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Archive for the ‘heresy’ Category

In a recent post I noted the influence of Oneness Pentecostalism at Louisiana College in the recent past (if not the present.)

Until earlier this year I haven’t kept regular tabs on LC other than hearing things here and there.  For several years I had been troubled by what I noted in the second half of my last post but until now I had nothing else specific to go on.  However former LC faculty member of the year, Dr. Scott Culpepper, has now weighed in on the issue of the former Louisiana College instructor who was active in a Oneness Pentecostal ministry while employed by LC.  More importantly, he has also chronicled, in some detail, the “charismatic takeover” of the administration of Louisiana College.  These are facts that I trust most Louisiana Baptists as well as many of the members of the Board of Trustees will perhaps be unfamiliar with and will be uncomfortable with.  I have posted excerpts from Dr. Culpepper’s post below:

I am somewhat perplexed about why people seem so up in arms about an alleged Reformed takeover of Louisiana College that is not happening while they fail to recognize that a Charismatic takeover of the administration of Louisiana College happened long ago. During my time as a faculty member at Louisiana College, I witnessed official administrative endorsement of practices that were clearly charismatic in nature and which most Louisiana Baptists would find objectionable. In fact, I was often uncomfortable as someone from a Baptist background teaching at a Baptist school because much of the spirituality at the top was decidedly not Baptist.

Joe Aguillard often invited a charismatic faith healer named Delores Winder to campus to “prophesy” over the football team and share her spiritual insight with members of the administration. One Vice-President, who had a Native American heritage, told me that Winder commanded her to get rid of some turquoise earrings that were family heirlooms because their Native American origins made her vulnerable to demonic oppression. When Winder arrived on campus, devotees would flock to her side as if Moses had just descended from Sinai. Aguillard kept these meetings quiet because he was very aware that Louisiana Baptists would not approve. Impressionable young football players who had little knowledge of Christianity often got their earliest exposure in the context of these meetings. It should be noted that Louisiana College, like all Southern Baptist schools, firmly insists that faculty sign a statement indicating that they will not promote women taking leadership roles in ministry or “exercising authority over a man.” Mrs. Winder’s pronouncements were almost given the weight of scriptural revelation and there were certainly many men among her devotees.

Delores Winder was not the only “prophet” to dubiously grace the Louisiana College campus. Joe Aguillard employed a personal assistant named Joseph Cole who later departed under a cloud and with an outrageous final payoff. During a chapel service, worship leader Fred Guilbert paused to say openly before the entire student body, “Joseph (Cole) has received a prophecy that God is going to shower abundance down upon our college!” There were often whispers that administrators believed that Cole was endowed with prophetic gifts. He was definitely endowed with an amazing level of power considering that he had no previous experience and no undergraduate degree. Football coach Dennis Dunn joined the pantheon of prophets when he predicted with great confidence at the opening of the new football field in 2008 that the football team would win the conference championship that year as a means of evangelism. This pivotal evangelistic event has yet to happen. Dunn came to Louisiana College from Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, a school with ties to the Duron families’ Shreveport Community Church, which was formerly known as First Assembly of God. Dunn recently replaced Dr. Chuck Quarles, Dean of the Caskey Divinity School, as a chapel speaker this spring. It seems Dunn looked like a safer bet for the administration than Dr. Quarles.

Joe seems newly troubled about the Reformed people serving in the Christian Studies department, but he was blissfully content with a former professor serving as an associate pastor at a local church that embraces a Oneness theology. Oneness Theology is particularly prevalent among some Pentecostal groups. It is an anti-trinitarian theology that rejects the equality of the Son and Spirit with God the Father, resembling the heresies of Docetism and Modalism that troubled the Christian church in the second and third centuries. So accordingly, Kevin McFadden and Ryan Lister are a deadly threat, but anti-trinitarians are our new friends.

I have no issue with persons who observe their charismatic beliefs scripturally and responsibly.  Nor do I have a problem with students and faculty embracing those beliefs at a school like Louisiana College as long as those practices do not conflict with the theological commitments faculty made when they came to Louisiana College.  However, we should all have a problem with an administration at a Baptist school actively promoting practices that are at best on the fringes of Baptist life and even marginalizing those who do not agree with them.  We should all have a problem when that same administration begins to persecute Reformed Christians, who like it or not have been historically in the mainstream of Baptist life, while actively supporting practices that have dubious scriptural support and which have never been part of the mainstream of Baptist life.

Read the rest here.

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As noted here in a couple of previous posts, I am an alumnus of Louisiana College and a native of Alexandria. That being said, with the plethora of other issues on my plate, I had no plans to make any further comment on the situation at LC. However, it has come to my attention that an article has been published in the Baptist Message that reportedly focuses exclusively on Calvinism as being the source of the problems at LC. (One must pay to read the article in full, and I’m not a paying subscriber.)

No doubt Calvinism is a significant issue in the Louisiana Baptist Convention and it was the proximate cause for the latest controversy that has  resulted in LC once again appearing in the headlines of the local media and beyond. That being said, I wonder if those of you who are concerned about a perceived undue Calvinistic influence at LC could answer some questions for me.

As Dr. Aguillard noted in his statement regarding Calvinism and LC, he was chosen in part because he is not a Calvinist. As many of you know, another leading candidate for President at that time is a Calvinist and many on the Board of Trustees at that time did not want to see a strong Calvinistic influence at LC. Why then has Dr. Aguillard (until now) aided and abetted the Calvinistic influence at LC since 2005?  Since the liberals (or “moderates”) left the religion/theology department, (and I had long thought that that needed to happen) I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in which the majority of the full time Biblical Studies faculty have not been Calvinistic. If that is a bit of an overstatement, it certainly seems to me that there has always been a high percentage of Calvinists on the faculty since Dr. Aguillard assumed office and new faculty began to be appointed to fill vacancies in that department. Given their educational background and other factors, everybody knew or should have known that these men were Calvinists. Why is this only now becoming an issue? Are there no non-Calvinist faculty who could have been brought in instead? If a football coach is directed not to bring in certain kinds of players and he repeatedly does it anyway, what should be the result? If LC has indeed become “Geneva on the Red” as some Louisiana Baptists have alleged, who ultimately is to blame for this development?

Moreover, why was a Oneness Pentecostal on the LC faculty for several years? He was not on the religion faculty but he hosted a campus radio program that addressed spiritual topics and thus had a spiritual influence on the students. Getting rid of liberals and replacing them with those who are associated with heretical ministries isn’t quite the kind of change I can believe in. That’s the case for me even if it has only happened once. In addition, the Oneness group Phillips Craig and Dean performed at LC in 2005 (also on Dr. Aguillard’s watch) and ordained Oneness minister Randy Phillips reportedly spoke in chapel.  This cooperation with Oneness Pentecostals calls into question the level of commitment to the stated goal of returning LC to its Biblical and Baptist roots. Would M.E. Dodd or Edwin O. Ware have approved of such? Are we to infer from this that having a faculty member who is affiliated with a non-Trinitarian ministry and who had a spiritual influence on the campus is not seen as a serious issue by Louisiana Baptists?  I can assure you that some impressionable students as well as others will draw that conclusion, sadly.  This too was no secret as the man in question had a regular column in the Town Talk that noted his affiliation with a Pineville congregation that is affiliated with the United Pentecostals. I wonder what other involvement (especially with regard to spiritual influence) these non-evangelicals and non-Trinitarians have had at Louisiana College since 2005. The fact that they are not in the SBC aside, do any of you  believe that Oneness Pentecostal theology and practice is less problematic than that of Calvinistic Baptists?

While a significant Calvinist presence is naturally an issue at Louisiana College in a state where the convention is overwhelmingly non-Calvinist, it seems to me that there are more pressing issues with regard to the core curriculum, infrastructure, accreditation, etc. While the Christian Studies division is of obvious concern to pastors and those with an interest in what kind of religious teaching is going on there, the majority of students are not in that program. For years LC has had a quality nursing program and has also done very well in having students accepted to professional schools such as medical school and law school.  A good many students are likely to leave if the cloud of fear and uncertainty over LC doesn’t clear soon.

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Some wonder today if the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was truly worth it.  One needs to look no further than this article in the Associated Baptist Press for an example of why it was necessary.

HT:  Dr. Thomas White

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According to Bob L. Ross, Spurgeon blamed the Down Grade on Calvinism, or specifically, the “Hybrid Calvinism” that Ross says is taught by Reformed paedobaptists as well as some “Reformed Baptists” and those who are affiliated with Founders Ministries. As will soon become clear, nothing could be further from the truth, unless by “Hybrid Calvinism” Ross means baptismal regeneration. But since the Down Grade was a significant problem among Baptists and there is no evidence that either Calvinism or “Hybrid Calvinism” were the cause, it would seem obvious that there is another explanation.

In March 1887, two articles on the “Down Grade” appeared in the Sword and the Trowel. This marked the beginning of the famous Down Grade controversy that continued until Spurgeon’s death. The issue contained two articles that were issued anonymously which were authored by Robert Shindler, a Baptist pastor who was an associate of Spurgeon’s. They can be found here and here.

Generally, the articles trace the decline of orthodoxy (i.e. the Down Grade) among the dissenters. Now, as Ross notes, the first article does say that the Presbyterians were the first to “get on the downline”. But one searches it in vain to find “hybrid Calvinism” given as a cause. In the 18th Century the English Presbyterians embarked upon a path toward apostasy. This was hastened by their view that “baptized” children were to be regarded as regenerate* and entitled to participate in the Lord’s Supper so long as they were outwardly moral.  There was also a tendency to pay inordinate attention to “classical attainments” as Shindler notes. However, the Presbyterians decline was also due to their defection from Calvinism that eventually led to them embracing various heretical views, as the same article makes clear. Indeed, that theme is repeated several times in both articles. The reasons for the Presbyterians leading the way on the “downline” were attributable primarily to their ecclesiology and to a lesser extent to cultural factors that had nothing to do with why Baptists and other nonconformists eventually did the same by the 19th Century.

For some reason the following passages from the Sword and Trowel Down Grade issue were ignored in the post “The Ignored Spurgeon”:

“The General [i.e. Arminian] Baptists have yet to be noticed. And here we must draw a line hard and sharp between the Old Connexion and the New Connexion. The latter was formed in 1770, and was the result of the heterodoxy of the former. The Old Connexion generally became Arianized, and, with hardly an exception, followed on “the down grade” to Socinianism. A writer of acknowledged repute, writing at the early part of the present century, makes this rather startling statement:—
“Arminianism among the dissenters has, in general, been a cold, dry, and lifeless system, and its effects upon the heart have been commonly weak and spiritless. With the General Baptists, who avowed it to be their creed, this was remarkably the effect, and their congregations did not increase. Besides, from facts too stubborn to be bent, and too numerous to be contradicted, Arminianism has been among them the common road to Arianism and Socinianism. Their ministers and congregations were the first who openly professed these opinions; and their societies have felt the decay which these opinions have uniformly produced.”

“The writer is of opinion that the great majority of those who are sound in the doctrine of inspiration, are more or less Calvinistic in doctrine”

“Perhaps it cannot be contradicted that, in proportion as any sect recedes from Calvinism, their veneration for the Scriptures is diminished The Bible is the Calvinist’s creed.”

“Arminianism has been among them the common road to Arianism and Socinianism”

The article gives examples from the Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists that suppport the idea that generally moving from Calvinism toward Arminianism is often the first step in the Down Grade that eventually leads to heresy if not outright unbelief.

Now, I don’t know that Bro. Ross would necessarily disagree with this concept of a slippery slope from abandoning Calvinism for Arminianism and eventually to unbelief since he says he holds to “creedal Calvinism.” But the idea that a move away from Calvinism is a move away from orthodoxy is objected to strongly by those non Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention who have reveled in Bro. Ross’ attacks on “Hybrid Calvinism.” Indeed, at the recent John 3:16 conference we heard the opposite assertion, that a move toward Calvinism is a move away from the gospel. Ross notes that Spurgeon said that the “great evangelical truths” are far more important than Calvinism vs. Arminianism and that many evangelical Arminians were in agreement with him on the Down Grade. I agree wholeheartedly. But nonetheless the idea that a move toward Arminianism is often the first step on the downgrade was repeated several times in the Down Grade articles, and it was repeated by Spurgeon himself in the Notes from the Downgrade article from April 1887. Spurgeon and Shindler certainly didn’t blame Calvinism for the Down Grade. The following from that article appears to be a good summary of Spurgeon’s views on the matter:

We care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system; but we believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold men to the vital truth, and therefore we are sorry to see any quitting it who have once accepted it. Those who hold the eternal verities of salvation, and yet do not see all that we believe and embrace, are by no means the objects of our opposition. Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith. The present struggle is not a debate upon the question of Calvinism or Arminianism, but of the truth of God versus the inventions of men. All who believe the gospel should unite against that “modern thought” which is its deadly enemy.

Those on both sides of the Calvinism debate would do well to pay heed to these words.

Baptismal regeneration is a worse error than evangelical Arminianism. But very few conservative Presbyterians today are guilty of believing it, certainly not to the extent that the English Presbyterians who followed Doddridge did. This is particularly true of the type of Presbyterians who are involved in things like Together for the Gospel. Now, it is clear that many “Reformed Baptists” would rather fellowship with Presbyterians rather than otherwise sound Baptists who just don’t happen to be 5 pointers. Not for nothing have they sometimes been termed “High Water Presbyterians.” As Spurgeon recognized, there are many things that confessional Presbyterians and Particular Baptists have in common. What separates us was perhaps clearer in Spurgeon’s day than ours since ecclesiology is too often a neglected subject. But it would seem that we’d be better served to refrain from selectively quoting a few statements that have the tendency to give a false impression of a work as a whole, especially given the current situation in which some are looking to blame Calvinism for the perceived ills in the SBC. Further, whether or not someone believes that regeneration precedes faith, the idea that baptized infants are always regenerated in their infancy as Ross appears to suggest in his attacks on “hybrid Calvinism” is clearly not supported by the Presbyterian’s Westminster Confession of Faith, as I believe Ross has noted in the past. Whether we agree with it or not, the idea that regeneration precedes faith really has nothing to do with paedobaptism at all. This is demonstrated by the fact that several of those who Bro. Ross cites in support of his “creedal Calvinist” views were paedobaptists themselves.

In closing, I do want to make clear how thankful we should be for Bro. Ross’ labors in publishing unabridged versions of all of Spurgeon’s works. Through the years he has also published a number of helpful books, including Old Landmarkism and the Baptists which I have recently found to be very helpful.

*The debate on how to view the so called “children of the covenant” (baptized children) has been a long running one among Presbyterians. Few conservative Presbyterians today would agree with the practice of the English Presbyterians that led to “children of the covenant” being admitted to the table without a profession of faith. Those who do believe that children should be admitted to the table without a profession of faith have recently had their views rejected by every conservative Presbyterian denomination of significance.

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