Dr. Yarnell’s gracious response

After Dr. Malcolm Yarnell preached the Founders Day address at Southwestern Seminary March 9, I received several emails alerting me to his comments and pointing me to the written form of it that was posted on the web. Once I read it, I emailed him and let him know I planned to write a review of it on my blog. I count Dr. Yarnell a friend. We have not had the opportunity to get to know one another very well, but all of my dealings with him have left me with the impression that he is a gracious servant of our Lord who desires to see Christ honored in His church and world. I agreed to let him know when the posts appeared so that he could read my comments for himself.

He has done that, and sent me the following email in response. As you can read, he granted permission to post it in its entirety. Dr. Yarnell’s email is a fine example of how brothers ought to handle disagreements. What I have written has not changed his mind, or convinced him to restate his views differently. He thinks I am wrong at points. I think he is wrong at points. On many other points, we agree. You can tell by his gracious tone that he is not inclined to write me out of the kingdom, nor am I inclined to do so to him.

One of the great dangers of engaging in vigorous discussion on controversial, yet important, subjects is the ease of shifting away from analyzing issues and into judging motives. But, motives belong to God. He alone knows a person’s heart. We may wonder at times what makes a man say or do what he does, but love hopes all things and demands that we give the benefit of the doubt where we can as long as we can. That does not mean that we give a man a pass on his words or actions simply because he meant well. But it does mean that we limit our critique to that which can be known and observed and leave that which cannot be known or observed to the only Omniscient Knower and Observer that there is.

Thanks, Dr. Yarnell, for your kind email. I have prayed for you and will continue to do so. And I encourage others to join me in taking your name and labors before the Lord. Oh…on catching the misspelled word, you can thank the homeschooling mom to whom I am married for that. I hope you are not unduly beseiged by your students! ūüėČ [EDIT: Dr. Yarnell did not misspell “besieged” in his paper. I misspelled it in my quoting of his paper; perhaps my wife will give me a remedial spelling course.]
Dr. Yarnell’s email:

Dear Tom,

I haven’t figured out how to blog successfully and regularly, so please forgive my using email yet once again. Perhaps I also have a hidden preference for dusty books and ancient manuscripts as I do for ancient pulpits and baptistries. Sadly, I just am not technologically savvy enough yet to remember all of the rules one must follow in this new and obviously exciting practice.

Your searching critique of my sermon on the Heart of a Baptist is especially appreciated. I am especially honored that you would devote three separate critiques to do it! (Did I really misspell “besiege”? Alas, my students will have no end of fun with that one. You have made my job more difficult, my friend!)

It is perceptible that there is much on which you and I agree: the importance of biblical and doctrinal proclamation, the necessity of regenerate church membership, etc. And there are some things which we would cast differently. One of our points of disagreement seems to be historical in nature: the roots of the SBC in both separate and regular Baptists, the lack of a widespread use of multiple and differentiated elders in our history, etc. This point of disagreement will be clarified and hopefully overcome with time.

Another point of disagreement may concern the use of invitations and altar calls. I have shared my response on this last issue with a colleague and mutual friend of ours whom I have given permission to disseminate my response. I hope we will overcome this disagreement, too. Indeed, I hope you will one day invite me to proclaim the Gospel in your pulpit and then allow me the grand privilege of extending an altar call.

After your critique, would I have changed anything in the sermon? No.

Do I covet your friendship and believe we should link hands together as faithful Southern Baptists for the furtherance of the Gospel? Yes.

Are some of the blogs I have read funny? Absolutely hilarious.

You are welcome to post this email in its entirety. Please pray for me as I have some major writing assignments and administrative duties on my desk to attend to now.

Your Brother In Christ,

Malcolm

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 Convention, Traditional 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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