Category Archives: Symposium

Updated: Symposium Program

by Jackson Watts

 

Monday Evening

 6:00 – 6:15       Welcome & Prayer: Matthew Pinson, W. Jackson Watts

6:15 – 7:05        Danny Dwyer: Paul’s Address to the Ephesian Elders: The Ministry Ethos of the Apostle Paul as a Model for Pastoral Leadership

 7:05 – 7:25       Refreshments and Discussion

7:30 – 8:20       Thomas Marberry: The Eschatology of Luke

Tuesday Morning

 9:00 – 9:05      Welcome and Prayer

9:05 – 9:55      Jeff Cockrell: Showing the Good God to Pagans: A Contextual Understanding of Paul’s Apologia in Acts 17

10:05 – 10:55       Eddie Moody: Denominations and Denominationalism: Is there a Future in a Changing Culture?       (presented in Welch College Chapel)

10:55 – 11:10       Refreshments and Discussion

11:15 – 12:05      W. Jackson Watts: Cultural Analysis and the Dynamics of Leading Change in the Church

Tuesday Afternoon

 12:05 – 1:45      Lunch at Area Restaurants

1:50 – 2:40       Matthew Steven Bracey: Conservatism and the Church

 2:40 – 2:55       Refreshments and Discussion

3:00 – 3:50       Robert Picirilli: The Infinite, Immutable God, Creation, and the Real, Changing World

3:50 – 3:55        Break

4:00 – 4:50      Christopher Talbot: Toward a Confessional-Practical Theology

4:50 – 6:20       Dinner at Area Restaurants

Tuesday Evening

 6:30 – 7:20       Ron Davis: The Church as Embassy: An Ecclesiology for the Modern World

7:20 – 7:35       Refreshments and Discussion

7:40 – 8:30       Matthew Pinson: Do We Need to Keep Having Associations?

 8:30 – 8:35       Closing Remarks & Announcements

For more information, please submit any questions to fwbtheology@gmail.com.

2019 Theological Symposium – Program Reveal

Jackson Watts

The Commission for Theological Integrity is pleased to unveil its 2019 Symposium Program. This year’s program has a great mix of younger, middle-aged, and senior scholars alike. And while most papers do deal somehow with our theme (The Doctrine of the Church), there are some other unique papers which will be shared at this year’s program. Take advantage of this free event on the campus of Welch College, October 28-29.

Monday Evening

 6:00 – 6:15       Welcome & Prayer: Matthew Pinson, W. Jackson Watts

6:15 – 7:05        Danny Dwyer: Paul’s Address to the Ephesian Elders: The Ministry Ethos of the Apostle Paul as a Model for Pastoral Leadership

 7:05 – 7:25       Refreshments and Discussion

7:30 – 8:20       Thomas Marberry: The Eschatology of Luke

Tuesday Morning

 9:00 – 9:05      Welcome and Prayer

9:05 – 9:55       Eddie Moody: Denominations and Denominationalism: Is there a Future in a Changing Culture?

 9:55 – 10:10      Refreshments and Discussion

10:15 – 11:05      Jeff Cockrell: Showing the Good God to Pagans: A Contextual Understanding of Paul’s Apologia in Acts 17

11:05 – 11:15       Refreshments and Discussion

11:15 – 12:05      W. Jackson Watts: Cultural Analysis and the Dynamics of Leading Change in the Church

Tuesday Afternoon

 12:05 – 1:45      Lunch at Area Restaurants

1:50 – 2:40       Matthew Steven Bracey: Conservatism and the Church

 2:40 – 2:55       Refreshments and Discussion

3:00 – 3:50       Robert Picirilli: The Infinite, Immutable God, Creation, and the Real, Changing World

3:50 – 3:55        Break

4:00 – 4:50      Christopher Talbot: Toward a Confessional-Practical Theology

4:50 – 6:20       Dinner at Area Restaurants

Tuesday Evening

 6:30 – 7:20       Ron Davis: The Church as Embassy: An Ecclesiology for the Modern World

7:20 – 7:35       Refreshments and Discussion

7:40 – 8:30       Matthew Pinson: Do We Need to Keep Having Associations?

 8:30 – 8:35       Closing Remarks & Announcements

For more information, please submit any questions to fwbtheology@gmail.com.

Symposium Deadline Reminder

W. Jackson Watts

Plans are underway for our 2019 Theological Symposium. In our previous post, we shared some general and specific information about this event, and specifically this year’s program. We’re thankful for our partnerships with Welch College and Randall University, who make it possible for us to always have a Free Will Baptist academic setting in which to hold this important event. This year we’ll meet in Gallatin, Tennessee on October 28-29.

This post serves as a reminder to all prospective presenters that paper proposals should be submitted no later than Monday, July 15. We suggest that if you have questions to contact fwbtheology@gmail.com by July 1, though we’ll be happy to answer any other questions after then as well. This year’s theme is the Doctrine of the Church. Papers related to ecclesiology in some way will be given preference in the selection process, though we will consider papers on other subjects as well.

Thanks for your interest in this year’s program!

A Must-Read Paper on the Lord’s Supper

by Matt Pinson

Cory Thompson, pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church of Poteau Oklahoma, presented a well-researched paper on the meaning and participants of the Lord’s Supper entitled, “The Lord’s Supper as Meaningful and Open.” The main use of this paper for Free Will Baptists is his discussion of open communion, a historic, distinctive confessional commitment of Free Will Baptists.

Thompson explains that this has been the main division on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper between Free Will Baptists and Baptists from Calvinistic historical backgrounds (this would include those once-saved, always-saved Baptists who do not subscribe to all five points of Calvinism, but who nonetheless emerge from a denominational background of confessional Calvinism).

Most Baptists have historically held to closed communion, not opening the Lord’s Table to those who have not been properly baptized. Free Will Baptists of the Palmer movement in the South, Freewill Baptists of the Randall movement in the North, and the American General Baptist movement, on the contrary, have practiced open communion, opening the Lord’s Table even to those orthodox believers who have received effusion or aspersion as either infants or adults. This doctrinal development in America is interesting, given that there was no consensus on this question among Baptists in seventeenth-century England, with both General (Arminian) Baptists and Particular (Calvinistic) Baptists having both open and closed communionists in their fellowships.   

Thompson discusses the drift of non-Arminian Baptists toward an open communion stance but explains that this is borne more of theological drift than of doctrinal study and conviction. There is, however, a revival of interest among Baptists in closed communion, owing to that movement’s retrieving their confessional tradition of faith and practice. The drift, however, has not been confined to non-Arminian Baptists or those from closed-communion backgrounds. We have experienced it as well. Thompson states:

The transition of many traditionally closed communion Baptists is likely not due to the exegetical and theological validity of the open communion view, but to the rise of consumerism, pragmatism, tolerance, and liberal drift in the church.  And if the closed communion churches are drifting to open communion, where are traditional open communion churches drifting?  It is not unusual to attend a Communion service where the importance and sacredness of the event is undermined by no discussion of the gospel the elements represent, no call for self-examination, or it is conducted in hurried or cavalier manner. Unfortunately, this scenario is commonly reflected in churches holding the open communion position. The historical significance and theological meaning of open communion is in danger of being lost. The term was once equated with a hospitable orthodoxy, accepting all gospel-centered believers to the Lord’s Table.  Now it is associated with watered-down and liberal theology. With this in mind, it is necessary to articulate a biblical, theological, and meaningful view of open communion in order to preserve the integrity of the Lord’s Table (42).[1]

Thompson presents an engaging, scholarly doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, the best Free Will Baptist presentation, in my opinion, in the past century. He begins with an exegetical treatment of his topic. From the New Testament passages on the Supper, Thompson defends a traditional Baptist understanding that eschews real-presence or sacramental understandings of the practice, but is not a bare memorialism. Thus, the Lord’s Supper richly and beautifully remembers, symbolizes, and reenacts Christ’s substitutionary atonement and its salvific benefits, but it is also a corporate communion of the faithful that proclaims the gospel, “ensures the regular rhythm of repentance and faith,” and focuses on the church’s eschatological hope. Thompson rightly chides recent authors for underemphasizing the communal aspects of the Lord’s Supper. He includes my own writing in this admonition, and he is right: we have been guilty of not emphasizing enough the public, communal aspects of the Eucharist.

One of the most significant features of his exegetical section is his treatment of the “examine yourself” language in 1 Corinthians 11, especially in the context of open communion. “It is wrongly assumed by some open communion advocates,” he argues, “that the call for self-examination is only an individual concern or a person is their sole judge, therefore, no administrator or congregation reserves the right to forbid” (51). But he argues that this is a misinterpretation of the passage. This gets to the heart of the most important part of Thompson’s paper, where he probes the Free Will Baptist open communion view and attempts to reinvest it with its original intent.

Thompson rightly argues that open communion has devolved in much recent practice into an individualistic doctrine that basically says that it is between the individual and God whether or not the individual has a right to participation in the Lord’s Supper, unless he is under church discipline. Even converts who have never been “baptized”[2] under any mode may be permitted to the Table in this view: This is between God and the individual believer, and individual belief and conversion is the only prerequisite for participation.

Thompson argues that this is a move away from the historic view. Rather, the original intent of open communion was to allow orthodox Christians who differed on the doctrine of baptism to commune at the Lord’s Table. The idea was that one’s error on the meaning and mode of baptism should not keep him from being able to commune as a true believer at the Lord’s Table. Thus the import or the slogan “Baptism no bar to the Table” is not saying that it does not matter whether one is baptized or not, but that if one has been “baptized” in a church that does not practice believer’s baptism by immersion, he or she can still be admitted to the Lord’s Supper.

Thompson cites John J. Butler, the foremost theologian of the Randall Movement of Free Baptists in the North. Butler argued that admission to the Lord’s Supper should be limited to those “who are in regular standing in any evangelical church” (58). He averred that “it is the duty of all persons, on obtaining a hope in Christ to become connected with some visible church; if they refuse or neglect to do so, they live in disobedience, and one living in known disobedience cannot be recognized as a Christian” (58). Membership in a local congregation “affords prima facie evidence of Christian character and entitles one holding it to the communion in any evangelical church.” Butler says, “The practice of some in allowing professed converts before uniting with the church . . . is to be condemned.”[3] To be admitted to the Lord’s Supper, one’s membership should be in a congregation that holds “both theoretically and practically the doctrines essential to salvation.”[4]

Thompson also cites the 1834 Randall Treatise, which states: “It is the usual practice of our connection, at the time of communion, to invite all Christians of good standing in any evangelical church, to partake with us; as, in general such persons only are known as true believers.”[5]

(Thompson was researching open communion in the Palmer movement but was unable to include it in the paper in time for his presentation. In subsequent correspondence, I shared with him that the Palmer movement was in agreement with his position. One instance of this that I shared with him was the section on “What Free Will Baptists Believe—and Why” in Thad Harrison and J. M. Barfield’s History of the Free Will Baptists of North Carolina.[6]) As Thompson summarizes, “When the congregation approaches the Lord’s Table the administrator should warn unbelievers not to partake, lead the congregation to self-examination, and invite all Christians who are members in good standing of a gospel-centered church.”

Thompson has presented the Free Will Baptist Church with an outstanding introduction to the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper from a confessional Free Will Baptist vantage point. His primary contribution to the Free Will Baptist conversation is his insistence that, even as we advocate open communion, we need to restore the meaning and significance of this beautiful practice in the worship of the church. Furthermore, we need to question whether individualism has moved us toward a “me and Jesus, we got our own thing going” approach to open communion and move back to the doctrine’s original intent as inviting all Christians in good standing, regardless of their denominational affiliation and thus their doctrine of the meaning and mode of baptism, to the Table of Our Lord. (I think we need to try to persuade Mr. Thompson to writing a doctoral dissertation on this topic.)

Thompson is part of a widespread movement of younger Free Will Baptists who want to engage in “renewal through retrieval” in an attempt to renew and reform the Free Will Baptist Church by retrieving the best of our Sufficiency-of-Scripture-saturated tradition. Every Free Will Baptist minister interested in this vital project should read this paper.  


[1] Page numbers follow the listing in the Symposium Digest.

[2] The reason I place “baptized” in quotation marks is because Baptists believe the Bible teaches that only believer’s baptism by immersion constitutes authentic baptism.

[3] John J.  Butler, “An Examination of the Terms of Admission to the Lord’s Supper,” in The Free Communionist or Unrestricted  Communion of The Lord’s Supper With All True Believers Advocated; And Objections of Restricted Communionsts Considered: In Four Essays (Dover:  Free Will Baptist Connection, 1841), 41-44. Italics added by Thompson. 

[4] Butler, Natural and Revealed Theology, 428. 

[5] 1834 Randall Treatise, 110.

[6] (Ayden, NC: Free Will Baptist Press, 1898), 155-78.

Matthew McAffee’s “Creation and the Role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8”: A Review

Kevin L. Hester

Dr. Matthew McAffee, Provost at Welch College, presented one of the most compelling papers at the 2018 Theological Symposium sponsored by the Commission for Theological Integrity. His paper, entitled “Creation and the Role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8: What Can We Learn?” was one of two heavily exegetical papers presented as part of the program. In it, McAffee draws parallels between the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8 with the Genesis account of creation. While he recognizes that the primary purpose of the exhortation to wisdom found in Proverbs 8 is not to provide didactic material on the nature and scope of creation, McAffee asserts that there are a number of implications that can be drawn from the text that have important ramifications for the process of creation, the textual criticism of the Old Testament, and the relationship of the Genesis creation account to other Near Eastern creation stories.

McAffee outlines the role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 and connects it with the two other speeches from Wisdom in Proverbs including 1:20-36 and 9:1-6. The Proverbs 8 discussion is unique because of its reference to the creation of Wisdom before the foundation of the world. While he recognizes that the purpose of the passage is not to present a holistic theory of creation, he argues that the text’s apologetic argument for wisdom rests upon a particular understanding of creation.

McAffee provides robust lexical analysis on several Hebrew terms used in reference to creation. These are analyzed in their Biblical and Near Eastern contexts to clearly show that the author of the wisdom literature expresses an ex nihilo view of creation. He then demonstrates a number of lexical parallels between Proverbs 8 and the Genesis narrative which indicate the author’s resonance with the Genesis narrative.

McAffee’s interpretation of Proverbs 8 and his investigation of its parallels with the Genesis account of creation produce a revisionist conclusion that rejects, on the one hand, the critical consensus of any documentary hypothesis that views the wisdom literature as predating the composition of the Genesis narrative. On the other hand, his work also provides a compelling argument for distinguishing the Genesis account of creation from Babylonian and other Near Eastern creation stories. Thus, McAffee’s work here leads to three important implications.

First, the traditional canonical order of Genesis preceding the wisdom literature better explains the parallel between Proverbs 8 and the Genesis account. Otherwise, following the critical tradition’s dating of Proverbs prior to Genesis produces a significant anachronism wherein, “the presumed older text (Prov. 8) preserves a purportedly late Hellenistic view of creation, while the assumed younger text (Gen. 1) preserves a much earlier Babylonian one.” (p. 145)

Second, the purpose Wisdom’s pre-existent role in Proverbs 8 shows a vision of ex nihilo creation over against other near eastern creation accounts that image creation as the ordering of chaos or construction from pre-existent matter thus distinguishing the Biblical accounts. The text’s usage of the Genesis account, once established, demonstrates that the author of the wisdom literature is reading the Genesis account of creation as ex nihilo documenting a consistent view of creation that is distinctive and prior to other expressions of cosmogony.

If both the Genesis account and the vision of creation in the wisdom literature are consistent with one another and distinctive from other Near Eastern models, then this conclusion upends the commonly held belief that ex nihilo creation was a later, Greek idea incorporated into Judaism. Rather, God’s creation of all things from nothing seems to represent a longstanding Jewish belief.

Third, once the parallel between the creation accounts of Genesis and Proverbs 8 are established and the consistent view is demonstrated to be distinctive from later Greek expressions, the only remaining potential source for the Genesis narrative of creation is the Babylonian Atra Hasis account. This has been the traditional, critical approach. However, the distinctive approach to creation in the accounts from the Babylonian tradition and especially the ex nihilo reading of the Genesis account by the author of the wisdom literature raises real questions about this critical assumption. Such a position seems hardly tenable. Instead, it is more likely that the Atra Hasis and other near eastern creation models are either dependent upon the Genesis account or entirely separate from it.