Monday, July 24, 2017

Jesse Mercer and Limited Atonement

I recently noticed a blog poster refer to The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review by David L. Allen. He pointed out that in it Allen said that Jesse Mercer (1760-1841) “himself shifted from his original commitment to limited atonement to the unlimited position.” (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2016). He references Memoir of Elder Jesse Mercer by C. D. Mallary (pp. 290, 297-303). It appears important to "Traditional Southern Baptists" to show that their Baptist heroes moved away from Calvinism and toward "Traditionalism". I nevertheless believe that Dr. Allen is in error. We shouldn’t shade Baptist history for polemic purposes.

Jesse Mercer’s Ten Letters Addressed to the Rev. Cyrus White demonstrate well his allegiance to the doctrines of predestination, unconditional election, and the limited atonement. In a letter of Mercer which David Allen quotes other parts, Jesse Mercer wrote, “But for the sake of those who may not have given themselves the trouble to read heretofore; or who may not have noticed it, I repeat that I have undergone no fundamental change in faith from my forefathers. I believe now, and always preach in perfect accordance with the faith adopted by the Georgia Association, and from her (so far as I am informed) the other associations in the state.” (Memoirs, pp. 200-201) “The faith adopted by the Georgia Association” includes “4th. We believe in the everlasting love of God to his people, and the eternal election of a definite number of the human race, to grace and glory; And that there was a covenant of grace or redemption made between the Father and the Son, before the world began, in which their salvation is secure, and that they in particular are redeemed.” (History of the Georgia Baptist Association, Jesse Mercer, Washington, GA: 1838, p. 30) According to Mallary, the above mentioned letter in which Jesse Mercer claims to have not changed his views was published in the Christian Index in 1836. If so, considering Mercer died in 1841, any changes to his view of the atonement must have occurred in the last five years of his life.

The reference on page 290 Allen gives as proof that Mercer had changed his views must be excluded. It is the only place (as far as I can tell) that uses the phrase “limited atonement” in the Memoirs. It may seem to the casual reader to argue against limited atonement, but Dr. Allen misunderstands the broader context. This is from Mercer’s letter answering Cyrus White, and his objecting to White’s definition and explanation of limited atonement. These letters were written (I think) in 1829 and published in 1830, and then Mercer clearly stood in favor of the limited atonement. For example, “If the doctrine of eternal, person, and unconditional election be a truth, that of a special design of the death of Christ must necessarily follow…The above passages must be allowed to speak only of a part of mankind. This part of mankind must be styled the chosen of God, given of the Father &c. either because of their actually being believers, or because it was foreseen that they would believe, or as we suppose, because God eternally proposed in himself that they should believe and be saved. It cannot be on account of the first; seeing they were chosen before the foundation of the world, and given to Christ prior to their believing in him. It cannot be on account of the second; because, then, what he had done for us must have been according to some good in us, and not according to his own purpose and grace given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began. It would also be contrary to all those scriptures recited above, which represent our being chosen and given of the Father, as the cause of faith and holiness…The above are some of the reasons which induce me to think there was a certain, absolute, and, consequently, limited design to the death in the death of Christ, securing the salvation of all those, and only those, who are finally saved.” (Letters, pp. 15-16.)

The reference in Memoirs on pages 297-303 is from a discourse titled “The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord,” published in the Southern Baptist Preacher in 1839. This may meet the criteria for a time frame for a change of thinking by Mercer on the subject of the atonement. It does seem to move toward Fuller and away from Gill  although in the discourse Mercer says there is only a “mere shade” of difference between Fuller and Gill and that difference “is only speculative” (p. 294). Since Dr. Allen did not check the context of the other quote from Memoirs, I am afraid he also did not check this context. The context of the entire discourse needs to be inspected to make an accurate judgment.

David Allen’s book looks interesting, but the history must be viewed with some degree of skepticism when it is subjected to and presented for polemic purposes.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Spiritual Gifts (in 1 Corinthians 12)

1 Corinthians 12
  • Paul desires the Corinthians know about, not be ignorant of, spiritual gifts. v. 1
  • Expect spiritual gifts to follow the Spirit and focus on the testimony of Jesus Christ, v. 3.
  • Spiritual gifts have their origin in the Godhead, vs. 4-6.
  • Diverse gifts are sovereignly distributed by a sovereign Spirit, vs. 4-11.
  • Diverse gifts are sovereignly distributed for the edification of the church, v. 7.
  • These gifts may be generally divided into two categories, speaking and serving.
Some thoughts gleaned from Pauline Theology: Ministry and Society by E. Earle Ellis

Friday, July 21, 2017

If you adopt, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"If you adopt theories which pare off a portion [of the Bible] here, and deny authority to a passage there, you will at last have no inspiration left..." -- Charles H. Spurgeon

"What you gain church members with is what you keep them with. If you win people with the latest and greatest system you will need to continue to have the latest and greatest system. If you win them with the preaching of the Word you will keep them with the preaching of the Word." -- copied

"I have noticed for some decades that evangelical Christians are adept at adopting worldly fashions ten years after the world has done adopted them, and then doing it worse." -- Douglas Wilson

"If one cannot participate in inter-faith dialogue without weakening the cardinal beliefs of one’s own faith, then what you have is not inter-faith dialogue, but inter-doubt dialogue." -- Bart Barber

"“Directional Theology” means that “What a man believes is taking him somewhere”." -- Tom Fillinger

"All through life be sure you put your feet in the right place, and then stand firm." -- attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Rebecca R. Pomroy

"Hope, for the Christian, is not a's a shot of adrenaline!" -- attributed to Warren Wiersbe

Old age. First you dread it. Then you complain about it. Finally you glory in it.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Baptist Name, Fundamentalism, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Melchizedecan Priest (Philpot)

“We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Hebrews 8:1- 2

Our blessed Lord was to be “a High Priest after the order of Melchizedec.” It will be remembered that Melchizedec met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him (Gen. 14:19). In the same way our great High Priest blesses the seed of Abraham; for “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham;” and as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, they walk in his steps who “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

But Melchizedec the type could only ask God to bless Abraham. He could not himself confer the blessing; but Jesus, the antitype, our great Melchizedec, whose priesthood is “after the power of an endless life,” blesses his people, not by merely asking God to bless them, but by himself showering down blessings upon them, and by communicating to them out of his own fulness every grace which can sanctify as well as save. Even before his incarnation, when he appeared in human form, as if anticipating in appearance that flesh and blood which he should afterwards assume in reality, he had power to bless.

Thus we read that when Jacob wrestled with the angel, which angel was no created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, even the Son of God himself in human shape, he said, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.” And in answer to his wrestling cry we read that “he blessed him there.” Jacob knew that no created angel could bless him. He therefore said, when he had got the blessing, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” To this blessing Jacob afterwards referred when, in blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, he said, “The angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads.”

Thus, also, our gracious Lord, immediately before his ascension to heaven, as if in anticipation of the gifts and graces which he was to send down upon them when exalted to the right hand of the Father, “lifted up his hands and blessed his disciples;” and as if to shew that he would still ever continue to bless them, “he was parted from them and carried up into heaven,” even “while he blessed them,” as if he were blessing them all the way up to heaven, even before he took possession of his mediatorial throne (Luke 24:50, 51).

J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Dangers of, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Remembrance of Sins

"I think those are the sweetest moments in this life, when we have the clearest sense of our own sins, provided the sense of our acceptance in the Beloved is proportionally clear, and we feel the consolations of his love, notwithstanding all our transgressions. When we arrive in glory, unbelief and fear will cease forever: our nearness to God, and communion with him, will be unspeakably beyond what we can now conceive. Therefore the remembrance of our sins will be no abatement of our bliss, but rather the contrary." -- John Newton, in answer to a letter from a friend

Science cannot tell you

"There is a creeping danger of equating science with rationality, but what is beyond science is not necessarily irrational. Science cannot tell us for instance whether a poem or work of literature or a work of art and music is good or beautiful. Science can tell us that if you put strychnine into your grandmother’s tea it will kill her, but science cannot tell you whether it is morally right to do so." -- John Lennox

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On Taxonomies of Music/Worship Philosophies

In a blog post at Religious Affections Ministries Scott Aniol, Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, digs into the topic of “Taxonomies of Music” or “Worship Philosophies” – that is, how to categorize different approaches to church music. In it he first notes three taxonomies that ranged from “quite unhelpful” to “most accurate and helpful.” Following this, Aniol attempts to resolve problems with existing categories, and I think he is on to something. He points out that “various positions on worship/music” cannot accurately “be put on a sliding scale…because text choice, motivation, and musical styles are all quite mixed among positions.”

Because of this, Aniol seeks to classify with “descriptive terms that can be mixed and matched to most correctly describe one’s position on music and worship.” 
“Each person’s philosophy has a governing motivation, text characteristic, and music characteristic.”
  • Evangelism
  • Revivalism
  • Engaging Worship
  • Modest Worship
  • Doctrinally weighty
  • Doctrinally simple
  • Progressive
  • Cautious Progressive
  • Traditional
  • Conservative
“Most of the terms in this classification system are probably self-explanatory, but some may require explanation, mostly under the music category.”
Please read On Taxonomies of Music/Worship Philosophies for the rest of the story.

[Note that Aniol calls this a work in progress.]