Thursday, August 31, 2017

Theology--Ought Not to Be Petrified Scripture

"Teeth are needlessly broken over the grit of systematic theology, while souls are famishing. To turn stones into bread was a temptation of our Master; but how many of His servants yield readily to the far worse temptation to turn bread into stone! Go thy way, metaphysical divine, to the stone-yard, and break granite for McAdam, but stand not in the way of loving spirits who would feed the family of God with living bread. The inspired Word is to us spirit and life, and we cannot afford to have it hardened into a huge monolith or a spiritual Stonehenge—sublime but cold, majestic but lifeless; far rather would we have it as our own household book, our bosom companion, the poor man's counsellor and friend." -- From the book Feathers for Arrows; or, Illustrations for Preachers and Teachers, by Charles Spurgeon, pp. 243-244

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Baptist Miscellany

Here are a few Baptist history web pages I've viewed recently:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The principle design of the ordinance of baptism

“The principle design of the ordinance of baptism is to represent the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; the communion of his people have with him in these important facts; and their interest in the blessings thence resulting. Immersion into the water is to represent the death of Christ; while his continuance under water, however short, denotes the burial of Christ, and the lowest degree of humiliation. When, being laid in a sepulchre that was sealed and guarded by the soldiers, he was considered entirely cut off. Immersion out of the water, exhibits an image of his resurrection, or the victory which being dead, he obtained over death; all the things the Apostle intimates. Rom. vi. 3-4. Baptism also represents those benefits, both present & future, which believers obtain in Christ. Among the present benefits the principal is, communion with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and which is consequent upon it; the mortification and burial of our old, and resurrection of our new man, in virtue of the blood and spirit of Christ; for immersion into the water represents the death of the old man or body of sin in such a manner, as shows that he can neither stand in judgment to our condemnation, nor exercise dominion in our bodies, that we should obey his lusts.” Excerpt from Circular Letter, Chestatee Baptist Association, 1840, William Kimzy, moderator; William Martin, clerk

Monday, August 28, 2017

Scriptural View of the Atonement: a Review, of Sorts

Cyrus White, A Scriptural View of the Atonement, Milledgeville, GA: Office of the Statesman & Patriot, 1830. Page references are to the copy I own, a reprint from 2010 by the Georgia Free Will Baptist Historical Society (24 pages; original book was 19 pages). This is a reprint of an original book held at Tarver Library, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. “Due diligence was maintained to reproduce Rev. White’s original work intact including his writing style. Only the size of the lettering was enlarged for ease of reading. A copy of his original work is on file in the Georgia Free Will Baptist Historical Archives.”

Cyrus White was undoubtedly a well-known, popular and effective minister among the Baptists of Georgia. He was, with Jesse Mercer, one of the ministers involved in organizing the General Association in Georgia in 1822 (now the Georgia Baptist Convention). He served as an evangelist of this association. In 1830 Cyrus White made quite a splash among Georgia Baptists when he published his booklet, A Scriptural View of the Atonement. His “scriptural view” was different from the “scriptural view” of the majority of Georgia Baptists. In the “Introduction” (dated December 8, 1829) White gives 3 reasons for issuing this pamphlet: his view had been misrepresented; some orderly church members has been “excluded from their Churches” for believing in a full atonement (as opposed to a limited atonement); and he believed limited atonement was an error with serious consequences – particularly telling sinners no provision was made for them rather than commanding them to “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”

The theme of this book on the view of the atonement is 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. White divides his presentation into two parts: the nature of the atonement and the extent of the atonement. The nature of the atonement – a sacrifice necessary in order for God to pardon, to satisfy God’s justice and render God propitious; and the atonement made not in view of debt, but in view of law, in which Jesus’s death is “considered a full satisfaction of it” -- is a brief presentation to provide the foundation for the bulk of the booklet, which is about the extent of the atonement.

White argues positively and negatively to prove his view of the extent of the atonement. If I mistake not, his preferred terminology for his belief is “full atonement.” In the negative, he argues against what he calls the limited scheme, sometimes investigating the sense of verses when the word “elect” is substituted for the word “world” (e.g. John 3:16, p. 7). In the positive, White presents “a few plain texts of Scripture [that] ought to be thought sufficient” (p. 6) – such as John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 1:29; 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 2:9; and 1 Corinthians 5:14-15.

White’s position is that “JESUS has made full satisfaction to law and justice” (p. 9). He believes that full atonement is implied in the invitations of the Gospel (p. 18). The unjust are subject to Christ in the bodily resurrection and judgment, indicating they are accountable to him (p. 20). “The fullness of the atonement no more depends upon those who receive an application of it, than the fullness of a river depends upon the number of those who drink of its waters. The belief or unbelief of the world effects not the atonement; it is like a river or sea, full, whether they believe it or not” (p. 20). White concludes his booklet with a plea to sinners “to fly to the outstretched arms of a bleeding SAVIOUR” (p. 24). Cyrus White writes with a plain and distinct style, depending on exposition of Scripture as opposed to explaining and defending a systematized theology. Whether or not readers agree with him, they should be able to understand his belief system. It flatly denies a limited “scheme” of the atonement and promotes an unlimited “scheme” (one which I more commonly refer to as “general provision”). It is much easier to follow than Jesse Mercer’s more complicated reply.

Mercer responds to White

Jesse Mercer responded to Cyrus White with a series of letters published under the title Ten Letters Addressed to the Rev. Cyrus White, in Reference to his Scriptural View of the Atonement (Washington, GA: News Office, 1830). His “apology” is dated June 15, 1830 (The first letter is dated May 7, 1830).[i] Mercer says White had “gone to general provision and free-will ability.” Part of Mercer’s reason for writing the response was that some were implicating him as being in agreement with Cyrus White. “ the Ocmulgee Association last fall, [Mercer] was requested to deliver a discourse on the atonement; but he declined...this course was construed, rather into evidence of defection, and soon it was reported, through that section, that he had apostitised from the faith of his denomination, and was, at least, in connection with Cyrus White and B. H. Willson (who were accused of propagating arminian sentiments) and of even being their abettor...’You know brother Mercer, that Willson frequently asserted in the association that he had not departed from the faith—but believed as you did. If this be the truth, then the inference is fair, when we say, you believe as Willson does: and we are well assured here than Willson believes as White does; and White’s faith we have in print.’...On reading Mr. White’s views of the atonement, and finding them far different than he had anticipated, and from what he conceived to be correct; [Mercer] thought it proper to write the following letters, not only to shew that his was not in sentiments with Mr. W. as had been suggested, but also [to show Andrew Fuller had been misrepresented, rlv].”[ii]

In The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, Volume 1  (R. Babcock, Jr. and J. O. Choules, Editors, New York, NY: John R. Bigelow, March 1842 pp. 77-78) those who followed the atonement viewpoint of Cyrus White were dubbed White-ites, “composed of the followers of Rev. Cyrus White, who was once a preacher of some reputation amongst the Baptists of Georgia. He embraced Arminian sentiments...” The author goes on to say, though, “Both parties evidently ran into extremes...The one party, anxious to expose the heresy of the other, would put a construction upon the word which the speaker never designed they should have. The other, too proud to disclaim the uncourteous imputations, would evade them...So it happened with Cyrus White. Had he never been opposed with violence, it is not probable that he ever would have become a schismatic.”[iii]

It has been common, from Mercer to those who follow, to cite Cyrus White as an Arminian.[iv] No doubt the term Arminian is often used as a loose “catch-all” phrase. But according to theological understanding, Cyrus White was no Arminian. While he embraced the “full” or general atonement, which differs from a strict 5-point Calvinism, there is no evidence brought forth of which I am aware that White embraced other Arminian points, such as conditional election or the possibility of falling from grace.[v] In his atonement booklet, White writes, “If I have understood Election, it means the sovereign right of God to choose whom he will...And such is the enormity of the human heart, it will not submit to GOD’s government and grace. All men do most freely, most willingly reject the gospel, and forever will, until the enmity of their heart is slain, and their stubborn wills subdued by sovereign grace. This application of the grace of God is made by him to whom he will; his people are made willing in the day of his power, and this is Election...None will be saved but those to whom an application of the atonement is made.” (p. 22).

In contrast to Mercer and others who follow his view of White’s theology, Peter Lumpkins pointed out to me that there is a similarity of the view to White to the New Divinity views on the atonement of Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Dwight. Jonathan Maxcy, a Baptist minister, “took over the presidency of [the University of South Carolina] in 1804, for the next two decades, he made a powerful impact all over the south with his New Divinity views on the atonement, a general atonement based upon the governmental theory rather than strictly penal substitution and the Owenic pecuniary emphasis upon the traditional ‘commercial transaction’ taught by Gill and explicitly inherited by the Mercers and subsequently most GBA Baptists at the time.”

[i] Since they are letters, I wonder out loud whether Jesse Mercer may have sent these to Cyrus White before they were printed. These were also printed in The Christian Index, August 28, 1830: “We have received a pamphlet of near 50 pages containing ten letters addressed to the Rev. Cyrus White, by the Rev. Jesse Mercer, of Georgia, on the Atonement” (W. T. Brantly, The Columbian Star and Christian Index, 1830). Brantly wrote, “…if brother White chooses to reply…we shall feel bound to print his reply.” I am not aware that White ever replied via the Index.
[ii] Ten Letters, pp. i-ii; Unless I missed it, Andrew Fuller is never mentioned in White’s pamphlet, a transcription of which may be accessed HERE.
[iii] “Origins of Free Will Baptists in Georgia” in The Journal of Baptist Studies (Volume 6, June, 2014), if accurate, indicates a slow movement of the White-ites toward becoming Free Will Baptists. For White himself, it appears his main difference from the larger body of Georgia Baptists was that he held and preached a general provision in which the blessings of salvation are freely offered to all by the gospel.
[iv] By both those who wish to oppose him as an Arminian, and those who wish to embrace him as an Arminian. (Mercer, p. i, mentions Arminian in reference to White’s view.)
[v] Chattahoochee United Baptist Association’s doctrinal abstract, Article 8 states, “8. We believe that Saints will persevere in Grace to the end of their lives.” (Minutes of the Chattahoochee United Baptist Association, 1848, p. 4) thanks for Peter Lumpkins for this information.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Christians Should Be Motivated, 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.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists

Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists are a unique expression of Baptist and Predestianarian doctrine, and much the offspring of the fertile mind of Elder Daniel Parker. Daniel Parker was born April 6, 1781, in Culpeper County, Virginia. He grew up in Georgia, and professed an experience of faith to the Nail’s Creek Baptist Church in Franklin County, Georgia. He baptized by Nail’s Creek in January of 1802 later licensed to preach by them. After moving to Tennessee, he was ordained by the Turnbull Baptist Church in 1806. Daniel and his wife Patsy moved to Crawford County, Illinois in 1817, where he would become well-known as a Baptist preacher.

Elder Daniel Parker organized the Pilgrim Predestinarian Regular Baptist Church in 1833 in Illinois; then they moved to Texas. Pilgrim Church still exists today, near Elkhart, Texas. It no longer holds Parker’s “Two-Seed” doctrine. It is an Absolute Predestinarian Primitive Baptist Church. The Two-Seed doctrine seems pretty esoteric to me – almost like you have to be initiated to understand it. In my opinion, much of this developed after the death of Parker.

As best I can determine, there are only about 4 or 5 churches that currently admit to being “Two-Seeders.” There is Little Hope Church in Jacksboro, Texas, which is in the Trinity River Association with the Otter Creek Church in Putnam County, Indiana. In addition, Valdosta State professor and a Primitive Baptist John G. Crowley, says one may still find Two-Seed doctrines preached by Primitive Baptists in southern Georgia “if one knows where to go and what to listen for.”[i]

Several years ago I read an article (I think it was in The Quarterly Review or Baptist History and Heritage) in which the author wrote that he believed that Parker developed the two-seed theology to try to reconcile why God would elect certain people and leave others out – the answer, to him, was obviously that those others belonged to the devil from the start!

Levi Roberts, a missionary Baptist who opposed Parker’s theology, would write that he knew Parker and “always considered him a good man, possessing a warm heart, a clear head and giant intellect…” (From The Banner and Pioneer, June 5, 1847). Though Parker’s name is eternally tied to “anti-missions,” he was an indefatigable worker who became a preacher, pastor, theologian, author and publisher, as well as a legislator (in Illinois and Texas)[ii] – and planted churches personally in at least three states.

J. M. Carroll declared that Daniel Parker’s ministry “left a mighty impress on East Texas” – whether one was Missionary or Anti-Missionary Baptist. Carroll obviously disagreed with Parker, but was clearly impressed by the missionary work of the anti-missionary preacher, noting “And as a result of these various services, over this large territory, organized, through its own efforts, nine new churches. How many churches in Texas, country or city, can show such a record?” (W. T. Parmer gives 11 rather than 9).

Parker’s best-known writing is A Public Address to the Baptist Society...on the Principle and Practice of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions. A copy of Daniel Parker’s Treatise on the Two Seeds is online HERE.

[i] John G. Crowley, Primitve Baptists of the Wiregrass South: 1815 to Present , Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1998
[ii] In the Republic of Texas he was unable to fulfill his duties, because at the time Texas did not allow ministers to serve in the Legislature and he was refused the seat to which he was elected.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Providence of God

The mighty God, Omniscient One! 
His ways we cannot trace.
He reckons every good begun 
And crowns it with His grace.

Lo! I can see Him in His word—
I will not doubt or fear;
My steps are ordered of the Lord, 
His guiding hand is near.

No trial can my spirit break, 
For God will not forsake;
He will with each temptation make 
A way for my escape.

The future beckons and I bow –
My God removes the care!
Behold, He goes before me now, 
And will my way prepare.

He’s here, and there, and everywhere 
In all the ways I’ve trod.
I’ve never passed beyond the sphere 
Of the providence of God.

Walter Estal Brightwell, Sr. (1893-1957),  1937

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Wyatt Vaughn

The following genealogical information was written by me, and is taken from page 419 of Rusk County History by the Rusk County Historical Commission. I have made a minor edits with updated information.

Wyatt Vaughn came to Texas before the Civil War. Wyatt came from Greene County, Georgia and settled in Rusk County. He had a half-sister, Rebecca Astin. Wyatt bought land in the Stockman League in October of 1854 from Clinton D. Holleman, and again in February 1860 from James King.[i]

Wyatt Vaughn married Eliza Jane Parker while they lived in Georgia. Wyatt was born January 11, 1820, and Eliza was born February 22, 1829, with daughter of William Parker and Eunice Jane Nelson. Rebecca Astin married Edwin S. Parker, a brother of Eliza. In Georgia (Greene County) they were members of Smyrna (now Siloam) Baptist Church and White Plains Baptist Church.

Eight children were born to Wyatt and Eliza: John W., December 1, 1845; Susan E., March 5, 1851; Vincent Thornton, November 10, 1848; Olenza Burma, June 5, 1851 (all in Georgia); and Nancy Jane, February 24, 1854; William Thomas, May 1, 1856; Marshall Lewis, May 24, 1858; and Jabez C., February 26, 1861 (all in Texas).

Wyatt and his son John joined the Texas State Guards (Company B), and both died of typhoid fever at Galveston (March 28 and March 25, 1864, respectively) during the Civil War. Eliza Vaughn died January 8, 1887 and was buried in the Shiloh Cemetery.

The church was the center of interest for many of the Vaughns. The children of Wyatt and Eliza were active members of the Smyrna Baptist Church in the Oak Flat Community. V. T. and M. L. were ministers, and W. T. (called “Bud”) was a deacon. William W. Vaughn, son of V. T.; Benjamin L., son of M. L.; Raymond R. Scruggs, son of Olenza Vaughn Scruggs; and Roe T. Holleman, son of Nancy Jane Vaughn Holleman, were Baptist ministers. John F. Vaughn, son of W. T., was a deacon at Smyrna. M. L. Vaughn had two grandsons who served as deacons at Smyrna and one grandson who was a Baptist preacher (all now deceased). There are also two living great-grandsons and one great-great grandson of M. L. who are Baptist ministers.

John W. is buried at Galveston. Susan E. married Wylie M. Pierce and is believed to be buried at Shiloh Cemetery in an unmarked grave. V. T. Vaughn is buried at Shiloh. Burma, Jane, W. T., M. L., and Jabez are buried at Holleman Cemetery.

At the time this history was written, the oldest living descendant of Wyatt Vaughn was Simeon Levi Vaughn, son of M. L., and the youngest Vaughn descendant was Zechariah, great-great-grandson of M. L. Vaughn. Uncle Levi has since passed away, and others have been born.

[i] “Brother Wiatt Vaun” applied for letters of dismission from White Plains Church for himself and Eliza on November 12, 1852. Since he both bought land and had a daughter born in Texas in 1854, we might guess that they lived with relatives until they were able to purchase land and build a home. Vincent Thornton Vaughn was named after Baptist preacher Vincent Thornton.

Family of Vincent Thornton Vaughn

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The joints of his loins were loosed

About a month ago someone on brought up the Christian Standard Bible translation of Daniel 5:5-6,[i] related to Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall.
Daniel 5:5-6 (CSB) At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together.
The CSB translation indicates that Belshazzar was so scared he soiled his clothing with excrement and/or urine. Many translations lean toward his hips giving out (and falling down) and his knees knocking. On first blush I thought this sounded weird. After reflection I wonder if we haven’t been reading all along a “polite” rendering of this in the KJV.
Daniel 5:5-6 (KJV) In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
Loins in the Bible are the region of bodily function (e.g. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26). I’m not sure that it ever means hips specifically. The actual “joints of the loins” could easily be the sphincters rather than skeletal joints,[ii] and the loss of control of that variety. Losing control of the hips would cause one to fall down. Knees’ knocking is usually a standing up condition. Loss of bowel control seems to fit as well or better with knee knocking than hips giving out.

Perhaps this short diverging path down an odd trail won’t be too offensive. I find it interesting that we may have been reading the idea of Belshazzar losing his bowel control and missing it all along.

[i] Septuagint, v. 6: τότε τοῦ βασιλέως ἡ μορφὴ ἠλλοιώθη, καὶ οἱ διαλογισμοὶ αὐτοῦ συνετάρασσον αὐτόν, καὶ οἱ σύνδεσμοι τῆς ὀσφύος αὐτοῦ διελύοντο, καὶ τὰ γόνατα αὐτοῦ συνεκροτοῦντο.
[ii] the parts of the body between the hips and the lower ribs, especially regarded as the seat of physical strength and generative power, the genital and pubic area. Cf. also Isaiah 45:1.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

10 Reasons, and other reviews

Last Wednesday, I gave some of my impressions of Two Books on the Atonement. Today I am following up with some book reviews of these and other books on the atonement. The posting of book reviews does not constitute endorsement of either the books or book reviews that are linked.

Monday, August 21, 2017

4 Common Myths, 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.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jesus, good above all other

1. Jesus, good above all other,
Gentle Child of gentle mother,
In a stable born our Brother,
Give us grace to persevere.

2. Jesus, cradled in a manger,
For us facing every danger,
Living as a homeless Stranger,
Make we Thee our King most dear.

3. Jesus, for Thy people dying,
Risen Master, death defying,
Lord in Heaven, Thy grace supplying,
Keep us by Thine altar near.

4. Jesus, who our sorrows bearest,
All our thoughts and hopes Thou sharest,
Thou to man the truth declarest;
Help us all Thy truth to hear.

5. Lord, in all our doings guide us;
Pride and hate shall ne’er divide us;
We’ll go on with Thee beside us,
And with joy we’ll persevere!

Written by Percy Dearmer, and published in The English Hymnal (London: Oxford University Press, 1906)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Enemies of enemies aren't necessarily friends

Fighting Nazis doesn’t make ‘antifa’ the good guys by Jonah Goldberg warns us that those who oppose some things we oppose may not be on "our side." Here's an excerpt (read it all):
The antifa crowd has a very similar agenda with regard to American liberalism. These goons and thugs oppose free speech, celebrate violence, despise dissent and have little use for anything else in the American political tradition. But many liberals, particularly in the media, are victims of the same kind of confusion that vexed so much of American liberalism in the 20th century. Because antifa suddenly has the (alt-)right enemies, they must be the good guys. 
They’re not. And that’s why this debate is so toxically stupid. Fine, antifa isn’t as bad as the KKK. Who cares? Since when is being less bad than the Klan a major moral accomplishment?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Amyraldism, Fullerism, or Hypothetical Generalism

The Amyraldian, or Amyraldism, follows the teachings of Moyse Amyraut, who, according to Curt Daniel, “posited that Christ died for all men because of universal grace. Christ died equally for all in order to provide a basis for the universal part of the Covenant of Grace. This provision was universal, but the application was particular and limited to the elect. Amyraut felt that this was the view of Calvin and the early Reformers.” This is also called Hypothetical Universalism (but the general atonement version of Hypothetical Universalism appears to be different from Amyraut’s Hypothetical Universalism, in my opinion). “The theory basically is…two kinds of grace: universal grace for all men and special grace only for the elect. Because of universal grace and the universal aspect of the Covenant of Grace, it is hypothetically possible for the heathen to be saved without hearing the Gospel…in fact none of these have ever been saved because it is only through the Gospel that saving faith is given. Further, God is said to have two wills: a universal conditional will and a particular unconditional will.” 

The view of Andrew Fuller (Fullerism) seems to accord well with Amyraldism (or Amyraldianism) and is often so called. Fuller reasoned that on the one hand, Christ died to atone for all men; and on the other hand, as the Father saw in advance that no one would wish to accept Christ of their own free will, He only guaranteed that certain sinners would follow their inner sense of duty and repent and believe. Christ still died for all men, though His Father restricted salvation to the elect. The thought that “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for only the elect” is part of this system.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Of Statues and Such

With the discussion of the removal of Confederate markers and such a hot topic in the news, I offer the following few links of online stories and opinions that are out there.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Two Books on the Atonement

I recently purchased two books on the Atonement – Atonement in the Apocalypse: an Exposé of the Defeat of Evil by Robert W. Canoy and The Extent of the Atonement: a Historical and Critical Review by David Lewis Allen. Though written on the same broad topic, they are very unalike.

Robert W. Canoy, the author of Atonement in the Apocalypse, is Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at the School of Divinity of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. 

David L. Allen, the author of The Extent of the Atonement, “serves as the Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.”

The Extent of the Atonement

The Extent of the Atonement: a Historical and Critical Review by David Lewis Allen is a very large book of 848 pages that I will probably never sit down and read through, but rather use as a reference work. But it will be a good reference. Brian Abasciano says, “Allen’s tome is now the book to own on the extent of the atonement and the place to turn for support of unlimited atonement and refutation of limited atonement” and Nathan Finn adds that it “is the most extensive treatment of this topic that has been written—certainly by a Baptist.”

David L. Allen, the author of The Extent of the Atonement, “serves as the Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, Director of the Center for Expository Preaching, and holds the George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.”

In this book David Allen makes a case for an atonement that is universal in its extent. He further asserts that universal atonement has been the majority view of Christians throughout all church history. Following the introduction, Allen’s book is divided in three parts: “The Extent of the Atonement in Church History,” from early church to the modern era; “The Extent of the Atonement in the Baptist Tradition,” from the English General and Particular Baptists to Baptists in America and Southern Baptists in particular;[i] “The Extent of the Atonement: a Critical Review,” which is about 110 pages of detailed review of the book From Heaven He Came and Sought Her. I really appreciate the chronological arrangement of historical sections. Since I don’t own From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the last third provides the least interest to me. Allen concludes with “Why Belief in Unlimited Atonement Matters.”

I originally resisted the idea of purchasing the book, considering the topic and cost – but relented when I understood this would be a good historical reference work. Allen sets out with a focus and difficult task, realizing “space prohibits the citations of quotations in full context” he nevertheless “attempted to give enough context where possible to minimize mischaracterization and to maximize objectivity.” He focuses on primary source material which “must be consulted whenever possible...We must objectively listen to historical theology, and the only to do this is to read carefully the primary sources and those who have engaged the primary sources...I will be referencing numerous quotations as evidence of a particular author’s view on the extent of the atonement...I have attempted, where possible, to use quotations only from primary sources.” (p. xvi ) His focus on primary source material yields odd results at times. With Richard Furman he states that Furman changed his view from limited atonement to unlimited atonement with no quotations, merely footnoting a reference to Winds of Doctrines by Wiley W. Richards. On Jesse Mercer, rather than citing Mercer giving his own view of the atonement, he quotes Mercer talking about the views of others regarding the atonement. Nevertheless, over the whole range of the book, there are lots of quotes from primary sources.

While David Allen is scholarly and thorough, he is not without bias, stating, “My ultimate goal in this work is simple: to demonstrate historically, and then biblically and theologically, why universal atonement is a more excellent way...” At times this view may cause him to see some Christians as closer to his viewpoint, while researchers with opposite bias may see them as closer to their viewpoint. Such is life. This also explains his focus on the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement over the limited efficacy of the atonement (that is, some hold both these points in tension and Allen categorizes them on “his side”). In my opinion, this produces a strange conglomeration of a category that embraces everything from 4-point Calvinism to Universal Salvation and all points in between. This nevertheless fits within the overall purpose of Allen’s tome.

With Jeff Johnson I can agree that “regardless of whether we agree or disagree with Allen’s critical conclusions, I believe we will all agree that he has written a valuable book.”

[i] Allen is a Southern Baptist, which explains his focus on the atonement theology in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Atonement in the Apocalypse

Atonement in the Apocalypse: an Exposé of the Defeat of Evil by Robert W. Canoy is a reasonably short and focused work, which narrows the topic of the atonement to its relation to the book of Revelation. It does not deal with the atonement in ways that many typical books on the atonement will – e.g., limited atonement, general atonement, etc.. It only delves lightly into the eschatology of Revelation, in places in might be pertinent to the main topic.

Robert W. Canoy, the author of Atonement in the Apocalypse, is Dean and Professor of Christian Theology at the School of Divinity of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

I was excited when I saw an advertisement for Atonement in the Apocalypse in my inbox. I am interested in this subject, and am not aware of another book that focuses so particularly on it. Canoy's and the book's connections to Smyth & Helwys and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship put a slight damper on the excitement. I knew it would come out of the moderate to liberal field. Because of its particular focus I nevertheless wanted to read it and purchased it. I wasn’t aware of another book like it.[i] This is a topic I wish to explore further and appreciate Canoy’s contribution.

In the beginning Canoy writes on the subject of the atonement and how that fits within the genre of Revelation (Apocalyptic, Prophesy, Epistle). In chapters 2 and 3 he deals with atonement language and metaphors used in Revelation (such as Temple, altar, Lamb, etc.). Chapter 5 might be called the heart of the book, the defeat of the Great Red Dragon as the exposé of evil. In the final chapter Canoy offers theological conclusions with implications for Christian living.
view of atonement?

Danny West says Atonement in the Apocalypse is “written with clarity for both scholars and laypersons in mind.” I believe that is a fair assessment. For example, Canoy’s placement of the Greek text in sentences following the English translation can be read by those who can do so, or simply ignored by those who cannot.[ii] Mitchell Reddish writes, “Canoy’s work in the result of informed exegesis, critical dialogue with other scholars, and theological reflection on the significance of John’s understanding of the redemptive work of God.” To my taste there was far too much interaction with/quoting of other scholars, which to me became tiresome after a point.

My overall assessment is “somewhat disappointing.” The uniqueness of the topic gets the book a recommendation I might not otherwise give. Canoy’s atonement view gets the reader a warning. Be aware. I guess I was naïve and not expecting the so-called “Christus Victor” view of the atonement to be promoted in the book.[iii] This aspect left me confused in the beginning until I realized what he was saying. Be careful. I actually have no problem with “Christus Victor” other than when it is used to deny and substitute for penal and substitutionary aspects of the atonement.

Finally, I was disappointed that this book coming out of the academic field included no index. This is a deficiency that should be corrected in future printings.

[i] There are many things of which I am not aware, so there may be other books, even many, of this genre. Searching around the World Wide Web yields evidence that Loren L. Johns’s chapter on “Atonement and Sacrifice in the Book of Revelation” in The Work of Jesus Christ in Anabaptist Perspective: Essays in Honor of J. Denny Weaver (edited by Alain Epp Weaver and Gerald J. Mast, Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2008) and Weaver’s own The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001) deal with this topic.
[ii] The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition, Michael W. Holmes, editor, Lexham Press, 2011-13