Tag Archives: Epistemology

The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines Published

by Theological Commission

A new book, The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, by F. Leroy Forlines and J. Matthew Pinson, was recently published by Welch College Press, according to Matthew Bracey, managing editor of Welch College Press.

“The book has met with much enthusiasm and praise,” Bracey said. “We’re proud of this book and believe it honors the legacy that Mr. Forlines has left to us on the topics of apologetics and worldview thinking.”

Forlines, Professor Emeritus of Theology at Welch College, served on the Commission for Theological Integrity for fifty years, most of those years as chairman. Pinson, chairman of the Commission for Theological Integrity, serves as president of Welch College.

As detailed on the book’s dust jacket, “In The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, J. Matthew Pinson brings together select writings of F. Leroy Forlines on apologetics and the knowledge of God. He begins the volume with a lengthy essay on the apologetics of the foremost systematic theologian of the modern Free Will Baptist Church and the contemporary Reformed Arminian movement.”

“I welcome this new book from my distinguished friend and scholar J. Matthew Pinson, which explores my previous writings on apologetics,” Forlines said. “In this book Pinson has brought together some of my writings on apologetics and epistemology from my book The Quest for Truth, introducing them with a lengthy opening chapter of his own on my approach to these matters. I highly commend Pinson’s essay, which excellently sums up my approach to apologetics.”

Forlines added, “The ideas in this book are timely. In the last thirty years, postmodernism has displaced modernism in the intellectual world, which has profoundly affected the discipline of apologetics. This book emphasizes how important it is to understand the changes that postmodernism has brought relating to evangelizing people and reaching them for Christ. The same kind of apologetics used under modernism does not work with the postmodern worldview. . . . My prayer is that God will add His blessing to this book, using it to extend His kingdom and give Him the glory that is due His name alone.”

“Most of my approach to apologetics has derived from conversations with Leroy Forlines,” Pinson said. “The word apologetics appears only a handful of times in his published writings. He tends more to use terms like epistemology, testing worldviews, metanarratives, and paradigms. As I began to encounter students who were interested in apologetics, I would talk to them about Forlines’s approach. Yet they were at a loss because he had never spelled out in detail, in one place, an approach to apologetics. So for some time I have wanted to write something on the apologetics of Leroy Forlines, to reprint and examine his writings on epistemology, worldview thinking, postmodernity, and secularism, distilling his basic approach to apologetics. This book and my essay herein represent a modest fulfillment of that goal.”

“I think friends who follow the work of the Commission and readers of FWBTheology.com will be interested in this new book,” Pinson stated. “Those who have attended theological symposia over the years have heard Mr. Forlines talk about the issues in this book again and again. It’s a privilege to celebrate the thought of our former chairman who was a member of the Commission for fifty years who has had such a profound impact on so many of us.”

Apologetics is the fourth publication from Welch College Press. To purchase a copy of the book, visit https://welch.edu/welchpress.

Symposium Recap: Jesse Owens on the English General Baptists

by Rodney Holloman

Jesse Owens’ excellent presentation at the 2017 Symposium countered the “ahistorical” assertion that all seventeenth-century Arminians were rationalists. This seemingly unchallenged dogma is represented as he takes issue with (among others) Richard Muller and his book God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius: Sources and Directions of Scholastic Protestantism in the Era of Early Orthodoxy. Muller’s book claims that “Arminius’s theology of God, creation, and providence led to an openness among later Arminians to Enlightenment rationalism” (29). Owens argues that that the “early English General Baptists were firm in their adherence to the authority and supremacy of Scripture as the rule of faith and practice” (29).[1]

Granting that there was rationalism among the Remonstrants in the first part of his presentation, Owens disagrees that the parts indicate the whole of the theological spectrum, or that Arminianism inherently produced the rationalistic views of so many in the eighteenth century. After reviewing the spurious views of perspicuity of the Scripture, Owens argues that “neither Arminius nor the English General Baptists followed the Remonstrant approach, despite contrary claims” (30). He addresses the claims by Geoffrey Nuttall that “the Arminianism of the General Baptists, and of the Dissenters at large, was an Arminianism of the head” (30). He then cites the work of Bass to refute Nuttall, which dovetails into a discussion of the Caffyn controversy as well as the debate at Salter’s Hall in 1719. He then rightly characterizes the “undue attention” regarding these historical inferences from these two events as he finalizes the background portion of his presentation (31).

It is at this point that the paper shines brightly as we begin to focus on the writings of Thomas Grantham and Thomas Monck. After some brief biographies and bibliographies of both men, Mr. Owens illustrates concisely and effectively how that their views in the late seventeenth-century were fully orthodox and not in step with Enlightenment Rationalism as has been repeatedly suggested. Using primary sources such as Monck’s Cure for the Cankering Error of the New Eutychians and his help developing An Orthodox Creed, and Grantham’s magnum opus Christianismus Primitivus, he leads us to understanding and agreeing that Muller, et. al. are incorrect concerning their claims about seventeenth-century Arminians. It is a helpful and masterful section as objections are raised and answered using these works to show the thoroughgoing Reformed nature of their theology and epistemology.

Jesse Owens concludes his presentation forcefully with the following lengthy quotations:

“There is no strong evidence supporting a pervasive rationalism amongst English General Baptists until the eighteenth century, when many General Baptists did in fact join the Presbyterians in rejecting essential Christian doctrines. The point here is not simply to say that General Baptist heterodoxy in the eighteenth century had Reformed company, thereby softening their defection. The significance of Presbyterian and General Baptist (one being Calvinist and one being Arminian) heterodoxy in the eighteenth century, is that it demonstrates that it was not the theological system of Arminianism that proved more open to Rationalism than either the Lutheran or the Reformed, but the philosophical and theological milieu of the era.

It should be apparent at this point that Thomas Monck and Thomas Grantham, two of the foremost leaders of the English General Baptists in the late-seventeenth century, firmly adhered to the authority and supremacy of Scripture as the rule of faith and practice. . . On these points they do not deviate from the Reformed tradition in general, or Calvin and The Westminster Confession of Faith in particular. The significance of this is that, contrary to claims that seventeenth century Arminians were predominately driven reason or were the most open to it, the representative figures of Monck and Grantham utterly reject a rationalistic approach to Scripture and the acquisition of religious knowledge (37).”

Overall this was an excellent representation of historical research along with addressing contemporary writing on these subjects. It is well worth your time to read and digest. Thank you, Mr. Owens, for sharing your research and excellent work with us.

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[1] All page numbers are derived from the Symposium Paper Digest, which is available for purchase on our site.