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Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.


A "Third Way"

Since the time of Augustine, we have seen that there has been a tension in the church regarding the Fall of Man and the acts of God. Orthodox Christians hold that man is sinful and that God saves some men. The debate has centered around the roles that God and man play in salvation. The Calvinists have held that it is grace alone, given by God to some, that results in salvation. The Arminians say that God has granted grace to all men but only some exercise this grace to salvation. These two views are irreconcilable but some have tried to create a “third way” that combines tenants from both systems. Others have thought to escape the conundrum altogether. They will often say things like “I am not a Calvinists. I am not an Arminian. I am a Baptist” or “a Biblicist!” Along the same line, some will say, “You follow Calvin, I follow Jesus!” These statements do not solve the issue but only reveal the ignorance of the speaker. My experience has been that when we get beyond the emotionally charged statements, we find either Arminians or people who are theologically inconsistent.



There was a series of articles that appeared in the Alabama Baptist in 2007 from Leo Garret. Garrett was the professor of theology, emeritus, of Southwestern Theological Seminary. [1] I will not take the time to give a complete critic of the articles but rather I will present the arguments of Garrett where he seeks for a compromised position between the two extremes. He does erroneously claims that other Baptist, such as John Piper and Charles Spurgeon, were not “Dortian” Calvinists. By Dortian, he means consistent, 5-point Calvinism. This either shows ignorance on his part or an attempt to be deceptive. A quick internet search will easily confirm that both Spurgeon and Piper held complete and consistent views of Calvinism.

Garretts says that Baptists should hold the Calvinistic tenets of Unconditional Election and the Perseverance of the Saints. [2] These should be combined with the Arminian views of General Atonement and Resistible Grace. He says that both camps believe faith and repentance is a gift of God. So, there we have a nice, neat little package all wrapped up in the love of God and swallowed whole by many. While Garrett may have held the title of “professor of theology” it is painfully obvious that he has either no concept nor care of systematic theology.

Before I address the errors of combining the two systems into what Garrett calls Calminianism, I need to make a few comments regarding the pamphlet in general.

1) Garrett makes no mention of the historical arguments that preceded the debates at Dort.

2) Garrett’s arguments hang on historical presentations (“Baptist have believed this"). This is a logical fallacy. The number of people who believed something or the antiquity of a belief is not grounds for validation of its truth.

3) Garrett misrepresents well known Calvinist.

4) Garrett gives no meaningful exegesis of any texts but rather lists proof texts and pits the Bible against itself. [3]

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It is as if Garrett has no idea or concern over the historical debate and the desire of the Church to reach consistent positions. As we said in a previous article (HERE), both Calvinism and Arminianism are logically consistent. Garrett and those like him, are willing to cast aside consistency and reason in favor of a system that suits their sensibilities. We will look at just a few of the glaring inconsistencies.

If Fallen man retains a free will then it follows that he can exercise his will to salvation.

If he can exercise his will to be saved then it follows that he can exercise his will to leave God (to fall away).

Therefore, the doctrine of perseverance is inconsistent with the doctrine of free will.

If a man can exercise his free will then salvation is conditional upon the exercise of the will.

Therefore, unconditional election is not consistent with free will.

I could go on, ad nauseam, but I do not think it is necessary. Garrett is grossly inconsistent. A cursory reading of either Arminianism or Calvinism would have shown him the great pains both sides went to be theologically consistent. Both the Calvinists and the Arminians recognized that their view on the Fall dictates all else that they believe. The Five Points of Arminianism are consistent. And Likewise, the response of Dort, is consistent. Garrett cares nothing of consistency. He seeks to deal with the issue in a flippant manner and would dismiss centuries of debate and reason for a system that is inconsistent at every point.


[1] The original articles appeared in the Aug. 2, 2007 issue of the Alabama Baptist. I have not been able to locate them online. They appear to have been removed. However, I do have the subsequent pamphlet that was published containing them. Please see the picture above. Also, the articles appear in The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett Jr., 1950–2015: Volume Two: Baptists, Part II, by Garrett Jr., beginning on p. 208 and following.

[2] Garrett, Baptists and Calvinists, The Alabama Baptist, 2007, p. 19.

[3] This work is not the work of a scholar. This is shoddy at best. I dare say most students could produce a better presentation than this. It causes me to call into question the academic strength of Southern Baptist seminaries.

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