Defending Southern Baptist Calvinists: Tom Ascol Continues His Response

Tom Ascol continues his response to Dr. Steve Lempke’s paper here, here, and here. The substance of Ascol’s response looks good.

But I would add that not only are we required to represent our opponents’ views accurately (as Ascol argues), but we must also engage them with a winsome and humble spirit. To that end, I hope that we can have more of an irenic tone in this debate.

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome e, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition . . .” -2 Timothy 2:24-25

Southern Baptists and Calvinism

The conversation concerning Calvinism continues among Southern Baptists. At least that is a part of Steve Lemke’s aim in an April 2005 paper titled “The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals” (pp. 12-17). Among other things, Lemke makes the controversial suggestion that the Calvinism outlined in the popular acrostic TULIP amounts to hyper-Calvinism (p. 14). He writes, “While we all know five point Calvinists who are effective evangelists and missionaries, it is a common intuition that those with a theology of hard Calvinism are not apt to be as evangelistic as others” (p. 16). Lemke is the Provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joe Thorn responds to Lemke’s essay on his blog in a post titled “Hyper Calvinism Criticism.” He basically argues that the Calvinism of the TULIP acrostic “is not what has been historically understood as hyper-Calvinism.” His is a good summary of the concerns contained in Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Also, Tom Ascol has posted part one of his response to Lemke’s paper. Ascol has a substantive piece, but it has a decidedly acerbic tone.

Jim Hamilton has posted some pointers to help Baptists debate this issue more peacefully. His thesis builds upon R. Albert Mohler’s notion of theological triage, a theme I have addressed in this blog on more than one occasion (here and here). Hamilton contends that the difference between Calvinists and Arminians is not one that should divide Baptist from Baptist. The title of his essay reads as follows: “Calvinism and Arminianism: A Debate over First or Third Order Issues?” Hamilton is an assistant professor of biblical studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Understanding the Blogs

In his daily blog on OpinionJournal.com, James Taranto brings our attention to a useful little essay by Steven Den Beste. In the essay, Den Beste says that all blogs fall into one of two basic categories. He writes:

“Blogs are as different as the people who write them, but you’ll find two fundamental themes, with each blog being somewhere on the axis of how much of each appears. For lack of better terms, I suppose you could refer to them as ‘editors’ and ‘writers’.

“One form of blog is the ‘informal portal’. The general idea is to find cool stuff, link to it, and perhaps add a few words describing it. The link is the point; the words are there to encapsulate and sell the link. These people are organizers, searchers, they’re the web’s editors. They become popular to the extent that their readers like their judgment.

“The other theme is writing. The idea is to actually create something new and add it to the collective data stream. There may be a link involved or may not be, but it’s the writing which is the point. The subject matter may be critical or trivial; it may be driven by current events or by private experience or by the whim of the blogger. Sometimes a link is relevant; sometimes it inspires the writing. Sometimes no link is needed at all” (source).

One of my favorite ‘editor’ blogs of late is Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds. I guess I like his so much because we seem to have all the same interests: the Bible, Theology, and Politics. He is very well read, and I’m finding myself giving him hat tips more and more (I even learned the technical term “hat tip” from him!). Other notable editors that I like include the Drudge Report (of course) and Best of the Web.

Probably my favorite ‘writer’ blogger is Russell Moore, Academic Dean of Southern Seminary. He contributes almost daily at Touchstone Magazine’s “Mere Comments” blog and at The Henry Institute website. Another writer that I enjoy is R. Albert Mohler.

We might also mention Op-Ed “writers” whose printed work appears on the web. My favorite is Peggy Noonan on OpinionJournal.com. A good daily round-up of online Op-Eds appears on the Real Clear Politics website.

There are two staples that I have found very helpful in my daily news reading: “Today’s Headlines” in the New York Times and the “print edition” page of the Washington Post. You can pretty well predict the top stories on the morning news programs by reading these daily editions (especially the New York Times).

Well, this is a little bit of my daily diet. I hope it’s helpful to you.

What Do They Know That We Don’t?

At first blush, the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court looks like a welcome development. All indications are that he is an originalist in his approach to constitutional interpretation—that is, he believes the constitution to have a fixed meaning grounded in the original intention of the framers.

Yet it also looks like Roberts fits the description of a so-called “establishment conservative”—meaning, he will show some degree of deference to the traditions of the high court. To this effect, Time magazine speculates:

“Roberts may agree in spirit with those who see the past 50 years of jurisprudence as too expansive and too intrusive but respect too much the way the law is shaped to ride in and blowtorch it. He may just prove willing to conserve even opinions he faults” (source).

So it may be that Judge Roberts is a judicial conservative. But does it not remain to be seen the extent to which he will be willing to overturn past precedent? This is precisely the concern raised by a handful of conservatives such as Fred Barnes and Ann Coulter, who are not certain that Roberts would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Nevertheless, a bevy of well-known religious conservatives have lauded the Roberts nomination (see article in CT). For example, both James Dobson and Tony Perkins have expressed their approval of this nominee.

My question is, what do they know that we don’t know? I am trying to understand how folks like Dobson and Perkins can be so certain that Roberts will prove to be a good pick. Is it not possible that Roberts could turn out to be an establishment conservative who is unwilling to overturn a precedent like Roe v. Wade?

My hope is that George Bush knows something that we don’t know. So far in every situation, the President has remained true to his promises. If he has remained true to his pledge to nominate conservative judges, then he must know something that the rest of us don’t.

New Plame Memo: A Big Splash at the Washington Post?

The headline of a story in today’s Washington Post reads “Plame’s Identity Marked As Secret.” The first paragraph of the story goes on to state the following:

“A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked ‘(S)’ for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified.”

At first blush, this information looks very damning for Karl Rove. It’s the kind of headline that makes a really big splash on the front page of a newspaper. Yet one finds critical qualifications buried in the text of the story.

First, the memo was apparently written by a State Department intelligence analyst and was intended for then Secretary of State Colin Powell, not Karl Rove.

Second, though Valerie Wilson’s name appears in the paragraph marked as secret, it is not at all clear that her own status was marked as covert. It looks like her name appears merely as background.

For readers who bother to read the whole article, there’s not much of a splash after all.