Ray Van Neste on Steve Lemke’s article

The Lemke/Welch misrepresentations of Calvinism and Founders Ministries have provoked responses in many different blogs. I have read some and had many more recommended to me. There are many excellent blogs out there that are worth reading. One of them is Locust and Wild Honey. Another is Words of Grace.

Dr. Ray Van Neste has recently replied to Dr. Lemke on the latter of these. Dr. Lemke defended his paper from criticisms leveled by comments on that blog and Dr. Van Neste responded to his defense. Dr. Van Neste’s comments are so clear, kind and to the point I asked for and received permission to post them here. Pray that Dr. Lemke will take them to heart.

Dear Steve,

I had set out to write at more length in response to your response but other guys on this site have addressed some of the issues (these guys are quick!). I have not yet read Tom Ascol’s response. But I wanted to write briefly to say in essence; “Come on!” You put a very positive spin on your paper in the response posted here, but it does not seem to fit with the actual paper. I read Bobby Welch’s piece and your paper when all this came out. I think Welch understood you the way any reader would. Others here have pointed out in detail the error of calling belief in the TULIP hyper-Calvinism. They are absolutely correct and you should have been more careful here. If we want to foster good discussion and avoid fracturing we must avoid unfair, untrue generalization like this. In fact this generalization is slanderous. No one in the leadership of the Founders is a hyper-Calvinist though your paper makes it sound like they are. This is damaging and should probably require a public clarification. Though you set out to clarify that you only have a certain type of Calvinism in mind, your description then covers most people who affirm Reformed soteriology (T George is not refuting the typical understanding of TULIP but restating in a way to clarify).
Here are some points from your paper.

1. You ask if Baptist Calvinists will distinguish themselves clearly and definitively from hyper-Calvinists. They already have done so, clearly, directly, and often. It will be important for those who are going to criticize or even worry about (the category of your paper, perhaps) Calvinistic Baptists to actually read the writings of such people. Then your answer would be clear.

2. You also wonder about continuing “on the current trajectory”. What is this trajectory? Simply the wording here suggests that anti-missional Calvinism is on the rise. If so where is it? I am sure you could find it somewhere (you can find almost anything somewhere in Baptist life!), but I have not seen it. In fact some of the most passionate young pastors we have would describe themselves as Calvinistic. I am worried that careless talk like this will continue to drive them away from the SBC. This line is continued later when you ask whether this newest generation of SBC pastors will “continue moving toward hyper-Calvinism.” Continue? These kinds of charges continue to be thrown around without any real justification. This is not helpful.

3. Just in passing you state that you do not believe that the SBC will ever require belief in the five points. Does anyone else believe this?! Is anyone seeking this? No one I know of.

4. Lastly, in your response you suggest your data on baptismal ratios, etc. are really no surprise and no big deal- “Was anyone really under the impression that the Founder’s Fellowship churches were coextensive with the Mega-metro churches?” But if this is the case, why did you in the paper describe the results as “startling” (p. 16)? Why did you include this inflammatory statement:
“But do churches who emphasize hard Calvinist theology tend to be less evangelistic? Look at the hard evidence and you be the judge!” (p. 17)

What is this? Note the exclamation point. Why would anyone not read this as a warning against ‘those Founders people’? You must know that Reformed thinking Southern Baptists are a much maligned group and that therefore such careless talk will lead not to healthy conversation but bashing by others–whether intended by you or not. There is a high responsibility for carefulness with our words here. You seemed to lightly chastise these guys on the blogs for casting stones, but this paper sounds like stone casting to me.

I heartily agree that we need to keep talking rather than throwing stones. With good, careful conversation we can see growth rather than division.

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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