Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Charles Simeon, Calvinism, Arminianism and Cooperation

Charles Simeon was an Anglican who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 54 years. The story of his life and ministry are fascinating and challenging to modern pastors who tend to be soft and too quick to retreat in the face of opposition and trial.

Simeon tells the following story from his early years of a meeting that he had with the venerable John Wesley. A young, largely unproven Calvinist engages an older, much revered Arminian. The conversation--and heart behind it--is instructive for us today as we contemplate how brothers should relate to those with whom we disagree on important doctrinal points. Too often we allow our disagreements to eclipse completely the fundamental beliefs that we hold in common.

Danny Akin and Bruce Ashford have recently addressed the issue of Calvinists and non-Calvinists working together in the Southern Baptist Convention. What they write is helpful and exudes the kind of spirit that should characterize all of us who genuinely want to see spiritual and doctrinal renewal in the SBC, hopefully through efforts to promote a Great Commission Resurgence. Tim Brister has added his reflections to the conversation as well, reminding us that while we should not allow secondary or tertiary concerns unnecessarily divide us in gospel enterprises, we must never lessen our insistence that primary, fundamental issues be firmly and clearly held.

Now let's allow Charles Simeon join the conversation (he writes about his experience in the third person perspective). He has something to teach us. May the Lord grant us a double portion of his spirit today.
A young Minister, about three or four years after he was ordained, had an opportunity of conversing familiarly with the great and venerable leader of the Arminians in this kingdom; and, wishing to improve the occasion to the uttermost, he addressed him nearly in the following words: "Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions, not from impertinent curiosity, but for real instruction." Permission being very readily and kindly granted, the young Minister proceeded to ask, "Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved, that you would never have thought of turning unto God, if God had not first put [it] into your heart?"--"Yes," says the veteran, "I do indeed."--"And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by any thing that you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?"--"Yes, solely through Christ."--"But, Sir, supposing you were first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?"--"No; I must be saved by Christ from first to last."--"Allowing then that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?"--"No."--"What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?"--"Yes; altogether."--"And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom?"--"Yes; I have no hope, but in him."--"Then, Sir, with your leave, I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is, in substance, all that I hold, and as I hold it: and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree."
The Arminian leader was so pleased with the conversation, that he made particular mention of it in his journals; notwithstanding there never afterwards was any connexion between the parties, he retained an unfeigned regard for his young inquirer to the hour of his death.
(Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Leviticus Preface, pp. xvii-xviii)

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Danny Akin, Creeds, Deeds and the Great Commission MP3

Here is a link to the audio file of Dr. Akin's talk from the 2009 Founders Breakfast (thanks Tim Brister!).

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Danny Akin: Creeds, Deeds and the Great Commission-Founders Breakfast 2009

It was a great privilege to have Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, speak at our Founders Breakfast last week in Louisville. God has raised up Dr. Akin to give strategic and principled leadership to Southern Baptists at this crucial juncture of our history. Pray for him and the seminary he leads.

His message from 3 John was at the breakfast was one of the highlights at a Southern Baptist Convention that had an unusually high number of them this year. Listen and be challenged and encouraged.

2009 Founders Breakfast with Dr. Danny Akin from Grace Baptist Church on Vimeo.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Akin: Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence

In a much-anticipated message at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Danny Akin today unveiled 12 "Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence." Dr. Akin, more than anyone else, has been outspoken in his call for such a resurgence. His leadership in doing so has met with mixed response ranging from condescending, dismissive scoffing to enthusiastic support.

One question that has been raised is, what exactly is meant by "Great Commission Resurgence" (GCR)? Dr. Akin begins to answer that question today in his address. Obviously, no Christian will position himself against the the great commission. That leads some to feel justified is decrying the need for a great commission resurgence. But that attitude was common when the Conservative Resurgence earnestly began within the SBC in 1979. "Everyone believes the Bible, so why is this issue being raised?" That was the question then. Now it goes like this, "We never stopped believing in the great commission, so what's the point in calling for this resurgence?"

The axioms that Dr. Akin outlined help give definition to the GCR vision. Notice how gospel-centered it is:
  • "We must be gospel centered in all our endeavors for the glory of God" (II)
  • "...building a theological consensus for partnership in the gospel" (V)
  • "We must covenant to build gospel saturated homes" (VII)
  • "We must encourage pastors to see themselves as the head of a gospel missions agency" (X)
  • "We must pledge ourselves to a renewed cooperation that is gospel centered" (XI)
If this vision begins to shape the mission of Southern Baptist churches then the future of the association known as the Southern Baptist Convention will be much healthier than many would ever have imagined. If such a vision does not win the day then I fear that the SBC, as a convention, will continue down the path of increasing irrelevance.

Audio and video recordings of Dr. Akin's message will soon be posted here. Following are the axioms as reposted from Between the Times.

Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence
Acts 1:4-8
By: Daniel L. Akin, President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC
April 16, 2009

I. We must commit ourselves to the total and absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives (Col 3:16, 17, 23-24).

II. We must be gospel centered in all our endeavors for the glory of God (Rom 1:16).

III. We must take our stand on the firm foundation of the inerrant and infallible Word of God affirming it's sufficiency in all matters (Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

IV. We must devote ourselves to a radical pursuit of the Great Commission in the context of obeying the Great Commandments (Matt 28:16-20; 22:37-40).

V. We must affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a healthy and sufficient guide for building a theological consensus for partnership in the gospel, refusing to be sidetracked by theological agendas that distract us from our Lord's Commission (1 Tim 6:3-4).

VI. We must dedicate ourselves to a passionate pursuit of the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus across our nation and to all nations answering the call to go, disciple, baptize and teach all that the Lord commanded (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:5; 15:20).

VII. We must covenant to build gospel saturated homes that see children as a gift from God and as our first and primary mission field (Deut 6:1-9; Psalm 127; 128; Eph 6:4).

VIII. We must recognize the need to rethink our Convention structure and identity so that we maximize our energy and resources for the fulfilling of the Great Commission (1 Cor 10:31).

IX. We must see the necessity for pastors to be faithful Bible preachers who teach us both the content of the Scriptures and the theology embedded in the Scriptures (2 Tim 4:1-5).

X. We must encourage pastors to see themselves as the head of a gospel missions agency who will lead the way in calling out the called for international assignments but also equip and train all their people to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus regardless of where they live (Eph 4:11-16).

XI. We must pledge ourselves to a renewed cooperation that is gospel centered and built around a biblical and theological core and not methodological consensus or agreement (Phil 2:1-5; 4:2-9).

XII. We must accept our constant need to humble ourselves and repent of pride, arrogance, jealousy, hatred, contentions, lying, selfish ambitions, laziness, complacency, idolatries and other sins of the flesh; pleading with our Lord to do what only He can do in us and through us and all for His glory (Gal 5:22-26; James 4:1-10).

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Founders Breakfast with Dr. Danny Akin

This year's Founders Breakfast will be held June 23 at 6:30 AM in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Coronet Ballroom A/B (on Level One) in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be our speaker. He is one of the key leaders in calling for a Great Commission Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Akin will be addressing this theme as he speaks on "Creeds, Deeds and the Great Commission." Tickets are $15.00 but may be purchased early at a discount for only $10.00 (before June 1). They are available exclusively online from the Founders Website.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reflections on the dust-up over Calvinism at SWBTS

Last week the otherwise catatonic SBC corner of the blogosphere erupted when Wade Burleson wrote that the administration of SWBTS planned to purge Calvinistic faculty in the name of economic cutbacks. I received numerous questions via facebook, twitter, email and old-fashioned phone calls about that accusation and the resultant denials and counter-denials it provoked in a flurry of blog posts and comments. In response to many requests, I actually drafted a post with my own take on the situation. However, after seeking counsel from trusted advisors (who were split in their judgment), I decided not to post it. In light of the brouhaha that followed Pastor Burleson's post, I am glad that I didn't get involved in what quickly became public mudslinging. One brief comment that I sent in a private email in response to a direct question did get posted in a comment thread (without my permission), but otherwise, I have merely watched, listened, and done a bit of checking on the sources for some of the information that became public.

Here are some relevant links that chronicle the debate:

Wade Burleson's 1st post: Forcibly Removing All the Tulips at SWBTS
SWBTS Professor Greg Welty's response
Bart Barber's Response
Wade Burleson's 2nd post: Forcibly Removing All the Tulips at SWBTS (Part II)
Wade Burleson's 3rd post: Are Southern Baptists Blind or Blindfolded?
Wade Burleson's 4th post: The Big Picture: Resisting Separatist Ideology
Wes Kenney went to the source and interviewed Paige Patterson
Ken Silva also weighed in with thoughts and research
Aaron Weaver also gave his take on the events

Some have used my silence about the events of last week as evidence that there was no truth to the charges. Others have considered my silence to be a failure of nerve. Neither conclusion is warranted. I didn't post about it because of the method by which I handle information that comes my way.

Let me try to explain.

I was contacted by a couple of Southwestern folks two weeks ago who voiced concerns about what they perceived to be threats against Calvinistic professors on campus. I was not the only one to receive such information. Because I could not verify all of the information I chose not to go public with any of it. I have no reason to doubt any of the folks with whom I have communicated, but I also recognize that perceptions sometimes can deviate from reality in ways that make accurate reporting of events problematic. In the absence of an eyewitness who was willing to "go public," I limited my comments to private communications with the exception of a brief expression of hope that what I had heard was not true.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, there seems to be a consensus that there will not be any faculty at Southwestern removed on the basis of their Calvinistic soteriology. Those who believe that Wade was right in breaking this story see his actions as securing that outcome. Those who believe that he was wrong in breaking the story see this outcome as proof that there was no truth to the story to begin with. Who knows if either of these conclusions is true? Well, obviously there are some who know, but they aren't talking.

What can we learn from all this? Several things, no doubt. But here are 3 lessons that quickly suggest themselves to me.
  1. The Bible's wisdom about discernment and judgment should be heeded at all times. "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him" (Proverbs 18:13).
  2. The divide over Calvinism in the SBC is significant and will not go away by pretending it is not there. Thankfully, there is a growing number within the convention who are serious about building bridges over this divide that will enable us to work together on the basis of uncompromising Gospel convictions to which no Pelagian or Hyper-Calvinist could ever agree. Unfortunately, there remain some (namely, a coalition of old guard Fundamentalists and avant-garde self-styled defenders of Baptist Identity) who do not want to see such a Gospel consensus unite Baptists who might not see everything eye-to-eye on the doctrines of grace. It appears to me, however, that these naysayers are increasingly marginalizing themselves.
  3. The SBC is in desperate need of leaders who refuse to put their fingers to the political winds before determining what steps to take. We need leaders who are willing to cooperate with all those who are confessionally committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are determined to see the Gospel shape our churches and impact our world. We need leaders who are willing to talk to those with whom they disagree instead of merely talking about them. We need leaders who aren't satisfied merely to defend the Bible but who are devoted to living under its authority. From where I sit it is apparent that such leadership is emerging from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Danny Akin and those with him seem intent on showing Southern Baptists a healthy way forward into the 21st century.
This will certainly not be the last opportunity for Southern Baptists to get up-in-arms over reports about questionable plans or actions of one of our agencies or institutions. Hopefully, we will learn from last week's experiences and will determine to respond by speaking accurately, plainly, truthfully and lovingly about any legitimate concerns that arise. The days when heads of our agencies could take actions and expect not to be questioned publicly about them are over. And that's a good thing.

We do not have to agree on every jot and tittle to live together harmoniously in the SBC family, but we do have to remember that loyalty to Christ trumps loyalty to any "cause" or party. Our Lord calls us to honor Him in speech and conduct, regardless of how strongly we may disagree with those whom we address.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Danny Akin on Wise Decision-Making and Alcohol Consumption

A new blog began a few months ago called Between the Times. Contributors are professors and administrators from Southeastern Seminary (Danny Akin, Bruce Ashford, Nathan Finn, Ken Keathley and David Nelson. They have put up some excellent posts, including a series by Dr. Akin on principles for discerning God's will in the gray areas of life. His last 2 of this 8-part series applies the biblical principles he articulated in the earlier posts to the troublesome issue of consuming beverage alcohol (part 1, part 2). All 8 articles are very good and are helpful in learning how to reason from God's Word to personal decisions. But I want particularly to call attention to Dr. Akin's application of principles to the quesiton of drinking alcohol.

It is a balanced, well-reasoned argument. My own view is very close to his. I do not drink and would be delighted if no one ever drank acohol. But I have yet to be convinced that the Bible forbids it and, therefore, refuse to judge those who imbibe as sinning in doing so.

One quality that I greatly admire in Dr. Akin is his unwillingness to use different standards for different groups. He speaks just as plainly to "us" as he does to "them." In other words, he does not think that he or those who are on his side in theological or denominational issues are above critique. One of the grave concerns that I have for self-styled Southern Baptist conservatives is an apparent unwillingness or inability to be self-critical. Too often, legitimate criticisms or even questions raised from fellow-conservatives have been dismissed as lack of loyalty at best or liberalism at worst. Danny Akin does not suffer from that malady, as demonstrated by the following remarks that are found in his defense of abstinance.
I should note that some who advocate moderation draw an analogy to eating and sex. They correctly point out that gluttony and sexual immorality are sin, but not the act of eating or sexual intercourse. I would want to make several observations in this context. First, gluttony and overeating is sinful and dishonors the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is something I was guilty of, God convicted me, and I lost 30 pounds. I stay in constant battle in this area. Second, many who would line up with me on alcohol run (but not very fast due to their weight!) from addressing gluttony. Third, some have alleged that Southern Baptist are hypocritical in passing resolutions on alcohol but not gluttony. I agree. So next year in Louisville someone needs to submit such a resolution. It will have my full support (emphasis added).
Whether you agree with Dr. Akin or not, you have to appreciate his plain speaking on the issue of gluttony. (Note to Joe: dust off your resolution and get it before the convention in L'ville!). If such a resolution makes it to the floor of the convention, I wonder if it will be amended to limit participation in denominational life to those who are not gluttons?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Akin's 8 Theological Essentials for the SBC

Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke today at the "Theology Driven Ministry" conference hosted by the seminary. Other speakers include Sinclair Ferguson and Paul Tripp. Following is the handout that accompanied Dr. Akin's talk.

The eight points that he emphasizes are matters that must become the subject of serious dialogue and reflection if we hope to see spiritual health return to the SBC. One cannot read through this outline without coming away with great respect for Dr. Akin. He is both insightful and courageious to speak plainly about the problems that plague us and to call us back to submission to the teachings of God's Word. This is the kind of leadership that Southern Baptists desperately need at this time.

The issues that he raises ought to be taken to heart by every pastor and church member who longs to see Christ honored in our local churches. I look forward to hearing the audio of this message when it becomes available.

****

CAN THEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN PREACHING HELP RESCUE THE SBC?
By: Daniel L. Akin

The Conservative Resurgence gave Southern Baptist a second chance but it did not secure our future. Has there been a Resurgence? Yes. Has there been a Restoration? Doubtful. Have we experienced genuine Revival? Clearly the answer is no.

Eight Theological Essentials for Southern Baptists in the 21st Century

1) The non-negotiable of a regenerate Church (John 3; Rom. 3; 2 Cor. 5; Gal. 3)
  • First, we need to make it clear that church membership is a privilege, not a right.
  • Second, we must preach against easy believism and reject any form of a compromised gospel.
  • Third, we must be careful with respect to our own theological integrity concerning infant or early adolescent baptism that lacks a clear understanding and confession of the gospel.
2) The essential nature of believers baptism by immersion with a biblical appreciation for its significance. (Matt. 28; Acts, Rom. 6)
  • That baptism involved a particular member (a believer), mode (immersion) and meaning (public identification with Christ and the believing community) is grounded in New Testament witness and has been a hallmark of Baptists throughout their history.
  • We must see evidence of regeneration for those we baptize. The baptism of young children must be administered with the greatest possible care.
  • Baptism should be viewed and emphasized as a first and necessary step of discipleship and obedience to Christ. We will reject as inconceivable the idea of admitting anyone into our membership without believer’s baptism by immersion.
3) The recovery of the lost jewels of church discipline and genuine disciple-making as essential marks of the Church.
  • Church discipline is clearly and repeatedly taught in the New Testament, yet most do not preach on it or practice it. Jesus addresses it in Matt. 18:15-20 and Paul does so several times in 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1-2; and Titus 3:9-11.
  • Theologically it is to disobey the plain teachings of Scripture and ignore the necessity of church discipline in maintaining the purity of the church.
  • First, we must preach and teach our people what the Bible says about church discipline.
  • Second, we must begin to implement church discipline lovingly, wisely, gently, carefully and slowly.
  • Third, we must apply discipline to areas like absentee membership as well as the specific list provided by Paul in 1 Cor. 5.
4) The emphasis and practice of a genuinely Word-based ministry (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
  • For those of us who profess to believe in both the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, there must be in our churches what I call “engaging exposition.”
  • We must advocate an expositional method with a theological mindset under an evangelical mandate. It is preaching that models for our people how they should study, interpret and teach the Bible.
5) The vision for a faithful and authentic biblical ecclesiology (Acts. 2; Eph. 4; Pastorals)
  • First, there must be the 4 marks of 1) a regenerate Church membership, 2) the Word, 3) the Ordinances and 4) Church Discipline. Second the local church should be elder/pastor led and congregationally governed. Here, in my judgment, there is room for flexibility in terms of patterns, structure and implementation.
  • As we move forward in this century, Pastors will need to give particular attention to a theology of stewardship and discipleship.
  • The members of our churches must move from being shoppers to buyers to investors.
6) The continued nurturing of a fervent missionary and evangelistic passion that is wedded to a healthy and robust theology (1 Thess. 1; Eph. 4:11-16; Jude 3-4; Rev. 5)
  • No church will be evangelistic by accident.
  • First, there are multiple ways churches can do missions and evangelism. That we do it is the key.
  • Marketplace evangelism which can reach into the workplace is an area needing attention, strategizing and training.
  • Youth and student evangelism needs renewed emphasis.
  • Theologically and biblically, we must challenge our people to evangelize without bias or prejudice, loving and going after the exploding ethnic and minority groups where we live.
7) The teaching and preaching of a 1st century biblical model for church planting (Acts 17)
  • The 21st century is more like the 1st century than has ever been the case in our Western culture.
  • We are losing America and the West because we are losing the great metropolitan areas where there is a concentration of people.
  • First, explore creative methods, but make sure that they are faithfully filtered through the purifying waters of Holy Scripture.
  • Second, be wise fishers of men.
  • Third, we must ask God to raise a new generation of godly and gifted church planters and missionaries.
8) The wisdom to look back and remember who we were so that as we move forward we will not forget who we are
  • The Southern Baptist Convention today is not the Southern Baptist Convention of your parents, and certainly not your grandparents.
  • We now have several generations who know almost nothing of William Carey and Adoniram Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. They do know nothing of Boyce, Broadus, and Manly; Carroll, Robertson, Frost, Mullins and Truett.
  • They have never heard Criswell, Rogers or Vines preach, and they are not really sure who they are.
  • In creative and dynamic avenues fitting a 21st century context, we need to retell the Baptist History story in a way that will grab the attention and stir the hearts of our people. And we need to do it, at least in part, from the pulpit.
Conclusion:
  • The North Carolina evangelist Vance Havner said, “What we live is what we really believe. Everything

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