Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: More From Dr. Tom Schreiner - Fundamentalism and the Already/Not Yet

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More From Dr. Tom Schreiner - Fundamentalism and the Already/Not Yet

In his NT Theology course, Dr. Schreiner continues to say things that not only challenge those of us in class to make practical application from NT theology, but also shatters the stereotypical understanding of what Southern is teaching and producing.

Yes, Southern is a school that holds strongly to Calvinism. I am currently writing a rather lengthy essay addressing this fact and the fuss it seems to raise in so many of our good Ariminian Baptist brothers and sisters. Put simply, what I see from our "heretical" Calvinistic professors is a passionate, all-powerful and all-loving view of God, a devotion to the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and a zeal for missions unlike any I have ever seen. This week is "great commission week" at the school. Here is just an excerpt from an email the school of theology students received from Dr. Russell Moore, the dean of the school of theology:
"I’m concerned about something, and I’d like to ask you to join me in prayer and action about it. It seems to me that too many of our churches—and too many of us—think of the Great Commission as little more than Jesus’ way of promoting a Christmas offering or of marketing an evangelistic video series. The problem, whenever the Great Commission is taken for granted, is the eclipse of Jesus. . .In the year 2008, I am challenging all of us in the School of Theology—faculty and students—to reinvigorate our place in this cosmic warfare by renewing our efforts at evangelism and missions."

A hyper-Calvinist? Ergun Caner and others can rant and rave all they want, but I have never met one and Southern Seminary had rather teach Hinduism than such a notion.

But anyway, back on point. Perhaps even greater than the Southern's high view of John Calvin is their high view of George Ladd! I am kidding, of course, but just barely. Ladd was a Baptist minister and theologian who taught at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Ladd ushered in the notion of "progressive dispensationalism", a nice middle ground between classic dispensationalism and covenant theology. Dr. Ware is a self-proclaimed progressive dispensationalist. But even the Southern professors who still consider themselves to be more on the lines of covenant theology, the "Already/Not Yet" of Ladd is clearly a driving force behind the understanding of the Kingdom of God at Southern. It has been incredibly helpful for me.

So, finally to the point of this post. Schreiner has been discussing some of the ways we can see the "Already/Not Yet" of the Kingdom of God played out in today's world. Examples such as "church hopping" when church members disagree and the ease at which couples are willing to divorce, he says, shows the overemphasis on the "Already." We expect too much perfection now. Then he said, "this is also why we must be weary of strict fundamentalism." Well, that perked us all up and we wondered where he was going. He then said this (and I am paraphrasing):
"One of the devastating problems with strict fundamentalism is complete isolation from others who think differently than us. We should not waiver from truth or compromise our beliefs, but we absolutely should be willing to work alongside others who think differently, who are Arminian for example, for the cause of Christ."

I emailed Dr. Schreiner when I got home to ask for more clarification about how to know when to unite and when to keep our distance. His response indicated that he believed there were "parting of the ways issues" and that we have to more narrowly draw the line when it comes to our churches and organizations with whom we unite. Nevertheless, "there are good people" he said "who we can learn from and work with who are different than us. Let us live by our convictions, Philip, but let us never think we have it all right."



Blogger Mike Ruffin said...


As I have said before, I would like your Dr. Schreiner. As you know, I am writing along some of these same lines these days. Perhaps a fresh wind is blowing. Now, if we can just keep from trying to funnel the wind in our own directions....

One thing I'm curious about regarding Calvinism--given the high view of the sovereignty of God, is there something beyond obedience to the scriptural instruction to evangelize that fuels a Calvinist's interest in evangelism? Arminians in the SBC fear, as you know, that increasing Calvinistic influence in the SBC will weaken its evangelistic drive. Is there anything beyond obedience to the Bible that makes a Calvinist evangelistic?

February 28, 2008 10:41 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


Yes, and the essay I am working on which I mentioned in my post highlights some of that. I am running to class, but very quickly, wouldn't you agree that Arminians stress evangelism because of obedience to the Bible? I guess I mean, what is it beyond Scriptural instruction that would cause an Arminian to evangelize? Romans 10:14 is a key verse at Southern, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?"

The issue I think you are driving at and what others are so fearful of is, and I don't have time to expound, the misunderstanding of human freedom. Yes, the sovereignty of God is a major theme, but it is "compatible" with human choice. More later.

February 28, 2008 10:54 AM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

I guess I'm thinking of the argument that I sometimes hear that goes like this: if God has predetermined who will be saved, then what real difference does the preaching of the good news make? The argument continues that, if God has really predetermined who will be saved and who will be lost, then no one can choose to respond who is not among the elect. So, what real difference does it make?

I realize that such is a caricature of the Calvinist position, but it needs to be rebutted by SBC Calvinists if they want the fear factor reduced.

Yes, Arminians evangelize too because of the scriptural injunction. But they would say that they are motivated by the fact that people can choose and likely will not if they don't hear the message. They would furthermore say that Calvinists have no real motivation if choice is not possible.

February 28, 2008 11:05 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...

I'm late to class.

The issue you raise in your first paragraph is, I think, the problem, but it is what I refer to in my post as "hyper-calvinism." I am being sincere when I say that Southern professors had rather teach a different religion than the notion that evangelism is unimportant because of God's sovereignty and choice. In fact, they will argue, it is precisely because of that sovereignty that motivates us to evangelize! We know for certain people will respond if we do our job.

February 28, 2008 11:16 AM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

I get that. And understand, I am not advocating against an accurate understanding of the sovereignty of God.

But I know how the average Arminian "person in the pew" would think about this. He or she would counter, "But if God already has decided who is among the elect, then can't you be confident they will be saved whether you tell them about Jesus or not?"

Again, I know that's a caricature (or maybe an accurate reflection of hyper-Calvinism), but that's what has to be contended with.

I'm comfortable saying that God is sovereign and that human choice really matters. But the devil (bad choice of words) is in the details.

I hope you've gone to class.

February 28, 2008 11:27 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


This is getting eerie. Dr. Schreiner said "the devil is in the details" in his email response to me. Brilliant minds think alike apparently. ;)

I agree with you 100%, not everyone has the luxury of being at the seminary to see where the focus really is. Like I said, I don't deny that Calvinism and reformed theology is big here, but Mohler says all the time from chapel that if we are more interested in going out to defend Calvinism rather than share the Gospel, then we still don't get it. I think the things you have been writing lately are good for both camps to hear. Whether a Calvinist or Arminianist, both sides agree that the gospel must be shared in order for people to believe. So, let's just focus on that at the end of the day.

I made it to class. Dr. Wright had a good quote today, which I am posting now.

February 28, 2008 4:22 PM  

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