Sunday, August 24, 2008

Andrew Fuller Conference at SBTS

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is hosting a conference this week on the campus of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The theme is "The English Baptists of the 17th Century" and features well-known Baptist historians and theologians such as Tom Nettles, Michael Haykin, Stan Fowler Jim Renihan and Malcolm Yarnell as well as some who are students and younger scholars.

It looks to be a wonderful conference. Andrew Fuller is one of my heroes and a Baptist statesman who is worthy of the kind of honor and respect that Center (under Michael Haykin's direction) bestows. Certainly modern Baptists have much to learn from our forefathers in the faith, such as those who will be the focus of this year's gathering.

I couldn't help but notice that Dr. Jerry Vines will be speaking in chapel on Tuesday during the conference. He has publicly expressed his opinion that, based on his research, the 17th century London Baptist confessions do not explicitly teach the five points of Calvinism. His words, to be exact, were,
...the London confessions, Philadelphia confession, New Hampshire Confession...these confessions bear a close resemblance to some of the five points although there is no clear cut evidence that Baptists in their confesssions of faith ever truly subscribed to everything that the five points of Calvinism would teach."
Perhaps the conference will provide opportunities to explore this and other related doctrinal/historical theses related to 17th century Baptist beliefs. Check out the line up below. Hopefully, mp3s of the presentations will be made available in the near future.

Conference Schedule

Monday, August 25

7:30 - 8:45 AM Breakfast and Registration

9:00 AM An Opening Word Dr. Michael Haykin, Director of The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies

9:10 AM Plenary Session 1: "The English Calvinistic Baptists of the 17th Century--An Overview" Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

10:25 AM Plenary Session 2: "John Spilsbury and the Beginning of the Baptists" Dr. Tom Nettles (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

11:40 AM Plenary Session 3: "Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691) and the Interpretation of Revelation" Dr. Barry Howson (Heritage Theological Seminary)

12:45 PM Lunch

2:45-3:25 PM Parallel Session 1:

Room A: "Henry Jessey (1601-1663): his Life and Though" Jason Duesing (PhD candidate, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Room B: "'A Poor and Despised People': Abraham Cheare and the Calvinistic Baptists at Plymouth." Dr. Jeff Robinson (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Room C: "Baptist Associations in the 17th century" Dr. Stan Fowler (Heritage Theological Seminary)

3:35-4:15 PM Parallel Session 2:

Room A: "Benjamin Keach's Doctrine of Justification" Tom Hicks (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Room B: "The Role of Metaphor in the Sermons of Benjamin Keach" Chris Holmes (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Room C: "Turks, Jews, & God's Plan for His People: Hanserd Knollys' Understanding of Abraham's Other 'Descendants'" Dr. Dennis Bustin (Atlantic Baptist University)

4:30 - 5:00 PM Tour of Archives of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library (Optional)

7:00 PM - Dinner

8:30 PM Plenary Session 4: "The Importance of Baptist Confessionalism" Dr. Albert Mohler (President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

Tuesday, August 26

7:30 - 8:30 AM - Breakfast

8:45 AM Plenary Session 5: "The Strange Case of Thomas Collier" HERITAGE HALL Dr. James Renihan (Dean, The Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies)

10:00 AM - SBTS Chapel - Chapel Speaker: Dr. Jerry Vines

11:30 AM Plenary Session 6: "Benjamin Keach and the Protestant Cause Under Persecution" Austin Walker (Pastor, Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, UK)

12:30 PM - Lunch

2:20 - 3:00 PM - Parallel Session 3:

Room A: "Thomas Wilcox and his A Choice Drop of Honey from the Rock Christ" Dr. Stephen Yuille (Toronto Baptist Seminary)

Room B: "Hercules Collins and The Temple Repair'd: Baptists and Theological Education" Steve Weaver (PhD candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

3:10 - 3:50 PM - Parallel Session 4:

Room A: "The Prison Epistles of Thomas Hardcastle" Dr. Peter Beck (Charleston Southern University)

Room B: "17th century Baptists and the Perseverance of the Saints" Jay Collier (PhD candidate, Calvin Seminary)

4:00 PM Plenary Session 7: "William Kiffin (1616-1701)--His Life and Thought" Dr Larry Kreitzer (Regent's Park College, University of Oxford)

5:00-5:10 PM A Closing Word, Dr. Michael Haykin (Director, The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies)

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Garrett on Calvinism in the Alabama Baptist, Pt. 5

In another of his articles in the Alabama Baptist, Dr. Garrett asks, "Have Baptists always been Dortian Calvinists in their confesions of faith?" The answer, indisputably, is no. General (Arminian) Baptists and Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists have published their own confessions of faith throughout the modern history of Baptists. Dr. Garett gives a helpful overview of some of the more prominent of those confessions, including the decidedly Calvinistic Second London Confession of 1677 (published in 1689).

This confession, through its adoption by the Philadelphia Association (with 2 additional articles) and the Charleston Association became the most influential doctrinal statement among Baptists in the South in the 18th and most of the 19th centuries. Leon McBeth notes the adoption of this confession by the Philadelphia Association in 1742 with these words:
It fixed for generations the doctrinal character of Baptists in this country as evangelical Calvinism, providing a bulwark against both the Arminianism of the Freewills and the determinism of the Hardshells" (The Baptist Heritage, 241).
After commenting on other confessions produced by Baptists in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Abstract of Principles (1858) and the Baptist Faith and Message (1925, 1963, 2000), Dr. Garrett offers this conclusion:
Those Baptists framing confessions in England and America who were on the Calvinistic side of the Calvinistic-Arminian divide generally adhered to some of the "five points" of the Synod of Dort, but such was not generally true of those on the Arminian side, and progressively those on the Calvinistic side modified or muted their adherence to Dort so that by the 20th century, only the affirmation of perseverance remained.
He does not mean that by the 20th century that Baptists only affirmed the last of the so-called five points of Calvinism. That would be much too broad of a statement. Rather, he presumably means that the confessions of faith produced by Baptists in the 20th century affirm only perseverance out of the Dortian 5 points.

I think he almost asserts too much at this point. Some might conclude that all of the other points of Calvinism have been denied by 20th century Baptist confessions. Even the Baptist Faith and Message can be cited to demonstrate that this is not the case. And I grant that a failure to deny is not necessarily an affirmation, therefore, in that sense, Dr. Garrett's point is well taken. He most certainly is correct that the 20th century witnessed a loss of an earlier commitment to the doctrines of grace among Baptists--especially Southern Baptists.

Still, it is interesting to note the language of the BFM on a few of the other points. In the 1925 version the following statement is made about man's bondage in sin:
He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
While I would affirm more than this, the statement hardly seems like a repudiation of total depravity (for a fun and frightening treatment of our move away from the biblical doctrine of sin, read Mark Coppenger's "The Ascent of Lost Man in Southern Baptist Preaching").

But there is more. The BFM 2000 affirms election in terms that view it as fixed and unchangeable:
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
Again, I would affirm much more but how can election be the gracious purpose of God that is unchangeable while at the same time being the basis on which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies sinners unless it is eternal? I suppose one could be a universalist and believe that statement but can one honestly believe that election is both conditioned on anything in the creature and at the same time be the "gracious purpose of God" which is "unchangeable?" I agree with Dr. Garrett that this is certainly a "muted" statement of unconditional election, but I would not be willing to say that it does not therefore affirm that point of doctrine.

If some want to debate me on the above two points, I will readily concede that the language is ambiguous and not as clear as one would hope from a document that is supposed to help us confess our faith. Nevertheless, those two statements do at least allow for a Dortian view of sin and election.

My final example is not so linguistically ambiguous. At least it isn't to English teachers and those who are accustomed to taking grammar seriously. Article 4 of the BFM 2000 says,
Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
This statement declares that regeneration is "a change of which the sinner responds in repentance and faith." I have heard the arguments against reading the statement this way but still contend that this is the simplest reading of the text.

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