Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brister -- lack of education?


One might assume that a graduate of a Baptist Theological Seminary would have been at least duly instructed in the most elementary elements of Baptist doctrine such as found in simple catechisms.

However, recent Southern Seminary graduate Timmy Brister, now working with Flounder Tom Ascol as assistant pastor at the church in Florida, seems to have missed instruction about what Baptists -- even those in Sunday School -- know and believe as to Baptist doctrine.

Would you believe it? -- Brister is quoting the Baptist Faith and Message on the new birth, nevertheless says-- "It is clear that (1) regeneration is the work of God brought about by the Holy Spirit that (2) leads one to repentance and faith in Jesus. Therefore, (3) repentance and faith are grace gifts, not an inherent ability within man."

Brister is obviously a product of the type of "Calvinism" taught at Southern Seminary, having a distorted view of "regeneration" which has been promoted by Pedobaptist Reformed writers who have forsaken the Westminster Confession of Faith on Effectual Calling.

The following are excerpts from the BF&M, and a person does not really need to attend a seminary to understand what Baptists believe about repentance and faith in relation to the new birth, in contrast to Brister's remark. No Baptist affirms an "inherent ability within man" is the source of repentance and faith, but every Baptist worthy of the name believes that repentance and faith are necessary constituents in the new birth, and that the new birth is not complete without them.

The Baptist Faith & Message:

"II. God . . . C. God the Holy Spirit The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to UNDERSTAND truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the MOMENT of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. . . . .

IV. Salvation

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation INCLUDES regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby BELIEVERS BECOME new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. . .

V. God's Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends ALL THE MEANS in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."


Nothing in this BF&M indicates that Southern Baptists endorse the Pedobaptist Reformed and Hardshell Baptist theory of "born again before faith."

It is plain that the BF&M statement has "regeneration" as "part of salvation," and it says that "There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."

Therefore, there is "no regeneration" apart from faith, according to the statement of faith.

According to the BF&M, the Holy Spirit in His preliminary influences in the sinner, using His "sword," the Word of God, as His operational intrumentality, brings about conviction of sin, which leads to a change of heart which responds in repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Once that has been accomplished by the power of the Word and Spirit, a sinner has been born again.

When we put this BF&M statement side-by-side with the Pedo-regeneration theory of Shedd, Berkhof, and Sproul, THERE IS NO COMPARISON! These Pedobaptists have BABIES REGENERATED by a "direct operation" of the Spirit without the use of Truth as a "Means," and before the babies are even capable of "understanding" and "believing" in Christ.

The Pedos likewise claim that adults are regenerated the same way -- by a "direct operation" without the necessary use of Truth as the "Means" and before the sinner "understands" and "believes" the Gospel.

Brister -- reflecting the view of the Flounders -- holds to the Pedo-regenerationist theory, not the view in the BF&M and therefore not the Southern Baptist doctrine! Brister, like Tom Ascol, is a "Bapbyterian."

It appears that there are some in the SBC such as the Flounders and some teachers at SBTS who are in effect aspiring to make the Convention a "Hardshell Baptist" organization, and if the BF&M means what the likes of Brister and the Flounders allege, the SBC statement would indeed be affirming the Hardshell and Pedo-regenerationist teaching that "Regeneration precedes faith."

By "regeneration" they mean the NEW BIRTH itself, and their idea is that one is BORN AGAIN BEFORE FAITH is created by the Holy Spirit's blessing on the Word of God as the means of bringing the sinner to faith.

While some few in the past may have broadly used the term "regeneration" to include the pre-faith influences of the Holy Spirit, it is obvious that they never intended to affirm that one is "born again" before faith, but that the initial internal influence of the Holy Spirit was at the most only a preparatory and necessary influence to the creation of the faith which is a constituent element of the new birth (1 John 5:4).

All evangelical Christians -- Arminians or Calvinists alike -- teach that there are pre-faith influences of the Holy Spirit who blesses both the Word and any other Providential "means" to create conviction, concern, and a change of heart and mind in the lost sinner. However, the "Hardshell" Baptists and the Pedo-regenerationists are the only professing Christians to my knowledge who actually teach that such pre-faith influences are evidences that the sinner has already been "born again before faith."

Southern Baptists are correct in opposing this theory as a move away from the Gospel. The theory has proven to have a deadening and even killing effect, and in many cases even tends toward other elements of theological heterodoxy. It is a heresy which helped to split the Baptists in the 1800s and became the theological foundation of anti-missionism and anti-evangelistic activity by a segment of the Baptist denomination.

Creedal Calvinists and less-than-Calvinists alike should take a united stand against this view. This theory is not as great a threat to the numerical life of Pedobaptist churches inasmuch as the vast majority of the Pedobaptist members are baptized as babies and enrolled as church members. But with Baptists, this theory tends to discourage and stifle strong evangelistic efforts, appeals to the lost to come to Christ, and public or open confession of Christ as Saviour, as commanded in Scripture.


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