You’re flabbergasted by all the fuss over the Calvinist/Traditionalist “thing;”
You affirm what Scripture affirms, whether or not you can fit it all into a neat, logical system;
You find in Scripture that God ultimately determines destinies AND that men must freely choose to reject or believe;
You see unconditional election not as a limiting factor in whom may be saved, but as a mysterious correlation to the efforts we expend in the “fields white with harvest;”
You believe that the Holy Spirit bears witness of the truth to all whenever the gospel is preached;
You hold that unbelief is always sinful and never mere unfortunate ignorance—that God’s truth is not without a testimony even among the unreached who have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie…”
You hold that God must generate faith in the sense that He must persuade the averse sinner, but biblical regeneration is rebirth, and no one is born again until they first believe;
You affirm that men are as naturally able to believe as to disbelieve, and that their moral inability, while figuratively referring to their unwillingness, makes it certain that no one will come to Christ without the Father’s drawing;
You affirm that all things go with certainty according to God’s eternal plan, but that no man perishes of necessity;
You find in the Bible a universal warrant, that applies even to the nonelect, to believe on Christ and be saved—that “there’s room at the cross for you,” no matter who you are.
You hold that any man who perishes has only his own free rejection of God to blame, and his own sins to be punished for.
You stopped reading before this line because you have more important things to concern yourself with.
The theology of Andrew Fuller, as set out in his greatest work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, is centrally located between those Calvinists who see sinners as walking corpses—no more able to believe than a dead body is able to raise itself from the dead—and those of the other side who see sinners as fully enabled by God’s grace to choose (their will being the determining factor). To Fuller, men are able to believe, but will nonetheless remain unwilling until God does a supernatural work of grace to reverse their unwillingness.
Regeneration only causes a man to do what he otherwise could have and should have done but refused. This puts the feet of the universal gospel offer on much more Biblical ground, and removes much of the repugnance of the Calvinist doctrine. The gospel is to be preached to all men because all men do have the ability—and the warrant—to embrace it; and that gospel would save any who do—even the unelect if they would but be willing. Continue reading →
Also published at SBC Open Forum.
An Addendum, incorporating the Rejoinder, was added, 11-25-2014.
by Ken Hamrick
[13,200 words…] The focus of the debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists returns ever more often to Andrew Fuller. His theology is ideally suited to bringing the two closer together—not merely by a spirit of cooperation, but closer in doctrinal view—the usual argument over his meaning notwithstanding. There is indeed a middle ground, and it is more Biblical than either side alone. It simply needs to be well articulated, and Fuller is as articulate as they come. It is true that Fuller thought of himself as a standard Calvinist; but his arguments go well beyond Calvinism and toward the center with a Biblical depth and penetrating clarity that has given his writings great value across the last two centuries. Of course, Calvinists want to proudly include this bright light in their number, since he defeated the Hyper-Calvinism of his day and was instrumental in founding the Baptist Missionary Society. But to do so, they must paint over those differences in which he shined the brightest.
Dr. Tom Nettles, a Calvinist and professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently posted a series of articles on Fuller, at the Founders Ministries blog. Having “taught on Fuller for three decades,” Dr. Nettles seems to have been prompted to post these latest articles by the prospect, offered by Traditionalists, that Fuller’s teachings can be used as a bridge by which Calvinists can become Non-Calvinists. As a Baptist Centrist (one who holds to both unconditional election and the freedom of men to “choose otherwise”), I see Fuller as a bridge by which both sides can gain a better understanding. Continue reading →
Adam Harwood spoke at the 2013 John 3:16 Conference, and the paper he presented there is available on the conference e-book at SBC Today. Like Dr. Harwood, I deny that anyone is born condemned for Adam’s sin; but unlike Dr. Harwood, I find in Scripture such a real union of mankind in Adam as to justify the inheriting of all the temporal penalties for Adam’s sin, including the spiritual death and depravity that all are born into Continue reading →
The chart is intended to represent the spectrum, with those doctrines that are least likely to be held by Calvinists at the top, and those least likely to be held by Traditionalists at the bottom, but with incremental steps toward the middle mapped out. Continue reading →