful in our use of terms–especially pejorative terms. I am reminded of a comment that Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones made when reflecting on this very problem. He said, “The ignorant Arminian does not understand the difference between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism.” No honest theologian would want to be liable to this critique.

If hyper-Calvinism exists in the SBC, then all who love Jesus Christ and the souls of men and women should ruthlessly root it out. For a theologian to wonder dispassionately about how far hyper-Calvinism will spread in the SBC is like a Police Chief wondering aloud about how far known gangsters will spread in his city as he merely tracks their spread. It is dereliction of duty.

If what Dr. Lemke sees in Founders Ministries is hyper-Calvinism, then attack it with all your power. If it is not, then quit falsely claiming that it is.

Dr. Lemke next seeks to pit Dr. Timothy George’s restatement of the 5 points of Calvinism against the more familiar TULIP presentation of them.

What is the difference between hyper-Calvinism and the more typical baptistic Calvinism? Timothy George, President of Beeson Seminary who is himself a Calvinist, has provided a helpful clue in contrasting the “TULIP” acronym of Synod of Dort hyper-Calvinism (although this popular acronym does not fully communicate the affirmation of that Synod) with a “ROSES” acronym of a softer version of Calvinism that is closer to what most Baptists believe.

Again, to charge the Synod of Dort with “hyper-Calvinism” is theologically irresponsible, historically inaccurate and biblically sinful (it violates the 9th Commandment–something that too many scholars fail to take seriously enough in their writing and teaching). Dr. George does not reject Dort’s pronouncements in his restatement of the 5 points. In fact, Dort did not invent the so-called “5 points of Calvinism” in the first place.

It is evident that Dr. Lemke is either unfamiliar with or does not understand the published Canons of Dort. Again, that is not a crime and may even be expected of most sincere followers of Jesus in our day. But the provost of a theological seminary, particularly one who publicly levels the charge of hyper-Calvinism against Dort, should know better.

I will not take the time to go point by point to show the deficiency of Dr. Lemke’s attempt to pit Dr. George’s restatement against the traditional 5 points, though it is readily evident to anyone who reads the Canons of Dort, or even a book on Calvinism (like the excellent and recently expanded and republished Five Points of Calvinism) and compares them to Dr. Lemke’s analysis.

As one example of what I am talking about, consider the following. Dr. Lemke writes:

Finally, unlike limited atonement, singular redemption communicates that Jesus’ death was sufficient to save everyone but is efficient only for those who repent and believe.

He pits what he calls Dort’s “hyper-Calvinism” of “limited atonement” against Dr. George’s “softer version Calvinism” of “singular redemption” because the latter speaks of the sufficiency of Christ’s death to save everyone.

Into which of Dr. Lemke’s two categories would the following statement on the atoning work of Christ fit?

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.

This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.

This sounds like Dr. Lemke’s “softer Calvinism” does it not? It sounds like the antithesis of his depiction of Dortian “hyper-Calvinism.” Guess where it comes from? Some of you recognized it immediately, even though you are not professional theologians. These words come from the Canons of Dort–Second Head of Doctrine, Articles 3 and 4.

There is more of this kind of misrepresentation to be found in Dr. Lemke’s treatment of Calvinism in the SBC. Quite honestly, I am growing wearing of exposing it all. I take no pleasure in this kind of writing. But I take great offense when pastors and churches are slanderously mischaracterized, especially by those who should know better, more especially still by those whose salaries are paid by the very churches they falsely accuse.

I am not sure if I will continue my critique next week or merely sum up with some reflections of what these kinds of unjustified attacks are doing to the unity of the SBC. The phone calls, emails and posted responses to these observations the last few days have only confirmed my awareness of the rising frustration that many, primarily younger pastors and church leaders within the SBC, have with the unjustified, unChristlike attacks on that which we–together with the founders of the SBC–believe and teach. I–we–welcome theological discussion, even of the most animated and strongest sort. We do not think that we have everything figured out and cannot be instructed any further in the truth. We not only are willing but genuinely desire to be helped with our deficiencies. But if denominational leaders and employees sincerely want to be of help to us, these kinds of careless castigations should stop.

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17 Responses to “President Bobby Welch, Dr. Steve Lemke, Southern Baptists and Calvinism, Pt. 3”

  1. Tom, Thank-you! Thank-you for taking the time to respond. I pastor a small church in Arkansas, and I constantly have to correct misrepresentations about the calvinism in my church. Please continue to use your position to respond to these misrepresentations of the Doctrines of Grace. I pray that God will lead Dr. Lemke to see the error of his ways, and respond with a correction.


  2. I wonder if Lemke’s understanding of “Hyper Calvinist” matches up with Tom’s “Hyper Calvinist.”

    I don’t know how to get Dr. Lemke to define his understanding of hyper calvinism but I believe that would shed a great deal of light on this subject.

    For some reason I don’t get the same sense from the word when Lemke uses it (especially since he contrasts it with T. George’s “ROSE”) that I do from the article Tom linked to in his last posting about Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism.

  3. Dr. Ascol,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to this extremely poor scholarship. You are being infinitely more charitable than I would have been.

  4. I sincerely wish you didn’t have to respond to such charges, but you did so very well. And as the previous comment says, you did it with more class than I probably would have… I wonder how Dr. Lemke feels when liberals lash out at pastors like him with charges like “bibliolotry” as you mentioned? I pray that the Lord might persuade him that he is doing the exact same thing.


  5. The really sad thing here is that we know from personal experience that the people that hear and read these men aren’t stupid people, and they will eventually catch on to the fact that these are misrepresentations, and when they inevitably do, they won’t like it that they have been very obviously lied to by their leaders. We no longer live in the days where the preacher can say anything to his congregation without them checking behind him. This is the age of the internet, where all they need to find is at sites like and . Worse for these folks doing this, these aren’t even the top of the line arguments against the Reformed position. They are straw men and, frankly, not even good straw men.

    Honestly, if I wanted to attack a position with which I disagreed, I would be sure to portray it accurately, and I would use the best it has to offer. Of course, the best arguments the Arminian side offers lead directly to Open Theism (if they are consistently applied) or deny penal substitution altogether, and so on and so on. In short, these men are putting themselves in a bad position, because they can’t use the best arguments without heading into terrain that they don’t believe themselves.

    Also, if you’re like me, you have a lot more respect for somebody that is consistent in the application of their position e.g. I have more respect for the Open Theist in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate than these men, because their position is inconsistent with itself). Likewise, I have more respect for one that can articulate my own position accurately as well as his own.

    What, then, is being gained by this constant misrepresentation? Do these folks really believe the Lord will honor this? Obviously they do, or they wouldn’t do it. It will serve to make people think, and then they will, as they already are, take time to study themselves. Isn’t this one of the benefits of division? I seems to me that the unintended effect (from their point-of-view is that folks who haven’t considered the Reformed perspective are, in point of fact, considering it. The Lord is using these misrepresentations as a means for truth to be known and approved by His people.

    1 Cor. 11:18-19, “For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you.”

    1 Cor. 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

    I call your attention to 1 Cor. 11:19 and the Greek word “haireses” for “factions,” the root of our own English word, heresy, a false teaching, something that deviates from orthodoxy. The Scriptures teach that there is a place for division and that is when opposing teachings that are contrary to sound doctrine. If Voltaire didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him. Division can only occur when the truth is known and those who abide with the truth should correct those who do not. Thank you, Tom, for taking the time to do that.

    Elsewhere in the comments section here, I pointed out that some of this argumentation reminded me of the way the leadership would cite giving stats to paint a particular picture of the moderate churches in the earlier days of the conservative resurgence. Here, I’m also struck by the way they are attacking Calvinism in that it is remarkably like the way moderates attacked those of us in the Convention that believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, calling us “Bibliolaters,” and creating any number of straw men. We all know how that went. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  6. Tom… Thanks for the series of posts this week. They have been very good refutations of these misrepresentations. I hope that they are listening.

  7. Tom,
    I just want to say thank you again for dealing with this in such an astute, and clear manner.

    Maybe one day they will “get it”

    I believe that remarks of men like Lemke, Rogers, etc. illustrate the need for Founder’s Ministries more than ever.

    I thank God for you guys!

  8. Jeff,

    Where would you go to find a definition of hyper-calvinism? What is your definition and where’d you get it?


  9. johnmark,

    Take a look here:

    (Just in case the link above does not show completely…sometimes this blogger software will cut off links…go to, look to the left of the main page for the topical index that appears underneath the ad for the DVD’s, scroll down to “hypercalvinism.” John Hendryx has a lengthy description/definition of it and multiple articles on it. Phil Johnson’s is one of the most cogent treatments in the list. It can be found here:

  10. Thank you for your grace in dealing with these attacks from friendly fire. I just recently heard about the “BaptistFire” website from Dr. James White and I am very concerned at the straw men and misrepresentations of 5-point Calvinists. I am also very concerned that Bobby Welch on his newsletter would make statementst that Founders churches are not up to “snuff” on baptismal numbers and that we are not mega-churches. This sounds very man-centered and superficial. God calls us to preach the gospel to all people and He alone grows our local churches. We cannot manufacture growth through “decisionism”. Haven’t we been arguing for many years now about the SBC being an unregenerate denomination. I would guess that many of the Baptisms in mega-churches might be spurious conversions or stoney ground hearers. I don’t know and can’t make that judgment. But let’s not judge other churches for not being megachurches or making the quick leap that because we hold to the doctrines of grace we are not evangelistic. We need to keep this dialogue going because there are so many misrepresentations of what a true Calvinist believes.

    Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church
    Sterling, CO

  11. Gene, thanks. I wasn’t asking because I didn’t know, but to see how easy it was for a non-calvinist to find an accurate definition. Especially, since Jeff was indicating that possibly Ascol and Lemke were operating from two different definitions. See my point? =)


  12. Ah, gotcha now, John Mark,

    Actually, in my own criticism of Dr. Lemke’s paper on Scott Sloane’s blog ( …see entry on Bobby Welch for Monday, July 25, comments section), I addressed him personally on this very claim, since he chose to respond personally to many of our comments.

    Dr. Lemke’s direct response to the charge that he has misrepresented Calvinism as hyper-calvinism is, as you might guess, not, “I’m sorry, I operated under a different standard definition,” but this:

    >>>Being a hyperCalvinist is evidently in the eye of the beholder. As an outside observor, it sort of feels to me like asking a few young boys who stole the apple. Jimmy says that Bob is responsible, Bob says John stole it, John says it was Stan’s idea, etc. So the frustration is that whoever you talk with from the Reformed perspective, there’s always that bugaboo out there, someone else who is further out, the really really hyperCalvinist.

    End Quote.

    That’s from his own keyboard. I was speechless. This man is the Provost at an SBC seminary; he should know better. Given the ease in finding a standard definition on the internet alone, this kind of “scholarship” is simply inexcusable. I can’t imagine the theology professors at NOBTS letting such a thing pass. He used a theological term that he believed to be ‘in the eye of the beholder,’ and defined it without reference to a footnote from a scholarly work…even though there have been, literally, centuries of writing on the subject! Would this have passed in a graduate level theology paper? I would hope not. It’s not as if his critics are asking Lemke and these folks to adopt some sort of eccentric academic standard thats out of reach. We’re asking them to use and apply the same standards that they should be applying in their classes with students at their seminaries and/or the standard that they (hopefully) learned in their seminaries.

    I have a tendency to write Steve Hays style replies (I say that to my dear PCA brother as a good thing :D. My reply:

    Dr. Lemke, there is such a thing as a “standard definition” out there that really isn’t that difficult to find and use:

    A. Please refer us, then, to the work by any major Reformed theologian that puts the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession, or the London Baptist Confession of 1689 into the “hyper” camp. Why did you use the term you used when the standard works do not use it? Why can’t you be content to use the definitions that the Reformed theologians themselves have historically used? It really isn’t that difficult. Do what the rest of us do: Look to the best theologians and standard reference works instead of taking creative license. Wouldn’t you tell one of your M.Div students to do the same thing? The standard works these days are” Grudem’s systematic theology, Berkof, Charles Hodge, and Robert Reymond. Grudem and Reymond are particularly used in the Reformed seminaries’ survey classes, so those would be the pertinent ones, since those in the SBC are likely being influenced by them and their associates.

    B. Might I refer you here?
    hypercalvinism.html . John Hendryx, the site owner, is extremely helpful if you email him with any questions. He’s PCA, so he’s a “disinterested” party as far as the denominational politics go.

    C Brother Phil Johnson’s treatment is particularly good:

    C. Regarding many varieties of Calvinism…Yes, and the best place to look is actually at the way the evangelical Presbyterians divide up into their philosophical schools or to the standard reference works. Most of the time, comparing any standard reference on the subject to say Chosen But Free yields one result: The “other variety” in the SBC is very often “4 Point” Arminianism, not “X Point” Calvinism. Amyraldians are few and far between.

    D. The irony here is that you say nobody wants to wear the label “hyper-Calvinist,” but then nobody ever remarks that nobody ever replies, “Nobody on the other side wants to wear the label, ‘Arminian” either, so your assertion, I think you’ll agree, cuts both ways.

  13. Anonymous

    As a young SBC pastor, it is disheartening to always hear attacks from within our denomination on Calvinism. We have room for disagreements on eschatology, worship styles, etc. Why not the area of soteriology? I know many young guys who have left the SBC for the Reformed denominations. More and more I understand their frustration with the leadership of our denomination.

  14. Here’s an piece on Hyper-Calvinism from my blog. I did a radio interview with Gene Cook on his Unchained Radio show.

    Radio Interview on Hyper-Calvinism

    Phil Johnson read it and called it “terrific”.

    I provide definitions and other useful information about the theological background. I share the perspective of Dr. Curt Daniel on the nature and history of Hyper-Calvinism.

    I read what was said at BaptistFire. They are woefully ignorant on the subject.

  15. I think as we all know, the real issue at heart is how we define the Gospel. To make charges about evangelism w/o defining the word is useless, and to define “evangelism” w/o defining the Gospel is likewise useless. Defining the Gospel is exactly what the reformers were used of God to do. Obviously the Gospel is ultimately defined in and by the Scriptures. Nevertheless I love the comments of Charles Spurgeon:

    “It is no novelty, then, that I am preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, that are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I have made a pilgrimage into the past and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me…taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren; I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church.”

    I’ll take those numbers and statistics over any that “president” Welch or “doctor” Lemke have to offer. Also one step further w/ Spurgeon as he wrote:

    “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, w/o works; nor unless we preach the sovereigny of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the Gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called…”

    Simply put, it is the preaching of the Gospel by good men of God, such as is found in the Founders, that has earned such titles as is given, by such men as Lemke and Welch. The worldwide internet clearly gives record by which methods these titles come, and that being the case I will gladly bear the name “hyper-Calvinist” if it is because I preached the Gospel. To men such as those who would slander those of “whom the world is not worthy” I say:

    “Watch, stand fast in the faith, ACT LIKE MEN, be strong.”

    And to Pastor Ascol and the faithful men he has stood with as guardians of the Gospel:
    Rom. 16:19,20

  16. Dr. Ascol, thank you for your comments. They are greatly appreciated, and I think that from the links you have posted that I’ll have a lot of online reading to do in the near future as well. :) I was greatly disturbed to see Dr. Welch’s comments, especially since I respect him so much. To see where they came from (I read most of Dr. Lemke’s article too) and to see how you have handled them is encouraging. God bless you sir.


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