Dear Founders Journal:
Several years ago I was struggling to enter the ministry as a Southern Baptist. I had felt the Lord’s call upon my life ever since I was thirteen, and I had directed my life toward the goal of becoming a pastor. But as I completed my seminary studies, I was chilled with the growing conviction that I might never realize my goal. Either I would pastor a Church–or I would remain a Southern Baptist. I could not do both.
My problem was caused by the theological apathy that pervades our Convention. Most of the pastors I had come into contact with through the years believed in “Eternal Security,” but otherwise they were Pelagians. If that sounds a little severe, consider this: Arminians believe that man is totally unable to come to the Lord, even unwilling to come to the Lord, until the Holy Spirit enlightens his spirit. Even John Wesley held the doctrine of Total Depravity, and yes, he used that term and not “Natural Inability.” But many of our pastors and teachers today simply teach that it is our choice to come to the Lord. They do not even address the issue raised by Jesus in John 6:44: no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.
I was not taught the doctrines of grace in my early years as a Southern Baptist, nor did I even see the issue raised in any of the popular Christian books that I read. All I knew was that the Southern Baptist teaching gave us total free will until we were saved. Salvation was totally subject to our choice, until we were saved. After we were saved, we no longer had a choice. All of this was annoyingly inconsistent. Without knowing about the “five points” of the [contra] Remonstrance and of Dort, I did understand that you could not have absolute free will for the unsaved unless the saved had it as well. If salvation was absolutely subject to our free choice, then we could freely choose to renounce it later. After all, isn’t the ability to change your mind about something absolutely essential to free will?
Faced with four point Arminianism versus five point Arminianism, I deemed five point Arminianism to be superior–and I still believe that to be true. If you teach universal atonement and free will, you ought to teach that a Christian can fall from grace.
That was when my pastor, a Calvinist, gave me your address. Not only did you give me a few copies of your Journal, but you also gave me half a bookshelf worth of doctrinal books. In that one mailing, you showed me that there was such a thing as consistent Christianity–in the doctrines of grace. I had seen some passing references to Calvinism in my theological studies, but they were regarded as too dogmatic, and too rational. Your Journal showed me that the doctrines of grace were not only a viable alternative to Arminianism, but that they are an expression of a living and vibrant Christianity in which the Holy Spirit works within us a holiness without which we cannot see God (Heb. 12:14). I discovered no less than this, that Southern Baptists can be biblical Christians, unyieldingly committed to the word of God and to a living walk. Southern Baptists can preach of the necessity for an abiding faith (Col. 1:21-23) which perseveres to the end (Matt. 24:13). Southern Baptists can preach that we examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Southern Baptists don’t have to assure reprobates with a dead and demonic faith (James 2:19-20). Finally, Southern Baptists can, and once did, preach that the same salvation which has its source in grace, and which flows through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), also irresistibly recreates us unto good works (Eph. 2:10).
At the time I discovered your Journal, I was on the verge of becoming a Methodist. As a result of your Journal, I am now entering my fourth year as a Southern Baptist pastor. Now that I am working on my Doctorate in Theology, I am astonished that the simple consistency of the [contra] Remonstrance and of Dort is so foreign to modern Baptists. In my own county, every pastor I have spoken to is a four-point Arminian, except one (he is considering becoming a five-point Arminian). I wonder how many young people are like I was only a few years ago. I also cannot help considering that if I could see the problem of theological inconsistency, the best and brightest young men called into the ministry can see it as well. How many of them will leave our convention? We need to be reminded about the fact that Southern Baptists do in fact have doctrines, that they once thought those doctrines were important, and that those doctrines were not only consistent and rational, but intensely Biblical–not only theoretical, but experiential.
Today I keep hearing the cry, “we are Southern Baptists, we don’t have any creed.” . . . but creeds and catechisms (or beliefs and teachings) are historic Southern Baptist possessions. When so many in our Convention do not know, or simply do not care, what our historic beliefs are, they can pass down nothing but the thinnest milk. We need to be reminded of who we are. Your journal is doing that, and for that, I thank you.
T. C., Hays, NC
Dr. Ascol and staff:
I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to the editors and staff of the Founders Journal. I am a recent convert to reformed thinking and the doctrines of grace. In the journal I find great encouragement from the articles and news of God-inspired changes happening in our denomination. I am currently earning my bachelors degree from Florida Baptist Theological College and rarely have time for extra reading and research outside of my class studies and sermon preparation. The Founders Journal provides a much-needed resource so as not to allow stagnation in my spiritual revival.
I am especially exhorted by the biographical sketches of great reformed theologians such as Spurgeon and Manly. Their uncompromising faith and insight into heretical teachings and practices should be a source of strength and a call to steadfastness to each of us who hold on to the glorious grace of our Redeemer!
Thanks again and may God richly bless.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Your magazine name was given to me by Rev. Dr. Harold F. Green, Chaplain here at High Desert State Prison. After reading your Winter 1996 issue I was left with a full feeling.
Living in an environment that is dominated by Pentecostalism, it is refreshing to finally read and digest solid food. Thanks!
Would you please consider placing my name on your mailing list for the Founders Journal? I am indigent and unable to afford the cost of a subscription.
Thank you for your consideration and rest assured that not only will this be a blessing for me, but for all those with whom I share it with.
May God, our Father, continue to bless you as you continue to bless others.
In Your Service Through His Love,
Editor’s Note: A gift subscription has been provided for you.
…I read the Founders Journal from cover to cover. We were S.B.C. members for 15 years but left when we became aware that the colleges were experiencing tongues, etc. Many of our dear friends are still there. I was thrilled to realize that there are Calvinistic Southern Baptists. Ernie Reisinger’s article was one of the very clearest I have ever read on the Doctrines of Grace. . . .