"We are not into particular love or limited atonement. As a matter of fact we consider it heresy."
I appreciate the ministry of Dr. Falwell. I appreciate Liberty University and the pastors who have graduated from that school, many of whom are now serving within the Southern Baptist Convention. I am glad Dr. Falwell has chosen to unite with the Southern Baptist Convention and welcome him as part of our fold. However . . .
I have long been concerned that a group of independent, fundamental Baptists are attempting to remake the Southern Baptist Convention into the mold they perceive is best. One of the ways fundamentalists accomplish their goal is to label anything 'heresy' that is in disagreement with their views. This 'heresy' labeling is attached to even disagreements on secondary and tertiary doctrines, like that of 'the extent of the atonement.'
I believe that if and when the Southern Baptist Convention ever rolls over and acquiesces by agreeing with pronouncements of 'heresy' like that of Dr. Falwell regarding 'limited atonement,' we are finished as a cooperating convention.
When I was eighteen years old I was handed "The Abstract of Systematic Theology" by James Petigru Boyce as a graduation gift. I have now read the book at least five times from cover to cover and make it a personal policy to give a copy to graduates as well. We also have used it as a textbook and study guide for our men's Tuesday morning discipleship class.
James Petigru Boyce was the principle founder of Southern Seminary. He was born January 11, 1827 in Charleston, South Carolina to Mr. and Mrs. Ker Boyce. His father was considered the wealthiest man in South Carolina and Charleston was the most cultured American city in the early 19th Century. J.P. Boyce had the privilege of the finest education available at Charleston College, Brown University (R.I.) and Princeton Seminary (N.J.)
It was while a student at Charleston that Boyce was converted. Dr. Francis Wayland, President of Brown University discipled Boyce during his years at Brown, and the great theologians and teachers Archibald Alexander and Charles Hodge mentored him at Princeton. After graduation in 1851, Boyce was ordained and accepted the call to First Baptist Church, Columbia, South Carolina. He served faithfully until 1855, when he was made professor of Systematic Theology at Furman College. It was at Furman, in 1856, that he gave his famous address 'Three Changes in Theological Institutions' which became the founding structure of Southern Seminary in 1859.
The address set forth three principles on which a seminary would meet the needs of the educated and uneducated man. John Broadus summarized the principles in his book "Memoirs of James P. Boyce" as these:
(1). A Baptist theological school ought not merely to receive college graduates, but men with a less general education, even men having only what is called common English education, offering to every man such opportunities of theological study as he is prepared for and desires.
(2). Besides covering, for those who are prepared, as wide a range of theological study as could be found elsewhere, such an institution ought to offer further and special courses so that the ablest and most aspiring students might make extra-ordinary attainments, preparing them for instruction and original authoriship, helping to make our country less dependent upon foreign scholarship.
(3). There should be prepared an "Abstract of Priciples", or careful statement of theological belief, which every professor in such an institution must sign when inaugurated, so as to guard against the rise of erroneous and injurious instruction in such a seat of sacred learning"
The Abstract of Principles, written by Boyce's friend Basil Manley (notice Boyce's two best friends are John Broadus and Basil Manly -- it's where we get the name Broadman Press), still serves as the doctrinal standard of Southern Seminary and Southeastern Seminary today, preceding the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message by more than half a century.
The Abstract of Principles is Calvinistic. It declares regeneration precedes saving faith. It unequivocally declares the sovereign election of sinners for salvation by God's free grasce. It also emphasizes substitutionary atonement.
John Broadus, fellow founder of Southern Seminary, declared this about his friend James P. Boyce:
"It was a great privilege to be directed by such a teacher in studying that exalted system of Pauline truth which is technically called Calvinism, which compels an earnest student to profound thinking, and when pursued with a combination of systematic thought and fervent experience, makes him at home among the most inspiring and enobling views of God and the universe He made."
Boyce held to the view that the atonement was 'sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect.' I hold to the belief that the atonement is both sufficient and efficient for the elect alone, the same view held by Dr. John Gill and Southern Baptist systematic theologian John L. Dagg, but my appreciation for the writing and ministry of James Boyce is unequivocal.
My point in this post is simply this:
I would never dream of calling an opposing view of the extent of the atonement 'heresy' or cease from cooperating in missions and evangelism from those who don't see atonement the way I do.
It is incumbent upon us as a convention to avoid 'heresy' pronouncements if we are going to continue to grow in our cooperation and missions ministry. I am trusting that the majority of Southern Baptists will see our heritage as a convention in the vein of J.P. Boyce. We welcome Jerry Falwell and those who believe as he does, but we will not let them get by with heresy pronouncements unchallenged.
In His Grace,