Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Disturbing News from My Alma Mater

I discovered a conference at my alma mater, Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, on Founders Ministry website(http://www.founders.org/blog/2008/09/concerns-about-challenge-of-calvinism.html) and sent the following letter to the president in response.

Dear Dr. Donnie Fox,

I am a 2005 graduate of Clear Creek. I became concerned when I recently saw an article in the Western Recorder advertising a conference at Clear Creek entitled: The Challenge of Calvinism. A conference to address the problem of Calvinism.

I have been disturbed since my time at CCBBC at its response to Calvinism. When I came to CCBBC in 2000, I had no idea what Calvinism was, but I was shortly introduced to the beliefs of Calvinism. However, for most of my time at CCBBC, I was not a Calvinist. I was still bothered at how Clear Creek responded to Calvinism (the firing of Dr. Castleton, especially and falsely accusing Calvinist students of proselytizing). My feeling at the time was that rather than attacking Calvinists as the enemy we should embrace them as fellow believers with whom we disagree.

In my experience, the students of CCBBC were ignorant of Calvinism; consequently, the rejection of it was a rejection of the caricature and not the actual theology. Because of the schools response to Calvinism, students remain ignorant of both Calvinism and Arminianism; therefore, they cannot adequately wrestle with the challenges of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will. I feel a conference that would facilitate a dialogue between Calvinism and Arminianism would better benefit students. Rather than, a one sided diatribe against Calvinism.

Clear Creek’s reaction is also bothersome because it is denial of its confession of faith: the New Hampshire Confession. According to Lumpkin (this is the book I used for Baptist Doctrine class at CCBBC), “The New Hampshire confession…sought to restate its Calvinism in very moderate tones.”[1] The New Hampshire Confession asserts both monergistic regeneration and unconditional election, which as far as I know no professor at CCBBC affirms even though they sign this statement of faith when hired. In addition, it is my understanding that at least some of the founders of CCBBC were Calvinists.

Why is CCBBC so concerned that some of its students or faculty might embrace the doctrines that brought about the Protestant Reformation? Would CCBBC have a conference to keep these men from being pastors and missionaries: Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, BH Carroll, John Broadus, James P. Boyce, and WA Criswell all of whom claimed to be Calvinists?

My problem really is not that CCBBC is not Calvinistic as much as its hostility towards those who are. It is a sad day when my alma mater is holding conferences condemning the beliefs I hold dear.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church


[1] Lumpkin, William L. Baptist Confessions of Faith (Judson 1969) pg. 360

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good job, Jeremy. I hope that your letter is read and taken seriously by some of the administration. Well done!

Jeff

Rev. said...

Jeremy:
Thanks for writing to the president. May the Lord bless you as you continue to serve Him.

billhaynes said...

Jeremy, very good, respectful letter to President Fox. I minister here in KY . . . faced the wrath of many Clear Creek supporters because of my theological convictions, even though my preaching was only expository and no "hobby horses" in the stable. I plan to attend the conference just to count the number of straw men built up in order to tear down.

Bill

davidtjordan said...

Jeremy,
I'll pray that God will illuminate the minds of those in attendance to the smoke screen that is the "Anti-Calvinist" movement. A very simple and quick read of scripture is enough for anyone to see that it (scripture) alone is the basis for Reformed thought. My prayer is that by attempting to dissuade, the hosts and faculty of the conference will actually put the attendees on the track to truth!

~David

p.s. : for an example of a pastor here in TN that has NO CLUE what Reformed thought entails, check out my blog post from 9/24. You can click the links, but he has 95 Theses he's managed to scrape up and most don't even make sense on a basic theological level. Poor guy. I tried to be gentle.

paulharris said...

Jeremy

I see that you were as disturbed at the clear creek conference as I was.
I am also a clear creek graduate (sad to say). But I must give some credit to clear creek for my calvinistic stance because of their lack of scriptural knowledge and their lack of concern for the truth of the scripture.
I'm glad that you wrote to Donnie Fox; but do you really believe that the letter will be shared or even read with any concern?
You know as well as I do that the school talks out of both sides of it's mouth without any Holy Spirit guiding them...
For example: clear creek teaches that if we are calvinist then we cannot believe in missions; while at the same time they use John Pipers book "Let the Nations be Glad"...John Piper being a confessed "7" point calvinist...

To quote a former professor of clear creek he said "he believed that God had removed His hand from the school and has turned them over to a depraved mind...
Another former professor said that he believed the clear creek was going to hell in a hand basket...
And with this latest ploy by the school to once again denounce the Sovereignty of God; I tend to agree with these professors and would say with them clear creek is on it's way to a devils hell along with it's other pelagian friends!!!!!

Your brother in Christ
Paul Harris

Malcolm said...

Jeremy:
Dr. Fox did share your letter and I see now that you have shared it with the world. I have two comments and one request.
1. Dr. Castlen was not fired and it is a disservice to him to say that he was. His understanding of the New Hampshire Confession did not agree with the college and he did what a person of integrity should do- move on. I can't teach at certain schools because of my doctrinal stance and that is the way it is in higher education.
2. We do not consider Calvinists as enemies. We use books by Piper and other Calvinists and students who hold to Calvinism still speak in Chapel during their senior year. Your caricature is dishonest and adds to the problems facing the Southern Baptist Convention. Misinformation and misrepresenting the facts are part of the reason we feel the need to speak up about the challenge of Calvinism.
Now, my request. Will you respond online and tell me exactly where you think the New Hampshire Confession teaches monergism and unconditional election?

Both you and Paul Harris need to go to the Founders website and read Tom Ascol's blog "If you must engage in controversy."

M. Hester
Academic Dean Clear Creek Baptist Bible College

paulharris said...

M. Hester

I did go and read the blog from the founders web site and agree whole heartedly that sometimes when God reveals the sovereign God to you, you really have the tendency to want everybody to agree with you...after all no one likes rejection.

And I admit that when I heard of clear creeks conference I perhaps spoke from anger...(however I believe the truth).

As far as clear creek considering calvinists as enemies I was told at clear creek from a former professor that he believed that calvinism was and is a cult and that anyone that held to calvinism would indeed go to hell.
Another thing that concerns me about clear creek is when I was a student there I did not feel the freedom to discuss certain Scriptures because I was labeled a calvinist.
When I first started at clear creek I had never heard of calvinism; but when I began to ask questions about certain Scriptures of the Bible; I was immediently labeled a calvinist by a former professor.
So I give clear creek some credit for my calvinistic views because they ignored my questions by either giving a smoke screen by labeling me or simply not answering my questions at all.
So I began to enquire from the internet from Theologians such as John MacArthur, John Piper, R>C> Sproul and others because they were the only ones I ci=ould find that would give true Biblical answers to my questions.

And I also agree with Jeremy that I don't necessarily want clear creek to be a calvinist school; but would ask that the school would welcome open discussion and as for the conference; to just speak against the calvinist without allowing the calvinist to defend themselves is indeed to indoctrinate the students.
And I feel that by clear creek doing this they are indeed calling the calvinist the enemy.

Paul Harris

dustinbenge said...

Jeremy,

Thank you so much for the stand you are taking for the truth of God's Word. I have also sent a letter to President Fox and thought I would post it on your site. You will also see it on my site: www.pastorandpeople.wordpress.com

May the Lord continue to bless you!
Dustin Benge

Alumnus CCBBC 2003

Dear President Fox,

Upon entering Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in 1999 it was my sincere hope to receive a theological and biblical education unparalleled in training experience for future ministry. Some of the happiest times of my life were spent at Clear Creek. During my four years in the shadow of Pine Mountain I developed lifetime friendships, priceless mentorships, and a biblical framework that gave me an advantage for future education and ministry.

Clear Creek also forced me to ask hard questions in regards to theological truths that were not taught, unclear, and in many cases forbidden in the classroom. Before my graduation in 2003 I began to witness a decline in biblical conviction and doctrinal commitment among the professors and administrators of this institution. The biblical text was pushed aside and dismissed which soon introduced error in the classroom. Sound historical and systematic theology was replaced with the heresy of open-theism, the sovereignty of God was replaced with a man-centered Pelagianism, and anyone asking hard biblical questions about the Doctrines of Grace were labeled as enemies of the gospel. Students were reprimanded and disciplined for asking doctrinal, theological, and biblical questions on subjects discussed throughout church history.

As an alumnus of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, I have become increasingly disappointed in a school that once was a light for the gospel in the church, the community, and the world. It is easy to be caught in the net of doctrinal compromise while continually maintaining a Christian fa├žade. Perhaps, if I had been in leadership during this decline I would have done far worse and even brought reproach upon the name of Christ; for which we can be thankful has not been done. It is not my intention to harbor ill toward Clear Creek but voice legitimate and loving concern for the dire situation at hand.

I am quite disturbed at the prospect of the upcoming conference to be held at Clear Creek October 4, 2008 entitled, “Meeting the Calvinistic Challenge.” When any theological doctrine is presented and debate begins it should be done in the utmost Christian graciousness and charity. It would be my sincere hope that both sides of the Calvinistic issue would be presented and edifying debate and conversation take place around its biblical parameters. However, this hope will not be realized when the Clear Creek campus and community assembles to discuss this issue. As is evidenced by the topics that will be discussed, the conversation will be very one-sided, and in many ways misleading. I can call this conference nothing more than doctrinal irresponsibility. The fire-storm this conference will cause in surrounding churches will be unquenchable as pastors and people alike take the “word” of Clear Creek over and above the Word of God. The consequences from such doctrinal error will bring more division, not Christian unity.

Clear Creek has become so consumed with purging the world of Calvinism that they have become historically blind to the history of Calvinism in the very organizations by which they were founded. The issue is no longer Calvinism but the issue has now become doctrinal correctness, biblical commitment, and theological soundness; of which Clear Creek lacks. I urge you President Fox, professors, administrators, trustees, and students to consider the implications of such a conference and the lack of historical commitment it will contain. It is therefore my sincere prayer that God’s glory would be revealed in such a way that when we view ourselves in the contrast of His holiness that we would proclaim with the prophet Isaiah, “Woe is me” (Is 6.5).

I pray that you will see and savor the sovereignty of our glorious Maker and Redeemer,

Dustin Benge
Alumni 2003

Anonymous said...

As a new student to Clear Creek I have been in discussion with several professors and leaders about the upcoming conference. I would just like to drop a little reminder about the conference at Ridgecrest, in which calvinism was promoted, no opportunity was given to the anti-calvinism movement. After spending time with the administration and Clear Creek faculy I can say this for sure they are walking in step with the one and only God. The staff at CCBBC do not teach down calvinism, one professor went as far as saying "We could lock the opposing sides in a room for 3 days and they would still come out thinking the same way." The whole point to this statement is simple, STOP ARGUEING and do as Christ ask in the Great Commission.

God Bless Dr. Fox and CCBBC

dustinbenge said...

I thought you might be interested to know "Anonymous" that the conference held at Ridgecrest addressed both sides of the issue. According to a Baptist Press article, "Each subject will have at least two speakers addressing differing perspectives and at least one panel discussion will be held." You might also notice that many of the speakers are not Calvinists but represent both sides of the issue. I did not notice a panel discussion or Q and A on the Clear Creek agenda.

The Baptist Press article continues, "We intend to follow the example of those who have gone before us by rediscovering the spiritual vitality that comes from humble, honest theological dialogue," Ascol said. "We have a significant lineup of excellent theologians who represent what Scripture means when it says iron sharpens iron. This conference is an opportunity for Southern Baptists to experience the kind of theological sharpening that takes place when brothers and sisters come together to learn from one another and to challenge each other to follow our Savior more faithfully."

The conference at Ridgecrest was not one-sided but represented theologically and biblically both sides of the issue for proper Christian dialogue to take place.

Also, if the current professors do not speak against Calvinism much has changed since I sit in the classroom with the same professors you have. This is not arguing, but simple doctrinal irresponsibility of which the pastors in the area will have to clean up.

Dustin Benge
CCBBC Alumni 2003

paulharris said...

anonymous

For you saying that clear creek is walking in step with the one and only God; this is true as long as they can keep God under their free will theology.
And the only way to do that is to interpret the Scripture from a man-centered approach...
To qoute one of their hero's Herschel Hobbs; "God is LIMITED BY MAN'S FREE WILL"...How heretical and prideful is that; especially when the Scripture says that man has no room to boast about his salvation.

And for a professor to say that if we locked the opposing sides in a room for 3 days they will still come out thinking the same way is bogas...

Why do you think they are having this conference...because they are concerned that some students may actually study the ENTIRE BIBLE and be converted to a calvinist...

Furthermore I am just one example of many who have become a calvinist while attending clear creek...but I know of no one who came to clear creek who was a calvinist and turned into a pelagian...

And as far as the argueing over this doctrine or who started it, you will do well to study where calvinism came from...
For a brief lesson: it was the armenians that brought their theology to the Synod of Dort (a group of Church Fathers at that time) and presented the "5 points of armenianism"...
In which they studied for over 150 days and responded with SCRIPTURE and rejected these 5 points...and from these SCRIPTURES we now know them as the "5 points of calvinism"

So who started to sway from the Scripture and argue for man's absolute free will.

And a final question why didn't you use your name, are you afraid of being associated with a school who you claim to be walking in step with God; does not the Scripture tell us to confess Christ openly...or is it deep down inside that you really don't believe they are in step with God...this is what I pray for you.

Paul Harris

Adam said...

Good work Jeremy,
I have tried to stay up to date on this "big" conference at CCBBC this weekend. I am still amazed that CCBBC views Calvinist and Calvinism as a challenge, thus entitling their conference "Meeting the Calvinistic Challenge." Isn't it an oxymoron to entitle the conference this and then have the session "Can't we all just get along?" Apparently not if they view me as a challenge to their ministry. I am a layperson in my church. I am a deacon who teaches an adult Sunday school class and I have shared some of the notes that I took in my Systematic Theology class with my Sunday School class. The people were amazed that this was taught at CCBBC. These are good "uneducated" Christian people who know untruth when they hear it. They have asked me to do a lengthy series of lessons on election and predestination. Can you imagine a group of Christian people asking for that? How exciting. I doubt you, Dustin, Paul, or myself will ever be asked to speak on that at CCBBC. Although it is quite ironic in my Systematic Theology III class I was given the task of teaching on election, and as a Calvinist, I gave a very fair and balanced view of both sides. It is a shame that Clear Creek cannot do the same thing.

Ed Goodman said...

I am amazed that you former Clear Creekers are bound and determined to promote controversy regarding the school that you had the privilege of attending. Also, the New Hampshire Confession of Faith doesn't teach monergism OR unconditional election. Also, Clear Creek does NOT teach that Calvinists don't believe in missions/evangelism. So could Paul Harris please quit ranting over things about which he has NO knowledge? Mr. Harris, you give the impression that you're just a voice that thrives on controversy. I don't mind opposing viewpoints, so long as they are ACCURATE.

Ed Goodman

paulharris said...

Mr Ed

I am not ranting over anything that is not true.
Everything that I have commented on I experienced at clear creek.
Perhaos you have not experienced the hostility because you agree with them.
I wasn't meaning to be controversial just enlightening those about clear creek and what I experienced.

I even tried to get a job there and was not even interviewed or considered for the job because I was a calvinist...and was told that I was not welcome there.

If that doesn't make me the enemy I don't know what does.

I have a real heart for clear creek and pray that things have changed but I don't see how because some of the ones that made these statements to me are still on staff.

Paul Harris

The North Eastern Michigan Reformation Society said...

Mr. Goodman,

Why is it that when Calvinism is attacked at CCBBC they are not called divisive or controversial? Yet, when Calvinists respond to what is clearly an attack, we are accused of divisiveness and starting controversy. As far as I know none of these men who have responded were hounding CCBBC to become Reformed. All any of us want is for CCBBC to stop treating us like we are sub-Christian and enemies of the gospel; instead, you want to point fingers at us when we did not start this.

As far as the New Hampshire Confession goes everything I have ever read about it says it is a moderatly Calvinistic statement. How can it be in any sense Calvinistic if it does not teach two essential elements of Calvinistic soteriology, monergism and unconditional election?

Ed Goodman said...

To NE Michigan Reformation Society:

Thanks for your response. My intent was to set the record straight regarding Clear Creek. They do not teach that Calvinists see no need for missions/evangelism! However, that seems to be an argument that continues to fester. I wanted that to be known without a shadow of a doubt. Therefore, any attempt to make that accusation from now on can be seen as nothing other than an attempt to make an unjust argument.

Also, regarding the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, have you considered that "moderately Calvinistic" might mean only an acknowledgement of Total Depravity and Perseverance of the Saints?

I don't consider Clear Creek's conference an attempt to be divisive - that wasn't the intent. However, when many Calvinists were labeling us as "liberal" or as "open theists" and Non-Calvinists were calling us a five-point Calvinist institution, what was the obvious thing to do? The conference set the record straight publicly. Also, because several churches had hired Clear Creek graduate who taught Calvinist doctrine (which was in conflict with the church's doctrine), we had a session that taught pastor search committees how to determine a potential pastor's theological viewpoint. If a church doesn't want a Calvinist, they shouldn't get one. Likewise, if a church wants one, they should get one. Bottom line.

Anyhow, let me say that I'm not here to argue or point fingers. I love you each as brothers in Christ...I just wanted to set the record straight. Hope this helps clarify where I'm coming from.

Love in Christ,

Ed Goodman
Ephesians 4:3

paulharris said...

Ed

I have heard you say more than once that it was not the intentions of this conference to be divisive; if that is true then are we to be expecting a conference about the challenge of "opentheism or the emergent church heresies" that are running rampent throughout the SBC with no Scriptural basis...

Make no mistake about it the conference made the boundries well known and it was indeed divisive...

Another thing if the school doesn's want Calvinist at their school why don't they simply put that they do not teach REFORMED THEOLOGY and if you adhere to this then you will not be welcome!

The school can say what they want but calvinist are not welcome.
Unless something has changed since I was there the incoming classes were asked to sign a document that they would not adhere to, teach, or even talk about calvinism.

It's also come to my knowledge that you are a freshman; so I ask that you would confirm everything you hear with the Scripture and not just soak up everything you hear. (1John 4:1)

You may not be able to do so but you still have not given the questions that we need to ask to assure that the calvinist would be weeded out of our churches...

Paul Harris

Ed Goodman said...

I am a sophomore, and I do screen all teaching through the truth of Scripture. Don't forget, though, that even though the Bible is interpreted differently at Clear Creek than at your church or in your eyes doesn't mean the teaching is wrong.

Also, the 5 questions that every pulpit committee should ask a potential pastor were not intended to weed out Calvinists...although, if you are bound and determined to be offended, then you could certainly interpret them that way. The purpose of the questions was to identify and pinpoint the prospective pastor's theological doctrine. If a church doesn't adhere to Calvinist beliefs, then it should not have a Calvinist pastor. And, sad to say, there have been many Calvinist pastors who were less than forthright about their theological beliefs and split churches over their Calvinist beliefs. So by educating pulpit committees on a simple way to identify a pastor's theology, they could be sure to avoid someone who wasn't a good fit for their church.

After all, Brother Paul, if I lied to a Reformed church's pulpit committee (or even failed to be fully forthright in my doctrinal beliefs) and taught that Jesus died for all, I would be denounced and castigated as a liar...and rightly so. As Tom Ascol acknowledged, not many pulpit committees are equipped to handle such talks about theology...many know what they believe, but aren't keen about specific theological doctrines like Total Depravity or Limited Atonement. So Clear Creek did the service of educating these pulpit committee members on how to determine a prospective pastor's theology.

Finally, let me just say that Clear Creek has never been a Calvinist institution...a Calvinist should check on that before coming to the school. And Dr. Fox says that Calvinists are welcome, so long as they understand that Calvinist doctrine isn't taught here.

I love you, Brother Paul. God bless.

Ed Goodman

The North Eastern Michigan Reformation Society said...

Ed,

I am encouraged that you are so interested in these important theological matters. Keep on studying the Bible and theology. There is much that each one of us can learn from each other. I hope you will also read some of the other blogs that have been posted by the NE Michigan Reformation Society.

Now, To answer your questions.The quote from Lumpkin says that their calvinism was "restated" in very moderatle tones, which suggests not that the doctrines were discarded but they were restated less explicitly to facilitate work with Free Will Baptsits. Other sources say similar things to Lumpkin, but I cannot recall everything I read.

In addition, two point calvinism is as immpossible as square circles because the system stands or falls together. That is, as long as the terms in the debate hold their historical meaning. For example, Norman Geisler (for whom I have great respect and love his books) calls himself a moderate calvinist by redefining the five points, but his definitions are historically inaccurate. Historically, his definitions of the key terms make him an arminian not a calvinist at all.

I doubt that CCBBC intended the conference to be devisive, but I did not intend my response to be devisive either. In fact, my letter encouraged the opposite suggesting that CCBBC be more understanding and aid its students to do the same.

I know that CCBBC is not Reformed. I do not expect that this will ever change, nor do I really care if it does not change.

I do not beleive and never have believed that CCBBC endorses open theism or is liberal. In fact, the professors who are there taught me a lot, and I appreciate their work.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

Ed Goodman said...

Thanks for clarifying that, Brother Jeremy. I appreciate your words and ideas. While I am sympathetic to those who wish to hold dear to "historical" ideas regarding Calvinism, I am much more inclined to hold a "Biblical" view. I'm not saying that Calvinism isn't Biblical, mind you, but the way I interpret Scripture is more in line with Geisler's interpretation rather than a Calvinistic one.

Ed Goodman

Anonymous said...

Just a point from a neutral party. Concerning the Bridges conference, I don't know if Dustin was there. I was. Dustin, you wrote "You might also notice that many of the speakers are not Calvinists but represent both sides of the issue. I did not notice a panel discussion or Q and A on the Clear Creek agenda." You are completely correct on one part. Many of the speakers were not Calvinists but represented both sides of the issue. Others were Calvinist and represented one side of the issue, sometimes not so nicely. Notice a viewpoint missing? It was honestly a balance between "Calvinism only" and "let's agree to disagree" but not a balance between the two sides. Dustin also noted that he did not notice a panel discussion or Q and A on the Clear Creek agenda. The only attempt at this was Q&A in Bridges was to accept questions submitted on paper, of which the conference leaders chose which ones to answer. Conference leaders like former Southern prof Waggoner and Lifeway's president Rainer, also a former (maybe current) prof at Southern.

Anonymous said...

Paul,
Let me understand - Clear Creek on it's way to a devils hell along with it's other pelagian friends, and you tried to get a job there? Did they refuse to hire you before or after you started publicly proclaiming their journey to Hell?