The SBJT Forum -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 13:4 (Winter 2009)
Article: The SBJT Forum
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Thomas J. Nettles, Marvin Olasky, David W. Hall, Stephen J. Nichols and Michael Lawrence have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: Of what value is the work of John Calvin to evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular?

Thomas J. Nettles is Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He previously taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Along with numerous journal articles, Dr. Nettles is the author of many books, including his most recent work, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman (P & R, 2009).

Thomas J. Nettles: I count it a privilege to answer this question because it leads to a discussion on the most vital aspects of Christian ministry and preaching. Before stating the important aspects of Calvin’s contribution that should be embraced and implemented with the hopes of creating a purer, more God-honoring church in the present, we must insist on some serious caveats. One major point of disagreement with Calvin comes at the point of his view of baptism. While some evangelicals would affirm Calvin’s understanding, I find it most unevangelical and inconsistent with the thrust of his other powerful insights in the nature of the gospel.

In his Antidote to the Council of Trent, Calvin, in rejecting the sacrament of confirmation asserted “that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed.” He wrote of the “two-fold grace in baptism” in which, for “both remission of sins and regeneration are offered to us.” He affirmed that “full remission is made, but that regeneration is only begun and goes on making progress during the whole of life.” Baptism can be given to infants, he claimed because in the promise of Gen 17:7, “the children of believers, before they were begotten, were adopted by the Lord.” With a confidence unwarranted by its foundation, Calvin assured his readers “that in this promise the Baptism of Infants is included is absolutely certain.” Moreover, not only does the promise warrant baptism, but “the offspring of believers are born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, have been adopted into the covenant o...

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