Survey Results: The Theological Landscape of Southern Gospel

Thank you to the 188 people who took the time to answer our survey about the theological landscape of Southern Gospel. For detailed results, click the read more link or click here to view the entire post.

Here are a few highlights and interesting points:

  • To nobody’s surprise, Baptists are overwhelmingly the strongest denomination; different types of Baptists made up 44%. Different types of Pentecostals just passed the 10% mark, making it the next most strongly represented.
  • Southern Gospel fans overwhelmingly believe in the Trinity and that the Bible is divinely inspired and infallible. (8% believe that the Bible may contain errors, though!)
  • The responses to #4 were a pleasant surprise. 86.6% of Southern Gospel fans believe that God created the world in six days. This was a far broader margin than I expected for this controversial of a topic.
  • The responses to #5 were also quite a surprise. Yes, there are more Arminians than Calvinists in Southern Gospel, but only by a 4% margin (72-64 in the results, or 39.78% to 35.36%.) Calvinists actually form the majority among the most active readers, though, since the first day’s results had Calvinists in the lead!
  • Overwhelmingly, Southern Gospel fans believe churches should be overseen by their local congregations.
  • 77% of Southern Gospel fans attend churches with 500 or fewer attendees.
  • Unsurprisingly, cessationists led on question #8, but by less of a margin than one might have guessed, given the predominance of Baptists in the survey. It was a 42% to 32% margin, but bringing in the 8% of Pentecostals who take the continuationist position further, one could break it down as a 42% to 40% margin.
  • To nobody’s surprise, the pre-trib Rapture position was overwhelmingly the strongest, pulling in 60% of the vote. The remainder of the answers were fairly diverse; no other position picked up 7%.
For a detailed breakdown of the results, click “read more.” From these numbers, what do you find most remarkable, and why? 

Detailed Results

1. What denomination of church do you attend? (188 answers; 0 skipped)

  • Anabaptist 2.13% (4)
  • Anglican or Episcopalian 1.60% (3)
  • Baptist – Southern Baptist 21.81% (41)
  • Baptist – Independent Fundamental 11.70% (22)
  • Baptist – Reformed 2.66% (5)
  • Baptist – Other 8.51% (16)
  • Catholic 1.06% (2)
  • Charismatic 0.53% (1)
  • Church of God 2.66% (5)
  • Eastern Orthodox 0.00% (0)
  • Lutheran 1.60% (3)
  • Methodist 2.66% (5)
  • Nazarene 1.60% (3)
  • Non-denominational 13.83% (26)
  • Pentecostal – Assemblies of God 4.26% (8)
  • Pentecostal – Other 6.38% (12)
  • Presbyterian 4.26% (8)
  • Wesleyan 2.13% (4)
  • Other 10.64% (20)

2. What is your view of God? (187 answers; 1 skipped)

  • I believe in the Trinity 94.12% (176)
  • I believe in another view of God 5.88% (11)

3. What is your view of Scripture? (186 answers; 2 skipped)

  • I believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and infallible 89.78% (167)
  • I believe that Scripture may contain or does contain errors 8.06% (15)
  • I don’t know 2.15% (4)

4. What is your view on the earth’s origins? (186 answers; 2 skipped)

  • I believe that God created the world in six days 86.56% (161)
  • I believe that God created the world over thousands or millions of years, using evolution 10.75% (20)
  • I believe that the earth evolved without God’s supernatural intervention 0.00% (0)
  • I don’t know 2.69% (5)

5. What is your view of salvation? (181 answers; 7 skipped)

  • I hold to or lean towards a Calvinist understanding of salvation 35.36% (64)
  • I hold to or lean towards an Arminian understanding of salvation 39.78% (72)
  • I am not familiar with the difference between the views 23.76% (43)
  • I don’t know 1.10% (2)

6. What is your view of church order? (183 answers; 5 skipped)

  • I believe churches should be overseen by bishops or other church hierarchy 11.48% (21)
  • I believe churches should be overseen by elders or presbyters 27.32% (50)
  • I believe churches should be overseen by their local congregations 61.20% (112)

7. How large is your church? (Okay, this isn’t specifically doctrinal, but it is interesting!) (184 answers; 4 skipped)

  • My church has 100 or fewer weekly attendees 27.17% (50)
  • My church has 101-250 weekly attendees 32.07% (59)
  • My church has 251-500 weekly attendees 17.93% (33)
  • My church has 501-1000 weekly attendees 10.33% (19)
  • My church has 1001-2000 weekly attendees 6.52% (12)
  • My church has over 2000 weekly attendees 5.98% (11)

8. What is your view of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? (181 answers; 7 skipped)

  •  I am a continuationist [or] Charismatic: I believe that all gifts of the Holy Spirit (including unknown tongues, miraculous healings, and prophecy) are operative today 32.04% (58)
  • I am a Pentecostal: I agree with continuationists and charismatics that all gifts of the Holy Spirit are operative today, and I also believe that Christians have not received (or have not been baptized in) the Holy Spirit until they have spoken in tongues 7.73% (14)
  • I am a cessationist: I believe that some gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased 41.99% (76)
  • I don’t know 18.23% (33)

9. What is your view of the end times? (187 answers; 1 skipped)

  • I believe in a pre-tribulation (pre-millenial) Rapture 59.89% (112)
  • I believe in a mid-tribulation (pre-millenial) Rapture 3.74% (7)
  • I believe in a post-tribulation (pre-millenial) Rapture 1.60% (3)
  • I believe that the Second Coming occurs after the events of the millenial reign (post-millenial) 3.21% (6)
  • I believe that the millenial reign is figurative (amillenial) 6.42% (12)
  • I am a partial Preterist: I believe that many of the events in Revelation were fulfilled in A.D. 70 3.21% (6)
  • I am a full Preterist: I believe that all of the events in Revelation were fulfilled in A.D. 70 0.00% (0)
  • I believe that Revelation should be interpreted in an allegorical way, not as literal prophecy (idealist) 6.95% (13)
  • I hold another view 6.95% (13)
  • I don’t know 8.02% (15)

 


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64 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I can’t believe that nearly 42% believe that the gifts have ceased! Brothers, and sisters there is more than salvation that can make the Christian journey more enjoyable, and less of a burden! I’m 17 and I was baptized with the Holy Ghost two years ago. (No, I’m not afraid to use the term “Holy Ghost”) It is as real as the very breath you breath! You may not see it, but you can feel it!

    • This very nearly crosses the comment rule of not being respectful of other commenters. However, since it’s an anonymous survey result you are taking issue with with this strident of language, I’ll let it stay up. If any discussion ensues, debating the validity of these experiences, participants on both sides of the debate (including future comments from you) must remain respectful.

    • It’s heartwarming to see a young person actually enjoying his salvation. However, assuming belief in the Trinity, I would prefer to say “He is as real…” and “You may not see Him, but you can feel Him.”

      • Sorry, missed that! Yes, you’re absolutely right! HIM

  2. I’m sorry! I meant no disrespect!

    • Thank you! I know this is an issue that people often get very passionate about. I said what I said, as much as anything else, so that people here who hold to a cessationist view do not make personal attacks against you. But to prevent that, of course, I need to apply the rules fairly to both sides. 🙂

  3. For that you are very wise, sir! I didn’t want it to seem like an angry passionate though. I hope it didn’t seem that way..

    • Glad to hear it! Moderating the comments here for five and a half years, I know the sort of things that are likely to start debates, and while I was sure that was not what you intended, I thought that some readers may see it that way, hence the reason I jumped in when I did.

  4. If other people start reacting to it, please take it down! I don’t want to cause any problems.

    • Thank you! I think that other people will see this discussion and any potential situations will have been diffused.

  5. Where’s all the Eastern Orthodox folks at?! 🙂

    And of the largest denomination in the world, you got two of ’em reading!

    • I know who one of them is! There’s a Catholic priest in the Memphis area, Fr. Gallagher, who comments on occasion. I don’t know who the other one is.

      It was with some amusement that I noticed that was the only denomination unrepresented here. I hadn’t heard of any Eastern Orthodox readers, but since they’re the second-oldest denomination, I figured I may as well include it.

      • You are correct Sir! And here I was thinking I was all by myself!

      • I guess not! 🙂

    • Where are the Methodist’s concertgoers?
      There are alot of concert hosted by Methodist churches and thier members.

      • Fr. Patrick Gallagher..
        You are not alone.
        Just let me tell you a story that happen a few years back when I had a unfinished furniture store.
        One Saturday, I had to deliver a couple of picnic tables to a Catholic convent in retreat setting with a lake and forest.
        I went inside to make the transaction with older nun. I saw the Decision magazine, stack of southern gospel music projects and a Bill Gaither brochure.
        I asked her about the Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.
        Her response really made an impression when she stated “My, oh my, we really like dear Billy.”
        It made an impression so you are not alone.

      • Oh I know I’m not alone in general. I just thought I was the only one who read the blog! There are quite a few of us! I attend Southern Gospel concerts with parishioners, when I preach I occasionally use SG lyrics in my sermons (with proper citation given), and many people know exactly what I am talking about. But I will bet dollars to donuts that I’m probably the only priest who subscribes to The Singing News and tried to start a quartet in seminary!

      • Ah! Perhaps the other one is a parishoner you told about the site. 🙂

  6. I read with interest the results of your poll and noted there seemed to be a distinct difference in knowledge of church doctrine and church devotion. I think Christians need to know the doctrine of their particular demonination, where they came from and where they are going and why…….according to the scripture. Our devotion should stem from our understanding of doctrine.

    • I understand your point. At the same time – though I’m not saying you are advocating this – Christians shouldn’t believe something “because my denomination says so.” Every Christian should study the Bible and understand why they believe what they believe. (Oh, that Christians could also articulate clearly why they believe what they believe!)

      Without going into much detail here, when I was young, I attended churches of a distinctly different style and doctrine than the one I attend now. Years of Bible reading and doctrinal study led me to develop and (in some cases) modify my positions.

      • Right, but after we figure out why we believe what we believe, shouldn’t we go to a church that shares those beliefs? Because of that, we should know our denomination’s doctrine. If the two don’t match up, then I wonder if we’re just sitting in church as part of our weekly duty.

      • Well, I’m not in a charismatic church with dancing in (practically) a mosh pit in front of the stage anymore. And yes, the church I attended when I was young has something of that nature (though it wasn’t quite as pronounced then). 🙂

        To answer your questions more directly: Sometimes. Sometimes differences are crucial enough that we leave for another church, and sometimes we stay in a church that we agree with on many issues but would see a few things different than.

  7. BTW I was one of the people who answered Presbyterian. But I’m actually a reformed Baptist. The only reason we attend a Presbyterian church is because it is family integrated. That would have been an interesting question to ask also. And now that I think of it, so would homeschooling v. private v. public.

    • Jonathan – fascinating! I guess we have something in common, then, because I attend a family-integrated Reformed Baptist church, and I was specifically looking for one where families worship together. That would have been a fascinating question, and I thought about it, but I thought that I might be practically the only one, so I decided against it!

      • “That would have been a fascinating question” 😀

  8. If you do a later survey on schooling as Johnatan suggested might want to ask what level of education folks reached — elementary, some high school, finished high school, some college, finished college, masters degree, phd. Age and earning levels might also be interesting. Of course, we have to bear in mind as with your study, that we would be dealing with folks using a computer who read your blog and vote. It’s the same with the Singing News fan awards as the results are based only on those subscribing to the Singing News who choose to vote.

    • Norm – every survey except perhaps the U.S. Census has its sampling weaknesses. Traditional political surveys, for example, have been limited to people with a home land-line phone, which are increasingly the older generation as younger people ditch land lines for cells!

  9. It would be interesting to know what everyone thought about dancing, going to theatres, drinking alcohol and homosexuals. Maybe a future poll?

    • That would be very interesting! I’d like to see that. Our denomination has some…well, let’s say some pretty strong feelings on those issues. 🙂

      • Interesting idea. I might do that at some point. I do think that, at this point, I’ve stirred up enough controversy for a month or so. It is probably a good time to lay low for a while. 🙂

  10. Oh, btw Daniel, I was kind of disappointed to see that our denomination, Pilgrim Holiness, wasn’t listed. Although it’s not nearly as large as say, the Baptist group, I know there are several other readers on here besides myself that are connected with it. Dan Plemmons is a Holiness pastor, and a man that goes to my church also reads your site once in a while. The Collingsworth Family, as you know, has ties to the Holiness movement, as well as at least one Crossroads-recording artist that I know of.

    • Sorry, but there was no way I could list everyone! As you’ll see from the results above, I thought of enough examples to cover 90% of the list, which means that everyone I didn’t think of, all put together, was 10%! Given how many denominations are out there, I think that’s pretty decent.

    • I thought the Pilgrim Holiness merged With the Weslyian at least in the midwest

  11. Oh, I understand! As I said, we are a comparatively smaller group. I just thought I’d mention it and point out that you do have a lot of Holiness readers. 🙂 (btw, I forgot to mention Nate Stainbrook who is also preaching in the Holiness movement.)

    • I made sure to include Nazarene, though there weren’t all that many. Actually, what I did to refresh my memory was to go through a whole bunch of groups’ concert schedules and see which denominations were hosting SG concerts. I actually don’t recall a single one (on the schedules I checked) that had Holiness in the title – and certainly none that said Pilgrim Holiness. (I would have remembered that!)

      Do churches in your denomination ever host nationally known SG groups?

      • I’ve only heard of one Holiness church ever hosting SG groups. Hobe Sound Bible Church has and/or will have Greater Vision, Larnelle Harris, ect. Our churches have concerts, but it’s usually our own groups. So that explains why you didn’t see us. 🙂

      • Fair enough! I’ve heard of Hobe Sound somewhere – I probably noticed them when looking through GV’s schedule. So they are Pilgrim Holiness?

      • Yes, though some Holiness people would probably consider them more…”worldly.” 🙂

        The Holiness people are very careful when it comes to dress standards, hair length, ect. Most of the standards that they hold are addressed in the Bible. That’s why you don’t see very many SG concerts in Holiness churches; because they don’t have some of the same standards. You may not agree, but that’s the reasoning behind it. Unfortunately, our churches don’t even invite the Collingsworth to come anymore. 🙁

        Sometimes people label us as pharisees, or legalistic. Some Holiness people place too much importance on their personal convictions and not enough attention on, maybe, the bad attitudes that they’ve been showing. But women wearing skirts, and not wearing any jewelry, or not dancing and going to movie theaters are not our main beliefs. The holiness doctrine is about giving oneself completely to God. But we are the same as any other conservative christian church in that we believe in the trinity, salvation, ect. We don’t believe that all people who don’t agree with our standards are going to hell either. We know that there will be Baptists in Heaven, as well as Pentecostals, Wesleyans, ect! 🙂

        Anyway, yeah, Hope Sound Bible Church is closely associated with the Hobe Sound Bible College which is also Holiness.

      • Due to your references to hair and skirt length, I’m curious: How precise are the requirements? Is it down to the inch, or is it perhaps proportional to height?

  12. Personally, I don’t think the Bible forbids trimming of the hair. 1st Corinthians mentions that it’s a glory for a woman to have long hair, and that it’s a shame for a man to have long hair. BUT, in order to keep women’s hair from becoming too short, our conferences have made a ruling that women shouldn’t cut the hair at all.

    As for skirt length, the powers-that-be say that the skirt length should be below the knees, whether sitting or standing, at least for those ministering on the platform. Some of the younger generation has started to wear dresses that aren’t quite so long, but generally, that’s the accepted guideline for those who are singing, ect.

    Same thing with jewelry as with hair length. Perhaps the Bible doesn’t forbid all jewelry (like the wedding ring). But in some of our churches at least, it’s become somewhat of a “slippery slope.” If you allow the wedding ring, then people want the wedding band. Then the engagement ring and the purity ring, and earrings, and on and on it goes. Someone said before that we believe God made us as he wanted us, and there is no need for all that other “junk.” 🙂

    • I agree that it is a glory for a woman to have long hair, and a shame for a man to have long hair. I’m intrigued by the notion (though, as you indicated, not one you hold) that this requires that women not cut their hair at all.

      If one were to do the converse for the men – going as far as possible – would tight buzz cuts (or maybe even going all the way) be necessary? I’m actually seriously contemplating this; this isn’t sarcastic.

    • I’m going to try as hard as possible to not go too far with this post, because I know it causes some controversy. Instead, I will simply post this link to a website I use often. It basically says what I believe.

      http://www.gotquestions.org/hair-length.html

      To take a quote from that link, “Rather than establish legalistic standards of hair length, we must remember that the real issue is our heart condition, our individual response to the authority of God, His ordained order, and our choice to walk in submission to that authority.”

  13. No, beards are not forbidden. Some people have a problem with them. I guess they think the people sporting them are trying to imitate a country singer or something. For example, a guy I know who is in charge of a youth camp wants all team captains to be beardless. I think this is a silly rule. Beards are fine.

    I don’t think we have a set length for men’s hair. It’s not usually a problem. But yeah, there’s a firefighter who attends our church sometimes. He shaves off all or most of his hair.

    About women not trimming their hair, the Holiness people are very careful about these things. They’ve found no good reason neccesary to trim their hair, so to be careful, they say just leave it alone.

    • Interesting. I can certainly understand the better-safe-than-sorry argument; I use it myself sometimes. It’s sure easier to argue for that than for a “the Bible mandates” argument in some areas! 🙂

      • OK! 🙂 People are often confused about our denomination. I sometimes answer a lot of questions about it. In fact, I once went through a discussion about PHC that was around 20 pages long!

        Oh, and you said you didn’t see any churches called “Pilgrim Holiness” when you looked through the artist schedules. Keep in mind that there are different denominations within the wider holiness movement, including Pilgrim Holiness (Midwest Pilgrims, New York Pilgrims that I know of), Bible Methodist, ICHA, and God’s Missionary Church. There are also some wesleyan churches that are still Holiness as well as some Brethren in Christ churches.

        The rules are different for each one. Some allow short sleeves, some don’t. Some are more conservative, and some a bit less. So you may see a church that is Holiness even if it doesn’t have that exact name.

      • Well, I did try to include what I think are the two largest denominations that have or have had a Holiness emphasis, the Nazarenes and the Wesleyans, and one other major denomination from the same theological tradition, though predating this, the Methodists.

  14. Yes, we broke off from some of those denominations many years ago.

    • Good job defending the faith, Luke! 😀 Just kidding. My preference would be to lump Nazarenes and holiness together as just “Holiness.” as you say, there are just too many small groups out there. The Nazarenes don’t have the same specific standards as in my church and apparently yours, but the doctrine – I mean theology, I guess – is pretty identical.

      I very much enjoyed seeing this stuff laid out on a public forum, and especially the reminder that the external isn’t what it’s all about, but instead should be an expression of what’s in the heart.

      I have heard my dad express respect for the Pilgrim holiness people. He must have known some of them somewhere, and I’m glad they’re still where they are.

      • I think I said at some point in the discussion above that if I had it to do over again, I would do Nazarenes/Holiness.

  15. On the mobile I have to type in info every time… 🙁

    I will comment on the hair thing – I know a couple of women who have extraordinarily long hair that causes them headaches at its natural length (knees!) Most sane and sensible people have no problem with them cutting it to a normal length instead (perhaps waist length). Of course there are some who have never thought it through and are scandalized, but … there’s always gonna be that.

    You’d never believe how many compliments I get on my hair. Just yesterday a lady wearing a crucifix was asking me how I put it up. Lol. If a woman’s hair is her glory, then why not take advantage of it? 🙂

  16. This thread has tailed off into a hair……. 🙂 !

    On a different tack, it is refreshing to see an understanding of general eschatology among the respondents here. As well as a majority ‘Pre-Trib, Pre-Mill’ position.

    I would venture to suggest that outside the southern states, the very concepts of Preterist, Idealist and Futurist are long forgotten and not at all understood by a majority of professing believers in most denominations.

    The closer we get to His return, the less such events seem to be spoken of and I fear an “itching ear” generation has little interest in truth which stirs up. With all her faults, and they are not a few, the U.S.A. and the southern part particularly has become the custodian and disseminator of eschatological teaching.

    Perhaps the centre of Biblical Apologetics has been moving steadily westwards since 1453? Sober thought!

    • I think it would be fair to say that a majority of Christians around the world either would not know their church’s stance on the end times, or know and be able to articulate it.

      I think it would also be fair to say that most Christians could not take any three (even their choice) of the views listed in the survey and articulate each view’s main points!

      • Probably not Daniel,
        but what struck we was a) that you set out the three main views in the questionnaire, b) only one respondent out of 188 skipped the question, and c) everybody else know which box to tick from their personal position.

        I still think this is above the norm, and something to be appreciated in your part of the world. I know that the greater majority of what I peruse on Eschatology emanates from your corner of the globe 🙂 and very very little current/fresh thinking comes out of UK or Western Europe presently.

        I do believe there is, still, a God consciousness and a moral compass, even a degree of accord with a biblical worldview in general US society, though slipping; that is largely gone in the rest of the western world. Leaving a spiritual/religious vacuum, which is being occupied by anti-G0d influences.

        You guys have a lot to be thankful for, and perhaps [bus/offerings/costs issues aside] nowhere else in the world could support a permanent ministry of a such multiplicity of fulltimegospel singers 🙂 for the same reason

      • We do have a lot to be thankful for! Yes, it is slipping here.

  17. Sorry typos, ‘I’ not ‘we’, ‘knew’ not ‘know’! 🙂

  18. I wish I’d known about this poll before it closed…it was a long week! Suffice it to say it would have been yet another Southern Baptist (while I support the Great Commission, I refuse the “Great Commission Baptist” thing…but that’s a discussion for another time).

    While reading over the results, I was somewhat disappointed in the question regarding salvation, as I personally believe neither Arminius nor Calvin got it totally correct. As I see it, the former puts far too much dependence on the individual’s decision-making and sticktoitiveness (for lack of a preferable theological term) and not enough on the drawing power of the Holy Spirit; the latter overwhelmingly elevates a singular divine attribute (absolute sovereignty) over His most defining traits (absolute love and justice).

    Given the choice, my sympathies tend to lie with Arminius, given that I quite frankly find Calvin to be a rather unsavory character. I furthermore believe the faults of Arminianism are more easily rectified, while Calvinism is an all-or-nothing affair…the whole, “I’m an x-point Calvinist,” stance is misinformed. You either accept all five points as they are, as TULIP stands upon itself, or it falls apart logically.

    I pray this is not taken as an attack on either side…I have numerous friends on both sides of the fence, as well as a few like myself who precariously straddle said fence, often as x-pointers. But salvation is simpler than those systems make it to be, yet it’s too complex to be easily categorized as “either-or”. My fear is that it’s a matter that too few have actually studied before subscribing to.

    • I do believe it is possible to be a consistent four-point Calvinist. Perhaps even a majority of American Calvinists are four-pointers.

    • Must admit to agreeing with Scott.

      I ticked ‘Arminius’ because I lean more that way than ‘Calvanist’, and I likewise agree J Calvin himself , historically was highly unsavoury, and very questionable in many activities.

      A middle ground/third option would have been a benefit, at least two of us would have ticked it 🙂

      As to Daniel’s ‘4 point’ comment. I heartily, but amicably, disagree. The ‘Five Points’ cannot be seperated doctrinally.

      • I will stand by my assertion, and go into a little additional detail. Limited atonement (the L in TULIP) states that the intent and extent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was solely to die for the sins of the elect. While not impossible to defend, it is admittedly the hardest of the five points to defend exegetically.

        Granted, it would be hard to take the extreme opposite position. Yet it can be entirely consistent with the remainder of the points to hold a hybrid position, e.g. that the atonement was intended to be sufficient to redeem every sin ever committed, although the only sins that get forgiven are the sins of the elect.

      • If Calvin were a Southern Gospel figure, the long-standing comment rules would require me to moderate a comment that called him “highly unsavory” and “very questionable.” He’s not, so I will (reluctantly) let it stand.

        First, it is not accurate. I will not pretend he was sinless and flawless. I won’t even say that all his doctrinal positions were accurate; I believe, for example, that he was mistaken on infant baptism and mistaken on forbidding instruments in church services. And from the perspective of the tolerant modern era, we look with justifiable horror on the one instance where he did nothing to intervene as the Geneva city leadership decided to execute a man he had demonstrated to be a heretic. It must be said, though, that (1) he did not initiate or oversee the execution and that (2) Calvin was not alone; many fellow first and second generation Reformers were products of their times and thought similarly. That said, of course I would agree with the prevailing modern view that we should leave physical punishment for heresy to the Great Judgment. Yet that view was so prevalent in his era (though not, of course, unanimous) that it does not justify language this perjorative.

        Second, even if it were true, there are better ways to make a case than ad hominem arguments.

        Third, it is worth remembering that even though he is dead, he is someone with whom we will one day stand shoulder to shoulder before the throne of God with the rest of the redeemed. I could perhaps envision using such language of a heretic – someone who is teaching doctrines which, if accepted, are so incompatible with the Bible that it would send those who believe them to Hell. (I would personally be unlikely to use language this perjorative, even then.) But when it comes to a Biblical theologian, even one with whom I have major doctrinal disagreements, I try to always season ways in which I state that disagreement with respect for the individual as a fellow believer.

        I will conclude this by requesting that participants on both sides of the debate treat others with courtesy and respect.

      • Brother Daniel,
        I do not wish to offend. If my description of John Calvin was excessively perjorative, I apologise for offending the sensibilities of any who may comment here and lean in such a direction.

        I don’t wish to get into a argument, and to be delicate in our semantics about events in Geneva five hundred years ago is fruitless. Neither of us were there and the Lord will be the judge of motive as well as what was enacted.

        I still, most respectfully, take issue with “Four Point Calvanism”. I do not see how the TULIP core elements can be seperated or dismantled. I may neither discount the willing submission of freewill, nor may I equally discount the desire of God for “all men to be saved”.

        The infinite desire of the immortal may hardly long for what is – to His knowledge – finitely impossible? Despite the well crafted arguments of John Murray as to ethnic universalism, I can see no limitation in 1John 2:2…
        “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world”.

        A more terse response might be; I personally find limited atonement impossible to defend.

        We may disagree slightly, but without disagreeableness I trust.

      • David Mac, thank you for your note! Thanks also for the clarification; I’ll be happy to set aside further descriptions of Calvin himself. It’s the accuracy of the doctrines that most interests me.

        Many who believe the other four points would agree with you that limited atonement is impossible to defend. I will, with courtesy I trust, stand by the proposition that one does not have to believe in limited atonement to believe that God is sovereign, man is totally depraved, God predestines and irresistibly calls the elect, and sanctifies all whom He calls.