“Moderate Calvinism. Much of evangelicalism and some General Baptists affirm God’s choice in election and each person’s need for grace to choose God. However, they believe in unlimited atonement, stressing that salvation is hypothetically possible for all, but that God has elected some actually to be saved. Some form of cooperation between people’s wills and God’s grace is seen.”
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“New Hampshire Confession of Faith. A widely influential summary statement of Baptist moderate Calvinism, originally drafted in 1833. In late eighteenth-century New Hampshire, support for the previously dominant rigid Calvinism was waning. On June 24, 1830, the state Baptist convention appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of faith and practice consistent with the more moderate views of the churches. The document, which was to have been completed by the following year, was revised by several drafting committees. It was finally approved by the convention board on January 15, 1833, and recommended to the churches for adoption.
After 1850 the Confession gained stature in the wider Baptist fellowship. It was disseminated by the publications of influential leaders, including J. Newton Brown, who had prepared the 1833 draft; the Landmark Baptist James M. Pendleton; and Edward T. Hiscox, author of a widely used Baptist manual. During the 1920s the Confession became a point of tension among the Northern Baptists. An attempt by some fundamentalists to secure its adoption by the Convention was rejected as amove toward creedalism. In 1933 a group of conservative churches withdrew from the Northern Convention to form the General Association of Regular Baptists and adopted a premillennial version of the Confession as their standard. The Southern Baptist Convention used the Confession as the basis for a document published in 1923 under the title Baptist Faith and Message. This was later revised in 1963.
The Confession is organized according to the general pattern of the Reformed creeds. The subjects discussed follow the order: Scripture, God, Fall, salvation and sanctification, church (including civil government) and last things. Readily evident is the attempt by its drafters to articulate a moderate Calvinism during an era of theological controversy. Calvinist emphases are present, but subdued, both in the order in which the articles appear and in the descriptions themselves. Election, for example, is not described until article nine, after statements on the Fall and salvation. Salvation, according to the document, is prevented only by personal voluntary refusal and the perseverance of the saints means that only those who endure to the end are real believers.
The article on consummation is short and omits any reference to rapture, tribulation or millennium. The opening article contains what is now a classic Baptist statement concerning Scripture: “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. … ”
See also Baptist Churches in Canada; Baptist Churches in U.S.A.
Bibliography. E. T. Hiscox, The Baptist Directory (1876); W. L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (1974); W. J. McGlothlin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (1911).
S. J. Grenz
S. J. Grenz Grenz, Stanley J., D.Theol., University of Munich. Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, North American Baptist Seminary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“Tappan, David (1752–1803). Congregationalist minister and Harvard professor. Born in Manchester, Massachusetts, the son of a traditional New England pastor, Tappan studied divinity after graduation from Harvard in 1771 and became pastor of the church in Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1774. He identified himself with those who became known as “Old Calvinists,” persons wary of the revivalism that had divided New England Congregationalists since the Great Awakening but who insisted on the centrality of an experience of regeneration. Tappan was also critical of the more liberal trends in Congregationalism that eventually gave birth to Unitarianism. He became the third Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1792, where he remained a respected proponent of moderate Calvinism until his death. Controversy erupted over designating Tappan’s successor. When the more orthodox could not agree on a candidate, the naming of liberal Henry Ware to the post in 1805 led to the Unitarian ascendancy at Harvard.”
Bibliography. AAP 2.
AAP Annals of the American Pulpit, ed. W. B. Sprague, 9 vols.
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
In shorter publications, I have defended a moderate Calvinism incorporating compatibilistic free will.1 In those cases, I started my defense where Calvinists typically begin, divine sovereignty. On the other hand, Arminians and other free will theologians invariably begin with biblical teaching on human freedom and moral responsibility. Sometimes it is said that one’s starting point is crucial, because it shows what one deems most important, and one tends to wind up where one started. This can and does happen on both sides of this issue. However, as one committed to Scripture’s full inspiration and inerrancy, I am obliged to take seriously everything it teaches. Thus, regardless of the starting point, the outcome should be the same, since all biblical revelation must be given its due. In that spirit, I shall begin this defense with human freedom.
The Bible says much about human beings. Various passages discuss human nature, and we also see humans in various situations. Scripture also clarifies what God requires of us. Moreover, the OT and NT tell us what human beings must do to have right standing with God. The message of both Testaments is that trust, faith in God, is required both for salvation and for living our lives in proper relation to God. The NT commands us to accept Christ and to follow the precepts of God’s Word. Those who have a personal relationship with Christ through faith are also instructed to tell others the same message. As Paul told the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:20), “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!”
Commands addressed to believers and nonbelievers seem inappropriate if humans do not have freedom to respond positively or negatively to them. Considerations like these, plus the biblical passages marshaled in favor of free will when I presented the case for general sovereignty, lead me to conclude that human beings are free. In addition, I agree fully that Scripture teaches that each person individually is morally accountable before God for his or her own actions. We are neither saved nor damned because of what our friends, relatives, or acquaintances do. The evidence for this was already presented in support of general sovereignty, and I need not repeat it. I also agree with the commonly held moral principle that no one is morally accountable for their deeds unless they act freely. Being held responsible for acts that are unfree is considered unjust in both ethics and law. Scripture clearly affirms that God is just, and if such claims are to mean anything, they must invoke concepts of justice we can understand. Otherwise, we have little idea of what it means to say that God is just. But if God is just, and if it is unjust to hold someone morally accountable who does not act freely, then God could not justly hold us accountable for our actions unless we are free.
In light of these considerations, I conclude that any theology that rules out human freedom and/or moral responsibility is deficient biblically. This doesn’t mean all our acts are free, but only that humans have the capacity for free action and that they use that capacity much of the time. Adopting a theology that grants human beings free will has certain intellectual and theological implications. Most immediately, it means that any theology and model of providence that excludes human freedom completely must be rejected. Hence, several models of providence described earlier are unacceptable. All models that include fatalism are excluded; not only do they remove human freedom, but frequently they deny freedom to God. Moreover, all models incorporating hard determinism which also rule out any human freedom must be rejected, and paradox determinism cannot be adopted, for it explicitly denies that humans are free.
This affirmation of biblical teaching on human freedom and moral responsibility may seem to require general sovereignty, but that is not so. As we already saw, there is an indeterministic notion of freedom and a deterministic one; neither concept is impossible, i.e., neither is self-contradictory as is the idea of a married bachelor or a round square. Since both notions are possible, at this stage of the discussion we can say that any theology with either notion of freedom is possibly correct. Hence, all forms of general sovereignty are possibilities, and the soft deterministic form of specific sovereignty is also possibly correct.
Advocates of general sovereignty see the evidence that humans are free and morally responsible, and many contend that this proves that incompatibilism is true. They conclude this because they think this is the only kind of freedom there is or could be. One frequently sees in their writings phrases such as “genuine freedom” and “real freedom,” by which they mean libertarian free will. Any other notion is only a pretender to the “real thing.” However, since both libertarian and compatibilistic free will are possible types of freedom, it begs the question to claim that only libertarian freedom is “real,” “genuine,” or “meaningful” free will. Such question begging maneuvers are not arguments or evidence for one’s views; they merely reassert one’s definition of free will and illegitimately refuse to consider other possible alternatives. Suffice it to say that neither side can win this debate by defining its opponent out of existence as “unreal,” “not genuine,” or “not meaningful.” We need an actual argument that the sort of freedom described is correct.
What I have just said about question begging is entirely beside the point if Scripture teaches not only that humans are free but also that our freedom is incompatibilistic. The truth of the matter, however, is that Scripture does not say what sort of freedom we have; it only teaches that we are free. This should not surprise us, however, since Scripture is not a philosophy text which intends to offer a precise (metaphysically speaking) definition of human freedom.2 Moreover, this point has some significant implications. One is that we cannot prove either libertarian or compatibilistic free will just by citing passages that teach human freedom and/or moral responsibility. If we want to choose one or the other concept of freedom on biblical and theological grounds, we must support our views in a more indirect way. That is, we must argue the case for a particular kind of free will inferentially from other truths taught by Scripture which best fit our notion of freedom. Inferring our conclusions about the kind of free will we possess doesn’t mean we can’t justify those views. Rather, it reminds us of the kind of issue this is, and reminds us that no biblical passage directly and explicitly defines freedom.”
Feinberg, J. S. (2001). No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (pp. 677–679). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
“2. THE MODERATE CALVINISTS WHO ARE LIMITED REDEMPTIONISTS. The appellation Moderate Calvinist, in this instance, is based on their belief that the decree to elect is preceded by the decree to create and the decree to permit the fall. Though they contend for a limited redemption, they make a place for world-wide preaching of the gospel and grant certain concessions not possible to the extreme Calvinists.
3. THE MODERATE CALVINISTS WHO ARE UNLIMITED REDEMPTIONISTS. The men who belong to this school of interpretation defend all of the five points of Calvinism excepting one, namely, “Limited Atonement,” or what has been termed “the weakest point in the Calvinistic system of doctrine.” This form of moderate Calvinism is more the belief of Bible expositors than of the theologians, which fact is doubtless due to the truth that the Bible, taken in its natural terminology and apart from those strained interpretations which are required to defend a theory, seems to teach an unlimited redemption. Men of this group believe that Christ died actually and fully for all men of this age alike, that God has ordained that the gospel shall be preached to all for whom Christ died, and that through the proclamation of the gospel He will exercise His sovereign power in saving His elect. This group believe in the absolute depravity of man and his total inability to believe apart from the enabling power of the Spirit, and that the death of Christ, being forensic, is a sufficient ground for any and every man to be saved, should the Spirit of God choose to draw him. They contend that the death of Christ of itself saves no man, either actually or potentially, but that it does render all men savable; that salvation is wrought of God alone, and at the time the individual believes.”
Chafer, L. S. (1993). Systematic theology (Vol. 3, pp. 184–185). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
“Grindal, Edmund (?1519–83), Abp. of *Canterbury. The son of a Cumberland farmer, he was educated at Cambridge and became a fellow of Pembroke Hall in 1538, and later chaplain to *Edward VI and prebendary of *Westminster. He went into exile under *Mary to Frankfurt, where he sought to reconcile the party of J. *Knox and the defenders of the 1552 BCP. In 1559 he was made Bp. of London and one of the revisers of the BCP, in 1570 Abp. of *York, and in 1575 Abp. of Canterbury. On his refusal to suppress the Puritan ‘prophesyings’ he was suspended in 1577 from his jurisdictional, but not from his spiritual, functions; his resignation was under negotiation when he died. In theology he sympathized with moderate *Calvinism and even with some Puritan criticism of contemporary episcopacy. See also ELIZABETH I.”
J. *Strype, History of the Life and Acts of Edmund Grindal (1710; new edn., 1821). W. Nicholson (ed.), The Remains of Archbishop Grindal (*Parker Society, 1843), with preface by the editor. H. Robinson (ed.), The Zürich Letters (2 vols., Parker Society, 1842–5), passim. P. Collinson, Archbishop Grindal 1519–1583 (1979).
Cross, F. L., & Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., p. 719). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
“Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) defended limited atonement by his insistence that it is the opponent who limits the Atonement: First, adherents to unlimited atonement do not believe that Christ died so as to secure the salvation of all, and second, they do not believe that Christ died to secure the salvation of any person in particular. Spurgeon then went on to boast that those who believe in limited atonement believe that Christ died for “multitudes [the elect] that no man can number” (cited by Steele and Thomas, FPC, 40).
In response, this inverted rationalization is an unfortunate illustration of Spurgeon’s eloquence gone to seed: Only an upside-down logic could force anyone to think twice about the idea that limited atonement is more unlimited than unlimited atonement! The first assertion—that unlimited atonement doesn’t teach Christ’s death as securing the salvation of all—diverts the issue. It isn’t a question of securing the salvation of all (as in universalism) but of providing salvation for all and securing it for the elect (as in moderate Calvinism and Arminianism). It is extreme Calvinism that maintains Christ died to provide and to secure the salvation only of the elect. Spurgeon, then, gave the right answer to the wrong question.
As to the second point—that unlimited atonement doesn’t teach that Christ died to secure the salvation of any specific person—Spurgeon gives the wrong answer to the right question. Both moderate Calvinist and classical Arminian opponents of limited atonement believe that Christ did die to secure the salvation of the elect and that God foreknew, from all eternity, exactly who they would be.”
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (p. 378). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.
“In 1898 Gray took the summer deanship of the Moody Bible Institute, the first step on the path to his eventual leadership of the organization. At the behest of the then-president Henry Crowell, Gray became permanently associated with the Institute in 1904. A year later he became dean of students and by 1908 was fully in charge of day-to-day operations (though the title of president was not given to him until 1925). Gray played a key role in transforming the Institute into one of the major fundamentalist institutions of the twentieth century. Along with Crowell, he sought to improve the academic standards of the institution without straying from the essentially pragmatic end of training Christian lay-workers. His dispensational-influenced synthetic method replaced the institute’s earlier, less systematic, relational interpretation of the Bible. In addition, he brought a moderate Calvinism (essentially a simplified and softened version of Princeton theology) to the institute, which weaned it from its early roots in holiness theology and directed it more towards the idea of ‘victorious living’ embodied in the Keswick movement. In short, his systemization crystallized the institution both doctrinally and administratively. His template was not only maintained at the institute until well after his death in 1935, but also imitated by countless other Bible institutes throughout the country.”
Gloege, T. (2003). Gray, James Martin. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (pp. 266–267). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Total Depravity Is Extensive, Not Intensive
“Since the whole person is made in God’s image, and since sin affects the whole person, the first thing to be said is that the effect of sin on God’s image in fallen human beings is pervasive, extending to every dimension of his being—body and soul, mind and will.54 Hence, it is in this sense that sinful humanity is appropriately described by moderate Calvinism as “totally depraved.” This does not mean that fallen humans are as sinful as they could be, but it does mean that apart from Christ we are not as good as we should be (in accordance with God’s perfect nature and the perfection with which He created us).
Sin does penetrate and permeate our whole being. Humans are born wholly, not partially, depraved; that is, every aspect of our being is affected by sin. No element of human nature is unaffected by inherited evil, even though no aspect is completely destroyed by it. While this pervasive depravity is extensive, it is not intensive. That is to say, even though fallenness extends to every dimension of human nature, it does not destroy either human nature or any of its essential powers. For example, fallen human beings can still think, feel, and choose (see below); they have not, because of sin, lost any of these abilities of personhood. If they had, they would no longer be persons. They are still human, and therefore they are still in the image of God, even though they are fallen humans, consequently incapable of either initiating or attaining their own salvation.
Ironically, if one takes total depravity too far, he destroys a person’s ability to be depraved. For if total depravity means “one’s ability to know and chose good over evil is destroyed,” then the person whose knowledge and volition have been eliminated is no longer able to sin, because then he would have had no access to the good (only evil would have been available to him). There are creatures without these abilities, but they are subhuman animals and plants that cannot sin. What has no moral capacity and ability has no moral responsibility.”
Geisler, N. L. (2004). Systematic theology, volume three: sin, salvation (pp. 146–147). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.
“Systematic Theology is clearly Chafer’s magnum opus.12 The product of years of study under Scofield and as professor of systematic theology at Dallas, it represents the culmination of Chafer’s dream of bringing the teaching found in the Bible conferences into formal theological instruction. The work is basically Reformed in its theological orientation.13 There are many discussions which follow the scholastic pattern of nineteenth-century systematic theologies. Chafer’s moderate Calvinism is seen in his discussion of the decrees of God, predestination, and the atonement.14 His position on the inspiration and authority of Scripture is identical to that of the Old Princeton theology of Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield, the Bible conferences, and the fundamentalist movement in general. The uniqueness of Chafer’s Systematic Theology is found in what he called its unabridged scope, which refers to its inclusion of material popularized in the Bible conferences and the Scofield Reference Bible. It claimed to be the first premillennial systematic theology; and by virtue of its inclusion of various emphases of the Scofield Reference Bible, Chafer’s work was also seen as the first dispensational systematic theology (“dispensational” is here a reference to the views expressed in Scofield’s notes).”
Blaising, C. A. (1998). Lewis Sperry Chafer. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (electronic ed., pp. 86–87). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
“Despite his youth and theological views, after a trial period of more than a year, Rippon was called in 1773 to be pastor of the prestigious Carter Lane Baptist Church, Southwark, where his predecessor was the high Calvinist theologian John Gill. Both Gill and Rippon remained pastors until they died, so that between them they served this church for 117 years. Rippon’s enthusiastic advocacy of the moderate Calvinism that transformed the Particular Baptists during his lifetime helped him to become the leading Baptist minister in London and his church the largest and most influential of Baptist churches. Rippon was a colloquial, even eccentric, preacher in style, with ‘a manly voice’, and he made direct appeals to his hearers to receive the gospel. Over a thousand people joined his church during his pastorate.”
Manley, K. R. (2003). Rippon, John. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 552). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“BAXTER, RICHARD (1615–1691). Puritan divine, pastor at Kidderminster, author of almost 200 works on pastoral theology, ethics, liturgics and preaching. Born in Rowton, Shropshire, became well versed in the Bible in his parents’ home, was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England. He did not attend University, but excelled in private studies. In his early twenties, was influenced by Nonconformists Walter Craddock and Joseph Symonde. Despite his Latiudinarian views and moderate Calvinism, was ordained and Anglican priest in 1638. In 1641 began his career at Kidderminster as curate, teacher, pastor, catechist, and ecumenist. He served admirably the poor population of hand-loom workers, and put his protoecumenism to work by persuading the ministers of various churches to work together toward a common cause. When the Civil War broke out in 1642 Baxter, who sided with Parliament, left Kidderminster, and served for a time as an army chaplain. Attained instant recognition through his The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650). He returned to Kidderminster until 1660 when he went to London as Chaplain to Charles II, who had been moved by his preaching. He was offered the bishopric of Hereford, but his scruples against the episcopacy caused him to refuse, a refusal which debarred him from ecclesiastical office. He was one of 2000 pastors to leave the Church of England in 1662 in opposition to the Act of Uniformity. Spent the next twenty-six years without a charge, suffering persecution and imprisonment for espousing toleration of moderate dissent within the Church of England. Led Nonconformists at the Savoy Conference in considering modifications of the Book of Common Prayer. He married Margaret Charlton in September of 1662, who was so supportive that she went with him not only into exile, but into prison. Baxter was imprisoned in 1685 for preaching without permission, and again in 1686 for writing his Paraphrase of the New Testament. Was one of those directly responsible for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. After years of suffering, imprisonment, persecution and bereft of a regular charge, the Act of Toleration (1688), which allowed Non-Conformists the right to worship, enabled Baxter to enjoy three peaceful years before he died in 1691 (cf. Autobiography, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931).
Baxter, one of Protestantism’s greatest pastoral theologians, wrote prolifically, Among his most widely read works were The Reformed Pastor (1656, abbr. RP, Carlyle, Pa: Banner of Truth, 1979), Christian Directory (1673), Catholic Theology (1675), Methodus Theologiae Christianae (1681), Family Catechism (1683), and his Reliquiae Baxteriane (1696). See The Practical Works of the Rev. Richard Baxter (PW), 23 vols., ed. W. Orme, London: James Duncan, 1830.”
Oden, T. C. (1986). Crisis Ministries (pp. 199–200). New York: Crossroad.
“SHAFTESBURY, ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER (1801–1885)
Christian statesman; England’s seventh Earl of Shaftesbury
Now known as Lord Shaftesbury instead of Lord Ashley, he attended Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained academic distinction. When his father inherited the earldom, Ashley inherited his baronetcy (the lowest British hereditary title), becoming Lord Ashley in 1811. In 1830 he married Lady Emily Cowper, daughter of the Earl and Lady Cowper. After the earl’s death, his widow married Lord Palmerston, who became prime minister of Britain in 1855. As his son-in-law, Ashley (by then Lord Shaftesbury) was able to recommend evangelical clergymen to the prime minister for senior appointments in the Church of England.
As a social reformer, Shaftesbury campaigned on such matters as the treatment of lunatics; the terms of employment of workers in factories, mills, and collieries (mines); and the use of boys as chimney sweepers. He continued to press for social action as a member of the House of Commons between 1830 and 1850. Later, as a member of the House of Lords, he especially called attention to the need to improve the dwelling houses of industrial workers. As a landowner he built a model village in Dorset. He was the best type of Victorian philanthropist who wanted to improve the conditions of the poor. To look in him for modern ideas of social reform (that is, for changing the social structures) is to look in vain. Whereas other reformers like Wilberforce, Fry, and Howard tended to concentrate on a single issue, Shaftesbury managed to focus attention on many.
As a committed member of the Church of England, he allied himself with the evangelical party within it. The list of Anglican evangelical societies of which he was president is virtually a complete list of all such societies. He was also a friend of Nonconformists and gladly cooperated with them in the British and Foreign Bible Society, the YMCA, and other ventures. Among clergymen his closest friend was Edward Bickersteth and among laity it was Alexander Haldane, editor of the Record newspaper.
Shaftesbury’s theological commitment was to moderate Calvinism and nondispensational premillennialism. He believed in the restoration of Jews to Palestine and to that end supported the establishment of the Protestant bishopric in Jerusalem in 1841 (a joint venture of Prussian Lutherans and the Church of England). As a strong Protestant he opposed both the Tractarian movement in the English church and the “papal aggression” of 1851 (the establishment of Roman Catholic dioceses in England and Wales). To the joy of historians his diaries have been preserved and are kept in the Palmerston House (Broadlands Archives) in England.TOON”
Toon, P. (1992). Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper. In J. D. Douglas & P. W. Comfort (Eds.), Who’s Who in Christian history (pp. 620–621). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House.
“Doddridge’s moderate Calvinism left considerable room for evangelical outreach in a variety of directions. He founded a school for impoverished students and a county infirmary, and he was an earnest advocate of foreign missions, for ‘the propagation of the gospel … among the distant nations of the heathen world’. He also wrote hymns, among the best known of which are ‘O Happy Day that Fixed my Choice’ and the communion hymn ‘My God, and is Thy Table Spread’.”
Jeffrey, D. L. (2003). Doddridge, Philip. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 188). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“This teaching is capable of perversion and unbalanced advocacy as well as of caricature. In ‘Supralapsarianism’ (before-the-fall-ism), as it arose after ad 1563 (death of Calvin), God’s way of manifesting His grace and justice was to select from hypothetically existing men (men to be created) a certain number to be vessels of mercy, and certain others to be vessels of wrath. In the order of thought of this scheme, election and reprobation precede the purpose to create and to permit the fall. Carried to a logically extreme conclusion, Christ’s death was not ‘for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). Infralapsarianism (below-the-fall-ism) as a more moderate Calvinism, holds, ‘God, with the design to reveal his own glory … determined to create the world; secondly to permit the fall of man; thirdly, to elect from the mass of fallen men a multitude … as vessels of mercy,’ etc.14 There are sentences in Calvin’s Institutes which some have interpreted as Supralapsarian. The Institutes, though revised several times by the author, remained essentially the same in doctrine as in his earliest work. His later comments on Scripture are clearly Infralapsarian and hardly favor the doctrine of limited atonement as stated by its most strident advocates. (See my comments later in Christology.) Calvin did not express himself precisely on this subject because severe controversy about the subject was not raised until he had passed off the scene. Most Protestants, including leading Calvinists, defend Infralapsarianism. (See, for example, A. H. Strong’s citation of Calvin’s comments on 1 John 2:2.)15
Soon a reaction against hyper-Calvinism set in, the chief spokesman being Jacob Arminius (or Hermansen) (ad 1560–1609), a professor at Leyden (Netherlands). He was a very learned man in a very learned age. The English edition of his collected works runs to 1771 pages. The controversy and its issue in the five ‘Arminian articles of Remonstrance’ and the contrary five points of the ‘synod of Dort’ (ad 1619) are beyond our present scope to report.16 It is the teachings and assumptions of Arminius and followers regarding original sin and imputation of guilt for Adam’s sin that interests us at this point.
Arminius did not hesitate to call Pelagianism a ‘heresy’17 and from his very learned and skillful writings enough moderate Calvinism can be extracted that Carl Bangs wrote an article entitled ‘Arminius was a Calvinist’ in Christianity Today magazine and Strong cites Moses Stuart in an article from Biblical Repostory, 1831, saying, it is ‘possible to construct an argument to prove Arminius was not an Arminian.’18”
14 C. Hodge, Systematic Theology II, p. 316.
Calvin’s John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
Institutes John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
Institutes John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 volumes
15 Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 772 and 778.
16 I devote an entire chapter to ‘the Extent of the Atonement’ in Christology.
17 James Arminius, The Works of Arminius II, trans. by James Nichols (Buffalo, NY: Derby, Miller and Orton 1853), p. 379.
18 Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 602.
Culver, R. D. (2005). Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical (p. 388). Ross-shire, UK: Mentor.
“Fuller’s commitment to the Baptist Missionary Society was rooted not only in his missionary theology but also in his deep friendship with Carey. Fuller later compared the sending of Carey to India as his lowering into a deep gold-mine. Fuller and his close friends Sutcliff and Ryland had pledged themselves to ‘hold the ropes’ as long as Carey lived.
However, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation also involved Fuller in much unwanted controversy. Not long after the publication of the book, Fuller was assailed in print by two London High Calvinists, the Baptist pastors William Button and John Martin. While writing a response to Button, Fuller found himself under attack by a representative of the other end of the theological spectrum, namely the General (i.e. Arminian) Baptist Dan Taylor (1738–1816). Later, Fuller was to describe his own theological position, which some dubbed ‘Fullerism’, as ‘strict Calvinism’. He sought to differentiate it from High Calvinism, which was ‘more Calvinistic than Calvin’ and ‘bordering on Antinomianism’, and from moderate Calvinism, which was essentially the theological perspective of the Puritan Richard Baxter (1615–1691) and which Fuller considered as ‘half Arminian’. Fuller reckoned strict Calvinism to be ‘the system of Calvin’.”
Haykin, M. A. G. (2003). Fuller, Andrew. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (p. 243). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“Erickson’s development of the doctrines of salvation, the church, and eschatology is rather standard evangelical fare. However, their integral position within his theology requires at least brief comment.
Erickson’s view of the atonement as penal and substitutionary sets the stage for his understanding of individual salvation and its collective dimensions in the church. Christ’s sacrifice can legitimately be described as propitiatory, for there is no contradiction between God’s love and a wrath that must be appeased for the remission of sins. Since there is nothing that humans have done or can do to persuade God to save them, God’s grace is a necessity. Consistent with his moderate Calvinism, Erickson reiterates that God’s plan, and more specifically salvation, depends upon his prior decision.43 Those who respond are not under necessity to do so, but it is certain that they will, since God makes the offer so appealing.
Erickson’s temporal arrangement in Christian Theology of the aspects of salvation suggests a logical progression, though it may in part be pedagogic. Salvation is initiated through the subjective aspects of effectual calling, conversion, and regeneration, in that order. The objective aspects, including our union with Christ, justification, and adoption continue through sanctification, which aligns our moral condition with our legal status. Finally, since God renders things certain, there is perseverance; though believers could fall away from God, it is sure that they will not.44 Salvation culminates in both moral and physical glorification.”
43 Erickson, Christian Theology, 925. For a lay-level discussion of the doctrine of salvation, see Erickson, Salvation.
44 Erickson, Christian Theology, 992–97. According to Erickson, the warnings, as in Hebrews 6:4–6, that are addressed to genuinely saved people who could theoretically fall away, actually render it certain that they will not.
Hustad, L. A. (1998). Millard J. Erickson. In W. A. Elwell (Ed.), Handbook of Evangelical Theologians (electronic ed., p. 424). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
“Howe was graduated both at Cambridge and at Oxford. It is to be noticed that in that age men who held to Calvinistic doctrine and non-episcopal church government could have the benefit of the English Universities; and that most of the great Puritan divines were graduates, as were Henry Dunster, and others of those who established the civilization and culture of New England. This fact is suggestive, and yet we are warned not to push too far our inferences from it by the cases of Baxter and Bunyan. At Cambridge, Howe was intimate with Cudworth, More, and other famous Platonists, and became a devoted and appreciative student of Plato. He was a great philosophic theologian, and at the same time a very earnest and eloquent preacher. With extraordinary power of intellect he had also remarkable power of imagination. Robert Hall said to a friend: “I have learned far more from John Howe than from any other author I ever read.” Henry Rogers states that in conversation with him Hall once went so far as to say, “as a minister, he had derived more benefit from Howe than from all other divines put together.” This fervid admiration is in part accounted for from the fact that Howe ably wrought out and powerfully stated, as in his treatise on “The Divine Prescience,” precisely that scheme of moderate Calvinism which alone suited Mr. Hall’s mind. But notice that Hall added, to the friend first mentioned: “There is an astonishing magnificence in his conceptions.” Of this “magnificence” no one could better judge than Robert Hall. For two reasons mere cursory readers are in danger of not appreciating Howe’s eloquence. He is so addicted to metaphysical thinking that we often have difficulty in following him, and so are apt to be engrossed with his philosophical theology. The other reason is the ruggedness of his style. Mr. Hall says: “There was, I think, an innate inaptitude in Howe’s mind for discerning minute graces and proprieties, and hence his sentences are often long and cumbersome. Still he was unquestionably the greatest of the Puritan divines.” Both the obscurity and the awkwardness of style must have been partially relieved for his hearers by the delivery. But for us it is necessary in approaching the study of Howe to expect difficulty, and the consequent careful reading will bring us into acquaintance with many of the noblest thoughts the human mind can conceive.”
Broadus, J. A. (1876). Lectures on the history of preaching (pp. 209–211). New York: Sheldon & Company.
“Hammond’s work and reputation led to increased work abroad. Each year he travelled around England on deputation work for the ICM, which he also represented at Keswick. He was an early supporter of the Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society in its revolt against CMS. As a member of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churchmen, he contributed to Evangelicalism (1925), its response to liberal evangelicalism and the wider theological unsettlement of the day. In 1926 he toured Canada and Australia to speak against revision of the Prayer Book. His work among students led naturally to support for the nascent IVF, which invited him on to its theological advisory committee. From this connection came an invitation to write an introductory handbook of doctrine for students. Emphasizing the importance of the mind in the life of faith, In Understanding Be Men (1936) became an evangelical best-seller, passing through five editions over the next fifty years. It was soon followed by similar works on ethics and apologetics, Perfect Freedom (1938) and Reasoning Faith (1943). Neither was as successful as the first, but all three contributed to the post-war intellectual revival of evangelicalism.
Although almost sixty years old, Hammond embarked on a new career when he was appointed principal of Moore College in Sydney late in 1935. At a low ebb when he took over, the college was transformed under his leadership. He worked closely with Archbishop Howard Mowll to pay off a large debt, restore and augment the buildings, and raise academic standards. But his greatest contribution was as teacher and pastor to the students, whose numbers grew markedly, particularly after the Second World War. The moderate Calvinism and strongly objective theology he imparted to these men left a lasting impression on the diocese of Sydney.
In other ways too Hammond was a force in the diocese. Simultaneously with his post at Moore College he held the important city rectorship of St Philip’s, Church Hill. He was a frequent and powerful speaker in the synod, to whose standing committee he was elected. Preferment came quickly: he was made Rural Dean of Balmain (1936), Canon of St Andrew’s Cathedral (1939) and archdeacon without territorial jurisdiction (1949). Notoriously unable to say ‘no’ to invitations, he spoke widely in the parishes. Behind the scenes he was theological adviser to Archbishop Mowll, most notably in dealing with ‘the Memorial’ (a protest by some fifty clergy against the trend towards a strictly conservative evangelical churchmanship in the diocese), and president of the Anglican Church League, which sought to control diocesan elections.”
Treloar, G. R. (2003). Hammond, Thomas Chatterton. In T. Larsen, D. W. Bebbington, M. A. Noll, & S. Carter (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of evangelicals (pp. 286–287). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
“It is, however, for his contributions to *Reformed theology that Ames is principally remembered. Like many of the Reformed theologians of his day, Ames’s principal theological opponents were Roman Catholics and *Arminians (or Remonstrants). Against Roman Catholicism, particularly targeted against one of its leading scholars, he wrote a treatise entitled Bellarmine Disarmed. His volume The Marrow of Theology, first published in Latin in 1623 in Amsterdam, ranks alongside the finest volumes of Reformed theology to be published in the seventeenth century and was held in very high regard by the Reformed scholars of the day. In addition, he wrote Conscience with the power and cases thereof (1630, ET 1639) and numerous shorter works.
It was not only by his publishing, however, that Ames influenced the development of covenant theology. He was also tremendously influential on the next generation of covenant theologians. For example, *Johannes Cocceius (1603–69) was one of Ames’s pupils who, in his own writings on covenant theology, carried forward the work of his master.
Ames was not only a fine theologian but also a godly man. Although a staunch opponent of the Church of England and its ‘ceremonies’, his was a moderate Calvinism which, while holding firm to the tenets of Dort, was conscious of the concerns of his theological opponents and the strengths of their arguments. For example, he regarded the Arminians not as heretics but as brothers who had fallen into serious error.
As to theological method he was, following Perkins, a Ramist (declaring deduction to be the final scientific method). The use of Ramist logic, in contrast to the prevailing *Aristotelianism, gave the Puritans a philosophical basis for their theology which, at the same time, helped to give structure and shape to the theology itself.
Like most of the Puritans, Ames had a great concern for Christian life and character. This emphasis on ‘practical divinity’ shines through all of his writings and is also evident in the ecclesiastical controversies in which he took part.”
McGowan, A. T. B. (2000). Ames, William (1576–1633). In The dictionary of historical theology (p. 12). Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster Press.
“The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism over the doctrine of God the Father centers in the areas of the Father’s sovereignty and his pretemporal election of individuals to salvation. I classify myself as a moderate Calvinist embracing only those doctrines which I believe can be clearly and emphatically defended in Scripture.
Arminianism is the term used to designate those who subscribe to the teaching of James Arminius (1560–1609), a noted professor of theology at the University of Leyden in Holland. His writings show a moderate Calvinism, and he became a central figure in the theological controversy of his day within the Dutch Reformed Church. Followers of Arminius have often misrepresented his view. A good deal of what passes today as Arminianism would hardly be compatible with Arminius’ Declaration of Sentiments delivered to the States General of Holland in 1608.21
A year after Arminius’ death some of his loyal supporters drew up five articles of faith in the form of a protest, called a “Remonstrance.” All five of its points were in opposition to statements in the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism, which stress what later came to be called the five points of Calvinism. Even though our concern here is with the first of the five Arminian points, all of them should be set forth.
I. God elects or reproves on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief. II. Christ died for all men and for every man, although only believers are saved. III. Man is so depraved that divine grace is necessary unto faith or any good deed. IV. This grace may be resisted. V. Whether all who are truly regenerate will certainly persevere in the faith is a point which needs further investigation.22”
21 See The Works of James Arminius, D. D., Vol. I, trans. James Nichols (Buffalo: Derby, Miller, and Orton, 1853).
22 Roger Nicole, “Arminianism,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, ed. Everett F. Harrison (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), p. 64.
Lightner, R. P. (1995). Handbook of evangelical theology: a historical, Biblical, and contemporary survey and review (pp. 59–60). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
“Several features give unusual importance to The Potter’s Freedom for contemporary evangelicalism in general and Southern Baptists in particular. First, the debate involves two effective and passionate Christian apologists who affirm inerrancy without equivocation. Both also have trained themselves to detect error destructive of Christian truth and have active ministries of positive instruction in the faith and debate against error. Second, it has immediate implications for the current turmoil in evangelicalism over Open Theism. Third, these doctrines under discussion reflect the give-and-take of the Southern Baptist theological renewal. Fourth, White presents an argument that corresponds perfectly with the theological concerns of Southern Baptists in the early generations of denominational life.
Geisler’s book prompted the strong response by White in its claim to represent “moderate Calvinism” as opposed to “extreme Calvinism.” Just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so is one man’s “moderate Calvinism” another man’s Arminianism. Along the way of defending his moderate version of Calvinism, Geisler seeks to repudiate every distinctive doctrine of Calvinism and replace it with his own stylized theology. James White could not let this redefinition go unchallenged. Not only, according to White, does Geisler give misleading signals with his nomenclature, he badly misrepresents Calvinistic arguments and argues his own case poorly, employing a number of exegetical and logical fallacies.
In this review, I will summarize the polemical strategy of White, evaluate his arguments and interaction with Geisler, and relate the issue to contemporary Southern Baptist life.
Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free [CBF] warned his readers against a system of thought that he considered a “hideous error, … shocking, … hav[ing] a devastating effect on one’s own salvation, … theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant.” It makes its adherents go through “exegetical contortions.” Geisler names the system that he describes as “extreme Calvinism.” He intends to defend a kinder gentler version of Protestant doctrine that he prefers to call “moderate Calvinism.” [White, 17–19]”
Nettles, T. J. (2001). Review of The Potter’s Freedom: A Defeanse of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free by James R. White. Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 5, 5(1), 90.
“George Bancroft, the historian of the United States, derives the free institutions of America chiefly from Calvinism through the medium of Puritanism. It is certain that, in the colonial period, Calvinism was the most powerful factor in the theology, and religious life of America; but since the close of the eighteenth century, Arminian Methodism fairly divides the field with it and is numerically the strongest denomination in the United States at the present day. The Baptists, who come next in numerical strength, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Dutch and German Reformed rank on the Calvinistic, but the Protestant Episcopalians and Lutherans, predominantly on the Arminian side. The Episcopal Church, however, leaves room for the moderate Calvinism of the Thirty-nine Articles (Art. 17), the high Calvinism of the Lambeth Articles and Irish Articles, and the semi-Catholic tendency of the Prayer-Book. The Lutheran Formula of Concord is Calvinistic in the doctrine of unconditional election of believers and the slavery of the human will, but Arminian in the doctrine of universal atonement and universal vocation, and semi-Catholic in the doctrine of the sacraments (baptismal regeneration and the eucharistic presence).”
Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
“Until the time of Cromwell (1648–1658) Episcopacy and Presbyterianism vied with each other for supremacy in England. Puritanism really began with the reign of James I (1603–1625) and developed into a war on prelacy. The Anglo-Catholics were ardent supporters of the crown, and besides leaned toward Arminiaism. The Long Parliament (1640–1648) finally abolished Episcopacy, only to call the Westminster Assembly in 1642 to give advice on reconstructing the Church of England. The Independents and Erastians withdrew from this assembly, leaving the Presbyterians to hold the field and draw up the well-known Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a creed embodying moderate Calvinism. There were some members of that body, however, who held that God intended to provide salvation for all and that “world” in John 3:16 means the whole human race, according to the teaching of Amyraut and contrary to strict Calvinism.260 Indeed, this Confession went much farther than the Synod of Dort and quite contrary to the teachings of Calvin, Knox and Luther in asserting that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is a positive, moral and perpetual command.261”
260 Fisher, History of Christian Doctrine, p. 360.
261 Ibid., p. 361.
Stearns, M. B. (1948). Protestant Theology since 1700. Bibliotheca Sacra, 105, 185.
“Jonathan Edwards completely misunderstood the Arminian view of the will confusing it with that of Isaac Watt’s moderate Calvinism, and failed to recognize that the Arminians agreed with his own analysis! The only difference between Edwards and Whitby is in the latter’s denial that man is biased toward evil. If the discussion of the will misses the mark hopelessly, the treatment of the justification issue (Chapter 5) does not reach or even approach the target. The Arminian advocacy of rational supernaturalism is well done without clearly distinguishing between it and the Puritan natural theology except for an imprecise reference to the Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit. Wright recognizes, correctly we think, that the acceptance of the monopolistic benevolence of God is crucial to liberal Arminianism (incidentally, he nowhere takes cognizance of a continuing non-liberal orthodox Arminianism) but here, too, he does some injustice to the orthodox view by making its “glory of God” appear to stand over against divine benevolence. “The Salvation of All Men: 1763–1791” may be the most interesting chapter in showing the inevitable tendency of “Arminianism” to this conclusion (as well as the yielding of principle to prudence in the open advocacy of it by such men as Chauncy). It is also sobering to watch the author trace the steady movement of liberalism from an orthodox Christology through Arianism into plain humanism. But Arminian liberals joined forces with the orthodox against the infidelity of Paine and the French Revolution. This delayed their own schism a decade. But come it did with the election of the liberal Henry A. Ware as Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1805. When the controversy was over “Arminianism” had become Unitarianism, an implication which is not here developed.”
BETS 10:4 (Fall 1967) p. 246 (1967). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 10(4), 244–246.
“Christ, the Spirit, and salvation. His Christology reflects a thoroughgoing commitment to Chalcedon with attempts to translate the meaning of Chalcedon for contemporary hearers.51 Erickson is extremely dependent on the fourth gospel in developing his Christology while obviously aware of issues surrounding the contemporary and critical discussion.52 The Christological titles are thoughtfully treated, but their significance is not fully developed.
The work of Christ is treated around the themes of “revealer,” “reconciler” and “ruler.”53 The various models of the atonement receive comprehensive attention, but primacy is given to the penal substitution model. Following his moderate Calvinism he rejects particular redemption in favor of a universal atonement with limited efficacy. The decision accounts for a larger segment of the Biblical witness with less distortion than does the theory of particular redemption.54 Among the most impressive of the Biblical statements for Erickson in this regard is 1 Tim 4:10, which affirms that the living God “is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”55 Apparently the Savior has done something for all persons, though it is less in degree than what he has done for those who believe.56 ”
JETS 32:4 (December 1989) p. 529
51 Ibid., 2. 734–738.
52 M. J. Erickson, “Christology from Above and Christology from Below: A Study of Contrasting Methodologies,” in Perspectives on Evangelical Theology (ed. K. S. Kantzer and S. N. Gundry; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 43-55.
53 Erickson, Christian Theology, 2. 762–769.
54 Ibid., 2.811–823.
55 Ibid., 2. 834–835.
(1989). Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 32(4), 528–529.
“During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Reformed clergy were orthodox in the sense of moderate Calvinism; in the eighteenth century Pietism and the Moravian community exerted a wholesome influence on the revival of spiritual life.2 In the present century about one-half of the clergy have been brought up under the influence of German Rationalism, and preach Christian morality without supernatural dogmas and miracles.
The Protestant movement in the Italian valleys of the Grisons began in the middle of the sixteenth century, but may as well be anticipated here.”
2 On this movement see Munz, Die Bruedergemeinde in Buenden, in “Der Kirclhenfreund,” Basel, Nos. 19–21, 1886. Johann Baptist von Albertini (d. 1831), one of the bishops and hymnists of the Moravians, and a friend of Schleiermacher, descended from a Buenden family.
Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, p. 144). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
“Bullinger faithfully maintained the doctrine and discipline of the Reformed Church against the Roman Catholics and Lutherans with moderation and dignity. He never returned the abuse of fanatics, and when, in 1548, the Interim drove the Lutheran preachers from the Swabian cities, he received them hospitably, even those who had denounced the Reformed doctrines from the pulpit. He represents the German-Swiss type of the Reformed faith in substantial agreement with a moderate Calvinism. He gave a full exposition of his theological views in the Second Helvetic Confession.”
Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, p. 209). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
“JEAN ALPHONSE TURRETIN (1617–1737).
Professor of theology of Geneva and representative of a moderate Calvinism. The most distinguished theologian of his name, also called Turretin the younger, to distinguish him from his father François.
“John Calvin was a man whose memory will be blessed to the latest age (vir benedictae in omne aevum memoriae).… He has by his immense labors instructed and adorned not only the Church of Geneva, but the whole Reformed world, so that not unfrequently all the Reformed Churches are in the gross called after his name.”
Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1910). History of the Christian church (Vol. 8, pp. 276–277). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
“The general features of Systematic Theology by President Chafer make it clear that we have here something entirely different than any previously written theology. For the first time the whole scope of theology is considered from the standpoint of premillennial interpretation. The work is remarkably Biblical. The appeal is constantly to Biblical authority rather than to philosophy, tradition, or creed. There has been proper appreciation of the doctrinal heritage of the Church Fathers and the Protestant Reformers. The work is in no sense iconoclastic. In the treatment of bibliology and theology proper as well as in later discussions President Chafer quotes extensively with approbation from the best theological statements extant. In general a broad and moderate Calvinism is followed in the theology. The work as a whole definitely belongs within the limits of Reformed theology with certain important additions and qualifications. It is however quite distinct from various restatements of Reformed theology. It is a fresh and creative work, a pioneer in a new field, a gathering together in theological system of an interpretation of Biblical doctrines never before treated in this way. It is essentially an exposition and systematization of premillennial and dispensational theology rather than an apology for it. The doctrines which it contains have been preached in various forms by most of the great premillennial Bible teachers of the last fifty years. For the first time these doctrines have been reduced to a written system of theology, related to theological problems, and expanded into all the fields in which revelation has provided teaching. It provides for all who hold the premillennial interpretation of the Scriptures a systematic statement of the content, implications, and relations of their doctrines. For those who would be instructed in what are the proper inclusions of premillennialism it provides an ordered statement of the doctrine as a whole such as has never been provided in one work before. Regardless what theological position may be assumed by the reader, he will find this work definitive in its field”
Walvoord, J. F. (1948). A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Systematic Theology.” Bibliotheca Sacra, 105, 119–120.
“During the nineteenth century a practical theology that emphasized the human role in the salvation process yet retained Calvinistic nomenclature5 emerged. Retaining the priority of divine activity in the salvation process yet also wishing to accommodate the human response-centered evangelistic practices of the day, this new soteriology synthesized elements of Taylorite6 Holiness and Calvinist Keswick soteriology, thus creating a “moderate Calvinism” that would allow the two traditions to merge.7
The quest for the theological legitimacy of this new system found its most successful expression in the theology of Dallas Theological Seminary and its early leaders.8 Seizing on several key passages that seem to place faith before regeneration, this “moderate Calvinist” position proposed an antecedent work of God9 that renders unbelievers capable of exercising faith that leads to regeneration. This idea found limited acceptance in the practice of both Reformed and dispensational churches, but especially in the latter.10
Despite the considerable acceptance this soteriological ordo salutis has enjoyed within dispensationalist fundamentalism, it has not become a key area of study within the movement. The few contemporary sources that do defend the moderate Calvinist ordo have done so largely from outside this tradition,11 and the nature of these works have yielded a defense that is less than thorough and satisfying. Further, traditional Calvinists have regularly disdained the moderate Calvinist option and eschewed rebuttals of it.12 The result is that a systematic analysis of both positions remains unwritten.
5 The term Calvinist conjures up different ideas for different readers. For the purposes of this article the term Calvinist specifically refers to the acceptance of individual, unconditional election, and the term Arminian to the denial of the same.
6 By this term is meant the American branch of Arminianism aggressively propounded by Nathaniel Taylor (1786–1858) as “New School Presbyterianism,” then popularized through the teachings and evangelistic efforts of Asa Mahan and Charles Finney and perpetuated in their school, Oberlin College (see EDT s.v. “Taylor, Nathaniel William,” by W. A. Hoffecker, p. 1168).
7 In a sense “moderate Calvinism” is a poor choice of terms because it has multiple meanings. Many “three- or four-point” Calvinists adopt the term to distinguish themselves from “five-point” Calvinists. Others, like the Dallas school, use the relationship of regeneration and faith within the ordo salutis as the determining factor in defining “moderate” Calvinism (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. [Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948], 3:184–85; Robert Lightner, Sin, the Savior, and Salvation [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1991], pp. 111–12 with p. 154). Still others use the term with extraordinary broadness, including even practical Arminians under this umbrella (Norman Geisler, Chosen but Free [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1999], chap. 7, esp. p. 116). However, no other label has emerged for the position here described, so this article will use the label as defined in this sub-section.
Some would no doubt prefer to see the term “Amyraldian” substituted in place of “moderate Calvinism” in this context (see EDT, s.v. “Amyraldianism,” by Bruce A. Demarest, pp. 53–54, for a brief but helpful discussion of this view). But for three reasons I have declined using this term: (1) very few moderate Calvinists have adopted this label; (2) not all Amyraldians fit squarely into the description here given—Amyraldianism carries other theological “baggage”; and (3) I am not convinced that Amyraldian soteriology is sufficiently distinct from Calvinism to necessitate the forfeiture of the label “Calvinist.”
8 Principally the founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer, who, before founding Dallas Seminary, attended Oberlin College and had an itinerant ministry as an evangelistic preacher and musician, most notably with D. L. Moody.
9 Views on the particularity and efficacy of this antecedent work vary among proponents, though Chafer’s position clearly considered this gracious work as individual and efficacious, in contrast to the Arminian view (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:210–17).
10 Dispensationalism is not a monolithic theological system. Dispensationalism does not claim a peculiar expression of bibliology, theology proper, Christology, anthropology, hamartiology, or, despite objections to the contrary, soteriology: it shares these doctrines in common with other theological systems. However, Dallas Theological Seminary sought a dispensational “corner” on soteriology that won the day in many dispensational and fundamentalist circles. So successful were they in this effort that many critics and proponents of dispensationalism have erroneously assumed that the soteriology espoused by the early Dallas school is essential to dispensationalism. See, for instance David R. Anderson’s explicit agreement with R. C. Sproul in his statement, “Regeneration is one of the crux interpretations which distinguishes Reformed theology from Dispensational theology” (“Regeneration: A Crux Interpretum,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13 [Autumn 2000]: 46–56). With this statement this author most heartily disagrees.
11 The most articulate include Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), pp. 941–59; Gordon R. Lewis & Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987–94), 3:73–107; and Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), pp. 178–91.
12 Robert Reymond’s defense of the traditional Calvinist ordo (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Nelson, 1998], pp. 708–10) is only two pages, as is Wayne Grudem’s (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], pp. 702–4). Other defenses include C. Samuel Storms, Chosen for Life (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), pp. 101–20; James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom (Amittyville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000), pp. 283–325. In addition to being brief, these treatments are usually designed to combat pure Arminianism, not the moderate Calvinism espoused by Erickson, Demarest, and the Dallas School. In his Willing to Believe (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), pp. 189–204, R. C. Sproul comes close when he engages the soteriology of Chafer, but he ultimately fails to identify what distinguishes Chafer soteriologically from an Arminian.
Snoeberger, M. A. (2002). The Logical Priority of Regeneration to Saving Faith in a Theological Ordo Salutis. Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal Volume 7, 7, 50–52.
“This unsatisfactory state of affairs is made worse for those of us who stand in the Calvinistic tradition when we note Geisler’s disposition to retain the label “moderate Calvinism” for his balanced theological identity. This is completely baffling since he utterly repudiates practically everything that historically has been distinctive to classical Calvinism. He rejects four of the five points of classical Calvinism. He redefines predestination so that it ends up devoid of anything distinctively Calvinistic, and he concludes with this broadside to classical Calvinism, declaring it “biblically unfounded, theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient and morally repugnant” (p. 242). Given this rather unflattering assessment, who could possibly want to subscribe to this kind of theology? Geisler acknowledges that what he has dubbed extreme Calvinism amounts to a Who’s Who in the history of Christian theology: Augustine, the Reformers, the post-Reformation scholastics, the Synod of Dort, the vast majority of the English Puritans (William Ames, John Owen, the Westminster Divines), Jonathan Edwards, the Princetonians, Spurgeon, and contemporaries such as the late John Gerstner, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and J. I. Packer. This does not faze Geisler in the slightest. On the contrary, because Geisler declares his allegiance to what he calls eternal security, he insists that he is entitled to call himself a Calvinist. In the course of this review I hope to demonstrate otherwise. Geisler is not a Calvinist.”
RAR 8:4 (Fall 1999) p. 177 (1999). Reformation and Revival, 8(4), 176–177.
“Meanwhile, in New England after 1778, a Free Will Baptist movement challenged the dominant Calvinistic theological views of Baptists of the region. New Hampshire Calvinistic Baptists responded by modifying their views in favor of a moderate Calvinism and issued their Declaration of Faith in 1833. The Free Will Baptists replied the next year with A Treatise on the Faith of the Free Will Baptists. The authors of neither confession thought it important to offer an apology for issuing a confession, neither did they indicate fear lest the confessions take the place of the Scriptures.”
RevExp 76:1 (Winter 1979) p. 25 (1979). Review and Expositor, 76(1), 25.
“As far as the revivals went, therefore, we must conclude that they were not of long duration. What remained of Edwards was the man himself, his many hundreds of sermons in both outline and written form, his books and their defense of a strong Calvinistic theology. His sermons, when read today, are unmoving and the reader may wonder at the excitement they stirred in Northampton. This wonder grows when we realize that although Solomon Stoddard had faithfully prepared the ground for fifty years, his theology was different in application from that of Edwards. Stoddard’s theology was a moderate Calvinism which accepted faith and repentance as an adequate condition of salvation. Edwards rejected this and insisted that even when the condition of faith is met, no person can be sure of salvation unless God pleased it.21 This put God’s sovereignty even above His promises and provoked opposition both in Northampton and beyond. It is despite this, despite his harsh style, despite his solemn and rigid personalty, and despite his emphasis on God’s sovereignty and denigration of human personality that he was amazingly successful in persuading his auditors to change their ways and habits, and succeeded in bringing about such a far-reaching revival.”
21 John H. Gerstner. Steps to Salvation, p. 13.
Evans, W. G. (1967). Jonathan Edwards Puritan Paradox. Bibliotheca Sacra, 124, 56–57.
“Rollin continued by noting that Evangelical offered rigorous education. Machen graciously replied by saying that these reports caused “the deepest concern,” and he assured Rollin that no official representative of Westminster had or would make any such comments. Machen did concede that people had asked him questions concerning the difference between the two seminaries and that he would point out that Evangelical was interdenominational “whereas Westminster Theological Seminary is definitely committed to the Reformed Faith,” and Evangelical was “definitely committed to the premillennial view of the Return of our Lord,” whereas Westminster was not.6 Machen explained that when he spoke about Evangelical, “You would have had the impression that I was speaking of your institution with the utmost possible respect.”7 The exchange ended with Rollin thanking Machen for the letter and the opportunity to clear any false impressions. Rollin concluded by reaffirming his brother’s commitment to Calvinism: “I suppose no seminary in America is more rigidly Calvinistic than we are.”8 He added,
It gives me satisfaction also to note that you are in agreement in the matter of the legitimateness of pointing out the peculiar aims and ideals of our respective schools without casting reflection on the comprehensiveness of the courses and classroom standards. Perhaps the relation of the school to our denomination should be safeguarded from the thought that we are ‘interdenominational’ in the sense that we have a composite theology. We are interdenominational in service only. I suppose no seminary in America is more rigidly Calvinistic than we are. Our largest group of students has always been Presbyterian. The second largest group is Baptist in affiliation. Although we always have a small sprinkling of Methodists, Lutherans, Mennonites, and Episcopalians, they are accepted with the distinct understanding that we teach the theology held by the Premillenarians of the Reformed Faith. Hundreds of prominent Presbyterian ministers of both the U.S.A. and U.S. fellowships have endorsed our work.9
Although Rollin did not refer to Evangelical as a “distinctly a Presbyterian institution” the way his brother did, he still thought of the school as rigidly Calvinistic. Over time that perception would change even on the part of the Chafers, such as when Lewis Sperry admitted in his eight-volume Systematic Theology that his views were a form of “moderate Calvinism” since he did not hold to a limited atonement.10”
6 JGM to RTC, March 16, 1933, MA.
8 RTC to JGM, March 25, 1933, MA.
10 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1947–48) 3:180, cf. 3:179–88.
Nichols, S. J. (2000). Documentation: A Brief Exchange between Lewis Sperry Chafer and J. Gresham Machen. Westminster Theological Journal, 62(2), 282–283.