Alabama Baptist Stories on Calvinism

As I mentioned in my previous post, Bob Terry, editor of the Alabama Baptist, has published 6 articles by Dr. James Leo Garrett on Calvinim. The articles are now available online. I am linking to them so that they may be more widely accessible to those outside of Alabama.

My quick prereading of them suggests that they are indeed marked by Dr. Garrett’s scholarly precision when it comes to research, affirmations and conclusions. He typically nuances his statements very carefully so as not to misrepresent a person or position. I greatly appreciate that, even though I had to read a couple of sentences more than once to make sure that he was not actually saying what the drift of his argument seems to suggest. For example, note carefully what these two sentences say:

A third meaning, no longer in common use, takes Calvinism to be the professed teaching of certain 18th-century English Congregationalists and Particular Baptists, a group believing that only the “elect” could be saved. These teachings we now properly label “Hyper-Calvinism.”

Is Dr. Garrett suggesting that the 18th century Particular Baptists were guilty of Hyper-Calvinism? One could easily get that impression. Though, what he actually–and very carefully–said is that some take Calvinism to be the “professed” teaching of “certain” Particular Baptists. That is certainly true, though it is equally true that not all Particular Baptists–all of whom believed that only the elect will be saved–were guilty of Hyper-Calvinism.

Dr. Garrett is writing at the invitation of the Alabama Baptist. He has obviously been made aware of certain scenarios where Calvinism has been cited as an issue in church problems and disruptions in the state. Some of his descriptions of such problems seem to be pointed to specific cases, though, unless I missed it, he does not refer to any such case by name or location.

I intend to interact with some of his points next week, as I have time. For now let me simply make a few general observations. First, I reiterate my encouragement to see a state Baptist newspaper taking up an important theological issue in such a significant way. Six articles by a respected and capable theologian on an important doctrinal issue is to be applauded.

Second, Dr. Garrett’s historical treatment of men and movements is trustworthy. He is not a Calvinist. In fact, if I am accurately remembering conversations from years ago, he has serious problems with certain aspects of Calvinism. Yet, he is a Christian scholar who seeks to represent any subject he treats accurately and fairly. I anticipate nothing less from these articles.

Third, I already recognize one significant disagreement I have with the methodology informing Dr. Garrett’s reasoning when he examines the fruit of the revival of Calvinism in the SBC. There seem to be certain unwarranted assumptions about the nature of the churches he envisions being detrimentally effected by Calvinistic ministries. I will try to address this in my interaction with his writings next week.

Until then, here are the articles.

A question facing Baptist churches

Calvinism: What does it mean?

Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor?

Have Baptists always been Dortian Calvinists in their confessions of faith?

How prominent Baptists stack up

What are the alternatives to Dortian Calvinism?

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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