Friday, February 20, 2009

Cautions for non-Calvinists

In the second half of an exchange between Southeastern Seminary faculty members, Nathan Finn offers some important cautions to our non-Calvinist brothers.

Here are three important warnings Finn gives to those who embrace a more Arminian understanding of matters such as freedom of the will and the extent of the atonement:

  1. First, be sure to articulate the gospel unambiguously in your preaching and evangelism...The gospel is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Jesus can straighted [sic] out your messed-up life.” This is just lingo...The gospel is the story of all that our Creator God has done through the perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ to rescue sinners from destruction and redeem a fallen world...
  2. Second, be sure to never give the impression that the decision to become a Christian is a mere decision. Sometimes I hear non-Calvinists imply that “all you have to do” if you want to be a Christian is believe in Christ. This makes it sound like faith is a simple free will decision that can be made apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit...
  3. Finally, be careful not to turn your strategies into sacraments. I have in mind here two popular practices: altar calls and “sinner’s prayers."... I am not so much concerned with either of these strategies as I am the way they are sometimes applied...
Finn concludes with a clarion call to Baptist unity around the gospel between both Calvinists and non-Calvinists:
In closing, let me say loud and clear that I am committed to linking arms with all Southern Baptist individuals and churches that love the gospel and want to see the good news proclaimed to all people. In my understanding, Calvinism is a secondary issue that should not preclude different churches from participating in the same network of churches. Our denominational unity should be around a common commitment to the theology of the Baptist Faith and Message, a commitment to the Baptist vision of the church, and a burden to see the gospel proclaimed in all parts of North America and to the ends of the earth. Insofar as we unite around these things and do not divide over Calvinism (or other secondary issues), we will press forward in a Great Commission Resurgence for the sake of the gospel and the glory of the living God.
If his readers heed the cautions Finn has set forth in this letter, I believe there will indeed be great room for unity and progress between Calvinist and non-Calvinist Southern Baptists in the years ahead.

Tom Ascol also called for gospel unity in a post this morning:
...Let's work together to come to deeper understandings and applications of the gospel. We may disagree at points, but such disagreements, if handled with gospel grace, can work to strengthen our grasp of divine truth rather than to further divide us. That is my hope, and that is my prayer.

I also hope that my Baptist Identity brothers and sisters will see fit to join in the pursuit of this kind of vision. The concerns that some in this camp have rightly articulated can be served through a renewed emphasis on the Great Commission because the healthiest streams of our Baptist heritage have always been gospel-centered. We need not give up our distinctives to major on essentials. In fact, Baptists have never shined brighter than when they have majored on the gospel.

I really do believe that, despite our differences, Southern Baptists can work together if we can agree on the centrality and power of the gospel for all of life. I am convinced that a growing number of Southern Baptists believe this, too. Because of this, I anticipate better days ahead...


Ron Bock said...

#2 is bogus. To state that we are saved by making a decision to become a Christian is not what being saved is about. I never made a decision to become a Christian. When I was born from above, I did not become a Christian. The Bible doesn't tell us that we need to become Christians ANYWHERE.
But to tell someone that they need to make a decision to become a Christian does not imply anything about the Holy Spirit.
You probably need to re-write this part. I know where you are coming from in your rant against "easy believism," but your use of language here can be improved. I'm not taking anything away from the thrust of your message. I'm just wanting you to be more clear.
If I say that I am going to drive my car to the shop for repairs, that is one thing. To say that I will drive my car to the shop using gas sold by ARCO is another thing entirely. When a person says they will drive their car to the shop, they are not saying anything about what kind of gas they will use.

Stephen Jones said...

This list was written by Nathan Finn, not myself, and I can see where you're coming from. But I think Finn's main problem is with the phrase "all you have to do."

In one sense, we would agree with this. After all, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But in another sense, it grossly simplifies what is going on and sounds more like a late night infomercial than a serious presentation of the gospel. Shallow invitations and quick prayers can create confusion and invite false conversions, though certainly a person could be saved through these means if God graciously chooses.