Why Do the Baptists Rage?

As Baptists Prepare to Meet, Calvinism Debate Shifts to Heresy Accusation, by Weston Gentry at Christianity Today

A statement by a non-Calvinist faction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has launched infighting within the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, and tensions are expected to escalate Tuesday as church leaders descend on New Orleans…

The May 30 document, ‘A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,’ aims ‘to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation.’ But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.

One sliver of the document’s second article particularly drew their ire. It reads, ‘We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will.’

Even though the two scholars represent opposite ends of the evangelical spectrum on salvation, both made essentially the same allegation: the wording seems, at best, theologically careless and, at worst, represents a heretical understanding of sin, human nature, and the human will.

It appears that the in-fighting over both Calvinism and Arminianism within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—North America’s largest Protestant denomination—has not eased up over the years.

When I left the Convention behind back in 2004 (while attending its flagship seminary), the arguments were not nearly as loud or prominent. In fact, I generally assumed it was more of a “seminary” debate, given that our particular school was one of the more “Calvinist-friendly” havens in the Convention (and also given the fact that most of the people I knew from Southern Baptist churches were not aware of the debates or even what “Calvinism” or “Arminianism” were). Nevertheless, it seems that things have only become more intense and are now at the forefront of Convention-wide discussion and debate.

Putting aside for the moment the doctrinal issues behind both Calvinism and Arminianism (assuming one could peg these movements as anything resembling monolithic), it is worth considering how these debates arise in the first place within a convention like the SBC. Beyond that, in what sense can men like Mohler or Truett charge other convention members with “sounding like” heretics? In fact, what does heresy even mean for Southern Baptists (or for all Protestants, really)?

The Southern Baptist Convention, as a whole, champions the idea of local church autonomy. Their official website states: “The Convention is an alliance of churches working in friendly cooperation under the heading ‘Southern Baptist.'” This “convention” of local churches is a cooperative that exists primarily for the sake of shared resources and a shared vision with regards to the essentials of the Christian message and Gospel. Interestingly enough, they even go so far as to downplay the “denomination” angle by stating, “Technically, the Southern Baptist convention exists for only two days a year, at the annual gathering.” I guess I could technically say that the Orthodox Church only exists for about two hours a week, during the local celebration of the Holy Eucharist (the Divine Liturgy). For me, that sounds a lot more appealing than a convention every summer.

It should also be noted that there is a great deal of dogmatic leeway in the Southern Baptist Convention. Of note, their own website claims explicitly, “not all, or even most, Christians are Southern Baptists. Countless non-Southern Baptists, and indeed, non-Baptists, have received Christ as Savior and Lord.” I would counter this statement by questioning why, therefore, the Convention sends “missionaries” to countries where demographics show to be over 90% Christian (e.g., Romania). They even posit their doctrinal “distinctives” as things “most” Southern Baptists believe. With this looseness, I would imagine most readers or newcomers to both the Southern Baptist Convention and this overall discussion would wonder how or why a term like heresy could ever be justified.

The Southern Baptists do, of course, have a core set of beliefs (their Baptist Faith and Message), which establish the boundaries that one should never cross in one’s local, autonomous church. In other words, there are limits. However, the means by which one interprets and applies these “limits” is simply according to Scripture alone (by their standards), which effectively means nothing, because “owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters” (St. Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium, 2:5).

Given this epistemological chaos, it is no wonder that the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism continues to rear its ugly head in the SBC—as both systems of doctrine are easily argued (and refuted) according to the Protestant standard of “scripture alone” (Sola Scriptura). And if one examines the recent history of the Convention, its stability and “conservative” nature are far from resolute. (The first thing that pops into my head is a certain female professor’s nude, female “crucifix” that she had adorning her office at a certain Southern Baptist seminary just a few years ago.) The so-called “liberal” side of things almost diseased the SBC just as it has ultimately derailed and completely de-Christianized the mainline Protestant denominational groups, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Churches of Christ (just to name a few).

For now, however, the SBC is on relatively conservative ground. When one’s only appeal is to the scriptures, the only true appeal is to consensus and the arguments of individuals—in other words, everything is according to convention. All things considered, the SBC could have far worse things to argue about.

Circling back to the charges of “heresy” or “heretical” teaching, then, I find it difficult to quantify what men like Mohler and Truett actually intend by such accusations—and whether they could really bear any impact on individuals or on the convention as a whole. If the only standard for Protestant (and Southern Baptist) dogma is an appeal to the scriptures (or even their “right understanding”), how can one ever convincingly argue that one doctrine or another is heresy? What Mohler and Truett are both appealing to is a certain understanding of Church history and tradition, and not scripture alone.

For example, the charge of “Semi-Pelagianism”—while being only known by that particular name in recent centuries—is often associated with the rulings of the second Synod of Orange (AD 529). This local council of the Latin West is generally seen in our day as a vindication of both St. Augustine’s debates against Pelagius and the soteriological distinctives of Calvinism. However, even this synod’s conclusions differ markedly from the viewpoints of Calvinists, and especially from men like Mohler. For example, the council (like St. Augustine) emphatically declares both the necessity of infant baptism and the reality of baptism’s efficacious qualities: “According to the catholic faith we also believe that… grace has been received through baptism.”

Furthermore, and in a denial of monergism (and vindication of synergism), the synod continues: “… all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul.” Mohler and other Calvinists would certainly deny any insinuation that man’s labors are essential for the salvation of a person’s soul, not to mention the idea that grace is received through baptism.

In a final death knell to Calvinism—and not a semi-invented “Semi-Pelagianism”—the council also concludes:  “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.” That eliminates most of the “five points” of Calvinism with one, simple statement (tt even drops the “anathema” bomb).

So while even Church history and this local synod disagree with Mohler, Pruett and the other accused “New Calvinists” of the Southern Baptist Convention, I still find it interesting that they would appeal to “the Church” (even if it was just a local council) of the 6th century rather than to scripture alone—which has no mention of a system of theology called “Semi-Pelagianism.” In fact, by its very name, it is associated with an historical person and his doctrinal distinctives (albeit misleadingly so—and really, Pelagius was probably only condemned because of Nestorianism).

Given that the Southern Baptist Convention is merely a convention of autonomous churches, and that the Convention does not “ordain” ministers, what is the point of accusing others of “heresy”?

When the anti-ecclesiology of a “lowest common denominator” faith is the name of the game, there is no room for terms like heresy, because there are no means in place to actually deal with heresy. If the “ministry” of the Convention is determined at the local level, it is up to the local churches to determine who is also not worthy of ministry, for that is where the “keys” reside.

This has to be incredibly frustrating for intelligent men like Mohler, who know quite well that the Southern Baptist Convention was founded not only as a defense of slavery, but also on Calvinist doctrinal distinctives.  While he likely pines for a more robust ecclesiology in times like these—one that could actually put weight behind a technical term like heresy—the facts are simply the facts. The Convention is a loose association of relatively Baptist-style churches (circa 19th century) with local, autonomous authority. If a group of those local churches decides to pen an article condemning his Calvinism, he really can’t do anything about it. He certainly can’t do anything to throw them out of the denomination.

At the end of the day, the word heresy—for those with an anti-ecclesiology (and for most Protestants, really)—is little more than an insult. It carries no weight and it has no ecclesiastical authority or demand to it. Indeed, I think this is why some are offended when they hear members of the Orthodox Church using terms like heterodox or heretic in theological discussions. They assume we mean what they mean by those words—insults. But we actually have specific, technical meanings attached to such terms, and the means by which to address them.

Beyond this, the Southern Baptist Convention is also left without an ability to constitute itself as a “true church” (or association of churches), given the inability to exercise ecclesiastical discipline. I say this, because most Protestants identify “discipline” as a mark of a true church. For example, the Calvinist Belgic Confession states:

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults (emphasis added).

While the above statement is well and good (consistent with Protestant beliefs), it both defies and denies Protestant churches everywhere.

One would be remiss to find examples of excommunication or censuring in a Protestant church these days—and when found, one can typically observe the “excommunicated” person waltzing down the street to the next closest Protestant church for the following Sunday’s worship services. There are no consequences. While some churches will do their due diligence to “research” a new member’s history (transferal letters and so forth), this is rare, especially in the consumerist age of the mega-church, where many members may never have any record in the congregation but simply attend services anonymously as one attends a concert. And even in these cases, what church will flat-out refuse membership to a newcomer? (“Surely the other church just didn’t understand this man/woman,” etc.)

Even by their own, general standards, Protestant churches are incapable of living up to the basic tenets that mark out a “true church.” This situation with the Convention is no different, as it only serves to highlight the impotence of terms like heresy in Protestant denominations.

But to me, the most disturbing thing about this whole situation is the fact that such looseness of association also implies a looseness with regards to the Person of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord is, in His Person, Truth incarnate. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. All that we believe about worship, about ecclesiology, and about salvation are inextricably linked to Christ the Person. There are not multiple Christs and therefore there cannot be multiple “ideas” about what He wants.

When a denomination like the Southern Baptist Convention establishes such loose “guidelines” that only “most” of them believe, they are without any true Canon or Rule at all besides “convention” (i.e., democracy or “mob rule”). This not only leads to debates over things like Calvinism but also implies that there are multiple Christs. But Jesus has only one teaching about worship; He has only one teaching about how we are to have a relationship with Him. If one leaves it open for discussion on such pivotal issues, they are making such essentials of the faith to be merely “ideas” and not about true communion and fellowship with the one, true God, worshiping Him and serving Him according to His will.

While we (as Orthodox) certainly agree that the local church should have a certain amount of prominence and authority, this does not excuse the need for consistency in worship (for example), nor does it allow for a schizophrenic Christ Who is left without any true or coherent will(s) of His own.

The solution for the Southern Baptist Convention in this debate is not the debate of systems or the hurling of empty accusations—it is ecclesiology. And that is something that can only be found in Christ and in His one, true Body. Our hearts and doors are open, should anyone be interested—and you don’t have to worry about a debate over Calvinism and Arminianism.

22 comments:

  1. I’ve always been fascinated by the Calvinist fascination with “semi-Pelagianism” and their use of this phrase, and even their characterization of it, as a “heresy”.

    From the purely semantic point of view, what modifying “Pelagianism” with “semi” does, is say “this is not Pelagianism, it is only somewhat like it”.

    Given how many heresies came down to something as apparently minor and subtle as a single letter in a single word, it has always struck me as deeply disingenuous to refer to someone’s doctrine as “not quite an actual heresy, but I’m going to use a phrase that implies it smacks of heresy as a rhetorical device to dismiss you without actually putting in the work to show where you’re wrong”.

    Which, normally that kind of lousy rhetoric and laziness would simply be par for the course. But if there is one thing Calvinists seem to love doing, it is putting in the work to show you where you’re wrong! (How many times have I heard a Calvinist quote Proverbs 27:17 as a justification for arguing until you’re blue in the face? Too many to count.)

    So, why the back pedal in this most important of cases?

    1. To be fair, semi-Pelagianism is a heresy, not just a “kind-of, sort-of” a heresy, even if it is rather poorly named (as the English historian of doctrine James Bethune-Baker wrote, “Semi-Augustinianism would be just as accurate a designation, and would beg no question.”) and even more poorly understood. As usually employed by Calvinists, semi-Pelagianism is the affirmation of any sort of cooperation at all between a human being and God in conversion, regeneration, justification, or sanctification. For the Calvinist, all of that is effected solely by the irresistible grace of God, and any human cooperation with grace is condemned as “semi-Pelagianism.”

      However, the controversy over St Augustine’s teachings on grace and predestination which took place during roughly the century after Augustine’s death, and which we now call the “semi-Pelagian” controversy, was not about “cooperation with grace” as such, but about the priority of grace as compared with human free will. Both Augustinians and semi-Pelagians agreed, against the Pelagians, that the grace of God is absolutely necessary for our salvation; but semi-Pelagians affirmed, and Augustinians denied, that man is capable of seeking God and thus beginning the process of salvation, before the grace of God is given. The Augustinians taught that the grace of God is necessary even to make a beginning of turning to God, and this grace that calls us to seek out God for our salvation they called prevenient grace.

      The second Council of Orange (so beloved of Calvinists but so thoroughly misunderstood by them) ruled in favour of the Augustinians, affirming the need for prevenient grace but also affirming the need for post-baptismal cooperation with grace and denying (and anathematizing) any notion of predestination to evil. Orange was given Papal approval and was widely accepted in the West. The Eastern Church never (as far as I know) formally accepted Orange, but its core teaching on prevenient grace was affirmed in very similar terms by the anti-Calvinist Synod of Jerusalem (aka the “Confession of Dositheos”) in 1672.

      1. I’ll be more clear:

        The phrase “semi-Pelagian” _as used by Calvinists_ is not an actual heresy but rather merely a smear term used term terminate dialog with anyone that dares to suggest anything other than a strictly Calvinist soteriology. In this sense they have no actual defense of the use of the term aside from “what you’re saying isn’t Calvinist” — which as far as they’re consider _is_ heresy, but which renders the entire line of reasoning circular, purely pejorative and rather ironic given that this is the only topic around which they will even _permit_ an appeal to Patristics, let alone pretend to rely on one, themselves.

        The phrase may have an actual, historic meaning and that meaning may even be an actual heresy — although I’ve never heard a Catholic or Orthodox theologian use the phrase when enumerating heresies, only Calvinists — but that reality is all but tangential to the common, contemporary usage of the phrase.

      2. I’ve never heard a Catholic or Orthodox theologian use the phrase when enumerating heresies

        You’re right, probably because they are tired of being beat about the head and shoulders with the term by Calvinists in just the vague manner that you describe. If it is “an actual heresy,” the heresy is “the doctrine anathematized by 2d Orange.” It’s an official heresy for RCs, at least, since the canons of 2d Orange got the Papal OK.

      3. The second Synod of Orange was a local council, and only carried local authority. It is true that a Patriarch of Rome later received its decisions as authoritative, but that would only carry weight for the Roman See. The East (the Orthodox-Catholic Church) has never received any Canons or decisions of this council, although there are things contained within that we agree with. The Confession of Dositheus was also a local document (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), and has never — to my knowledge — been ecumenically approved or received by the Orthodox-Catholic Church, although it is mostly Orthodox and uncontroversial (albeit, definitely a product of its age). It was a response to Calvinism in general, not a holistic Orthodox “statement of faith” — that’s the Symbol of Faith (the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed).

        My two cents…
        Vincent

      4. I understand where you are coming from. And I agree Orange does teach the proper understanding (a God-initiated synergy). However, I’m still not convinced that semi-Pelagianism is a real thing. Take the current case: the document is clearly worded to maintain congruity with Orange:

        Article 2 – “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

        Article 3 – “We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.”

        Article 8 – “We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.”

        The “response” language is quite prominent. The statement in article 2 specifically denies inherited guilt (a topic not dealt with in Orange at all) and “incapacity” of the will (Orange only deals with “impairment” of the will).

        In short:
        1. I think Orange teaches the Orthodox Faith
        2. The SBC doc is intentionally worded to avoid any conflict with Orange
        3. I sincerely doubt that semi-Pelagianism is anything other than a thinly veiled attempt at a guilt by association fallacy

      5. Please see the comments on this most recent article here: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2012/08/13/the-curious-case-of-st-john-cassian/

        (and read the article)

        According to Fr. Stephen at any rate, the term “semi-Pelagian” is exactly what I said it was originally: a product of Calvinism. That this is retroactively applied to lump other terms and soteriology together doesn’t make it “a heresy” — certainly not a heresy of the Orthodox church at any rate.

        Especially when they use it to lump synergy into the same conceptual heresy as actual Masillianism.

  2. Father, is the seminary you mentioned the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky? Our parish here in Louisville gets plenty of converts from there.

  3. After trudging through all the debris, the real dividing line between the Arminian and Calvinist Baptists at the SBC is “L” – namely Limited Atonement. This is the doctrine which Arminian Baptists cannot abide. For them, it is beyond the pale. It is an outrage to the nature of God Himself. I’m surprised that there has been no public discourse on this teaching at the SBC this year, at least to my knowledge. Oddly enough, the Pyromaniacs, a rapid Calvinist blog, put up a post on Limited Atonement shortly after an entry regarding the Baptist infighting at the SBC. This divergence in belief may be the very catalyst in fragmenting the SBC into two separate organizations or causing this one to dissolve altogether. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

    Baptists must come to terms with Calvinists within their midst. The popularity of hipster Reformed Christianity hasn’t gone away…yet. There are some savvy Arminian Baptists who are aware of Calvinism entering their ranks covertly, but for the most part, it seems Reformed theology has a way of infiltrating Baptist churches unbeknownst to the average congregant. Often, when a Baptist church is interviewing a prospective candidate to the pastorate, they fail to inquire into the interviewee’s beliefs on predestination, reprobation, and free will. Or, it may just be that an agreement is made not to intentionally teach Reformed theology from the pulpit. However, a fully convinced Calvinist eventually will come out of the closet – that is, if he is as convinced as Spurgeon when saying, “I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.

    The Baptists must brace themselves for the inevitable disputes that will arise among them due to Refomed theology. Calvinism is not the sort of theology to which one can waive a blind eye. Rather, It is the sort of theology that requires one to take a stand, for or against it. Willful blindness cannot be employed in this case. One must know what they believe with regard to predestination, reprobation, and free will – or which the Calvinist’s refer to as “Doctines of Grace.” As Father Andrew Damick is apt to say, “Doctrine does matter.

  4. Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ,

    I ask you to consider these points:

    1. When God said that he would preserve his Word, what did he mean?
    Did he mean that he would preserve the original papyrus and parchment upon which his Word was written? If so, then his Word has disappeared as none of the original manuscripts remain.

    Did he mean that he would preserve his word in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek only? He would not preserve his Word when it was translated into all the other languages of the world?

    Or did God mean that he would preserve his Word…the message/the words…the Gospel: the free gift of salvation, and the true doctrines of the Christian Faith? Would God allow his Word/his message to mankind to be so polluted by translation errors that no translation, into any other language from the three original languages, continues to convey his true words?

    2. There IS no translation of the Bible, from the original ancient languages, into any language, anywhere on earth, that translates the Bible as the Baptists/evangelicals believe it should be translated.

    No Bible translation on earth translates Acts 2:38 as, “Repent and believe in Jesus Christ every one of you and you will receive the Holy Ghost. Then be baptized as a public profession of your faith.”

    There is no translation that translates, into any language, Acts 22:16 as, “ And now why tarriest thou? arise, believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Then be baptized.” Not a single translation in the entire world translates that verse in any way remotely resembling the manner in which Baptists believe it should be translated.

    Isn’t that a problem?

    And this verse, I Peter 3:21 as, “Asking Christ into your heart in a spiritual baptism, which water Baptism symbolizes, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”

    And Mark 16:16 as, “He that believes will be saved, and then baptized, but he that does not believe will be condemned.”

    Why would God allow EVERY English translation of the Bible throughout history to be mistranslated or use such confusing language as to suggest that God forgives sins in Baptism? And not only all English translations, ALL translations of the Bible have retained these “mistranslations or confusing wording”.

    Do you honestly believe that God would allow his Word to be so polluted with translation errors that EVERY Bible in the world, if read in its simple, plain interpretation, would tell all the people of the world that God forgives sins in water baptism??

    3. Why is there not one single piece of evidence from the early Christians that indicates that ANYONE in the 800-1,000 years after Christ believed that: Water baptism is ONLY a public profession of faith/act of obedience; sins are NOT forgiven in water baptism? Yes, you will find statements by these early Christians that salvation is by faith, but do Baptists and evangelicals really understand how a sinner obtains saving faith? THAT IS THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION, MY FRIENDS! Does the sinner produce faith by his own free will or does God provide faith and belief as a gift, and if God does provide faith and belief as a free gift, with no strings attached, when exactly does God give it?

    4. Is it possible that: Baptist-like believers, at some point near or after 1,000 AD, were reading the Bible and came across verses that read “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” and “Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved” and established their doctrine of Salvation/Justification first, based on these and similar verses alone, and then, looked at the issue of water baptism, and since the idea that God forgives sins in water baptism doesn’t seem to fit with the verses just mentioned, re-interpreted these verses to fit with their already established doctrine, instead of believing the “baptism verses” literally?

    Is it possible that BOTH groups of verses are literally correct?? If we believe God’s Word literally, he says that he saves/forgives sins when sinners believe/call AND when they are baptized? Why not believe that God can give the free gift of salvation in both situations: when a sinner hears the Gospel and believes and when a sinner is baptized?

    Should we re-interpret God’s plain, simple words just because they don’t seem to make sense to us?

    Dear Baptist/evangelical brothers and sisters, your doctrine is very well thought out and very reasonable…but it is wrong. Do you really believe that God would require an education in ancient Greek or a Greek lexicon to understand what he really wants to say to you? And do you really believe that Baptist “Greek” scholars understand Greek better than the Greeks themselves? If the Greek language, correctly translated, states in the Bible that Baptism is only a public profession of faith as Baptists say, then why do the Greek Orthodox believe that the Greek Bible plainly says, in Greek, that God forgives sins in water baptism? Somebody doesn’t know their Greek!

    Please investigate this critical doctrine further. Do you really want to appear before our Lord in heaven one day and find out that you have been following a false doctrine invented in the sixteenth century by Swiss Ana-baptists?

    God bless you!

    Gary
    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/06/the-early-church-fathers-believed-in.html

      1. According to Kenneth Parry in his book “Depicting the Word: Byzaintine Iconophile Thought in the Eight and Ninth Centuries” (1996), the early church apologist Athenagoras (c. 133 – c. 190 AD) writing in “The Embassy” (2.6-3.1), “In the minds of most Jews and Christians, images were associated with pagan idolatry and it was because Christians lacked statues of their own, that they were accused of atheists of being atheists.” (p. 2.)

        1. Statues are not equal to iconography. And one quotation doesn’t establish a full argument.

          That said, that is not the argument that Athenagoras makes. (Read the whole treatise here or here or here. This is the same text, though the name has been translated differently.) Athenagoras nowhere even mentions Christians having statuary or not having it. And he also never discusses the charge of atheism in connection with statuary.

          He does say that Christians do not worship images (ch. XV), and of course they don’t. We don’t regard any material image as being God or gods.

          Anyway, I don’t have Parry’s book in front of me, but I can read Athenagoras. And if that is what Parry says about Athenagoras in The Embassy, he’s simply wrong. Chapter two of that work doesn’t even mention atheism or statuary, and chapter three’s mention of atheism is nowhere linked with statuary.

          This is pretty terrible scholarship, I must say.

  5. I know this post is old, but I attended Baylor and Truett and the name of the Arminian professor is Roger Olson, not Truett. Truett is the name of the seminary and the man George W. Truett is long passed. Just a friendly correction. 🙂

    P.S. I myself am not a Baptist and I agree with the thrust of the article.

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