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Preserving Civility and Piety within the Baptist General Conference

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March 29, 1999

Dear Fellow BGC Pastor,


This letter reflects our apprehension regarding the “exhaustive foreknowledge” resolution. In February, our churches received in the mail a packet of materials prepared by a group of “concerned Pastors” about a resolution for the annual meeting in June of 1999 in Florida. We as pastors and church leaders are apprehensive about the tone and intent of the action these “concerned Pastors” are taking. Please let us share our perspective with you. Their effort is to encourage the conference to pass a resolution on the “exhaustive foreknowledge” of God and use the resolution as a tool through which all other theological debates are filtered. First, we are troubled that their strategy is an attempt to amend the Affirmation of Faith through a resolution format rather than through the defined amendment process contained in the BGC Constitution. Clearly “exhaustive foreknowledge” is not found in the Affirmation and needs to be dealt with as an amendment.

Second, we are alarmed that this attempt to modify the 1951 Affirmation of Faith through a resolution will redefine a consensus core of beliefs that have held together a denomination and its educational institutions in ways that include persons from the Reformed, Arminian and Evangelical Pietist traditions. It moves the “Affirmation” towards a dangerous “creedalism” that is an anathema to our Baptist heritage.

Third, we are disheartened that a representative group of these Pastors chose not to honor the BGC leadership team’s request by letter (twelve of our district Executive Ministers, the President of the BGC, the executive Vice Presidents and the Chairman of the Board of Overseers) to withdraw the proposed resolution and to engage in a two year theological discussion about the foreknowledge of God issue and its importance. By their action of pressing ahead on this issue and ignoring the counsel of the leadership team they have politicized this issue. (see enclosed letter) Some could accuse us of the same tactic. However, we believe a dissenting viewpoint needs to be given an equal hearing.

Fourth, we are disappointed that these Pastors found unacceptable a report of theologians organized by the President of Bethel who investigated Dr. Boyd’s theological positions and unanimously found them to be within the spectrum of evangelical belief.

Fifth, we are troubled that some of the Pastors have misrepresented Dr. Boyd based solely on his belief of an Open View of the Future (through circulated theological articles) and have failed to acknowledge his ardent defense of Scripture, the trinity, the deity of Christ, salvation by faith, etc., which he expounds in class, in the pulpit in his BGC church, and on secular campuses throughout the Twin Cities. We have included a summary of Dr. Boyd’s position on the Open View of the Future.

Sixth, we believe this resolution, as proposed, raises as many or more questions than it seeks to clarify. Does “exhaustive foreknowledge” mean one has to believe in an extreme Calvinistic view of predestination? Is it helpful to propose a resolution clarifying the 1951 framer’s intention using an argument from silence? Does this new “hermeneutic” determine how one interprets the other sections of the Affirmation? Does a commitment to a specific interpretation of “exhaustive foreknowledge” have additional implications for issues like prayer, missions and theologies of evangelism?

Finally, the current Affirmation of Faith has allowed persons from diverse evangelical theological positions to respect one another and join together in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We fear that some of the framers of the resolution have articulated commitments that could lead to the pulling apart of this coalition. For example, some believe that God’s exhaustive foreknowledge must necessitate one’s belief in God’s predestinarian will (John Piper, “Comments on Trinity and Process”). Some hold that the evangelical Arminian tradition itself is suspect. For example, “Arminians think dangerous things and are on the brink of heresy frequently.” (John Piper in the 1998 Piper/Boyd foreknowledge debate).

We believe, therefore, that a resolution like this needs to be challenged. It has the potential to divide the Conference and unnecessarily divert us from our primary responsibility of building God’s kingdom. We want to maintain and strengthen our commitments to Pietism, evangelism and civility and not jeopardize them. Throughout the history of the BGC four Pietist themes have had the highest priority: 1) redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ; 2) a Bible-centered faith; 3) a desire for holy living; and 4) a commitment to evangelism. Pietists are known for their commitment to the irenic spirit and a prayer-filled life. Our prayer in this dialogue is Eph. 4:3; “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

If you are of a similar mind and heart and want to be part of an effort to either defeat this resolution and/or support the recommendation of the leadership team, please let us hear from you. Our organizing committee needs your input and support. If you respond we want to 1) list you as a supporting leader with your permission; 2) seek your input on issues to address; and 3) encourage you to participate with us in the development of a strategy for the annual meeting in Florida. It is our intent to conduct our analysis of the resolution issues in a spirit of civility and to proclaim as important preserving the Conference’s Baptist pietistic historical tradition. We have enclosed background material for the discussion of the “resolution.”

Thank you for considering our perspectives. We believe the stakes are high and look forward to your input and discussion.

Joyfully a Servant,

Ron Saari
Central Baptist Church
420 N. Roy
St. Paul, MN 55105
Ph: 651-646-2751
Fax: 651-646-0372
E-Mail:  central at

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God’s sovereignty in today’s world

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Theology Today ; Princeton; Apr 1996;
Volume: 53
Issue: 1
Start Page: 15
ISSN: 00405736

Abstract: Pinnock dicusses the sovereignty of God and the many challenges to it. Given the atrocities in the Holocaust and Cambodia, it is difficult to say that God rules over and controls history.

Full Text: © Theology Today Apr 1996

God’s sovereignty in today’s world

by Clark Pinnock


Divine sovereignty is a central theme of Christian worship. We exalt God as our creator and ruler: “The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded in strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from old; you are from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1-2). Islam, Judaism, and Christianity unite in pointing to the glory and rule of God. During periods of renewal, testimony only increases about the greatness of our God. The majesty of God’s rule is deeply biblical. The prophet has a vision of the Lord, seated upon a throne, high and lifted up, his robe filling the temple (Isa. 6:1). Paul praises God as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” who alone “has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15). The elders fall down before God’s throne, saying: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11). We confess in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The God we serve is the Lord, sovereign and free, the adorable mystery that transcends the world and empowers creation. The world’s existence is an expression of God’s purposes, as Paul says: “From him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Everything depends on God-nothing is too hard for God (Jer. 32:17).

St. Theresa of Avila writes: “My sovereign Lord, your power is infinite and you are supremely good and wise. There is no limit to your works which are beyond time and understanding. You are a fathomless ocean of wonders and your beauty encompasses all other forms of beauty, You are strength itself” (The Way of Perfection).

The theme of sovereignty is not universally popular, however. The psalmist declares that the rulers of this world take counsel against the Lord and his anointed, saying: “Let us burst their bonds asunder and cast their cords from us” (Ps. 2:2-3). Even more than in the modern world, there is rebellion against divine transcendent rule. Nietzsche declared God dead, and secularists vow to take no account of any divine reality. Even in the churches, some say God is becoming weightless as people are assigning God to the periphery, creating, in effect, an easy-going deity whose reality is little different from our own. The culture is pressing us to worship a God who will satisfy our needs, not the Lord God almighty. [1] But sovereignty can be a genuine puzzle for faithful people as well. Given our experience of such evils as the Holocaust and Cambodia, how can one say that God rules over and controls history? What divine purpose can be detected in death camps and killing fields? History itself seems to call the sovereignty of God into question and to require us to rethink it.
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