Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Memories Of Calvin Miller

In 1978 as an ETBU student, I served as the preacher on a Revival Team in the state of Iowa. We were sponsored by the Home Mission Board, now the North American Mission Board. We served throughout the state for the summer. A few times we attended seminars given for Iowan Baptist Student Union students doing evangelistic work for the summer. Most of these students were relatively new Christians excited about telling others about Jesus. 

One of the speakers for these seminars was a professor from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MWBTS). He was theologically liberal. For example, on one occasion he explained that in the Bible Luke said such and such, and Paul said something else. His conclusion - Paul was right and Luke was wrong. He seemed to delight in pointing out what he considered mistakes and contradictions in the Bible. The leader of these students came to me almost in tears telling of how this professor had shaken the faith of some students. After all, here was a professor supported by Southern Baptists, teaching there were mistakes in the Bible.

The leader made a wise decision. He scheduled Calvin Miller from the neighboring state of Nebraska to give a lecture the next week. Miller gave a scholarly, moving lecture on why we can trust the divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. In one session he put it all together and it made sense. He confirmed the once shaken faith of these new believers. One student after another came away saying things like, “That answered my questions,” and, “That’s what I believed all along.”

We had lunch with Dr. Miller and he told a couple of fascinating stories.

Much like these college students, Miller began with a simple, child-like faith in the trustworthiness of the Bible. He went as a student to MWBTS and his faith too, was shaken. He began to doubt more and more. Finally, it came to a culmination. He was pastor of a church at the time and, as I recall, it was a deacon who came to him asking him to pray about a serious matter. The young pastor expressed his concern. The deacon thanked him for his concern, but said he especially wanted him to pray about it. Miller then replied, “I’m sorry but I don’t believe in prayer any more and don’t believe it would do any good.” The wise deacon replied, “You may not be able to pray for me, but I can pray for you.” Over time, Calvin Miller came back to a stronger faith than ever.

Calvin Miller also told a story that happened at MWBTS while he was a student there. He had a professor who did not believe Isaiah wrote the biblical book of Isaiah. (This was well before the Conservative Resurgence; all professors at MWBTS now believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.) The professor never missed a chance to cast doubt on Isaiah authoring the book that bears his name.

One day in the middle of the class lecture, there was a knock on the door. A Western Union man came in saying he had an urgent telegram for… and he called the professor by name. The professor affirmed he was the one, and the messenger gave him the telegram and left. The professor opened the telegram, read it, laid it on the desk, and said, “Boys, some things just aren’t funny.” The telegram said, “I did too write my book. Signed, Isaiah.”

By the way, I also enjoyed hearing him say that the fastest growing churches were usually led by conservative, premillennial pastors.

Later when a student at SWBTS, I saw Miller again as he attended a theater play in Fort Worth that was based on his Trilogy.

Calvin Miller, who at the age of 75 moved from this life to the next on August 19, 2012, was a great encouragement to conservatives in the days leading up to the SBC Conservative Resurgence (that began in 1979). He encouraged many young students and preachers. His preaching and writing have inspired multitudes.

Note: On the above stories I’ve tried to be accurate but I’m going by my memory of over 30 years ago. If anyone has a recorded or written document on these stories, I’d love to be made aware of them.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 21, AD 2012.

Calvin Miller, author, pastor, prof, dies at 75, from Baptist Press
Brief History of SBC Conservative Resurgence
Random Advice to Pastors, Part 1
Young Preachers - Finding a Place to Preach; Part 1
More articles in lower right margin.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Romans 9 Revisited; Non-Calvinist Views

We previously gave quotes by Traditionalists (also called non-Calvinists; Moderate Calvinists; Biblicists) on Romans 9, in particular Romans 9:13 concerning Jacob and Esau. The previous quotes were by Adrian Rogers, The New Bible Commentary: Revised, Norman Geisler, R. L. Sumner, Steve W. Lemke, Warren W. Wiersbe, and H. A. Ironside.

In short, Roman 9:13 is not speaking of personal salvation, but of God’s choosing one nation over another nation. There is no warrant in this passage to make it refer to whether an individual goes to Heaven or Hell.

Please check out the quotes at the previous post (Romans 9, Calvinism, Traditionalism).

Here are some additional quotes to ponder on Romans 9.

“High above human thought, beyond the scope of human sight, of the human mind, the Omnipotence and Omniscience is ruling, and his rule is supreme, and yet nobody is taken by the hair and dragged into Hell, and nobody is taken by the hair and dragged into Heaven, as he will show more particularly later.”
“The election of the Jewish nation looked to the salvation of the Jews and Gentiles that received the message of God, also the covenants, and the coming of Christ from them according to the flesh. That election looked through them to others and, so far as salvation in heaven is concerned, the Jews that believed were saved, and so far as other nations were concerned he quotes certain parts in Hosea and the Old Testament, the paragraph referring to the ingathering of the Gentiles: ‘I will call them my people which were not my people.’”
-B. H. Carroll, Interpretation of the English Bible, Romans 9. Carroll (AD 1843-1914) was the founding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Carroll was pretty Calvinistic, but his above comments are noteworthy.

“But election in Romans 9:10-13 is not selection for eternal salvation or damnation. Rather, it is selection for the roles God has called individuals and nations to play in their earthly life.”
-The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, NT Editor Everett F. Harrison, Moody; 1962.

“That entire passage of Scripture we have just read [Romans 9:10-18] above does not even mention salvation. When God chose Isaac to be the head of the nation Israel instead of Ishmael, it was not a ‘matter of salvation.’ When God chose Jacob instead of Esau to have the birthright and the headship of the nation, it had nothing to do with salvation.”
-John R. Rice, Predestined For Hell? No!, Sword of the Lord; 1958. Rice was an influential independent Baptist author and evangelist.

“So by the examples of Moses and Pharaoh, Paul demonstrates that in His sovereignty God shows both mercy and justice - mercy where man’s free will makes it possible; justice where man’s free will makes it necessary. In both cases God acts in a manner true to His nature and without the counsel or consent of anyone outside Himself.”
“Salvation and glory are God’s will in election and predestination, but they are for those who through faith in Christ respond positively to God’s gracious offer.”
-Hershel H. Hobbs, Romans, Word Books; 1977. Hobbs is a past SBC president and chairman of the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message committee.

Concerning Romans 9:21-22, “Such a question demands a reasonable answer. Here Paul argues that the justice and grace of God are displayed in humans, both through the persistent unbeliever (whom he calls a vessel prepared for wrath) and through the believer (a vessel of mercy). Notice that Paul does not say God created one vessel for wrath and another for mercy. It says He endured the vessels of wrath that were prepared for destruction. The expression ‘fitted for destruction’ is in the Greek middle voice and should be interpreted ‘man fits himself for destruction.’”
-Woodrow Kroll, Romans: Righteousness in Christ, AMG Publishers; 2002. Editors Mal Couch & Ed Hindson.

“Paul goes back again into Jewish history and shows God in His sovereignty pardoning erring Israel (v. 14-15) and punishing erring Pharaoh (v. 16-18)…”
“Those marked for destruction are ‘fitted to destruction,’ but it is not stated that God so fitted them, as if God had prepared those vessels for wrath in contrast with those He prepared for mercy.
God does not create people in order to damn them. However, when people behave like Pharaoh, God so deals with them that the inbred wickedness reveals itself in such a way that they become fit objects for His punishment.”
-John Phillips, Exploring Romans, Kregel; 1969.

“Among modern scholars the list of those who see no individual predestination to eternal life or death [in Romans 9] is impressive.”
-John Piper, The Justification of God, Baker Books; 1983, 1996.
He goes on to say the list of scholars on the other side is just as impressive. As most know, Piper is a leading voice for strong 5-point Calvinists. My point here is that in contrast to some Calvinists who believe no one credible would disagree with the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9, even Piper acknowledges the list of those who do is impressive.

“In the very next verse (Romans 9:22) Paul told of the great patience God showed toward those who deserve wrath. And in the following chapter he discussed the liberty and responsibility of human beings. God’s freedom operates within a moral framework. Human logic cannot harmonize divine sovereignty and human freedom, but both are clearly taught in Scripture. Neither should be adjusted to fit the parameters of the other. They form an antimony that by definition eludes our best attempts at explanation.”
“The grammatical structure of vv. 22-24 is difficult. The NIV has chosen to separate the final clause of v. 22 along with all of v. 23 from the narrative both before and after. As a result, v. 24 would explain that even believers were at one time ‘objects of wrath.’ Even though God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, those who turn to him in faith, both Jew and Gentile, find themselves called by God. Far from being an arbitrary despot, God allows those who believe to take their place as ‘objects of his mercy.’”
-Robert H. Mounce, Romans, New American Commentary, Broadman & Holman; 1995.

“It is important to remember that the preceding verses and illustrations do not deal with individual salvation or the origin of evil, and in like manner, neither do these [Romans 9:22-23]. They actually refer to the same thing, particularly to God’s dealing with Pharaoh. Therefore, the emphasis is upon God’s patience toward evil and rebellious sinners. God’s delay in exercising His wrath is not because of inability or unwillingness, as it might seem to some, but rather to make His power known.”
-Ronnie W. Rogers, Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist, Crossbooks; 2012. Rogers’ book has a good, fairly extensive study of Romans 9.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 20, AD 2012. 

Other Articles: 
Romans 9, Calvinism, Traditionalism
“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” 
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
2006 SBC Resolution on Alcohol Use in America
Dr. Brad Reynolds' Book Recommendations on Alcohol
Traditional Baptists (Non-Calvinists) Of 1840
More articles in lower right margin.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lord's Supper, Questions & Answers

“Do this in remembrance of Me.”  -Jesus Christ; 1 Corinthians 11:24

What does the Lord’s Supper represent?
When we partake of it we memorialize the sacrificial death of our Savior and remember that one day He will come again.

What does the bread represent? 
The body of Jesus given for us on the cross for our salvation.

What does the cup represent?
The blood that Jesus shed for our sins.

Why is the bread unleavened?
At the last supper Jesus was sharing a Passover meal with the disciples when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Passover bread was always unleavened. Also, in the Bible leaven (or yeast) is sometimes used as a symbol of sin. Jesus, of course, was without sin.
Our church uses matzo, the bread Jews use for their Passover today (it can be purchased at larger grocery stores). It tastes like an unsalted cracker. Some churches have someone bake an unleavened loaf of bread; but it should be unleavened!

Do the bread and cup really become the body and blood of Jesus?
No. They are only symbols to remind us of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If they did literally become the body and blood of Jesus, Jesus would be sacrificed again each time we observe this supper. Jesus’ death and resurrection was the once for all perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity.

But, didn’t Jesus say of the bread, “This is My body” and of the cup, “This is My blood?”
Yes, but we believe He meant it symbolically rather than literally. A man may point to a 3”X5” photo and say, “This is my wife.” He does not mean it literally, but that it is a symbol, a representation of his wife. Other examples: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the door.” Jesus, however, is not a literal loaf of bread or a door that swings on hinges. These are statements obviously meant to be taken symbolically.

There are three views in different church denominations:
Transubstantiation - the bread and cup literally become the body and blood of Jesus.
Consubstantiation - the bread and cup spiritually become the body and blood of Jesus.
Symbolic - the bread and cup are not changed at all. They simply represent the body and blood of Jesus. Baptists take the symbolic view.

Who has the authority to observe the Lord’s Supper?
We believe Jesus gave that authority and commandment to the local church. A Baptist Association or convention should not present the Lord’s Supper. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are local church ordinances, not denominational ordinances.

Who should partake of the Lord’s Supper?
Only those who have personally received Christ as their Lord and Savior. The proper order should be: Salvation, Baptism, Lord’s Supper.

Is the Lord’s Supper a sacrament? 
No. Sacrament implies that it has saving power. Faith in Jesus saves us, not good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are to do good works, not to save ourselves, but because we are saved.

Is the Lord’s Supper an ordinance of the church?
Yes. An ordinance is a special commandment that Jesus gave to the church. Baptists believe Jesus gave two ordinances to the local church, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

How often should we partake of the Lord’s Supper?
Jesus said, “As often as you eat this bread…” He did not say how often. Most Baptist churches have the Lord’s Supper about every two or three months. Since the Last Supper, where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, took place in the evening, churches usually have it during the Sunday Evening Service. Of course, it can be observed in either a morning or evening service.

How should we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper?
With a reverent, serious attitude. If you are not right with God, you should either get right with Him or not partake of the Lord’s Supper until you do so. The Bible says we should examine ourselves. Never partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

Should fermented wine be used in the Lord’s Supper?
No. Though the biblical word for wine can mean either fermented* or unfermented grapejuice, that word is never used in reference to the Lord’s supper. Rather it is either the “cup” or the “fruit of the vine.” Using fermented wine supports an evil industry that wrecks countless lives. Alcohol impairs your judgment and causes medical, spiritual, and moral problems. It presents a bad testimony and would be harmful to children and those having a struggle with alcohol. The best, safest Christian practice is to avoid beverage alcohol altogether (Proverbs 23:31-32).
* The words for wine in Scripture were used of either alcoholic (fermented) wine or non-alcoholic (unfermented) wine. Non-alcoholic wine was common in Bible times and could easily be preserved (see Ancient Wine and the Bible). The first century Jewish historian Josephus referred to unfermented wine as “wine,” and as the “fruit of the vine.”

Is the Lord’s Supper to be a big meal?
No. Only the bread and cup are served. Dinner-on-the-grounds, a fellowship meal, etc. should be enjoyed at another time.

Should I let my young children or grandchildren partake in the Lord’s Supper.
Only if they have personally and publicly trusted Jesus as their Savior.

Won’t my children feel left out?
Perhaps, but it gives you the perfect opportunity to teach them the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and the importance of them one day accepting Jesus as their Savior. Parents send a terrible message to their children when they allow them to partake of the Lord’s Supper when they have not yet been saved. You are saying it really doesn’t matter whether you trust Jesus or not.

What is open, close, and closed communion?
Communion is another term used for the Lord’s Supper.
Open Communion is when all believers are welcome to partake when a church has the Lord’s Supper.
Close Communion is when only believers of that particular church denomination or fellowship can partake.
Closed Communion is when only members of that particular local church can partake of the Lord’s Supper.
If you are visiting a church that is having the Lord’s Supper, it is best not to partake unless their view is plainly spelled out to you. Be respectful of the beliefs of others. It should not bother you in the least if they are practicing Closed Communion; that is their right.
Many churches today take the position of Open Communion and say, “let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28). Rather than the pastor, deacons, or church having to examine each person, that responsibility is placed on the individual. These pastors also explain, “This is not my table, it is the table of the Lord.”

I saw someone who did not partake of the Lord’s Supper. I wonder why? 
That is really none of your business and should not be a topic of gossip. That is between them and the Lord. They may have good reasons of which you have no idea.

What Bible passages tell about the Lord’s Supper? 
Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; Acts 2:41-42; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-29.

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.” -Baptist Faith & Message, 2000, doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” -1 Corinthians 11:26

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 15, AD 2012. 

Other Articles:
Why We Don't Use Alcohol For The Lord's Supper
Basic Baptist Doctrines / Beliefs
Charles H. Spurgeon on Alcohol
Flee Immorality
Baptists on Tithing
More articles in lower right margin

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Traditional Baptists (Non-Calvinists) Of 1840

Many, though not all, Calvinists have said the Southern Baptist Convention was founded by those who were strict 5-point Calvinists. Some have also said the term Traditional Baptists is a misnomer since Baptists of the 1800s were 5-point Calvinists and the Traditional view did not become prevalent until well into the 1900s. 

Yes, many SBC leaders of the 1800s were strict 5-point Calvinists, but certainly not all. Traditionalists (also called non-Calvinists, Moderate Calvinists) form the large majority of Baptists today, and, contrary to some, they were well represented in the 1800s as well.

For example, Traditionalists were alive and well in Texas in 1840.

Founding of the Union Baptist Association (UBA) of Texas in 1840.

Historian Dr. Robert A. Baker tells of the formation of the first Baptist Association in Texas in 1840, and says of their articles of faith:

“The articles of faith modified the harsh Calvinism of the anti-missionary group. The sixth article read:
‘We believe that Christ died for sinners, and that the sacrifice which He made has so honored the divine law that the way of salvation is consistently opened up to every sinner to whom the gospel is sent, and that nothing but their own voluntary rejection of the gospel prevents their salvation.’”
-Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert: A Concise History of Texas Baptists, Word Books; 1970. Baker was a longtime history professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While the SBC was not formed until 1845, the UBA then immediately became a part of the SBC. The leaders in the formation of the UBA were leaders for years to come among Southern Baptists in Texas. The first UBA Executive Committee included T. W. Cox, R. E. B. Baylor, J. W. Collins, Z. N. Morrell, William H. Cleveland, James S. Davis, a Brother Yeamen of Montgomery County, and a Brother Andrews of Houston, probably S. P. Andrews.

Baylor University was named after R. E. B. Baylor. Z. N. Morrell was a very influential pastor in the early days of the Texas Republic and the State of Texas.

Clearly the early leaders of the UBA rejected the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement. This is just one of many examples. So for those who think SBC Traditionalists are a product of the mid 1900s, actually they have been around throughout the history of the SBC, and well before.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 11, AD 2012.   

More Articles:
“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” 
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 1
Paige Patterson on Calvinism
More articles listed in lower right margin.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Keeping A Baptist Church Baptist

Baptist churches are free. Most are governed by congregational vote and authority. In other words, the pastor, deacons, and other church leaders certainly have a say, and we recognize that Jesus Christ is to be Head of the church, but the final decision in a local church is up to the vote of the members. 

Therefore, because of this freedom, we sometimes hear of a once Baptist church becoming non-denominational, charismatic or Pentecostal, liberal, or you name it. This is not intended to run down other Christian groups. But I admit to being Baptist and have good reasons for being so.

Here are a few things that may help keep your Baptist Church Baptist. You may not, however, agree with or intend to use all my suggestions. Well, like a good Baptist you are free to pick and choose among my points. Some have said, “You can tell a Baptist, but you can’t tell him much.” These actions can also make you accountable and prevent you and your church from straying too far from biblical theology.

1. Have Baptist in the name of your church. What better way to let your church, the community, and the world know who you are an what you believe. No confusion or deception there. Some also use the SBC logo or the initials “SBC” in small letters on their church sign.
This, however, is not to condemn those Baptist churches who do not include Baptist in their name. Some who do not have Baptist in their church name have my friendship and great respect. There are good, valid reasons on both sides of this issue.

2. Every now and then do a study on what Baptists believe and why they believe it. Sometimes it may be a formal study such as going through the Baptist Faith & Message, 2000. Sometimes it may be one point in a sermon. It can just be a passing comment or illustration. Preach and teach on the Baptist Distinctives (see articles below); what distinguishes Baptists from other Evangelical Christian groups.

3. Teach about and take part in the basic Southern Baptist Mission Offerings: Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the International Mission Board, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the North American Mission Board. Don’t just put CP in your bulletin or financial report. Write it out and explain what it is and what it is for. For these offerings use posters, Prayer Guides, bulletin inserts. Don’t run it in the ground, but let people know where their mission money is going.

4. Every now and then refer to or quote significant Baptist leaders. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with quoting non-Baptist Christian leaders, and I do so.

5. Have key Baptist Christian books in your church library. Talk about them from time to time. Make books available, especially to your church leaders, that explain and defend Baptist beliefs.

6. Subscribe your entire church, or at least your church leadership, to your Baptist State paper. We subscribe every one of our members to the Southern Baptist Texan. Subscribe them to the print copy; you can tell people to look it up on the internet, but they are more likely to read the print copy when it is mailed to their home.
Every now and then during a church service I will refer to an article in it. It will back up what you preach and stand for. It helps your people keep up with what going on with our SBC. Yes, you will occasionally disagree with it, that just goes with being Baptist.
When you have a Revival, church anniversary, a preacher passes away, etc., send the news to your state Baptist paper. People like seeing their church mentioned in the paper, and they enjoy keeping up with churches and preachers in their area.

7. Use the Baptist Hymnal published by LifeWay; 2008. It is a good hymnal including great new and old songs. It will not conflict with what we believe. It is another relatively subtle way of reminding people who we are.

8. Use the Church Covenant. It is available from LifeWay and has been used by many Baptist churches since the 1850s. We have the postcard size in our tract rack and have a stick-on version on the inside cover of our Baptist Hymnals. 

9. Every so often, get extra copies of a good Baptist or Christian book and offer it to your church members. They need good Christian literature in their homes. Some of the larger churches even have their own bookstores.

10. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day we give that month’s issue of Home Life (a LifeWay magazine) to all the mothers or fathers present.

Use LifeWay and other Baptist literature in Sunday School and Bible Study. You don’t have to exclusively use them, but do use them. For those who may not know, LifeWay is owned by the SBC. Provide tracts and literature that answer questions your members may have about Eternal Security and other Baptist views. Some state Baptist conventions have good tracts on Baptism, Eternal Security, etc. We often stamp our church name and address at the back of these magazines or tracts.

We also use LifeWay’s Parent Life and Mature Living. I sometimes use one of these magazines in hospital visitation. I also use other papers such as The Biblical Evangelist, a good independent Baptist paper that has been supported by many conservative Southern Baptists.

11. Attend the state and national (SBC) conventions when you can. Take some of your members to them or to your state evangelism conference. Give a brief report on them to your church. Brief and as interesting as you can make it; otherwise their eyes will glaze over.

12. Speak positively about Baptists. Some pastors have a sour attitude about the Southern Baptist Convention. That sour attitude rubs off on others. Even dealing with controversial issues can be done in a positive way. And remember, even the New Testament Church also had their disagreements and controversies.

Hope this is helpful. If so, let me know.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 6, AD 2012.

Other Articles:
About the Church Covenant
Why I Support the Baptist Association, Part 1
Basic Baptist Doctrines / Beliefs
Baptists and Eternal Security, or Once Saved Always Saved; Part 1 of 3
A Baptist Church Baptizing by Sprinkling?
Top Three Seminaries

More articles in lower right margin.