Raison d’etre: An Editorial Introduction

Raison d’etre: An Editorial Introduction

Tom Ascol

The writer of Ecclesiastes well has said that of the making of many books there is no end. Such commentary is equally true of journals and periodical literature. If this be the case, then why should anyone presume to offer a quarterly publication in addition to those which already exist?

Perhaps the most significant reason is that there is no one periodical being currently published which is guided by the purpose which the Founders Journal hopes to serve. There are available some very fine journals with which we share many common concerns and interests and to which we give our hearty recommendation. Indeed, we count as friends those from various confessional backgrounds who recognize the need of modern Christianity to return to basic biblical foundations for both belief and practice. Reports of biblical reformation within different branches of Christ’s Church from around the globe are occasions of much rejoicing. The revival of historic, orthodox Christianity transcends denominational borders and must be regarded as nothing less than the work of God wherever it is found.

It is the peculiar work of God among the people known as Southern Baptists, however, which provides the immediate context and occasion for this journal. During the last decade the SBC has been marked by serious political and theological division as debate over the inerrancy of the Scriptures dominated the agenda. The details of this controversy have been sufficiently chronicled and subjected to a plethora of interpretations by both “sides.” These events could hardly have escaped the notice of any mildly aware North American evangelical. What is far less known, but perhaps far more significant, is the fact that over the last 10-12 years there has been an undeniable resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention of what has commonly been denominated the “Doctrines of Grace.”

Resurgence is an appropriate word, for the views to which many are returning are nothing less than the soteriological convictions which prevailed among the founders and early leaders of the SBC. Some call this position a belief in “sovereign grace”–that is, that salvation is sovereignly and graciously given by God to sinners. Others call it “Calvinism”–not because the reformer originated these views, but in recognition that he and his followers did much to systematize them in a coherent theological construct. It might with equal justice be called Augustinianism, or even Paulism. Regardless of what one calls it, it is, in the final analysis, nothing other than the conviction that “salvation is of the Lord.” Were a register to be made of those who, throughout history, have unashamedly championed this position, it would contain a veritable “Who’s Who” of nineteenth century Southern Baptist statesmen (to say nothing of earlier American and English Baptist leaders!). W. B. Johnson, R. B. C. Howell, Richard Fuller, James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, J. B. Gambrell, Malcolm McGregor, P. H. Mell, William Williams, John Dagg, and J. M. Frost are but a few of the many whose names would be included. It is without question that these men, who were the denominational loyalists of their day, firmly embraced the Doctrines of Grace. Further, the thesis that this theological persuasion prevailed among Southern Baptists during the first 75 years of our existence has yet to be refuted by scholarly research (see By His Grace, For His Glory, by Dr. Tom Nettles). In fact, quite the contrary is true. The more old Southern Baptist works are scrutinized, the more support is mustered for this thesis.

This journal, as the name reflects, emerges out of the same concerns and principles which have guided the Southern Baptist Conference on the the Faith of the Founders over the last eight years. The energy which is being generated by the divine renewal of the Doctrines of Grace among Southern Baptists should be conserved and guided. The Founders Journal hopes to be of use in this effort by providing historical, biblical, theological, practical, and ecumenical studies which will glorify God, honor His gospel, and strengthen His churches.

Modern Southern Baptists find themselves in a similar position to that of Isaac in the Valley of Gerar. Through the years the wells of our fathers have been stopped up, and must be dug again if we are to be strengthened and refreshed with the same life-giving water which sustained those whose blood, sweat and tears founded our denomination. It is to this purpose that the Founders Journal is committed. In keeping with this goal the journal takes as its theological statement the first official Southern Baptist confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles (see p. 25).

The plan is to publish a quarterly journal with articles which reflect doctrinal and devotional commitment to the Doctrines of Grace (election, depravity, atonement, effectual calling, and perseverance) and their experimental application to the local church. Contemporary voices, as well as those who “being dead, yet speaketh,” will be featured. Sermons, expositions, essays, letters, book reviews and newsworthy notes will be included. The anticipated subscription price is $10.00 per year (domestic).

An undertaking of this magnitude is truly a venture of faith. For several years there has been discussion among various groups for the need of such a journal. In the past decade some have attempted to meet this need only to see their efforts met with hopeful beginnings and unfortunate demises. The current editorial staff (Tom Nettles, Ernest Reisinger, Bill Ascol, Fred Malone, and Tom Ascol) is committed to making this effort, under God, a lasting venture–if the reaction to the first two issues indicate that it meets with a favorable reception. For this reason, your response will bear heavily upon the decision of whether or not to continue publication after the second issue.

The first two issues come free of charge. They are designed to “test the waters” to see if such a project is viable. If, as we anticipate, there is sufficient interest and support generated, then the first full year of publication will be 1991. No subscriptions are being solicited at this time. Your response to this issue, however, will be a determining factor in the future of the journal. If you would be interested in subscribing for 1991, please fill out the response card that is included in this issue and mail it back as quickly as possible. Pass the additional card to an interested friend. All responses will receive the Summer 1990 issue in the mail free of charge. In addition, all who commit to subscribe will receive with the next issue a free copy of Reforming a Local Church by Ernest Reisinger.

You may help get this journal off the ground by passing it on to others and encouraging them to indicate their interest via correspondence. A limited number of additional copies of this issue are available upon request. May God be pleased to own this effort to the glory of His name and the good of His children.