Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Falwell Declares Limited Atonement 'Heresy'

I would have hoped that when Ergun Caner went to teach theology at Liberty University and periodically launched his vitriol against Calvinism, he might have been tempered by the more seasoned and theologically mature Chancellor of Liberty and Senior Pastor of Thomas Road, Dr. Jerry Falwell. But, it seems, the opposite has occurred. This past Friday, Dr. Falwell, in a sermon to prospective students, said:

“We are not into particular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact, we consider it heresy.”
Whoa! Liberty Mountain seems to have gone into full attack mode. Falwell just launched the H-bomb. Is it really heresy to believe that third point of Calvinism? Let’s see, that would mean the church has followed such ‘heretics’ as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Carey, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon and Benjamin Warfield.

Tom Ascol has a great post on his blog [as usual]:

Does Jerry Falwell and Liberty University really judge John Piper to be a heretic? If we take his words seriously, as surely we ought if we are to honor him, then he believes that Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, D. James Kennedy, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, Tom Nettles, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, James White and Fred Malone teach heresy. That certainly is his and Liberty's right to believe. I simply regret that they believe it. I do not regard my universal redemptionist brothers to be heretics because of their views of general atonement. I think they are wrong and they think the same of me. But that does not mean that we have to accuse each other of being heretics.
Humm, this is a good case study in how we use our mouths. I’m particularly interested in this because there’s quite a bit of this same verbal attack on brothers going on in Missouri. It’s just, that in Missouri, it isn’t about Limited Atonement, but issues relating to our former Executive Director.
The author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (yep, another heretic according to the Falwellian Friday edict) wrote about 3 people who attacked a character he called Mr. Valiant-for-Truth, one of which was called ‘Wild-Head.’ Ernie Reisinger wrote a great little paper in which he says:

We have seen Wild-Head in operation many times. Sometimes with his pen in hand. Sometimes behind the pulpit. Sometimes in private conversations or debate. We have seen him rush at the character of some saint who was just not enlightened, whose understanding was not as good as his Christian experience. Will Wild-Head never learn that truth apart from the Spirit will not develop hristian character? Grace and truth must be together. Mercy and truth must be together as they are in Jesus.

In this awful, confused and divided Church today we need great care, wisdom and charity in applying the truth as we have come to see and love it. I mean applying it as to time, manner and method.

What is one safeguard at this point? Not putting asunder what God has joined together. Mercy and truth, Psalm 85:10, 86:15, 89:14; Proverbs 14:22, 16:6, 20:28. Kindness and truth, and truth and love, Ephesians 4:15--"speak the truth in love." Grace and truth, John 1:14, 17--"Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Yes, He was full of "grace and truth." One great safeguard, therefore, is not putting asunder what God has joined together.

We really do need a larger measure of grace these days. If we believe we’re right, can’t be find more graceful ways to say it?

I can think of no more fitting words to this situation than those written by the great-Reformer, Richard Baxter in his Reformed Pastor (caution: Baxter is a heretic according to Falwell’s schema because he, too, believed in Limited Atonement):
How tragic it is that there are those who tear their brothers apart as heretics before they made any effort to understand them. We must learn to understand the basic reasons for controversies, and then reduce them to the point where we see the differences between genuine differences instead of just seeing the prejudices. Then we will refrain from making the differences worse than they really are. Instead of quarreling with our brethren, let us rather cooperate against our real and common adversaries.
Ah, yes, “our real and common adversaries.” We’ve virtually forgotten about those. And while we “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:15), our enemies march on. The theological merits of Calvinism certainly warrant significant discussion, as do a host of other issues such as emerging churches and MBC policies. And they will, no doubt, limit fellowship within the fold. But “heresy” is just too strong.

P.S. I have tremendous respect for the work and ministry of Dr. Falwell.
P.S.S. I’m leaving to look for a mirror…I’ve got a little self-examination to do.


Jim Shaver said...

Falwell's true colors are coming out.

When you have built an empire like his and have your legacy at stake you certainly wouldn't admit you were ever wrong about something like Soteriology.

If he continues to send money to the CP does that make him a hypocrite?

Scott said...

Seems Falwell isn't as much of a Southern Baptist as he wants us to belive. It's a well documented fact that our foundations are built on precious doctrines like limited atonement, and those who wish to distance themselves are merely interlopers in our grand historical denomination.

Pastor John said...

Careful now Rodney:) Today I was told that Mr. Falwell will be speaking at our '08 Evangelism Conference.

micah fries said...


You do well to point this out. I like to consider myself a 4 point Calvinist (if there is such a thing) and as such deny the biblical veracity of Limited Atonement. Even I, however, am cognizant enough of the truth that such theological redwoods such as Edwards, Bunyan, Spurgeon, etc. of yesteryear as well as modern greats such as Dever, Mohler, Sproul, etc. hold to the position. As such I know that I am standing on shaky theological ground to decry as heresy anything that this group cumulatively holds to.

One would think that Falwell would recognize that regardless of the size of his empire it still pales in comparison to the combined greatness of these men. His position seems to be representative of the theological arrogance that is infiltrating the SBC on a variety of levels.

lordodamanor said...

Who are our common enemies? When Luther attacked his own, would that be considered wrong?

I am wondering, in name of Rodney King, is cooperating with those who hate the gospel a good thing?

Anyone who has followed the brewing controversy over this issue, one thing sticks out, that even nice guys like Paige Patterson attack Calvinism as "false doctrine." The question then becomes why should we be surprised that Falwell's camp calls it by that name.

When it came down to picking sides Luther would not compromise his declarations and refused the invitation of collegues to join with the likes of Erasmus in cooperating. The ecumenical movement has far advanced the Hegelian idealism of Schaff whose aim was the reunification of the Catholic churches, meaning its estranged children, the protestants. Schaff began a trained Calvinist and drifted into German idealism. The result was a critical view of the extent of the atonement and of the doctrines espoused by Luther on the bondage of the will. We should not be surprised that today we see the reaction to the reemergence of Reformed doctrines as a threat to the advancement of ecumenism being less than friendly. While we must maintain a cordial openess to dialogue, we also need the "scatological" mouth of people like Luther. His response to the threatening anathemas of the Roman Church was to return volleys of like kind mingled with well reasoned exegesis of Scripture.

There are those out there who are fighting all their strength in a diligent, patient and long-suffering fashion. And kindness and gentleness go along way with those who are themselves rationally kind. The admonitions of Paul to Timothy did not end there, however. He admonished his young protege' to rebuke strongly those who bring in damnable heresy. The only thing that remains is to discover, what is heresy. And, if it does not matter which doctrine is taught because we do not believe that it really matters what one believes, then why even get upset at people like Falwell?

benseventeen said...

Amen... great post. I couldn't believe Falwell said that.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised, considering the fact that he appoints men like Ergun Caner to be President of the seminary.