15 Questions For Baptists: Pastor Brian Talbot Pt I

 

Fifteen questions for Baptists. In a continuing series, The Believer’s Dilemma is examining the problematic theologies of Augustine, Luther and Calvin, which were based on original sin. This week we have part I of an interview with Brian Talbot M.Div, Senior Pastor at Greenfield Park Baptist Church.

 

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History:  The distinctive belief of Baptists/Anabaptists is that only adults should be baptized.  Baptists were one of the earliest Protestant denominations but Christians dissented on the question of infant baptism long before the Reformation.  Calvinists and Lutherans followed the Catholic tradition of baptizing infants, although they did not share Augustine’s belief that ‘Children dying without baptism are excluded from both the Kingdom of heaven and eternal life’.  

 

Prominent Baptist/Anabaptist branches include Mennonites, Hutterites and the Amish. Jacob Hutter (1500-1536) founded the Hutterites in the Austrian province of Tyrol, but they relocated in Moravia (modern Czech Republic) to escape persecution. Menno Simons (1496-1561) founded the Mennonites in the Dutch and German speaking regions of Central Europe. The Amish are a sub-group of Mennonites formed by Jacob Ammann (1656-1730).

 

British Baptists trace their roots back to John Smyth, an Anglican priest who broke his ties with the Church of England in 1609 to become a Puritan, English Separatist and then a Baptist Separatist. Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke established the first Baptist Church in the Americas in 1638. By the time Baptists arrived in Canada (1778) they had split into Regular Baptists, who followed the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, and Free Will Baptists, who had adopted the Arminian belief in freewill.

 

The American Southern Baptist Convention was formed by nine state conventions in 1845, founded in part on the premise that the Bible sanctions slavery, and that it is acceptable for Christians to own slaves. Black Baptists of the South and West formed the Consolidated American Baptist Convention in 1866.  The Baptist World Alliance reports more than 41 million members in more than 150,000 congregations worldwide.

 

Position:  Baptists hold diverse views on many points of doctrine (eg. freewill v predestination) and eschatology (Baptists can be a-millennial, post-millennial or pre-millennial). Most Baptists believe in the "Four Freedoms" articulated by Walter B. Shurden: soul freedom, Bible freedom, religious freedom, and church freedom, which entails separation of Church and State.  

 

Current situation:  Baptists are one of the traditional Christian mainline churches which have experienced dwindling numbers in recent decades.  However, the strong Evangelical tendency among Baptists has produced growth similar to Charismatics and Pentecostals.

 

Note: Italicised texts are taken from the Baptist Confession of 1677/89

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/bcf/bcf.htm

 

1)  The Universe

 

Baptist Confession  - Of Creation

It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Does the universe exist for a purpose? 

 

Brian Talbot: Yes. The universe was created by God for his glory. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma: The Baptist Confession says that after the six days of creation, all was good.  

 

Brian Talbot: Yes. The first chapters of Genesis tell us that all of creation was perfectly good.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: There was no suffering or death in world?

 

Brian Talbot: That is correct. Prior to the Fall, all of Creation was in its pristine state of divinely intended goodness.    

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Does that extend to the idea that there were no earthquakes or hurricanes or tsunamis? 

 

Brian Talbot: That’s a good question. Earthquakes and tsunamis come to our attention because of the destruction they cause. Basically all we can say is that there would have been no suffering or death in the world prior to the Fall.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: No animals suffered or died prior to Adam and Eve?

 

Brian Talbot:  Correct. These evils entered the world with the Fall.  

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Animals prior to the Fall would not have been meat eaters?  They would have been vegetarian?

 

Brian Talbot:  In the original Creation there was no death, so animals would have eaten plants.  The prophet Isaiah painted a word portrait of the New Heavens and New Earth when paradise is restored. (Isaiah 65:25). Isaiah wrote, ‘The wolf and the lamb will feed together and the lion will eat straw like the ox.’  This would also describe the natural order prior to the Fall.

 

2)  Natural Evil

 

Baptist Confession - Of Providence 

I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

II. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: The natural world that we know is plagued with natural evil and catastrophic events.  Why?

 

Brian Talbot: Because we live in a sinful world. This does not apply just to individual acts of human beings. The Bible records the Fall of Adam and Eve which affected all of creation.  Paul said in Romans (8:19) that ‘creation groans’ and ‘waits in eager expectation for the son of God to be revealed.’ Where we see natural devastation and catastrophic events, it is because we are living in a fallen world. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Bishop Ussher famously calculated that Creation took place in 4004 BC and that the Fall of Adam and Eve occurred in October.   (http://gospelpedlar.com/articles/Bible/Usher.pdf ) Do you think the Bible records recent dates for Creation?

 

Brian Talbot: Genesis is a theological book. It is not a science text book. I’m aware of Bishop Ussher, but he should have paid closer attention to the book of Chronicles. I had an argument recently about whether Creation and the Fall can be dated precisely to 4,000 BC. Certainly there are people who defend that date as Gospel truth but we tend to bring a 21st century mentality to an ancient Biblical text, rather than letting it speak for itself. Our idea of ‘one generation’ may be very different than what it was when the Bible was written. The Bible writers sometimes used the term ‘father’ to mean grandfather or great grandfather. In the book of Chronicles, which is our major source for calculating dates, entire generations are sometimes skipped.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  What date would you assign to the Fall in Eden?

 

Brian Talbot:  We can date Abraham to 2,000 BC, give or take 100 years, but before Abraham we’re in a period of pre-written history.  The average modern life span is three score and ten years but in the pre-flood world people lived to be much older. Methuselah lived to the ripe old age of 969.  I really don’t think you can work back and come up with a precise date like 4,000 BC for Adam and Eve. And I don’t think that’s what the book of Genesis tells us. The most important statement in the entire Bible is ‘In the beginning God created…’  That idea follows right through the Bible to the Book of Revelation.  God created the world in a precise, orderly fashion.  

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Do you see a conflict between the Bible story and scientific theories of the Big Bang in a universe that is billions of years old?

 

Brian Talbot: I do. Evolution takes the idea that some event–a Big Bang or whatever–for reasons that no one can explain, got the world going somehow and then it developed over millions of years all higgledy-piggledy. I believe that God intentionally created the world for a purpose which has guided it ever since.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Is the idea of evolution incompatible with the Bible itself, or just with the dates?

 

Brian Talbot: Both. I recently attended a conference given by Christian Creation scientists and I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject. It seems to me that 4,000 years is a little on the short side. The actual date might be 10,000 or 20,000 years ago.   

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Are you talking about the date of Creation or the Fall?

 

Brian Talbot: As I said, dates prior to Abraham are more theoretical than historical.  Did Creation take place in six literal 24-hour days?  If that was God’s plan, it certainly could have happened.  But is it necessary for any theological reasons? I don’t think we have to be quite so literal about these things.  I know that some people disagree, strongly! And I respect that, but this not the foundation of my theology.

 

3)  Human Beings  

 

Baptist Confession  - Of Creation

II. After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  The book of Genesis describes the creation of humans in a perfect paradise.  What do you understand to be God’s purpose in creating humans?

 

Brian Talbot: The catechism says, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’  That is our purpose.

Believer’s Dilemma:  Do you believe that God intended Adam and Eve and all their children and grandchildren to remain in eternal paradise?  

 

Brian Talbot: God created man in perfection. Paradise was disrupted by the disobedience of Adam and Eve, by their rebellion.   

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  As you know, many Christians interpret Eden as an allegory and not a literal story.

 

Brian Talbot: It comes down to your understanding of sin and salvation.  Sin is universal. We are all sinners, whether we want to admit it or not.  Where does this sin come from? The Bible tells us quite clearly where sin originated – in Eden. That is why we call that first event original sin.

 

4)  The Existence of Evil   

 

Baptist Confession – Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

 

1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honor;  Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given to them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

Believer’s Dilemma:  This brings us to the thorny question of why a God who is perfectly good and omnipotent would permit evil.  

 

Brian Talbot: The answer is really not difficult. God did not create robots. We were created with freedom of will, which means we can be kind or cruel, creative or destructive. God permits us to act in ways that are alien to his nature.   

 

Believer’s Dilemma: The Baptist Confession is almost identical to the Westminster Confession, and says that God was pleased to permit human rebellion, having purposed to order it to His own glory. Many Christians make it sound like God created humans for perfection and was surprised and angered by disobedience.

 

Brian Talbot:   Yes, I know.  That interpretation of the Fall makes it sound like the incarnation of Jesus and redemption were plan B.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  You believe God always knew that the Fall would occur?

 

Brian Talbot:   Yes, it was always part of God’s plan.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  So evil is a natural consequence of freedom of will?

 

Brian Talbot:   I would not say evil is ‘natural’.  It was not part of Eden and it will not be part of the new Heaven and Earth. It is a temporary aberration. I would say evil is an ‘unnatural’ consequence of freedom of will.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Augustine, Calvin and Luther were caught in a dilemma by wanting to defend God from all responsibility for evil. They admitted that Adam and Eve had freewill because they were created perfect but they did not want to admit that God had always intended humans to experiment with good and evil.  So the Eden because the story of an unplanned ‘Fall’ and God’s response was wrath.

 

Brian Talbot:   Baptists have always believed that God made us perfectly free to obey or disobey.  The Puritans who fled Europe in pursuit of freedom of religion, attempted to set up a theocracy in the New World and impose morality on all citizens. That is not freedom of religion. The Catholic ideal is a Church that controls the laws and morality of the state. The Church of England was established as a State Church. That was also the Lutheran model.  Baptists have defended the separation of Church and State. We have always been against imposed religion.  Baptists were an important force in colonial USA and also in Canada to prevent the creation of a single State Church.  I believe that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ but I also believe in the freedom of Muslims, Hindus and the Jewish people to follow their own beliefs.

 

5)  The Conflicted Human Nature

Baptist Confession – Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

2. Our first Parents by this Sin, fell from their  original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all; all becoming dead in Sin, and wholly defiled, in all the faculties, and parts, of soul, and body.

3. They being the  root, and by Gods appointment, standing in the room, and stead of all mankind; the guilt of the Sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now  conceived in Sin, and by nature children  of wrath, the servants of Sin, the subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Does the temporary quality of evil explain why human nature appears to be a mix of good and evil?

 

Brian Talbot:  Yes.  Our fallen nature is corrupted.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  The Baptists Confession states that the fallen human race is ‘by nature children of wrath, the servants of Sin, the subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal...’  This sounds like classical Calvinism.

 

Brian Talbot:  This is a description of the effects of original sin.  

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Original sin was a term used by Augustine. When he wrote about ‘children  of wrath, and servants of sin’ he literally meant that new born babies were eternally condemned  unless they were pardoned by baptism.  Do Baptists believe that infants are born totally depraved?

 

Brian Talbot:  No.  In fact one of the principle points of disagreement between Ulrich Zwingli and the Catholic Church concerned infant baptism. This disagreement also involved freedom of will. Anabaptists taught that only adults could choose to accept Christ as their Saviour. So they did not baptize children and they re-baptized adults who had received infant baptism.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  How dramatically did Anabaptist and Baptist theology differ from Luther’s and Calvin’s?

 

Brian Talbot:  Some historians believe that Baptists emerged independently from Luther, Calvin and the Reformation. Baptists were persecuted and burned at the stake by Catholics and Protestants! Jacob Hutter, who founded the Hutterites, and c, who founded the Mennonites, held very different theologies from the Reformers about original sin and freewill. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  If Baptists have such different ideas about baptism and freewill, why do they seem to follow Augustine in attributing original sin to a literal Fall in Eden?

 

Brian Talbot:  Sin is present in children, even young children. The Bible states that we are all sinners.  We are born sinners. We cannot escape sin. We cannot deny it.  Sin is a fundamental part of our fallen nature.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  The term ‘original sin’ has always meant that the Sin of Adam and Eve was transmitted to their morally corrupt and depraved children.  That is a very different idea than a human nature which is free to do good or evil. Original sin, as Augustine understood it, is not the same as universal sin.

 

Brian Talbot:   I understand what you mean and I would agree up to a point. But we use the term ‘original sin’ because there was no sin or death in the world prior to Eden. Sin is universal but it also originated in Eden. It was also part of God’s original plan for mankind, which is why we need a Saviour. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Ever since the days of Augustine, original sin has been directly attributed to the Fall of Adam and Eve. There seems to be a very strong correlation between the need for a strict literal dating of Adam and Eve, and defense of original sin.

 

Brian Talbot: I certainly believe in Original Sin. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Almost everybody I have spoken equates universal sin with original sin and quotes Augustine to support this belief. 

 

Brian Talbot: Catholics and Protestants both claim Augustine as one of the great theologians. 

 

Believer’s Dilemma: He is the universal saint. But absolutely nobody agrees with Augustine that babies are born so depraved because of original sin that they must be baptized to escape eternal damnation.

 

Brian Talbot: Baptists would certainly disagree with Augustine about that!

 

6)  Primitive Peoples

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  The great civilizations of the world appeared within the last 10,000 years.  You said earlier that you could accept dates for creation that go back 10,000 or 20,000 years, so ancient civilizations would fit within that chronology.  What form of religion was known to ancient cavemen, such as Neanderthals?  How did they know it?

 

Brian Talbot:  First of all, cavemen did not evolve over millions of years from apes. The Bible clearly teaches that there were no cavemen before the creation of Adam and Eve. The Fall caused regression in the human race. Some tribes became quite primitive and lived in caves.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  What religion would they have known?

 

Brian Talbot:  Paul wrote in Romans (1:20) that God’s qualities are clearly visible in nature and so anyone who refuses to believe is without excuse.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Many religions recognized the power of God or gods in the beauty of nature and the order of the universe. If ancient religions worshipped the God of Creation to the best of their knowledge and ability, why did Jews and Christians condemn them as heathens and idolaters?   

 

Brian Talbot:  The Fall of mankind corrupted our nature but did not erase our memory of the true God. The first commandment revealed to Moses was an affirmation that there is only one God. J.I. Packer in his book ‘Knowing God’ makes a clear distinction between monotheism and polytheism.  The God of Creation is omnipotent, omniscient and supreme. The many gods of paganism were small and limited. One pagan god ruled over a particular forest or mountain, another controlled harvests or fertility. The entire Pagan world was polytheistic. It reduced God to little idols of wood, stone and metal. That false representation of God is what the Jewish prophets and Christians Apostles condemned.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Was it impossible for ancient peoples to know God?  

 

Brian Talbot:  Adam and Eve knew God intimately, but turned away and they were driven out of the garden and certainly lost that intimate relationship with God. The generations after Adam and Eve lost what it means to have an intimate relationship with God and to know who God is. There were some bright spots like Enoch, who walked with god, and Noah, who was righteous and obedient, but it appears that the rest of the world knew nothing about the one true God.  Through Abraham, Moses, and the Old Testament prophets, God slowly progressively revealed himself to a lost world.

 

 

7)  Laws and Commandments

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  That brings us to the question of revealed Laws and Commandments. Cain and Abel had learned to make offerings to God. Ancient peoples all made sacrifices and performed Holy Rites. Was it possible that the rites and sacrifices of Pagans and polytheists could have been acceptable in the eyes of God? 

 

Brian Talbot:  That is a good question. I really don’t have an answer.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Augustine was willing to condemn unbaptized babies. He was not too concerned about salvation for Pagans in foreign lands. Luther and Calvin built their theology on predestination.  God alone chose who was elect, and who wasn’t. Some Calvinists believe that God’s abundant grace extends to multitudes of Pagans, while other Calvinists believed that God had deliberately kept entire nations in the dark so they could be denied salvation.  What do Baptists think?

 

Brian Talbot:  As I’ve said, we believe in freedom of will. We believe that God offers salvation to the entire human race.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:   How would the Laws and Commandments of the Hebrews have been revealed to African tribes, the First Nations people in the America and Pacific islanders?

 

Brian Talbot:  The Bible is silent on these questions. We can only presume that grace extended to all the peoples of the earth.

 

8)  Reconciliation via Laws and Commandments

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  We know that the Hebrews of the Old Testament possessed the Laws and Commandments.  Did that ensure their salvation?

 

Brian Talbot:  In the book of Romans, Paul said that the Laws produced covetous desire in him and caused him to be a worse sinner.  (Romans 7:8-11)

 

Believer’s Dilemma:   If a Jewish person managed to perfectly obey the Laws and Commandments, did that guarantee salvation?

 

Brian Talbot:  The Bible records a few righteous individuals like Job and David, but even David was capable of terrible crimes such as adultery and murder.  No one has ever ‘earned’ salvation by living a perfectly righteous life. As Paul said, the Laws demonstrated the depth of man’s sinfulness, and our desperate need for a Saviour. (Romans 5:10-11)

 

Believer’s Dilemma:   So the Jewish people needed a Saviour as much as Pagans and polytheists?

 

Brian Talbot: Yes. This is why the Reformation insisted on salvation by faith and not by works.  Abraham was a model of righteousness because he believed God and his faith was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3)

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Is faith in God sufficient for salvation?

 

Brian Talbot:  Abraham received a promise of salvation for his descendants. But the promise had to wait to be fulfilled in a Saviour.

 

9) Salvation

 

Baptist Confession – Of Effectual Calling

 

1. Those whom God hath predestinated unto Life, he is pleased in his appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call by his word, and Spirit, out of that state of sin, and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and Salvation  by Jesus Christ; inlightning their minds, spiritually, and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their  heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his Almighty power determining them  to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his Grace.

2. This Effectual Call is of God's free, and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, nor from any power, or agency in the Creature, coworking with his special Grace, the Creature being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickned & renewed by the holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the Grace offered and conveyed in it; and that by no less  power, then that which raised up Christ from the dead.

 

Contemporary Baptist Statement of Belief

 

We believe that because all human beings are created in God’s image, every person has dignity and their worth is dependent, not on accomplishments, but on God’s love. Because God sees humanity as worth dying for, we affirm and acknowledge the dignity of all. At the same time we acknowledge that all human beings are sinners by nature and by choice and are, therefore, relationally separated from God because of sin and under condemnation. However, we joyfully proclaim and receive the Good News that because of Jesus Christ forgiveness is possible and salvation comes to the repentant sinner only by grace through faith in what God has done, not through good works or even good religion.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:    What is required for salvation to occur? The old Baptist Confession spoke about Effective Redemption for the elect only.  The Statement of Belief on your website says ‘Salvation comes to the repentant sinner only by grace through faith in what God has done, not through good works or even good religion.’

 

Brian Talbot:  That is correct.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:   Does this mean that faith in God is required for salvation? That was what Abraham had.  Or does it mean that faith in Jesus Christ is required for salvation?

 

Brian Talbot: The foundation of Christian theology is the universality of sin and the need for a Saviour. God is perfect love but also perfect justice. In his perfect justice God must punish sin. We are all sinners and therefore Jesus Christ was crucified as a substitutionary sacrifice for the entire human race.  In his perfect love, God offers salvation via faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:   This is a stumbling block for many Christians and most non-Christians. Does this mean that all non-Christians remain under the wrath of God?

 

Brian Talbot:  You’re asking, are non-Christians lost, period, or is some salvation for them possible?

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  Yes.  

 

Brian Talbot:  My answer is not theological but practical. First of all, we need to do our best to tell the Lost about Jesus and salvation.  I realize that does not answer the question of whether salvation is possible for non-Christians and those who have not heard the Gospel message. I believe in salvation only in Christ, so my answer is an action answer. Christians are called to preach the Gospel message to the entire world. The rest, I have to say, is in God’s hands.   

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  You’re familiar with the story of the young boy who discovers thousands of starfish stranded on a beach? He begins to throw them back into the water one by one and an adult says to him, ‘There are thousands of starfish and most will be dead before you can reach them. You’re wasting your time.’  The child says, ‘It is not a waste of time for this one, or this one’ and he continues throwing starfish back into the water. It is an inspirational story for the boy and the starfish that are saved. But it does not offer any hope for the multitudes that will not be saved. What hope does the Gospel of salvation offer for the multitudes who never hear the gospel message or never understand it?

 

Brian Talbot:  The Word of God tells us that Jesus is the only way to be saved.  John 3:16 says that all who believe in Jesus are saved, while all who do not believe stand condemned.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: What about people who can’t believe or disbelieve something they’ve never heard of?

 

Brian Talbot:  That’s why there is an urgency for us to tell the world about salvation in Christ in as many ways as possible: in personal contacts, and via literature, television and radio. All of this is used and it is getting the Gospel to a lost world. But I don’t have an answer for those who haven’t heard.

 

10) Who is Saved?  

 

Baptist Confession -   Of Effectual Calling

 

3. Elect Infants dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons, who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the Ministry of the Word.

4. Others not elected, although they may be called by the Ministry of the word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will, nor can truly come to Christ; and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men that receive not the Christian Religion be saved; be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the Law of that Religion they do profess.

 

Contemporary Baptist Statement of Belief

 

We believe that every person has an eternal destiny and that destiny is determined by whether or not they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

  

Believer’s Dilemma: The old Baptist Confession, speaks of predestination and election. It is almost identical in this section to the Westminster Confession. The contemporary Statement of Belief on your website says that ‘every person’s eternal destiny is determined by whether or not they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.’ It is certainly a modern paradox to combine ideas of eternal destiny with freedom of choice. What is your definition of who is saved?

 

Brian Talbot:  I believe that salvation is only possible through faith in Jesus.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Therefore, those who do not have saving faith in Jesus would not be saved?

 

Brian Talbot:  That would be the assumption.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Does the term ‘eternal destiny’ mean our fate is predestined as Luther and Calvin would have understood it?

 

Brian Talbot:  Baptists, as I have said, strongly believe in freewill and personally choosing Jesus Christ as Saviour.  We do not believe in predestination.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Therefore we are all responsible for choosing or rejecting Jesus as our Saviour?

 

Brian Talbot:  Yes.

 

Believer’s Dilemma: You must admit this presents a serious theological problem if multitudes have never heard of Jesus?

 

Brian Talbot:  I could argue that practically no one has not heard the gospel message. You’d have to live in a remote part of the planet not to have heard of Jesus. But I realize that some are left without the Gospel message.  

 

Believer’s Dilemma: Quite a few in the 21st century.   How many millions as you move back into the centuries before Christian missionaries visited the Far East, the depths of Africa, the Americas, Pacific Islands, Australia...  Was there no hope of salvation for those people?

 

Brian Talbot:  In Baptist circles, our answer would be an answer of action. Let’s tell them about Jesus. I know that seems to avoid the question.

 

Believer’s Dilemma:  It raises serious questions about divine justice.

 

Brian Talbot:  Sometimes people - and I’m not pointing a finger at you - sometimes people will use this argument about God being unfair because they’re looking for an excuse to reject the Gospel message. I would want to bring it back to them and say, ‘The real question is - What about you? You’ve heard the Gospel. I’ve just shared the Gospel with you, that there’s salvation in Jesus. The real question is how are you going to respond to it?’ That’s what I mean by an action answer. All I can do is preach the gospel as urgently and truthfully as I know how to as many people as possible. I really don’t have a better answer for how everyone receives the Gospel message.   

 

Questions or Comments?

______________________________________

See part II of Interview with Brian Talbot here.

 

11) Does divine love and justice ensure that salvation is available to all? 

12) What role does human freewill play in salvation? 

13) How does salvation bring an end to sin, suffering and death?  

14) Does supernatural power intervene in the natural world to answer prayer?

15) What is the eternal state?

 

 

Tags: Bishop Ussher, Ulrich Zwingli, Jacob Hutter, Menno Simons, J.I. Packer, ‘Knowing God’.