A Great Divide

There is a reason that I am not a Presbyterian.  Or part of any other group that falls along the same line of Biblical Interpretation as those who practice what is called “deformed, reformed theology.”

Since the Baptist Statesmen Dr. Adrian Rogers relocated to Glory, Calvinism in the Baptist ranks has seemed to graduate from a seeping leak, into a gushing river that is running deeper and deeper nearly every day.

Furthermore, now that Dr. Rogers is in the presence of Jesus, his teaching and his sermons are coming under criticism and scrutiny from people who generally were silent while he was still here.  Of course he always had his liberal critics who couldn’t stand him; but those who profess to be conservative Bible believing Baptists rarely, if ever, took issue with him because of his unmatched grace and integrity.   (Of course men have been critical of Calvin ever since his death too.)

Not so anymore.  Now that he is gone, it is becoming “theologically fashionable” to hold hands with those who believe that Jesus Christ did not die for every man.  It is either just now cropping up all over the place, or my vision has just passed over it for the last twenty years.  I know there have been Calvinists ever since there was Calvin, but their presence and influence among fundamental Bible believing, landmark missionary minded Baptists, seems to have been in hiding for most or all of my ministry.

I have mentioned before how that a few years ago, the Pastor’s Conference in Jacksonville, Florida didn’t mince words.  Calvinism was soundly refuted, rejected, and declared to have no place in Bible theology.  What was then declared to be error, is now welcome dialogue and debate.

There are a few things that confuse me about those people who have been critical of Dr. Rogers, and like minded people.  He has been criticized for his rejection of reformed theology, but at the same time venerated for being “uncompromisingly devoted to the scriptures.”  Now, Tom Rich, has criticized his teaching on the principle of the tithe.  What confuses me, is how he can be praised for not compromising scripture, and criticized for teaching tithing and rejecting Calvinism.

The fact is that it was because of his loyalty to the scriptures that produced his rejection of Calvinism, and his teaching of the tithe.  I was amazed to read Tom Ascol’s article from the time of Dr. Rogers passing, in which he was admiring Rogers scriptural tenacity, and at the same time criticizing his rejection of Calvinism.   I am not a Baptist by choice or preference, but because generally Baptists teach and preach what the Bible preaches and teaches. 

The Bible is not a buffet of theological preferences to choose from; and most people seem, at least to me, make  Calvinism, Arminianism, a debate that is merely a matter of preference, and not a serious theological divide. 

Sometimes when I read the comments on other blogs, someone will inevitably say, “I don’t follow the man, I follow the scriptures” when they are refuting someone’s quote of a particular leader.  Then of course they will often quote one of their “leaders” to defend their position. 

To that, I want to say this.

Adrian Rogers, and John Calvin, both studied the same scriptures.  They both were individually gave themselves in their mind to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.”  When it comes to who Christ died for, one of them is right, and one of them is wrong.  When it comes to man’s free moral agency, one of them is right and one of them is wrong.  When it comes to Total Depravity or Natural Depravity, one of them is right, and one of them is wrong.  And regardless of what is fashionable, standing on the right answers to those questions with unconciliatory certainty is one reason that Adrian Rogers was who he was.  Christ did die for every man.  Man does have the ability to refuse and reject God’s call.  If a spiritually dead man can’t cry out for help, then a spiritually dead man can’t sin.

The reality is that the theological divide is greater than what some want to admit.  Who Christ died for is an essential part of the gospel.  I’m not sure that I can remember the exact quote, but I believe that it was Paige Patterson who said of SBTS that he would not hire anyone who could not look any man on earth in the eye, and tell them, “Jesus Christ died for you.”

That issue is more than a “secondary,” “tertiary”, or “peripheral” issue, the fact that Christ died for every man is a fundamental foundation of the good news of God, and to take that away is to undermine the nature and substance of the gospel.  All preachers, preaching to all men, women, and children, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins  would be a wonderful change worth making.


2 comments on “A Great Divide

  1. Joe L Looney III says:

    Bro. Jeff,

    Would you mind defining “natural depravity” as opposed to “total depravity?”

  2. Bro. Looney,

    My understanding of what industrial strength Calvinism teaches is that man is so deprave that he couldn’t cry out to God if he wanted to. They call that Total Depravity. In order to be clear about the distinction, what I beleive and teach is that man is totally and naturally depraved, BUT that depravity does not keep him from crying out.

    Man is completely and naturally depraved. However they have taken the term of Total Depravity and made it into something beyond what the term really means.

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