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John 3:16 Conference: Question and Answer

Guest blog by Andrew Lindsey

Congregational singing: “I Love to Tell the Story”

The speaker from each of the five points was on the panel. Dr. Patterson had to leave so that his alternate, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell took his place for Total depravity.
Dr. Vines announced that he would like to have at least one Calvinist and one non-Calvinist address each one of the five points.

Panelist #1:
Dr. John Voight (sp?) pastor from Rome, GA and author of The False God of Calvinism: Did I understand Dr. Patterson correctly to say that he affirmed Total depravity to the point that this depravity will not be removed until we are in heaven?

Yarnell: Dr. Patterson’s view, as I understand it, is that we are all effaced by sin.

Dr. Voight: Depravity is that we are moving away from God, are we still moving away from God after we are redeemed?

Yarnell: Our sin nature is dead, but there is a struggle. It’s like a chicken running around with its head cut off. This means that there is a battle, which is sanctification.

Michael Smith from Rome, GA: Dr. Patterson referenced Ephesians 2, which talks about spiritual death, but then he transitioned to physical examples; can we differentiate between spiritual and physical death?

Yarnell: We should be shooting for a Monist position- I find it difficult to separate our spirit from our body, and to talk about the spirit being dead within a live spiritual body. Adam and Eve did immediately die spiritually, and their bodies died later. I don’t think that in Ephesians 2 when Paul talked about people being spiritually dead and yet doing things, he was trying to explain a distinction between the spirit and the body… If we believe that a human being is inactive in his sinful state, then we do not have to talk about his will, the will does not exist. Dr. Patterson and I do not believe that Scripture talks about people in this way.

Panelist #2:
[Did not catch name]: If a person believes that they’re saved by Jesus, but believes that there might be other paths to heaven, could that person be saved?

Land: I don’t know what that has to do with election, but I’ll try to answer it. We have in our minds, even as saved people, departmentalized attitude structures. The idea that there may be salvation apart from Christ is a very serious departure from Scripture, but my default position is Romans 10:9, and if someone has confessed Jesus as Lord and believes in their heart concerning the resurrection- and we do need to talk about what these things mean- I believe that they are saved even if wrong on other important issues.

Jason Sturkey (sp?) pastor from South Carolina: Romans 9 speaks of vessels of wrath and nations are comprised of individuals, how can you say that no-one is
Land: Eternal salvation is not in play in Romans 9-11. Objections of the Jews are anticipated, and nations are in view. What has helped me is the distinction between Abrahamic election, which is a corporate election to covenant people status, rather than salvific election.

David Hagan, a non-Calvinist from Rehobath Baptist Church: Are we saved by faith?
Land: We are not saved by our faith, [I hate to admit that I missed the rest of this response- Andrew].

Panelist #3:
[Did not catch name] from Oakwood Baptist Church: Can we say that Christ did not die for Hitler?
Allen: Christ died for all, including Adolf Hitler. Christ’s death is extrensically (sp?) sufficient for the sins of the whole world. The Limited atonement position is that there is nothing salvific in Christ’s death for the non-elect.

Brian Jolly, layman from Baptist church in Gainesville, GA: Could you give a brief response to the double payment argument?
Allen: Neither Calvin nor Scripture uses the double payment argument. The double payment argument fails to differentiate between commercial payment and penal debt (Dabney, A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge and others note this). In a commercial debt, such is a payment at a restaurant, accepting double-payment is unjust. In a legal debt a moral element is involved. Say there were six men in prison and a king says, ‘My son will pay your debt, and you will be released on the condition that you join the army.’ The son pays the penal debt, but there may be some unwilling to join the army, and the king is not unjust for not releasing those prisoners. Many other Calvinists
[Keathley added that this objection is legal and not Scriptural and that the objection has been answered by the Supreme Court in a case where President Andrew Jackson pardoned a man sentenced for death, but this man refused the pardon, and the Court ruled that a pardon refused is no pardon at all.]

Thomas Dickerson from Atlanta, a former PCA memeber and former Reformed Baptist who feels that there was no power in his experience in Reformed circles, and that he was not saved when he was Reformed: What will the Southern Baptist Convention do about Calvinism?
Allen: The Southern Baptist Convention by virtue of our ecclesiology cannot dictate from the top down what to do about Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. What we can do is what we’re doing here and what Building Bridges did, which was a good thing. It would be a mistake for the SBC to tell all Calvinists to “get out of dodge,” it would also be wrong to have Calvinism as a Convention cause. The last thing that we need is for the Convention to become a Calvinist Convention, or to get rid of all Calvinists. This issue is not going away

Panelist #4
Al Andrews, layman from Macon, GA: What are your thoughts about a church staff with both Calvinists and non-Calvinists where there is tension?
Lemke: We probably need to do a lot better job in viewing potential staff members to make sure they are a good fit for our congregation. One thing that some have experienced is where someone is dishonest in direct questions about there beliefs. We need to be more careful

Panelist #5:
Todd Burroughs, a “Calvinist”: A comment and a question: a) I do not think that it has been clearly stated that Calvinists do not believe in determinism. b) How do we know that we believe?
Keathley: a) Read Jonathan Edwards, Bruce Ware, Frame and others- Calvinists do teach determinism. b) I know when I put my faith in this chair. Faith is something very basic and simple. I do believe that faith is a gift.
Burroughs: Why don’t you have confidence in a person who joins a church and then does not live like a Christian for 40 years before he dies?
Keathley: There is a volitional aspect to trust, that’s why I said “trust” and not simply believe. James does warn us about faith as a mere mental assent, but works in James are not the basis of assurance, they are from an assured faith.

Final question:
Mike Chambers, pastor from North Carolina: At what point are we not iron sharpening iron, but caught in the mire that keeps us from evangelism?

Yarnell: I want you to notice how Dr. Vines structures this Conference. We had five of the finest Southern Baptist theologians; we started and ended with gospel preachers. We need to focus on preaching the Word.

Dr. Emir Caner was announced.